July 20th, 2012 / 7:24 pm

Art Balls

It’s really cool for an artist right now to make like a lot of one thing (in this case balls) and fill up a gallery with that thing. The phrase “excessive redundancy as aesthetic vapidity” comes to mind, which is why I don’t get paid by the idea. And you are to understand that the question “what does it mean?” is rather unsophisticated — ungenerous, even petty — so you kind of just accept it and try to enjoy the inherent form, or like the “recontextualization” of it, like how you don’t go to a gallery expecting somewhat scatological balls in huge piles, and so the artist is like changing your view, or mind, about what it means to walk into a gallery and be confronted with these large plastic cartoon-y yet alienating balls which are ridden with meaning by their very meaninglessness, perhaps even commissioned by the gallery, or a bored patron, and made by factory workers overseas, shipped in a kind of economic slave ship, and finally assembled in the gallery by the artist himself and his interns and/or art friends, on every weeknight the week preceding the opening, nice asses on floors in uncomfortable jeans, half-eaten burritos or falafels sharing the floor with two tepid six-packs, jewels of condensation sliding down, the gallery director in her brownstone crackling knees as she kneels down to place dog food into the dog bowl for her dog named after a Japanese film she saw when she was in love once.

Though in the next show the artist has taken a more literal approach to balls, and the installation only took 20 minutes. This one doesn’t have an MFA, but a reputation on the streets. They’re bringing the street into the walls, as if the walls didn’t exist, save the $30,000 monthly lease. The artist is a fraction-black, which is awesome. He renders pairs of testicles on the gallery walls to implicate the canvas’ obsolescence and the waft inside his pants. He sleeps on someone’s couch, then her bed, a student from France who likes painters, her aunt with whom she’s staying inviting them to the Hamptons, he drawing more balls on the sand each time the waves recede.

When I tell myself I can’t write anymore, I tell myself I’ll paint. The blank page and canvas are both asexual holes you get to fuck the shit out of on the weekends, and after all the fucking there’s no person leftover to worry about. It’s clean, an internal disaster. My therapist (this is really cheesy) has me close my eyes, and walks me through a narrative in which I get a call from my doctor telling me I have three months to live. This tactic is used to default or jump-start one’s spirit into realizing what one wants out of life, without actually getting cancer or almost dying. Psychotherapy is the attempt to talk your way out of shit, which sounds like a lot of post-structuralist theory. You kill God, then the Author, then propose Truth again using linguistic math. “Visualize the room around you,” I hear him. “Now open your eyes, welcome back. What do you want?” he firmly asks. “I want to fly to Barcelona and spend my last three months fucking as many women as possible, while traveling and seeing art during the day, moving from Spain through France and Italy, then finally to Greece — and gain sixty pounds eating cured meat, cheese, and drinking wine,” I say. “Sorry, I think I’m shallow.” He tells me not to be self-critical. We then hash out the psychological profile of who this amazing beaver-banging person is, and come to the conclusion he is the opposite of me. I am now left with the advice “just do the opposite of what you always do.” So tonight I’m supposed to not masturbate and get drunk alone. I’m supposed to go to a rave or something, take an “upper,” have sex with a man, and donate $200 to charity.

Seems like galleries hire hot receptionists with that frozen bitch look to introduce and establish dissonance between the viewer and the art. It’s like the opposite of Market economy’s ethos: the customer is always wrong. I’ve honestly been horrified going to art shows because I didn’t want to bear the receptionist, almost not seeing the show. Someone blows $55,000 on their MFA and is rendered nearly invisible because of cute bangs and a fucking attitude problem. Hot girls may have augmented art in the days of nudes, but they’re ruining the experience now. Yet, oddly, society needs it, I think, this thing so gorgeous yet mean that everyone just bows and walks out kind of hating themselves. I was tempted to end this post with “[…] but I just don’t have the balls,” somehow leading up to that punchline, but that’s too obvious, however obvious and annoying these kinds of meta-confessions are. When a writer addresses his reader, it means he’s devastated. It means he wants to touch skin. “That small part of me is a large part of me,” which is a fancy way of saying how preoccupied I am with my penis. Sorry for seeing the world this way, through my blind newborn weasel. I guess I should stop going to art shows and asking the receptionist where the bathroom is — wink, wink — but there’s something so soothing about pile of crap you can’t understand. It’s as if one is relieved of having to even care. Everything inside a gallery is so beautiful, and I always want to come inside.


  1. rawbbie

      “frozen bitch look” -pretty sure this is an art movement already

  2. rawbbie

      “frozen bitch look” -pretty sure this is an art movement already

  3. Nathan Jackson

      I don’t know how to respond to your balls. They probably smell like my own, yet with that unmistankingly foreign agent lingering under the atmospheric haze of stuffy cotton briefs. Art therapy has always been for hippies. Or hipsters. Or hippos. Jive-ass pachyderms passing a decent living under the healing blanket of a prescriptionless alternative to the Western assumption of inborn human imperfections as tasteless as charcoal sticking to the bottom of the oven. Do art therapists support The Arts by turning everyman into an artist? Doesn’t that kill the scene? Promethus had some huge cojones.


      Not your best post, but I’m still a fan. Give me more, Jimmy Chen.

  5. NineSevenOne MENU


  6. Merzmensch

      I want to know, what is the name of the gallery directors dog?

  7. Steve Van Cleave

      Nice obituary.

  8. Caleb Powell

      alienating balls which are “ridden” with meaning by their very meaningless

      or “riddled”

  9. Nicholas Grider

      Art-wise: it’s there in what you wrote, but the honest answer to why the first two images above look like plausible gallery installations is because when the public (mostly) stopped caring about contemporary art after Warhol, artists stopped talking to Middle America and started only talking to themselves and to extremely wealthy people using art commodities as pieces in a kind of frenzied stockmarket speculation game.  (Young British artists talked to the public for a while in the ’90s.)

      So I have my MFA, which cost a lot more than $55k, and I get it: balls on walls is balls on walls.  What you see is what you get, and the artist who does the best networking wins.  (I’m terrible at networking.)  If you get anything more than that you’re getting a response to 1) specific instances of broad subjects like race or sexuality or economics, or to 2) (western) art history itself, or both.  At the end of the day, though, it’s balls on walls and how good of a huckster you are.  Being a rich kid to begin with also helps because making art usually costs a shit-ton of money.

  10. Scott McClanahan

      Love this Jimmy.   I’ll fight the guy who says it’s not your best work.   That’s what his mother and father said on the day of his birth.   This is great.

  11. Cameron Pierce

      Fist pump. 

  12. Mr. Frank Rodriguez

      this was my favorite part

  13. AndreaCoates

      My God that First One is just like the Artistic Version of Tao Lin’s Literature ….

  14. AndreaCoates

       This Piece is Good. Funny. Abstract. Apt.

  15. yuxing


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