Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas

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Overview

In Bad Boy, renowned American artist Eric Fischl has written a penetrating, often searing exploration of his coming of age as an artist, and his search for a fresh narrative style in the highly charged and competitive New York art world in the 1970s and 1980s. With such notorious and controversial paintings as Bad Boy and Sleepwalker, Fischl joined the front ranks of America artists, in a high-octane downtown art scene that included Andy Warhol, David Salle, Julian Schnabel, and others. It was a world of fashion,...
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Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas

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Overview

In Bad Boy, renowned American artist Eric Fischl has written a penetrating, often searing exploration of his coming of age as an artist, and his search for a fresh narrative style in the highly charged and competitive New York art world in the 1970s and 1980s. With such notorious and controversial paintings as Bad Boy and Sleepwalker, Fischl joined the front ranks of America artists, in a high-octane downtown art scene that included Andy Warhol, David Salle, Julian Schnabel, and others. It was a world of fashion, fame, cocaine and alcohol that for a time threatened to undermine all that Fischl had achieved.

In an extraordinarily candid and revealing memoir, Fischl discusses the impact of his dysfunctional family on his art—his mother, an imaginative and tragic woman, was an alcoholic who ultimately took her own life. Following his years as a student at Cal Arts and teaching in Nova Scotia, he describes his early years in New York with the artist April Gornik, just as Wall Street money begins to encroach on the old gallery system and change the economics of the art world. Fischl rebelled against the conceptual and minimalist art that was in fashion at the time to paint compelling portraits of everyday people that captured the unspoken tensions in their lives. Still in his thirties, Eric became the subject of a major Vanity Fair interview, his canvases sold for as much as a million dollars, and The Whitney Museum mounted a major retrospective of his paintings.
 
Bad Boy follows Fischl’s maturation both as an artist and sculptor, and his inevitable fall from grace as a new generation of artists takes center stage, and he is forced to grapple with his legacy and place among museums and collectors. Beautifully written, and as courageously revealing as his most provocative paintings, Bad Boy takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through the passion and politics of the art world as it has rarely been seen before.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Eric Fischl has been a practicing artistic bad boy since his early. His autobiography takes its title from his controversial 1981 painting that portrays a young boy dropping his pants as a naked woman sprawls provocatively on a bed. As always though, Fischl's aesthetics here is much more complicated than a sneer or a leer. In this truly fearless document, he reveals the hidden pain and struggles that seeped onto his canvases. He writes with searing candor about his dysfunctional family, especially his alcoholic mother who died a suicide. With that foreground, the story of his million-dollar painting sales and major exhibitions take on a new color and his confessions about his subsequent slide into drug abuse and loss of favor snap us into a new sense of who he is and astonishment about how he survived. Editor's recommendation.

The New York Times Book Review - Laura Kipnis
From his pointed assessments of other artists to his diktats on brush strokes, Fischl is entertaining company. The same observational frankness that imbues his paintings makes this a brave and candid book. It's also, in many ways, a painful book: he's such a deft portraitist that he captures himself at his most unknowing, wounded, prideful and self-contradictory…Occasionally vain, occasionally score-settling, it's as unsparing as the aging Rembrandt's blunt self-portraits.
Publishers Weekly
In this patchy, but forthright memoir, Fischl, whose paintings of suburban life propelled him to celebrity in the 1980s, chronicles his struggles to bring a personal style and voice to the canvas, to render “characters that were real enough, sincere enough, and vulnerable enough to command empathy,” as he grapples with a past haunted by his mother’s alcoholism and, ultimately, his own substance abuse within New York’s decadent art world. The book, written with Stone, mainly focuses on Fischl’s artistic life, and the chapter on his student days at CalArts in the early 1970s is among the book’s richer moments. Under John Baldessari, CalArts was a hub of conceptualism, and painter Fischl was “consigned to the school’s backwaters.” Though the memoir (unlike his best paintings) is not particularly sensitive to the nuances of either people or events, Fischl discusses art with an infectious enthusiasm. Whether describing the evolution of “Sleepwalker,” or the similarities between tennis and painting, the artist’s fervor is palpable. Fischl, however, has previously made much stronger, more eloquent defenses of his bronze “Tumbling Woman” statue, which opened in Rockefeller Center on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to widespread controversy. The suggestion that the controversy about the work had to do with American culture’s “stubborn refusal to address issues of aging and mortality” is hardly convincing. Two 8-page full-color photo inserts. Agent: Mark Reiter, the Reiter Agency. (May)
From the Publisher
“Fischl is entertaining company. The same obervational frankness that imbues his paintings makes this a brave and candid book. It's also, in many ways, a painful book: he's such a deft portraitist that he captures himself at his most unknowing, wounded, prideful and self-contradictory...Occasionally vain, occasionally score-settling, it's as unsparing as the aging Rembrant's blunt self-portraits.” -New York Times Book Review

"Given Fischl's aptitude for telling stories as a painter, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that Bad Boy, a memoir that covers his life from his earliest years to the present, is so engaging. The book, which takes its name from a celebrated 1981 painting of Fischl's that shows a boy facing a naked woman in a bedroom, is unusual among the writings of artists in its novelistic drive and readability...folding painful family memories into accounts of the artist's years in high school, his experiences with girlfriends and teachers, and the art scene he began encountering in New York in the late 1970s." -New York Review of Books

“At once a confessional and a manifesto…Will move readers with its tales of a fraught life in art.” -Wall Street Journal

"A sharp critique of the art world's recent evolution" -Los Angeles Times

One of Jeanette Winterson’s picks for the season’s most arresting personal stories –O Magazine

“Must-read for culture vultures.” –New York Post

"Captivatingly written." -Huffington Post

"A clear-eyed account of the art world’s profound transformations over the past 30 or so years, told by an artist whose career perfectly maps that period." -The New York Observer

"...will probably stand as one of the more revealing documents about the late 20th-century art world.” -ARTnews

"A uniquely intimate account of big-time art in [the 1980s]." -National Post

"Editor's Choice" -Buffalo News

"An in depth look at the life of America's foremost narrative painter Eric Fischl." -Hamptons.com

"[Fischl] pulls no punches in depicting his experiences as a gritty bohemian and upscale urbanite...Equally absorbing as an insider's chronicle of the late twentieth-century art world's booms and busts."-Booklist

"A brave and beautiful book about the difficulties of practicing as a painter in America, and a reminder of how essential the courage of the pursuit of a personal vision is to art."
–Adam Gopnik, staff writer, the New Yorker, author of Paris to the Moon
 
“Erich Fischl’s Bad Boy is powerful and important: emotionally incisive, brilliantly well-crafted, and completely authentic.  In short, it is just like his art.”
–Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of Jackson Pollock and Van Gogh: The Life
 
“Soo good, so incredibly honest, vulnerable, real, moving, compassionate; an incredible document of a man's life, an artist’s development and a particular moment in time…the best artist-memoir I've ever read.”
–A.M. Homes, author of The End of Alice and May We Be Forgiven
 
"Eric Fischl’s Bad Boy is a thoughtful, honest, revealing—and frequently moving—memoir of a life in art."
–Francine Prose, president of PEN American Center
 
"Only an artist of Eric Fisch's intellect, resilience and wit could have survived his dreadful childhood, conquered a nearly fatal addiction to booze and cocaine, salvaged his marriage to the marvelous painter April Gornik, and written this compulsively riveting book."
–Francine du Plessix Gray, Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer and literary critic
 
“As Eric relates across this absorbing chronicle, the ongoing quest for authenticity amidst the thralls of dysfunction would come to constitute one of his primary themes…And as in his art, so here in his writing, he does so with vivid, striking and memorable dispatch.”
–Lawrence Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees and Uncanny Valley: Adventures in the Narrative

Kirkus Reviews
A celebrated contemporary American artist, now in his 60s, paints his life and offers a review. Fischl, whose striking painting Bad Boy (1981) provides the title, teams up with veteran journalist Stone to tell the story of his unlikely discovery of his passion for art, his rise to celebrity in the 1980s and his adjustment--not always amiable--to the arrival of the next generation. Fischl begins with an epiphany occasioned by a 1986 traffic incident. He realized he had lost control of his life (booze, cocaine) and did not like "the miserable, belligerent guy I had become." Time for a rebirth. But first he takes us back to his childhood, advancing swiftly to the mid-1960s, when he discovered that art was the only endeavor he wished to pursue. Throughout, Fischl surrenders pages to other players in his story--family members, friends and colleagues--and allows them to relate their version of events. It's a novel strategy, but unfortunately, most of them just shower praise on the artist--it all grows rather cloying. Fischl describes his love affairs, his life with (and eventual marriage to) artist April Gornik, his screw-ups and triumphs and his relationships with fellow artists, dealers and buyers. He pauses continually to talk about his philosophy of art and specific works, describing their origin (he says he never knows what he's going to do until he's done it), their execution and their not-always-positive reception. His sculpture Tumbling Woman for 9/11 had a hostile reaction and was removed from its site. Generally generous and self-deprecating, he does attack some of his successors, among them Damien Hirst, whose work he calls "shallow." Best for the discussions of his own work; worst for the gushing offered by some of his contributors.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780770435578
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 188,763
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric Fischl is America’s foremost narrative painter; his paintings hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and in collections throughout the world. He lives with his wife, the acclaimed landscape artist April Gornik, in Sag Harbor on Long Island.
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