Spring/Break 2017: An Interview with Noah Becker by Barry Kostrinsky

Noah Becker has published over 3500 arts-related interviews, reviews and profiles of artists. But the tables have turned as Curator Chris Bors has included one of Becker's paintings into the upcoming Spring/Break Art Show.  I ask this Painter, Founder and Editor-In-Chief at Whitehot Magazine questions about his art, writing career and his preferences when compelled to choose between Chinese soups. 

Noah Becker. Self Portrait, (Basquiat). 2013. 36 x 48 inches. Oil on canvas.

Noah Becker. Self Portrait, (Basquiat). 2013. 36 x 48 inches. Oil on canvas.

Though we never met, we both hold similar memories and stories of the art world. First meetings with Anthony Haden-Guest, the infamous author of True Colors: The Real Life of the Art World and his shadow-box dancing, are bits of poetic brakes from an otherwise wordy job. We have both jumped over the gap of career envy that many artists have dove into unwittingly. Admittedly I still wallow there at times. And yes, like all artists we are waiting for our one person show at MoMA.

Don't let the humor-filled approach to this interview obscure the revelations revealed that are both very personal and yet universally true for many artists. Many artists need and have a positive influencer, a push forwards confirming their internal wondering by someone in their lives at a young age. Pablo Picasso's Le Gourmet (1901) for instance, dates from the artist's Blue Period and taught me volumes about art as a teenager, when I copied the piece. For Noah it was copying over one hundred Velázquez paintings that taught him to navigate a contemporary canvas.

Picasso and Velázquez are not quite dead yet. Becker reveals a simple truth many have adopted in an unencumbering definition of art, usually wrought with intellectual separation, by saying honesty and a genuine eye is critical to a creative artist. The irrational and undefined in art are heralded. Indeed, without a label art can define new spaces in our minds and hearts, otherwise it is just attached to a previous vision.

But not everything laid out here is true and there are some false facts lurking. Sorry, Coventry won the FA cup in 1987 - nice try Noah.

Barry Kostrinsky: What is your name, what is your quest, what is your favorite color?

Noah Becker: My name is Noah Becker. Having people smile and wave at each other during New York Openings is my quest. Red is my color. 

Kostrinsky: Now that I have set the tone of playful discourse I want to say I see parallels in our experiences as we both are artists and writers. How do you find word, writing and interviews serve your goals and desires as an artist and person? Differently than being a painter?

Becker: I'm able to meet people like Frank Stella or other sort of famous people through interviews. You learn a lot from them.

BK: In what year did Coventry City win the FA Cup?

NB: 1966 was the year. Coventry always wore such lovely lime green velvet dog pelts around their shoes.

BK: If you died what would you regret you had not done or achieved?

NB: The solo show I did at MoMA, my retrospective, it was cool. Strange part was that the curators called me "Bjork" and had all her music memorabilia in my MoMA retrospective, so it kind of ruined any chance of my work being seen. I had another MoMA retrospective and they called it "Picabia", I was furious after that too. I would like another chance for my Noah Becker MoMA retrospective and to not be called Bjork or Picabia this time.

BK: What are your favorite films?

NB: I had a fascination for "River's Edge", starring Crispin Glover. Also the first "Blade" movie starring Wesley Snipes as a vampire was instructive, especially the Deacon Frost character played by Steven Dorff. Frost was downloading and translating the vampire language from scrolls in the museum. Udo Kier was in it, the guy who was Andy Warhol's Dracula, fun flick. 

BK: As a child what creative acts, arts etc. did you do, and did you start at age 6?

NB: I was drawing mice that had swords I called "The Mousketeers." They were always in detailed battles with other groups of sword carrying mice. 

BK: Chocolate ice cream fan or foe?

NB: I'm more of a Vanilla person, or if it's chocolate I like Rocky Road. 

BK: If all the Van Goghs were stashed away at his death and closeted by Einsteins cousins so no one could see them till now, and I shipped them to you to open and see, would they be less beautiful, and would Schrodinger's cat really wait to die? In English: Is beauty fixed or relative to influence and is probability waves of collapsibility a silly idea? 

NB: I'm a huge Van Gogh fan. Van Gogh is too good of a painter to be accepted in New York now for the first time in 2017. The other part of your question is something I don't feel like Googling. 

BK: Do you prefer Wonton or Hot and Sour soup?

NB: I had Won Ton just before I started writing this. 

BK: Anthony Haden-Guest: No question is necessary, but tell me of some lost history he has shared with you, or some stories you have with him.

NB: I read his book True Colors long before I met him, years before. Watching Anthony punch the air with his fists when he dances is something I will always remember about him. I've never observed people dance in this kind of defiant way before - it was eye opening. 

BK: If you had a hammer, would you hammer in the morning or the evening or both?

NB: I would do a combination of things, for different family members - all over this land. 

BK: Art is both deep and powerful and yet seems isolated from the real world of everyday man. Has art failed? Have people failed? How did Atlanta lose in the second half of the Super Bowl?

NB: 98% of the people who know Walt Disney have no clue who Jeff Koons is. Art is delivered through failed artists working at ad agencies who steal from real artists and deliver messages at half time. So no, it's not touching people's lives as directly as most art world people assume it is. I had lunch with Hudson from FEATURE Inc. about a month before he died. This was my first time meeting Hudson and I wanted to interview him. He said, "Ok but only if we talk about a topic neither one of us knows anything about." We decided that sports was that topic, but due to his tragic death the interview never happened. I like that kind of thinking. Such a terrible loss to the art community when he died. 

BK: If The Who tells us one and one and one make three, but then on another song they sing one and one don't make two ....it makes one,  is math possible for musicians? In English: Is Godel's incompleteness theorem at play? In English for non-math geeks: Does art go beyond rationalism to try and capture a truer, hard-to-crystallize visual of the real? How does your art do that, or if you prefer to substitute a definition of art, how does your art achieve your definition?

NB: I'm always trying to think clearly. In general people have tainted thoughts.  You can tell when people are trying too hard to be cool or be authentic. Anyone who can be genuine can make something great, but actually being genuine is very difficult. That's maybe the most difficult aspect to get to in life. That aspect when you are really being genuine to how you feel and you really know yourself. 

BK: If one snake ate another snake and that poor once slithering fellow was a vegetarian, would either snake care? Tell what you think are the littlest problems in our culture with the most clout and those with the least voice and are in essence the most important issues under the covers.

NB: The divide between rich and poor is what you see in New York. But money and taste are not always the same thing, just as money and fame are not always the same state. I'm looking for more irrational art, the kind that doesn't grind with the wheels of the system. Art that does not have labels attached to it sounds good to me. 

BK: What are 2 or 3 of your favorite interviews or stories you've covered?

NB: Frank Stella was good. I wrote the article. I've published over 3500 articles so far, so there is a lot to choose from. The film I made called "New York is Now" (viewable on Youtube), has a lot of good moments. In Whitehot Magazine it's kind of ongoing, I would like to make more films. 

BK: What are 2 or 3 of your favorite stories from your life?

NB: My tricycle was stolen when I was a child. I chopped a live bat out of a tree as a child. My house burnt down when I was 15. 

BK: Do you wear slippers?

NB: When the mood strikes me. 

BK: What is your tragic flaw?

NB: I get depressed too much and have to fight that away, not clinical though. I've successfully rid my life of career envy, maybe my biggest breakthrough. 

BK: Green toker or Hydroxyl functional group (-OH) bound to saturated carbon drinker?

NB: I don't like Googling things and pretending to know what is being talked about. But yes, I like soft drinks and no I don't smoke weed. 

BK: Who as an artist or teacher or family member was a critical positive influence and leader in your development as an artist and writer?

NB: My mother is the writer and potter Florence Becker. She taught me how to write because I was home schooled. Ornette Coleman was a big influence on me when I took a saxophone lesson with him before he died. I copied around 100 Diego Velázquez paintings, learned a lot there! Many different people from history have opened my mind up to interesting things.

Noah Becker will be exhibiting at the SPRING/BREAK Art Show
Opening FEBRUARY 28th, 2017
4 Times Square on Floor 23 in Room 48, Entrance on 43rd Street

Barry Kostrinsky is Arts Editor-In-Chief at art.broadwayworld.com