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keeping up with the times

Post #683 • December 13, 2005, 9:03 AM • 21 Comments

A few settling-in items:

A long overdue upgrade to the CMS put all the time offsets in one place. This, firstly, solves dumb One Hour Off errors whenever we go on or off Daylight Savings Time, and secondly, allowed me to easily switch the site over to GMT+8, which is my current time zone in Taichung. (Miami is GMT-5. It is 13 hours later here.) I thought about leaving the time zone on Miami, but I realized that it was making me confused and aggravating my jet lag.

Via Jeffrey Carson (ModKix also links), a sprawling essay in the New York Times this past weekend by Barry Gewen about several 20th Century art surveys and their authors' allegiances. Mr. Gewen wins the Astute Observation of the Month Award, Art Writing Category, for this paragraph:

A single theme or complaint unites these otherwise disparate voices. Rosenberg lamented modern art's "anything goes" attitude. Ruhrberg writes that "in painting today, anything goes." By the early 70's, according to the authors of "Art Since 1900," "it seemed, as the song had put it, 'anything goes.' " Kramer has said: "With the eruption of the Pop Art movement, an element of demystification came into the art world, an element of cynicism, an element of... 'anything goes.' " If there is a presiding spirit over the art of recent decades, it is not Jackson Pollock, and not Andy Warhol. It is Cole Porter.

The article is worth all seven clickthroughs if only to see the lay of the art criticism landscape, which Gewen has done an admirable job surveying. But after he finds so many critical approaches wanting, it falls on him to provide one himself, and he blows it.

Harold Rosenberg had said that art was "a space open for the individual to realize himself in knowing himself." Today, after decades of narcissistic and exhibitionistic spectacles, when it's possible to grasp the limits of Rosenberg's libertarian ethos, we can see that he should have said art was not only a space for the individual to realize himself in knowing himself, but also a space to enable others to know themselves, as well as a space to evoke the bonds that exist between artist and spectator in their common self-awareness, which is to say in their common humanity. It's a definition that understands art is necessarily a social interaction, communication between people, dialogue, not merely the unfettered expression of the boundless ego as has been the case with so much work over the past few decades.

This decent, well-meaning assertion resembles one by Suzi Gablik that art ought to re-embrace its social or even shamanic function, giving expression to the impulses of the group mind. Unfortunately, art directed at this effort, like any other non-art effort, may or may not succeed as art, and thus may produce a failed art object with social import. As it happens, one person expressing himself honestly will more likely evince those shared impulses in a lasting manner, and I would push art there if anywhere.

Also via Jeffrey (ModKix links as well... JL, we must get you down to the Aegean Center one day...), a fascinating history of Fra Angelico scholarship en route to a review of his exhibition at the Met, by Marco Grassi for the New Criterion. Would somebody pick up a copy of this issue (December 2005) for me?

Lastly, wishes a lightning-quick recovery to Terry Teachout.




December 13, 2005, 12:22 PM

wow... half a world away, as it were. it sounds absolutly amazing; i know my trip to china was. when can we see some pictures?



December 13, 2005, 12:36 PM

Soon, young Jedi. On a related note, I'm thinking that they make the Olympus E-1 DSLR here. Heaven preserve my credit card.



December 13, 2005, 12:39 PM

...As it happens, one person expressing himself honestly will more likely evince those shared impulses in a lasting manner, and I would push art there if anywhere.

What? That's what Gewen just commented on...

Today, after decades of narcissistic and exhibitionistic spectacles, when it's possible to grasp the limits of Rosenberg's libertarian ethos...

Also, Elkins calls this retreat from judgment "one of the most significant changes in the art world in the previous century." He writes that critics have become "voiceless," "ghostly," "unmoored." He obviously doesn't know Jack.



December 13, 2005, 12:52 PM

Gewen threw me at "art is necessarily a social interaction," which I have a harder time with than insisting on shared humanity, which I can go along with. I think if you pursue art as social interaction you doom the work to the dustbin of politics, unless you can mobilize it with a lot of artistic ability, in which case it's as good a motive as any.

He obviously doesn't know Jack.

More evidence that blogging is putting teeth back into the mouth of art criticism.



December 13, 2005, 1:06 PM

F. I'm not buying into either side exclusively. Personally I feel that an artwork needs the audience for it's completion. The artist can declare anything as 'art' but the audience, through experience, must (persistently) accept it as art. (persistently = over time qualifier)

You say that if you pursue art as social interaction going on with the implication of politics, which I would elaborate by then calling it propaganda. By intent propaganda is not art, although some examples may be seen as art at some point.

pssst, postmodernism is over



December 14, 2005, 2:39 AM

JL, we must get you down to the Aegean Center one day

Send me a ticket and I'm there.

I didn't fully read the art criticism article in the Times - just skimmed it and put up a link. Need to go back for a closer look.



December 14, 2005, 2:45 AM

This is nicely reported, Franklin. Like any decent editor he does an OK job of covering the situation, but, like most writers of history, he uses received information which may not be accurate, and, like most writers in general, he does not have a clue what art is all about.

I refer specifically first of all to his perpetuation of some myths about Clement Greenberg, that he was a "theorist" and that he ""spent his career trying to articulate core aesthetic values", when in fact he was an empiricist who spent his career looking at art and writing about it. And second, as for having a clue, you perceptively chose to post that "common humanity/self-awareness" passage, which has all the sugar-coated sanctity of Joseph Campbell at his mushiest and little to do with art.

George, as good old Ronnie Reagan would say, "There you go again". Read what Franklin wrote, why don't you. He never even implied that art does not need "an audience for its completion". And if you think "Postmodernism is over" go to and check out the November contemporary auction sales at Sotheby's & Christies. Some folks with a whole lot of money don't think so.



December 14, 2005, 3:08 AM

Oldpro, hmm which comment of mine are you referring to?
a. I quoted Franklin
b. Then said this "What? That's what Gewen just commented on..."
c. then quoted Gewen to make the link

or #4 (just like a Chinese restaurant)
It's my personal opinion, as suggested by the words Personally I feel, in response to Franklin's prior comment. WTF does this have to do to suggest a "There you go again" response? You're welcome to disagree with me but I feel the tone of my remarks was generally supportive of Franklin's original post.

Regarding my comment that "Postmodernism is over" you suggested that I go look at the recent auction results. Are you suggesting that we should take our guide from the suction results? Don't you know the sheeples end up buying at the top when all the good news has been made publicly available? Come on, get with it, let's try and see if the old dog can still hunt.

"Postmodernism is over" means that in the trenches young advanced artists are now reacting against the postmodernist regime (but the interest is moving forward, not backward.)



December 14, 2005, 3:29 AM

Jack is perplexed that so many people who are supposedly clued in apparently don't know jack. Of course, Jack is arrogant, nasty and authoritarian, so that figures.

As for Gewen's brand of piety, spare me. The problem is not ego, but ego without the requisite talent. Art has no real interest in the pious, unless we're talking a Fra Angelico, in which case piety is welcome because it gives real talent a congenial means to manifest itself. Otherwise, save it.

Concerning "anything goes," as I've previously commented, that's an appealing but delusional concept. It seduces or suits a lot of people, including people who know it's a crock, but that's beside the point. Things either work or they don't, and the latter are considerably more common than the former. If you don't believe me, just look around. The evidence is everywhere, and it could hardly be more obvious (except, of course, to those who don't know jack).



December 14, 2005, 3:59 AM

I didn't say youwere not supportive of Franklin, but your comment #5 - " Personally I feel that an artwork needs the audience for it's completion" - implies that Franklin said something to the contrary.

As for Pomo being over, first of all once again, can you drop the goddam ageist comments? I don't need to be called "old dog". OK?

As for "taking our guide from auctions results", sure I will. Art prices are the surest indication of what is hot. If there is some indication that Pomo is dead, let's see it.



December 14, 2005, 4:40 AM

re #10
Nope, I was just offering an opinion.

As for "taking our guide from auctions results", sure I will. Art prices are the surest indication of what is hot. Congratulations, you qualify as a 'sheeple'

What does HOT have to do with it? This is why the stock market collapsed after the bubble in 2000. people blithely assumed that because prices rose 100% the prior year they would rise another 100% the following year. WHO was selling all this HOT art? Hint, the smart money because they know the party is nearly over and prices cannot rise forever. These are the early buyers and speculators who are realizing their paper gains (or whatever other motivations they have)

So, as an informed buyer where will new money go? Chasing after a style which has already historically DEFINED it's major players, in essence buying second and third tier work? You of all people should know history well enough to realize that only a few of the artists in any 'period' remain at the top, how many Cubists are there?

So, looking at the following....
1. The auction results (suggesting a top)
2. The publishing of the definitive postmodern historical tome (art since ) definitely the sign of a top, there are no Postmodernism II remakes.
3. Saturation of thought, resulting in more young artists just moving on but still paying lipservice to the rhetoric because it's still active.
4. Reading around the web a bit, suggests more and more artists are acting as described above.

... I am concluding that this party is over.

Frankly writing all this seems stupid to me. The real focus should be on the future path not bitching about where we have been.



December 14, 2005, 7:45 AM

I don't know what a "sheeple" is Geoge, but I know it is meant as some kind of insult. Must you always use personal characterization? It doesn't help your case any, whatever it may be.

Pomo's days may be numbered. I'm all for it. But it ain't over 'til it's over, and in the auction rooms, where the action is, it still brings the big price. This is called "hard evidence". What the future brings is anybody's guess.



December 14, 2005, 8:27 AM

Sheeple = sheep+people

The metaphor is "sheep being led to the slaughter" applied to people. The term is used in the financial markets to describe the investors who end up buying at or near a price peak, typically on a 'news' event. I wouldn't say the term is particularly pejorative more just a label for a particular group behavior. In this specific case I was quite amazed that you would give so much weight to the auction results for determining what the course of critical thought might be.

As one might suspect, modes of critical thought, movements, don't just end with a hard edge. In fact, they tend to be persistent bobbing their heads back above the water a couple of times before sinking into history. The longer they endure the more congested the territory becomes and the more difficult it becomes for an artist to stake out an identity. The initial proponents of postmodernism have been moved up to 'master' status with the accordingly high auction prices. We do not have to agree on whether or not these prices are warranted. Essentially this creates the potential for new unexplored territory for artistic and critical practice. Why would a young artist want to establish a practice in a crowded neighborhood when there is new territory to be explored where he can write his own rules? Ans., lack of imagination, it's safer to follow along but….

Just complaining about postmodernism is redundant at best because it adds nothing to the discourse. It is time to reexamine the problem in order to move forward.

Someone has to say it's over and that is what I'm saying.



December 14, 2005, 10:07 AM

George, you've brought up some interesting points regarding the market and I always learn from you when you do this. OP also has a point, though - the activity at the auction houses at least represent interest, if only on the part of the buyers. We don't know whether we've hit a price peak except by experience, and experience is likely to err in a volatile, feeling-driven market. What each of you are saying is not all that opposed.

I want to add that Postmodernism isn't going to be over until people stop using the term, and I've been calling for replacements for a long time, but I guess you can't generate them by fiat. We really need better descriptors, and I'd like to see ones that don't lump everything together like Pomo does. It's when the term no longer describes anything usefully that that the art associated with it will sort itself out.



December 14, 2005, 10:53 AM

Re#14. Franklin,

Regarding the auction market, it's a top or at least what is known as a "momentum top" What has occurred is that the insiders (?? dunno) have rapidly moved prices to a higher plateau. Without either rampant economic growth or inflation the only place for prices to go is sideways. Eli Broad made a similar observation recently. This is not to say that 'choice' pieces will not reach new record prices, just that for the most part everything else will be swapped back and forth in the same general range. The buzz is designed to keep the buyers excited but there are chinks in the armor. The Gilbert Stuart George Washington paintings from the NYC Lib didn't make the reserve and were withdrawn indicating that at least some buyers are taking a closer look at what they are willing to pay. Rumor has it that the same is true for the hedge fund guy who is becoming more particular about what he buys. I also read somewhere that Satchi has been a seller. So whatever the truth is, it feels like a top to me and whenever I've traded against the feeling I've lost money.

OK, so like boring, what does this mean? Well, the marketplace has elevated a whole genera of artwork to 'masterwork' status. All new works in the same style will now be labeled 2nd or 3rd generation and deprecated in importance. There is no room at the inn and smart artists will go looking for fertile territory where someone won't tell them it looks like so-n-so (don'tcha hate it when they say that?) Ergo, PoMo dies a slow painful death twisting in the wind while a few hanger oners try to breath life back into it.

Forget about the new name, the new work has to come first and a name will follow accordingly. Actually, the preoccupation with the 'PoMo' name here is part of the problem because it's used as a form of dismissal rather than dealing with the issue by offering another solution.



December 15, 2005, 9:57 PM




December 15, 2005, 10:48 PM

New trade magazines make their debut at market peaks, towit

Modern Painters is seeking a new name, say insiders. . . .
--- A 'new' name? I guess a 'new' editorial policy to tap in on the riches

W magazine is thinking of launching an art magazine, W Art, by November 2006.
--- I just choked when I read this blurb in ArtNet ... W-Art gag me with a spoon

And last but not least, from ArtNet, the full blurb..(emphasis is mine)
March 2006 is the target publication date for Whitewall, an oversize new art quarterly on tap from publisher Michael Klug, a former software entrepreneur, and editor-in-chief Eve Therond, a freelance writer (and daughter of celebrated collector and Photo magazine founder Roger Therond). Designed as a "luxurious lifestyle magazine about art" with "no boring articles," Whitewall is debuting with a first issue projected to weigh in at a substantial 210 pages, including a studio visit with painter Kehinde Wiley and an interview with Aby Rosen titled "The Coollector." Printed in Barcelona on rich, semi-glossy stock, Whitewall is going after high-end consumer advertisers like Bulgari, Chanel and Maybach, and plans as well for ten pages of gallery ads. For details, see

Further documentation that the top is in for this cycle.



December 15, 2005, 10:51 PM

WArt? That doesn't look right.



December 16, 2005, 12:40 AM

Modern Painters, to which I was foolish enough to subscribe in a moment of inexcusable weakness, has an utter misnomer for a title. It's essentially false advertising, as far as I'm concerned. Apart from my repeated irritation with the damn title, which is NOT accurate, I'm fed up with their whole slick, high-endish, and trendoid approach. Some of the pieces I've consented to read have been painfully fatuous. I've basically lost respect for the whole operation.



December 16, 2005, 12:51 AM

"Modern Painters" new name should be, as George accidentally intimated: "Insiders."


art soldier

December 17, 2005, 4:11 AM

There is no room at the inn and smart artists will go looking for fertile territory where someone won't tell them it looks like so-n-so (don'tcha hate it when they say that?) . . . Actually, the preoccupation with the 'PoMo' name here is part of the problem because it's used as a form of dismissal rather than dealing with the issue by offering another solution.

Even great art always looks like so-n-so. Just to be facetious -- isn't Manet just 2nd generation Velasquez? This isn't just a symptom of postmodernism. New art is always influenced by the past, it doesn't just appear from thin air as a fully realized new reality (although many myth-makers with $$$$ riding on such myths would love for us to believe so). New art always builds on old art. There's really no such thing as new periods replacing old periods, but they sure make for better stories about history.

I'm wondering what characteristics you consider essential to the 'PoMo' descriptor. Personally, I don't know anyone who uses the term to describe the kind of art being made today (unless as a joke).

If you see 'Post Modern' as being an art movement that rejects the notion of a unified idealistic art movement, then I don't see that changing any time soon. The art world has grown much too scattered and diverse for unified movements. Or, maybe you mean 'Post Modern' as referring to art that is influenced by or relevant to 20th Century theorists considered to be Post Modern, such as Derrida or others. I don't see this changing either, as I don't see the possibility of new dominant theories replacing old ones when a current dominant theory doesn't even exist.

What I will agree with is that a market correction is definitely coming. The current collector's utopia can't last (and too bad for artists, I say). Artists will continue to make good, new art regardless -- the market just determines how (or who) we get to see it.



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