Sam Goodman, the artist, is short, plump, shaggy, rumpled up, 45 and never too old for the life of Artist in Protest. He and his friend Boris Lurie have been working for the last seven years down on the Lower East Side in the general field of shocking the bourgeoisie and revolting against the establishment. And that is exactly the trouble in their lives. Shocking the bourgeoisie is getting tougher and tougher. They have gotten so they will take anything you throw at them in the name of Art, bent automobile fenders, old shower nozzles sticking out of canvas, anything, and just love it to death!
For example Boris and Sam put on something like their Vulgar Show a few years back, featuring mango-haunched babes with shanks akimbo ripped out of the flesh magazines, just to mention one of the mentionable things, and what happens? All the modern-day Babbitts who come around, mainly the art critics and other aesthete-intellectuals, as Boris calls them, just keep saying things like that's fine, Sam, that's fine Boris, keep it up, we are with you in the heroic struggle.
So all right, said Sam, let them try this one on for size. This one, their newest exhibition, which opened the other night at the Gertrude Stein Gallery in a very elegant townhouse at 24 E. 81st St. And so it came to pass that 75 years of Modern Art led at last with invincible logic to Goodman-Lurie seated on the floor of a gallery just off Madison Avenue amid 21 piles of sculpted mammal dung. Not designed to look vaguely like mammal dung, or more or less like mammal dung, or abstractly like mammal dung. They did not put it up on a pedestal. It lies flat on the floor, including one pile that weighs 500 pounds. They made it all look as exactly like mammal dung as 25 years spent in art in the tradition of Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse would enable them to. So Boris began sculpting dunglet them try that on for size.
"I extrude it", Sam was saying. "I use, like, this cast stone. You know? I extrude it through like a pipe or something. Cast stone is like, I don't know, plaster of Paris. I extrude it through a pipe or something, I can't tell you exactly how because then they'll be all doing it." Mr. Goodman's friends testify that he is a germinal thinker, and indeed has to worry about other artists stealing his ideas.
He has a lot of important ideas. A couple of years ago after the Vulgar Show, he and Boris put on a Doom Show, one of Sam's contributions being decapitated baby dolls burned up and imbedded in burned-up bed springs. A couple of months later, did one of the leading Pop-artists turn up with incinerated doll babies in her show? Exactly.
For godsake, half the artists in town ere likely to be after the secret of sculpting dung if the critics embrace dung the way Boris says the people who come by the Gertrude Stein Gallery do. These people are frustrating. They still won't come right out and be shocked. They, the culturati of the New York art world, look right at the mounds lying there on the floor and talk about them in terms of the usual, their mass, their tension, their thrust, their plastic ambience and so forth.
Boris was outraged. "These people are so intimidated by the aesthetics of modern art and all this aesthetic double-talk," he said, "they are afraid to look at it as what it is, which is dung. They just want to look at it as sculpture. They come in here and touch it and talk about 'form'. I think they're too intimidated to express what they feel about a so-called work of art."
According to Boris' reasoning, their sculpted dung now has the critics backed into a corner. They have been embracing junk sculpture, "found" objects, old vulcanized tires on a pedestal, paintings of Campbell's soup cans and love comics. So if they are so all-embracing, let them embrace dung.
Miss Stein, who is not a third cousin of the Gertrude Stein the grand guru of America's expatriate writers in Paris in the 1920’s such as Hemingway, was saying how the critics, if they have an eye for history, should not find it hard to embrace the show at all. "Cast the NO! Sculptures in bronze" she was saying, "and you have the entire history of modern art summed up right there".
All this talk about acceptance and critical acclaim was beginning to worry Sam Goodman, however. He began looking around at the 21 mounds lying flat on the floor, and he was saying: "Yeah, but I don't know what I'm going to do for an encore. I figure I can either take a return trip and head back towards the womb or, I don't know, like forge ahead and put on a happening in which I commit suicide."
About THOMAS KENNERLY "TOM" WOLFE (born March 2, 1931): He is an American author and journalist, best known as one of the founders of the new journalism. He graduated from St. Christopher's School in Richmond, Virginia before attending Washington and Lee University as an undergraduate. He then went on to graduate from Yale University with a Ph.D. in American Studies. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Wolfe