I’d be a negligent blogger if I didn’t applaud Jerry Saltz’s fabulous article title in this week’s New York,”Two Coats of Painting.” Saltz writes that Tony Shafrazi’s current show, “Who’s Afraid of Jasper Johns,” centers on a collaboration by the two impresario-organizers, gallerist Gavin Brown and artist Urs Fischer. “It is all about memory, morals, redemption, tribal loyalty, and railing against cozy clich�. One of its causes can be traced to February 28, 1974, the infamous day when Tony Shafrazi, a 30-year-old Iranian-born artist, entered the Museum of Modern Art, yelled, ‘Call the curator. I am an artist,’ and spray-painted KILL LIES ALL in red letters across Picasso�s ‘Guernica.’ I�d always assumed Shafrazi meant to paint ‘All Lies Kill.’However, he recently told me he wrote exactly what he wanted to write, and that it was meant to be read in ‘a Finnegans Wake way’ so that it said something whichever way you read it. (It�s still gibberish to me. Whatever.) Asked about it later, Shafrazi stated he wanted to bring Guernica ‘absolutely up to date, to retrieve it from art history and give it life.’ Regardless, the painting had a protective coating, was cleaned soon after, and now hangs at the Reina Sof�a in Madrid. Shafrazi was arrested, charged with ‘criminal mischief,’ and released on $1,000 bail.”
Whether ‘Who’s Afraid’ is successful or not, Saltz reports that something freeing did happen the night of the opening. “It was Shafrazi�s birthday. At the large after-party, Brown and Fischer presented him with a five-foot-long cake decorated with a perfect rendition of Guernica. Brown climbed atop a table and, amid much yelling, toasted Shafrazi. He then thrust a cake decorator filled with red icing into Shafrazi�s hands. As the crowd screamed, Brown implored, ‘Write, Tony! Write!’ Shafrazi started moving the device over the cake. Slowly he wrote the words I AM SORRY. Time stood still. It was like an angel of redemption had entered the room to take away Shafrazi�s guilt. The room went silent. I was shocked. Then, Shafrazi began writing again. He wrote one more word: not! It was like the Sopranos finale. Just as you thought everything was going to change, everything only became more of what it already was.” Read more.
“Who’s Afraid of Jasper Johns,” conceived by Urs Fischer and Gavin Brown. Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York, NY. Through July 12.