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.
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.