I was going to write about Fischl’s economical brushwork but Dennis Kardon did such a super job on that in “HyperA”, and James Cahill in “Art In America” put the hilarious cherry on top by calling it “near enough.”
All I’m left with is the uneasiness that Fischl’s work makes me and everybody else feel. Are we all uneasy in the same way, though?
Fischl’s overpowering interest in the figures amounts to an almost total disregard of their environment. The setting is indicated in a sloppy repetitive way that never excites any interest. No respite can be found by focusing on the deft depiction of the water in the pool—it ain’t there. This is intentional, I’m sure. If I was invited to Fischl’s pool party I wouldn’t notice the summer day either or want to cool off—I would be hypervigilant of the other invitees—trying to figure out if it’s “safe.”
What exactly is their interaction with each other? Literally speaking, none—they are collaged into the painting—they come from different photographs, their perspectives don’t match, their glances never meet.
As the adolescent boy pinned to the painting by the umbrella pole in Face Off, I’d be confused—“Mommy and Daddy’s fat friend is ‘owning’ the pool. But, I have my suit on, I’ve come out to the pool and it’s going to be awkward (or rude?) to go back into the house now.” Going back to myself as the adult observer, I think it can be dangerous for a kid who doesn’t want to look awkward or be rude to a guy who thinks he owns everything.
Some have suggested that the painting is a metaphor—Age looks at the boy he was and Youth knows he will never ever look like that old man. That lets Fischl—and me—off too easy—these two are not even looking at each other. Jerry Saltz can see himself in the male character in Late America and even describe the whole show as a portrayal of Trump’s America. I can’t do either; not empathetic enough for the first role— and what other America has Fischl ever painted?
I could introspect through every painting with narratives and counter-narratives. Why do I think so badly of the mother? I think she’s the mother because she’s so close to the boy, (well actually too big to read as in the same space) and anyway all she’s doing is drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette— and I do those things myself.
The little girl in Daddy’s Girl age 11—is it only me that sees her as dangerously trusting? I can almost see her as just trusting, bored and comfortably familiar. The rescue dog, something people with a lot of money buy to watch the kids they can’t watch themselves? I do mean “can’t.”
I don’t like the class of people Fischl portrays. They aren’t “people who need people” and therefore not “the luckiest people in the world”. Yeah, they need people to be servants but is that what Funny Girl is singing about? A recurring conversation among this class is how lazy and inept the help is. How do I know this?
I spent years marbleizing their baseboards and I was a gardener, too.
True story—in Virginia, circa 2001, a zonked-out aging trophy wife with an ancient husband who was spending too long (for her) on his last leg, lounged on a chaise-longue and remarked into the air, “Cathy can marbleize, but Cathy can’t foxhunt”.
Does Fischl know that mothers look lovingly on their sons? That fathers wish those preteen years might last a bit longer? That the childcare workers stay longer than they want to because they feel so sorry for the children? He can paint anything yet he never portrays that, not even for the contrast it might provide to his other observations. As for the people who buy the paintings, unflattering portraits of themselves, what the hell are they thinking?
The most iconic painting in the show, the little boy wrapped in the American flag proximate to the naked man in the fetal position, yes, here I’m playing my
self (?)-assigned role, the judgmental, working class prude. “Go put some clothes on,
du alter cocker!
Sotto voce: Listen, they are already living in gated communities and they’ve hired their own guards, can’t we just throw up some barbed wire tonight? —CNQ