Guston, Turrell, Louie, Masumura, Mishima and Me

Tuesday, September 9th, 2003 | Art, Film

Finally made it to the Philip Guston retrospective this weekend–remarkably moving work for such a limited iconography. Get thee to the museum, and don’t forget to see James Turrell’s equally remarkable Nada, a light installation on display on the second floor. Upon entering the darkened room, and after a few disorienting minutes, soft light falling on the left and right walls becomes visible. A few more moments, and a rectangle slowly appears, straight ahead. At first it seems like the wall is painted maybe a slightly different shade of white, or a painting, but presented very cinematically. The top and bottom lines of the rectangle appear very solid, while the sides seem to blend in with the walls. As you get closer, the flat rectangle gives way to an illusion of depth, but without lines or shadows. Curious about this, I drew closer and put my hand through the rectangle, which turned out to be an opening into another space, lit slightly brighter than the other room, but with absolutely no depth or seams, just empty space. Nothingness.

Also on display is a very large exhibition of very large luscious color photos by my former teacher, Reagan Louie, of Asian prostitutes, beautifully, lovingly, and inertly photographed. I left learning nothing really about them, other than that they have very colorful rooms and seem to lounge around all day nude on beds or in baths and never seem to have sex.

I also finally got to see Masamura’s Afraid to Die starring Yukio Mishima! Mishima, sadly, was not the greatest actor, but what a hot little number. His greatest acting role was as one of a pair of lovers turned to wax in Black Lizard. You’d think that Mishima would have said something about the script, but it was fun for its lurid color and fabulous death scene. One yakuza keeps scratching his pubic area, too, very prolonged rubbings, perhaps to warn us of the crabs that come with a life of crime? I went through an intense Mishima phase in my early twenties, very affected by his Sea of Fertility tetralogy–life’s struggle revealed as an illusion. “Life’s a big joke, and there’s no punch line…” Marie Windsor cries after being shot by her husband Elisha Cook, Jr. in Kubrick’s The Killing, before keeling over. After several weeks I moved on to Mishima masturbating to Saint Sebastian, where I’ve been ever since.

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