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scalise and ware at dorsch

Post #451 • January 12, 2005, 6:55 AM • 292 Comments

Claudia Scalise continues to work well putting figures on minimal backgrounds. Her ability to render figures qualifies as top-flight, but I'm beginning to find them overly photographic at times, in the sense that they seem photo-derived rather than realized in their own right. Something odd is going on with the backgrounds, too. Left white, they look flat; with a smidgen of color, they look rich and spacious; with another smidgen of color, they look flat again. I don't have a solution to offer for this strange problem; it may have something to do with the application rather than the hue. Nevertheless Scalise hits the target more often than not, and remains one of the indespensable figure painters in Miami. (I have decided that putting up images of one's unclothed person on one's blog violates good taste, even when rendered by a third party as legitimate art.)

Kerry Ware is making some of the handsomest paintings of his career, and I don't know why some sharp-eyed collector isn't buying up the room. Ware handles a milky palette with great finesse. In these recent works he punctuates his plaster surfaces with dowels and paints the tops of them with intense colors, a playful maneuver that sparks up the rectangles nicely. I've said before that Ware's installations tend to make me want to look at his paintings, and the one he did for this show has the same effect on me. I find it less formidable than the constellation-style pieces he executed for his previous Dorsch show. The dowels, implanted in the wall, seem to call for a stronger organizing strategy and perhaps bolder shapes than one can obtain with little points of color. (It photographed too poorly for presentation here.)




January 12, 2005, 3:47 PM

For Claudia Scalise it is a matter of totality. The backgound in the top picture is part of the total look, in the others it separates from the figure or vice versa. It will probably look different on the screens of other computers, but does not change the issue: totality.

Kerry Ware needs to put more on the table. There is not enough at risk to make the experience rich when they succeed. Instead success is pursued as an end in itself. There is no room for the paradox of failure that succeeds. This prevents them for singing as loudly as they could. His method needs to exclude success for a while. Compared to much of the stuff that is around, they are pretty good, nonetheless.


ice ice baby

January 12, 2005, 5:37 PM

the work of Scalise is rather boring. especially as a runner up to Basel week.



January 12, 2005, 5:47 PM

re: kerry ware

a beauty with pimples
your child with measles
on the back of an old man
age spots in various colors

yet I feel invaded by the dots
dots invasion of untouched



January 12, 2005, 5:48 PM

ice baby is certainly right that Basel is always full of grabbers. They get your attention and you don't have to work like a dog to get engaged.



January 12, 2005, 5:51 PM

You're too modest, Franklin. With posing skills like yours, you'd be a natural for music videos. Of course, I did think Claudia may have fleshed you up a bit. I would have expected you to be more wiry, what with the Zen and all. Instead, it appears you're not without some curves. Freud might be interested in your services, though he tends to go for bigger bodies. Still, I can see it: "Franklin with Fox Terrier" (nix any rodents, though).



January 12, 2005, 5:55 PM

Looks like everybody is waking up, just when I must go to class. Damn.



January 12, 2005, 6:56 PM

flatboy: You make sense when you talk about Scalise and Ware, but I don't understand what you mean by a "grabber". Could you elaborate?



January 12, 2005, 7:22 PM

OK, seriously, Scalise's best work were the three portraits of her mother (you're cute, Franklin, but the fact that I know you introduced a weird dynamic into seeing you so, uh, exposed). In both sets of paintings, however, I found too much emphasis on clearly assumed or put-on postures or expressions, which came off as artificial or theatrical. A little of that goes a long way; too much is counterproductive--it tends to trivialize the work. I wanted to see a straight portrait of Claudia's mother without any mugging for effect, just as I would have welcomed less obviously posed renderings of Franklin, nude or not.

Kerry's work struck me as less organic (the pegs read as consciously imposed) and more reticent or subdued than previously, which is not so much a criticism as an observation. The palette was less saturated or more washed out than formerly, or maybe the greater use of white had a kind of bleaching effect. This had the benefit of greater delicacy and subtlety. The relatively small format also enhanced a sense of intimacy. I like the plaster medium, with its powdery echoes of faded frescoes. Elegant, intriguing work.



January 12, 2005, 7:51 PM

This is certainly Ware's best show, though there are some obvious things he could do to make the paintings better.

The best pictures were the largest (which is #1 above; interesting that it does not look the best in reproduction) and the ones with warmer color. He is digging and scraping the plaster more vigorously and that is a plus. I don't agree with Momoko about the dowels; however, they are tricky, and only work when the distribution has a "random" look, that is, as if the dots fell on by accident (on #2, for example, they looked too "placed") and the value has to be carefully controlled so they do not distract from the basic picture, as happens with the last one. But as Franklin observes they do spice up the paintings and compensate some for some of the less forcefully resolved parts, like the green shape on the right part of #1. Ware needs to use sharp edges more often and get into warmer colors. Those greens get pretty deadly.

Flatboy says, as a criticism, that for Ware "success is pursued as an end in itself". Well, thank goodness for that. Ware and George Bethea are painting as well or better than any abstract painters in Miami. That their sales may be slow in coming says more about our eyeless, fearful collectors than it does about their work.

Scalise needs to rethink her approach to her work. She is getting the hang of painting the figure - there are instances of nice light changes on the forehead of #1 (which is by far my favorite) and some very nice line work with the brush in some of the pictures i saw in the gallery - but the paint application feels hesitant and unsure. The problem with the backgrounds is that given the disposition and treatment of the subject matter there is too much of it. I know that this is deliberate, but it doesnt work. Morandi, for example, centralizes a couple pots in a big space but he vitalizes it with those shivering brush strokes, and the pots sit there and let the paint do the work instead of assuming coy mannerist poses which cannot be sufficiently articulated or energized in tiny size anyway.

There were a couple figure pictures in the Art Miami show that Franklin put up recently which i thought were pretty good, the reclining nude by Tai-Shan Schierenberg and the Soutineish bust by Daine Kaufman. I don't know if they are Miami painters of not.



January 12, 2005, 8:22 PM

Catfish -

By "grabber" I mean a work that MAKES you look for at least two seconds, or more. The satisfaction you get from it is knowing it isnot really satisfying but nonetheless engaging. Some grabbers last for days and weeks. Jeff Koons's sex stuff for instance. I'll look at them off an on more or less forever. (My girlfriend does not see Koons the same way.) Sex is at the bottom of art like it is at the bottom of most things. (My girlfriend does not agree with this either.)

Oldpro -

I suppose I could agree with what you say if "success" is restricted to the most narrow of its definitioins. Like Rose What's-Her-Name said "a rose is a rose is a rose". But when painters get too obsessive with making the picture work, it's not something to "thank goodness for" but rather to be avoided. It can make you hold back instead of gushing, then paring back to what's essential. It might be better for Ware to get it out and trim later. He needs more to hack back at.



January 12, 2005, 8:54 PM


I think you should listen to your girlfriend.

As I have mentioned before, you catch some nice observations in those tangled webs of words. Ware should "get it out and trim later".

But using the word "success" was confusing in that context. I think you meant "obsessive", which you then used - a very different implication.



January 12, 2005, 9:31 PM

I don't understand the usage of dowels in Kerry Ware's work --the placement seems arbitrary, yet not about chance. I agree with others about the colors and his technique of a plaster ground, leading me to want him to stop there. Do the dowels signify or refer to something in particular, other than "activating" his ground and creating a scrim?



January 12, 2005, 9:51 PM


On the surface I think he uses dowels because he did some large dowel picturesa while ago and didn't want to lose the idea so incorporated them into his paintings. Underneath, they seem to be an attempt to add a "spark" - to use Franklin's word - to his paintings, which are not as "all out" as they might be.

the problem with dowels of course is that he has to put them in before the plaster and paint goes on, so he is stuck with the placement and has to build that subtle, atmospheric painting around them. the only way they can be hidden is by using close values. I think he would be better using a "spark" that consists of some more surface buildup, some sharp edges here and there and some rich warm colors.

He's definitely got something going here and I can see it blossoming into something pretty spectacular.



January 12, 2005, 11:31 PM

Oldpro -

I'm not going to obssess about the difference between "obssessing over success" and "obsessing" as a general term, but I think there is a difference.

And the intellect always weaves a "tangled web of words" (we have taken that up elsewhere). We can experience the unknowable, but not understand it, not make sense of it, because the intellect has great difficulty anchoring itself to anything with certainty. That's the futility the postmodernists like to talk about. But being futile does not mean we should abandon the project. On the contrary, that is the best reason to continue.

I'm glad we have some common observations. That's more important than the philosophy stuff that follows.



January 13, 2005, 12:53 AM

Flatboy, Gertrude Stein said it slightly differently than your quote:

Rose is a rose is a rose...

Not "A rose is a rose is a rose."

The meaning's all different, don't you agree?



January 13, 2005, 1:12 AM

Regarding Scalise and Ware at Dorsch...something has popped into my head while reading all the "grandiose artspeak". And that is, I don't think the artists should read any of it. In fact I highly recommend that you do not. I can't imagine a "real painter" being "obsessed" with Artblog. I think it is better for an "artist" to make his/her work on their own terms and not have to worry about what all the "Talking Heads" feel like they need to say. God! I guess that's what we have computers for, to talk and talk and talk....
I do think an artist will have a few close friends/artists that he/she would regard as worthy to listen to. but to open it up to the whole world? My god! "Art" (as I view it) is not for everybody!




January 13, 2005, 1:42 AM

Mavery: If any artist didn't want to hear feedback-both warranted and not- they should keep their artwork in the closet or invest in a GetSmart "cone of silence." I don't think anything said above is not constuctive, in fact it seems fairly informative. (I can't find any info on the gallery's website)

Who is "obsessed" with artblog? Granted, art is not for everyone, but if art is made and put forth into the world, especially a commercial gallery with a presence, why not discuss? It's informative.



January 13, 2005, 2:02 AM

Plus any artist can choose to ignore.



January 13, 2005, 2:06 AM

It's all good, thanks Bob. I apologize for taking the discussion away from the artists at hand. Enjoy the art, it's good stuff. I gotta go paint now, can't waste my time talking. By the way Old Pro knows art! Listen to him!



January 13, 2005, 2:14 AM

No, Mavery, art is not for everyone. There are a lot of people inthe art "game" who should be doing something else. And I wish they would.

But no one is obliged to do anything here. it is free and wide open. Art is fun to talk about, and, as Bob notes, it can be constructive.

There is an "ulterior" reason for blogs, and for maintaing a good one like this. A lot of us feel that art talk, like all news, is tied up in the magazines and professional journals. A blog runs the risk that there will be a lot of garbage posted - there has been plenty on this one, for sure - but Franklined has kept up a blog culture which accomodates some pretty informed, smart comment and discourages the bad stuff. Many good things get said here which would never stand a chance of getting in the art mags. Blogging (and now with the tsunami videos "vlogging") are going to revolutionaize, are already revolutionizing, the general character of information exchange all over the world. This is an important service and I enjoy contributing to it.



January 13, 2005, 2:16 AM

Oh, and thanks for the nice compliment. I hadn't seen it when I posted.

I certainly do agree that painting is more important than yakking on the internet. In fact I think everyone here will go along with that one.



January 13, 2005, 2:19 AM

Honestly, I like talking about art too, I'm just an old school (not quite old pro) pain in the ass.



January 13, 2005, 2:34 AM

ok, back to the topic.

oldpro: On the surface I think he uses dowels because he did some large dowel picturesa while ago and didn't want to lose the idea so incorporated them into his paintings.

It still seems that the dowels, even as material to incorporate into the support, are arbitrary. (..i used to make lithos using deodorant and toothpaste, but realized that was a stupid idea) I mean, why only dowels? Why not 4"x4"s or golf balls or? It's a legitimate question. I take it more of an act of branding his work , to separate his look from others. And until I hear more I'll think it style as content.



January 13, 2005, 2:39 AM

Bob: Kerry approaches art as formally as one could, so I think the dowels have no significance except as a method of changing the surface. The reason to use them instead of, say, 4x4's, is that something so wide in area couldn't be reconciled with the rest of the surface very easily. The dowel just makes a little spot of color that can be modulated.

Ware actually has used 4x4's in some large sculptural pieces he did a few years ago and I thought some of them were very successful.



January 13, 2005, 3:01 AM

Yes, I agree with Franklin. I don't think "branding" has anything to do with it. His work doesn't look like anyone else's anyway.



January 13, 2005, 3:46 AM

Since Bonnie Clearwater is reportedly so pro-local talent, and so ready to give even very green artists MOCA exposure, it seems rather curious that she seems quite oblivious to people like Ware and Bethea, not to mention others. Surely she knows of them, as she presumably knows of everybody in the area, which is obviously part of her job. I don't recall ever seeing her at Dorsch, though I suppose she's set foot in the place at some point, but it's clearly not on her usual route (unless she goes when nobody's looking). I have seen her at openings elsewhere for shows of decidedly dubious merit, and she appeared enthusiastic enough. Oh well, I guess everyone can't be an Othoniel. Maybe Kerry could embed pieces of colored glass into the plaster, and attach strings of glass beads to the paintings, get the idea.



January 13, 2005, 4:33 AM

Jack, I don't thing any of the museum people or collectors have any interest if the work doesn't fit into the fashionable mainstream mold. This is pretty much the way it always has been, and probably always will be. People who do straight painting just have to put their heads down and keep on truckin'.



January 13, 2005, 5:00 AM

georges said:

Rose is a rose is a rose...

Not "A rose is a rose is a rose."

The meaning's all different, don't you agree?

No, I don't. They are close enough for me to read them the same. Did get the Rose What's-Her-Name thing wrong, though. I don't pay a lot of attention to art history details. But thanks for pointing out the mistake.



January 13, 2005, 5:09 AM

Oldpro said (about the Kerry Ware pictures):

Underneath, they seem to be an attempt to add a "spark" - to use Franklin's word - to his paintings, which are not as "all out" as they might be.

That rings my bell. (The boldface part.)


Rene Barge

January 13, 2005, 5:23 AM

Kerry Wares work is anomalous. Free of contraband and propaganda! Beautiful and worthy of envy!

Rene Barge



January 13, 2005, 5:39 AM

Himmm. I look at figurative work like Claudia Scalise and think to myself This is exactly why people shouldnt go to school and study art. They end up with the blandest ideas and put them into galleries thinking that have amassed the notion of a statement about something. When in fact they havent. These paintings are student work that has fallen flat from the lack of intuition or just poor instruction. They are neither statements about the figure nor are they a statement about a personal perspective. They are sophomoric attempts of painting on a surface that was painted white with a roller. So what. Wheres the beef? However, the Old Pro did hit the nail on the head about Scalises work.She should really look at Morandis work and forget the figure unless she comes up with something to say about her world or that quality of the figure.

Speaking of...the "Old Pro" should head back to the seventies and bury whatever laurels he has amassed among the leisure suits, disco and washed up ideas that non-objective work still lives. Kerry Wares paintings need an infusion of nutrition too. I love looking at the beautiful abstract qualities found arbitrarily in nature just as the next day dreamer. But that doesn't mean you need to go and make art about it. Karrys reminscent fragments of the buildings and conduit that are being torn down on Biscayne are beautiful, but what else? The nonobjective big shots in the fifties were actually painting about something, believe it or not! And it wasnt as convoluted and complex as Clement Greenburg, Hilton Cramer and the like have made it out to be. Wheres the beef? Or should I say where is Antonio Tapies. Right on Flatboy. Right on. The man needs to put his cards on the table because these are really good paintings.


that guy in the back row

January 13, 2005, 5:39 AM

Most of the collectors I've seen in Miami have their eyes only on their wallet's and not the art they endorse. I don't think you could convince them to go out on a limb and buy art strictly on it's intrinsic value. For one thing most of them don't seem to have much of an eye for real talent. Dela Cruz will by just about anything at top dollar, Marty Margulies seems to be stuck in photoland, the Rubell's hang puppets on clothes hangers. These collectors don't go for a value buy, but prefer to spend more up front in hopes it has staying power. (when you have that much money to blow, no wonder) That they are mostly deluding themselves doesn't seem to bother them. The good thing is 700 people a day move to Florida and chances are some end up in Miami collecting art. I think new collectors are needed who are willing to speculate on a Karry Ware, judging by his talent it would seem a sure bet, even for a collector interested solely on his returned investment.

Artblog should come up with a buy, sell or hold rating for Miami artists based on their price, talent and other extraneous factors. I give Ware the Buy rating without hesitation.

And yes, Jack a museum show for the artists in question wouldn't hurt. I have no idea how you would go about changing that however. The Miami Museum folks, like their collecting brethren seem to have their head's squarely up each others asses.

I bet with a little cajoling the folks at the Lowe or even the Norton Museum up north would mount painting shows of Miami painters.



January 13, 2005, 6:18 AM

Artblog members,
I would like to make a formal apology to the blog for my behavior last week I was a little blitz!

That guy in the back row,
Your "buy, sell or hold rating" idea gave me another idea for franklin.
Sence this Artblog is getting so much attention through out the art world Franklin should have a online gallery in the blog to promote miami artists! :o)



January 13, 2005, 7:37 AM

Re: the museum people - Bonnie Clearwater did attend the Robin Griffiths opening at Dorsch; I remember saying hello to her. Also, Peter Boswell from MAM came to Dorsch to look over my work back in October. Peter impressed me quite a bit with his thoughtfulness and approachable demeanor. Cheryl Hartup came to the Abstract Miami show I curated back in 2003, where she discovered the work of Rene Barge, and commissioned a piece from him for her Light and Atmosphere show. Roni Feinstein put my work into a show at the FIU Museum; Denise Gersten did the same for a show at the Gulf Coast Museum. I say this to counter the impression one might get from the above that the local museums are towers of blindness surrounded by moats of indifference. They are paying attention and are responding. We just need to keep plugging away. At least, this is how I feel about my own work. I don't want stardom because stars fall. I would rather be a value stock than a growth stock. I really ought to go to bed.



January 13, 2005, 7:40 AM


I can see that you are one of those who think a whole species of art-making can be discriminated against, just because it is what it is. When I was a whippersnapper realist painters were ridiculed as being so far behind the times that they might as well give up. No one ever thought anyone would ever paint anything representational again. Now it is the turn of the abstrract painters to be derided by the whippersnappers. And by the time you get old enough to know better it will be something else, maybe what you do? The wheel keeps on turning...

By the way, you said "The nonobjective big shots in the fifties were actually painting about something, believe it or not!" Care to spell out what that "something" was?

It is Hilton Kramer, not Cramer. Names should be spelled right.


The two "rose" quotes are in fact quite different. Figure it out.



January 13, 2005, 8:15 AM


That's OK; I been blitzed myself a time or two.


Thanks for the accounting. But how do you think that amount of attention measures up against any of the other active serious galleries around town?

"towers of blindness surrounded by moats of indifference" is to good to miss even when used as a nominal negative. I might switch blindness and indifference around, but it works either way.


that guy in the back row

January 13, 2005, 8:24 AM

Maybe I was a little harsh on our esteemed institutions. But those few shows you mentioned kind of do add up to a pillaring tower of interference don't they? Think in percentages here. Of all the museum shows you have seen in Miami, the few shows you've mentioned are the exception. They throw painters a bone once in a while, sure, but in doing so they relegate the medium out of the lime light where its wilts.

L8R: Nice Idea, it could be like the miamiartexchange only with taste! I know a few people that could curate this.


pointing out

January 13, 2005, 9:03 AM

There is a lot of painting up at the Rubell Collection right now (most notably, the "Northern Light: Leipzig in Miami" exhibition). It might not be exactly along the lines of the type of work favored by most of the pro-painting regulars, but it's a significant amount of work, and it's in Miami.


that guy in the back row

January 13, 2005, 9:19 AM

Leipzig in Miami: Saw the show and give it a sell rating. But my investor is really stubborn, and would rather lose a few pence than publicly sell pieces from a show he had on display during Basel. To each his own I guess.



January 13, 2005, 2:42 PM

Whipper-Snapper, I won't tell you to change your mind about Scalise's and Ware's work, but Ware knows what those mid-century abstraction parameters are and sees himself, correctly, as working in the same mode. I strongly disagree that Scalise's work looks like student work. It is not easy to achieve that kind of economy when rendering the figure - it takes experience.

Pointing Out, I did like one of the painters from "Leipzig," Christoph Ruckhäberle. The Tim Eitels didn't do anything for me the second time I looked at them. There was another painter in there doing big interiors that I don't remember because they didn't do anything for me the first time around. And I guess there were two other painters as well but can't recall them.

Guy, I agree with you about the percentages, but I suspect everyone feels that the percentages don't work in their favor. Human nature and all. It's not like your life necessarily changes when you get your work in a museum, unless you're getting a solo show there, and not always even then. I know artists who have had solo museum shows and are still working their day job.

L8R - I forgive you. I will consider a gallery section of the site. Could be fun.



January 13, 2005, 3:23 PM

Oldpro said: The two "rose" quotes are in fact quite different. Figure it out.

Oldpro was backing up georges who corrected me regarding the authorship of the quote (which I acknowledged) and who wanted me to agree that the "meaning's all different" between "A rose is a rose is a rose" and "Rose is a rose is a rose". All this, of course, way upstream in this interesting thread, which is why I detail the issue down here.

Now, Gertrude Stein said (wrote) both statements.

"Rose is a rose is a rose" appeared in "Scred Emily", written around 1914 but not published until 1922.

"A rose is a rose is a rose" appeared in "Poetry and Grammar", published in 1935.

Listen up, georges and Old Pro (and anyone else committed to the importance of small things): in 1935 Stein was quoting herself!!! Here it is, as she wrote in "Poetry and Grammar":

When I said.
A rose is a rose is a rose.
And then later made that into a ring I made poetry and what did I do I carressed completely caressed and addressed a noun.

So, Stein herself did not distinguish between the two ways of putting it. Why should we?

Stein would find this small minded debate amusing, I think. Myself, I just find it small minded.



January 13, 2005, 3:28 PM

Of course I would misspell "Sacred" in "Sacred Emily". Does that really matter?


that guy in the back row

January 13, 2005, 5:03 PM

Franklin: You are right it changes little overnight. But it does lend critical authority that helps any artist, unless you are showing in some historical craft museum or the like. Also I guess it is the thrust of the times that makes them show what they do, or the trendiness oldpro points out. Because these museums are so misguided, I've decided to give them a vote of no confidence and think fresh blood among their senior ranks is the only way. Now if only I was on their board...



January 13, 2005, 5:30 PM

Of course it is trivial, Flatboy, but it is fun. That's the only reason I pursue it.

Stein used the quote over and over, in lectures and writing.I don't know the complete etymology of the phrase, but it seems to have started originally as "rose" and then got famous as "a rose", as it is now.

The "a rose is a rose is a rose" repeats itself and says, in effect, like Popeye saying "I yam what I yam", that a rose is what it is and that's enough so just leave it at that.

However if you start with "rose" alone, it is a much more complex play on words. "Rose" then becomes, a name, so Rose (name) is a rose (flower, compliment) is a rose (poetic redundancy that conflates the first two). It is a small thing, but it is the kind of small thing poets agonize over well into the night.



January 13, 2005, 6:30 PM

Franklin, nothing in your comment 34 changes or refutes what I said in comment 26, which was specifically about MOCA and its director, not any other entity or person. A rare Clearwater sighting at Dorsch, to see a SCULPTURE show, hardly contradicts my observations. If you're satisfied with the status quo, be my guest, but my comment stands.



January 13, 2005, 6:59 PM

To clarify my position further, the point is not that painters should be promoted because they paint--they should only be promoted if they're GOOD at it and create worthwhile work. The same is true for any art form. When good work is ignored and the merely trendy is pushed front and center, that's bogus, and so is anyone who does it.



January 13, 2005, 7:47 PM

On that point, Jack, I'm right there with you.



January 13, 2005, 8:46 PM

You have me pegged so well Old Pro, Whipper-snapper is a pet name I have given to my favorite grandson. Thanks for the correction on Kramer too. My looser brother had similar needs. Perhaps we could get together an you could check the arithmetic in my check book sometime. Stay focused son, weve just met. With regard to your second comment something, read some early essays by Robert Motherwell or Charles Harrison. Is that with one s or two? Oh just forget it.

Painting is not about brushstroke, any more than writing is about words... The best painters struggle to embed meaning in the medium itself. Rachel Campbell-Johnston



January 13, 2005, 9:18 PM


I make mistakes and typos too. I am a writer and I am grateful when I am corrected. In fact Jack took me to task for it here a while back and I said "thanks". And it is part of everyday civility to get names right.

I have read Motherwell and Harrison and I know what the Abstract Expressionists said. They had good reasons for saying it, but neither they nor anyone else has ever clearly specified what they were referring to.

As for Rachel Campbell-Johnson, that is a well-meaning quote, but it is dull and badly put. "embed meaning" sounds profound but it is just a tautological code phrase for "good", and no person who thought twice about it would ever say that painting is "about" brushstrokes or anything else except clearcut subject matter. Same goes for writing, which can only be "about words" if it is about words.



January 13, 2005, 11:31 PM

By the way, W-S, you say above "And it wasnt as convoluted and complex as Clement Greenburg..."

Try reading some. When people read Greenberg and stop listening to what everyone says about him they are astonished how simple, clear and straightforward he is.

You also include Hilton Kramer in your statement. Kramer doesn't have much of an eye, but he is also very clear and easy to underrstand.

If you want "convoluted and complex" go read the pomo bilge in Artforum and the other art mags.



January 13, 2005, 11:36 PM

Ok Oldboy, whatever.
Oh the Johnnston quote was in there by mistake. I was in a rush to get out the door.
Speaking of everday civility the name is Whipper-snapper, Mr. Whipper-snapper to you.



January 14, 2005, 1:14 AM

OK Mr. Whippersnapper. You got it.



January 14, 2005, 10:28 PM

Thats Whipper with a hyphen snapper. Whipper-snapper.



January 14, 2005, 11:24 PM

Wipper-snapper, you called oldpro "Oldboy".

I like the sound of "Whipper with a hyphen snapper" though.

This may be just too juvenile to post, but the "post" button is sooo tempting.



January 14, 2005, 11:27 PM

Temptation got the best of my better judgement. That happens a lot.



January 14, 2005, 11:37 PM

Oldpro, Greenberg seems quite complex to me. And I have read some of his original stuff in the O'Brien books. When I know the artist he is writing about, his comments seem connected to what that artist did. It was a different time then, but as the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


that guy in the back row

January 15, 2005, 12:03 AM

Even in death, Greenberg remains the most straight talking art critic our nation has ever produced. Jargon never tied up his writing and he just reported on what was going on and what he saw. This blog has murmurs of his legacy throughout and is one of the main reasons for it popularity. People can read it and understand what is happening to some degree with art which isn't as prevalent on other blogs and in the art glossies. Greenberg has become something of a martyr, but I'm not sure that is what he would have wanted.



January 15, 2005, 12:18 AM

It's quite irritating when someone issists on correct your spelling rather than trying understand what you might be trying to say. I just hope the Oldpro isnt directly involved with young people or education.But your right Flatboy, I was acting juvenile. I was also making a point. Albeit a trite one.Sorry. I will focus on the issue at hand from now on.



January 15, 2005, 12:36 AM

There is a wonderful essay I have somewhere by Greenberg that might not be as straight talking as you claim. I kept it just for this point. Give me a day or so to find it but it illustrates just what I ment earlier by convoluted. If you can tell me what Greenberg is talking about Ill never speak another ill word about the man. Promise.



January 15, 2005, 1:09 AM

Forgive me if I have injured your sensitive feelings, Mr. Whipper-snapper. I thought I understood what you were saying quite well, and I made every effort to respond directly and specifically. And correct a couple things while i was at it.

Do you really think that one who is "involved with young people or education" should not correct written errors? Well, I'm sorry. I teach writing, and I'm 'fraid there ain't nothin' I can do but keep on correcting.

Find that Greenberg piece and post it and I will tell you what it means. I hope it is short, and that you make the context clear. it will be worth the effort to turn around yet another of the vast legion of Greenberg-bashers.

Flatboy, you don't have to apologise for wisecracks or "juvenalia", or puns or bad jokes or ignorance or anything like that. This is an open forum, and those things can be fun. The only thing we don't need around here is people calling each other nasty names. Fortunately that hardly ever happens any more.



January 15, 2005, 1:29 AM

You know what Old Pro, I have been reading a lot of your comments throughout this blog since entering. I have come to the conclusion that you are no doubt Old. I have reservations about the Pro part. You are also boring and in desperate need of a life or you wouldn't hang out here as much as you do. Most of all you are alienating. I am very sorry to hear you are involved with education.
Good by. You have alienated me from this blog.



January 15, 2005, 1:47 AM

So long, Mr. Whipper-snapper. Sorry to see you go. Maybe when you recover from your alienation you can come back with a different alias and a more positive attitude.



January 15, 2005, 1:56 AM

Too bad - I was looking forward to seeing that Greenberg essay.



January 15, 2005, 2:07 AM

Oldboy I know you write, but I think you teach painting at UM.



January 15, 2005, 2:16 AM

Think whatever you like, Mr. W.

Are you back again? Want to follow up on the discussion?



January 15, 2005, 6:11 AM

Mr. Oldpro: Mr. Wipper-snapper doesn't seem to want to follow through on the posting of Greenberg statements for comments, so I will. This one is the last paragraph of "Avant Garde and Kitsch", first published in 1939. It is theoretical in nature, addressing the complex political contextualization of critical discourse and the dependency of art on politics. I don't think it is simple, but I don't think it is convoluted either. It seems very close to the postmodern idea of futility and the need for intercontextual narativity, right down to the importance of Marx.

Capitalism in decline finds that whatever of quality it is still capable of producing becomes almost invariably a threat to its own existence. Advances in culture, no less than advances in science and industry, corrode the very society under whose aegis they are made possible. Here, as in every other question today, it becomes necessary to quote Marx word for word. Today we no longer look toward socialism for a new culture -- as inevitably as one will appear, once we do have socialism. Today we look to socialism simply for the preservation of whatever living culture we have right now.



January 15, 2005, 6:41 AM

Here is another Greenberg passage, this time about an artist, Hananiah Harari. I had to google to find out anything about this artist, who died in 2000. He worked both realistically and abstractly, and as an illustrator. He was eventually blacklisted for his political involvments. He did cartoons for New Masses, a mag dedicated to cultural propoganda for communist intellectuals. This quote underlines how Greenberg stressed the importance of artists getting involved with politics, but I can't understand why he bothered with someone as weak as Harari. (So where was that great eye Greenberg was supposed to possess? Get a load of that first line. You can google for Hananiah Harari and look for yourself.) It was published in The Nation, 1943, as the first paragraph in a review of Harari's show at the Pinacotheca gallery.

Harari, just thrity, is one of the most promising abstract painters in the country. There is the strength and originality of his color, or rather of its tonality; there is his liveliness. But in order to attain virtues, and precisely as a manifestatin of his vitality, Harari has to dare to sin -- grievously. He fools around with Harnett's style of trompe l'oeil, with the Stalinoid "class consciousnes" and other nonsense. He plays with all sorts of rash notions, mixing together formal elements such as no artist living or dead could organize, and the combination of which simply violates the laws of pleasurable vision. Some of Harari's paintings are frightful. One, dealing with fascism, sinks to a comic strip; another called Rococo, shows what -- I am told -- is the degeneration of capitalism by means of arabesques, scroll work, floral curicues, and the halftones and sickly-dark colors of Victorian wallpaper. It may be a joke, but it is too expensive.

BTW, the "dare to sin -- grieviously" idea is exactly what I had in mind for the overly restrained (too successful) pictures of Kerry Ware. I take Greenberg to be praising Harari for daring to sin, though I can't see it myelf when I look at what I could find of Harari's work.


old pro

January 15, 2005, 6:58 AM

Good digging, Flatboy! I may have to answer somewhat later or tomorrow AM becasue i am watching a good DVD movie with my wife right now. Looks interesting. especially that Harari. I don't think I ever read that.



January 15, 2005, 7:47 AM


"Avant Garde and Kitsch" is one of his most famous pieces and one of the earliest. For me it is way too abstract, too detached, and some statements, such as the one implying that socialism will be a "preserver of culture" are just wrong.

Greenberg's strength was always in the specific and tangible, and he realized that later on when he started writing art criticism. I recall he never really wanted to talk much about these few early political writings of his and seemed to tacitly regret them, just as he regretted his fairly orthodox Marxism of the time. He had a standard response to criticism about this essay and others, something like "It was my fault I didn't explain it better"

I think he was on target with Harari. (He said he was "promising" don't forget, and then went ahead and tore the show apart). I looked at everythjng I could on the web, and what a mishmash! As if 5 or 6 completely different painters were at work. Some real Mickey Mouse Surrealism and a schoolboy Picasso ripoff and all sorts of crud. Greenberg, from what he wrote, must have been looking at just such a wild mixture.

But the good ones were quite good; the color is excellent - unusually so - and there was one that anticipated Gottlieb's Pictographs by several years and the color was better than Gottliebs color when he did get to them. If I had see these at that time I certainly would have called the artist "promising", and I certainly would have strongly criticised the show if it had been composed of the other stuff I saw.

I also like a couple of the offhand phrases, such as "violates the laws of pleasurable vision". (I might have said "seeing" rather than "vision").

I do think what he means by "dare to sin" was very close to what you were saying about Ware. It is a good observation in both cases.



January 15, 2005, 8:52 AM

I think Scalise's paintings are absolutely awful, student grade figure class at best.

Ware's paintings are very nice, but I wonder if they'd be just as good without the dowels. I agree with the above stated opinion that the dowels don't serve any valid purpose.


My friend (who turned me on to this site) said you get bashed by the likes of Mr. W all the time. I didn't see anything wrong with what you were saying and I am definitely not old. Perhaps if you do teach painting you could have been of some assistance to Ms. Scalise.



January 15, 2005, 9:48 AM

I found much of what you say about Greenberg enlightening, Oldpro. But you gloss over certain realities that are strengths, not weakness, and seem unwilling to admit the guy didn't see that well.

The very next week after the Harari review he did another obscure artist named William Steig, starting out "We are all lonely. Marx predicted us almost one hundred years ago: alienating society with its alienated members." The review is of a book of cartoons titled "The Lonely Ones". Greenberg joined the chorus of those who hailed the cartoon as a new art form (correctly , I think), calling them "psychographs, a new combination of literature and picture."

During his early years Greenberg was at the top of his game and wrote these and many other things that wove politics intimately into his interpretations of the art and culture of his time. The O'Brian book I have is full of them, one after the other after the other. Aging is a process of losing this, then losing that, until you lose everything. The older Greenberg may have lamented the fullness of his youth, but he was not exactly a kid when he wrote this stuff. Must have been in his 30s.

Like all critics that I know of, he missed far more times than he hit when he got specific. Of course he saw Pollock early on, but Steig? Certainly he saw the importance of the cartoon as a minor art becoming major, but he didn't pick an artist that could support the claim. He saw Smith too, but Calder? Warnecke? Burlingame? Laurent? Zorach? (from a review of a sculpture show)

I'm wandering around here. You say Greenberg "tore the show apart" with respect to Harari. But what he continued on with were statements like "this dashing about, the facing in many directions at once, is a sign among other things of a tremendous energy". (You and I both see the "mishmash" as a problem, not an asset.) And "underneath is a talent sensous and powerful, able in certain pictures to order things to its own unique purposes" and that his paintings are "as rich as any done by an American lately" and "he has somethng new to say". He was not 100 percent paraising, but he never was for anyone.

What comes out in this collection of essays is that Greenberg was at his height when he mapped out the social/political/cultural context that art had encountered in the early 40s. Generalities are his thing. He made enough hits on specific artists to make it plausible that it wasn't random, but most of the artists he praised have been forgotten and I can see why. But it could be argued he hit on so many artists that some of them had to turn out good, so the random theory might hold after all.

Greenberg emerged as modernism was expiring with a few shooting stars of greatness and a lot of sound and fury about the many junky artists who typified the decline and death that was complete by the 70s. Genius that he was, he foreshadowed much of the thinking that was to come as culture tried to help itself out of the black hole of vacuous modernists like Steig. Even if Steig gave us Shrek, that's not the level of art Greenberg was talking about. Ironically, Steig as vacuous modernist is Steig as prototype emerging postmodernist. And Greenberg was also an early postmodernist, paving the way for contextual interpretation while praising artists who embodied the futility that characterizes the postmodern period.

Comes down to, let the best critics create a free floating map with their free floating intellects. Let the artists struggle with the art, aware of but detached from the word games. We may need an overly intellectualilzed climate to remind us it is beside the point of art.



January 15, 2005, 5:47 PM


I really appreciate and respect your seriousness and interest, but, if I may, you need to stop back and take a look at the reality of the situation, what they call "context". When you know a situation in some depth, as I claim to here, you are reluctant to make these kinds of grand overviews and instead concentrate on the facts and the good stuff. He would certainly agree with your concluding point that an "overly intellectualized beside the point in art". And how! as he used to say.

Greenberg was not "mapping out the socio/political cultural context" - he would shrink with horror from such an expression - he was writing reviews, day to day. And his reputation grew from his eye and his writing, not from "random hits". That makes no sense, If that were the case there would be a hundred critics with his reputation.

Greenberg had an art hunger", literally a hunger, and he would gnaw on anything to find it. When jurying a show in some medium-sized city - which I actually witnessed a couple times - he was forever finding some bit of virtue in some little old lady flower painting, and he would characteristically take himself to task for including too much. It was in his nature to be encouraging, to pick out the good parts in anything he saw and talk about it.

I think you are confusing this predisposition with an inability to see, and inability to see was a fault he simply did not have. You and I saw, in the Harari review, that "mishmash" was a problem, and it was a problem, but he saw it too, as you can plainly see from the writing. The difference is that he was able to find something good about it. And, as I said, I think he was right on target.

No, I certainly will not admit that he could not see well, not until I see an instance of it. In fact, come to think of it, there was one instance. He really came down hard on a Theodoros Stamos painting at a Whitney Annual once, way back in the 40s, and he was wrong. I pointed this out to him and he looked pained and said he always regretted that. This, I think, is clearly the classic "expeption that proves the rule". In all the years I knew him he never failed to impress me with the power of his eye. It was so simple, direct and straight as an arrow, and carried the authority of a personality that was not trying to be right but was panning for gold and knew how to find it. The last thing he would do is look over his shoulder to see who might approve, then or in the future. That was part of his strength.

As for his measured praise for minor sculptors. You have to understand that sculpture was pretty grim back then, and that Zorach and Laurent were, in fact, the best of that breed, as forgettable as they smay be now. And that he said, finally, that Smith was far and away the best of the bunch, which is accepted today. You have to look not at the limited praise he gave minor artists but at the incisive way he spotted the major ones.

Steig is another example. Steig was a marvellous cartoonist at a time when cartooning was less accepted as an art form but much more a part of everyday (not "art") life. I was a cartoonist years ago and Steig and Steinberg were my influences. They and a couple of French and English cartoonists were all there was, in my opinion. To say that Steig was typical of the "modernists" who led into a "black hole" is to be at once inaccurate and grandiloquent.

When someone is really good at what they do their reputation derives from the good stuff, not from some kind of shining, flawless perfection. This is true of anyone. In Greenbergs case the good stuff was so good and so constant that he is now the big target, the proverbial 800 pound gorilla. That's not going to change.



January 15, 2005, 6:41 PM

Sophie, I got so involved with Flatboy & Greenberg I forgot to say thanks for the encouragement. Actually I don't mind the bashing that much; I'm asking for it, and I think I give it back pretty well. It is usually fun.

Every time one of them slinks away thay toss the "old" at me, like Mr. W. just did, but I am asking for that, too, by using the "oldpro" alias. In some cultures they actually think the old farts know something!



January 15, 2005, 7:46 PM

Oldpro, it is as "grandiloquent" (I like your word) to talk about Greenberg as "the proverbial 800 pound gorilla" as it is to talk about the black hole that gobbled art in the 70s. Both have their ring of truth, both require qualification if one wants to be less grandiloquent and more pedantic. I'll take grandiloquent.

I once took it upon myself to ferret out all the artists mentioned in that book and gave it up as taking too much time. The obscure ones appeared to be that way for good cause, to the extent I pursued it. I lost patience chasing them all down.

Statements you defend as imperfection just left me puzzled as to how this guy could be called "the eye" by some of his fans. Rosenberg put together approximately the same record as far as hit / miss percentage, was just as often making wrong assertions as Greenberg. The overlap of the few artists they both liked turned out to be the right ones - consistent with what you say and what I readily recognize. But when both of them were wrong, which was most of the time, they were really wrong. I still think you gloss over this in the case of Greenberg, don't know what you think of Rosenberg's errors. They often went to different places to make their mistakes. Rosenberg writes more often like a nut case, Greenberg stays sober all the way. This doesn't change the fact Greenberg was not the only one to recognize those last "shooting stars" of fading modernism. The final sparks, to be graniloquent, of the meteor's thud into its final destination.

And I can't fathom what it would be like to write the review-of-the-week, often served up as 2-fers and 3-fers. But when they are published that becomes the record and it's not that impressive. His writing, as writing, is what is impressive. And so are his generalizations. And so are his insights into the mileu of his own time.

Another instance of Greenberg's difficulty seeing (adding to your example) is his review of Mondrian's "New York Boogie Woogie". Greenberg just could not get comfortable with Mondrain's shift when he came to America. In the middle of his review Greenberg gives great generality when he says "Unless the artist die to the successes of his old work he cannot live in his new. Repetition is death." Then he criticizes Mondrain for changing!! Calls NYBW "a failure worthy only of a great artist" (a grandilocution in it own right). Greenberg's eye had become habituated to the austere Mondrian and could not flex when it had to. (He did admit NYBW looked better the second time he looked but he did not recant, only qualified, in another comment later on.)

You seem to have known him, so I'll take your word that he was generous by nature. In fact, there is a lot in this collection of essays to back you up. He was generous beyond credibility. I'll even grant that his eye was as good as it gets for critics, for sake of the discussion. This leads back to what you seem to accept, intellectuals don't have a lot to contribute to keeping art keeping on. They can't lead because they don't see the specifics any better than anybody else. But Greenberg was the smartest of the smart guys, that seems more and more evident. Though it is hard to find much evidence that very many recognize this. You seem to think his star is rising again ...


Rene Barge

January 15, 2005, 7:55 PM

Dear Old Pro.

Old Pros like yourself, or for instance Rat Bastard (here in Miami) in his chosen form or Albert Ohlen, Keith Rowe, Glenn Jones (Cul De Sac), do something for younger folks, like myself, whom look up to such no bullshit in artist. There is no greater feeling than that of admiration and envy or the fear and hope that I can stand up to such severe measures and sustain them to the death. That is the challenge!
R.L. Burnside still playing that "old fashioned" blues and that is the type of stuff that makes my arm hair stand up and dance the skin off my bones.
Now, I've just finished sitting and I have a beer waiting for me in the shower. Then there is a painting I'm working on that I need to get to, with which, by the way... has a photo of Anthony Braxton on wall above, that hauntingly stares at me while I work.

Rene Barge



January 15, 2005, 8:15 PM

Sounds like a good day, Rene. keep it up. Those arm hairs never lie.

Flatboy: I agree with Greenberg about Mondrian's New York work. I think his best work was in the early & mid 20's, after he opened up. The NY paintings got too busy and fussy for my taste. This is an opinion, not a "failure" on Greenberg's part.

You are making a blanket statement that Greenberg's eye was not great. This needs to be supported, I'm afraid. Given the above discussion I don't think you have yet made that point.

Like painting, Greenberg does not have to "come back". He is there. People bitch and complain about hiim ceaselessly, and he is still grudgingly acknowledged to be the greatest critic orf his time. That's why I called him "the 800 pound gorilla". That is a current tongue-in-cheek hyperbolic phrase that is always used half-seriously, not grandiloquence. Actually positing a "black hole' in the 70s may not be either, but I do think it needs specifics, just like the no-eye Greenberg claim does. I'd be interested to know what you mean. I might even agree.



January 15, 2005, 8:45 PM

Wow, flatboy! You have some heavy things on your very active mind. But I think you are taking orders you are not yet ready to fill, to borrow a "grandilocution" Greenberg once made about Pollock.

Rosenberg, I agree, wrote like a "nut case" but he seldom named names. So it has been left to history to speculate and assume, perhaps wrongly, that he had the "right" artists in mind when he issued forth with approval. You are walking on shaky ground when you compare his record to Greenberg's. Greenberg always named names. So, who are Rosenberg's mistakes? There are a few that can be accurately cited, I know. But not nearly as many as you could cite from Greenberg.

I have to admit, I've taken another look as some of the essays in the O'Brian collection, and your remarks have caused me pause. There are a number of "formalists" scattered here and there who could profit from reading you, for sure. They seem to be waiting for a savior and, lacking one, look back on Greenberg as more or less infallible.

But you ought to read an essay that is not in Voume I, called "'American Type' Painting". It is an unqualified home run that is also very broad in its sweep of everything of serious import that was going on at the time (1955), quite unlike the weekly reviews Greenberg did for The Nation that you are paying so much attention to. It is published in Voume III of the O'Brian series. I agree with you that adrill of doing one or more reviews week after week would tend to take the starch out of any writer.

Just like baseball hitters don't hit home runs every time, so it was with Greenberg. If the majority of his "at bats" were wrong, so do the greatest baseball players strike out most of the time they try. That does not lessen our interest in them. As you suggest, perhaps that is the best anyone can do. And only the best of the best get even that far



January 15, 2005, 9:25 PM

Oldpro, there is no proving anything when it comes to art. Mostly all I could do to provide "specifics" would be to repeat the ones I already offered. You are getting to be like a lawyer badgering a witness. No matter what is said, it has to be said yet once more, and once more, with more detail, and so on. Because there is no demonstration possible, the witness's statement crashes when the repetition begins and so the badgering party "wins". Not.

But I'm happy to say a little more about Mondrian. (Not much, though.) The American paintings were certainly busy compared to the European ones. (What wouldn't be?) But they were more casual, not fussy. They were a little sloppy, even, and Greenberg complained about that. (He was an accurate observer.)

I'm looking back upstream ... I didn't say Greenberg's eye was "not great". I said "the guy didn't see that well". (So I'm getting small minded here.) Catfish understands my point more accurately than you. The majority of the artists reviewed in that book are over-rated, something you suggest Greenberg was aware of himself in your personal experience. But the distinction I'm making about my personal taxonomy is probably just that, personal. I certainly do not worship the guy's eye.

You have not said anything about my response to your belief Greenberg "tore apart" the Harari show, so I'll assume it did not impress you. I'm sure I quoted him accurately, though.

As far as the "black hole" goes, just take a look at what is in the museums from the 70s and on. If you like what you see, it proves modernism took the count. If you don't like it, it also proves modernism took the count. (If "proof" is possible, which it never is.) I'm not sure which side I take, but what does it matter? Modernism does not appear in appreciable force in major museums after that, except to add to their pre-70 collections.

Catfish, I will take you up on reading that later essay by Greenberg. I'm sure I can find it somewhere. I've heard of it, that is for sure. So I appreciate the suggestion. If I'm going to mouth off, I ought to be acquanited with the subject better. Now that you bring it up, Rosenberg was rather vague about who the hell he was discussing. (I remember something about "it's not wallpaper" repeated several times! Who is wallpaper supposed to be?) I'll be more cautious about citing his hit rate.



January 15, 2005, 10:08 PM

I am sorry if I come off as a "badgering lawyer", Flatboy, but a lot of it has to do with trying to get clear on just what you are saying.

I did not repsond to what you said about whether he "tore apart" the Harari show because the quesions you asked and the quotes you gave were apparently from a part of the review you never put on the web, so I had no way to anwswer. What you did put on the web tore the show apart, pure and simple. You tell me I act like a lwyer but when you make these kinds of errors i have no choice.

You have, on this page, said over and over again that Greenberg's eye was faulty or worse. I don't want to make a list. You tried to demonstrate this with the Harari example, and I wrote a long response in which I did my best to convey my opinion that the review of Harari was not only accurate but very perceptive. You may disagree, but I think if you want to make these blanket statements you have to give me a couple of examples to back it up, not "proof", of course, but something I can see as reasonable, like the Stamos example I gave you, something beyond just the matter of being over-generous, which I really do not see as being "wrong", especially when he was simply reviewing these people, not picking them as examplars of the best in modern painting.

I agree about most post-70s art. In fact a friend suggested that there is a case to be made that fresh new art, by younger artists, pretty much gave out after 1970, just like it did in Paris after WW2.

The best way to deal with complex stuff like this is one thing at a time and keep everything as specific and accurate as possible. That way i don't have to lawyer at you.



January 15, 2005, 10:34 PM

the quotes you gave were apparently from a part of the review you never put on the web

Sorry oldpro, I thought you would have the book since you admire Greenberg so whole heartedly. I'm not up to typing in the whole thing.

The book is a good one and I recommend it to you. I found my copy at a used book store, same place I found a Rosenberg book "The Tradition of the New", also good. And I got the fourth volume in the O'Brian series at the same time, but not the third Catfish recommends. I'd like to find both the missing volumes - on the cheap, of course.

Regarding the rest, I don't have that much more to say. You go your way and I'll go mine. I'll only add that my reading of the passage I did quote was that the "negatives" were examples of Harari's actual "sinning". In other words, Greenberg praised him for violating those "laws of pleasurable vision" that cry out for violating every now and then. My own take, which seems opposed to Greenberg's, is that the violation was unsuccessful. In any case, sinning can be good but not always.



January 15, 2005, 10:47 PM

OK, Flatboy. Keep on posting. You seem to be one of the few that likes to dig into the good stuff.

I have to go get a haircut anyway.

I have the first 2 volumes and a note on my neglected "to do" list to get the other 2. Definitely get "Art & Culture", that's the basic one. Still in print, I think.

Go to for cheap books. They're the best. Everything is listed in order of price.



January 16, 2005, 12:55 AM

This is an interesting discussion. I'm convinced that even the very best critics are fallible, no matter how good their intentions. It's always been that way. Ruskin, arguably the Greenberg of 19th century England, was a classic example. That is why everyone should learn to function as a critic, which includes "reviewing" the official critics, not to mention theorists, curators, and any and all perceived authority figures in the art world.

I have absolutely no qualms about disagreeing with absolutely anybody, just as I have no problem rejecting or dismissing whatever I deem unacceptable. I don't need anybody's approval or permission. The experience of art, for me, is ultimately personal, and the only person in question is me, as the only other party in the relationship is the art.



January 16, 2005, 6:11 PM

I found Claudia's work riviting and inspired. I believe that the lack of background actually brings emphasis to the figures, that would be completely lost if a background was added. The "Lost" figures (in the third image from the top) would not have the impact that they do if you had a Miami street corner behind them.

As for Kerry Wares pieces, I cannot see what it is that he is trying to convey, or if he is trying to convey anything at all (which is totally acceptable). The dowel work is distracting and seems to me, to take away from his wonderful use of less saturated colors with the emphasis on contrast with the darker greens. The series seems to work together, but when viewed as shown above, I am unsure if these works would stand on their own. I also find it ironic that the discussion has veered from the works produced to a debate about one of Kerrys inspiration: Greenberg.



January 16, 2005, 6:53 PM

Things veer off all the time, Burnsey. That's the nature of an open discussion.



January 16, 2005, 8:26 PM

Yes, oldpro, things do seem to veer off all the time, on all the blogs I participate in. I was remarking, however on the ironic twist (at least to me) of how the conversation turned to one of Kerry's "inspirations" on a section discussing his work. I think he would be happy with that connection. I was NOT commenting on the veering off, as I have no problem with free flowwing discussion.



January 16, 2005, 8:42 PM


I figured out when I was seven to keep an eye on what the older kids were up to and take my cues from them. It is a policy that has always served me well.


I am ashamed to admit that I know very little about Clement Greenburg. After reading the postings from Oldpro and Flatboy, I see I may have to make a visit to

What I am really intrigued about is this business about a "black hole" in the 70's. Are you guys saying that everything since then is crap? (pardon my french) Mind you, I may not necessarily disagree. I'd like to hear some more "testimony" on this one.

My university education was heavy on the Modernism, to the point where the history of art seemed to come to a sudden halt around 1960. I have since been attempting to learn as much as I can about post-60's art but there is a lot of it to sift through. Then there's Postmodernism....



January 16, 2005, 9:26 PM

Sophie: I have a friend who is doing a major show of abstract painting that concentrates on color, and he mentioned to me that he thought that, while a lot of good art has been made since 1970, most of it was made by artists who matured before then, and it seemed to him that virtually no artist who has come to the fore since then has done work which is much good, at least not really, really good.

Of course this is an extreme and very minority (and anti-market) opinion, but I think he's got something. Talent seems to have been hijacked by academic postmodernism, which in my opinion is death for art. I was interested that Flatboy, whoever he is, and for whatever reasons, came up with a similar conclusion.

(I don't expect much agreement, everyone, so save your tirades!)



January 16, 2005, 9:46 PM


I couldn't agree with you more in regards to the educational issues. My school is big on promoting commercialism instead of promoting artistic integrity. But they would never admit it. Makes it difficult for some of the instructors because there is an inherent conflict. I recall from my younger days that Art was about creation and self expression, but now I see it being marketed as a way to make a fast buck. Whereas I hope my work eventually sells, I will not create it just to have it do so. May not make me a great artist, but will at least allow me to sleep at night, or in the afternoon, which I am about to do...


that guy in the back row

January 16, 2005, 9:52 PM

Good point Burnsey. The good stuff usually sifts to the top. It may take a few decades of hard work but that never stopped the real artists.



January 16, 2005, 10:08 PM

Guy: Float to the top?

Burnsey: It is regrettable that so much art instruction is so highly geared to commerce, but at least that is real.

What drives me nuts is how seriously they take this pomo drivel, which sells nothing but an inflated CV for acadmic promotion.


that guy in the back row

January 16, 2005, 10:14 PM

I'm a word smith what can I say.



January 16, 2005, 10:14 PM

And, as i should have added, that "inherent conflict" you mention, which everyone feels to some degree, is really the "subtext" of most of the discussion on this blog and probably on may others. It seems to be the primary external problem of our profession



January 16, 2005, 10:45 PM


How in the world is it considered real, the art instruction being geared to commerce? If I was studying graphic design or advertising I could see that being the case. But the study of Fine Arts should not be geared to commercial aspirations. CRAFT-yes. Concept-Yes. Creativity-YES. Commercialism-NEVER.

There are the carrer options as stated above for that. I would assume that that is the reason there are degrees offered in Graphic Design and Advertising, so that those who wish to whore out their art can do so under the guise of "design". I am studying FINE ARTS, not commercialism of the mediums.



January 16, 2005, 11:38 PM

Right on, Burnsey! it is good to hear a "real" opinion.

I meant real purely in the basic sense of real - realistic, tangible, substantial - as opposed to the blather of Postmodernism, which seems to exist solely so that its graduates can go get teaching jobs and transmit the disease to others. I certainly agree that the teaching of art should be devoted to the craft and the ideals brought down to us by the tradition.



January 17, 2005, 5:46 AM

Sophie said: What I am really intrigued about is this business about a "black hole" in the 70's. Are you guys saying that everything since then is crap?

I'm not saying it is all crap, not at all. Modernism did not fade, it disappeared with a vengeance. Wham, it ran into a wall that swallowed it. You have Picasso, Matisse, Mondrain, Pollock, Rothko, Frankenthaler, and then what? BAM! Warhol, Baldesarri, Kosuth, Koons, and the like. The first group can be traced back to the Renaissance. The second group just appears from off the sidelines, if not from pure nowhere. Nominally, they are "avant-garde" but when you look at them, they have nothing in common with Picasso or Matisse or Pollock.

MOMA is by nature friendly to "contemporaneousness". When I walk through, though, I find that not all contemporaneousness is the same. The 70s were the black hole into which modernism disappeared and what replaced it was disconnected in a very pure sense. It is anomalous. There is continuity you can easily feel, from the beginnings of their collection to 1970 or thereabouts, then it all just starts over. Contemporaneousness is ordinarily the present aspect of a continuum, but MOMA's collection cut off its past in the 70s, and serves only the future end of the continuum. And that's different than any other contermporaneousness in the past many centuries of art. It makes me suspicious, too, even as I find it exciting. It is not crap, but it may not be art with a capital A. Or it may just be the end of the Renaissance. Or, if you're real negative, the end of Art.

oldpro and others: postmodernism exists because nothing is forever. Modernism came up for exactly the same reason. Postmodernism is not the enemy, even if it makes no sense to you. Look at what Mondrian did with the most ridiculous theory any urban artist ever proffered: the right angle will lead everyone to the "truth". I am a protractor and therefore I am the way and the light. Very quaint and laughable. But his art is Art.

You can have any theory of art that lights your fire. What you have to fight is letting the fire go out.



January 17, 2005, 5:49 AM

oldpro said: "...the blather of Postmodernism, which seems to exist solely so that its graduates can go get teaching jobs..."

I wish I could believe that. There are hundreds of postmodern newly graduated MFAs for every teaching job. At max, only one of us can have it.



January 17, 2005, 6:16 AM

Sophie, I've been looking over my response and think maybe I can simplify it.

I was not making an aesthetic judgement about postmodernism. I was simply saying modernism flat died, and died in a way that is very different from the way most movements in art die. There is usually overlap and some kind of easing into one as the other is eased out of.

Make no mistake about it. Modernism is kaput. But that is not a judgement about what followed. Perhaps we need to learn to love post-art art, but we just have not succeeded yet. Even its proponents don't know how to love it. Even though they defend it, their defense is usually without feeling. If we are going to love it we must first feel it.



January 17, 2005, 7:09 AM


Whoa. I'm pretty sure most graphic designers don't consider their work to be "fine art". Your comment " that those who wish to whore out their art can do so under the guise of "design", was just rude. Your purist high horse sensibilities about "Fine Art" and commercialism are certainly well meaning, I'm sure, but let's not be confusing Ferraris with refrigerators.


You are saying that talent has been hijacked by academic postmodernism. I agree that postmodernism is a "black hole" in and of itself. I think that postmodernism should really be called anti-modernism. It seems to me though, that there must me more to it than that. There are still lots of "Oldpros" around encouraging young artists to develop their talent in spite of the "death of the author".

As for commercialism, are you (and the others) saying that there wasn't any problem with this in the schools or the art world before the '70's? Surely this inherent conflict must have existed before the '70's.

Honestly, when it comes to being successful in the art world, money is the driving force. Galleries and dealers are not in the business for such noble selfless reasons as the sanctity of the art.

I am not saying that it's acceptable as a fine artist to be waking up in the morning, sticking a wet finger to the wind and then painting accordingly. My most successful paintings have been the ones that I thought everybody would hate. I did them anyway, "for me". I am still surprised at the successfulness of some of them. My point is that even to TRY to make "Fine Art that will sell" is stupid and impossible. I really believe that most serious fine artists know this as well.

Therefore, I have a hard time believing that commercialism could be a plausible reason for the supposed lack of talent that we have been discussing.

It seems to me that the more likely scenario here is that the really talented artists are not getting the critical support they need from the galleries and dealers who are under the spell of postmodernism. It's not that there is no talent, it's that the talent is being neglected and ignored!



January 17, 2005, 7:14 AM

Oh wow. I spent some time writing my last posting and during that time Flatboy wrote several postings that I was unaware of. The last one I ready was Oldpro's #94!!

I shall now read his postings and hope that what I wrote does not now sound really stupid.

I am new at this. Next time I'll be checking for new postings before I "hit the button"!



January 17, 2005, 7:24 AM

One of my professors loves to tell me that "you can't do anything new; if you think you've come up with something new, forget it, someone has already done it."

Is that a postmodernist thing? I must say it is very disheartening. Art history shows a clear progression from one point to the next. How is one to participate in the long tradition if it may have already been exhausted? Is it possible that this notion is somehow connected to the Black Hole of the '70's?


that guy in the back row

January 17, 2005, 7:32 AM

Sophie and flatboy. Both of you made some really acute observations. The market loves post modernism because there is a lot more of it and it is easier to sell than waiting around for the next Matisse. (supply and demand...) And Sophie is right when she says there is a lack of critical framework around to acknowledge a great artist should one arise. Its likely that blogs like this are in a much better position to ferret out local talent and seize onto the great ones when they surface because they serve art only and not boards of institutions and advertisers. Go Franklin go artblog!


that guy in the back row

January 17, 2005, 7:37 AM

oh and Sophie, any professor who tells you that is likely a very washed up academic that is telling you what he wish were the truth not anything that will help you become an artist. Trust yourself and your eyes and the eyes of people you trust. The others can wallow in their own mediocrity. Try the audio and plain text areas of for more encouraging words.



January 17, 2005, 9:47 AM

Franklin: I think we are approaching a record blog, almost as long as the one last summer when everyone was fighting over everything and all of them were pissed off at me. I remember it fondly.

"The black hole of the 70s". That seems to be our theme. I don't want to take issue with flatboy because he is making some sharp points and i don't disagree in general anyway, and if i did we would probably get into infinite wrangling like we did with the Greenberg discussion and, my God, its 1:45 AM.

I will say however, Flatboy, that modernism, or maybe it would be better to say "good serious abstract painting" did not go WHAM KAPUT quite as absolutely as you say it did, and I would caution you to give things a little more time to get clear. We are in a peculiar time right now (I don't mean 1:45 AM, but that, too) and i have a very strong sense of how it will look in retrospect in ten years, and it isn't what you think. I am not up to supporting this claim at the moment. Maybe tomorrow. Just remember, things can die as abruptly as they spring to life.

No, Postmodernism is not the enemy; I actually like the original pomo ideas. It is the misuse to which they have been put, and the people who have done it. That is the enemy. That and bad art.

You are right about the job. Good lucK!

Hold on, Sophie, I did not say there was no commercialism before the '70s or that it is not a problem, only that it is "real". Please understand that only meant what I explained that it meant above. it is only a problem with a serious artist when it interferes with your work. If you paint a good picture, there is nothing wrong with selling it or doing what you can to try to sell it. That would be silly.

Also, please understand that why there is a lot of great art at one time and very little at another is complex and mysterious. It seems self-evident that talent must be available at a constant rate, so the change must be in the environment. I think there is a lot of evidence to support this, but again, I got to cop out for now. Just take my word for it, it is not a simple matter and by the same token it is a very interesting one. Think about it: What would Mozart have ended up doing if he had been born in 1956 instead of 1756?

Hey, i think we have enough material on this page alone to start a half dozen doctoral dissertations!

But I got to hit the sack.



January 17, 2005, 4:45 PM

Sophie, you said:

Whoa. I'm pretty sure most graphic designers don't consider their work to be "fine art". Your comment " that those who wish to whore out their art can do so under the guise of "design", was just rude. Your purist high horse sensibilities about "Fine Art" and commercialism are certainly well meaning, I'm sure, but let's not be confusing Ferraris with refrigerators.

My response would be, that as a current student in a Fine Arts Major, that it would be you that would be off base. I speak to my fellow students in the different majors (Graphic Design and the like) who really have talent as artists, but have choosen (or have been pushed into) the pursuit of other fields "because that's where the money is". They are encouraged from an early age to pursue the dollar raher than pursue their given talents (that is not just in the art field but is a true societal problem). I am sorry that you find it rude for me to express a genuine opinion on Art and Education (I would hate to see what you thought if I really was RUDE), but since I am in the middle of both, I think I can see what is going on, at least in my school. It may not be the same in all other schools, but from what I read here and on other blogs it does seem to be the case.

There was a point in time where artists din't pursue a formal education to the extent that they do today, and artists were encouraged to create in order to satisfy their inner vision, and by doing so retaining their artistic integrity, and by doing both of those things finding some success.

I am unsure as to your age and when you were last in a classroom (as a student), but being in one every day and hearing the constant blathering of how to make a buck, and not how to make an integral piece of art, is a big problem. I see all the talk here about the concerns of where "art" is headed and I say to look to the classrooms to see why it is headed in the direction it is.

I'm not saying that there isn't a need for Graphic Artists and Designers, but that the educational process for Fine Arts Programs should not be geared strictly to the attainment of money. Many current programs are geared to the dollar and not to the work. That is not to say that as artists we shouldn't try to market our work. But that should be secondary to the creation of honest work, without the influence of commercialism. I say keep that aspect out of the Studio classes and keep it in the marketing class where it belongs. I am also unsure as to why a "Purist" sensibility is always decried as being on a high horse? Read Greenberg and some of the others quoted here and look to Kerry's work, it is purist in nature. But then again, holding to our ideals always seems to make people think you are on a high horse. One humans Refrigerator is another human's Ferrari....



January 17, 2005, 5:23 PM

Being on a high horse may make you a better target, Burnsey, and there is a certain amount of pain and suffering which always goes along with artistic integrity, but it does have its advantages.

First of all, in most instances where one is in an art-making business that is directly commercial, talent and creativity actually pay off pretty consistently.

Then, if you are in an art-making activity which is devoted to "satisfying your inner vision" you may be frustrated by by seeing the fashionably mediocre and hearing the righteous apologists for it, but talent and creativity still have a good chance to pay off, and even if they don't you are doing what you like and you are square with yourself.

Things have a way of working out, and, believe it or not hard work and making sensible choices helps here just like anywhere else. You don't have to apoligise for what you do and how you do it, and you don't have to wake up at 40 or 50 and say "Why didn't I do what i wanted to do". I have seen and heard this. It is tragic.

And, finally, doing what you want to do and doing it right is just plain more fun. It sounds corny, but we have one life. Why toss it away? I remember talking to a friend at a college reunion, whom I admit is a whole lot richer than I am, who said with great eagerness "pretty soon I can retire and paint and write and do what i want" and all I could think as I mumbled some polite response was, well, that's what I said when I was in my senior year of college.



January 17, 2005, 5:30 PM

Caution is often unnatural for me. There are plenty of cautious people around; they can be the balance to my check mark.

Oldpro, last time I looked at MOMA, good serious abstract painting that could be associated with the 70s was damn scarce. They may have added a Richter since then, or some other, but those would be exceptions. And Richter, old as he is, seems more of a 00s artist. And so forth.

Art history, as a discipline and a practice, is based on what museums decide to keep. Art historians take what those guys give them. I can't criticize them for that, either. They are historians who happen to be interested in art.



January 17, 2005, 5:31 PM

Sophie: No professor should say everything has already been done, not because it is wrong (which it is) but because it is discouraging and because the emphasis is misplaced. it certainly is a sign that the professor didn't come up with anything new in any event.

"Newness" is not an aim in art, Duchamp notwithstandting (he said, famously, "make it new"). The aim is to make your art better. "Newness", or what passes for newness, is a byproduct of that effort.



January 17, 2005, 5:40 PM

Flatboy: Keep up the incaution. You indicate you are student, and caution is unbecoming in a young artist.

The reason that you didn't not see good new abstract painting at MoMA was not because it is not being done but because they are not putting it in the museum. And whatever you think of Richter (he is very low on my scale) his so-called "abstract" work is hideous, and only supported by the very thin mannerism of "appropriation".

There is genuine good stuff out there. It's just out of favor right now.



January 17, 2005, 5:42 PM

I'm, sorry. Maybe i am not awake yet. I mean to address that to Flatboy and I signed it Flatboy. I better get some coffee.



January 17, 2005, 5:48 PM

Greenberg admired the "new" in art, as when he wrote about Steig and the cartoon as a "new genre". (Grenberg sounds very "now" when he says stuff like that, BTW.) There is always Hogarth, though, to make me wonder why Greenberg would make such a point. (Maybe HOgarth was too good a drawer to count as a cartoonist.)



January 17, 2005, 6:05 PM

Yes, #108 was not written by me. But I will heed its advice and continue to be incautious. I can't help myself anyway.

If there is "good new abstract painting" "being done" it had better get into the museums fast.

Richter has more feeling for "appropriation", which is a theory, than he has for what he does with it, which is where the rubber hits the road in art. That is a problem for postmodernism in general, everyone loves the theory, but looks at the results as simply something that has to be there in order to continue loving the theory. "Post art art" is abundant but the passion for it is very weak compared to the passion for the theories that surround it. Pollock and dekooning and Rosenberg had their arguments about theory, as far as I can tell, but that was nothing compared to their arguments about actual works of art. For postmodernism, any old art work will do, as long as it can serve as a stand-in for the ideas everyone more or less agrees are the right ideas. Come to think of it, there isn't that much disagreement over what the right ideas are, either.

To Sophie I respond, the difference between postmodernism and anti-modernism isn't great. Either way, it is what replaced modernism and that's the fact. However, postmodernism itself is now ripe for replacement. NOthing is forever.



January 17, 2005, 7:10 PM

Flatboy -

Aside from being in too much of a hurry (I remember being in too much of a hurry) what you have said in your central paragraph above is very well said. Imagine bringing up "passion"!

Huh... whazzat?

You're not giving me anything to quarrel with, dammit!



January 17, 2005, 8:03 PM

Well, Flatboy, for what it's worth, whatever I perceive as anti-Art, post-Art art or just plain bad art is automatically disqualified and rejected. What others think of it is their business and not my concern. To my mind, such work is fraudulent, superfluous or defective, and I owe it and its proponents nothing, because they have nothing to do with my interest in art. They are simply beside the point. I'm utterly unmoved, for instance, by how many and which people worship at Duchamp's porcelain altar, so to speak. Let them. It's entirely their affair, not mine.

Unfortunately, many people in the art game with money and/or influence not only seek but crave validation by the ruling establishment, and will go to great lengths to get it. They are deeply concerned with image, status and clout in certain circles, however insular, and act accordingly and predictably. They MUST be "with it," or better yet, appear to be those who determine what "it" is. It makes little difference if "it" is spurious and/or noxious, as long as it gets them what they want. Art as such is not the issue, but rather how it can be used to serve other purposes.

So if museums and other presumed fonts of wisdom and discernment (which is not a given but a questionable supposition, and I reserve the right to question it as I see fit) fall short or fail, it's their fault and their problem, and I don't have to make it mine (even if, to an extent, such failure is unavoidably harmful even to those not responsible). It's hard to fathom why so many cede so much autonomy and self-determination to all manner of extraneous "authority." What difference do "experts" make? Is it about them and their issues, or about one and the art? To hell with them, unless they offer something of use, benefit and sense.

I expect some would find me autocratic, arrogant, or that all-purpose slur, "fascist." I regret to inform them that their approval is not my reason for living, and most assuredly not my reason for being into art. It's not so much about my specific personal take on a given art question, but about whether or not I'm honest and true to myself. If I am not myself, then I'm a phony, and a phony art lover is akin to a phony priest--if nothing else, such a person is clearly in the wrong field.



January 17, 2005, 9:00 PM

Jack: I expect some would find me autocratic, arrogant, or that all-purpose slur, "fascist."

No, Jack. I don't find you to be any of those things. You are quite passionate and I admire that. But I suspect you are not an artist, either. Artists, including postmodern artists, who do not buy Duchamp still worry about the accolades he continues to receive. You don't buy into him, that's clear, but you also don't feel any threat from him. Good for you. I can't be quite so happy about it, despite sometimes I like what Duchamp did for aesthetics. And his urinal is damn funny. There is a lot more posturing going on about it than say, "Guernica", which is straight art with a capital A. I have to admire Duchamp for that. LIttle a art has its moments.



January 17, 2005, 9:08 PM

Instead of saying "I can't be quite so happy about it," in #114 I should have said, "I'm not can't be quite so detached from it". Duchamp bothers me, but he had something to say that his time needed to hear. And I am listening here a century later, too. On the other hand, the urinal is random. Without Duchamp's reputation, I would not pay any attention to it. Sophomoric is a good word to describe it.



January 17, 2005, 9:25 PM

"Artists, including postmodern artists, who do not buy Duchamp still worry about the accolades he continues to receive"

I don't quite get this. Flatboy. I thought Duchamp was the great pomo hero.

Jack is a type specimen of an art lover who only goes to art to get something out of it case by case. There should be more Jacks inthe world who look that hard, but then, he probably couldnt care less about that either. Those of us who make art and write about it worry more about the other stuff.

Duchamp did the urinal and the other things as a somewhat hostile joke. I was told (by Jack, if I remember correctly) that he was interviewed in 1946 and said something to the effect that he never thought the stuff amounted to anything else anyway. Duchamop is beside the point, merely a minor artist who has been used to justify a lot of bad art.

There is posturing going on about Guernica, too, although of a diffrent kind. it is a big picture with a capital "B" and "important" and Iconic" with a capital "I" but not, in my estimation, art with a capital "A". If you want that from Picasso go look at the Cubist paintings ca, 1910/13. Picasso never could painti a big picture and get it right. It was not in his nature.



January 17, 2005, 9:41 PM

Looks like oldpro has found something to quarrel about. Great.

Duchamp could have made his point with a shoe instead of the urinal. So what? He told us any silly thing can be taken seriously if you take it seriously enough. What oldpro and/or Jack add to that underlines that Duchamp knew what he was doing. I think Duchamp must have been a fan of Chaucer. He created an "Artist's Tale" that has lasted a century and still counting.

But he is no hero for a studio artist. He did silly things because silly things were necessary to say what he had to say. He is not beside the point when so many still listen.

Picasso was different, a pure studio artist. "Guernica" re-lit his fire, which had diminshed somewhat by the time he did it. It is big, kinky, and a great piece of political art that ressurected Picasso's studio life. It was passionate painting and passionate politics.



January 17, 2005, 9:43 PM

No, Flatboy, I'm not an artist, and admittedly that gives me the luxury or freedom to tell anybody in the art world s/he's full of it if I so deem it. That's why I'm one of very few on this blog who dare to say harsh things about the powers-that-be in the local art scene. There's a lot of PC and CYA pressure on a lot of people to keep their mouths shut, play along or flat-out dissemble to avoid trouble and/or garner favor. I understand that, particularly when it involves vulnerable artists. I don't like it, but I know there's a game to be played, at least to some extent. That doesn't excuse prostitution, but I'm not unacquainted with reality.

As for the damn urinal and its cohorts, I agree there's humor involved, as we're talking about a practical joke of sorts perpetrated by a clever cynic as deliberate provocation: "I threw the bottle rack and the urinal in their faces as a challenge, and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty" (Duchamp, 1946). He did not say that approvingly but rather contemptuously, yet the adoration continues still. As I said, let it. It's got nothing to do with me or my relationship with art.



January 17, 2005, 9:53 PM

Here's the quote from Jack, which includes the Duchamp quote:

" 'I threw the bottle rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge, and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.' (Duchamp, 1946; he did not say it in an approving sort of way). Even he wouldn't respect these clowns who worship at the porcelain altar."

He did not tell us we could take any old thing seriously, but what he did certainly demonstrated that we will take any old thing seriously if it suits us. Saying "He did silly things because silly things were necessary to say what he had to say." is really strraining the point.

Guernica is passionate but it is a failed painting. This my opinion and that of some others, and it is not really something that can be settled (although I know of at least one account that settled it for me). Picasso had gone off long since and never revived, not in painting, anyway.



January 17, 2005, 10:00 PM

I really like "porcelain altar". I'll use it and cite Jack on this blog as its source. Thanks.



January 17, 2005, 10:03 PM

I think we take any old thing seriously because all of us are susceptible to such activites. But viewed "objectively", both the urinal and some old shoes have good curves. They look good, in a little "a" way.



January 17, 2005, 10:27 PM

Flatboy: almost any design that has been well evolved for a specific use has esthetic appeal. It is not Duchamp nor the urinal nor even Postmodernism that is the problem, it is the misuse to which they are put. As you put it, the "posturing".

Yes, I like "porcelain altar" too.



January 18, 2005, 1:53 AM

Hey, Oldpro. What is your take on Irving Sandler vs. Greenberg?



January 18, 2005, 1:56 AM

Are you serious? How would you even begin to compare them?



January 18, 2005, 2:43 AM

Not really comparing I guess. Reading through his new book gives another opinion/perspective on Greenberg besides yours.



January 18, 2005, 5:07 AM

Whose book, Sandler's? What perspective?



January 18, 2005, 6:00 AM

Yes. Sandler's book : " Conceiving of formalist art as the legitimate continuation of the historic mainstream of high modernist art, young history -minded critics could be both proper academics and on the cutting edge of art. They put their extensive academic training in the service of the formalist art of their own generation. It became a cause, a crusade. They were so sure about the significance of formalist art that they wrote about it as if no other art existed. "



January 18, 2005, 6:41 AM


My apologies, I should have been more specific about my complaint. Communicating in writing is so much harder than in person. There is no inflection and meanings can so easily be misread. I don't consider "high horse" to be an insult. Unfortunately, our culture does.

Anyway, it was your use of the word whore that seemed very inappropriate (rude) to me. There are lots of people who have artistic talent and skills. I think only a small percentage of those people actually have that special something that will lead to their success as a fine artist. When someone tells me that they are going into graphic design (or art ed) because that is where the money is, my conclusion is that they know they don't have that special something. In my book, that doesn't qualify them as an art whore. Jack's first paragraph in #118 was a much better estimation of what it means to "whore your art".

I am an MFA candidate and I'm about fifteen years older than most of my fellow grad students. I do consider myself a high horse purist fine artist. I've very serious and I'm very talented. I've spent a lot of time out in the real world and while the term "starving artist" may seem so romantic, it is simply not practical. If Leo Castelli is not knocking on your door and you need to pay the bills, commercial art suddenly looks really good compared to the night shift at the 7-11. (This should help to further explain my sensitivity to your use of the word whore.)

As to the atmosphere of commercialism at your school; that has definitely not been my experience at my school. All of my professors will tell you they teach "making art", not making money.

Thanks to all of you who have been answering my questions. This has been tremendously fun and informative for me. I love all the Duchamp stuff. I think that Guernica is overrated and the horse really creeps me out.



January 18, 2005, 7:27 AM


Good for you for taking yourself and your art seriously and for believing in your talent. And for getting creeped out by that horse.

If Leo knocks on your door you will really get creeped out. He's dead.


What's your point?



January 18, 2005, 5:21 PM

Well, that would be a problem!


Chad Harris

January 18, 2005, 7:15 PM

So, what about Postmodernism outside of art? TV shows like “The Swan” on FOX or these horrible franchised TGI-Fridays style fake restaurants that are everywhere. Nothing seems real, but rather an appropriation of the real thing. Aren’t people sick of this? Maybe they will be soon because, I think Postmodernism in art is going to end. What’s this about Critical Realism that I hear?

From the article: “We cannot manage without a concept of truth.”

It seems to me that Modernism was doomed because of innovation – now Postmodernism seems to be doing the same. Basel was very funny to me, full of people trying to one-up themselves with brilliance. All this talk of things being “done before” is crap, as expression is worth more than novelty. People have been taking pictures of their parents for a hundred years – should we stop? This seems to have evolved out of the “artist as genius” problem which creates a non-dialogue. Since nobody knows better than a genius, all the work is labeled as a genius and therefore loses its ability to be a tenuous, dangerous object that requires thought – it is made quaint.

Also people don’t think for themselves and only look to great minds to teach. How many people go to museums to only look at famous paintings? These paintings are no longer paintings, but IDEAS of paintings, shadows. Just like Modrian is now enshrined as a god. There are so many artists out there, the very famous are famous because of their marketing ability – not that there work is not great, it is; but, I think that we can find comfort in the fact that so much has been done before by unknown, unknowable people. Furthermore, this is all self-expression, and is not a sport or science so the word genius need not apply. I think Modernism, with it’s unquestionable invention and genius men created this problem of Postmodernism.

Does this make sense?



January 18, 2005, 9:22 PM

Makes sense to me, Chad. And thanks for the "we may need truth " link. I will definitely read it.

"These paintings are no longer paintings, but IDEAS of paintings, shadows" is very good.

Modernism definitely brought Postmodernism upon itself, just like the little wine-making bacteria that kill themselves turning sugar into alcohol. Anything that has innovation as a premise endangers itself. Modernism expended conventions, such as illusionistic space; Postmodernism decided to to continue this and expended the convention (if it is a convention) of esthetic value and call itself "Post". A lot of people - like me - think that was one convention too much.

Now that pomo has been in force for ageneration there are all kinds of rumblings that it is over. Let's just hope the next big thing is more fruitful and less destructive.

An "Ism" needs to be judged not by its "rightness" but by its yeild, by what is produced in its name.


Chad Harris

January 18, 2005, 10:17 PM

Then again, throughout all this, the avant-garde (whatever the hell that means) has got a bad rap and is now a jokey elitist token in the mainstream art world. I am an advocate of some art that would probably not even be talked about on this site, and I am trying to co-exist with modernists and conservatives. I really think there is usefulness in an unorthodox way of thinking, in being uncompromising, and in not limiting expression to approximation or mediums – in the great experiment – in being uncomfortable.

In other words, I do not completely agree with this statement: “Anything that has innovation as a premise endangers itself.” I am a believer in ideas and expression, in abstract expressionist painting or Fluxous mail art or experimental music or whatever – innovation being a part of this. Also, endangers itself from what? Reverence?


Chad Harris

January 18, 2005, 10:22 PM

Also, postmodernism is dangerous because it strips thing of context and reality, not because it produces weird results. I guess there is nothing wrong with making a very postmodern mix cd of depression era folk music, MTV darlings and Indonesian gamelan - but there may be something wrong with forgeting the history of these things and thinking of them only as sound that is interconnected by sound relationships. There is no way the world is that charmed and simple.


that guy in the back row

January 18, 2005, 10:24 PM

One analogy that might fit here can be taken from biology. Forrest fires serve a valuable function, in fact some seeds can only germinate when a certain temperature is met. When the old growth burns away leaving chard hillsides (being referred to as 1970s in the art-world). Saplings with enough energy from their forefathers break the surface and populate the slopes once again, hence born out of tradition. If we view postmodern art as an aggressive invasive species that spreads everywhere and often blocks out the light and sucks the water needed for the native species, the oaks and maples still survive, just not as well. On balance however, the natives overcome these obstacles, because, invasive species, although a threat, rarely spread quick enough. Since the advent of the internet the stuff spreads pretty quickly however.


Chad Harris

January 18, 2005, 10:45 PM

Postmodernism theory, as far as I understand it, is very far reaching. Even this discussion is postmodern as it contains dissenting views on postmodernism!


that guy in the back row

January 18, 2005, 10:53 PM

so far as I can tell you guys are using and liner logic and phrases that make sense. Nothing pomo about it.



January 18, 2005, 11:04 PM

"Chard" is a vegetable, Guy. (Sorry, I can't help myself). And isn't Kudzu a fast-growing invasive species?

Well I hope we are making sense. And, as you say, nothing pomo about that.

Modernism endangered itself because its premise is self-destructive, Chad. Modernism emphasized reworking and reinventing based on the art of the past and the elimination of conventions that were not needed by the medium. By encouraging change it intrinsically encouraged movement beyond its original forms and procedures, to the point that something evolved which, although it is, in fact, "late Modernism" - because it continues the evolutionary path Modernism set - is different enough to represent itself as something separate: "Postmodernism". The ideas of Postmodernism have been corrupted and misused in the practical sphere to such an extent that there is now a strong and growing reaction against it in turn. And so it goes...

What art is it that you are an advocate for that would not be talked about on this site? Sounds interesting.


Chad Harris

January 18, 2005, 11:46 PM

Things I'm paying attention to now are Ward Shelley, Joshua Mosley, WIlliam Pope L., Bob Ostertag, and Andrea Zittel. Here are links respectively, some of which are the best I could find:


that guy in the back row

January 19, 2005, 12:13 AM

now we must be getting close to a record oldpro. and yes I meant charred. As in the charr which ate the chard in now charred on my grill.



January 19, 2005, 12:38 AM

I keep mentioning to Franklin that we must be at a record, but I don't knoiw if he still has a record of last summer's marathon.

Chad: These would be hard to discuss here, as you said, because most of them seem to be film or installation - "projects", as they seem to always be called. We need to advance on the internet enough to be able to just press a button and see animation and movies immediately without all the complications, which so far have defeated me.

From what I saw the Zittle looked dopey, a waste of time, really, and Pope just looks like a guy trying to get attention with silly ideas. Mosely looks like he is working out some interesting stuff, and I really like that opening photo of the tiny man with the giant foot - not as "art" so much but as a weird picture idea.


Chad Harris

January 19, 2005, 12:50 AM

Wow, very quickly dismissive of other artist's work. These people aren't kids you know. I shouldn't bother anyway, you had your mind made up before you saw or read anything.



January 19, 2005, 4:21 AM

C'mon, Chad. Don't start that kind of thing. I looked very quickly to be sure, and what i gave was just an impression. The ones I "dismissed" had enough information to allow be to dismiss them in good conscience, and the others, as I said, were too complicated to evaluate, which I also elaborated on somewhat. They were not in any way "dismissed". This was a cursory evaluation bit not at all one where I had "made up my mind". You have no evidence for that so don't say it.



January 19, 2005, 5:41 AM

I won't dismiss your fave artists either, Chad. However, much as I respect Duchamp, your fav five help illustrate what I said earlier about mistaking Duchamp for a studio artist. He had a lot to say and said it in a way that, if not durable, has lingered for a damn long time. But he was not a studio artist, except very early on. Nor was he a "conceptual" artist - the term had not been invented yet. He left studioizing behind to do what he did.

In fact, "conceptual art" is based on misunderstanding Duchamp's rather noble denial of the studio, instead making over what he did as if it were studio art. All five of your faves seem like Duchamp descendants who went back into the studio and tried to make the wonderfully ephemeral contraption Duchamp gave us work as capital A art. Especially when William Pope L finds no one will make his piece so he declares it conceptual art and seems happy about it. Yikes, for a real studio artist, not being able to make the work is DEFEAT. WPL regards it as icing on the cake.

All five show, to some degree or another, that if you take anything seriously enough, you can take it seriously. They just don't add anything to that proposition. Nor are they very interesting. I get lost in the sea of trivial details piled on more details. Too much. I can't pay attention. None of them know how to put on the show. Duchamp was lean and mean, got his point across and got out. Those who came later did all the posturing for him. These five seem to be among those who have accepted permanent posturing roles in the Artist's Tale, a story that has continued well beyond Duchamp's death, and for which he deserves full credit.



January 19, 2005, 6:29 AM

My theory, which belongs to me:

Good art has always used self-criticism.

Traditional artists used self-criticism to achieve the imitation of nature and good design, which many cultures thought to exist as two aspects of a single trait.

Modernist artists directed self-criticism at the process of art-making, discarding many of the assumptions of traditional artists and demonstrating that one could make good art without them.

Postmodernist artists directed self-criticism at the culture of art-making, discarding many of the assumptions of Modernist artists. Modernist artists had so few assumptions, however, that eliminating them removed the basis by which one might see art as good or not.

In the next phase, artists will direct self-criticism at self-criticism. Postmodernism, having arrived at baselessness, demonstrates by its excesses that some assumptions have value. Artists of the next phase will see worth in the conventions, because they will see them as having life.

We have indeed set a record for comments here, and I would note that in addition, the previous record-holding thread took a long detour through Stupidville. I applaud everyone's civility over the course of this conversation and hope that the author's recent efforts towards same encouraged at least some of it.



January 19, 2005, 6:53 AM

Franklin said: Modernist artists had so few assumptions, however, that eliminating them removed the basis by which one might see art as good or not.

If our assumptions are the basis for seeing art as good or not we are in trouble. Art does not proceed according to assumptions. Only theroy does that. Then you get into the ornithology issue.

In the next phase, artists will direct self-criticism at self-criticism. Could be. There is definitely going to be a next phase and it will be different than what we have now. Nothing is forever.



January 19, 2005, 6:53 AM

Flatboy said: "I get lost in a sea of trivial details piled on more details. Too much. I can't pay attention."

Well put. A lot of conceptual artists think I have an hour of so to attempt to comprehend their latest "exploration". My eyes glaze over.

Andrea Zittle's press release noted her desire to "break down the barriers between art and life." I think art is plenty.

William Pope.L, it seems to me, is more of a political activist/ideologue who uses art as his means of communicating his beliefs.

I am not anti-conceptualism. I just prefer conceptual art that is, as Flatboy said, "lean and mean." I saw a Gillian Wearing show in 2002 that was very sharp and to the point. Her work did not make me stand around and wait for an explanation.

Chad: You said "I am an advocate of some art that would probably not even be talked about on this site." Instead of "not even be talked about", maybe you should have said "approved of, embraced or appreciated."

Actually, I am now acquainted with a few more artists that I might not have otherwise discovered. That is why I am participating on this site. Thank you.



January 19, 2005, 6:59 AM

Sophie noted: Andrea Zittle's press release noted her desire to "break down the barriers between art and life."

According to Harold Rosenberg, the abstract expresionists already did that. And they did it in their studios, not through their press agents.



January 19, 2005, 7:19 AM

I've been looking over this mighty thread, and realize that I rank the conceptualists beneath studio artists, even if I like what a few of them do. (Terry Allen, for instance, does some great installations with stuffed crows. His installations and singing are more compelling than his straight art.) Neither the 20th nor the 21st century (so far) would have been what they are without Duchamp. But what he did can't sustain itself like studio art sustains itself. The next phase might drop conceptualism a notch or two or three. That would not bother me at all.


Chad Harris

January 19, 2005, 7:19 AM

Flatboy and all:
First of all, these are not my favorite artists, just ones I'm looking at right now. That being said, I do think they're wonderful. Secondly Ostertag is a musician and therefore can escape all this bullshit. (or can he???)

DUCHAMP? What does he have to do with this? God, this is so academic. Not to bring the man down, he's great, but what he did was something that was inevitable. All this constant referencing is irritating - and I understand that all things need a history, but how can one man own all of contempory art? You're throwing Duchamp around as if he were a brand name!

The problem with this line of thinking is that it's devoid of reason. You're making Duchamp into a totem god with unquestionable authority. Somehow all artists who work with Postmodernism (WE ALL DO) are Duchamp copy-cat wimps. Huh? They're totally different! We're totally different!

Also, people who you don't agree with have not accepted posturing roles and are sellouts. Come on, these sweeping judgements do not lend themselves well to intelligent dialogue. Also, with all your dissatisfaction you all are fighting the wrong enemies - you all should be against complacency and non-conviction, not weird, complicated art that you don't like. Right?

Also, what's this about Duchamp and how he "got his point across and got out" - What are we, passing on our seeds? Sometimes things take time. The most satisfying art to me is the very difficult - there's too much entertainment in our world anyhow. Too many easy answers. Things are way too comfortable.


Chad Harris

January 19, 2005, 7:37 AM

The abstract expressionists should have patented it. Right? They you'd have a case, Flatboy. I can't imagine what million dollars paintings have to do with my life anyway. Do people even use the word conceptualism anymore? This is some retro shit with Duchamp, abstract expressionists, conceptualists.

"And they did it in their studios, not through their press agents." Gimme a break. Did the ghost of some calloused white male genius painter compel you to say that, Flatboy? The world isn't full of phonies and crooks. .. and I understand what you're saying .. but, there's better targets!

Sophie, I do not understand this: "[Gillian Wearing's] work did not make me stand around and wait for an explanation." What explanation? If there was a concrete verbal equivalent to a piece of art, then why have the art? Art is not a puzzle to be solved. If it is, then I'm done with it!

This is fun.



January 19, 2005, 7:40 AM

how can one man own all of contempory art?You're throwing Duchamp around as if he were a brand name!

He owns a lot of it and he is a brand name. I'd like to be a brand name someday too.

Then Chad said: The problem with this line of thinking is that it's devoid of reason

Fortunately for me, art is devoid of reason too. (Elsewhere I've pointed out reason is a free floating structure, attached, apparently, to nothing.)

Sweeping judgments R us. Although, if I don't like art that is "too" complicated (or "too" simple), seems like I have not choice in the matter.

You are right Chad, boring art is difficult. Warhol proved that once upon a time. And once was enough. Another case of getting in and getting out real quick. Not quick enough in some cases -- Empire State Building -- but all you really need is to know about it. No need to suffer through it. Warhol, like Duchamp, made some great points. The moment for art that is difficult because it is boring has past. Long live Warhol.

Art is very much about passing the seed, whether it be sperm or egg.

I would like to think I touched you Chad. Did I?


Chad Harris

January 19, 2005, 7:58 AM

First of all, what is boring? Everything is too damn exciting. I don't get it. If something is not exciting, poke yourself in the eye, it may help, I don't know.

I'm not looking at art that I think is important, I look at art that affects me - like all of us, hopefully.

We're talking to each other and using reason so reason exists in this blogworld. Otherwise we couldn't be engaged in rousing dialogue.

... I meant passing the seed as a male as so much of the ideology of this site is very male in the classical sense. (right and wrong, good and bad, important and unimportant)

Duchamp is a brand name, yes, that is obvious. The question is why would you want to be one? Why should it matter?



January 19, 2005, 8:00 AM

Duchamp is a brand name, yes, that is obvious. The question is why would you want to be one? Why should it matter?

I want to matter.



January 19, 2005, 8:02 AM

I meant passing the seed as a male as so much of the ideology of this site is very male in the classical sense.

While I wish there were more, I sense a passing egg now and then.



January 19, 2005, 8:05 AM

Hey Flatboy, now you are starting things buzzing instead of me. Great! Now I can relax and watch other people wrangle.

But lighten up with Duchamop, for God's sake. He was a second-rate artist whio was pissed at what first-rate artist were doing and made a stupid hostile visual joke he himself did not take seriously which has encouraged ten thousand third-rate artists to make endless piles of fourth-rate art. It is just not the legacy of a master any way you slice it.

Franklin: Your comparison with our previous record-setting even is apt and encouraging. The overall level of discussion is 100% better.

Sophie: You are so right. Art is enough. And if I am getting tired of Duchamp I am getting absolutely fed up with "breaking down the barriers between art and life". Shall we have a "really really tired art cliche" contest? That's my entry.



January 19, 2005, 8:18 AM

Duchamp was competitive. He understood that the one posing the question can get an advantage, an advantage he needed, compared to Picasso. So he took it and today he has more presence in the studios of living artists than Picasso, the guy who "could not paint a big picture".

Oldpro, you are generous. I would not give Duchamp, as a studio artist, second rate status. I'm not given to exact rankings, but he is lower than that. His genius is to stay in everybody's face for a century and counting, despite being from the lower ranks. He is the leader of a great big pack that won't go away. And he's not even alive.

You are right, though, the art that follows Duchamp doesn't rise to his less than stellar level. He was the master of whatever it is, and whatever he passed on, seed, egg, male, female, didn't grow anything near as good as what he did. Maybe that's what he wanted, maybe that's all he could have, regardless.



January 19, 2005, 4:36 PM

Picasso's influence on art was much deeper and and more transforming but I agree it is now less immediately evident.



January 19, 2005, 5:48 PM


You so totally proved my point in your last paragraph #151. Andrea Zittle felt the need to write hundreds of words in an attempt to validate her project. After all, driving three trailers around the American southwest, (visiting the Biosphere!), parking them at SFMOMA and calling it Art does indeed require a "concrete verbal equivalent" in my humble opinion.

The same goes for William Pope.L. That guy is just waiting for someone to ask him for an explanation. Why must he waste food? What is the symbolism of letting the food rot? Why crawl 22 miles up Broadway? His father's vagina? That is soooo not art!

First rate Art must be able to stand on its own and require no explanation if it is to be sustainable. Flatboy: Sustainable is a great word.

Oldpro: I like your art cliche challenge. Here is my contribution, taken directly from Andrea Zittle's site: "[She] explored the relationship between..."

As for Duchamp: I can't disagree with what is being said, but I have always felt that his painting "Nude Descending a Staircase" was brilliant.



January 19, 2005, 7:07 PM

Yes, Sophie, Duchamp's "Nude" is a nice piece, derived from Cubism and especially Italian Futurism, neither of which he came up with.



January 19, 2005, 8:57 PM


"Explore" is one of the words on my "blue pencil" list for my writing class. A "blue pencil" word is one which has to be used with care because it usually indicates that artspeak is going on.

if a student uses "explore" I want to see "South Pole" or "jungle". If I see "issues" or "relationship" it will get a heavy blue pencil notation.

Sites like Zittle's are usually rich mother lodes of artspeak. Most Postmoiderist sites are.



January 19, 2005, 9:14 PM

So, let's kill postmodernism. If we succeed, what will we put in its place? Not modernism. It's dead too. Come on folks. What will it be?



January 19, 2005, 10:22 PM

Here's a suggestion Posted a few days ago by Academic Elephant:

From Small Typos Mighty Oaks Grow?

I have one word for you: Nomikerism. Don't know what it is? Then you might be an antinomikerist. Frightened? Read on.
In the course of a recent exchange with OldPro over on Artblog, I mistakenly typed "nomiker" instead of "moniker." OldPro rather liked the word, and I discovered that it is occasionally used, mistakenly or not, as a synonym for "name." It's not in my dictionary, but if you Google the term, all sorts of interesting things come up--typed, no doubt, by those as sloppy and hasty as I.
The point of our discussion was the re-emergence of what my group calls a "common sense" methodology. This approach is based on following the historical evidence wherever it may lead and judging the results on its own merits, rather than according to a preconceived notion of what it should be. It's closely related to contextualism, but we hope our historical rigor goes a little farther. I have had a number of recent conversations with colleagues (liberal and conservative--this seems to transcend political affiliation) that deplore the theory-driven scholarship of many of our "stars", whose conclusions seem to tell us more about the method they espouse than about the objects or events they study. While on the one hand it is deplorable--and laughable--that common sense has become an alternative methodology, we think it important that our approach be defined as different from the "theory for theory's sake" craze. So we were looking for a name and despite several interesting suggestions, struck out, possibly because most of the "ism"s trumpet the theory that is being imposed--and that is precisely what we do not want to do. I suggested "Nomikerism" as an appropriate tag--something stumbled upon that simply means "name" in the vulgar, or common, tongue. We concluded why not? It certainly leaves the avenues of pursuit wide open. Of course, the persistent and successful practice of Nomkerism is its best promotion, but having a name is also helpful, for when one's scholarship is questioned, one can take a page from the theorists' book and simply stare coolly at the attacker and reply, "You must be an Antinomikerist," and walk away. Nomikerists unite!



January 20, 2005, 4:32 AM

History is a grab bag. Pick and choose what you like, It doesn't matter what you call it.


Chad Harris

January 20, 2005, 9:46 PM

Sophie, I probably missed my chance to add more to this disscussion because I wasn't around yesterday, however, I should have been more specific about what I like about Zittle; that being the chicken piece. She tried to breed flying chickens. It's a funny, wonderful, beautiful, meaningful thing to do. All these tie-ins to museums and corporations are lame, yes, as is art speaky-ness. Most of my posts around here are about how the art world is a waste, and we shouldn't care about it. So, sure, I agree with you in a lot of ways, and am no way in love with Zittle - just that one piece.

Also Sophie labeling things as "art" and "not-art" is a waste of time. There are more important things to talk about - like art. Who cares, right? It's a dismissive technique.

Pope tried to levitate a bottle of constipation medicine for a few days. I think that's wonderful and needs no defense. (to me)

As for Flatboy and Oldpro, I'm glad you have such a competitive, sportsman ideal for human expression. Tell me who wins, please?



January 20, 2005, 11:32 PM

Whenever I think this is a dead thread it jumps back up.

When anything and everything gets called art there is a certain point at which you just got to say NO. Breeding flying chickens may be many things - funny, wonderful, meaningful, beautiful, whatever - and if anyone wants to call it art they have a right to, but as far as I am concerned to hell with it.

And Pope, who I have seen in the papers now and then, is a publicity hound with dumb ideas.

So, I am a narrow elitist.

You write "As for Flatboy and Oldpro, I'm glad you have such a competitive, sportsman ideal for human expression. Tell me who wins, please?" I don't get it.


Chad Harris

January 20, 2005, 11:44 PM

Nothing to get oldpro, just saying something about goal-orientated mandates for art and "common sense" rules for something that is divine (art, that is). I didn't and wouldn't say you are an elitist, nor do I feel that way.

This was a fun post, however I think it's throat should now be slit.



January 21, 2005, 12:33 AM

Hey, Chad, you can call me an elitist all you want. I called myself an elitist. I do not take it as an abusive epithet. As far as i am concerned if you believe in good art you gotta be one.



January 21, 2005, 1:43 AM

Amen to that !!!


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 2:48 AM

Perhaps this thread has died, but I have a question for Oldpro if he'll indulge me. If you feel it's possible (some say it isn't, which is fine), can you give us the Oldpro defition of what is Art?

I know that defining Art is ultimately of little significance, but you are very quick to say what is NOT Art. So, what IS Art?


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 2:52 AM

Forgive me for the typo. That should read "If you feel it's possible (some say it isn't, which is fine), can you give us the Oldpro definition of what is Art?"



January 21, 2005, 3:23 AM

Actually, JT, I make a real effort not to get into the what is and what isn't game becasue i think it is a semantic question. I'll admit that I made some iimpetuous remarks above - to wit: "at somepoint you just got to say NO" - but this was just a frustrated outburst, nothing more.

We argued all around this matter during the tumultuous blogging of last Spring and Summer, and I think I came up with something like (I say "something like" advisedly) "art is what we evaluate with no specifiable criteria for evaluation", but this loosed a fusilade of abuse which i do not want to go through again.

Realistically, art is whatever you call art, and, as I expressed impatiently above, just about everything is these days.



January 21, 2005, 7:01 AM

Congratulations Oldpro, for staying out of the "defintion of art" thing. You are right on to just let it be whatever is called by that name. So very right on.



January 21, 2005, 7:41 AM

Thanks Flatboy. It can be an interesting discussion though, just for that alone. Last summer sometime we had a rather raucous give-and-take on this blog which was not carrried on at the highest lever of informed intelligent debate, and, although the current contributors seem to talk on a more elevated level I got a little gunshy.



January 21, 2005, 4:29 PM

Oh, by the way, Chad, not only am I an elitist, I also think "common sense" is divine.


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 5:07 PM

Oldpro -

I respect your choice not to get into the whole discussion about defining Art. The reason I ask is that when someone says, "That's not Art," a lot, it's a huge pet peeve of mine. It's a discussion that people on my site have gotten into a great deal.

Personally, it seems the more apt statement should be, "I don't like that," instead of, "That's not Art." My definition of Art is simple: it is something that conveys a thought or feeling. That's purposely very broad because the tough part is determining what actually fits that definition and can be called Art. I leave that up to the artist only. If they create something and think it is Art, then I'll go along with it. I don't believe defining Art should necessarily be linked to quality... which it feels like you might be doing.

This is a tough road to go down (defining Art) and ultimately it's pretty useless. Like I said, the only reason I asked was because it seemed like you were using, "That's not Art" as a matter of taste and not fact (it would be a logical nightmare for us to determine). I've given up on trying to determine what is or isn't Art so that's why my definition is what it is. Since I'm an artist as well, I can't imagine someone telling me that what I make isn't Art. This has happened occasionally, but I'm glad to say that I think even ol' Oldpro would grant that my work is Art - though I doubt he would like it.



January 21, 2005, 6:39 PM

Whether or not something is art is not the real issue. What matters is how good it is as art. If it's no good, or not good enough, it makes practically no difference what it's called (except to those who can't or won't judge for themselves, and are therefore vulnerable to being duped or confused).


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 6:51 PM

Jack -

I agree completely. That's why I posed the question to Oldpro, who has frequently commented about something as Art or not. I wanted to understand if there was a defintion basis for his statements or if that was his way of saying that he didn't like the work.



January 21, 2005, 7:29 PM


As i tried to make clear before, I almost never comment on "art or not art". I try very hard to steer clear of that. Please be accurate on this.

Jack is perfectly right, of course, but "what is art" is a legitimate question no matter how tiresome it is to dwell on it. Saying it is "something that conveys a thought or feeling" is too broad to be acceptable. That would include this statement, and that would be fatuous.

It is most practical to accept as art whatever is put forth as art. Then what Jack says applies completely. This does not thoroughly investigate the question, but i would prefer to leave it at that for now.


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 7:42 PM

Oldpro -

In comment 166, in addition to many others that I won't sift through, you said the following:

"When anything and everything gets called art there is a certain point at which you just got to say NO. Breeding flying chickens may be many things - funny, wonderful, meaningful, beautiful, whatever - and if anyone wants to call it art they have a right to, but as far as I am concerned to hell with it."

[The bolding above is my emphasis.]

I think this is a long way of saying you don't think flying chickens are Art. No? So, when you say, "Please be accurate on this," I respond with, "kiss my ass." You frequently do the, "it's not Art" thing. It was just 20 hours ago that you did it again. Forgetful in old age?

Next, you clearly did not understand my comment. Your comment (179) could not be Art. There are two parts of my definition of Art. 1) It has to convey a thought or feeling. 2) You apparently missed this one... but the artist must believe that their creation is Art. You clearly do not believe that comment 179 is Art, therefore it isn't.


Chad Harris

January 21, 2005, 8:02 PM

I'm on J.T. Kirkland's side with this one. However, what about the infamous, obnoxious question, what is someone were to claim all the world and it's history as his own art - it's thoughts and feelings his own. Then what? Of course it doesn't matter, there's more important things to talk about, but still ...

Saying something is "not art" is just a way to complelety dismiss it. It does not allow for discourse on the object and it's creators intention - it makes the art seem distasteful, perverted and distanced. It's a safety tactic based on fear and misunderstanding.


Chad Harris

January 21, 2005, 8:04 PM

Also, shouldn't we just be happy there is so much expression and communication in so many forms? I always wonder what "that's not art" -sits are defending. The word art? It doesn't need our defense.


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 8:07 PM

Interesting question Chad. My retort would be that the hypothetical artist could not rightfully claim to have created me, the world's history, etc. He can claim to create himself (in terms of lifestyle) and his thoughts, and then I think he could claim that as art. I'm pretty sure that's been done.

The real question, of course, is if the art holds any value or interest. That, to me, is where there is potential for debate and consideration.



January 21, 2005, 8:33 PM


We have managed to reduce name calling and other abusive stuff to a minimum on this blog. Of course it is a free vehicle and you can do what you want, (up to the extreme point that Franklin decides to cancel something), but the discussion works better if stuff like "kiss my ass" and ad hominem references to "old age" don't come up just because you don't agreed with someone. it makes you look bad, not me.

The example you give is precisely the exception to my resistence to participating in the "what is art" matter. It was, as i said before, "an impatient outburst, nothing more", and which I qualified by the "almost" above.

This is what i mean by being accurate. If I have ever said "that is not art" before in the hundreds (thousands?) of postings I have made it cannot have been more than once or twice, despite your unsupported statement. It is not something I do, and I have not done it. You are simply wrong.

As for the definition I "missed", your statement was, preceisely: "My definition of Art is simple: it is something that conveys a thought or feeling." Statement, colon, definition. There was no indication that any of your qualifying remarks should be taken as part of the definition.

If we get things right and keep things simple we don't need all these explanatory asides and the discussion goes a lot more smoothly.


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 8:46 PM

You amaze me Oldpro! How in your mind you can sit here and say that this:

"When anything and everything gets called art there is a certain point at which you just got to say NO. Breeding flying chickens may be many things - funny, wonderful, meaningful, beautiful, whatever - and if anyone wants to call it art they have a right to, but as far as I am concerned to hell with it."

is not an example of you saying, "that's not art," is beyond me. This is a clear cut example of you doing this. The capital "NO" and the "to hell with it" give it away. How can you even try to back up the truck on this one?

And with all of your intelligence, you don't understand this:

"My definition of Art is simple: it is something that conveys a thought or feeling. That's purposely very broad because the tough part is determining what actually fits that definition and can be called Art. I leave that up to the artist only."

Oldpro - I sincerely believe you have blinders on, my friend. You see only what you want to see.



January 21, 2005, 9:06 PM

This is interminable JT, and boring for everyone.

I DID say that was an example of me saying what is "not art", given the qualifications. I never said otherwise.

And your definition, despite your bold type, is precisely what i said it was.

Can we please just get past this?



January 21, 2005, 9:06 PM

Generally, I don't think it's worth spending time and energy arguing over art vs. non-art, since all that really matters is how good the work is. However, while anyone can call anything art, that may be a meaningless designation, and nobody is obligated to accept it anyhow. I could call myself the world's sexiest man, but even if I fervently believed it, it would be no more than a sad delusion. In other words, people do not have to accept other people's designations, value judgments or interpretations. That's why, even though I've no problem with someone calling his nail clippings body art, for instance, I'd hope he understood that nobody was necessarily obliged to take it seriously.



January 21, 2005, 9:09 PM

Jack, I still think you're sexy.


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 9:25 PM

Jack -

I grant that this is a pointless exercise for some, but it interests me a great deal.

I don't believe your analogy works very well. For you say "I'm the world's sexiest man" would be like me saying, "I make the world's most beautiful art." Neither can be proven and we'd both be viewed as fools.

On the other hand, you could rightfully say, "I'm a sexy man." That is fine for me and who am I to say otherwise? Likewise, I can say, "I make art." Being art, like being sexy, cannot be measured. Someone can say that you are actually a very unattractive man and someone can say that I make garbage (meaning, they don't like it), but that's all they can say.

My great interest in this stems from being told so many times that I don't make art. I'm tired of it and I'm interested in the thought process that happens when someone thinks they can make such a claim. I'm sure every artist on this site has faced the same thing. And I imagine that some of the masters from Art History were told the same thing.

As for Oldpro, I still don't know how he can say:

"If I have ever said "that is not art" before in the hundreds (thousands?) of postings I have made it cannot have been more than once or twice, despite your unsupported statement. It is not something I do, and I have not done it. You are simply wrong."

Then follow it up with:

"I DID say that was an example of me saying what is "not art", given the qualifications."

So I guess the one time out of thousands of posts where you say what is not Art just occurred yesterday. Somehow I doubt that. And I believe doing it once is one time too many.


Chad Harris

January 21, 2005, 10:39 PM

J.T. is there a place online I can see your work? Can't find it in the url. When someone is told they are not making art, their work is usually interesting.

"The real question, of course, is if the art holds any value or interest. That, to me, is where there is potential for debate and consideration."

This line of thought is very inclusive and pleasant to me, I like it. If somehow what we are talking about still relates to the Dorsch show, then these two are very successful artists!


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 10:47 PM


Please email me at the link above. I'll forward you some images and some links, if you'd like. There are some images of my older work on my blog, Thinking About Art, but I'm working on putting together some shows for later this year and haven't wanted to share the images just yet.

Thanks for the compliment... although I hoped it wasn't necessary to compliment an inclusive position! Why can't that be the norm in art?



January 21, 2005, 10:47 PM


You drive me to say this: there is something wrong with your thinking apparatus.

This is what I said originally:

"When anything and everything gets called art there is a certain point at which you just got to say NO. Breeding flying chickens may be many things - funny, wonderful, meaningful, beautiful, whatever - and if anyone wants to call it art they have a right to, but as far as I am concerned to hell with it."

This amounts to saying that something is not art . I NEVER said it did NOT amount to saying that.

I then said that I try to avoid saying what is or is not art and that I believe that I have seldeom, if ever, said it before.

Your response, which was originally "You frequently do the 'it's not Art' thing" has now come down to "Somehow I doubt that."

Can we move on now?


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 10:57 PM


We can move on in one second. One last point of clarification...

When you say in comment 192, "I then said that I try to avoid saying what is or is not art and that I believe that I have seldeom, if ever, said it before," does "before" mean before your comment yesterday, or before as in ever. Sometimes people use "before" in multiple ways. Just clarifying here.

I believe my thinking apparatus is just fine, thank you. Of course, and you would suggest this, there must be something wrong with my thinking if my thoughts differ from yours. So I'll respond by saying that there must be something wrong with YOUR thinking apparatus. Uh oh, where does that leave us?



January 21, 2005, 11:17 PM

"before" referred to statement #172:

"Actually, JT, I make a real effort not to get into the what is and what isn't game becasue i think it is a semantic question. I'll admit that I made some iimpetuous remarks above - to wit: "at somepoint you just got to say NO" - but this was just a frustrated outburst, nothing more."

Wherein I indicated that I did not make a practice of calling things art and non art and acknowledged that I did so, with the given qualifications, in #166.


J.T. Kirkland

January 21, 2005, 11:19 PM

Oldpro -

That clears it up. Thank you!



January 21, 2005, 11:20 PM

To make it simple, "before" means "ever"


that guy in the back row

January 22, 2005, 12:22 AM

I guess by implication JT thinks flying chickens are art then? Good Luck JT, you are gonna need it.


Chad Harris

January 22, 2005, 12:27 AM

Good luck with what?


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 12:47 AM

Man, you guys are tough. Because I'm not so arrogant to speak like an almighty Art God and say, "You waste your time idiot... you aren't making art!!" I'm getting vilified. For being inclusive and open-minded. The horrors!!

I don't know if the flying chickens are art. I would have to ask the person that created the exhibit. If he/she says yes, then who am I to say otherwise. I very seriously doubt that I would like it or be interested by it. Let's be clear on that. But is it art? I just don't know.

There have been tons of art created that has been deemed non-Art, but now we readily accept it. Just think of the reception the Impressionists got when they first came around. Now their paintings sell for millions and millions of dollars and they are in all of the art museums. Apparently more than a century ago a lot, and I mean a lot, of people got it wrong.

Since you are so confident guy, please explain to my simple mind why the flying chickens are not Art. No opinions though, only facts and proof, please.

And thanks for wishing me luck. We are expecting 6-8 inches of snow this weekend and drivers in Washington, DC, do not know how to drive in it. I need all the luck I can get!!



January 22, 2005, 12:56 AM

I'd be perfectly happy to concede that it's art and talk about why it may be stupid.


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 12:59 AM

I haven't seen it, but I'd be willing to bet it's pretty stupid and bad art at that. Perhaps on the level of the balloon animal artist from a few weeks ago. Ugh...

Art nonetheless though...



January 22, 2005, 1:07 AM

In that case, J.T., may I present another culinary analogy? Let's say somebody served you bad, stupid food. A bowl full of walnut shells, in aspic. Might you say, to hell with it? Might you suspect that perhaps, indeed, this may not be food, or if it is, of such dreadful quality that it hardly matters, becuase it's already so close to qualifying as garbage?


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 1:23 AM

Ah, Franklin... another culinary analogy.

First, let me say that I would not eat it. I don't like walnuts so I doubt that I would enjoy their shells. I'm not familiar with what aspic is and I tend not to be adventurous with what I eat, so that would be strike 2 for me eating it.

Second, I would ask the chef if he/she believes it to be food. The answer is key.

Third, I would say to hell with it, but not with it being food, but with eating that particular dish.

We don't eat insects in the US. In some cultures though, they are a delicacy. Are insects food? Here? No? Elsewhere? Perhaps? Who determines it?

Conclusion, and I apologize for rushing but I need to get to an opening, but I would not say the walnut shells and aspic was NOT food without more information. I would say it was bad food (to me). I would say that it likely won't find much of an audience. But is it food... I don't know.


that guy in the back row

January 22, 2005, 1:32 AM

I'm with oldpro on this one, not going down that path. Art can not be satisfactorily defined. You are right Its best to judge the stuff that is presented as art as art. But when someone tells you they are breeding chickens to flutter about for an art exhibit just nod acceptingly and have really blank look on your face. You don't have to believe everything you read JT.
A prof. of mine once claimed that a lot of pomo work was nart, as in not art. This just gets away from making distinctions when artists need to be made aware of the finest of distinctions. Not the abolition thereof.
Hope it helps. Just a question. Why are you interested in making art if you don't seem to have the critical self esteem necessary for making concrete value judgments? The only cure for your predicament is to look at more art. It would seem a prerequisite for your chosen hobby/career/art.



January 22, 2005, 1:46 AM

Chad said he was determined to get this thing to #200 but we did it without his help.

JT a while ago on this blog I said that if you are too open-minded your brains fall out. At least one other person thought it was funny.

Hey Franklin, as long as we are being culinary, how about going to a restaurant that only gives you a menu and no food? That's what pomo art is like.

And let's bag a few of those flying chickens and fry 'em up. That should take care of both the chicken question and dinner. Kill two birds with... oh, never mind.

Aspic is gelatin, JT, a fairly revolting way to make common meat items look fancy. Or vice versa. Or walnut shells.

Blogging definitely affects one's sanity. Maybe I am too open-minded.


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 1:49 AM

What exactly am I reading that doesn't have to be believed?

"Why are you interested in making art if you don't seem to have the critical self esteem necessary for making concrete value judgments?"

Clearly you aren't shy about making judgments about other people. And "value judgments"? Are you saying that valuation plays a role in defining art?

"Art can not be satisfactorily defined." - I agree!

It's funny, guy doesn't seem to think I should be making art. But I've recently begun to experience a bit of success with my art. I must be good at fooling people... though it's easier when your art isn't flying chickens.

"critical self esteem"??? Did you make that up? Talk about believing what you read... I had no idea there was a specific test (like the LSAT) that you have to take and pass to be allowed to make art.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... your confidence is amazing. Would love it even more if you were confident enough to post your name and a link to a Web site showing your work. Perhaps you have the required "critical self esteem" and you are able to make "concrete value judgments." But, I must ask, does your Art measure up? We'll never know, now will we?



January 22, 2005, 1:56 AM


CSET - critical self esteem test. You haven't taken it yet, and you are making art?

Hey, please don't open up the "show your face, buddy" can of worms. There are very good reasons for blog anonymity. They were hashed out here ages ago.

Speaking of which, Franklin may have to do a compendium titled:


That way instead of arguing with someone one could say "you are in violation of Table B subparagraph 13 of Issue number 7b" and settle it right there.


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 2:06 AM

Oldpro -

Please point me to the test. Is there a link? Do I need to take Kaplan courses? Where do I sign up?

I'll take the test and post my results. Should I fail, I'll drink a couple of beers, rip the papers up and incorporate into my next piece of art.

The same people who agree that we should judge art for what it is want to tell me that I have to have some sort of pre-reqs to make it. Why can't my Art speak for itself?

Question: Say a piece of mine was in a show in Miami, under an assumed name. Franklin saw it and posted it in one of his roundups. Would it be obvious that I have not taken the CSET? Would it be possible for you to like my work?

Gotta run, I'm late... fashionably late!


that guy in the back row

January 22, 2005, 2:12 AM

CSET lol oldpro that was a good one.

jt: First off I didn't say you shouldn't be making art. If you read carefully you will see that I was just asking why you were if you can't tell good art from bad. So yes, valuation and constant reevaluation of your work plays a big part in art making. I feel like I'm talking to a two year old. A very gullible two year old...



January 22, 2005, 2:17 AM

I dunno, JT, I don't think I should even be talking to you if you haven't taken the CSET.



January 22, 2005, 2:24 AM

Guy, the conversation has been about defining art, not making qualitiative judgments about it. I read JTs site and it's clear he has a good enough eye. Being able to judge what art is good or bad has not been an issue in this thread. Perhaps you should read more carefully and stop being an ass.

Sign me up too for the CSET. Will Oldpro lead some study groups?



January 22, 2005, 2:45 AM

Franklin, thanks for #188, but I'm not posing for you naked so you can plaster me all over Dorsch Gallery for an audience (unlike some people have been known to pose). If Freud calls me up like he did Kate Moss, though, I might conceivably be persuaded (but no dog or other animal in the picture--if I'm going to be bared, I want all the attention). I'd have to hash it out with my agent and check with my publicist.

J.T., while my analogy in #187 was not irreproachable, my point remains the same: no matter what is called art, or by whom, nobody HAS to accept that designation (nor should s/he, if s/he doesn't believe it). It all depends on what definition for "art" is being used, as such definitions can vary significantly, and everyone definitely does not accept that whatever an artist calls art IS art (especially since it could always be questioned if said artist IS an artist). Again, I prefer not to get bogged down in semantics, even though I agree that the question "What is art?" or "What makes an artist?" is valid--albeit not necessarily practical.


that guy in the back row

January 22, 2005, 3:07 AM

unimpressed, Jack brought it up in 177, the conversation has drifted for sure. JT is proving above with his deficiencies that his eye is not up to par, but you are welcome to keep enjoying his blog. I could give a rip.


Chad Harris

January 22, 2005, 6:33 AM

I wasn't here for the 200th, was leaving work - oops.

However, it seems to me like J.T. kicked everyones ass. Critical Self Esteem??? Jesus.


that guy in the back row

January 22, 2005, 7:36 AM

come to think of it Chad, critical self esteem is a little silly. I was thinking of a few different things at the same time and didn't organize my thoughts very well. Then oldpro jumped in and I went with it. Being critical with ones judgments is important for artists and JT is having trouble making those on his own. The self esteem thing isn't as pertinent in this case but still applies. Confidence can help an artist like JT so I suggested he look at more art, to get a handle on it. Then he went to an opening fashionably late, so hopefully he saw something good. I don't see how this constitutes an ass kicking.



January 22, 2005, 9:59 AM

My oh my!

The last time I checked in, this blog was at #164 and I thought for sure it was dead.

Unfortunately, everything after that posting was pointless and rather ugly. Franklin mentioned earlier that the infamous blog from last summer took a dive into Stupidville. From what I understand it was much worse that what I just read.......but GEEZ!!!

I had a Philosophy of Art class last spring. I listened to people bicker and nitpick about this issue for a whole semester. That was a bunch of 22-year-olds; you guys have no excuse.

Now, it is really cool that this blog has lasted so long. It would be a shame to see it get any worse or to end on this sad note.

All of you guys who have been posting insults at each other are actually here for the same reason: YOU LOVE ART!! And, Ironically, everyone of you, at some point in this blog, in one way or another, has agreed that debating art vs. nart is a stupid waste of time. (please forgive that horrible sentence)

I personally am here because I hope to benefit from the knowledge and insight of all you passionate art lovers. I am counting on your thoughtful, intelligent discourse to help me grow and mature as an artist. I could care less who does or does not think my art should be called art.

For the record, I will apologize for my part in this fight. I did say that Mr. Pope.L was not an artist. I was also pretty harsh in my assessment of Ms. Zittel's work. In retrospect, I think it's pretty easy to lapse into that nasty Art God mindset and I plan to be more judicious with my criticisms in the future.

The Philosophy of Art class that I took used a pretty cool book called "Puzzles About Art: An Aesthetics Casebook," by Margaret P. Battin, et al. Here is the link:

It doesn't have any answers (of course) but it does have some really thought provoking angles on art.

Now, If I may be so bold, I'm hoping to get some help in understanding exactly what Formalism is and is not. I know it's pathetic, I should know about this already, but due to the twisted path that my life has taken, there are a few holes in my knowledge of art. If someone out there would humor me on this, I would be ever so appreciative. (And maybe we could get back to Smartville.)




January 22, 2005, 4:33 PM

A good painter and sometime critic named Sidney Tillim said some years ago:

"Formalism is anything Clement Greenberg likes".

(because he is dead that would now be past tense: "liked")

A lot of people have tried to put a definition on the word, which, like most "isms", is more of an indefinite working attitude than a definable term. It means, roughly, approaching and judging art on its own terms, "face to face", and estimating it intuitively, or making art with that in mind. But the Tillim quote better described the realistic political implication.



January 22, 2005, 5:56 PM

Guy, You've still missed the point and made yourself look like a fool. It's true Jack introduced the concept (177) that the important thing is if the Art is good, not is it Art. But when I read through this thread it looks like JT states how much more important Art being good is, rather than Art being Art. He must have said that at least 5 times. He even states that the flying chickens are likely awful Art, just like the balloons from weeks ago (2 critical judgments the same as you!). Did you really miss all this or do you just not want to admit your own faults?

Sophie, when you admitted that you've been a bit of an Art God and harsh on other artists, I think that was commendable. If you are an artist you wouldn't want others saying such nasty things about you, would you? It's hard enough being an artist today. Don't I know it!

Back to guy- I hope JT chimes in sometime today but let me say one more thing. I don't know many people who see more art in DC than he does. He exhibits his own work and he sees all the major museum and gallery shows and writes about them on his site. DC is better off for having him than not. I'm curious what your contribution is to the art scene where you live. And why do you guys seem to hold so much hostility for those who have different interests? No I don't expect you to answer this because critical self esteem doesn't seem to carry over to your personalities.

Lastly I'm not sure if JT kicked any asses but he has laid out sound arguments that have been superior to yours (oldpro included I'm happy to say!). You know you've been beat when you harp on the same "facts" that aren't true, guy. And knowing JTs style at his site it's clear that you and oldpro are the gullible ones. Don't read everything so literally!!

Now, I've got to study for the CSET...



January 22, 2005, 6:22 PM


JT might be a great guy and Guy a terrible guy, but what works best on a blog, or in any kind of conversation or give and take, is to deal with what is said rather than who said it or what you think of someone based on what was said.

it has been my experience here that the level of intensity, information, interest and fun all drop sharply when the characterization starts. This used to happen all the time but fortunately most of the real offenders dropped out (name-calling usually follows an inability to respond intelligently), and Franklin has managed the blog carefully, with minimum interference but just the right nudging and caretaking, so that the levlel has been pretty high, given the inescapable, in indispensable, fact that everything goes.

The best response is almost always an answer and an argument rather than a negative personal characterization, and the best response to a negative personal characterization is to say don't do that.

I am saying this as a general observation, not a rebuke of you, JT, or guy.

Yeah, better study for the CSET. it will crush egos everywhere.



January 22, 2005, 6:32 PM

Oldpro- why is that JT and I are the ones getting your lecture? Isn't guy doing the same thing if not worse? And isn't it guy who is missing the argument altogether and not acknowledging the facts of the discussion. What do we do when that happens? JT has been in this discussion with you and guy. Guy is not acknolwedging what is really being said. So, I thought it a good idea to jump in and try to get things straight. It is quite interesting that you are eager to lecture everyone who is not in the mafia. Hypocritical much?

I'm sure the CSET crushes egos. I assume it crushed yours when you were a youngamateur but without a doubt you've built it back up since. I look forward to the same long process.

To "deal with what is said," we must get what was said right. Then we can move on. Surely you'll grant that. And guy needs to get things right so we can move on.

Off-topic: It really is fascinating how the culture behaves. I can't think of one time Oldpro has lectured guy about his blog behavior, although it is clearly more reprehensible.



January 22, 2005, 6:48 PM


When people are really touchy is is hard to to talk to them, and it ends up being a boring waste of time on the blog.

I said clearly that his was an observation, and I included you, JT, Guy by name with the obvious implication that anyone else who was interested could read it and take it or leave it. If you disagree with what I say go ahead, but stop whining and blaming and complaining.

The CSET is meant to be a joke. Do I have to say this?



January 22, 2005, 6:54 PM

CSET was a joke? No way!

No wonder it never came up in any Google searches I did. Damn.

You're good oldpro, very good. Had me fooled. Yep, my face is red with embarrassment!

Please... who's the gullible one???



January 22, 2005, 7:01 PM


When it is posted on Monday I think it will be pretty clear.



January 22, 2005, 7:02 PM

If formalism is anything Greenberg liked, then here are a few formalists for Sophie to consider (allowing that Greenberg qualified here and there to exclude certain works and groups of works):


The list could go on and on, and would be less cohesive that this already disjointed presentation here. Seems like a better characterization, which would still owe to Tilliam, would be to say formalism is wht is included in Greenberg's own collection, which has been touring the USA for the past few years.



January 22, 2005, 7:14 PM


I think making lists is by way of missing the point. Tillim was making a humorous aside what is amusing because it ludicrously simplifies a complex subject and at the same time has such a core of truth in it. The implication is that the "subtext" of the broad anit-formalist reaction a generation ago, when he said it, was in reality anti-Greenberg.

Strictly speaking his collection does not consist of "formalism", which would be impossible ("formalism" is not a thing but an attitude) but perhaps "formalist painting and sculpture"


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 7:20 PM

Wow! I step away for the night and all hell breaks loose. Don't you people know how to mind yourselves? Kidding!

Anyway, a big thank you to Chad and Unimpressed for their support. Hey Unimpressed, send me an email so I know who you are!

This thread has lost much of its muster, that's for sure, but I want to bring up one more point that has to do with the topic at hand. Someone, I think Jack or guy, said something to the effect that we can't leave it up to artists to determine if they make art because we all have different definitions of Art. This is a great point and something I didn't go into in much, if any, detail.

A lot of definitions of Art don't work. An extreme example would be, "Art is anything on paper." Clearly, this just ain't true. So while an "artist" may think their term paper in college is art because it was printed on paper, it's not accurate. So their definition doesn't work. What must be done is to establish a definition that works, even if broad like mine. I haven't yet heard a definition that doesn't limit too much. I would go to the "artist" discussed above, convey to them an accepted definition of art and ask if that's what they had in mind when they created the paper. Though it may fit the definition, the "artist's" intent was more likely that they wrote a paper for a course in college. Although it "fits" the definition, it was not their intent, therefore not art. This is why Warhol's brillo boxes are art, but the ones manufactured by some facotry worker are not. It comes down to intent and the satisfaction of a specific, accurate definition.

You know, this is like Franklin's culinary example, which of course got no response. If insects are insects in the US, but they are a delicacy (food) in Asia, which is it? We have a well understood definition of food - something a person eats - but that doesn't quite work. You need the chef's intent (Oldpro, this is where you misunderstood my definition of art, which I presented as clearly as possible). Fear Factor - not food. Asian restaurant - food.

It's sort of like language. A particular word can have multiple meanings depending on context. So just because they are spelled the same (simple example is the word bat) doesn't mean they mean the same thing. Context is like intent for me. Bat doesn't mean all of its definitions, just like it doesn't mean one of its definitions without the context. The context is what makes it a baseball bat, an animal bat, or a verb bat.

But to guy, please go back and read, you'll see that I say often the quality and enjoyment of art is most important. The definition is important to me, but not significant in the grand scheme of things.

Sophie, like Unimpressed, I am impressed by your admitting that you've been too harsh on some artists that dont fit into the comfy little Art God box. I'm glad that I played some small role in that recognition on your part.

Finally, the CSET. To call me the gullible 2 year old... that's just gullible on your part guys. You aren't that funny. Sorry I ruined your joke by turning the joke on you. I can only imagine how stupid you thought I was for "believing" in the CSET, and how smart and witty you must have thought you were. I apologize for busting your bubble.

I apologize for the stream of consciousness writing that's above. I wanted to get it all out there.



January 22, 2005, 7:20 PM

Unimpressed wrote Sophie, when you admitted that you've been a bit of an Art God and harsh on other artists, I think that was commendable. If you are an artist you wouldn't want others saying such nasty things about you, would you? It's hard enough being an artist today. Don't I know it!

Hello Unimpressed,

Rather than commend Sophie I think she should resume being an art god and be even harsher. There are too many trends, factions, artists, dealers, museums, etc. all trying to define what's hot and what's not. An image glut of historical proportions. The only way to cope with it is to be harsh on it. Trim it down to managable size and a sword like tounge is a good tool for this. If an artist tries to love it all there is no way to move off the dime, assuming it is all loveable.

Of course no one wants to hear nasty things, but that does not change the fact nasty statements are effective.



January 22, 2005, 7:25 PM

I like the "art god" idea.

It may not be necessary to be nasty, exactly, but I certainly agree that we have to be critical and, if needed, harsh. people apologize for doing so, but the minute you draw back the dreck floods in. The art business needs its roto-rooters.



January 22, 2005, 7:29 PM


You swallowed the CSET thing and you are saying you "busted our bubble"? Talk about an unassailable ego!



January 22, 2005, 7:32 PM

Dear Oldpro, I was using Tilliam's choice of words, as suppiled by you. I did not even attempt to look them up. You seemed to know what you were talking about. The "impossiblity" of that usage, of course, is not a problem for me.



January 22, 2005, 7:37 PM

Nice response JT. Of course you'll get slammed, but thank you for that. I see your point. And I'll email you soon.

Oldpro- what post on Monday?

Flatboy- no one is trying to love anything. You can be harsh, negative, etc of Art. But don't deny that it is art. Why do you guys keep making the jump to quality. It's not about that. And JT has gotten in some hot water here in DC for some especially harsh reviews of bad ART. The hot trends or cold trends are not the point. And I think based on JTs position, there are some artists in major museums and galleries who might not make Art, but objects of financial profit. Possibilities include Koons, Hirst, Kotsabi, Kincade (lol!). If they were true to themselves they might just admit that they don't make Art.

Apologies to Oldpro but I felt Flatboy was making a jump to something that isn't here. For the sake of this discussion, it's not about quality. Everyone has agreed that quality is most important. But quality isn't a player in defining Art.



January 22, 2005, 7:38 PM

Sorry, Flatboy. I can see that there was a lack of clarity there.


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 7:39 PM


"Swallowed"? What did I swallow and how is this an example of my ego?

Do you really think that I bought into your CSET joke?



January 22, 2005, 7:42 PM


"JT has gotten in some hot water here in DC for some especially harsh reviews of bad ART"

"Why do you guys keep making the jump to quality. It's not about that."

It's "bad art" but it is not "about quality"? I think there is just a slight germ of inconsistency here. What is it "about"?



January 22, 2005, 7:46 PM

Sure I do, and so did Unimpressed.

He wrote the following:

"I'm sure the CSET crushes egos. I assume it crushed yours when you were a youngamateur but without a doubt you've built it back up since. I look forward to the same long process."

Then when i said it was a joke he burst out with a post which essentially said "Ha ha, now who is the gullible one?"

A quick turn, but unconvincing, given the real bitterness of the original quote.



January 22, 2005, 7:47 PM

Sorry Olpro, that is confusing. Two separate lines of thought there.

My point was that JT questions quality in Art as evidenced by his sometimes harsh critical reviews on his site. That is not a matter foreign to him.

When I said "it's not about that," I was referring to this thread. This thread, at least since JT came into it, has been about defining Art. But, several people jump to the conclusion that he can't judge quality when there is no evidence of that here, and evidence to the contrary on his site (point above). He might be wrong about his judgments but he doesn't shy away from making them here (in DC that is).

Too many "it's" in my post. Apologies all around for the confusion.



January 22, 2005, 7:50 PM

That's OK. Blogging is like converstion, it is not meant to be precise.



January 22, 2005, 7:51 PM

Bitterness? Quick turn?

Sorry Oldpro, as much as you would like to believe that something has been swallowed, you'll just have to take my word that your joke fell on deaf ears. Even if it wasn't a clear joke, the joke was given away when guy said something to the effect of, "CSET! Good one Oldpro!"

You don't have to believe me, but I was being facetious. I think JT was doing the same. I think this proves JTs point, you can only get so far without knowing intent. You clearly don't understand my intent.



January 22, 2005, 7:53 PM

According to Unimpressed: Flatboy- no one is trying to love anything

Unimpressed, "no one" covers a lot of ground, even if I don't take it literally. I, for one, want to love certain works of art and I in fact do love them. Loving (or hating) art is prior to and more important than analyzing it. Analysis does not lead to love. It leads into the free floating world of reasoned discourse that typically comes to rest on conclusions that appear to be randomly generated, though they are defended as if they mean something in the extreme. The aliens someone brought up would surely find humor in what to them might look like blind people speaking in tongues while playing darts, except some practical joker took the dart board and didn't tell them. Being blind in the first place, the absence of a real target does not trouble them. It is their tower of babel that lights their fires.



January 22, 2005, 7:56 PM

OK, I'll take your word for it.

Anyway, the CSET test will be posted on Monday, according to Franklin. It is a very rigorous, scientifically devised method to measure whether your self-esteem is high enough to withstand the slings and arrows of the art world.



January 22, 2005, 7:57 PM

Everyone has agreed that quality is most important. But quality isn't a player in defining Art.

Unimpressed, you want to take a shot at determining whether my walnut shells in aspic is food?


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 7:59 PM

It's not important to me if you believe that I didn't take your CSET joke seriously. I think it demonstrates your lack of resepct for me that you would assume I was duped. I don't blame you though. You don't know me and you don't know the writing on my site.

I fooled a lot of people recently when I wrote a review about a show from the perspective of a high-culture fashion snob. All I talked about was what people were wearing and what they looked like. I never mentioned the art at all. Several people emailed me asking what the hell was wrong with me. They asked if someone else was writing for me. I informed them that my "review" was in honor of the Scene and Heard blog launched the same week by ArtForum. That blog only discusses Armani clothes and limos. I provided a hint to that effect at the end of the post.

Some people got it. Some people didn't. I've set a precedent for this type of facetious writing. You didn't know that so it's ok that you believe I was duped. Again, take my word for it, or not. It's snowing here so everything is all good.

Here's the link to the ArtForum-esque review:



January 22, 2005, 8:01 PM

I think this thread may have to be a permanent one, Franklin.

Flatboy: For more on aliens, go to:



January 22, 2005, 8:05 PM

Flatboy- I apologize for the confusion again. I write too quickly and I'm frequently not clear enough. I write too conversational when I leave comments. By "no one" I was referring to myself in this thread, and at the risk of speaking for JT, him as well. This thread is not about quality. The art world, I'll eagerly grant is all about the love - deserved or not. I think we're all on the same page with your comment (by all I mean those participating in the thread today).

Franklin- I subscribe to JTs thought process on the walnut shells and aspic. I don't know if it is food or not. Without a doubt it would be disgusting if I were to eat it. Do you believe insects are food?



January 22, 2005, 8:21 PM

Unimpressed - Pardon me for skipping around the insect question. My point is that once food reaches an abysmal quality, you become unsure about whether to categorize it as food, and reasonably so. I also happen to think that one can safely do this with art - that if in one's estimation, the artistic quality of something hits a low level, one can safely dismiss it as art. Whether it is not art or whether it is very bad art, you will experience it in roughly the same way, so it is no great crime to think of it as non-art. Do you agree?



January 22, 2005, 8:23 PM

Oldpro wrote: Flatboy: For more on aliens, go to:

Thanks. Funny writing that could have been shorter but was witty enough to sustain. It's best message could be boiled down to the pictures of the two cave paintings. The statement "The third fatal flaw of Postmodernism is it's rejection of nonreferential form as an instrument of value in art" has terminology that is vaguely postmodern itself, which I like. I also like the reference to loving art.


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 8:23 PM


As an aside, one of the things that got my blog some attention when I first launched it was that I would post images of my own work and critique the hell out of it and invite others to do the same. Granted, this was my older work and there was a lot to critique, but I'm not shy about criticism. I believe in constructive criticism a great deal.

I look forward to Franklin's post on Monday as I hope it will demonstrate how more experienced artists handle criticism. I may not have the approach to art making or art viewing that some of you guys do, but I'm not shy about criticism. This comes from years of playing baseball at an elite, national level growing up. Critique was an integral part of my development in baseball and I am eager to build upon that in terms of art. Hence my blog, Thinking About Art. It's a process and none of us are the same... and I thank God for that.

Huge snowflakes, like those falling outside, bring out a bit of mushiness in me. As much as I dislike some of you guys sometimes, I respect your opinions and I wish you the best in your chosen fields. I've got to get into the studio.



January 22, 2005, 8:33 PM

Franklin- your point is clear. I see what you are saying from a personal judgment perspective when evaluating someone else's work. I don't understand the need to make the jump to non-art though. I'm sure you've made an awful painting. And given that someone could look at it and say it is not art. By extension, at the time you made the painting you were not an artist as you were not making art. I view that as a huge slap in the face and a sign of disrespect. Why can't we leave it at, "that is awful art!"? Every artist has made an awful painting, sculpture, or whatever. We all have hits and misses. Some artists are better than others, so instead of calling one an artist and the other something else, why can't they both be artists who make art. They are likely after the same goals. The market, history, public, critics, etc will distinguish the good from the bad over time. For me, and I guess JT too, that's enough. Let's critique the hell out of each other, but let's not dismiss each other outright. Hell, that non-artist may very well end up making some brilliant art 20 years down the road. Let's leave that possibility open. We aren't on the same level talent and education-wise so let's just let Art be Art. If it's bad, rail against it. If it is good, praise it!



January 22, 2005, 8:33 PM

My baseball experience, apart from playing as a kid, was coaching Little League, and i can testify that any serious sports will inure one to criticism. What was the "elite" national level? State champions, college, the minors? I was always inclined to athletics but never got beyond mid-level varsity and I have never stopped being impressed by the good ones.

Mushy is OK, especially with snow falling softly. being a Northerner I miss it. Here in Miami i rejoice when it gets below 70 and everyone shivers and puts on a swa\eater.


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 8:44 PM


Looks like we have something to bond over. By elite national level I mean "select" teams that travelled all over the country playing the best teams around. From the age of 15-18 I played in the World Series tournaments for my age. Well, actually I always played 2 years ahead of my age, so when I was 15 I played on the 17 year old team. Things were so serious in terms of baseball that I had elbow surgery at the age of 15. I tore a ligament when I was 13 - I was throwing 80 mph at that age which was too much for my body. I went on to be recruited by some ACC and SEC schools in baseball but would have walked on. I chose to play at a smaller school where I could start every year.

I miss baseball a great deal, I think it's the best sport in the world. I was a pitcher, a thinking man's position, and I could also crush the ball. Anyway, I coached some after I graduated but decided to give it up because baseball in DC is awful and I wanted to focus on my day job and my art career.

Thanks for asking about it, I miss talking about it. But it's nice seeing several guys I played with and against doing well in the major leagues. If I hadn't torn that ligament I might have been there too (my fastball recovered and got up to 89 mph). With those 2+ years I lost to injury, who knows?



January 22, 2005, 9:02 PM

Well, i envy your experience. I came from a family with long distinguished experience in football, and the old man was not happy when I said that I was just not a glurtton for that kind of punishment and instead chose the "loner" sports of swimming and track in school. Baseball always fascinated me; i could hit well but my arm was not strong enough and I had a tendency to fight with coaches (which will surprise you, I'm sure!). As a kid my hero was Ted Williams, but I think as much for giving the finger to the press as for his hitting.


J.T. Kirkland

January 22, 2005, 9:10 PM


This may shock you, but I too was considered the kid with a bad attitude. I thought I knew it all, which in terms of pitching, I still say I do. I rarely got along with coaches.

I actually got recruited to play football at the Univeristy of Kentucky, a bad football school but in the SEC. I had never played a down of football but the coaches thought I was a hell of an athlete and were willing to teach me how to play safety. Since I didn't want to go into the first day of practice and ask the coaches how to put on the equipment, I passed. That would have been quite embarrassing.

Tell you what Oldpro, since I do value your opinion so much I'd like to ask if you'd be interested in reviewing some jpegs of my recent work. It's not traditional representational painting (another shocker for sure) and it's a bit in the pomo lineage, but if you're interested, shoot me an email and I'll forward them to you. I think I can handle your critique, which I'm sure you'll have!!



January 22, 2005, 9:16 PM

JT Kirkland worte I look forward to Franklin's post on Monday as I hope it will demonstrate how more experienced artists handle criticism

I remember something about Ingres deciding to kill himself when he didn't win a prize in one of the competitions. Glad he didn't go through with it, but it would have ended his anguish.



January 23, 2005, 12:16 AM

Flatboy: You are right. I should not be apologizing for trashing Andrea Zittel's work. It really irritates me that they let her get her MFA from RISD and she produces such crap. As for Pope.L, I regret saying he's not an artist. I should have said that I think he makes the rest of us look really bad.

Oldpro: Thanks for that newcrit link. I agree with Flatboy that it could have been shorter. I like Bannard's attempted definition of art. It's the closest I've yet seen that I could agree with:

"Art is something we make for ourselves which is there to be valued without any criteria for valuing."

JT and Oldpro: I will never understand how men can be so sharp with each other and then end up so drippy nice without warning. If you two were women, one of you would have been stalking the other by now. (exaggeration!)

Finally: Oldpro! You miss the snow?!?!? We got ten inches and I'm thoroughly sick of this winter. You can have it all.

I am still baffled about formalism. I'm getting the impression that it, like the word "bat", has several meanings (in art.)



January 23, 2005, 2:12 AM


From what i understand what Zittel does is exactly what they encourage at RISD. Things have changed!

I believe the Bannard essay came out in about half that length in a book called "Critical Perspectives on Art History" published by Prentice Hall a few years ago.

As for the "fighting & drippy nice", that's nothing. I was involved in art politics at the endowments in DC at a high level in the 70s. You have to fight and you have to get along, separating the person from the argument. It is something you learn, and something I am always encouraging on the Blog.

Well, I guess you can keep your snow. I miss it a lot more because I am not in the middle of it.

Don't worry about being confused about "Formalism". So is everyone else.



January 23, 2005, 2:52 AM


I kind of need to worry about it.

I have a big grad critique next weekend and the instructions are:

"This is not to be focused on your formal or technical aspects. It is to be a discussion about the ART." (emphasis theirs)

Since I need to impress the instructor, it seems like a bad idea to flat out ask him what he means by "formal". I can certainly separate the technical from the ART, but isn't the formal fairly well connected to the ART?

I promise this will be my last dumb student question.



January 23, 2005, 3:20 AM

"This is not to be focused on your formal or technical aspects. It is to be a discussion about the ART." (emphasis theirs) This goes a long way towards explaining why I don't have a teaching job at one a them fancy art schools.

No, really, Sophie, the above sentence you quoted doesn't make a lot of sense, and you can quote me on that to your teacher with an offer to get in touch with me by e-mail if he or she wants to discuss it. It is equivalent to saying, "This is not to be focused on flavor or texture aspects. It is to be a discussion about the COOKING."

It seems to indicate that they want to talk about your ideas, which is all well and good, but they ought to just ask for that. To say that none of the art resides in the formal or technical aspects but only in the ideas doesn't correspond with how a lot of perfectly valid contemporary art gets made. It also slights the artists who are basically formal (more on this below) in orientation, as if to say that you're not making art unless you emphasize the idea portion of your work. That's wrong. I wouldn't express it conversely either. That whole thing about art being free to do whatever it wants? True.

The formal aspect of your work is comprised of what we call the formal elements: color, shape, line, scale, and material. Formalist art concerns itself primarily, if not exclusively, with making these elements correspond to each other in a successful way, usually according to an intuitive sense of rightness.

That definition may not have perfect historical accuracy, but it's good enough to get you through school, and also an enjoyable career making art if you feel inclined to use it. It works for me, and you may have it as my gift.



January 23, 2005, 3:35 AM

BTW, far from that being a "dumb student question," that's a perfectly valid thing to ask, and any teacher that makes you feel bad about doing so isn't doing their job. I would love to be able to serve as a rumor control hotline for shaky art-school-generated ideas, so if you got more you need cleared up, run 'em by here or e-mail me.

It turns out that Zittel got her MFA in Scultpure the very same year I got my BFA in Illustration at RISD. We may have been sitting in commencement together. The school seems to encourage whatever you want - I was happily sketching great art in Rome and painting while she was doing whatever she had to do for her thesis show. Larry Poons once said at a talk at UMiami, where I did my grad work, that a good art school gives you permission. RISD seemed to foster that in a good way.



January 23, 2005, 3:37 AM

I don't think your instructor is referring to "fomalism" here, but to the physical characteristics of your work as opposed to the "art" of the work. I think you can simply tell the instructor what you already mentioned, that whatever art there is has to be entirely within the physical (formal, technical) . Something like:

Sophie, talk about the art in your work
--the art and the formal and the physical are the same thing.
But I want you to separate them.
--I know, but if I eliminate the formal and the physical don't I eliminate the art?
Well, of course.
--Then they must be the same thing.
Uh, I guess so.
--So when I talk about the formal and the physical I am talking about the art, right?
Well, wait a minute, it takes a viewer to apprehend the art.
--Oh, well, in that case, as the viewer would you talk about the art, please?

You will get either an A or an E.



January 23, 2005, 3:43 AM

Of course, Oldpro is basing that conversation on the assumption that the teacher is rational.



January 23, 2005, 3:58 AM

And that could easily be a dangerous assumption. (maybe an F?)



January 23, 2005, 4:26 AM


I don't really mind critiques myself. They are just the ramblings of reason, unattached as always, to anything that can be felt as real. But I don't say that, of course. I start out with jokes. That relieves the tension. Then throw some jargon at them, they always like that. Franklin is probably right that they want to hear about your ideas. Here are some ideas. It doesn't sound like they know much or are very concerned with what is called "formalism".

If you have realistic images:

1. When I consider semioticist (you might substitue "postmodern" if they are not that well read) theory, I confronted a choice: either reject Lacanist (substitute Marxist if they are not that well read) obscurity or conclude narrative fosters communication. I chose narrative. Then discuss something in your work that can be construed as narrative - you really need something "realistic" to make this one work. But any hint of realism will do nicely. This is a good place to introduce politics.

2. Then add that narrativity is fundamentally unattainable, but not quite so if the works of Fellini were postmodern before their time, and you think they are. Cite the party scene or the fountain scene in La Dolce Vita. They showed that anything could be a signifier of anything else. If they are old enough they will remember these scenes with great fondness (males especially).

3. Conclude that narrativity is a paradox in which nothing is communicated so that nothing is held in bias or otherwise misrepresented. That's why you always include something that serves as a signifier, as the text for the sub-text of artifice that connects the viewer's experience to the higher intellectual realities behind art and life.

If your work is purely abstract try:

1. When I think about Lacan's notion of obscurity, I must choose between the futility of narrativity or Baudirllardist hyperreality. I choose hyperreality because it deconstructs signs into their less restricted significations, the principle of devolving exclusivity that Derrida advocated.

2. What once represented a particular set of things can now signify a much broader set that is free from the context that would unnecessarily limit it to physical sensations, freeing it to engage realities of the intellect. Stimulating the intellect, of course, is way art renews itself. Then pick a color or a shape and say it can mean anything the viewer can relate to it, without compromising its personal meaning to you.

3. The twin dangers of abstraction are the balck hole that swallowed modernism (remember that discussion?) and the emptiness of multireferential signification that begs for the stability only found in signs that correlate to a single thing. Yet, in begging for stability, abstraction generates instability that is far more compelling to the perceptive intellect, if it is enlightened enough to see the postmodern dialectic implied in the stability/instability conundrum.

In any case, salt your statements liberally with words like "experiment" and "trying new ideas" and "I feel so challenged by the program" and "I've learned so much from all the criticism I've received". Depending on how sophisticatd you instructor is, the salt may be all that is required. All salt, no meat works better in some cases. You don't want to make anyone feel dumb.

Get ready for your "A". Works for me.



January 23, 2005, 4:36 AM

Once again Oldpro, your "common sense" needs tempering. Sophie may get a low grade if she pushes her prof around like that. It is much better to lead them around than push them around. A prof that would give her an "A" for those answers would not ask such a question in the first place.

The danger in my suggestions is they are too snooty. Not all studio profs are well read, but even they can accept this stuff if you keep a sense of humor about it because they know it is part of the current mileux.

The salt ALWAYS works. Dumb or smart, they are humans.



January 23, 2005, 4:59 AM

My common sense is OK, Flatboy, but, as you so wisely point out, I shouldn't recommend it too freely to hapless students in academic situations.

I will print out your brilliantly incomprehensible suggestions and give them to my students who must take our required postmodernism seminar. At least they will get As.



January 23, 2005, 5:47 AM

A person lives by believing something, not by debating and arguing about many things.



January 23, 2005, 6:39 AM

I believe in dichotomies too carlyle, but you're missing something by restricting yourself to just one thing. Debate, argue, believe. They are all good things. Many others to. Get down and live the life. Art is a very low level activity at the same time it is a high one.



January 23, 2005, 7:34 AM

Flatboy: I think I just better give you my proxy and retire.



January 23, 2005, 8:12 AM

Franklin: Thank you!! I was thinking that sentence didn't make sense but I really needed confirmation. Your definition (and gift, thank you again) was exactly what I've been looking for. I should have been more specific with my question in the first place. I haven't been visiting this blog for long, but it is obvious that you are a very talented writer and artist. Your permission to ask dumb student questions is greatly appreciated. I will try not to abuse the privilege.

Oldpro: I will act out your critique scenerio in one of my dreams tonite. But since they have given me a wonderful, spacious studio and I'd like to keep it, I'll try something else next weekend. ;-) Thanks for your help, I really appreciate it.

Flatboy: SALT! That's how I got through the last one. I thought I was being really lame and they were feeling sorry for me. I had no idea that they might really like that shit. Anyway, I really was experimenting a lot.

Your postmodern strategy was great and it made me laugh, but I'm not as well versed in it as you are and if they asked me to rephrase I'd be in trouble. I have been dabbling in a little Baudrillardian reality theory though.

All of you: Thanks again. My work is pretty solid, I have no problem walking the walk. It's talking the talk that makes me nervous. Maybe I should write to Andrea Zittel and see if she could help me too.

Oldpro: No, no. You and Flatboy compliment each other nicely. Balance is everything.


that guy in the back row

January 23, 2005, 8:19 AM

screw getting through a crit with that list. Shit, I'm taking that list to caa to get a job. Then once tenure has been deemed adequate, I'll forward a memo with all your nifty catch phrases to the rest of the department and have a good laugh. Yeah, Flatboy you are a real trip. Thanks



January 23, 2005, 11:20 AM

Sophie says she has "been dabbling in a little Baudrillardian reality theory". Perfect. You can focus entirely on his entrophy stuff and at one and the same time simplify your own intellectual burden and provide your profs with that eternally important "coalescing into a coherent direction" that will generate the required "body of work".

If you are an abstractionist, entrophy dictates the deconstruction of the borders between shapes which frees them from the specifics of representationalism, creating an abstraction that transends superficial appearances as it descends into the futility of vagueness. The sign of entrophy is that the more it progresses the more vague and unformed reality must become, until it is utterly without contrast. Here you could go utopian and say all that may be left in your work will be just a single color unfettered by any shape (painter) or embedded in a near formless amoeba like format (sculpture). This may eventually devolve into repetitive monochromism and denial of shape that will prove difficult for the eye, just as entrophy will be difficult for every living thing. Admit that you have misgivings about such an outcome, but that your methodology must be followed to its logical end and that you hope for the courage to carry your idea forward, no matter what problems it presents. (Here they may chime in that they will certainly be supportive of such an outcome, should the direction you are taking necessitate it.)

If you have specific representatinal images, pick the one that is least perfectly rendered. Then say it stands as your Baudrillardian sentinel, watching for the decline from specificity to generality that will overtake material reality. This malformed entity is the avant-garde of entrophy. Then toss in some of the stuff from above and say you are fearful that the sentinel will eventually rule your work to the point the clarity of form you have achieved in your other images will, out of inner necessity, surrender to the force of entrophy because purity of idea stands higher in your values than purity of form. This is a good one if you are having trouble rendering one of your shapes. Make the vice into a virtue. Cite the eyes, teeth, and breasts in dekooning's women as inspiration for taking this "direction". Then add in the need for courage to follow this difficult path that is evolving for your work to clarify its goals in response to the challenges of graduate education. Again, they may weigh in with pledges of support for the heroic path you wish to take.

Of course salting is still in order. The profs never tire of hearing it. It is not "shit", it is food for their souls. It is why they come to work every day, to help poor souls like you who need fixing. And they love it when their harshness and indifference is received as a healing power. Just remember that at some point, you must switch for mere "experimenting" to "experiments that have succeeded" and from "trying new ideas" to "executing new ideas", "getting the results I defined earlier", and "freeing the power from within" because they need to believe all their criticizing adds up to something positive. Something as simple as saying these changes have been accomplished, is likely to be accepted as a fact if there is a visual clue or two that does not contradict it.

But "I'm experimenting" and "trying new ideas" must come first and it helps to repeat them at a couple of critiques before you "go beyond". You have to be broken before you can be fixed, but don't come off as too broken. You start out by "exploring alternatives" to your previous work, an obvious admission that it is less strong than it could be, but don't dwell excessively on it. Many profs are uneasy about just how good they are at fixing students, so don't present as a basket case or they might conclude you are beyond repair.

On the other hand, there is no need to modify "feeling challenged" by the program and "appreciating all the criticism". Those are academic constants that never change. They are among the immutable Platonic forms that constitute the true essence of any art department, once you leave the cave and see it in the sunshine of ultimate truth. Even though the profs remain in the cave with the rest of their fellow vulgarians, they are aware of the shadows these perfect forms cast on the wall and, to them, that is perfectly acceptable because that is what they know.



January 23, 2005, 4:57 PM

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility; there are so few of us left.



January 23, 2005, 5:27 PM

That's excellent Flatboy. The only thing missing is a stout dose of Political Correctness. Your advice is utterly deficient in obnoxious righteousness.

I believe you mean "entropy", not "entrophy", but perhaps this can be a neologism springing from a typo, much like Elephant's "Nomikerism". "Entrophy", I assume, would mean "bestowing of an award", eg "You have won your division so I hereby entrophy you with this engraved silver bowl".

Of course it could not have such a humble meaning to be effective jargon. (We have lots of geniuses but no humility, Levant)

Perhaps it could be dignified with a second meaning, such as "overt recognition by the community of scholars". In this way one can enter the pantheon of Postmodernism (hey, its only Modernist pantheons we don't like) by becoming "entrophied".



January 23, 2005, 5:35 PM

Flatboy said: "This is a good one if you are having trouble rendering one of your shapes. Make the vice into a virtue."

LOL, Flatboy, you kill me. That was a nice start to my morning. The whole thing was immensely entertaining. You are a postmodernist's worst nightmare.

As for being broken, they destroyed me last semester. I have no where to go but up. Your salty advice will serve me well and I look forward to basking in the sunshine of ultimate truth.



January 23, 2005, 6:00 PM

Parmigianino was a Post-Modernist of his day. Was he not?



January 23, 2005, 6:29 PM

Thank you Oldpro. "Entrophy" was not a typo, it was a frank misspelling of "entropy". The hour was late and I did not follow my usual custom of googling for spelling terms I am unsure of. I'm old enough to have received sufficient drilling in the use of the shift key that I can't break myself of that habit, but it was easy to not learn to spell since no one said I had to.

And yes, I should have included an opportunity to introduce politics. If Sophie wants to include the humor that breaks the tension inherent in these affaris, she could start by saying her original inclination was to make art about the plight of the wealthy, but the recent election of Bush for a second term is too disheartening to indulge in mere humor, it requires action art, art that explores the relationship between Baudrillardian melancholy and painting (or sculpture).

I just did google for "entrophy" and google recommended I try "entropy" first off. That would have probably triggered my errant brain cells. BesidesOldpro's brilliant making something of my misspelling, I did find something remarkable in my google for entrophy. EnTrophy UnLimited is a site devoted to "Sculptures of Disorder". Oldpro should get a kick out of this site, it is an embarrassment to the pomo movement. I got a kick out of it too, and I can speak pomo better than I can speak French.

The front page declares "EnTrophy" to not misspelled, so I am once again both right and wrong. Select "Fiction" then "Gods of Glass" and you get an explanation that the changing fonts are not an artistic effect but rather a flaw in the software which I take to mean bad coding.

You won't want to miss the Kuru Mobile or the Retawrat, a station wagon converted into a rat for gathering alien demographics. They have trophies for sale too. Busnessmen in the Soup would be a favorite for liberals. I liked the Satdish, an old satellite dish mounted on what looks like a boat dock.

It is full of little gems here and there, like "Art is in the mind. Not Art is in the soul."



January 23, 2005, 6:39 PM

Thank you too, Sophie. (I was busy writing my last message to Oldpro when you posted.)

I may be a postmodernist's worst nightmare but I am a postmodernist myself. I simply have no committment to it, or anything theoretical. I could just as easily be a scholastic, a Platonist, an empiricist, anything except a modernist.

Freedom is having nothing much you feel compelled to believe in.



January 23, 2005, 6:57 PM

You're a modernist at heart, Flats, you just don't know it yet.

I may not be around to nudge this thing to #300 'cuz I gotta go to the Keys.



January 23, 2005, 7:25 PM

Of all the theories to not especially believe in, modernism is the only one I avoid. While it is no better or worse than the others, it is the one that most recently died so it is the one most poeple hate. No reason to get involved in something that will just cause me grief.



January 24, 2005, 4:05 AM

Pardon me if I presume, Flatboy, since I hardly know you and you haven't asked for my advice, but I'm more impressed by you than by some prior visitors who've tried rather harder to impress, even if all they managed was to impress themselves. Take care you don't derive too much satisfaction and profit from the foolishness of others, not because the foolish deserve better, but because your intelligence should be put to better use. Beware of becoming too good a politician, too smooth an operator, too cynically clever. No doubt it must be tempting to beat the system at its own game if you're slick enough; the trouble is you could wind up part of the system, a victim of your own success.



January 24, 2005, 4:50 AM

I admire your pragmatism, to a point, but though Modernism gets beat up everywhere it ain't dead yet.

Just wait a little while, you'll see.



January 24, 2005, 4:56 AM

Thank you Jack. I'm just as much a fool as anybody else.



January 24, 2005, 5:30 AM

Your just a very eloquent fool.



January 24, 2005, 5:31 AM

Oh man, I just wrote 'your' instead of 'you're'. It's been a long week.



January 24, 2005, 5:39 AM

I find it rather irritating that I am expected to subscribe to one movement or another. I'd much rather start one of my own. I shall call it Abstract Realist Compressionism. That's a pretty accurate description of what I'm doing now anyway. All I need now are followers.



January 24, 2005, 6:11 AM

"Your", You're"?...uh, oh, Sophie, sounds like the Flatboy's eloquent foolishness is sweeping you off your feet.



January 24, 2005, 6:23 AM

Thank you Sophie.

Theo Van Doesberg was the one who started de Stijl (the magazine of neo-plasticism), but Mondrian was the most importnat figure of the movement because he was the best artist. de Stijl existed for several years before Mondrian wrote his manefesto and Van Doesberg was considered its "leader". Van Doesberg was doing paintings similar to what would eventually become Mondrian's style several years before Mondrian. An interesting fact about Mondrian: he average just 10 paintings a year, and they tended to be small.

So you don't really need to start a movement, just be the best artist within it.



January 24, 2005, 6:30 AM

Sophie, don't sweat the typos. There is no way to fix them here and besides, they are part of the medium of blogging. It wouldn't look like a blog if everybody used perfect English.


sweet ass

January 25, 2005, 9:34 PM

Sophie, I won't follow but I will join you, altho I'd rather not use a "moniker" of "nomiker" for what I am doing. Or anyone else's stuff. Just satisfy my eye.


that guy in the back row

January 25, 2005, 10:33 PM

Well, if you do want to nudge this thing to 300 oldpro, now's the time. I think comments close at midnight.


that guy in the back row

January 25, 2005, 10:36 PM

I'll start things off. I still think J.T. Kirkland is a .... (fill in the blank)



January 25, 2005, 10:55 PM

I don't want to nudge it. I am about done with it.

JT and i talked about baseball so we have male bonding. At least until we get pissed about something again.



January 26, 2005, 12:23 AM

I don't think nudging it is a good idea. If we did that then it would be contrived and that comes a little too close to confirming Baudrillard's ideas about everything being unreal and fake, etc. Going to 300 should be authentic or it shouldn't happen at all.



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