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Post #825 • July 7, 2006, 9:47 AM • 184 Comments

Studiosavant kicks off its training wheels and installs on its own domain. Good work, my redoubtable Canadian sculptor friends. Blogspot addresses are for n00bz.

No Nimrud gold for you.

The eminently fair-minded Terry Teachout, himself a biographer of Balanchine, Mencken, and Louis Armstrong, reviews Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg by Alice Goldfarb Marquis. I don't know why people don't care to observe that if the man were such an ogre as is reputed, his numerous friends would not have stood by him so devotedly. I'm hearing mixed reviews of the Marquis book, although no one has said that it's worse than the Rubenfeld biography, which qualified people generally agree is a hatchet job. By the way, Teachout is a huge Fairfield Porter fan. So am I, but to assert that "Porter was himself a critic, and as fine a one as Greenberg" - come on now. (AJ)

"A Washington, D.C., exhibit and a new book focus on the truly early work of artists like Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee and Winslow Homer: They look at the drawings and paintings these artists created when they were children." (Digg)

How to do a pixel head. (DF)

"It was painting, incidentally, that cured me of copying the wrong things. Halfway through grad school I decided I wanted to try being a painter, and the art world was so manifestly corrupt that it snapped the leash of credulity. These people made philosophy professors seem as scrupulous as mathematicians. It was so clearly a choice of doing good work xor being an insider that I was forced to see the distinction." Paul Graham, author of Hackers & Painters. Graham has also written about taste. (Reddit)

"hi my name is sam, i draw pictures, from your titles. send me a title, or any thing else you want to talk to me about to..." Sam Brown at Exploding Dog.

Chang W. Lee photographs Tai Ji Teahouse in Hangzhou.

Department of Skills: AirTap by Erik Mongrain. Also, Tim Bradley, exhibition shooter. (Reddit)



Bunny Smedley

July 7, 2006, 10:33 AM

Okay, Franklin, I'll take the dare: the Marquis biography is worse than the Rubenfeld one.

Why? Three reasons, at the very least.

First, the Rubenfeld book, whilst clearly a hatchet-job, at least contained a lot of research, a lot of actual biographical material. Sure, most of this was gossip, slander, a gleeful exercise in speaking ill of the recently dead. But there were some facts, too, and some work had clearly gone into it. Whereas I am at a loss to see what Marquis has brought to the party, other than references (usually grossly decontextualised) to the 'Harold letters', which are now in print anyway. This is a lazy book. Also, stripped down as they are (the Marquis book is much shorter than the Rubenfeld one) some of the stories just don't make sense. For instance, I challenge anyone, on the basis of the Marquis book alone, to come up with any reason why Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg were, in any sense, opposed to one another. (Probably, given the tone of the book, it was just pure pointless spite on Greenberg's part?)

Secondly, while the Rubenfeld biography had a certain spiteful vitality, the prose of the Marquis book is almost inexpressibly dull. This matters. Marquis, like Rubenfeld, seems to think that the main thing we want to know about Greenberg is whether was a nice person. Whereas many of us, especially those who never knew him, actually care about him because we've read his prose and been moved in some way by it. So, really, if you have a tin ear, you really ought to stay away from writing biographies of important writers.

Finally, and most importantly, because the Rubenfeld book did tend to come across so blatantly as a hatchet job, it now demarcates one end of the spectrum of Greenberg biography. (Well, there's probably filthier stuff out there if you are prepared to look, but that does't alter the general point I am trying to make.) Hence, the Marquis book, because on the surface it isn't so extreme, can position itself as thoughtful, well-balanced and fair. But it is none of these things. It's another hatchet job, just a more respectable-looking one. And it's all the more dangerous for its apparent respectability.

Doubtless others will have plenty to say about this, and I'm conscious that what I've written above is a bit of a rush job. Still - well, whether one agrees with him or not - whether one likes him or not - it's surely hard to deny that such a significant and fascinating figure really does deserve a proper intellectual biography one of these days.



July 7, 2006, 10:58 AM

"Rush job" or not, Bunny is right on target. I hope she does one of her perambulatory, poke-from-every-angle jobs on the book. The mere anticipation of such a thing brings a smile to my face

Also, Marquis hasn't a clue as to what art is all about or how Greenberg thought about it, and goes to great lengths to spin every little piece of information so as to disparage the man. The assumption that Greenberg was a monster is so well established by now that even the "eminently fair-minded Terry Teachout" proceeds from that asumption, as will most of those who did not know him.

Who is this Paul Graham? Good grief! I felt like I wrote that essay myself!



July 7, 2006, 11:11 AM

Adding to the pen.
There is a rather interesting interview with Leo Steinberg in this months Brooklyn Rail



July 7, 2006, 11:38 AM

Wow was I ever wrong about the Edmonton sculptors - They really have their S**T together. The heat down here has been baking my brains.



July 7, 2006, 11:44 AM

Re#3: OP

I agree. Paul Graham essay on taste is very ionteresting.



July 7, 2006, 11:51 AM

On the subject of ogres: there are always people willing to be and remain loyal to one. It's part of the special ogrish talents. Types like this are everywhere, from the major [ahem!] power positions in government to your neighbor's house. They each have their own cadre of pallies and loyal defenders.

Humans have never particularly demonstrated an actual aversion to ogres and slanderous fairytales about them are some of our best entertainment.



July 7, 2006, 12:04 PM

And there are always people who believe the bullshit that is fed to them


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 12:12 PM

Yes Franklin, our cups runneth over, so we've busted loose from our training bra ('cuz training bras are for boobz)... Now, if only someone other than me would comment on a post.

The Greenberg=Porter equation doesn't add up, your right. Does anybody think of Fairfield as, even possibly, the greatest critic of the 20th c.? Oh, and "Biographer" is usually spelled with two R's...

After discussing the oft quoted 'disabused Marxist" line, the Teachout piece goes on about the "now-prevalent notion that the postwar popularity of Abstract Expressionism, a quintessentially “American” art, was directly related to the simultaneous emergence of cold-war anti-Communism."
One thing I wonder: Why does nobody seem to be able to connect the "emergence of cold-war anti-Communism" to Greenberg 'disabusing' himself of Marxism? It seems obvious to me that in America during mid century and continuing through the cold war, that 'commies' were a much maligned group, interchangeable with 'socialists', and if you didn't want to get literally 'abused' by some beef-eating patriot, you'd best literarily 'disabuse' yourself of such pinko notions. But, maybe it takes someone in a socialist country like Canada to see this?

I've only read half of the Teachout piece though: The direction it was headed, and Bunny's comment, may have disabused me from reading the rest.

KH, I've never met an ogre. I've never met Greenberg, for that matter. I wasn't even that interested in art until about the mid-nineties, and by that time Clem had already died, I suppose. I have read most of his writing though, and must, from a position unbiased by any personal loyalties based on friendship or the like, conclude that he is likely the greatest art critic, quite possibly, of all time. It would be nice to read something about Greenberg that focused on this aspect of his career (ie. the only important aspect), instead of reading 'monsterous' characterizations, which have nothing to do with art.

Jordan, your comment is encouraging. Find some shade, young man....



July 7, 2006, 12:29 PM

Bunny keeps writing things that I want to send her presents for.

Teachout is responsible for this blog's mention in the Wall Street Journal, so I'm enormously fond of the guy, although I have to confess he got taken into the myth regarding Greenberg the person in this case. He got this much right, though: "It was his commitment to experience—to the fruits of looking—that made Greenberg a great working critic." Nicely done.

The heat down here has been baking my brains. It happens, my friend. Cold, albeit unpleasant, sharpens one, in my experience.

I don't know if OP's " Who is this Paul Graham?" was rhetorical, but here's a bio.

OP #7: that is the truth.

George - thanks for the Steinberg link. My gag reflex at reading about the CAA took over about halfway through, though.

Marc, I think that Greenberg, at the end of the day, wasn't all that political. Practical people often aren't - it takes an idealist in pursuit of a theory about how things ought to be, instead of how they are, to pursue politics. I don't think Greenberg's mind worked that way.



July 7, 2006, 1:10 PM

So far I like this guy Paul Graham:

From Copy What You Like

"How do you avoid copying the wrong things? Copy only what you genuinely like. That would have saved me in all three cases. I didn't enjoy the short stories we had to read in English classes; I didn't learn anything from philosophy papers; I didn't use expert systems myself. I believed these things were good because they were admired."



July 7, 2006, 1:26 PM

Re #9, Franklin:

Geez, that's rather closed minded, the only stuff about the CAA is in the first paragraph. The anecdotes which follow are very interesting.



July 7, 2006, 1:33 PM

Sorry, George, I hit this - "A preceding CAA conference had included a session on Scatology, and it had been decided to publish the papers" - and I decided to go see what's on Reddit. I'll try again later.



July 7, 2006, 1:34 PM

The comment was framed rhetorically, Franklin, but no, I did not know about him and was amazed to read some of his writing. There are things he says which are literally things I have said, a couple of times virtually word for word, and his general outlook is eerily similar. I have to read more and find out more. This is fascinating.

Marc, Clem's "disabusement", as far as i can tell, was because the Communist ideals did not pan out, and he took the path many others did of slowly realizing it. I never could detect any practical reasoning behind it. Obviously he couldn't care less whether anyone agreed with him.


Bunny Smedley

July 7, 2006, 2:38 PM

Franklin, the chance to start my morning with Beaux's Sita et Sarita (Jeune fille au chat is enough of a present - both beautiful and funny too, which isn't the case with art as often as one might like.

Just a quick thought re Greenberg's politics. Isn't it possible - and in a sense this fits both Franklin's and Oldpro's comments - that in the 1930s Trotskyite communism appeared to comprise a whole fascinating package of ideas, approaches and antipathies, so attractive that few thoughtful young people were able resist the odd hopeful fumble at the very least - whereas by the dawn of the Cold War, the Stalinist alternative was both less bearable in practical terms and a bit of an abnegation of what had made Trotskyism appealing in the first place?

In other words, could it not simply be that Greenberg was looking honestly - and that refulgent, sometimes surprising honesty is surely one of his greatest critical strengths - at what was on offer at the time, and revising aspects of his stance accordingly? Is that a bad thing?

I've got to say, though, pace Teachout's review, that I'm not all that sure Greenberg ever totally parted company with some features of that youthful Trotskyism. I do think bits and pieces remained in place long after the superstructure had been rejected. And actually, my own not really very Marxist politics notwithstanding, that seems to me entirely a Good Thing. Just to pick one of many examples, I agree with Greenberg that there are other things out there far more important than art - a belief which in his case, anyway, is at least plausibly part of a Marxist inheritance.

And that, finally, to touch on the point raised above by KH, is why I find it really hard to let this 'ogre' thing rest.

There's something a bit cheap about throwing personal slurs at someone you've never met, in vague pursuit of some art historical grievance. It's not very nice for his friends and family, but it also just isn't very morally appealing, full stop. Personally, I have no idea whether Greenberg was an ogre or not. From what I've read, he sounds a lot like most people I've ever known at all well, which is to say, pretty awful sometimes, pretty wonderful at other times - a bit of a mixed bag. So, nothing very special there. In any event, this matters little to most of us. What matter is what he thought and said and wrote. Teachout does, to his credit, largely shape his review around these issues; a failure to do so elsewhere speaks volumes not only about the moral qualities of Greenberg's detractors, but also about the weakness of their own intellectual positions.

(That was meant to be a short post, but something went wrong again ... oh dear.)


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 2:39 PM

Graham seems to be an example of what happens when someone intelligent, experienced in some other field of inquiry, like maths, science, philosophy, where intellectual integrity ACTUALLY counts, comes into the world of art, and says, "Whoa! What the hell have you guys been smoking in here? You call this an 'investigation'? You call that an 'experiment'? You call this string of gibberish 'theory'?"

Franklin, oldpro, I'm sure you're both right about CG's politics. I'm not trying to boil it down to one simple thing or another. I don't think his politics had anything to do with his eye, anyway. John O'Brian, in his lecture here, tried to pin Clem's praise of Pollock on his 'Marxist outlook', as if he was more interested in the paintings as some kind of commentary on socialism itself, instead of simply being arresting images. Needless to say, the audience was embarrased for him. I kept thinking to myself, of course Clem was a Marxist 'back in the day', as was basically every other Jewish intellectual of his time... times change, men become successful, lose their youthful idealism... it's an old story, but one which doesn't have much bearing on Clem the Critic. As Peter Hide helpfully pointed out to O'Brian in the Q&A, the artists led, and Clem followed, not the other way around.

I suppose biographies are supposed to be puerile gossip, though, summertime reading...



July 7, 2006, 2:42 PM

I like this line from Graham's essay on taste:

The only style worth having is the one you can't help.


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 2:46 PM

Nice comment you snuck in there before mine, Bunny.

Bunny on Ogres: I couldn't agree more... Anyone who's read the Harold Letters can see, Greenberg's too human to be a monster.



July 7, 2006, 2:57 PM

Just to be clear: I was only commenting on ogres, not about Greenberg. I don't really care whether or not he was an ogre. Franklin's remark about ogres would seem to suggest that ogres in general do not have loyal friends, and that's pretty obviously not a true measure of ogreness.

But, OP, your line about bullshit is accurate. I do trust, though, that you weren't tacitly implying that I was involved in bullshit consumption. Just as when I say that there are always people eager to feed others bullshit, you can be sure that I am not tacitly (or overtly) suggesting that you are among them.

Marc: I have met several ogres. Perhaps your province lacks pigeons as well as ogres! Very fortunate.


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 4:00 PM

Ok, I read all of the Teachout piece, and it's bunkum. I don't even know where to start.

"Unsure of his authority when it came to the art of the past, Greenberg specialized in modernism. He was, as Marquis says, an amateur, but one with an astonishingly good eye, as well as a “homemade aesthetic” (in his own later phrase) that he had cobbled together out of historical determinism and Hans Hofmann’s belief in the expressive power of abstract form. For Greenberg, the flattened-out cubism of Picasso and Georges Braque, and the abstraction that arose from it, was indeed the only way for artists to create what he would always refer to as “major” art. The impersonal forces of history, he believed, had brought the world of modern art to this point as surely as they were bringing about the collapse of capitalism and the emergence of a new socialist order."

That whole paragraph is a stinker, but to miss Croce and Kant as pregenitors of Greenbergs take on aesthetics is just plain ignorant. And I can't understand how Terry's head didn't explode when he quotes Greenberg's own words:

"To hold that one kind of art must invariably be superior or inferior to another kind means to judge before experiencing; and the whole history of art is there to demonstrate the futility of rules of preference laid down beforehand: the impossibility, that is, of anticipating the outcome of aesthetic experience."

... while nevertheless repeatedly characterizing him as having a (clearly contradictory) "belief that abstraction was the only possible route to the creation of major art..."

Wha? I think you need to re-read that quote, Ter'. Heck, go back and re-read them all, while you're at it... I think you missed a lot.

As OP might say, "If a student handed this in to me, it'd be covered with red pen when they got it back!"



July 7, 2006, 4:39 PM

Re: #6 Ogres.

I liked Terry Teachout's piece, it was a review of a book, which is an opinion primarily about the book. I didn't feel it was unfair towards Greenberg. For example…

In part because of the high-handed tone in which he wrote about art (and everything else), Greenberg’s theory of modernism has been widely misunderstood. "I said that abstract art was inevitable given the conditions of history," he later explained. "I should have said that abstract art as a major way of painting was inevitable, but that this didn’t exclude the representational."

Whatever, he's no longer with us. Now someone new must enter the fray and reevaluate his thinking as it applies to the current condition.



July 7, 2006, 5:22 PM

Bunny, please don't apologise for writing long comments I enjoy so much. Make them longer, not shorter.

KH, Please! We were talking about Greenberg being an ogre, so clearly you were referring implicitly to Greenberg when you mentioned ogres, and yes, of course I was implying that you were occupied with bullshit consumption, about Greenberg being an ogre, obviously, because right after I defended Greenberg re not being an ogre you got in there and said there will always be those who are "pallies" with ogres and make excuses for them, or whatever it was you said. How disingenuous can we get here? And no, nowhere did you were suggest that I fed anyone bullshit; that was not even remotely part of the sense of the exchange. Good grief!

Marc, thank you for doing the research and taking the time to lay out that contradiction in the Teachout article. Excellent. It is a true zinger, completely to the point and a perfect example of the sloppy thinking that accompanies all the Greenberg-bashing. It is also all the more pointed because it comes in a piece that is taken as fair-minded and balanced. I noticed it too and I should have commented on it but i didn't because I am so lazy.

George, unfortunately in the art business anyone who writes clearly and accurately and succinctly and to the point and has a stong opinion is "high-handed". The only response, as always, tiresome as it is to repreat it over and over, is "read the damn writing".



July 7, 2006, 5:39 PM

Well excuuuse me,

I read the damn writing and found it interesting to read. That's my opinion, you don't have to agree.



July 7, 2006, 6:26 PM

I know, George. I was criticising Teachout's characterization of Greenberg's "high-handed" writing.

I might also say to Mr. Teachout that Greenberg was not a theorist, unless his insistence on comprehending art intuitively amounts to a theory. I don't think it does.


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 6:36 PM

I think the 'damn writing' oldpro refers to is Clem's, not Terry's. As for the 'review', in one of the few passages that refer directly to the Marquis book, he notes, "Unlike most biographies, this one is too short rather than too long." Strangely, the rest of the piece reads as his attempt to give an even shorter version of Greenberg's biography himself. I mostly can't tell if this is a summary of Marquis' take, or Teachout's own. For all its misaprehensions, I can say it's not my take, that's for sure.
It seems the Clembashers' only way to fight Greenberg's 'high-handedness', is with their own under-handedness.

OP, don't be so hard on KH, it was just a failed joke, stinky bait, SAMO, whatever you call it...
KH, we don't have ogres, but we do have Premier Ralph Klein, and he's pretty close. He's been hootin' and hollerin' down at the Smithsonian's "Alberta Folklife" exhibition, or somesuch extravaganza, about how Alberta is the "only Republican province in Canada"... Sometimes, back home here, he likes to get drunk and verbally assault homeless people at local shelters while throwing his spare change at them. I even got to meet him once!... and on close inspection, he may have been a troll of some sort, but no, not an ogre. Regardless, I suppose you might be right in suggesting he has many friends who will stick by him through thick and thin.

Another nice passage, from another piece by Graham:

"Scientists go looking for trouble. This should be the m.o. of any scholar, but scientists seem much more willing to look under rocks. [10]

Why? It could be that the scientists are simply smarter; most physicists could, if necessary, make it through a PhD program in French literature, but few professors of French literature could make it through a PhD program in physics. Or it could be because it's clearer in the sciences whether theories are true or false, and this makes scientists bolder. (Or it could be that, because it's clearer in the sciences whether theories are true or false, you have to be smart to get jobs as a scientist, rather than just a good politician.)



July 7, 2006, 7:04 PM

Marc, you're being tough on the Teachout piece, and good for you, but you're oversimplifying a bit. Greenberg met Hoffman, unlike Kant, whom I would think of as a self-educated influence. Porter and Frielicher are more wonderful than one would gather from CG's works.



July 7, 2006, 8:07 PM

Marc, I am finding goodies in Graham's writing too, Marc. I hope this weekend I get a chance to read more.

Although he liked their work, Clem was not wild about Porter, Frielicher, Hopper, Morandi and other artists of the "modernist realism" ilk. I liked them better than he did, and we talked about it on occasion.


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 8:21 PM

I'm painting in broad strokes, I know, but only so the people in the back rows can see more clearly, Franklin. And, I'm trying to keep these comments short... can't you tell?

I don't disagree with the rest of your comment, but I don't see how it disagrees with mine either, so I guess we're all good, y'all.

When I say that it's ignorant not to credit Croce and Kant with being the thinkers that Greenberg primarily 'cobbled' his 'homemade esthetic' out of, I don't mean to discredit Hofmann... I guess I just meant that these are the thinkers himself Greenberg cites most frequently when he writes on aesthetics, so, why not take his word for it?

The reader only gets three paragraphs into the Greenberg book "Homemade Esthetics" before he is confronted with the line "As Croce says in his History of Aesthetics, existence, experience, knowledge are unthinkable without intuition." Kant has to wait 5 more pages before he can appear, and when he does, Greenberg notes that he "had more insights into the nature of esthetic experience than anyone else I'm aware of".

So, either Teachout has read these lines, and forgotten them, or he hasn't read these lines, in which case he shouldn't presume to tell others what Greenberg's 'homemade esthetic' was cobbled from, n'est pas?

But, that's just my opinion.


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 8:23 PM

I'm not wild about Hopper either.



July 7, 2006, 8:30 PM

Hofmann's influence was very strong and hit Greenberg at just the right time. But it was not a "quotable" sort of influence, the way Kant and Croce were, or Wolfflin or Roger Fry, for that matter. It was more a matter of feeling, of the power of art and the dynamic of art at the time rather than a philosophical explication.



July 7, 2006, 8:32 PM

I love Hopper but I understand that he hooks me with that damn raking light.


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 8:38 PM

You must love de Chirico, OP.

p.s. you're still refering to Teachout as a "Biogapher", Franklin.

"Bio-Gaffer", maybe...



July 7, 2006, 9:16 PM

"Biographer" is phixed.

I have never had any patience for DeChirico, and I looked at Hopper several hundred times before I was ready to admit that he was pretty good. I could see tripping over some of the 20th C. figurative painters.



July 7, 2006, 10:17 PM

“The practiced eye tends always toward the definitely and positively good in art, knows it is there, and will remain dissatisfied with anything else.”

“Art is a matter strictly of experience, not of principles, and what counts first and last is quality; all other things are secondary.”

Yes, indeed. Not because Greenberg said so, for anybody can say anything, but because it is in accord with my experience and happens to make perfect sense. The fact that some people can't or won't deal with it, let alone accept it, is unfortunate, but it does not negate it in the least.


Marc Country

July 7, 2006, 11:06 PM


A world with outsiders and insiders implies some kind of test for distinguishing between them. And the trouble with most tests for selecting elites is that there are two ways to pass them: to be good at what they try to measure, and to be good at hacking the test itself.

So the first question to ask about a field is how honest its tests are, because this tells you what it means to be an outsider. This tells you how much to trust your instincts when you disagree with authorities, whether it's worth going through the usual channels to become one yourself, and perhaps whether you want to work in this field at all.

Tests are least hackable when there are consistent standards for quality, and the people running the test really care about its integrity. Admissions to PhD programs in the hard sciences are fairly honest, for example. The professors will get whoever they admit as their own grad students, so they try hard to choose well, and they have a fair amount of data to go on. Whereas undergraduate admissions seem to be much more hackable.

From "The Power of the Marginal", June 2006, by Paul Graham



July 7, 2006, 11:08 PM

Musically, I like 'scat' Franklin. Visually, not so sure however. I read something terrible in Art News: gas sounds in the Rothko Chapel...



July 8, 2006, 12:17 AM

No Marc, i get hooked by Hopper's raking light but not de Chirico's. I think it has to do with the literalness of the landscape. Hopper's is sentimental; de Chirico's is theatrical.



July 8, 2006, 1:49 AM

De Chirico has'nt light in a traditional sense; ( theatrical/directional- top left or right projection). Guston knew that. He has form and content. Guston 'milked' that and made this the 'meat' of his paintngs. For him, light came from the physical/real space, and not the illusionistic/pictorial.



July 8, 2006, 10:12 AM

while porter is no greenberg, when asked, greenberg did name porter as one of the best critics....edmonton interview is graham peacock..

GP But if criticism plays an encouraging role in the development of things now... there are very few people who can write about art now.

CG There never were many... There's one good art critic for every ten good artists.

RB There's that many good art critics?

CG One for twenty. You're right, you're right. Because if you look back, I can think of writers... We'll include Baudelaire, Thore Burger, Fairfield Porter, Felix Feneon and we won't include Apollinaire because he's not a good art critic -- he's a good drum-banger.



July 8, 2006, 10:42 AM

in regards to the teachout article in commentary i did take a red pen out and hand it back to my fatherin-law who gave it to me.

the piece seems like he did very little original research or digging of his own to get the information used in the article. other than the comments regarding the new book, it seems to be a rehash of other articles he read on greeberg. i doubt he read more than 2-3 things written by clem himself.

it's funny too that they ridicule him for striving for the best or any sense of superior quality. that kind of view on the situation will have to eventually catch up with the "middle brow" crowd and naysayers.

eventually somone needs to do a more balanced or positive book or long essay on greenberg. they just need to talk to the right people who actually knew him on an intimate basis. and this needs to be done fast before they are all gone. oh, and it might also help to actually read his writings as well and come up with your own insights, rather than basing your work on other existing misinformed and convoluted pieces that already exist about the man.



July 8, 2006, 11:05 AM

One good art critic for every 10 (let alone 20) good artists? Well, that would seem to explain a lot. It certainly supports my existing view that those who can't or won't become critics themselves might as well forget the whole art criticism business, because the pickings are way, WAY too slim.



July 8, 2006, 11:17 AM

in regards to eye and critics from the same 1991 edmonton article......

RB what about Barnett Newman?

CG Well he could gas... He had a great eye by the way, and when I talked with him it was nothing but good and bad, good and bad.

RB So the talk about spiritualism was saved for the ...

CG Oh yes... saved for print.

RB The last time, when we did an interview at the Edmonton Art Galley, you said that Gorky had a good eye.

CG He did... and then when he saw Pollocks for the first time in the mid forties he said that's not art, that's not painting.

RB He didn't like it?

CG No. He snorted. I wasn't there, but I was told. And Pollock's stuff at that time... Oh it's a story. All abstract painting had been hard-edged more or less up till that time with a few exceptions -- early Kandinsky -- and after synthetic Cubism... flat, hard--edged. But here was Pollock smearing paint in the context of abstract art... It looked a mish-mash, chaos. Speaking for myself, there were people back then whose eyes I respected. When I disagreed with them, I was given pause. I've known few such people since then, except some people who I'm close to more-or--less personally.

RB Who are some of the people...

CG The artists; the ones who are called "formalists". People like Michael Steiner, Ken Noland, like ...

RB Any critics?

CG Valentin Tatransky; Ken Moffett, certainly; Michael Fried; Terry Fenton; and Darby Bannard, who writes very little now.

RB I wanted to know if you've ever made any big mistakes as far as your take on art, or anything you've seen in studios, or the art you saw in galleries.

CG Yes indeed! One of the first ones was underrating Stamos -- Theodoros Stamos -- in the mid-forties. I recognized that mistake when I saw the paintings again in a show four or five years ago at the Whitney called The Formative Years, about American art in the forties. He had some of the best pictures there. That was a mistake, wow! And I wrote about Stamos' show at the time and scorched him. Now I'm eating my words. Another mistake was more positive: I overrated Mondrian's "boogie-woogie" pictures. I was cowed, and it was a lesson. Everybody was in awe of Mondrian, the people whose eyes I respected at that time. And the "boogie woogie" pictures -- "Broadway Boogie Woogie," and "Victory Boogie Woogie" -- they were bad. I saw that Mondrian's art had been going downhill since the mid-thirties, but it wasn't said. We thought, "Maybe we're wrong in not liking them." You must never look at art that way; you have your take and that's it. I consider that one of my big mistakes. I didn't put it in print, but I still over-praised them. Mistakes that I don't mind were when I praised artists who didn't come to much in the end. That's all right... You learn more from your mistakes than from your non-mistakes cause you take -your mistakes to heart when you recognize them, and that helps.



July 8, 2006, 12:11 PM

#1, thanks for those comments and for the transcripts. Everyone should take notice that these honest, relaxed, easy-going, self-deprecating statements are being made by a man known to the world as a hard-bitten, theory-ridden, domineering, combative monster.

This is why the record must be set straight, as #1 so rightly says. Once again, I refer those who are interested to Terry Fenton's Greenberg page:

And take a look at Fenton's excellent landscapes while you are there.



July 8, 2006, 12:40 PM

"You have your take and that's it."

Bingo. Why is this so scary to so many people?



July 8, 2006, 1:02 PM

This doesn't necessarily mean anything, but I've never thought much of Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie myself.



July 8, 2006, 1:27 PM

I just saw "Broadway Boogie- Woogie" again recently - it 's always reminded me of "Lego" the building block toy.
I like the plastic sensation the painting gives - despite it being rather matte and sort of dry on the surface. The paint is put on semi-lean, but thick enough to have small hair-sized surface cracking.



July 8, 2006, 1:48 PM

Run, do not walk, to read this Greenberg essay on art criticism:

It is, well, just read it. Great, great stuff. Here's a sample:

Criticism proper means dealing in the first place with art as art, which means dealing with value judgments. Otherwise criticism becomes something else. Not that it is to be so narrowly defined as to have to exclude interpretation, description, analysis, etc.; only that it must, if it's to be criticism, include evaluation, and evaluation in the first place-for the sake of art, for the sake of everything art is that isn't information or exhortation, for the sake of what's in art's gift alone.

And it only gets better.

P.S. Broadway Boogie Woogie is a terrific pattern for giftwrapping paper, meaning it has great merit as a kind of decorative scheme, but its merits as a painting have been rather exaggerated.



July 8, 2006, 1:57 PM

The Wolfram site is SO full of interesting stuff it just totally blows my mind. (p.s. We still miss your presence Mr. Franklin. *smile*)



July 8, 2006, 3:08 PM

The record must be set straight.

Mr Greenberg is a dozen years dead and is no longer writing criticism.

He does not need to be defended in another book, yawn.
If anyone is interested they can just read his collective writings.

"VALUE JUDGMENTS CONSTITUTE the substance of aesthetic experience. (... )They are acts of intuition, and intuition remains unanalyzable.

"Taste is the handiest term for what's meant, and somehow the bluntest-in part precisely because of the disrepute into which it has fallen. The word drives home the fact that art is first of all, and most of all, a question of liking and of not liking-just so. Liking and not liking have to do with value, and nothing else.

"I mean outspoken value judgments, judgments that can be discussed."

"These will be the truth, for him, of the art he discusses."

So at it's most succinct we have "Good" or "Bad" but no discussion, an opinion.

Since Greenberg is dead, his taste died with him, whoever comes along next is free to discuss his own taste even as it disagrees with Greenberg's.

Dada and Mama and Dogma, ah ha.



July 8, 2006, 3:15 PM

You're right George.

Come to think of it, Shakespeare has been dead going on 400 years.

To hell with him.



July 8, 2006, 3:55 PM

I quite agree, OP. We really must disabuse ourselves of all these famous dead people and whatever it is they were about. I mean, it's so, you know, morbid, not to mention old-fashioned. Just because the wheel has been reasonably useful forever and a day doesn't mean we should keep clinging to it--let's have new and different, by all means.



July 8, 2006, 4:01 PM

You guys predictably miss my point.

I'm not saying he shouldn't be read.

But, It's obvious he cant write any new criticism (duh)

Someone else has to do it.



July 8, 2006, 4:15 PM

Of course he can't write any new criticism, George (duh, indeed), but his real legacy, or the more important one, is not so much the criticism he wrote about specific artists of his time, but rather his approach to art criticism as such, the reasoning and philosophy behind it. That is just as valid today as it ever was, and will remain so, and that's why he still matters (to me, at any rate). The fact he's no longer the voice of authority du jour is a moot point. I don't give a damn about what's du jour per se; I never have. Some do, of course, but I don't give a damn about them, either.


Marc Country

July 8, 2006, 5:06 PM

Contemporaneity does not equal relevance.
If it did, George's writing would be more relevant than Clem's.
My experience tells me this is not the case.


Bunny Smedley

July 8, 2006, 5:41 PM

Unsurprisingly, I don't agree with George at No. 48.

Obviously, at one level Greenberg is dead, which I imagine continues to be a source of sadness to many who knew and continue to miss him.

But on another level he still seems to me to be entirely alive. His best writing still hits a lot harder, and matters a lot more, than plenty of present-day, contemporary stuff.

Yes, that's just my opinion. But my way of looking at art has been shaped, in some part, by plenty of 'conversations' with this man whom I never had the chance to meet, through trying to make sense of his writing and to measure them up against the world around me. I warm to his honesty, his clarity, his variety, his willingness to surprise and to be surprised. He's read a lot and seen a lot but follows no one's agenda but his own. So there's always a great sense of adventure. Where will we end up next?

Ultimately, though, the main reason I care about Greenberg resides less in any single approach or quality, or even whether I always agree with his individual judgements (which in any event sometimes shifted a lot, as we have seen, over time), but rather in something a lot more basic and practical. When I read his best work, I often feel a real urge to go out, really look at some art - old, new, whatever - and to see where that takes me.

Compared with that, there are a lot of critics writing today who don't seem half as alive as Greenberg does.



July 8, 2006, 6:28 PM

"Contemporaneity does not equal relevance."

I never said it did or didn't. What I was suggesting is that someone contemporary will have to write criticism about contemporary (temporal not stylistic) work. If they choose to be inspired by what Greenberg wrote that's fine. Just quoting Greenberg doesn't lend any validity to works which he didn't actually comment upon.

My point is fairly simple, I believe art criticism is at an inflection point, the ideas of the last 20 or so years are starting to feel stale, not just to me but to a lot of other artists as well. Now I'm sure that there are the loyal followers of the postmodern cannon out there, but by now it should be fairly obvious that this is an intellectual fashion now in decline. To my view this leaves a void which can be filled from any point of view.

Most likely it will be by the younger writers with a passion for art. Writers who are willing to look deeper into the historical archives of criticism, rather than just writing from the last 20 years, in order to reconcile the experience with the language which describes it. It is one thing to say, "this is good, that's not", we all do that to one degree or another.

The real issue is being able to discuss the experience, convincingly and in a way which people can understand. I think it is perfectly valid to quote or refer to another critical writer as a source for ones thought, but at the same time the new writing has to deal with the art at hand, the art which is being made today. I have no more use for someone beating me over the head with quotes by Greenberg, any more than I do with someone using quotes by Adorno (take your pick) for the same thing. What I am interested in is writing which spans time a bit and takes into account a broader range of critical thinking, not just today's "idea" or yesterdays.

A major flaw in art criticism is that one "flavor" frequently supplants another, replaces it, as if no aspect of the prior intellectual effort made any sense at all. Suppose a prior philosophical position, a critical position, is assumed to be "valid" in its time. Then suppose it is supplanted by a new "position" that is also assumed to be "valid" in the subsequent era. Which is true? Does the "newer" position prove the earlier one false? Or, does it just ignore it for the sake of convenience or fashion?

This is a fairly critical question if one is trying to arrive at some truth in critical writing. Do these intellectual positions flow both ways? Do they cancel or contradict one another? It should be clear that the truth cannot be contradictory. While one point of view may choose to ignore (deprecate) the other, if both contain elements of the truth, then they need to be reconciled with one another. This is what I believe is the current condition.



July 8, 2006, 7:11 PM

George the reason for this "flavor" problem can be squarely laid at the doorstep not of varieties of "truth" but of the very low level at which discussions about art take place. I am sorry to have to say this, but most art talk is just plain stupid, and until we get smarter people in this business it will stay stupid.

People who in any other field would be laughed off the page are not only read and indulged but have followers and exalted reputations and virtual armies of folks who wildly resent any criticism of their ideas, if they can be called that. Because art has no "rules" they are not required to make sense, and if they are skillful enough to dress nonsense up in apparent profundity and canny enough to join others like them they can prosper and their numbers will increase, particularly in the fertile and contagious precincts of academia.

It does no good to point this out, to give examples, to appeal to people's reason and common sense. Long-held attitudes, assumptions and shared beliefs, no matter how absurd, are impervious to all this. The only weapon is the slow wearing-down of time, and by the time time does it's job there will be some new craziness out there, spreading like the flu.

All one can do is take Yeat's advice: "be secret, and exult".



July 8, 2006, 7:29 PM

56, That's one opinion. Next.



July 8, 2006, 7:42 PM

As in, all opinions are equally valid, or one opinion is as good as another, George? That may be your opinion, but it most assuredly isn't mine, so I'm afraid I'm not even remotely persuaded by your line of argument.



July 8, 2006, 7:45 PM

58 That's another opinion. Next



July 8, 2006, 7:58 PM

It's not "opinion" George. It is just obvious fact. Being flippant about it doesn't help anything.



July 8, 2006, 8:02 PM

No, it's not an obvious fact, it's resignation. Next.



July 8, 2006, 8:46 PM

Well folks, I've followed this blog for quite some time but just didn't have much to say (and still don't).

But one thing I'm certain of is that the only problem in assessing art is to get it right. Assessing is practically speaking the same as seeing it. You just look at it. That's all. It is not an opinion, it is an experience. If you get it right and the work is actually good you get some satisfaction. Then you go back and look again and learn if you still get satisfaction and how much. More? Less? Not much at all? So you adjust your "opinion" to match the latest experience. But that does not change the fact it is an experience, not an opinion. In fact, doesn't even resemble an opinion until you start putting it into words. If the words are true to the experience they may have some value, but usually don't. It takes a profoundly original wordsmith to make even the truest words about art worthwhile. Greenberg could do it, but his was a very rare gift. Bunny Smedley is the one writing here who seems to have something of a gift in that respect.

The truth is only as true as your last experience of the work. On the other hand, it IS as true as your last experience. Sometimes that is a whole lot of truth. "Truth" is sort of beside the point of art, though. "Goodness" is closer. "Good" closer yet. "Bad" is further away because it is about work that isn't very successful.

And Jack, you've seen "Broadway Boogie Woogie" in the flesh I take it? I loved it, but not as much as the severe work that preceeded it. Age robs artists just like it robs everyone else.



July 8, 2006, 9:47 PM

No, Oak, I haven't seen it live, and it's of course possible that seeing it in actual scale, along with details like those Jordan mentioned (the thickness of the paint, the surface cracks, etc.) could make me like it more--but I doubt I'd stop considering it evidence of decline. To me, despite its playful charm and perky coloring, it's too busy, too fussy, too cute. It makes me think things like "This is what Klimt might have done if he'd tried geometric abstraction." One could certainly do worse, but his earlier work is much stronger.



July 8, 2006, 10:15 PM

Greenberg is dead? I had no idea. To where might we send flowers?

Art criticism is a creative act, and as such does not have the privilege of being true or false in the way that science writing does. Critics apply writing acumen to the exercise of taste. Good critics have intense responses to art, and describe those responses with powerful language. But intensity is not enough in itself. Criticism is only a useful exercise if the critic's taste is worth having. That's what makes CG the guy to beat. Reading him, you can pick up the excitement he felt, his amazing mixture of catholicity and sky-high standards, and the surety with which he understood the problem of art. He was the whole package. You can see partial packages in the likes of Schjeldahl or Saltz, who have the intensity but not the clarity. (Schjeldahl, especially, can turn a vibrant phrase. One doubts his eye, but not his sincerity.) Hughes is much better on offense than defense. My favorite critics right now are Bunny, JL at ModKix, and some of my regulars here. The litmus test is when we disagree - can we just argue for or against the work, or do we have to have to apply crowbars to massively posteriorly inserted heads so that we're talking about the same thing in the first place? Obviously, it's a continuum. Adorno, since he came up, is crowbar city. I picked up a volume of his at the bookstore today, and put it back soon after, thinking, Jesus, who has time for this shit?

Porter's criticism is top-notch. In contrast to CG's declarative tone, FP sounds descriptive and humble. He lands on his target softly and perfectly, like a windblown feather hitting a bullseye. He credited Rosenblum with the idea that the best criticism is the best description. That always meant a lot to me. If you do that, without being too literal about it, you have a good chance of getting your judgment right.

Oak, you are always welcome here. Well said.



July 8, 2006, 10:19 PM

Rosenberg, not Rosenblum. Rose mountain, not rose blossom.



July 8, 2006, 10:29 PM

Franklin, no flowers. Send a donation to the Benevolent Society for Non-Optical Meaning-Oriented Reviewers (aka BSNOMORE).



July 8, 2006, 11:29 PM

Boogie-woogie, one version at least, is in the MoMA, if I recall, and it is not a successful picture. That kind of painting seems to not be able to get busy. I think economy is too much part of the character of art like that..

Franklin: Salz, from what I've read recently, is now really out of any loop of sensible observation or commentary, and Schjeldahl is so terminally arch in a second-hand tomwolfian way that for me he is unreadbable. And he would be the last critifc in the world I would credit with "sincerety".

The better negative writers are Jed Perl and Hilton Kramer and Hughes, but none of them have any kind of eye. None.


Marc Country

July 8, 2006, 11:32 PM

All one can do is take Yeat's advice: "be secret, and exult".

Wait, isn't Yeats dead? Forget him, man...

Oh, and I'll second Oldpro and Jack's 'opinions', which should round the tally out to, what is it, unanimous disagreement with George? Hmmm... more of that 'resignation', whatever that means....



July 8, 2006, 11:34 PM

" Critics apply writing acumen to the exercise of taste"

no, they write about the consequences of the exercise of taste.


Marc Country

July 8, 2006, 11:36 PM

There's Piri Halasz... she's still writing her column, covering new shows...



July 8, 2006, 11:38 PM

RE #62, Oak.
I didn't use the word opinion in comment #55, I used the term in my comments after, that to acknowledge the responses.

I agree with your point "You just look at it. That's all. It is not an opinion, it is an experience." As noted, when a writer expresses this experience it becomes an opinion of sorts because it is about a personal experience. There is nothing inherently wrong with framing criticism this way, as an opinion. What should matter most, is the ability to clearly express in words, the meditation on the experience.

RE #64, Franklin.
I didn't mean to favor Adorno or Greenberg in my remark. What I was railing against is that some writers have a tendency to quote names as if it should make a weak argument stronger. I could have used Barthes instead of Adorno, my point would have been the same.

A quoted source may provide a reference for the line of thought, as in the earlier remarks which mentioned Fry and Hoffman in regards to Greenberg. Unfortunately there is a tendency among some current critical writers to "pin" an argument on an "authority", embellish it a bit, and pretend something has been said.



July 8, 2006, 11:50 PM

" As noted, when a writer expresses this experience it becomes an opinion of sorts because it is about a personal experience. "

It's bed time, George.



July 9, 2006, 12:10 AM

Resignation means one has given up hope.

What I stated in comment #55 was the most likely path that a young writer, passionate about art would take. Based upon what has been in the educational pipeline, I am assuming both an awareness of poststructuralist philosophy and a dissatisfaction with its conclusions, in particular when applied to the art experience. I was not implying anything specific about what critical position such a writer might take, only what the likely influences or contradictions might be.

If one wishes to disagree with me, offer up another likely path.

The problem here is that some people assume I have a particular philosophical position because I frequently play the devils advocate and refuse to see everything as only black and white. Oak and Franklin made the only two intelligent responses to my comment. At least they offered up a solution, an opinion on the state of criticism that expresses a possibility for the future. The rest of you are just resigned to grouching about it. As Paul Graham would say, "you're a bunch of suits"



July 9, 2006, 12:30 AM

George, in #55 you said that one problem in art criticism was that one "flavor" seems to replace and attempt to supplant a previous one and I answered in the next comment that it was not a problem of there being different flavors but that just about all of them are stupid. And so forth.

That was an answer, like it or not.

It would help if you kept your comments shorter and more to a particular point.



July 9, 2006, 12:38 AM

Re #74, OP

That was an answer, like it or not.

No problem there, I accepted your answer and asked for the next.

"Stupid" qualifies you for the grouch camp.



July 9, 2006, 8:53 AM

"Stupid" qualifies you for the grouch camp.

Unfortunately, the facts are on his side.

George, I don't think anyone was quoting CG for the sake of propping up their argument. I don't know where you got that. He's just a good read.

One of the big problems of criticism right now is that no one is buying it. In the recent online discussion about criticism that Artsjournal hosted, the newspaper guys came at the bloggers with "What's your revenue model?" The bloggers came back with, "What's yours?" The papers are in huge trouble, payouts on freelance art criticism are curving to zero, and if you're doing this out of love, you might as well put your writing online and skip dealing with editors. Teaching, which supports nearly every critic I know, has become hugely competitive.

I saw this dealt with at the local level in Miami. Writers are under enormous pressure to entertain and be widely inclusive. Wide inclusiveness is not a natural part of a good critic's temperament. I'm not talking about CG's catholicity - I mean the desire to find virtue in anything, at the expense of having standards and an eye. And while no writing has a right to be boring, neither should it have to throw around goofy mannerisms for the sake of bringing in a demographic that doesn't want to read. (I refuse to comment on specifics of the Miami art world, but anyone who doesn't know whom I'm talking about can e-mail me.)

CG's acheivement is a critic was due to his phenomenal abilities, but his place in history was a fluke. He had the good fortune to write about the last viable hegemonic style in the history of art. Pluralism is not going to produce great critics. It's barely producing great art, and to the extent that it is, its masters are partial throwbacks like Lucian Freud. Those of us who want to write great criticism, presuming perhaps without evidence that such a thing is within our powers, are going to have to find a way to do so for an extremely specialized audience. Self-publishing is a big help, but my revenue model continues to suck and I don't have a great solution for that at the moment.



July 9, 2006, 9:20 AM

Oh Franklin, Lucian Freud. His twisty forms are quite pleasant to view but they don't exactly carry the day. Nor does his expressive take on his models. But there is something really "there" and that's good. It does not seem like enough to rob or build upon though. Hard to think of him as a "master". But that does not have anything to do with whether or not he is a "partial throwback". He might get better if he becomes a "total throwback" and takes from someone like Titian.



July 9, 2006, 9:29 AM

That should read CG's achievement as a critic of course.

I know, Oak, but seing his career review in LA a couple years ago confirmed my opinion of his talents. He has off days, and old age is bringing on more of them, but that crusty application of paint, applied with such scrupulous force, is something to behold. As living masters go, he's about as good as we have.



July 9, 2006, 9:35 AM

OP, I'm sick of your attitude towards me.

I was absolutely NOT referring to Greenberg. I DO NOT give a shit whether or not you or anyone here does or does not consider him to be an ogre.


If I were addressing Greenberg I would have fucking said so.

[You noticed, I hope, that what I said was "On the subject of OGRES", not Clem, not Clemmies, not Greenberg, and NOT OP.]

I wasn't being disingenuous because I wasn't addressing Greenberg.

However, you admit to suggesting that I eat bullshit? if you're going to make remarks like that about me, I'd prefer that you make them openly instead of trying to slide them in under the "address the writing" radar.

My use of "ahem!" was in reference to Bush/Cheney/Rove and their pallies. I wrote "ahem" instead of bringing politics into the coversation.

In case that's what confused you, remember this tidbit: normally, I just skim your comments. I don't tend to read them anymore, therefore, I am not going to address you or your arguments without expressly indicating so. I know there's no way you could have already known that. But that's why I'm telling you now, so that in the future, you can take a step back and think again when you suspect me of attempting to disingenuously discredit you or one of your arguments.

Marc, thanks for the slight assist but my ogre statement was not a joke.



July 9, 2006, 9:49 AM

Yes Franklin, there is that lovely crust in Freud. He might be able to run with the big dogs if he didn't stumble over his "message" so often. Kokoschka limited his pictures in the same way. In any case, Frued has a large caliber gun in his holster, as large as Kokoschka's or larger. I'd like to see where it would take him if he just let it go. But as you say he is old. There probably won't be any expansions of what he has done. We will just have to make do with what he has given us, which is pretty good.

(My I'm getting wordy all of a sudden.)



July 9, 2006, 10:01 AM

If I were addressing Greenberg I would have fucking said so.

I don't believe you. We were talking about CG's devotion of friends belying his alleged ogreness, and you cited an abuse pattern that would negate that observation. If you meant something else, then you really do need to start being specific about who and what you're addressing. As such, your insults at OP look petulant and, yes, disingenuous.

Have fun at the mutual backscratch this afternoon.



July 9, 2006, 10:07 AM

Take it easy, KH. Franklin used "ogre" in connection with Greenber in the post, I used "monster" in the discussion, and the discussion concerned Greenberg. Whatever your intentions were, in that context when you referred to and went on about "ogre"s it seemed apparent you were referring to Greenberg, at least in part or indirectly, and not just out-of-the-blue ogres, especially when you went on to mention their defenders and "pallies", who were also in evidence.

A llittle more straightforwardness and clarity on your part might help people interpret your intentions.



July 9, 2006, 10:20 AM

Freud doesn't so much have a message as a method, Oak. It's a hell of a method, but it's not a perfect one - it rather seems to plod along at times. I admire it anyway. It usually works, and when it does, it glows with honesty and humanity.

Now, Kokoschka - I had been a big fan for a long time, but the MFA has a few up right now, and my opinion of him has plunged. He's now hovering somewhere above Kirchner for me. It was a big blow.

Regarding sudden wordiness - once you jump in, the water's fine!



July 9, 2006, 10:20 AM

KH, I like your fiery spirit. Are you an artist? Artist anger drives a lot of good things in the studio arena. "UP YOURS" seemed a little much at first, but it settled in after a while and just seems like some spice that becomes you but probably isn't suitable for the rest of us. I never heard of "pallies" before but it is a great term. I will have to use it myself.

But like Franklin when I read your remarks about ogres (#6) I thought you were writing about Greenberg and those who support him on this blog. The general assertion that powerful ogres have their loyal followers is true enough. But the question about Greenberg is whether his supporters here are loyal to his alleged misdeeds or what he said and wrote. It is clear they admire the latter. Speaking only for myself (I once knew the man), I admired some of the former too.

That said, you provide necessary spice to the conversation here. Thanks.



July 9, 2006, 10:39 AM

Re #76: Franklin.

Recently I've been rereading Greenberg, Steinberg, Rosenberg, Malraux (for starters) primarily because they were writing in a period when I was just beginning my quest as an artist. From the present, with the advantage of hindsight, it is interesting to see how each writer fits into the historical fabric and what followed.

Re pluralism: I don't think that "pluralism" is an "ism", rather it is just the natural outcome of the expansion of the art community. There are more artists working today, an expansion of the various genres is to be expected. This also renders the idea of a monolithic style obsolete. I would note that painting probably has the most practitioners and seems to still have distinct centers of fashion. This is a condition of the time and may call for more specialized writing than in the past, or not (depends on the writer)

Re revenue models: I suppose art writing will join poetry as the last bastion of the starving artist. Have a day job.

Re blogs: Within ten years, bloggers will replace all print mediums as the forefront of art writing. The print mediums will be forced gather their writers from the electronic media. Blogging is the future because it is a "distributed" development model (like UNIX). Anyone who is interested can write something, the best writing will be read. It is obviously more timely, requires no permissions or affiliations, and allows easy entry. None of this will necessarily make the writing any better, though it might.

(note: I'm using the term "blogging" here loosely, as any web based dissemination of the writing.)



July 9, 2006, 10:53 AM

FWIW, I thought KH was referring to OP not CG.



July 9, 2006, 10:56 AM

Re #76: Franklin.

Regarding "criticism": Actually the issue concerns art writing in general. What is the purpose of art writing? Who is the intended audience?



July 9, 2006, 11:14 AM

George, when I read Artforum (the only art mag I read) the "intended audience" seems to be other art writers.



July 9, 2006, 11:15 AM

While I'm at it. It appears to me anytime KH has anything to say here she gets wacked. There is obvious sexism on the part of certain writers.



July 9, 2006, 11:27 AM

Painting is going to be the day job. Like I said, not much of a revenue model. Let's see how it goes.

I agree that pluralism is more of a description than a movement. That's just it - I don't see how you could get a critic of CG's stature without a monumental development in style. A little pocket of hope here and there is not enough. There's going to have to be a massive die-off, and with more money than ever getting pumped into the market, that's not going to happen. Yet.

In the meantime, the niche market could work. Radio talk show personalities do this to some extent, by taking partisan viewpoints and cultivating an audience around them. These audiences make up for their small size with their dedication. And I completely agree that digital self-publishing is the future of criticism. It will make the writing better, because it will be more of a meritocracy. Anybody who wants to get noticed is going to have to be a real pleasure to read, because the ossification of print-critic jobs is coming undone. The only constraint on quality I've noticed is that while I have incentive to publish regularly and write good prose, I have little incentive to go on at length. That concerns me.

I'm only talking about criticism - reviews, and wider speculations on aesthetics. It's audience consists of people who find such things interesting - I'll bet it varies widely. Arts journalism will have to take care of itself. I've kind of cut it off as a concern, at least here.

I won't countenance that remark about sexism. KH gets whacked because she baits the other commenters, has an obtuse and easily misunderstandable sense of humor, and writes with insufficient skillfulness about viewpoints she knows won't be popular here. You should see what used to happen to me on her blog before I stopped commenting there. Good thing my feelings are invulnerable.


Marc Country

July 9, 2006, 12:27 PM

Like I said before, KH's comment was stinky bait, nothing more. Although she deserves points for careful wording, the implication was clear.

The problem, KH, is that when you write "There are always people willing to be and remain loyal to one. It's part of the special ogrish talents.", you negate the possibilty that some loyalty to said ogre might be deserved, by instisting that such loyalties are a result solely of the 'ogrish talents' of said monster (an "abuse pattern", as Franklin notes), and not on the possibility that said ogre may, in fact, be a handsome prince, cursed by an evil witch (or warlock... I don't want that grand defender of womyn's rights, George, to come after me with charges of 'sexism'...) to 'appear' monsterous to the ignorant village rabble. Either story is a fairy tale, but this second one is a lot closer to the truth about Greenberg and his 'pallies', I think.

On Sexism: George, you get 'wacked' easily as often as KH does. You seem to feel that disagreement with you is a sign of the strength of your arguments ("Playing Devil's Advocate"? More like "playing the fool" if you ask me...), whereas disagreement with KH is simply a matter of reacting to her gender. To me, that seems pretty dismissive, pretty sexist. I won't make any accusations though, that's just rude... "Address the writing", as they say...


Marc Country

July 9, 2006, 12:30 PM

Franklin, I caught your "Farewell performance" at thenextfewwhores, at it was a beaut.



July 9, 2006, 12:42 PM

I'll stand by my remark on sexism.



July 9, 2006, 1:04 PM

I second that.


Bunny Smedley

July 9, 2006, 1:20 PM

I'll stand by my remark on sexism.

I can't say I've noticed any sexism at all here.

And like most people who've mentioned it, I read KH's 'ogres' comment as referring to Greenberg and people who have anything positive to say about him.

I don't think the criticism of her comments is grounded in sexism. I think it's grounded in what she appeared to write. Isn't that part of what blogs are for?



July 9, 2006, 1:24 PM

No, Marc, no encores. Not over there, anyway. Thanks for the support.

George, I'd point out that we treat Bunny like gold, but I've been down this sorry road of defending this blog against charges of sexism, only to conclude that opinions that aren't based on reason can't be refuted by any means. Go ahead and think what you like. You too, Mek. Self defense in this case is not possible, but retaliatory chain-yanking, purely for my own amusement, certainly is.

Actually, anybody in need of something sexist to get worked up over should go have a look at this incredibly effed-up situation. Not art related, and not up for discussion here, but people should know about it.



July 9, 2006, 1:28 PM

That anyone would seriously think that my remarks to KH (and I am, I think, the main KH-basher around here) have anything to do with sexism is a perfect example, in a microcosm, of the unintelligent nature of art commentary.

I was bashing KH on this blog long before I had any idea who or what she was. I would react exactly the same if she signed on as "Conan the Barbarian". I think George is just stirring things up, but now he has someone agreeing with him, and pretty soon it will be a whole discussion.

It is preposterous, but just watch; that, in itself, will make no difference whatsoeve on what people think or say.



July 9, 2006, 1:48 PM

Yes, thanks, Franklin, for the Bunny example. Not only have I been lavishing praise on this lady, I have been in private correspondence with her, urging her to write about this and that, perhaps more than I had any right to, out of pure pleasure derived from her writing. And if she writes something stupid (although that is inconceiveable) I will bash that too.

This is a classic example of how shit happens: take a complex situation where there are complex disagreements and boil it down to a simple-minded formula that all the dummies can understand and watch them jump on the bandwagon. This is how wars start. If you want to know where my biases are, there you have it.



July 9, 2006, 1:55 PM

George...oh, what's the use? Never mind. I have to go put gas in the car. But yes, I confess, it's Georgism, pure and simple. I'd never disagree with you if your name was Alfredo. Oh, wait, that won't do; I meant Clement. That's right, it's just name prejudice. Now you can rest easy that it has nothing to do with you qua you (nice qua, no?); it's purely my fault. Have a nice day.



July 9, 2006, 2:13 PM

Re #251264

From todays NT Times this little piece on Hopper



July 9, 2006, 2:58 PM

You know, I met Greenberg, albeit briefly, under the guise of academia... and the long and short of it from my perspective is that he was a humble old gent, small, with hat and tweed sportcoat, spoke in a rather plain, matter of fact way, begrudgingly explaining his position/s throughout the years and wrapped it up by saying it's all really just his opinion. He didn't seem to want any sort of special attention or fanfare, and my guess is that he might be slightly embarassed at the fervor in which the lot of you discuss him and discuss that which is written about him. Oldpro can apparently testify, since he seems to have known him well.

People may have been devoted to him b/c he seemed to be a pretty honest person, without pretensions. I'm postitive he was arrogant and selfish, of which goes with the turf of a native new-yourker. Who cares? Ogre, no ogre, personality is beside the point. Of course he is relevant, huge, important historically, but beyond that, in the end he was a small, old man with little attention placed on his importance, doing a favor for Jeanne Siegal to speak to a bunch of SVA students. Hrumf. He knew his time had come and gone. That was apparent to him and everyone else.



July 9, 2006, 3:06 PM

George's comment on sexism on this blog was obviously bait. So was my little worm. The varying responses are entertainingly predictable.



July 9, 2006, 3:14 PM

The varying responses are entertainingly predictable.

Not so much as the baits themselves are predictable, although not so entertaining. If your object is to come here and cheapen the discussion, I'd prefer that you stay quiet.

I've thought about creating an automated response page, so I can dispatch the accusers of sexism, republicanism, fascism, and other pointless arguments to one convenient location. People who enjoy the predictability ought to love getting the same answer every time.



July 9, 2006, 3:15 PM

MEK, If you take such pains to bury this "little old man" whose "time has come and gone", maybe you can take some pains to bury the confusing and disingenuous little old game of declaring something outright and then backing off and calling it "bait" when things get hot. We don't need this. Just say what you mean.



July 9, 2006, 4:26 PM

I'm not backing off. It is not in my nature. I'm just busy with other things in life and do not have the time devoted to blogging as some of you do. I wasn't burying any old man so perhaps you should reread and calm down. There are other things in life to be passionate about, such as your children or the people you care about, and less about your own self interests or artistic entitlement. As noted in one of the biographies, CM ignored his child completely, so by all merit he is no hero in my book. Just a man who contributed greatly to art history. Because I do not put him on the same pedestal as many of you does not mean that I am any less intelligent, creative, or profoundly affected by art or artistic visionaries.



July 9, 2006, 4:29 PM

that would be CG



July 9, 2006, 4:51 PM

As Bunny noted above, CG said that there are things out there more important than art, so you agree with him on at least that much. But is a place to be passionate about art. I am not any less of a human being because I regard CG so highly and have time to blog. You might as well not conclude the converse as you just did.



July 9, 2006, 5:10 PM

Franklin, I never said in any way shape or form that I disagreed with the man. I just don't break out into a tantric spin and circle jerk around him.

As noted, you can do whatever you wish with this blog of yours. If you wish to have a uniform response to all those that differ in opinion, than don't call yourself any less than Fascist.

Cheapening any sort of dialogue would imply that it was rich to begin with.


Bunny Smedley

July 9, 2006, 5:30 PM

If you wish to have a uniform response to all those that differ in opinion, than don't call yourself any less than Fascist.

Hmmm, implying that someone who disagrees with you is a Fascist ... famously, a sign that you've got a lot of strong arguments on your side and that you really value discussion and difference over, err, cheap name-calling. Very impressive.



July 9, 2006, 5:36 PM

Mek, you so walked into this.

Autoresponse: Fascism

Remember, your calling me a fascist was no less automatic. I just have the programming skills to offload automatic responses to a machine. Where they belong.



July 9, 2006, 5:49 PM

This is what we have to deal with, Bunny. A few mild disagreements and we are almost ready to once again invoke Godwin's law.

Like all the rest of the people who argue on that level, MEK, you come up with a whole package of defenses which have nothing to do with the original point, which was that you agreed with George that people on this blog who disagreed with KH were sexist and then when the statement started looking proposterous you backed off and said it was "just baitng". Now you are inferring that we are saying you don't have a life and are not creative, and such like, which has nothing to do with anything. It is silly, defensive and unconvincing.

Greenberg had a bad relationship with his son, which turned out to be virtually no relationship. From what I know of it he behaved badly and did not handle it well. He always felt bad about it and would not talk about it. However he also had a second child, whom he loved and cared for and had an excellent relationship with. Not even Rubenfeld and Marquis tried to cast aspersions on it. Get the complete picture before you start tossing facts around, OK?



July 9, 2006, 5:54 PM

Hey, that "autoresponse" is a great idea. It could be hung out in answer to all sorts of nonsense. This needs to be further evolved.



July 9, 2006, 5:59 PM

It's all ready to go for sexism, jealousy, and disparaging political attributions. Also my favorite reminder.



July 9, 2006, 6:14 PM

Very good!

That assemblage will undoubtedly arouse a near-universal desire to assign all kinds of "disparaging political attributions" to you, but squelch them at the same time, thus promoting cries of "censorship", which you haven't covered yet.



July 9, 2006, 6:24 PM

Good point.

Autoresponse: Censorship

I should have done this years ago. What else have I missed?



July 9, 2006, 6:38 PM

Go back to post 101 and you will see there is nothing to ruffle your feathers over.



July 9, 2006, 6:41 PM

Go back to your subsequent posts and you will see that there is.



July 9, 2006, 6:55 PM

It really doesn't take much to get you all in a frenzy. Passion is one thing, melodrama is another.

I still enjoy an occasional read of the blog, whether I agree or disagree with what is posted.

Predictably, that which i said was twisted around into a particularly weak argument, to strengthen whatever position you hold.

Aren't you tired of this technique? I guess if it works for you, you stick with it, eh?



July 9, 2006, 7:00 PM

Predictably, that which i said was twisted around into a particularly weak argument, to strengthen whatever position you hold.

Are you kidding me? Go look in a mirror.



July 9, 2006, 7:12 PM

Although entertaining and most of the time very comical
the personal attacks that are posted on this site don't do much for the blog
and sadly discredit the conversation.

I would suggest reading the guidelines and
keep the post friendly.

Well thats just my opinion don't hate me for it ;)



July 9, 2006, 7:15 PM

Thanks for the affirmation, Franklin. Blogs seem to ever need debugging, and studiosavant is no different but we've got a good man on the job. "Weblug" and it's resulting catchwords really would be more appropriate: blugs, bluggers, etc.

This has been on the one hand a very entertaining thread and somewhat painful to read on the other. Nice to see a couple new(?) commentors step into the fray. Even better when they're well informed and well spoken to boot.

It always bodes ill when someone starts their comment with "I never said..." or "What I really meant..." Then I can be sure there's going to be some serious denial or backpedalling to come, which I don't particularly revel in. I like it better when people just 'ffes up to instances of poor communication and try instead to find better ways to say what they mean - everyone has something to contribute. Unless they're fractally wrong, I guess.



July 9, 2006, 7:16 PM

MEK, once again, if your argument was "twisted around", show how it was twisted around. This is how argument is conducted. Just saying so doesn't hack it.



July 9, 2006, 7:17 PM

Indeed, RL. Autoresponses now link the guidelines.



July 9, 2006, 7:20 PM

RL I think some of the discussion was heated but not much of it was personal, I think, not directly, anyway. It does get tedious when the he said she said stuff gets going, for sure.



July 9, 2006, 7:45 PM

Autoresponse: Baiting

And since someone will ask, inevitably:

Autoresponse: Explanation

I think that covers the bases. Suggest more if you think of any.



July 9, 2006, 7:54 PM

Is there something that covers "nonresposiveness" or is that slicing it too fine?

Anyway, the "autoresponse" idea is a great advance in blogging, a real refinement.



July 9, 2006, 8:09 PM

One more, after which I think we've sliced fine enough.

Autoresponse: Thank you for sharing

Thanks, OP. Glad it works for you.



July 9, 2006, 8:50 PM

Well, if we are going to fo "Thanks for sharing" we should do "well, now, isn't that special!", a la the Churchlady



July 9, 2006, 9:11 PM

I have a question for you Mr. Oldpro or anyone really. I am reading a book on a certain popular philosophy and I am in the chapter on Art. This paragraph says this-"A work of art is an end in itself, in the sense that it serves no purpose beyond man's contemplation of it. When one differentiates art from other human products, this fact is an essential. A scientific treatise, a machine, a busy signal on the telephone are a means to a utiltarian goal; a novel, a statue, a symphony are not." Great I think this is simple enough to understand, where I get muddled then is in thinking about those products that are then deemed art or put into the context of art. Is it a sham to do this? Or is it valid to convert utilatatarian things?



July 9, 2006, 9:18 PM


MEK's comment #101 was a personal anecdote about Greenberg based upon her meeting him the one time. She left the subject open for discussion by others who might have had more personal contact with him. There wasn't anything disparaging about CG in her remark at all.

I read #102 as MEK's attempt to back out of the argument on s**ism.

In comment #104, responding to MEK, OldPro acts like a lawyer.
Rather than taking his cue, he deflects the issue from CG by shifting focusing to MEK's obvious attempt to untangle herself from the s**ism issue.


In my personal opinion, this group (the commenters) has become stagnant. It appears to me that some Miami participants consider the comment section their personal fiefdom and are patronizing or outright hostile to others who do not share their views. This is resulting in a contraction of the number of participants and dissuades new readers from joining into the discussion.

What we have left, is four or five people, who agree with each other, talking with one another. Pleasant, but not much of a discussion.



July 9, 2006, 9:21 PM

Franklin, just because you know how to filter the messages does not mean it should be done. This seems like a weak response to a problem which does not exist.



July 9, 2006, 9:21 PM

feel better now George?



July 9, 2006, 9:25 PM

JS, like most decent definitions of art, this works up to a point. Functionlessness is one of the hallmarks of art - something done for its own sake. But consider your average art history textbook, which has buildings, censers, rhytons, and all kinds of functional objects, and we don't complain. Nevertheless, I've been thinking lately that if the art is all context, we ought to take a poke at that. The common example is a Rembrandt being used to prop open a door. I doesn't turn into a doorstop - it turns into an extremely misplaced Rembrandt. At the other end, you can find victim examples of what I call natural art criticism. You can comfortably go along with common agreement about what is and isn't art. It only becomes a problem when you try to pin it down exactly. It doesn't respond well to that.



July 9, 2006, 9:29 PM

Re #132 JS,

Well, I toned it down several times before I pushed the button.



July 9, 2006, 10:03 PM

George, that's an extremely gentle reading of #102.

And I have to disagree with your assessment of the regulars. Some of them are from Canada, a fact that blows me away whenever I consider it. We got a new voice today (hi, Oak!), RL is coming by with increasing frequency, as is Bunny (praise Bunny!). It's changing in its organic and somewhat glacial way.

People are tending to agree with each other, but look at it this way: the agreement is over the overall parameters. If you go to KH's blog, nobody wants to talk about whether whole swaths of the art landscape are invalid or barren. Trust me, I've run the experiment. Over here, we're reluctant to entertain whether those swaths are valid. And if KH's approach is acceptable, than so is this one. The art landscape is becoming differentiated, which is a natural result of pluralism. Each subgroup is going to anoint its own pundits. You may say the TNFH crowd (as an example) is more open, but I promise you that they're not thinking about, say, botannical illustration, which has a whole community around it with its own priorities. There's a different set of concerns, and it's a finite set, if not a crisply defined one. Just like here.

This is good, because hashing out the big parameters all the time is what causes the conversation to stagnate into turf wars, as you aptly put it, but not Miami vs. the rest of world, but an optical approach vs. a theoretical one. With enough people on the same page, you can have a specialized conversation about shared interests, and a friendlier one. We ought to be talking about how good Klimt is, or not, rather than fending of paleophobes from a conversation that really isn't about them. They used to show up more often, and we got rid of them. I used to drop by TNFH to comment, and finally got fed up with the approach (arguing with those people is like using a stick to attack an ocean of mayonnaise), threw a troll fit, and left. So they got rid of me, not overtly, just because that wasn't my scene. I see it all happening as it ought to, at least at the moment.

I was thinking that I was overreacting with my autoresponse idea, even as I first suggested it. So I was just venting into a text file, privately, thinking about the crap I'd like to just answer with a form letter. Right after I wrote the bit about fascism, I mean it, by twenty minutes, Mek called me a fascist, and I realized I was on to something. It's not a filter - it's just a list of jabs that I'm not going to treat like serious thinking anymore. Hopefully we can cut down on a bit of thread bloat with it.



July 9, 2006, 10:03 PM

Re #133: Franklin said:
Nevertheless, I've been thinking lately that if the art is all context, we ought to take a poke at that.

There are a widely varying approaches to making art at the current time. I am willing to assume they are all valid, if the artist wants to say it is "art" then he is entering the work into the art context. This doesn't seem to be a problem, the question is how does one deal with the work critically?

As a viewer, one can just dismiss the work as uninteresting, or outright bad, whatever. As a critic, one has the same choice of course, or one could attempt to deal with the work, on its own terms, in a more critical fashion. The problem phrase is "on its own terms", a lot of current artworks might be considered non-art by some writers yet they are staunchly defended by others.

So what is it that makes one viewer have one opinion and the second, another. We could say "taste" but how is "taste" informed? I think this is a major issue, that "taste" is in part a function of the cultural context. That it is shaped by the art we have seen and our personal preferences. For example, Piri wrote a couple of lines on the Dubuffet - Basquiat exhibition at the Pace Gallery. She liked the Dubuffet cow painting but dismissed the later works as "in decline". I saw the same show 5 times, even on the last visit I was still knocked out by Dubuffet's "Mêle moments" which I think is the best painting he ever made. I don't doubt the truthfulness of her response but I would suggest that her taste was formed in a different period than mine, we see the paintings differently.



July 9, 2006, 10:19 PM

Meanwhile, I've never seen a Dubuffet that I've liked, and George is older than me and younger than Piri. I don't think the timing of one's formative years is the issue. You could make a case for me as an outlier, but I think more to the point is that we're looking at a big, fractured art landscape and people are going to settle into whatever enivronment helps them to thrive.

The terms, I think, don't matter much - that idea is oversold. People pull out terms to prop up work that doesn't have inherent charm to it. What music do have in your collection - stuff you like, or stuff you don't like but you think has valid terms? We only make these kinds of exceptions for art, and I think we should stop.


Marc Country

July 9, 2006, 10:40 PM

At this very moment, KH is working on a post about botanical drawing, no doubt.

As always, I agree with George. I think different people have different experiences of the world. Specifically, I would extend this theory to the shocking suggestion that George and Piri, now get this... look at paintings differently!

I don't know why you Miami guys can't see this! You must be sexi-jealou-fascist Republicans.

Great dialogue, thanks everyone!

p.s. Some of them are from Canada, a fact that blows me away whenever I consider it.

Does that say something of your impression of us, or your impression of Canada, Franklin?



July 9, 2006, 10:46 PM

Re #137:

The Dubuffet Piri liked best was the cow. It was painted in oil &?? on canvas, a regular brushy painting with a lot of surface. My assumption about her "taste" was that it was developed possibly in the 50's and that she is sensitive to surface facture.

This show was the best one I saw this year (of a 20th century artist, the Fra Angelico exhibit at the Met was a killer) I think, like you, Dubuffet wasn't on my radar, I went to see the Basquiat's. I was totally surprised by the Dubuffet's, they weren't what I was expecting at all, when I left the gallery I couldn't even remember the Basquiat's. I went back several times, had the same experience and think they are truly great paintings.

Re Miami, it's not exactly what I meant, but it was just an opinion and now that I've said it I don't see any point in dragging it out



July 9, 2006, 10:52 PM

It blows me away because if you tried to find a city in this hemisphere that was less like Miami than Edmonton, could you do it? Probably, but you'd have to work at it. And yet, these people all found each other, over a similar love of art. Pretty amazing.

I'm totally sensitive to texture. And I like cartoonish stuff sometimes. Dubuffet just does nothing for me. It's that tar-and-Elmer's-glue thing he has going on. Meh.



July 9, 2006, 11:10 PM

Re#138: MC said,
Specifically, I would extend this theory to the shocking suggestion that George and Piri, now get this... look at paintings differently!

MC, as always you cut right to the core of the issue. This was my exact point. If we are thinking about art criticism, art writing, going forward, how it might it develop? How does the "taste" of a young writer interested in art develop? Primarily by looking at a lot of art. I would assume, that if such a writer lives in an art center he/she would try to see a lot of contemporary work. Some of it good but most not so good.

Regardless, another factor comes into play, which is acclimation to the era. What is happening at a particular moment in time, hopefully fleshed out by more than a taste of great (and not so great) historical works. I think that what one sees must affect how ones taste is formed, so a young writer has a fresh view of what he/she is looking at and consequently a potentially different aesthetic experience than someone 50 years older.


Marc Country

July 9, 2006, 11:14 PM

...if you tried to find a city in this hemisphere that was less like Miami than Edmonton, could you do it? Probably, but you'd have to work at it. And yet, these people all found each other, over a similar love of art. Pretty amazing.

Well, if someone wants to take credit as 'matchmaker' in this little north/south love-in, I don't know whether to point to you, Franklin, or to Clemmy, the big, loveable ogre himself (He's touched us all, in so many ways... I think I'll go write him another hymn).

What's the plural of "mensch", anyway?



July 9, 2006, 11:16 PM

George, I, for one, have no problem with people of "differing views". I like Dubuffet. Franklin doesn't. That's a differing view, and I don;t have a problem with Franklin. I have a problem with statements that are unsupportable and with people who say them and do not support them. Can we pujt this "differing view" thing away? It simply is not true, and it acts as a kind of universal cover for people who can't support what they are saying

And this age/taste thing - can't we settle that? I like Rembrandt and Rembrandt is older than me and I was not brought up to like Rembrandt. it doesn't matter that we "like different things". I don't fall into panic because Franklin does not like Dubuffet. There's no perfection here. There is lots of work I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that I am probably missing out on. Just because we don't like potatoes does not mean we will starve to death.

JS, the statement is accurate. the problem is that we see "art" as a set of things rather than a kind of behavior, which is what it is. An object is only what it is because of what we do with it. Most things are made for one purpose so they spend their lives in that purpose and are identified as that kind of thing. Recently (in the last hundred years or so) it has been found that things made for one kind of purpose can also be seen as art, things like african masks, and furniture, and now, well, just about anything. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. All it has to do is work.



July 9, 2006, 11:22 PM



Marc Country

July 9, 2006, 11:24 PM

Fair enough... I won't give credit to one over the other; rather, both Clem and Franklin have earned an "Honorable Menschen".



July 9, 2006, 11:28 PM

And George, don't take people so seriously about what they "like". Often they don;t like it at all. Often they don't even see it - can't descibe it. Often they are lying. Often they are responding to fashion. Often it is something fundamentally personal. But if you are serious about art and love it and work on it you eventually (I did, anyway) start seeing and learning what is good and get what is there in a substantial part of it, at least. If you don't, too bad.

As for critics, if they do not have an eye they should not be allowed to talk about art. (That's my fascist statement for the evening.)



July 9, 2006, 11:29 PM

Marc, once again, LOL!


Marc Country

July 9, 2006, 11:34 PM

My assumption about her "taste" was that it was developed possibly in the 50's...

Yeah, I suppose it's not possible to think that her taste (no quotes needed) might just keep on developing as she continues to look at and write about art.

Can't wait for the next 'assumption'...



July 9, 2006, 11:39 PM

Re #143:

I wasn't suggesting there is problem with "differing views" it is something to be expected, a fact.

The "age/taste" thing has nothing specifically to do with age itself, only the notion that ones taste is probably more influenced by the work one sees the most of. This doesn't preclude Rembrant or anyone else but I would suggest that the culture itself is a factor. You remember radio, I remember black and white TV, my stepdaughter only knows color TV, computers, cellphones. These things have to have an influence on how ones taste develops. No?



July 9, 2006, 11:44 PM

Re #148

MC, I was trying to be generous with her. I saw a number of the works she wrote about mentioned favorably and found them wanting.



July 9, 2006, 11:46 PM

Everything has its influence, George, but we work through all that. When we love art and want to make it a big part of our life we keep looking and sorting and judging and we get to that core of what's good -- new, old, whatever -- and we keep working on it until we keel over. If we merely submit to our original impulses we get nowhere. This seems so obvious!


Marc Country

July 10, 2006, 12:01 AM

It IS obvious. George is just playing doorknob's advocate again...



July 10, 2006, 12:06 AM

Re #151: Op
If we merely submit to our original impulses we get nowhere. This seems so obvious!

I never meant to suggest one should. I do think that all the "influences" of the contemporary era affect our visual literacy.

I think that somewhere in the process of painting the factor of memory comes into play, some minute aspect of the painting can trigger a subtle memory, a recognition which allows us to bring the work to conclusion. What was it that allowed Pollock to accept the field of dripped paint? I don't think it was some highfalutin "idea" or "expression" or anything else, I think he saw something in the field, felt something, which allowed him to accept what occurred.



July 10, 2006, 12:07 AM

George, I still do'nt own or go near a microwave, and if I do, I still cover my ball-sack with my hand...
I enjoy reading yours and Oldpro's debates. Franklin, again, thanks for your blog. This is your baby!
I've recentently put some traditional/instructional drawings on 'blogger' - called "pixtures" and would like to get some commentary if at all possible.



July 10, 2006, 12:12 AM

Re #154 Jordan:

Do you have a cellphone? Just asking.
Gotta link?



July 10, 2006, 12:13 AM

"I don't think it was some highfalutin "idea" or "expression" or anything else, I think he saw something in the field, felt something, which allowed him to accept what occurred."

Yes, George, I agree, except it was Pollock that saw it and acted on it, not someone else.



July 10, 2006, 12:14 AM

Also, I just wanted to mention that unlike others, I do not increase the saturation levels of my drawings and paintings in photoshop.


Marc Country

July 10, 2006, 12:18 AM

What about all of those things about being human that don't change over years, decades, centuries: things that are a part of our lives in a much deeper way than radios, celphones, etc.? Things like human relationships, or what it's like to be outside on a sunny day, or the experience of being in a body. Do these things count as much as whether my TV is colour or black and white? What if I don't have a TV, and listen to the radio? Does that explain why I like certain work, and don't like others? How can I make 'relevant' work now, if I don't own a cellphone? Oh my god, I really DON'T own a cellphone! AHHH!

So many endless, pointless, futile questions.... To take any of them seriously, now THAT's being generous.



July 10, 2006, 12:18 AM

Re #156: OP
... I agree, except it was Pollock that saw it and acted on it, not someone else.

You bet. Even the others who played around with "dripping" couldn't take it to that end.



July 10, 2006, 12:18 AM



July 10, 2006, 12:21 AM

Re #158 MC

Well Marc, shoots my cellphone theory down, so how did you decide on what colors to paint "Destroyer of Obstacles"?


Marc Country

July 10, 2006, 12:23 AM

Like Jiminy Cricket, I always let my conscience be my guide.



July 10, 2006, 12:41 AM

Aw shucks, I thought you were going to say you channeled Clem.


Marc Country

July 10, 2006, 12:46 AM

Me, Clem, Jiminy... We're all one with the Tao, George.


Marc Country

July 10, 2006, 12:56 AM

Seriously though George, you know me (a figure of speech), I'm a firm advocate of disregarding an artist's intention, including my own, of course.

So, since you've seen pictures of the work, if not the real thing, tell us, what do you think? That's the important question.

I don't value George's opinion only. The url above will take anyone to my site, and if they click 'sculpture' at the top, the frame that opens has images of said sculpture at the top of it.



July 10, 2006, 12:04 PM

I now have a copy of Hackers & Painters by Paul Graham. A review is forthcoming.



July 10, 2006, 2:15 PM

Marc, as i mentioned here once before, I think your work is wildly original, humorous and lively and a real "advance" - not as "better" but as "imaginatively reconfigured" - on the Smith to Caro to Hide continuum.

I see this particularly in the way you play with figural elements but i don't think it works for the recent "Destroyer of Obstacles" (2006) and "Persistence of Tyranny" (2005) because the figuration is too complex and consistent within itself and can't get in gear with the other elements, it doesn't "flow". This also makes the color problematical, particularly on "destroyer".


Marc Country

July 10, 2006, 3:56 PM

That's one opinion... Next.

(sorry, I couldn't resist)



July 10, 2006, 4:27 PM

You're forgiven. Your tastes have been formed in the frozen, cheerless northland and you don't know any better.



July 10, 2006, 5:05 PM


My first impression when I saw the pics of the installation at Big Things was that the color was a problem. I didn't say anything at the time 'cause I figured you were under the gun and didn't want to spoil your fun.

In particular the two elements which I see as a problem are the falling cubes and the light blue flag/pennant. My immediate thought was that the two colors in question (buff and light blue) were too light and dematerialize the form. What I mean by this is, that while the two elements frame the figure, they become distracting and visually detached from the central element. The red and gray combination on the central elements seem to work ok, the reds is localized and act as accents.

Butting in where I don't belong. If it was my problem, what I would try is this:

I would paint the cubes gray, you'll have to determine how light or dark.

Then I would mix up 4-6 cans of Grey paint, with the grays equally clustered around the initial base Gray, no black or white but an equally spaced range of tonalities from slightly darker to slightly lighter than the base Gray.

Then I would paint the facets of the cubes with the Gray paint, using the tonality which approximates how the light falls on each facet. The underside would be the darkest, the tops the lightest and the other facets, relative to the surface normal.

If the tonal range between the grays is not extreme, it will enhance or amplify how the facets are catching the light. The idea is to let the cubes look natural, just help them along a bit with the light and shadows. It shouldn't be immediately apparent that the facets are different, all you want to achieve is a slight increase in the apparent contrast.

For the "flag" I would start with one of the mid range grays and just adjust its tonality vis-a-vis the cubes until it looks right.


I agree with OP, it's a funny sculpture



July 10, 2006, 5:14 PM

Marc and oldpro ... I don't know why it is so hard to "colour" sculpture, but it is. "The Persistence of Tyranny" has a fantastic colour/patina on the horse. Why not modulate colour on the figure and flags along the same neutral but rich lines? That would keep them from breaking off from each other and from that nice horse. "Destroyer of Obstacles 06" breaks up along three major groupings too. But none of its colour areas are as rich as the horse.

On the other hand, "The Reawakening of Ganesah" stays together quite nicely. I like the pink flower dealie. And so does "The Destroyer of Obstacles 05", colour wise, anyway.

On the other other hand, the colour on the solid colour maquettes just skims across the surface. Loud and clear, granted, but they cry out for, get a load of this, harsher treatment. Bash it around some and see where it takes you. Might make it penetrate back into the volume.

"The Abduction of LIberty 04" points to a different, restrained way to include colour that is very nice in the JPEGs. A strong piece.

Is Marc a sculptor with a painter inside trying to get out? If so, avoid the Reginato trap.




July 10, 2006, 5:19 PM

I don't know why it is so hard to "colour" sculpture, but it is.

It's all I can do to figure out how to apply color to a flat surface.



July 10, 2006, 5:24 PM

would this count as colored sculpture?



July 10, 2006, 5:38 PM

The question of color in sculpture seems to depend on how the color gets there.

In the example 1 put up, the color is fused into the material. This can be patina, but somehow color baked into clay seems more "natural" even if it is applied. When the color is intrinsic to the mayterial it seems to work better, see Tony Cragg. John McCracken made great minimal sculptures which were solid blocks of color (but the "painted" ones never worked that well)

Peter Reginato seems to be fairly good at "coloring" a sculpture, applying the color but keeping it integrated with the form.

And then there were the Greeks...



July 10, 2006, 5:44 PM

Re#172 Franklin said:
It's all I can do to figure out how to apply color to a flat surface.

LOL. A good portion of the work I have made was on a non-flat surface. You have shadows defining a form which you have to take into account. The same color will be different in the shadowed area, one can make the areas more or less the same, or not.

The problem with actually "painting" on a sculpture, especially an outdoor sculpture is maintainence



July 10, 2006, 6:44 PM

The problem with coloring sculpture is that you are differentiating areas by different systems. It is like playing 2 different pieces of music at the same time, especially because the color tends to get put on flat.

In the example from #1, the color works nicely because it belongs "naturally" to the surface. The same goes for Chamberlain's earlly crushed metal sculptures of auto body parts, although I don't particularly care for them.

Caro has done some painted sculpture that works, because, well, he did it carefully and he is a genius.

I will have to check out Marc's other pieces, that Oak mentions, but as I remember I have no problem with the color on any but the two I mentioned.



July 10, 2006, 9:41 PM

Oldpro has a pretty good explanation. When colour does not work on a sculpture, as it usually did not with David Smith and never does in Peter Reginato, it is because it breaks the thing into that don't hang together like they need to. Two systems is a good way to put it when colour does one thing and the mass of the sculpture does another. Often this is caused by inducing too much contrast. The Caro URLed squelches contrast quite a bit, so it can stay together. Whether this explanation holds for all sculpture is something that I doubt is true because nothing holds up to that kind of generalization in art. But oldpro's idea helps wrap a few words around the problem. It sheds some light, that is for sure. Yeah for oldpro.



July 10, 2006, 10:23 PM

How to develope taste at an early age in order to integrate color with the object.



July 10, 2006, 10:40 PM

Ha, George. You got me. I was expecting some treatise or something.


Marc Country

July 10, 2006, 10:53 PM

167: Thanks oldpro.

170: Thanks George. I wanted the boxes and banner to be light enough to be able to read the objects that are in front of them easily, so they pop out from their backgrounds. Your tonal variation per facet idea is interesting, one I've heard elsewhere, and have considered, although I'm not sure about the suggestion of grey, particularly.

171: Thanks Oak. I know I can trust your opinion, since you're the only one here (other than ahab, perhaps) who knows the 'correct' spelling of 'colour'. I agree that the colour works better when it's been 'beaten' into the surface a bit, like, as you point out, the horse, or the more 'punk' colour treament of the earlier version of 'Liberty'. She was reworked into the later, larger rusty version.
I hate to pick on Mr. Reginato, since he is kind enough to always include me (and everyone else in the world, I'm sure) in his e-mailouts for all his shows.

172: I think oldpro and Oak come close to the answer in their comments 176 and 177.

173: It counts as coloured something, and it's by Caro, so it must be a sculpture...

174: Yes George, although one runs the risk of being accused of following 'formalist dogma' (or something) when one suggests there just might be something to that old "truth to materials" idea. It certainly makes sense though, the natural colour of a material usually has an easier time "seeming right" than an added colour.

175: Again, good point George. The reality is that a sculpture, left outside to the elements, will change in colour. I usually take this into account as part of the (unending) process. I've actually taken advantage of the opportunity to revisit the work, while it's on display even, and 'adjust' some of the surfaces, repainting areas, and varnishing the whole thing... this was done after these pictures were taken though, so the sculpture has darkened, and become shinier, both of which are improvement, I think.

176: Yes, adding colour to sculpture is problematic, like adding lyrics to music, they have to work in concert. And when you're going into polychrome, it's an even bigger can of worms... music, lyrics, and now multiple singers, each with different parts. Usually the colour in my works is 'historic' like in Chamberlain's work: it was the colour of the object in its original utilitarian form, and it may just be aded to or adjusted by me. As the chronological of my work pictures shows, the polychrome is a relatively new challenge for me.

177: Exactly, Oak. Even if it's only one colour, as in my maquettes that you mention, the sculpture breaks into form, and surface, if the colour is not 'integral'. In the past, I've often relied on a combination of a 'worked over' surface, with a colour in the range of 'natural' metal patinas (even if they aren't 'natural' for my particular metal).


Marc Country

July 10, 2006, 10:54 PM

Ooh, that was a long one... there's your 'treatise', ahab...



July 10, 2006, 11:11 PM

What's the matter, Marc, you have a problem with opera? Of course, Samuel Johnson called it "an exotic and irrational entertainment." Still, you could go Teutonic with it if you like. Just keep repeating Gesamtkunstwerk, over and over. Worked for Wagner (or so it's claimed).


Marc Country

July 11, 2006, 12:35 AM

... and Schopenhauer considered opera "an unmusical invention for the benefit of unmusical minds". Still, I'm indulging these 'operatic' leanings for the moment.

Thanks for your thoughtful consideration of the work, all.



July 12, 2006, 12:37 PM

Marc, for some reason your phrase "beaten into the surface" to describe when color "belongs" to a form has a convincing ring to it.

Also, when we speak of color we much include the much more subtle varieties of the "natural" metal surfaces you have used on many of your pieces. I don't think I have seen that before.



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