“Hypocrites! All of you! I’m taking my urinal and getting out of here.”
At the turn of the century, a group of artists tried to banish pretentiousness from the art world by opening a museum which would exhibit any work by any artist. To test this resolve, one particularly janky member of the group entered as his work a urinal. Pulled at the last second, this distinctive piece eventually found its way to the San Francisco Museum where my friend C.J. and I stared quizzically.
“The artist who made this piece is challenging the concept of art as a higher human endeavor. It confronts the insidiousness of ‘reason’ as portrayed in traditional art by subverting it.”
“It’s a urinal.”
And so the debate began. I took the former view; my fine non-feathered friend took the latter. I became more irritated as our argument quickly escalated into an eloquent conflict between two heatedly delivered words.
I maintain to this day that I didn’t mean to push C.J. I’m not a physical guy. Whatever the reason, C.J. came back at me with the heat and intensity of a thousand suns, shoving me through the Dada exhibit and into the Picasso “Blue and Beyond” room. Shielding myself with Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937), I tried to reach around and get C.J. in a sleeper hold. He saw right through that and quickly countered by bursting through “El Loco” (1904) and thrashing me over the head with both “Woman Ironing” (1904) and “The Kiss” (also 1904). After about twenty-five minutes of this I broke free and made a dash to the postmodernist room.
I hid by cleverly disguising myself as performance art and as soon as he got within range, I wrapped C.J. in a giant shoelace and went to work, viciously rubbing his face into the rough unworked surface of Jackson Pollock’s “Stenographic Figure” (1942, oil on canvas). Blustering all the while, C.J. was not unable to use his sheer size to push me back until I was on the edge of the balcony, overlooking the rest of the exhibits.
C.J.’s face looked oddly calm as I fell the two and a half stories into the exhibit below. I remember this specifically. I was not hurt, because the newly restored “Birth of Venus” (Botticelli 1480) broke my fall. I didn’t have long to contemplate what this piece of Renaissance art was doing in the MOMA because I suddenly heard the sound of C.J. coming down the stairs, holding the torn shreds of Georges-Pierre Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte” (1886) in one hand, and a urinal in the other. I had to think fast.
I had read that silk screen was highly flammable, and I was only going to have one chance. I lit a match and, fashioning a torch from Salvador Dali’s “Christ of St. John of the Cross” (1951), I brandished my weapon at my mighty foe. He froze, realizing that he had walked into the Andy Warhol arena and also, his doom.
“Take this, you pre-impressionistic literalist bastard!” I said, and silently dropped the flame onto a wide mural of Campbell’s soup cans.
As I slowly retreated from the flaming wreckage which once was The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I hailed a taxi and, instructing the cabbie to “gun it,” calmly wrapped my hurting arm in the scraps of my shirt.” Damn,” I thought, “I got to pee.”