Review: Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas by Eric Fischl

The contemporary figurative artist Eric Fischl has written, with the aid of  Michael Stone, his autobiography–Bad Boy: My Life On and Off the Canvas.

Because Fischl’s work stands to the side of several currents in contemporary art, he has a (mild) reputation as a rebel. His lifestyle, according to this book, is one of pop-culture celebrity–hedonist excess.

Fischl’s paintings style–Fairfield Porter gets drunk and goes to the beach, is apt–is always superficial  and (most times) filled with sophomoric attempts at humor. But he paints with energy and his keen tonal sense never fails to please. As a figurative artist in the age of Duchamp imitators, I root for him.

I am going to cut to the chase about the book: Bad Boy is a BAD BOOK. Fischl cannot write. This is not necessarily fatal for an artist’s autobiography, but what makes the book unreadable is the superficial discussions about himself. If one is to believe the book, Fischl’s insight into his life is on the level of the most trite pop-psychology.

Fischl’s superficial and breezy painting style translated to the written page delivers none of the charm found in the paintings, but produces an unappetizing mess instead. If you like Fischl’s paintings, you owe it to yourself to avoid this book. If you want to read a good autobiography, you’re better off with Keith Richard’s recent book, which is filled with the kind of basic honesty missing from Fischl’s.

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