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two lives

Post #527 • April 29, 2005, 12:58 PM • 43 Comments

An alert reader pointed out that I've been saying something a lot like this for a while now:

Many artists find all this depressing and regularly disparage the carousing and ask if it's possible to get their work out without behaving in bogus ways. Not to sound like a Creed song, but no matter how serious an artist is, it's almost impossible to behave this flippantly and still maintain one's credibility. There's nothing wrong with showing work when you're young, but art has to be its own reward. Artists have to not only think about having 30-month careers but about 30-year careers. Almost every artist has two lives: The outer one of career and success, and the inner one that we all got into this for in the first place, the one about work, obsession, and discovery. These days the outer journey is being mistaken for the inner one. This has to change. The characters in the [] Diary are only actors in a passing infomercial. If enough young artists and dealers start turning away, this turning away will turn into something else.

Mr. Saltz said it better.

Artist have to decide whether to forge careers like those of pop musicians or jazz musicians - to favor fast, big success or slow, long success. You may not be able to have both - they require different ways of working, with different priorities. We expect comeliness and catchiness from our pop musicians; we expect artistic integrity from our jazz musicians.




April 29, 2005, 8:36 PM

I guess I agree; I just don't find it all to be as profound and heavy as Mr. Saltz does.

If enough young artists and dealers start turning away, this turning away will turn into something else.

Sure, ok, fair enough. But he makes it sound like this "turning away" isn't going on right now. The fact that there are places like the Dorsch is sign enough that there is a good place in the world for serious artists who buckle down, make thier work, and face the prospect of art-stardom with indifference.

But I think the dichotomy is a false one - plenty of long, and long-remembered, art careers began with a big splash, and early success.



April 29, 2005, 8:44 PM

So, musicians like Lennon, Hendrix, Clapton, Bowie, Morrison, Reed, or Frampton, Roberta Flag and Aretha are no good? Is jazz better than Rock/Pop? On which grounds? Saltz is no musician, or he's too much into jazz --as the only alternative.



April 29, 2005, 9:18 PM

Roberta Flack.

Did I say they were no good? Please go read the last paragraph of comment #21 of this post.



April 29, 2005, 9:57 PM

Big early success is fine if it is of the art itself, and big public success is fine if the art deserves it.

There are environments in which doing things well corresponds well with success, such as professional sports, where the practitioners and the audience expect the same product. I never watch a professional football game without noting the stark discrepancy between the ads, the publicity, the idiotic halftime shows, the ads and the interviews, which are so full of silliness and hype, and the game itself, which we insist remain nothing more than a gritty rule-dominated game of physical and mental skill, as if we need that core of "purity" to justify all the crap around it. It is religious, in a way.

Art does not usually proceed this way. There are times when very good art is welcomed but these days this is rare. Unlike the football player, who "only" has to be the best player he can be, the artist is tempted to compromise his or her art to conform to public taste, which often does not demand the best, indeed, often rejercts it.

The problem is further complicated when the rewards for success are so great, as they have become - stardom, money etc - accompanied by the accusation of not being "with it" if you are working in an unfashionable way. It then becomes a question of conscience and a matter of being more or less constantly on the defensive.

Hence Franklin's post.



April 29, 2005, 11:53 PM

"Faceoff" seems to think that there were no good rock musicians after the 70's. Yikes! And I don't think he needs to refer to any past post to see how off his understanding of what you're saying is. Re-read this post (you might also notice that the rock/jazz analogy is Franklin's, not Saltz's.

I think the analogy has some value, actually. I was talking with a friend a few years ago about whether there were any rock/pop musicians who's work didn't decline with time. The only one we could think of was Tom Waits (and even his last few albums were questionable). Obviously the same does not hold for jazz.

The sports analogy is inappropriate because of the different nature of the meaning of "good" in the context of sports. There's some philosophy vocabulary I should be throwing in here which escapes me, but basically "good" in sports is independent of human observation - an athlete is good in relation to easily mesurable benchmarks. In art, something is "good" only if people think it is.


kung pao

April 30, 2005, 12:25 AM

art is obviously subjective but not necessarily good if people think it is....someone might hear Beethoven and say "what is that noise"?...some dipshit might look see a painting of a popsicle up someones ass and think its beautiful, whats good is good and there is usually no question...peer pressure shouldn't be a justification for bad art.



April 30, 2005, 2:44 AM

Of course SAYING it's good doesn't make it good. What I mean is that people deciding it's good (whatever rules or arguments they apply, and whatever authority they appeal to) is what determines whether it's good.

Contrast this with a bridge. Which is good if it holds up under a load.

A> "Red Room is a good painting"

B> "Anita is pretty"

C> "The Earth orbits the sun"

The way the truth falue of A is determined is more like the way it's determined for B then for C; is what i'm trying to say.



April 30, 2005, 2:52 AM

Please, let's not get into the relativity of "good" again. If we do I will bow out. We talked it to death a year ago and building the steps back up again would be exhausting.

Alesh, the variability of the nature of goodness in either case has no bearing on the analogy because I was comparing the nature of the activities, not the the "goods" themselves. In football the aim is clearly defined and accepted so players aim for and audiences expect the same thing. In art this is not the case. This seems undeniable to me.

And no "good" can be independent of "human observation". There is no such thing as good independent of human observation.


kung pao

April 30, 2005, 8:52 AM

I dont know, that all seems like a lot of blah blah, Ive met authorities in art and what they think is spectacular is sometimes, most of the time shit, and lets be honest, shit is shit, its brown, its green, its orange (if you like carrots) its all shit, if an old lady with a million dollars to spend and all her girlfriends like pervis young. well hey, its gotta be ground breaking and unique, and well worth their money.... Good art is good art and we shouldnt need an authority to tell us whats good, every time you step outside your door and see something you appreciate do you get on your cell phone and ask for approval?


kung pao

April 30, 2005, 9:19 AM

"Human observation", we all know how reliable that can be... britto is a world renowned artist...and john tesh is a superstar... stop fooling yourself if you suckjust because someone can shoot up heroin doesnt make them a medic, does it now a days every one is an artist, you spill some paint ---BAM youre an artistshit I built a tree house once, does that make me an architect?...or no wait a contractor, maybe i'm a tree house "Artist". yeah thats it I'm a tree house artist. When i wake up tommorow morning and make some eggs, I'll be an egg artist...SHIT, I CAN'T WAIT!!



April 30, 2005, 9:42 AM

dudes: well. hmm.

nice job franklin.

i heard the director norman jewison talking recently about the difference between movie stars and actors. arnold schwarzenegger (?) is or was a movie star. denzel washington is an actor he said. i would be inclined to agree.

the problem is irony. we aren't about to hear arnie come out and say that all of his bad acting was a critique of bourgoise culture and the capitalist structure of the hollywood machine. if he were, i'd think he were one hell of a performance artist. but in the art world, it's alot more difficult to judge. everyone comes to a work with their own experience, education etc., and everyone has their own relationship with a given piece etc., but we don't even know if we're being ironic or not anymore (like that famous simpsons episode).

so what? fuck em. let them have parties. if art is its own reward like we claim so much, don't we have our work? let's get over it, already. we also claim we wouldn't want art stardom ("just so shallow and soul numbing, you know") but what really grinds people's bones into dust is that as artists, most of us will never achieve that amount of ridiculous wealth and glamour and there is of course some part of us deep down that is attracted to that sort of obnoxiousness. art is ego. it isn't just the sacred thing some people would have you believe. if i wanted to believe in the sacred, i would still be a catholic.

jesus. what a waste of time. i'm so inarticulate.

but there.



April 30, 2005, 9:51 AM

kung pao:

get over yourself. if good art is so easy to define i'd love to hear what you have to say about it. from what you said it sounds like my fucking grandmother's sunday water colour class would fit like a glove for you. yeah, sometimes, a can of paint tipped in the gallery IS art, whether you can deal with it or spend the rest of your life with your head up your ass is entirely up to you.

oh, and, if you're offended by this, just pretend i directed the above to your writing so you don't take it personally okay sweetikins?



April 30, 2005, 12:15 PM

Oldpro, squat down now and then lean forward to smooch GOOD PAINTING; George Bethea, he's out done you. Keep keeping people from communicating with each other - others think that you will attack them so they don't read or contribiute to this blog.
( Franklin, please secretly start a new one.)
Pro's tired fingers smash his keyboard and ring-ring like many an empty tin cup - just twanging, chaffing and grinding against iron jail bars in a 'throw away the key' institution. This component of his ego is obviously in need of conflict for some transparent reason. Comments from a one not a follower.



April 30, 2005, 12:24 PM




April 30, 2005, 1:55 PM

I think George Bethea is pretty good myself, nadroj.

As for "preventing people from blogging", well, it doesn't look like that is happening, does it?



April 30, 2005, 2:37 PM

Craigfrancis, those guidelines exist for people to follow, not to allude to ironically while talking trash to your fellow commenters.

Kung pao brings up a point that's worth thinking about - the side effect of art having no guidelines and standards not being universally shared results in people becoming artists by self-declaration. No other profession allows this, to my knowledge.



April 30, 2005, 3:33 PM

Franklin: Interesting observation about self-declaration. Personally I am glad artists can self-delcare. The so called "terminal" degree in studio, the MFA, is not that relevant to making art. Sometimes I think my tuition money might be better spent on the warehouse full of paint I could buy with it instead.

You forgot that art critics can self-declare. Even if you consider art history to be their "discipline" (I don't), many of them have little formal study in the history of art. OldPro's fave critic, Clement Greenberg, never studied art history in school, nor did he have an advanced degree of any type. There is not much available education in art criticism as a pure subject, either, even now, when it is a beast raging out of control in the art world.

And don't forget our cousins in design. Industrial designers and architects don't self declare, but graphic designers and interior designers do it all the time.

nadroj: Lay off trying to attach adjectives to OldPro. Be content to argue against his ideas ... they are no better than anyone else's and hardly self evident. Go after them. Present your own point of view. That's all it takes around here.



April 30, 2005, 4:04 PM

Hey Flatboy, I'm hurt. I praise your ideas all the time, when you have them.

Of course you must be able to "self-declare" as an artist. the alternative is to have an organization that certifies artists. This would last about 2 days.

Greenberg not only didn't bother with advanced degrees but after college he sat around for 10 years educating himself before he did much writing at all. His art writing happened pretty much by circumstance until he realized he had the gift, then he went for it.



April 30, 2005, 4:08 PM

When speaking of self-declaration, don't forget entrepreneurial artists. (The list goes on and on).



April 30, 2005, 4:26 PM

I have no advanced degree either. I couldn't wait to get out of school and get to NYC and be a starving artist and that is just what I did.

But there is something to be said for both sides.



April 30, 2005, 4:34 PM

I meant the above about self-declaration as an observation, not a value judgment. I don't think it came off that way. I agree with Oldpro - you have to self-declare.

But that doesn't work for, say, carpentry. You can declare yourself as a carpenter but if you can't cut a bevel on a 2x4 with a chop saw, actual carpenters will disagree with your self-declaration. But in art, saying that someone isn't an artist because they have poor skills is considered cruel. People find it more acceptable to say that they have poor skills than to reject them from the realm of art completely.

Again, just an observation.


kung pao

April 30, 2005, 4:56 PM

he he!


that guy in the second to last row

April 30, 2005, 5:13 PM

But if they have no skill. We call them out on it, and they can wallow in their own mediocrity. That is what we do.


kung poa fuey

April 30, 2005, 5:15 PM

crigfrancis, id love to see your grandmothers watercolors, you should post some up..keep tipping cans of paint, better yet collaborate with your gradmother. I think its healthy for people to make art and everything may very well be art...does that mean everyone is an artist, i personally dont think writing a few lines on this wonderfull blog...i'm definatly not a writer...anyway, these are just opinions, relax, be honest with yourself and have a great day..



April 30, 2005, 5:57 PM

Didn't want to "hurt" you. Didn't think that was possible, for that matter. But I admire the way you stick to your ideas most of the time. Being open minded does not seem to get anyone anything in the art world.



April 30, 2005, 5:59 PM

That last comment (#25) was addressed to OldPro #18.



April 30, 2005, 6:31 PM

That's OK, Flatboy. I'll recover.

When applied to minds "open" is more or less equivalent to "empty".



April 30, 2005, 6:34 PM

If enough young artists and dealers start turning away, this turning away will turn into something else. I seriously doubt this will occur by choice. The young, are like all young, alive and feeling their oats, it is a party fueled by money. What inevitably will put a damper on the party will be a contraction in the art market itself.

These days the outer journey is being mistaken for the inner one This has to change. but just by realizing its one journey.



April 30, 2005, 7:38 PM

so by now, i have a tone on this monotonal media, so here i go

yes there are many ways to take art.

and yes, everything is art.

remember, art is just art, of anything-

if we want to talk about the art of painting-ok, if we wnat to talk of the art of cooking-ok

but again art is a label that by definition is reserved for anything developed, a technically skilled thing.

so you can be quite adroit with people-a social artist- which to me seems the common denominator in success nowadays.

and taken this skill of people, what will you do with it-instill it into them as well, educate others on what you have mastered-unfortunately it is not what i see. I see people hounding and protecting this skill, and dont seek to nurture it in others-they wish to not loose their edge. But then again, they are not asking to be teachers, so if not by example.....

man it really does shame me sometimes, in light of status quo, to self proclaim my self an artist, even now-in the company of "educated" individuals, i am embarrassed to be associated not with a da vinci, but rather with a----common folk-----must- be- art, wave away.

I would not dismiss anything and look at all things, assuming a personal artfulness and grace in what people do. It is always there. Since the time the "zero point" got taken away(ugly is pretty) there is value to be found in everything. Do not lay blame on he who hides his worth, feel shame in yourself for not finding it.

and finally

coffee anyone



April 30, 2005, 8:21 PM

Jack, I dont buy into the notion that "everything is art". "Anything" can be contexualized as art, but it starts to beg the question if art exists as something discernibly separate in the culture. I think the idea that "anything can be art" was initially postulated in order to encompass non historical (traditional) forms. The notion appears to the uninitiated as a blanket license to do anything. While in theory this may be true, in practice it is not.



April 30, 2005, 9:30 PM

yea imma agree with the post above this one.(sorta) everything is subject to the one writting commenting whining judging etc on it. im guessing this goes for everything just more for art. so likewise in the future im hoping making lego castles is the new art and mostly everythign else is viewed as boring and trite with no relavence or use.or maybe in 20 years if theres enough blogs and then enough bad reviews art will slowly shift into the making of well made boston cream pies. im thinking that if people relate to pies more then figure painting we should prolli start working on that stat. so the point im going for is"whats it matter"if people want to fund gaint squid sculptures and horrible video art about west african monkeys let them. Likewise if people want to revert to the thick and well classified past of western painting and object making i say go for it. since i heard when you die you cant take much with you and the next art critics from 3005 will prolli lump everything any artist has done in the 21st centry with south american pottery or wax museums.... well imma go get some pie and work on some monkey videos since last time i checked art was the last thing people didnt tell me what to do in some odd attempt to justify their own actions and gripes.(this argument has tons of holes in it (prolli spelling errors too)shoot some more thorugh it please.)



April 30, 2005, 10:01 PM

Hey George, it was "Jake" not "Jack" who posted the "art is everything don't dismiss anything and look at everything" message.

Let's see, Jake's is the kind of open mindedness the art world does not respect but takes advantage of that I spoke of in #25 above. But he does have a point. "Art", as in the art of cooking, is a broader term than the way most of us use it to designate "visual art".



April 30, 2005, 10:51 PM

Catfish, #25 above was written by Flatboy.

This sure is a bunch of screwed up comments. I can barely figure out what anyone iis talking about or to whom.



April 30, 2005, 11:26 PM

My apologies to you, flatboy. I was enthusiastic about your comment on open mindedness and began thinking of it as my own, even though it wasn't. Late middle aged brain rot I suppose. The credit should go to you, not me. Sorry. But I whole heartedly agree with what you said.



April 30, 2005, 11:39 PM

Remember also, everyone, that the guidelines include make sense.



May 1, 2005, 12:08 AM

Guess I'm not the only one suffering from brain rot. The guidelines say:

Make sense. Non-sequitur posts that threaten to make read like this swill will get terminated with extreme prejudice.



May 1, 2005, 12:14 AM

Oh My God! Brain rot has struck me again! I forgot that "swill" is a word. So, sorry Franklin, for characterizing the guidelines as harboring a typo.

My only excuse is that I have been codeing HTML all afternoon. When you stare at a CRT too long, reality becomes difficult to grasp.



May 1, 2005, 12:22 AM

I feel your pain. I've been hacking MySQL from the command line. Suddenly my computer feels like an Apple II+. At least you have an excuse - it's beautiful outside down here.



May 1, 2005, 1:10 AM

Hey Catfish, either you are having a senior moment or all those little dots on the computer screen are getting to you. Either way, no problem as far as I am concerned. Thanks for the apology.



May 1, 2005, 5:42 AM

graphic and interior designers get to self-declare, but you actually have to make stuff to self-declare in those fields. so i think franklin is right - someone can declare themselves an artist and actually not make any work. i gather there were notable artists in the 70's who did that for awhile (sorry, i'm back to reading about conceptual art so...). it may not seem interesting, but sometimes it somehow is.

the converse is interesting, too. this guy, for example, declares that he is not an artist. brian eno famously declared himself out of being a musician.



May 1, 2005, 8:19 PM

Odd Nerdrum also declared himself as a kitsch painter, and not an artist. Doesn't stop him from showing at Forum, though.



May 1, 2005, 9:32 PM

odd nerdrum calls himself a kitsch painter and not an artist? interesting. (makes me wonder what thomas kinkaid calls himself, and artist i guess.)

anyway, as for other artists who don't call themselves artists, there's a cyberarts festival in boston right now ( and this tidbit appeared in a story last week about the event. (by Cate McQuaid, arts correspondent for the Boston Globe):

While many might feel excluded from conceptual art, these artists are as likely to call their work research as art.

"I've been thinking about performance art as methodology for research, to use it functionally," says Hiroko Kikuchi, one of the instigators of "Sifting the Inner Belt."

"If you identify yourself as an artist, you might be building walls," says Teri Rueb, whose GPS-based walk through Boston Common, "Itinerant," will be part of the Cyberarts Fest. "Research is one way of opening a dialogue. People understand that they are the subjects of research."

In the same vein, individual artists often remain anonymous under the umbrella of the collective. That way, they discard the identity of the auteur, which can be off-putting to people outside the art world.

By refusing to identify themselves, these artists subvert authority.

(end quote)



May 9, 2005, 8:17 PM

well justa note:

i feel sad

the whole guy taken advantage of thing as said so lightly and matter of factly really got me

so i will just read and judge all this in silence

i will know something, but will not say it

my critical and analytical standpoint will be reserved

hell, i may even loose interest for a lack of interaction

but in the end-

i feel eactly towards you as you do towards me



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