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criticism lives and dies at same time

Post #518 • April 15, 2005, 10:40 AM • 62 Comments

Could it be mere coincidence that this article and this article showed up at Artsjournal at the same time?

Comment

1.

Zeke

April 15, 2005, 9:13 PM

Howdy!

Are you really suggesting that there might be a greater conspiracy at work here? Or perhaps just a slow news day?

2.

Jack

April 15, 2005, 9:47 PM

Excellent piece from the Art Newspaper. The money quotes, for me:

"when almost every review is positive, then no review means much"

I dont think of the art-magazine critics as critics, really, says one veteran London gallerist. Theyre part of the scene and always seem to be thinking more about their other options in the art world.

That also applies to other print critics. No wonder so many of these people can't be taken seriously (at least not by me).

3.

that guy in the second to last row

April 15, 2005, 10:31 PM

There were some great quotes in there indeed. Might be why blogging has taken off in a big way of late. The bad news Franklin, is that you don't even see the hundred bucks for blogging full time. I had no idea the Art in America folks were so cheep with their writers, guess all that ad revenue goes to pay the rent on Broadway. Go figure.

4.

Jack

April 16, 2005, 12:41 AM

Apropos of art criticism, particularly our local situation, I found a review of the Olitski show at Goldman Warehouse in the Spanish Herald, which follows below. I thought about translating it, but then I figured that's what the regular Herald should have done if they couldn't manage anything else.

Posted on Sun, Apr. 10, 2005

Seis dadas de JULES OLITSKI

CARLOS M. LUIS

Especial/El Nuevo Herald

En plena dada de los sesenta la pintura abstracta a dominaba el panorama arttico de los Estados Unidos. Sus dos grandes ideogos Clement Greenberg y Harold Rosenberg, no cesaban de pontificar a favor de un artista o de otro, debatidose entre las distintas corrientes de esa escuela pictica. La sombra de Pollock continuaba sereando sobre todo un proceso creativo mientras que el Pop reprodujo una iconograf destinada a poner la mirada de sus contemporeos m a tono con los productos de una cultura de producci masiva. Pero Greenberg y Rosenberg se aferraban a sus dioses con la tenacidad de quienes creen poseer una verdad profica. Entre esos dioses se encontraba Jules Olitski.

Nacido en 1922 en Snovsk (antiguamente Rusia y ahora perteneciente a Ucrania) Olitski llegcon sus padres a Nueva York un a m tarde. Despu de estudiar artes en ''The National Academy of Design'' se marcha Par y alltrabajen el estudio del escultor Ossip Zadkine. A su regreso a New York expuso esporicamente en algunas instituciones hasta que en 1959 su obra le llamla atenci a Clement Greenberg inicidose entre los dos una estrecha relaci que durhasta el fallecimiento del famoso crico. El pintor hab comenzado su ascendencia en el sinuoso mundo de las artes bajo un ambiente dominado por figuras de la talla de Helen Frankenthaler o Morris Louis. Estos dos pintores, cada uno bajo directivas diferentes, manipulaban el color con una soltura que influyen la obra del joven pintor ruso. La utilizaci del spray algunos as despu le permiticubrir la superficie de la tela con tenues mutaciones de color que podrn encontrar sus raes en las grandes composiciones de Monet. La idea consist en reemplazar toda sugerencia linear o geomrica a favor de extensos campos de color que cubrieran la tela entera, o sea lo que los cricos ya habn llamado all over painting.

Durante la temporada de 1973-1974 Olitski es objeto de una restropectiva en el Whitney Museum de Nueva York, lo que indica la importancia asignada a su obra por los gestures del mundo arttico. Harold Rosenberg escribe a la saz un artulo (incluido en el volumen de sus obras completas titulado Art on the Edge) donde sit su obra en relaci con dos importantes pintores tambi objetos de sendas restropectivas: uno representante del Pop, Richard Hamilton y el otro del abstraccionismo concreto: Ellsworth Kelly. Mientras que Rosenberg proclama la muerte del Pop y le dedica a Kelly sus mejores elogios, no escatima lisonjas para Olitski afirmando con tminos tajantes que ''Con Olitski el arte moderno ha encontrado su mimo maestro y que cualquier obra no relacionada con es, en ultima instancia, irrelevante''. Por su parte Clement Greenberg no se quedatr cuando tambi afirmara que era ''el mejor pintor viviente''. Y fue asentonces como la importancia de este pintor se establecicomo un dogma de fe.

Tony and Joey Goldman son unos apasionados coleccionistas de arte residentes en la Florida, y por la muestra que mantienen en su espacio-museo, son los pintores abstractos quienes han conquistado su gusto. Para ello han abierto lo que se llama ''The Goldman Warehouse'' en el Wynwood Art District y en el mismo le han dedicado una importante restropectiva a Olitski mostrando adem en una de las salas, algunos cuadros importantes de su colecci privada pertenecientes a artistas como Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Larry Poons, Friedel Dzubas o Helen Frankenthaler. La exposici curada por Karen Wilkin incluye un catogo con numerosas ilustraciones y un ensayo escrito por ta.

Una mirada a la extensa colecci de Olitski nos pone en contacto con una obra que revela rasgos desiguales. Si por una parte el pintor juega libremente con su sabidur del color, por otra se abandona en cuadros m recientes a amontonar capas de pintura de fuertes tonalidades sin el exquisito sentido del color que lo llevara a realizar obras de perdos anteriores. Pensando en tas me acerco a cuadros como Radical Correspondence (1982), Dark Domain (1981) o Drakely (1966) y comprendo el entusiasmo que se apoderara de los cricos que tuvieron la ocasi de ver de cerca el proceso de esas obras. Me parece que en las mismas toda una tradici que parte por un lado del impresionismo de Monet y de las tnicas puntillistas puede encontrarse con un arte gestual cuyos ancestros comienzan en la caligraf Zen. En Francia pintores como Degottex habn explorado esos caminos aunque los cricos estadounidenses no lo quisieran ver. Por su parte en este pa y en formatos m peques, Mark Tobey hab descubierto lo mismo sin que tampoco hubiese sido objeto de los frenicos aplausos de Greenberg o Rosenberg demasiado embelesados con la poderosa personalidad de Pollock.

Olitski es parte estelar, sin duda, de una intensa historia que en muchos sentidos no ha concluido a. Otras escuelas como el minimalismo o el conceptualismo han querido usurpar el sitio de una corriente pictica que contin dando pruebas de vitalidad. Todo eso pertenece tambi a la enmarada historia de nuestro tiempo en el que los intereses econicos, el snobismo y la ignorancia indican debe o no ser un arte relevante. La exposici Jules Olitski nos ayuda a poner las cosas en su lugar, mostrando la producci de uno de los m importantes pintores de su generaci. Se trata, pues, de una exposici de obligada visita y estudio.

5.

that guy in the second to last row

April 16, 2005, 1:01 AM

Thanks Jack. What does it all mean? Somebody's got to translate this for the less linguistically
gifted.

6.

oldpro

April 16, 2005, 1:03 AM

The Herald art coverage is incomprehensible. Here is a post I put up on the blog recently:

oldpro
Saturday 26 February 2005 10:00 am
Speaking of "expanded arts coverage", El Nuevo Herald has posted on Sunday, feb 20, the following long article, in the "Galeria" section:
Rutas del arte
Retrospectiva de Jules Olitski en The Goldman Warehouse
By ADRIANA HERRERA T.
Isn't this the Spanish language version of the Miami Herald? Is their idea of "expanded arts coverage" to write up the Olitski show in the Spanish language paper and Gattorno in the English language newspaper? AArghh!

Now Jack has brought this very extensive review, almost an article, in the same paper while the English edition has done nothing but put in a short "who was at the party" squib in the People section right after the opening.

Google will translate the article for you. Of course Google translations are pretty amusing in themselves, but read the translation of the last paragraph below and you can see the piece was not only practically an article it was a rave to boot:

"Olitski is stellar part, without a doubt, of an intense history that in many senses has still not concluded. Other schools like the minimalismo or the conceptualismo have wanted to usurp the site of a pictorial current that continues giving vitality tests. All that also belongs to the entangled history of our time in which the economic interests, the snobismo and the ignorance indicate must or not to be an excellent art. The exhibition Jules Olitski helps us to put the things in its place, showing the production of one of the most important painters of its generation. One treats, then, of a exhibition of forced visit and study".

So, what's going on here?

7.

that guy in the second to last row

April 16, 2005, 1:39 AM

I'm gonna "continue giving vitality tests" to my art for sure.

8.

craigfrancis

April 16, 2005, 9:39 AM

some thoughts:

the more i read this blog the more i picture four guys sitting around somewhere trying to ignore conceptual art.

the problem with critics and curators is not that they are all full of shit. they aren't always. the problem is that they've taken the production of meaning out of the hands of artists.

essays like the one i mentioned for grunt gallery a few days ago are worthy of scorn because they try to articulate in artspeak (how's that for an oxymoron) what the work itself communicates effectively. and as for the vag(anal) work dismissed out of hand by old pro, i can say in response that at least this work engages with things that were happening in the world only twenty years ago as opposed to one hundred (see picasso, monet etc., who, by the way, were as a-political as they come). my criticism of this site was based on the writing around the work being shown, and not the work.

if jack doesn't care for anyone else's opinion when it comes to art, or theory or whatever, then why in the name of god are we still hearing from him. all we hear from him is how everything that's happening in the artworld is crap and that his opinion alone is the only thing that truly matters. in other words, there isn't an exchange. so why bother. consider, though the chances may be infinitely small, that you may, occaisionally, for the tiniest fraction of a second, possibly, maybe, have the wrong idea about something.

you guys are going to have to come to grips with the fact that there is a school of thought that exists out there that believes that technique in artmaking is a tool by which mediocre thinkers can cover up their banal ideas (thank you sol lewitt). it's a school of thought that i happen to believe in. the form gets talked about so much on this site i wonder if you guys have some sort of inferiority complex when it comes to content.

whatever the artist says is art, is art. art history and criticism is the development of a language that has as its purpose putting the contemporary into context with the past. i'm willing to bet a million pesos that franklin, jack, oldpro, and that guy in the second row do not make contemporary work. you just don't.

yes yes the artworld is corrupt and there's a grand conspiracy and it's been hijacked etc., etc., etc., blah blah blah.

i hope that this isn't overly offensive to you guys cuz i think that were we to meet in person i'd quite like you all. but hell, it's four in the morning in canada and i'm loaded okay, and damn tired and from all the writing i've read on this site there just doesn't seem to be any kind of fucking progress being made. so sorry and peace out. i'll see you tomorrow.

9.

Muh

April 16, 2005, 11:35 AM

One of the hot cenceptual imports from New York has show, here, in Los Angeles. The Regen Projects Gallery (one of the heavy weights here in L.A.- www.RegenProject.com) shows the latest work of Lawrence Weiner. Anyone curious can check under "current exhibiton" what Weiner had come up with.
Below I have submitted critic, Christopher Knight, comments about exhibition printed in L.A. Times on April 15.

"The centerpiece is an environmental installation composed solely from words rendered by a sign painter on the surrounding walls of the large main gallery-Weiner trademark motife. This work is not site-specific, because is could be rconfigured for another for another room in another building, in another place. But insofar as Weiner has carefully composed the arrangement to accomodate the size, scale, layout and dimensions of this particular room, it is site-related. The stark white walls have been approached the way a painter addresses a blank canvas.
As a three-dimensional environment, the piece is also sculptural. It is abstract, because it is composed of words and graphic marks, but it is also representational, given that language is a system that employs conventional signs for communicating ideas. And anonymity of Weiner's method, which employs another person to make the physical work, removes it from an isolated precinct of autonomous self-expression reprsented by autograph marks of painter's brush."

In the last paragraph, I guess, the critic is saying that whole thing was done over the phone between artist in New York and "another person" here in L.A. Do we need critics? Contemporary art needs them. I think, Marcel Duchamp said that critic is part of artistic creative process. It creates awarness and existence of controversial art in the mind of general audience. Without Christopher Knight - likes Lawrence Weiner art would quickly disapear to oblivion. Contemporary art can function only on the created hype and conflicting interpretations, this is what it makes so interesting in the eyes of many. The moment of transcendence in artistic thought, the moment of creative brilliance arised from the complex cognitive process into complex art representation is always inferior to buzz, art theories and socio-political groups agendas in our times.

10.

johnlink

April 16, 2005, 11:53 AM

craigfrancis, you probably would like "the group" if you met them in person, and they you.

Sol LeWitt mastered every technique his minimalist methodology required. If he said what you say he said - and I don't doubt you - then he succeeded in obscuring the role technique played in his work. Lots of artists obscure their work when they talk about it.

You would lose your bet of a million pesos about the "contemporary work" issue if "the group" is making art these days. "Contemporary" is a time based criterion and they appear to satisfy it. Your bet would be safer if you bet they were not doing "trendy work", that is, work that is in fashion with the majority of the art system. However, the art system is not completely homogenized, so even the modified bet is not a sure thing. There may be room for their kind of art too (especially if someone attached a "conceptual" tag to it). Anyhow, where there is "lash" there is also "backlash" so some quarters of the system relish the old fashioned visually satisfying kind of art, which seems to be the type "the group" favors.

"Progress" in talking about art is one thing, art is another.

11.

Franklin

April 16, 2005, 2:33 PM

...i wonder if you guys have some sort of inferiority complex when it comes to content.

I'm a figurative painter. I love content.

i'm willing to bet a million pesos that franklin, jack, oldpro, and that guy in the second row do not make contemporary work. you just don't.

I enjoy the occasional opportunity to point out that Lucian Freud is a contemporary artist. Alive? Making art? Contemporary artist. Yep. As for me, I have a little work posted if you'd like to see it.

...from all the writing i've read on this site there just doesn't seem to be any kind of fucking progress being made.

I agree. I kind of feel like we've hit a wall around here. The Art Newspaper article made me consider that criticism is a dead end. The age of criticism may have died with Greenberg, and we have entered the age of competing public relations statements. I think I could work with that. Good stuff gets advocated, bad stuff gets ignored. When bad stuff gets advocated, people ignore the advocacy after a while. It works for the movies. Do I care if the latest Jet Li venture gets critically panned? Not in the least. I'm there for the kung fu. If people want to have a philosophical experience in front of art instead of a visual one, well, I'm feeling catholic about that these days.

I like art with a visual orientation, so people who feel the same have come here and expressed their frustrations. This, in turn, has caused people who like art with a philosophical orientation to come here and express their frustrations at those frustrations. I am no longer feeling frustrated. I hit some kind of point of neutrality this week that I'm going to write about on Monday. I just exist and work. I think Harold Rosenberg once said that the best criticism is the best description, and I'm starting to see where he's coming from. I'm running a little thought experiment about what it would be like to write about art as an alien with no preconceptions about anything.

Things change. Even the MoCA website is rather nice now.

12.

V Gripes

April 16, 2005, 4:10 PM

Don't let us down now Franklin, after whetting our reading appetites with the alien concept. Once you've finished the experiment, please do follow up with a posting on what those alien writings might be like.

13.

oldpro

April 16, 2005, 4:54 PM

Craig: the problem is that we work within a broad assumption that art has great value to our species with no permanent assumptions about the characteristics of good art of value. Therefore many people (many more than ever now) work at making and showing art while simultaneously speculating on what is best. This means that we try all kinds of different things in waves of change which, when upon us, are called "innovation" and when gone are called "trends" or are forgotten or perhaps leave a couple items of lasting value.

the good stuff gets sorted out in time, or has in the past, anyway. The process tells us that almost all of the art being made at any one time has little value. It also tells us that the majority opinion, the prevailing opinion, is usually wrong. This will be exaggerated when art gets out of the hands of dedicated professional practitioners and into the hands of individuals who are, one way or another, removed from actual art; this has taken place to an extreme in the last 30 years because of the huge growth of the art business. Art has become a popular entertainment vehicle with much in common with cinema, pop music, and such like.

The people on this site - whether right or wrong - are concerned with the "lasting value" end of things. the entire flavor of your comment had to do with something quite different: "at least this work is engaging in things that happened only twenty years ago", "putting the contemporary in the context of the past", "do not make contemporary work". "(no) progress being made". Please understand that what matters in art is not how up-to-date it is. In fact, great art more often than not has come about because the artist has borrowed values from the past. The important thing is the value, not the time.

You make the common mistake of using "content" too loosely. We are all in favor of "content". "Content" and "form" are only separable analytically; they cannot exist separately in art. When we look art art and appraise it we consider both. When something is as palpably bad as the "vag(anal)" work you point out and I commented on the issue is beside the point.

As for "progress", well, I don't know. Were the Christians in the catacombs making progress? If you believe something strongly and passionately it is right to fight for it. Because of the nature of art we are doomed to advocate something we can't articulate well, and we end up fighting the mainstream while everyone else is celebrating it. We may be imperfect, but no one else is doing it.

14.

oldpro

April 16, 2005, 5:48 PM

I might add that you almost have to have gone through it to understand, understand from experience, how shallow and transitory the attitudes and tastes which prevail at any one time are. If I had not seen these things come and go in a long career in art I would probably take the current scene as seriously as you and others do.

Believe me, there is simply no doubt that this too will fade away and look dated, and, in the case of most art we see so highly touted at the moment, not only fade but look plain silly, ridiculous, even. The signs are all right here in front of us; we just don;t see them. The next generation will see them, but they, in turn, will be preoccupied with their own circus.

15.

jake

April 16, 2005, 7:02 PM

art is what you are about. I mean properly speaking, art is derived from ars, inturn derived from tekne, and this we have a bit of a handle on-technique-it is the developed system to accomplish something. This can be easily appreciated. If you try to make a straight line and instead you get a squiggle, then your technique for straight lines could use a little work, refinement, practice. But that squiggle(r) matters to us today(especially in the light of i was trying something else and this came out)(a mediumship of sorts). It is also about the connotations the word art carries-creativity, or simply expression, assuming a fingerprint to expression. We care about the thing, and the process of making it, and the person whodunit.

So when art is put out there, looking at it lets you know a lot about the maker. And if at this point you are making judgements about in the world of 6billion+ i have to choose, then fuck you for not choosing me, and choosing someother freak, or yourself for that matter. I am more important than you and i know this because you are more important than me. In any case, i would like to offend at this point AWFEGVSGSVTRVGERGVWRAESAGFDTJDTYJ NYTAcCCACFASFDAFAWEFAFVAFVZFGGGS.

So either take the time to look at the little grasshopper or just fuck you and your elitist ramblings and fluctuation of philosophies. This is to all who have judged a book by its jacket, man by his sandals, or an artist by his/her art.

The more you know the more you yes

anyone for coffee?

16.

craigfrancis

April 16, 2005, 7:29 PM

thank you all.

i always think of duchamp: "posterity will judge", he said.

i was expecting to be dragged over the coals a little over my last post and am glad to see that it happened to a degree.

so again thanks, even to the guy who told me to fuck off if that was the point of his little rant. to which i respond: whatever dude.

17.

George

April 16, 2005, 7:48 PM

Craig, hear, here, subject to decomposition, Im partial to loaded remarks which stir up thought.

i can say in response that at least this work engages with things that were happening the world only twenty years ago as opposed to one hundred (see Picasso, Monet etc.)

This is a telling observation, on the short end, the choice of twenty years points to the generational bias in academia. An examination of almost any university art faculty will now show a compositional bias shifted towards the conceptual, new media and installation genres. Typically about the time an intellectual bias has saturated the faculties of academia it is time for something new. Your later reference to conceptual is a case in point as "conceptual art" is now historical. This thought creates a tiny problem for the Danto "post historical" theory since even "post historical" art must create a history or be forgotten. Whatever, what was once "new" is now old, styles are inherently transitory.

whatever the artist says is art, is art. art history and criticism is the development of a language that has as its purpose putting the contemporary into context with the past.

The first part of the sentence is debatable. A broad definition of the word art is a classification for things which are not part of the world of nature. In this respect all man made things are art, this leads us to Duchamps urinal. While he made a poignant point that anything could be art it leaves us at an impasse in distinguishing what is art and what is just a urinal. Enter the critic and historian who duly will examine all the urinals in their world and correctly place Duchamps artwork in the proper context so it does become art. You got love this game. However in the context of all the art objects in the world, Duchamps urinal is an outlier on the bell curve. Just saying something is art only categorizes something. It does not locate it in the context of the bell curve of wonderment possessed by art objects in general. In simpler terms it is ultimately communication and quality which counts. Quality is something we can argue about but for an interesting spin on this, you might read Ramachandrans lectures on the BBC. The artist has always been a shaman in the culture, extracting the 10% solution.

18.

oldpro

April 16, 2005, 9:05 PM

George, your "bell curve of wonderment" goes with " moves me to tears" and a couple other phrases you have used which take art to where it belongs: in our feelings and spirits.

Craig, don't be so magnanimous. The fuck off guy added nothing to our discussion. I can do without addled, confused vituperation. He should keep it to himself and deal with it.

As for "raking over the coals, I don't know if you noticed, but, unlike some others, us retrograde elitist dissatisfied types, Formalists that we are, tend to answer comments in kind. What you said was aggressive and adversarial but it made sense and was reasonable and so deserved a sensible, reasonable reply, as best we can.

19.

George

April 16, 2005, 9:47 PM

Oldpro,...which take art to where it belongs: in our feelings and spirits.

yup

getting there is half the fun, the other half's a bitch.

20.

Momoko

April 17, 2005, 2:35 AM

I suddenly noticed right now that ANDREW WYETH in Boca Raton will end tomorrow. Oops. That means I must drive up there tomorrow in order not to miss it.

According to the web site, it should be open 12-5 tomorrow.

21.

Jack

April 17, 2005, 7:57 AM

Regarding #8, it is curious, to say the least, that anyone (in this case me) would be taken to task for being uncompromising, standing up for his beliefs and sticking to his guns, regardless of what anybody thinks about said beliefs. I trust no one would presume to deny my (or anyone's) indisputable right to take such a stance. I also trust it is beyond obvious that no one is required to agree with or even read anything I post. While I neither owe anyone justification for my position nor need anyone's approval thereof, it bears pointing out that said position has either been misinterpreted or distorted.

It's not that I don't care what anybody thinks, but rather that I will not take things or people at face value, will not bow to fashion because it's fashionable and safe, and will not buy or accept anything that doesn't ring true and reasonable to me. There are certainly people whose opinions I value, but they must be people I respect and trust--otherwise, I don't care who they are or how many ardent followers they have.

It is not that my opinion is the only thing that matters, but I will not allow anyone else's opinion to substitute or pose for mine because that is dishonest and dishonorable. I have never claimed to be perfect, omniscient or infallible, but I will make up my own mind with the resources available to me, I will look and see with my own eyes, and I will judge, speak and act accordingly. If that is somehow a problem, it is not my problem and does not concern me.

Concerning the technique vs. content issue, that has come up before, my stand on it has been misconstrued before (by Alesh, for one), and I have duly clarified it before (see the "my real feelings about photography" thread, comments 62 and 74).

As to my not making contemporary work, I'm afraid that's inevitable, since I'm not an artist.

Finally, it strikes me as rather poor form to declare or imply that I, or anyone who posts, is deemed so uncongenial that s/he should simply vanish or be banished. While I confess to having found any number of comments by various persons exceedingly uncongenial, not to say useless, it would not occur to me to respond by telling such a person, in effect, that s/he should shut up to suit me. Perhaps it's a question of manners, or maybe a different understanding of how the game should be played.

22.

Raphael

April 17, 2005, 9:30 AM

Most telling is the line from Art Newspaper: 'The curator builds up a career by becoming the new stronghold for validation of taste. The curator is also closer to the artist, because where the critic is trying to be objective the curator is clearly subjective. '

In other words, the curator has become the "artist", organizing objects in white gallery cube spaces according to some "intention" or agenda. Since so much artwork today is completely homogeneous and fully interchangeable, no matter what art school grad produced it, this can produce seamless shows of the curators' grand insights, acting as a kind of meta-Warhol over a team of hired, indoctrinated artists.

Art has changed so little for the past 50 years that writing about it as a traditional critic may have nowhere left to go except into either quasi-advertising or increased density of jargon. If most critics write in terms that is "merely descriptive or context-giving" that could be because there is no change in the underlying ideas of the art presented, only one everyday object stuck in a gallery as opposed to another, or some other, or Duchamp's toilet/bike wheel.

23.

craigfrancis

April 17, 2005, 10:38 AM

jack: fair enough. yeah, you have a right to stick to your uncompromising beliefs and post your beliefs and no one has to read these beliefs or like the beliefs and it isn't your problem if someone has a problem with these beliefs etc., etc.,

in response i'd like to say i'm nobody and i don't have any ardent followers and it seems to me that a forum such as this is an odd place to have such unshakeable opinions given the purpose of these blogs. that is, exchange. and, though i am indeed one of the most inarticulate motherfuckers i've ever met, i think what i was getting at ((in #8, how cute) you may address me by name) was said unshakeable beliefs. if your opinions are influenced by a handful of trusted friends and associates only, then you may be wasting your time here, in my opinion, that is.

but hey. it's no hard feelings as far as i'm concerned. you keep rockin' on as they say. and thanks for such an exquisitely written response, by the by. it was lovely.

24.

craigfrancis

April 17, 2005, 10:45 AM

oh and further, while i thoroughly enjoyed the phrase "rather poor form" i didn't suggest that you or anyone shut up if it doesn't suit me. after all, we aren't fascists. but i refuse to apologise for bad manners or "playing the game" differently than you do, whatever that means.

25.

oldpro

April 17, 2005, 3:07 PM

Raphael, your statement that art has changed little in the last 50 years is an interesting one. Most people would say it has changed radically, as witness those here on the blog who have recently been critical of others who are not "up to date".

I would venture 30 or 40 years myself, but still, there is no doubt, if you really look at the facts, that real change has slowed down. It is easy to demonstrate this: 50 years ago was 1955; 50 years before that was 1905(!). 40 years ago was 1965; 40 years before that was 1925. Any number of highly regarded "advanced" artists today are making art essentially the same as art being done 30, 40 or 50 years ago, dressed up a bit to look current. Our willful ignorance about art history, every very recent art history, helps fuel this.

What has changed is the art world, or art business. 50 years ago it was a small bunch of professionals, crtics like Greenberg, a few interested museums and collectors, a very few involved academics. The idea of art schools and departments was just getting started. Money and fame were very hard to come by. Everyone looked to the artist for inspiration. A small, intense group. It is very different now, for better or worse.

Craig, your modesty is excessive. But Jack makes a point when he objects to "...be taken to task for being uncompromising, standing up for his beliefs and sticking to his guns, regardless of what anybody thinks about said beliefs." We all give lip service admiration to these characteristics but get easily irritated when someone actually does it. And i don't think it is a bad thing to have someone on the blog with this kind of attitude. Sets a good example, I would say.

26.

bibi

April 17, 2005, 4:37 PM

"...be taken to task for being uncompromising, standing up for his beliefs and sticking to his guns, regardless of what anybody thinks about said beliefs," a pretty humble paragraph over... (an exchange of ideas).

27.

johnlink

April 17, 2005, 5:50 PM

Oldpro gets it right when he says What has changed is the art world, or art business. 50 years ago it was a small bunch of professionals.

As a culture, we have expanded the audience for art. It seemed like a good idea to that small group of professionals too. In 1959 Greenberg wrote "The Case for Abstract Art" for the Saturday Evening Post and received the largest writer's fee he was to receive for the rest of his life, a life that lasted through 35 years of intense inflation. $3,500 he told me, and he added that was enough money to travel to Europe for several months back then, and that's what he did with it. The next year "Modernist Painting" was broadcast by the Voice of America to the whole nation. More spreading of "the word".

Was Greenberg "wrong" to relish the interest of an important publication that catered to the masses? Did the government's involvment with "Modernist Painting" degrade its importance? Not at all. Did these institutions make a good choice in selecting Greenberg for their spotlights? Absolutely.

But there were to be consequences that would flow from the campaign to make advanced art important to a wide range of people.

I'm not a fan of Marxist "inevitability" but it seems inevitable that when an audience is expanded by this many magnitudes, the content must be dumbed down. Just as the small professional audience demanded a specific level of content (high), the immense audience of those who were merely educated demanded content that was accessible on a different, less dense level.

Is the interest of a mass audience in dumbed down art simply "bad"? There are of course bad aspects that flow from it, but it is the environment that dominates the production of art these days, just like the Renaissance when the popes seemed to control that scene, with a negative effect. So we must get over it and learn to thrive, if we are to thrive, in what has been delivered.

There are good aspects. As a kid growing up in Oklahoma City I might not have ben exposed to high culture if the expansion had not taken place. Without the rush of academic interest I would might not have been able to survive economically with enough energy left to sling paint in my spare time. Besides, saying "art is for everybody" has a nice ring to it. I like that idea. How it got translated into monumentally expensive tanks of formaldehyde filled with dead cow parts is kind of fascinating. In a freakish way it amounts to saying "art is for everybody to understand". But that particular misunderstanding does not detract from the original proposition: art really is for everybody.

28.

oldpro

April 17, 2005, 6:47 PM

John's observations are reasonable, of course. This kind of culture can support the good stuff one way or another, but it certainly is not going to put it in the foreground.

That's tolerable enough. I just wish the shaking-out process, getting to the point where schlock is recognized as such and not elevated by all sorts of anti-elitist, "high/low", literal-concept, "issue oriented" nonsense, could get where it is going a little faster.

29.

johnlink

April 17, 2005, 7:11 PM

The larger the group, the slower it moves. Can't say Iike that, though.

And, as I've written in Slippery, it may not move for a very long time. It would be very nice if Slippery is totally wrong headed.

30.

johnlink

April 17, 2005, 7:14 PM

"can't say like that" should read "can't say I like that".

31.

George

April 17, 2005, 7:37 PM

What has changed is the art world, or art business.

This is true as can be. The first half of the twentieth century was marked by economic and political turmoil. There were two major financial panics (1914, 1929) and two world wars. At the same time we saw a major shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy. Why should this matter? On one level it probably did not matter, as the market for art was more or less for the wealthy. However the broader population began to reap the benefits of mass production and we saw the beginnings of a consumer culture develop. This process was severely interrupted by both world wars, especially WWII, as the industrial and economic output was directed towards the war effort. From the latter part of the 40s to the end of the 50s the US experienced a boom in consumer products, from houses, to refrigerators, to cars to TV sets, etc. Two aspects of the culture were significantly changed. First, the average American had more leisure time and second, we saw the mass media (print and TV) rise in importance and power after the end of WWII. The US government used the mass media to quietly promote Abstract Expressionism to the world as an "American Art" and quietly managed to suppress any remnants of "Social Realism". The end result of the economic boom was a broadening in the art audience as John and OldPro noted.

The majority of the entertainment industries, the circus, radio, TV, the cinema, auto racing, music, etc are built around an economic model where the upfront cost is sliced up into a lot of affordable little pieces, tickets, for the consuming public. The art world, and the world of rarities in general, operates on a different model because the output is so limited.

The audience has expanded because of the increase in leisure time, which allows more of the public to entertain themselves or actually collect art. At the same time the number of artists has also increased along with the their output. The question arises whether the the content must be dumbed down because of the mass audience or is it just a failure of the artists themselves? I would suggest that while the audience has grown, so has the number of artists. This would imply that artistic output has increased along with demand (from the museums etc) but leaves us with the question, is the supply of "good art" (your choice here) great enough to meet the demand? I doubt this is the case, which implies to me that the problem is on the "supply" end.

Going back to Raphaels lead line The curator builds up a career by becoming the new stronghold for validation of taste.
I more or less believe this is a reasonably accurate description, however I do not find it as onerous as many would imply. Fashion and styles change cyclically which allows undiscovered artists a chance in the limelight. Just because they receive the "stamp of validation" is no guarantee that they will have long careers or make great works, it just gives them a chance to try. I think this is good. Of course, if the "validated style" is one you despise or dont understand you might not be so generous. Never the less the fallow popularity periods for any mode seem to be necessary for its regeneration

32.

Jack

April 17, 2005, 11:13 PM

In 1959, $3500 was a hell of a lot of money for a magazine article. How can the top art mags today pay such paltry fees for reviews, as the Art Newspaper article linked above relates? No wonder these so-called critics are always on the lookout for a better gig in the system, which means they can't afford to be too hardnosed or uncompromising, lest they piss off the hand(s) that may later feed them. It figures.

33.

George

April 17, 2005, 11:37 PM

Adjusted for inflation, $3500 in 1959 would be roughly $23,000 today

34.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 1:23 AM

the Post was one of the top-paying, if not the top-paying, magazines in the world at that time. This is how Scott Fitzgerald stayed afloat, although at a somewhat earlier time.

Art magazines have never paid much of anything. I used to get $300 for a full feature article I worked a month on in ARTFORUM and ARTS back in the 60s and 70s. (I don't care what that amounts to today; it is long gone).

Be careful when you dip into the AbEx - US government conspiracy stuff, George. This did not happen until it was observed what an effect the 1959 MoMA show which went to Europe had, and it never counted for much in the overall Cold War effort. And the government had nothing whatsoever to do with the demise of Social Realism. That died on its own at the end of the '30s because it was no longer interesting and was never supported by first-rate art.

The growth of the art world does not make for more or less good art or bad art. The pool of talent remains fairly constant, so the growth simply means there will be proportionately less good art. This is not a precise measure, however, because there seem to be "periods", like the Fauvist, when a lot of middling talent produced a lot of very good art for a very short time. I can't account for that.

35.

George

April 18, 2005, 1:55 AM

The growth of the art world does not make for more or less good art or bad art. The pool of talent remains fairly constant, so the
growth simply means there will be proportionately less good art.


I would question the observation that the pool of talent remains relatively constant. I would guess that there are more artists at work now than then and statistically one would expect roughly a similar distribution in abilities.

I would also suggest that since the 1960s (roughly the start of Dantos post historical era) we have seen an increased number of artists and they are distributed among the various new genres. For us to postulate that any genre outside of what is commonly called "modernism" is dreck would seem ultimately be an argument which must fail. It seems unlikely there will be a valid continuity in one existing genera and not in the others. Further, everything must be consumed by history, and ultimately resurface at a later time in a guise altered by the new era. There is no such thing as "progress" in the sense of improvement over the previous historical model. Is todays painting any "better" than the works on the walls of Lascaux? It is different, but better, I wouldnt want to argue that. On the other hand I can accept the idea of "progress" if it is a qualifier relating to a works placement in its historical period. For example, it is impossible to make a "Surrealist" painting today in the same way they were made 70 years ago. We know too much, artists have defined a genre and todays artists must view the process in todays cultural environment. By the same argument, I wouldnt expect to see a resurgence of "modernist" painting occur today in the same guise as before.

36.

johnlink

April 18, 2005, 2:12 AM

Hey George,

Thanks for the inflation adjusted calculation. $23,000 sounds about like enough to live it up in Europe for 3-4 months these days. When Clem traveled, it was first class if possible, as he believed in treating oneself well when "out of town". I remember him saying something about that trip lasting 3 or 4 months and that he went with his wife.

The supply of "good art" is never very large while the supply of bad art is always adequate, if not more than adequate, to meet demand. Darby Bannard wrote an article in the 80s entitled "The Art Glut" that commented on a seeming market collapse that turned out to only be a "correction" for the stampede of the bull that continues to this day. But the fact of a "glut" remains. So one of the problems of marketing expensive dumbed down art is determining which ones of the millions of possiblities are to be anointed with the big price tag. I'm not sure how it works myself, but somewhere it is decided that Hirst will be expensive and you're not a great collector unless you have one. His many loyal followers in unversity art departments have to settle for tenure and a life time of work to earn much less than he gets for one piece. That's better than working for MacDonalds though.

More important than dumbing down the art that was to be presented was the dumbing down of how art was to be dealt with. Instead of intuition, taste, and the practice of taste, which takes time and can be very frustrating, the new approach is an appeal to the intellect. After all, the expanded audience is educated, not cultivated. There is no longer much mystery, no longer the puzzlement about why the beautiful works magic upon us. Now we have footnotes, references, symbolic explanations, and the like, which, if you have the patience to follow the tedious rhetoric, are all explained to death. I regularly listen in on critiques of young artists who are repeatedly quizzed about "who have you been reading" instead of "who have you been looking at". And if there is someone to look at, it is certain to be an artist who fits the footnote/reference model to a "T" so that it usually boils down to reading, even then.

Whether we like or hate the new art order, it certainly has a large head of steam behind it and appears that it will remain in control for some time.

37.

Franklin

April 18, 2005, 2:24 AM

Whether we like or hate the new art order, it certainly has a large head of steam behind it and appears that it will remain in control for some time.

This is leading back to the idea of the age of criticism lying behind us. As the Art Newspaper article says, critics are getting paid peanuts. This tends to indicate the market has little use for them, and their product is too easy to produce. That mention of scanning - the negative NYT review upon which the gallery was getting compliments just for existing - jibes with the old saw about how there's no such thing as bad publicity, but also backs up what I said about criticism getting replaced with competing PR efforts. I'm beginning to think that someone who doesn't like what the mainstream art machine has to offer ought to figure out how it works and go work parallel to it. I'm thinking I may be that someone. On the other hand, I'm a little nuts.

George, I'm curious how you did that calculation on dollar amount adjusted for inflation. I have operational math skills up to algebra. Calculus is in there somewhere in cold storage. I'm listening.

38.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 2:36 AM

George:I was not implying that there is progress in art or that there will be a resurgence of modernism, only that the pool of talent remains more or less constant. The increase in numbers is not an increase of the number of talented people in the business of art making because people talented in art are likely to head that way anyway, whenever there is an active art business to get into, small or large or whatever.

Furthermore, we are not talking about just "more", we are talking about many many more, exponentially more. When I went to NY to paint and find a career as an artist very few people did that. Artsy people coming to NY back then came to get into the theater. It was fairly new for universities to even have studio art progams; there was not one in the college I went to, for example.

Now there are millions of artists and more on the way every year. Someone told me that there are 7000 art students matriculated at the Savannah College of Art alone. Every self-respecting scool in the country has a studio art program. There are more artists in NYC today than the entire population of Florence in the time of Leonardo and Michaelangelo.

You've seen the art. Where's all that talent?

39.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 2:40 AM

John --

"After all, the expanded audience is educated, not cultivated"

Good observation.

40.

another artist

April 18, 2005, 2:59 AM

There are certainly people whose opinions I value, but they must be people I respect and trust--otherwise, I don't care who they are. Bravo! I value them because I respect them; I respect them because I value them.

41.

George

April 18, 2005, 3:08 AM

OldPro, I used the CPI inflator to make the calculation but I found a handy link here Select 1959 for the year, put $3500 in the box, and it gives $22,719.93. The original data I had stopped in 1998 so I just extrapolated the number mentally, I was close enough.

42.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 3:27 AM

I wasn't the one who asked, George, But the "Inflation calculator" is a great toy. Check it out, everyone.

Thanks!

43.

George

April 18, 2005, 4:02 AM

OldPro, I really disagree that the pool of talent remains constant. If there are more artists, it would follow that statistically the pool of talented artists will be larger. Your interpretation might be correct if we consider the increased number of artists vs. the growing number or size of the art venues. While I agree that since there are more artists, there is also statistically more ordinary work, I dont see this as a problem. We all know what we like and we poo poo what we dont, whats new about that?

I also think the notion that the age of criticism lies behind us is utter nonsense. Certainly the method of delivery may change but there will always be a place for critical thought. The current shift in taste making or validation towards "the curator" has been in progress for the last 25 years. I would suggest that some aspects of critical thought may have been usurped by the curators or brought "in house" so to speak.

I continue to believe that in spite of the money and politics the artist is the source, without the artist there is nothing. Further, it is the responsibility of the artist to be true to themselves. At the same time the artist must be both attentive and relevant to the culture. If the they are not, they will be ignored. In my opinion anything that allows the artist to get a foothold on their practice (practice as "painting", "new media" etc not "career") is a good thing. I spent several days last month looking at art here in NYC. First off, anyone who thinks painting is dead hasnt been to NYC (or Brooklyn) lately. What was more interesting to me were the works, by the young turks, which are revealing of the audience zeitgeist. John used some code words, references, symbolic explanations which I think are telling. I know what he means but I think something else more fundamental is happening. I am not talking about conceptual nonsenses, I am referring to the desire of the audience for some kind of meaning in a world which is becoming increasingly chaotic. The audience can be like children, the lack connoiseurship and will take any little tidbit that is offered because they are hungry for what art can provide, that sense of higher meaning in life.

It should be the aspiration and responsibility of the artist to elevate their work, NOT dumb it down to fit the audience if thats how they see it. It is our responsibility to show the audience the true potential of art, in a meaningful and relevant way. If you are a painter, then your project is to elevate painting. It doesnt matter what the "knew media" artists are doing, if your paintings are not connecting with the audience, then you are missing something. (On a softer note, things do go out of fashion and you have to wait around a bit)

44.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 5:20 AM

"If you are a painter, then your project is to elevate painting"

I know, George. That is what I have been trying to do all my life, OK?

But it doesn not help "connect with the audience" if the audience doesn't want it. I think you are too much into all those "shoulds" you are tossing about. Reality does not conform to what is right & proper & just & fair. it never has and never will.

The pool of talent, like the pool of tallness, red hair, dexterity or perfect pitch, is constant, within limits, of course. How can you possible think that the distribution of talent in the population will increase with the number of people taking up art-maiking? It is ridiculous on the face of it!

45.

George

April 18, 2005, 5:51 AM

Regarding the pool of talent, I dont think we disagree. Suppose, before, we had 1 genius out of a group of 100 artists. If this is a valid statistical sampling then for 1000 artists now, we should expect to find 10 genies.

Far be it for me to suggest that you arent trying to elevate painting, I know you are which is why we can have this discussion. I disagree with your feelings that it does not help "connect with the audience" if the audience doesn't want it. Im saying that the audience does want it and that I feel the artist needs to pay attention to the audience. The artist is always the first person in the audience, it starts there.

I guess that most artists find a "zone" to work in which they believe possesses "quality" as they see it. If I just get super formalist about this, it would be the mastery of some aspect of the practice. If I as an artist, possess mastery of my practice, I should be able to project this into the world in an infinite number of disguises. At least one of these will connect with the audience so I see no conflict of interest involved. I also believe that an artist might develop a practice which is quite specific and pursue this through the ebbing and waning of public interest over the years. Show me some inherent conflict between these two paths.

46.

George

April 18, 2005, 6:08 AM

craigfrancis, you be da man

the more I read this blog the more I picture four guys sitting around somewhere trying to ignore conceptual art.

Here is what I think is the real issue here, but it is not ignoring conceptual art. It is yesterdays papers, stagnation. This is a defensive posture. If you want to affect the culture, you have to act, put it in their face, so they cannot forget.

You cannot just expect everyone to get it, you are in a "fight to the death" competition in the most intense period of image generation in history.

47.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 7:12 AM

You can call me defensive if you want to George. I am doing the best I can, whether or not I "affect the culture". The blog is for exchange of ideas and we talk about an imperfect world. I think that's OK. We don't need the put-down.

If there is 1 genius in a hundred artists then there may be 8 or 10 geniuses in a thousand, but there will be way less than a hundred in ten thousand and they will decline thereafter, for the simple reason that most of the geniuses will already have become artists. You are not taking a randomly distributed sample.

48.

johnlink

April 18, 2005, 8:51 AM

George,

To be involved in "today's papers" as opposed to "yesterday's papers" is still to be involved in papers. Just as people forget yesterday's paper, so they will forget today's when tomorrow comes. You have taken a sucker punch, the ruse that if you follow the crowd today they will remember you tomorrow.

What we want is to become involved in books that last. It is not defensive; it is very very aggressive.

49.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 3:50 PM

t"he ruse that if you follow the crowd today they will remember you tomorrow."

Another good point.

50.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 5:19 PM

Another thing, George, about "yesterdays papers". The conflict is a territorial, not successional. It is fighting over a piece of the pie, not who takes the pie home.

The great expansion of the art business came in company with a proliferation of ways of making art but the territory did not change accordingly. Therefiore there is a struggle for attention within the same family, so to speak; the kids have not gone out on their own yet.

It seems to be shaping up to visual and non-visual, or, more precisely, art that appeals to the judgement of the eye and art that appeals to the judgement of the intellect, art which is primarily of "ideas", rather than vision. Right now idea art, concept art, or what have you, seems newer and fresher and has center stage. In time this will be as stale as the yesterday's paper John alluded to.

In my opinion this will not happen to visual art because, for one thing, it conforms more readily to that appetite, whereas idea art, while currently trendy, is, in the long run, shallow and unsatisfying, if not downright silly, even as idea or concept.

However they may shake out and find their own territory and exist independently.

To forestall the inevitable obvious rejoinders, it is understood that much art shares both visual & concept, and that everything is ultimately processed by the intellect ..

51.

Jack

April 18, 2005, 6:11 PM

If someone wishes to label defending good work and high standards against the tripe du jour and the "everything is valid-acceptable-worthwhile" school "defensive" or "elitist," so be it. It's a non-issue.

As for putting stuff "in their face," if that means getting attention by any means and at any cost, such as by shock tactics (yawn) or with the merely "new and different" but not actually good or better, that's an ultimately foolish and certainly short-sighted game (unless the goal is notoriety and/or material success, as opposed to good art).

52.

Hovig

April 18, 2005, 6:13 PM

Oldpro - Unless I misuderstand one of its subtleties, I don't think I share your conclusion that visual art will outlast the "staleness" of non-visual art. I think non-visual art is far more readily accessible and arguably pertinent to the average viewer than visual art is, and issues of historic value apply just the same to one or the other.

First off, visual art is in many ways like "inside baseball." It often takes another artist -- frustrated or otherwise -- to appreciate the better examples of the practice. The vast majority of the populace is not going to appreciate expressions of visual language, let alone distinguish or appreciate its finer examples. Five years ago I would have seen La Fornarina and thought it was a decent enough painting, alongside any number of other historic paintings which may have surrounded it on the walls. But I saw it last month at the MFAH, after years of self-training and self-exploration (as well a few specific night classes I took recently), and my astonished eyes almost fell out.

The everyday connotation of "craft" is usually more associated with fine furniture, jewelry or mechanical inventions, where some level of fit and finish are discernable to even the untrained eye. Non-visual art is based on the same type of philosophical thoughts that many intellectually sensitive or curious people would entertain after seeing a movie, play, political debate, homeless person, picnic or even sporting event. A person trains for visual art through specific education. It takes museums visits and internal exploration to learn the aesthetic language. It takes learning how to look. Whereas a person "trains" for non-visual art by being curious and alive.

I also don't think I share your secondary possibility that each type of art will stake out its own territory, because ultimately artists are people too, as intellectually aroused by the world as anyone else. In my informally-educated opinion, Jacque-Louis David is one of the most conceptual artists in the historical canon, his Death of Marat being in my view a direct precursor of Richter's October 18, 1977.

If on the other hand you meant that non-visual art may become "stale" because it is topical, and requires the specific intellectual issue at its heart to be in the front pages in order to be best appreciated, that's a good point, but on the other hand we don't rubbish mediaeval iconography for being behind the times, nor discount the various historical geniuses of the past for having had ideas we've grown beyond, so why should we discount the conceptual ideas of the past either?

And also, I'll say what I've said many times before. Art today has a slider, conceptual on one end, visual on the other. Bueys and Duchamp over here, Kelly and Rothko over there. You turns the dial and you picks your mix. It's two ends of the same scale, and it can't be split. You kind of say as much above -- a bit perfunctorily to my eye -- but I think this idea is one of art's very bedrock foundations.

We're merely seeing in the 20th century the full range of freedom of expression along the entire scale, not just the middle -- it used to be that (approved) aesthetics and (approved) concepts were always featured in all art (even still-lives and portraits, on many occasions) -- so it's arguable that today's profusion of examples which living your preferred end of the scale (abex/color-field) would not have existed without the schism which produced its diametrical partner.

53.

oldpro

April 18, 2005, 7:48 PM

Hovig:

Of course non-visual art is more accessible. That, and the veneer of "profundity", is what puts it across. Is this a virtue? Does it make it better? What is your point?

And of course it takes some familiarty, perhaps "education" - as you clearly state in your own example - to appreciate the visual stuff. How terrible! Isn't this what we all strive for? Is knowing what we are looking at going to join the long list of expendables? Good grief!

As for the David example, of course all realistic art which has any degree or narrative content is to some extent conceptual. But if the David was not a damn good painting visually you never would have seen it in the first place. Same goes for the "medieval iconography" you mention, that is, unless you are talking about antique value, in which case we are not talking about art. And we are not talking about "geniuses" having "ideas", we are talking the paintings they make.

Once again, you make a point of casting me in the bad old "limited elitist" mold, which only likes "abex/colorfield", as if there was some virtue in all this broadmindedness and acceptance of everything that shows up. Or as if there were, at one time, some kind of nasty old authoritarian limitations from which we have now mercifully broken free. This has become so tiresome I hesitate to even answer.

Look, I don't give a damn what it is. if it shows some life I will go for it. OK?

54.

Hovig

April 18, 2005, 11:32 PM

Oldpro - I'm not trying to cast you as anything. Sorry if that's how it came across. With all sincerity and respect, I don't even care what you like or don't like. I don't need your permission to like or dislike anything, nor do I seek your imprimatur when judging a work, nor do I care what you think of work I enjoy. I learned a long time ago that my tastes are unique. All I was trying to do was make a case for the persistence of non-visual art, for the sake of having an art-historical discussion.

My point about abex art was that before the 19th century, concept and aesthetics went hand-in-hand in almost all art. By the 20th century, there was an abrupt schism, where some art went all the way toward concept [Duchamp], and some went all the way toward aesthetics [say Pollock]. It was this schism which has allowed Olitski (among others) to make a living as an artist, and it was this same schism which allowed Beuys to do so.

[I disagree about David's Marat, by the way. As a work of aesthetics it's not what I'd call first-rate by any means. Even if I accept the dead space at the top of the canvas -- which doesn't really bother me -- there's too much similarity of value and hue at the bottom to make it effective without the conceptual element -- i.e., the subject matter, as indicated by the huge word "MARAT" painted on it like a cartoon or a Ruscha painting.]

So all's I'm saying is that the schism which created Olitski also created Duchamp, like two sides of the same coin. You don't have to like it, care about it, want it -- you don't have to do anything. I'm just trying to discuss art history and, again, the persistence of non-visual art, in response to your thought that non-visual art would eventually become "stale." Non-visual art is popular because it's more available to people than anything which requires training, it will persist, and not become "stale," because people are always creatures of thought before creatures of fine aesthetics.

If I wanted to call you an elitist, oldpro, believe me, I'd call you an elitist.

55.

oldpro

April 19, 2005, 1:53 AM

Hovig: Call me an elitist anytime. I am happy to admit to it.

I think the Marat painting is better than you do, but at any rate it certainly is better than 99% of everything else of the time, and that is you see it and other paintings by David in museums.

I understand the schism. I just wish it would mature, that each one would go its own way. In my opinion what we have seen at the concept/non-visual end of your slider is uninteresting at best, schlock at worst, and needs its own type of venue. Again, as you say, you can have whatever opinion you wish.

56.

Hovig

April 19, 2005, 2:18 AM

But oldpro, I don't think you're going to get anything but constant frustration by wishing it away. If you're really looking for some criticism from me, then sure, wishing away half the art world is probably gonna get it for you.

That's why I used the analogy of the slider. It's a bad metaphor, and I promise I'll struggle to find a better one -- I know you'll be waiting breathlessly -- but my point is that I think the two extremes are attached at the hip, or that their two opposite poles of the same 1-dimensional object. You can see the difference clearly when you look at examples collected one end or the other -- Beuys and Olitski are like night and day -- but as you travel along its length I'm not sure there's a specific place you could posit a clean break.

57.

oldpro

April 19, 2005, 2:22 AM

I think the slider image is fine. It is a good way to visualize the matter.

I don't care of the non-visual goes away or not. I am just fed up with all the hostility and misunderstanding directed toward the visual.

58.

Hovig

April 19, 2005, 2:31 AM

P.S. I guess I have a lot yet to learn. To my eye, Marat is a horrible work. I mean bad. I figured the only reason we knew about it at all was because David's other works are so good, and because the French Revolution is so conceptually interesting to the Marxists among the art critics out there. I'll give it another chance based on your recommendation, but color me skeptical.

59.

Hovig

April 19, 2005, 2:35 AM

What do you care about hostility. Ignore it. Like what you like, let others hate what they hate. Stay above the fray. "Elite," as it were.

60.

oldpro

April 19, 2005, 3:37 AM

I will take another look too. In repro, of course; the original is in Belgium somewhere and I haven't seen it in years. As I remember I always thought it was one of the more richly painted and sensual pictures of David's.

Well, you are right, stay above the fray. That's probably best. High road and all that. Problem is I am a contentious sort and I like to argue.

61.

jake

April 20, 2005, 6:13 PM

Hi this is the guy from comment 15. To clarify, i did not tell anyone to fuck off....i said (or wrote) "fuck you". And this tidbitting is probably getting even more tedious than the original. My point is that i dont think what i have said is any different than what you all have said. Im just not being passive agressive about it. I care about your guys(and gals) opinions about this puzzle that art is, it's dynamics and prophesy. And i would like to discuss these things, but followed by action. All this mutual masturbation of intellects is worthy of booking, it really is valuable as a reference. I really am just trying to help. When i get a bit emotional and uncensored, i would hope that an art blog of all places would seem to understand. I am all for politeness, and consideration of the other, and i thought i was doing it in writting. remember i could have just deleted the comment, but as i reviewed it immediately after writting it, i thought it was clear, so left it.

and i wonder how many times you guys delete your thoughts? as an editing practice for properness, it is great, but........

Anyhow, my two cents(today, not '73). I think of book publishing. Afew years ago it was this mission to get a book published. Boards, and boards, reviewers, selectors, a whole mess of people had to agree that this was a worthwile project. Today, you can get published overnight, let alone do it yourself. It may sound oversimplified but it really has been facilitated to the point of DIY. Now, getting that book to be a bestseller is still just as hard. The book, after made stands alone, in the hands of the reader to be taken in at the readers own system. The design of the jacket and title and perhaps a story about the author or summary of the book may get it into your hands, but once it is there, it's all yours. You may have ringing in your ears about things that were told to you about it, or thoughts you generated in anticipation of it, but there is that space and time when you are the absolutely only person to get what you get.

This brings me to the point of responsibility, personally. If you could write a book and have it published (which is established to be easy), you have the right to make it good. personally. to do your best. And the more you know, the more you have to be responsible for. This recieves response. response.

So to draw the conclusion that because the population changes, responsibilty grows with it, well that syllogism is not responsible, it is not responding to what we see. But then ultimately, we can not do any more than we do, unless we do.

so again,

anyone for coffee?

62.

oldpro

April 20, 2005, 7:19 PM

I'd say ease up on the coffee, Jake, just for starters.

We all delete thoughts - or don't let them get out in the open - all the time. it is called civilization.

Otherwise we would be a raging anarchy, killing each other.

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