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It's nice to be missed

Post #1003 • May 14, 2007, 7:14 AM • 21 Comments

From a statement likely written by Gean Moreno for a recent panel discussion called What happened to the Miami Art Scene, emphasis mine:

The question seems to always be in the air these days, dangling there like the proverbial pink elephant in the middle of the room, waiting for an answer. It is always accompanied by the implication that the presence of Art Basel Miami Beach and the innumerable events that surround it have changed things in a fundamental way. Some - cautiously - avoid the question as if nothing has really changed in the last few years, contently reaping the benefits of these changes. Some can't praise the changes enough, triumphantly reminding us that we are now on the international map, premanently penned into the itineraries of jet-setting collectors and mile-a-minute curators. Others, perhaps feeling deprived of these benefits, do little but ask the question rhetorically, constantly reminding us in scathing tones that we are a one-month art scene (December) and the rest of the year we go into hibernation or decamp to the beach.

I say likely because Moreno moderated, his name lies obliquely under the statement, and the above literary infelicities have his stamp on them. Dangling there like an elephant? Although the conflation of two proverbial elephants, the one in the middle of the room that no one wants to talk about, and the pink one that troubles the sufferers of delirium tremens, seems apt if not intentional in this case. At any rate, here's Margery Gordon, writing for Art & Auction in November 2005:

Each year brings new events competing for the already exhausted eyeballs of fairgoers, and this season ushers in two new fairs, Pulse and Aqua, as well as a design exposition and more public spaces for private collections. With just so much time and energy to go around, not only do many artists' and gallerists' best efforts get lost in the shuffle, but the fixation on Art Basel can also drain interest and income from the rest of the city's art calendar.

"The fair is a spike in a relatively flat graph. We need to concentrate on making the rest of the year not Basel-great but still great. It's time for the city to redefine itself away from Art Basel," says Franklin Einspruch, a Miami-based artist, writer, and blogger. "One commenter on likened our situation to that of a tropical island where the local enonomy depends on rich foreigners trolling through town and buying up indigenous crafts. That arrangement tends to reinforce patterns of retrogressive behavior - in our case, the stereotype of Miami being a cool, fun town full of emerging artists rather than a serious place to make art."

Posted without further comment except that it's interesting that certain parties can't even begin a conversation about this without ascribing motives. Perhaps feeling deprived of these benefits? Why disdain the possibility of legitimate complaints? Oh well, Moreno's moderating.

So, did anybody go to this thing?




May 14, 2007, 10:19 AM

In a former life, I would have gone to this thing, but now, are you kidding? I can only deal with so much dead weight. Besides, I hear masochism is not good for you, and I'm trying to heed that. Brook Dorsch was apparently part of the proceedings. Ask him.

As for the Basel elephant business, that's rather stale news. I'm neither an artist nor affiliated with the art world, so nobody can pin the "sour grapes" rap on me, and I said long ago that we are a one-WEEK art scene, and the rest of the year is pretty much flatline.

Somehow, I seriously doubt anything substantial (in terms of improving the situation) was put forth at this little conclave.


Marc Country

May 14, 2007, 11:18 AM

Surprised that the elephant in the room had turned pink, I almost didn't notice it was dangling, also! Freaky!

So, Triff and Moreno organize public displays of their expertise somewhat regularly? Reminds me of John Hodgman...



May 14, 2007, 1:04 PM

Honeymoon! The paints are coming, the computer is not. See you for the Friday roundup.



May 14, 2007, 5:16 PM

I went. It was interesting -- a big argument into which the panelists, after lengthy opening remarks, hardly factored. Or got much of a word in edgewise. There's a recording of the whole thing at Miamiartexchange.



May 14, 2007, 7:37 PM

Alesh, since I'm not about to wade through the recording you mention, and I expect nobody else is, either, why don't you give us the abridged version, or at least your take on it?

If you don't, Franklin will be forced to listen to the thing to report on it, and that's definitely NOT honeymoon-appropriate activity.



May 14, 2007, 9:04 PM


I'm off to listen to both recordings right now. Stay tuned.



May 15, 2007, 12:42 AM

I only found out about the second panel by accident. It was better than the first but, still wasn't focused enough. I think the money, fame, and glory have taken over so many people's motivations that it's more than a little difficult to have serious engagement with the work, notwithstanding any talk about quality.

Even though I might not agree with Franklin on a number of points, I do miss his clarity and focus. I also miss seeing his work. I went into the Dorsch office and noticed some nice gems. I didn't see much else to get excited about this month... well, I didn't see a lot because I had to wait on a locksmith to get my car opened after shutting the door with the key on the front seat. Stupid and, I hadn't had a single drink!



May 15, 2007, 4:19 AM

Alesh, I work better when knowone is ~on my roof~.



May 15, 2007, 3:30 PM

Franklin and others - do you think that it has improved over that past ten years ?



May 15, 2007, 11:30 PM

You've got to love the way capatalism finds a place for everyone, even for its enemies.


barbara jordan

May 16, 2007, 2:10 AM

...hopefully tomorrow the "n word" will be illegal in Dade County. We are moving ahead.



May 16, 2007, 3:07 AM

It is time to admit, although I made my decision some months ago, "I'm leaving Miami." Who knows, maybe it could have been expected. I think I may have even mentioned it back around the days of Basel, but come July I'll be gone for the gray skies and long rains of Portland, Or. I really wanted to say so when I saw your post about going out to Laguna, however it is your blog, not mine. I know you'll do well in SoCal and its a short train ride down the coast to visit. I'll be back in touch soon, maybe I'll convince Darren to come for a visit. All the best my friend.


kenneth cohen

May 16, 2007, 3:37 AM

Alienation is present everyWare Jeremy. Seattle is best.



May 16, 2007, 3:40 AM

But Jeremy, I'll miss talking shit with you about...



May 16, 2007, 10:49 AM

Opie, your last comment on the Drug Store post made it under the one-week wire, so if I may continue with the "nature of sculpture's relationship to its support" here... I just picked up a catalogue on Caro's Barbarians (a rough-hewn leather/clay/wood/steel equestrian group) with an essay titled "Barbarians and Their Necessity" in which Dave Hickey concludes:

"Caro's work, by combining domestic reference with industrial facture, activates a whole new field of mimetic reference - the table, the bench, the chaise, objects primarily concerned with "getting onto the ground." In this way Caro creates a new genre of non-utilitarian objects whose theatricality derives from their subliminal reference to utilitarian forms.
"Early on, Donald Judd transforms Caro's idea of sculpture as ideational furniture into his own idea of sculpture as minimized furniture, then, ultimately, takes the logic full circle by applying that reductive rigor to a line of designer chairs. Scott Burton spins Caro's idea off into a practice in which the utilitarian function of the chair becomes the single constant in a sculptural endeavour that explores the permutations of "chairness" through a cacophony of forms and styles. Richard Serra transforms Caro's idea of sculpture as its own support into a kinesthetic assault on the earth itself. In his own practice, Caro is never tempted by reductive ideology, blatant utility or any other unintended consequence of his own innovation. The straightforward idea of self-sufficient sculpture that incorporates its own support provides him with twenty years of options....
"The artist began with tables, with the lightness and implied mobility of their multi-point support; the table, however, is just a stationary horse, and the horse is man's first, ideal support, his primitive icon of stability and mobility. Thus, in one way or another Anthony Caro has always been making equestrian sculpture - appropriating its subliminal narrative of freedom, athletic grace and barbaric ambition to his own purposes...."

(Salute the rough guys.)



May 16, 2007, 11:08 AM

Ahab, with reference to your Dave Hickey quote: exactly what does "a new genre of non-utilitarian objects whose theatricality derives from their subliminal reference to ulilitarian froms" mean? Maybe it is just an inflated way to say "sculpture".

Likewise "ideational furniture" and "a sculptural endeavour that explores the permutations of 'chairness' through a cacophony of forms and styles'". And also what's this stuff about a table being a "stationary horse", and "subliminal narrative of freedom"? "... kinesthetic assault on the earth itself" -- sounds like a better description of a back-hoe than anything Serra has done.

Do you buy into this statement? I don't. Even though it seems to praise Caro (which is good enough), it is the kind of idocy that has saturated the over-intellectualized world of contemporary "art criticism".

Ultimately, every sculpture is "self-supporting", thanks to the law of gravity.



May 16, 2007, 11:26 AM

Yeah, the horse thing, especially, is pretty dim. Caro's sculpture has the quality of inclusiveness; it gathers in its support and makes it part of the team. It has a kind of empathy for what's around it that draws the viewer into itself as well. It almost wears its feeling on its sleeve, so to speak. It borders on sentimental theatricality, but as catfish implies, it stops short of the literal. This refined restraint is part of its power. It also makes Caro's work a new kind of sculpture, for what it's worth.

No one has ever done these things before, and most people still don't understand it. I don't think all those sculptors were borrowing from Caro. I don't think most of them had enough sense to borrow from Caro.


Marc Country

May 16, 2007, 2:00 PM

...hopefully tomorrow the "n word" will be illegal in Dade County. We are moving ahead.

Why ban one word, when there are entire books that could be burned?...



May 17, 2007, 12:47 AM

It is possible, as catfish suggests, that I have been sucked in by dubious praise for Caro's "Barbarians" simply because I too admire the work. I was fully aware of the silliness in those couple of nonsensical word combos in Hickey's essay, but avoided decrying them because I was and continue to be intrigued if not beguiled by the thought that there might be something expressed there, however vaguely, that can help me understand those oh-so-necessary object-support-ground relationships a little better. I'm not sure that Caro himself understands them exactly, though by his finished sculpture it seems obvious he has some significant appreciation of it. I just want to know what it is that Caro knows that I don't - or rather, what he sees that I don't.

The phrase I should have limited the quote to, and the one that still gives me pause is this: "The straightforward idea of self-sufficient sculpture that incorporates its own support..." And it is this phrase that was most applicable to those couple comments opie and I were trading on the DrugStore post.

It's probably right that Serra and Judd and Co. didn't give a damn for Caro's innovations as they were busy bullishly creating illusionistic illustrations of their ideating.



May 17, 2007, 6:33 AM

Is pretty good at illustrating abstraction.



May 17, 2007, 7:07 AM

These matters are very difficult to talk about, Ahab, because everything is in the art and the "understanding" is not available to words. Good art writing struggles to stay "inside" the art as much as possible, so that what is said can be seen in the art itself.. Bad art writing starts with evident characteristics of the art and then gets out of bounds, stringing ideas together, leaving the art behind.

All worthwhile art is "self-sufficient" in the sense that it must have an internal coherence that makes it a unit or "gestalt". Caro's is interesting because it does this and then does something else by overtly playing with the facts of gravity and the characteristics of support and other external factors as well as mere internal relationship.



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