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AB/MB death march

Post #918 • December 5, 2006, 5:37 PM • 154 Comments

I was going to skip it this year, partly to finalize the divorce between myself and Miami. But what the hey, I thought, Artblog.net ought to go and do its thing, and there are some Miamians I want to see. I bought a ticket. Then I caught a cold. Then a phone call to Orbitz revealed that if I backed out, I would eat the ticket. Present status: underwhelmed, and hoping that this new Zicam stuff is everything it's cracked up to be.

I've said before that an art writer has as much to do at an art fair as a food writer has to do at a supermarket. ("I notice a subtle increase in the amount of produce this year, particularly exotics like broccoli rabe. But the larger question remains - what impact will this warehouse-size foodstuff emporium have on regional vegetable stands and restaurants?") Tyler, I notice, is trying to situate AB/MB in a historical context, and good on him, but I think I know why: there is no larger meaning, except what we can cobble together out of the frenzy. I think this has to be treated exclusively as a commercial event, measured in dollars exchanged. If I see some art I like, I'll note its existence, but I won't seek transcendence any more than if I were touring a cattle auction.

I will note, though, as a new out-of-towner, the degree to which Miami itself has slipped into the shadow of the December fairs. With a dozen fairs to choose from this year, and only three full days I could bear to part with Supergirl, it will be a miracle if I make it by a local gallery. Even a constitutional cynic like myself will say that AB/MB has made Miami an important destination for the art world. I will pass out my business card accordingly. But as of yet, nothing is happening there that requires my presence during the rest of the year - the show that I must see. (I except my friends and gallery from this, for personal reasons that you probably don't share.) And yet I remain hopeful that one day the city will be mentioned in the same breath as NYC and LA, even if I couldn't wait around for that to happen. Each year at Basel, you can almost believe that it's just around the corner.

Comment

1.

Jack

December 5, 2006, 7:00 PM

Not that things were any great shakes in Miami before AB/MB, but, in my opinion, they've declined since Basel started (meaning during the rest of the "season"). The non-Basel season is not much of one. It essentially feels like half-heartedly going through the motions till the real show in December--which lasts all of 4 days or so. Then, of course, all hell breaks loose, however fleetingly and ineffectually, in an orgy of wishful thinking, desperate attention-grabbing, and frantic promotional maneuvering. Lots of sound and fury signifying...well, you get the picture.

As Franklin implies, the degree of overkill is such that even I, in my most manic must-see-everything state (which I've thankfully moved beyond) could not possibly succeed (and that was for the first AB/MB or two--it's gotten worse every year, and this year it looks like utter lunacy). There is a little phenomenon known as sensory overload which cannot be gotten around, and believe me, I've given it one hell of a try. In other words, except for the high-profile, supposedly "must-see" venues, which are already too many, the rest of the teeming throng is pretty much fooling itself. Of course, yes, lightning might strike, just as I might win the lottery.

2.

opie

December 5, 2006, 7:27 PM

Art Basel itself was much better last year, with at least a couple dozen excellent works among the thousands on display. I hope this keeps up or improves.

It gets tiresome being negative all the time, but one of my colleagues mentioned, and I concur, that Basel has done little for our art community, and has in fact become a huge negative influence. It seems to drain our students and our artists, take the wind out of their sails. It slouches through town once a year like Godzilla, sucking the life out of everything, and leaves us cowering in its shadow until next time. I did not anticipate this, but it is palpable, and it is too bad.

3.

Jack

December 5, 2006, 7:58 PM

Precisely, OP. The problem, or a big part of it, is that this kind of megawatt, ultra-upscale commercial extravaganza is really too much for the relatively shaky infrastructure of the Miami art scene. To put it another way, Miami players are generally too weak to resist the massive gravitational pull of this behemoth, so they mostly wind up plastered against its periphery like hapless bugs--even if some of them like that.

Then there's the little matter of this thing being overwhelmingly, oppressively, unabashedly about MONEY and its attendant preoccupations--status, reputation, clout, VANITY and so forth. Art as such is merely a pretext, a means, a tool. I'm no artist, but I can easily see how one with real talent but no "name" or "standing" could find this sort of crass bacchanal depressing and discouraging. In other words, is this what it's all about?

4.

opie jack

December 5, 2006, 9:54 PM

[Non-sequitur. Deleted. - F.]

5.

Curious

December 5, 2006, 10:46 PM

How can any artist or art lover have anything negative to say about the Art Basel fair and the way in which it ignites our city and our artists each year?

Move to Iowa for a while and you will be missing Miami in December in no time.

The museums prepare good exhibitions.
The collectors open their collections to the public.
The Galleries install a selection of talented local artists.
The artists are movitated to prepare alternative exhibits.

Only artists who are jaded and bitter sit home and complain.

bullocks.

6.

Jack

December 5, 2006, 11:04 PM

That's bollocks, actually.

7.

opie

December 5, 2006, 11:08 PM

I could take issue with your list of benefits, Curious, but my worry is not about the big party itself but the secondary effects, as I said.

8.

Curious

December 6, 2006, 6:56 AM

Opie, your statment "It seems to drain our students and our artists, take the wind out of their sails. "

Is based on what?

Are you taking a survey or doing psychological testing in the dead artless months of August and September?

I work in an internationally respected local art institution, I make, exhibit and sell my own work and know dozens of local, national and international artists ranging in age from the very young to very old.
I know numerous collectors, critics, dealers and museum professionals.

Your remarks are shared by very few. Perhaps less than 1%.

Regarding the fact that it "leaves us cowering in its shadow until next time"...you can see a doctor about that....perhaps prozac can help.

9.

opie

December 6, 2006, 7:35 AM

My remarks are based on my observations, just as yours are. And there is no reason to get personal. Read the guidelines.

10.

ec

December 6, 2006, 8:23 AM

Everyone:
Whether cringing or anticipating,have a wonderful weekend.
No matter what, you will see works of art you have not seen before.
What that is worth, I look forward to hearing about later.

11.

curious

December 6, 2006, 9:36 AM

Personal?
I addressed your comments.
I've read the guidlines.

12.

Jack

December 6, 2006, 10:03 AM

Face it, OP; you're not with The Program. You're not with-it, and to those who are, who indeed must be to operate a certain way, you might as well be insane. Better to quarantine you, to relegate you to some putative 1% ghetto, since the minority is always wrong anyway, and even if it's right, who cares?

Don't you get it, man? We live in the best of all possible worlds. Happy, happy; Joy, joy! How could you, how could anyone have anything negative to say about The Great and Mighty Basel? Can't you see it's utterly beyond reproach, free of fault, pristine and wonderfully pure? Besides, it generates one hell of a lot of money and buzz, so shut the fuck up.

No, no, no. We can't have any dissenters. We must medicate them or insult them or otherwise try to dismiss and discredit them. The system is always right. Money is truth. Commercial success speaks louder than any silly antiquated notions. So either conform or keep quiet. We have ignition!!!

13.

opie

December 6, 2006, 10:30 AM

Inferring that someone has a mental deficiency, needs to see a doctor and take prozac because they have an opinion that disagrees with yours does not conform to the guidelines, Curious. Read them again

14.

curious

December 6, 2006, 11:00 AM

Jack and OP:

I don't wish you tumors, malignant or benign.

You can think the art basel phenomenom sucks. I'm sorry it makes you want to hide under a bed like a dog in a lightning storm.

Hell, I realize the Art Basel Fair itself is very similar to the Home Show, Car Show or Boat Show, with a bunch of rabid European Art Dealers trying to unload their goods.

It is the peripheral activities, events and exhibitions that can benefit anyone interested in the ART.

You might even see a really good piece of art that will eventually end up in a private collection never to be seen again.

You can see a lot good, bad and incredible art during this week.

Please clarify why this a bad thing.

15.

opie

December 6, 2006, 11:50 AM

Curious, when having a discussion where there is some disagreement it is usually a good idea to be aware of just what the disagreement is about. If you read what I have said (Jack can answer for himself if he wants to) you will see that I did not say that Basel made me want to hide under the bed or otherwise be discouraged, nor did I say that I did not enjoy seeing the (very rare) good pieces of art at the show. In fact I said just the opposite.

Instead I said, if not in so many words, that , according to my observations, it was having an intimidating and vitiating effect on art students and artists, what is commonly referred to as the "800 pound gorilla in the room", if you are familiar with that locution. I really believe it is standing in the way of Miami's slow progress toward becoming a serious center for the production of individalized, high level art.

As for all the other stuff, it's either OK by me or I don't care one way or the other.

16.

Curious

December 6, 2006, 12:14 PM

How does having all this great, good, excellent and mediocre art work come to our doorstep once a year "drain our students and our artists, take the wind out of their sails" and " have an intimidating and vitiating effect on art students and artists" ?

HOW is having the opportunity to see work in the flesh vs in books a bad thing?

How is meeting other artists and talking to them about their work a bad thing?

How is seeing how this specific aspect of the art world functions a bad thing?

It is not bad and YOU ARE WRONG. sorry.

game over. I'm going out to see some art.

17.

Jack

December 6, 2006, 12:50 PM

There you have it, OP. Judgment has been passed and you are WRONG. Be grateful someone with far better things to do and far trendier people to hang with took time out from a hectic schedule to disabuse you of your error. It's a lovely gesture, really.

I love this: You can think the art basel phenomenom sucks. I'm sorry it makes you want to hide under a bed like a dog in a lightning storm.

Such solicitous, considerate sentiments. I'm sure you must be all choked up over it, OP, but I'm having second thoughts. Fact is, anybody can think anything sucks regardless of how many think otherwise. Permission to dissent is not required. As for the canine analogy, dogs who hide during a storm do so out of fear. Speaking for myself, fear doesn't come into it, though disappointment, boredom and disgust have been known to occur, all too frequently.

Honestly, do the powers that be and their faithful followers actually aspire to universal assent, or at least lack of any explicit disagreement or opposition? In other words, do they really subscribe to the idea that if one can't say something nice, one should simply keep quiet so as not to disturb their blissful mutual admiration society?

Bollocks. With an o.

18.

Franklin

December 6, 2006, 1:22 PM

There's a legitimate question about what effects the fairs are having on the rest of the calendar. Curious notes rightly, I think, that this convention has much in common with that of any other business. But as enjoyable as it is, the bottom line is whether it's providing an opportunity to make or view great, I emphasize great, art, and anyone whose fortunes remain tied to the city need to think about how the other 51 weeks of the year fare by comparison. One can enjoy this for what it is (personally, I barely drink and I rise early by nature, so the partying is lost on me, but the fairs do assemble several tons of work in town for a week for my viewing) and it is still fair, not WRONG, to question the externalities.

I'm thinking about doing a story on Miami in April. Why April? Exactly.

19.

opie

December 6, 2006, 1:24 PM

It is hard to have a thoughtful discussion with someone like that because there is no inclination to have a discussion, only to repeatedly misunderstand, misinterpret and sound off. I have no problem if someone disagrees with me, and I am even guilty of some hyperbole to inspire it, but this kind of childish reaction is just a bore.

20.

opie

December 6, 2006, 1:31 PM

It just occurred to me that in fact this sort of reaction is exactly what I am talking about, the passive acceptance of the hype, the lack of skepticism, the inability or disinclination to sort out the good from the bad, the impetuous implications that those with other opinions are mentally deficient. Basel does not cause this, but it certainly exposes and puts in focus this sort of mentality.

21.

Curious

December 6, 2006, 1:46 PM

Bullocks if your from the East end of London.
Bollocks if your from Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

again....

HOW is having the opportunity to see work in the flesh vs in books a bad thing?

How is meeting other artists and talking to them about their work a bad thing?

How is seeing how this specific aspect of the art world functions a bad thing?

It is not a bad thing, it is a good thing

Obviously it is not your cup of tea.

regarding your "sensory overload" no one is forcing anyone to see, hear and taste every last morsel....With a sharp mind, discipline and focus you select something interesting and go have a nice experience.

Don't wish the whole Art Basel thing to the corn field, just because you get overwhelmed.

22.

opie

December 6, 2006, 2:27 PM

"bullocks" is the plural form of the word for a castrated bull. "bollocks" in an ancient form meaning testicles and is derogoratory English slang implying screwed up, no good, bullshit, and the like. I pay a lot of attention to words and I have never seen "bullocks" as an alternate form. Do you have a reference?

It's "you're", by the way.

Once again you are taking me to task for things I never said or implied. Don't you get bored with it? I do.

23.

Curious

December 6, 2006, 2:40 PM

yawn.

I ain't here for a grammar lesson.

In typical fashion there is no oxygen in this discussion.

You're a bunch of cavemen in a space ship.

peace.

24.

wwc

December 6, 2006, 2:51 PM

"a bunch of cavemen in a space ship."
I like this as a possible new name for this blog, or for another art fair in Miami.

25.

Franklin

December 6, 2006, 3:10 PM

So challenging any aspect of what's going on makes one a caveman? Sorry, I'm enjoying myself, but I'm not turning my brain off.

Wwc, there's an unwritten rule that names of art fairs have to be one word, or reduce to one word easily. Otherwise there's something to it.

26.

Curious

December 6, 2006, 3:23 PM

It has never been stated that anyone should "turn their brain off" in fact in statment 21 I recommend that:

"With a sharp mind, discipline and focus you select something interesting and go have a nice experience."

perhaps you're a bunch of Spacemen in a Tar Pit.....

27.

opie

December 6, 2006, 3:29 PM

"With a sharp mind, discipline and focus you select something interesting and go have a nice experience."

And no one has taken issue with that. You are arguing with yourself.

28.

Curious

December 6, 2006, 4:25 PM

I am too, am not, am too
What?
No you are.

29.

Jack

December 6, 2006, 6:15 PM

OP, let it go. "Curious" is here primarily to get in a little drive-by shooting before heading off to be a properly enthusiastic participant in The Big Event. It's happened before and will happen again. He (or she, as the case may be) has called us names and done his duty as a "with-it" person. If nothing else, it might give him something to talk about and win him some brownie points with the right sort of people.

Still, it would have been much more efficient to condense the whole business to one comment and be done with it, something like "You're wrong. Take Prozac. You're cavemen." Much more elegant, if you ask me. I'm just wondering why this apparent compulsion to convert or browbeat people who are clearly not going to budge. I would never pull this sort of number on some "with-it" blog, no matter how objectionable I found the views of its denizens. It would be both futile and ill-mannered.

As for you, Curious, if you imagine I give a rat's bollocks about what you or anybody you know thinks of me, you're sadly mistaken. It's simply not relevant. I have the luxury of being neither an artist nor a member of the art establishment, so I'm beholden to no one and can do and say as I damn well please. I'm not trying to make a name for myself, obtain a position, impress people, curry favor, or wheel and deal. I'm just in this for the art, and the art and I will hammer things out between us.

30.

Hovig

December 6, 2006, 7:24 PM

Opie, [and anyone else who wants to jump in,]

I'm interested in Curious's comment #16 above, in particular the specific questions posed, without regard to the emotional or confrontational portions, which seem to be the focus of the current discussion. You said you made some observations, and you are sharing your conclusions, but neither your individual observations nor your thought process(es) for arriving at those conclusions are obvious to me.

One of the difficulties of these discussions is that people argue their conclusions without examining their bases. If you could tell us, for example, what it was you saw in a student that made you think the wind was taken out of their sails, or anything else that might support your conclusions, then I think that would be very illuminating, and it might give us something to discuss other than trying to support the dueling conclusions themselves.

As someone who enjoys art in just about any context I can find it, including the social context to a certain extent, I don't see the problem with a fair like ABMB. That's not to say I don't think it might be problematic, but I have yet to see it. Having been to ABMB a couple of years ago, and having been to the various NYC fairs in March a few times, but not being having my livelihood depend on art, I don't know what the problems of the events might possibly be other than the physical exhaustion of attending such a huge event with all its vendors, regardless of its theme.

Franklin,

I don't think the grocery store analogy holds. Art critics don't review art supply stores any more than food critics review grocery stores, but both the visual and the culinary arts hold regular industry fairs to display the current state of the art(s), and I can't imagine a food critic would feel morally, ethically or psychologically obligated to avoid them.

31.

Pillar of Eternal Darkness

December 6, 2006, 10:48 PM

Perhaps it is not Art Basel Miami Beach itself which has been deflating the students, but another 800 pound gorilla--say, the University itself and specifically the University's response to the Art Basel?

32.

opie

December 6, 2006, 11:44 PM

Hovig, what you are asking for amounts to compiling a brief and making a case. The things I have observed and made conclusions from, or guesses about, although drawn from all the years of experience I have had with Basel, have not been written down or treated in any other way but that which I stated: conclusions made from observation. I think about these things because i am very interested in what an artist has to face and what our students are thinking and how they are acting. What I think may be wrong or exaggerated. Obviously I don't think so.

We have a very tentative, fragile art community in a very large densly populated area that has no real art museum or real insitutionalized center for art to "stick to", to grow around. Almost all of the art life that has any authority comes from the outside, from imported exhibitions (most of which are not even curated here), art magazines, and the like. This is compounded by the prevailing dominant trend in art, which is strongly anti-craft, anti specificity, anti-criticism and pro anything goes and operates, so it seems, pretty much politically rather than on the basis of perceived quality of work. You can see this at work, painfully so, in the complete lack of any critical pressure at any level being put on the art except for the collector's dollar, which most of us, even around here, will agree, is not the best informed and sharpest critical mechanism.

This may seem wonderful and free and liberating, but in fact, as in any facet of life, when conventions are destroyed and new ones do not take their place, and when strong demands are not made, good stuff does not happen.

Then you bring the 800 pound gorilla down into the monkey house. What do the other monkeys do? Monkey see monkey do. They do what they think the gorilla will like. They eye him sideways and jump when he moves. They laugh when he laughs, and they party when he partys and they are very sure, when he is around, that they are having a great time and that all is well. When he goes away all they think about is "what would Mr. Big do now?"

I know this is a silly analogy, but I started noticing just this kind of behavior several years ago. It is subtle, but it has grown, and it has become one of those ideas which again and again seems confirmed by experience. It manifests itself, uncannily, in all kinds of behavior. I think of it as ABS, "Art Basel Syndrome".

When my colleague mentioned, out of the blue, something along exactly the same lines it was like a kind of confirmation. I can't give you chapter and verse; as I said, I am simply reporting what I think. Apparently others do not agree. That's fine.

Pillar, I don't know what you mean by "the university's response to Art Basel".

33.

The Man in the Yellow Hat

December 7, 2006, 12:42 AM

I once had a curious monkey as a pet... he was named George.

34.

George

December 7, 2006, 1:10 AM

I’ve been following along from the sidelines. I have a couple of observations to add.

First off, I think the current art world and the art market has changed significantly in the last thirty years. The business has grown much larger and like it or not ‘art’ is being marketed as a consumer product. I think someone else mentioned that the art business was becoming similar to the music industry. I would somewhat agree, but the big difference is that art is a high priced product sold to a small audience rather than a distributed product like music or books. The one to one, rather than the one to many distribution model, changes the way art can be promoted because the seller can use a salespitch targeted at a small audience. Call it marketing, or call it hype, it’s just another salespitch.

If art has become a consumer product, it would naturally follow that the industry would begin to have ‘trade shows’ like AB/MB. I worked the trade show circuit for several years in another industry. They are all the same, the big companies have the biggest displays, the smaller ones fill the leftover space and everyone gets burned out trying to see everything. Parties abound and deals are made. People go to see the latest ‘widget’ or the newest star. The city that hosts the fair, is interested more in tourism and not necessarily the products being displayed.

AB/MB is about the art business, not necessarily the art. What I’ve heard is that a lot of galleries make a substantial portion of their sales at the art fairs and that is why they attend. The art business is about selling a product and no matter how hard some of the sellers pretend it is something else, the bottom line is the bottom line.

Opie’s comments about the state of affairs in Miami reminds me of the general state of affairs in Los Angeles thirty years ago. He’s probably right in his observations and I think it will take time for Miami to develop into an art center. Hosting AB/MB will probably speed things along, but don’t hold your breath.

Finally, Bullocks was a department store chain bought up by Federated. In my home town they had a store in a building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

35.

alesh

December 7, 2006, 4:07 AM

Franklin~ I think your supermarket analogy works out if you're writing about "the state of Art in America in Our Times." And maybe even not then. You want nice curated shows that stick together and make sense. Basel taps you directly into the mainline, with no curator to intervene between you and the work. True, there are completely different forces intervening, but if it's about interacting with the work, why is that a dealbreaker?

I think the supermarket analogy does more to obfuscate then anything -- the proper thing to compare basel to would be a supermarket that sells finished, ready-to-eat meals, unless you're completely committed to the notion of the curated exhibition as the only acceptable unit for consumption of art. I like lasagna as much as the next guy, but I go for some raw fruits and vegetables, too.

Possibly related: for years, rock music was a single format, concerned with putting out individual songs. Somewhere in the 60's, it became an album-focused. In recent years, it's returning back to the singles idea.

Why in April? Wait a second . . . it isn't because there's a first of the month in April, is it??

As for the comments, same as it ever was around here.

1. Franklin posts something interesting and negative about Miami.
2. Jack and Opie jump in with enthusiastic vitriol
3. Someone comes along and questions them, gets attacked.
4. Said newcomer presents some specific questions for the sake of discussion, and
5. is promptly told that it's been explained to him already, and he should just get it already. then is compared to a drive-by shooter.
6. someone reasonable tries to get the conversation back onto the questions, and is told that that's just too much to expect.

Hey, don't mind me, I was just scrolling through looking for George's comment. Not scrolling fast enough, apparently.

36.

beWare

December 7, 2006, 6:59 AM

I often wish we could have such heated dicussion and debate such as this on our public radio stations instead of the same,day in and day out topics, which center around our troops in Iraq. Sould we be there? When should we pull out?

Obviously this does not happen because, as demonstated here, Jack and Opie seem to be the only ones that care.

37.

beWare

December 7, 2006, 7:01 AM

I often wish we could have such heated dicussion and debate such as this on our public radio stations instead of the same,day in and day out topics, which center around our troops in Iraq. Sould we be there? When should we pull out?

Obviously this does not happen because, as demonstated here, Jack and Opie seem to be the only ones that care.

38.

Curious

December 7, 2006, 7:11 AM

My problem with this blog foolishness is that I like to feed the animals.

I know if I visit this site I will only hear the comments of jaded old farts who have "done it and seen it "all before.

They make interesting remarks, rarely address comments directly and often ridicule poor grammar.
It's kind of like visiting a nursing home.

Yes, I am driving by, but very slowly and I keep driving around the block.

The main problem I hear alot of comments about is the lack of a good art school in Miami. This is not a destination to seriously study art.
There is no reputable graduate program, therefore the most talented will go away to study. I personally do not believe you even need art school to create brilliant works of art....but I am in the minority and this is another topic.

39.

opie

December 7, 2006, 7:46 AM

Alesh, your summary of the discussion is inaccurate and unfair.

Curious, now you throw agism into the mix. Next it will be "Nazi", I suppose. That's how it usually goes. If you stopped characterizing and personalizing and paid attention to what the other person is saying the discussion could be more interesting and less juvenile.

40.

Franklin

December 7, 2006, 8:25 AM

Alesh, step #3 should be edited to read "someone who never comments otherwise is no longer able to contain himself, and says something irresponsible and personal about the people who regularly provide comments on this blog." I have no problem with disagreement, but "address the writing, not the writer" seems to go over the heads of a lot of people, to the detriment of the reading experience here, and I don't appreciate it. (As for the poor grammar, it largely gets left alone unless its user starts defending it. "Bullocks if your from the East end of London"? Don't mix me up with an idiot.)

...the big difference is that art is a high priced product sold to a small audience rather than a distributed product like music or books.

This is where the fairs come in. AB/MB has become quite the blue chip affair - more on that later - but the dozen other satellite fairs have moved in with cheaper work. Art is not so reproducible that you could bootleg it, but the satellite fairs depend on a widening of the market compared to the population that would go into a gallery and buy something pricey enough to cover the rent. And again, that has predictable effects on the aesthetic weight of the work being sold.

I think that AM/MB will speed things along, but Opie is correct about there needing to be some kind of structure in place to take advantage of it. Every museum in town (and I include the private ones like the Rubell) is on the contemporary art bandwagon, with a notable uniformity of taste. That's going to assure that whatever input lumbers into town is going to wash over and dissipate. Miami needs to generate and export exhibitions, it needs an art school of the caiber of best ones in the country, and it needs a collector base that will support a much wider range of work.

41.

opie

December 7, 2006, 9:24 AM

I went to the show last night. It has far fewer good pictures than last year, but a number of bright spots: A room full of de Koonings, some of them very good, including a fascinating small pic from the late 20s, a number of excellent Hofmanns and Frankenthalers and Morandis, A 1913 Braque (a real surprise), A Pollock tile mosaic (yes, a mosaic, and it was terrific), a lovely Ernest Nay drawing in a corner somewhere, some Averys, a good Klee. Not much from the other AE painters, though I am told that I missed a Gottlieb.

Not much at all, considering the size of the show, of other modernists, no Matisse except for a middling small drawing, unless I missed one, one Jawlensky, no Fauvism, no Cubism except for the Braque & a couple Legers. Fewer huge photographs and bad late Picassos, which is a relief. I get the sense that the dealers are having a very hard time getting top stuff. Certainly anything worth looking at is swamped by the dreck, and as you work your way to the back of the room there is the sense that this show cannot possibly be as exclusive as it is hyped up to be - lots of pathetic wannabe pomo silliness and stuff that looked like it came right out of a street fair.

Of course it is a miracle of navigation if you can actually manage to see everything, and I am sure I missed things. If anyone else went please report.

42.

opie

December 7, 2006, 9:24 AM

I went to the show last night. It has far fewer good pictures than last year, but a number of bright spots: A room full of de Koonings, some of them very good, including a fascinating small pic from the late 20s, a number of excellent Hofmanns and Frankenthalers and Morandis, A 1913 Braque (a real surprise), A Pollock tile mosaic (yes, a mosaic, and it was terrific), a lovely Ernest Nay drawing in a corner somewhere, some Averys, a good Klee. Not much from the other AE painters, though I am told that I missed a Gottlieb.

Not much at all, considering the size of the show, of other modernists, no Matisse except for a middling small drawing, unless I missed one, one Jawlensky, no Fauvism, no Cubism except for the Braque & a couple Legers. Fewer huge photographs and bad late Picassos, which is a relief. I get the sense that the dealers are having a very hard time getting top stuff. Certainly anything worth looking at is swamped by the dreck, and as you work your way to the back of the room there is the sense that this show cannot possibly be as exclusive as it is hyped up to be - lots of pathetic wannabe pomo silliness and stuff that looked like it came right out of a street fair.

Of course it is a miracle of navigation if you can actually manage to see everything, and I am sure I missed things. If anyone else went please report.

43.

opie

December 7, 2006, 9:35 AM

Also some nice Diebenkorns and an early Olitski. There were some good drawings and smaller works here and there I can't remember specifically - this is where the sheer number of works and the physical size and confusion of the area gets in the way; I just didn't have the time and energy to relish the excellent smaller bits or to even see them all. And then there are all the people I knew and wanted to say hello to. It is not a contemplative atmosphere, and after a couple of hours thoughts of food and drink and sitting down really take over.

44.

Jack

December 7, 2006, 9:46 AM

Ah, yes, the ageism bit. It's like clockwork. But we'll be fine--Alesh has been kind enough to drop by to provide counseling, which we obviously need if we persist in refusing Prozac, or a lobotomy.

As for vitriol, Alesh seems curiously oblivious to that spewing from Curious, but perhaps I'm being too picky. You know how old folks are. Or perhaps people who work for "an internationally respected local art institution" get a special dispensation to insult others.

I'm actually curious myself about that "internationally respected local art institution." I wonder how much respect I have for it, whatever it is. But of course, I'm presumed to be geriatric (based on little or no real evidence) which automatically means I'm WRONG.

Well, let's see. The Turner Prize is "an internationally respected art institution." This year's selection committee included Sir Nicholas Serota, head of Tate Modern, and it doesn't get much fancier than that. The Turner Prize has just been awarded to someone whose works would not be out of place in an ordinary mall "gallery." Small format, too, for easier sale. I'm so unimpressed I could fall asleep. Soundly. Get it?

45.

catfish

December 7, 2006, 10:00 AM

Jack, I just love your comments. Consider me to be your number one fan. Some may say they are "predicatble" but what they really are is consistently unique. So they are "predictable" only after they are made, which is to say they are not predictable at all, but instead they are original. Thanks for making them.

46.

No. 2 Fan

December 7, 2006, 11:04 AM

Jack... Predictable?

Like the sunrise, shining over the landscape, illuminating all it casts its gaze upon, and most certainly not to be outshone by the fleeting flicker of a dim bulb here and there.

You can always count on the good ol', predictable sunrise.

47.

oh, oh

December 7, 2006, 11:34 AM

"...It seems to drain our students and our artists, take the wind out of their sails"

I noticed that there's a show about UM Visual Arts Faculty in Wynwood and that New World School of the Arts is having an exhibition of their students instead . Now I understand why UM students are so frustrated during this time.

48.

opie

December 7, 2006, 12:12 PM

I wish you drop-by people would get your facts right once in a while. The UM exhibit consists of all full and part time faculty and graduate students and some of our BFA students. This is well over 40 people and that's all the space will hold.

The next show will probably be other students and alumni, but we are doing all this at the last minute in a new space and we have not had time to figure it out.

Please also understand that we are a department within a large College of Arts and Sciences within a huge University dominated by medicine and the sciences. We are not an art school. New World is. There's a dfference. I think we are doing pretty well against pretty heavy odds.

We eagerly welcome all comments but when you comment (this is to everyone) please have your information straight, pay attention to what other people have actually said and refrain from personal insults.

49.

Jack

December 7, 2006, 12:36 PM

Well, thanks for the compliments. I'm glad some people find my comments tolerably readable. No doubt there are more people who wish I'd keep my mouth shut, but that's their issue, not mine.

50.

oh, oh

December 7, 2006, 12:45 PM

well then, you better contact Dorsch because he's sending e-mails with the wrong information.

this is what he sent:

'Dorsch Gallery Artists are all over town:
John Sanchez in Inter-Sections -Across from Macys on Flagler Street.
Kyle Trowbridge, Andy Gambrell and Ramon Fernandez-Bofill at the UM Faculty Exhibition in Wynwood.
Mark Koven at Casa Lin in Wynwood just to name a few...."

51.

Opie

December 7, 2006, 1:18 PM

If Dorsch calls it a faculty show, as such, he is not accurate. You cannot count on Dorsch being accurate. In fact, I believe he left out mention of a couple of his artists.

52.

ah, ha!

December 7, 2006, 1:21 PM

DAMN YOU, DORSCH!!! IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!!! SPREADER OF LIES!!!

53.

Spectacular Spectacles

December 7, 2006, 1:35 PM

Throwing a Wynwood show up at the last minute even though the 800 lb gorilla has been visiting regularly for the past five years? That might be a bit draining for the students.

The number of people in the UM show is much more than 40. Over 50 or 60 probably.

Desperate, but not serious.

54.

opie

December 7, 2006, 2:09 PM

The students are not drained at all, but Andy Gambrell, who did the thing practically single-handed, is a basket case.

Yes, there probably are many more than 40 at this point. We tried to accomodate as many as possible.

Is "Desperate, but not serious" another one of those snide little putdowns? This does get tiresome after a while. I wish we could just not do it.

55.

Franklin

December 7, 2006, 2:30 PM

"Desperate But Not Serious" is an old Adam Ant song and I too wish we could have a real conversation about this.

56.

Smacktacular Smacktacles

December 7, 2006, 6:25 PM

[Advance the conversation. - F.]

57.

alesh

December 8, 2006, 2:30 PM

"Inaccurate and unfair," but apparently not in a way that is worth mentioning. And true, why bother? When preaching to the choir is good enough, trying to win converts is just a pain in the butt. Franklin's reformulation of my #3 is not without merit. I think that one's perception of the tone of a comment will tend to vary with one's agreement with it.

_I went to the show last night. It has far fewer good pictures than last year, but a number of bright spots: A room full of de Koonings . . ._

"The show" of which you speak is Art Basel, opie? In that room, you didn't find any bright spots worth mentioning in the 99% of it that was made in the last 30 years?

58.

opie

December 8, 2006, 3:51 PM

Once again, Alesh, characterizing, like saying "preaching to the choir", does nothing to advance the conversation. I could have expanded on my reasons but I hesitated because I was already in one useless discussion that was going nowhere.

Your first two points were accurate; the final four were not. I do not think asking someone to be clear, address the subject and stop calling names, which I did repeatedly, is an "attack". ( Jack and I were being specifically attacked, ad hominum, in the meantime). His "specific questions" I answered repeatedly but he paid no attention and asked them again. He was not compared to a "drive-by shooter", not by me, anyway, although I did use the term "drive by". He was driving by too often for that term, perhaps. Forgive me if that was excessive. And no one was told that getting back to the "questions" is "too much to expect".

I feel I should be praised rather than criticised for patiently engaging in a conversation with a person who cannot operate on any higher level than Curious and that ilk.

As I said, your statement was inaccurate and unfair.

59.

opie

December 8, 2006, 3:54 PM

Yes, there were objects made in the last 30 years that were good. But 99% of that 99% you mention is not worth looking at twice. Or once, for that matter.

60.

KH

December 8, 2006, 5:53 PM

Long time no write, boyos!

I posted some images from the UM show for all parties (dubious and otherwise) to admire. Go here.

61.

George

December 8, 2006, 6:04 PM

but the satellite fairs depend on a widening of the market compared to the population that would go into a gallery and buy something pricey enough to cover the rent. And again, that has predictable effects on the aesthetic weight of the work being sold.

I don’t think it is so much a widening of the market that is at issue. Because the high end of the art market has become so pricy, the market has become tiered. One could an analogy with department stores, designer botiques and haute couture. The collector in the Newsweek article could, and was willing to pay $160,000 for a photograph, but balked at something priced at a million dollars. There are many young collectors which can’t afford to spend even that sum, their price range is still in the under $20,000 bracket. As a result, there are a number of new galleries which are showing younger artists work because they can price and sell it in the price range of their primarily younger clientiele. The art market has already widened out and I don’t see how this can be bad for art. I also don’t see how AB/MB can be a bad thing for Miami, if anything it should ultimately have a positive affect.

As the regular readers would expect, I tend to understand the reasoning behind Curious’s comments, I’ll leave it at that.

I do think that the changes in the art market have some negative side effects. With so much money at stake, marketing and promotion is being more agressivly employed. The development of a "star system" may be displacing connoiseurship as a sales argument for an artists work. Essentially, it is a form of branding with all the pro’s and con’s that branding implies.

For a young artist, say for a young Miami artist, I think attending the art fair is a positive because it is visible evidence of how the art business operates. It is the state of the art market at the current time. It is evidence of what the art market thinks is good, or at least good enough to promote. People do not all have the same opinion about what is good and this is to be expected. Some aspects of the differences are based in personal taste but I also believe there is a generational factor which comes into play.

In terms of how it might have an effect on a young artists work, I doubt it would be much different than reading ArtForum. One of the most important experiences I had was my first trip to NYC at the end of the seventies. This was a period when the critical thought was dominated by conceptual art and I was interested in painting. Not only did I see a lot of great art in the Museums, I saw that, despite how it may have appeared in the magazines, painting was being seriously persued by other young artists. It was encouraging.

62.

Jack

December 8, 2006, 6:09 PM

Alesh, since you have such a vast, voluminous choir to preach to, why bother with us? Surely you know it'll get you nowhere; there are no convertibles in this parking lot. Or have you suddenly been seized with missionary zeal? You're still wasting your time. Do you see me or OP, for instance, making nuisances of ourselves on correct art blogs? There's a lesson in there somewhere.

63.

opie

December 8, 2006, 6:19 PM

Thanks for posting the images, KH. This is really something we at UM should be doing but it has been more than enough, as Andy can tell you, just getting the show organized.

64.

opie

December 8, 2006, 6:34 PM

George, if what you said was in any way referring to what I said about Art Basel, please understand that I never said that Art Basel was "bad for Miami".

And if you understrand Curious's 'reasoning", perhaps you might be kind enough to explain it to me.

And, furthermore, I do not see how you can compare reading ARTFORUM, as deleterious as that may be for an impressionable young artist, to the H-bomb of Art Basel. This is why I chose the phrase "800 pound Gorilla" to describe it.

And, furthermore again, how can you possible make a comparison of effect between seeing the art in NY museums and seeing the dreck in this slum of a show? Good grief!

65.

George

December 8, 2006, 6:45 PM

Sorry for the spelling errors in my previous comment, forgot to run lint.

In #59, opie said, But 99% of that 99% you mention is not worth looking at twice. Or once, for that matter.

I understand what he means and in principle I would agree. However, if I look at the situation from a different point of view I can draw a different conclusion.

I have been looking at paintings for a long time, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. As a result, I have developed my own set of criteria for what I consider good or bad and to this extent I would be able to agree with his statement. There was a point when I was a young artist where I had not seen so much work and my judgements might have been made differently. A young artist might view another artist’s work, let’s say a "hot" artist, and think to themselves "I can do better than that". I think this is an empowering observation that one can take from seeing art works of lesser quality. I also think that one might stop and ask oneself why do the works fail, what was the artist trying to do, what was working and what wasn’t. This is also part of the learning experience and can be viewed as a positive.

A month or so ago, I spent some time looking at about a hundred paintings from a recent auction of British Surrealist art from the forties and fifties. At first, I was ready to dismiss almost all of it, but it then occurred to me that these were serious artists working in a difficult historical moment and decided to take a closer look. I accepted the fact that they were not "great" paintings but tried to understand what the heck the artists were trying to do. How would I have done it differently, from my point of view 60 years later? The whole process was fairly instructive

66.

George

December 8, 2006, 7:27 PM

re #64 opie

My remarks in comment #61 weren’t addressed to you. They were my general response to having just read todays comments..

I didn’t say, or even imply, that you said AB/MB was a bad thing for Miami. It appeared the idea had come up and I thought it wasn’t.

I read what Curious had posted and understand his point of view, if you don’t that’s your problem not mine.

My remark comparing ArtForum and AB/MB had more to do with a young artist getting a take on "what’s happening" and I think I am correct in this regard. There obviously is a difference in the amount of work seen. I also do not think it is a bad thing for a young artist to be exposed to the facts of the commercial marketplace however crass they may be, it is a fact of life.

In my remark Not only did I see a lot of great art in the Museums, I saw that, despite how it may have appeared in the magazines, painting was being seriously pursued by other young artists. It was encouraging. I should have said "I also saw…" but by inference one wouldn’t have expected me to have seem the young artists in the museums. Never the less, good or bad, just seeing that painting was being taken seriously in a time when it appeared otherwise, was a big encouragement.

67.

opie

December 8, 2006, 9:08 PM

I understand his point of view, too, George. You said you understood his reasoning. That's what i wanted you to explain.

If you have a "set of criteria" for painting, I'd love to see that, too.

When you talk about your own experience, you seem to be talking about a young artist who was serious and discriminating. What you said felt rather like what I experienced at a similar age. I saw "hot" arttists years ago and said "I can do better than that" all the time. In fact we all did. We were ambitious and competitive and we each wanted to be the best artist in the world. We didn't give a rat's ass whether we were accepted or not, except by our close peers.

In my opinion this is how good art happens, and it is precisely opposed to the attitude encouraged by Art Basel, which is essentially do not believe your own counsel, don't bother to work things out, don't believe in anything that is in any way different from the crowd, just follow trends, chase the dollar, look at what is going over, get on the bandwagon and ride.

And here is is, a giant black hole right in the middle of town, sucking up money and radiating those powerful vibes. It is a corporate market, and it you don't find a way to keep your distance and find your own way you will end up looking back and saying what the hell was I thinking.

68.

George

December 8, 2006, 11:02 PM

Re #67

Regarding Curiosity. Take it up with him/her, I’m not interested in going further with it.

"Set of criteria" is probably a legally incorrect term. I think you know what I meant. If one looks with effort at a lot of art over a period of time, one develops a sense of what is good and what isn’t. In my case specifically, I have the memory of intense experiences with certain paintings, everything else is related to these experiences, on more or less a sliding scale.

Art Basel represents one aspect of how the art business is being conducted at the present moment in history. One can either embrace it to some degree or completely ignore it. Either decision has its own set of consequences which one can probably easily imagine.

Just because an artist is ambitious for their art does not preclude being ambitious for their career. Every artist will have to make choices about what they will or won’t do in the pursuit of a career. It becomes a matter of personal integrity and an understanding of what one truly wants to achieve.

I honestly don’t think that Art Basel is saying anything different than what one might have concluded from the marketplace in years past. "Follow the crowd" and the rest, are some of the traps every young artist has to negotiate. So is the idea of "branding", the typecast of a signature style, which can lock an artist into a ravine so defined it confines all but the most narrow exploration. As one gets older, this is less of a problem as our interests become more focused. For a young artist, it can be a trap. Frankly, I think many artist are more comfortable with a defined identity or associated with an established style because it is a more secure feeling.

As you know, in physics there is the term "phase change" which is the point where a substance changes from a solid to a liquid, or from a liquid to a gas etc. I have a hunch that what we call art, art as we know it, is going through a phase change. Modernism, (1840 to 2000) as the definition of the last great movement in art, encompassing most of the twentieth century, is over with, finished. As I see it, this is not occurring for any of the theoretical reasons but primarily because of three things: globalization, world population and the information age. It is no longer possible to confine or define the boundaries of advanced art for very long. There are so many working artists, with access to the latest information that nothing remains new for long.

The marketplace is exploiting this change but I am not sure if it is quite aware of what is occurring. Since artists have free access to information, style and fashion are quickly homogenized, the one characteristic an artist possesses that is unique is their self. By this I more or less mean, what they think and feel, what they expect from their artwork and what they have to say with it. It is about identity.

To my mind, none of this precludes the quest for quality. For those with the skill and vision it becomes part of the identity.

69.

opie

December 8, 2006, 11:34 PM

I know you are taken with the idea of the Great Change, George. I am always wary of making such pronouncements because history always betrays us.

In any event, if Modernism is indeed dead, I would say it died atround 1970, not 2000. And I would also say that if it is indeed dead, then visual art died along with it, art that exhibits its excellence visually, at least. Not because it has to be "modernist" but becasue of the amazing dumbdown power and resilience of the antivisual attitude. The force is with it.

The only recourse for serious visual art may be to branch off and take cover, like the Christians in the catacombs. This may already be happening.

70.

George

December 9, 2006, 2:08 AM

The change that I think is occurring has more to do with the structure of how art is situated within the culture. For the most part Modernism followed a linear path of development which was reasonably confined by a focus on a sequential evolution of styles. Of course there were always other artists working a parallel path at the same time.

I could use the analogy of a river for the flow of art over the last 150 years. The mainstream was just that, the central part of the river where the current was the fastest. Other stylistic movements, say figuration during periods of more intense focus on abstraction, were still part of the rivers flow but closer to the banks.

The change that I am suggesting is occurring is more analogous to a river that has broadened out in the delta.

I think the structural change will become permanent because it is primarily driven by the increasing world population, and not directly by aesthetics or marketing. A major economic collapse would cause a contraction but it would only be temporary.

I suspect that aesthetics will have to evolve to accommodate the expanded structure but this should occur as a backwards compatible expansion, not a replacement of the old with the new.

Since along with the population growth there has been a historically unprecedented increase in wealth, the art market is leading this structural change. In the past, there was a small group of collectors the economics of the art market was more restricted which I believe tightened the focus. This started to change after WWII with an initial peak in the 60’s which I believe was partly responsible for what is called "pluralism". Postmodernism was transitional and in my opinion the tailend of Modernism. It wasn’t until about 2000-2 that the economic changes really took effect.

The expansion, the broadening out of the river into the delta, happened relatively quickly at the start of the 21st century. As a result of the rapid expansion it is not surprising that there was a bit of confusion as the art marketers tried to exploit the new influx of capital. Marketing methods changed and as a result we have Art Basel where, according to figures being bandied about, will generate 200-300 million dollars in sales this year. This is a lot of money and probably comparable to an entire years revenue 25 years ago. (a speculation)

Since the expansion also results in a larger group of collectors, one would expect that their buying preferences, their taste and their visual awareness will be broader and more variable. Again the marketplace will adapt to exploit the situation. Collectors who want an "Edgy" artwork will find something they can buy. I do not think this is surprising.

Opie remarked, "The only recourse for serious visual art may be to branch off and take cover, like the Christians in the catacombs." I think this is exactly the wrong response. When I suggested that the expansion in the marketplace had caused confusion, it was because there was not enough product to fill the pipeline, young artists were promoted to fill the deficit. I believe this will wind down, maybe it has already started to wind down.

In any case, the marketplace will again become competitive and one way a young artist can be competitive is by making better art. Yes, there will continue to be artists who are taking a course of self promotion, shock and awe if you will, but this has always been the case. These are two different and separate career paths and a young artist can choose the one which suits him or her. I see this already occurring here in NYC and I suspect it is occurring in other places where there are ambitious young artists.

So contrary to Opie’s position, I think a serious visual artist has to enter the fray by making a case for their work. If they do not do this they are conceding their philosophical share in the marketplace to artists they don’t respect, it is the wrong move.

I think one of the most difficult issues that a young artist will have to deal with is determining how to deal with the marketplace. Earlier, I mentioned that I thought it was important to have an identity, to make work which is recognizable. For example, if an artist is what I would describe as a sensibility abstractionist, working with minimal color fields and some sort of distressed surface, one will find that there are a lot of painters working in a somewhat similar fashion. I could say the same thing about certain types of figuration. The point is that because of the expansion in the marketplace, the noise level has risen high enough to blur distinctions and quality can become overlooked because essentially the work is ignored. An artist always has the option to continue working in the catacombs or to look for an alternative solution.

71.

catfish

December 9, 2006, 10:28 AM

George: I kind of like your metaphor of "the delta" and how art is dissipating itself, just like a river does at its delta. Deltas, as everyone knows, are at the tail end of the river. To some ways of thinking, they are no longer the river, but something different, as in the Mississippi Delta. In any case, they are the opposite of the headwaters, where the river begins. And what comes after the delta? No more river, that's for sure. In fact, nothing much at all - whatever the delta might have, it is lost to the giant homogenous ocean. An entrophy of sorts, that digests the dissipated tail of the river.

So opie is right, not wrong, to say that those who want to participate in whatever "the river" was about, they must go elsewhere. Call it the catacombs, call it the monastery, call it Tahiti, it can't be this delta you describe because the delta is where art is dying.

72.

opie

December 9, 2006, 11:07 AM

I couldn't have said it better, Catfish. At one end fresh, clean, new, fast, bright, narrow, sparkling with energy and promise, at the other, slow, broad, foul, muddy, shallow, barely able to support life, hugely commercial, cluttered with parasitic appendages, dissipating into small nameless meandering streams and finally debauching into a huge, undifferentiated anonymous dark basin. Perfect.

73.

Jack

December 9, 2006, 11:21 AM

Collectors who want an "Edgy" artwork will find something they can buy. I do not think this is surprising.

Uh, no, not even remotely surprising. Any collector of anything with ready money, especially lots of money, will always find suitable purveyors of whatever it is he or she wants. It's called business. Whether that has anything to do with art worthy of the name is another matter entirely.

74.

George

December 9, 2006, 12:05 PM

I wouldn't quite use the phrase "art is dissipating itself" It suggests something different than what I think is actually happening. What I was trying to suggest is that the period of a singular dominant style is finished. The idea of a single style (the river) has bifurcated into several styles coexisting (the delta) In the past, the other, non dominant styles were bundled together in parallel but subservient to the dominant style and receiving less attention

If one is working in what was a dominant style and suddenly there appears a dozen new stylistic branches it might appear that a dissipation is occurring but this is primarily a caused because the attention is now spread over a broader area. It has less to do with the work and more to do with its visibility.

I actually think the change may be more of a positive than a negative. I have worked through periods when there was limited interest in painting, the focus was in other areas of art, and it wasn’t very encouraging.

I see the current situation in the art market as a positive not a negative because there seems to be a broader range of stylistic options which are viable. I don’t want to see the single viewpoint again, I want there to be access for the artists who make video art, conceptual art, installations, figurative painting, abstract painting, photography and whatever else you can think of. The minute you narrow this down into a single thread, you eliminate the support for several other areas. If this occurred, and the focus was on what you do, I suppose you would think it was ok. But, suppose the focus shifted to video art, it wouldn’t be so hot.

I disagree with a notion of dissipation, as being a dissipation in quality. Their may be an apparent dilution because of the increase in the number of working artists (or possibly it is only an increase in the number of visible working artists, with more of the minor practitioners coming in off the sidelines)

Whatever is the case, I believe that most artists are serious and trying to make the best work they can. Of course some artists will try to exploit the system any way they can, but again, I think this has always been the case.

The increase in the size of the art market makes the problem of "visibility" a major issue. With so many working artists competing for a slot the question of how one can make ones work "visible" in the noise of the marketplace, without sacrificing ones integrity and ideals, becomes a problem to be addressed.

75.

Marc Country

December 9, 2006, 2:50 PM

I've gotta go with catfish and opie, George's metaphor is more accurate than he recognizes.

--As you know, in physics there is the term "phase change" which is the point where a substance changes from a solid to a liquid, or from a liquid to a gas etc.

The idea of "phase change" is helpful, when combined with his idea of the "river" of Modernism. The vast bulk of the history of art is art in the solid state: a great glacier, changing in tiny increments spread over the ages. With heat and pressure, solid turns to liquid, creating rivulets and streams.

--For the most part Modernism followed a linear path of development which was reasonably confined by a focus on a sequential evolution of styles... I could use the analogy of a river for the flow of art over the last 150 years.

The movements increase in speed, cutting a path through, over, or around obstacles, flowing fluidly forward. Exponentially increased heat and pressure lead to an 'expansion'.

--The expansion, the broadening out of the river into the delta, happened relatively quickly at the start of the 21st century. As a result of the rapid expansion it is not surprising that there was a bit of confusion as the art marketers tried to exploit the new influx of capital.

In the currently observable phase change, the liquid disappears before our eyes, leaving only gas behind: a steamy vapor which is unremarkable to the eye and completely tasteless.

--The point is that because of the expansion in the marketplace, the noise level has risen high enough to blur distinctions and quality can become overlooked because essentially the work is ignored. An artist always has the option to continue working in the catacombs or to look for an alternative solution.

The 'blur' of this artistic fog, the 'noise', does indeed, as George rightly notes, obscure the recognition of merit (which, I think was opie's original point about the ill effects of AB/MB). When all of art becomes vapor, the river and the glacier might as well not have been

As an artist I, for one, am effectively in "the catacombs" (or the "Canadian outback", as it's ben called), and while it might not be my ideal situation, I can't complain. It's a decent solution, but I'm always willing to entertain others, if you've got 'em.

76.

Marc Country

December 9, 2006, 2:57 PM

I suppose, in order for things to really change, it'll either take a thunderstorm, or a new ice age.

77.

George

December 9, 2006, 4:23 PM

In my opinion, the issue I presented using the river-delta comparison adequately describes how the structure of the art world has changed. Maybe I should have used the tree-branch-buds metaphor which also describes the structural change correctly.

Never the less, the changes I am suggesting are unique in the history of art, at least western art in the last 500 years. For one thing, the influx of capital into the current art market comes from several sources and not from the patronage of royalty or the church. As a result, the affects of this capital influx are being more broadly distributed across art of all styles, mediums and theoretical positioning.

The change I am describing is an expansion of the support for the arts. It does not inherently, or specifically, have anything to do with changing aesthetic values. For a temporary period of time, it may have such an affect as the marketplace expands to accommodate the growth in demand. I would be careful about assuming the changes I am suggesting will go away of their own accord. Short of a world calamity, I do not think this will be the case, they are driven primarily by the expanding world population and that is not going to reverse course as far as I can see.

Over time, aggressive and competitive young artists will have to compete in the marketplace for a position. A smart competitive young artist should realize that the phrase "I can do better than that" is apt, that quality is again becoming an issue. I already see this happening in the NY galleries now.

The change I am describing also presents another more difficult aspect for the young artist. There is no longer a dominate style with any staying power for the artist to latch onto for an entry point. The artist has to choose for their self. I suspect someone will say this was always the case, which is somewhat true, but the truth is that in the past most young artists just began with the current dominant style and evolved from there. In the present situation, I believe what is required is a commitment to an personal attitude, conceptual position or approach which is personal, so their art is defined from the inside, by their persona, and not by the outside marketplace. It is about establishing an identity and a visibility in the art world.

Hiding in a cave may allow one to work without contending with these issues, but ultimately if the art is to endure, it must be seen and valued by someone other than the artist.

A final note. I’m using the term "marketplace" very broadly to include all venues which allow the work to be exhibited and enter the critical discourse.

78.

Franklin

December 9, 2006, 5:46 PM

I know and admire Catfish's pessimism, but always end up coming back to the fact that viable art-making has persisted in one form or another for at least seven millenia, if not 15 or 30 or 70, and a half-century of unusually bad taste doesn't seem like enough to end the whole project.

The change I am describing is an expansion of the support for the arts.

I feel acutely irritated about this at the moment because I came home to find that the second of two grants I was seeking to support my writing projects was rejected. I know better than to read too much, or anything, into failed grant submissions, but I now have to brace my temper against the likely possibility that the awards will go to people whose tastes are more flattering to the moment's excresences. If support is expanding, some of it had better fucking show up here soon or I am going to retreat into my studio and give up commenting about it all.

79.

Franklin

December 9, 2006, 6:04 PM

Okay, can we chalk the last comment up to getting some bad news in the wake of Basel fatigue? Thank you.

80.

opie

December 9, 2006, 6:52 PM

Chalk it up to just getting fed up and pissed off, Franklin. No need to apologise.

81.

catfish

December 10, 2006, 1:33 AM

Of course Franklin, art making has persisted for thousands of years. But like everything else, it has had its ups and downs. When it dies in one place, inevitably it comes back somewhere else, though not necessarily immediately. (The dark ages were real as far as I can tell.) It pisses me off that I have spent so much of my life entrapped in one of those goddam pauses.

The most pessimistic thing I have read recently comes from George: the truth is that in the past most young artists just began with the current dominant style and evolved from there. (my emphasis) And he is oh so right to insist that there is no longer a entry place for the artist to latch onto something with staying power, from which to evolve. One way to rephrase his observation is to say, as Greenberg often did, that the best artists start by catching up with where art as gotten to, then building from there.

George has inadvertantly observed that art hasn't gotten anywhere lately (surely he will disagree, but that is the nail he keeps hitting squarely on the head), and hence the great stinking mess of a delta that is defining the place where art is dying is best characterized as "unique". Indeed it is. Death happens but once for each of us.

Oh art will come back - yes. But when, Franklin?

82.

George

December 10, 2006, 10:40 AM

… that art hasn't gotten anywhere lately …

I didn’t exactly say that. In painting, the dominant styles of most of the twentieth century focused primarily on abstraction. I think the development of abstract painting was viewed as an evolution, in the 70’s term used was "progress". Whether it was "progress" or not is a moot point, but what did occur was that starting at the end of the 70’s the idea of a single monolithic style came to an end. I would note that there will probably always be periods when certain art is fashionable, but the distinction is not the same.

I think this is a good thing. The existence of a single monolithic style was onerous, it was a form of exclusion. What we have now is the potential for all artists working in any style or medium to being taken seriously on a relatively equal basis.

I think it is important to examine what has occurred in the world and in the contemporary culture at the end of the twentieth century. How has the landscape changed? The most striking change, is the growth of technology and the information age, which has given us access to information a significant order of magnitude greater than in the first part of the twentieth century. The second factor is a combined result of increasing world population and increased wealth at least in the developed countries.

I guess the question I would ask is "Are these changes affecting how we consider art, what we think is important and how we approach art as a viewer?" Today’s young artists were born after 1970, how does that affect things? For on, they grew up with color television, mass media advertising, maybe video games and computers starting a little later, they were embedded in an electronic culture. All these things have an effect on how they view the world, their early visual memories. It will naturally affect how they view art and the kind of art they desire to produce. This isn’t a radical observation, they apply to every generation. What is radically different are the rapid changes in culture over the last 40 or 50 years.

If I had to characterize the current period, I would suggest it is a period of synthesis. Young working artists know about formalism, conceptualism and whateverism, they have it all wrapped up into nice neat conceptual packages and feel they can utilize whatever aspects they think are necessary to do what they want. Contrary to opinion, they are not anti-visual, just the opposite. They are often just as aesthetically critical as anyone here but they seriously question what a painting "means". This group is not the last bastion of quality, that is an illusion. Artists are still saying to themselves, "I can do better than that"

Today’s best art has come down from the ivory tower and is attempting to communicate with the audience.

83.

Franklin

December 10, 2006, 10:48 AM

Today’s best art has come down from the ivory tower and is attempting to communicate with the audience.

Such as...?

84.

Jack

December 10, 2006, 10:57 AM

Franklin, don't be obtuse. You know perfectly well what. Neo Rauch, for one. Or some Leipzig thing.

85.

George

December 10, 2006, 11:02 AM

Figured someone would respond to that. What I mean is that the issues of content, what a work is about, are considered just as important as (but not to the exclusion of) its aesthetic qualities.

John Currin by Jerry Saltz (not for family viewing)

86.

Franklin

December 10, 2006, 11:19 AM

Currin?! Nuts to that. I'm gonna go for a walk.

87.

Marc Country

December 10, 2006, 11:38 AM

"Today’s young artists were born after 1970, how does that affect things? For on, they grew up with color television, mass media advertising, maybe video games and computers starting a little later, they were embedded in an electronic culture."

Sweet jesus, give me a break... Man, I had an Apple IIe when I was growing up, and now, I just don't see art the same anymore...

Yeesh.

88.

George

December 10, 2006, 12:05 PM

#86, What? Was that a preconceived dismissal I heard?

Formally and technically, Currin is a good painter> I have some reservations about his content but I think he is very serious about his painting. In spite of his "bad boy" image, he is a relatively conservative, traditional painter who is focusing on the visual. To dismiss him out of hand fails to contend with what is happening in painting at the present.

Some other youngish artists who I think have potential given time.
Xylor Jane, Tal R, Rosson Crow, Claudine Anrather, Steve DiBenedetto, Ellen Altfest, Ruth Root, Chris Dorland, Thomas Nozkowski (older), Cecily Brown, Hope Atherton, Zak Smith, Nicole Eisenman, Jenny Saville, Fiona Rea, Lisa Yuskavage.

89.

George

December 10, 2006, 12:10 PM

Marc, that's a silly retort. Whatever you do in the studio is a function of your history, what you saw as a kid and think you have forgotten, what you read, what art you saw in your formative years, thousands of hours spent watching television, it all becomes part of your decision making process. If not, you wouldn't be human

90.

opie

December 10, 2006, 12:57 PM

Catfish, you nailed it again. I dont remember that Clem quote but it sounds like him and it sure puts it in a nutshell.

George, you ride that "change" thing too damn hard. Marc is right. Things always change. This may change what artists do and what they put in their art and how they make it and all that, but good art, at bottom is always the same. It looks different but the "goodness", however we describe it, is always exactly the same.

Currin is not that good a painter. Not nearly as good as Norman Rockwell, for example, to whom he can be compared.

And, Finally, "content" has always been a middlebrow fetish. The only difference is that we now have more ingenious ways of rationalizing it as a high-art concern.

91.

George

December 10, 2006, 1:56 PM

Things always change, on that I agree. I just think the change is much more radical than it has been in the past for the reasons I stated and is having a larger affect on art.

As I said about Currin, I have some problems with his content but I've looked and as a painter he's very good. He is very serious about the painting part and it shows.

Middlebrow or not, the content or the subject in painting is a major issue, especially with so much figurative work being done. It gives the contemporary viewer a way to access to the painting, a reason to look. If the audience doesn’t find a reason to look, they will just pass by and the work may be ignored, often regardless of how good it may be.

In the past, we know that avant guard art was often ignored by all but a few, receiving acceptance only at a later date. The situation today may be the same, but if it is the case it will occur because the merits of a particular artist’s work are rediscovered and not the recognition of a previously ignored movement. Today the marketplace will consume whatever it can, quality is a way of differentiating one artist from another but it is not the only factor in effect. To a much lesser extent for mature artists, where the body of work is an ongoing investigation started in another period, but for younger artists, the relevance of the work also plays an important role. Is the work relevant to the time and can it establish an identity for itself within a marketplace comprised of hundreds of other artists?

92.

Jack

December 10, 2006, 2:32 PM

George, content has always been important, and always will be, but the point is, for the umpteenth time...oh, never mind. I don't really care to change your mind, and you most certainly won't change mine.

Enjoy Currin all you like. It's your affair, after all. Unlike you, however, I have absolutely no problem with his content--past, present or future. He can take up bestiality, necrophilia, or any other suitably and conveniently shocking or "transgressive" subject matter. No problem at all. You know why? Because unless I care about the work as such, as art, first, the content is completely moot. He's a glorified old-style magazine illustrator. The stuff is cold, clammy and lifeless. It's painfully calculated and manipulative to boot, and I'm afraid I just can't be bothered.

I know. I'm not sufficiently open-minded. I don't "get it." I'm not with-it like you are. Cool. Say hello to Saltz for me sometime. No problem here.

93.

George

December 10, 2006, 2:45 PM

ok

94.

catfish

December 10, 2006, 3:01 PM

Opie, it's not a "quote", but rather a paraphrase of comments Clem made in conversation, although he would say it just like that just about every time the subject came up. He was very consistent on that point, as well he ought. Standing on the shoulders of giants is exactly how it is done.

There are not many giants left and not many seem interested in standing on where they got to. Those few who do are ignored, as George accurately points out on occassion.

The Saltz essay on Currin was a real hoot. Chesterton called that type of thinking "the neat well lit prision of one idea". But I doubt that ole GK ever imagined such thinking could come off that funny. "Picasso is like math. Porn is like meth." That is just plain peculiar. What is Salz the critic like? Caffeine?

So, if the girl's face had been cuter, would Rotterdam have been better or worse? And perhaps a little less pneumatic - what's the significance of her somewhat over-fed look? Let's hear it from you content-folks. Those are content issues. They may have something to do with the future of art.

95.

opie

December 10, 2006, 3:16 PM

If I ever, ever wrote something lkike that Saltz essay, maybe in some drug and alcohol influenced spasm of idiocy, I would immediately go to a Critic's Anonymous meeting and take the pledge. And I would go cold turkey and stay that way, even if it meant binding my 3 typing fingers and never touching the keyboard. Good grief!

96.

Franklin

December 10, 2006, 5:39 PM

Was that a preconceived dismissal I heard?

Call it what you want. I wouldn't compare him unfavorably to Rockwell, but if that's what you mean by "top painter," I'll know in the future that you mean something about buzz or market or somesuch.

97.

George

December 10, 2006, 6:17 PM

Take the train to NYC and go see the show.

98.

Jack

December 10, 2006, 6:59 PM

Oh, for Pete's sake. Taking this latest Currin-Gagosian scheme seriously, no matter what its content might possibly be, is like taking it seriously when Madonna puts out another video which commits or flirts with blasphemy again. Please. These people can knock themselves out with whatever frigging content they want, but they'd better pitch it to somebody who gives a damn, which I don't, because I don't buy them. Still, unlike the last Hirst extravaganza at Gagosian, at least this stuff was actually painted by the artist. Thank goodness for small favors. And I do mean small.

99.

catfish

December 10, 2006, 7:23 PM

Jack, you are not one of the "content-folks". But there is no reason to exclude them from the larger group of art-lovers, to which we all belong. So I would still like to hear from them ... what about those "issues" that reside in this picture - good looks or perfect looks, photogenic slimness or a little pudge, etc.? This painting seems to raise them rather obviously.

Myself I do not assume Currin painted the whole thing. Nor would it matter if he did not. It is very well painted, just like Rubens and his assistants produced well painted objects. Competent painting is apparently valuable if the subjet matter is frankly sexual.

100.

opie

December 10, 2006, 7:36 PM

I guess no one agrees with me that Currin is not that good a painter. Meticulous realism does not a good painter make.

Oh Well...

101.

Jack

December 10, 2006, 7:42 PM

Catfish, I trust you know my exasperation was not directed at you.

And OP, you must not have read my comment above too carefully. I agree with you and then some.

102.

Franklin

December 10, 2006, 7:47 PM

Take the train to NYC and go see the show.

Okay. FWIW, I do consider him good enough that we could discuss extrinsic values in the work, I just don't think he represents a zenith of painters that use content. He does paint it all himself, I'm led to understand, and I'm hesitant to fault his craft because the few I've seen have dead-as-dornail surfaces but were not better examples of his output. So, it's a deal.

103.

opie

December 10, 2006, 11:29 PM

I know, Jack. I was responding to Franklin & Catfish mostly.

104.

jordan

December 11, 2006, 2:00 AM

When looking at non-objective painting for instance one CAN see the content: an arm stroke with the hand, a pour, a broom, a spash, a traditional brush stroke, a leaf blower blast, a sand-paper chafe, 'glitter' from Pearls art store, masking tape, stencils etc. When looking at representational figurative painting for another instance, one could see the same application processes and perhapes some narrative information. So it seems that painting, whether or not it involves something visually literal or recognizable is subjected to a certain kind of scrutiny that involves this question - what is the makers attitude towards what is/gets painted. Thus the work reveals its quality if the content and the visible attitude of the artist are cohesive. Currin's paintings reveal his attitude toward sex - soft, dreamy and idealized. Cec. Brown on the other hand may like to fuck; (or she may just want the viewer to think that she does...). Thus the approach to the surface application of the material IS the content. The content DRIVES the maker. When this is not in line (maker, content and process ) the work is bad regardless of whether or not the content is representational or non-representational catagorically.
An artist once said to me a few years ago that the general aesthetic has switched from alcohol art to marijuana art - or, from aggression to meditation.
When looking at the final picture, you can't complain about the content until the artist/makers sensibility has been addressed. This is what collectors may often fail to see however and why they need to be told what to appreciate. Contributors to this blog are also telling the readers what to appreciate. It's all the same.

105.

catfish

December 11, 2006, 7:55 AM

Jordan: Currin's paintings reveal his attitude toward sex - soft, dreamy and idealized. Really? It seems rather wet to me. Other than that, I have a hard time understanding what you are driving at ... marijuana art escapes me as a phrase to shed light on art, for instance. Or that misalignment of maker, content, and process makes a work bad. I'd say the way something comes off as "bad" is that it delivers too little pleasure. I can't prove that I get no pleasure when that happens to me, but it is direct and clear as a statement about what is going on. "Misalignment" is hard to wrap my experience around. Perhaps, though, you mean approximately the same thing I do (no pleasure) and you want to hang a more intellectual explanation on it, as opposed to an experiential one. The intellectual statement can't be proved either, but if it means the art failed to deliver that which only art can deliver, it is fine with me.

In any case, art lovers certainly complain about content regardless of the perceived "sensibility" of a given artist (supposing anyone knows what it is in the first place). Consider the hypothetical case of a painting that condoned, even glorified, pollution. Or one that advocated less tax for the wealthy. Or presented the war in Iraq as a marvelous opportunity to make money (which it is). "Sensibility" would not count for much amongst the content conscious in those pictures.

Opie and Jack: there is a difference between good painting and a good painting.

106.

George

December 11, 2006, 11:13 AM

A couple of points:

Franklin asked "such as?" Currin has the show up with the most buzz at the moment. He is interested in painting and the works show it. None the less, he is not someone who I am all that interested in, his paintings are done with a fairly conventional representational approach which I find dated.

I agree with Catfish’s statement that there is a difference between good painting and a good painting.

To the question of subject or content. My primary point is that these seem to be the issues most frequently touched upon in the critical discourse. There are the points most frequently addressed in order to distinguish one artist from another. Individual artists may discuss the formal aspects of a painting, but in general the talk revolves more around the subject matter. While the discussion may use topics made popular by the postmodernist discourse (most young artists were trained in this), postmodernist analytic theory is out. It’s old proponents are fighting a rear guard action wishing it would come back. Here in NYC, it’s been put in a bag along with formalism, minimalism, conceptualism, etc and for the most part young artists just see it as something else to use or ignore. Most just ignore it. What I am sensing is that the younger painters love to paint and they are just trying to find a way to do it within the current cultural context.

It appears to me that in a noisy marketplace, one of the major problems for a painter today, is how to make a painting visible, how to give it an identity. I suspect this has become more difficult since there is no dominant style, the artist has to chose, to commit to a set of beliefs without the advantage a preexisting validation of a dominant style. I still feel the "giants" are there but it is how they became giants in the first place, they made a commitment and staked an identity.

107.

George

December 11, 2006, 11:25 AM

Opie said [#69], The only recourse for serious visual art may be to branch off and take cover, like the Christians in the catacombs.

While I can understand the impulse, I think it is bad advice for a young painter.

108.

opie

December 11, 2006, 12:04 PM

Really, George, when you talk about something being dismissible because it is "dated" and that artists have to find an "identity" for their paintings and "validation of a dominant style" you are talking pure commercial fashion talk. I don't think you believe it yourself.

Of course "good painting" and "a good painting" are different, on the face of it. In Currin's case I see neither, so I don't know what Catfish was trying to impart there.

109.

catfish

December 11, 2006, 12:40 PM

Currin puts paint down smoothly, arranges textural effects, and has great control over what happens with the paint and where it goes. That's what I see.

110.

catfish

December 11, 2006, 12:43 PM

George: who are the giants?

111.

catfish

December 11, 2006, 12:50 PM

I agree with George that there is a significant "rear guard". But they are not wishing something would "come back". They became the rear guard because they persisited in continuing (evolving from) where art had gotten too in their youth, while the art world spun down into "the delta" and ceased to recognize where art had gotten to, without providing anything that would replace it, either. This "delta" is not much more than a rehash of this and that, cycling but not not advancing, in the name of perpetual change, without actually changing.

The rear guard is going somewhere, but no one cares. Not many, anyway. The rest is roiled, but as decayed as it is shallow. None other than Donald Kuspit has recognized this, to the chagrin of many of his former admirers.

112.

George

December 11, 2006, 1:00 PM

My remark about Currin was a personal opinion for the record. I didn’t want to go on about it and "dated" was the best word I could come up with to state how I fell about his work, i.e. for me it is not all that interesting.

that artists have to find an "identity" for their paintings and "validation of a dominant style" you are talking pure commercial fashion talk.

Not at all, I’m trying to be a objective in my observations. My primary point was that I see one of the major problems for a painter today, is how to make a painting visible, how to give it an identity. This is not a different issue than it has been in the recent past. It appears to me that it this has become more difficult because of the larger numbers of working artists and because there are a broader range of options.

The point concerning the lack of a dominant style contributes to problem. The point about the "validation of a dominant style" refers to how artists have used the dominant style as an implicit means of validation for their work, this I view as a negative or at least a questionable solution.

To state that you are talking pure commercial fashion talk is a misinterpretation of my points. I have already stated in the past, that I believe the art world is driven as much by fashion as anything else. This was not the point I was trying to address.

I accept this as a fact of life, part of the background noise that a young artist must deal with. I am not advocating, nor have I ever advocated, that an artist should chase after fashion. I do think that most young artists will naturally be influenced by the current fashion at some point, this seems like a normal part of the exploratory process. It is relatively benign as long as the artist does not lose sight of their personal vision.

The question of identity is primarily one of how does an artist make their work visible in the art world? The core aspect of this question has nothing to do with fashion. To assume that it does will most likely lead to a wrong conclusion. For a young artist I think it is an interesting and relevant question.

113.

George

December 11, 2006, 1:07 PM

Re #110, Catfish

I was referring to "giants" as you used the word in comment #110.

114.

George

December 11, 2006, 1:31 PM

Re:# 111. Catfish
FWIW, My remark on the rear guard was specifically referring to the Postmodern/Conceptualists who now find themselves in this position :-)

115.

opie

December 11, 2006, 4:18 PM

Looking for "identity" and "validation" is not the best way to make the right choices for making your art better, George. I would never advise a serious art student to allow such things to influence his or her art. You make the best art you can and then you do your best to get it shown and sold. It does not work the other way around.

116.

George

December 11, 2006, 5:14 PM

re# 115. opie
"Looking for "identity" and "validation" is not the best way to make the right choices for making your art better …."

Your comment has nothing to do with what I said.

The "validation" issue is my observation that it is not uncommon for artists to make art that looks like other art because it, in essence, validates their effort. It was an observation, not a recommendation and I clearly stated that "…I view [this] as a negative or at least a questionable solution.

I made no link between "identity" or "visibility" with issues of "quality" or "making your work better", it is something you are reading into my remarks which I did not say.

I make the assumption that a serious young artist is going to do the best they can to make their art good. It is obviously a learning process that may take time to develop.

The issue of identity and visibility are separate and relate more to how an artist might establish a career as an artist. If the artist in question doesn’t care about a career, then it obviously does not matter. For a mature artist, the problem is different or not an issue, since the artists "identity" is probably already established and the work just continues to develop along a path set earlier. If the artist is young and does care about establishing a career for their self as an artist, then I think these points do matter enough to be taken into consideration.

I think these issues, related to the marketplace and the establishment of a career , posses a sufficient degree of difficulties and problems, that they are worth discussing. I also suspect that there are a number of younger artists reading this blog (even if they don’t comment) which is why I raised the issue. It bears a direct relationship to the step inferred by "…then you do your best to get it shown and sold" It shouldn’t have any effect on the quality of the end result.

117.

jordan

December 11, 2006, 6:03 PM

I'm not into Currin's painted content either - but I can see what he is doing. I know that both he and Martin Eder are pandering to a wealthy 30 something to 50 something Californian audience involved in an industry that generates 3-4 times the wealth than the movie industry - as does Wei Dong. This seems to be a return to a traditional painting approach within a more liberal context.

118.

jordan

December 11, 2006, 6:11 PM

I forgot to mention my reasoning; painting porn may just be too easy, trite and fashionable. Who knows...?

119.

Jack

December 11, 2006, 6:52 PM

I may be repeating myself, but Currin's subject matter du jour, like Madonna's latest pose, remains inconsequential--as in, of no consequence. There's simply not sufficient reason, or substance, to make it worth serious notice (if any). He's not as blatantly bogus as Hirst, but that takes serious talent (of a certain kind).

120.

opie

December 11, 2006, 7:16 PM

George:

In #112, you write: "one of the major problems for a painter today, is how to make a painting visible, how to give it an identity."

In #116 you write: "The issue of identity and visibility are separate"

This kind of thing permeates what you write. You say something, or imply it, and then when challenged, say "That's not what I meant". How are we supposed to know what you do mean?

121.

George

December 11, 2006, 8:14 PM

I make the assumption that a serious young artist is going to do the best they can to make their art good. It is obviously a learning process that may take time to develop.

The issue of identity and visibility are separate and relate more to how an artist might establish a career as an artist.


The two sentences relate to one another. (with some whitespace for readability)
Identity and visibility are two aspects to be considered but
identity + visibility the problem with making good art (separate from)

I’m saying that they are two different issues as in:
1. the problem of making a good artwork (This is always the primary issue)
2. identity + visibility is about getting it seen and taken seriously in the art world context.

If you want to say point number 2 doesn't matter, fine, but a close look at how the world really works, says otherwise.

122.

George

December 11, 2006, 8:17 PM

The server removed my not equal signs it should read
identity + visibility is not the same as the problem with making good art (separate from)

123.

jordan

December 11, 2006, 8:40 PM

George, it appears that someone decides to give someone visibility in order to establish an identity for them and then people all say that the stuff is good because they have been identified and thus validated because of their visibility.

124.

Marc Country

December 11, 2006, 8:48 PM

"Blah blah blah nonsense.... ad infinitum...."

125.

jordan

December 11, 2006, 9:37 PM

...Exactly...

126.

ahab

December 11, 2006, 9:52 PM

You've done a fine job, George, riling up this blog's denizens with your alleged advocacy of that devil Currin and his misdirected facility for image production.

Until about 8 years ago, I took it for granted that to be an artist I had to know what my hook was going to be. I (like many fledgling artists) dabbled with drawing freehand lead pencil reproductions of Renaissance paintings I found in art texts: like one that placed a remote control device in the Creator's hand and posed Adam in a TV screen, riffing on Michaelangelo's Sistine scene. It was obvious I could wield a pencil and contemporize subject matter, but the resulting effect of the rendering was akin to seeing someone's solved crossword puzzle sitting on the table: boring, not to mention insulting. And for me, finally, this sort of image making felt like sitting down to solve someone else's puzzle - an engaging enough pasttime, but not particularly substantive or satisfying.

I was unwilling to have my strategy decided for me by inept art teachers and was unable to contrive a convincing one, so I quit artschool, got a job, married and had kids. Half a dozen years later, I began to worry I might at some point regret the loss of my art education and sought someone to show me what was missing from my concept of art. I was lucky enough to cross paths with a local sculptor and professor of the same in whose work I immediately apprehended The Real Art. I also heard hint of it in his teaching but it took me some years under his patient instruction to appreciate how debilitating a focused search for artistic identity was to the making of real good art.

A marketable strategy is a decoy, a distraction and a ditch, and not just to the audience. An identity will surely be had for each artist, in the end; and although that true identity cannot be what the artist manufactures for himself it will be sufficiently altered by such misdirected expenditure of effort - negatively so, in my estimation.

I don't hardly know how to comment without it being all "me myself and I" personal testimony shit.

127.

George

December 11, 2006, 9:53 PM

Re: #123. jordan

That’s not the way I’m using the term "visibility". Visibility is something which can be controlled by the artist, it isn’t necessarily imposed from the outside. Suppose we had 10 paintings, 9 are monochrome red and one monochrome blue in a group. The blue painting has more visibility because it’s not the same as the other nine. The same general thing happens with styles of painting, when a style becomes too defined, all the works, even though they are by different artists, tend to look similar to people. If an artist comes along with works which are different enough to be recognizable in the crowd, there is a good chance they will be more successful. Not always, but generally. Note that I haven’t mentioned quality, it is definitely one way to achieve visibility.

Identity, is probably closer to the commercial idea of branding. It goes along with visibility but again is something which can be controlled by the artist. At it’s best, identity represents the artist’s vision and is not a "look". In other words, the artist is working in a way which is true to their self, it comes from within through an honest working process rather than appropriating something from the outside because it seems current.

The whole process becomes a balancing act because (generally) a young artist is interested in what is going on at the time and usually curious enough to want to explore what’s there. Assuming this to be the case, what’s going on, the outside world, has to be reconciled with the sensibility of the individual artist in their own work. Timing plays a crucial factor as well. If one is working in a mode that is relatively new (or different, or whatever), it will potentially be more visible than if one started working in the same mode two years later, after it has already had a degree of exposure. In the second case the problem is dilution, being accorded a slot in as part of the second or third generation or worse just being ignored.

One characteristic of all the artists that people love to hate on this blog, is that they all have visibility and identity, we recognize their work, even when we don’t like it.

My observations all assume that the artist is trying to make the best work they can regardless of any other strategic decisions they might make. Of course if these decisions result in a decline in quality then we have a problem and the process should be reconsidered.

128.

opie

December 11, 2006, 9:58 PM

The problem is, George, that in this market the red paintings will all be sold and the blue painting scorned.

129.

jordan

December 11, 2006, 10:10 PM

Thanks - now I'm going to shove some colored mud around on a few surfaces. Question - what is the role of the art dealer in all of this mess ?

130.

George

December 11, 2006, 10:15 PM

Hey Ahab,

I appreciate your forthright comment. It is an example of what I meant when I said , the artist is working in a way which is true to their self, it comes from within through an honest working process

Your initial remark that to be an artist I had to know what my hook was going to be… is also well put and exactly describes one of the traps one can fall into.

The points I was trying to make are subtler in how they are put into effect. While the decisions might be viewed as strategic, I am not advocating implementing them by design, i.e. viewing them as a "hook". It seems to me that in the process of working we always have choices, we can do something one way or the other. For the most part, if one is aware the choices exist, you own them. If one of the choices makes the work more distinguishable then, all other things being equal, it’s the better choice in my opinion.

131.

Jack

December 11, 2006, 10:22 PM

Uh, well, the role of the art dealer is to sell as much as possible for as much as possible, to the best possible people, ideally becoming an art world celebrity and brand name in his or her own right.

There is, of course, the PR-based, BS-heavy answer to you question, Jordan, but I assume you wanted the real one.

132.

George

December 11, 2006, 10:22 PM

Re #129. jordan,

Question - what is the role of the art dealer in all of this mess ?

The art dealer has access to more collectors than you do and is willing to do the business for a sizeable cut.

133.

George

December 11, 2006, 10:29 PM

Re: 128. opie
… in this market the red paintings will all be sold and the blue painting scorned.

Ah yes, the red painting feeding frenzy.
The blue painter just has to convince people that it’s a red painting and let them discover it’s blue for themselves.

134.

opie

December 11, 2006, 10:54 PM

And I guess that would be disguising identity rather than establishing it, right?

135.

Jack

December 11, 2006, 11:07 PM

I don't know about others, but I'd much rather switch to discussing something like:

Who was the better artist, Hokusai or Hiroshige?

Just trying to move the discussion along, Franklin.

136.

Marc Country

December 12, 2006, 1:23 AM

How about this instead, Jack:
How Art Can Be Good, by Paul Graham.

137.

jordan

December 12, 2006, 2:32 AM

Catfish, pollution is fine as it is real.

138.

opie

December 12, 2006, 9:26 AM

Thanks for the Graham link Marc. I have been waiting for him to write something like this. Everyone should read it.

The comments he is getting fall into the same dreary predictable pattern. It seems futile to even try to apply any real intelligence to this business.

139.

Jack

December 12, 2006, 11:30 AM

Yes, Marc, thanks. Nice read. Unlike OP, however, I skipped the comments. It would have served no useful purpose, and I don't need the aggravation.

140.

Marc Country

December 12, 2006, 12:10 PM

You could always just leave a comment for Paul, Jack... give him a little confirmation that he's on the right track...

141.

Jack

December 12, 2006, 12:22 PM

I expect he already knows that, Marc. The trouble with a lot of people is that they need too much external confirmation, because they don't trust their own judgment or are otherwise insecure. Some things, like the existence of good taste, let alone good art, should be sufficiently obvious that it shouldn't matter who or how many deny them.

142.

opie

December 12, 2006, 12:31 PM

I already did, Marc.

Jack, I understand why you did not read the comments, but if you had you would understand why Graham needs support. Many of them are on a level way below even what we get here - stupid, insulting, willfully misunderstanding, the whole bag. And this in the face of Graham's very calm, clear, reasonable, almost clinical, presentation, as opposed to our (you and me, at least) rather strongly worded rejoinders. A lot of them sound like academics. Why am I not surprised?

143.

Jack

December 12, 2006, 12:46 PM

OP, I'm still a little stunned by the Newsweek piece on the Art Baselite who wants (and apparently expects) to be validated by Helmut Newton. My stomach is not quite as strong as yours. I'll have to steel myself for what you describe, which sounds distinctly distasteful.

144.

Jack

December 12, 2006, 1:51 PM

OK; I very gingerly and lightly skimmed over the responses to Graham's essay, and my initial decision to skip them was correct. I'm sticking to it.

I may not be as noble as Graham, but I think people who refuse to see are best left to wallow in their own broth, so to speak. There's no point trying to stir a legless horse.

145.

jordan

December 14, 2006, 4:40 AM

Re# 127
George,
what if an an artist has worked in a manner that has little connection (content wise) to things of past and has not yet fully conceptualized the future?

146.

George

December 14, 2006, 12:37 PM

Re:#145. jordan
If I understand you correctly, it seems like a good place to be.

One of the strengths (and difficulties) of painting is its long history. It’s fairly difficult to make a painting that a viewer won’t be able to associate, one way or the other with other paintings. So if someone makes the remark, "oh that’s a rehash of 50’s surrealism," or "that’s just a rehash of DeKooning" it needs to be put into a temporal context. In the examples, the paintings referenced are sufficiently removed in time, that the newer work can be seen by a younger audience as a reinvestigation in a more contemporary context and it carries less of a pejorative weight. The time lag seems to be about a generation or 20 years, closer than that and the associations can nudge into the noise zone. I wouldn’t say it’s a hard and fast rule but it is something which does seem to occur. The worst case difficulty is that the viewer may incorrectly pass by the works in question because of a blanket association that "I’ve seen that before". I don’t think this is an insurmountable issue but it may take some effort on the part of the artist to re-orientate the viewer.

The future is yours to define.

147.

opie

December 14, 2006, 4:56 PM

" It’s fairly difficult to make a painting that a viewer won’t be able to associate, one way or the other with other paintings."

So what? Most of the great art ever made is clearly "associated with other painting". This is not something any artist, young or old, should even think about. The job is to make better art, not different art. Good grief, George!

148.

Rocinante

December 14, 2006, 6:51 PM

Have you considered changing your name to Don QuixOpie?

149.

George

December 14, 2006, 9:47 PM

re #146, opie

Jordan asked, what if an artist has worked in a manner that has little connection (content wise) to things of past…

And I replied that
1. painting has a long history (paraphrased)
2. It’s fairly difficult to make a painting that a viewer won’t be able to associate, one way or the other, with other paintings.
This doesn’t state anything other than I thought it was difficult to make a painting that has little connection (content wise) to things of past. My observation was not a value judgement, it was a response questioning Jordan’s remark, whether or not it was possible.

I went on to give two examples using comments that were made in the course of discussions here. The remarks seem to suggest that it does matter but they were not my remarks, only my examples. I was pointing out that there are some constraints on how associations with previous works can be used pejoratively, that it seems to depend on how far back in time the associations are made. I suggested that 20 years was about the breakeven point, the point where the associations are seen negatively and can get in the way of a clear or unbiased perception of the work. I don’t think that I am the only person ever to make this observation.

150.

opie

December 14, 2006, 11:20 PM

But George, the whole statement reads purely like "advice about the problem of your art looking like other art". I don't know how anyone could take it otherwise.

I don't get your drift, Rocinante. Do you want me to ride you while I tilt at windmills?

151.

George

December 15, 2006, 9:26 AM

opie,

Well, I'm not adressing my conmments to student artists, I've already said as much.
I was responding to Jordan's remark and adding an observation.
Unless you are suggesting that I am wrong, I don't see what the problem is.

152.

Catherine de Pizane

December 15, 2006, 9:39 AM

Jesu Cristo! Get a room, guys!

[But not you, George]

153.

jordan

December 16, 2006, 8:38 PM

george is my fave....

154.

jordan

December 16, 2006, 8:40 PM

... and yet george and opie could very well be the same person...

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