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go see art goes to back burner

Post #317 • July 7, 2004, 1:12 PM • 104 Comments

Over this weekend and a good chunk of yesterday I worked on an article for the magazine put out by the Rhode Island School of Design, my alma mater, that talked about the work of Julie Mehretu and Doh-Ho Suh, both fellow RISDoids. Wading in up to my eyeballs in their curriculum vitae, I realized that they just make art. Period. No megalomaniacal programming projects like Go See Art.

I decided that I must do the same. Studio time comes first. I will fit writing time around it. I will fit everything else around both of them. And we'll all just have to find out about the openings from the papers.

Interesting content returns to posthaste. So will some new paintings.

Man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. - H.D. Thoreau




July 7, 2004, 9:09 PM

Well, good luck in the studio. I hope you can do better than your friends. I looked at every artist on both of those websites, just to satisfy my curiosity, and saw very little that was even marginally interesting visually. Despite the obligatory percentage of horriblisme there wasn't much that was offensive or extreme. Most of it was glossy, slick and fashionable, and very dated, already. I am sure it is quite representative of the work done by most of the tens or hundreds of thousands of ambitious young artists working today.

There seem to be a couple dozen accepted modes of working right now, and all of these artists are working out of one or two of them. I wonder if anyone has actually sat down and taken a few hours to list the these methods and procedures and "looks"? It would be a great convenience for art teaching. All the instructor would have to do is give each student an album with samples, tell them to choose what they like, borrow a couple licks from some of the others, and presto, you're an artist with a "style". It shouldn't be much harder than picking paint and wallpaper. Judging from what I saw, apparently it isn't.


Jerome du Bois

July 7, 2004, 10:18 PM

To Franklin:

Good for you, man. The print media has to be good for something, doesn't it? Why not a calendar? That's what New Times, for example, turns out to be, most of the time.

To oldpro:

I looked at every artist on both of those websites, just to satisfy my curiosity, and saw very little that was even marginally interesting visually.

Ross Bleckner
Anish Kapoor
Mike Kelley
Doug and Mike Starn

Tell me, oldpro -- what a nom de plume! -- just what do you do? Any images of your work available online for comparison?

Every one of these artists has tapped the source at one time or another. I'd like to see how close you have ever come.

Jerome du Bois



July 7, 2004, 11:04 PM

Blechner, maybe, by a stretch. What he had on the site was a very dark painting with a few red spots. Kapoor had something that looked like a badly made brass pot. Kelly and Starns, nothing. I don't know what source they are tapping. By your italics I assume it must be something very profound.

No need to get all hot and bothered, or personal. I've been at this for a long time, which obviously gives me nothing but experience, and this is my opinion. If you don't like it, say so.



July 7, 2004, 11:16 PM

I went back to check because I saw a lot on the sites and was not sure I remembered the ones you mentioned well enough. the Blechner looked worse, but the Starns photos, despite the pretentious titles, are handsome enough. The Kapoor was exactly as I remembered it: like an apprentice metalsmith's work. I am sure it had deep & meaningful overtones. The Kelly depicted there is apparently an attempt to paint some pop culture image badly, and it succeeds at that. What is there it like about such a thing?


that guy in the back row

July 8, 2004, 12:58 AM

Jdb: fyi Miami Newtimes recently abandoned art listings in favor of bloated pretentious art capsules They state that you can get a complete listing of art and entertainment listings on their website but that also proves to be a hoax as well. Miami now looks to and Street Weekly for all things art related. Street recently retooled their look and their art listings now have a legible font size. They (street) still need to figure out which art is any good, but at least it is a start.

Btw: Oldpro is right, it would be a lot easier to teach art students by giving them little cookie cutter styles. Why bother with excellence when mediocrity is so accessible. And apparently so well received.


Jerome du Bois

July 8, 2004, 1:03 AM


Please excuse me while I chew up a little of your bandwidth. You're in the studio, anyway. Enjoy!


Nothing in your reply about you anywhere: your name or your work. No links. You are a nobody, as far as I know. "Oldpro." I assume "Pro" refers to "professional." A professional stands up and represents his or her self. You don't. You snipe from cover.

You can't even bother to spell Ross Bleckner's name right. How many paintings must I point to? Look at "the Gate," for example.

Anish Kapoor created, for example, "Marsyas," a gigantic installation for the Tate Modern, very well-received. I am not surprised you missed it.

The Starn Twins have been making heartbreaking palimpsests and groundbreaking photographic collages for twenty years. LIke Spielberg in their way, they are masters -- and servants -- of light itself. I very much doubt you have anything that can hold a candle to their least work.

Can't bother to spell Mike Kelley's name right, either, can you? Let me challenge you to try to make of list of just the materials, the physical materials, that Mike Kelley has used in his 40-year career, and put the list of materials you have used in whatever you have been doing for "a long time." Let's compare. You point to one painting. Pathetic.



that guy in the back row

July 8, 2004, 1:43 AM

"okay we are ready Scotty, beem us up....."


that guy in the back row

July 8, 2004, 1:46 AM


okay we are ready Scotty, beem us up.....



July 8, 2004, 1:49 AM

I apologise for the name misspellings. Names should be spelled right.

No, nothing about me. "Oldpro" is a pseudonym. Who I am or what I do is irrelevant. I only claim to long experience in the art world, nothing more. I have no interest whatsoever in impressing you.Whether nor not I am a lousy artist or a good one, or an artist at all, is a fact which is completely apart from what I say, which I only ask to be taken at face value. Whether or not I compare in any way to any of these people in any way is beside the point. Implying that I have no right to say what I say because I do not try to convince you of my professional standing is absurd. This is an artblog, where people have differences of opinion. It is easier and more fun when the disagreements do not get personalized.

I have seen other things by Bleckner and Kapoor, none very impressive visually, as i recall, but in this instance I was only referring to what I saw on the site. One of the problems with those who get overexcited when someone disagrees with them is that they lose track of what is being discussed.

By the way, being well-received at the Tate, making "heartbreaking palimpsests" for twenty years and having a long list of materials does not make the art any good.



July 8, 2004, 1:50 AM

That must have been the inspiration for Ross Perot's "Giant Sucking Sound" speech.



July 8, 2004, 1:51 AM

Last comment directed at Guy, not Oldpro, in case there was any question.



July 8, 2004, 2:08 AM

I assumed it was directed at the Kapoor installation piece at the Tate, which, if it was a vacuum cleaner, could probably depopulate London in 17 minutes.


that guy in the back row

July 8, 2004, 2:10 AM

Yeah the acoustics are great on freely traded art. It always sounds so good to the people who fund this type of nonsense. I like to envision them sitting around a boardroom going. Why did we spend 1.2 million on this swollen red gramophone again, get that art consultant back in here he has some explaining to do. Where the hell are we going to put this thing?!



July 8, 2004, 2:13 AM

Oldpro - right, that's what I meant.

Ah, it's good to have some action going on in the comments again...


that guy in the back row

July 8, 2004, 2:15 AM

last time, this will save cutting and pasting of the above link.

Come on Scotty, we are waiting. They are after us.


Jerome du Bois

July 8, 2004, 2:18 AM


I have seen other things by Bleckner and Kapoor, none very impressive visually, as i recall, but in this instance I was only referring to what I saw on the site. One of the problems with those who get overexcited when someone disagrees with them is that they lose track of what is being discussed.

I thought what was being discussed was artistic quality. For you to dismiss the four artists I pointed out as having no artistic quality, or, excuse me, for not being very impressive visually to you,, is simply disingenuous. Every one has made pieces that knock your socks off or bring you to your knees. (Not you, oldpro, you blind fool).

By the way, being well-received at the Tate, making "heartbreaking palimpsests" for twenty years and having a long list of materials does not make the art any good.

But it helps. You got any of that?

You don't impress me. I have a real name and a life and a body of work that I stand behind. You're a coward hiding behind a false pseudonym. You're no pro.



that guy in the back row

July 8, 2004, 2:24 AM

I smell name calling again. The last guy is still licking his wounds. Lets see this art you stand behind Jdb. I guess Im a coward too by your standards but lets have it on.



July 8, 2004, 3:06 AM

Sounds like two weeks ago, when Dr B was calling people "coward" and having hissy fits. "Blind fool" is a new one, though. As I said back then, when it gets to name-calling I will stand on the sidelines. This is the kind of juvenile behavior that plagues the Miami art world. It is probably just as well that it gets out where it can be seen in its raw state, however.


Jerome du Bois

July 8, 2004, 3:40 AM

Once again, nobody's talking about the artists I brought up, including specific works. You clowns think it's a pissing contest between me and "oldpro." Like I give a damn.

Oldpro stands on the sidelines when it gets to substance, not name-calling.

"that guy in the back row." Another appropriate pseudonym. I'm sure you belong there. I've suspended my art-making for the last six months, indefinitely. I'm a writer. Want to criticize anything on my blog, go on over there.

"Dr. B." created one of the funniest moments on this blog when he made sure everyone knew he had a PhD. Hey Mike -- use your handle if it means anything to you.

No hissy fits here.




July 8, 2004, 4:03 AM

If you want to talk about art and artists, go ahead. Nobody is stopping you except yourself.



July 8, 2004, 5:50 AM

what i don't get is how such a long and heated debate can be based on looking at images on a video screen? i haven't seen the large anish kapoor installation in person, and unless i'm standing under it (for example, is there a sound componet involved?) i can't make a sweeping generalization of a 3D work based on a 2-D photo translated into pixels.

has anyone out there actually experienced this work? (for isn't looking at art a direct experience?) i'd love to hear your thoughts.

otherwise, we're talking just to hear ourselves talk.



July 8, 2004, 6:17 AM

You are right Tracy. But I don't think the debate is about images, or at least, only partly so. and then only images seen on a tube or remembered. One thing for sure though, that horn thing sure is big.

Maybe Jerome can enlighten us; he's the one impressed by it. Actually I am impressed with it too. Its not much as art, but it certainly is impressive.



July 8, 2004, 6:50 AM

Hey, I have a theory. What if oldpro is actually a conceptual artist using blog comments as a medium for an online performance in which he (or she--we don't really know for sure) adopts the persona of a crotchety art world veteran who likes to post inflammatory rhetoric and broad criticism of what seems to be his/her monolithic concept of contemporary art? Perhaps to stir up controversy along the lines of net.artist Netochka Nezvanova, but a little less cryptic, cerebral, and technology-oriented?

I'm just kidding. :) But seriously, oldpro, I'm curious. If you don't want to post your own work--fine, I actually think that's understandable. A lot of people choose to separate their online identities from their real-life ones. But how about posting some links to (or just citing examples of) work that you do like, love, find acceptable, or think meets your standard of presenting "the best of the human spirit?" Just so we know where you're coming from?

You've seemed to be averse to citing examples in the past, implying that if we know anything at all about art, we should know what you're talking about. But to me, this makes for something of a one-sided, slippery, abstract, redundant discussion. With all due respect, if you're truly interested in a rigorous debate, clarifying your position and not assuming that others know what you're thinking can only lead to a richer, more mutually respectful, and productive discussion. And as an added bonus, more people will see (or at least be reminded of) work that you clearly think needs to be seen and appreciated. What do you think?


that guy in the back row

July 8, 2004, 6:56 AM

Now that is a subtle but important difference. Sounds like oldpro is exposing a condition that is also pervasive in Miami. Being impressed by something, is often is taken for a reaction to art.

If Im impressed by something then Im impressed by something. If Im enjoying art, Im enjoying art. Two different experiences completely.

Tracy: I agree. Judging art on the Internet is a poor substitute to the real deal. Ideally we would all be able to witness the art and then discuss our reactions here or on another forum. Artblog is however a good local sounding board for various reactions to local and sometimes international art.



July 8, 2004, 7:27 AM

Denise: A very interesting reaction. You are not "kidding", are you? What is the "inflammatory rhetoric" you refer to? What is the "monolothic concept of contemporary art" that I represent or espouse? Seems to me I have been very calm, moderate and even tempered. All I have done is say that there is a lot of art out there which isn't much good - hardly a wild and radical standpoint. But some bloggers would have me an "Intellectually dishonest coward", a "blind fool", and, as you said "inflammatory", as well as much else from the past couple of weeks I can't recall right now. Just what is it that makes you all feel this, enough to hurl insults, make unjustifiable statements and rise to the point of apparent apoplexy? Where is this anger coming from?

As for what I like, it is unexceptional by and large, certainly for older and modernist art - you know, the usual, Picasso, Matisse, the Abstract Expressionists. I find much recent art silly at best, and I have said so. That's about it.

Now how about telling me what's up with the very extreme reactions I have been getting.



July 8, 2004, 2:42 PM

Easy, oldpro - Denise was kidding about the "inflammatory" bit and everything in her whole first paragraph. The rest of it was reasonable.

You've been getting extreme reactions (although not from Denise) because of a natural human tendency to caricature the opposition. I've been guilty of this myself. (I've been down this road many times.) Once that happens the conversation tends to go into the john. I'm all for people expressing themselves and I don't mind anyone getting their knickers in a snit. What I'm against is thread bloat - and I've realized that the only way to stop it is take the insults on the chin and not reply in kind, not that I always remember to do that. It's not about goody-two-shoes morality - it's about making an interesting comment thread.



July 8, 2004, 3:49 PM

Forgive me Franklin, but you are missing the point of what's happening here.

First of all, I am not taking this personally, but pointing to a phenomenon which is somewhat more complex and interesting, and more extreme, than merely "caricaturing the opposition". Second, Denise was kidding about me being involved in some sort of "online performance", but she was not kidding, nor did she represent herself as kidding, when she characterized, in her terms, what I was doing. Please make the distinction. Third, I also do not mind when people "get their knickers in a snit"; in fact I think it makes for an interesting blog when they do. That was the whole point of my asking the bloggers to consider where the anger was coming from. My reaction was not defensive but investigatory. I would regret letting such an open question wither away under the guise of avoiding "thread bloat". It is anything but.



July 8, 2004, 3:49 PM

Forgive me Franklin, but you are missing the point of what's happening here.

First of all, I am not taking this personally, but pointing to a phenomenon which is somewhat more complex and interesting, and more extreme, than merely "caricaturing the opposition". Second, Denise was kidding about me being involved in some sort of "online performance", but she was not kidding, nor did she represent herself as kidding, when she characterized, in her terms, what I was doing. Please make the distinction. Third, I also do not mind when people "get their knickers in a snit"; in fact I think it makes for an interesting blog when they do. That was the whole point of my asking the bloggers to consider where the anger was coming from. My reaction was not defensive but investigatory. I would regret letting such an open question wither away under the guise of avoiding "thread bloat". It is anything but.



July 8, 2004, 3:52 PM

Sorry - that got on twice somehow.



July 8, 2004, 4:49 PM

Oldpro: The blog dialogue would be more interesting if you would answer the questions that other bloggers pose to you not about you personally, so much, but in terms of explaining WHY you dislike what you like or what specifically you DO like and WHY -- a simple it sucks or it is crap or it is good doesnt tell us ANYTHING about what is going on in the works that annoys or moves you. You posts can therefore easily come across as a disdainful and ignorant dismissal.

It is as though you believe yourself to be on such a high plane as to not have to justify your own claims, or just completely incapable of positing a good argument or assessment on behalf of a work of art. I would like to believe that you are both interested in good dialogue and completely capable of formulating a good argument, but because you completely avoid addressing the very valid questions people ask of you, you halt any constructive dialogue that could take place. That, in and of itself, can be interpreted as crotchety.

Also, almost everything you say about art is negative (hence inflammatory), but it is also negative in a rather unproductive way. You offer no suggestions for alternatives, and your criticism is usually a swift and general dismissal of art without any specifics to back it up. And that is not to say that your disdain for the art you dislike is invalid its only saying that you need to back up what you say with specific observations and thoughts that are more fleshed out in order for the rest of us to understand what your otherwise vague point of view is. (Now Im just repeating what Denise was saying.)

It seems a waste of time to engage a discussion on why people have problems with your posts when the problem appears somewhat obvious TALK about the ART for goodness sake! If the art in question sucks say WHY if thats a waste of time for you, put out your views on art that doesnt! and DISCUSS it! Thats the major problem people have had with your posts. They try to get you to talk about your point of view, and you refuse. But then you become indignant with other peoples point of view and insist they back up what they say, when you seem to feel that you dont have any obligation to do so yourself. Can you see how that makes for a frustrating situation?

I would personally like to see this resolved so that a real discussion about art could take place, I really would.



July 8, 2004, 5:48 PM

N: My memory is not perfect and I don't really want to take the time to go back and read everything that has been on this blog for the last two weeks, but I don't recall that there has been much talk about actual art from anyone for any length of time. I am only too happy to discuss actual art. In yesterday's blog I started out with a negative assessment of the art presented on the two web sites Franklin presented, and I was immediately, and rather roughly, rebuked by Jerome, who listed 4 artists who had "tapped the source" as he put it. I went back to the sites and reviewed what there was of those artists and reappraised my opinion of what I saw, briefly redescribed the work and asked, at large, what anyone could see in one of them. Jeromes reaction was to assume that I hated all work by these artists, when I was only commenting on what I saw (which, as was pointed out by Tracy, is already limited by reproduction). Neither he nor anyone else seemed to be interested in discussing the actual art, except for some amusing exchanges on an enormous installation by Anish Kapoor.

When Dr. B challenged me to state my position a couple weeks ago I did my best to state it. No one took much issue with what I said. I have said clearly several times that I do not believe there is any way to demonstrate what is "good" about any work of art; that got a lot of people very upset but no one challenged my position directly. I think it may be somewhat easier to say what is bad about a work, but it remains undemonstratable. Nevertherless, I am more than willing to point and describe and argue, as long as we have at least a picture of a work to go from. Yesterday I gave a very limited statement about what art I liked (has anyone else been asked to do this?) and I have never pretended that I think much about most recent art; I think most of it it represents an abandonment of conventions and proecedures which are the only path to meaning and value in any human enterprise.

Despite all this, and despite what I, at least, think is a fairly common-sense and calm approach, I seem to have provoked some very extreme reactions which altogether avoid any further discussion of any specific art work. That's why I asked why.

So what do you want to talk about?



July 8, 2004, 6:17 PM

Saying you like matisse is not saying what you like. Many people like Matisse for a variety of disparate reasons. People take different things from his work not all of which, I might add, is the same (A general statement like 'I like Matisse' is like putting all of his work in a large pile of likeability, making it all appear the same). So that says nothing at all.

A request to explain your views is not necessarily an attack on you or your opinions. It just means we would like clarification on what you mean. Here are some reasons why you, as opposed to other bloggers, are asked to clarify your views:

Your presence on this blog is rather dominant
Your opinions appear as attacks on the works in question, but without any accompanying justification
You state your opinions strongly, but vaguely
You are asked, but never answer, which prompts repeated asking

Noones opinion has any interest or is worth discussing unless the question of WHY you like it, or what it is that makes it likeable or not, is addressed. If you do reread your opinions, you will see that they dont say much beyond it sucks or its good. And what does that mean? Thats what I want to know! And while neither judgment can be qualified in unquestionable, absolute terms, they are obviously starting points for ideas and thoughts that you may have explaining WHY you think a work sucks requires you to lay out what sucks means to you, what good art means to YOU, as you have been asked to do many times so that we can get some clarification on what it is you are trying to say, but you refuse.

So what to talk about? Matisse explain one specific work of his that spoke to you and tell us why. Give us a concrete description of what makes this piece a moving and significant work of art, in your opinion.



July 8, 2004, 7:53 PM

I'm sorry that what I am about to say sounds like a copout, but at least it is consistent with everything I have said heretofore.

I don't mean to be "dominant" on this blog. If this is the case it is probably my fault and I should just wait until something gets going and then join in with very short comments. I have been trying to "stir things up", as they say in Australia, to get people discussing art, especially art on the local scene, which I am very critical of and which I would like to see improve. Franklin has posted lots of sites with images and topics and that has helped, but apparently it has devolved down to whether I can justify my opinions, and I can't. No one can. When I said this before I got called all kinds of nasty names, but no one effectively opposed my position. And when I do start talking about individual works no one seems to want to continue in that vein.

As you said, this blog is not about me. I certainly do not want it to be. Asking me to provide a thorough and convincing critique of a Matisse painting is something I could do, but it is time-consuming and not in the "chat" spirit of a blog. I don't want to bore everyone with my long-winded dissertations. Then everyone will be agreeing or disagreeing or criticizing what I said, and this is not what the blog is all about. The blog is about the things franklin is posting, as much as possible.

Here's an idea. Some years ago I wrote a loving appreciation of one of my favorite paintings, Monet's "The Bridge at Bougival". I don't want to post it because it is a 1300 word essay (with a picture, of course) and, as we have decided, this blog is not about me. It does not demonstrate that the painting is a good one, but it is a reflection of what I think about a picture I take to be a masterpiece. Let me ask Franklin: is there any way this can be posted so someone can refer to it, with a reproduction of the painting, without putting it on the blog itself? There is no link to it at the moment; I just have on a disc.



July 8, 2004, 9:43 PM

If someone picks up a piece of garbage on a street and embraces it as art, there is nothing anyone can do about it, except for embracing the act of embracing it. I believe art is a personal isolated experience based on the accumulation of how the viewer has lived.

oldpro: I can put your essay with the image on my server so people can look at it. Send me, if you wish, the text and image to and I will make a page for you in no time. On that page I will not have anything but your essay and the image.



July 8, 2004, 10:17 PM

Thanks, Momoko. Franklin is going to post it. I really appreciate the offer, however.

"art is a personal isolated experience"? Sure is. Absolutely.



July 8, 2004, 11:07 PM

Ladies, gentlemen, and other entities: Monet's The Bridge at Bougival by Oldpro.



July 9, 2004, 12:29 AM

Oldpro--I was hardly "apoplectic" when I posted my earlier comment! Online communication is funny that way--sometimes people come across angry or sarcastic or, er, apoplectic when they're just sort of good-naturedly ribbing someone.

Re: inflammatory rhetoric - you have to understand that a lot of people who are reading and posting comments here are artists or art writers whose body of work is closely aligned or at least intersects with the vein of much of the art that you broadly dismiss as "horrible" (myself included). So some of the things you say will, indeed, provoke people, and might be perceived as inflammatory by some.

Yes, a huge percentage of the work you see out there (and not just in Miami) is not very good and may indeed SUCK, but this is more to do with the mediocrity of specific works and artists, lack of conceptual/aesthetic rigorousness, lack of awareness of context, and yes, holes and inadequacies in the art system. However, when you publicly attribute this suckage to the entirety of contemporary modes of production and artmaking in all of their manifestations after Modernism (maybe I'm wrong, but a lot of your critique seems to imply this, i.e. your comment of 2:09PM yesterday), you're grappling with a pretty heavy-duty argument that people who are deeply engaged with those contemporary modes of artmaking are naturally going to ask you to back up and explain.

You mentioned Picasso as an artist whose work you admire. In 1907, Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon incited wide uproar, indignation, and criticism throughout the public at large AND members of the avant-garde art community. It broke radically with traditional forms and many people simply called it bad art. Over time, it came to be recognized as one of the most pivotal works of art in art history. I can't help but be reminded of this when, almost 100 years later, you (and not just you--a lot of people, which is why people seem to be getting upset--there are many others out there who don't know much about or just plain don't like contemporary art and share many of your views) say things like "most recent art...represents an abandonment of conventions and proecedures which are the only path to meaning and value in any human enterprise."

This has gotten way longer than I intended, and I have to run. I'm not attacking oldpro, I'm not angry, etc. I've just been watching the same type of discussion play out here several times lately and wanted to throw in my 2 cents (well, given the length, more like a dollar or two) on the topic.



July 9, 2004, 1:39 AM

Denise: Sorry if I phrased what I said to make it sound as if I meant that you were acting "apoplectic". You were not, not at all. I was referring to Dr. B, Jerome, and a couple of others.

The matter of the roots of "suckiness" is a very interesting one, but I don't know if anyone is really prepared to discuss it. Obviously art that is no good comes from artists who are no good at making art, but it may be that there are larger negative forces at work. I do think that many contemporary modes of working have rejected not only the coventions and procedures of modernism, which could be OK, but has sunk into a relativism that rejects the very acceptance of any system of assumptions on which art can be built. Nothing worthwhile in human history has ever come about without some system of belief and working assumptions. This is how we show ourselves the best of ourselves, whether it is art or sports, or anything. To some extent it does not matter what the assumptions are, but it seems to work best when they are built up slowly over time. This is how science works, for example, and contemporary science, at the moment, is a hell of a lot more interesting than contemporary art, in my opinion. I haven't worked this out myself; as you said, it is heavy-duty. Just remember that large crowds of people have many times subscribed to very strong beliefs which lead to very strong behaviors which later turn out to have been absolutely batty. Books have been written about this. If someone pays $5 million dollars for a porcelain whiskey bottle by Jeff Koons, I'm sorry, that is batty.

As for Picasso's Demoiselles, its not my favorite picture, but please do lead people into the common trap of assuming that because people hated it and it turned out to be "pivotal" that therefore if people hate something else then that is a sign that it may be also "pivotal", whatever "pivotal" means. This is a fundamental logical fallacy. You didn't say this, but the implication was there.



July 9, 2004, 1:43 AM

the first sentence of the last paragraph should say " not lead people..."



July 9, 2004, 4:43 PM

please do lead people into the common trap of assuming that because people hated it and it turned out to be "pivotal" that therefore if people hate something else then that is a sign that it may be also "pivotal", whatever "pivotal" means. This is a fundamental logical fallacy.

Thats true. But I think that there is another point in Denises post thats valid: the art that you like is, in fact, avant-garde Matisse, Picasso, Monet: all of these artists broke artistic conventions and made art that appeared far less skilled and more childlike than the art that was celebrated in the more high-end Salons of their time. So when I hear you make broad generalizations about the corrupted nature of avant-garde movements, but also hear that you like Matisse, Picasso, et al., I simply become confused, thats all.

I love art that stirs the pot, so-to-speak, that confuses tradition and breaks conventions and allows me a chance to think outside of the proverbial box that restricts us with trends and notions like market value. So the avant-garde, in theory, speaks enormously to me. Since the current conventions that were living with have embraced novelty, shock, and rebelliousness, the avant-garde in practice has in many ways become its own trend and its own convention that could, in my opinion, use some shaking up of its own.

However, its hard for me to imagine a way out of this conundrum by discouraging the very basis on which the avant-garde was founded; it seems to me that it would be more effective to find a way to make art that was more avant-garde than the avant-garde, if that makes sense. That, to me, would involve embracing the lyrical, mystical, and emotional aspects of art making and viewing that seemed to be pushed aside somewhat with practice of strict formalism.

I have been able to find some contemporary art that does appeal to those aims, in spite of the crooked practices of the art market and the shameless appeal to trendiness, and I just think it would be more productive to seek out those places where positive things are happening, or where they are just beginning to happen, rather than nihilistically dismiss the whole art scene in general, or dismiss something entirely because one or two things about it are caught in an undesirable system.

P.S. Oldpro, I liked reading your essay. It was beautifully written, and it was moving to see how the painting really engaged you!

P.P.S. Im sorry for my long-windedness! It reflects an inability to say what I mean in a clear, succinct way. Ill work on that.



July 9, 2004, 4:45 PM

Arg! I'm technologically incompetent! That wasn't supposed to all be italicized. Just the first paragragh!



July 9, 2004, 4:48 PM

never, ever again will i try to use tags. I am sorry.



July 9, 2004, 4:59 PM

It's fixed. Let this be a little lesson to you, N. ;o)

Actually, my code's a little stupid if it's going to allow unclosed tags to screw up subsequent posts. I'll work on that.



July 9, 2004, 5:25 PM


Nothing worthwhile in human history has ever come about without some system of belief and working assumptions.

I'm not so sure. Systems are important, but saying "nothing worthwhile" takes it too far.

There are always two opposing forces in the world. I try to be liberal enough to experiment and learn, but conservative enough to keep what works. We all generally agree that the conservative side has merit, so let's see if we can also agree that the liberal side is just as important, even if everyone doesn't always understand or enjoy it.

But more to the point, it's only by challenging previous beliefs that people advance. This is the difference between science and technology, exploration and settlement, invention and production, revolution and evolution, or indeed, art and craft. One is a leap, the other a refinement. Only the former makes possible the latter.

Also, you said that just because Picasso was reviled in his day, it does not follow that Damian Hirst is Picasso. You're right, but that's not the point of the observation. The point is that we never know which one of today's opinions will become tomorrow's "system of belief." It might be that 500 years from now, the "standard" definition of art will be something radically different from what we imagine today. Or that 500 years after that, the pendulum may swing back again, and we'll be back to greco-roman classicism.

We don't know if Hirst is another Picasso, but neither do you. All we can do is give odds and take bets.

Finally, looking at your essay on Monet's "The Bridge at Bougival," I wonder if the following sentence completely contradicts the sentence at the very beginning of this comment:

Look around as if you are seeing everything for the first time, as if you know nothing about anything. All the pure eye has is light, dark and color.




July 9, 2004, 5:49 PM

N: Thank you very much for the kind words about my Monet essay. As I mentioned, there may be a hundred more paintings that do this to me, but getting any reflection of it into words and writing about it as well as possible is quite an effort.

I don't believe I ever said that I thought avant-garde movements were corrupt by nature; anyone who seriously believes that probably shouldn't be taken seriously. Whether or not something is avant-garde is beside the point in the long run because that characteristic, like all other specifiable characteristics, cannot be tied to whther the art is any good or not. The current problem with the term, or the idea that the term conveys, is that it has carried the idea of "good", "advanced", "new", "original", "cutting edge" (I hate that term) and such for so long that being "avant-garde" has become obligatory and thereby deliberate. When this happens, of course the "avant-garde" disappears - if everyone is "avant-garde" there is no "avant" left, "Avant-garde" becomes "mainstream", and all the so-called advanced art starts looking the same. This is where we are right now, but no one seems to recognize it or write about it. I am constantly startled by art that is confidently termed "cutting edge" which is a literal reincarnation of something done, say 45 years ago by Edward Kienholz (a leg sticking out of a wall done recently by Robert Gober is the example I am thinking of).

Hovig: The last sentence hardly contradicts the first; this was a working method with a powerful set of beliefs and assumptions behind it. it was a new way to see, and a new way to build on the methods and techniques which had evolved over centuries. If young artists today would really "challenge previous beliefs" that would be powerfully refreshing. But instead, as I see it, they passively accept the status quo while convincing themselves they are "avant-garde". And, finally, isn't whether Hirst is "another Picasso" ultimately less important than "do i get anything out of this work by Hirst"?



July 9, 2004, 9:16 PM

I've probably said this before, but I'll say it now because, to me, it's very important: the point is not whether something is new or different, but whether it's as good as or better than what's already been done. If it's not at least as good, I'm not interested. Originality is not the issue--quality is.



July 9, 2004, 10:12 PM


Agreed. The point of art is for each person to decide what they like. I hope you don't take umbrage if I say this might be why people get upset (or decide to sit out the debate) when others state with such brusque certainty that something they like is not valid art.

I don't think it adds anything to a debate to say "no" (unless someone's taking a vote). Your comparison of Edward Kienholz and Robert Gober was insightful, however. You can bet I'll look it up.

My point about Picasso was only that "fashion" changes with time (and I will reject any argument that any piece of art anywhere in the universe exists free of "fashion"). Also, no one can say what tomorrow will bring, or even what yesterday means, and no one controls the definition of "art." If in Picasso's day they couldn't recognize or predict the impact he and his art would have, it's only wise for us to reserve our judgment and see where today's art(ists) leads.

Can you be open to the notion that there is an entire vein of art that many people of sound mind enjoy, that provides its own "system of belief," even if it's only in its infancy (Monet's "system" was centuries old, if not millenia), and that while not everyone chooses to recognize its legitimacy, enough people do to make it valid?

And pace Jack, I agree that novelty should not be confused with quality (except that they both produce excitement in our poor confused mortal species), but again, it's difficult to accept a person's notion of quality is anything but prejudiced when they subscribe to the notion that any art produced in that work's vein is invalid to begin with.



July 10, 2004, 12:07 AM

Well, this is good. We see, to be actually exchanging thoughts, which has not been all that easy on this blog.

I may quibble with you about words some, only because I think they help make things clear. "Valid" is not wrong, but it has the overtone, because of the way we use it, of a ticket with a stamp on it. My habit is to look at art whenever I can, see as much as I can, enjoy as much as I can, and then, for the fun of it, think back on the characteristics of what worked and what did not and speculate on that. It is not a matter of "valid" but a matter of trying to see what went right and what went wrong and draw some conclusions. It isn't easy.

It seems to me that when art of the sort we see in the mainstream these days abandoned modernist ethics (if I can call them that) and the notion of the primacy of the esthetic principle it abandoned what amounts to the defining condition for art, and substituted little else but a kind of militant relativism, creating a vacuum which was soon filled by politics, posturing and academic notions of "meaning", in a word, by labels. There are now legions of things passing as art which in any other context would be rightfully regarded as trash, or as bad behavior, or plain silliness, but they are stuck into the ART context and we are obliged to read the label (figuratively, sometimes) and strain ourselves to "understand". This is no fun.

Now, I may just be stubborn and wrong-headed to go after this stuff with the attitude that I am going to obtain a similar visual pleasure as that I get from the art of the past. So I think, how does one go about getting something out of it? However, although there is no shortage of directions available (this art is very heavy on words, directions, meaning, explanations and other academic paraphernalia), when I judge it on the terms I am told to judge it on, it amounts to very little and in almost every instance it seems as if its stated purpose could be better achieved through another medium. So I am at a loss much of the time. The most I can get out of some of this (I guess it is called "postmodernist") art is sometimes some humor and occasional interesting theatrical effects (like that Kapok "horn" we were discussing earlier). When it comes right down to it almost all of it is just tiresome.

Often enough I have been told that I am a dinosaur, out of it, not with the new and vital art of today, hopelessly retardaire, and the like. But I have been deeply involved with art in a number of capacities all my life, since I was a kid. I know art, and I have seen all this happen. I am also neurological and culturally 99.99% percent the same as the people telling me I am constitutionally incapable of understanding new art. Then, when I ask them to please make a little sense out of it, I get art mag gibberish. Of course I will look at anything, but I have not got the time or the patience to keep on looking at object after object after installation after video after performance when all I do is think to myself, whatever they are doing, I think I could do it better. I don't want art that needs fixing, I want art that bowls me over.

So, that's my dilemma.



July 10, 2004, 1:37 AM

To all those who say oldpro is vague, unclear, doesn't explain "why" etc.:

You've got it backasswards, as my red neck friends put it. oldpro is so very clear he pulls every chain attached to your struggling spirits, including chains you probably didn't know you had. He has become the rock of gibralter that you, as captains of your various little boats, must cope with. You certainly can't sail through him. If you bang up against him, he bangs back. He won't go away. He is the champion of common sense. Ignore him at your peril.



July 10, 2004, 2:57 AM

Hovig, I'm not sure I understood your last few lines, but I'll elaborate on what I said, for what it may be worth. To me, original-new-different are essentially neutral descriptive terms that do not imply better or worse, but simply original-new-different, literally. The idea, central to the fashion industry or racket, that the "latest thing" is somehow magically better than what came before it and must be embraced is, to me, ridiculous. It is, in fact, quite irrational. I don't think much of those who buy into it.

Things that are original-new-different, of course, are bound to be more difficult to deal with because they're unfamiliar, so an open mind is important, but not so open that one's brain falls out, to quote Oldpro's memorable line. I will not put my brain on hold, and I will not let my judgment be paralyzed by fear of "missing the boat" or seeming insufficiently "progressive". Others may do as they like, obviously.

At the recent local critics' panel, which was much discussed here, an inordinate (not to say excruciating) amount of time was spent on the question of critical objectivity. The point is not to be objective but to be HONEST, first of all with one's self. My advice to critics, official or not (and we should all function as critics): Say what you mean, mean what you say, be articulate, explain your position, and let the chips fall where they may--please do not emulate politicians or career diplomats; do not sit on the fence, and do not neutralize (or neuter) yourself by trying to cover every conceivable base or contingency "just in case".

I may have gone off topic somewhat, but it seemed apropos.



July 10, 2004, 3:06 AM

Well, thanks, Catfish. I really do appreciate the kind words, especially after all the anger and nasty name-calling. It really is all just common sense, with a little bit of thinking things through. I am always puzzled why it seems so universally difficult.

As I remember, you were the only other blogger who liked Tim's wonderfully refreshing anecdotes. Tim, if you are out there, let's have some more.

By the way, I am a lousy speller and copy editor so someone admonished me to use a spell checker on my computer, so I did, and it changed "Kapoor" to "Kapok" in one of the obove postings. You can't win.



July 10, 2004, 6:00 AM

oldpro: love your spellchekcer and love your typos. googled "obove" and found this:

Once google recognizes a word it is, of course, valid. Nice picture too.



July 10, 2004, 7:09 AM

I was wondering about that "kapok" comment - I said to myself, maybe he thought it was stuffed...



July 10, 2004, 2:39 PM

"Obove"? As if to demonstrate my copy editing skills. The "obove the clouds" pic you found on Google is fun. There are also a couple dozen listings under "spellchekcer".

As for Kapok, that would have been enough to float the Titanic. This kind of art could use a life jacket. I do like to spell names correctly, however, although I guess when the mistakes are inadvertent that makes them all the more strange. Or makes me all the more strange, whichever.



July 10, 2004, 4:52 PM

Jack: I meant to metion this before. I agree that "objectivity" is a red herring and that honesty is a more direct and useful aim. The only qualification I would offer is that most of these people are being honest already in the sense that they think they are saying what they mean and how they feel. Dishonesty arises when - because they have not thought about their reactions or looked "objectively" at them or at the art they are "liking" - they find it necessary to face a challenge to their opinions. This challenge usually amounts to an implicit accusation that they are just going along with the crowd, and in this day of "avant-garde" that hurts. The dishonesty manifests itself when, instead of trying to take in the critcism and deal with it, they lash out with invective and deliberate misrepresentation. That's why I asked above (thats ABOVE, Cafish; now you know I know how to spell obove after all) where all the anger is coming from.



July 10, 2004, 5:16 PM

about credentialism:

The call for presentation of credentials is the academic form of breast and penis measuring. This is self evident.

One of the worst aspects of the academicism that infects the art world from time to time is the habit of listening most to people who are most infected, that is, those who have acquired their "credentials" by giving the infection all the nourishment it wants. Another way to put it is such "gurus" have stopped an annoying dog from humping their legs by sucking its dick, to the cheers of the crowd.

I ask my fellow bloggers, do you really want to be part of such a crowd? (an obvious rhetorical manipulation)

The only way the circle gets broken is when someone's deeds stand on their own, without the prop provided by the "credentials" that so many seek. Credentials are a "sign" the crowd uses to save themselves the trouble of thinking this stuff through. Instead they love to hate the enigmatic oldpro. (Or is it they hate that they might love what he is saying, even love oldpro himself, if that yearning lurking somewhere in their deepest soul ever escapes from under the dunce cap the crowd makes it wear?) Well, if oldpro has credentials, they are beside the point.

So oldpro, let's hear some more from you. Butt-naked words. Take 'em or leave 'em.



July 10, 2004, 5:50 PM

Thanks once again, Catfish. "Credentialism" is good - good word, good concept. Presenting credentials is exactly what I wanted to avoid here. Much of the appeal of a blog it that it may be the only place where you can argue about something without pulling rank, or being slighted because you have none. I did not rationalize it the way you have, but I agree completely.

I am not quite sure the dog analogy is completely apt, but it certainly is memorable!



July 10, 2004, 6:20 PM

Well oldpro, I had one DK (a double PhD) in mind when my word train wandered into the doggie station. I could get very vulgar here, but won't. I'll just say DK is proud of what he does and "everyone" who is "anyone" respects him for it.

Glad you like credentialsim as a term. You spelled out the consequences of setting it aside nice and practical like.



July 10, 2004, 7:04 PM

oldpro: Not that I really care, but the name is "catfish" not "Catfish", if it is important to you to get name speling right. It's lowercase because when you've seen one of them, you've seen 'em all.



July 10, 2004, 8:00 PM

Oldpro, I'm not sure "most of these people are being honest already in the sense that they think they are saying what they mean and how they feel." I think punches are being pulled and party lines are being followed, for various reasons (some of which involve self-protection, as there would surely be repercussions for doing otherwise, and I understand that).

The critical apparatus or infrastructure here is very flimsy and therefore weak and vulnerable. The local print media is not serious about art; they see it as a frill, something more or less superfluous that requires no significant effort or commitment on their part--in other words, just about any coverage will do, as long as there is some to keep up appearances.

Nobody locally is even remotely as firmly established as a Robert Hughes, so nobody's likely to rock the boat and rile up those who have some actual power. Even in far more mature art scenes than ours, egos abound and are hardly above acting to silence what they don't want to hear. If it happens in London, you'd better believe it would happen here.

Of course, it's not all about self-protection. There are also image issues, fashion issues, "avant garde" issues, insecurity issues. There are probably even "it's not nice to say that" issues, among the more genteel. The results we are all acquainted with, and I don't think the answer is having more critics' panels like the one held recently. I personally want different critics, but those who'd have to find them and support them are simply not concerned; they have other fish they'd much rather fry.



July 10, 2004, 8:08 PM

Well, then maybe I better write cATFISH, because you seems to be a fairly nonstandard presence, at least on this blog.

Should we know who DK is, and why such a walking credential should inspire such a trip to the doggie station?



July 10, 2004, 8:22 PM

Jack: If you are saying that the honesty matter is much more complicated than I put it you are right, of course. I think what I meant to say was that they don't even know they are being dishonest, but maybe that is not true either. Maybe honest is not the right word after all. When it comes down to it there is intelligence, toughness, a capacity for reflection, a "good eye", common sense and a few dozen other human capacities that come into play. I just wish that we did not live in a city where the humorist on the daily paper is a far better art critic than the art critic. That being said, I wish he would do more!



July 10, 2004, 9:21 PM

Hi goils. I'm back. you're stepping on the wrong snake when you step on Old Pro.

How is your drawing doing? Nonetheless the fury of the blog is beautiful. It's the real thing. Watching from afar i'm inspired by the rising of passion.

Hmmmm. Let Old Pro maintain his camo, he's trying to get your goats, to bring you to life and he's doing it. Let the jam jam on.
This blog is getting SO much closer to the passion I was drawn up by in art school.
Attack! Please keep up the fire.
But know you're being drawn to your passions by an Old Pro.



July 10, 2004, 9:30 PM

oldpro: spell it anyway you like. DK = Donald Kuspit. I don't think he could save Miami from being the regional scene everyone seems to think it is, inasmuch as he helped NYC become one. But for a proper honorarium, he might try.

Tim: welcome back. And uall keep comin' back, yew hear?



July 10, 2004, 9:42 PM

Jack, once again you hit the bigger target. This problem is not limited to just Miami. The infrastructure that supports a Robert Hughes is just as flimsy as any other. Bigger, yes. Richer, yes yes. Serious about art? I don't think so. Does Hughes offer any hope for the return of Apollo? Nope. Do his publishers see art as anything more than a frill? No, unless you want to make a case for "expensive, high class frill".

Frankly Jack, you seem closer to art than Hughes does. Keep on keeping on.



July 10, 2004, 10:02 PM

Jack, to clarify a little bit. Hughes loves wordsmithing more than art. You are more purely tuned into art than he.



July 10, 2004, 10:19 PM

Tim - more stories! This a purely selfish rfequest. I will happily let you tread on my snake if you come up with more Miami memory looney tunes.

Wait a minute,,, that didn't sound right. What the hell.

So DK is Donald Kuspit. He will gladly come down and hold forth for $$. Whatever you want. He helped make NY a regional scene? That's funny! True, however.



July 11, 2004, 12:46 AM

Yes, catfish, Hughes is something of a show-off, and he obviously means to make an effect, but he does have a way with words (unlike at least one local critic with literary pretensions, which are no more than that). Hughes is probably also too full of himself, which is unfortunately rather common among people who know they don't have much real competition. Still, his stuff is highly readable and not infrequently compelling, so we're definitely not talking some clueless wannabe with delusions of grandeur. He may be arrogant, but he's got the goods.

As for his publishers not really caring about art, you could be right, but at least they're not foisting some mediocre or generic critic on the public. In other words, they may not have the best motives, but they have enough pride or self-respect to see to it that their art critic is the genuine article. Sometimes, that's the most one can hope for, that people will do the right thing for less-than-ideal reasons.



July 11, 2004, 4:54 AM

Hey, what happened to the loyal opposition? I hope they didn't all give up and go away.



July 11, 2004, 7:00 AM

Jack, I agree Hughes has a way with words and your Miami "critics" could indeed be worse than him. But "genuine article" or "got the goods" ... I just can't go there. I'm glad you did not call him a good writer because good writing requires a lot more than a way with words. He is best when he is negative because the probabilities favor the negative.

I have noticed a tendency here on artblog and in the old Miami ArtEx for some if not many to think that "good criticism" (whatever that is) could or would bootstrap the whole Miami art scene a significant notch or two. Well, it won't. Art ciriticism has been around for maybe 200 years but good art has been with the human race for eons. This doesn't prove anything, but it suggests all it takes to have good art is for someone to make it. And if someone doesn't make it ... then there isn't any no matter what else there might be.

There has been only one critic that I know of who ever really helped art in a positive fashion. Hughes is not the one. He might help with selling the art you have, but even if he wrote about it week after week, the level would stay the same. It would be nice if a second helpful one came along but don't hold your breath.



July 11, 2004, 4:10 PM

Catfish: Allow me to qualify 2 items ever so slightly.

The first requirement of a good critic is to be able to recognize good art. This "good eye" talent seems to be as rare as art-making talent, and, of course, the two are related. There are a few critics out there, like Hughes, who can write criticism that is enjoyable to read because they have that way with words, but the crunch always comes when they say what they like. They are better when they write about bad art, as you say, because the probabilities are that the art is bad anyway, but also because it is a lot easier and more fun to work on bad art this way; you can usually pick it over and kick it around pretty easily. The better the art is the harder it is to write about, because you cannot say why is good, and, always, the only really true thing you can say ultimately is "you have to go look at it." Reading Hughes is always a kick until you get to the part where he says what he likes. Like the snag in the riverbed, it tends to sink the whole enterprise.

Then the matter of criticism. I can't substantiate this very well, but I have observed that for whatever reason better art comes up in an atmosphere where better art is expected and where an accepting environment has been created for it. Art also seems to move at a higher level where a good workable well-developed working method is in place. Conversely, I have noticed the negative effect on good artists when the opposite is true. I think the effects may be less pronounced at the level of no talent at all on the one hand and great genius on the other, but in the middle or upper parts of the curve it seems to work. I guess an example might be the Fauve movement, where, for a couple of years, with Matisse's leadership and example, some moderately talented artists made some very good art. I think pressure helps. And it would certainly make things a lot more interesting around here if sharp, articulate no-bullshit people were doing the criticising.



July 11, 2004, 7:19 PM

Catfish, the relatively weak competition (I don't mean in Miami, but in general) may make Hughes look better than he is. I suppose that, at least sometimes, he's more flash than substance. He's certainly more showman than high priest, unlike a Greenberg, but it's a very good show, always readable and stimulating, and often on target (especially, as you say, with dubious art). His stuff is effective, because it's very well delivered and it seems to come from HIM, not somebody else's theory, or trying to be fashionable or "correct," or trying to cover his ass. He is what he is, but it's real and forthright, not vaporous or obtuse, not vague or wishy-washy, not safe and useless, and not clumsily or ignorantly aggressive. In the absence of something better, I'll take it.

Of course, good art is made by artists, and other artists are more likely to stimulate that than critics, as Oldpro notes. But good critics can add both seriousness and excitement; they can stir things up (not least the public); they can encourage good work and help keep bad work in its place. I don't want critics to sell me anything, but to enrich and enliven my interaction with art, which is ultimately my business, not theirs.



July 11, 2004, 7:56 PM

I went too far when I said Hughes is at his best when he is negative. I should have added, he is ALSO at his worst. He ripped apart Morris Louis's MOMA 86 retrospective by insisting that "beauty, in art, is not necessarily enough" or something to that effect. This theory could be clarified to the point of relevance (he didn't), but what really tanked the essay was his blindness to Louis. The short end of the probability that favors negative criticism finally caught up with Mister Wordsmith, showing that he is simply a tongue without an eye.

oldpro makes a clear statement about an ideal situation. In the trenches, it seems critics as a group have been setting expectations for decades and artists as a group have sought to meet them, to the detriment of both groups. (There are exceptions.) The net result has been a mess in the art world. The only "sell out" I can really see in the past half century's golden age of criticism is when artists have attempted to meet the weird expectations defined by the writers. As oldpro says it is hard to demonstrate this stuff, but that does not detract one bit from its reality, if indeed it is real.

Artists seem like a better bet for dealing with expectations. But too often they are more interested in letting what the writers write about set the pace, if only they can be part of it. Perhaps this does not describe the causality accurately, but in any case, many many artists are unwilling to work outside what the writers are willing to write about. Matisse wasn't like that. But then he did not live in a golden age of critcism.

Heck, I'm starting to sound awfully academic. I need Tim to light my fire.



July 12, 2004, 12:37 AM

A tongue without an eye - nice image.

The artist/writer syndrome germinated in the 50s when art critics of all kinds began to be poets, artist's wives, artists themselves and "involved" critics, like Rosenberg, which was quite different from the semi-hobbyist gentleman critic of the past who was hardly at home with mangy artist types. This seemed like a great idea at the time. What could be better? But as time went on the relationship grew incestuous. Everyone was friendly (or feuding) with everyone else, going to studios, going to bed, making suggestions, getting involved.

In the meantime art was going big time, making art criticism a glamour thing to do. So a whole generation of critics grew up in the 60s and 70s, based on the new palsy-walsy model but eager to make a name, push a theory, identify with a new winner, jump on (or push) the bandwagon, be "with it" and fashionable. A parallel generation of academics grew along with them, or in some case, were them, eager and excited to shed stuffy academic matters and flow with the new fame, vitality and market art was finding for itself. As a result, contemporary art became infused with theory, meaning, explanation, "labelism", use of text, appropriation, retro, "issues", "comments", "ideas" and all the numbing litany of dreary effects we find in art today. We tried to bust out of it with "New Expressionism" back in the 80s, but the art just was not good enough and after a few years it was dead. This artist/critic/academic witch's brew does not enhance art, it stifles it. If something really new (I mean new, not yet another rehash of something terminally offensive) doesn't come along soon I fear for the life of art itself



July 12, 2004, 2:45 AM

Fear: fear can be a good base for creativity.

When the great depression threatened Martin guitar with bankruptcy they took the usual tightening steps (layoff, shortened work week for remaining employees, etc.). But they also invented the dreadnought body style, 14 fret neck, and 25.4 inch "long scale", all of which became the core of their business since. They made their best insturments during the depression, too. (But not many of them because there were not many customers who wanted them, despite the improvements.)

Today Martin is doing the "retro" thing. Bringing back the forward shifted, narrower, and scalloped bracing of that time; Adirondack spruce tops which are noted for their plain, no frills grain structure but a very edgy sound; and Brazilian rosewood bodies. They are selling all they can make for $10,000 to $100,000 each, so there isn't much fear involved anymore. (Wonder how good they are?)

The natural cycle of boom and bust seems to be good for things in the end. As we peer over the edge of the abyss we often become inspired.



July 12, 2004, 3:01 AM

oldpro: I clicked too soon. I wanted to include that I found your last sentence inspiring.



July 12, 2004, 3:27 AM

Oldpro, the kind of incestuousness you describe was bound to produce defective offspring. Something comparable is now going on with curators, many of whom have decided they're so creative and gifted that they should participate in the artistic process right along with the actual artists (whose work will presumably be improved by curatorial meddling). Given a sufficiently powerful curator and a sufficiently insecure (or ambitious) artist, the results are also bound to be dubious.



July 12, 2004, 3:40 AM

Hey, we need either Tim to relieve us or someone to do battle with. Where is everyone?


that guy in the back row

July 12, 2004, 4:06 AM


I think they are all scared. Now that you guys brought forth some enlightenment the "others" are all in their studio's trying in vain to make up the thirty five odd years they've lost sucking Barbara Kruger's teat.

Wonder what took so long to realize how rancid the stuff is.



July 12, 2004, 5:00 AM

Back row guy: come on up to at least the front row. Maybe you should be the featured speaker for a while.



July 12, 2004, 5:47 AM

yeah, back row. Say something intemperate enough to get them back on board again.


that guy in the back row

July 12, 2004, 5:54 AM

Front row? Shit, I'm about ready to walk out of the theater. I'm busy trying to relearn thirty years worth of html code that I missed out on, because I was learning how to paint. My life precedes my art. And in terms of a time commitment, this blog unfortunately falls under the when I have time category. There are plenty of folks who read this blog, are confused artists, who want to write on it but don't. I'd like to see them come forward. helping them is much more productive. I want any artist who thinks he is worth a half a grain of salt in this town, (our Whitney Biennial types shouldn't be afraid of a wee little blog, or should they?) to come forth to the artblog court of appeals, and make a case for their wares. with anonymity, or in all their naked glory as our trailblazer Ph.D.. Bentencourt has. (How he can even walk with a straight face after the fluff he came up with is beyond me.) Why his Ph.D. granting institution hasn't revoked his new clothes, is beyond me. Yes, consider this a challenge. A challenge many won't take. At their own peril as you say. Let us see who among them has even courage.

Franklin, maybe you could make Monday's artblog entry, a confessional of sorts. It would be open to all, and a typical comment would go like this: "Hello, my name is so and so, and I rehash pop art. Here are the results. "link". Then we would give them a point by point analyses on how they might improve. Our goal should be to create a cozy enough environment that 99% of those artists currently waiting for art to wash up on their shores, are gently encouraged to look for a new career.


that guy in the back row

July 12, 2004, 7:37 AM

As Degas said: "The arts should be discouraged."


Barbara Kruger\'s left one

July 12, 2004, 8:18 AM

Sorry, dudes. At this point, y'all seem to be (ironically) wallowing around in your own particular brand of bitter, circular, arrogant, self-congratulatory art talk. Pointing out the (many) fault lines in the mainstream art system is definitely necessary, and thoughtful, informed critique would surely be welcome around here, but y'all just aren't doing it. A couple of you come off sounding downright smug, petty and mean, and not exactly open to true discussion.

Also, backrow guy, perhaps you were being sarcastic, but doesn't it seem a bit hypocritical to "invite" these legions of crappy artists to present their work for you self-appointed arbiters of Art Goodness to tear apart without revealing your own?

If you trumpet artistic integrity and standards of quality in art, yet fail to converse with a certain degree of integrity, honesty, respect, and fairness--and instead choose to belittle, disdain, bait, and dismiss people with opposing views--what self-respecting schlub is going to want to sit here and get into it with you folks?

Have fun! Enjoy your conversation!


that guy in the back row

July 12, 2004, 2:00 PM

bklo: The difference is that I'm above the fray so to speak. I'm not the one seeking validation. I was just offering my eye as a service to you. Oh, I suppose you could hire an art consultant, but this is cheaper and will frankly be a bit more honest and less painful than going that route. You could be the outlier .01%, but those are the ones we are looking for, so what do you have to lose?

"what self-respecting schlub is going to want to sit here and get into it with you folks?": apparently you. My guess is that there are many others like yourself who are waiting in wings and what to see how there works hold up. Let us see some images bklo, or anyone else. (I will reply tonight)



July 12, 2004, 2:25 PM

Greetings Left One. Is that the left teat or the one that was left because the right one tasted so bad?

That was a nifty string of negative characterizations, worthy of any desktop thesaurus, but, as is so often the case on this blog, that's about all it is. I, for one, have been asking for "true discussion" all along, and sometimes have said fairly extreme things to stir it up, but most of what we get is folks who froth at the mouth and then drop out. There have been some more specific discussions about art here in the last couple weeks and Franklin has but up various links, and we now have yet another Sunday Herald artgush, and so forth, so there is plenty to talk about. Is there something more specific out there or in here you would like to go after?



July 12, 2004, 4:12 PM

Some things are difficult, some look difficult when they aren't. Some
things that appear difficult to the wan, slope-shouldered hacky-sack playing
game-boys do indeed require a certain concentration. Let me give you one
example 1I'm in the gym hammering rhythmicallyaway at the speed bag:
poppata-poppata-pottata-poppitpoppitapop-pop-pop, when I feel this,
presence. Yes, there is this large slope shouldered young person standing
still, watching me, their mouth open, bland eyes wide, unblinking. This guy
doesn't move or say anything when I stop doing the speed bag me finally
asking him, "Can I help you?"
"Dude, " he says blandly, "that looks hard."

You see what I'm saying? I don't either. Something about the discipline
and concentration that allows us painters to enter a world of rythms,
impacts, blood pumping, breathing free.. while the generation brought up on
demento PC socio-poli AIDS quilt, tampons on the museum ceiling spoiled
trust fund baby vague eating Du-du-champ instead of Manet, get this glaze,
this distant signal telling them if everything's okay why should I lift my
pinky. Lost, lost, lost in the utter vagueness of a cultural fog meant not
to make us social equals but to replace our soul's inate values with those
of the consumer follow fashion monky cellphones dropping men's sperm
counts them chatting like highschool girls in the mens lockerroom, loud
voice prattling on, the gymnasium turning to fog, no longer really there,
the difficulty of getting a speed bag really cooking, vague, vague, oddly
easing out of conciousness

So. I think its not so much about critics and criticism as it is about the
culture since Du-du-champ and Warhol.

It appears there has been a complete triumph of the shameless consumer
culture that will block the rise of good painting being embraced, for many
years to come. In the meantime seems good for the small cells, pods of
painters to keep the fire alive, look away from the culture and paint from
within hoping to still be here when the demented total triumph of crass
warfare has collapsed from its own weightlessness.



July 12, 2004, 4:55 PM

Back row guy: good idea to discourage the arts. A friend of mine has been doing that for several decades. He, like most artists, lives in the backwaters of culture, but it is a large metropolitan area, so there are many artists. Whenever he hears that someone has become depressed he rushes over to their studio and tells them they are right to be depressed, their work is no good, and they should quit. He is serious, not sarcastic.

If they are strong enough, my friend is the flame that tempers their steel. If they are not, he melts them down to the nothing they were in the first place.



July 12, 2004, 4:56 PM

Thanks Tim, I needed that.



July 12, 2004, 5:07 PM

Barbara Kruger's Left One: Welcome! Even as you pot shot "self appointed arbiters of Art Goodness" you assume the self appointed position yourself. That is a good thing. I'm not kidding.

The choice boils down to either a self appointed arbiter or self appointed member of the herd. The self appointed part can't be escaped. Nor should it.



July 12, 2004, 7:46 PM

In some tiny way the best plan of action beyond making paintings. If my theory is correct, that critics and criticism will not do much to break up the dreadful culture; that the most effective way is to confront the lighty art posers directly.

Laying down the gauntlet.

They know somewhere down in their unexercised souls that challenges to their superficiality ring some vague bell of sense, of conciousness, of primeval conscience telling them what they are doing is shit, silly, even perverse in its avoidance of soul, of heart, that it is really part of one overblown joke. They know it, but are surrounded by legions, legions, legions, everywhere they look of fellow lighties led by legions of art faculty glibsters passionless as dummies. Cold cold cold,

they know its all talk, and not the real thing. Its really a remarkable triumphant army of total losers, or put more gently: lost souls.

Its like this: in art, love, sensing nature, philosophy, etc. there is a chasm between you and the thing you seek to become one with. There's where you're standing.. solid in the regular old literalists world, there's the groovy world, over there, maybe six or eight or ten feet away.. a very cool world over there.

But between is the chasm. To get across you have to overcome thoughts of failure, of falling, trot back twenty feet then run for it, make the leap. Not only is the place you land great but the leaping's cool too. The army that rules the artworld and the art schools have all come to the edge, peeked over with fear, then given up on making the leap, given up on reaching the other side. In their shame they see around them crowds of other cowards and what is there to do as a strategy for assuaging the bitter prick of conscience other than to organize a great convention, the emperor carried out naked, fat ugly , the crowd celebrating his clothes they've convinced themselves they see.

Such illusion. Such a strange large-scale social phenominon. Instead of Alcoholics Anonomous maybe Chickens Anonomous or no! they aren't ashamed, not at all. Their great gathering could be Chicken Pride, Chicken Rights, Chicken Rule. Chickens Uber Alles. Oh they've got it going on, a regular party, chitterchatter bla bla flahflah flah on and on ad infinitum ad nauseum pedaling like mad to keep up the wall of white noise that gone would leave them with the dreaded pricking conscience that they are peepers not leapers.

So this conference, giant, is going on on the one side of the chasm while Unnoticed these few nuts run and make the leap: Weeeeeeeee! Tweaking the mob of scareddy-cats is good for them. Like coming back from the other side, telling them, Wow, its bitchin over there. You got to try it. You know, shaming them, their conscience maybe twingling a bit, a micro ripple moving through the chattering lighties.

In the end this talking about this stuff has been good for me. not so much giving me hope for a refreshed artworld but in letting me picture how neat it is, what a great thing it is to be a leaper not a peeper.



July 12, 2004, 8:18 PM

I think Tim is leaping over all of us.

Problem is, everyone has gone to the convention.



July 12, 2004, 8:32 PM

Tim, that was beautiful.

And I relate to the boxing analogy. One of my models for artistic excellence is my t'ai chi teacher, Sifu Siuying Chin.



July 13, 2004, 2:29 AM

it's sad that some of you are so bitter and petty that you would encourage ANY artist to quit. shame on you.



July 13, 2004, 3:02 AM

Ajax: You seem like a typically kind art-person who does not discriminate on the basis of any principle or other value. As you proudly reveal, you are one who is so lacking in conviction that ANY artist is acceptable. Therefore, on behalf of my friend Russell Bob, let me encourage you to QUIT whatever it is you do that is connected to art. You don't have enough guts.

Consider a career in fund rasing for orphanages, perhaps. That is a field where ALL the children deserve help and consideration. No need to discriminate one from the other. To do so, in fact, would be unthinkable.

I am not kidding.



July 13, 2004, 3:33 AM

Ajax: a line of 2 dozen words and you throw forth "sad", "bitter", "petty" and "shame".

Can anyone out there park the name calling and talk about art?


that guy in the back row

July 13, 2004, 5:58 AM

Tim: that was the elixir everyone needed.
ajax: let us see your wares just to make sure, but yes, give it up.
catfish: thanks



July 13, 2004, 7:29 AM

I wouldn't tell anyone to quit making art, but I'm imagining someone saying that to me, and my response is, "What? Whatever." So maybe I'm one of the gutsy ones. But I'm led to understand that my skin is thicker than average.

I don't see why it would be impossible that someone might be genuinely talented and in need of encouragement, particularly early on in their development.

Also, I make a distinction between what I say in a critique and what I say in someone's studio. I think people are welcome to fill their studios with refuse if that's all they can manage. Art is not injured by their doing so, and one day, they might clue in or just get lucky and make something good. But in an exhibition, it's a different story. They're free to display what they like to the public and I'm free to say what I like about it. It's a glorious system, really.



July 13, 2004, 6:24 PM

Catfish Oldpro and that guy

Revealing my credentials is unnecessary since none of you have proven yourselves to be anything more than failed artists who are angry at successful ones. About discouragement, I would not even consider discouraging the lot of you from making art, even if your art is terrible. I might persuade you to invest less time and energy into it, or to consider other means of making money, but to tell someone to stop making art is arrogant and mean.



July 13, 2004, 6:31 PM

Ajax, credentials are not needed here.



July 13, 2004, 6:38 PM

Ajax, sorry, I can see how you would interpret back row guy's comment as a call for credentials. You might be right. Then again, it might be a reference to whatever you do, as in art works, exhibitions curated, etc. If it is the latter, then my previous remark should have been directed towards back row guy, not you.



July 13, 2004, 6:40 PM

Well once again my brain fuzzed. Substitute "former" for "latter" and that is what I meant in the last post.



July 13, 2004, 6:44 PM

I never asked for credentials and never will. We hashed that one out here a while ago. Credentials on a blog are the sense you make and how convincingly you can present a point of view. When you say the contributors here are failed artists who are angry at successful ones, for which there is no evidence, those credentials take a serious hit.



July 13, 2004, 7:37 PM

Ajax, permit me to expand on the above just a bit, for all bloggers as well. We have a situation in the art world now where you can make an art work that promotes an end to our entire system of government and all of our basic public values and put it prominently in a public institution and art people will stand around and say "Hey, man, that's cool". But if you make a relatively innocuous proposal (I am neither agreeing or disagreeing here) such as that cartain artists should be dissuaded from making art - or a number of other ideas that have aired here, such as that most art sucks and maybe there are reasons for it - art people instantly chime in with frenzied anger, often accompanied by nasty characterizations and unsupported accusations.

I am not sure why this happens. But I do know there is a better way to confront something you do not agree with: you take the argument, think it over, weigh the pros and cons and present your best rebuttal. This is the way discussion and argument is conduicted in serious places where something more than ego hangs in the balance. If we do not do it in the art business - and we do not - we just solidify the impression that we are all a bunch of irresponsible adolescents who are not to be taken seriously.



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