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From a protracted series of scenes from art history I wish I had witnessed

Post #929 • January 2, 2007, 3:20 PM • 23 Comments

A Sweeper-Up After Artists by Irving Sandler:

Ronnie [Bladen]'s "purity" attracted Mark di Suvero and the group of his friends who founded the Park Place Gallery. Ronnie was an exemplar to them. They would meet on Sundays in a "free" jazz session, in which anyone who wanted to participate brought any kind of instrument and joined in. I bought a second-hand bugle, and happily played along with Ronnie on saxophone - he was a fine musician - and several dozen more, including di Suvero, Philip Wofford, Forrest Myers, John Chamberlain, and sometimes John Coltrane [!!! - F.]. A number of Ronnie's friends played jazz at his funeral.




January 2, 2007, 4:36 PM

Bladen's very "impure" early paintings were a hell of a lot more interesting than the minimal sculptures.



January 2, 2007, 6:35 PM

I was looking at those, and thinking I could steal a thing or two from them. Very nice.



January 2, 2007, 6:53 PM

"Purity" has a way of becoming sterile and inhuman, which is obviously counterproductive and undesirable. It also has a way of making too much of intellectual as opposed to visual or aesthetic qualities, with similar results.



January 2, 2007, 7:51 PM

Happy New Year all…

I agree on the observations about minimalism. I saw two gallery shows of Ellsworth Kelly just before Christmas. Two flat colors per painting if you black and white, two shapes or two canvases per painting, they would look good anywhere as nondescript, politically neutral, very elegant looking design. Yawn.

So to start off the new year right, I went to the Met this afternoon to see the exhibition "Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde" because it ends this Friday.

I specifically wanted to see two paintings by Van Gogh, that I knew from reproduction but had not seen before: Portrait of Armand Roulin and Portrait of Doctor Felix Rey which were on loan from the Folkwang Museum in Essen and the Pushkin Museum in Moscow respectively. The reproductions don’t do these two paintings justice.

Also on view, was the "Americans in Paris" exhibition that Franklin had covered earlier. From the old photo (displayed alongside the painting), I think the Sargent was better in the first state, with the strap down.

So while I was there, I walked downstairs to see Sean Scully’s paintings. My take was that Sean did indeed create a ‘WalMart of Light" with this extravaganza. I won’t say they were necessarily bad, but the way they were lined up on the walls like boxes of breakfast food (cat litter?) made me feel that I was in WalMart. The colors are pretty but the paintings are brain dead repetitive.

I couldn’t take the "line a bunch of them up on the middle shelf" feeling, did a quick turnaround, and went to look at some 2000 year old Chinese sculptures instead.


why this site is not on this list

January 2, 2007, 10:37 PM
blame opie and co...



January 2, 2007, 11:14 PM

No, don't blame Opie & Co., blame Tyler Green, who made the choices. He is clearly part of the whole timid, mutual backscratching, shy-away-from-strong-opinion culture that promoters and approves the kind of blogs that are on the list. Go look at them and see for yourself.



January 2, 2007, 11:19 PM

You assume that I aspire to be on that list, Why. Tyler's got his thing going on and I got mine, and there's room in the world for both of us. I'm sure it's no overt diss from Tyler. Heck, even if it is, a funny thing happens whenever somebody starts discussing art blogs: eventually, someone Googles "art blog" to see what else is out there. It all comes around.



January 3, 2007, 8:30 AM

Tyler Green's selection explicitly consists of "the ten art blogs I most look forward to reading." Fair enough, and certainly predictable enough. We're not in his loop, which of course we wouldn't be. I can only speak for myself, but, for what it's worth, his blog is not on my loop. Chacun à son goût.



January 3, 2007, 9:09 AM

I read him. He gets the jump on a good number of art stories, and follows personnel, museum governance, and fiscal issues with an enthusiasm that exceeds mine.



January 3, 2007, 10:10 AM

And your willingness to sort the wheat from the chaff exceeds mine, Franklin. Unless of course, the wheat to be had is worth my trouble.



January 3, 2007, 10:37 AM

Yes, too much chaff and not enough wheat. I think it is reasonable for you to look at his blog for what may be newsy, but it is nothing but art world gossip & chit chat conducted by an utterly eyeless art groupie (check out his "favorite show if the year"). The sole value of a blog like that is to let one in on what the art world has come to.

He does not even deign to list under Miami blogs, much less his general list. Is this because he thinks Artblog is somehow inferior? I don't think so!



January 3, 2007, 10:41 AM

It's right there with the Boston blogs.



January 3, 2007, 10:52 AM

Well, OP, as much as I hate to say it, I'm sort of impressed by Green's political correctness. I mean, it's exquisite. Credit where credit is due, you know.



January 3, 2007, 11:08 AM

Ok, sorry. I did not realize that you were a "Boston Blog" at this point.



January 3, 2007, 8:01 PM

Through friends I met Connie Reyes who lived with Ronnie Bladen for many years. She died recently. She had beautiful Bladens from the '50s--pigmented, saturated, cracked-surfaced abstractions in heavy ochres, Indian reds and one very blue one I remember glowing from the wall. They had real presence. Jake Berthot's earliest abstractions are similar; summoning Milton Resnick, even early Bill Jensen...surface.
Connie also some beautiful small Bladen sculpture and drawings, really fine.
Connie said she used to nitpick about quality and inferior art but the older she got the more she loved anything. I think about that a lot.
Thank you for the memory of Connie.



January 3, 2007, 9:05 PM

Berthot, Bladen and lots more excellent artists from that period, now with virtually no market at all. You can buy these paintings sometimes in the hundrerds of dollars at obscure auctions. And look at what the collectors pay millions for.

The art business is nuts.



January 3, 2007, 10:35 PM

I know what you meant, OP, but the art business is not nuts at all. The sellers are laughing all the way to the bank. The problem is that the buyers all too frequently have far more money than sense, not to mention taste. It's like a viral form of delusion, and it's pretty rampant.


david rohn

January 4, 2007, 9:32 AM

I m not familiar with Bladen but now I m going to look it up.I think it s so great the way blogs can keep alive aspects of art that are trampled down by the runaway ttrain I call the contemporary art industry. And talk about nonsense the Times article on Miami Basel mentioned collectors with more money than sense who would donate worthless work after a couple or years (when it had ben found worthless) and 'then call the IRS"-so I guess that s part of the business strategy of contemporary art collectiing
It s interesting to see the show on Amboise Vollard at the MET which is so beautiful and has I guess as it s point the power of a great and truly inspired art dealer to bring attention to artists who d been ignored like Cezanne, and to consider the current market /promotion driven art world and it s economics.And I guess the othr side of Vollard s story is that colectors are presnted with art that is suppposedly 'the Cezannes of the future" except the arrtists are around 25-but are assured an illustrious future by virtue of having so wisely been discoverred early-hmmmmmm, maybe...
The glaring differrence is that Cezanne was about 65 when Vollard presented him as an innovator of historic importance. And I guess Cezanne and Vollard s other finds weren t presented in the context of a string of VVIP parties and as a badge of cultural and material validation. I guess it s a testament to the power of marketing , if not the speed at which the Bush Bourgoise Billionaires rose to the position where they could consider cultural validation as an enterprise worth pursuing. ... But with 25 year old artists?
Well as I said it s great the way some blogs exist alongside all this -I mean it s sort of an uncomfortable context for many artists to be associated with all these eager 'stupid rich" art consumers, and an art world that is really just an art market. I mean imagine goinng to some party where you tell people you re an artist and have them say 'oh are you going to be on Jefferey Deitch's TV show about young artists trying to become rich and famous-oh you re not oh that s too bad"-of course nobody would say that to me -I m way past 25. ... So lemme go look up Bladen.



January 4, 2007, 9:56 AM

David, when Vollard was poking around looking at art in the very early 20th C the art world was comparitively tiny and people with eyes were already seeing Cezanne. It took a while to put him over to the museums & buyers, but the die was cast.

Today's market is so huge and chaotic and there is so much catchy novelty around that the good stuff, what there is of it, just gets swamped. And it now looks "conservative" because the crowd wants "new" - just the opposite of 100 years ago.


david rohn

January 6, 2007, 10:06 AM

The way I remember it Impressionism had already been assimilated but as you say there wwere very few buyers (Russian and American being asmong the most prominent it seems) But Cezanne had left Paris and returned to Aix in the 1880's when Boughereau who ruled a busy Salon scene (remember 'les refusees) so I think there was alot of 'Buzz' in Paris even if it was limited to a small grooup. The 1880's was a time of great interest in arrt alot of museums were built in France and elsewhere (The Met in NY was started around this time)-What makes Vollard amazing is that he got Ccezanne s taking it to the next level -and the guy wasn t even in Paris promoting himself-the story is he used to go out to the countryside to paint and would sometimes just leave 'unrealized' canvases there -like some sort of polluter.
But i aggree with you about gimmicks- after the academism of the Paris school of the 19th century-( we re talking Ingres and Bougereau among others) just freeing things up was a huge step forward. Actually I believe the penchant for gimmicks and 1-liner innovatiion was bouoght into being by these first anti establishment steps' (Now it s become a world of faux anti establishment-ists -so artists collectors, curators all promote themselves as anti establishment mavericks -while they control the art scene-in most cases to great personal profit. I mean can one be part of the establishment and anti establishment at the same time?
Maybe more interesting is the idea of acadamy and here I think we re very dif from a century ago- I used tio think Reductivism/Minimalism/Conceptualism had become academic not least because it was so much part of a doctrine of MOMA-but it s become so much more pluralist-even Figuration and abstraction go back and forth in fasfion (salesI m told) in such quick succcession that it s impossible to really see any looming tendencies-this seems very different from times past.



January 6, 2007, 11:13 AM

David writes "Actually I believe the penchant for gimmicks and 1-liner innovatiion was bouoght into being by these first anti establishment steps'"

Absolutely - it can in fact be traced step by step. It would refine it a bit by pointing out that the innoivations of the avant-garde a hundred-odd years ago made it acceptable, even obligatory, for second-rate artists to "innovate" until we had created that monster of irony: The Avant-garde Establishment. That's why the best art today is being made by "conservatives" who are actually bucking the establishment.

The other characteristic big change now is the size of the market. Size matters as they say; it is not just bigger but very different, and I don't think the change is good for art.



January 15, 2007, 4:42 AM

All that has been added on this Blog by my fingers and drunken mind is subjective nothingness. I have enjoyed it as I now understand Bloggism as a movement.
Brilliant, but not genius bloggerists.



January 15, 2007, 11:33 PM

I haven't been here in a long time. I have some catching up to do.


Free jazz sessions are too few these days. I think it's only right to hold one in honor of Coltrane's wife who just passed away.



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