Since 2014・Volume 7

Original content © The Ballpointer / Mahozawari Unlimited

​​​​BALLPOINTBRIEF   by B. Neufeld  posted April 19, 2020​​

​​Pen ance?・X

TEXT begin 12pt ... 

INKBLOTTER   last revised August 1, 2020

​​​Ballpoint pen artwork & more, now on display or coming soon.

Support the Starving ARTS, Ballpoint and Otherwise.

Enjoy from the safety of home via  'virtual exhibition, or venture outside with care to enjoy  'face to face'... 

 Any art school grad with hopes for a career knows publicity is key. It's practically an art school major: Making Oneself Marketable. The art world is too crowded to make a life of it otherwise. Linking oneself to a charity, a move straight out of The Publicists' Playbook, projects integrity. Unfortunately, that move is also so worn that its use as a publicist's modus operandi has become transparent to anyone actually paying attention. This is not to throw shade at the institution of charity, itself; only at those who might exploit it for product placement. Selfie's 'please share and repost' is telling. Translation: help boost my SoMe numbers! And 'awkward video of me'? Self-effacive scripting by a master manipulator gunning to go viral. 
     Art-illiterate FF&FFs don't know any better; a perfect crowd in which to install oneself as Savior, where merely  appearing charitable will suffice. But trendy types pushing lifestyles, or merely  appearing  to — movie stars, rock stars, politicians, especially would-be art stars — come across as egocentric to the Waltons crowd, so charitable pursuits score points and turn the dubious into darlings. The teflon protection of charity. Damned be any detractors; as the accused would never admit to their altruism being anything less, accusers come out looking like Meanies. Benefactors often deflect suspicion by asserting they're 'not taking one penny of it ', but here's an equation one need neither be Einstein  nor  Picasso to grasp: 
art + charity  x  publicity = priceless

Art Projects International (API) in March announced via social media that the ballpoint drawing BL-092 by Mr. Lee, whom they rep, had been published as the cover of Dalla Misura Delle Stelle (pictured), a posthumous collection of poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). To Mr. Lee we offer our congratulations. The Ballpointer remains an ardent supporter of his work. His ballpoint 'mark-making' is genuinely worthy of respect. API, however, is a separate case … 
    In response to our inquiry for a few simple facts about the art and its use as a book cover came a lame 'too busy', having not even heard any of the questions. Considering the questions submitted in a follow-up 'just in case you can spare a minute' email, questions answerable without even bothering the artist (the size of the original artwork, how did it end up as the cover of this book, et al), API staff must be too busy to even breath. Our sympathy goes out to them. Surely an intern could've been assigned 15 minutes to deal with us in the same way I was left to deal with it here. Speaking of '15 minutes', I recall overhearing Andy Warhol paraphrase himself that 'even 15 minutes of fame is worth a minute of pandering'. And promotional consideration for Rilke and his book? API secured payment for the book cover art, job well done. Sales support must not have been part of the deal. 
   To API's credit, replying to us at all is at least a step up from ignoring inquiries altogether, which has thus far been the case—one-way communication—but everyone knows 'too busy' is the intelligence-insulting equivalent to a grade schooler's my dog ate the homework. In business, it's having your secretary call you away during a meeting. No one is ever that  busy, they just don't want to deal with you. Polite rudeness.
    Ballpointer  editors have experience with ignored inquiries and reps who could be described as so stiff you can snap a ballpoint pen in half by the clench of their buttocks, so we'll get over it. In fairness, the API rep in question did comment that our 'project' (The Ballpointer) 'sounds quite interesting'. But wait; 'project'? Silly us, five years thinking we were providing an actual service disseminating news about ballpoint art to thousands of readers worldwide

      ​So here we are, full-blown pandemic. Families around the world are losing loved ones, jobs or both. Everyone is suffering. But wait, here comes  DaVinci the Deliverer  to the rescue! And all we have to do is ... buy one of his paintings? It's already self-important of anyone to consider oneself Thy Deliverer. Making one's product a factor, promoting it with a SoMe announcement prompting people to 'repost', and packaging it as an outstretched hand to charity shouts 'spurious!'. Minus any one of these factors, potential Meanies might not feel inclined to say anything, but, faced with such an overt act of orchestrated opportunism, how could a Meanie hold his peace and  not  post a SoMe comment in response? 
    Convenient thing about social media: one can simply ignore, delete or block detractors. Publicists will have you ignore, delete  and  block; not getting caught up in a public debate which may endanger one's own saintly position is also in The Playbook. Better yet, let oblivious FF&FFs defend you. In the case of one Meanie's critical SoMe comments — unwelcome, no doubt, but a valid opinion expressed in a polite manner (as polite a manner possible ; truth is not always pretty) — out of left field come two FF&FFs hurling insults like guard dogs barking in Master 's defense: 'raising thousands of dollarsbark bark 'talking shitbark bark 'desperatebark barkbark 'bitter' bark bark. As the FF&FF tag team sees it, Meanie was also 'using someone with more success and a larger platform' (doubt it!) for attention. The teflon protection of charity, indeed. Meanwhile, not a peep from Selfie

Exhibit E: DeNiro, meanwhile, was again in close proximity to ballpoints in 2013: in  Luc Besson's  The Family, parodying his famous mobster portrayals in films by... Scorcese ! As reported here, the son of DeNiro's character is shown using a  4-color  Bic  at school, as are all other students in his class. The film, by the way, was executive-produced by none other than... say it with me: Scorrrceeeseee To be continued...? 

June 8—August 29, 2020  NOW UP  

Non Piangere  (Enough Tears)  solo exhibition

Fernando Pradilla Gallery  Madrid, Spain (X) 

Juan Francisco Casas' ballpoint on paper  Artemesia, Judith, Raquel  (pictured cropped) and more, finally on display in an exhibition postponed from April due to Covid-19. This is Casas' 7th solo exhibition, consisting of oil paintings and ballpoint drawings on paper, even one drawn on marble. All of the artwork is tied to the works of the Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi.  More info.

''Starting tomorrow, for seven days, I'll make a new small painting each day to raise money for NYC Health and Hospitals,'' announced Selfie's SoMe post. ''Receive a painting with the highest bid! How much money can we raise?! Please share and repost this awkward video of me talking directly into the camera! Let's do this.''  

STARPOINTS  by K. Rie  posted June 26, 2020

All but the keenest viewers may have missed the many ballpoint pen cameos on screens big and small over the years. Ballpoints are regulars in Hollywood productions, and not just as set dressing... 

Six Degrees of  Ballpoint Pen 

What's with  Leonardo DiCaprio  and ballpoint pens? Links between the two have accumulated over the years. Let's review some compelling connections, old and new... 

​​​​BALLPOINTBRIEF   by B. Neufeld  posted May 2, 2019​​

​​'Busy ' Signal・X

This was passed down to me from my Ballpointer  higher-ups, what would've been a book review of sorts; a book judged by its cover. That would've been a good thing in this case, a love letter in the offing—the book cover in question, after all, bore art by none other than ballpoint elder Il Lee—but due to a lack of cooperation, you get me  instead, left to judge that book not by its cover but by its cover artist's representatives. Followers of The Ballpointer  who actually pay attention may already know that when something is handed down to me, well ...

Exhibit C: Ballpoints made a dramatic cameo in Martin Scorcese's 1995 film  Casino. As reported here, a gangster played by  Joe Pesce  repeatedly jabs one into the neck of a bar patron who insulted Robert DeNiro's character, who quietly watches. As you may know, DiCaprio in recent years has replaced DeNiro as Scorcese's go-to leading man, filling roles which would've once gone to the veteran. For example...

 Exhibit A: In  Steven Spielberg's 2002 film  Catch Me If You Can, DiCaprio plays a career con man. As reported here, ballpoint pens were among the tools of his trade, used to alter the fine printing on bank checks. The Leo/ballpoint link was an isolated incident at that time, so no suspicions arose. But...

 Bowler hat. Spotless sneakers. Vanity ballpoint pens. Ad nauseam social media (SoMe) sketchbook selfies and name-dropping of passé celebs who's kids  Mr. Selfie  himself has drawn in ballpoint. That's all part of an I-Me-My equation indicative of a person making calculated moves. The branding of oneself. So why should anyone be surprised that credibility might be questioned when Selfie suddenly deems it so important to help a purportedly cash-strapped health care organization not by simply making a donation and calling on others to do the same but instead making the purchase of a Mr. Selfie painting part of the equation (minimum bid $200), targeting family, friends and facebook followers (FF&FFs) who themselves may be cash-strapped? 

In defense of a  Ballpointer  colleague, a few thoughts about  art, publicity, and questions of  motive  when  charity  joins the two...  

     It's presumptuous (naive at best) to think that one's 'thousands of dollars' raised is anything more than a drop in the bucket, or of consequential help, to a system in need of billions. I'd be happy to donate 'thousands' if I thought it would make a difference in cases like this, without having to buy (or sell) a thing. Hopefully those 'thousands' get to the intended, but Selfie's charity du jour has the government and other agencies to turn to. ('Health and Hospitals', by the way, is itself a corporation.) Health care workers having a bad month on the job? How about the rest of the world, fending for themselves with no one to turn to for help? Pandemic-level charity is best left to Bill Gates or the Elon Musks of the world. Prompt McDonald's to donate a penny from the sale of every burger to the cause. Then you'd be closer to something actually beneficial in getting what's needed to those who need it, and Selfies can leave their Selfie paintings out of it

July—December, 2020  NOW ONLINE  

The Mediterranean  group exhibition

The Curators  London, UK (X) 

Two ballpoint pen mini masterpieces (one pictured, cropped) by the Italian artist Alberto Repetti are available for view and purchase in this Mediterranean Sea-themed exhibition. Repetti's are the only ballpoint works of 10 artists selected from 400, and are recommended buying  for those in the market for their very own Mediterranean 'view'.  GO NOW.

 NEW  Exhibit D: In Scorcese's 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, DiCaprio uses ballpoint pens to gauge sales skills in two scenes which bookend his character's nefarious story arc. Early in the film, he hands a ballpoint to an old pal: ''Sell me this pen.'' The friend grabs the pen: ''Do me a favor, write your name down on that napkin,'' he snaps back. ''I don't have a pen," replies DiCaprio. ''I rest my case,'' the friend cockily retorts. Hosting a sales seminar in the film's closing scene, DiCaprio asks several front row attendees the same: ''Sell me this pen.'' None fare as well as the old pal. 

 NEW  Exhibit B: Ballpoint pens share quality screen time with DiCaprio in  Sam Mendes' 2009 film  Revolutionary Road. Near the end of the film, explaining to his wife (Titanic  costar Kate Winslet) about a newfangled computer his company is producing, DiCaprio sketches its basic design onto a napkin in ballpoint to show her. (DiCaprio or stunt hands?) And... 


Related news... The Ballpointer had been publishing 'feature' articles only with the direct participation of the artists, but in 2019 we will initiate an editorial shift and publish with or without  featured artists' participation or blessing. As an online journal reporting about the usage of ballpoint pens to create fine art, we are quite simply within our rights to publish as we see fit about the activities of artists doing so. It was only as a courtesy that we solicited artist involvement in the first place, expecting that artists would, if not initially, at some point be happy to speak to media with very specific knowledge of their chosen medium. Over time it became suspicious that an artist using ballpoints (i.e. Il Leeor his 'reps') wouldn't talk with us, effectively making The Ballpointer seem ignorant—or worse, exclusionary—by not writing about artists whom everyone knows exist but whom have not yet been featured  

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August 1—20, 2020  NOW UP  

The Maximum Expression of White  solo exhibition

Proloco Sestriere  Sestriere, Italy (X) 

Twenty-seven works in 'full-color' ballpoint pen by Paolo Amico, dedicated to his adopted hometown Setriere, an Italy/France border town near Turin.  More info  (in Italian)

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​OFF TOPIC  Points of interest in the arts, from elsewhere on the internet

artnetDo Outsider Artists Really ExistAnthony Haden Guest・Jan 22, 2016 

The Report: Aging elbow-rubber and chronicler of the 1970s, 80s and 90s celeb social circuit Haden-Guest was fishing for a timely topic to chime in on and he found one in Outsider Art. Although he touches on some valid points, the article is provided no space for him to actually go anywhere with it. Just lots of name dropping — Henry Darger, Adolf Wolfi, Joe Coleman — enough to prove he may still know what he's talking about.

The Point: Usage of ballpoint pens to create art has its own outsider element of which Haden-Guest is either unaware or wasn't provided enough space to touch upon. But his closing statement about the "surge of faux, unfelt Outsiderism into the marketplace" hits a nail on the head. Whatever will cover the high cost of an art-star lifestyle and expensive gallery space; a Jeff Koons exhibition of ballpoint PEN tings would fit that description.  B. Neufeld

Associated PressDetroit police issue warrant for street artist Fairey artwork・June 25, 2015 
The ReportShepard Fairey, ''who created the  Hope poster that came to symbolize President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign'' vandalized buildings across Detroit, and ''would be arrested if he returns to Detroit and doesn't turn himself in ''. Fame ''does not take away the fact that he is also a vandal '', a police sergeant is quoted as saying.
The Point: Indeed, this is still what it takes to be considered 'cool' in the 21st century. Personally, I 'Hope ' he's made an example of.  R. Bell  

NewsweekFox Channel Blurs Out Breasts on Picasso PaintingLucy Westcott・May 15, 2015   

The Report: Pablo Picasso's The Women of Algiers (1955) broke the record for most expensive work of art to sell at auction, but apparently had its bare nipples blurred during a news report of the sale.

The Point: Considering Picasso's cubist painting style, the only way an impressionable mind would even recognize 'nipples' is if someone told them they were nipples, and the only way they would consider nipples bad would be if someone taught them they were bad. Apparently someone at Fox must've been cut off from mother's milk too soon and still holds a grudge.  B. Neufeld  

BBC NEWS (UK)Painting sale sets $300m record・Feb 7, 2015   
The Report: Paul Gaugain's Nafea fas ipoipo? (1892) was privately sold for $300 million to an unidentified buyer in Qatar
The Point: That same amount of money could... A: Buy 300 works of art for a million dollars each. B: Buy a million artworks for 300 dollars each. C: Feed the unfed of the world. D: Wipe my ass 300 million times at a buck a wipe. E: All of the above.  B. Neufeld  

The Globe and Mail (Canada)When Iggy Pop can't live off his art, what chance do the rest have?

Elizabeth Renzetti・Oct 17, 2014   
The Report: The 'godfather of punk' says he'd have to ''tend bars between sets'' if he had to live off of royalties from his music alone, because 'everyone wants to listen' but 'no one wants to pay'. 
The Point: The important matter of artistic value in the easy-access digital age. Visual artists face the same challenge.  O. Lebron 

National Doodle Day (UK)drawing a line through epilepsy・Annually? 

The Report : Originating from the UK and operated by Epilepsy Action, National Doodle Day is a fundraising event to benefit ''600,000 people in the UK living with epilepsy''. 

The Point : Epilepsy! Donate a doodle, buy a doodle or learn how you can get involved in other ways.  O. Lebron  

Daily Mail Online (UK)As prices for Damien Hirst's works plummet, pity the credulous saps who spent fortunes on his tosh・November, 2012 
The Report : Auction prices for Damien Hirst artworks are falling and some are being withdrawn unsold, circumstances cheered by the proudly biased (''Finally...!'') writer of the article (Ruth Dudley Edwards?). 
The Point : At the time of Hirst's rise as darling of the art world (mid/late-1990s), suckers still speculated on art-as-trophy-investment. What's happened since then is a fine example of what happens when the now-proverbial 'wow factor ' is all you have. After the thrill is gone, someone is bound to notice: ''Uhm, it's a shark. In a tank... Isn't that what Museums of Natural History or aquariums are for ?''. It's just as much the fault of the media for reporting about such bull-shit-artists  in the first place.  B. Neufeld