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Post #779 • April 28, 2006, 7:33 AM • 28 Comments

Iconoduel, welcome back.

Holland Cotter rather delightfully covers the reopening of the Morgan Library.

People are increasingly seeing the lack of design critics in the world as a problem, and are increasingly working to create them. (Kottke)

"When Repetto, an artist with a technology bent, came to New York in 2000 to teach at Columbia, he had few friends in the city. So he sent out an e-mail calling for a meeting of 'people doing strange things with electricity.' The phrase became the forum's motto." CNN on Dorkbot.

"Suppose there were a person who saw, before almost anyone else, that the most important concept in modern biology could be applied to the arts. ... Suppose, in addition, that some people think that a scholarly framework based on her insights will displace much of current aesthetic theory - that future generations will understand literature and the arts as she does, reconciling the humanities to the science of human nature." Caleb Crain writes about Ellen Dissanayake. (PDF of Dissanayake paper.) (Good Reads)

"'People threw up, passed out, were injured, got into altercations and climbed onto sculptures.' Which is either really bad management or a fairly banal example of postmodernism." Steve Mirsky contemplates the recent debauch at the Milwaukee Museum of Art for the Scientific American. (Digg)

Watermelon art. (Reddit)

The military applications of Cubism. (Kottke)

Personally, I could look at his work and determine that Chris Ware is not the kind of guy that would put up with packaging alterations without his approval. (Waxy) In more Chris Ware news, his weekly installments in the New York Times Magazine have come to an end. The Times put up a pdf of all 29 pages, and then took it down. Fortunately, Drawn has you covered. The next artist slated for the Funny Pages in the magazine is the great Jaime Hernandez.

The drawings of Freud - Sigmund, not Lucian - go on display at the New York Academy of Medicine May 11. Related: On the Couch: Cartoons from The New Yorker, at the Museum of the City of New York.

Those of us who follow the explosion of the Chinese art market need to remember that misfortunes like this persist. Art requires freedom. (AJ)

( is on semihiatus until May 15, when it will resume posting each weekday. Next post: Monday.)




April 28, 2006, 11:13 AM

Anyone seriously interested in the nature of art should read Dissanayake. She hasn't got it all worked out yet but she is going at it scientifically, an attitude that simply does not exist among artists, critics, aesthetes and what have you, and the only way we are ever going to be able to understand specifically what art is.



April 28, 2006, 2:02 PM

off topic

Believe it or not...this is what Herald readers voted for as
best gallery.


that guy

April 28, 2006, 2:26 PM




April 28, 2006, 2:46 PM

Oh, I believe it, all right. It's interesting that MOCA is sandwiched between Britto and some Las Olas chamber of schlock (or so I assume based on my one and only visit to the Las Olas gallery strip). Poetic justice, perhaps. I'm sure Othoniel would be pleased by such company; he should certainly feel comfortable in it.



April 28, 2006, 6:20 PM

Hi. I bounced over from Critical Miami just now and I do believe you accidentally left out a great piece of art writing by (presumably local) critic Kyle Munzenrieder on GisMo at Leonard Tachmes Gallery for the publication ignore Magazine. I wish more art criticism was written this colorfully and clearly. I highly recommend reading this piece, as I will be looking out for this critic in other publications. By the way, I'm particularly looking forward to MOCA next weekend, looks like a great time in the city.



April 28, 2006, 10:42 PM

Department of Skills, Evening Edition: "Hatsumi is the only living student of the last 'fighting ninja,' Toshitsugu Takamatsu, the so-called 33rd Grand Master who was a bodyguard to officials in Japanese-occupied Manchuria before World War II and fought - and won - 12 fights to the death. Legend says that during one battle, Takamatsu snatched an eyeball from a would-be Chinese bandit."



April 28, 2006, 11:29 PM

Is #5 an ad, Franklin? I can't imagine anyone but a flack or a relative would call that straining-to-be hip muddle a "great piece of art writing".



April 30, 2006, 3:17 PM

Went to MAM today for the "Miami in Transition" show. Managed to find street parking, so I only spent $1.50 as opposed to $5 for the grimly claustrophobic county garage. Gave the Muniz show a second look, which it did not repay. Sort of like eating glossy plastic food. Forced myself into the Rosenquist room again, which was fairly analogous to viewing roadkill (only less compelling). We're talking seriously inflated status; this is the work of a glorified commercial artist, and a crude and garish one at that. No amount of sociopolitical relevance will ever compensate for that. As for MiT, I'll wait till tomorrow in case Franklin posts about it. Preview: Since I expected so little, I found it reasonably tolerable.



April 30, 2006, 7:13 PM

Hey, Franklin! I finally met Dan at Iconoduel during the NOVA show, and we saw your stuff at the Dorsch room. Nice figures. Why did I get the impression you painted big? Or was the guy (Brook?) only able to bring smaller works?

In any case, very well attended. And you've probably heard, NOVA is going to Miami this year, too.

For those unfamiliar, NOVA took over an entire small city hotel and each gallery had a tiny suite, with sitting room and bedroom and bathroom. Talk about City Shweets.


marc a johnson

April 30, 2006, 10:53 PM

[I smite this comment spam in the name of Aslan! (Sorry - guess what I've been up late watching...)]


Marc Country

May 1, 2006, 12:31 AM

Geez, Franklin goes on a little semi-hiatus, and out come the comment spammers...



May 1, 2006, 11:55 AM

Linda, CSdJ has used up my patience for that kind of breathless art writing. More on that later this week.

Fire away, Jack - I don't think I'm going to get to it.

Hi Cynthia! Glad you got to check the work out. I have worked bigger, and yeah, Dorsch was concentrating on portable stuff suitable to the venue.

Fear not, Marc, your host is keeping a close eye on things.



May 1, 2006, 12:07 PM

I think I'm more partial to Kyle M.'s insights than CSdJ's right now; there seems to be more a sense of humility, curiosity, exploration and a desire to arrive at a new understanding in the former's. And the breathlessness/sensationalism seems to be less of a costume.



May 1, 2006, 12:33 PM

The Miami in Transition show, as I'd surmised, is not about offering the public the best work being done by Miami artists. It's about something much more specific, narrow and thematic, geared to fit a particular curatorial concept or perspective. Fine. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the concept is topical, relevant and/or interesting. The bottom line remains, as always, the quality of the chosen work as art, rather than as illustration of somebody's take on the Miami scene. Whenever the quality is not high enough, the concept, whatever it may be, becomes more or less moot. It's more or less moot in MiT.

The included work is largely predictable and mostly of momentary interest. It's all perfectly respectable and proper by current standards--nothing if not safe. The choir to which it preaches will take to it like comfort food. A good half is photography-based, plus a few videos, some architectural models, a couple of installations, a handful of sculptural objects, and paintings or drawings by a handful of artists.

The only thing that made much of an impact on me was a series of three gouaches on mylar by Daniel Arsham, all done in shades of bluish gray, white and black. They depict unpopulated outdoor scenes set among dense vegetation, each centered on an austere, linear, angular architectural object or structure (the best one was titles The Return #5). They appeared photographic at a distance but increasingly less so as one approached. There was a surrealist element tempered by restraint, with a still, dream-like quality that I found intriguing.

In general, however, there is no way to make a convincing case for having a show like this run for half a year. Far better shows at far better museums normally stay up only half that long. MAM has repeatedly done this sort of thing with shows of indifferent quality, and it speaks very poorly (at least to me) of the museum's capacity and/or drive. We're talking about a publicly funded institution now sitting on at least $100 million of public bond issue money, and the public absolutely deserves a better return on its investment. Of course, MAM simply didn't deserve such largesse, but alas, the deed is done.

I will say that my visit had an unexpected bonus. The MAM Video gallery just off the MiT space was playing an unrelated short piece by Miguel Angel de los Rios (from Argentina). It's a deceptively simple yet very well realized and curiously affecting visualization of a love story, with two spinning tops symbolizing the lovers. It is set to a recording of the famous soprano aria from Catalani's La Wally (which is the main reason that opera and its composer have not sunk into oblivion). The lovers in the story, by the way, die tragically (dying tragically in opera, of course, is like spitting in baseball). The aria is achingly beautiful and hypnotically sung by Maria Callas (I'm not one of those vaguely disturbing Callas groupies for whom she could do no wrong, but she's in terrific form here). The way the two tops interact leading up to and including the death scene is remarkably effective. I must have gone in and out of that room 5 times to see and hear the piece again. MiT could have done without this kind of competition.


Marc Country

May 1, 2006, 12:46 PM

Jack, I suspect that, as ACWW, you won't really be needing a 'Royal Media Liaison' after all... You do such a fine job of expressing yourself.
(and your praise of a work of video art will likely leave your blogworld detractors speechless...)



May 1, 2006, 12:47 PM

Thanks for the review, Jack.

It's too bad you are not writing for, say, the Herald, so these people would have to worry about what you are saying.



May 1, 2006, 12:48 PM

Marc, this is getting really weird!


Marc Country

May 1, 2006, 12:53 PM

I'm just positioning myself to take over for you some day, oldpro, Dread-Pirate-Roberts style...



May 1, 2006, 12:57 PM

Actually, you are already doing pretty well at just that. I have often said to myself, "Great, Marc answered it, now I don't have to"

Of course that won't work when we are both responding simutaneously.



May 1, 2006, 1:42 PM

Marc, of course I have to have a Royal Media Liaison. What kind of two-bit art czar would I look like without one? Actually, I'm thinking about having the RML for dealing with the more reputable media outfits, and a Lesser Media Liaison for the likes of the Miami Herald. Anything lower would be handled by whatever servant was handy.



May 1, 2006, 5:09 PM

OT but curious. I ran across this initially on

A bunch of drawings by Stephen Wiltshire a (now) 32 year autistic savant. In the link, click on the Financial District thumbnail for the bigger image. These are not from photographs, but drawn from memory after a flyover. He's currently working on a 15 foot panoramic drawing of an aireal view of Rome. Strange but true.



May 1, 2006, 8:54 PM

I ordered the Dissanayake book immediately after reading Friday's post. It's the most interesting stuff I've read about the nature of art in a long time. It's difficult to comment on because it covers so much ground. The ideas are important because they offer insight into why we do what we do which is a determining factor in what we produce and how we define it.



May 3, 2006, 10:23 AM

I'm puzzled by the little response to the Dissanayake post . I was expecting a flood of responses similar in number to those of 'Living the artist's life". Really interesting stuff.



May 3, 2006, 10:44 AM

I have never been able to finish an Ellen Dissanayake book because they are way too long and she writes like a good two shoes academic.

I do respect that her opinions are sometimes off the well beaten trail of the official art system. If she would write from her gut and never use a footnote and never label her points 1,2,3 ... I might find myself able to finish one of her books. A ruthless copy editor would help too.



May 3, 2006, 10:45 AM

Make that "goody two shoes academic".



May 3, 2006, 12:39 PM

Noah & catfish: We used her "homo aestheticus" in our Friday crit class a few years ago. I have iinitiated a correspondence with her. I have very clear, concise ideas about "what art is" which really need to be articulated within a scientific framework. I need to collaborate with someone who knows that end of it and can get published. So far she is skeptical about my approach, or perhaps she thinks it is not a good fit with hers. It may be too "interdisciplinary" (like everything in academia, what is mindlessly promoted is often not acceptable in the end). We'll see.



May 3, 2006, 12:42 PM

BTW Noah, don;t expect any kind of "flood of responses" from the art crowd when you run across something that is actually intellectually stimulating, and, heaven forbid, scientific in nature.



May 3, 2006, 11:59 PM

Oldpro - I'm very interested in what might result should you collaborate with Dissanayake. I'll watch for it.



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