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that government thing again

Post #622 • September 12, 2005, 7:16 AM • 103 Comments

This afternoon I will take part in a conversation hosted by our main local government arts office. The invitation says, "We would like this to be an informal discussion during which we can be candid about issues and challenges facing the individual artist based in Miami-Dade County." They haven't opened this to the public, exactly, but you have my ear: What shall I bring to them?

I go back and forth on this continually. I have a mild libertarian streak that prefers, in theory, that the government not have any involvement in the arts to the prospect that their ability to hand out money in essence tells the public what to like. But in practice, I write a pretty mean grant and continue to seek public support, although the brass ring down here, the $15,000 Consortium award, eludes me, and seems to select against self-identified painters in Miami-Dade county anyway. Given the infrequency that I feel compelled to visit the museums down here, I suspect that they would founder without government support, and I attribute that partly to institutional tastes that they can justify theoretically but not aesthetically. My own gallery has almost no involvement with the local museums, contrary to the career arcs of many of the artists; we're doing pretty well, thanks, just not here. My tax money is no less green than anyone else's and I'd like to see my taste reflected at the museum more than twice a year.




September 12, 2005, 10:02 AM

Increased support to other organizations like Miami Light, Tigertail... these organizations are always struggling... and they have a much closer involvment with the art community than the Museums... plus they can give out more Artist Access Grants. Things like that really do matter.


that guy

September 12, 2005, 10:18 AM

Tell them to fund no art whatsoever and let the whims of the market do the choosing. When they subsidize sub par work it hurts us all and gives those who win confidence that there career is really worth supporting. The wrong message to send such mediocrity. Let them flounder and maybe they will go away and become garbage men, a career which will help them clean out their studios.



September 12, 2005, 10:33 AM

Well funding organizations like Tigertail and Miami Light takes the goverment out of the programming decision making.



September 12, 2005, 12:58 PM

More than twice a year, Franklin? I think Bonnie Clearwater needs to sit you down and tell you about the facts of life, such as it is.


that guy

September 12, 2005, 5:03 PM

I second that Jack, If your own art alone can't satiate your taste in Miami you'll have a rough time developing your own aesthetic judgments in this town. Our cultural institutions are invertebrates with endowments. Taste in decline, as catfish likes to say, is in full effect.

How bout this for an t-shirt Franklin?:
Picking up where Greenberg left us.

or the alternate

....left off.
Did the t-shirt offer ever materialize? I was in Europe and may have missed the announcement.

I'll take my royalties in small ones and twenties.



September 12, 2005, 5:53 PM

Will yáll please leave Greenburg good & six feet under, where he belongs.?



September 12, 2005, 6:31 PM

Sorry, rjm. He's just going to keep coming on back to haunt y'all.



September 12, 2005, 6:47 PM

Op, really? Seems like CG is doing the slow fade into history with no heirs.



September 12, 2005, 7:38 PM

I don't know about "heirs", George. Critics like that don't come along very often.

But no one can write anything of any value about the art of our time without dealing with him somehow. They can't stand him or what he said or what he stood for, but they can't shake him.



September 12, 2005, 8:35 PM

Op, I replied, see #78 over there



September 12, 2005, 9:36 PM

George, if you like, I can forward your doubts about the state of Perl's generative apparatus to the online address at NRO. I actually think that he is trying to get into the mud, but unfortunately he's too busy wrestling the pig that lives in there to find the pearl.

I admire Kitaj without liking him all that much. I find the same awkward, patchwork use of color in Helion, so I can see why he would go for both. The short bio at NRO says that he has a background in painting, by the way, with a stint at Skowhegan, even.



September 12, 2005, 10:17 PM

Franklin, I missed the Kitaj show at Marlborough which irked me, I stretched canvas's for him years ago when I was a student at UCLA and I really wished I had seen it, well actually I tried but the gallery was closed.

I wouldn't rave over the Helion show, there were some paintings that I thought were interesting, potentially mineable as ideas but the works were very uneven. At some point he would have been better off to just have copped out to the Picasso influences and moved on with it.

You're right about Jed Perl painting, my friend and I were talking about it and he remembered the shows. I didn't. That doesn't mean much since I dropped out for better than 10 years and only went to shows of friends or stuff I "had to see" at the museums.
You know me. If I had wanted to write a letter to the editor I would have. That wasn't what I had in mind, I wanted to see him here in the trenches, like Op, or you, or Jack, with the mask on, toe to toe.

In all honesty, I think part of the problem is that everyone is either polarized, forgot what it is really about or stupid. I happen to like Neo Rauch, I understand the criticisms and in some cases I don't disagree, but I still think he is making interesting paintings, warts and all. If the dialog cannot accept that type of open view, how can anything be discussed?

What gets said here doesn't matter much, the audience is still limited. What gets said in print, in TNR or especially Vogue, I think might have some affect. The problem is that one has several choices about how the critical writing is both targeted and its intent.

My opinion is that critical writing should help understand the strengths and weaknesses of the work, not just pass a judgement. I think this is what Jed Perl wants to do, but it's ineffective. I have no opinion on Tyler Green other than I think he's am art world tout and good at it, so when he dismisses Jed's writing it says something about Perl's inability in getting the message across to the readers who do not already agree and that is the issue.



September 12, 2005, 10:20 PM

this goes after #9&10:

In accordance with George, CG made the academic aspect of art criticism accessible and gave us all a certain construct in which to follow or not follow. the rules do not apply today so it is sort of sad to keep trying to rehash him. things were much simpler then and an individual had room to breathe and develop his platform. room to find his purity, his core. the medium was perfect for it's time. Fast forward...we now live in a way more complex period in which to create. Gender, race and self identiy issues have been challenged and art has been used to communicate that, as well as a myriad of other issues. this is no longer a time in which art has the strength to live alone. art now has it's attachments.

When i attended a lecture given by CG (q&a sort of thing) before he died, he spoke of the critic as promoter which does not appear to be the case today. that is a major point no one has touched on.

CG remained influential on Michael Fried and Rosalind Krauss but beyond that....? To me this has all been a natural progression for better or worse. today's art is in a current state of quandry, as are most aspects of the american experience. but it's not necessarily a bad thing.



September 12, 2005, 10:26 PM

I can't imagine what you propose as a solution, George. If your eye tells you that what you are looking at is crap, are you supposed to go out and be "open minded? about it?

I have no interest in being the Ambassador of Good Art in enemy territory. That's hopeless. But if bitching about the sad state of the the thing I love and have made my life's work makes me feel better I am going to keep right on doing it. Maybe we are writing for the future. Who knows.



September 12, 2005, 10:38 PM

Mek, I agree but would add, always trying to keep the idea expanding, that there is nothing in Greenberg's method "back then" which shouldn't be applicable today. In fact the expansion of genres should increase the possibilities of applying his methods.

My personal opinion is, that while valuable, formalist analysis (as I described it earlier) helps access only part of the richness of any artwork. All of the content related or symbolic aspects are there to be addressed. It is silly to assume that all formal decisions are derived from the paintings state at a given moment. Formal decisions inherently have a huge degree of flexibility and could be made based entirely on a literary whim, content, symbolism, cultural analysis, popular media, unpopular media, whatever. I can paint something blue, just because I like blue or because it symbolizes the Wiki Sun Goddess orgasm, what's the difference? None as long in the process the accumulation of decisions leads to a successful painting (sculpture, video, installation etc.)



September 12, 2005, 10:40 PM

MEK, "CG made the academic aspect of art criticism accessible" - where do you get such an idea? He and his criticism and his example and what he stood for are about as non-academic as anything can be.

Greenberg stands for an attitude toward art which may be suppressed now but which is imperishable, even if held by a tiny minority while the loonies rule the asylum. It is not a matter of liking Jackson Pollock, it is a matter of loving and respecting art. If this attitude disappears, art will disappear.

Will some of you readers out there please speak up?

Also, things were not "much simpler" then. This is a historical fallacy. Everything seems simple in retrospect. The art world is much bigger, that's all.



September 12, 2005, 10:41 PM

In accordance with George, CG made the academic aspect of art criticism accessible and gave us all a certain construct in which to follow or not follow. the rules do not apply today so it is sort of sad to keep trying to rehash him.

1. What does "made the academic aspect of art criticism accessible" mean?

2. What is the "certain construct" that CG has given us, exactly?

3. What are "the rules" that you speak of, and how do they "not apply today"?



September 12, 2005, 10:42 PM

George, please, "Formalism" does not exclude "content". It just says content does not make something good or bad. You should know that.



September 12, 2005, 10:44 PM

There you go Matty - right down to the minute almost!



September 12, 2005, 10:44 PM

OP, Whether content can make something good or bad is moot. If it is there it adds to the richness of the work. It ups the ante.



September 12, 2005, 10:45 PM

George, I didn't want to have to quote the same lines again, but you forced me...
Clem, in his own words:
"One reason among others why the use of the term "formalism" is
stultifying is that it begs a large part of the very difficult question as to
just what can be sensibly said about works of art. It assumes that "form"
and "content" in art can be adequately distinguished for the purposes of
discourse. This implies in turn that discursive thought has solved just those problems of art upon whose imperviousness to discursive thinking the very possibility of art depends."



September 12, 2005, 10:45 PM

OP, we're at it again.



September 12, 2005, 10:49 PM

The 'Blue' of your hypothetical paiinting is both form, and content.



September 12, 2005, 10:49 PM

It adds nothing but itself, George. Content, by itself, like anything else, is qualitatively neutral



September 12, 2005, 10:50 PM

Matty, let's not go there I allready made it clear what I think it is about and that it does not inherently guarantee anything other than serving as a method to get the work done.

Greenberg is dead, that's the fact jack

It's old news, if you think you can carry the torch forword, then that's what is needed but it has to be able to deal with art of our time

Otherwise get me a critical bodybag



September 12, 2005, 10:51 PM

mek: Greenberg may have remained as an influence on Michael Fried, but not Rosalind Krauss. After their love affair collapsed, so did their intellectual and critical agreement. She criticized him roundly for his handling of the Smith sculptures in an article in Art in America to which he responded in a letter to the editor that women are the bane of the art world, or something like that.



September 12, 2005, 10:53 PM

George, maybe you're reading over the text too quickly to grasp the significance to what you were saying.

Greenberg notes that it is impossible to separate Form and Content. This is true, regardless of the term "Formalism".



September 12, 2005, 10:54 PM

Oldpro, let me see if I have this straight.

Suppose we are talking about a painting which we both agree is "good" art, for the sake of discussion I will rely on your eye and opinion.

Suppose we have a white shape in this painting.

Does it make any difference that this white shape is a dove?



September 12, 2005, 10:56 PM

The torch, by it's nature, is a single flame, George. In a world of darkness maybe that's all it takes. We'll see.



September 12, 2005, 10:56 PM

A White Dove Shape is both form and content.



September 12, 2005, 10:58 PM

Of course it makes a difference. One is a shape, the other is a dove. That's different, so it makes a difference.



September 12, 2005, 10:59 PM

I want RED meat not a Greenburger

That's a cop out.




September 12, 2005, 11:02 PM

mek, are you gleaning your info on Greenberg from his Wikipedia entry?... just curious.



September 12, 2005, 11:09 PM

Ok, so using your concept of formalism, who is dealing with the content aspect?

That is the problem



September 12, 2005, 11:10 PM

The content issues are infinitely richer and more complex than the "formal" (strict definition) issues.



September 12, 2005, 11:14 PM

George and oldpro: maybe the art world is more complex today than the 50s. In the 50s there was lots of bad taste to go around, but it was not as pervasive as it is today which, coupled with the greater size of today's scene, could be looked at as more complex.

Today reminds me very much of the time 100-125 years ago when the French Academy had its rotting grip pushing hard on the jugular that feeds the best art. What did the best artists of that time do? They went backwards to go forward, resurrecting artists and methods from a time past, to clear the air of the stench coming from the Academy.

What is hapening in some quarters that are well represented on this blog is similar. Clearing the air by referencing a time when the air was less pukey. Saying that Clem's dead and that's a fact jack is true, but as irrelevant as saying Goya was dead when Manet found what he needed there.

The best art takes whatever it needs blindly, without regard for what the art world will and will not approve, no matter what the rhetoric of "today" might use to embarrass it. The "Will" in Matty's beloved Schopenhauer serves as a good model for art on the move.

It is speculation on my part, but this blog may be making history by taking the step "backward" it has taken.

In times of corruption and decay, the ability of the present to provide what is necessary is deeply compromised. The future does not exist, so to move forward, there is only one resource left, as the French showed in 1875.



September 12, 2005, 11:15 PM

My concept of "Formalism"?
I don't use the word myself. I find it vulgar.

Who's dealing with the "content aspect"? In my 'concept', form and content cannot be adequately distinguished for the purposes of discourse.

Is anyone else getting deja vu here?



September 12, 2005, 11:19 PM

I like catfish... and so does my girlfriend. And that's a fact jack (she made me type this).



September 12, 2005, 11:27 PM


predictability works in your favor, not mine.

and you wonder why more readers don't chime in..

at least you boys sex it up a bit when you are angry.




September 12, 2005, 11:36 PM

Thanks Matty and girfriend for #38.



September 12, 2005, 11:37 PM

My point about Clem is that his thinking is dead, no one is carrying it forward. Most of what I read here is just wallowing in the past wishing things were like they were before.

The world is today what it is today, that will never change.

I am sorry, the world moves on and regardless what anyone here thinks of the art being made at the current moment, it is being made. As a fact, it implies that art being made tomorrow will be made with the knowledge of what is made today. Spin the last two sentences with "thinking".

I seriously dispute that we are in a period of corruption and decay, rather I think most here just don't get it and they are wishing for a kinder gentler time that used to be. Well, wake up and smell the roses, 1949 was not a kinder gentler time, it's fractal, unvarient under scaling and the art world was just as brutal and opinionated then as it is now. Why should I expect it to change?

A criticism which cannot deal with the art of it's time is a failure



September 12, 2005, 11:41 PM

Lemme give it to you in paraphrase, George.

When we resort to "formalism" to describe a studio art practice, we run the risk of letting the term fence in considerations of visually apprehended form as distinct and separable from considerations of verbalizable content. When "form" and "content" get unduly extracted from one another for the sake of discussion, the underlying assumption is that the words that work for "content" work as well for "form". The reality is that visual form is unbreachable by means of discourse.

And how in hell do you think that contextual knowledge has more to offer than visual reality?



September 12, 2005, 11:44 PM

Seems obvious, content has always had precedence over form



September 12, 2005, 11:46 PM

but, you're mistake would be assuming I choose one over the other.



September 12, 2005, 11:46 PM

George, you were not listening to what catfish was saying. he was not talking about going back to a more comfortable time. He was talking about bringing lasting values forward. 1949 can stay where it is.

You say "A criticism which cannot deal with the art of it's time is a failure".

I say "A criticism which cannot accurately evaluate the art of it's time is a failure".



September 12, 2005, 11:53 PM

OK, regarding the 50's maybe I was projecting whaty I thought others here were thinking of, I'll let it go.

Regarding the criticism, I contend that your position has no champion



September 12, 2005, 11:57 PM

George says: The world is today what it is today, that will never change.

I disagree. The world will change tomorrow. Which is more important than the tautology that someone might claim is what George meant. What is important is what endures. "Todayism" is always about that which specifies today and today only, hence it goes away quickly.

George also says: A criticism which cannot deal with the art of it's time is a failure and he is right. Of course, one of the "deal with" options is to reject "art of its own time". That's what the Impressionists did and now we consider their art, not that of the dominant Academy to have been the "art of their time". But it wasn't. Bougeureau was the poster boy for artist-of-the-day then, just as Ben Shahn was for the 50s, when he was the first artist ever selected to deliver the Norton lectures at Harvard. (And he did a good job with the talks too.) Pollock and company refused to be influenced by this "art of the time" in favor of something else.

And George, surely you can admit that IF the "art of our time" is decayed, then rejecting it IS "getting it" - as best as it can be got. You are also right the 50s were not a kinder gentler time, but how can you presume anyone here thinks that? You don't, I don't, for two. Robbing the past for what is useful is not the same as wanting to return there.

Did Manet "wallow in the past" when he picked up on Goya? OK, that's close enough. Was that bad? Of course not. So why do you present robbing the past with a loaded word like "wallowing"? Manet, to name one, makes your choice of words look like an attempt to embarrass somone. I'm not at all offended by them, BTW, they just don't impress me.



September 12, 2005, 11:59 PM

That;s OK, George. Art is on our side.



September 13, 2005, 12:02 AM

Well George, what if I said no one was carrying the thinking of Plato forward? Would that take Plato out of the picture? Plato remains his own "champion" and I think you know that.



September 13, 2005, 12:05 AM

CAtfish, that's what I ment when I said "Greenberg will continue to be read in an academic context only, historically contextualized like Bell and Fry and not part of the current dialog. "



September 13, 2005, 12:08 AM

Look, kids - it's a floor wax, and a dessert topping.

Content and form don't oppose each other. Greenberg's legacy is to point out that artistic quality lies in form. All works that fail formally fail artistically, while some works that succeed as vehicles of content fail artistically anyway.

That said, a lot of interesting things about art, and things that make art important, are hanging around in the content. Greenberg says as much. He just warns us that we ought not confuse the two kinds of success with each other. And that seems like a sensible, workable method for dealing with contemporary art, even if it requires resistance to the idea that the two kinds of success are interchangable, and thus negates vast swaths of it. That isn't a failure to deal with it, even if some of its proponents feel otherwise; it's dealing with it, harshly, according to what we know to be true about artistic success across time.

Re: I contend that your position has no champion.

Dammit, I'm doing my best, here.



September 13, 2005, 12:13 AM

Predicting the future is treacherous business. We don't really know how Greenberg will be read then. But tonight, in this blog, he is part of the dialog.

And, as the person so many love to hate, the evidence favors the speculation that he will be part of the dialog again - so here I begin wading the treacherous swamp of predicting the future, just like you.



September 13, 2005, 12:14 AM

Oh, I get it. You're saying, George, that ideas have due dates and that all Greenbergisms have gone sour on the tastebuds of today.



September 13, 2005, 12:18 AM

Catfish, Of course tommorrow will be different, but you live in today and it is what it is

Every criticism has the potential to reject anything, correctly or incorrectly. What I am callng for is a criticism which actually deals with its time in a way which neither inherently accepts it or rejects it on opinion alone.

I agree, there is a difference between wishing things were different and learning from history, I have no problem with the latter.

I don't think the art of our time is decayed but the quality varies as always.



September 13, 2005, 12:20 AM

You're still a champion in training, Franklin. Being groomed.



September 13, 2005, 12:21 AM


You are the first one to step forward with a lance.

That is worthy of respect



September 13, 2005, 12:26 AM

Franklin borrowed catfish's lance, and oldpro's steed.



September 13, 2005, 12:47 AM

As someone saud a few pages back:

Ni! Ni! Ni!



September 13, 2005, 2:14 AM

mek, you can't go to bed yet...
look up at post #17... you've still got homework to do, young lady.



September 13, 2005, 8:54 AM

good day.

matty, as my older jamaican friend once said (in uttter frustration), "boi don't know what time a clock is gonna strike". i would place bets on the notion that you don't have any friends from JA but if you do just ask them to translate.

btw i was yawning from boredom, not fatigue.



September 13, 2005, 8:54 AM

Good morning George. You said: I am callng for is a criticism which actually deals with its time in a way which neither inherently accepts it or rejects it on opinion alone.

Art is accepted or rejected on the basis of experience, not opinion.

Yes, I live in today (granting you the tautology). But I am not foolish enough to take "today" as my master.

Our time is without precendent with respect to the sheer quantity of bad stuff it produces, the level to which this stuff has sunk, and the extent to which the pile of junk has been accepted by the official art establishment. Nevertheless, there is some "good enough" art to be found here and there.

Quoting Tim Lefens, the painter, who was talking with Greenberg about Tim's pictures:

You say some of these are good. Does that mean they're not great?
When they're good, that's good enough.
When are they good?
When they work.
When do you know when they work?
You just do.



that guy

September 13, 2005, 9:06 AM

Catfish says in 36:

"In times of corruption and decay, the ability of the present to provide what is necessary is deeply compromised."

Thats wisdom right there.



September 13, 2005, 9:15 AM

Catfish is humming on this page.

MEK, we know you were affecting boredom. But this is not a defense of the erroneous statements you made any more than your little comment from your Jamaican friend. These responses are merely supercilious.



September 13, 2005, 9:54 AM

Art is accepted or rejected on the basis of experience, not opinion.
The word "opinion" refers to critical writing which of course should flow from the experience of the art as you suggest.

About today, what is being made today reflects the time in some way, my comment is that this needs to be acknowledged and dealt with for better or worse. Nothing to do with letting "today" being your master.

Our time is without precedent with respect to the sheer quantity of bad stuff it produces, the level to which this stuff has sunk, and the extent to which the pile of junk has been accepted by the official art establishment. Nevertheless, there is some "good enough" art to be found here and there.
Agreed there is a magnitude of order more art made now than before, statistically one would expect about the same percentage of it to be of questionable quality. Same percentage of a bigger number is more.

Fair anecdote about CG, I wouldn't advise using it as an example of his taste.



September 13, 2005, 10:22 AM

I said, Who's dealing with the "content aspect"?

Matty said, In my 'concept', form and content cannot be adequately distinguished for the purposes of discourse.

Nobody really believes that do they?



September 13, 2005, 10:32 AM

OK George, lots of characters around here "deal with" official up-to-date art by putting it in the "worse" column. That should satisfy your mandate. Other characters praise it. They satisfy your mandate too.

The most peculiar aspect of our time is the extent to which the art establishment has embraced exceptionally bad art. Historically, I can attempt to understand this.

Every movement has its rise and fall. The French Academy introduced discipline and attention to detail during its rise and art found that useful with results like David and so on. When discipline and detail took the bit in its mouth, as an end in itself, we got Bougereaux, and art could no longer find what it needed in the mess that created. So the Impressionists introduced the shocking as an assault on the reigning decadence and we got Manet, Cezanne and so on. Once shock got the conch firmly in hand, it too pursued itself with a vengence. Now it has lost its relationship to anything except itself, including art. It is bad for the sake of bad. When a snake eats too much of its own tail, it dies.

The studio artist needs to recognize this. Proving it is not possible.

BTW, I would use Tim's anecdote because that's the way Clem talked. He was not proving anything either.



September 13, 2005, 10:33 AM

yes they are oldpro - that is the intent.

i leave you now amongst friends.
(about time i left, eh?)

off i go into my naive little world.
-all the best,



September 13, 2005, 11:11 AM

Cat said, When discipline and detail took the bit in its mouth, as an end in itself, we got Bougereaux, and art could no longer find what it needed in the mess that created.

I agree this can potentially lead to difficult ends. The point of view can be at numerous points in contemporary (50's to now, say) art history. Should I go further?



September 13, 2005, 11:28 AM



September 13, 2005, 11:31 AM

Looks like the system ignored what I wrote.

I said to George of course go ahead further.



September 13, 2005, 11:40 AM

Well, taking the bit in your mouth, running with the discipline and detail as you suggested, sounds to me a lot like what happened with post painterly abstraction.



September 13, 2005, 12:00 PM

#46: "I contend that your position has no champion."

How long and how closely have you been reading this blog, George? It's positively crawling with champions for that position--unless, of course, you meant no officially approved, establishment-friendly, "with-it" champion. If that's more or less what you meant, it obviously implies you put a premium on such "credentials," which I need not tell you I find spurious. Do you really have such a problem with people who simply do not play well with others whom they cannot respect?



September 13, 2005, 12:30 PM

Jack, Yes with all due respect I meant an officially approved, establishment-friendly, "with-it" champion.

I'm always afraid of being pigeonholed here because I often take the other side of an argument. In fact, I make paintings, a conservative practice, and I pay a lot of attention to the formal details in the process. I'm open minded about new art, I don't expect everyone to agree.

That said, it's my opinion that the lineage of Greenberg critical thought needs to be carried forward and extended. The "visual" has not been deprecated, it is still there in todays art and yes one might criticise how successfully it is implemented. One cannot lump all the current art together as Catfish is wont to do and say it is degenerate, that's nonsense. There are a lot of young artists working with a "new look" who take painting (just for example) very seriously.

My call for an heir has more to do wanting to see someone address the total issue, form and content, with a degree of vision and in a way which attracts an audience. That is a lot to ask.



September 13, 2005, 1:01 PM

Geroge you want a "an officially approved, establishment-friendly, "with-it" champion."

If this is what you want, do not use Greenberg as an example. He was not any of those things for most of the time he was "championing". He was as "non-establishment" as us bloogers are.

He only got anywhere this description by the early 60s, and even then the description hardly fits. it still doesn't.



September 13, 2005, 1:12 PM

George, for all practical purposes, regardless of what you may advocate in theory, you appear to equate "open-minded" with "not willing to reject, dismiss, or declare, unambiguously and forcefully, NO, this won't do." It might be some sort of ethical or moral issue for you, as it might be for the likes of Alfredo Triff, but while anyone is entitled to have such scruples, I neither share them nor am moved by them. I will not trust a voice who seems, or is, congenitally incapable of rejecting anything because it's so, you know, nasty and closed-minded and might trouble the terminally delicate (or deluded).

There is absolutely no conflict between being open to, avid for, eagerly in search of good art and resolutely rejecting anything that is not good.


that guy

September 13, 2005, 1:22 PM

Well said Jack. That pretty much summarizes the state of art criticism today. Its sad but true, that right now, we are the only ones lighting that torch of goodness in a dark blind age.

George: you just seem conflicted and torn between what you seem to want and what you've been spoon feed for decades by the sheepish press. Time to snap out of your funk and pick up the fight.



September 13, 2005, 1:34 PM

Oldpro, That's not how I see Greenberg as far as most are concerned he was as "officially approved" as anyone. Regardless of the labels, let's not argue over that, what I was calling for is someone who can address a mainstream audience with intelligence and wit.

I am not equating "open-minded" with "not willing to reject,...." unless the assumption is that all new art deserves to be rejected which I think is nonsense.

For the life of me I cannot understand how critical writing which is clear and probative cannot fail to find an audience and even an audience in the so called establishment. Either these points of view have currency or they don't



September 13, 2005, 1:39 PM

Thatguy, well thanks but I'm not in a funk about it. I don't read most of the art critical stuff, except what gets linked here, I have a few recentArt mags theBW gave me and that's about it. I read other stuff and let the work in the studio happen in it's own course. Of course this might matter to me at some point so I prod it along here.



September 13, 2005, 1:46 PM

'That guy' has nailed it, I think.

George, pick one of your favorite painting of Oldpro's.

Now, tell me, is it the form that moves you, or the content?

Then, try to write something meaningful about the content of that painting, without saying anything about its form (or vice versa, if you like).



September 13, 2005, 1:49 PM

I am not equating "open-minded" with "not willing to reject,...." unless the assumption is that all new art deserves to be rejected which I think is nonsense.

Of course it's nonsense... you don't see anyone here doing that though. I'm pretty sure we're all artists here, and we're all making 'new art', so obviously none of us reject everything new.



September 13, 2005, 2:12 PM

Matty, I'll pass.
I will say this, there is a difference between form driving the content and content driving the form. Assuming the artist is able to resolve the formal issues, the work with the content driving the form is more interesting.



September 13, 2005, 2:31 PM

I suspected you might pass, George, just as I suspected that mek would pass on defending her comments. Both are impossible tasks... Never let it be said that you weren't given the chance though.



September 13, 2005, 2:35 PM


I said what I thought was important about my point of view.

and, you don't have a damn clue why I passed, so let's drop it.



September 13, 2005, 2:36 PM

Matty, I think it is inappropriate of you to ask someone to identify one of Oldpro's paintings; Oldpro is quite adamant about preserving anonymity, and though it may mean little in Canada to identify one of his works by name, it could have consequences here in Miami. Next time offer a challenge which doesn't compromise one of the participants of this dialog.



September 13, 2005, 2:52 PM

George #77 You may think and say that this was Greenberg's position back then but it was not. I know this sounds presumptious, but I was there and I know. I am sure you can find others who could set you straight here.

You write "For the life of me I cannot understand how critical writing which is clear and probative cannot fail to find an audience and even an audience in the so called establishment. Either these points of view have currency or they don't"

This is either short-sighted or disingenuous. You know as well as I do that history is jam-packed with instances of "clear probitive" comment that people did not want to hear, sometimes to the point of murdering the ones who said it. it is almost a cliche of human behavior.They didn't particularly want to hear what Greenberg was saying, either. The quality of the art he was talking about, together with his eye and his writing, eventually won the day.

Kathleen is right, Matty. That was incautious.



September 13, 2005, 3:07 PM

George, you know perfectly well that neither I nor anyone here would ever claim that any art deserves to be rejected just because it's new, but it most definitely deserves to be rejected if it's bad. Any claim to the effect that such rejection is somehow closed-minded is, as far as I'm concerned, beneath refutation.



September 13, 2005, 3:22 PM

I took time to water my plants. I have a gardenia growing in a pot in the window. Do know how hard it is to grow a gardenia in a window pot in NYC? Hard and it blooms now, every year

You know Matty, the first ten years I was painting I worked abstractly. At the time there were several critics writing "formalist" (yeh ug!) criticism in the glossy art magazines, among them Michael Fried and…. I was a kid-artist as Op calls 'em and I could quote the "line" verbatim, "echoing the edge of the support", "flatness", and so on.

I consumed and then messed around with all the ideas like a hungry animal. One summer I made over 100 paintings, mostly on free endrolls of cardstock, using "mix-reject" housepaint at a buck a quart. I probably made about 50 stripe paintings, testing out color relationships like Ken Noland.

Whatever by winter I threw them all out. Not because they were bad, I'm not sure if I really new the difference then, but because they had served their purpose as a research/study vehicle. Anyhow, I stuck with it, including a whole series of large color field / geometry field paintings, made with a squeegee, acrylic and a 50 gallon drum of Rhoplex. So I have more than just a conversational knowledge about abstract painting. (If you can find a 1975 Whitney Biennual catalog, on p.94 there is reproduction of an early abstract construction of mine)

Around 1978 I started introducing more figurative elements into the work which continues to this day. I do not make much distinction between the representational and the abstract, the difference is essentially in how the details are drawn and the degree of content implied by the image. So figure you can out where I stand from that remark. If someone only looks at my work formally, that's fine but there is more to it than that.

There is no reason for me to discuss someone else's painting just to make you more comfortable in your assumptions. I know what it is about, that's enough.



September 13, 2005, 3:28 PM

Jack, yeh I thought that would be your position, it's ok by me too.

Op, regarding CG, well you were there and I was in LA in art school, so maybe that put me in one of those niches, Clem was respected.

I was NOT being disingenuous. It's an intellectual war. Fight or be squashed.



September 13, 2005, 3:39 PM

Fight or be squashed, what does that mean?

Last week, I ran across a gallery website which had a bunch of works by artists from the 1950's that most here probably never heard of. I don't know what was going on then, other than what I've read in the Pollock and Duchamp biographies but it appears like a there were artists working in other styled which were just pushed aside by AE. Maybe this isn't the case but I'm going to assume for a minute that it is.

For most artists, I think it makes a huge difference if their work receives some degree of critical support, it is empowering. I know the exceptions, Van Gogh is the most common, but as Catfish noted the artworld was smaller then. I can't but wonder what might have become of those obscure artists from the 50's had the situation been a little different. Or, maybe they didn't care.



September 13, 2005, 4:04 PM

What was the website?



September 13, 2005, 4:34 PM

Op, darn I knew you would ask and it wasn't bookmarked. So it took me awhile to find it. I had started here in a NY Times slideshow and then went a googling.

I ended up here Findlay Art and took the time to look at every link.



September 13, 2005, 5:15 PM

Thanks, George. Fascinating. There were names on there I hadn't seen since we used to run up to NYC from college in the late 50s.



September 13, 2005, 5:30 PM

George, Michael Fried is a strange critic. He thinks an abstract picture cannot be longer than some specific number of feet (17?, 18?) for instance. His "line" is, as you seem to have observed, just another line. Congratulations.

Also congratulations for using post-painterly abstraction as an example of a movement that went too much for its own hype. It set a good stage for renewing painterliness, though it never really succeeded on its own.



September 13, 2005, 6:10 PM

Oldpro, yeh, a lot of those painting I had never seen before.



September 13, 2005, 6:33 PM

The painting that caught my eye was the one by Steve Wheeler --- cut and paste the link will expire in a week

and these at ArtNet

If I put myself back in 1950, folks are thinking "Picasso", heck they were thinking that in 1975 even, whateverit appears they were just pushed aside by what was happening at the time. Looking at them today, they are 50 years ahead of a lot of the brooklyn painters.


ms quoted

September 13, 2005, 7:47 PM

George has previously admitted to looking at oldpro's art. I have just spent 20 mins page-downing-scanning for the exchange but, alas, I have become too nauseated to continue my search. It was the exchange where George complimented oldpro on his work from the late 60's and oldpro corrected him saying it was the mid 60's and then further discussed mininalist painting he did previously but not yet in galleries/musuems, etc etc. There was no inappropriate outing.



September 13, 2005, 8:19 PM

It was "For your consideration", #64 & #65, Ms.

Matty was asking for something more specific, but it is really no big deal. I've been outed a couple times already.

My insistence on anonymity in general is for the sake of the blog more than myself. I think identifying oneself is inhibiting, especially in a tough venue like this one, and I would like to see more people contributing without fear of embarrassing themselves.



September 13, 2005, 8:22 PM

ms Q, true, that wasn't the point anyway. I do know oldpro's work, I've followed it for years.

The point was, that in my opinion, Matty was using it as a foil for something else.
I replied saying "there is a difference between form driving the content and content driving the form. Assuming the artist is able to resolve the formal issues, the work with the content driving the form is more interesting." That is my position. It doesn't have to be anyone elses.



September 13, 2005, 11:29 PM

Matty, I think it is inappropriate of you to ask someone to identify one of Oldpro's paintings

Bah! I didn't ask George to identify a painting (certainly not by name)... I asked him to pick one, describe which aspect (either form or content) moved him, and for him to describe that aspect to me, without talking of the other aspect. This does not amount to compromising anyone's anonymity... please.

George, I never said I knew why you passed, I just said it was an impossible task. Maybe you don't recognize that, and maybe you do. I don't care. What matters is that it is impossible to separate form and content, an you have offered nothing to refute that. I had used the example of Oldpro's work precisely for the reasons that Ms. Q. brought up: that you had expressed admiration for his, I'm assuming, abstract works from the '60's.

As for your post # 87, I appreciate the biographical info, but I fail to see a point anywhere in there, sorry. I haven't and don't make any assumptions about your art practice, nor do I care to. It's all just beside the point, as far as I'm concerned. No offense intended.


ms quoted

September 13, 2005, 11:56 PM

ahhh #65 and #66!!!!! Thank you oldpro.

I have to admit I am disappointed to not watch some real discussion about a specific piece of work. There have been ample discussion about a lack of real criticism. Why not actually attempt it at least? I think that it would be interesting to see if it all ended up sounding like bullshit or if talking about a peice of art critically can actually push forward how one thinks and views art.



September 14, 2005, 7:35 AM

You have a point, Ms. Franklin does put work up here now and then and sometimes it does get talked about. We could do more. Sometimes it gets derailed by the "you can't tell anything from a reproduction" objection, but I think that has been quelled somewhat.

I'd like to see Franklin put up some examples from recent shows, particularly the Gambrell collages (I guess that's what you would call them) at Dorsch.



September 14, 2005, 10:47 AM

re#99, The Form-Content duality

Again, I'll refer to painting because that is what I know.

Suppose you have a filled circle on a white ground.
We can call the "circle" the form and it's content is it's "circleness" or any of a number of Jungian, religious, mathematical, geometric, pictographic, etc symbolic references and yes they are merged.
So, I will grant you that in its most reductive state, any mark is both form and content.

What is important about simplistic form-content duality? I would suggest that it provides a logical basis for further analysis by defining the lowest common denominator, exclusive of the null set, of the relationship between the two. We can say, if there is a form, there must also be some degree of content and if there is content there will be some degree of form. Of course, one might speculate on a hypothetical example of content which had no corresponding form but this would be hard to translate onto a painting and we end up with a null event. It might be possible to create such content but that is another topic.

So we have form irrevocably wedded to content, where does that leave us? Well, if I was an abstract painter, I would say form is content. Then we would have to ask ourselves, how good is the form? Is it a successful painting (as defined by…)? Does making the painting successful improve the content? The latter question becomes interesting because if one asserts the "content" was symbolic, then it is somewhat detached from the "quality" of the painting. However we can insist that the content is attached to the "quality" of the painting and that to experience the content you must be aware of how it is painted.

In the preceding paragraph, the form drives the content. The painter strokes, sprays or splashes the paint around until he is satisfied and the "content" is contained in the result as described above. Why should the order of the form-content intention matter? From a strictly theoretical point of view it might not but from a practical point of view I think it does.

Working with only an emphasis on the form, paying attention to the nuts & bolts or "formal" issues, will allow one to create a successful painting. However. I would suggest that the risk is the "content" fails to adequately engage the audience. I use the word "risk" to allow for success in particular cases, (for example, a number of Jackson Pollock's paintings succeed in this respect), but to also indicate that the slightest miscalculation leads to failure.

Assuming success is achieved we might ask ourselves what is the "content" about? Do we care about Pollock's drips, the field, or the experience? If we say the experience, what is it about this? Where's the content? Is it a memory of a natural event, or the tension of apparent chaos reigned in, corralled by a spiders silk so fragile it might disintegrate any minute? Put in a pushpin and mark this point for it is on the boundary of nothingness.

Now suppose we take a look at the content side of the equation. First of all, what do we mean by content? The simple dictionary definition which applies is "the meaning or significance of an artistic work", let's use that. So lets look at a content driven work like Munch's "Scream" Here we have a very popular painting, which indicates that it manages to engage to the audience in a broad way. Additionally, I would contend that it is a "successful" painting and that, with a little fiddling, could be almost abstract forcing the form to carry all the content.

My contention is the world of human experience is filled with associations, recognition's, symbols, memories, fantasies, relationships and a whole host of psychological qualifiers which become imbedded in an image as content in addition to its form.
Going back to our procedural approach again, the painter who starts from the point of content by choosing a subject and then giving it form inherently accesses the rich panoply of the subjects contained meaning, its content. The risk here, because there is always risk otherwise everyone would be an artist, is that the painter fails to succeed while giving form to the content.

So if we agree that all painting, regardless of its initial impetus, form to content or content to form, is subject to failure in the sense it is a less than successful painting is there a difference in degree of each approach, in its ability to connect with the audience? Now when I say "connect with the audience" I am not speaking of a reduced set of expectations, a dumbing down so to speak. I am looking at how the painting can continue, over time, to reveal more of itself in a process akin to pealing an onion. I think both approaches are capable of this because it is in part a result of the accumulation of acts which brings the painting into existence and their self revelation. The painting unfolds before your eyes. The difference between the two approaches will be that the formal approach will have less access to the world of content. Oh, but what if we use content formally, one asks? In this case I would suggest that it is the same as the content driving the form.

So, I viewed the implications of Matty's original questioning as trivial in the way I have described above because form and content are coincident, carried in one another and the real issue is how this duality is arrived at. In that case, my answer is the same as it was in comment #81.

I will say this, there is a difference between form driving the content and content driving the form. Assuming the artist is able to resolve the formal issues, the work with the content driving the form is more interesting.



September 14, 2005, 11:54 AM

As a practical matter, George, it is not easy to deal with a comment of this length in the blog context. This format is more suited to the "chat" or quick exchange or one-idea-at-a-time presentation.

Just a thought.



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