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robert rauschenberg at mam

Post #487 • March 7, 2005, 7:03 AM • 46 Comments

Robert Rauschenberg's work has never bowled me over. His two-dimensional pieces, deprived of the raunchiness that elivens his early so-called combines, doesn't set up for me formally or convey any more import than average television programming. Now wheelchair-bound after a series of health crises, he has nevertheless directed the creation of new images that the Miami Art Museum has put up in its New Works space.

Rauschenberg is a longtime Florida resident, having lived in Captiva since the '70s. Now that his health has constrained his travels, his work has begun to reflect distinctively local input: gators, punchy shadows, pink and green. His move to water-based media - inspired by safety and environmental concerns - forced his palette into a gentler range of intensity than his previous work using kerosene transfers and full-strength colors. This makes his recent work pleasanter to look at, but the oomph has gone out of them as well.

Rauschenberg has never been a great composer or colorist, and I also doubt that his work has all that much to say. MAM Curator Peter Boswell's 1500-word brochure essay about him seems to back this up: he devotes about half of it to technical processes. MAM hardly ever does this (excepting the recent Chuck Close show), and when I read it, my first thought was, Oh, man, Peter got screwed on this one. Frankly, there isn't much else to talk about - these are okay collage-based images of the artist's locale. Mostly they evince fatigue. His foreground elements come off as lazy, and some of the empty spaces between them are as inert as a flat EKG reading. They're sort of fun, but they're astonishingly light and nonfunctional for someone who is revered as a central figure of modern art.




March 7, 2005, 5:31 PM

The weakness of this work may obviously relate to the health problems, but he's been doing facile, formulaic stuff for a long time. It's essentially graphic design work. The early combines and so on that you refer to had a certain brash energy and insouciance, a sort of bad-boy-with-a-wink appeal, but there's a difference between more or less superficial charm and lasting substance. Obviously he was influential, but the question is, how good was his influence?


mon ami miami

March 7, 2005, 5:47 PM

I think Rauschenberg is amazing. His new work may not be the strongest but you cannot deny his contributions to Pop Art and art histroy.


kenneth cohen

March 7, 2005, 5:51 PM

This kind of graphic design did not exists until R.R. made art that looked like this.{Kenneth is no way defending his latest work}what I do find interesting is how easily this guys work has been assimilated into extreme sport advertising.



March 7, 2005, 5:54 PM

Rauschenberg has accomplished the necessary first step in leaving a durable reputation: He has been recognized, and widely. He may not be "postmodern", but, like most of those who have been recognized since 1960, neither is he "modern". He certainly did not enter the black hole that consumed modernism so thoroughly.

I'm not arguing modernism "died" or that everyone quit using its methods and practicing its attitudes. It is just that it could not renew itself with a younger generation of artists that commanded serious attention. (I think the OldPro has noted this elsewhere.) Instead, the only emerging artists that got serious attention were those who ignored modernism. Today, that has evolved into opposing modernism.

Who is right, who is wrong? Hard to know. But Rauschenberg certainly has a large leg up on all those who "emerged" and were ignored.



March 7, 2005, 6:17 PM

Asking these pictures to be great art, to measure up to Rauschenberg's wildly overinflated reputation, is asking too much of them. Taking them for what they are is a pleasure, and we should take pleasure where we find it.

I have always been struck by the way Rauschenberg and the other Pop artists used ab-ex underpinnings to hang pop illustration on, and it is amazing how ab-ex these pictures look with not a trace of brushy paint to be seen. They are cleverly and humorously organized, the color is good, and there are all sorts of visual puns and contradictions going on.

I find this quite delightful. Lightweight it may be, but in this case, so what. It is a relief from the academic tedium and horriblisme and pretentious foolishness we see every day around here. it is "fun art", if you will, with enough skill and wit to sustain it as such.

If you want great art , art that knocks you over, go see the Olitski show. Then when you recover, go see it again.



March 7, 2005, 6:23 PM

Once again, it is good to hear from you Flatboy.

One day we will have to resolve this "black hole of Modernism" thing. As far as i am concerned what has emerged since 1970, usually called "postmodernism", is just a degenerated stage of Modernism. Modernism itself, according to how you define it, is no more dead than good painterly painting was in 1850. it is just taking a rest.



March 7, 2005, 9:20 PM

Rauschenberg's career has interested me more than his work. I can see the work as pleasurable, if not outright pleasant. But the kind of work I really like is work that scares me, and Rauschenberg's does not.

Still, 500 years from now, those living are much more likely to pay attention to Rauschenberg than John Ferren (one of Clement Greenberg's fave modernists in the 60s - I have said elsewhere that Greenberg often lavished praise on odd artists). I was not even born in 1960 so I may have a different perspective on that time than those who lived through it. It has been "history" to me all along, a "history" that had already been written by the time I started gaining consciousness about art. When it was written, modernism was left out, for the most part. 45 years later, that absence still stands.



March 7, 2005, 10:27 PM

You always come up with a zinger, Flatboy.

Greenberg was a reviewer and he wrote about a lot of artists. Some he liked and some he did not like. He always tried to be positive and encouraging. But to say that John Ferren was "one of his fave artists of the '60s" which you probably gleaned from some passing mention in the 4 vol. gberg set, is inaccurate and misleading, as is the flat statement that Modernism was "left out".

It betrays an unwillingness to understand anything but the most superficial and transient characteristics of the ever-changing art world, or perhaps you are just trying to get my goat. Either way it would be more fun for me if I did not have to go back to the drawing board every timwe we have a discussion, because you do have some good insights, which is rare enough.



March 7, 2005, 11:45 PM

Rauschenberg has always struck me as a likable, fun guy, and those qualities, real or apparent, are clearly present in his work. It's fun. peppy, energetic stuff, but also lightweight and fluffy. Even when he uses "heavy" imagery, like JFK, it remains the work of a very talented graphic designer, with undeniable surface appeal but not that much depth or substance. There's been a fair amount of his pieces at the Art Basels here, and the more I've seen, the more it looks like sophisticated upscale corporate decor. Part of it is over-reliance on formula, part of it indulgence in an ingratiating facility, part of it the very nature of his talent.



March 7, 2005, 11:52 PM

The OldPro said " ...unwillingness to understand anything but the most superficial and transient characteristics of the ever-changing art world..."

You could do me a "zinger" if you would tell me just which "modernist" artists have emerged as part of the "renewal" of modernism since 1960. Let's see who they are and how they are doing, recognition wise. Apparently you agree that John Ferren is not a contender.

It's my view that a group is either renewed or it fades.

Perhaps I am not patient enough. A case could be made that John Currin is renewing pre-Raphaelitism, which appeared to have fallen into its own black hole. But until the renewal appears, there is nothing to go by except what art opinion has done and is doing. Of course we can always hope, but hope does not often work out.

Recognition may be "superficial and trasient" but without it, the "ever-changing" art world is very cruel.



March 8, 2005, 12:35 AM

I shouldn't have been quite so unpleasant. Sorry.

I did not say that Modernism was exactly booming, Flatboy, and I think the renewal has yet to begin in earnest, but if you want a great painter who got under way after 1960, is as innovative as can be, and still painting up a storm you could start with Jules Olitski, who is the subject of a show here in Miami which seems to have everyone bowled over.

Art opinion is what it is, which is, historically, usually wrong. It is an interesting subject for a sociological study but it has little to do with art or making art, unless you let it. You seem to think in terms of "movements", and I feel that this frame of mind is a kind of blinder. And there may be an art movement right under your nose which you don't see precisely because of the myopia of that opinion. Put yourself back in Paris inb 1865, knowing nothing. Think about it.



March 8, 2005, 12:52 AM

"A case could be made that John Currin is renewing pre-Raphaelitism"

Uh, no. The pre-Raphaelites may have been a lot of things, but they were not prissy little cynics making snide, knowing, campy little pictures (or rather, caricatures). I can hear Ruskin spinning in his grave, poor man.



March 8, 2005, 3:00 AM

"Modernism itself, according to how you define it, is no more dead than good painterly painting was in 1850. it is just taking a rest."

Like a Norwegian Blue parrot.

Personally, I think we're in for something else as yet unimagined.



March 8, 2005, 3:13 AM

This kind of graphic design did not exists until R.R. made art that looked like this.{Kenneth is no way defending his latest work}what I do find interesting is how easily this guys work has been assimilated into extreme sport advertising.

It would be weird if Balthus's work got assimilated into extreme sport advertising, but not Rauschenberg's. Rauschenberg's work was ripe for this kind of assimilation - the whole David Carson thing in all its illegible heinousness could be seen as a wholesale reabsorption of collaged Pop.

The first sentence sounds incorrect to me but I can't disprove it. Any graphic design geeks out there want to back up Kenneth?



March 8, 2005, 3:38 AM

the parrot skit is like arguing with Potato, only a lot funnier.

Modernism is an attitude toward making art, Franklin. if you think it is really an ex-movement I am puzzled why you paint what you paint. I mean, the attitude does not have to be viable any more for you to paint that way, but it must be discouraging.



March 8, 2005, 4:14 AM

Oldpro: Well, I think we're in a post-movement era in which the most viable art, examined by individual examples, is not going to resemble other examples except by accident. Your blinder comment above (#11) is well-taken.

Recognizing your authority and going against my better judgment in this regard, I'm going to say that Modernism isn't really an attitude toward making art. Self-criticism is an attitude toward making art, and Modernism has been, to date, self-criticism's best exponent. Self-criticism could operate in art without Modernism, but the reverse is probably not true, at least in any meaningful sense. I think we're headed towards a form of self-criticism that embraces quality but not other Modernist virtues, such as purity. That's where my art comes out of, more or less. What do you think?



March 8, 2005, 4:21 AM

These images are interesting. If they are large scale I am sure they could be quite fun to look at. It is his earlier work, the combines, that I think are quite wonderful. In other words, I see them as much better "Dada" and much better art, than any of Duchamps work. They seem to embody a lot of art history rolled into one, not unlike Manet's "Luncheon..." for it's time.

I think the progression of his work is impressive. Not always "great" stuff but impressive development.



March 8, 2005, 4:26 AM

They're about ten feet wide or so. I think they hold together better in reproduction, especially the empty areas.



March 8, 2005, 5:10 AM

The problem with these discussions is that we don't have clear definitions.

Modernism is a word that came to be used for what happened to art in the last hundred or two hundred years. We look at what happened and then we try to isolate characteristics. Then when we do that we see that those characteristics apply to just about all art-making. It is very fluid.

For example, the characteristic that most people adduce as modernism's salient characteristic is the self-criticism you mention. (I don't think "purity" has much to do with it). But all this really means is that you look at other art to see how you can make your art better. All artists have done that. It just became more evident and more pronounced when making the art better started to mean that the art changed a lot. Then the apparent self- criticism, as in "why do we need illusionism", became more evident as such.

But it seems to me that underlying the self criticism was another more fundamental claim that art was making for itself, one that I think is more definitively modernist, and that is that Modernism, as a working attitude over the past century and a half, has insisted that a work of art be valued for itself rather than for it's usefulness toward another end. This is more-or-less what is meant by "Art for art's sake". It is characterized by a spirit of high aspiration for art value or "goodness". The engine of internal self-criticism is what drives it.

Let me paraphrase my second-favorite critic:

"This has had certain consequences. If the creation of better art is unguided by criteria (how good or useful it is for something) then the art-making will become a matter of pure invention, and invention will be framed in terms of the craft and materials of the art as artists reassess the nature of their activity and question the usefulness of it's ingredients.

Eventually, over time, methods and conventions extrinsic to the art form will be discarded. This is one of the characteristics of Modernism. and it is how Modernism set the stage for it's own emasculation. Postmodernism can seen as a form of late Modernism because it has rejected one more convention: the convention of esthetic value and the critical discrimination which comes in company with it. Whether this is an expendable convention remains to be seen."

it is my contention that the dismissal or diminishing of the rigorous insistence on esthetic value is the fatal flaw in Postmodernism, because without value you are without value. I think that the current withdrawal from esthetic value is temporary for this reason, and that the fundamental appeal of the modernist attitude will reassert itself in some form that insists on direct esthetic appraisal of something seen. This is why I think modernism is not dead but only taking a back seat.



March 8, 2005, 6:03 AM

interesting. Oldpro is rephrasing and borrowing ideas i posted on the previous post less then half an hour ago. go see for yorsef.



March 8, 2005, 6:05 AM

Eventually, over time, methods and conventions extrinsic to the art form will be discarded. This is what I was talking about by "purity" - the idea that certain conventions in art are extrinsic, dross to be cleaned off of the base metal, and why, like it or not, "Modernism" (the term as it applies to art) is going to be helplessly bound to "postwar abstraction," the only aesthetically viable form that really did get rid of everything it could. (Okay, minimalism has its moments.)

I agree with the main track of what you're saying, but I think art in the post-movement era is going to to find ways to revitalize conventions without discarding them, however discardable they may be. I'm thinking of something that is pro-aesthetic but not reductive. Reduction has been taken as far as it can go - once aesthetics were discarded, content reasserted itself with a vengeance. This is natural, because with neither formal or content imperatives, why make art?

So here we are in a content-rich art environment, with aesthetic concerns ripe for the re-taking. If an aesthetically self-critical attitude at work in a content-heavy art world satisfies your definition of Modernism, I'd be surprised, but that's what I think we're headed toward.



March 8, 2005, 6:09 AM

Potato, take two aspirins and go read that post of yours again in the morning.



March 8, 2005, 6:15 AM

" What people call postmodern I just see as another development within modernism-and that's when it's good work. Otherwise it's a phoney excuse, a sort of anti-modernism, and its bad art trying to defend its corner by attaching a new label to itself. If "Blue Suede" is postmodern then where does that leave Charles Ives? Was Ives being postmodern at the start of the 20th Century? No, I don't think so- he was a modernist."

James Tenney (commenting on his piece "Blue Suede"1961)

Pretty accurate I think.



March 8, 2005, 7:14 AM

Discarding a convention simply because it is one, or just for the sake of discarding, or to achieve some concept of "purity" or "open-mindedness" which may, in fact, be more like sterility or impoverishment or absurdity, is neither logical nor sensible--certainly no more so than hanging on to a convention because "it's always been that way" without objectively evaluating its value or utility.

Some things have "always been that way" for very good reasons, and the fact someone's been seized by a mania for "purity" or "openness" or "inclusiveness" at any cost does not justify discarding them. I am always wary of any such dogma in art, especially if there is any hint of coercion or "this is the way it has to be done now." I am even more wary if such dictates emanate from some theorist or critic, however articulate or earnest. The fact that such a "prophet" may be absolutely convinced s/he's right guarantees nothing. It may also happen (and frequently has) that the would-be prophet is right about some things and wrong about others. It is virtually never and all-or-none situation. Nobody's perfect.



March 8, 2005, 7:17 AM

My penultimate sentence in #24 should have read "It is virtually never AN all-or-none situation." Nobody's perfect, indeed.



March 8, 2005, 7:30 AM

OldPro said "the parrot skit is like arguing with Potato, only a lot funnier". The parrot skit is also a lot like arguing with the OldPro about the importance of modernism today, which is apparently why Franklin posted it in the first place. Thanks Franklin.

Then OldPro said "The problem with these discussions is that we don't have clear definitions". That's always a problem, but it is also the way discussions about art proceed. Franklin is not exactly buying the OldPro definition of modernism, nor am I, but we can discuss it anyway. We seem to know what each other means, we just don't agree how to define it. That seems normal for a discussion of art.

Whether madernism (however you define it) is resting, taking a back seat, or has kicked the can, we know it has not been given much recognition lately.

Olitski is an interesting example for which I thank OldPro. I have seen some of his work and it is impressive. He has a foothold in art opinion, though he is the only post-50s emergent artist I can think of with clearly modern roots who has. (I didn't think of him until oldpro brought him up, so there may others. More names, oldpro?) It doesn't look like enough to keep modernism "alive" but it is not nothing either.

Then "Art opinion is what it is, which is, historically, usually wrong". It is not wrong about Rembrandt. It is not wrong about el Grecko. it is not wrong about Picasso. Etcetera. It was wrong about Cezanne for a while. It was wrong about Pollock for a while. And so on. Picking and chosing which verdicts to accept or reject seems full of peril. We don't really know until a hell of a long time has passed. Meantime we have to make our art , if that is what we do, without knowing.

Hi Jack: Both Currin and Dante whats-his-name made pretty pictures of girls with phantasmagorical overtones, well executed, etc. It doesn't matter to me what either artist said they did; this is what they did. They look too similar for me to say the pre-Raphaelites stayed in their black hole. I brought it up as indicative of a possiblity that would ultimately deny what I see as the "future" of modernism. It could come back. Maybe it must wait another 45 years. Meantime, I'm worried about my "career". I would rather have one than not.



March 8, 2005, 7:43 AM

Of course, Jack, that goes witout saying. i was oversimplifying for the sake of argument. Nothing of any real consequence happened that way anyway. What happened was that invention became foremost and that through invention artists discovered that they could make art without elements that had seemed indispensible. (That, inturn, is an oversimplification; the modification of illusionist space was a natural consequence of abstraction, for example, not a deliberate rejection).

Franklin, I'm not sure what you mean by:

"'Modernism' (the term as it applies to art) is going to be helplessly bound to 'postwar abstraction,' the only aesthetically viable form that really did get rid of everything it could.".

Modernism is commonly understood to go back at least to Manet, and I believe the term itself was in use at least by the beginning of the last century, and pretty much everything was got rid of in some art forms long before the ab-ex artists.

As far as reductivism is concerned, that, in its simple form, has gone as far as it can go (or should go) once you have Malevich or Carl Andre or take your pick. My argument with Postmodernsim is that it takes the notion of reduction one step too far by eliminating the convention of intrinsic esthetic value, which is not a physical but a psychological element of art. Modernism went through a process of physical reductionsism which appears to be quite played out, but there is no reason why Modernism cannot adopt or adhere to other conventions as long as its basic nature, which i maintain is not reductionism but the adherence to esthetic value driven by self-criticism, remains intact and workable.,



March 8, 2005, 7:58 AM

Flatboy, I said that the problem (or A problem, if you like that better) was that we did not have clear definitions, but then i went on to discuss it anyway, so there was little need for you to declare that we can go on to discuss it anyway.

Once again, the vitality of a form rests on the art that is being produced within its norms, not the "recognition" of the art public. You should know that, or at least recognize the difference. And you should also know that in the context in which I mentioned art opinion I meant contemporary art opinion about contemporary art, because that's what we were talking about.

More good Modernist artists of Olitski's generation would be Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler and Anthony Caro. Others I think somewhat less of, but of the same ilk, are Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Frank Stella. It's late and I am not coming up with names and I shouldn't try, but it shouldn't be hard to make a pretty long list.



March 8, 2005, 8:03 AM

When Franklin said "like it or not, 'Modernism' (the term as it applies to art) is going to be helplessly bound to 'postwar abstraction'" he was observing the obvious: the last time Modernism went through renewal/refreshment, it was during postwar abstraction. Of course it had a history before then. But "like it or not" its history has ended or stagnated for 40 some years at the "postwar abstraction" stage.

What's wrong with Postmodernism is a separate issue from this "helpless" binding.

This is getting to be more and more like the parrot discussion. No matter what is said, if someone wants to say the parrot is alive in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, a reason will be produced to defend the idea that a lifeless bird is indeed still alive. Hemingway wrote a short story called "The Neat Well-lit Prison of One Idea".



March 8, 2005, 8:09 AM

I believe the term itself was in use at least by the beginning of the last century... That sounds right, but would make Manet a Modernist only in retrospect and still associate the term with abstraction (although not just postwar abstraction). I still think reductionism is part of its baggage, and that reductionism was a successful self-critical strategy for a good long while but not anymore. Your usage of the term seems more fluid than the common one.



March 8, 2005, 8:19 AM

Sweet dreams oldpro. For your consideration tomorrow ...

Noland and Frankenthaler "emerged" before 1960, certainly before Olitski "emerged". Caro I'm not so sure about. Maybe he could count. But he is no David Smith.

Kelly seems "pure" enough to be a modernist, but he is so trite and pat. I've never seen him as a descendent of abstract expressionism. Stella, he came up after 1960 but does not look like a modernist though he is abstract. (Richter is abstract too, but not a modernist either.) And Marden? He is a young guy compared to the rest. And not so hot, as you say. Abstract, also yes. But modernist? Maybe he, like Stella and Kelly, is just not good enough.

None of these names are as compelling as Olitski. Noland and Frankenthaler are too early. The rest don't have enough clout. They seem more like indicators that modernism did not end with a bang but instead it was with a whimper.



March 8, 2005, 6:04 PM


I suppose Manet is a "modernist in retrospect", but so what. It is commonplace to begin modernism with Manet. This is not my opinion, it is the way it is discussed in the literature..

Of course the term is "associated with abstraction" but you had confined that to postwar abstraction. Yes, part of the "baggage" of Modernism has been reduction, and, as I clearly said, reductionism in the physical sense hardly seems useful any more. However, I was proposing a definition or characterization of Modernism which accomodates the softening or rejection of reductionism. This is a matter of definitions, which I began with by saying is the basic problem of such discussions.


It is not so much that the parrot is dead as that, unlike John Cleese, we don't have a parrot in hand to talk about.

If we are inclined to define Modernism as a system of self-critical physical reduction, as Franklin seems wont to do, then Modernism has probably breathed its last. I see Modernism as an attitude toward art and art-making rather than a set of procedures, and I took a stab at it above by saying it is an adherence to the primacy of esthetic value driven by self-criticism. You will respond by saying that I am trying to keep the parrot alive by calling it a partridge, and we will go on and on.

Once again, it is a definition problem. There is a kind of vital center to art I value highly and it has manifested itself in what has come to be called Modernism So, by default, I am stuck with the term and my impulse is to define it so that it fits what I like. This goes around in circles, as it must whenever we don't have a parrot and don't know what dead is.

Modernism, whatever it may be, is not my client. I have no interest in defending a phantom. However I do deeply feel the living urgency of great art and I believe that it embodies us at our best. it is my experience that the art which has come to be called "Modernist" maintains this. I have observed, furthermore, that Jules Olitski, in particular, helped initiate a deep revision and renewal of high "modernist" art which is carried on to this day by him and other younger artists, some influenced by him and some not, constituting an active and determined "underground" which one day will surface for the simple reason that the art they are making is better than what we see at the forefront. Naming them doesn't help precisely becasue it is an underground. This is a belief based on knowledge, experience and hope. If you wish to call it a delusion, go right ahead.

I should not have gotten sucked into your red-herring "after 1960" challenge. I was tired and that was foolish. Citing second-rate artists like Kelly, Stella and Marden hardly makes my case when I have just declared, and certainly believe, that "the vitality of a form rests on the art that is being produced within its norms, not the 'recognition" of the art public.'"



March 8, 2005, 6:21 PM

I was proposing a definition or characterization of Modernism which accomodates the softening or rejection of reductionism. Proposing your own definition? How... postmodernist.

Actually, I'm okay with your definition in theory, but I don't see how we could ever disentangle Modernism from what we usually think of as modernist art (abstract), not to mention modernist architecture and design (reductive, non-ornamental, shape-oriented). I'm going to throw my weight behind aesthetic self-criticism, which as you said above, artists have always employed, and thus is platform-independent (like they say in the computer sciences). And I mean "aesthetic self-criticism" as opposed to a self-criticism that discards the aesthetic. Call that Modernist if you like, but I can't bring myself to do it.

Okay, I'm trying to get the Olitski post up.



March 8, 2005, 6:24 PM


regarding your purported link between the Pre-Raphaelites and Currin, I was not only referring to differences in philosophy and intent, which are major, but also to a different ethos, and certainly a very different handling of women. There is no comparison between the physically aberrant, cretinous and/or bitchy Currin creatures and the formidable and mysterious goddess-like beings of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who may be said to represent the "heroic feminine" (as opposed to the heroic female, which is different). Currin is, in effect, misogynist; his women are mutants or dried-up types who look as if they've been chain-smoking since age 3. I've never found them "pretty," except in a silly-bimbo way, and certainly never beautiful. Look at Rosetti again.


making invention foremost, or pursuing it for its own sake, strikes me as dangerously close to making "new and different" a fetish. The results, as you know, are all too often poor. Maybe that was another flaw of Modernism that wound up leading to...



March 8, 2005, 6:57 PM

That should have been Rossetti. I hate it when I do that.



March 8, 2005, 7:03 PM

You can't disentangle it, Franklin. The term is generated by the tangle. I was trying to isolate it verbally for clarity but that just leads to more problems.

I am in synch with "esthetic self-criticism", as I think I said all along, and I guess i don't give a damn if it is called Modernism, really. All I care about is good art.

I just got a notice of new work being posted by a friend up in Canada ( who paints desolate landscapes which are not modernist or postmodernist or anything except just damn good. I love his work. Screw the terms. As far as i am concerned he is sustaining art in his remoteness and isolation far more than, say, Damien Hirst, or Richter or whoever. Call it what you will.

Get that Olitski stuff up!

Yes indeed, Jack, to "make it new" as Duchamp famously advised, is dangerous and destructive. Like the microbes in fermenting grape juice that kill themselves creating alcohol for wine, Modernism engineered its own downfall. This is what i tried to outline in the last 3 paragraphs of #19 above.



March 8, 2005, 7:29 PM

By the way, here is a nice piece of writing that takes a far darker view than I do, and ought to make Flatboy happy (or depressed?)



March 8, 2005, 7:48 PM

Thanks for the Fenton link, Oldpro. A number of his recent landscapes are indeed very nice. They look more like watercolors than oil on paper. There's an echo of Caspar David Friedrich in them which is intriguing. Lovely work.


that guy in the second to last row

March 8, 2005, 8:23 PM

Damn that Fenton, he just gets better and better. It's like he is flipping off all of the art world, just rubbing quality in their faces as if they can't recognize it.

Hey Oldpro, did you know Terry Fenton wrote a book about Olitski? I just traded a drawing for it with some book dealer in Canada. I think its called "Jules Olitski and the history of oil painting" If you do, is it any good?


that guy in the second to last row

March 8, 2005, 8:41 PM

found this in Fentons CV:
Jules Olitski and the Tradition of Oil Painting, The Edmonton Art Gallery, 1979.

I'm Looking forward to getting ii in the mail.



March 8, 2005, 9:04 PM

Dear OldPro,

You are making my case about the disappearance of modernism better than I have made it. Thanks.

I will look at that link and get back with my reactions. (It is pretty hard to depress me.)




March 8, 2005, 9:08 PM

Jack, thanks for posting Dante's other names. (Don't sweat the spelling thing.) As you may remember, I'm not that hot for art history stuff. Too much memorizing and not enough thinking.



March 8, 2005, 9:21 PM

Oh wow, that guy is pretty good.

"But I question Clem's (Greenberg's) implicit assumption that serious art can go on without recognition by the community of artists, and ultimately, by society at large."

That's what I have been saying all along. I question how "the bird" can be underground, how it can be resting, how it can have its foot nailed to the perch, etc., and still be seriously alive.

The only "red herring" / "smoke screen" / "wild goose chase" I sense in this discussion is the "hope" that modernism remains a serious option for the future. The bird is dead, long live the bird.

No depression here. I'm zonkers that oldpro suggested reading Link, and Link agrees.



March 8, 2005, 10:40 PM

I know, Flatboy, it is what you have been saying all along. That's why I sent it to the blog. I already argued with John about it some time ago. I don't have to be right. I may have a different opinion but not violently different. Modernism, whatever it is, may be 6 feet under, or it may be on the beach in Corsica. Art itself might be on the edge. I don't know.

My hope for modernism, really a hope for the continued maintenance of good art, may be delusional but it is hardly a "red herring". A red herring is a diversion which is intended to distract attention from the main issue. This is what your introduction of a date and a request for names was, to some extent,at least. I was expressing my opinion about the state of modernism, and my hopes for it, and the state of modernism was the main issue under discussion.

Are we back in the pet shop again? I think the skit is over.



March 8, 2005, 10:42 PM

Guy, show me the book when you get it. Anything by Fenton about Olitski will be worth having, but I have long since lost track of what I have in my library.


John Link

March 9, 2005, 5:16 AM

Hi Flatboy. A black carnation, eh? Sounds like you are all dressed up for the formalist prom and/or the end of the world as we now know it. Glad you found my essay useful.



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