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Greetings, Southern Californians

Post #1023 • June 19, 2007, 9:04 AM • 27 Comments

I figured into a report on Vik Muniz by Leah Ollman for the Los Angeles Times a couple of days ago. Ollman quoted a review I wrote of Muniz's show at the Miami Art Museum last year.

Muniz and MAM curator Peter Boswell appear to respond, but this is likely an illusion of editing, and thus I hesitate to answer their remarks. Nevertheless, Boswell's use of "get" in various forms six times in the course of eight sentences bears noting, at least. It represents the degree to which aesthetic apprehending and intellectual understanding commingle in some people, each compromising the integrity of the other. Too, saying that unnamed third persons plural "just aren't getting it" saves him the trouble of countering their particular criticisms by, essentially, insulting their fashion sense.

I only Google myself every couple of months, I promise.




June 19, 2007, 9:59 AM

And usually the problem is not that you don't get it but that you do get it.

I like the sentence:

"For someone whose work has been criticized as shallow, Muniz is extremely articulate about its position within the history of image-making and visual perception."

As if shallowness is avoided by being hyperaware of the relationship between your art and everyone elses.

Don't apologize for Googling yourself. It is a professional necessity these days. I do it regularly, several different ways, adding and eliminating certain keywords and the like.



June 19, 2007, 10:48 AM

I started to read the review, but almost instantly I figured, why bother? I've seen enough by Muniz to know I won't buy what he's selling, so what difference does it make what anybody says about him, especially someone who curated a big Muniz show and has to justify doing so? I used to take a kind of morbid pleasure in such rationalizations, but I'm tired of the same old grind. It simply confirms what I already know (and don't particularly care to be reminded of, for the zillionth time).



June 19, 2007, 11:42 AM

I should never have called you a masochist, Jack. You have developed a maddeningly normal attitude toward this stuff.



June 19, 2007, 12:54 PM

Well, OP, I was a masochist, or at least foolish enough to waste considerable time and energy giving all manner of tripe and nonsense the benefit of the doubt, or at least dignifying it with my attention. Been there, done that, got really tired of being disappointed. Enough already.



June 19, 2007, 1:33 PM

Why would this LA reviewer ask for the curator's opinion, which is pretty much a foregone conclusion? What does she expect Boswell to say that couldn't be predicted ahead of time? Why doesn't she just say what she thinks? Why am I asking stupid questions?



June 19, 2007, 1:43 PM

To be fair, the Ollman story is a journo piece, not a review.


Marc Country

June 19, 2007, 2:07 PM

"I only Google myself every couple of months, I promise."

Just set up a Google news alert under your name, Franklin, and save yourself the trouble...



June 19, 2007, 6:12 PM

OK, so I lightly skimmed over the thing. Guess I'm not quite fully recovered. Anyway, I'm recovered enough that I immediately recoiled in disgust and aborted the process when I read this:

"According to Muniz, countering the seductive, numbing effect of image saturation is an ethical responsibility. It's crucial, he feels, to jolt people into a state of alertness to the processes of perception."

Uh, right. So he's just out to benefit mankind out of a perceived moral imperative. Sure thing. SEE YA.

P.S. I really have to try harder to stay away from bullshit.



June 19, 2007, 6:19 PM

I wonder if you would be interested in this piece of the puzzle: MAM's upcoming show is on a dead painter, Rufino Tamayo. I thought you might like that show.



June 19, 2007, 6:44 PM

Zowie! Zap! A body blow to the Artblog regulars! A dead painter, so we gotta like it., right Whinnie?



June 19, 2007, 6:56 PM

Last I heard, Warhol was dead, too. Hasn't helped his work any (assuming one's not a rich idiot, of course).

This Tamayo thing is possibly a bone (or bait) for the Hispanic-collectors-with-moolah crowd. Or some ethnic diversity deal. Whatever.


Arthur Whitman

June 20, 2007, 4:29 PM


"According to Muniz, countering the seductive, numbing effect of image saturation is an ethical responsibility. It's crucial, he feels, to jolt people into a state of alertness to the processes of perception."

Evidently, Muniz is interested in the exploring the difference between what we see (subjective) and what is actually there. This is a classic concern not just of artists but of philosophers and psychologists. This may not be your cup of tea. Certainly, its doubtful that one could base a substantial artistic career on this idea alone. But it is a coherent project and of potential interest to many—not bullshit as you suggest.



June 20, 2007, 5:03 PM

re 12

It is debatable whether or not making more images fulfills the requirements for this mythical ethical responsibility. Further it is debatable whether or not there is, in fact, any ethical responsibility involved at all.

One could just move to San Paolo Brazil which is now advertising free.


Arthur Whitman

June 20, 2007, 5:25 PM

It is commonplace for artists to present their new style or personal obsession as responding to some moral need. To be sure, it makes sense to be skeptical of such claims. Usually ethics is not a major part of art—the artist is simply trying to interest others in whatever interests them. That said, overinflated moral claims are typically symptomatic of sincerity and personal commitment.



June 20, 2007, 5:42 PM

Welcome to artblog, Arthur.

I agree with all you say in #14 , except that the last sentence does not cover all the usual possiblities. I would include that overinflated moral claims are symptomatic of insecurity about the visual worth of the product in some cases, and in quite a few more cases, perhaps most, symptomtic of being going along with the art crowd's idea of what art is supposed to be about.

As you might be saying to Jack in # 12 as well, whatever gets an artist going is what gets them going, and may be of interest to the audience of the art too, even if it is not a major aspect of art in general, or even their art in particular. I have often wished that artists would be forbidden to comment on their own work. It is not that we are not qualified, just that our track record for saying anything truly relevant is so poor.



June 20, 2007, 6:15 PM

Arthur, if you're prepared to take what Muniz says or claims at face value, that's entirely your affair, but it has no bearing on me. If I had more interest in or respect for his work as art, I would no doubt be less inclined to question anything he says in defense of it. My bottom line is always what I think of the artist's work, not what anybody else says about it, least of all the artist himself. My skepticism remains firmly in place, but if Muniz and his explanations work for you, by all means enjoy.


Arthur Whitman

June 20, 2007, 6:32 PM

Skepticism is one thing, calling bullshit is another. Maybe the explanation given helps justifiy Muniz's work, maybe it doesn't. My point is just that it makes sense.


that guy

June 20, 2007, 6:54 PM

It certainly makes a lot of cents.... but Muniz's work alway has had that faint oder of bullshit to it, which a lot of people really go for. Jack's not fooled by it nor am I. If it walks, talks, and looks like a duck, guess what?



June 20, 2007, 7:17 PM

Arthur, you'll have to excuse me, but I call it as I see it, and the fact you or anyone else may disagree is not my concern. You're obviously entitled to your views on the matter, but, unlike politicians, I don't take opinion polls before I take a position (which is obviously my position and need not be that of others).

I might add that the interests, intent, philosophy or what have you of any artist, real or contrived, honest or bullshit, is of no great interest to me unless the artist's work succeeds as such. In other words, I don't care what the artist meant to do unless the result works for me. I should not have to add that the final arbiter or judge of success, or lack thereof, for me, is always me. That is simply not negotiable.



June 20, 2007, 8:01 PM

Exaggerated moral claims are sometimes intended and perceived in a work but usually the work simply illustrates verbally expressed righteousness of already well accepted olpinions of a liberal nature. It is almost always a play for the high ground and a vehicle for silencing criticism. Bullshit is too mild a term for it.

Take a look at the desperate, stultifying political correctness of most of the exhibits in the current Venice Bienalle. Art? Art has fled, long since!

As for Mr. Muniz's various statements, as presented here, at least, they are hardly substantial enough to be bullshit. They are just silly. Why do intelligent, educated people go for this tripe?



June 20, 2007, 8:31 PM

Arthur, since you're new around here...

In the world of dialog, there are one way streets.

Jack doesn't care what anyone else thinks.
He doesn't want to hear what anyone else thinks.
He wants you to know he doesn't care what you think.
He thinks he is always right and makes a point of telling you so.

I'm not sure why he comments here at all.



June 20, 2007, 8:52 PM

opie: Why do intellignet, educated people go for this tripe?

They want to belong to "the group".

When I was in grad school for art, a friend in the psych department helped conduct an experiment. 20 students were assembled in a room and told they were to help test "intuitive math". 19 were actors who had been told what to say, the remaining one was the subject of the experiment.

A series of numbers was read: "1, 3, 10, 8, 7". First many actors were asked their intuitive feeling of what the average of the series might be. They would answer "11", "15", "13", and so on. Then the subject would be asked. 80% of the subjects answered "11" or one of the other ridiculous numbers the actors had been scripted to say. The 20% minority responded with something reasonable. A few of them screamed things like "all of you are idiots" and some even left the room. But the fact is, very few went that far.

Simple numbers are much easier to deal with than art.

But it is still possible for stuipd ideas to motivate very good art, as in the case of Mondrian. Theosophy may not have helped his work, but apparently neither did it hurt. What is not possible is to keep the herd from forming a herd.


that guy

June 20, 2007, 9:15 PM

I don't want to speak for Jack (who could) but I keep reading this site because it is one of the few that discusses visual art as such. Very few sites actually broach this subject with any tact or with occasional bouts of genius. I'm with Jack, those incapable of seeing art for what it is can go back to the bush leagues. We handle in art here.



June 20, 2007, 9:18 PM

"I'm not sure why he comments here at all."

You know, George, during the recent rather longish "Goosebumps" thread, I was thinking something fairly similar about your rather longish comments, but I refrained from saying so out of an apparently unwarranted sense of propriety. I suppose I should dispense with such quaint and outmoded inhibitions, and instead emulate your brave new frankness. Is that what the "in" crowd is doing in New York these days? I shouldn't wonder.

And by the way, while it may indeed puzzle you why I comment here, rest assured it has absolutely nothing to do with your opinion of it, or your opinion period.

As always, it's delightful to have you grace us with your insights. Again. And yet again. Ad nauseam.

But don't let me discourage you in the least. Opie would miss you terribly, and I could never forgive myself for interfering with his amusement.



June 21, 2007, 11:32 AM

...paint - comes purchased as a paste, thinned into a liquid, and hardened to stone. What one does with it is a different issue.



June 21, 2007, 11:36 AM

Greetings 'bye-the-way' !



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