Reena’s on her feet again, presiding over the meeting between people and pictures of people. She’s still a little lost in the after-effects of last night’s muscle workout and drugs. A pleasant, run over by tires feeling. If called on to speak she would have trouble doing so. The paintings seem to be getting what they need, and the people are heavy, drowsy in the galleries today. A young Japanese couple is drifting through, laughing, brushing, crushing each other’s clothing. An American bald man seems to follow, or drift along in their wake.
Reena kills some time by contemplating the painting in front of her. Violets in hand, she looks like an appropriated renaissance Madonna. A fallen, half-peeled orange lies at the bottom of a stand upon which the parrot is sitting. In front of the parrot is a glass with water for him to drink. The woman is standing against a dark blackish-green background. Her dress is huge, covering her entire body with salmonish-pink satin. It is quite a contrast. One notices right away the other black parts in the portrait, as they seem to be connecting agents to that abstract plane: one tip of a boot stepping out of the pink, the black velvet choker round her neck, and her eyes. There is also the parrot’s one eye.
Reena has stationed herself in the carnival route, where people come out from the 3rd room all turned on and flyby the 1st to get to the 4th. That seems to have been the idea, she meditates, to have the 4ths naked woman and parrot, right at the end of the arcade, a destination. This woman sprawls on her back laughing, flirting with her own bird, who is on her finger flapping his wings, seemingly maddened by the acre of hair that flows from her head. What’s her body to him? Her nipples. Reena is still tasting the cocaine, and her own hair smells cigarettes from last night and the oil from her actions.
She’s starting to fall asleep on her feet while guarding. It’s something every guard has done, and knows how to do. She starts running back snippets from last night. Sometimes she unintentionally makes a face while standing there, or speaks a little by surprise in response to her memories. Not even memories but actual odors. Some of what happened at After Dark eludes Reena’s memory of the night before. Like the dark parks in the painting, these gaps are the connecting agents to the abstract plane she calls “good times.” They are the not so good times, or the times in-between, the parts that contrast with the fun, pink, fleshy areas that unite the composition of her conscious experience of the party. She remembers the sexy, almost scary shine of Maris’s glossy lips, but not what they said. She remembers that at one point they were alone together. But not what caused the commotion afterwards, or how she ended up alone in the street. She remembers the cab ride home, but not how she paid for it.
Reena has a blackish-green bruise on her thigh; somebody’s phone number is inscribed upon her palm, half erased there in the chemical sweat. Reena is drifting in and out of consciousness while standing and looking.
“Now,” it occurs to Reena, “I’m ready to extend the domain of pleasures.”
Meanwhile in the background of the gallery Kevin had been sat at his desk for an hour already, but still hadn’t begun the pile of letters, leaflets and magazines that were teetering on the edge of his desk. On the top of the pile was the quarterly magazine, Currents issued by the Lightbox gallery in Woking where Kevin had begun his curatorial career. Leafing through the pages filled with glossy pictures of second-rate artworks, articles on the museum’s multi-cultural outreach programs, and dozens of photos of donors and trustees forcing smiles and clutching glasses of chardonnay, Kevin mused on how far he had come. Even though, just out of college, he had secured a coveted internship at the Royal Academy of Modern Art and believed with hard work he could rise through the ranks there, Kevin was suddenly enlightened when he overheard the director of the museum confide to one of his deputies: “There’s no was we can use Phillips for that job. To promote from within was to promote mediocrity.” Gaining entre into the exclusive world of the art museum, he’d discovered, required a stint of some duration out of town. So, setting his sights on the smaller counties, he found a posting online for an entry-level job at the Lightbox. The interview process was pro forma, as his RA credentials, meager as they were, trumped his competitors’ Ph.D.s.
He settled back in his chair and looked at the cover of Currents. It featured a photo of his smiling former boss, a career museum bureaucrat, proudly displaying the museum’s newest acquisition, a set of Matisse’s Jazz prints. He tossed the magazine into the trash. Next on the pile were several dozen reception and dinner invitations on which Kevin hastily scrawled “REGRETS” then set aside to give to his assistant. Kevin despised openings – at which it was impossible to see any art – and loathed the obligatory dinners that followed. Yet he knew there were some he must dutifully attend. The dynamics of the art world played itself out at these gatherings where careers were made, and sometimes lost. He paused, as he was about to add another invitation to the reject pile. It was from Peter Merton himself, an invitation to a party in honor of the publication of John Russell’s monographs. One that he really couldn’t squirm his way out of.