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piri's prediction

Post #335 • August 2, 2004, 6:33 AM • 47 Comments

The always-brilliant Piri Halasz, responding to John Link (as I did):

Greenberg welcomed pop art at first. He told me he found it "refreshing," presumably by comparison with the excesses of second-generation abstract expressionism in the 50s. Little did he know how good some of those second-generation painters would look in the 21st Century, by comparison with second- and third-generation neo-dada. That's my point. The future is impossible to predict, because history never repeats exactly. I think that when Greenberg predicted that the best art would be recognized eventually, he was expressing his own optimism, and this optimism was not necessarily misplaced. In the Archives of American Art is correspondence between him and other people involved in the David Smith estate. In the 70s, some of these people complained because Greenberg had invested some of the estate's money in stocks, and the market was so bearish that these people evidently thought stocks were never going to go up again. Greenberg said that he thought capitalism was fundamentally sound. From the correspondence, I gather that this argument wasn't accepted, and control of these moneys was taken away from him. Too bad. If they'd hung onto what he invested in the 70s, it could be worth a small fortune today.

Since nobody can be sure what the future holds, here's my prediction (a bit of it already being realized). Taking a cue from Hegel, I foresee a new style that represents a synthesis of modernism (the thesis) and postmodernism or dada (the antithesis). That's what happened in the Dark Ages. Medieval manuscripts can be gorgeous, but not always because of their similarity to Roman scrolls. What about the "animal style," with its sinuous curlicues, developed from the art of the Celts and other barbarians, but incorporated into many manuscripts? Would you call the Book of Kells an eyesore, simply because it's an acme of the animal style? I'd call it a masterpiece, though admittedly my criteria must differ, valuing color and composition more highly than fidelity to nature. Roman sculpture looks more faithful to nature than the Book of Kells, but, except for its portraiture, most of it's just dutiful copying the Greeks. The Romanesque sculpture at Vézelay and Autun is vital and original. The Parthenon must have been beautiful, but how about the vaulting in Amiens and the stained glass of Chartres? They're neither classical nor Renaissance, but does that make them chopped liver?

I agree. Self-criticism has always been a part of the art enterprise. It was first directed at the mimesis of nature and the refinement of design. Modernism directed it at the product of art-making. Postmodernism directed it at the culture of art-making. What comes next will direct self-criticism at itself. If art was a car, Modernism took it apart to the last bolt, and Postmodernism did an intense background check on the mechanics. The next movement, which I think is happening here and there, will reassemble it. The best art is going to remind us of the past in some ways but surprise us in others. (Those inclined to semiotics will note that hybrid vehicles recently entered the market in force.) We'll see better through the assumptions that surround art, not to rid ourselves of them, but to choose among them with freedom.




August 2, 2004, 4:31 PM

Predicting the future based on a synthesis of present conditions is beguiling but usually wrong, because the factors which go into the prediction are isolated from all other contributing factors and usually oversimplified. Furthermore, the analogies given above seem inappropriate to me. Modernism and Postmodernism are not species of artmaking which produce characteristic forms, like, say, Impressionism and Cubism, they are different attitudes toward the enterprise of making art. One of the characteristics of modernism, as Greenberg pointed out, is the gradual shedding of conventions not essential to the practice of the art itself. Thus painting rid itself of realist depiction, illusionistic depth, and so forth. Postmodernism is, to some extent, a reaction against the extremes this trend manifested over the last 50 years or so, and can, and has been, seen positively as a reenriching and "humanizing" of "empty Formalism". If seen this way it is possible to imagine some amalgam of attributes to produce a new art of some sort.

The problem is that when you look more deeply you realize that postmodernism, like all succeeding movements, is not the "reverse" of the previous movement but a continuation of it. If modernism is seen as a process of "purification", realized through the elimination of unnecessary features, Postmodernism can be seen - more "deeply" - not as a mechanism to renourish the art but as a degraded and perhaps final phase of it. Postmodernism, on the surface, seems to have opened things up and made more things available, but underneath it has effectively eliminated one more convention, perhaps fatally, because this convention has always been central to the activity of making art: the convention of value. Postmodernism is intrinsically relativistic. Not only is it relativistic but theistically so; one is not allowed to even talk about value. The idea of "good" and "right" and such are not only abandoned but actively suppressed. This makes everything possible, but for what? It may leave us as a ship without a rudder. Time will tell.


John Link

August 2, 2004, 5:41 PM

With one, maybe two exceptions, Piri's response typifies the reaction to my essay. "Yes, but ..." they tell me. I remain (unhappily) convinced that we continue down the slope of hope. Only when "everyone knows" emerging art is dead will the surge everybody wants then take place. We have not reached the equivalent point with respect to contemporary art that investors reached in the 70s with respect to equities.

Inadvertantly, Piri made my point for me: there is no art-world equivalent to Newsweek's "The Death of Equities" on the horizon and that is why the elephant in the room is so well tolerated. Few see it because hope is a hard thing to let go of. I haven't let go myself. Though I don't see the conditions necessary for a revival now, I'm sure they will come ... someday, some year, some century.

Meantime we just muddle on.



August 2, 2004, 6:08 PM

oldpro is so right. Predicitng art is a very hazardous endeavor. Art will work out its own future without giving any quarter to human analysis. It seems that Hegelian "art-speak" has penetrated the minds, even, of those with a decent eye. From an art-speak perspective, postmodernism is the latest continuation of the Rennaisance - the idea that man is the measure of all things. Pomo demonstrates (again) that, without theology to provide an absolute, just about any value can be questioned into oblivion. Socrates (the original catfish) can successfully eat, digest, and excrete anything he wants.

Franklin: the art system is awash in being able "to choose among them with freedom". The only forbidden choice is to choose art that is merely good. That is hardly much of a restriction, considering how little good art there is and how much bad is left to satisfy our need to wallow.

Piri: Amiens = chopped liver? No. Amiens = Parthenon? Also no. Chartres stands a higher, especially if you like stained glass. But still no Parthenon. As Link says, we muddle on.



August 2, 2004, 6:34 PM

Chris Burn MOPO Lol Coxhill MOSO John Edwards SOLOS Phil Minton
2002 John Russell EMANEM 4100
File under: New Music/ Free Improvisation



August 2, 2004, 7:28 PM

I know what you mean about the "decent eye" people, catfish. Their problem is that these days you need character, courage and guts to believe your own eye and say so out loud. In Modernism one disagrees with another's eye. Postmodernism dismisses the whole concept as absurd. And the deadly proscriptive academic component of Postmodernism backs this up with profound (read "unintelligible") theory and dismissive ridicule for anyone who disagrees with its theocracy. Everything is OK except for disagreeing that everything is OK. We may think we are "awash with freedom" but I think we are deluding ourselves. It is mostly lip service.



August 2, 2004, 7:37 PM

Here's something to counteract our Monday morning seriousness:



August 2, 2004, 8:29 PM

Oldpro: I think the question of the degree to which perception of value is a product of conditioning was worth asking. I just wish it had been asked in better faith, that better answers were found, and that a non-zero-sum approach had been taken to the questioning. I doubt that anyone's perception of value is 100% intuitive, and the diffference is thus informed by factors extrinsic to the art. Theistic relativism (well put) comes to the wrong conclusion, but so does a maximalist application of anything. As for one is not allowed to even talk about value, I think the situation is more fluid than it was ten years ago. After all, they're printing what I have to say in the paper and I encounter a lot of agreement. I feel free to select for value in my studio and nobody tells me I can't; I even get recognition and compensation for it sometimes.

John: I'd like to see evidence, or at least reasoning, that the situation won't turn around until everyone has jumped off the ship for good. Did no one keep faith during the Dark Ages?

Catfish: my point is that What Comes Next will allow people to choose value. You're describing the false pluralism that characterizes the art world; true pluralism would allow for modernist and traditionalist choices as well.



August 2, 2004, 8:53 PM

Franklin: I am missing the point of your first two sentences. What does this refer to?

Perception of value is never 100% intuitive except in the case of art. Perception of value in art is 100% percent intuitive insofar as you are looking at it purely as art. Of course it is possible to look at art any way you want to, but then it is not an "art look". For example, a dealer may look at a Picasso intuitively for 5 seconds and say "that is a really good picture" and then look at it as a valuable object for 5 seconds and say "It is worth a million", and then look at it as a fragile object and put it in a safe place. I know, or try to know, when I am seeing something in a picture I can use for my own art, or that makes a critical point, even as I am trying to look at it intuitively. One's attention is redirected all the time.

As for things being "more fluid", I suppose so. I don't say anything I don't believe just to stir things up, but I will make the point as unqualified as possible to do so, especially when dealing with something as pernicious as Pomo.



August 2, 2004, 9:29 PM

Oldpro: sorry if they weren't clear. My point is that it was natural for someone to come along and try to argue that perception of artistic value is not intuitive, but conditioned or learned. I disagree with Postmodernism's means of doing so, which was to presuppose that distinctions and hierarchies are inherently wrong and construct protracted tone-poems, in the guise of scholarly works, on that theme.

I disagree that perception of value in art as art is 100% intuitive. I could live with largely or mostly, but not totally. That contradicts my own experience. I certainly see art better than I did before I learned how to draw and paint. Knowing a few parameters (e.g., Mary is depicted in a red dress covered with a blue shawl, Impressionism values broken units of paint, ukiyo-e perspective is axonometric, abstract art isn't trying to depict anything, etc.) seems to help me digest art faster and allow me to see its formal or inherent properties more clearly.



August 2, 2004, 9:55 PM

Franklin - Even if art were 100% intuitive, would one "decent-eyed" person's intuition always necessarily match another's?

My beef with the school of art criticism being argued in the comments here these past few months is not that standards exist, since of course they do, but that standards must apply to all universally, since I think there are as many standards as (sub-)societies. More to the point: Short of death and military security, I'm not sure there's a vital need for standards except to maintain wealth (e.g., product quality) and comfort (e.g., art).

But I think some art is 100% intuitive after all. It's called advertising. Or Hello Kitty. Isn't "intuitive" just another word for "primitive"?

I think fine art is less intuitive (primitive?) than "Less Filling / Tastes Great" or Hello Kitty. No matter what anyone says, Monet requires more work on the part of the viewer than Tom Kinkade. I like to think about art in terms of a "ladder." Some work comes down to you, some work makes you climb up to it.

Perhaps contemporary criticism believes more viewer-work indicates better art, without distinguishing between one type of viewer-work (e.g., decoding "protracted tone-poems") and another.


John Link

August 2, 2004, 9:56 PM

Franklin: Art is not kind enough to provide evidence that logicians can grasp. As catfish says, it does what it does. I would add that it does not care if humans understand it.

An old saying proclaims the darkest hour to be just before the dawn, a saying that seems relevant to me. There just isn't that much darkness yet, just a lot of bad art that most everyone in the art business is happy with. To the extent the art business is herd behavior, the analogy to the stock market is worthwhile. But not proof. Not evidence. Only a warning for those with a gut instinct about what is happening to consider.

Someone must have kept the faith during the Dark Ages. We did have the Renaissance and, as I said, it continues to this day. oldpro and catfish suggest this Renaissance/modernist/postmodernist entity may have finally questioned to death the one thing art cannot do without, goodness, beauty, art-itself, whatever you call it. So while it is true most art of any age is not that good, the art of our time sucks in a way that is unique. The works from the Dark Age Piri cites are precious jewels compared to beheading a cow and dropping it from a helicopter while the artist hangs upside down and nude from a flag pole on the side of a commercial building. Our Dark Age has established a new low that is a perverted record of sorts for the West.



August 2, 2004, 10:06 PM

Franklin: very good art is unkind, uncharitable, and generally intolerant of anything except itself. That is what history records. The impressionists hated the academy. The irascibles could not stand the social realists. And so on.

It will never be a happy family living in a tolerant free thinking paradise. The best we can hope for is some good art to spring up between the dead bodies.

What Comes Next is not knowable, but I'm confident it will hate everything but itself and regard anyone who chooses anything but itself as a barbarian.



August 2, 2004, 10:19 PM

"If art was a car, Modernism took it apart to the last bolt, and Postmodernism did an intense background check on the mechanics."

Good analogy. Though I might venture to say postmodernism went even farther than that. If modernism took the car apart to a point where it wasn't even a car anymore, or at least not recognizable as such, postmodernism looked back at the process and had to ask, "Do you see what we've done here? You turned the car into so many pieces I can not call it a car. Yet I know it was a car, is in essence a car, and I know it could be a car again. Now my only option is to consider why you did that, what the actual definition of 'car' is, how we relate to the car, together or in pieces, and wether that means anything important to society."

So what movement can come after all this obsessive reductionism and self-referentialism? Well, we still need a car to get us to the grocery store. So it gets rebuilt anyway.

Postmodernism can only exist so long as we are willing to remain in the garage with the pieces, when we need a car again it won't matter what we call it, how many wheels it has, and where it comes from or why. What will matter is wether it will get us to the store or not.

Now oddly apropos of this, I happen to have written a piece of fiction along these lines and it is currently up on my site: (so it was fun to stumble upon this conversation).

I'd be much obliged to any considerate readers.



August 2, 2004, 10:20 PM

I think we are talking semantics here. "Intuitive" only applies to the actual act of experiencing and evaluating (which seem to be the same thing) the work you are looking at. All kinds of things can, over time, affect the intuitive apprehension of art. Things you learn can affect how you see. In fact, you learn how to see by seeing a lot. Those of us who love art are always working at seeing better.

Furthermore, all kinds of things can be and usually are comprehended when you are looking at a work of art; this is unavoidable, obviously. Looking at art is never "pure" and it needn't be as long as you allow the work to come across intuitively at some point and experience and evaluate the work aside from any rational process. Whatever else you do with art is something else.



August 2, 2004, 10:26 PM

Catfish: I'm no expert on the Social Realists, but the Impressionists didn't totally hate the academy. Degas hung out with the academics. Renoir expressed gratitude for his academic background. Manet longed to be shown by the official salon. Whistler wished he had studied with Ingres. The history of art is not a battle - it's an argument-filled conversation.



August 2, 2004, 10:34 PM

Wow, a lot of comments came in while my reply to Franklin was sitting on my machine. I guess that is a risk of blogging.

Hovig: What is the "school of art criticism" you refer to? I am not sure what you mean by that. And I don't understand your point about the multiplicity of standards, or what these standards are or in what form they exist. Or what you mean by "intuitive art", or "viewer-work". I am sure there is a point of view lurking in there somewhere, but I think you need to clarify it. And for me Monet certainly takes less work than Tom Kinkade, unless the great charge of great art is work, in your estimation.

Gatfishfry: Modernism didn't take the car apart, it just insisted it was a car. Postmodernism says it can be whatever you want it to be.



August 2, 2004, 10:55 PM

Franklin writes: "Manet longed to be shown by the official salon."

And I would love to be in the next Whitney Biennial. But I still can't stand the fuckers. And showing me would not change that.



August 2, 2004, 11:28 PM

Hovig: I don't equate intuitive and primitive. I can intuit that Hello Kitty is a silly, cute thing for children. And I agree with Oldpro that Monet takes less work to look at than Kinkade. By intuitive were talking about arriving at a judgment based on feelings and tastes, and tastes can be highly refined.

The point is not that judgments are not universal or provably correct - the point is that they form consensuses. There's not an external, authoritarian need for standards - there's a demand for them by the community that forms around a consensus. I argue that judging art based on feeling and connoiseurship is the most useful, true, and enjoyable method available. I believe this blog has readers because I speak to a consensus that has been neglected by mainstream art poobahs for two or three decades.

Your point about viewer-work is well-taken.



August 3, 2004, 12:23 AM

Franklin (and oldpro too) - I squirmed just a little bit> when I read your distinction between intuition and primitivism, not because I didn't buy your premise (I'm always open to alternate interpretations), but because I didn't think it was fair to call a well-developed and highly-educated taste "intuitive." Perhaps I'm improperly confusing intuition with instinct, but I would have thought intuition implied something less schooled.

Oldpro (and Franklin too) - Monet's work might be easier for all of us here to understand than Tom Kinkade's, but is that because we sprung from the womb loving Monet? Or is it because we were trained for it, or at least thoughtfully acclimated to it. I'd say a lengthy process of thoughtful acclimation is "work" by any standard.

And back to Franklin (plus oldpro) - The other day you mentioned Minor White's theory of the "creative audience." If I'm not mistaken, the crux of this theory is that one mustn't advance an opinion on a work of art before studying it intently for half an hour. That sounds like work too.

Finally, Franklin (don't go anywhere yet, oldpro), I wholeheartedly agree with your mission to serve a particular "consensus neglected by mainstream art," but I hope it doesn't cause any alarm if I point out that this is one consensus among many. It doesn't follow that if one consensus loves a form of art, it is superior to any other form of art. I don't think the Warhol consensus has any business telling the Monet consensus Monet stinks, and vice versa.

Post-finally, oldpro, the other day I was trying to make the point that I'd rather talk about art in a fundamental way (as opposed to a fundamental-ist way). If you can't tell me you place value on X, Y, and Z criteria (which might be balance, symmetry, brushwork, use of color, use of light, accuracy of figuration, interest generated by the narrative, etc), and if you can't rate one work of art against another, on each of the fundamental scales you choose, then I can't accept that one work is "just better" or "just worse" than another, "just because," or that one work "stinks" and another is "great." Even among those with high personal standards, not everyone see everything the same way, and I have a feeling that the only productive way one consensus can talk to another (without ideology or war) is on a criteria-fundamental basis.



August 3, 2004, 1:12 AM

Since when is intuition on a lower level than something "schooled"? That's a new one on me. "Schooled" is what you have to forget when you are making art, or looking at it.

You don't "understand" Monet's work, you enjoy it. You enjoy it more than Kincaid because it is better art. This has to be seen. If you can't see it, don't try to get pleasure from art.

I did not know Minor white's dictum, but I think it is bullshit. Art is enjoyed on the spot, like music.

There are no explicit standards for quality in art. I have tried to say this one way or another since I started posting on this blog. You can argue, you can compel agreement, you can give reasons up the wazoo, you can make up dense theoretical mumbo-jumbo, but you cannot justify the goodness of a work of art in words. You can't. Period.

Our "standards" wherever or whatever they are or if they even exist are not as "personal" as everyone likes to believe in this fairyland of relativism we have today. We are all wired the same, we all have pretty much the same cultural background (if we are on a blog talking about art, we do, for sure) and really good art comes to the fore somehow or other. This proves nothing; it is merely a convenience. I am very pleased that prior generations picked things over and made it easy for me to get to Mozart and Rembrandt. That way I can enjoy them, just like they did. If you like Hummel or Hals (who were not bad) better, that's fine with me.



August 3, 2004, 1:29 AM

Maybe I should add that the exercise of ranking how good art is is something everyone involved with art does and has done all the time, constantly, every day, every year, for hundreds of years. This is what we do. We make art, we look at art, we decide what we think about it and we talk about it. "Good art" is something that gives me that "good art" rush. That gives me a strong opinion about the art. Then I tell you to go see it, and you go see it and decide what you think. In the art world this happens a million times a day. Sooner or later, in this mass evaluation process, some things rise and others fall. What we call "good art" is the stuff that rises and stays up there. This is not scientific. It is nothing more than a consensus of judgement. The consensus tends to be very fallible when the art is new and more "right" as the art ages. You can agree with the consensus or not. The only problem with in this process is that we are trained to think that we can verbalize why something is better than something else. We can, with everything but art.



August 3, 2004, 2:11 AM

Hovig: I would say that one can cultivate an intuition or hone one's instincts by virture of exposure and practicing judgment. You get knocked around in the world enough and you might develop a good intuition about people, for instance. You look at enough art, your intuition might develop about that too. I think that's how it works.

I realize that this is one consensus among many, and I agree that it's not axiomatic "that if one consensus loves a form of art, it is superior to any other form of art." I do however think it's more likely that it is. This happens in the computer world too, I notice. PHP and XML are robust languages, but then Ruby and YAML come along. Neither of the latter are as robust as either of the former, but there's a buzz about them that as far as I can tell is purely aesthetic. (YAML stood for Yet Another Markup Language, but it was changed to stand for YAML Ain't Markup Language. Why? Because the latter is recursive. Geek humor. To paraphrase Oldpro, if you don't get it, I can't explain it to you.) Are they superior? I think that if the Ruby/YAML consensus starts doing things that make people abandon PHP/XML to get in on the action, it could be. I'd even say that if Ruby gets a few thousand die-hard users it will enjoy a valid kind of success.

And - here' s what I'm getting at - the consensuses beat on each other all the time. That's how the standards compete: XMLers vs. Lispers, Democrats vs. Republicans, Monet aficionados vs. Warhol fans, and so on. Thus the future is shaped.



August 3, 2004, 3:19 AM

Franklin: I think we get off base if we start talking about "consensuses". There is only one "consensus" of art and it has a lot of frayed edges and variety, especially when we talk about the last 50 years or so. It is a continually evolving, living thing. It is not meant to be a precise scale but a system of collected opinion, probably reflected most clearly in market prices, which acts as a guide for art lovers. Its "accuracy" can only be tested by each one of us as we look at the art it has evaluated.



August 3, 2004, 3:28 AM

Franklin - Thanks for the reply. Here's what I'm getting at: I know Lisp, PHP, and XML, and have for years. I've also used Apple, Microsoft, and Unix products. I use each for different reasons. One is not superior to the others, but each has its place. I reject the view that one "art consensus" is superior to another. I accept that one form of art is appreciated by a different sub-group (each of which may be intellectually equal to the others), and that one form is better suited to one type of appreciation than the others.

I'm with Gerhard Richter. I learned of his distaste for ideology at MoMA two years ago, and I didn't know what he meant. "Didn't everyone have ideology?" I thought. "Isn't ideology what drives people?" But now I know: Absolutely not. The only thing ideology is good for is losing friends. I almost lost a friend in a public fight 18 months ago (just before Iraq). Oldpro says I'm "smug," but that night I was fighting to win, not improve myself or add anything to life. Since then, I've tried to learn a little more every day about accepting other viewpoints without losing my sense of self or my ability to discriminate. It's perfectly possible.

Just because I can see or accept someone's point about Damian Hirst doesn't mean I have to swallow it, lock, stock and barrel. It just means I can see the point, and maybe even understand it. What's the worst thing that can happen to me, that I start to like it? If so, will my brain explode? In London two weeks ago, I enjoyed Luc Tuymans at the Tate Modern on one set of terms, various works at the Saatchi gallery on another, and Massacre of the Innocents at the National Gallery on yet another.

I've said it before: It's like French food and Thai food. You can compare them to a certain extent, but not to a full extent. You can never say one is superior to another, just that one is better at certain things. When I compare two works or two artists, I try to rank them in fundamental terms. I mean, I don't write an Excel spreadsheet every time I go to a museum, but if I can't boil a work down to its skeleton, I don't think it's fair of me to simply say I dislike it, or try comparing it to another work.



August 3, 2004, 3:49 AM

Oldpro - Thanks for the on-going discussion. I can't agree that we're "wired the same" when our species includes Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Manson, Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol, J.P. Morgan, Emily Bronte, Socrates, Julius Caesar, Mozart, and Picasso. Yes, we're wired almost the same, but aesthetic enjoyment is at the margin of human experience, so subtle differences between people can make all the difference in art appreciation.

Speaking for myself, and I believe for a great many others, I love work that reveals itself over time. In fact I adore it. I love a challenge, and I find it a rare pleasure to see something in a work of art I didn't see yesterday. I still hear things in Handel's Ariodante every time I listen closely. Do you think I could beg you not to scream so much at those of us who enjoy this kind of thing?

And let me say for the record that, having now seen it, I didn't think much of Damian Hirst's pickled shark, but at the same time, instead of spitting on it and swearing at it, I think it's more productive and interesting if I look at it with a fundamental-critical eye, and say that (a) as minimalist work, it would have been just as good with a fake shark; (b) as conceptual work, it would have been better if it had provided a stronger sense of context or narrative; and (c) as a piece of shock art, not only does its shock fade quickly, but it's less shocking than seeing a live shark swimming around a tank. (There's a subtle joke in this link, BTW, if anyone's up to the task of finding it.) If I can't state objectively why I like or dislike a work, it doesn't mean I can't like or dislike it, but it certainly makes the conversations about it more difficult.



August 3, 2004, 4:23 AM

Hovig: We are wired the same. We are wired 95% the same as chimpanzees. The differences we see amount to a lot in real life because the small decisions our wiring makes make drive a big engine, like a crane operator who can lift 10 tons with the push of a lever. The basic mechanics are all the same. We don't see it that way because we take the 99% similarity for granted and concentrate on the 1% variation. This is all in the scientific literature in abundance. As you said, with something as esoteric as art it is the subtle differences that make all the difference, but the wiring is still in play.

I did not realize I was screaming at those who enjoy experiencing a work over time. I do the same. Good art is always new, always fresh. It only makes sense to experience it over time. Of course, the experience can change. You begin to like some things better; other things fade away and become uninteresting. I said only that each individual experience is intuitive.

I appreciate your sense of fairness. It is important to have this approach to life when you are dealing with other people. But art is a product and it has to deliver. You are wasting your fairness on it. When someone shows me a pickled shark and tells me it is art, I smell fraud, and I see something which does not do it for me as art. I don't want to waste my time being fair to esthetic garbage. I want to go find some better art.


John Link

August 3, 2004, 7:21 PM

About "evidence" (for Franklin):

I thought over yesterday's response to Franklin's call for evidence to support my speculation that the regression we are in will last a long time.

First, that we are in a regression is a matter of experience. Evidence/proof is not relevant. One simply has to see that so much of what has credibility among the herd-members is patently ridiculous.

But that the regression will continue is spelculation.

Further, what I am saying depends upon what I see as a fact: there are enough people involved in the art buisness that they are susceptible to herd-behavior.

Now ...

Remember back in the late 90s when the vast majority thought we were in a "new era" for stocks? That is, there was no reason they couldn't go up indefinitely? Anyone who agreed about the "new era" was found acceptable and not challenged, though there was one pair who speculated Dow 36,000, and some thought that went too far. Even those who thought 36,000 was a little extreme, though, tolerated these folks - their heart was in the right place, so to speak.

On the other hand, Bob Prechter said every euphoric boom comes to a unhappy end and this one was no exception. He was immediately labelled a "perma bear" and dispised. Everywhere he went, they demanded "evidence", "proof", and no matter that he cited history, even noting that every previous euphoria maintained "it is different this time". There simply was no amount of evidence on earth that would suffice, as the detached-from-reality intellects of the opposition buried his message with questions. The term "perma bear" was put forth in a mean spirited way. They could easily tolerate Dow 36,000 but they could not help but hate anyone talking sense. Interestingly, "perma bear" was totally untrue in the case of Prechter. He was one of a bare handful who announced in 1982 that the previous bear market was over, that "The Death of Equities" article was a signal to buy, not sell. For that potentially lucrative bit of advice he was also roundly trounced, told that there was no evidence to support his irresponsible postion, etc.

The admittedly long winded point here is that the herd always demands evidence when its view is challenged. But when its view is confrimed, even in extremis, don't bother with demonstrating, just explain it and make it sound good.

So, when Franklin and PIri came out with their Hegel inspired theory of the Next Great Thing no one paused to think: an alien would find this statement to be completely disconnected from art, and probably reality itself. Who has ever seen a "thesis", much less an "anti-thesis"? And what do these vague ideas have to do with the way art comes across? At least we can imagine what a headless cow splatting on the concrete looks like. But of course the herd does not question Hegel applied to this, that, and everything because that is one of the art-herd's favorite pastimes. (I admit myself, it is sort of harmless, in that it does not have anything to do with art.) Hegel so applied certainly does not offer any evidence that the 40 years of decline has or will turn around. Only oldrpo bothered to ask what did it have to do with the future of art. For many others, it must have sounded pretty good; it exuded the aroma of Heavy Art Talk.

Yet, when I said the art supported by the art system has gotten worse and worse for the past 40 years - something many here agree with - and I saw no reason to think that would change anytime soon, then the demand for evidence came forth. The last part of my contention went against hope, and the reaction it got suggests the art-herd is still sliding down its slippery slope.

Well I said I can't provide proof and I can't. Today I realized if such proof were made available, it would not be accepted anyway. But I am left wondering why Hegel-speak flows down the gullets of so many so smoothly. Why not look for something a little more pleasant to eat? Kant, for instance. Or Aristotle. Or Augustine. Or Aquinas.

PS: In good part my understanding of herd-behavior is based upon my own pechant to engage in it myself. None of us are immune, of that I am sure.



August 3, 2004, 7:46 PM

You know, Clem Greenberg always said "either it has got to change or we are in decline", that is, it has to get better or its all over. An art form must periodically revive itself. We all talk among ourselves as if art is as permanent as anything on earth. It isn't. Some kind of art will persist, I think, but art forms die. Classical music was done in by the academics. It effectively does not exist any more as a living art. This can happen to visual art. When Postmodernism starts to crash and burn I hope there is something in place to take up the slack.



August 3, 2004, 8:50 PM

You know, we are only moaning and groaning here because the odds are not in "our " favor. Modernism, Postmodernism, so what ! It doesn't matter.

If the odds were in "our " favor somebody else would be doing the moaning and groaning.

Maybe it will happen in our lifetime, my lifetime, maybe it won't. It is not going to change the kind of work I do.



August 3, 2004, 9:25 PM

John: thanks for your thoughtful response, but I did not, in fact, ask for "evidence to support [your] speculation that the regression we are in will last a long time." That I can easily envision. I asked for evidence (realizing that was too much to ask for, I settled for reasoning) that "the situation won't turn around until everyone has jumped off the ship for good." I specifically wasn't convinced of this sentence of yours: "Only when 'everyone knows' emerging art is dead will the surge everybody wants then take place." I guess my mind doesn't work like this - I plan to just keep making my work, and I don't feel that I'm muddling, struggling, or encountering constant philosophical resistance in the course of my doing so. If no comfy niche is provided for me I will carve out my own; I did it for my writing, and I can do it for my art. Maybe we're talking about different kinds of hope, but I observe that resistance to Overarching Postmodernist Absurdity is widespread, articulate, and commonly agreed with.

To beat every last semblance of life out of the stock market analogy, I'm content to invest over time with the knowledge that the market will be better in my old age than my youth. I may never make a killing short term but I'm banking on the overall health of the enterprise, which I think is sound.


John Link

August 4, 2004, 2:30 AM

Franklin, I would like it if you were right that there is great resistance to Pomo but it just isn't so, except for pockets of insurgency, artblog certainly being one, Piri Halasz another. But you are the final judge about the acceptance of your own writing and painting - if it is going well enough to please you I won't argue with that.

Everyone jumping off the boat would not be a cause of a turnaround, only a sign that such had become potentially imminent. At such a point all the "weak hands" would have left but it would still be up to the strong who persist to do something - which is not guaranteed but at least they would not be working amidst the clutter of all the weak artists that now constitute an "art glut" on steroids. Myself I would prefer such a silence over the noise we now endure.

As oldpro suggests, the "knowledge that the market will be better in my (your) old age" is not "knowledge", but a speculative assumption. Because art is its own end, it is not necessary and can disappear. It does not cause anything beyond itself. Take away art and nothing is lost to society except art. For the most part, that seems already to have happened and society has not noticed.



August 4, 2004, 2:52 AM

Link takes a hard line. I hope he's wrong, but I am not going to bet on it.

(What am I talking about. My bets were placed ages ago. I'm in it up to my elbows).



August 4, 2004, 4:53 AM

Link is indeed a real hard ass.



August 4, 2004, 5:06 AM

John: That last explanation seems more plausible. I differ with you about the possibility of art's disappearance, though. It seems that all cultures in all times have created two- or three-dimensional representations or designs, going back thirty millenia. Art-making seems to be hard-wired into human consciousness and I'll wager that a half-century (or even more) of bad philosophy is not going to be enough to take it out.



August 4, 2004, 6:37 AM

One of the biggest problems associated with the situation most of us here deplore is what has been aptly called herd mentality or behavior. What is especially puzzling to me about that is that some of the worst (or at least most glaring) cases involve people with lots of money and lots of options, who presumably could afford to be far more independent-minded and, in effect, could tell anyone who doesn't like it to go to hell.

Why are they so easily manipulated, so malleable, so susceptible to external influences from obviously interested parties? Why do they slavishly toe the establishment line, when a nobody like me resolutely refuses to do so? Yes, they're being stroked, petted and flattered profusely by people with ulterior motives, but why are they so gullible, when they're anything but pushovers in other spheres of life?

Needless to say, my position is not likely to have much impact on the state of things, but theirs certainly does, because the whole game ultimately depends on money, and they're the ones who finance it and thus keep it going in its current form.

I think, as Oldpro has suggested, that this situation may be something for social scientists or psychologists to try to decipher. I can't explain it.


John Link

August 4, 2004, 2:05 PM

Franklin, you are right. Art of some sort is likely to survive. Even the Trojans built horses. But the kind of art that is important to me (and probably to you), that is another matter. To think the good stuff is immune to extinction seems complacent. It is now seriously disconnected from the best in our tradition, thanks to 50 years of decline. That is enough to reset the bar much lower, leaving it to some other time to restore ambition for the good stuff. Gulliver taught us that enough determined small people can conquer a big person anytime.

Jack is hitting on something important. Herd thinking is more pervasive than rational analysis would suggest it need be. The wealthy once egged emerging culture on, perhaps because of their independence, perhaps because of their broad experience and an education that emphasized cultivation. Saatchi is as fickle and independent as Peggy Gugenheim, but his taste is 20,000 leagues below hers. What a sad thing it will be when his collection passes into the public trust. (It sort of has already.) So now I arrive back at my end of art scenario.

Perhaps some will agree that when Saatchi gives up on collecting, it will be a good sign.



August 4, 2004, 2:54 PM

In a way Peggy Guggenheim and Saatchi are quite similar. Both of them are (were) very rich people who wanted to go way out on a limb collectig art. I am not exactly sure what Guggenheim's taste was like because she got hooked up early on with a funny little guy with genius taste named Howard Putzel who literally browbeat her into buying the good stuff in Europe when it was cheap and then showing the best new American art at her gallery in NY. She was also fortunate in her timing; 60/70 years ago "far out" art was good art, for the most part. Now that everyone wants to be "far out" this is no longer true.

And, yes, Jack, I would love to see some doctoral candidate in sociology or psychology tackle the delusional art market. It should have happened already because it is so extreme, so current, so rich in content and so ripe for picking, but I think it may frighten them off because those types don't understand art. It could be "interdisciplinary", a favorite buzz these days in academe, if the scientist hooked up with an art historian, but then the problem is all the art historians are writing stuff like Link just put on the page that follows this one.



August 4, 2004, 4:32 PM

The Guggenheim-Putzel story is most interesting, and it supports something I've long suspected: many major (read: rich) players in the art game are not in it primarily because they truly understand and appreciate good art, but rather because they love the game. There are various reasons for doing so that have little to do with art per se--social, economic, psychological (not least among them vanity and glamour).

These people are getting industrial-strength positive feedback from those in whose interest it is to proffer it, and it must feel like validation and affirmation, which obviously feels very good. As long as they've got big bucks and the willingness to spend them on art, they will always get such validation, however bogus. Hence, the game plays on.



August 4, 2004, 5:06 PM

One person I know said that they get into art and artists in order to purchase coolness, which they can't generate any other way.



August 4, 2004, 5:36 PM

At least they're honest.
The superficiality in Miami never ceases to amaze me!



August 5, 2004, 12:11 AM

For what a Koons costs you could buy Antarctica.


that guy in the back row

August 5, 2004, 3:54 AM

The art market=stock market analogy is spot on. Art investors (calling them collectors nowadays is a wee bit disingenuous) don't buy the art for its intrinsic value; they buy it because, historically, every once in awhile their initial $10,000 investment yields returns that would have any wall street analyst salivating like a monkey in a banana tree. I have it on good authority that most NY shows with buzz sell out well before the show even opens to the general public. fyi, this trend is starting to happen in certain low brow miami galleries, buyers beware. Sold out shows should be a red flag for any serious collector. After the show, the art is shipped not to the lucky owner's estate but most of it goes directly into storage. Most of the precious output by last year's hot biennial participant ends up in a landfill called "self-storage USA" in New Jersey. It only seems fitting to pollute one of the most polluted sites on earth with yet more dreck. New Jersey should start one of those "not in my back yard" campaigns against art rot, like those anti nuke folks did at Yuca Mountain.

Only the real dopey collectors of the world, the Margulies, the De la Cruz's, et al, are so self involved that they open private museums, and end up looking that much more pathetic, because they don't see this pretty obvious ploy. With the amount of retarded art buyers Miami tolerates within its city limits, it's no surprise that Art Basal Miami Beach becomes the art machine's darling for a few days every year. Where else on earth are people this rich and conveniently stupid? The sun acts as an iq suppressant for most art investors here. That few if any miami artists have or will sell at levels that the New York market supports does not appear to deter them from perpetuating this downward spiral. This abyss art appears to be in will only reverse itself if the rich wise up (highly unlikely).

catfish: I hope the above is enough reason to never envy these schmucks again.

Sorry for the wordiness. Write the above in 3 sentences and win a prize!



August 5, 2004, 4:29 AM

Hey, Guy, don't knock poor old New Jersey! I am an incorrigible NJ fan. Even if I weren't I would still love it, just to keep up my rep of being on the wrong side of everything.


that guy in the back row

August 5, 2004, 4:46 AM

I like the New Jersey that Bruce Springsteen keeps telling me about too. I'm guess I meant the Meadowlands. Should have been more clear.



August 5, 2004, 4:54 AM

I'll forgive you.


that guy in the back row

August 6, 2004, 3:36 AM

Thanks oldpro. I must have really silenced all of them. Or is this stuff common knowledge?



August 6, 2004, 4:55 AM

No, I think the blog had just run its course by the time you put into it, having started more than 3 days before.



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