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faced with the option

Post #627 • September 19, 2005, 7:32 AM • 32 Comments

Faced with the options this weekend of looking at art, listening to other people talk about art, writing about art, and making art, I chose the last. I also got this perpetual construction project fixed up to a point that it no longer makes me want to hit myself in the head.



that guy

September 19, 2005, 8:18 AM

This is is your best site yet. Thanks for the bday gift bud. artblog and have a similar look and feel now which helps.



September 19, 2005, 8:57 AM

Sorry Franklin, there are overlaps in IE. The browser wars continue ...


that guy

September 19, 2005, 9:09 AM

might be time to try firefox catfish.



September 19, 2005, 9:58 AM

My last IE test didn't produce any booboos, but I changed some things since then that might have mucked it up. I'll look into it.


that guy

September 19, 2005, 10:40 AM

off topic:
Did anyone read the arts supplement in the Herald on Sunday? Their "expanded" coverage included a list of shows including a Hollis Jeffcoat show at UM this friday. Maybe goseeart gave them a little kick in the arse.



September 19, 2005, 11:21 AM

My IE tester gave me the all clear. Anyone else having probs in IE?



September 19, 2005, 11:29 AM

Guy, they have gotten a kick in the arse from a couple of directions.



September 20, 2005, 9:45 AM

...speaking of 'kick in the arse'....Julie Mehretu got a Mac Grant.....I'm sorry, but I don't think she's earned her chops....



September 20, 2005, 10:42 AM

It is in the nature of grant giving that it goes to fashion and consensus people, adman. I have been dismayed by this so-called "genius" grant because, first of all, it is so much damn money, and second, because it seldom seems to go to genius but to a kind of safe squeaky-clean do-good PC consensus person who is likely to get approval from the NY Times liberal crowd. These foundation people live in mortal fear of giving money to anyone who might embarrass them.

I have a friend who has invented a completely new and innovative way of working with severely handicapped kids which not only has them making pretty good art but is in no way "art therapy", and it has succeeded wildly. I keep joking with him that he will win a MacArthur but I seriously doubt it because he is roo rough a character and has what is politely called a "checkered past". Not only that, but the art the kids make is abstract. He gets grants and support but I think he is way too over the top for the big one.

Anyway, as concerns Mehretu, I couldn't agree more. In fact I am surprised the other way around. In her case I would think the art is simply too insipid to even be considered. So it goes.



September 20, 2005, 11:06 AM

Regarding Julie Mehretu, her work is better than you suggest.



September 20, 2005, 11:11 AM

What sort of thing attracts you to them, George? They are respectible & slick enough, but I see no livliness of line and the compositions seem utterly conventional and inert. There isn't even any of the usual shock or PC or "social comment" type thing to latch onto.

I am puzzled that they have gone over so well, but then that is often the case.



September 20, 2005, 11:21 AM

Yes, OP, the grant business seems to be a real 'crap-shoot' at times.....Like your friend working with handicapped kids, I think you'll find that if your applying for (State) assistance, having a hook into a particular public need or special interest increases your chances of an award (Franklin and others on the blog may agree); On the otherhand, some of the most outlandish projects are funded (just to keep the liberals pacified?)



September 20, 2005, 11:37 AM

George, I agree that JM's work is by no means 'terrible' (I don't imply OP to have said this).....elements seem to have grown out of a commercial/mechanical drawing tradition, and then pushed together with, laid on top of, and woven into the work of Al Held......unfortunately, she can't paint like Held.....but, my take is that she hasn't been around enough, long enough--hell, give her one of the smaller grants....give the BigBoy to someone who's been plugging away for years.....



September 20, 2005, 11:54 AM

There isn't even any of the usual shock or PC or "social comment" type thing to latch onto.
Why yes, they are abstract and give precedence to the visual, a dense clotted drawn version of the visual, a draftsman's field.

… the compositions seem utterly conventional and inert.
Even if this was true I would say "so what" If you are referring to the "overall composition" what you say might possibly be true, could say this about Barnet Newman or even Jackson Pollock. step into the paintings, there's a lot of movement and visual relationships.

They are respectable & slick enough, but I see no liveliness of line….
Well, they are big, resolved in style and well presented but I wouldn't go so far as to call them slick. They are all about the lines, all kinds of lines and what they draw. There is "liveliness of line" but it's only a partial aspect in the panoply of lines which make the field.

This work doesn't fit your pejorative "Pomo" label at all, if anything Mehretu works are an extension of "Modernism". They are about the visual, specifically the line as a facture defining a field. Picking up where others left off. These are really tough paintings, not particularly pretty, difficult to look at because they require more than a passing glance from the viewer.



September 20, 2005, 11:57 AM

yes, adman. She is already hot as a pistol in the market. Let her go throught the popularity cycle and get awards when she falls out of favor.

But the problem there is it doesn't happen. I got a Guggenheim & a National Endowment when I didn't need them, when I was on top of the heap and selling everything I painted. I think my paintings now are ten times as good but no way I will get any kind of award. (I am not feeling sorry for myself; this is just the way it is)

I would guess that the "outlandish" projects you refer to are "mainstream outlandish", that is, the kind of thing that the poor old "man on the street" (and maybe you and I) would find outlandish but is not only well settled into the art establishment but allows it to pose as "far out". It's an old story.



September 20, 2005, 12:00 PM

Adman, I have no comment on the grant, other than "congratulations". Grants and the process are a mystery to me.

I will admit to working for several years in my youth as a draftsman of rocketship and computer parts, I know what Leroy Lettering is, maybe it's that, a small predjuice.



September 20, 2005, 12:03 PM

George, you know as well as I do that we can go on and on and say "they are all about the lines" and such. This is just words. My take is that they are inert, uninteresting pictures. You can disagree, but there is nothing to argue about.

I suppose they are "modernist", too. Is that supposed to mean I should like them?



September 20, 2005, 12:34 PM

George, thanks for the congrats, but I'm sorry if I lead you to believe I have received a grant recently....earlier in my career as an arts administrator, I wrote state grants every year and an NEA conservation grant once, but geez, that was 20-30 years ago.....



September 20, 2005, 12:41 PM

Adman, no, no, I understood you, I was making an offhand remark about Julie Mehretu. I think it's nice when other artists get recognized



September 20, 2005, 12:50 PM

Hey George, was Julie M. in a Whitney biennial recently?... I'm trying to think of where I've seen her work before.



September 20, 2005, 12:52 PM

She has been in the Whitney and everywhere else, Matty. Try Google.



September 20, 2005, 12:55 PM

I've written about her. I think she's decent.



September 20, 2005, 12:59 PM too, George....I certainly wish her the best.....OP/Matty--Google: JM's Official Website.....



September 20, 2005, 1:05 PM

Thanks all... I did google her name (it didn't ring any bells for me) on the image search, and came up with a bunch of her works, which looked familiar to me, as in I had seen one in the flesh before, somewhere. I thought George (he's in NY, right?) could tell me if she was in the last WB (which is my hunch as to where I saw it).

I suppose I could search out the info, or go to her page, but I wasn't that interested, really, more just curious.



September 20, 2005, 1:30 PM

Matty, yes she was in one of the recent Biennals, also the Brooklyn show at the Whitney recently. I've seen a number of her works so I don't remember the particulars.



September 21, 2005, 1:05 AM

Franklin, I had a look at the new website and wanted to comment on the work rather than the site. First off I take the point of view that the subject you are examining is valid and have no difficulty with that.
The self portraits you did in 2004 are solid as a group. In particular I liked Self-Portrait (Howard Cimabue), maybe just because I like yellow and blue but there was something iconic about this work, also visible in several others, which I liked.

From a personal point of view, I prefer the distinction of theiconic structure, as opposed to "the scene" which have a more environmental composition. Curiously, or maybe not, the self portraits have a more convincing handling of the paint, as if the war between a decorative resolution and the desire for expression or disguise, it matters not, of the self. It is the profoundness of being "self-conscious" while pretending you are not. There is a tension here which gets beyond the desire to make a good picture.

I found the 2005 drawings more problematic. I have a lot of difficulty with the directionality of the marks. Specifically the marks feel forced, compliant with some body arm geometry but not with the image. In my opinion it destroys the works and I just can't get past this perception. Of course this is just an opinion, but I made a number of drawings using this media many years ago and I have a memory for how it behaves and a generic sense of the initial marking instincts. The odd part about my observations are that the basic "hatching" mark is workable in the right context but doesn't seem integrated into these drawings. This renders the marks as a decorative decision, disconnected from the structure of the image. Look at german woodcuts for a clue.



September 21, 2005, 8:09 AM

George, thank you for your thoughts. The drawings are a device I'm trying to get me away from needing a live model for everything I do, and I agree that they function very differently. I have a bunch of gouache drawings (which I can now load up, finally) but the colors don't vary as much as in the pastels.

I think you're right that the work functions better when the shapes organize themselves around the masses of paint.



September 21, 2005, 10:47 AM

Franklin, I find your last sentence to be quite interesting. I thought that you were responsible for organizing the shapes wherever you like, but I now see that you are quite libertarian about your art.

I think you should become more of a dictator; do not let the shapes autonomously organize themselves. Oppress them. Force them to your will.

And are the masses of paint independent of the whole process, like celestial bodies? Well. I'll offer up a sacrifice on your behalf over at my house. May the paint masses look favorably upon you.


I do like your pastel drawings, and some of your less thick-with-paint self-portraits, but there is sometimes a sense of the marks somehow not being mindful enough occaisionally. I also feel that the figures often appear to be too rubbery, like plastic snakes. Sometimes the looseness of the mark is in contrast to the pose of the figure, there should be more of a sense of contraction and expansion of different portions of the body. This may be related to your habit of using the paint; the kind of palette-knife/icing marks you make have a gooiness similar to the figure's snakiness.

But maybe you tai chi types are so loose that you don't have sympathy for those of us whose bodies are cramped and tense at all the essential stress points. Maybe if I were drawing the figure now all of my figures would look like coiled springs.



September 21, 2005, 1:20 PM

Kathleen, I used to juggle before I got into painting. In juggling you strive to control the objects. But really, you're striving to control your body. You enter into an agreement with physics: you will do certain things with your body, and in return, gravity and inertial motion will cause interesting things to happen. T'ai chi works similarly. I have a very hard time trying to push my teacher off-balance; he has a rather easy time helping me to push myself off-balance in the process.

This kind of high-volume painting works on a similar principle. I make specific choices about color, volume, and viscosity of the paint, and general choices about shape. In the application, I'm going for a throw or smear that will interact with the material on my brush or fingers in an interesting way. The subject provides structure and often some psychology, although I don't usually try to render it.

That requires control, but as an exercise of proprioception. Gravity, inertial motion, and fluid mechanics are causing most of the interesting things to happen. I get to select the parameters, but nature controls the outcome.

The pastels don't work that way, exactly. When they began to look labored, I worked them up so that they looked really labored, and that seemed to fly. Sadly, the painting I made from one of them, this one, looks fussy in retrospect, so I shouldn't try to copy their attitude.

What's weird is that I had a dream about this last night. Usually in my dreams I'm doing something totally banal. It may be a sign.



September 21, 2005, 3:18 PM

... don't think, the mark knows its own place



September 23, 2005, 1:59 PM

George, the 'mark knowing its own place' may be a bit metaphysical, if not cryptic for those who don't 'know' how to 'get at' a good drawing or painting, one that 'works'....but, for those who do, speaking only from my own experience, the statement hits the mark (sorry, I couldn't help myself).......'Sounds like something Catfish has denoted several times about 'Great Art'......



September 23, 2005, 6:17 PM

I agree, adman It may sound "metaphysical" but it has a very practical application in art-making. Again, it is not something a nonartist would be likely to understand.



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