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fabian marcaccio at mam

Post #429 • December 13, 2004, 7:51 AM • 26 Comments

Thick paint - Franklin's going to like it, right? Not right.

Fabian Marcaccio has built one of his so-called paintants (an adjoining of painting and mutant) at the Miami Art Museum, constructed thirteen feet high and a hundred feet long if you add up all of its spiralling length. Globs of paint over half a foot thick have been worked onto the thing, thanks to the funhouse volumes attainable through the use of pigmented silicone. But it doesn't attain any kind of maximally painterly experience - instead it looks unworkably freakish and bombastic.

Marcaccio has applied a digitally generated collage of body parts to the canvas of the MAM paintant as a base layer for swirling, often attractive smears of hugely thick silicone. Individual areas of the painting work - he could crop this big thing into three or four decent smaller paintings - but the artist seems to have abdicated responsibility for making the entire object function from edge to edge. The terminus of the spiral fades to white, causing twelve of the hundred feet to go dead, and wide swaths of the object do little except tease the viewer into trying to figure out what body part it depicts. (Maybe you'll see something from where the sun doesn't shine if you scrutinize it enough, and care.)

I brought my students to see this to show them what ambitious work looks like, and it qualifies as ambitious by any measure. But my favorite part of the piece was the back, which the artist painted with horizontally raked, tar-black silicone. The whole piece executed that way would have achieved a Richard Serra-like funereal grandeur. Marcaccio is going towards the opposite destination, though, and as the great philosophers put it, it is a silly place.




December 13, 2004, 4:21 PM

i've always thought that photoshop+paint was a decent recipe for original art, but here's one way it's not going to work. The low-resolution billboard-style printing is visible through the silicone, and it looks like crap. There's a stupid logo/text label thing (which seems to be a regular feature of Marcaccio's work - several pieces were in basel (and no they did not work better then the large piece; they were worse)), and the photoshopping is pretty crude.

I've been given to understand that art should not impress by size alone. This thing was impressive in size only. The sculptural element of it seemed tacked on, whimsical, and gimmicky.

To painters enamored of photoshop I actually have a hint: Use photoshop as a sketching tool. Lots of visual stuff that program throws out would seem to be improved by being filtered through a painter's sensibility. I think that's what Brandon Opalka's doing with his show at Rocket.



December 13, 2004, 6:56 PM

We should, by now, have had enough of

1. Body parts (except, of course, our own)

2. SIZE as a vehicle of expression

It is a human failing when given permission to do anything to follow each other like sheep



December 13, 2004, 7:28 PM

The photo above looks like decaying pig carcasses. How innovative. How meaningful. How aesthetically creative. Forgive me if I don't even remotely care. Way to go, MAM; nice to know you're doing your best to bring us the best possible work out there. No, really, I'm fine; I always retch when I'm especially grateful.


Jerome du Bois

December 13, 2004, 9:40 PM

This lends support to my theory that "The Thing" from John Carpenter's remake did not die, I tell you, it just changed careers.

And I agree with Franklin and oldpro that bombastic size is often a sign of weakness, impotence, and lack of ideas.




December 13, 2004, 9:59 PM

The saddest thing about this sort of stuff is not that it amounts to a grotesque fraud and/or con job, but rather that it's been swallowed hook, line and sinker by the establishment--including, naturally, our esteemed soon-to-be "world-class" museum (or building, at any rate, assuming it steers clear of the PAC geniuses).



December 13, 2004, 10:22 PM

I had a different take on FM's installation.
Upon entering the space and without reading any previous notes, I started on the right side of the room (which I thought was the beginning) and slowly followed the wall until I came to the end. I kept thinking of the cycle of life. In the beginning there is a void then light, life. I saw the morphed body parts as representing this complicated mess (and joy) of humanity and ALL that's associated with it. How we are absorbed with ourselves (our bodies) and one another (other peoples bodies) with all the little sprinklings our existence (various commercial/cartoon/technology images) along the way. This goes on for some time and then all of a sudden blackness. Thick and heavy. Death and then back to the void.
As far as the whole photoshop talk, I agree, it was very grainy but I thought it worked. It was kinda like looking at a television screen super up close. It's funny that Jack thinks it looks like pigs skin, 'cause it's not. That's our skin mushed together in an anonymous orgy. I just wish it was real so I could touch it, yummy.



December 13, 2004, 11:14 PM

True... there was a very serious tactile quality to the piece which was nice, and it has a pretty powerful presence. I thought the printing+silicone/paint worked more often then not, but the places where you could most clearly see the underprinting kind of ruined the piece for me (plus that horrible little text label . . . )

I have to say, though, that this thing is the mother of art that can't be judged from an online photo.



December 13, 2004, 11:22 PM

Kitty: many years ago (almost 40) an art writer I know had this to say about art that flaunted "meaning":

"These...styles (contain) emotional signals, directives to react to and think of the work in a manner leading to verbalization. Rather than art, they are a set of clues leading to talk."

When you fall for it, the art disappears. That is, if there is any art there in the first place.



December 14, 2004, 12:11 AM


It's true: in the mid-20th century, the art world had a major flirtation with pure formalism . . . AbEx, and all that .

I thought most of us had left that behind, though, and realized that both form and meaning, and how they releate to each other, go into makind an artwork succeed?


that guy in the back row

December 14, 2004, 1:28 AM

Actually alesh only a slim minority hold your option. The 99.9 percent of americans who don't follow the trendy art mag crap pretty much just like what they like, and they are right more often than not. That many a wayward artist follow the .1 percent who can give them a cookie (like a show at mam) i think proves that most artists are not really after creating art but just following the money trail. Its human nature but, don't expect the public to take these incompetently arranged mounds of grainy photo-shopped flesh very seriously. The Marcaccio is an up to date Lee Bontecou, (whose recent undeserved resurgence exemplifies her weakness as an artist by the way, she should have stayed forgotten.) both create fussy oversized work that is way out of their league.



December 14, 2004, 1:30 AM

This has nothing to do with "pure" anything, Alesh. All meaning is drawn from form of some kind. I am merely saying that if a work of art says "think about (whatever)" it is directing you away from itself to something you alreay know about. You don't need art for that.



December 14, 2004, 2:42 AM

Alesh, I agree that one cannot fully evaluate a work without seeing it and experiencing it "in the flesh." No doubt a photo of one part of this very large piece can only give a partial idea of its true awfulness. Once upon a time, I would have duly trudged over to see it for myself, but not now. I've seen my share of "live" Marcaccios, and they've all struck me the same way: lots of huffing and puffing to wind up with a strained contraption that not only doesn't work for me, it positively annoys me--as in, "Whom do you think you're kidding with this, Fabian?" Of course, plenty of people (supposedly knowledgeable people, mind you) are quite impressed with Fabian, including MAM. I, however, am decidedly unimpressed with both.



December 14, 2004, 4:44 AM

"The whole piece executed that way would have achieved a Richard Serra-like funereal grandeur. Marcaccio is going towards the opposite destination, though, and as the great philosophers put it, it is a silly place." Franklin which great philosophers lead us toward the grandeur of death. Does Marcaccio lead to life- a silly place.



December 14, 2004, 4:52 AM

You, of all people, ought to be able to pick up a Monty Python reference.

Maybe I didn't express that well. I didn't mean so much death vs. life, but grandeur vs. bombast.



December 14, 2004, 4:54 AM


I don't understand. It seems that art originates with an idea/feeling in the artist, and succeeds to the extent that it evokes an idea/feeling (not necessarily the same one) in the viewer. This seems no less true for Cézanne then for Hirst. It seems only a little less true for someone like Frankenthaller. Today's world is more media-saturated then that of the past, so references to popular culture are more prevalent in today's art; i don't see that as something to hold against the artists.


I wouldn't encourage you to go see the Marcaccio at the MAM. I'm sure you would be uninterested in it. I've seen other examples of his work, too, and I just think it's difficult to contribute much to a discussion of this particular piece without having seen it. I'm curious if others who've seen it will agree?


It's bad enough I have to be subjected to whom 99.9% of americans want for president. I certainly don't have to give a shit what they think about art.



December 14, 2004, 5:42 AM

Oldpro -

Out of curiosity, who are your favorite artists and what are some of your favorite artworks?



December 14, 2004, 5:46 AM

"Today's art"; "Today's world"; "left that behind"; "meaning as art"; "most of us"; them's the buzz words of enlightened sheep in wolves' clothing.


that guy in the back row

December 14, 2004, 7:12 AM

alesh: Thats funny, all I said, was that 99.9% of the populous just plain likes what they like. I'd take those odds, over this colossal waste of a show.


shaolin soccer mom

December 14, 2004, 7:43 AM

Enlightened sheep in wolves' clothing, indeed, catfish! I'm with you: all this so-called rational discourse makes me want to puke. Why sholuld art resort to meaning, or beauty, for that matter, to have to justify itself?? Why can't these vultures let art be art??

Franklin can make all the British-TV in-jokes he wants, but William has a good point: the job of philosophy is to tell us how to think, not how to feel. The allusion to Serra is apt; it's the angle of all of this that Jack, and all the other lurkers who darken the door of an actual art institution once in a blue moon, if at all, seem to miss.

But alas, no - Marcaccio does not lead to a silly place. It's a shame, because an ounce of silliness could have equaled a pound of substance in the case of this great big . . . thing.

I leave you with a parting thought. Duane Brant once told me (and here I paraphrase heavily, so pardon me, Duane) that the measure of an artist is how she regards her own work. I suspect that if no collector comes a'beggin, Marcaccio will take digital photos of his piece for "posterity," and unceremoniously dismantle it.


that guy in the back row

December 14, 2004, 7:54 AM

your post shaolin soccer mom and the photograph remind me of what oldpro wrote last week about art writing; "If it looks like shit, smells like shit and lies there like a steaming pile, well, guess what?"


shaolin super mom

December 14, 2004, 8:13 AM

you poor dear . . . whatever photograph are you talking about??

methinks you are waaaaay tired, and ripe to be put to bed.



December 14, 2004, 8:21 PM

"Shaolin Soccer Mom",

I probably shouldn't bother responding, but to anyone who, unlike you, actually knows me, or has even followed this blog closely for a while, your ignorant slur will immediately be seen to be just that.

While I have often found significant fault with your posts, I have thus far refrained from making an issue of it, let alone attacking you personally, because you have a right to your opinion and the expression thereof, however worthless and/or annoying I may find it. Evidently, you do not practice such civilized restraint. Pity.

And by the way, Jack IS the name I go by in real life, not a cutesy online handle, and I do not "lurk"--Franklin and a number of others who post here regularly know exactly who I am and can judge accordingly. Does Franklin know who YOU are? Does anybody here? Who's lurking?



December 14, 2004, 9:42 PM

Alesh: Sorry to respond so late. I do not understand your post above, try as i might. But I think the discussion on the page after this deals with what we were talking about. If not, let me know.

Soccermom: If you want to accuse someone of not getting out to look at the actual stuff there are plenty of us to go after, including me, but Jack of all people, is continually reporting on what he has seen, often on things which have not been brought up here. He calls most of it garbage, but he has seen it. Pay more attention to what has been written here.

As for "the measure of an artist is how she regards her own work" - how can you possibly justify such a comment?



December 15, 2004, 6:35 AM

i have to disagree with the posting about Lee Bontecue. While she is not one of my favorite artists I appreciate her work and her singular determination to make it according to her own terms. The show at MOMA was great. The older works were eerie, disturbing, and beautiful at the same time. I was particularly impressed with the works on paper. Those alone I think would be enough to counter the post about her staying forgotten. Then on to the oft ridiculed plastic fishes etc which looked a little worn and yellow, like they had been left out in the rain or something, but they looked like sci-fi relics of a forgotten era. And the later constructions carried these ideas further. I dont know exactly what her work says to me, but i think thats ok. Do all of her pieces stop me cold and stop me from thinking, I'm not sure. But i know I had enough of those moments at the show to make me never forget the work.
Art to me and "good" art is obviously subjective, but some of the posts seem to be leaning in the direction that some peoples interpretations may be more correct than others. Im not going to try to argue with that. The Bontecue work definitely needs to be seen in person if you havent already. Digital images and print reproductions can't substitute.


that guy in the back row

December 15, 2004, 7:38 AM

Michael: I haven't seen the show you mentioned, nor do I expect our illustrious art institutions down here to mount a Bontecou exhibit anytime soon. However a few months back the art mags were full of her second coming, and I feel I've seen enough:

"I appreciate her work and her singular determination to make it according to her own terms."

Not sure what you mean by that, I suppose her own terms include making spruced up 3d orifice laden versions of Marca Relli's worst endeavors. Her terms aren't the problem, its her execution.



December 15, 2004, 7:47 AM

Re: Bontecou, I'm with Guy. Copious reproductions suggested a retired boatmaker trying to redo H.R. Giger - but I too have not yet seen her work in person.



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