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Post #882 • October 6, 2006, 10:46 AM • 122 Comments

Holland Cotter does Constable at the NGA.

Battle of the Bands. The sad thing is how many of these albums I owned and whose covers I admired as a teenager.

Fonts are not typefaces! I'll cop - it's news to me. (Kottke)

Museum camo. (Kottke)

Draw bot. (Andrew)

The Danish cartoon uproar, remembered one year later. (Bookslut)

Alex Toth critiques Steve Rude. Ouch. (Drawn) The Dude responds.

Lovin' You. (Drawn)

"With hacking, you never have to worry how something is going to come out. Software doesn't "come out." If there's something you don't like, you change it. ... Whereas writing is like painting. You don't have the same total control over the medium. In fact, you probably wouldn't want it. When it's going well, painting from life is something you do in hardware. There are stretches where perception flows in through your eye and out through your hand, with no conscious intervention. If you tried to think consciously about each motion your hand was making, you'd just produce something stilted." Paul Graham. (Reddit)

Magic whiteboard at MIT. (Reddit)

Department of Customer Support: The blog has suffered during these last few weeks as I went into studio mode. Hopefully the exhibition, opening a week from Saturday, will justify it. returns to full effect on Monday, with reviews of shows at the MFA. Thank you for your patience. Oh, and that bit up in the corner is a wee step towards finding out whether it has become possible to publish your own art criticism in a financially viable manner. Wish me luck.




October 6, 2006, 4:40 PM

regarding the Font/Typeface distinction, I think kottke had the write word: it's pedantry. Frankly (ha!), i had to read that article twice to even understand the distinction they're making, and they fell somewhere short of convincing me I have any reason to care. I like the word "typography," although the meaning of that is completely different.

That Paul Graham quote is beautiful.

A placeholder for ads?! Be still my heart!



October 6, 2006, 4:45 PM

oh my, i must be undercaffinated - write word, indeed



October 6, 2006, 4:58 PM

Graham has such a highly developed sense of the beauty of simple fact that when he writes it sounds somewhat startling and amusing because all the usual stuffing is gone.

Here's another beaut:

I think what most bloggers are doing is thinking out loud.

It's a little misleading to talk of "putting things into words," because that implies the ideas come first. In fact, expressing thoughts creates them. And especially expressing thoughts to other people, even people you don't know. So I think the reason many people like blogging is that they like the thinking it causes.

The alternative is to have the days fly by in a blur. I hate that feeling. Who wouldn't? Next stop: death.



October 6, 2006, 5:16 PM

I wish that Harvey would get out of the way so that I can see the pics of the paintings that he is blocking.


Lucas Blanco

October 6, 2006, 6:04 PM

And, Alfredo Triff does his best work to date:



October 6, 2006, 8:19 PM

Opie, nontheless "words are words" and actions are accountable. If your actions are good, then all else should not matter.



October 6, 2006, 8:50 PM

who the heck is the Paul Graham?? His blog looks fascinating (actually the whole infogami thing looks fascinating -- never heard of it before).

That quote about blogging is spot-on, opie. It's expressed even slightly better by EM Forster: "How can I know what I think until I see what I say?"

One of my fondest memories of college is writing philosophy papers. You think about something for awhile and figure out what you think about it, and as you go about writing it down, it sort of changes. Certain thoughts get emphasized, which leads to new ideas, and before you know it, a quick digression can become the focus of the whole idea. Blogging doesn't quite work that way, but once in awhile you get a taste of that. And it has the added benefit that more then one person is reading your work.

Who the hell is Harvey?



October 6, 2006, 8:59 PM

Re #5
See also The Sean Scully review by Kuspit Something might be changing here, not sure what it is.



October 6, 2006, 9:16 PM

Re #5: I've got to agree Lucas, I like the writing about your work, however I am still extricating the dangling viscera (or is that a pink slab?) out of my posterior. And I thought my daughter was tough. Ouch. Oh well, I guess I can take solace in the fact that no one has read it on "my island in the middle of nowhere".

Thanks for posting that Kuspit review of Scully, George. Reading it is like a wet dream.



October 6, 2006, 9:34 PM

Alesh, Harvey is the young, ironic, clever conceptual photographer guy in one of the last links that Franklin posted above.



October 6, 2006, 9:39 PM

Alesh; camoulflage...



October 6, 2006, 9:51 PM

Went to an ill-fated public lecture this past Tuesday. The speaker, an author, was admiringly introduced with, "I love when you can see a writer's thinking right there on the page". In this case, the lecturer should have done a little more thinking altogether because his talk stunk up the entire campus.

Like Toth's criticism of Rude: “Think! Think! Think! — Before you [write], while you [write], and after! And re[write] if it doesn’t work!” Of course, if you can't think *how* it doesn't work then there's no help for you (and you shouldn't be allowed a sabbatical to travel-test it on unsuspecting audiences).



October 6, 2006, 10:27 PM

Thinking in the head has no shape or permanence. The only thinking you need before you write is how to sit down in front of the keyboard. Then you don't think, you write. And then you rewrite and rewrite. That takes some thinking. But mostly it's reacting, trashing, reshaping and rebuilding.

If you like to think you are thinking all the time. Good ideas show up at unlikely times. Once in a while some related ideas build up a head of steam and you have to sit down and see how they look out on paper. Sometimes it turns into something and sometimes it doesn't.

The best presentation of ideas is short and very clear and written with a little drama If it goes on too long it may be an idea that isn't working out. Or a history, or account, or list or something else that needs length. The best expository presentation goes something like: E=MC2



October 6, 2006, 10:35 PM

re#13 You mean we don't get paid by the word?



October 6, 2006, 10:58 PM

Opie says: "The best presentation of ideas is short and very clear and written with a little drama."

Right on.



October 6, 2006, 11:09 PM




October 6, 2006, 11:10 PM




October 6, 2006, 11:16 PM

George: not that short.



October 6, 2006, 11:22 PM

Oh, OK


Major Art Critic

October 7, 2006, 12:36 AM

Look people, if you don't have a major gallery in N.Y. representing your art then forget about your career and quit bitching. You Miamians have a long way to go. Your still lives, figures and lyrical abstractions don't hold up to the figuration and photo-based pictures that are made in abundance here. The best Miami artists know how to infuse a picture with social, sexual and political issues. N.Y. artists have money and connections and they know that their 'appearance' is paramount. Just because a Miami critic gives a review, and just because the weather is nice enough to host a Basel show, doesn't mean that you people are "all that". Good luck loosers!



October 7, 2006, 1:04 AM

Must be Charlie Finch - rectus abominus



October 7, 2006, 1:25 AM

Finch, or Lee Siegel.

Major, the phrase "infuse a picture with social, sexual and political issues," as if it mattered, marks you as just another bleating example of the sheeple that crowd the contemporary art world. Aspects of what you call success look like failure to me. Good luck with that.



October 7, 2006, 1:27 AM

Wondering what "loosers" are. The opposite of "tighters"? DeKooning as opposed to Durer? I may be a bit too loose this evening and should probably not be posting under the circumstances...



October 7, 2006, 1:53 AM

This person is not a critic of course. Based on the language its someone who reads and believes what they are seeing in the art magazines. The stylistic tendencies mentioned are out of date already.

Further, I don't know any artist here in NYC that would call another a loser, it reveals a misplaced sense of values about the nature of the practice. I doubt any artist with any skill, self confidence and sense of career savvy would make a remark which only emphasizes their own impotency and sense of inadequacy.

I have lived and worked here in NYC for over 20 years, I found the remark juvenile and offensive. Since this person obviously lacks any sense of tact, political savvy and understanding of the field, I would suggest that he consider a different career, one where being an asshole might not be such a drawback.



October 7, 2006, 2:56 AM

George, could that be possibly a career in Law?? :)



October 7, 2006, 2:57 AM

or politics? :)



October 7, 2006, 3:01 AM

or maybe even a gallery owner?



October 7, 2006, 7:53 AM

That confusion of "loose" and "lose" is an odd phenomenon and a relatively new one. It is the most common substitution in student writing, in my experience, anyway, far outnumbering "their" vs. "there", which used to be much more common. I have no explanation for it.



October 7, 2006, 9:34 AM

Pointless to waste time on him. It was a wannabe artist, still in art school.

People, even smart people, have a tendency to project trends from the present into the future as if they are inevitable. A couple of years ago, as a consequence of a vigorous art market, there was a burst of new galleries (here in NYC but also elsewhere as far as I can tell) As a result, there was a mini feeding frenzy for "young artists" right out of school.

I’ve been studying markets for over 30 years, they behave irrationally at times but ultimately are at the mercy of supply and demand. My guess is that supply (art school graduates) is meeting, but most likely or exceeding the demand (the empty slots in new galleries) and as a result the feeding frenzy is over.

In spite of what may be said in the press, as far as I can tell, the auction market for contemporary artworks has peaked and flattened out. Prices are still firm but not rising indiscriminately across the board. So far, from this years auction results it appears more lots are being bought in and that even though the auction houses have lowered their presale estimates, most lots are being sold within the estimate range.

While this may seem irrelevant to an artist exhibiting in a gallery, the fact is that the auction market is the primary force in setting prices in the secondary market and by inference it affects pricing behavior in the primary market as well. It is a significant drag to an artists career to have prices fall in the secondary market as it reduces speculative demand, one of the causes of the recent boost in sales.

The art market is cyclical, it becomes stronger or weaker with a high correlation to the overall economy and to the US stock market. It is highly unlikely that the world economy can remain in an unstained growth period without some form of periodic contraction. The major cause of the current world economic strength has been the rapid expansion both in India and in particular Capitalist China. This expansion phase is moderating and as a result I expect a contraction in world economies starting by the end of next year if it hasn’t started already.

"I’m a hot young artist, why do I care about this?" you ask. Most new galleries haven’t been through a severe slowdown in the art market and are not prepared to deal with a severe contraction in sales. If the art market has another slowdown similar to the one in the early 90’s it is not unreasonable to expect that at least 20% of the galleries will shut their doors. Supply will again exceed demand, an artists just finishing their education will told "interesting work, I’d like to see how it develops"



October 7, 2006, 9:47 AM

Loose lips, lose ships.



October 7, 2006, 9:58 AM

Maybe that s it ... infuse your figurative/ photo derived work with social sexual political issues get a NY gallery and work up NY connections and you too can have a successful art career - even if you didn t get to Yale or Cal Arts and build connections there.
I wonder if an officially- approved minority person(under 25 for future upswing of course) with billionaire collector connections and a PR agent (NY based of course) couldn t achieve the same thing from Miami. In this case maybe the work should reference the exotic or minority identity of the artist-does that work?
This is all about an art career in the contemporary art industry-But I think it has less and less to do with Art
So take your pick: do you want to be an art star celebrated by art investors and players who don t really know anything about art except for the last 10 years of the art market( and probably get rich but then have to occupy yoursellf with propping up your 'career' and the prices of your work as your career ages and you go out of fashion?
Or how about applying your energies to exploring the depths of your own and the collective psyche ,and /or assimilation the aesthetic advancements of the past 2-3 artistic millenia and applying yourself to developing a personal , innovative, aesthetically challenging response to the universe and youor place in it. Thats the real artist 's work.
The Contemporary Art Industry commodifies art for their own gain and most artists go along with it.Too bad I think what we need now is more defiance and rejection of the status quo.I mean we re being governed by war criminals and and pleeeeease let s not pretend that the collector class and their lackeys give a shit about anything but their own gain. Is our purpose to be as shallow and complicit as theirs :ie to appear in Art mags and have high $ associated with our work..
Sean Scully has a great career .His work has held up well and I understand he maintainns a stidio in NY for the usual marketting purposes; I have no idea if he has to prop up his auction prices but if you ask me his work is as seductive and aesthetically (not to mention socioi politically )challenging as a designer carpet( handmade in India one of a kind, of premium wool of course ).



October 7, 2006, 10:24 AM

You are talking about the classic circumstance of the modern artist, David. I think your preferred solution is by far the best one despite the economic constraints because if you have chosen to be an artist it is implicit that you want to be a good as you can be.

One of my grad students spent a summer in NYC a couple of years ago and what he told us about what was being said by young artists and their teachers was appalling, amounting to a kind of willed prostitution of talent and ability, not just to be successful for career reasons but seemingly because it was deemed shameful and derelict not to.

My first reaction was how dreadful it must be to be like this, what a pitiful, unhappy life it must be, how horrible to be so pathetic. My second reaction was how different it seemed from my own experience in NY years ago, when the competition to succeed was clearly expected to happen because you simply better than the rest.

As for Scully, I don't disagree. it is serious work, very handsome and direct, and, as been pointed out on this blog, it knocks everything else off the wall when, for example, it goes up in a MAM show. Unfortuntely, good as he is in some ways, I am afraid this is largely a function of the abysmal level of just about everything that gets put up these days. Real competition would make Scully fade pretty fast.

Also, what is that "wall of light" all about? Only one of the pix on the Kuspit review, "bridge" gives eny evidence or feeling of light. As you implied, the closer analogy is to certain fabrics. Navaho blankets, for example, which can be very rich and appealing indeed.



October 7, 2006, 10:47 AM

I always thought Clyfford Still's paintings had a bit of the Navajo rug in them as well.
Thank you for the auction explanation, George. I don't really understand the auction aspect, but it seems important for the reasons you say--because that's how the money flows.
In NY, everybody knows who everybody is but acknowledges only the professionally visible (represented artists). Insulation, perhaps, from the numbers of galleries and artists. It's easy to fall prey to the pressure of hankering for representation and who does not want their work to be in the market? There's nothing inherently bad about it. The pressure, the excitement of working in the studio, pulling it off: that's the reward, market or no market. Nobody stays an artist if they don' t love doing it, unless they're a masochist.



October 7, 2006, 10:55 AM

I think Sully's paintings are fairly good. Frankly I think they would stand up fine against most other contemporary abstract paintings. His use of color is muted and I wouldn't say he is a great colorist, never the less the paintings do have an effective luminosity.

What interested me in the review was that it appeared that Kuspit was finally attempting to put into words something about what he was seeing. Given the current state of painting criticism this seemed like a move in the right direction.



October 7, 2006, 12:33 PM

OP, this is hardly breaking news, but yes, much depends on the prevailing standards and/or frame of reference held or used by people somehow connected to the art world (including, obviously, the public). I'm convinced many if not most art scenesters have a very limited knowledge of art in terms of the historical continuum.

They know what's current and what's selling well and what the art mags reference, but they haven't taught themselves by themselves about the vast riches of art, and they don't think they need to bother. They just need to be with-it, talk the talk, and stay "current." That's up to them, but it's very meager and narrow, and it necessarily distorts and constricts their understanding. If one doesn't know better, or hasn't seen better, one won't expect as much or even realize more can be had.



October 7, 2006, 1:14 PM

Clyfford Still, ec? Navaho rugs are much more regular. Maybe the lfatness and bright color...

I think all artists are masochists anyway.

I admire Scully's paintings, too, George. It's their "handsomeness" that bothers me. They look too much like "good painting" should look, and they don't push me around and make me run to the studio. It's the Ellsworth Kelly syndrome, only Scully is a more interesting painter. At the same time, given our current state of affairs, I feel very tentative about criticising any really serious painter. I know this is all vague, but, as we have said, perhaps necessarily so.

Kuspit has changed his tune in the last few years. he is still impossibly prolix, but his sense of values has sharpened considerably. When I read his writing now I keep thinking "here, Donald, let me edit that down for you", whereas before I more often than not just though he was full of it.

I know, Jack. I think even more than thinking they don't need to look at past art that they don't even like it. it is just not interesting to them. It's just dead history/



October 7, 2006, 1:17 PM

Re #31
I don't get the carpet associations with Scully's paintings, but perhapes the feeling that the paintings present themselves as monoliths, runestones, or plinths. Did he not describe his works as walls of light ?

George said
"A couple of years ago, as a consequence of a vigorous art market, there was a burst of new galleries (here in NYC but also elsewhere as far as I can tell) As a result, there was a mini feeding frenzy for "young artists" right out of school. "

Hasn't this always been the case? Especially in NYC ?
How can a place that is so expensive and short of space still be the Capital of the Art World?

Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Vancouver, Boston, Miami, San Fran. Washington, etc. all have pretty good art markets I understand. (I recall selling a couple of objects In Detroit ).
As far as I understood, Canadian Galleryists tend to favor older more mature artists and tend to send the younger ones away. Rightfully so as youthfull artists may not be the best collectables, given that three quarters of them may not be making art ( or practicing as an artist ) in the years ahead. I remember a project in Grad. school that involved researching ten years of artists in Artforum. It seemed that the 'hottest' artists had about a three year run, and less than half of them that where visible in the first part of a given decade, would show up again later. I'm definatly not a know-it-all with this matter, but it seems to me that the market is structured around speculations where the collectors buys this or that name, hoping that the press on this person keeps them in the public eye, so the prices increase, and the collector can resell the work to some institution at a greater price. Nothing wrong with that, it's business. However what urks me is that the people in the business end of things rarely have an 'eye' for lasting quality. They may be able to spot something marketable, but fail to see something which is timeless with an art object. (I'm sure that at this point someone has subverted the whole notion of 'timeless art' in a thesis dissertation of some kind). But lets think about why Bacon likened his paintings to Egyptian art...

Regarding artists' marketability, it's seems true that increased 'visibility' can increase sales and thus prices go up as well. Yet if there isn't a 'timeless' quality to the art, the prices are destined to plumet as trends change or the "young artist" burns out, becomes out of style, or their supposed innovation becomes as tyering as a bitchy parent.



October 7, 2006, 1:40 PM

I have musuem exhibition catalogs that go back to the early 60s, Jordan, Whitney Annuals (as they were then) and such like. The longevity factor for artists in those is about 2%. The odds are huge. This is one practical reason to avoid trends and simply make the best art you can.



October 7, 2006, 2:08 PM

re# 37. jordan

"Hasn't this always been the case? Especially in NYC ?
How can a place that is so expensive and short of space still be the Capital of the Art World?"

No it hasn’t always been the case. While the art market has undergone expansions and contractions in the past, the current expansion is unparalleled in history. For a number of reasons, primarily the creation of wealth at the end of the last century and because of globalization, the artmarket has expanded significantly more than in past periods. While there will inevitably be a contraction, I doubt it will revert to what it was before (pre 1990). Never the less, a contraction will put pressure on the more financially marginal galleries and I suspect they have difficulty staying in business. Further, the expansion has occurred worldwide not just in NYC.

While NYC may be the "Capital of the Art World" in a financial sense, this is primarily because NYC is the largest financial center in the world. Trillions, with a "T", of dollars are traded in the financial markets here every day and the players get paid big salaries. Some of this filters down into the art markets but I also think the financial expertise does as well. Whether or not NYC is still the "Capital of the Art World" in a creative sense is a subject for debate. A focus on money distorts creative perspectives by emphasizing careerism and the marketplace. You need to be tough to stand up to it.



October 7, 2006, 2:59 PM

re# 37. jordan

Regarding the grad school research project on "hot artists." I think what they found is true but given their dataset it may be slightly less true at the moment. What would be more interesting would be a study of what happened to these artists and why. Fashion has a short shelf life and artists which had their three years of acclaim often slip from the limelight but still continue to sell their work but with less fanfare.

The artworld has changed radically in the last 25 years, the days of dominant styles are gone and while at any given point in time one mode of working may garner more attention than another the marketplace seems like it has adapted by both specialization and diversification. This may increase the career shelf life, or not, I’m not sure.

One thing I have noticed is that there is a non market related constraint which seems to occur. Many artists will have a good ten year period and it is followed by a fallow period where the work continues but is less interesting. Sometimes, the fallow period will be followed by another extraordinary fecund period, sometimes not. For me, one of the most inspiring aspects of seeing Dubuffet’s paintings this year, was that they were made late in his career, after he was 60. I thought it was the best work he had ever done, proving that age is not a logical constraint.

Regarding "speculation" on artists work. This is something which can only occur with any degree of success, in a strong art market. Speculation relies on the eagerness of the market place to chase prices. A speculator doesn’t care if the work is any good, only that the price will increase. It distorts the artist’s sense of self importance and may give a false impression about the quality of their work.

Gallerists usually know what they can sell. They may or may not have a "good eye" and like artists, great ones are few and far between.

Regarding "timeless" One thing I’ve noticed in public discussions of art by young artists is that they are too focused on the "look" of the work they are discussing. This reveals a misdirected focus on the outside, what’s happening in the marketplace, as opposed to finding a true path for themselves. I remember doing the same thing to one degree or another when I was young. Ultimately one discovers that if you don’t do it your own way, find and understand your own path, you are always chasing something just outside your grasp and destined for disappointment. This is really an issue of personal psychology, one needs to understand ones own limitations, what one can do and what not. Not every artist can approach a career like Jeff Koons, it takes a certain kind of psychological makeup. If one doesn’t have it but still operates with that goal in mind, well it’s going to be a long road to nowhere.

So if one values the "timeless," then as a prerequisite, one has to be willing to give it time, both for the work to develop and time for the outside world to recognize it.



October 7, 2006, 4:17 PM

A case in point:

Rembrandt, while he was alive, was once a very hot item in Amsterdam as a portrait painter. In the 1640s, he was displaced from the top spot by one Bartholomeus van der Helst, whose portraits were more finished and more flattering. Some talented pupils of Rembrandt abandoned his style to adopt the more fashionable manner of van der Helst. The latter's reputation endured for some time; in the latter 18th century, one of his large group portraits was praised by the eminent Sir Joshua Reynolds as clearly superior to Rembrandt's Night Watch. How many people now, even serious art people, have ever heard of van der Helst?



October 7, 2006, 4:50 PM

And it did not help Rembrandt, that, like his contemporary Franz Hals, he was such a painterly painter, while Helst was exquisitely meticulous, down to the last hair. People always like that.

On the other hand Helst was clumsy with shading and proportions. (I remember seeing one where an arm came out of a sleeve at an impossible angle), and some of his pictures have a stiff, overmodelled "clammy" look about them. There is a great big multiportrait one hanging in the Rijksmuseum which seems cartoonish next to the "Night Watch" but which I understand was considered a far better painting at the time.

I'm not sure taste was any better back then; circumstances simply required artists to be trained professionals.



October 7, 2006, 4:59 PM

Wiki has, he's lumped in here somewhere

I might note that there are some very large images available 2200+ pixels,
but it's a nightmare to navigate. (and doesn't work in IE 5)



October 7, 2006, 5:04 PM

Having a very limited frame of reference in art is like having one in opera. I never cease to be amazed at how easily and routinely people give standing ovations for singing that I find distinctly unexceptional or worse. The difference is, of course, that I've heard far better singing previously, so I have much higher standards. This has its downside, because it makes me much harder to satisfy, but al least I don't make a fool of myself in public (not at the opera, at any rate).



October 7, 2006, 5:09 PM

Here's the van der Helst group portrait I and OP mentioned:



October 7, 2006, 11:11 PM

Arte perjudica gravemente su salud y la de los que estan a su alrededor !



October 7, 2006, 11:53 PM

Van der Helst is like a 17th century Dutch version of a 19th century French academic painter. The finish is impressive but too stiff or hard-edged, so that it draws too much attention to itself as a device and appears overdone or artificial. I guess that's what OP meant by cartoonish. His work is certainly relatively wooden compared to, say, Ingres.



October 8, 2006, 10:32 PM

Sharkfin Soup or one generations fancy is another generations folly.


Marc Country

October 8, 2006, 10:42 PM

Mr. Hirst recalled. “You could tell it wasn’t real. It had no weight.’’

'nuff said.



October 9, 2006, 12:46 AM

Opie said: "Real competition would make Scully fade pretty fast."

Agreed. His work is an "also ran", although not that bad, once you accept the level it is at.



October 9, 2006, 1:09 AM

I haven't seen the show at MOMA yet, so I'm writing from memory and jpeg.
The real test will be when Scully is put into a group show of abstract painting from the last 50 years, then we'll see what the truth is. Contrary to opie and Oak, I think he will be stronger than most expect.



October 9, 2006, 1:51 AM

Agent Scully will be O.K. if the work generates money and interest from the masses.



October 9, 2006, 2:10 AM


You don't know #@%* about painting if you think that.

In a top ten list of living formalist abstract painters... dot dot dot

Scully, Olitski, Stella and Poons are at the top in terms of achievement

That leaves six more, including Hally, Noland (maybe to both), Kelley, maybe Bannard and Marioni, Ryman, oops running out of spaces.

Since I'm not an abstract painter exactly, maybe someone else has a better list.

There is a list even if it is only temporary.



October 9, 2006, 8:21 AM


YOU jest, surely.
A minor museum resident, at best. Paints a pretty picture, at best.

Do you need some kleenex to wipe the brown off, Georgie?



October 9, 2006, 8:34 AM

I reacted similarly to Halley (I assume you meant him). Are you out of your mind? That Baudrillardian hack? For hard-edge, give me Al Held, or even Odili Donald Odita. Bannard wouldn't be out of place on that list, though.



October 9, 2006, 8:39 AM

There are excellent abstract painters who in a normal art world would be known and successful but are completely under the radar, George. I think of Jim Walsh, and his wife Ann, who does very interesting minimal painted sculpture, Larry Poon's wife Paula de Luccia, George Bethea and David Marsh and some others like Kathleen Staples here in Miami, a number of excellent painters who work alongside the excellent sculptors up in Edmonton, John Link in Michigan, and many others. Whether or not they make a a "top ten" list, these artists are certainly far superior, as artists, than 99% of what we see out there right now. They are just not fashionable.



October 9, 2006, 9:42 AM

It was late, I couldn't think of a long list .I expected everyon to disagree one way or another. But, I still think Scully would stand out in the crowd


david rohn

October 9, 2006, 10:15 AM

Read the article about the Constabe show and was a little surprised that the writer omitted mention Constables sketches are usually considered to be highly significant to Modernism because the artist did them outdoors. The rough and visceral open air sketches done in oil as preliminaries to the studio paintings look like 20th century work that led up to abstract expressionism, but are usually most revered for the primary idea of the artist: that by working outdoors he couold gain a direct, immediate , accurate impression of his landscape subject.
Although I knew that Monet ( who coinrd the term ''Impression'(ism) in the title to one of his landscapes)had fled to England in the 1860's to escape conscription in the Franco-Prussian War and ubdoubtedly saw Constable s work(and Turner's (as well as Turner s highly liberated experiments with light), I didn t know that he was admired by the French (After living in France for 6 yearts I ve never seen a Constable there).Whatever the case may be, I would have considered comments on this more interesting than comments on Constable's politics and mariage.



October 9, 2006, 4:19 PM

Here's one for Marc and the other sculptors



October 9, 2006, 5:15 PM

That link doesn't go anywhere, George. You've got me intrigued now though.



October 9, 2006, 5:28 PM

of paintings that have been done in the last five or so years, this is one of the best i have seen.

sure there may be some dogs from this group, but that painting above can hang with most anything done recently.

if you have better, then show me.

when the scully show came through atlanta a few years ago, i must say that i was impressed. top tier, maybe not, but very good. better in person than in pictures. they come across a little less clinical in person.

other than some of the names listed above, i think ron davis has done some nice paintings with his hinge series 200-2004 (illusion/perspective/shaped canvas pieces without quite reaching noland color, but nice).



October 9, 2006, 5:30 PM

Try this one



October 9, 2006, 5:44 PM

on a side note, although the south defiintely lacks in the permanent collection category with it's museums, the high in atlanta

has been able to put on some decent to excellent shows over the past ten years or so.

Louvre/Atlanta just opened last weekend for a 3 year run. currently on exhibition velazquez, rembrandt and raphael including this pic-

also, the recent renzo piano addition melds well with the existing meyer structure to create a comfortable humanistic village feel inside and out.



October 9, 2006, 6:28 PM

Frankenthaler should be on the list, for sure.



October 9, 2006, 9:22 PM

Brice Marden too



October 9, 2006, 11:38 PM

that is meier, not meyer, for those who like names spelled properly


Marc Country

October 10, 2006, 12:46 AM

I think I prefered your link in comment #59, George. Crude robots just don't do it for me, as far as art is concerned.

And, as for JJ's objection to George's top ten abstractionists goes, I'm wondering if s/he's brave enough to suggest a list of his/her own...



October 10, 2006, 1:45 AM

I wasn't looking at the robot thing as art, just as a mecho-moving-object.

My list of abstract artists was very incomplete, had nothing to do with what I like and was all I could think of at the bottom of the bottle. In my opinion Scully is better than most.


Marc Country

October 10, 2006, 3:32 PM

Well, if the topic is "a mecho-moving-object", for my money, I'll take one of these instead.

As for your list of living abstract masters, George, I tip my hat to you for trying, even if you might arguably overestimate the Irish Striper... much more productive than JJ's pointed, yet pointless, dig.



October 10, 2006, 3:49 PM

Me too. I like that tandem idea. I wish they would give out more facts and less geeky hype talk.

Who is the "Irish Striper"? Noland? Marden? Can we get an Irish Stripper on the list?


Marc Country

October 10, 2006, 11:47 PM

Sorry, Opes, was my Scully reference unclear, or am I somehow mistaken about his Emerald origins and banded proclivities? Whaddo I know, I'm just a hick sculpor from way up north....



October 11, 2006, 12:00 AM

You boor.


with davis

October 11, 2006, 1:58 AM

Scully: Yeah, but before him we had the Dada artists who were all spoilers. This isn't just Duchamp. André Breton was a huge influence. They certainly tried to bring down the house of art. To be perfectly frank, there's no way in the world that any of those people could live with Picasso, Matisse, Miró; they couldn't be in the same room with them. They had to invent another game. They had to become spoilers. They invented a way to be purely famous. That's the key issue - to be purely famous, devoid of work. The name André Breton is enormous in relation to what he gave us. It's as big as the name Brancusi, who left a magnificent body of work. That's the mechanism at work already, you can see it. One left something quite minor; the other left something unreservedly major. But they're almost equally as famous as each other as names. That's very interesting. It's kind of like the difference between something that is solid and something that is inflated and they are both the same size. But one has density and the other one has not.

Davis: The difference between one of Brancusi's stone columns and Warhol's floating pillows. One has substance and one is full of hot air.


davis again

October 11, 2006, 2:51 AM

Scully:To invoke Clement Greenburg's words again, what one has to do is realize the full potential of the medium within which one is working. It is not to the advantage of painting to imitate another art form. It's ridiculous. A painting is not plugged into the wall. It cannot compete on those terms. It's a little bit like black people trying to be like white people back in the Fifties. They were on a beating to nothing. They were using the wrong terms. They were all trying to straighten their hair. What is the point of trying to straighten your hair if your hair is not straight in the first place? You are working against yourself when you do that. There is room for everything. I'm not telling anyone else what to do; I'm not boss of the art world. But I believe that in order to make a case for painting, one has to use the natural advantages of painting and not confuse it with something else. You can't get hoodwinked into a position of weakness. You cannot be apologetic. If you are apologetic you are lost before you start. If you are going to make installation art, then you have to do it without being sorry or having to apologize that you are not making a painting. But the converse also applies. You can do certain things with painting that are unique to painting that you cannot do with anything else. With a painting you can contain within borders a lot of experience, narrative, emotion, poetry, idea, thought, time, references, and so on, all within a frame. You can't do that with installation art. But you can do something else. In other words, everything has its own set of rules and opportunities. Painting has a unique potential to stop time and compact feelings and experience.



October 11, 2006, 8:22 AM

George made a brave attempt at a list up there. I agree with his larger point - that Scully belongs on it. Expect coverage of Scully's show at the Met.



October 11, 2006, 8:24 AM

" You can't get hoodwinked into a position of weakness."

Good point, Davis. What you are saying, like much of what Greenberg said, seems obvious, but always seems necessary to repeat because everyone gets off track so easily.

Making art is not enhanced by a confusion of methods and materials, it is a matter of finding a consistent set of methods and materials and internalizing them until they correspond with whatever you've got inside yourself so it can get out in visible, permanent form. Painting, along with some other methods has evolved to accomodate this effort. It is best not to work against the form, but the "innovation virus" is so prevalent and so little understood that people think it is a virtue to do so.

I don't think Breton is as "big" a name as Brancusi, but I have not been siting in on college art courses lately. If Duchamp can be said to be the most "important" artist of the 20th C, which is a popular current delusion, then I guess Breton would naturally rise with the tide.



October 11, 2006, 8:41 AM

Opie says: "If Duchamp can be said to be the most "important" artist of the 20th C, which is a popular current delusion ..."

A couple of years ago, 500 British art critics voted Fountain to be "the most important art work of the 20th century". Fountain also graced the cover of the last Sotheby's auction catalog of the 20th century, seemingly to function as the poster child of modern art. Well, it wasn't really Fountain, just one of the reproductions Duchamp authorized in 1964 to replace the real one, which he had misplaced. It sold for $1.7 million. Not bad dollars, considering that the repro was not a true readymade.



October 11, 2006, 9:25 AM

I don't see what Duchamp hsa to do with the disussion.

Duchamp had his moment in the sun but his influence is waning as he is no no longer relevant. In essence, Duchamp's legacy is now part of the problem, not the solution.



October 11, 2006, 9:32 AM

On the ship of fools, the herd is willing to pay $500 at the top because they finally understand how the price got there. The flip side of the coin, they won't pay $2 at the bottom because they can't imagine why it will be $500 at the top.

It's finance, but the failures of group thinking and delusions are universal.



October 11, 2006, 10:07 AM

In other words, everything has its own set of rules and opportunities.

Discussion of a piece's specific "rules and opportunities" may be the only practicable way to outline an artwork's alleged essence, as was being talked about earlier.



October 11, 2006, 11:21 AM

That "essence" cannot be put into words, as I think we have decided (at least here). The material characteristics and reflections on the methods feel around it and lend a helpful familiarity. Most other talk simply avoids it. It is a lot like Plato's shadows.


Marc Country

October 11, 2006, 11:32 AM

Breton is pretty famous, sure, but I just thought that was because of all those paintings Gauguin did of his women...



October 11, 2006, 12:02 PM

hey George, Duchamp is not over. Barbara Striesand's comment last night that "the role of the artist is to disturb" to explain why she took a shot at George Bush is something that can be traced right back to him.

But I guess you may be saying that, when you say he has become part of the problem. I would just add that he has been part of the problem since the 60s.



October 11, 2006, 12:46 PM

When pop stars start mouthing profundities about art it is time to conclude that the profundity in question died a few decades ago and needs a hasty burial.



October 11, 2006, 12:56 PM

John McCain sings Streisand



October 11, 2006, 1:24 PM

Duchamp is dead but a lot of people haven't figured it out yet.

"The role of the artist is to disturb" doesn't have anything to do with Duchamp.

Duchamp's emphasis on the conceptual over the visual (the "retinal") was the only solution he had. Look at his paintings, he was incapable of competing in the arena of the visual so he found an area, surrealism and DADA, where he could justify his work by situating it in a different part of the creative landscape. More power to him.

None the less, this essentially defensive positioning of his oeuvre has been misread to imply the validity of a philosophical emphasis on the conceptual over the retinal. The logic of this conclusion is obviously false. Moreover, I would suggest that to emphasize the retinal over the conceptual is also equally false. These two aspects, the visual, and the conceptual are equally valid, and in fact part of the same artistic body.

The inherent fragility of the conceptual is that is prone to being fugitive, it’s "meaning" can become obscured over time. If one considers older paintings, in many cases we may not know much, if anything, about their conceptual raison d’être. We are left to judge the paintings solely on their visual merits which resulted from seeking a resolution to the conceptual. So one of the strengths of the conceptual, is that it can provide an underlying structure for the visual which might not be conceivable any other way.

I would argue that the visual is just as fragile. It is subject to fashion, with the underlying risk of becoming a painting only satisfies fashion and fails to connect with the primordial response.

The mediator is history. The great strength of painting as a medium is that we have benchmarks, great historical works from all cultures, that we can use to make a comparison, to revalidate the primordial experience in the present.



October 11, 2006, 1:34 PM

Let;s not get into the Great Douchebag again George.

When you say that the visual and conceptual are equally "valid" it sounds as if you are saying they are equally important in visual art. This seems wrong on the face of it, any way you look at it.

Changes in fashion do not make the visual "fragile". The visual as always there; it abides. The conceptual, beyond simple facts drawn from the visual, does not. The u****l, in time, will be seen merely as a symptom of a delusion.

I think you have said as much several times on this blog.



October 11, 2006, 2:24 PM

The "inherent fragility" of the conceptual is that it is beside the point.



October 11, 2006, 2:30 PM

#87, Opie,

I didn’t bring up Duchamp. I said he was not relevant in comment #78. His legacy has permeated into the fabric of the time as if it were the truth. I think it should be clear from my comments that I stand in opposition to this point of view.

When you say that the visual and conceptual are equally "valid" it sounds as if you are saying they are equally important in visual art. This seems wrong on the face of it, any way you look at it.

Yes, that is what I am unequivocally saying. From a point of view of the practice, the visual and the conceptual both are important. While one may emphasize one or the other, both can exist in concert. Specifically, in the process, the conceptual can provide a framework for the visual. It is no guarantee that the visual will succeed.

I used the term "primordial response" instead of aesthetic, but I mean the same thing. A great painting succeeds first at this level, everything else follows. What follows is another kind of engagement with the viewer, maybe it is purely psychological, or conceptual, or both, but I cannot discount these qualities as being unimportant for they add to the richness of the experience.

The visual is terribly fragile, there are no formulas, no laundry list of actions which can take one to a final solution. I agree without any hesitation that it is the goal. I cannot say how it is done, only something that I strive to achieve by any means possible, by any path conceivable, direct or indirect, it does not matter.



October 11, 2006, 3:23 PM

Not having a "laundry list" is hardly tantamount to "fragility", George.

And your placement of what "important" means, or what it is meant to encompass, seems to slide around a lot.



October 11, 2006, 4:19 PM


I'm assuming you were referring to "What follows is another kind of engagement with the viewer, maybe it is purely psychological, or conceptual, or both, but I cannot discount these qualities as being unimportant for they add to the richness of the experience."

What I'm saying is that painting isn't a one trick pony. A great painting functions on multiple levels.

Fragility, just because one aspires to make a "good painting" doesn't mean it will be a good painting.

A lot of perfectly acceptable paintings made with this intent aren’t great, just acceptable. They get made within certain temporal constructs, cubism, impressionism, neo-classical, whatever. These constructs allow for the creation of an acceptable painting, the artist may even think it is a "good painting" and history judges otherwise.

Why is this? I suspect it is because we become locked into our own personal belief systems, systems which allow the paintings to come into existence but which are in fact arbitrary and no guarantee the painting will be great. Great paintings are a mystery. The process is fragile.



October 11, 2006, 4:25 PM

Re #88 Oak

The "inherent fragility" of the conceptual is that it is beside the point.

That’s a spurious remark. It demeans the viewers experience.



October 11, 2006, 4:35 PM

Now "That's Entertainment" ! And he sings too -he has my vote. Thanks for the lighter side Franklin.

And good luck with the upcoming show, I'm excited to see you pushing the risk out there with your new work.



October 11, 2006, 5:36 PM

George, as I have intimated before, having a discussion with you is like playing hide-and-seek.

Geez, "functions on multiple levels"? My writing students wouldn't dare write such a thing. One of them once said that his work "operates on several levels" and I said the only thing that operates on several levels is a busy surgeon in a tall hospital.

Really! A painting can be many things. You can use it as a dart board iif you want to. But it is a visual thing that you look at and get a response to. That's what counts. You say the same thing yourself when you are not juking and jiving around. Forget "levels".

And what does your original remark about "fragility", or my response to it, have to do with "just because one aspires to make a "good painting" doesn't mean it will be a good painting."??

Never mind, never mind.



October 11, 2006, 6:14 PM

I've been reading along here, and it occurs to me that "the conceptual" doesn't exist. Content exists. There's actual content (this is a picture of an apple), and implied content (this apple depicts a story from Genesis). Does that clarify things, or confuse them?

Stumpie, thanks. I hope it works. Will I see you there?


Marc Country

October 11, 2006, 7:24 PM

George, as I have intimated before, having a discussion with you is like playing hide-and-seek.
Or Marco Polo... with an eel... in a pool full of used motor oil... But bless you for trying, Opie.



October 11, 2006, 8:16 PM

Thanks Marc

That seems more exacting, Franklin, but we have been talking all along, George and I, about "The Conceptual" as if it is some sorty of real thing, and or course it isn't , it's just an abstraction. He always ropes me into his hall of mirrors.

I guess what he means by conceptual is whatever you think about after you are done looking.



October 11, 2006, 9:44 PM

Done in by Duchamp, give me a break.

Conceptual as in...
4. (of) The act, process, or power of conceiving mentally; formulation of ideas, especially of abstractions. (Webster)

Assuming I was inferring something akin to "conceptual art" is flattering but not what I meant.

I am of a mind that the "aesthetic experience" first occurs on a primordial level, more or less instantaneously in the subconscious. It is followed by a conceptual awareness of what was seen, using conceptual in the sense defined above.

Further, I suspect that the "primordial experience" doesn’t just occur because the colors are all in the right places (whatever) but it is also due to subconscious’s recognition and response process. In such a case, this subconscious process is something which can potentially be conceptualized.

I wouldn’t quite use the word "subject" to replace this notion. The word subject infers a (conscious) symbolic element in the painting which may not be the case. Just an accumulated series of decisions, the trail of the hand of the maker, would be sufficient to evoke a response without a specific symbolic token.

The fact that the viewer will get beyond the subconscious response and also experience the painting conceptually ties the visual and conceptual together, making both an integral part of the process.



October 11, 2006, 10:55 PM

Thus Scully is a conceptual painter.



October 11, 2006, 10:59 PM

You cannot experience anything conceptually, George. A concept is not subject to experience. And I think if you examine it you mean "verbal" or "specifiable" by "conceptual". An idea is not an idea until it is specified; otherwise it is just inchoate thought. We should be clear exactly how we are using these terms in order to make sense from these descriptions.



October 11, 2006, 11:04 PM

Jordan has a point. Every artist becomes conceptual in your scheme George, and that erases a useful and fairly accurate disctinction. "Visual art" and "conceptual art" really are two different things, or perhaps not things, but two diffrerent concepts.

Also, the response it not "subconscious", it is intuitively derived. That's very different



October 11, 2006, 11:21 PM

Nonsense, they go together



October 11, 2006, 11:26 PM

In order to further the dialogue, check out an ass-woopin painterly conceptualist: Per Kirkeby at



October 11, 2006, 11:39 PM

Whatever, once you start thinking about it the process becomes conceptual (as I defined NOT AS FUCKING CONCEPTUAL ART)



October 11, 2006, 11:41 PM

Intuitive = "blobby paintings"

Why is that?



October 11, 2006, 11:58 PM

Does intuition equal fecal ?



October 12, 2006, 12:18 AM

Franklin - Sorry, I was in the studio there for a couple of hours, always a miracle. Sadly just going to miss your show, I'm arriving back in Miami November 20th, staying through the end of December for Miami Basel. Formally speaking, From your exhibition shot the flow between positive and negative space and the challenge of "conceptualizing" depth into those planes of pure color is intriguing. Plus the close tonalities reinforce that tension and play of boundaries. I will have to see the surfaces in person. Talk to you during the circus at some point.



October 12, 2006, 12:19 AM

No, that was from a comment I think Ahab posted the other day



October 12, 2006, 12:57 AM




October 12, 2006, 3:14 AM

The problem here is that painters stoically remain far behind technology - thus the conflict of interest. The older ones have their own utopian ideas about what the right thing to do is or was, while the changes happen(ed) abruptly. Roy Lichtenstein embraced a medium of progression as did Guston- cartoons and Pop content derived from an ephemeral media source, while imbued with a personal vision. However they executed and presented paintings as paintings of such. Painting will remain viable as a medium of/and about itself, but the maker will allways think about the aesthetic nature of the audience and of the influencial changes that have occured (almost daily) regarding an "aesthetic experience".
When the materials shifted from oil to water based material (even though fresco paintings are water based) painters invented new methods of working appropriately. Today however, living in a heated and air conditioned environment with our senses tuned to a virtual world, our art will reflect this. Thus Aristotlle would be saying 'I told you so' and the Platonists will be searching for new ways to make paintings from "pure shapes and forms" in order to abide by their own idealistic views regarding eternity.
This is just a 'hunch.'



October 12, 2006, 11:54 AM

Re #110 Jordan

I don’t think the issue of technology is the source of the "conflict of interest" One significant characteristic of painting as a medium is that it has a very long history, none of the "new media" have a history timeline coming anywhere close to the traditional mediums (I would include sculpture, drawing, ceramics, textile, etc but will just discuss painting for the moment)

The long history of painting allows a number of things to occur.
First, there is a large base of works which we can draw upon for comparison. We can compare one work against another to see how artists used the medium to express themselves in various cultures and in different eras. We can make relative comparisons and discern which paintings were the most successful as we look back in retrospect. In essence we can use paintings history to establish general benchmarks for the quality or greatness of a particular painting.

Second, a painting will inherently be imbedded in its time, its cultural era, and as such it carries the signifiers of that era, it becomes a commentary on the particular kinds of thinking and requirements placed upon the medium at the time of its creation.

Third, since the vast body of painting spans 20000 years, encompassing a wide range of cultural viewpoints, we can make comparisons which filter out the temporally localized characteristics (2) in order to discern what might be the potentially more universal characteristics of painting, the ones which carry across time.

Among the universal characteristics I would include a distinction which includes the artists sensibility. For example we could compare Ingres with Delacroix, two artists with different approaches to making the painting, one more precise and one looser. While we might debate on how to exactly characterize these differences, I think they are there and occur across the whole fabric of paintings history.

Universal characteristics would also include what we describe as the "formal" qualities of the painting. I could elaborate further but I think you get my point, the history of painting is extremely rich and varied, a Chinese menu of possibilities.

Given the richness of paintings history the notion of "progress" is most relevant when applied to how painting progresses through time rather than "progress" as improvement. Twentieth century thinking about painting tended to focus on an aberration of stylistic development which focused on the "new", the rapid turnover is stylistic "isms" in the last 140 years. I think this was caused by the invention of photography which had a profound affect on painting and its cultural purpose. Released from the requirements of mimetic documentation or representation, Western painting sought out to explore other avenues of expression, in particular, but not limited to, abstraction.

It is my personal opinion, that the rapid turnover in stylistic "isms" is a characteristic of twentieth century painting and that this expansion has, for the time being, concluded. What we are left with is, again the rich history of painting. As we enter the twenty first century, the big difference is that now, because of the internet an artist has nearly immediate access to illustrations of a much larger portion of paintings history than was ever possible before. This is a historically unique situation and I suspect it will have a greater force than any other factor in shaping how painting develops in the new century.


Marc Country

October 12, 2006, 9:39 PM

Comment #98, parsed for human understanding(?):

1. "I am of a mind that the AE first occurs ... in the S. It is followed by a C."

2. "Further, I suspect that the AE doesn’t just occur because VP (visual phenomena present) but it is also due to (something else, unnamed, in) S. In such a case, this S is something which can potentially be C."

3. "An ST (symbolic token) is unnecessary. Just VP would be sufficient to evoke a C or AE without an ST."

4. "The fact that the viewer will get beyond the AE(?) and also experience the painting C ties the VP and C together, making both an integral part of the process."

I don't think anyone disagrees with point 1.

In point 2, I think it's safe to say that ANYTHING can "potentially be C", as Jordan (#99) and Opie(#101) rightly point out.

In point 3, George rules out the relevance of ST... yet, that "something else" in the S (from point 1) still remains undefined.

In point 4, George claims that, because of point 1, both VP and C are "integral".

This is fantasy, of course... just because C may follow from AE (as it indeed may follow from ANYTHING), does not make it 'integral'.

I fully agree with comment #102... "George... Nonsense, they go together."



October 12, 2006, 11:30 PM

I, for one, disagree with point one. An esthetic experience is a conscious phenomenon, and it is not followed by "conceptual awareness". Awareness, pure and simple, (not conceptual), is continuously present. Goerge seems to think that "conceptual" means something like "awake".

Where the capacity for esthetic experience actually resides or how we "define" it is hairsplitting. It is the business of physiologists or psychologists. It resides in us, more or less. We are the experiencers, and we share understanding of the experience. For our purposes that's all we need. The whole idea of "conceptualizing" a "subconscious process" is beyond my powers to conceptualize. I don't know what it means.

As for "Nonsense, they go together", what goes together? Although I think he was trying to disagree with me I didn't know what he was referring to.


Marc Country

October 13, 2006, 2:25 AM

As for "Nonsense, they go together", what goes together? Although I think he was trying to disagree with me I didn't know what he was referring to.

You truncated my quote, Opie... read it again...


Marc Country

October 13, 2006, 2:35 AM

Regarding your disagreement with "point 1", Opie, I think you're probably describing, accurately, being conscious of your own aesthetic responses... which is not exactly to say that they originate in your conscious mind, necessarily. You might be right about hair-splitting, though.

AE is intuitive... you'd grant that, right? It hardly seems like something can be intuitive AND conscious in origin... it does seem fair o say that one can be conscious of their intuitions, of course, but the intuition comes first, beneath the consciousness (or, the 'conceptualness', if you like)...

Again, I'm just a dumb hick sculptor, full of tequila, so take what I say with a grain of salt, and some lemon.



October 13, 2006, 7:36 AM

Marc: I guess you are just saying that George and nonsense go together, which was a subtlety I missed in my splenetic frustration at Georges divagations. Sorry!

To oversimplify:

Subconscious = not aware

Conscious = aware

Intuitive = nonverbal reaction (what we do most of the time) which is entirely conscious. When we cross the road against traffic we are making conscious decisions but we are not forming concepts. It's just that the concept "getting run over is bad" is more readily demonstrable than the concept "this painting is good"

Conceptual = forming specifiable ideas, concepts

George had them all mixed up, like spaghetti. It was a semantic problem.

I have noticed that you Northern folks like Tequila. it must bring you some Mexican warmth now that you are plunging into your yearly deep freeze.


Marc Country

October 13, 2006, 12:51 PM

Ok, how about this:

"Where popular culture is wrong is in contrasting intuition and rationality. Research on the topic is helping to draw a picture of intuition as a bridge between subconsciously processed information and the action of conscious thought (see G. Vogel, in Science, 28 February 1998). Intuition brings the results of subconscious processing to the attention of conscious (and therefore rational) thought. Rather than being opposed to each other, intuition and rationality are strictly interdependent.

Not only does intuition provide the fuel for rational deliberation, but the relationship goes the other way too. One can think of rationality, when well used, as a sort of filter to discern good from bad intuitions: just because we have an intuition, it doesn’t mean that we are right. What it does mean is that we have something on which to focus our conscious attention. It is rational thought, through a slower but more methodical analysis of the evidence, that helps us decide if our subconscious was right in the first place. It is therefore equally imbalanced to be mostly “intuitive” (i.e., ignoring that one’s first impression can be wrong), or too rational (i.e., ignoring one’s hunches as surely misguided).

Interestingly, and again contrary to popular conception, intuition is not a generic ability, i.e., there is no such thing as intuitive or non-intuitive people across the board. Rather, one’s intuitions tend to be more accurate the more one has accumulated expertise in a particular field. A chess master’s intuition at chess is better than a novice’s, but the master does not have the intuition about car problems that an experienced mechanic has, and vice versa.

This means that it is possible to improve one’s intuition by working in the same field for years, accumulating so much experience that our brain eventually tends to transfer part of the processing to the subconscious: we suddenly seem to “know” the answer, almost before we can formulate the question. "



October 13, 2006, 1:42 PM

Too much is made of "conscious" and "unconscious".

We are aware of some things and unaware of others. Aware, or conscious thought, is not necessarily rational. It is nothing more than all the figments and fragments and experiences and reactions we have all day every day. It is whatever gets our attention.

"Rational" (George would have "conceptual") thought is a limited and specialized kind of awareness, attention or procedure, and should never be assumed to apply to all conscious thought.

Intuitive thought, as it is generally used, means thought that falls below the threshhold of concept forming, which is usually verbal and specialized. We function intuitively 99% of the time.

All one has to do to understand this completely is to consult one's own experience for 5 minutes, but consulting your own experience, for reasons I would rather not try to fathom, has no standing among the deep thinkers of the world. Go figure.



October 13, 2006, 6:38 PM

Note: I have provided working definitions at the bottom of this post.

In thinking about how one experiences a painting, I tried to analyze what actually happens as a sequence of events over time. I wanted to make a subtle distinction between what I describes as the "subconscious" or primordial event and the intuitive event. Some may want to think that this distinction is either not there or unnecessary, I don’t. The process in the order I think it occurs.

The primordial event.
I’m suggesting this is a near instantaneous subconscious form of perception which may be genetic, as a form of "filtering" in the brain. There is considerable evidence that visual perception is the result of a processing activity which occurs within the brain. The information from the signals from the eye is processed into an image by the brain. However this happens, the brain does perform certain filtering processes which must have had survival benefits for the species in the past. Some of the filtering operations are designed to enhance our awareness of our environment and some seem to exist to trigger other psychological responses which have had a survival benefit. These processing events are not limited to the human species.

The intuitive event.
If you so desire you can say, my primordial event is something that is "intuitive" It really doesn’t matter because, regardless if you make the distinction or not, what I described as the primordial event happens first. It is the minimum basis for intuition.

"Intuition" must occur in the brain. It is described below as "direct knowledge" which occurs without "conceptualizing" (the cognitive). An event which occurs "without conceptualizing", that is, without active cognitive thought must use whatever information is already in the brain. Since there is no way to get information into the brain other than experience, this would have to include both the primordial and memory directly acquired through ones life experience.

The cognitive event.
The is the active process of thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, or learning about what we are seeing. It’s the stuff we talk about.


Since intuition has no way of occurring without some form of previously acquired knowledge (awareness) in the brain it must be evoked based upon to the (prior) knowledge of the viewer. There is no reason why "intuition" need be rational, in fact with little prior experience or because of psychological or neural disorders, it may well not be.

If ones "intuition" can be improved over time, for example by looking at a lot of excellent paintings, then this suggests that the "intuitive response" is indirectly affected by prior memories which were in part the result of cognitive thought and reasoning. If not, then it can only be a result of the primordial response, which I do not think is the case.

While intuition may be "the direct knowing" of something, this does not in fact suggest what one intuits is correct. People have the wrong intuition about things all the time. Again, this would suggest that "good intuition" is partly a result of good training or conditioning of the mind. The longer we work with something, the more intuitive it may become.

In the cognitive process, one may subject a painting to rational (or irrational for that matter) analysis and try to understand "why one had such a strong intuitive response" I would suggest that these cognitive activities add up as (abstracted) memories which provide part of the basis for later "intuitive responses" by reinforcing particular aspects of ones visual responses by repetitive focus.

- - - - - - - Definitions - - - - - - -

* aware
* knowing and perceiving; having awareness of surroundings and sensations and thoughts;
* Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and one's environment. Philosophers divide consciousness into phenomenal consciousness which is experience itself and access consciousness which is the processing of the things in experience

* just below the level of consciousness
* Not wholly conscious; partially or imperfectly conscious: subconscious perceptions.
* The part of the mind below the level of conscious perception.

* the direct knowing or learning of something without the conscious use of reasoning; immediate apprehension or understanding.
* an immediate form of knowledge in which the knower is directly acquainted with the object of knowledge. Intuition differs from all forms of mediated knowledge, which generally involve conceptualizating the object of knowledge by means of rational/analytical thought processes (and, hence, placing a mediating idea or concept between the knower and the known) (Wiki)
* Intuition is sometimes popularly thought of as the sixth sense. Apparently there are many unconscious processes occurring within a person and when those unconscious signals become strong enough, a conscious thought is experienced. For example, a person might be walking in a dark alley and suddenly, she gets the feeling that something is wrong. Her intuition has become strong enough to warn her about the possible danger. The information that contributes to the intuition comes from different hardly noticeable observations about the environment that a person doesn't consciously register. (Wiki, emphasis added)
* Then there is this link to an extended page describing intuition

Experience: as a general concept comprises knowledge of or skill in or observation of some thing or some event gained through involvement in or exposure to that thing or event.

Cognitive a replacement for the paranoiac "conceptual"
* of, relating to, or being conscious intellectual activity (as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, or learning words)
* Awareness with perception, reasoning and judgement, intuition, and memory; The mental process by which knowledge is acquired.
* Refers to the ability to think, learn and remember



October 13, 2006, 10:49 PM

I have the feeling that the people who think about these things have words they try to find real equivalents for, George, rather than the other way around, as it should be. As I said before, 5 minutes reflection on one's actual daily processes tells us more than the most earnest definition-juggling.

Our brains zig-zag back and forth in a broad middle ground between the unconscious, which we don't want or need cluttering up our daily activity, and rational, verbal thought, which is what we use when we have a specific problem we need to figure out. I'm not sure there are any specifiiable "stages" inbetween, or that we can find them, much less name them. They are too fugitive, and we have not learned to think about thinking yet.

We are not good at using our brains to think about our brains. It was only a little over 100 years ago that we even began to succeed with the most primitive rational investigation of what's in our heads, and most of us still cling to our favorite superstitions, whether they are religious or intellectual in nature.

The discussion of art is permeated with resistence to clear thinking that is right out of the dark ages; the hysterical fear of the simple, sensible writing of Clement Greenberg is a perfect example. We need to tread lightly.



October 13, 2006, 11:11 PM

re #120 opie,

I’m not sure what your point is. The "definitions" I provided were there so there would be no misunderstanding on how I was using them. I didn’t start from the words and work backward. To the contrary I am trying to describe a process which I think actually occurs. Of course the intuitive and cognitive go back and forth with one another. This is true both in the process I described and in daily life.

I don’t see why anyone would have difficulty with what I discussed in comment 119, it’s not very complicated and the only new concept is what I described as the "primordial event".



October 14, 2006, 8:22 AM

My point is no more than simply what I said, George. I was not contradicting your definitions, just cautioning about the whole effort of trying to pin down mental processes, as for example the quote Marc sent in #117, which I thought was faulty. It is very difficult to do right.



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