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Glass wall, glass ceiling

Post #757 • March 21, 2006, 11:53 AM • 82 Comments

From a strangely unlinked article in the March 2006 Wired on Joshua Davis:

He's routinely compared to Pollock, who lived at the other end of Long Island and came up with a whole new approach to painting. It's tough not to compare the two - unhealthy attachment to mind-altering substances, bristling persona, studio barns, unorthodox technique. Davis isn't a fan of Pollock's work, but he admits that he's an artistic descendant.

"Pollock showed that there was beauty in randomness," he says. "There was chance, because the brush he used to drip the paint was above the surface of the canvas. It's a good start. I'm going to take that idea further: The painting is never the same from one second to the next."

Pollock's work succeeded because it stopped in interesting places, to paraphrase Ad Reinhardt. Would it still succeed if it had kept going? Davis's works, like most computer-generated art, are technically fascinating. Visually, they're lava lamps - pretty shapes flowing around randomly on the other side of the glass.

It bothers me, because in theory you ought be able to make good art out of anything. Why does the computer generated work fall short, even at its best? Moving abstract shapes should be as compensating as still ones. They're not, though. That glass wall is in the way, and it's stopping the work somehow. If only we could reach in, pull it out, and give it eight feet of space to roam in. That could be amazing.

There's a cool language called Processing that's on my To Learn list, along with Blender, as well as enough other stuff to take up three lifetimes. There are some mind-blowing tools out there. Maybe it all just needs time, and cheaper components. How to close that gap so that computer-generated art really does get its Pollock?




March 21, 2006, 12:33 PM

Am I missing something? This is apparently some heavily tattooed dude who took features of a BMW and made really dumb computer-generated prints from them. The only connection to Pollock is that someone says he is "routinely compred to Pollock" and they both live on Long Island. The whole thing is asinine.

There are reasons why "moving" art does not measure up to "still" art. The first question to ask is "does adding complexity make something better?" The second question is "does the inclusion of a mechanical process tend to compromise the nature of art, and, if so, why?"



March 21, 2006, 12:48 PM

graphic design



March 21, 2006, 1:02 PM

For what it's worth this article in Wired on gaming is much more interesting and relevant to the future of artmaking from a psychological point of view.



March 21, 2006, 1:05 PM

I just received my first issue of a renewd Wired subscription, and read that article about Davis last night. He's a pompous ass, alright.

The code-as-art idea is of course nothing new ( is a whole community devoted to this stuff), and again, it's not visual art to the extent that the code is the work, not the end result. I suspect you have to be able to see through the visual output of these things and into their structure at least a little bit to appreciate them. (oh and I'm also reminded of autechre, who create some of their music by writing code that creates the finished product)

Another interesting observation is that art just doesn't look right behind a computer screen. While some of this is probably painters' bias, I think that creating more physical output for time-based computer art is a very viable area where not enough is being done.



March 21, 2006, 1:13 PM

Oldpro, if quality has no qualities, why would motion be a deal-killer?



March 21, 2006, 1:22 PM

re:#4 You're right a number of people are playing around with the code-as-art idea, it's one of the other things in "anything can be art" idea. I have to admit I spent a year exploring the idea back in '88 and decided I wasn't all that interested in the results, besides it was waay to much work then as I had to write all my own software.

However, with digital output devices now prevalent I would expect to see more of these attempts make it into hard copy, for better or worse. The artist Chris Ashley has been working on html based projects for several years now, all told there must be a couple of thousand HTML drawings. I have been following them since he started and find them interesting.

I think the whole code-as-art process is still nascent and self consciously awkward. I agree with the other Wired article on "gamers" and think it will be that generation which picks up the ball.



March 21, 2006, 2:24 PM

Franklin, first of all I was just asking the question because I think discussing it would be fruitful. I am not at all sure I could answer it.

Second, I am not talking abut "qualities", strictly speaking, but about process. (I understand that process leads to "qualities", or course, but then if there is bad art there are "qualities" that make it bad, whether we can specify them or not)

It has been my experience, so far, that certain procedures are art-limiting. One of these is computer-generating and another is "moving art", not movies, which are narrative, but things like the "light art" of the 60s or Calder's mobiles, to name a couple. I have a gut feeling, derived from experience only, not logic or reason, that allowing any mechanical process inside the art itself, to determine in itself what the art looks does or looks like, is intrinsically limiting. I also will go out on a limb and say that it may be possible to say, very broadly, anyway.



March 21, 2006, 2:29 PM

Sorry - in the last sentence "...possible to say why" is what I meant to say. I must have choked on it. I can hear Clem saying "Well...we will have to talk about that"


Cinque Hicks

March 21, 2006, 5:48 PM

I just found out about Davis and I think a lot of his work is not bad, precisely for that lava lamp, I-could-look-at-it-all-day quality. I'm talking more about his Praystation stuff, which is noncommercial and so probably a little more interesting. But better than Davis at this game is someone like Jared Tarbell at

Alesh is right: without some insight into code, even in a general sense--its history, the ways in which the programmer interacts with it--you'll always be approaching it as an outsider, like me going to the Peking opera. I can try to find aspects here and there to admire, but without an understanding of the language and the larger cultural context, it's basically just weird sounds and colors to me.

The comparisons to Pollock are apt, but only on the level of process, not on the level of affect, which I think is what you're talking about Franklin. I find that the glass wall constantly gets in the way, by giving the work a kind of disposable quality. I also find I often get impatient with it, probably because I'm looking at it on my computer, which by definition I'm in my office surrounded by the bills needing to get paid and the latest manuscript that has to be parsed.

The Austin Museum of Digital Art does precisely that thing of giving the work 8, 15 or 25 feet of space to operate in. Even then, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't; just like a gallery. The difference is that the context at AMODA is logically consonant with the milieu of the work. Digital artists rarely think of their works as precious spiritual objects in the way that painters or sculptors often do; they're more likely to think of their works as games, something to interact with promiscuously and roughly. That's why AMODA is a black box rather than a white box, sonic and visual works are allowed to overlap and play off each other. There is ambient music, people are drunk. Once upon a time, I used to go every month or so and usually had a pretty good time.



March 21, 2006, 5:48 PM

Now this is an interesting topic.

1. About Pollock: There is beauty where there is beauty. If beauty prevails randomness does not. Beauty is "there" but not analyzable; randomness fills its own vacantness with the capacity to support analysis. As if to confuse us, art ensures that beauty, if analyzed as if it is random, often comes out as if it were random.

Ad Reinhardt's statement applies to all or almost all painting or art making as far as that goes. You stop when its good, or you overwork. Pollock could overwork with the "best" of us. Witness Blue Poles, the "poles" save it as a wall decoration, but not as a painting the likes of which Pollock once produced. So it is an example of what happened when Pollock went on too long. Just another overworked picture.

2. Computer as a tool for art: I taught "computer imaging" for a good number of years. It was instructive to watch as every student who worked with the machines failed to achieve the level of work that same student had achieved in "traditional" media. The most likely explanation is the one oldpro offers. Digits don't cut it. Even the graphic designers did not achieve the same level of result on the screen as they did when they used the damn things as a tool to prepare something for printing, but they were the ones who came closest to making something "in itself" of the computer image.

How long was it after the appearance of linseed oil before artists were making it go?

Franklin is right to say in theroy you should be able to make art out of anything. However, art does not proceed according to theory. It is about time to recognize that art does not have much use for digits. The evidence is filling the room as we experience it. If painting is not doing as well latey, as some here have suggested, computer art sucks in comparison.

Dancing raisins anyone?



March 21, 2006, 6:50 PM

There may be no proving the relationship of a given element with its potential utility in art, good or bad, but accumulated evidence offers predictibility.

The interesting thing would be to go beyond predictibility and logically tie the characteristics of that given element to the outcome of the art. If art depends on a series of intuitive judgements exercised on physical substances of one kind or another within a given system, a brain/eye/hand system, it may be that the imposition of a mechanism that operates within the art breaks the system and creates a destructive dissonance.

It's worth mulling over. The first problem would be shaping a framework for discussion.

Oh, forget it. I am giving myself a headache.



March 21, 2006, 7:10 PM

Was #11 really posted by oldpro?

In the heat of enthusiasm, sometimes commenters assume identites of those they wish to address, or confuse what they said with what someone else said, and so on. I remember once giving a lecture on logic in which I consistently reversed the words "true" and "false".

So, was it you oldpro?



March 21, 2006, 7:38 PM

Catfish (#10)~

A while back, artblog had a design that involved a rectangular block along the top which was subdivided into little squares. Each square had a color assigned to it which was random, yet influenced by the colors around it (actually, just to the left and right of it). It was a piece of code written by Franklin in PHP which resulted in a little computer-generated piece of "art" which changed each time you refreshed the page. Obviously, real art was beyond the scope of the little rutine, but it was pleasing enough, and internet hackers came from all over to check it out, and sure as I live and breathe it's all I need to disprove the notion that "If beauty prevails randomness does not."

I wish it were that easy to disprove "art does not have much use for digits." I know in my heart and bones that you're way way wrong, but I probably can't prove it (unless you're prepared to accept "in 50 years your statement will sound ludicrous," which I doubt). I will say, though, that your experience teaching digital imaging and analogy to linseed oil is way off: the improvements in digital technology make for qualitative differeces, so that the digital technology of today has, functinoally, nothing in common (in terms of possible reults) with the DT of, say, 10 years ago.



March 21, 2006, 7:56 PM

alesh, the best piece ever done in one of my classes was an extremely complex FreeHand page that took 15 minutes to load, thanks to the now outdated technology of the first color Macs. The student took advantage of this deficit in the technology of the time to make a rather stunning "animation" as element after element loaded and displayed, replacing the element underneath it. It wasn't great art, but it was a damn good way to take advantage of the resistance inherent in the computers of that day. Certainly it was a creative use of the tool. (Today the same pix would load nearly instantaneously, and you would never see what the guy was up to.)

The problem with computers today, if I may say so, is that too little resistance is left. They are too quick smf there are too many easy methods to get where you want. About the only negative is it takes so much time to learn what all the methods are. I taught Alias Studio and estimated there were 10,000 commands for dealing with just the models, and another 10,000 for the shaders. More than I can keep in mind at once, though I recognize there are some propeller heads who can. So, what have they done with them? Jurassic Park was an oh-wow technical achievement, but not a great movie.

As far as 50 years from now, I have no idea what the judgment on computers will be. But I can say televisions, telephones, cell phones, and what not have and are being used as "new media in art" and not getting anywhere today, despite the herd's worship of "new media". Innovation is not innovation when too many people agree it is innovation.

Fortunately for painters, painting is old-hat, eveybody agrees it is old-hat, and the near universal agreement does not alter the fact painting is, in fact, old-hat. At least we gots the facts straight.



March 21, 2006, 8:17 PM

Yes, it was really me, Catfish. Why not?


that guy

March 21, 2006, 10:02 PM

The best piece of digital art that I've seen is my wife's Green Card. Imagine a credit card with more layers of encryption than the FBI's website. The magnetic strip on the back is shiny metallic and is about 1.5 inches wide. Around this strip are millimeter, nay nano sized black and white portraits of each president. Obviously I don't have a reader to find out what is recorded onto this strip, but I'm guessing they know a lot more about us than what we have told them generously on their long winded forms and interviews. On the front side of the card there is her photo and other printed info. Then they wrap the front side of the card with some sort of lenticularized hologram embedded passport style laminate. It is quite beautiful. All the hard work that went into acquiring the status that comes along with the card becomes somehow more worth it when you view the card just right. Great art makes you feel and this one of a kind mastercard, I mean masterpiece, does give me that warm glowing sensation.


that guy

March 21, 2006, 10:10 PM

I should have added that: Homeland Security is more innovative than any digital artist could ever be, because they affect real peoples lives every day.


Dr. Manette

March 21, 2006, 10:38 PM

Out of curiosity, I wonder what you artbloggers think of this work:

here's an artist creating a world within a world ( a la Borges, or the museum of jurassiic technology, if you care to see)..
and the internet serves as a footnote of sorts to help encapsulate the world being created...



March 21, 2006, 10:44 PM

I wonder whether a machine wouldn't have to be able to recognize great art, before it would be able to make it, instead of just reproduce it. Recognition software is improving of course, but will it ever achieve the degree of sensitivity that the human eye/brain is capable of?

Systems upon systems have been developed to detect things we humans can otherwise only apprehend by thought. There are special mechanisms that can detect ultraviolet light better than the human eye, of course, but they can't be said to actually recognize anything they're not programmed for.

I would argue, or maybe I wouldn't; I might just assert that one advantage the human artist has is being able to accurately recognize and correctly name even unfamiliar things. There's too much haptic information being collected and assessed (fed back and forth?) in any single human twitch, and when that twitch is channeled into the business end of a paintbrush, there is just no way for a computer-system to read the resulting mark for all that it is potentially, surprisingly worth.

I'm on a time limit so for better or worse, that's as much comment as I can make right now on this very difficult topic.



March 21, 2006, 11:38 PM

Dr. M., I find that concept-heavy work like that doesn't do much for me as art. I also have a reflexive disinterest in celebrities. Los Angeles must be a strange place to live.

Ahab, to program a machine to recognize great art we would have to define it first, and we can't even do that for a human. As far as I know, a machine can't even find a dog in a bitmap image of a dog, much less tell whether it's rendered well. I think we're far away from solving that problem.

Alesh, I would contend that my little routine produced just enough beauty to succeed at not being ugly. Then I got bored with it.

Oldpro, #11 is an interesting proposition. In essence it says that as soon as you cede control of outcomes to an algorithm, you disrupt the process of art-making sufficiently that okay stuff is possible but great stuff is not. The subsequent question is whether gravity is a kind of algorithm, slightly outside the artist's control, but something that can be influenced in a good way. I'm still coming to the conclusion that great art should be possible even with that inserted mechanism.



March 22, 2006, 12:25 AM

oldpro said: "Yes, it was really me, Catfish. Why not?"

It sounded like George might have written it.



March 22, 2006, 2:16 AM

Nevermind a machine, a dog has trouble seeing a bitmap image of a dog and what is more highly tuned to the recognition of a dog than another dog? (Maybe a squirrel.)

I agree that making a machine to make art is a problem with a far-off solution, if any; and I understand that machine-made art is not really what's being discussed here, except for how it might be analogous to writing a computer program that makes art. The computer as paintbrush/easel and why it makes such a lousy one is the topic.

Any algorithm is just one more abstracted human construct standing in for an experiential reality, is it not? "...Ceding control of outcomes to an algorithm..." is the way masons discovered how NOT to build stone cathedrals. Not HOW to build them. Yet, great art has been possible despite the gravity of the situation (heh).

Maybe that's all bad computer art is accomplishing - demonstrating the limitations, possibly severe, imposed by a particular experiential reality (glass and liquid crystal). Conceivably, the solution could be equally as elegant as flying buttresses or blunt as a neolithic post and lintel. But there seems to be agreement all we're seeing in digital media to date are the fallen piles of experiments that overreached algorithmic limitations.


white americans

March 22, 2006, 5:48 AM

Sam Gilliam is better... but he was'nt Jewish,,,



March 22, 2006, 7:08 AM

You must be thinking of Terry Gilliam, and this Jewish thing is a real WTFer, especially in light of the Latino/Canadian thing from yesterday. These are getting deleted in the future.



March 22, 2006, 7:24 AM

The reason I said I was giving myself a headache is that i have been thinking about these things for years and always come up against a place where figuring things out just won't go any further. it's not that reason and logic have something intrinsically wrong about them.They just can't handle everything, and misapplying them is a mistake.

My experience tells me clearly that there are procedures that are good for art and procedures that are bad for art, and that it is a matter of facilitating judgement. I can sense what they are, to some extent, but it is very hard to spell them out and seemingly impossible to say why.



March 22, 2006, 7:40 AM

Franklin, gravity is not an algorithm. It is just a physical reality and a possible consideration.



March 22, 2006, 7:56 AM

Start of a song

You're looking for art
in all the wrong places

dot dot dot


Cinque Hicks

March 22, 2006, 9:30 AM

#18. Dr. Manette- I like many of the artifacts on the Richard Kraft site, but I don't buy it as a unified conceptual piece, other than having been arrived at after the fact. Kind of like the way a curator assembles works under an umbrella concept, even if the work wasn't made with that concept in mind. For that reason, I wouldn't call this "digital art," (maybe you weren't even impying that), more like a conceptual lens placed on top of an online portfolio. The Jurassic site is more interesting in that it takes advantage of the logic of research and information-gathering, the underlying deep structure of the internet. I suspect this is really the future of any 'net-based art (a subcategory of digital art) and the direction I am interested in working in. Jurassic, however, is not even as visually interesting or sophisticated as a regular museum site and so is not at all compelling to me as art in itself, if that's the claim being made for it.

#19 Ahab- I don't get it. Nobody so far has made the claim that the computer itself is the artist, so I'm not sure why the computer would need to recognize anything. This seems to be like saying a brush has to be able to "recognize" good art before you can make a painting.


Dr. Manette

March 22, 2006, 9:35 AM


( yes, a bit of a divergence, but what the hell....)The Museum of Jurassic Technology is an aactual museum, the brain child of "genius grant" winner Chris's in Los Angeles.Beautiful place..There's also a book about it called Mister Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, about the MJT and its relationship to the history of Museums and their role in classifying What is Known and How We Know It.



March 22, 2006, 9:59 AM

Yes, it's true, at least this once: I agree with George. Graphic design, and not especially compelling at that. Next.



March 22, 2006, 10:14 AM

Cinque Hicks, #28: Ahab - I don't get it.

I saw the misdirection of my earlier comment regarding machine as artist and thought I had fixed that in #22 by typing: The computer as paintbrush/easel and why it makes such a lousy one is the topic.

But then, I barely make sense to anyone other than myself, and half-sense at that.



March 22, 2006, 10:28 AM

The Jurassic Museum is a cute idea but damn, the MacArthur foundation's penchant for earnest whimsicality and mainstream political correctness is painful, with all that money they give away. I think they should just sell lottery tickets.



March 22, 2006, 10:30 AM

As far as I can tell the work lacks inspiration and discovery.
It's cold, mechanical and devoid of life.
His website is far too professional also, and that scares me.



March 22, 2006, 10:54 AM

It's foggy here today, I cant figure out what this topic is all about.

If the premise is code into art, it's a lost cause.

Coding is a tool, like a brush, you can have a good brush or a bad brush.
Someone who is using code and sets out to make "art" would leave me suspicious of the result. Someone who uses code brilliantly for something not intended to be art just might make art.



March 22, 2006, 11:40 AM

it has been meandering George, but has gone beyond "such and such is just a tool like a brush".

My speculation was to try to go beyond predictibility and logically tie the characteristics of any given element used for making art, or which introduces characteristics to the art , to the outcome of the art. This may not be possible but may nevertheless be an interesting discussion. I then quickly decided (#11) that I did not really want to get into it, but other people have added comments.

This thinking stems from my experience, which tells me that some things never work for visual art. I wonder why. "Just a tool" does not explain it.



March 22, 2006, 11:59 AM

Re #33, but of course he's got a super professional website; he's working for BMW: it fits perfectly.



March 22, 2006, 12:04 PM


Comparing this guy to Pollock is highly dubious at best, and that's giving the fatuous, I mean confused, comparers every benefit of the doubt. Of course, the guy himself invokes Pollock, which is sort of like D. Hirst invoking assorted Old Masters. Please, don't make me laugh; I'd rather avoid Botox.



March 22, 2006, 12:18 PM

uh, nothing makes any sense
Pollock was a drunk, is this guy a drunk too? then it makes sense.
website is pro so i guess he's a decent de-sign-er

Oldpro's question sound like a taxonomy of painting? zat right?

I'm sooo confused, could I have a different window please?


Marc Country

March 22, 2006, 1:03 PM

This is one main principle of all work…
That whatever the material you choose to work with, your art is base if it does not bring out the distinctive qualities of that material.
- John Ruskin



March 22, 2006, 2:10 PM

I like that turn of phrase:

"Sir, your art is base. Away with you, you miscreant"



March 22, 2006, 5:56 PM

No, George, nothing to do with taxonomy.



March 22, 2006, 6:03 PM

re #41,OP

I haven't been able to follow this thread at all so I just gave up. another day maybe.



March 22, 2006, 6:43 PM

I've heard it said that, despite affirmative art-style action, there is nonetheless an hierarchy of art materials. I remember that the person who said it assigned printmaking to the bottom of the list, just below photography. He didn't try qualifying his remark with anything more substantial than what oldpro is saying about, "my experience tells me clearly that there are procedures that are good for art and procedures that are bad for art, ... but it is ... seemingly impossible to say why."

(I'm in no way attributing this to oldpro), but this other gentleman said that a possible reason he thought contemporary printmaking resisted that best-of-all-possible aesthetic experiences was that they were so laden with process. He wasn't talking about how much effort or time was required, but that there was little room for swerving in the steps required to see a work through to the final product. Reordering the stages of lithography results in a big mess, not a better lithoprint. His was a concern that generally printmaking is "so earthly minded it's no heavenly good", if I may invert the old saw. Whereas, he said, there is NO singularly correct order for making a good sculpture or painting. Some things regularly work out better than others, but there aren't really any rules for making good art.

The dozen or so printmakers I know don't seem to be trying too hard to bust the discipline open. For example, why not exhibit those plates and blocks? They are so often materially exquisite next to the deadness of the inked image, but then it's not really printmaking, I guess. And anyway, why would a printmaker squander the opportunity to make dozens of copies that can be rolled up and shipped cheaply to CV-building exhibits all over the world. Never mind that no one is allowed into a printmaking department if they're just going to make really good plates and blocks.

Of course, (this next part is going to get ignored in the yelling and screaming from team litho) this isn't at all meant to say that printmaking cannot evolve past this limitation, just that experience says that it hasn't so far. Kind of like with computer art. And I'm just quoting someone in order to advance the conversation.

I half feel bad for going on so long, but don't really give half a damn - if it advances the golden rule, I mean, conversation.



March 22, 2006, 6:53 PM





March 22, 2006, 7:12 PM

The prosecution rests, Geordge.



March 22, 2006, 7:16 PM

Printmaking involves many more options than lithography, notably etching and engraving, as well as mezzotint, aquatint, drypoint, etc. There is no shortage of great art in this area, including (but certainly not limited to) Durer, Goltzius, Callot, Rembrandt, Nanteuil, Goya, Whistler and Picasso. True, these days, neither great draftsmanship nor great technical hands-on skill is the order of the day, but if the requisite talent is there, greatness is always possible.



March 22, 2006, 7:24 PM

Rests, indeed, Ahab. Good grief! Permission to consider the witness hostile, your honor?

Although I will let Ahab bear the onus for the indictment of "team litho", this is the idea that I was getting at, that there may be processes that are intrinsically art-limiting. The idea is so encompassing and fraught with political brambles that I would hesitate to even try to set up a framwork for discussion. That's why I begged off with a "headache' in #11.



March 22, 2006, 7:37 PM

Of course printmaking is an art, and printmakers are artists, and there are awesome examples of prints as great art. Of course.

But still, overly strictured processes seem to me to be hurdles in the way of making great art. Computer art is more delimited than anything else I can think of, though not so much more than some forms of printmaking. It's not an unreasonable example.



March 23, 2006, 1:08 AM

Ahab, your discussion of printmaking is interesting, and even plausible (though I agree with what I think Jack meant, which is that some printmaking is a variation on drawing, and as such cannot possibly be held in any shade of contempt).

The comparison to computer art, though, is absurd, ignorant, and laughable. On par with comparing computer art to linseed oil, as catfish did in #10. Oldpro was right to recognize that he was out of his depth, and beg out of the discussion.

Before you respond, anyone, give another shot to trying to understand comment #44.



March 23, 2006, 7:09 AM

By no means did I feel "out of my depth", Alesh. On the contrary, I felt reluctant to engage with what I knew would be legions of commenters who in fact would be, which, by your response, apparently includes you.

It is precisely the possibility that there may be an operative difference of effect between linseed oil and computers, or elements like them, which would form the basis of that discussion. By considering such a discussion "absurd, ignorant, and laughable" you establish nothing more than your refusal to engage in it.

And what in the world is there to "understand" about #44?



March 23, 2006, 8:49 AM

Sorry, my brain does not function well that early. My first paragraph should read:

"By no means did I feel "out of my depth", Alesh. On the contrary, I felt reluctant to engage with what I knew would be legions of commenters who would be incapable of grasping the question, which, by your response, apparently includes you."



March 23, 2006, 8:59 AM

Oh your early brain functions better than you suppose, oldpro. Your meaning in #50 was clearly apparent, even if the grammar in the first paragraph was a little nutty. All three present a picture of the situation that is succinct, clear, and relevant. Cheers.



March 23, 2006, 9:02 AM

Yes, you are right, Catfish. Obviously my brain is not working new either, or also, or less than before, or whatever.



March 23, 2006, 9:04 AM

Good grief, I mean "now" not "new". I better go get some caffeine.



March 23, 2006, 9:24 AM

Probably it is your fingers that need to wake up, and perhaps the nerves that attach them to your brain. Clearly, your brain is recognizing the tricks the gang of ten is playing on you.



March 23, 2006, 9:33 AM

Re #44:

Souped-up commercial advertising graphic design (possibly ahead of its time, but that's beside the point).

But perhaps I'm not giving you the benefit of the doubt, George. Perhaps you really meant to say Dali.



March 23, 2006, 9:51 AM

Newz Flash!

You heard it here first. A new mutant strain of formalist abstraction has enterer the zeitgist. Details are still sketchy,

We now return you to your regular programming.



March 23, 2006, 9:56 AM

jack et al, re $44

No, I seriously meant Warhol.
He brought printmaking (silkscreen) into the mainstream without all that crafty baggage that was being alluded to. Like it or not it's true.

break, Warhol above, not below.

I do not believe any medium or approach is inherently inferior in the hands of a genius.



March 23, 2006, 10:13 AM

I have no idea what #57 is about, George.

Warhol made prints that compete with paintings in the marketplace, and I suppose that in itself is helpful to printmaking and printmakers and added something to the "mainstream", but we were clearly discussing art quality, not art marketability.



March 23, 2006, 10:19 AM

Also, "genius" tends to locate and employ materials and procedures which accomodate genius.

This may be a contributing factor to the meagerness of computer art and moveable art and the like.

If we do not allow the possiblity that certain materials and procedures may be art-limiting we are operating blindly with received thinking.



March 23, 2006, 10:25 AM

"He [Warhol] brought printmaking (silkscreen) into the mainstream without all that crafty baggage"

Is that because he depended on assistants to crank out the stuff, which would obviously fit in with the concept of The Factory?

How nice for industrial art-making. It's all so...productive (as in lots and lots of product). Poor Rembrandt; what a fool he was, doing all that tedious manual work himself!



March 23, 2006, 10:48 AM


#57 iz for da kidz, iz just what it sez

Warhol used printmaking in the "paintings" as a tool, assistants and all. I won't argue the quality issue with Warhol but I see no inherent reason why a good artist can't use some form of mechanical reproduction in the process successfully.

#60 I think it's too soon to expect great art via the computer but that time will come, it is inevitable but probably won't happen for another 20 years. I don't think we can even conceive of what it might be.



March 23, 2006, 11:06 AM

The mantra that "anything goes" for art is useful because it permits choice, even if it is not literally true. If you are saying that Warhol's use of printmaking in painting or so-called "major" art extended the permissability of doing so, then you are correct.

However, the discussion was (and is most interesting as) was whether certain procedures are art-limiting. If Warhol's art is mediocre, as I think it is, then you are affirming this by using his example.



March 23, 2006, 11:14 AM

#60 was whether certain procedures are art-limiting.

? the medium is the message?

Are you suggesting that because the process requires an intense degree of craft that it is art limiting?



March 23, 2006, 11:19 AM

Maybe, but I had not gotten to the "why" yet. I just wanted to pose the question as an inquiry into why certain approaches consistently produce mediocre art and why we have these "bursts" of good art when certain methodological bases are established in an art form that has established conventions. No one seems to be asking these questions, here or elsewhere.



March 23, 2006, 11:37 AM

#65 and why we have these "bursts" of good art when certain methodological bases are established in an art form that has established conventions.

For the sake of discussion, I won't be specific about what "good art" means, use your own definition. There might be a statistical bias here that distorts the perception ofthe results.

Good or great artists are statistical outliers, maybe 1 in a 1000. Just by the choice to use one medium over another they skew the results towards what you suggest. A choice of "medium" or "approach" within an established convention would also be a logical choice and statistically important. Multiply two and the "other mediums" will be forced to the margins and make your assumption appear true.

Curiously, I've been looking at woodcuts recently, they force a certain kind of marking I find interesting. Haven't done anything with it but I'm thinking about it.



March 23, 2006, 12:27 PM

Warhol, for all his uptown hipness, transgressiveness and other assorted buzzwords, wound up being little more than the Pop Dali. In terms of how he operated, he may even bear consideration as a Thomas Kincade for the rich & with-it set..



March 23, 2006, 12:37 PM

Well, George, as I anticipated, I am sorry i brought the whole idea up. As you must know by now I have no "definition" of good art, nor do I think any is possible. Whether good artists are "statistical outliers" has nothing to do with what I was talking about it. Let's just drop it.



March 23, 2006, 12:40 PM

Yes, Jack, Warhol, Dali and Kinade bear comparison. Each has a different kind of appeal and fashionableness, and each is what Greenberg called "an episode in the history of taste".



March 23, 2006, 12:55 PM

#68 As you must know by now I have no "definition" of good art

#66 (me) For the sake of discussion, I won't be specific about what "good art" means, use your own definition.

Gee op, I was saying is that I didn't want to go down that road. I am suggesting is that there is more bad art than good art, regardless of how you define it. So if you have less "good art" than everything else, statistically its an outlier and can skew the results of the conclusion. I don't see how this could possibly be a problem.



March 23, 2006, 1:03 PM

Sorry for the grammer in my last comment, but you get the idea.

Let's leave Warhol, Dali and Kinade out of the discussion.

How about Toulouse Lautrec?



March 23, 2006, 1:07 PM

It's not a problem. I was just speculating on causes.



March 23, 2006, 1:08 PM

I don't know. How about him?



March 23, 2006, 1:45 PM

#73 he made prints.

#72 I was just speculating on causes.

In terms of painting, which is all I've ever think of, I think there is a particular factor which has to do with how a painting evolves over time. In particular, if there is no intervention by assistants, a painting becomes an accumulation of decisions and reflection on the results of these decisions over time. The process is organic and this gives it a life. At some point it is as if the painting has a mind of its own which drags you along to a resolution or a disastrous end. I don't think this is true for works which are so strongly pre-conceptualized the process is mere execution (literally) Photorealism suffers greatly from this but I think one could find other examples as well.

One of the failings of the art system over the past several years was adopting the belief that one could somehow "conceptualize" a painting, arrive at its resolution by applying some form of logic in advance (of a broken arm). These activities create an intellectual disconnect or theoretical distance which is a stick in the spokes of the spinning wheel.

Painting is a fairly primitive activity, the result is the evidence of the painters struggle to create some truth about his/her world. Regardless of whatever initial questions are posed, choices of subject or approach, the end is a manifestation of more than the thought occurring at the start. It involves a constant readjustment and reflection during the process. It is an existential struggle and the evidence of this is what has the power.

At least for me.



March 23, 2006, 2:13 PM

Your first paragraph states the process well and succinctly. It certainly seems to be the accumulation of actualized judgements, made against some neurological matrix (?) that gives art its "life". This could be a premise fot the typo of discussion I had envisioned.

I agree generally with the second paragraph, except that I think this is not something confined to recent art.

It is correct to say in the 3rd paragraph "Regardless of whatever initial questions are posed, choices of subject or approach, the end is a manifestation of more than the thought occurring at the start. It involves a constant readjustment and reflection during the process." However, you get past the "sense barrier" with "the result is the evidence of the painters struggle to create some truth about his/her world" and "It is an existential struggle and the evidence of this is what has the power". Truth is a semantic matter and should not be applied to art as a value term, and whether or not it is an "existential struggle", whatever that means exactly, is beside the point. I think it is best to stick to the process of choosing.

As for Lautrec, his prints are pretty good and have been seen that way with justification. Whether they are as good as his paintings or are limited by process I couldn't say.



March 23, 2006, 2:14 PM

I think I am one of the very few people who can make a typo that reads "typo"



March 23, 2006, 3:07 PM

#75 I think it is best to stick to the process of choosing.

I suppose, but I don't think the process of choosing, the decision making process, is necessarily rational. It's not about making a good painting, I don't really think about that. It is about having a response to the painting and adjusting accordingly, but this response is not technical, often it is emotional or something intellectual rendered emotional, I don't quite know how to describe it. I've spent all morning scraping of what I did last night. Why? it looked ok, but it wasn't resonating for me personally. In spite of my conscious thoughts about it, this painting wants to be a certain way and I'm trying to find what that is. I don't know if I am creating it, or if it is creating me. In the end, success or failure, the viewer will never know this little moment in my life, this decision to undo what I did and do it again. Yet, I know, I have a memory of what the paintings life was like, at that stage of this particular painting, it is a memory which might affect another painting another day and how would I explain that?

For me painting is visual poetry.



March 23, 2006, 4:40 PM

No, it is not rational, not in the sense that there is a "reason" for the action. It is pretty much intuitive, and it needs to comprehend only what is there that very second. Sometimes when I am painting I talk to myself with what might sound like "reasons" but it is only to intuitively judge what they sound like.

Nor is it technical, as you noted. "Technical" is how you might describe what you did, which is a matter of "technique". Technique is what you use to implement the judgement. And often the judgements are so fast and so "blind" they can hardly be called judgements, but more like simple actions.

And I like that you said "It's not about making a good painting". No, it mey be that in the end, but, in the making, it is, as you say, just you and the painting, you and the thing you are working on. Not only that but I never know when I am finished with it or even if I have ended up with a good painting until someone with a good eye tells me, or enough time passes.

Art is weird.


Marc Country

March 23, 2006, 9:54 PM

Aesthetic decisions are like moral decisions, which are also made through intuition of "right" and "wrong" (and don't necessarily correspond to "logic", so much as "human nature")



March 24, 2006, 10:06 AM

You got a quote to back that up, Marc?


Marc Country

March 24, 2006, 12:59 PM

Sure ahab, how about this one:

"No, it is not rational, not in the sense that there is a "reason" for the action. It is pretty much intuitive, and it needs to comprehend only what is there that very second."
- oldpro, comment #78



March 24, 2006, 3:07 PM

They are like moral decisions in that they are often intuitive (or always intuitive, depending on what you mean by "moral") and arise from immediate circumstances.

They are unlike in that moral decisions are usually complete in themselves and directed toward a different end.



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