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The I Should Be Packing Roundup

Post #784 • May 5, 2006, 9:50 AM • 74 Comments

Man Absconds with Milton Avery Masterpieces, Averys Appear in Alachua, Man Apprehended. (AJ)

Greedheads who split up the recently discovered Blake volume are rewarded with lackluster auction prices.

It's better because it's better. (Ubernostrom)

On Reddit: Harrison Lake sand castles (I love you crazy Canadians!), bubble wrap, replaced by computer graphics, NASA animation of star dying, spherical perspective.




May 5, 2006, 10:08 AM

Franklin I think the "better" also relates to something that you either posted or have given me about the three stages of creativity. This Brodie character is skipping the first two stages like many in art schools seem to want to do. Craft is important. Even if you are a Brodie kinda guy. Thanks for that post



May 5, 2006, 10:14 AM

This, maybe?



May 5, 2006, 10:24 AM

Or this.



May 5, 2006, 11:05 AM

It was Chinese. The first stage is when you know nothing, but are struggling to know, the second is the payoff of the struggle and you are pretty good, which was the dangerous "look what I can do" stage. It is the feel good stage because of the accalades and then the third which was about doing what you did in the first stage with the experience of the second. Now that I remember more, I believe it was about the Chinese brush writing. But it was also good to revisit these too. Thank you



May 5, 2006, 11:20 AM

Found it.



May 5, 2006, 12:55 PM

Yes, it looks like the Blakes will wind up bringing in only a little more than what was originally paid for them, so the scheme to make big bucks by selling them separately is pretty much a bust. Hard to believe the British government couldn't find a way to raise the money, or that the Tate people couldn't talk rich British collectors into financing the purchase, as opposed to spending an equivalent amount on the latest, uh, novelty items from Hirst, the Chapman brothers and Gilbert & George.



May 5, 2006, 3:24 PM

Re "it's better because it's better", here is an a conversation between a painter, Tim Lefens, and Clem Greenberg, taken from Terry Fenton' s Greenberg page (

Tim: You say some of these are good. Does that mean they're not great?

Clem: When they're good, that's good enough.

Tim: When are they good?

Clem: When they work.

Tim: How do you know when they work?

Clem: You just do.



May 5, 2006, 4:47 PM

No offense to the Clemmies, but no wonder so many artists were drunkards and melancholics!

That's just about one of the most intolerable, insufferably boring conversations I've ever read.

Trust me.

I have Good Social Skills.



May 5, 2006, 6:10 PM

For a fix of insufferable and boring, I go see what Locust thinks it's doing these days: "Drawing lessons from the example of folks like Jack Smith and Paul Thek, O’Brien marries the unwanted with the mystical, the cheap with the sublime, in gestures that refuse to acknowledge the difference between original and reproduction, authentic and appropriated, invented and stolen." Yep! All set for the rest of the week.

The only diff between that and CSdJ is degree.



May 5, 2006, 8:06 PM

Erm. ?

Are you trying to wound me by taking jabs at someone else's press release? Was that a dig at me? Like, oooo, link to my site and proclaim boredom because of LP? Pfft. Compare some other writer to CSdJ and think I'll faint from the shock?

I mean, it's not worth parrying.

You know, sometimes a "closed universe with its own symbolic structures" can be so Clemmy--D'oh! I meant COZY.

Don't you have to pack? (Say! There's one way to clear a roomful of junk!)



May 5, 2006, 8:23 PM

KH: Thanks for the comment. You have excused yourself from the list of those who I might pay attention to. You very well may have social skills. Whether you have eyes is a very different question.



May 5, 2006, 11:11 PM

Catfish, I am under the impression that KH's blog is not about the value of her opinion or whether she has a "good" eye for "good" art, but is more of a tireless resource of what is going on. She is consistent with her coverage and seems to have certain objectives that the site fulfills. Whether or not you feel her commentary here meets your standards is relatively unimportant. Regrettably, your dismissive tone is not an act of putting someone in their place, but a rather sad and self-revealing statement.



May 5, 2006, 11:14 PM

He was saying, in effect, that you cannot say why good art is good, KH

I wouldn't expect you to be sympathetic to that, but i am surprised it set you off so.



May 5, 2006, 11:17 PM

Catfish is just as entitled to his opinion, and to say it, as you are, Mek, or KH is, or I am, whether ot not it is "important".



May 6, 2006, 12:27 AM

Roundup followup: I didn't click the Apprehended or lackluster... links - just don't care to read again and some more about all the jerks out there.

I enjoyed reading The Real Thing excerpt, and thought that all three of the artblog back-library links were relevant, and good reads I hadn't read before too. The archived Greenberg anecdote is no less relevant, and I appreciate the reminder that making art that works is good enough. (But how can one ever know whether one has good social skills?)

The sand castle events are becoming a crazy phenomenon. I envy that these guys are able to claim status as professional sculptors and, like musicians, travel to paid sand and ice sculpture gigs all over the world. I don't think of them as sculptors though, their work is often so lame - they're statuists.

I played with the bubble wrap for a while, in manic mode.

The dying star was exciting to imagine, but that anticipation was let down by replacing it with contrived computer graphics.

And, I spent a while studying the effects of spherical perspective. I can't say I understand it any better, but am glad to discover that I'm not the only one who sees like a fish.



May 6, 2006, 1:05 AM

It has been my experience that catfish do always go after the stinkingst, most unsubtle bait. I recall using foul balls called blood bait to catch endless catfish from stagnant tanks (ponds) in Texas when I was a gangly lassie. It's not very challnging, hooking catfish. It's certainly not even half as hard as TROLLING.

[Translation: come on! I can't believe you fell for that--it's like shooting fish in a barrel around here! What I wrote was very obvious bait. But thanks for the defense anyway, mek!]



May 6, 2006, 1:12 AM

Okay. I wasn't really trolling. It was more like farce.

I couldn't resist the fish tale.


that guy

May 6, 2006, 3:17 AM

well kh, some of your writing is pretty stinky, no wonder you always become fodder around here. Enjoy being catfish's latest treat. In order to gear this post more to the writing and not the writer could you explain this quote that wafts for miles : "No offense to the Clemmies, but no wonder so many artists were drunkards and melancholics! " Just tidy up the general premiss and draw logical conclusions, you can tone down those insufferably boring social skills.



May 6, 2006, 8:06 AM

You are right MEK, I dismissed the views of KH. Talk about falling for bait.



May 6, 2006, 8:14 AM

KH: funny how you suppose yours is the only bait around here. Not the most perceptive view of the etherscape, wouldn't you say?



May 6, 2006, 8:57 AM




May 6, 2006, 9:24 AM

What does artblog and fish metaphors have to do with each other? Everything! Swimming upstream is either a noble cause or futile effort. And using the wrong bait can be...well...intolerable...insufferably boring. Afterall, one can always swim with another school in another pond. Senseless challenge or blind tedium. Depends on your idea of fun.


BoB Ross

May 6, 2006, 9:34 AM

trite fishing in america.


proddy hun

May 6, 2006, 9:35 AM

You're such a "man", that guy...



May 6, 2006, 9:49 AM

In complete sincerity, I'm quite immune to the venom around here. Granted, I used to be very sensitive to it, but no more.

That Guy, you could "attack the writer" at me a thousand ways (and frankly I wouldn't be surprised if you were already doing so off-blog), and I would be untroubled. I might even laugh.

You're asking for logical premises for this: "No offense to the Clemmies, but no wonder so many artists were drunkards and melancholics!"?


HUH. I'll try and help you out. Logical or not, here's the premise of that statement:

If I were trapped in a conversation with Clement Greenberg like the one described above, the circular tediousness of it would both drive me to drink and tempt me to start devising ways to kill myself. I'd chew my foot off to get out of that room.

And Catfish, I usually find what you write to be interesting and considered, so I apologize if I made you feel slighted. Nothing I wrote contained any hint of malice toward you. I did enjoy your riposte concerning me taking some of your own stinky bait, even if it was a wit-of-the-staircase moment!

The question of me having eyes was rather droll.

Now, Tom Stoppard. He's a fine playwright!



May 6, 2006, 9:50 AM

I am amused. Once again those who embrace the views of the overwhelming majority demonstrate how they cannot tolerate even one small pocket of dessension. Reminds me of the roaring 90s in the stock market. Bears were laughed at. It proved to be expensive laughter.



May 6, 2006, 9:57 AM

Make that "Bears were laughed at by everybody else."



May 6, 2006, 9:57 AM

In light of your comment #25, KH, I sincerely wish I could arrange a long meeting between you and Clement Greenberg.



May 6, 2006, 9:59 AM

Yes indeed oldpro, I've never seen anyone attempt to chew their foot off.



May 6, 2006, 10:35 AM

I suspect that there may be plenty of opportunities over the next three years for a couple of you to try to get me to chew my foot off; success doesn't seem promising, though---It might be difficult to channel sufficient Cleghminess.

But I'm touched to find that some care enough to see me maimed and/or dead. Only a short while ago it was the fashion to dismiss and discredit me.



May 6, 2006, 10:43 AM

KH, I especially enjoyed the metaphor of you chewing off your foot when all you needed to do was walk out of the room. On occassion, people did walk away from Clem, or did you know that?



May 6, 2006, 10:51 AM

Hence part of the absurdity of demanding a logical premise of the statement.



May 6, 2006, 11:05 AM

Additionally, I never laugh at bears. I'm an ardent believer in animal rights.



May 6, 2006, 11:49 AM

I leave the house for a couple of hours...

KH, your deliberate attempts at humor often come off as stilted and awkward, and are bound to be misunderstood in this context. It's a shame, because when you don't try so hard, you can be a riot. The Internet is a poor conduit for tone in the first place. You'd do better with more straightforwardness and less overstatement. One of the most intolerable, insufferably boring conversations you've ever read? Chewing off your foot? Wha?

Mek, upon reflection, I don't think you've ever pusuaded me of a single thing.

Bob, I'm totally stealing that line.

Catfish, as you were noting recently, the herd has a 100 year history of getting art wrong. I think that might have been inevitable once art for art's sake became a viable pursuit. True purposelessness is a radical and threatening concept, albeit a liberating one - Lao Tzu embraced it, as did Jesus (consider the lilies), and a contemporary Zen teacher wrote a beautiful essay about washing the dishes just to wash the dishes, rather than washing them to get them clean. The quoted Greenberg snippet reminds me of Zen dialogues I've read - direct, simple, unprovable, and correct. It makes perfect sense if you've had the experience and no sense whatsoever if you haven't. I think that relatively few are meant to understand. Maybe the world is destined to be like that.



May 6, 2006, 11:53 AM

Actually, I take it back, Mek, There have been a couple of times.

By the way, if anybody wants a free futon and frame in good condition, and can come pick it up, e-mail me.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled packing.



May 6, 2006, 12:17 PM

You're right Franklin, true purposeless is a radical conecpt. It leads to both liberation and meandering, which are not the same thing. Many are called, few are chosen.



May 6, 2006, 12:50 PM

Thanks, Franklin. "Zen and correct" is about all I wanted to put across.



May 6, 2006, 2:18 PM

Yes, some of my humor is stilted and awkward.
I find the aesthetic of the stilted and awkward to be tremendously funny.



May 6, 2006, 2:49 PM

You were trying to be funny?



May 6, 2006, 3:00 PM

Franklin: "pusuaded"? I have never had any intention of changing your mind any which way, nor do I care to. One thing we do have in commom is what we are leave behind when moving. In my pile was also
a fouton & picture frame, as well as a banjo, a peacoat, and a beautifully patinaed sink drainpipe. The only thing i miss is the drainpipe.


Marc Country

May 6, 2006, 3:13 PM

Re .34:
Great Franklin... now, in addition to being called "Clemmies", will we have to endure being condescendingly referred to as "Lao-Tzuzis" and "Jesussies" too?...

Re .22:
What does artblog and fish metaphors have to do with each other?
What does they indeed?
It's clear this here kettle o' fish is stocked with pirhana, and any "silly cow" (fine playwright, that Tom Stoppard) with a .22 is welcome to wade in the water, and fire-off a few pot-shots.
The smart money's on the fish.

Like catfish and oldpro, I think Franklin's comment #34 said it all.
(Like KH and mek, I couldn't resist the fish tale.)

p.s. In a written dialogue, it's ALL staircase-wit. Unlike a face-to-face discussion or debate, here, we all have the luxury of time to read, consider, and then respond, continuing to consider as we type.

As far as I'm aware, there aren't any prizes for being able to type faster than you can think.



May 6, 2006, 3:42 PM

God, I wish I could type faster than I can think!

Then, when I read it, it would all be new. I could do the next comment telling myself I am full of shit, or wonderful, or whatever.

Why are people making sand castles in Canada, of all places, what are they using to stick them together, and how come most of them are not castles but clunky deco sculpture?



May 6, 2006, 3:50 PM

Well, I find all the personal attacks as anti-intellectual and not very productive (even makes me uncomfortable!). Why not just search for the facts, develop a logical argument (a conclusion) that can be critiqued and questioned on its merits. Then one can go from there, learn more and perhaps create. I'm not too familiar with this blog - but, I am curious, is this kind of approach (perhaps with modification of emphasis) ever taken?



May 6, 2006, 4:15 PM

Logic, reason and good behavior fade in and out here, Keith. You can go back by clicking "posts" above and find some places where the discussion has been pretty good and places where it has been putrid. It's a free-for-all. I don't think we can expect much else from an art crowd.



May 6, 2006, 5:37 PM

Better a constructive 'personal attack' than sentimental pandering.



May 6, 2006, 5:51 PM

msquoted, oh my goodness! Don't take it personally!



May 6, 2006, 5:54 PM

I promise to never take it personally. Thank you for the tip.


Marc Country

May 6, 2006, 6:08 PM

Whoa Keith, looks like you took msquoted's remark about "sentimental pandering" a little personally yourself, eh!



May 6, 2006, 6:12 PM

Keith, OP is right, and it sometimes alternates so quickly between insight and aggro that I don't do much moderating apart from some guidelines, which folks have not done much to uphold today. Mommy doesn't care who started it.



May 6, 2006, 6:18 PM

Marc Country, it had not occured to me. But thank you!


Marc Country

May 6, 2006, 6:26 PM

Re .42: come most of them are not castles but clunky deco sculpture?

You're just being mislead by Franklin's link, oldpro... these Artists would no doubt be offended to hear their work dismissed as 'sand castles'... these are Sand Sculptures!, and as such, are on par with most other mainstream sculpture... which is, of course, not necessarily a good thing..


Marc Country

May 6, 2006, 6:28 PM

My pleasure, Keith. I didn't want anyone to miss the irony of your comment.



May 6, 2006, 6:58 PM

Don' t forget the ice sculptures from this winter year Marc!


Marc Country

May 6, 2006, 7:46 PM

I suppose there is a real point to be seen in KH's initial 'joke' comment...
It brings to mind something Karen Wilkin said at the recent lecture on Caro in Edmonton.
Wilkin made the observation that, although Caro's sculptures certainly are anything but tedious to look at and experience, it is nevertheless tedious to describe them, to talk about what they are 'about' (not necessarily intolerably or insufferably so, mind you, but tedious nonetheless).
Like Clem's conversation quoted here, the words themselves can seem dull, boring, tedious... but the experience, what they refer to, is anything but. Words fall short.



May 6, 2006, 8:03 PM

Did anyone see the Larry Zox show in NY
at the Stephen Haller Gallery
I think it was a retrospective?

It surprised to see a full page ad in Art Forum Magazine last month for the show

He is a name that you don't really see to much anymore

I think he was one of Clement Greenbergs favorite in the 60s



May 6, 2006, 8:09 PM

"I think he was one of Clement Greenbergs favorite in the 60s"

Not a favorite, exactly.



May 7, 2006, 12:24 AM

Hey Franklin I don't really know a way to convey how much you are and will be appreciated for setting a good example for many of us. Thank you and very good wishes, sincerely.



May 7, 2006, 12:49 AM

Not sand sculptures! Sand statuary.

But I don't mind them taking the name Canadian.



May 7, 2006, 11:57 AM

The "replaced by computer graphics" photo was taken in Toronto, by the way.


Marc Country

May 7, 2006, 4:17 PM

At the risk of "channeling sufficient Clemminess" to inspire KH to take her own life (not that I wish this to happen, but I am an ardent believer in a woman's right to choose), her suicidal hyperbole reminded me of another dialogue Clem had, a public 'debate' with the eminently confused Thierry de Duve, at the University of Ottawa, March 30, 1987.

This excerpt starts with a question posed by an unnamed audience member; Greenberg and de Duve take it from there:

Q: In the interest of maybe getting an interesting discussion going on Duchamp, I'd like your views on his readymades, particularly. I understand our new gallery will have a Duchamp room with readymades which will not have been made by Duchamp. I would like your comments on how this to you is art. Why is it art? I mean a gallery, the National Gallery of Canada will be showing pieces that Duchamp will never have seen, they're not his real pieces. How does aesthetics come into this?

CG: Well, number one, anything can be experienced aesthetically, and we can't define art, we can't say what is absolutely not art and what is art. In Duchamp's case, those readymades were demonstrations, you know, they were making a point. They weren't made to be relished in themselves, though I happen to think the bottle-rack isn't bad, by accident, and the urinal, as I've told Professor de Duve, would be much better a sculpture if it were much bigger. (Laughter.) But the fact that these Duchamps are duplicates isn't so bad, because they're just demonstrations. Duchamp himself didn't invest much in their quality as art. He was demonstrating, he was also being an enfant terrible.

TdD: Would you care to tell us what the readymades demonstrate, and what the point was that Duchamp was making, or purportedly making?

CG: Without realizing it - because I think his intentions were more those of an enfant terrible than a theoretician - he demonstrated that anything can be art.

TdD: Did that need a demonstration?

CG: Apparently it did because it took a long while before it sunk in. (Laughter.) Otherwise it wasn't common knowledge that anything could be art.

TdD: And since when is it the case that anything can be art?

CG: Well, it happened to be true.

TdD: Yeah, but since when?

CG: Since when has it been recognized, that's the question.

TdD: Oh, you mean it has always been true? In the whole history of art?

CG: In principle, yes. But it hadn't been recognized, now it's recognized. Works of art depend on how, in the long run - in the show-down, not the long-run - how they're treated. Now these works, the bicycle-wheel, the bottle-rack, the urinal are treated as works of art, and now it's recognized that they can be art. Not good art necessarily. (Laughter.)

TdD: Of course not. It doesn't take much of an implication or an inference to draw from there that if anything can be art then anybody can be an artist. Especially since anything that can be experienced aesthetically can also be experienced artistically.

CG: No, no, no, no... Anything can be experienced aesthetically, you can experience a landscape aesthetically, it doesn't convert the landscape into art.

TdD: but why would it do the trick to a urinal?

CG: The recognition is forthcoming because the object can be put in the museum, it can be shown in a gallery. And that's all it amounts to.

TdD: How does it get in the gallery in the first place?

CG: The status of art is not...

TdD: I mean, a gallery is hardly the natural place for a urinal, I believe. (Laughter.)

CG: That's part of the enfant-terriblism.

TdD: Sure.

CG: Yeah, that's part of the kick.

TdD: But that doesn't explain how it got there.

CG: That explains how it got there. That's the point of how, why, Duchamp offered it as a work of art. And the fact that people accept it that way, it's this demonstration, it's a sample of the demonstration. Now all you need...

TdD: Let me tell you something: if someone had demonstrated to me that anything can be art, even though not everything is art, of course, then I would hang myself.

CG: Oh, you'd take it that seriously? (Laughter, applause.)

TdD: Yeah. (Laughing.)

CG: Well! That's overrating art.

TdD: And you know why I don't hang myself? Because I think nothing has been demonstrated at all. And certainly not that.

CG: Okay, all right.

TdD: But if I were you, I would hang myself. Because if someone had come to a demonstration of such a nature, that certainly would wash away the necessity of aesthetic judgement altogether.

CG: Mm, no, no, no, no, it doesn't follow at all. It's not good art, that's the point, it's not good art - though the bottle-rack has its merits, I must say. It's there in the National Gallery but... Anything can be art, but good art, that's the issue. The status of art is not automatically honorable, honorific.

TdD: Of course.




May 7, 2006, 4:39 PM

Mr de Duve hung himself quite nicely with his penultimate statement above. He ends up looking like he never understood what the discussion was about.



May 7, 2006, 5:18 PM

Oh boy, here we go again.

Clem's understanding of that portion of art history far surpasses that of all the art historians I've ever talked to about it.

What is so interesting about the ready-mades is how ammenable to discussion they are. In direct proportion, actually, to how uninteresting they are to look at.


Marc Country

May 7, 2006, 5:30 PM

Makes you wonder if there isn't some natural law at work there... an inverse relationship between artistic quality and tangental verbiage...



May 7, 2006, 5:54 PM

Marc, exactly 40 years ago, these words could be found on the pages of ARTFORUM magazine:

"... the 'meaning' of (this kind of) work exists outside of the work itself. It is a part of their nature to act as triggers for thought and emotion pre-existing in the viewer and conditioned by the viewer’s knowledge of the style in its several forms, as opposed to the more traditional concept of a work of art as a source of beauty, noble thought, or whatever. It may be fair to say that these styles have been nourished by the ubiquitous question: “but what does it mean?” These styles are made to be talked about. That is one good reason for their popularity."


Marc Country

May 7, 2006, 6:19 PM

"...the ubiquitous question: but what does it mean?" ain't exactly ubiquitous to everyone... where I come from, a stupid question like that is liable to get you yelled at by a cartoon painting.

"These styles are made to be talked about." certainly rings true though... they weren't made to be looked at, that much is clear.

One might be tempted to dismiss or discredit the writer of this, but it's hardly necessary... such writing discredits itself.


Marc Country

May 7, 2006, 6:24 PM

Mr de Duve hung himself quite nicely with his penultimate statement above. He ends up looking like he never understood what the discussion was about.

The rest of de Duve's book (from which this excerpt was taken) confirms that impression, OP.



May 7, 2006, 8:20 PM

Marc, if you read the quote in #64 carefully you may see that the writer was characterizing pop and conceptual work quite accurately.


Bunny Smedley

May 8, 2006, 10:34 AM

Sorry to interrupt a perfectly good fight, but shouldn't we get back to the real subject here - that Milton Avery story?

Honestly, how many different shades of snobbery does the NYT need to exhibit in one tiny allegedly narrative article?

Is it really that much better to have your proto-AbEx pictures borrowed by someone who isn't tall, doesn't live in south Florida, doesn't have multiple wives and sweethearts, and doesn't live near a psychic?


I'm off to listen to my many, many Woodie Guthrie recordings now (we've got 'Lindbergh' on now, although my grandpa was his friend, and I'm proud of that, too) but I do think if your state is awash with lovely Milton Averys, that really ought to take priority over lesser matters. If only we in Central London were so blessed.


Marc Country

May 8, 2006, 11:50 AM

Cheers, Oldpro, my mistake entirely, which I realized after I had posted it, but couldn't correct my error until now (and was certainly feeling sheepish about)... thanks for your remedial comment, it was deserved.

I was making the mistake of reading the quote out of context, as praise, a celebration of such 'styles'... It was wrong of me to suggest the 'writing' was poor, as I do recognize it is, as you say, accurate.

I suppose even I discredit myself on occassion... Me and Thierry are gonna go meet for drinks...




May 8, 2006, 11:55 AM

So, Bunny, you have discovered that the NY Times is snobby? How about insufferably righteous and ferociously middlebrow? They know their audience!

I still have my 10" Folkways Guthrie LP with the nubbly blue album cover.


Marc Country

May 8, 2006, 11:55 AM

(now, I wonder how long it will take for ahab to come on here to tell me, Shakespeare style, my "reproof is something too round"...)



May 8, 2006, 11:57 AM

I know the feeling, Marc. You see the name ARTFORUM and the fangs come out.



May 8, 2006, 12:18 PM

And I should be angry with you, if the time were convenient...



May 8, 2006, 12:22 PM

(that should have been in quotes, of course. I can't write like old Will)



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