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robert hughes

Post #599 • August 10, 2005, 2:20 PM • 65 Comments

...ain't havin' it. (Via AJ.)




August 10, 2005, 2:35 PM

"absolute treasure"- yes, Art is the absolutest treasure, I think too. Amazing that Britain discusses High Art, unbelievable this is in Germany.
Hirst is a very good artist, the cows are amazing. There is almost no better artwork made in that time, the 90s. Have you better ? Maybe the 90s are interesting to discuss ?



August 10, 2005, 2:39 PM

Hughes is an interesting writer and I wish there were more like him. He seems to know what sucks, usually, but he doesn't have a real eye for what's good. Too bad.

I had no idea who Jack Vettriano was, so I googled the name. As I expected, it is more of the semisurrreal figurative with an attitude we have often discussed here.. Somneone on this blog a while back got pissed at me for saying this stuff is widespread but with the kind of success it is having I don't think it is slowing down anytime soon. It is what used to be called "society painting" and it will always be with us in some guise.

I was puzzled that Hughes said that Hirst was taking a drastic plunge in popularity. Some linked critic on the previous blog said the same thing about F Bacon. I won't believe this until I see their auction prices drop.



August 10, 2005, 3:11 PM

Bacon was a inventor in form and content. But to be honest, when I stand in front of one of his paintings, somehow they don't touch me. I was wondering when realizing this, because they touched me in Catalogues and Books before. If this is a criterium for art...



August 10, 2005, 3:14 PM

it's the way they are painted, Hans. They are cold as ice and the weirdness goes a little too deep.



August 10, 2005, 3:17 PM

OP; I asked you awhile back where you saw figurative painting going and you didnt answer.



August 10, 2005, 3:19 PM

Oh...yes. Cold as Ice. This is a quality indeed. I am thinking on other examples..., maybe Hopper ?



August 10, 2005, 3:27 PM

Hopper is far from cold



August 10, 2005, 3:31 PM

Oldpro on Hughes: "but he doesn't have a real eye for what's good." What is then good in our days, you think ? I am still searching. Something better than a fluid Rembrandt sketch I did not find yet.



August 10, 2005, 3:35 PM

If not Hopper, maybe Vasarely ? Or is "cold as ice" no quality in art ? Maybe Gregor Schneider, then ?



August 10, 2005, 3:44 PM

It seems alot of people know what "sucks", but not alot of people want to commit to writing or speaking about what they believe is "good". Unless it's unmentionably safe.



August 10, 2005, 3:55 PM

My usual candidate for a really good artist who is over looked is Jules Olitski, which has been discussed on this blog.

X, it is sometimes easier to tell what sucks, and it is certainly easier to work up reasons for why it sucks. What is good it a pure "eye" matter, and is harder to talk about. I can (I should say "could" because I don't want to right now) go on about Olitski at length and maybe convince you. but I can never really demonstrate in words what is good about his work. That's true of all art that is any good..

Speaking of temperature, Hopper is anything but cold, as Elizabeth says. Vasarely is subarctic. I don't know Schneider.

"Cold" is a term I use, usually meaning it doesn't do anything for me. I don't know if the term will work for others.



August 10, 2005, 4:02 PM

I don't know if this is exactly right, but I remember something about Hopper's wife saying that his paintings had light but no heat. Hoppers don't usually blow me away, but if you put one in a room with other contemporary (to him) artists, it tends to give off a bigger visual bang than any of them.



August 10, 2005, 4:02 PM

Sorry Elizabeth, I missed that.

Where is figurative painting going? Well, every which way, of course. But the big trend right now seems to be the thin scruffily painted figures who wander around looking dazed or expressionless or otherwise attenuated usually in mildly bizarre or purposely insipid circumstances, typified by Elizabeth Payton, Hernan Bas (here in Miami), Marlene Dumas and many others (I am sure others can add a dozen names). The Vetriano guy is a new addition, for me at least.



August 10, 2005, 4:08 PM

The Guardian had another take on the UK's bestest art competition. They opened their blog to nominations for the most hated art. (via



August 10, 2005, 4:08 PM

I didn't know that Hopper quote, Franklin, thanks. Seems apt.

"Cold" is a tricky value term, of course. Clem called Matisse a "cold hedonist" and meant it as praise. "Hot" is not good either; I think of someone like Leroy Niemann or Wolf Kahn as "hot".

Maybe great art is lukewarm. I dunno.



August 10, 2005, 4:11 PM

Oldpro, to be cold or not is indeed important for artists, I think. Its quite possible to make cold art, although I think Olitski is not. Thank you for the link to that interesting artist, I never knew before. One guy I really adore, but a photographer, who is good and maybe cold (how can one be able to have such a cold eye in these events, not throwing the camera away ?), is Thomas Dworzak. Here you see some of his photos from the Chechen war:

x: I think to tell why good art is good, should be as easy as showing that bad stuff is no art.



August 10, 2005, 4:33 PM

Oldpro, just to clarify, Jack Vettriano is a commercially successful artist of what would qualify as lowbrow art. He is only famous (at least in the UK) because of how well he sells. It's sort of a Thomas Kincade type of phenomenon, though his work is centered on the human figure as opposed to quaint and cozy landscapes. He has never been taken seriously by the art establishment.



August 10, 2005, 4:44 PM

Oh OP I just took a look at elizabeth payton and it was awful........just awful! Jack V. was boring, cliche stiff poses and an attempt at drama that just dies......I need a drink now!



August 10, 2005, 4:50 PM

If I would be an artdealer, I would buy some original film roles, like from Fassbinder, Herzog, Tarkowski, Eisenstein, instead of the marginal recent art.



August 10, 2005, 5:02 PM

Hans, what I am saying about how it is easier to show what is wrong comes from experience teaching. When I have a really good student whio catches on and goes one better than my suggestions there is always a point where i have to just say "do more" ,because there is nothing I can criticize that will not be dealt with in the process of making new work.

The same it true with really good work. You just stand there and let it sink in. When it is less than great there is always something to say about what isn't working.

Elizabeth, I never had that strong a negative reaction to Peyton's work but I googled her again (that doesn't sound right, does it?) and it does look pretty sorry. Very thin stuff. Go have a drink.

Thanks for the info, Jack. I guess that's why i called it "society painting" without really knowing. But I wouldn't be surprised if it was considered seriously - not much seperates it from all the other highly praised second-rate figurative painting around.



August 10, 2005, 5:06 PM

I had never heard of Vettriano either. You got him all wrong, Oldpro, if we're talking about the same person - I'm finding a lot of brunettes with their sloping noses tossed in the air, sporting lit cigarettes and cocktail dresses, looking like they just waltzed off the set of Casablanca. This guy's in the same league as Malcolm Liepke, although he makes Liepke look like Degas. As art they're pretty terrible, but as anachronistic kitsch illustration they're stunning.



August 10, 2005, 5:08 PM

now Ive seen marlene dumas and hernan bas....I dont like either one and im really disappointed. bas is at least having fun with colour, but both seem to really lack basic skill/talent. dumas left me cold and unimpressed and bas, big yawn.



August 10, 2005, 5:08 PM

Hans, I hear those old film stocks are breaking down precipitously.



August 10, 2005, 5:21 PM

Oldpro, I have been a teacher too, and what I have learned very fast, was that, you can not say wether it is good or bad, it has to sink in us, as you said it very right. Most of that stuff is indeed often very good, because made purely from heart, without any idea about art, what is so misleading.



August 10, 2005, 5:33 PM

OP; thanks for your feedback re; 13. Im just so unimpressed by everything figurative Ive seen..... Im waiting to see something brilliant and exciting in figurative painting that captures the moment and takes me IN' hasnt happened....yet... with the art I love best. Now Caravaggio, Rembrandt, they do it!



August 10, 2005, 5:38 PM

I was going to resist looking up V's work, but Franklin's link made it too easy. Damn you.
Now I realize I've seen a poster of his work hanging in an otherwise nice little jazz bar up here... one from his 'elegant couple dancing on a beach' series.
This school of painting is known by its acronym IRA: Inoffensive restaurant art.

As for Huges, while I see his point, and certainly respect his right to not participate, it does kind of seem like there's not much harm to be done by discussing one's favorite painting (or, at least discussing the idea of having a favorite painting). The CBC here iin Canada has done that sort of thing (Greatest Book, Greatest Canadian) and sure, nothing definitive can really be decided, but at least it gets people thinking about these things, kick-starts the critical discussions of the kind folks like us value so much.



August 10, 2005, 5:54 PM

Hughes, typical Leo that he is, avoids any situation where he can come off looking bad. This a reasonable propensity. He perceived, probably correctly, that he would end up arguing a silly proposition with a bunch of silly people and that he might come off looking silly. A Leo wants to be the noble leader on the hilltop, the Moses, the dispenser of favors.



August 10, 2005, 6:03 PM

You're right, Franklin, the Vetriano pix are very retro, like Saturday Evening Post Illustrations from the 30s. Every other one has that typical curling plume of cigarette smoke.



August 10, 2005, 6:09 PM

huhuhuhu- Vettriano- but I like this one: looks like Mickey Rourke in Sin City to ponder at his prey ;-)



August 10, 2005, 6:23 PM

Matty, re; jack v, haha you got sucked in also....
re; great canadian, I vote for Matty and his humour! hehe
OP: we leos are very hard critics....are you married to one? you seem to know us so well, haha



August 10, 2005, 6:37 PM

No, married to a Virgo. But Hughes is an early leo, looks acts and talks like one. You are probaby later, in August, because you tend to give credit where it is due.



August 10, 2005, 6:43 PM

Full disclosure: I am also a Leo.



August 10, 2005, 6:43 PM

OP; I try to be fair and openminded. I tryyyyyyyy! it aint easy.....
my birthday was yesterday.....happy birthday to me lalala



August 10, 2005, 6:52 PM

Happy birthday Franklin happy birthday to you



August 10, 2005, 9:31 PM

I can't believe this blog has devolved into discussing bloddy star signs. Besides, everyone knows that Pisces are the best artists.



August 10, 2005, 9:31 PM

... not the greatest typists though.



August 10, 2005, 9:37 PM

I was thinking Edmonton sculptors should found the World Championship of Abstract Sculpture, somebody should have the title "Best Sculptor in the World" foisted on them. What the hell, there's such a thing as the Harmonica World Championships, and weirder ones I'm sure. It could kickstart interest in art.

Though more likely it would drive the wedge between the public and good art even deeper.



August 10, 2005, 11:20 PM

They would choose Richard Serra, who is not the best scuptor in the world.

Michaelangelo & Tony Caro and David Smith are all Pisces, as you may know, Matty. But Pisces are not the best artists in other mediums.



August 11, 2005, 1:01 AM

Right you are oldpro. Virgos are the best painters if they are romantic enough and can abandon their logic when necessary.



August 11, 2005, 5:41 AM

NO NO NO.....Leos are the best painters......think of it...all that passion and built up anger!!
Matty; what ever sign you are...I still love the blue one!



August 11, 2005, 9:03 AM

Passion and anger are good for living the bohemian life, but what is relevant to painting is classical romance, the quest for something ideal, and you don't need to be a bohemian to seek that.

Leos want to boss people around, romantic Virgos seek beauty and eternity. Being angry is a condition of being alive. Everyone participates in that. It is a base emotion.



August 11, 2005, 9:56 AM

Duchamp was a Leo.



August 11, 2005, 10:02 AM

Warhol was a Leo



August 11, 2005, 10:02 AM

Duchamp certainly has bossed people around, even after he died. He is not "dead enough", as oldpro put it.



August 11, 2005, 10:03 AM

Ditto on Warhol. He da man. Who also is not dead enough.



August 11, 2005, 10:44 AM

Duchamp and Pollock were Solar-Lunar opposites

Duchamp: July 28, 1887
Sun --- 5°07 Leo
Moon - 17°53 Scorpio

Pollock: January 28, 1912
Sun --- 7°31 Aquarius, (sun 178 degrees opposite Duchamp)
Moon - 25°30 Taurus (sun 173 degrees opposite Duchamp)

They were born symetrically 4475 days before and 4475 day after October 28, 1899, missing the century turn as midpoint by 65 days.



August 11, 2005, 12:31 PM

With this astrology mumbo jumbo you lot are confirming the average regular normal common people's belief that artists really are flakes. Maybe I am a flake, but I don't want anyone to know it.



August 11, 2005, 12:40 PM

ahab, it's not "mumbo jumbo". For eight years the Uniteds States was run using it, and those were 8 of the best years we have had lately. (Ron Regan's administration)



August 11, 2005, 3:05 PM

You guys all KILL ME........MY SIDES HURT............HAHAHAHA AND LEOS DO RULE!!!



August 11, 2005, 4:59 PM

Says a lot about the state of things, eh, catfish?



August 11, 2005, 5:02 PM

Now Ahab, given the conversations we have all been having since you have been on the blog, why in the world would a simple discussion of astorlogy suddenly convince everyone we are "flakes"?

I would think they would be thinking, "hmmm, now they are talking about astorolgy. Maybe they are not so weird after all."



August 11, 2005, 5:03 PM

Or maybe they are too stupid to know how to spell "astrology".



August 11, 2005, 5:07 PM

OP this just gets funnier.........your all on a roll....hahahahaha



August 11, 2005, 5:09 PM

heres a thought...maybe everyones sick of art talk...all that bullshit u know hahaha (running and hiding now)



August 11, 2005, 5:16 PM

Ahab; if you didnt want anyone to know it....why did u cop to it?? haha



August 11, 2005, 5:38 PM

Elizabeth, I'm a self-deprecating Canadian. And I haven't yet completely disabused myself of my Mennonite upbringing - it's like a truth serum that forces me to always say what I think even when it condemns me. Like just now.



August 11, 2005, 6:13 PM

Picasso was a scorpio.



August 11, 2005, 6:31 PM

Picasso was a schmuck



August 11, 2005, 6:33 PM

Ahab; oh your one of those canadians!



August 11, 2005, 7:55 PM

elizabeth: another scorpio-ist, eh?



August 11, 2005, 9:49 PM

BOB; I take offense at being called that, I know scorpios too well, they all fancy themselves great lovers (an ex of mine is one and he like Picasso, was a schmuck,) at least Picasso could paint though!



August 11, 2005, 11:35 PM

Leo/Scorpio relationships ought to be outlawed. The Queen of the mountain vs. the King of the underworld. Too much vertical distance. It don't work.



August 11, 2005, 11:40 PM

OP; tell me about it...1st he proposes and then he describes ways of killing me hahahaha as for did he ever use and abuse the women in his life.....and throughout they nurtured and coddled him, typical scorp man!!



August 11, 2005, 11:42 PM

I'm Leo sun, Scorp ascendant. We all have our crosses to bear.



August 12, 2005, 7:57 AM

Your cross is somewhat relieved by your sun being up around your midheaven, Franklin, leading you to put much of that dire energy into professional and intellectual activities, but the combination, which is a storng one, also increases Napoleonic fantasies and a dread of making embarrassing errors. But, as you say, we all have our cross.



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