Friday 30 September was a hot night in London and the meteorologists were already promising us that the late summer heatwave was going to produce record October temperatures. Likewise, after the August lull, the art world was back in full party/opening mode. Since I didn’t want to be running all over the city, I decided to pick one event and to screw all the other invitations I’d received. The Serpentine private view that night was bound to be mobbed, so I quickly dismissed any thoughts of going there. I decided not to go anywhere too ‘institutional’ because I wasn’t in the mood for sweaty crowds. Flicking through the smaller shows it was clear the only game going for a dedicated blogger like me was Richard Grayson at artist run space Alma Enterprises in Southwark. Since Grayson shares a name with Batman’s sidekick Robin, it would give me an opportunity to shamelessly recycle the superhero joke I’d used in my headline when I last wrote about one of his openings in May 2009.
Grayson’s latest exhibition – The Objectivist Studio – takes as its starting point the long dead right-wing fuck-wit Ayn Rand. Pro-‘free’ market and anti-socialist quotes from Rand’s writing have been painted on canvases, paper, walls and even handmade furniture in Alma’s two rooms. The texts have been fragmented into pseudo-Italian futurist cum English vorticist style works. Graphically the pieces resemble classic modernism, but the choice of colours is pure po-mo kitsch. The results are arresting, and if the show had been a riot, a lot of people would have been nicked. That said, the painted text at first proves hard to read. However, by vocalising the slogans letter by letter, it is possible to arrive at Rand’s intended meaning. Grayson is as ever deadpan about his work, but he looked cheerful and spoke excitedly about the joys of taking up painting once again. I’ve known Grayson for some time, and I understand his political views as lying somewhat to the left of Rand. However, you wouldn’t be able to guess this from the press release accompanying his show:
Ayn Rand (1905-1982)… was the author of the novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and the founder of ‘Objectivism’ – a philosophy that holds that ‘the purpose of one’s life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness or rational self-interest.’ She expressed these ideas in her fiction and in publications such as The Objectivist Newsletter, The Objectivist and The Ayn Rand Letter, and her books Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology and The Virtue of Selfishness…
After puffing Rand’s book sales, and the widespread and continuing popularity of her leaden prose, the press release continues:
In an interview with the New York Times in 2007 John A. Allison, the chief executive of BB&T, one of the largest banks in the US said: “I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s that Atlas Shrugged has had a significant effect on their business decisions, even if they don’t agree with all Ayn Rand’s ideas… It offers something other books don’t: the principles that apply to business and life in general. I would call it complete.” he said… Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve who oversaw the program of deregulation and embrace of the ‘free market’ approaches that have shaped contemporary banking and finance was a devotee of Ayn Rand. Greenspan first met her when he was 25 and working as an economic forecaster…
Given all this, I was left wondering if Grayson’s game plan was to see if he could sell his paintings with their ugly Rand slogans to bankers and other finance scum, who are possibly the only people sufficiently greedy and grasping enough to even contemplate hanging such works in their homes. The crowd gathered for Grayson’s opening ddn’t look like they were sympathetic to Rand’s message. Among the artists present were Susan Hiller, Mike Nelson, Suzanne Treister and Mark Wallinger; the gallerists and curators I clocked included Roger Malpert from The Hayward, Alice Motard from Raven Row, and Ingrid Swenson from Peer; and crowding the beer table were theorists such as Peter Suchin and Pauline de Souza. The gallery and courtyard outside was packed with liberal and left art world cognoscenti: there wasn’t an Ayn Rand style right-wing arsehole – or a single banker for that matter – in sight!
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!
Comment by Sister Bendy on 2011-10-02 16:10:57 +0000
I saw Dick Grayson in a Bexhill-On-Sea launderette…. It ain’t so far from Hastings… It was last year, and his five year retrospective was on at The De La Warr Pavillion at the time….
Comment by Old Lumpy on 2011-10-02 17:08:49 +0000
Sister Bendy may have seen Robin wearing street clothes in the launderette, but I’d like to see Julie Newmar in the nude – anyone know where I can find her naked pictures online? And wouldn’t nude portraits of famous actresses done in oils – from Julie Newmar to Scarlett Johansson – make a great show? Not to mention the fact it could make some lucky artist and dealer a fortune!
Comment by Nicola Serota on 2011-10-02 18:13:54 +0000
When I knock off from work I can’t wait to get out of my suit and into a nice comfortable dress – and when check myself out in the mirror in my large size she-male clothing, I often find myself thinkng that I look just like Ayn Rand in the portraits used on her novels…
Comment by Customer Service on 2011-10-02 18:43:08 +0000
Isn’t it mildly ironic, artists with ‘morals’ makin’ their money from today’s rich?
Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-10-02 19:15:13 +0000
The tensions in the work are generated precisely out of those contradictions, which are what makes it interesting!
Comment by Blaster on 2011-10-02 20:41:07 +0000
Grayson’s art is arresting because he leads a secret double life as a vigilante illegally fighting what he wrongly perceives as crime, but this is in a reality a defence of bourgeois property relations. We need to redistribute wealth and once we’ve Occupied Wall Street, DC, and a host of other places, we’ll bring Grayson before a people’s tribunal and show him what justice really means….
Comment by Tessie Talk on 2011-10-02 21:51:02 +0000
Call yourself a dedicated blogger! Don’t make me laugh! You stopped blogging for more than eighteeen months and only just started again! You’re in trouble buster!
Comment by ???? on 2011-10-02 23:12:31 +0000
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Comment by (((((((((0))))))))))) on 2011-10-02 23:42:44 +0000
Comment by Customer Service on 2011-10-02 23:59:06 +0000
do you know an artist bitch who makes art to kiss the ass of today’s rich?
Comment by Tracey Emin on 2011-10-03 00:55:13 +0000
My private views are much better than this Grayson affair, I attract lots of young people and we have them hanging about outside hoping to get in. Most don’t, but the odd one that does really appreciates making it through a toilet window or whatever and looks on in awe at me. If you let just anyone in then everyone quickly becomes jaded.
Comment by John DOnohue on 2011-10-03 01:10:46 +0000
What is a fuck-wit?
Comment by Michael Roth on 2011-10-03 04:15:13 +0000
The one painting I’ve seen from the exhibit looks groovy! Ka-Pow!
Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-10-03 08:39:56 +0000
I guess they’ll all get online eventually, maybe the show will tour to Canada…. It’s an installation as well as canvases, so you can’t get the whole effect without being there – a stomach churning as a ‘video nasty’!
@ John Donohue – a fuck-wit is an idiot. It was a common expression when I was a teenager. The definitions online tend to be a little ugly in their use of what reads to me like non-native use of English, and this is typical: “A person who is not only lacking in clue but is apparently unable or unwilling to acquire clue even when handed it on a plate in generous portions.”
Comment by Sir Francis Walsingham on 2011-10-03 12:55:05 +0000
My mantra has always been “I’m selfish but am I selfish enough?” My problem with Ayn Rand is that she didn’t take selfishness seriously enough because she reduced it ideologically from working on the level of an elite to that of an atomised and powerless individual.
Comment by +++++ on 2011-10-03 15:03:51 +0000
Comment by John DOnohue on 2011-10-03 16:02:16 +0000
Thank you for the definition. Having watched several Gen-? pass by me so fast I missed some of the colorful jargon and outlandish nomenclature.
I find that many people labeled a fuck-twit for being Ayn Rand or being fans of Ayn Rand are actually so brilliant and have collectivists so nailed it slams those she skewers into heights of hyperbole and rancid sputum. Is that what she does to you?
Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-10-03 16:15:38 +0000
Do you mean Rand followers like Alan Greenspan? People who’ve just screwed the entire world economy. Now if you’re pro-capitalist then I figure you’d need to be a bit of a fuck-wit to send your entire system down the pan (it’s like doing the ‘collectivists’ work for them). But I guess that’s what you get for being a mono-dimensional ‘individualist’…. And Ayn Rand is well and truly dead, although when she was one of ‘we the living’ she was already dead. I read her when I was teenage and even then I thought she was a fuck-wit. Bordiga and Pannekoek were just so much better!
Comment by John DOnohue on 2011-10-03 16:58:18 +0000
Greenspan/Fed did not destroy the world economy by thenselves; it was Progressives and their Establishment cronies worshiping prostrate at the feet of John Maynard Keynes that is the root of it.
Greenspan may have once been a fan of Rand and in her circle, but long since self-disqualified. Miss Rand is not responsible for his actions.
And….I know you believe she is dead. Keep thinking that.
Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-10-03 19:15:28 +0000
Ayn Rand died in 1982. The fact that you seem to believe differently doesn’t surprise me because you’re clearly delusional. What next? Are you gonna tell me you spotted Ayn Rand shopping in Walmart with Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse?
And anyone who wants to check out just how pathetic and deluded those around Ayn Rand were just needs to flick through Nathaniel Branden’s schlock squib My Years With Ayn Rand: The Truth Behind The Myth – although needless to say, Branden wouldn’t know’ ‘the truth if it ran over him in a ten ton truck (and the same seems to hold true for anyone else who’d give Rand’s ‘ideas’ the time of day).
Comment by Michael Roth on 2011-10-04 05:32:34 +0000
Come to think of it, I think I have seen Ayn at Walmart.
Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-10-04 08:29:07 +0000
I remember you first telling me this in 1980, a couple of years before Rand died….You said she was with a much much younger man and that she was ranting and raving like a lunatic, accusing the dude she was with of betraying her because he’d looked at one of the check-out girls……
Comment by Michael Roth on 2011-10-05 04:32:41 +0000
That’s right, Mister Trippy. Her rant quickly degenerated into incoherent rambling which lasted longer than her dreadful books. Pretty much confirmed my view of her insidious philosophy right then and there.
Comment by mistertrippy on 2011-10-05 04:40:30 +0000
I guess it gave you an amusing story to tell later – but Rand herself is obviously a complete drag!
Comment by Henry on 2011-10-05 23:22:11 +0000
As a genuine member of the business community, I have always tried to apply the principles of Blow Job and Red London to my busines and to life in general. That is why I’m able to make short work of a 90,000 word RFP document and ultimately win the business, while the Randians repulse the procurement department with their poorly expressed admissions of self-interest.
Comment by Ferdinand Banick on 2011-10-19 04:15:31 +0000
Yea I agree you cant beat 2 strokes. really feel free to come over to our forum and start off some discussion in case you wish?