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Post #878 • September 29, 2006, 8:40 AM • 31 Comments

Grace Glueck reviews Sean Scully at the Met.

House of Sugar. (Drawn)

Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@?*! by Art Spiegelman. (TMN)

This echoes my own presentiments about the newspaper medium. After my show, I'm duly turning my attentions back to this site. (Kottke)

30 Years of Fantagraphics at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators. (Kottke)

Dirty car art by Scott Wade. (Reddit)

Department of Skillz: Weird Al Yankovic. (Kyle)

Comment

1.

eddie

September 29, 2006, 11:23 AM

Franklin, have you considered having the links open in a new page. This is a good site and I often end up navigating away from it before I want to. I realize I can just "control-click" or something but it gets to be hassle after a while. I know I'm extremely lazy, but I bet there are plenty other lazy bastards out there that agree with me.

2.

1

September 29, 2006, 1:19 PM

i agree

3.

Marc Country

September 29, 2006, 1:42 PM

What is the melting point of a gorilla's head?

4.

alesh

September 30, 2006, 1:55 PM

Argh! Get firefox or get used to it. Opening a new page is BOLLOCKS, it's anti-standards, and it's for websites by people who are either selfish, or don't know better. To paraphrase Seinfeld, we're trying to have an internet here.

But that is mere irony. It doesn't pay the cost of a Baghdad bureau.

Kudos to Time for that article, but of course a weekly print magazine isn't the most disinterested source for thought on that particular topic, and they didn't really come up with anything earth shattering.

The story of the LA Times is fascinating to me, and they left out the best bits. LAT is now owned and controlled by shareholders, who care about one thing above all else: the change in their stock price from one quarter to the next. This makes it possible for a very successful newspaper (which LAT was/is) with very healthy revenues and profits (which LAT had/has) to look like a weak performer. So the stockholders demand changes -- ie increases in their stock price, ie increases in profits, ie decreases in operating costs, ie layoffs in the news room. Anyone can see that that may lead to an increase in stock prices from this quarter to the next, but not in a sustainable increase. But there it is.

(So anyway, when the stockholders at LAT recently demanded more staff cuts, the management refused. At the time I heard the story a few days ago, that's where it was, so I don't know what happened, though I expect that the management was fired along with the reporters.)

So what's the solution? Well, I've suggested non-profit ownership of newspapers, sort of a stronger version of the local-ownership idea. But I think a few giants might have to fall before anything like that happens, and the LAT might be first.

5.

jjordan

September 30, 2006, 10:18 PM

O.K back to Art. The Scully paintings are bold, yet subtle and masculin for sure - they do refernce certain painters such as Rothko, and Neuman however. The colors resmble Morandi to some degree, but appear to have more simularities to Spanish painters . Brice Mardens earlier wax paintings also come to mind regarding form, scale and content.
This Quote from Wikipedia:
Artist Allison Hetter, when asked what postmodernism was, replied with the simple phrase: "Everything's been done already." Many observers feel that we are in the stage of po-po-mo art where: "Everything's been re-done already".
Apparently, as far as I understand, Scully is interested in introducing a subjective element to a form based in reason. Thus he could be considered to be a po-mo painter.
Thus many illustrations and comics that appear on 'Draww' appear to be po-po-mo.
Any comments ?

6.

jordan

September 30, 2006, 10:44 PM

Franklin, given this guote, would you say that your new paintings reflect Minimalism?
(The term "minimalist" can also refer to anything which is spare, stripped to its essentials, or providing only the outline of structure, independent of the particular art movement, and "minimalism" the tendency to reduce to fundamentals. It is sometimes applied to groups or individuals practicing asceticism and the reduction of physical possessions and needs to a minimum.)
Or does this not apply?

7.

George

October 1, 2006, 12:37 AM

Re #5,

Note: all my comments are refer to painting which is all I care about.

At the turn of the last century someone suggested closing the patent office because "everything had already been invented"

Hetter’s remark about postmodernism, "Everything's been done already." Is postmodern in its cynicism or maybe it is just a postmodern ironic remark. The remark which follows "Everything's been re-done already" is symptomatic of a misdirected focus.

In both cases the focus on "everything" intrinsically implies a conceptual relationship with something outside of ones self. By this I mean that if "everything has been done" it implies that one is looking at "everything" for what to do, at least by exclusion.

I think the young artist will naturally looks towards "something new" because there is a honest thrill in discovery in ones youth. The very naiveness of the youthful artist is a great strength, for what appears to them as "new" may only be new in the sense of "just discovered" which is sufficient. On the other hand, a more mature artist may see this "discovery" more in its actual context and as a result, it is not necessarily "new" to them. It doesn’t matter, for the youthful artist is fueled by his discoveries and inspired to work.

The "everything’s been done" conclusion is most certainly false. It can only exist as a valid question inside of a fixed point of view, a point of view calcified in the last 160 years, the idea of the "new" as an end in itself. To make the point absurdly simple, suppose we say "blue has already been used" therefore nothing "new" can be blue. As absurd as this remark is, it mimics the implications of the remark that "everything has been done" We might say "blue is unfashionable today" or "bad painting is fashionable today" and these remarks may be temporarily true, fashion is subject to the whims of the moment.

When someone suggests that "everything's been re-done already" it is a failure of vision. It implies a focus on the "look" or the "appearance" of the painting, in the sense they are being used these are more about describing qualities of current fashion than understanding what painting is truly about.

Rather than focusing on the idea that "everything's been done already", one should think about the best painting by a painter you feel was truly great and ask yourself, "can I make a painting as good as that?"

The real problem is not that "everything has been done" but that "making a great painting" is an extraordinarily difficult task.

8.

jordan

October 1, 2006, 1:58 AM

How about Andrew Vicari's paintings - check out:
http://www.geocities.com/andrew_vicari/Works_76_83.htm
Overlooked in the west, however, highly fashionable in Asia and the Middle East.
They mysteriously resemble a lot of the figurative paintings being made now by very young picture makers in the Sacchi collection.
Interesting.

9.

Franklin

October 1, 2006, 8:52 AM

Alesh, nonprofits have all the revenue concerns that for-profits have, and some of the same governance concerns. Instead of shareholders, they have a board of directors that may be no less willing to sacrifice content for money. There is a nonprofit newspaper already, by the way - the Christian Science Monitor. It is an excellent paper. At issue, I think, is not so much the financial organization of the paper, but its commitment to good reporting, and its ability to find an audience for it.

Thus many illustrations and comics that appear on 'Draww' appear to be po-po-mo.

(He means Drawn.) Jordan, a lot of the impulses in contemporary painting, such as the wan figuration, have found better expression in comics. I find that the comics guys are way out in front of a lot of contemporary figurative painters, particularly the painters working in an illustrative style. (See: Owens, Peyton, Essenhigh, etc.) George has yawned at my interest in comics, but I think a lot of talent has moved there, and I often see it outperforming the fine artists. Instead of hinting at narratives, why not make a comic and work with narrative directly? I found this myself while trying to turn the style I was using in the Taichung Diary drawings into easel painting. It bombed. But as a comics project it looks hopeful.

(Also @ George:) Not everything has been done. But without a hegemonic style to deal with, the contemporary art world produces a huge diversity of work, which makes it look like everything has been done, is being done, and is done. Most of it is noise. There are still good opportunities to produce signal.

would you say that your new paintings reflect Minimalism?

They could. I never felt drawn to official minimalists like Andre, but I like the idea of paring down to essentials. Olitski made some big, simple paintings in the 1950s. I saw them at Goldman's and they impressed me. I like Scully, Avery, Davis, Matisse. When a simple thing works, it can be both timeless and humorous. And having tired of the maximalism of my thickly painted work, the minimalist approach to the same problem has been invigorating.

10.

George

October 1, 2006, 11:59 AM

Re #7,

Franklin noted, "…without a hegemonic style to deal with, the contemporary art world produces a huge diversity of work, which makes it look like everything has been done, is being done, and is done…"

For me, the idea of a "hegemonic style" is a 20th century notion, something which is over and done with. A hegemonic style is actually nothing more than a narrowed down definition of what is fashionable. In the last century this may have been a functional idea because there were far fewer practicing artists and only a fairly crude apparatus for sharing these ideas (print)

In this new century we have the internet which has revolutionized the dissemination of information. It has made it possible for artists to view what is occurring anywhere in world art. I wonder if our perceptions about the "diversity" of current artistic production is magnified by both the availability of the information and by its quantity. If one looks at various periods in the last 150 years, there actually was quite a diversity of work being made, some in the "official" (hegemonic) style but also a lot of everything else.

The "style" model which, until the 1960’s, functioned fairly well as a method of focussing attention on a particular art fashion, has disintegrated under the weight of the diversity and volume of current production. Other areas of artistic production, among them, music and literature have already adapted to this issue by creating broad subcategories (rock, classic rock, heavy metal, electronic, indie rock, classical, jazz etc) This is the direction the artworld is moving at the moment.

A concern with "style" is a concern with fashion and marketing, aspects of the real world but aspects outside the self. The desire to be "fashionable" may be psychologically intrinsic to an artist and as such, it can be a valid path of expression. The danger is that the artist may just be "satisfied" with a fashionable security blanket and the work never gets past being "acceptable"

Great art is exists outside of fashion and style, if anything it defines them.

11.

opie

October 1, 2006, 12:08 PM

"wan figuration" is good. That can be the operative phrase.

Cartooning/comics is way more lively and interesting than wan figuration but then so is the view out the window. I find most current comics try too hard and trend to preciousness when they try to be "art". And a lot of the comics artists don't draw very well.

I like comics well enough, especially when funny, but so far nothing rivals Herriman and Outcault to my eye, not only the wonderful drawing, layouts and color but the daffy unassuming nonsense of the story lines. Same goes for Gasoline Alley, Smokey Stover, Toonerville trolley & lots others, even Nancy & Sluggo with their weird landscapes, Sterret, Opper and the whole history going back to the 18th C. or to Roman times even. I get the feeling that a lot of the current artists haven't looked very hard.

re "Davis":

Stuart Davis?
Ron Davis?
Gene Davis?

All more or less minimal at one time or another.

12.

Franklin

October 1, 2006, 12:24 PM

Sammy Davis.

Just kidding. I meant Stuart.

Serious comics people know the tradition cold, and recognize how good those old 20C. comics artists are. Bill Griffiths (Zippy the Pinhead) did an amazing homage to Nancy. Nancy says to Ernie Bushmiller, drawn in his style, What is funny? He replies, "Three rocks" - no punctuation, of course - and out come the three rocks in that minimalist Bushmiller style. It's one of the great works of modern surrealism.

Art Spiegelman wrote

13.

Franklin

October 1, 2006, 12:27 PM

Not sure what happened there. He wrote In the Shadow of No Towers using Mutt and Jeff as a narrative device.

Comics artists are more likely to draw well than fine artists, in my experience.

14.

opie

October 1, 2006, 12:36 PM

George, "hegemonic style" is unfortnate as a phrase because of the currently negative associations of the words that make it up, and I am afraid you are reacting to that rather than to the simple and straightforward meaning that Franklin assigned to it.

"Hegemonic style" is, in fact, a condition which has obtained during the course of the production of all great art in all mediums at all times. "Style" is nothing more than a set of enabling conventions that give every artist working with it the freedom to more easily indulge in the exercise of imaginative invention. This idea may be more explicitly recognized in the 20th C but is hardly confined to it in practice.

I know you are addicted to "diversity" as an underlying contemporary circumstance, but I see our time as not really very diverse and different only by quantity of production. Franklin says "Most of it is noise".
Indeed, most of it is noise. A very, very tiny part of this noise will join the "hegemony" of great art.

My writing students at this very moment are writing about a show put on some years ago by the Guggenheim that presented a "slice in time" of art produced around the turn of the 19th/20th Century. The diversity is startling. Why? Because we have forgotten all about most of it. The good stuff was rare as always, and remarkably "hegemonic".

That's just the way it is, size, diversity, and subcategorization notwithstanding.

15.

opie

October 1, 2006, 12:41 PM

"Comics artists are more likely to draw well than fine artists, in my experience."

I agree. Drawing skills are in short supply everywhere, from what I have seen. Of course I have not surveyed modern comix artists anywhere near as much as you have.

16.

Oak

October 1, 2006, 1:04 PM

I once thought drawing was "fundamental", more or less, to making good art, painting especially.

As my engagement with art extended over several decades, it became obvious I was wrong. If you want to draw well, draw. If you want to paint well, paint.

17.

George

October 1, 2006, 2:53 PM

re #16

Painting is just putting the right color in the right place with a tool that goes where you want it to.

18.

Oak

October 1, 2006, 3:50 PM

That's right, George.

19.

opie

October 1, 2006, 4:10 PM

I had no idea it was that simple, George. I better get to my studio and try that.

20.

Franklin

October 1, 2006, 4:43 PM

I used to tell my students that. "All you have to do is get the right light color next to the right dark color. No problem!"

21.

George

October 1, 2006, 4:45 PM

Duchamps new homepage

22.

George

October 1, 2006, 4:48 PM

Re #19, opie

Yes, it's a simple 3 variable problem.
Pick the right color, decide where it goes and determine how to get it there.
As simple as the 3 body problem in celestial mechanics.

23.

jordan

October 1, 2006, 5:34 PM

I think painting is merely drawing with a brush or any other tool that moves semi-liquid material in one direction or another. To draw is to create a mark or a path in some direction around a surface,
( at least in a historical sence ). I have experienced some alternative drawing methods as well, but prefer to discuss the type of drawing that I believe to be Drawing.

My experience with teaching animators is that they are by far better drawers than most visual art majors. The animators use of line is much more elastic, expresive, and alive. The simple imaginative figurative charactor, which is perhapes created with all sorts of incorrect anatomy and manneristic exagerations, comes to life and conveys an inate understanding on the animators part of human feeling, which is thereby embued into the creation. The fine art student tends to capture an image of a figure or charactor, and although it may appear more proportionately correct, often lacks a 'soul' of any kind. Thus to 'animate' is to give life to the figure, charactor or thing drawn.

Yet how does painting do this - Scully for instance? I have a couple of ideas as realated to metaphors and empiricism - however I'm not really sure.
The animal (content) pictures that I made last year involved a heavy influence in painting as material application while drawing animately. Although unlife-like in appearence, they are more alive then the recent proportionately accurate figures that I have painted more recently. Hmm...

24.

Jordan

October 1, 2006, 5:44 PM

Many fine painters are taught to draw the form(s) first, then fill them in with paint - sort of like grabbing the crayons, the coloring book, and filling inside the black outlines. The result = stiffness, rigamortis, innert, lifeless pictures. But wait, lets think backwards to our childhood. Didn't the students who colored inside the lines get their work hung up in the hallway during parent/teacher night?

25.

jordan

October 1, 2006, 5:59 PM

For instance, check out "Stuckism" or the "Stuckists" http://www.stuckism.com/PaintingsList.html

26.

opie

October 1, 2006, 6:50 PM

"Although unlife-like in appearence, they are more alive then the recent proportionately accurate figures that I have painted more recently."

I would tend to agree, Jordan. Those "animal" pictures were very funky and alive.

As for filling inside the lines, a good exercise for painting students is to have them simply paint very rough broad areas of, say, a figure, and then put lines in later - then paint the lines out with more broad areas, then repeat lines, etc. De Kooning's best pictures, the ones from the 40's, often contain lots of line, but the line sometimes seems almost an afterthought. It works.

27.

opie

October 1, 2006, 6:57 PM

As for "Stuckism": if you can't paint, organize.

28.

alesh

October 1, 2006, 7:37 PM

the non-profit structure has three advantages that, it seems to me, make it ideally suited for newspapers: (1) it allows an organization to make claims to be doing "for the public good" in a sense that a for-profit can't, (2) it repells/ignores buyout offers from shareholder-driven conglomorates, and (3) it can apply for and receive grants. The Christian Science Monitor is an interesting case; a better example of a non-profit newspaper is the St. Petersburg Times.

sorry, I can't seem to get into the art conversation...

29.

Oak

October 1, 2006, 9:31 PM

Jordan asks "Didn't the students who colored inside the lines get their work hung up in the hallway during parent/teacher night?"

A couple of years ago I was asked to judge some grade school art. I gave all the prizes to those who coloured outside the lines. The teacher was dumbstruck and then panicked. To resolve the "problem" my wife took over and gave the prizes to those who stayed inside the lines. Nonetheless it was clear to me which of the young artists were the best. It wasn't a case that colouring outside the lines was per se valuable, just that the strongest artists were not willing to be contained by them.

30.

ahab

October 1, 2006, 11:51 PM

7. Note: all my comments [...] refer to painting which is all I care about.

You trying to preempt any interjection by sculptors, George? That's okay, I don't have anything to say anyhow, other than that I'm sure the Remodernists mean well even if they can't convey their meaning very well.

31.

George

October 2, 2006, 2:54 AM

Re#30 Ahab,

No, certainly the more the merrier.

My remark was a disclaimer that I was thinking from a particular point of view.

Since I am a primarily a painter, my remarks are based upon personal observations made as a result of an intense focus on my own practice. I was trying to express what I hope is a general point of view but I was using my observations on the state of painting as a way of talking about it.

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