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robert thiele

Post #440 • December 29, 2004, 10:02 AM • 54 Comments

You only have a few days left to see a good show of Robert Thiele's work at Barbara Gillman. Photographs of his works do almost nothing to convey them - he builds boxes with colored surfaces inside, and covers them with semi-transparent scrim. They function like neutral, minimalist paintings, but the few inches of depth give the areas of color a hazy, mysterious atmosphere. If you need a dose of serious art-making, get over there by the 31st.




December 29, 2004, 7:16 PM

Yes Yes Yes
Allways loved his work. Minimalism with a soul...
Love those mysterious innards under the surface
makes me want to poke my finger right through and pull out a cherry.....



December 29, 2004, 7:35 PM

We have disagreed about Thiele's work before on this blog. it is indeed serious art-making but I feel it is flaccid, and that the "mystery" is inert and limited and adds little to esthetic effect.



December 29, 2004, 7:40 PM

I agree with oldpro. Put Thiele next to Mondrian. Both may be serious, but one is a lot better.



December 29, 2004, 9:49 PM

Well, it's preferable to Donald Judd, and, unlike Judd, Thiele isn't running off at the mouth and sounding like a jackass.



December 29, 2004, 9:54 PM

Jack: technically Judd is dead, but I know what you mean about his theroizing/writing when he was alive.



December 30, 2004, 12:19 AM

Catfish, I know Judd is dead, and in my opinion, so is his art.



December 30, 2004, 1:10 AM

Why the comparison of Thiele to Mondrian? Mondrian is all surface; Thiele deals with the underlying structure of the painting in creating his objects. Sean Scully or Trevor Bell may have more in common with Thiele concerns.

And once again we have Catfish and Oldpro knocking anything OF Miami or shown in Miami. How about constructive criticism rather than flippant remarks? Discuss the artwork and not the people.



December 30, 2004, 1:41 AM

They were discussing the art and not the people, but I'm not sure about finding Thiele wanting because he doesn't hold up to Mondrian. That doesn't seem like an apt comparison.



December 30, 2004, 1:56 AM


If you read my short statement above you will see nothing flippant nor personal.

I "knock" Maimi art when it is no good. When I have perceived anything interesting I have said so. The implication that I dislike something because it is "Miami" is misleading.

Please be accurate.



December 30, 2004, 2:01 AM

Franklin: Sorry, but Jack's statement refering to Judd as a jackass is really about his sculpture?



December 30, 2004, 2:09 AM

Tooter: not really, but Judd's not a Miami artist. I thought that was your point. Sorry if I misunderstood.



December 30, 2004, 2:22 AM

oldpro: Have you seen this recent show of Bob Thiele's? The work in person, not just the images posted here. I think Thiele is a unique voice in Miami and has consistently exhibited interesting work. My first impression was a group show at the Ft Lauderdale Museum of Art years ago dealing with artist that were teachers. Robert Chambers had a horrific, thirft store piece that looked just like that. Darby Banard had Olitski's throw-aways. And Thiele had an enormous, lozenge-shaped canvas in cobalt blue with the canvas sewn together inside-out. You color was so rich you could taste it.

Be accurate? The last thing I remember favorable in your eyes was a Burchfield exhibit. And if your wanting accuracy, please refrain from the typos.



December 30, 2004, 2:47 AM

Like bookworm, I'd also like to reach into the work & get at what's inside...
I prepared the catalog for the show & although the photos shown are pretty accurate (I took one of them...) I agree that there is a quality - the mystery part that involves depth and space - that isn't captured in RGB or in print. I'm biased, so I encourage anyone who hasn't seen the work to do so.



December 30, 2004, 3:07 AM

To clarify somewhat, it's quite possible for an artist to be a nasty piece of work as a person and still make good or even great art. In such a case, the art should be dealt with on its own merits, and those merits should be recognized even if one dislikes the artist personally. However, when an artist publicly and conspicuously makes outrageous art-related pronouncements to the effect that "what came before me is garbage and I'm the truth, the light and the way," I'm not willing to overlook that, especially if said artist's work does not even remotely justify such hubris.



December 30, 2004, 3:13 AM

I have seen recent Thiele pictures, but not his show. I have given my opinion on what I have seen and on what I see here, even though that is second hand. If he had a wonderful painting a few years back at a show in Ft Lauderdale, that's good, but it is beside the point here.

I think it is petty and pointless to bring up typos - everyone makes them - but if you want to, then spell the name "Bannard" correctly, and determine whatever "You color..." means, in the last sentence of that paragraph.

Also, I did not say I liked the Burchfield show, I said it was likely to be a good show, from my experience with his pictures. I did not see the show, which I think was up in the Palm Beach vicinity. And I will continue to give my opinion on whatever is brought up here according to what it looks like and not where it comes from.

As should be obvious, accuracy saves a lot of wasted words. OK?



December 30, 2004, 3:55 AM

Mondrian was a minimalist before the term was invented. That's why I will compare later "mimalists" to him. It doesn't matter if there are differences - there are always differences. If having a difference negates the possibility of comparing, then there will be no more comparisons. Fat chance.


Phil Isteen

December 30, 2004, 4:11 AM

Thiele also had a wonderful show at the MAM a couple years ago (saw it first hand...) and even from the pics here his work appears to have a lot more going on - detail,color, & opacity - a lot less minimal?


sugar free

December 30, 2004, 4:41 AM

honestly, old pro, you are so negative, so often, that I can't see anything but a bitter sceptic on your end. If you actually SAW the work, you might have room to make commentary. SInce you have admitted to not actually seeing it, then, why don't you either see it, or stay out of it. I think you just can't help yourself, can you?

Jerk off, jerk off.



December 30, 2004, 4:56 AM

Oh Jack, I hope you don't mean that Thiele is "nasty piece of work". I think I know that you didn't mean to say that, but you certainly come off that way. And Oldpro, don't be such a nasty boy. Your views are so non-effective at this point, it seems you must live for this blog, and it shows.



December 30, 2004, 5:23 AM

Khiele: I speculate that if oldpro did not hang around here, this blog would get far less traffic. This blog needs oldpro more than he needs it.



December 30, 2004, 5:36 AM

I visit this site because of Franklin - I suspect we'd continue visiting without the peanut gallery.



December 30, 2004, 5:37 AM

KThiele, I was speaking in general terms in the part of the comment you quote, not about Robert Thiele. As it happens, I know nothing about how he is as a person; I only know him by his work. My comment was meant to clarify my position on Judd and others like him.



December 30, 2004, 5:42 AM

I peeked in the show today and still wanted to poke my finger in and pull out the cherry... but I refrained.

I did buy his little collage though, can't really afford the big ones, but that little collage was so perfect to me...
Richard Tuttle staying in the lines...

Anyway thanks Franklin for reminding me about the show so that I didn't miss it...
Personally I don't see much relation to Judd, who seems sleek and cool. Thiele seems much more organic to me. Like I said earlier, innards come to mind...

Since I am new I don't know OldPro's record but it seems he has a right to his own opinion even if most of us don't agree with him on this one...
I'm sure we agree on plenty others.....



December 30, 2004, 5:49 AM

I read often & I do not recall any positive comments from the Oldpro. I too thought I remembered something about the Burchfield exhibit...but Oldpro correted tooter already.
I also agree that the Oldpro position is "non-effective at this point."



December 30, 2004, 5:52 AM

bookworm, I hope you got a catalog! ;)



December 30, 2004, 5:58 AM

I did indeed, very nice piece of work whatever your contribution...



December 30, 2004, 6:06 AM

KThiele, where have you been? Can't recall seeing your name here before. Slightly biased reason to be popping up out of the shadows finally voicing an opinion only when it hits close to home. Strong opinions and an intelligent voice is what keeps this blog moving.

Keep it coming oldpro!



December 30, 2004, 6:10 AM

Let us all maintain our intelligent voices and keep this blog moving....



December 30, 2004, 7:03 AM

prefabricated designer art with a plastic "soul".



December 30, 2004, 8:04 AM

As always, when we start getting nasty and spiteful instead of talking about the art, the blog bogs down. We are each entitled to our opinion. If you don't like it, disagree.



December 30, 2004, 8:51 AM

If having a difference negates the possibility of comparing, then there will be no more comparisons. Fat chance is right. I just think that Mondrian and Thiele employ such different sensibilities that your invitation to compare them doesn't set up in my head. The latter not standing up to Dzubas I could see.

Bookworm - congrats on the acquisition.



December 30, 2004, 9:45 AM

Sorry Franklin I tend 2 disagree.
Thiele is a Mondrian in the third dimension!!!
Space within space.



December 30, 2004, 5:29 PM

Franklin (about comparing art works): Myself, I would not be inclined to compare Dzubas to any of the artists mentioned so far. But ...

The great eye, Clement Greenberg, once visited a university that was contemplating how to design a museum to house art objects. One of the university officials asked him what would be the ideal architecture for displaying work in the collection. He responded that they should have one maximally large room with all the works side by side on the walls, and with reasonable distances between the 3-d works. "Why?" he was asked. "So that the viewers can compare them", he responded. "Wouldn't you want separate rooms for, say, Baroque and Modern?" "No."

Now, this can be reduced to the absurdity that the larger the collection the larger the room and eventually it will be too large to compare very many of the objects in it. But Greenberg's point is not absurd. Not only can any work of art be compared to any other, but it is part of how we enjoy looking at art because it is part of how we develop taste.



December 30, 2004, 6:03 PM

Catfish: I agree with you completely. But let me ask you this - do at any point the differences become so marked between works that comparisons become fruitless? Would you want to pick the better between Mondrian and, say, Sargent? I could tell you honestly that I prefer Sargent, but I'm not sure what light that sheds on him or Mondrian.

Here's another question: Mondrian was one of the great abstractionists of all time. Let's say you come over to my place and say, "Nice house." And I reply, "Thanks, but I've been to Campidoglio in Rome and it's much better." You would probably think that wasn't a reasonable comparison - my house being perfectly pleasant and the Campidoglio being extraordinary don't exclude each other. Is it possible to enjoy the Thiele as good and the Mondrian as extraordinary without the latter throwing a shadow over the experience of the former?



December 30, 2004, 6:29 PM

RE: Mondrian
as a matter of fact.... Barbara Gillman showed me a piece of Thiele's that was not in the show, but behind the desk kind of thing.
It did indeed have a miniature Mondrian inside it!!!
I said to her, "oh a little Mondrian"...
So Thiele himself may have that afinity to give the big nod to Mondrian...



December 30, 2004, 7:35 PM

Franklin: In aesthetics, it isn't "light" that needs to be shed, it is enjoyment that needs to be experienced (which is why Greenberg said what he said). I enjoy Mondrian much more than Sargent, if I had to say, but Greenberg's unified gallery with both artists hung side by side would be the ultimate situation to test what I've garnered from separate experiences of both artists.

You are right of course that it is possible to enjoy the Thiele (or any other work) as good and something by another artist as better. Same goes for your house. (Myself, I'm always comparing mine to Falling Water.)

In short, I can compare anything aesthetically. One is either more enjoyable than the other, or they are about the same. And I can sync that with my memory of other experiences, like when I say Mondrian is better than Sargent (though Sargent is plenty good).

At the bottom of all this, I think, is our reluctance to say anything but the absolute best in the world is good enough. "Second-rate" in a world that supports "100th rate" is indeed, quite satisfying. Minor art, like that of Sargent, can click the old clicker until it gets plumb tired out.



December 30, 2004, 8:29 PM

Catfish -

At the bottom of all this, I think, is our reluctance to say anything but the absolute best in the world is good enough. "Second-rate" in a world that supports "100th rate" is indeed, quite satisfying.

Well said.



December 30, 2004, 9:25 PM

FRC has kindly made the Thiele catalogue available for downloading as a 700K pdf. Click here.



December 30, 2004, 9:57 PM

Am I the only one seeing echoes of Ellsworth Kelly and Joseph Cornell?



December 30, 2004, 10:11 PM

I second Hovig's "well said'" re catfish above.

But Catfish, what is it that's getting "plumb tired out", the "old clicker" or Sargent?



December 30, 2004, 11:10 PM

In the case of Sargent, a little of both. That is, both the clicker and the art. Other minor artist examples: In the case of Hopper, it is always the clicker, not the art that wears out; in the case of Rockwell, the art gets tired before the clicker; in the case of Beardsley and Ruscha, a little of both.

Beardsley, like Sargent and Ruscha, was a very sophisticated minor artist - knew where art had gotten to and made his own way from there. Rockwell knew where art had gotten to, then used what he needed to appeal to his low brow base - an aesthetic cynic who nonetheless achieved much. Hopper, well, he is as near a near miss as I can think of. He achieved a whole lot.

I get my clicker clicked wherever I can.



December 31, 2004, 3:44 AM

There are plenty of things about Boston I'm not a fan of (the MFA being one), but I'll happily defend its famous native son. I saw his portrait of Sarah Sears here just two days ago. Besides finding it quite lovely on its own merits, I was impressed with all those shades of white. (Like the ruffles and pearls in Rembrandt's Portrait of a Young Woman, also here in town. Franklin once said he admired Morandi's ability to paint in 10 different shades of masking tape.)

I also recently saw Sargent's admittedly over-exposed Daughters again at the Met's Manet-Velazquez exhibit last year, and if it's not the most earth-shattering painting in the world, damned if I'll throw a stone at it. (Then again, I'm the nut who actually enjoys the occasional Bouguereau.)

As for Rockwell (I know, I know, maybe I shouldn't go there... but well, I've indeed already gone there), maybe his works are intellectually a bit soft, but I don't think that's any reason to disparage them. Hopper on the other hand... well... Mom's ghost tells me I shouldn't say any more. I attended the Tate Modern exhibit of Hopper this past July, so forgive me if I say I've seen one, and I've seen it all.

I give the man a lot of credit for his handling of light, and I'll never begrudge an artist their fans or their success, but I find his works too melodramatic or theatrical for me -- arguably moreso than Rockwell's, and surely moreso than Sargent's -- his technique uninspiring, and his images too flat. To my untrained eyes, anyway. (It also seems to me there's a strong trend to praise flatness in figurative art, but I'm not usually into that).

(Also, sorry to go a bit ideological here, but I wonder whether people prefer Hopper to Rockwell because Hopper makes America look angst-ridden, sullen, and life-suckingly depressed, whereas Rockwell makes it look vibrant, enthusiastic, optimistic, and affirmingly alive. Maybe it's some kind of "suffering makes for better art" type of thing.)

Interestingly enough, the Modern was also showing Luc Tuymans just across the hall. His art seems to treat Europe as Hopper's treats America. But at least I enjoyed the paintings. I don't care what anyone says, I think the man's got chops. (I know Jack's not a fan of large paintings, so don't tell him this piece is 11 feet by 16.)



December 31, 2004, 5:53 AM

Thursday 30 December 2004 9:48 pm

What happened to free speech!!!!!!!!
I thought I contributed 2 great quotes pertaining to Thiele blog, and you deleated them?
Correct me if i'm wrong but are you based in Cuba?
This sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



December 31, 2004, 7:58 AM

Hovig, I don't have a problem with size per se; I have a problem with work that takes up more space than it deserves, especially if I even remotely suspect that the artist may be trying to compensate for less-than-stellar talent by going huge.



December 31, 2004, 5:07 PM


I think the preference for Hopper over Rockwell (by the culturati, not the public) has to do with the sentimental and commercial character of Rockwell's work. Rockwell certainly could paint. Way better than, say, Andrew Wyeth, if you ask me. And there has been (as you probably know), a typically "high/low" reappraisal of Rockwell's work in recent years, which I feel had a lot more to do with an attitude of pop contrarianism than real appreciation of the man's basic ability.

Hopper, for me, is just wonderful; like Morandi, he is one of those not-quite-genius painters for whom I have a real soft spot.

I saw the Sargent show in Boston a few years ago and came away disappointed, not because he is not a wonderful painter but because my expectations were so high. The demonstrations of skill and technique were breathtaking, but he so often seemed rushed and careless, apparently unwilling to reflect, correct and edit.

As for Tuymans, that mystifies me. His art, for me, just has second-rate written all over it, any way you look at it. And that mannerism of the depressed vacant facial expression is a current trend I can only liken to a plague.



December 31, 2004, 7:30 PM


I'm not really a big fan of Tuymans, either. I disliked his work at first, then it grew on me, but at some point it stopped. The affair didn't last long.

I think the piece linked above shows he can paint when he wants to. Hopefully it's a preview of things to come.

His works' appeal might come from their atmosphere. I don't know how much staying power they'll have, but somehow their barren mood and plasticky look gets through to me. It's not a quality I enjoy in real life, but somehow I like it in his works. I agree that there's a "certain something" missing which might make his works better, and can't quite put my finger on it; I'm just focusing on what I like about them.

Last month's Modern Painters (the final one before it joined Art and Auction and jumped the shark, the idiots) compared Tuymans to Wilhelm Sasnal, whose work I enjoyed a bit more. There's something flat-but-not-flat about it, something moody, plasticky and barren again, but a touch more colorful and to me engaging.



December 31, 2004, 9:10 PM

I didn't know that Modern Painters had "jumped the shark". Is that somehow a sign that painting is even worse off than I thought? Art & Auction seems pretty respectable; it will be interesting to see what they do with it.

I will check out Sasnal, who is new to me.



December 31, 2004, 10:18 PM

The Autumn 2004 issue of Modern Painters had articles on Lucien Freud, Caio Fonseca, Dana Shutz, and the Tuymans-Sasnal comparison, among others. They were brief articles, but sensible and well-presented, with nice illustrations. They had a good selection of glossy photos of each artist's work, and a nice quantity of intelligent, readable text.

Suddenly in the Dec04/Jan05 issue it's turned into Spin Magazine. I feel like I'm at a flashy night club, with the contemporary tribal music blasting, BMMS BMMS BMMS BMMS. Bite-sized flashy articles with huge headlines, wild crazy mixed-up font faces and sizes, extreme close-up images of sculptures, or oddly-angled shots of exterior scenes, with dropped captions like "Her H-bomb aesthetic does not so much transform the world as scramble it," referring to Lisa Ruyter. Huh? It might be nice on the coffee table, but it's no longer readable in an armchair. It seems to have abandoned my demographic, anyway.

The worst part is that the articles are all typeset in boldface, every single word, just like this paragraph. It's the most wearying effect. The whole magazine is like this now. I'd use the word "bombastic." It's an all-out assault on the senses. (BMMS BMMS BMMS BMMS) I hope they know what they're doing, because I don't. Hey!! Can you turn it down!!

Ahem. As I was saying.

This is exactly what they did with Art & Auction magazine, now named Art + Auction -- check out the fancy plus-sign instead of that oh-so-old-fashioned ampersand. Art & Auction was one of my favorite magazines, but Art + Auction I could hardly read. The newly formatted auction calendar in the back made my brain freeze. I let my subscription lapse with a melancholic sniff. If I can't figure out how to read the new Modern Painters, I'll do the same. On the other hand, if I figure out how to read the new version, I'll post an update.



January 1, 2005, 4:52 AM

Modern Painters has indeed reinvented itself.

Here's a link to the "relaunch" of Modern Painters.

Like Arts many years ago, this relaunch will probably be remembered as its death rattle.



January 1, 2005, 4:55 AM

Ooooopppps. Forgot the equals sign.

Here's a WORKING link to the relaunch of Modern Painters.



January 1, 2005, 6:42 PM

When I saw the cover of the "new and improved" Modern Painters, an unfortunate photo of Richard Avedon, I knew there was serious trouble. The contents, a significant portion of which have nothing to do with painting, didn't make me feel any better. I'm not renewing my subscription.



January 2, 2005, 8:24 AM

Dont you have to pay to be in Modern Painters?
Which in my opinion is a barometer of bad work!



January 2, 2005, 9:16 PM

L8R - I think you mean New American Paintings.



January 3, 2005, 3:11 AM

Your right, thanks for the correction.
New American Painters sucks!!!!!!!!!!!



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