Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The rich are very different from you and me, continued

Dustin Yellin self-portrait, via CollaterAl.
David Brooks, world-famous hipster art journalist:
When Dustin Yellin was 17 he dropped out of high school. The school was filled with jocks and cheerleaders and he clearly didn’t fit in. Plus he wasn’t intellectually engaged.
That's terrible. With this inability to delay gratification, so typical of kids in the Internet age, I suppose he was condemning himself to a life of crime, teen parenthood, and alienation?
He hitchhiked around New Zealand and returned to Colorado. He became an apprentice to an eccentric physicist who believed he could get free energy from space and who performed experiments on Yellin involving crystals, baths of saline solution and hallucinogenic drugs.
And drugs! This going to end badly! But how did he get to New Zealand and back, by the way? With a begging bowl? Casual robbery? Taking a spot in a yacht crew? It's what I always wonder about in these stories of wild youthful impulse, where the money comes from, but Brooks isn't interested in talking about it; for that you need to go to the Times's Jed Lipinski, writing in January 2012: turns out he was raised by a single mom—really, a single mom!? Well, a rich one, an Aspen real estate magnate. Also all of this stuff took place in a matter of months, because
When he was 18 Yellin hatched a plan. He would go to New York, become a successful artist and create a place where painters, scientists, writers, billionaires and other cool people could gather to try to change the world. 
Sounds like a plan! Especially if it's subsidized. Or, as Lipinski puts it,
He and a friend rented a raw loft in an old horse stable at 10th Avenue and 18th Street and turned it into a kind of 24-hour event space where an eclectic array of visitors — including artists, celebrities, scientists and local auto mechanics — were forever stopping by.
And then acquired a 2500-square-foot warehouse and an apartment in Red Hook, and then a studio and gallery owned jointly with the artist Charlotte Kidd, and finally in 2011 a 24,000-square-foot 1866 Red Hook warehouse for $3.7 million which is now the Pioneer Works space realizing his 18-year-old self's dream. By this time Mom was no longer paying, his own work—layers of glass with bits of color flattened between them like bugs in amber adding up to a big representational image when you look at them from the front—sells very well, to celebrity buyers like Lance Armstrong and Ben Stiller. Are you starting to find this funny yet?

I don't actually want to dump on Dustin Yellin's art, which is clearly technically extraordinary though not too interesting to me. Also by all accounts he's a really nice person, especially generous to artists and not just billionaires, and very energetic and hard-working. And to tell the truth I'm impressed by the same thing Brooks is impressed by, his efforts in constructing social space, in that artists' community.

I do want to talk about the double standard David Brooks imposes on society, asking poor people to warehouse themselves, deny their impulses and desires, give themselves over to gray industry and scrimping desperation, while the wealthy are entitled to do whatever they want, and praised for their freedom from constraint and rejection of tradition:
Yellin did this outside the system. He came to New York, completely ignorant of the canon of art history. The city was his education. He’d meet someone at a bar who’d recommend Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot.” Elsewhere he picked up Joseph Cornell and Hieronymus Bosch, who are influential in his work.
Bored in school? Run away to New York and buy an art studio!

Next week Brooks will be talking up the reforming-conservatism-of-conservative-reformers and the idea of how government owes people not "equality of results" but "equality of opportunity", unlike those wicked leftist redistributionists. This week he's celebrating what somebody achieved with drive and imagination and tons of money he didn't work for, opportunity that almost no one is given.

The other thing is, if you're curious about how Brooks suddenly takes an interest in the Brooklyn art scene, a subject he has never previously shown any curiosity about whatever, to the point of writing what looks on its face like a conventional artist-entrepreneur profile that could have run in Forbes or the Wall Street Journal weekender (except short of text and information; if you want to know anything about this guy you need to read outside the piece), well, I was curious too, and I think the answer is hilarious: it's that one of the artists in Yellin's posse is called David Brooks. He was reported as planning a huge piece working with flames and shrink-wrap in the Pioneer Works courtyard.

No, the artist David Brooks is not the same person as the newspaper columnist David Brooks, just in case you had a crazy hope that he might be. But I'm pretty sure our Brooksy got to Yellin by something we've caught him doing before in his search for literary material: Googling himself.

David Brooks, Drawings for A Proverbial Machine in the Garden, 2013. Dynahoe tractor, concrete, earth, landscaping and steel grates; approximately 66 x 28 x 12 feet. Via NewYorkCloseUp (where there are also pictures of the installation itself).

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