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proficiency and pathology

Post #489 • March 9, 2005, 6:46 AM • 39 Comments

"Proficiency and Pathology: Postmodernism in the Foundations Classroom," delivered recently by Walter Darby Bannard to the College Art Association in Atlanta last month.

I was naturally interested when I heard the ideas of Postmodernism many years ago. Postmodernism put concrete experience ahead of external reality and abstract principle, and it realistically accepted conflict. It seemed to accommodate an artist's view that we are put in the world with the need to construct one of our own, and to encourage a corollary need for the freedom and development of the individual. As time went on, however, I saw the interesting ideas of postmodernism become corrupt in practice. Small minds take big ideas and debase them for their own purposes, channeling broad wisdom into justification for immediate goals. This process is woven into human history; we see it today in the misapplication of religious principles, for example.

Via Elephants in Academia.

I owe newCrit an article. Sorry, John.

Onajide remarks that he "found some interesting comments on today regarding 'modernism' and 'postmodernism.' Of course, some of it was incorrect," and goes on to ask, "I wonder if the majority of commentors over at also comment about other media than painting with the same vigor?" I ask in reply: the Rauschenbergs we were discussing are paintings?




March 9, 2005, 5:29 PM

Good Lord, I actually forgot to link to the article.



March 9, 2005, 5:56 PM

There is nothing wrong with discussing "other media" with vigor, but I don't like it when the question is framed as an implicit moral obligation.

Painting seems to be our main interest and there is nothing wrong with that. Painting needs support these days, God knows. And we exclude nothing.



March 9, 2005, 6:51 PM

I will only speak for myself, but whether it's a discussion about Rauschenberg, Olitski or anybody else's work, I don't care what -ism it supposedly represents. The only thing that matters is always the same: How good is the work? Theoretical issues are always secondary. If someone wants to nitpick about that sort of thing, fine, but the bottom line remains unaltered. As for the emphasis on painting here, we've been through that before, and I don't think it's worth rehashing.

It will come as no surprise that I thoroughly agree with Darby Bannard's piece. It reads like simple common sense from one end to the other, and the fact that any of the things he points out should need to be spelled out for people reflects the seriousness of the problem he addresses. There should be no such problem; it makes no sense, but there it is, in all its rancid and putrefying glory. How it ever got this far is a deeply depressing testimonial to human perversity, as if any more were needed.



March 9, 2005, 7:19 PM

I'd consider the Raushenbergs to be paintings, but they could be considered monoprints. I consider the difference to be as negligible as "touch-up" vs "pentimenti". But I'm not heavily invested in maintaining the purity of painting as a medium. Plus I trained as a printmaker, so I'm a little biased in favor of process.

I have to confess that in college I considered the painters to be a bunch of whiny sucks. You can chalk that bad attitude up to the regular inhalation of lithotine, asphaltum and nitric . . . or not. :)

Pomo is the tomato on my grilled chesse. Modernism is my whole grain bread. Dada is my flava! This recurring discussion is the cheese itself.


taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 7:26 PM

Kathleen's comments make me swoon. Where's that blog, woman?!



March 9, 2005, 7:29 PM

Jackism: A belief that art must work successfuly on a purely visual level, apart from meaning and what-ism of any kind.


taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 7:33 PM

Jackism. I like it. Actually, i think Jack is right about that. We may disagree about what constitutes visual success, but we agree that it is foremost. I have my doubts about the Rauschenbergs, though I can't wait to see them. I like his work primarily for it's audacity.

I would classify the new batch as basically collage? It may be painted, but collage is the artistic modus, mainly, right?



March 9, 2005, 7:36 PM

Yeah, collages, or I was thinking they were collaged photo transfers.



March 9, 2005, 7:44 PM

Logically corrected...

Jackism: A belief that art must work successfully on a purely visual level, apart from meaning and all what-isms except for Jackism itself.



March 9, 2005, 7:56 PM

No sir. Rauschenberg's work was not painting. I guess my question had to do with the perception of his work, most of it not strictly painting, on your blog where it seems a lot of people comment knowledgably about painting. Is there sometimes a slight bias in the way Rauschenberg's is viewed in light of the nature of mechanical reproduction that he uses on the part of painters? Of course, my question is a general one and, maybe I misunderstood something along the way. Also, as mentioned several times on my blog, I like Rauschenberg's output, as well as him as a person (when MoCA installed his sculpture exhibition and I was an employee there).

I had planned to be out of town for a couple days but, the rain has prevented me from working on my personal project so, I'll have to get down to MAM today because I haven't seen this specific work.



March 9, 2005, 7:57 PM

I guess I'm a Jackist.

I think the Rauschenbergs are transfers which are assembled as and have the appearance of collages. From teaching both processes I can testify that although the overall take is similar the difference in full effect is profound. there is a presence to transfer that is complately lacking in collage, and I have never been able to figure out why. (This also may be a point for Potato's anit-jpeg crusade, because in reproduction it is ahard to tell the difference).



March 9, 2005, 8:06 PM


I am a painter but I have absolutely no prejudice in anything Rauschenberg does as a technique. Techniques are value neutral, for the most part. I have done (but chosen not to show) a lot of work with mechanical reproduction myself, and I also teach it.

As for the man himself, he is a sweetheart. I was aquainted with him years ago in NY and we were on at least one panel together, and went to a number of after-show dinners and the like. Very funny guy.


taterh###333d/z MARK2

March 9, 2005, 8:43 PM

i'm getting pretty tired of this debate too, O/P. but as long as you keep bringing it back up, i don't see why I should have to drop it.

you on the previous thread: Every time the JPEG matter thing comes up I say one thing and one thing only: you can tell a lot about a painting from a reproduction of a painting. You can tell if it has red or blue in it. You can tell if it is a painting of a Giraffe. You can tell if is square or if it is long and narrow.

There are some things you cannot tell, and it is always best to defer esthetic judgement until you see the real thing. Please, in the future, do not say that I said anything else. I am tired of correcting you. OK?

links to you passing cocksure, windbag judgement on jpegs:

and of course



March 9, 2005, 8:54 PM

Enough, Potato, enough.



March 9, 2005, 9:25 PM

Tater Tot: OP's probably lost interest in parsing your willful ignorance and I'm about to as well, but just because he said it was best to defer judgment doesn't mean that a preliminary judgment might not be floated in the meantime. That's what most people do on this blog anyway, which is why I put the images up. Good luck joining the large group of readers who already understand this.


taterh###333d/z MARKZ

March 9, 2005, 10:52 PM

maybe. it was fun tripping down memory lane, tho. good times.

to me, some of those pronouncements sound pretty definitive and self-assured. i think the "preliminary judgment " stuff was some post-facto backpedaling. anyway, i'd have dropped it long time; O/P keeps bringing it back up: not my fault.

sticking up for the art over here. Jackism and all that. Hey, go back and look at a couple of those links - they speak for thmsevz?



March 10, 2005, 1:28 AM

Well, I'm flattered, but with all due respect and thanks to Momoko, I don't think the art world really needs another -ism. What it needs is for people to see and think and decide for themselves and stand their ground, to have the courage of their convictions, and to call it as they honestly see it--not as they think they're supposed to. I don't need everybody to buy into my position, but it's going to remain MY position based on MY criteria.

My emphasis on visual success for visual art is analogous to my emphasis on good food at a restaurant, good singing at the opera, and so on. Yes, other elements come into it, and they're important, and they can significantly enhance and strengthen the work, but my minimum basic requirements are not negotiable. It's not that they're necessarily enough, and it's NOT that I don't want or expect other things, but the basics MUST be there. If someone has a brilliant concept or a profound message but s/he's not a good ARTIST, I am simply not interested in that person's ART work--it will never satisfy me as such.



March 10, 2005, 4:42 AM

Jpeg-ism: A condition in which two persons argue for and against online photographs of art pieces over and over and over and over and over and over and over again without any progress.



March 10, 2005, 5:31 AM

Call it pegism for short, Momoko.

I think what Jack said above is Jackism at its most coherent.



March 10, 2005, 7:24 AM

So franklin, how long is Momoko going to have to wait for Gaijin calligraphy?



March 10, 2005, 7:48 AM

I'm waiting for a slow news day. Also the camera issue isn't solved yet. Soon.

In the meantime, I'm very happy about the arrival of my new Kuretake Brush Pen. This thing is awesome. My Chinese characters are starting to halfway resemble the ones in the book.


that guy in the second to last row

March 10, 2005, 9:41 AM

I guess we are not going to talk about Bannard's essay then? Jack started in on it and then Kathleen kind of went off on a tangent and it all went to hell. The writing is well thought through as most of his writing is. How bout this line which is frightening:

"It also affects incoming faculty, who, however thoroughly they have been trained in the techniques of making and teaching studio art, must, in many schools, whistle the postmodernist tune or lose any chance of employment or tenure."

Any stories out there form the hinterlands or around town? I've heard stories that certain departments go so far as to make younger faculty members change their art to make it fit with their agenda. I wouldn't take a job like that no matter how much they paid. Well okay, try me. Make an offer I'll probably refuse.



March 10, 2005, 3:54 PM

Going back fifteen plus years, in undergrad we had a class in postmodern theory, taught within the art dept rather than an art historian specializing in contemporary work. Grad school postmodern theory classes were mandatory and again taught by artists.

In retrospect, we never really understood how PM theory informed their work, just that they were interested in it.(it was probably an excuse for them to get a better understanding of it and dust off the books they bought and couldn't get through) Many arguments never approaching a "boiled down" synopsis of what was really at hand.

I believe todays institutions would rather hire someone that can talk about PM issues than not. But in terms of "changing" ones work to fit within a faculty frieze, c'mon.



March 10, 2005, 4:27 PM

I have heard the same thing, Bob, often, in fact, but I can't recall the details well enough to be certain of my facts.

There is a fanatic side to the disciples of Pomo; they do not tend to be very tolerant, nor do they have much respect for the much-invoked academic mantra of "interdisciplinary" when it is a discipline they want to go away.

If I locate anything specific I will report it.



March 10, 2005, 6:18 PM

Well, Guy, perhaps there hasn't been much comment on Bannard's piece because those who agree may feel there's not much point in just saying "I agree," and the Pomoites may prefer to say nothing as opposed to trying to refute the irrefutable.



March 10, 2005, 6:59 PM

Franklin, are you sure that Kuretake pen is kosher, so to speak? It looks much too high tech to me. Ask Momoko.



March 10, 2005, 7:23 PM

Jack said "the Pomoites may prefer to say nothing as opposed to trying to refute the irrefutable".

I've said it before in a different way. Nothing is irrefutable. "Reason" does not settle anything, which leaves it perfectly free to attempt to settle everything.

But I appreciate your saying you would say hello to me at the Olitski opening. We could argue the point some more if only I could make it across and down to good old Miami.

Guy: Thanks for the offer to put me up for the big event tomorrow. I can't afford the plane ticket. But I really appreciate your kindness to house someone you have had serious disagreements with on the computer screen. Guess that says something good about your attitude to this great blog and the issues that are discussed here.



March 10, 2005, 7:37 PM

That type of pen is used for Penmanship (shosha or shuji). Shuji means leaning letters. Shodo (calligraphy) has an aspect of art, whereas Shuji is more of education and etiquette to write neatly. Pen Shuji is not considered to be art form, but Shodo is.



March 10, 2005, 7:43 PM

Everyone has to start with Shuji (learning letters), then and only after then one can shift up to Shodo (calligraphy) to make art.



March 10, 2005, 7:49 PM

Flatboy, if you mean no one has to accept or believe what they don't want to or can't handle, I agree with you. I also agree that people can defend a position despite overwhelming evidence against it. Sorry you can't make it to the Olitski show, but plane fare from CA must be fairly hefty unless you get some sort of super special deal.

Franklin, I knew that pen looked dubious.



March 10, 2005, 7:49 PM

Hey, Flatboy.

Guy's offer is typical of us Formalist types. We may argue a lot and have strong (Kathleen would say "immobile") opinions but we are a generous and tolerant bunch at the same time.

Too bad you can't come, but thanks for the warning. I might have said "Hello Flat\boy" to some dodo wearing a black carnation.

There are things that are irrefutable. It depends on the condiitions, or context. But reason doesn't seem to settle much, that's for sure.



March 10, 2005, 8:30 PM

My pen rocks. I'm just using it to learn the language - the pen makes it possible to practice writing without pouring out ink, getting a bucket of water going, etc.



March 10, 2005, 9:38 PM

Face it, Franklin, your instrument is impure.



March 10, 2005, 10:11 PM

You dare cast aspersions upon my instrument? I know kung fu and six other Chinese phrases!



March 10, 2005, 10:45 PM

Yes oldpro, death is irrefutable.



March 10, 2005, 10:45 PM

Hey, I didn't make the rules. You're the one resorting to decadent western practices. I'm sure the CPP (Cultural Purity Police) would back me up. It's this sort of thing that gives Gaijin calligraphy a bad rep, you know.


Norman Bates

March 10, 2005, 10:47 PM

You're wrong, Mr. Flatboy.



March 10, 2005, 11:11 PM

That's a good one, Norman! A sharp comeback, indeed.

However, death is neither refutable or irrefutable or I suppose evern futable.

It may be irreversable, however.



March 11, 2005, 5:48 AM

You're right, Oldpro. Death is not an opinion.



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