[- New York
Miranda France meets Duane Michals, photographer. poet and teller of tall tales.
Duane Michals was born in 1932 in McKeesport. in Pennsylvania. His parents were Czech, like the parents ofAndy Warhol. who lived in the same town and was an early friend. There are various themes running through Michals‘ 30-year output: a curiosity about ageing and death, and an interest in surrealism and fantasy are explored in photographs that can best be described as urban fairytales and usually come accompanied by text or poetry.
A retrospective of Michals‘ work is being shown at the Royal Photographic Society in Bath at the moment, and his new work is at the Portfolio Gallery. In Poetry and Tales Michals juggles themes of death and loss in poignant images alongside bizarre. quirky picture stories. like the one about Merry Christmouse. who steals presents from good. nerdish children to give them to brats. and ends up getting squashed by a brat. The show also features a comic strip, starring Cindy Crawford. and her husband Richard Gere as Rick Dick. Super Sleuth. Rick Dick‘s dangerous mission ends happily when he is reunited with his brother Nick Dick and father. Dick Dick.
What kind at artist would you describe yourself as?
I‘d say I’m the kind of artist that I like to be. I like artists who are their own categories. not part of any movement. people like Joseph Cornell. Morandi and Magritte of course. You look at their work and you know that no one else could have done that. There‘s a tendency to pigeon-hole artists. I do all kinds of things, about children. about love. about death and metaphysical things. I‘m ubiquitous.
What do you teel about the ‘art world’
I recognise the need for galleries. but the New York art world is so corrupt and so much about fashion and celebrities. There are only about four galleries there that get any attention and if your show gets no
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attention. well it didn’t happen. So many people need the celebrity — you end up becoming famous for being famous. Warhol was a celebrity more than he was ever a painter. I don‘t have any respect for that kind ofthing. There are no virgins in the art world.
Did you get on well with Andy Warhol? I did at the beginning. We're both from the same town and before he became famous I did a lot ofwork with him and he was always very nice and generous. but very ambitious. All his dreams came true. but he was a terrible artist. He‘s got such a long career out ofso very few ideas. He was also very commerically orientated. if you ever listened to anything he had to say about it he was very anxious to make money. he left almost $300 million in his estate. But he was a business man. and he didn’t make any bones about it. I admired his frankness.
Do you think artists can pretend that their work has nothing to do with money?
Ofcourse money has something to do with it. The question is would you do the same kind ofwork whether you made money or not? I teach 24 and 25-year-old students and they‘re not so interested in ideas as how to
Ir (/0 n
Richard Gore as Hickiclt. Super Sleuth
get rich. I do commercial work. and I ‘
don't ever want my private work to support me. I like the idea that when I do something it‘s for my own pleasure.
How did the writing evolve?
It came out ofa need to express something, out of frustration with the photographs. Photographs fail for me constantly. A picture of my father. mother and brother shows you what they may have looked like, but it tells you nothing about my relationship with them. I‘m interested in what things feel like. rather than what they look like. My
shows are 50 per cent writing now.
Does It bother you that art is elitist? Not at all, otherwise everything would be cartoons. Artists are people who have a unique. private
' view ofthe world. I think the best work is subtle. profound and very I demanding. Art is a nuance.
Warhol‘s easy: you just take twenty
f pictures of Marilyn Monroe and put
them in a row. I love wit and
invention. Probably a hundred years
from now there‘ll be painters who we consider obscure now. and Warhol may be relegated to the dustbin.
Duane M ichals: Poetry and Tales is at Portfolio Gallery until 12 Sept. admission £1 (includes catalogue).
I Dutch Art and Scotland: A Reflection ot Taste This lavish survey show includes Rembrandt, Vermeer. Lievens and many other Dutch artists whose works have been in Scottish collections at some point. The small accompanying Scottish Painters and Holland exhibition is also illuminating.
Dutch Art and Scotland: A Reﬂection of Taste, National Gallery of Scotland, until 18 Oct. £3 (£1.50).
I Addressing the Forbidden: Art Looks at Pornography An international round-up of artists and photographers dissect the oldest and hoariest ofchestnuts. with some surprising results. See feature. Addressing the Forbidden: A rt Looks at Pornography. Stills Gallery, until5 Sept, £1 (50p).
I Miro Sculptures Britian‘s largest ever exhibition of the Catalan artist‘s crazy constructions. mostly on the theme of women. birds and stars. of course.
Miro Sculptures. Royal Scottish Academy, unti120 Sept. £3 (£1.50) I Andy Goldsworthy The remarkable artist who makes sculptures out of ice and leaves, returns to Edinburgh after his acclaimed 1990 show with a spectacular series oflarge-scale ice and snow drawings.
Andy Goldsworthy: Ice and Snow Drawings and The Throws, Fruitmarket Gallery, until 12 Sept. free.
I Edinburgh Contemporary Art Fair Thirty leading contemporary galleries from all over the UK present some of the most coveted artists.
Edinburgh Contemporary A rt Fair. Royal College of Physicians. in fo: 0491 410222. 21-24 Aug.
10. 30am—7pm (Mon 24. 10.30am—5pm). £5 (£3.50).
The List 21 - 27 August 1992 55