Photo: Brian J. Green.

It seems very hard to have been Rene Ricard. It seems even harder to have been around him. Rene (Osprey) is a story of the people who chose to be around Ricard anyway, knowing that suffering his suffering was the price of admission one had to pay to experience his frantic discharges of genius. A collection of the artist William Rand’s diary entries from the 1980s and ’90s—the last decades that afforded New Yorkers the luxury of being both artists and addicts—these fragments of day-to-day encounters with Ricard (whose “firing” from this publication is reported in the book) show what it was like to be in the room with his brilliance and madness and how difficult it was to differentiate between the two. The in-the-trenches POV precludes a Just Kids–ian gauziness, avoiding further mythologization of this already myth-stuffed era (although it does make analyzing Caravaggio while smoking crack seem rewarding). Rene validates my impression that I live in the shadow of ’80s East Village bohemianism but also shows that the boho ’80s was already curtained by another shadow, that of Warhol’s Factory. (If this generational beclouding continues, we’re going to have to learn to see in the dark.) As Rene progresses, the art world’s elastic attitude toward inappropriate behavior begins to vulcanize, heralding its shift toward profit optimization. If art’s goal is to bring chaos to order, as Adorno believed, then Ricard’s life was a Gesamtkunstwerk. It’s our duty as his spiritual offspring to transport some of his mayhem to the new world order of pdf retail and VIP previews. And I have faith we can. As one poem in Rene goes,

I want my soldiers –
I mean artists –
to be young and strong,
with tireless energy
performing impossible feats
of cunning and bravura.

Ryan McNamara is an artist based in Brooklyn.

Leave a Reply