My Life On and Off the Canvas
Eric Fischl & Michael Stone
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In Bad Boy, renowned American artist Eric Fischl has written a penetrating, often searing exploration of his coming of age as an artist, and his search for a fresh narrative style in the highly charged and competitive New York art world in the 1970s and 1980s. With such notorious and controversial paintings as Bad Boy and Sleepwalker, Fischl joined the front ranks of America artists, in a high-octane downtown art scene that included Andy Warhol, David Salle, Julian Schnabel, and others. It was a world of fashion, fame, cocaine and alcohol that for a time threatened to undermine all that Fischl had achieved.
In an extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Fischl discusses the impact of his dysfunctional family on his art—his mother, an imaginative and tragic woman, was an alcoholic who ultimately took her own life. Following his years as a student at Cal Arts and teaching in Nova Scotia, he describes his early years in New York with the artist April Gornik, just as Wall Street money begins to encroach on the old gallery system and change the economics of the art world. Fischl rebelled against the conceptual and minimalist art that was in fashion at the time to paint compelling portraits of everyday people that captured the unspoken tensions in their lives. Still in his thirties, Eric became the subject of a major Vanity Fair interview, his canvases sold for as much as a million dollars, and The Whitney Museum mounted a major retrospective of his paintings.
Bad Boy follows Fischl’s maturation both as an artist and sculptor, and his inevitable fall from grace as a new generation of artists takes center stage, and he is forced to grapple with his legacy and place among museums and collectors. Beautifully written, and as courageously revealing as his most provocative paintings, Bad Boy takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through the passion and politics of the art world as it has rarely been seen before.
Publishers Weekly Review
© Publishers Weekly
A must read
A must read for art lovers and especially contemporary art.
When I downloaded this book, I expected a fun read about exotic experiences in the unknown (to me) world of professional art. Sort of an art analog to Errol Flynn's "My Wicked, Wicked Ways." But what I got was one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in a long time. It was thought-provoking in that it made me think of the unique dramas in everyone's growing up, while seeing how the author crystallized and engaged his own in his paintings. It was especially nice on an iPad to be able switch between his narrative and Google Images to see the work being discussed. It was even sort of a primer to contemporary American art--I looked up the work of the other painters the author mentions too! I found myself wondering what i would paint for myself if I had Eric's skills for representing what he was feeling.
On a less happy note, I was very troubled by the author's reflection on the state of art in America today. It seemed to echo a little what I remember from a long-ago reading of Tom Wolfe's "The Painted Word." In particular, I resonated with Eric's alarm about the disconnection of American popular cultural from life's bedrock challenges and pleasures. I am essentially his age, and increasingly find the white noise of junk information here drowning out what's really important. I believe from his book that these important ideas and experiences are what the author wants art to bring forward, and I share his apprehension about its diminishing role in doing so.
One more thing: I found Eric's engagement with the physical body as a vehicle for his themes very sympathetic and, from my very inexpert point of view and looking at digital images instead of the real thing, admittedly, his way of rendering them very elegant and absolutely lifelike. His narrative about his paintings in the book set up my contemplation of them, but left enough mystery to allow me to look for how they could be read, alternatively, against my own experiences.
All in all, the book was a great delight and food for a lot of thought going forward.
Art Saves Lives
Learn about art, learn about art-making, learn about the art market, learn about development, learn about stages of growth, watch a man immerse himself in these mysteries, be appalled, thrilled, excited, understand more, become more confused, gain certain insights, lose preconceptions, enjoy the ride, be glad you became involved, feel differently, affected, emotional, be grateful, consider yourself lucky, find out things you did not know or even did not know you did not know them, take a trip, meet Steve Martin, discover April, be blessed, continue your own journey, slip back into the stream, improved. Complex experience, loved much, liked most, became more compassionate, have a blast!