Book review: Living the Artist's Life
Post #778 • April 24, 2006, 8:38 AM • 84 Comments
Not long before KH caught wind of it, I had received a e-mailed press release about Paul Dorrell's guidebook for the artist, blinked my eyes a few times, and hit Delete. She felt equally underwhelmed. But when the offer came to get the book for free, I decided to bite and give it a read. It came with a blurb from the longtime career services director from my alma mater, right on the cover, and a list of press mentions and radio appearances. I figured, what the hey.
Dorrell's blog describes Living the Artist's Life as "the seminal guidance book for artists." We use seminal this way regarding books that inspired a great many related works on the topic, not those published in the last two years. This kind of insensitivity to tone pervades the book. His enthusiasm for his work sounds like hubris, his sincerity sounds like self-indulgence, his self-abnegation sounds defensive, and his informal tone presumes my goodwill to a degree that I don't readily grant. Worst of all, it spends 170 pages talking about the artist's life without ever defining it. What differentiates the artist's life from other kinds of lives? Dorrell takes the question for granted, but it needs answering. You're living an artist's life when you're making art, looking at art, thinking about art, and trying to come up with ways to make your art better. Everything else that goes with it is a side effect. A lot of romantic and theoretical nonsense would disappear if people kept that in mind.
For all of the above, the book warrants a smack. I won't smack it, though, because it does no harm. I can't say as much for other books intended to guide the artist. (One memorably awful book recommended adopting a fashion quirk for the sake of making an impression. I think it suggested a pink mohawk.) Dorrell's advice, although couched in wordy confessionals, is sound. Don't waste your time with booze and drugs. Work hard. Make your resume like so. Approach a gallery like so. Shoot good images of your work. Your sensitivity makes you prone to depression and neurosis; if you suffer from either, treat it without hesitation. (Perhaps one should make more out of the fact that the treatment will be the same as the one offered to uncreative mortals.) Travel to Europe and through the US, looking at art. Live well, and indulge, but don't injure your health. Turn off the TV and read. (One exception: he discusses websites dismissively, in a manner unbecoming a denizen of the contemporary world. I have derived enormous benefit from mine.)
Extracting these chestnuts will require that you endure the retelling of tidbits of the author's life that you may not appreciate knowing, such as those regarding his physical relationship with his wife. While reading, I sometimes imagined a writing workshop instructor in the background, explaining how personal details create interest for the reader. Like many other things in art, it's true, unless it isn't. Dorrell needed an editor in more ways than one. He litters his prose with rhetorical questions and uses "freaking" as an adjective for emphasis.
His germane expertise derives from his work as a gallerist in Kansas City, and his no-nonsense approach to selling work. His gallery went into terrifying debt and he pulled it back into the black. He identified his own values for art, independent of those of the New York City scene, and built his stable accordingly. Based on details like these, he has legitimate things to say. If he had stuck to his experience as a gallerist, this book would ring more true. But he wants to talk about his writing career. He presents an idea, more than once, along these lines: You feel such and such about your art; I know, because I feel that way about my writing. It implicitly says "I'm an artist too!" Artists know what it means when someone tells them that too often or loudly: he thinks that art is a club that you can join, but even if it were true, he wouldn't be in it.
I might recommend this book to a teenager who is wondering whether the art thing is for him, or a late-starting adult with a limited background in art and a case of the jitters about getting going. For everyone else I continue to recommend Carol Michels' How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist for career information, and Robert Henri's The Art Spirit and Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write for the occasional shot in the arm.
I would also recommend that you read the following paragraph, taken from a recent book by Barry Moser about wood engraving. He has just talked at length about his craft, and has turned his attention to the life of the artist. In this excerpt, he sums up most of what you need to know, and indicates the main problem behind Dorrell's book.
I encourage you to never think of yourself as an artist. Certainly never refer to yourself as an artist. Leave that to someone else. To do otherwise is to be self-congratulatory and arrogant, and God only knows we see far too much arrogant, self-inflated, self-important pomposity in the arts (and in politics) today. So don't you go adding to that cesspool. Work. And fail. That is all that is important. And in so doing try your hardest to be the best that you can be, and try your hardest to make the things you make as well as they can be made. Make them for the ages. Do not squander your gifts by pandering to silliness and to Art Lite.
That's more like it.
(Artblog.net is on semihiatus until May 15, when it will resume posting each weekday. Next post: Friday.)
April 24, 2006, 10:37 AM
Rembrant, "la luz de la sombra." at the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid.
April 24, 2006, 11:12 AM
The other option would be to read artists biographies. We are all a bunch of drunks.
Duchamp by Calvin Tompkins
Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man by Mailer
Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Naifeh & Smith
de Kooning : An American Master by Stevens & Swan
On my list to read...
Off the Wall : A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg by Calvin Tompkins
Matisse the Master : A Life of Henri Matisse: The Conquest of Colour: 1909-1954 by Hilary Spurling
April 24, 2006, 11:41 AM
We used to have art.
Then we got books about how to make art.
Then we got books about artist's lives
Now we have a book about how to have an artist's life.
We need to get back to art again.
April 24, 2006, 11:43 AM
Re (3), Breslin's 'Mark Rothko' goes well with the 'all a bunch of drunks' theme, or even the 'all a bunch of depressive, irritable drunks' theme, although it's not a particularly wonderful book.
And while we're on the subject, I still think Richardson's two volumes of Picasso biography are far more impressive than Mailer's version. (For some reason, being a depressive, irritable drunk seems to work better for painters than it does for biographers.)
April 24, 2006, 12:06 PM
Thanks for the recommendations. I would be curious if you have one on the life of Caravaggio, he seems like an interesting character.
I read Mailers book because someone lent it to me. I found it interesting partly because it covered his early years of hardship including the period which lead up to the development of cubism. I have been looking at a lot of the work he made in his twenties, in particular the 'lesser' works, drawings etc which reveal the back and forth in thinking which led up to the breakthrough. So, being able to make some connection between his life and his artwork was interesting. So often we just see selected works, the great solutions, which exist 'fait au complet', that it is hard to imagine how they came into existence.
April 24, 2006, 12:33 PM
I would never consider investing time in what a blowhard like Mailer (who's practically a caricature) had to say about Picasso or any other artist or art in general. Of course, everyone knows I'm not sufficiently open-minded, as the term is currently used.
April 24, 2006, 1:00 PM
As I tell my writing about art class, talking is the basis of writing. It has very little to do with making art. It follows that neither does writing.
April 24, 2006, 1:02 PM
I was going to spell out in boring detail my problems with Mailer's book, but Jack has encapsulated them quite neatly with the word 'blowhard'.
Mailer's 'biography' is, more than most, a work of fiction and projection. It's about what Mailer imagines it might be like to be a great artist. Because Mailer writes with a lot of verve and confidence, the result can look compelling in some lights. But it has very little, in my opinion, to do with Picasso. And probably not much to do with great art, either.
The Richardson books, in contrast, actually have some research, experience of art and interest in facts underpinning them. And frankly, if I had to be stuck on a desert island with one of them, I'd choose Richardson over Mailer. (And still would have done, ever before Mailer died.)
As Caravaggio, it's a culpable failing of mine, I guess, but I rather disapprove of biographies of him, as there are better reasons to like his painting than because his life happens to press every outsider-ish, transgressive, wild-n-crazy button there is right now ... doubtless someone less bigoted than I am will suggest something constructive.
April 24, 2006, 1:25 PM
The Mailer book was a good read, entertaining if not completely factual, as such I rather enjoyed it. Caravaggio was a scoundrel, which makes him sort of interesting. The Pollock story was somewhat depressing. I read it along with the de Kooning bio, and the Duchamp bio, in sucession. Aside from the personal biographies, what was interesting was a sense of the period between 1900 and the 1960's. Times certainly have changed considerably since then.
April 24, 2006, 5:14 PM
Actually, a Picasso bio by Mailer is akin to a Gauguin bio by Larry Flynt, or at best Donald Trump. I mean, seriously, who on earth would care? Whatever literary talent he may have is beside the point. I'd be embarrassed to be seen reading the damn book.
April 24, 2006, 6:23 PM
Bunny I think your reasons for a distaste for Caravaggio biographies are simple common sense and not at all "bigoted". From what i can see your only "culpable failing" is an excess of modesty.
April 24, 2006, 7:24 PM
I agree with #12. At most, it would amount to being opinionated, or better yet, having a strong personal opinion or preference without regard to fashion. That is certainly not bigotry, even if it might be so called by holier-than-thou PC types, who are, in fact, as bigoted as anybody.
April 24, 2006, 10:38 PM
All I meant, really, was to flag up the oddity of nurturing a mild objection to biographies of Caravaggio while at the same time - and I wish you could see the study in which I'm writing this! - clearly having no particular problem with artists' biographies per se.
Who knows why? Maybe it's a problem with biographies of pre-modern people, which for perfectly good reasons of evidence tend to emphasise the sensational over the everyday in a way that, say, even a biography of Picasso or Pollock wouldn't. Or maybe it's some of the crassness of attempts to 'explain' Caravaggio's style(s) with reference to the little that's known about his life, bulked up with an enormous amount of guesswork, fantasy and, usually, anachronism. There's this tiresome circularity about the whole exercise: 'He painted in an innovative way, so he must have been a rebel, an outsider, a bad boy.' When it comes to artists, bad is the new - or not so new - good. And because biographies of Caravaggio are concocted out of so very little in the way of fact, this sort of prejudice is even more obvious there than elsewhere.
Incidentally, I sort of agree with various posts above in which people imply, with varying degrees of subtlety, that you can't really learn how to be an artist by reading a book about it. But on the other hand, human curiosity about our fellow creatures being what it is, after a while the myth of an artist's life becomes part of what we take to his or her work, and sometimes it's no bad thing to try to bring that myth (which can be delicious in its own right - I'm as much an old romantic when it comes to that Cedar Tavern stuff as anyone) slightly more in line with the facts, insofar as they can be discerned.
April 25, 2006, 2:38 AM
Old pro, you forgot to mention movies, which make an artists life a publicly romantic phenomenon.
April 25, 2006, 3:07 AM
The question, "What differentiates the artist's life from other lives," is interesting.
On the one hand, you're absolutely right:
"You're living an artist's life when you're making art, looking at art, thinking about art, and trying to come up with ways to make your art better. Everything else that goes with it is a side effect. A lot of romantic and theoretical nonsense would disappear if people kept that in mind."
And yet, the artist's life has been veiled in a kind of mystery that fascinates people.
People are dumbfounded, for examle, that VanGogh cut off half his ear. I was at the
Chicago Institute one day and a young girl, maybe ten years old, pointed at
a vanGogh, and asked her mother: "Isn't he the one that cut off his ear?" (She said nothing
about his painting, only the ear.)
Because the artist (usually) is non-conventional, people seem dismayed, perplexed, and
even in awe. The artist has become some kind of hero that lives out a Jungian collective un-
conscious dream. The artist pursues his/her own dream; seeks his/her truth, which is
is inspiring to all human beings. Of course, you don't have to be an artist to do this;
you can be a doctor, lawyer, etc., but the latter assures security; whereas the artist
does it against all obstacles (in theory/myth)
I love the excerpt from Barry Moser. Thanks for sharing it. The true artist isn't a
braggart; genius reaches an internal truth that connects with all of humanity.
The art speaks for the artist; if anything, the artist displays humility.
As for biographies, "Giacometti," by James Lord---not the short one, but the fat one,
is a good depiction of the daily life of an artist, how he lived and breathed clay until
it was a part of him--his fingernails, living space, everywhere: clay, dust, art.
Van Gogh's extensive letters--the version submitted by Theo's wife, Vincent's sister-in-law, is
another view into the heart and soul of an artist.
I agree about biographies. If written well, they capture the true essence of the artist: his/hers
commitment, dedication, hard work, passion, and genius.
The trendy how-to-be-an-artist-books are chatty, pseuo-intellectual, and worse, unspeakably dull.
April 25, 2006, 7:51 AM
You are right, Jordan. In fact a history of movie-making could probably be encapsulated in a retrospective look at how artists have been portrayed in that medium.
I like that romantic Cedar Tavern stuff too, Bunny, although in reality i think they were a pretty grubby, ego-ridden bunch of macho drunks. And it is interesting when the facts are put on the line more realistically, as was done in the recent Pollock movie. I would like to see a study done of artists and the mythology surrounding them that is more objective and intelligent than what we have seen so far; even Richardson's biography, painstaking as it is, is spoiled somewhat by Richardson's own eccentricity.
Frankly I think artists (and theoretical physicists and other "strange folk") are, on the whole, more normal and have more integrated psyches than other people. I think they look weird because everyone else is abnormal. But then, I am prejudiced.
April 25, 2006, 3:46 PM
You also left out blogs, Oldpro.
Spurling's two Matisse books, Richardson's Picassos, the Naifeh & Smith Pollock -which was a better treatment than the film adaptation of the last few chapters, Hilary Pyle's Jack B Yeats, and George Melly's Scottie Wilson, are all good for me, even if there are one or two braggarts featured.
April 25, 2006, 7:01 PM
Note to Franklin: I put this comment on the previous thread by mistake.
A new show opens at MAM this week devoted exclusively to Miami artists, the first such show there since 2001. It appears to be a high-concept enterprise, which no doubt relates to who's in it and who's not. In other words, the decisive factor seems to be that the work fit into the curator's (Lori Mertes) concept ("Miami in Transition"), not necessarily the level of quality of the work as such apart from conceptual considerations. We'll see.
The artists included are:
Daniel Arsham, Natalia Benedetti, Vicenta Casañ, Xavier Cortada, Patricio Cuello, Andrés Ferrandis, Mark Handforth, William Keddell, Leila Leder-Kremer, Nicolas Lobo, Michael Loveland, Glexis Novoa, Martin Oppel, Placemaker, Tao Rey, Leyden Rodríguez-Casanova, George Sánchez-Calderon, Tina Spiro, Ivan Toth DePeña, Thomas Brian Virgin, and Purvis Young.
I may check it out this weekend, assuming I can find street parking (I'm not paying the county $5 again to use its garage to go to MAM). If so, I plan to report in more detail. Protective clothing may be in order.
April 26, 2006, 10:35 AM
This is a list of socially active art people. They hang out in the right places, talk to the right people, and say the right things in the appropriate contexts. This is going to be a very nice show.
April 26, 2006, 10:42 AM
Some are, some aren't, Jordan. Note: No artists hail from Snitzer Gallery. I confess that when I heard about this show I assumed a third of them would be.
Is "Placemaker" an artist now?
April 26, 2006, 10:52 AM
This may well be redundant, but social and networking skills need have nothing to do with significant artistic talent. In other words, I couldn't care less about such skills, however practical they may be, in the absence of the only thing that really matters (to me) as far as an artist is concerned.
April 26, 2006, 11:17 AM
Natalia Benedetti is represented by Snitzer now.
April 26, 2006, 11:18 AM
Some of those artists have very poor social skills.
April 26, 2006, 11:20 AM
Xavier Cortada is included in the show? Ay, ay, ay!
April 26, 2006, 11:27 AM
Natalia Benedetti is represented by Snitzer now.
Are you sure? She's not on the site.
April 26, 2006, 11:37 AM
Mystified has given us one participant, Jack.
Oy, oy, oy!
April 26, 2006, 11:47 AM
A lot of the resumes on Snitzer's website are out of date too.
April 26, 2006, 1:03 PM
Fear not, Mystified and OP, for Cortada has apparently seen the light and mended his ways. Go here:
and see the slide show. The first two images are of Cortada's work in this show. I'm not saying it's necessarily better than what Mystified linked to, but it is certainly far more correct and in touch with current art world reality. The guy's no fool.
And Franklin, give Snitzer a break. It's not fair to expect him to have both MOCA and MAM in his pocket, not to mention Basel and the Rubells. I mean, how much of an operator do you want him to be? Besides, it would probably be overkill. He's got plenty. Furthermore, MAM is still a second-tier outfit around these parts; the real cachet remains elsewhere. If I know that, you'd better believe Snitzer does.
As for the artist selection in general, this show clearly appears geared to the curator's concept and/or agenda, and that is obviously a primary determining factor. In other words, I would not expect an artist to have been included unless s/he fit the program, even if s/he was a better artist than any of the ones selected. I don't believe we're talking about putting the best available work before the public, but rather the work that best suits the curator's and/or MAM's purposes. Imagine that.
April 26, 2006, 2:52 PM
I see, Jack. Moving from sub-BFA level painting to silly pomo is indeed a great step up on the career path.
April 26, 2006, 3:01 PM
Jack, maybe we could make a short film. Picture this: the Scharf mobile cruising along the 876 with MIA in the background, of course the sun is setting. Then the Cortada biplane lands, just before they all crash into Britos colorful mini. I think it would make for a great promotional film that could showcase Miami's transitional art scene. All the artists would have to suffer minor injuries to make the film more realistic, preferably they would all lose their arms so they could never make such god awful work ever again.
April 26, 2006, 3:32 PM
OP, please, you're being culturally insensitive, or at least someone could be hypersensitive enough to think that, so watch yourself. One can never be too PC. Or too opportunistic, but hey, a career must be, uh, nurtured.
If it's any consolation, however small, the curator of this show also curated the quite dreadful Rosenquist show now at MAM. This new show will have to be something of an improvement, if nothing else because nobody in it is anywhere near as much of a name, and, therefore, cannot be anywhere near as overrated and/or disappointing. Don't say I don't always look for the silver lining.
April 26, 2006, 3:47 PM
Someone who likes me (I think) is of the opinion that my Artblog commentary in general is reminiscent of a viper on crack. I'm sure it was meant as some sort of backhanded compliment, of course.
April 26, 2006, 6:08 PM
Are we feeling a wee jealous?
admit it, y'all. Had one of you been invited to be in that there show you wouldn't be so quick to judge without first having a look-see.
April 26, 2006, 6:12 PM
On the contrary, Redneck, Tom Virgin and Leila Leder-Kremer are good friends, Willie Keddell and I know each other through Dorsch, and George Sanchez I know the Creative Capital program I did earlier this year. I'm happy for all of them. I need to get my butt down there, too...
April 26, 2006, 6:26 PM
We have gone through this "you're envious and bitter" routine a dozen times before, redneck. No one here is envious and bitter. That's ludicrous. Jack isn't even an artist. We simply think this stuff is silly, juvenile and embarrassing.
Really. Just look at it, for crying out loud!
April 26, 2006, 6:40 PM
I'm trying desperately to find artists anywhere that I am envious of. There might not be any left. Certainly I've looked here in Miami, but its slim-pickens.
April 26, 2006, 7:01 PM
"this stuff is silly, juvenile and embarrassing"
OP, you must try to be more open-minded or pluralistic, or whatever the latest buzzword might be. This sort of thing would never go over in a properly regulated blog. It's too crude, you see, even if it happens to be true. We must learn to whitewash and sugarcoat, and maybe the right people will condescend to acknowledge our existence, if not actually take us seriously. Go along to get along, and so forth. Just look at Mr. Cortada, who's gone from classic Calle Ocho material to being in a show at MAM. The guy must be on to something. Of course, maybe the folks at MAM are on something, but that's my viper side talking. Bad Jack.
April 26, 2006, 8:27 PM
"Viper on crack", indeed. A viper on crack will be correct about contemporaneous art at least 99% of the time.
Who loves ya, Jack? Me for sure. It's not just that you are right, it's the way you put it that makes me read your comments.
April 26, 2006, 9:17 PM
Thanks, Catfish. Sometimes it's lonely being a reptile, but somebody's gotta do it.
April 26, 2006, 9:35 PM
Well as we now see, "The matrix of NOVEMBER's current distribution is constructed largely from the result of aleatory scatterings and (re)inscribed focus groups in an attempt to maintain the dialectical tension between preserving a revolutionary aura of objecthood in this age of debased mechanical inauthenticity and self-reflexively complete the text's projected feedback loop by having others recognize our own editorial subjectivity."
April 26, 2006, 9:46 PM
Funny you should bring it up, George - I just showed Supergirl the old pomo April Fool's prank.
April 26, 2006, 11:11 PM
NOVEMBER is a satire of OCTOBER, I assume.
Of course it is hard to tell, because you can't parody a parody.
April 27, 2006, 12:58 AM
refardless, franklin excluded (and maybe OP, I dare say) y'all are jealous of others' success.
April 27, 2006, 7:57 AM
I really cannot speak for those I don't know, redneck, but irritation at the extent and degree of bad art being shown and praised in this town does not necessarily amount to "jealousy". There is such a thing as a simple desire for higher standards.
April 27, 2006, 9:31 AM
How do you know it's bad?
April 27, 2006, 9:44 AM
Oops! Sorry. I meant the MAM show.
I left some words out of the sentence. Need coffee.
April 27, 2006, 9:59 AM
Got my coffee. Now I see that you may not have been referring to the MAM show at all, OP, just "the extent and degree of bad art being shown and praised in this town".
Sometimes I wish y'all would be more specific. But I guess it might be easier if you just listed the good art you felt was being shown or praised in this town. Then I could figure out which you felt was the bad.
You too, Jack. What's this "properly regulated blog" you so frequently refer to?
April 27, 2006, 10:14 AM
I mean any art blog to which that phrase may apply. Such a blog is bound to be more common, or more the norm, than Artblog, things being the way they are. But you know how things are as well as anybody.
April 27, 2006, 10:27 AM
KH you write "But I guess it might be easier if you just listed the good art you felt was being shown or praised in this town."
I'm not sure there is much up right now. Andy Gambrell's billboard collages at Dorsch are good.
Most art anywhere at any given time is not much good. That's just the law of averages. The problem around here is that there is no trenchant criticism of any kind. Miami has to break out of this mutual back-scratching, get past the anxiety of being a second-rate art town and develop a more mature system of evalation. When there is tough criticism the art gets better.
My problem, unlike Jack, who looks at just about everything and whom I jokingly accuse of being a glutton for punishment, is that I don't see as much as I should. Most art now being shown depends on what passes for "ideas" and there is little emphasis on the purely visual, so it is not hard to make judgements. In the case of the MAM show, where I can see the names listed I check out what I can on the web. So far, I am not impressed. But who knows, there's always a chance something might jump up and grab me.
April 27, 2006, 10:39 AM
I meant to say above "...not hard to make judgements by looking at web images", in the case of "idea" art which has little visual emphasis.
April 27, 2006, 10:59 AM
April 27, 2006, 11:05 AM
A pretty picture, George, but you are always so elliptical.
What is your point?
April 27, 2006, 11:06 AM
Andy Gambrell's current show at Dorsch (Finding Beauty) is based on selecting and cropping compositions from larger readymade fields (actual roadside billboards). It is quite good, better than his last show (which I liked but found less accessible and more of a formal exercise, albeit an interesting and legitimate one).
The new work is less narrowly focused and feels more natural, more spontaneous and fluid. It's more image-based, and though the images are varied, the various pieces cohere remarkably well as a group, given the common underlying principle. The show looks handsome and fresh, bracing even.
I was initially slightly bothered by a vague Rauschenberg flashback, which was more or less a mirage; this work is more straightforward and less tricked up, and it feels more immediate and direct.
April 27, 2006, 11:10 AM
Re#53: Painting as fashion, you'll note the emperoress has no clothes.
April 27, 2006, 11:12 AM
April 27, 2006, 11:19 AM
Another mediated exploration of the figure-ground idea. Redefining the stretcher as an anthropomorphic paradigm.
April 27, 2006, 11:36 AM
OP there's a sight chance that you might like Andres Ferrandis' work in the MiT show at MAM.
April 27, 2006, 12:15 PM
OP, you might like this story, of which I was reminded by your "glutton for punishment" remark. It's not art-related, and definitely not PC, so others may wish to skip it.
King Charles II of England and his brother James were both notorious womanizers. Charles went for pretty, buxom types, but James apparently liked ugly women. Since James had converted to Catholicism, Charles used to crack that James's mistresses must have been imposed upon him as penance by his confessor.
April 27, 2006, 12:43 PM
Considering any mistress as penance would be an excellent way to get around the obvious problems involved in having one, provided anyone believes it. I suppose if you are the king's brother and he is making jokes about it it doen't matter anyway.
KH there is every chance in the world that I will like something before I see it. Getting past the eye is a different matter.
George, I like your deadpan BS art criticism. "Mediated exploration" indeed. Someone should make a list of these terms. Yes, I know they were at least mostly nude. I have been sent pix of those Japanese dresses which are painted with nude forms to make it seem as if the woman is wearing something completely transparent. Unfortunately my college classmates have devised something similar for their wives to wear at our upcoming reunion in June. Not a great idea. Most of these well-off, dignified middle-aged ladies would not be seen dead in such a thing anywhere else, but will probably go along to be "good sports".
April 27, 2006, 12:55 PM
By the way, I don't think anyone has made clear that the "transition" show at MAM is in fact about transition, about the physical changes taking place in the city of Miami as it evolves and grows. This, at least, is a clear concept and narrows the subject matter, which is always a good ldea.
It would also be a good idea if all museums and galleries would put images of work being shown (or in the collection) up on the web. I am puzzled why this is not a generally followed practice.
April 27, 2006, 2:17 PM
OP, there's a difference between a clear or well-defined concept and a good, useful or productive concept, in terms of the outcome as far as the quality of the resulting show is concerned. Based on the slide show posted by the Herald, there seems to be a plethora of images of buildings undergoing demolition and so forth. This may fit the concept, but how good is it as art?
In other words, what is really being accomplished? Is it putting the best possible art before the public, as I would always want? Or is it trying to get noticed (by art mags and the art establishment) for a supposedly relevant and/or creative idea? I need not repeat that any idea not backed up by good enough art does not interest me in the context of art.
April 27, 2006, 4:17 PM
Once again, Franklin demonstrates his ability to discern clowns from afar. It takes me longer. I wake up next to the masked puppet before realizing what I ought to realize. Oh my. Oh, oh, my.
April 27, 2006, 5:44 PM
Well, the new MAM show should have opened last night, but I don't suppose anybody here went. Of course, that would have been the worst possible time to see it, as opposed to see and be seen. I plan to go this weekend, and I hope Franklin does, too, so he can post about it next Monday.
April 27, 2006, 7:04 PM
I went, but it was too crowded to give it a fair viewing.
April 27, 2006, 8:11 PM
Of course, Franklin. This sort of thing is never about the work. But surely you can give us more event-appropriate details. Like, did Kevin Bruk drive up in the Scharfmobile? Did Cortada fly in on his biplane? Were there any cat-fights between major collectors? Did new director Riley still have his rather questionable facial hair? Was the Rosenquist room closed off to avoid potential embarrassment? Was Lori Mertes wearing anything conceptually interesting? You know, obvious stuff. Inquiring minds may want to know.
April 27, 2006, 8:27 PM
Oh, how could I forget? Was Nina Arias there? And what was she wearing? And the tan, too. Tell us all about the tan.
April 27, 2006, 9:36 PM
Geez Louise, Jack! Get a grip!
April 27, 2006, 9:44 PM
Wait. Did I just unintentionally quote OP?
I think I did.
April 27, 2006, 9:57 PM
Why, KH, I thought you were more worldly. I was merely trying to approach this sort of event in the right spirit, or rather the spirit most in keeping with it. I'm sure the lovely people behind Artforum's "Scene and Herd" would understand perfectly. Air kiss.
April 27, 2006, 10:07 PM
Nina looked beautiful as always and wished me warm congratulations regarding my move up north.
April 27, 2006, 11:32 PM
Is this MIT show at MAM really up until Oct 29? Sunpost says so. SIX months? Isn't that odd?
April 28, 2006, 7:46 AM
Not for MAM, which commonly puts up shows for four to nine months at a time.
April 28, 2006, 8:26 AM
Yeah, Franklin, Nina's a trooper. She never disappoints the public. Wish I could say the same for MAM, MOCA and the rest of the lot.
April 28, 2006, 10:26 AM
mek, the show is in the downstairs gallery which is usually reserved for the permanent collection. Shows in that gallery downstairs usually also stay up for a long time. During the summer, the museum gets many visitors from all over, so the length of the installation serves to allow most of the summer visitors to see the show (highlighting either MAM's permanent collection or, as in this case, the work of Miami artists), even if it seems boring to the locals (the ones who don't leave town, that is). The video gallery (which is tucked away in the permanent collection gallery/MiT space) will change a few times during the span of the MiT show, and the main gallery upstairs will also see a new installation--coming up next: Big Juicy Paintings (and more)--on June 16 ( a permanent collection show).
April 28, 2006, 12:55 PM
Oh, I see (#75). So MAM, under the delusion, I mean impression, that it is a national, even international resource-treasure, feels it must keep its shows up forever and a day, lest the uproar from disgruntled art lovers (who, of course, make up the bulk of Miami's tourist traffic) lead to Congress or the UN taking a hand in the matter. That sounds plausible.
Nonetheless, it seems curious that bona fide major shows at unquestionably world-class museums, like the Met and London's National Gallery, typically stay up an average of 3 months. I guess those museums really don't care that much about visitors to their respective very real (as opposed to risibly imaginary) cultural meccas.
It's most commendable if MAM takes such a broad world-view, even if that pisses off the bored locals, who just incidentally happen to be the source of mucho millions for MAM's proposed new digs at Museum Park.
I know I'm relieved to find out why MAM keeps shows up so freaking long, even though they're nowhere near the level of those at places like the Met or the NG. The typically art-starved summer visitor to South Florida must be served., after all.
I'd laugh, but vipers can only hisssssssssssssssssssss.
April 28, 2006, 1:28 PM
Yeah, that rush of visitors in the summer months is a new one on me. I was under the obviously mistaken impression that more people came down in the winter when it is cold up north. During Art Basel, for instance.
April 28, 2006, 1:54 PM
Going back to the main topic of this thread
#3 George, I would add:
Conditions of Success: How the Modern Artist Rises to Fame (Walter Neurath Memorial Lectures) by Alan Bowness
I found this small book interesting and enjoyable
April 29, 2006, 9:02 PM
Many thanks for this referral. It is a practical book and makes a good argument for urban/artistic centers. I share the author's view that peer review is essential and find the timeline of 25 years quite practical--so the work shapes the taste in which it is received.
May 1, 2006, 11:21 AM
OP, re: #77, people who are otherwise uninterested in art do visit museums while they travel.
ABMB brings in many people who are interested specifically in art (I'll even venture to say that the majority of them are of the artworld). The four days, plus or minus a days' margin (or more), during which ABMB happens do account for a lot of visitors to Miami, sure, but summer lasts quite a bit longer than that.
May 1, 2006, 11:33 AM
I'm curious... Are "people who are interested specifically in art" not necessarily "of the artworld"? Does "artworld" in your concept only include those employed in the arts, with audience members (generally) on the outside?
May 1, 2006, 12:03 PM
Marc, I'm thinking of people who are interested specifically in art as art-tourists, and of people of the artworld as people who either earn thier living off of some aspect of the artworld or who consider themselves to be either part of its workings or an insider.
I think one can be an art lover who is not of the artworld. I also think one can be an art tourist who is not of the artworld. I think of the artworld as something which is somewhat institutional. I also do not think the terms "art scene" and "artworld" have the same meanings.
May 1, 2006, 12:35 PM
I guess what I have a problem with is the idea that "people who are interested specifically in art" shouldn't or don't "consider themselves to be... part of its workings".
May 1, 2006, 1:02 PM
KH, you write " people who are otherwise uninterested in art do visit museums while they travel"
I suppose so. Is this in response to something I said?
April 24, 2006, 9:01 AM
In the book Mount Analogue a group of people discover and climb a mountain. The book abruptly ends at the end of chapter five (author Rene Daumaul died). Daumaul was a mountain climer who returned to writing after injuries prevented him from climbing--but climbing had changed his writing; he no longer wanted to write about the mountain but 'through' it.
Each of his characters, who are designated as artist, actress, etc. lose their identity as such in the group endeavor. Their work operates on a community level: for example, the artist's drawings become essential documentation of the journey when it is found the mountain can't be photographed.
I'm pondering these points, but think this is the real challenge, what's the work doing.