Glenn O’Brien

  • Style Makes the Band

    “All music is experimental.” —Florian Schneider, Kraftwerk

    WHEN IT COMES TO STARTING A NEW WAVE, it takes an East Village. I don’t know how long the funky east end of Greenwich Village has been a bohemian enclave and avant-garde hub, but going back to Charlie Parker, jazz at Slug’s, the beats, and the immortal Fugs is good enough for me.

    When I discovered the East Village, at the outset of the ’70s, it was the funkiest place I’d been. It was a neighborhood that looked like it had a love hangover and lysergic acid indigestion. The ’60s were wearing off and something was afoot, on platforms. You can tell from the cover of the first New York Dolls album,

  • Martha Graham

    THE PLEASURE DERIVED FROM WATCHINGRichard Move reincarnate Martha Graham isnot the same kick to be had from a conventional drag show. The irony is there, at its highest, threatening-to-transcend-tamp level, as it is with a performer like Jim Bailey, who does Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand almost as well as they did themselves. But there is another pleasure here, something akin to the thrill of Jurassic Park or Godzilla: An extinct, or at least endangered, species is brought startlingly back to life. Richard Move is Martha Graham, the performer, the diva, the guru/choreographer. Onstage he

  • John Lurie

    JOHN LURIE FIRST WENT FISHING when he played St. James (either the Lesser or the Greater) in Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Jesus (Willem Dafoe) told his disciples to “become fishers of men,” and James, cranky and irritable as usual, misheard him and thought he said fisherman.

    Today, two thousand years later, Lurie is still at it, wandering the planet, tackle in hand, fishing for the fiercest game in the seven seas, from man-eating sharks to submarine-eating giant calamari. Fishing is an art, as anyone familiar with Moby Dick or Trout Fishing in America can presumably attest,

  • Bob Dylan

    I HEARD A TRACK from Bob Dylan's new Time Out of Mind (Columbia) on the radio a few weeks before the album’s release. I didn’t recognize the voice right away, but I was moved by its unique and powerful sound, like a venerable, shamanic Delta blues man backed by some weird, Tom Waits–like band. It was profound blues, ancient and future music.

    Before the song was over it hit me that it was Dylan with another new voice: deep, dark, aged in wood, like maybe the same wood Dante Alghieri wrote about rambling in. Dylan is a spiritual itinerant and his Time Out of Mind has ramblin’ music for all forms

  • Glenn O’Brien


    The ART WORLD BOTTOMS OUT. Hey, it can only get better. After the art-market crash, art tried to revive itself by imitating its obvious commercial analogues: rock ’n’ roll and fashion. Mistake. Look how well these forms are doing. Art should have some pride. It turned itself into crap long before rock ‘n’ roll or fashion. Maybe now that the old sales-driven art world is over, artists can think about making art and getting it to a larger and more significant audience instead of a conspiracy of speculators and their hired academician apologists.




    I REMEMBER THE DAYS WHEN a subway train illegally painted by Lee Quinones would roll into a station and the people on the platform would spontaneously applaud. I remember artists like Lee, Zephyr, Futura 2000, Lady Pink, Crash, Daze, SAMO© (aka Jean-Michel Basquiat), and Keith Haring putting art out on the street for free. But graffiti isn’t what it used to be. Style is all but gone, and this outlaw practice, once a field of ambition, daring, rebellion, and improvisation, has largely reverted to a form of unconscious egoism and conformist vandalism.

    There are still a few sparks of unauthorized


    I STILL REMEMBER that jingle and how sinister it sounded to me: “Fall into the Gap.” It was worse than the U2 song “I will follow.” It made me think of the abyss. Later I would be troubled by the slogan “For every generation there’s a Gap.” There’s nothing overtly evil about it, but the ambiguity of this line nagged at me. Are generation gaps good?

    But over the years, as the Gap clothing-store chain evolved and grew into a new kind of retail operation, not to mention a philosophy of life, I came to accept and patronize it. There’s much to like about the Gap. The quality is good, the price is

  • Think or Thwim

    Fairfield says: Why is irrelevancy so often taken for profundity?

    —Elaine de Kooning

    I WAS IN a hospital the other day and I saw a guy sitting in a wheel chair wearing a tuxedo. I said “What are you in for?” He said “I’m getting a vasectomy.” I said “Why the tuxedo?” He said “I figured if I was gonna be impotent I should look impotent.”

    And that’s why every art critic should own a tuxedo, aside, of course, from gala openings at MoMA and the Guggenheim and part-time waiter jobs.

    But seriously, folks, art writing. . . . No, seriously folks. Art writing is not what it used to be. I went to the

  • Glenn O'Brien

    WHEN I SHOWED UP at the Whitney Biennial they handed me an admission button that said “I CAN’T IMAGINE EVER WANTING TO BE WHITE,” a badge that would presumably prevent me from being ejected by guards, as long as I didn’t destroy any of the works on display. No fucking way was I going to put that on, so I took my chances with the guards and was careful not to destroy any work.

    Actually I didn’t feel like destroying any of the work that I saw. I did feel like sitting down in Pepón Osorio’s fabulous Puerto Rican apartment crime-scene but I wouldn't cross the police crime-scene tape. I did feel like


    WHEN I HEAR the word “culture” I reach not for a revolver but for TCBY, The Country’s Best Yogurt. Here, unseen in a whipped and creamy concoction of milk sweeter than mom’s own and the fruits of the good earth, is culture, a nation of tiny benevolent bacteria ready to rush to my inner aid, manning my colon and, through a symbiosis that gives one greater faith in the Lord, purifying this body, this temple of the spirit.

    When I hear the word “culture” I reach not for my revolver but for my penicillin. Give me this day my daily mold. As above, so below. Give me a microcosm I can live with. Give me

  • John Ahearn

    ON APRIL 23, 1992, the New York Post, that crusading tabloid founded by Alexander Hamilton, ran a half-page article under the headline “City Pays 100G for Art Blasted as Anti-Black.” The art in question was a group of three sculptures by “internationally renowned Bronx artist John Ahearn,” which were to stand next to a new police station in the South Bronx.

    “‘We were stunned,’ said a top Bronx cop. ‘We spend so much time trying to work with the community, and that artwork is so clearly racial stereotyping. The message the art would have sent was, at the very least, insensitive. At most, it could


    YOU PRONOUNCE HIS NAME like this: Mor as in more, Faye rhymes with die. In French, which most all Senegalese people speak, Mor Faye sounds like mort faille, which might mean “death fault.” Faille also means Flemish grosgrain silk and the headdress worn by the women of Flanders, so mort faille could mean “death headdress.”

    Mor Faye is an African art saint. He died in poverty in 1985 at the age of 37, cause of death malaria. The place of his death was a mental hospital in Dakar, Senegal. He had been confined there for two years, ever since he was arrested for denouncing then president Léopold Sédar