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Friedel Dzubas

Post #753 • March 15, 2006, 11:56 AM • 44 Comments

Today I'm thinking about Friedel Dzubas, and this quote from the Tao Te Ching: "In the pursuit of learning, every day something is added. In the pursuit of the Way, every day something is dropped."

Comment

1.

oldpro

March 15, 2006, 12:40 PM

Dzubas is a type specimen of underrated "color field" painter who made absolutely gorgeous pictures without a trace of hokum. There were a couple good ones in the recent Sotheby & Christie sales.

2.

Marc Country

March 15, 2006, 12:59 PM

I think most people are happy with the load they have, and don't want to bother changing it from day to day.

I suppose, as it's possible to pursue neither, it's possible to pursue both.

3.

RL

March 15, 2006, 6:20 PM

OP I agree with you he has been underrated for years
I don't know why his auction prices never seem to take off like
other colorfield painters.

One of his best supporters in Maimi was Ann Jaffe she represented him for many years
in her gallery and Ann had many of his works in her collection.

I first saw Dzubas work in the 80s at the Ann Jaffe Gallery .
I find his use of unusual color combinations always pure genius.
He tended to paint large fields of color with very large soft brushstrokes rather them pouring his paint.

My favorite period is from the 70s
which at that time he was painting large simple flat areas of color.

I especially like the very large mural paintings
I think the Boston Museum Of Art has a very nice mural work of his.

I find their is a poetry to his work.

4.

oldpro

March 15, 2006, 7:29 PM

Not all color-field artists fetch big sums at auction, RL. Only the early Noland Targets and Morris Louis, really. However Dzubas prices have had a nice run-up in the last few years, from the under 10K range to double that plus more sometimes. Of course anyone with a German name who can make a 30x40 C-print gets more than that, but that's the market.

5.

Jack

March 15, 2006, 7:59 PM

Well, OP, what do you expect? No content, you see. Or rather, not the right sort of content. No evident issues, politics or message, no gimmickry, no funny business. Too simple, too straightforward, too basic. Delighting the eye (which is really part of the brain, but never mind) is just not advanced enough, and a very old approach to boot. Can't get much mileage out of that among the right people, who require the illusion that they've discovered something quite new and different beyond the grasp of the hopelessly out-of-it masses.

6.

oldpro

March 15, 2006, 8:10 PM

Of course new and different gets old and repetitive real fast. Walk through the Margulies collection for example; there are so many boring photos of boring buildings you start to think you are in a very large real estate office. No Dzubas there, for sure.

7.

Jack

March 15, 2006, 8:33 PM

Of course, OP, the operative word is illusion (rhymes with delusion). Illusions-delusions of significance, relevance, fearlessness, righteousness, vanguardism and related usual suspects. It would be comical, or more so, if it wasn't so powerful and influential, and if so many didn't swallow it hook, line and sinker.

8.

Franklin

March 15, 2006, 8:40 PM

It's like the difference between a growth stock and a value stock. Maybe George can contribute something here.

9.

George

March 15, 2006, 9:14 PM

F said: It's like the difference between a growth stock and a value stock.

Yo, why do I feel like Daniel walking into the lions den...?

Not exactly. I would make a market comparison more like this:

Penny stocks = MFA grads.
No established value or trackrecord, pricing is all based on fashion and speculation that the artist won't crash and burn

Growth stocks = emerging artists with some visibility (> 2 solo shows)
Again the assigned value is a speculation on potential future accomplishments and the current market fashion, but filtered through an initial validation process.

Value stocks = Established artists marketed as "modern masters" or "blue chip"
Well known artists with a pedigree, mid to upper tier pricing. This can include all types of artists and work (inc quality thereof) The higher pricing level is a function of the artworld validation process.

Dzubas would more or less fall into the third category. The pricing problem is a result of the fact he is an unfavorable industry group (what was once called style). Until we see some new blood, i.e penny and growth stock artists working in this style and creating some market buzz (attention) it is likely his prices will languish. Money is attracted first to rising prices and then secondly towards value.

10.

George

March 15, 2006, 9:37 PM

Speaking of which... Paul Kasmin Gallery will have an exhibition of paintings by JULES OLITSKI (3/23 - 4/22)
I recall reading somewhere that they might be earlier works but I'm not sure.

Kasmin is on the Chelsea circuit for art lovers, including the youngsters looking for a new idea. The current academic trend is starting to bore people, a little chum in the water might stir things up a bit, or not.

11.

Franklin

March 15, 2006, 10:17 PM

Not exactly. Totally exactly. I just figured you'd know the vocabulary.

12.

catfish

March 15, 2006, 11:10 PM

Sometimes it looks like Dzubas is better than Frankenthaler, quite a bit better. That's a lot to say, but even more to feel.

13.

oldpro

March 15, 2006, 11:56 PM

Your market analogy is pretty good, George.

The Olitski show is painting and sculpture of the 70s. Lets hope the chum stirs the small fry.

14.

ahab

March 16, 2006, 12:06 AM

Any link to an Olitsky sculpture? Anyone?

15.

George

March 16, 2006, 12:23 AM

Re: the chum...

A taste of the zeitgeist via a anonymous commentor at painternyc blog offered up as a tidbit for your students. The natives are getting restless with the current state of the emperor's new clothes....

Anonymous said...

Things I never want to see in another painting:

-sad birds
-sad deer
-sad bunnies
-loopy flowers
-hexagons/honeycombs/molecule structures
-anything that refers to or describes a teenager's bedroom
-radiating stripes
-porn imagery
-electric guitars
-Clifford Still-like vertical stripe-y patterns
-bunch of loops hanging painted with a very thin brush or drawn
-dots
It was all cliche before the art fairs, etc, but I saw so much of this stuff I can't even think about these things without getting queasy.


I thought this was right on the mark.

16.

Chris

March 16, 2006, 2:58 AM

All this talk of "Color Field" painters (well, they're just painters who use color in large flat areas that might be called fields, but we know the work is about something much more than "colored fields") reminds me- have others seen the Stanley Boxer (1927-2000) painted bronzes on Ebay? I remember seeing some of these long ago; I think they're terrific, and quite a bargain, and many are available. What's the deal with that?

* * *

Re #15:
Things I never want to see in another painting:
-Clifford Still-like vertical stripe-y patterns


Short answer: that's an ignorant comment. Although that person may not really be talking about Still at all, really.

Clyfford Still is the least seen, most difficult, and least understood of the artists belonging to the New York School/AbExers; to call his work "vertical stripe-y patterns" is not even an accurate description, much less a viable criticism.

While his work has been written about a fair amount I believe it hasn't yet fully had its critical due, and that a broader tack needs to be taken in talking about it. Ideas regarding the primordial, the raw and barren primitive, and the tragic are in line, certainly, but a broader approach would need to consider his paintings as an entire body of work and take into account:

[1] the consistency of hand/mark; what I see as deliberate awkwardness (deliberate in the ways that both Johns and Ryman are deliberate- plain and seemingly impersonal, for example);
[2] scale, certainly, but in his case more importantly, size, which is the opposite of how scale and size are typically rated (scale before size, but Still's size is integral to its scale);
[3] the work's indifference towards the viewer;
[4] Still's ambivalence towards decoration and pictorial enhancements
[5] and a more comprehensive discussion of opposites:
[5a] field vs. figure;
[5b] painted and unpainted- the foregrounding and presence of material vs. untouched areas (or, full and empty);
[5c] paintings where the field is continuous vs. paintings that seem contained within the boundaries of the stretched canvas;
[5d] and Still's notions and use of intention vs. incident (a balance of the deliberate and the found, which enters the domain of integrity and morality)

Still's sense of morality is typically talked about in terms of his rigorous and cantankerous personality. While that may be part of it, I think that the larger issue is that throughout his work one finds a continuity of mark, gesture, color, and scale that is regular, measured, and conscious, and that kind of consciousness is a moral consciousness, evidence of decision making and commitment. The question for me becomes: what does looking at a Still, of assessing this evidence gathered from numerous works in an overall body of work, mean for me as the viewer who observes how the paintings are made? How does his work become involved in how I think about what I see, evaluate what is before me, assess the values in the work, and how does that inform how I see myself. My experience of Still is that his work forces me to confront these questions; I don't find his work easy to like, but I feel obligated to address these questions every time I see it.

So, "vertical stripe-y patterns" indeed.

17.

oldpro\

March 16, 2006, 8:49 AM

George, it would be fun to really make a catalog of the "types" we see in contemporary painting. We have discussed several on the blog, including the vapid Tuyman/Peyton type and the stuff-everywhere Rauch type, as you will remember, but in these pluralist times it would be a real job to be thorough. It must be possible because something specifiable must cause ot the immediately evident datedness of just about everything you see, despite the tremendous variety.

Chris, I wouldn't be too hard on the person George is quoting; the observation could be accurate without impugning Still's work. You are right that Still is not well understood; this is a sign of his originality. He hated Cubism and appreciated late Monet when late Monet was as much anathema to his peers as Bauhaus was, and went at making the picture with none of the standard methods the other AE artists used, simply pushing bits of paint back and forth across the canvas with no concession to illusionism or any conventions of taste. He made disasterously bad pictures along the way. but the good ones are lying there like an unworked gold mine.

I know Boxer's work well, and knew him well years ago, but I did not know about the bronzes and I will check them out. As for the low price of these and other similar art work, all I can say is: get them while they last.

18.

Franklin

March 16, 2006, 9:32 AM

OP, did you know Dzubas at all?

19.

oldpro

March 16, 2006, 9:37 AM

Pretty well, went to his house in Cambridge (?) once or twice and saw him now and then.

20.

oldpro

March 16, 2006, 9:42 AM

Not much on the web re Olitski sculpture, Ahab. If i come up with anything i will let you know.

21.

George

March 16, 2006, 9:52 AM

regaeding my comment #15.

It is important to read the list as intended, which is a litany of current cliches in contemporary painting visible here in NYC. The list includes obviously cutsy items and some stylistic mannerism lifted from other artists. (Still, Winters, Balincourt etc) The remark isn't referencing the source artists. I posted the comment because walking around the galleries and looking at what's out there I thought the comment was both funny and accurate.

Regarding making up a new list, I'm not interested.

The first time I saw a Clifford Still was in a collectors house, I was a young art student, there were two of them and they made an impression on me. I just saw the two maybe three that are at the Met and they still (PI) look great, better than Newman.

If I had to sum up what not to do without making a list it would be to avoid paintings which look like cutsy illustration, the vein is vapid, thin and mined out.

What to do? (George as teacher) Be honest.

22.

Jack

March 16, 2006, 10:26 AM

Yes, George, be honest, but really, be yourself.

23.

oldpro

March 16, 2006, 10:36 AM

OH...I gotta be meee

dum de dum

24.

George

March 16, 2006, 10:38 AM

Nothing worse than being unclear, that's what I was implying

25.

George

March 16, 2006, 11:20 AM

Referring back to my market analogy comments, I think the art market has peaked out for this cycle, at least conceptually. It is like the party is over and when you look around there are a lot of sppilled bottles, half filled cups, cigarette butts everywhere and you have a splitting hangover. A boredom prevails and it appears, to me at least, that more and more artists are questioning the current situation.

I think this leaves the door open to new work. Whether or not someone could build a base off Dzubas is questionable but certainly a foundation has been laid by him and the other painters of this group which could be built upon. There are ample historical examples to provide a starting point. Whet's needed is a bright young artist with a bug up his/her butt to make it happen.

So, OP what are your students doing? Kick them in the ass.

26.

Chris

March 16, 2006, 12:39 PM

OP said, "Chris, I wouldn't be too hard on the person George is quoting; the observation could be accurate without impugning Still's work," and I would say, "Oh yes, I agree, absolutely." I did give that person the benefit of the doubt with, "Although that person may not really be talking about Still at all, really," but then launched into a defense of Still, which wasn't really necessary in that context. But it was an opportunity to say a few things about Still.

Still is an artist with whose work I have a very long and conflicted relationship: they're big and ugly and impersonal and indifferent, they repeatedly use a very narrow vocabulary in terms of color, composition, mark, touch, and surface, and they are, apparently, about the same thing, over and over. And there are lots of bad Stills. But there are also very good ones, and I constantly return to the experience of looking at them and as models of aiming for a high standard.

George says about the current situation, "I think this leaves the door open to new work." The door is always open, but by the time we recognize the new work walking through that door you know that stuff is done, and it's too late to join it except on its coattails. It's like reading in a major newspaper about the latest real estate bargains in a particular place; if it's in the paper the bargains are past and you missed it. And you can't anticipate that stuff, which is why it's better to simply do what you do and do it well, because trying to do something else, that's not really you, is just more stuff nobody needs.

George also said, "Whet's needed is a bright young artist with a bug up his/her butt to make it happen." Maybe, yeah, but I don't believe that new stuff only comes out of the young, and I'd like to believe that there is a place for good work from anyone of any age. Otherwise, why bother. There are a number of regular contributors here who are not spring chickens; George, you're still trying to make new work. There are people who have been doing stuff for five, ten or twenty years that haven't made it through the door yet. Beides, there are multiple doors leading multiple places; one needn't always try to find the door that will hopefully take one to an alleged Valahalla of Chelsea, art fairs, and Artforum's Diary.

I wonder if the current situation is also one of finally recognizing that youth isn't always the main ingredient for New and Important; rather (I say somewhat cynically), youth are those that show up at the parties that help create and, for a bit, sustain the feeling of newness and importance. Even that passes.

27.

Jack

March 16, 2006, 12:48 PM

In #22, I meant the artist needs to do what he or she is best suited for in terms of talent and aptitude, in both physical and temperamental terms. That's the only way to get optimal results quality-wise. It's possible to get more attention and/or sell more by adopting what may work for others or what's "in" regardless of whether the artist really believes in it or feels it, but the resulting work will never be the artist's best. That's the question: to do your best or do what's most likely to succeed in material terms. The two things need not be mutually exclusive, but they can work out that way, and not infrequently do.

28.

George

March 16, 2006, 1:17 PM

Re#26: Chris, A quick note on the reference to Still in the list. It has nothing to do with a critique on Stills work, it was a label placed on a mannerism that "looks like Still" FWIW, I'm not sure who he was thinking of when he put that in, I just did a copy-paste.

The door is always open in principle this is true but what seems to occur is that some doors are more open than others at different times.

I don't believe that new stuff only comes out of the young
I agree completely. I suspect the adoption of certain types of viewpoints are easier for young artists because they are inexperienced and naive. As one gets older, experience replaces naivete, but at the potential cost of becoming more set in ones ways.

I wonder if the current situation is also one of finally recognizing that youth isn't always the main ingredient for New and Important This might be partly the case. I think the events of the last few years was a distortion caused by the sudden influx of money into the art world. It looked like the market place was scrambling to find something, anything to sell. It is a type of event which cannot continue without an ever increasing capital flow into the art market and that is unlikely. As a result I expect a weeding out process has begun.

Someone has to raise the bar, and it has to be the artist.

29.

George

March 16, 2006, 1:25 PM

Jack said:
In #22, I meant the artist needs to do what he or she is best suited for in terms of talent and aptitude, in both physical and temperamental terms. That's the only way to get optimal results quality-wise. It's possible to get more attention and/or sell more by adopting what may work for others or what's "in" regardless of whether the artist really believes in it or feels it, but the resulting work will never be the artist's best. That's the question: to do your best or do what's most likely to succeed in material terms. The two things need not be mutually exclusive, but they can work out that way, and not infrequently do.

This is right on the money Jack. (worth repeating)

I think one should keep an open mind towards artistic developments but there is a great danger down the road, if one adopts a stance which is untrue to oneself. The market place is cruel and will put you in a cage of your own making .

30.

Jack

March 16, 2006, 1:27 PM

Someone has to raise the bar, and it has to be the artist.

Yes and no. Of course the artist should do that, but so should everyone else who is serious about art. Let's forget dealers, for obvious reasons, but certainly the art public in general and the buying audience in particular can and should take a very active role in this. If crap doesn't sell, crap will be discouraged. If good work does sell, it will be fostered. I continue to lay much blame on big-money collectors who have far better budgets than taste or sense.

31.

oldpro

March 16, 2006, 1:49 PM

It takes some talanted artists together in the right place at the right time, Chris. I don't know how to be more specific. I think you are overstating when you say "by the time we recognize the new work walking through that door you know that stuff is done, and it's too late to join it except on its coattails". Or, perhaps I should say oversimplifying. When you analyze the origins of the great movements in modern art you find that in a literal way everything was in place, already done, in many ways. Great art, modernist art, anyway, is often a matter of going back and finding some good stuff in the past to take off from to get away from all the oppressive garbage you see everywhere around you.

As for "true to yourself", let's be careful. This too easily translates into "I will not be influenced", which is a very dangrerous attitude. "True to your work" is more like it. You do anything to make your work better, whether you like it or not. I often tell my students to get themselves the hell out of their work, do it like a job. The work is what counts, not you and your precious ego.

32.

George

March 16, 2006, 1:51 PM

Re:#30

Jack, I understand what you are saying about the dealers but I doubt that business practices are all that different in the art world than elsewhere and dealers will sell anything they can to keep the cash flowing in.

I don't expect this to change which is why I believe it is up to the artists to "raise the bar". The artist is closest to the production, more focused on a works conception and intent it is the logical place to start.

33.

oldpro

March 16, 2006, 2:01 PM

The change will come, as always, through younger artists who learn from older artists.

I had a show at a large midwestern university recently, and my contact there, whom I have knwn a long time and who will not talk to my face, told me that the faculty showed no interest but the kids were very excited by it. He said they are very critical of the pomo line they are getting fed, not for any ideological or political reason but because they have not been brought up on it and they think it is just stupid and silly.

34.

George

March 16, 2006, 2:07 PM

Re #31 As for "true to yourself", let's be careful. This too easily translates into "I will not be influenced", which is a very dangrerous attitude.

That's reading too much into it. Jack hit it closer to what I meant.

35.

Chris

March 16, 2006, 2:20 PM

OP said, " I think you are overstating when you say 'by the time we recognize the new work walking through that door you know that stuff is done, and it's too late to join it except on its coattails.'"

Well, yeah, I find that just participating in online discussions like this kind of demands overstatement and simplification because it's tremendously time-consuming, difficult and so much work to write and build careful short pieces with supporting data that create nuanced and elegant arguments. In person you and I could hash through much of this in a few minutes and cover a whole lot more territory based on gesture, smile, eye movement, laughter- this is why I rarely participate in online, text-based, typed discussions. It requires so much follow up posting saying, "What I was trying to say..." and "That's not what I meant..." and "Let me say it a different way..." One can't say, "Do you know what I mean..." or "Can you see where I'm coming from..." because one has no real information about how the other person is expressing him/herself.

Now, getting back to Clyfford Still... ah, that's enough for today.

36.

Jack

March 16, 2006, 2:56 PM

Re #31, I would never advocate that an artist work in a vacuum or refuse to learn from what's been done before or is being done currently. My point is that whatever the artist uses should truly resonate with and speak to that artist; he or she should really believe in it and adopt it because it fits and makes sense and works for him or her, not because so-and-so is getting good mileage out of it or the art mags are pushing it or it got a show at some MOCA or other.

37.

oldpro

March 16, 2006, 3:10 PM

I know, Chris, and that prompts me to make a correction. In #31 when I said

"my contact there, whom I have knwn a long time and who will not talk to my face"

I meant "will not just tell me what I want to hear". Unfortunately it sounds almost like the opposite.

Jack, I knew exactly what you meant, and of course I agree. My objection was not to the opinion but to the temptation the concept "being yourself" can easily induce to take oneself too seriously and not do what is best for the work. I mentioned this because I see it happening all the time, and not only just with kids.

38.

Jack

March 16, 2006, 4:07 PM

I could have said that the issue is not borrowing or being influenced, which are both perfectly legitimate, but the reason behind that. In other words, why is the artist doing it? Is it because the external source really connects with and speaks to the artist due to a natural affinity or understanding, or is it an opportunistic move to get noticed or fit in? Goya worked for Manet because Manet personally responded to what Goya was about, so the connection was essentially organic, not just an expedient tactical move with ulterior motives.

39.

Jack

March 16, 2006, 6:34 PM

George, in #32 you seem to have misread me. I don't expect dealers to change their ways; that's why I said to forget them. The art public, however, particularly its more well-to-do and thus more influential members, can certainly buy more wisely and selectively. It's not just the power of the wallet, either. If people honestly and personally like or reject any given work, they should speak and act accordingly, regardless of what anybody else is saying or doing. There is way too much thinking and promoting and buying by proxy, "liking" what one is supposed to like and avoiding what's not "in." It reeks.

40.

George

March 17, 2006, 10:58 AM

re #39. I misread the line, so we agree there. There are so many diverse factors influencing the art public, the collectors, investors, speculators as well as just viewers, that I think it is difficult to expect them to affect any real change. I still think it is the artists job to do by example.

Right after I wrote the comments yesterday, I went out to the galleries again. I saw an exhibition of paintings by Louise Fishman at the Cheim Read Gallery which were better than anything I'd seen in awhile. They became a point for comparison with other paintings over the course of the afternoon, nothing else stood up to them. I like it when I see that.

41.

oldpro

March 17, 2006, 12:12 PM

George, as I have said before, it is nice to have someone in NYC reporting with links on what is going on up there.

I can't go along with you about Fishman, though I certainly appreciate that she is making real paintings. When the pix are relatively "clean", like the one with the green lines ("Pink and Blue and You") they are OK but I think she handles blending badly, very smudgy and clumsy.

I am very tuned into this problem because it comes up daily in the classroom, and was something the AE painters struggled with as they went to large scale. Even Dekooning, technical master that he was, blended badly in the early 50s with the "Women" and some of the subsequent abstractions of '55 & '56.

42.

George

March 17, 2006, 12:54 PM

re#41: OP, I didn't feel that at all. I really thought the paintings in the exhibition were very tough and convincing. Rock and Ruins was a fantastic painting, just a bunch of gnarly marks with an acrid yellow light. I can almost always find something in a painting I would do different. The painting Loose Change is less successful for me but it an exception in the group of works shown. (the website has installation view pics of the show but the individual pics of her paintings only have two examples. I'm not quite sure about the blending issue ,unless you are referring to "Loose Change" which seems like one that got away from her. I have followed her work at a distance over the years, it's really tough painting, about making paint be something. I've always felt she eschewed painterly niceties with a "take it or leave, in your face" attitude that emphasizes a concrete aspect of painting as painting and an avoidance of intentional decoration. Works for me.

Jerry Saltz wrote a nice review of Charline Von Heyl's paintings and I saw it the same afternoon. Von Heyl's paintings are good but they wouldn't hold up in a shootout with Elaine Fishmans better works.

The above remark is what I mean when I say artists have to raise the bar. When I look at other art, or my own work, I create a shootout in my imagination. How will this painting hold up against so-n-so's? We all get to pick out own reference point. Typically when I'm touring the galleries I'll keep reordering the days list in my head and , at the end of the day, see who comes out at the top. I saw Borremans show again, the paintings still looked good but at the end of the day I thought the Fishmans were better.

43.

oldpro

March 17, 2006, 1:11 PM

OK, I guess we disagree. ROCK AND RUIN is a painting I can say I have seen a dozen times, when a grad student gets frustrated enough to overlay a failed painting with something completely different. It does not work,of course, but it is a release for the student. I don't like seeing such things in a gallery. LOOSE CHANGE is a big blur; it never should have left the studio.

Von Heyl's paintings are more sure-handed and technically varied but for all that I prefer Fishman. There's a gimmicky coolness about Von Heyl's work which i don't feel that she can get past, while Fishman could be pretty good if she could learn to see her own work better.

44.

Marc Country

March 23, 2006, 10:08 PM

Speaking of the Tao, a recent post on the NESW blog was dedicated to ahab and Franklin, and can be read here:
The Sign of Virtue Complete.

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