I’m Max Poe, the guy Punch keeps snarking at; benefactor, slave-driver, pimp…keeper of the keys! I am the capitalist owner of the mode of production. The hand that feeds Punch’s skinny ass. I’m Maximillian Poe, sifting through e-mail, ticking off appointments, arranging an itinerary for a stable of unstables. I’m looking through the books, yes: taking account of accounts.
Admittedly, I’m drinking too much. I’m eating too much. I’m smoking too much. I’m traveling and partying too much. It’s part of the fucking job.
Another part of the job is telling yourself you’re the good guy: you have to repeat it like a mantra. You have to stay present to it; live in it.
And I’m aware, mind you, that I’m supposed to be the villain, in this story — would HAVE to be, in any contemporary tale that allows the artists to speak. It’s where the whole machine went kaput, you know: when we started allowing the artists to speak.
Picture it: the precious body pinned graceful and narrow to the cross, long legs, turned in the classic model’s pose, flaunting the slender ankle, the long calf— you see, even depictions of Jesus Christ in all his martyred glory, mirror our self-consciousness, the perpetual pose— that tender regard we fold ourselves in. Always before a mirror, in exhausting self-awareness, we pretend to be about our business — all the while gazing lovingly at ourselves, poised in charming effort, genuflecting through the stations the cross.
This is by way of introduction, as if I needed one: You’ll know me as Punch, that painter who was, for a number of years at least, the face of contemporary art. You are familiar, I’m sure, with my brooding likeness which has appeared on the covers of magazines. And you know my name and my habits from the tall tales and flash photos, which comprise the flat, fairytale logic of the gossip columns: peering from under a dark brow, the serious artist surrounded by serious glamour — garlanded with the slender arms of models and actors, seated in circles of art world intelligentsia, holding up wine to the golden light of a chandelier.
I am that showpiece whose life before the mirror should have been a happy one, were it not that I have bad dreams.
Straight out of NYU and I land a professorship at SUNY Binghamton, a frigid, self-important little college way upstate, far far away from the civilization I’d known all my life in Brooklyn. I’m teaching philosophy there for three years. Three fun-filled years of lectures and papers and grades and colloquia — and snow up to your arsehole for eight out of 12 months. No culture: only parties and bars. The film department. The co-op. The student goddam newspaper. Tedium? My god.
One day I created my first piece of art when I carefully spray-painted my entire office a brilliant, searing, orange from ceiling, to floor. Oh, but not just the room — the desk and the potted plants also, and my tweedy old chair, the grimy computer, the dusty curtains, and even the slender florescent light fixtures — oh, and even the books — all and every book which lined the walls or sat on my desk or leaned against the chilly windowsill where the wind whistled under it’s binding.
And when I emerged, stepping backward through the newly oranged threshold, after hours of back-breaking labor that went on throughout the night, I closed the door, tacked a note to it, and left.
The note said: Toot-a Loo.
Two weeks in New York City and I meet Max Poe in an underground bar called Double Happiness where I’m sitting with a glass of bitter red, considering next steps.
On the cover of Vanity Fair, a group of up-and-coming artists graces the front panel: Peter Monday is there, and so is Boo Dolly, amongst others. On the far left stands a woman of around forty five, maybe older. If one wonders that someone of that age is standing proudly amongst this group of promising young beginners, they would do well to re-think about beginnings. Surely Lola Boeys has done this. She stands, taller and prouder and more full of potential, than any of them.
On the flip-over panel, the old guarde is gathered: Punch is there, with Jeff Koons, David Salles, Richard Serra, Donal Judd, and Dan Graham. Lewis Boeys is there too, on the far right of the panel, standing, arms folded and frowning — looking a bit wrong, and not just for the fact that he’s photoshopped in.
No, Lewis was just not ever really there. Except when painting. Lewis or Lola, the artist in both pictures always created what felt right. But something essential ‑‑ the lighting, perhaps –was wrong. Perhaps that’s why this one person appears now in two different bodies on flip sides of this cover. Lola is full of potential. Lewis is part of the canon.
So far all I know about Boo is that she’s an emerging artist just signed with Max Poe Gallery. Her first show is coming up. It will feature in large part her latest and largest series of Cross Works or Figures, as she calls them.
I see her role as a sort of gadfly. I think I want her to be a kind of borderline personality: on fire and sort of ruthless, but a charmer. She and PUNCH seem to be having a thing which is dangerous. He is, afterall, a narcissist: which he will gladly say himself. Soon.
So Marcus will show up about midway through the novel, I’m thinking. He and Gene are IT developers and they set some hairy shit in motion.