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robin griffiths

Post #321 • July 13, 2004, 4:57 PM • 22 Comments

Robin Griffiths' exhibition at Dorsch Gallery, "Spue," opened this past Saturday. I would contrast his work with the gargantuan baubles currently on display at MoCA; they're as lighthearted, but one can take them more seriously. The artist arranged wood and steel to suggest obsolete apparatuses and arrangements whose delicacy was incongruous with their materials.

This one consisted of three Dade County Pine logs attached with steel springs. The end hung in a manner that it could be pushed around, and it would swing back and forth like the neck of a brontosaur. (The woman in the gray pants is Bonnie Clearwater, director of MoCA.)

A radio reciever built by 18th Century pirates, perhaps.

The artist has been saving his old pants since high school.

Griffiths, left, with UM professor Brian Curtis and his wife on the couch in a gallery reconstruction of the artist's living room.

Between Griffiths and Ralph Provisero, Dorsch is doing more for sculpture than any gallery in town.




July 14, 2004, 12:29 AM

"Between Griffiths and Ralph Provisero, Dorsch is doing more for sculpture than any gallery in town."

True enough, but unfortunately that's not saying much, since nobody else is featuring sculpture. Obviously, there can't be much of a market for anything very large, but nobody said sculpture has to be big, let alone monumental. I really wish there was more work of a manageable size on offer, but maybe there just aren't many people working in sculpture.



July 14, 2004, 12:47 AM

Dorsch is bold enough to fill the gap with large scale exhibitions that appeal to those seeking statment items. He has struck a balance in representing a diverse range over an established history of excellent shows. Refreshing and exciting. Can't wait for the next show!



July 14, 2004, 1:34 AM

What about...
Manuel Carbonell at Faccini; Martin Puryear at MAM; John Henry at T. Curtsnoc; Johan Cretin at the Bass all within the last couple of years not to mention Karen Rifas (Non-leaf work) and two other sculptures whose names I cant remember at Steinbaum. Sculpture is out there it just seems like the 2-D work gets more coverage.



July 14, 2004, 1:42 AM

Steinbaum comes close. MAM and Bass are not galleries. Henry is T. Curtsnoc. What is the status of Facchini Gallery since, um, the activities described in recent rumors?



July 14, 2004, 2:50 AM

The Carbonell work left Facchini some time ago. I forgot that Durban Segnini Gallery, which is very near Snitzer's former location in the Gables area, does carry a fair amount of sculpture by Hispanic artists. One of my favorites there is Gay Garcia, a Cuban sculptor who's very underrated.



July 14, 2004, 4:39 AM

I got to hang out with robbie before the show. what impressed me about him was the closeness between his being and his artwork. i suppose this is true of all great artists, but it struck me, given the materials and forms of his work. here is a guy who is in love with the physical things of the world, and has vast resources of knowledge and intuition about how physical objects interact.

getting the three-log-two-spring hanging piece into the air was an interesting process. as Robbie (practically single-handedly) juggled ropes, chains, pulleys, shackles, steel rods, bolts, and a VERY long drill bit, i was reminded of a computer analyt troubleshooting a network problem, trying one thing, then another, getting the thing to work while balancing the most graceful solution against the most practical. The analogy may sound ass-backwards, but i can't think of anything that makes more sense.



July 14, 2004, 4:40 AM

Even though several of you have dredged up a number of sculpture shows of recent date the number, compared to painting/installation/video and the like, is proportionately tiny. Sculpture of the singular, free-standing, see-it-all-at-once variety has been in decline lately, for a number of interesting reasons which we could talk about here. Dorsch has the space for it, and both the Provisero show and the Griffiths show look more interesting than most.


Jerome du Bois

July 14, 2004, 4:59 AM


So far, comments have not mentioned the art. It's all about the gallery and who's showing sculpture. Well, who could blame them, because what's to say about the art except what Franklin's already said? Except that Franklin kindly posted photos, which he means he thought it was important, I must assume. So, since no one asked . . .

The brontosaur is a one-trick dinosaur. Chris Burden and Tim Hawkinson do this stuff in their sleep. I'd rather hug a tall eucalyptus tree in a high wind, and listen to it rattle and hum.

In Phoenix, we call the "18th-Century pirate radio receiver" yard art.

The pants: didn't Charles Ray cover this suburban frisson a long time ago? And: do you want them britches in your living room? I mean, aren't they beeyootiful?

Speaking of which: the reconstructed artist's living room . . . why? Because these days the artist and his/her ego rules, and his is at least as big as that giant green Big Gulp he's clutching.

The least piece by Martin Puryear blows this guy right out the door. Griffiths ought to down tools and study that master for awhile.


Jerome du Bois



July 14, 2004, 5:56 AM

Try hugging the tree, Jerome. It might hug back.


Jerome du Bois

July 14, 2004, 7:54 AM


It is long past time for you to change your pseudohandle to "The Wonder of Me." You've done your best to turn the comments on Franklin's blog into your drunken bar -- you, Tim, catfish, other dumb pseudonyms. (Why not stir the pot, eh, Franklin? They won't think, they'll just react. You'll see, if you let this comment stand.)

In the meantime I must accuse you, oldpro, of being an empty blowhard. I have had thirty years experience with all kinds of trees in all kinds of forms, from listening to them, to hugging their frozen black trunks in the dead of winter, to felling them, to bucking them down, to making them into houses, to spokeshaving birch into teepee poles, to scrabbling through the underbrush to find enough widowmakers to keep warm for the night, to splitting firewood day after day. I know wood. Don't patronize me. And Griffiths made a stupid sculpture. Why don't you talk about the goddamn sculpture instead of trying to be cute? It isn't about you, don't you see? And you typically ignore everything else I said for your predictable cheap shot.

I shouldn't have even commented. I've got more important things to write.

With total sincerity,

Jerome du Bois



July 14, 2004, 4:02 PM

So maybe I haven't been reading artblog enough recently, but I don't see how oldpro comes off as a drunken bar patron or an empty blowhard. Honestly.

And as for people who turn the comments into rants about themselves and how awesome they are, you couldn't do better than ol' Jerome du Bois. The pot calling the kettle black! Sometimes I suspect JdB of being the performance artist around here; I mean, "I know wood"--was that a joke? [for the non-francophones, bois = wood]

Maybe I just don't get the point of that woody paragraph. We don't have those subtle humming trees down here; we have invasive, agressive trees such as banyan/ficus, or the lovely fruiters such as mango, carambola, tamarind, and avocado. I've been in New Mexico and lived in Texas, so I've been around other kinds of trees; you just have to get into the whole dessicated mentality to be able to grok what JdB is talking about. We are really more about fermentation down here than the ascetic survivalist aesthetic.

Sadly, I haven't yet seen the exhibit at Dorsch, and I wouldn't presume to comment on the works after seeing only a photo--after all, the power inherent in sculpture lies in its very physicality. After I place my body in proximity to the work, I'll have a better idea of my assesment of its merits.

As for sculpture in general, I think Locust has had some good shows lately! Wormhole has also shown some interesting sculpture. Diana Lowenstien also seems to consistently show scupture.

But isn't it curious/a problem that sculpture, as we are currently discussing it, seems to be exclusive of conceptual intent? Clearly Mr. Puryear is a Sculptor, and a fine one, but what about (more locally) Tom Scicluna (spelling?), who I think is probably one of the best sculptors in Miami? And what about Westen Charles? His show at the Wolfson gallery was excellent! And Robert Chambers! Or Cooper? And Ms. Aja Albertson, before she moved away? I suspect that others would disqualify them because of the conceptual content . . .



July 14, 2004, 4:12 PM

Franklin compared Griffiths favorably with Othoniel and that's the way I see it too, based on the "leveled playing field" provided by small JPEGs of sculpture. But Jerome's "one shots" fired at this work ring true, taken as simple "I'm not that impressed" statements. (I'll leave the fact they qualify as "cheap shots" out of it.) It is tough being a sculptor these days and Jerome has a grasp of that situation.

At one and the same time Griffiths is a sight for sore eyes while remaining a rigger of the unnecessary, especially in the kenetic three log piece and the "radio receiver". alesh's reference to "this is true of all great artists" suggests Griffiths has gotten there. Not that I can see. The obvious "positive criticism" is to suggest that Griffiths simplify, but I doubt that will work. Griffiths could profit, I'm sure, from "digging deeper", as we all could. Beyond that, the solution won't be known until it's realized.

But the tough sledding Jerome senses for Griffiths extends to Calder (Jack seems to know this), Burden, and Puryear too. David Smith cast a long shadow over sculpture and no one seems able to overcome both the shade it provides and the anti-aesthetic impluse of pomo that glorifies darkness per se. Puryear tries and that seems true of Griffiths too.



July 14, 2004, 4:45 PM

Thanks Kathleen. Actually I am developing a kind of affection for "ol' Jerome". He drops in periodically with a nice epithet for me (I think the last one was "blind fool") and an aimless characterization or two ("drunken bar"?) and then pitches into a rant which has nothing to do with anything at hand but is usually pretty amusing. This time it is about his deep involvement with trees. I believed every word. I think we need to keep him around.

Much of my criticism of current work, and I would hazard to guess the criticism of most of the others in my "drunken bar", has much less to do with "conceptual content" than an apparent substitute of purposeful, and usually rather lame and anemic conceptual content, for esthetic strength. There is nothing wrong with content of any sort outside of the context of a given work.



July 14, 2004, 4:49 PM

I should not have referenced Jack in the way I did above; I don't think he said anything about Calder. But both he and oldpro seem to perceive sculpture as being in a difficult situation these days.


Jerome du Bois

July 14, 2004, 5:56 PM


My name has been Jerome du Bois for over fifty years. And I know fermentation as well as I know dessication. In fact, I'm thinking of uncorking the Toasted Head earlier than usual today. In the meantime, will anyone call you on your little tree rant?

catfish has a handle on the discussion I wanted to get into. Actual art objects compared with other actual ones.Thank you. Thank you very much.

oldpro continues his patronizing: "ol' Jerome," "we need to keep him around." You don't keep me anywhere, man, and I am developing a disaffection for you. I made what I thought were pungent, but accurate, one-liners about Franklin's photos, so as not to chew up bandwidth. You responded with two short dismissive sentences about me, not the art.

Now reread the first paragraph of your last post and see that it is all about you. But if you read my posts I explicitly say it is not about you. Repeat: It Is Not About You.




July 14, 2004, 7:11 PM

I confess that I am completely incapable of, due to my total lack of education in art, comprehending what people call contemporary art. I may be old-fashoned and narrow-minded, but I would like to stay narrow-minded, for there are things to look at for narrow-minded people like myself.

..... an era of radical openness, in which everything is possible as art. What is perhaps less evident is that the pluralism extends to aesthetics itself. If everything is possible as art, everything is possible as aesthetics as well..... was written by Mr. Arthur C. Danto in an article titled Kalliphobia in Contemporary Art. (link doesn't have the article, though)

I would like to propose that we ban the use of word art so things would be less upsetting. We should call it "Contemporary Show" instead. It just irritates me for some reason.

By the way, I wrote something about an artist couple who sold their souls to art. I wish to translate the poems, but I am running out of time.

Selling of Soul



July 14, 2004, 9:54 PM

Momoko: If by narrow-minded you mean liking what you like, then stay narrow minded. You may learn to like more, or like less, but don't be talked into anything. You have to feel it.

Danto, whom I think is a major gasbag, would have been more accurate if he substituted "acceptable" instead of "possible". Everything has always been more or less possible in art and in seeing art, recently. It is the nature of art not to have rules. What he does not say, at least in your quote and from what I have been able to stomach reading of him, is: what then? Everything may be possible, but that does not mean anything is worthwhile.

Jerome: Why keep telling me what I should write here? The point of a blog is that anyone can write anything. You, for one, certainly exemplify that principle. But you made a point about which got me thinking, and I had to conclude, when I get into the depths of my true feelings, that though I could hardly call Griffiths a better sculptor than Puryear, there is something that comes up out of all the clunkiness and crudeness of Griffiths which Puryear, in all of his exquisite and refined reworking of overused modernist sculptural forms, at bottom lacks. Griffiths is a raw, unfinished sculptor. Puryear is a minor one. When the raw and the refined collide and both keep functioning you get David Smith.



July 14, 2004, 10:54 PM

I have a feeling that Danto is a pathologist, not a doctor. He probably doesn't know any possible cure or prevention for the epidemic. He is more specialized in describing the illness than curing it. But he surely created a lot of business on his side just to write about the illness.



July 14, 2004, 11:28 PM

oldpro: "When the raw and the refined collide and both keep functioning you get David Smith." That's the single best sentence I've read about Smith that I can remember.

A different take on Danto's "possibilities": when anything goes, everything's gone. Not that far from oldpro's. Interesting that it comes from a redneck honky tonk song.

Momoko: That idiot Duchamp probably should get credit for the "everything is possible as aesthetics" idea, not that other idiot, Danto. But this does not have anything to do with the way you quoted Danto. He did say it as if it were his own invention.



July 15, 2004, 12:31 AM

Thanks, catfish. Your other angle on Danto is right on, too. In fact, "anything goes, everything goes" could be a chapter heading for someone who, unlike Danto, understands what art is.

Momoko, you may have a point about not calling it "art". If we just said "Exhibit of stuff in a room. Come take a look" it would ease things up all around. The ART label creates expectations.


Phil Isteen

July 15, 2004, 4:17 AM

Franklin "would contrast his [Griffith's work] with the gargantuan baubles currently on display at MoCA; they're as lighthearted, but one can take them more seriously." I would concur. Anything could and should be taken more seriously than the baubles at MoCA right now.

It is better to turn garbage into something, than turning something into garbage.



July 15, 2004, 5:07 AM

Good line, Phil. A lot of glass meets that unfortunate fate.



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