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Modernism

Post #1026 • June 30, 2007, 12:39 AM • 102 Comments

Resetting the overlong thread from previously.

At one point I offered the following as a definition of modernism, and only because I was asked to do so: Modernism is an attitude in which one attempts to make better art based on the intrinsic properties of one's medium. That's okay as far as it goes, and I stand by it. The attitude rises out of a 19th and 20th Century historical milieu that would make it a strange thing to apply to a Medieval artist. I think all good artists understand that materials have to be handled in a beautiful way. Modernism simply made this necessity explicit, and separate from the problems of depiction and decoration in a way that they hadn't been previously.

It's important to note - although I wonder why it has to keep being noted - that Greenberg described, not prescribed, this phenomenon. Painting oriented towards flatness in the '50s because it was natural for it to do so as a process of differentiation. This ended up producing some of the best paintings of the century, but their flatness was in some respects coincidental to their quality. Artists such as Olitski proved that flatness is fairly dispensible to the pursuit of quality, and it is the pursuit of quality, visual quality, that modernism is primarily concerned with.

In fact, canvas is a fairly dimensional support, especially compared to, say, copper, which was popular in Dutch art for a time. Pigment interacts with canvas in highly varied ways depending on the viscosity of the medium and the weave and absorbancy of the canvas. These interactions have profound consequences regarding the look of the final piece, and this is true whether the result is more abstract or more realist. Modernism is a kind of visual Vipassana - an ability to detect the nature of observable phenomena and make ever better art based on them.

Put on a continuum, pre-modernist art believes in both visual quality and technique. Modernist art believes in visual quality but doubts technique. Postmodernist art doubts both visual quality and technique. Importantly, none of these three attitudes guarantees a positive or negative outcome. But from my observations, the modernist attitude aligns the widest means with the greatest number of opportunities for beautiful results. Making good art using that attitude is another mysterious matter.

Comment

1.

jordan

June 30, 2007, 7:44 AM

Postmodernist art doubts both visual quality and technique.
Could you elaborate on that a bit more - I know that there are plenty of examples that you could refer to, but I don't think that this statement is an absolute attribute of what can be called "Postmodernist" art.

2.

Franklin

June 30, 2007, 8:53 AM

I doubt it works as an absolute descriptor, but it should do okay as a generalization. Working as a premodernist, which one can still do, by the way, you believe in quality as an absolute and you have a sound traditionalist technique to achieve it. As a modernist, you believe in quality but not that it is reachable by a particular technique. In fact, you periodically jettison one technique for another when it becomes exhausted under your direction. Even during stable stretches you're likely not using the techniques associated with high realism, although you could. This is also the case for the postmodernist, except you also don't believe in visual quality except as a small-scale, variable phenomenon. Stated another way, a premodernist subscribes to quality and technique, a modernist subscribes to quality and techniques, and a postmodernist subscribes to qualities and techniques.

This isn't a value judgment in any respect; I'm just trying to describe them as they appear in art. Again, none of the approaches guarantee good or bad results. There are also probably a lot of cases of people who think of themselves in one group but operate in another and other kinds of outliers. Take it all for what it's worth, if anything.

3.

Hovig

June 30, 2007, 8:57 AM

Opie - Let's move to the breakfast room while Franklin clears the cigar ashes and port glasses from the library.

I don't want to "shoehorn all use of symbolism in painting as being "postmodernist"." No.

Actually I am suggesting that this sentiment is the logical conclusion of your words. To recast your own latest words ever so slightly, I'm saying that you are trying to "shoehorn all use of formalism in painting as being "modernist"." I am rejecting this, and showing that it would never apply I said the same of postmodernism.

Like George said [ -- hey George, we're over here in the breakfast room, grab yourself a mimosa -- ] you can of course talk about attention to media in the works of the past, but you can't apply the term modernist until the late 18c, when attention to media became front and center.

P.S. I tried to say something very similar to "painting always had two sides, one of explicit meaning [...] and another of the quality of rendering," something like two years ago, but didn't get very far. Glad to see we can agree on this notion today.

In those days I was trying to suggest that modernism is the act of turning the dial as closely to the physical ("formal") extreme as possible, and postmodernism the act of turning the dial the other way.

This might be similar to Franklin's continuum, but I'm not sure. Still thinking about that one. Give me another mimosa.

4.

Hovig

June 30, 2007, 9:18 AM

Opie - I take it back. I recall now that when I talked about a continuum of art-making which stretched between the physical and conceptual extremes, the discussion was more fruitful than I initially remembered. So never mind that part of my comment above. (Still trying to fit it in with Franklin's notion of a continuum tho).

5.

catfish

June 30, 2007, 10:00 AM

Hey Franklin! Your return from sabbatical, however brief it may be, is most welcome.

I like your matrix for pre-mo, mo, and post-mo. I would elaborate that the "technique" the mos doubted was two pronged: 1) polish that was carried to the extreme of extinguiishing the visibility of paint as paint, and 2) stuffing the picture with small scale detail that did little or nothing to further its unity.

If it is true that pomo doubts visual quality, and I think it is in most instances, then it hardly matters how it regards technique for it has doubted art itself. That said, some pomo work appears to emphasize technique rather than doubt it, as in the signs of Jenny Holzer that are perfectly executed, but aesthetically empty.

Specifics are always a problem when we attempt to get at a general characteristic, and should not deter us from our attempt to grasp the general scheme of things.

Your analysis is a very good one. It sheds light on the forest while accomodating the nature of most of its trees.

6.

George

June 30, 2007, 10:03 AM

oops, I cough up my Mimosa when I read this - it's totally wrong

"Put on a continuum, pre-modernist art believes in both visual quality and technique. "

"Modernist art believes in visual quality but doubts technique. "

"Postmodernist art doubts both visual quality and technique."

7.

opie

June 30, 2007, 10:51 AM

But Hovig, I thought I had pretty much accepted your "shoehorning" in #120 of the presceding post by saying (I apologize for quoting myself):

"It is not too much of a stretch to say that painting always had two sides, one of explicit meaning - which certainly may have been time-bound, as per your example - and another of the quality of rendering, the "esthetic" part, and that in the last century there was a seesaw battle between the esthetic side, represented by Cubism/Matisse/AE and the like and the explicit meaning side, represented by the dreaded pisspot and all its spawn, surrealism, Postmodernism. Certainly the latter now has the upper hand, in the market, at least."

George, as usual, didn't like that idea, but his objections were terminological.

I have never thought that the impulse that bloomed into Modernism was something brand new. And I don't think the set of conditions that leads to Postmodernism is anything new either. Each arises from a side of human character. When we talk about anything humans do we are talking about what humans do. Modern & Postmodern are not things, they are types of conditions and attitudes and actions. We know that there is something there, but like so many art discussion it is the blind men and the elephant situation. Because the words arose to describe less-then-distinct entities they are hard to accurately define, and this means that when we are discussing "them", whatever they "are", we have to be very careful and not make absolute all-or-nothing statements. This kind of discussion is a matter of grasping the concept as well as possible and feeling your way tentively, like a scientist doing experiments to find an explanation of something.

8.

opie

June 30, 2007, 10:53 AM

Face it, Franklin. You can't move. You have to stay and tend the blog. Look at what happens when you try to leave.

9.

A.T.

June 30, 2007, 11:40 AM

This sort of generalization works as quick-fix easy-chat for a Saturday. But wait. What do you mean by "technique" and "visual quality"?

10.

Marc Country

June 30, 2007, 11:42 AM

Like the Mafia... Every time you try to get out, we keep pulling you back in, Franklin.

Oh, and also, I think you meant "prescribed", not perscribed...

11.

opie

June 30, 2007, 12:07 PM

AT we are having a hard enough time defining Modernism without haveing to define everyday terms any art person uses all the time.

Technique is the "skill set" used to make a particular kind of art and visual quality is what you find good about a visual work of art.

12.

opie

June 30, 2007, 12:09 PM

Also AT, not need to disparage what we are fdoing with "quick-fix easy-chat". Go try to find anyone else anywhere on the internet having a serious discussion about these matters. You won't find it.

13.

Franklin

June 30, 2007, 12:14 PM

I don't mind checking in once a week to keep it all going. That's doable.

Catfish, thank you.

You gotta hand it to George. He seems to want answers to his rhetorical questions, but you give him some, and is he happy? Naw. Does he know why? Not really.

AT, your writing has necessitated that I ask you for a dozen clarifications over the last year (e.g.), and you have never provided a single one. And yet you want me to provide them for you? Kiss my taut alabaster gluteus. I refer you to Opie's responses.

Marc, indeed. I ought not write after midnight but so it goes.

14.

George

June 30, 2007, 12:18 PM

This ongoing discussion on Modernism vs. Postmodernism makes little sense to me. It feels like a rear guard holding action, an attempt to hold back the tide.

In case no one noticed both Modernism and Postmodernism have run off the tracks and are bumping along the ties as they slow to a stop. They are both history, their memory will be resurrected, in a different manifestation, in a future moment of necessity.

With all due respect to artists of an earlier generation who have made an intellectual commitment, I can understand why they would want to argue in favor of the Modernist or Postmodernist approach.

However, today, both ideas are history. The points Franklin was trying to make about the cycling of "visual quality and technique" are not signifiers of anything that is occurring in advanced painting at the moment.

Because of the expanded size of the artworld the idea that "anything goes" has to succeed in a highly competitive arena. ‘Success’ in this competitive arena requires that the paintings can make a connection with the viewing audience. "Making a connection with the viewer" is a definition of good, it is NOT limited to just visual means.

15.

Franklin

June 30, 2007, 12:43 PM

George, you asked for a definition of modernism. I gave you one, and while I was in the neighborhood, I clarified the differences between it and other attitudes of art-making. You're welcome to think my remarks are wrong, but if that's as far as you go, I don't care. If you now think the modernist v. postmodernist debate is irrelevant, fine, but if your ultimate point is (again) that we are now headed towards the great inchoate unknown, the one you've never been able to distinguish from previous states, I really don't care. As for this...

The points Franklin was trying to make about the cycling of "visual quality and technique" are not signifiers of anything that is occurring in advanced painting at the moment.

...this is still just saying I'm wrong without saying why. I'm going to presume that we have wildly divergent ideas about what constitutes "advanced painting," so if you want to pursue this, let's start there.

If "a definition of good" implies one of many, that's postmodernist. Like I said, qualities, rather than quality.

16.

opie

June 30, 2007, 1:00 PM

Really George, scoffing at everything everyone says and throwing a heavy dose of apocalyptic inplications about everything is over and it's the dawning of a new age does not advanbce the discussion very much.

17.

catfish

June 30, 2007, 1:10 PM

George said "This ongoing discussion ... feels like a rear guard holding action, an attempt to hold back the tide".

You know George, the original "avant-garde" was against the contemporary art of its time and respected art of the past instead - Goya and so on. So it was "rear guard". It probably wanted to "hold back the tide" of its time too, when the values espoused by the Academy seemed destined to continue in control for as long as "everyone" agreed with them.

Does this ring a bell for you? It does for me.

Yes yes. This discussion is a rear guard holding action. So what? And why not?

18.

catfish

June 30, 2007, 1:13 PM

George, if "making a connection with the viewer" is the definition of "good", Norman Rockwell was one of the best artists of all time. So is Thomas Kinkaide.

19.

opie

June 30, 2007, 1:18 PM

Thanks, catfish. You saved me the trouble.

20.

George

June 30, 2007, 1:18 PM

Franklin,

What I meant in saying they "are not signifiers of anything that is occurring in advanced painting at the moment" is that whatever polarization you think exists, doesn’t. Young artists are doing everything you can think of, it is an incredibly competitive arena.

There is so much art being made that one probably won’t like most of it, but that does not mean there is nothing interesting happening. Generally, at any given moment in time, there are just a half dozen artists who might be viewed as central to a stylistic idea. Even if we allow for there to be 10 advanced stylistic ideas occurring simultaneously (a new thought for the 21st century) this means there might be 60 important artists. That’s about 6 exhibitions a month, worldwide, a number which can be swamped in the flood of lesser exhibitions.

I am not interested in the lesser artists, the wan-figuration etc, and I have not made any attempt to support or justify such work. There are certain artists who I think are making valid and important contributions, I have said something about them.

I would be interested in hearing opinions from other painters on artists they feel are currently making a contribution to the painting dialog. I am less interested in arguing the merits of Olitski or Jasper Johns, their time is past and reflective of a past moment in cultural history.

This is a new age, a new century and a new millennium. How can one be alive now and not be considering this? It points towards the future, why is everyone looking backwards?

21.

George

June 30, 2007, 1:23 PM

Catfish,

You're right, it's not the only thing that makes a painting good.

However, if a painting makes no connection with the viewer, it's ignored and forgotton.

22.

opie

June 30, 2007, 1:26 PM

Backwards is where the good art is, George. The future is not here yet.

23.

Franklin

June 30, 2007, 1:32 PM

...whatever polarization you think exists, doesn’t.

I wasn't suggesting polarization except between premodernist and postmodernist work. Modernist work shares traits with each. Are you even reading?

Young artists are doing everything you can think of, it is an incredibly competitive arena.

Artists young and old are working in all three attitudes. My school (the one I'm going to teach for in the Fall) is concentrating on premodernists, I think they have as decent of a shot as anyone. As it happens, I know what young artists are doing. It's my job.

why is everyone looking backwards?

I'm looking at what's in front of me.

24.

catfish

June 30, 2007, 1:47 PM

opie: "The future is not here yet".

Yes, and because of that it is the easiest to manipulate - there are no facts to get in the way, as there are with the present and past.

25.

A.T.

June 30, 2007, 4:14 PM

F: Decline your invitation; fetid places I generally keep off from. Now, Opie, coming back to the subject, if “visual quality is what you find good about a visual work of art,” I’ll substitute your definition into F’s above characterization of Modernism to get the following: “Modernist art believes in (whatever you find good about a visual work of art), but doubts (the “skill set” used to make a particular kind of art).” It looks pretty incomprehensible to me.

26.

Franklin

June 30, 2007, 4:31 PM

Not really. Modernism believes in visual goodness but doubts particular skill sets. You could phrase it that way.

27.

Marc Country

June 30, 2007, 4:41 PM

The continuum you've put forth, Fraqnklin, is not only exceedingly comprehensible, it also has the benefit of being pretty damn accurate. Nicely done.
If you drew the thought out into something essay length, you could further clarify some of the concepts that some here are having difficulty grasping (despite them being obvious to you, I, and others). Sometimes, as we've seen, the simplest, most obvious ideas still need to be repeated over and over, to overcome those without the sense to see clearly for themselves.

28.

opie

June 30, 2007, 4:52 PM

Anything can be made incomprehensible, AT.

Marc, an FBI man I was interviewing to get information for a mystery novel I was writing said that what agents worry about the most in any case is overlooking the obvious.

29.

A.T.

June 30, 2007, 4:57 PM

Since you haven’t come out with a decent definition of neither technique nor visual quality, I’ll concentrate in the “doubting” part for now: I think that Cubism has the precise technique needed to convey its point, just as much as Expressionism or Neo-Plasticism. In what manner Picasso or Mondrian or or Kandinsky doubt anything to achieve their styles? Dripping a-la-Pollock is exactly the right technique for Pollock’s brand of Abstract Expressionism. In Olitski's case the same: He doesn't doubt for a second his manner of doing what he does. None of these great artists doubt anything because Modernist technique is part of the Modernist style. It’s not even remotely the case that Modernism doubts technique, unless by technique you mean Pre-Modernist technique. But if so, you make Pre-Modernist technique obviously superior to Modernist technique, which is a fallacy for the reasons I already explained above.

30.

opie

June 30, 2007, 6:40 PM

Modernism is not a method, AT. It is an attitude toward making art.

31.

A.T.

June 30, 2007, 7:24 PM

Dear professor Opie: How do you realize your "attitude toward making art?"

32.

opie

June 30, 2007, 7:28 PM

Well, AT, I quess you just watch yourself go about what you do and see what it's like. Good grief!

33.

A.T.

June 30, 2007, 7:57 PM

Of course. And that was my point. Olitski's "attitude" (to use your term), i.e., what he does with canvases and pigments can only be conveyed with -and through- a technique which is unique to Olitski. He doesn't doubt his technique. His "attitude" is all he needs and it's just perfect. Cimabue's "atitude" (a pre-Modernist one) is not any better than Olitski in the sense that he (Cimabue) believes more in technique than the other does. It's all very dense gibberish. Anyway, forgive me for my insistence.

34.

opie

June 30, 2007, 8:16 PM

If this matter was thoroughly examined you would see similar attitudinal and methodological patterns arising from very different artists. Every time has its system of beliefs, which are often vaguely articulated, if at all.

35.

Franklin

June 30, 2007, 8:30 PM

AT, the dictionary definitions of "technique" and "quality" (as in "goodness") will do here. I'm not "coming out with a decent definition" because you can damn well look them up. Doubt doesn't mean that the artist is never graced with surety about a method - it means that there is constant questioning going on about whether the method is producing satisfactory results. The premodernist attitude seeks greater heights of quality by ratcheting up the skill level of the method. The modernist attitude does so by altering the way the skill is applied, sometimes even replacing it with another skill set. This is especially evident in Pollock, Picasso, and Olitski as they altered their styles over time - doubt was always operating in the background. But even with someone like Morandi there is little correlation between quality increasing technical skill - the noodled modelling and Band-Aid colors just come together as an inexplicable paroxysm of delight.

With analytical cubism or dripped abstraction, the technique might be obvious, but how do you know whether the painting is done? Cimabue didn't have that problem.

36.

George

June 30, 2007, 8:39 PM

It was a very nice day here in NYC, I took a long 6 hour walk and looked at some art.

Opie, you are interpreting what I am saying in the wrong way. I am not "scoffing" at anyone nor am I making "apocalyptic" implications about anything.

I believe I am simply stating the facts.

1. Modernism has peaked and is in decline.

2. Postmodernism has also peaked and is in decline.

3. I believe the general consensus is that Modernism, as an attitude for all the arts, occurred in response to the advent of the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution is over in the west.

4. Postmodernism as an attitude was the first response to the advent of the information age, it essentially confirmed that modernism was on the wane.

5. In the visual arts, the postmodern philosophers failed to match their philosophy with reality and that house of cards has collapsed.

6. The law of round numbers suggests that century and millennium changes are important focal points. Psychologically people look for change, for something new or an optimistic projection for the future. This isn’t an apocalyptic point of view, to the contrary I think I am being more positive about the future for painting than anyone else here.

7. Nothing stays the same. ‘New’ is a characteristic requirement for visibility. It is not the only requirement but studies show that things which are not distinguishable from the background are overlooked.

8. Franklin says, "Artists young and old are working in all three attitudes". This is my point, no one cares because none of these attitudes are now a guarantee for success. In my opinion a lot of artists are confused about what to do at the moment.

9. It is not a flaw or failing for a mature artist to continue investigating in a prior mode, it is what is expected of them.

37.

opie

June 30, 2007, 9:05 PM

OK, George, OK. I give up. I can't bear any more of this idea that all of us artists are rising and falling and helplessly dirven scattered like autumn leaves before the vagrant winds of these ephemeral yet compelling waves of something no one can see or hear or touch or even say what the hell it is.

I guess those confused artists in #8 are "doubters"

BTW, AT, speaking of doubt, Maurice Merleau-Ponty wrote an entire long article entitled "Cezannes Doubt". So, I guess at least one of them Modernist guys had a wee bit of uncertainty.

38.

ahab

June 30, 2007, 9:14 PM

As I've said recently, elsewhere, I'm constantly surprised how few art-connected people seem to understand what the modernist attitude actually is, or how significantly it brings to light the ways in which we experience every single thing we encounter in the world. Step off the sidewalk and every footfall rates as better or worse than the others according to the walker's discernment. The person with a modernist attitude pays attention to which steps are the best steps, and builds upon the experience of walking to make better treks.

Rather than acknowledge that every single step can be chosen well or poorly dependant upon the walker's aim and its own particular circumstances, a postmodernist attitude gets tangled in knots over why firm is so often favoured over slippery. The postmodernist worries that value judgments made by walkers are unfairly weighted towards the able-bodied, or that such step by step deliberations don't make allowance for shufflers. It is the post-modernist who is immobilized by the insufficiency of categories and the categorical (short vs. long, meandering vs. direct, etc.), while the modernist makes ground by considering each step on its own discernible merits, AND MOVING AHEAD.

And walking is not necessarily an analogy - it's an "on the ground" reality. Modernism has NO RULES about whether photorealism or illusion or graffiti or installation is allowed to be art. No rules about what should be considered, or about how it can be good, just that it's gotta be good, and good on its own terms. I'd argue that every person already makes those discernments consciously or not, but it's the acknowledgment of and attention to the judgment that is modernist.

39.

Franklin

July 1, 2007, 12:00 AM

In #6, I'm so wrong that George is coughing up his mimosa. By #36 the same observations are exactly his point. Go on, George - tell me I just don't get it and let's get this over with. The more we revisit this millennialist bullshit the more it appears that you want to replace the past with a future you can't imagine, for reasons that I can't imagine.

Ahab gets it. Although on some level, all the footfalls are perfect - the universe has been conspiring since the beginning of time so that you could trip on the sidewalk last week. But human practice is to make effort towards balance and grace. Seeing the worth in the errors in the meantime, and capitalizing on them, is an important part of the modernist process.

40.

Franklin

July 1, 2007, 12:01 AM

In #6, I'm so wrong that George is coughing up his mimosa. By #36 the same observations are exactly his point. Go on, George - tell me I just don't get it and let's get this over with. The more we revisit this millennialist bullshit the more it appears that you want to replace the past with a future you can't imagine, for reasons that I can't imagine.

Ahab gets it. Although on some level, all the footfalls are perfect - the universe has been conspiring since the beginning of time so that you could trip on the sidewalk last week. But human practice is to make effort towards balance and grace. Seeing the worth in the errors in the meantime, and capitalizing on them, is an important part of the modernist process.

41.

Hovig

July 1, 2007, 12:31 AM

Opie, #7 -- Understood, thanks. The final paragraph in comment #7, or at least the first half it, is probably one of the loveliest posts I've read of yours.

But then I guess my next question would be: If the postmodernist impulse is part of our human character, and if artmaking has always been influenced by it, to one extent or another, then ... well ... what's wrong with it?

(I don't mean, "why is pomo bad, or incapable of achieving any worthwhile goals," but rather, "why should it not be deemed worthy of serious consideration?")

Myself, I'm incapable of drawing a bright line between the results of modernist and postmodernist inquiry. I can see how the human character leads down both branches. Modernism produces paintings of certain qualities, and pomo produces all sorts of crazy things.

But I think the modernist-postmodernist bramble is a lot more twisted than any attempts to cleave one from the other will bear, and I don't feel any need, or capacity, to wield a machete against this forest. I love this forest.

So I'm interested to know how someone can (or would) make a clear distinction where I cannot (or would not).

42.

opie

July 1, 2007, 8:08 AM

The reason it is more of a bramble than a bright line (and it is, of course) comes from the way we think about things. Because our species functions every day in just about every way in terms of language and because we build language into all kinds of illusory conceptual clumps language itself becomes a disguised extension of our fantasies and our neuroses and our fears, just as, say, our games are extensions of our warlike impulses.

"Modernism" vs "Postmodernism", to me, may be, in a way, an extension of my Presbyterian church deacon 32nd degree Mason grandfather's contemptuous disdain of everything he considered common, cheap and tawdry in everyday life. Because I choose to make my internalized value distinctions in terms of art, which is my profession, I may see art of certain characteristics which I identify with "good" and vice versa. This is supported and sustained by the fact that I actually experience a "higher good" in certain art, and because this is direct experience I am convinced that it is real.

This perception, in turn, leads me to see what I consider valuable generally being termed "Modernist" and the stuff I see as of little value, cheapened, compromised, arising from our "lower nature" termed "Postmodernist". Although these terms are wildly imprecise we are a communicating species so we use them anyway, and I am convinced by my experience and supported by our societal habit of maintaining values that my choices are reasonable and right. Others have their own complex of values and disagree, of course.

We all function this way, and if we are unable to get inside ourselves and at least try to figure out what is making us function we are living what has been termed "the unexamined life", filled with incoherent urges, impelled by social forces we don't even try to understand, judging things blindly and basically just acting like ants in a nest.

So, because there is no clear distinction between things that are not only indistinct but stem from largely unexamined impulses we are condemned to just plunge ahead and do the best we can. I wish we could be more precise, but precision entails narrowness, and that is not the kind of business we are in. That's not a very satisfactory answer but I'm afraid it's just the way it is.

43.

George

July 1, 2007, 11:17 AM

re #39: etc

F. There is no contradiction between my remarks in comment #6 and #36.

In comment #6 I was not challenging the existence of the three attitudes you were suggesting, only the way you were rigidly applying them to the three different historical eras.

Regarding the "millennialist bullshit". Regardless of what you think, it is a phenomena which tends to occur. It is psychological in nature. It usually occurs with a bit of a delay after the century point and this may be extended a bit because of the effects 911.

You go on to say, "it appears that you want to replace the past with a future you can't imagine..."
Yes, you are correct, I am interested in the future.

Fear of the unknown? What I have a difficult time understanding is why everyone here seems so resistant to my ideas. Nothing stands still, painting must progress and move forward into the new era. Why is this so hard to understand? Look backwards, isn’t that what happens?

What are you all afraid of? Nowhere have I suggested exactly what the ‘new’ art will be, as Franklin acknowledges. Opie characterizes my remarks with the term "apocalyptic", how can that be? I have made no dire predictions about the future of painting. To characterize what I have said in this manner, is introducing something from the readers perspective that I did not say and that I do not subscribe to.

Catfish says "the original "avant-garde" was against the contemporary art of its time and respected art of the past instead."[#17] So let’s hold that thought in mind and examine my point of the "rear guard holding action". As I see it, the problem is with the ‘holding action’ which implies passivity, standing in one place while hoping the front and the enemy will move farther away from you.

Continuing with the battlefield analogy, suppose you know the enemy is running out of ammunition, what do you do? Run the other way?

It should be clear by now that I have made no dire or apocalyptic predictions for the future, so why are you all running the other way?

44.

Marc Country

July 1, 2007, 11:34 AM

Ahab gets it. Although on some level, all the footfalls are perfect

Ahab does get it (in fact, Ahab, you should post that fine comment up as a stand-alone on Studiosavant).

Opie clearly gets it, too.

Franklin gets it, too, but, although I get the sentiment he refers to; 'all footfalls are perfect'; I can't help but think it confuses the issue being discussed. Are 'all footfalls perfect' in dance, or does the 'modernist' dancer call a stumble a stumble?

(Not to say that one couldn't have a 'stumbling' dance, or incorporate any sort of step whatever into an effective work of dance...)

45.

Marc Country

July 1, 2007, 11:36 AM

Regarding the "millennialist bullshit". Regardless of what you think, it is a phenomena which tends to occur. It is psychological in nature. It usually occurs daily in the comments of artblog.net. It is tiresome, indeed.

46.

catfish

July 1, 2007, 11:39 AM

George, a while back in #21 you admitted your definition of "good" was too broad, but insisted that "if a painting makes no connection with the viewer, it's ignored and forgotten". I can go along with that.

It follows, then, that the audience for Thomas Kincaide and the audience for great art are not the same. It is also clear that too large an audience may work against identifying great art, but that is not so important as: exactly who is the audience for great art?

I'd suggest that our contemporary "hip" art audience is too large to be the one that great art must speak to, because its very largness dilutes its standards to allow for a great number to participate and be comfortable.

But I'm not so clear about the positive side - who IS the audience for great art? It is far easier to say it isn't the audience that likes Thomas Kincaide, nor is it the audience that likes Neo Rauch and Brice Marden.

47.

Marc Country

July 1, 2007, 11:41 AM

"Nothing stands still, painting must progress and move forward into the new era."

Brilliant, George. Tell THAT to the fools who say "art does not progress"... Oh, wait, that was you...

48.

Franklin

July 1, 2007, 11:46 AM

F. There is no contradiction between my remarks in comment #6 and #36. In comment #6 I was not challenging the existence of the three attitudes you were suggesting, only the way you were rigidly applying them to the three different historical eras.

In #6 you called them "totally wrong." In #14 you said they "are not signifiers of anything that is occurring in advanced painting at the moment." In #36 you said that "no one cares because none of these attitudes are now a guarantee for success," which presupposes that they're true, not that they ever guaranteed success at any point in the first place. In #43 you claim that you're "not challenging the existence of the three attitudes you were suggesting, only the way [I am] rigidly applying them to the three different historical eras." So yes, there are huge contradictions in what you're claiming as problematic in my writing and this is what I've lost patience with entertaining, because I've formulated counterarguments accordingly, and your strategy every time is to retreat to the safety of a future that doesn't exist, about which you can make whatever claims you want. It may sound bold and forward-thinking but it's facile and spurious. I'll take your observations about the future more seriously when you start making ones about the present that don't contradict themselves.

49.

Marc Country

July 1, 2007, 11:47 AM

... Oh, and, Happy Canada Day, everyone!

50.

Franklin

July 1, 2007, 11:48 AM

Marc, your "incorporate any sort of step whatever into an effective work of dance" is exactly the way I mean that.

51.

opie

July 1, 2007, 12:30 PM

Yes, George, Franklin is right. And now you are trying to label us as being "afraid" of your ideas, which is just silly.

The problem with your "ideas" is they are not ideas but a constant reiteration that what we are all talking about is trivial because it's a brand new world and we have to get in step. This just gets tiresome.

Come up with some ideas and lets talk about them.

52.

George

July 1, 2007, 12:33 PM

Re #48, Franklin,

What's your problem?

I do not have a problem with the terms "visual quality" and "technique". I objected to how you used them in a rigid manner when you applied them as generalities for historical eras. I don’t think that is what occurs.

When I say "they are not signifiers of anything that is occurring in advanced painting at the moment", I am stating that as far as I can see, artists are not utilizing the logical pairings you gave, to define what they are doing at the moment. Therefore they are not markers, or identifiers for advanced art at the moment.

MC as usual gets the sentence all mixed up. there is no question about what "progress" means in the context of my sentence.

53.

opie

July 1, 2007, 12:46 PM

When the Modernist stumbles he evaluates the consequences of stumbling in relation to walking, running, and other means of locomotion.

When the Postmodernist stumbles he calls it a dance.

54.

opie

July 1, 2007, 12:50 PM

"Advanced" painting, George? Is that painting that is making progress?

55.

Marc Country

July 1, 2007, 1:02 PM

Gosh, I'm all mixed up (again, sigh)... what do you mean by "progress", opie?

56.

George

July 1, 2007, 1:04 PM

Re#46. catfish

You ask, "exactly who is the audience for great art?"

This is a really great question.

I think first, it is other artists, but they have no money and therefore less ability to shape the future.

I have a close friend, who believes it is the common man but unlike Kincade his ambition is to bring ‘good art’ to them. Personally, I could care less.

So, by default, I think the audience is comprised of the collectors with the most money. Like the Medici’s, they are the only group capable of supporting and preserving the art for the future.

At this point I suspect everyone is going apeshit, but if you consider the facts, it does seem to be what happens.

The real question should be ‘who is in control’? The artist, the galleries, the critics or the collectors? What art and ideas are being promoted? How is the art being promoted?

I will give you one example of how not to promote ‘good art. Just start talking about "visual quality" and "technique", or "no visual quality" and "technique", or " visual quality" and "no technique", and watch peoples eyed glaze over.

57.

George

July 1, 2007, 1:11 PM

Re #53: opie,

Come up with some ideas and lets talk about them.

Fat fucking chance. I brought up some interesting points about the use of painting space in Neo Rauch's work and for the most part, there was no discussion about it at all, just a lot of nit picking about the language.

58.

opie

July 1, 2007, 1:13 PM

I have no idea, Marc. I have been stuck in the present all my life and just can't seem to get out.

59.

opie

July 1, 2007, 1:23 PM

George, gimme a break! I have personally on this very blog discussed Rauch with you and others extensively on at least two separate occasions. Last time it was you talking about the wonderful new ways he was using space, remember? and eveyone (including me) said those were not such wonderful techniques and they had been used before and gave examples and precedents and we cropped the paintings and we could hardly have gotten more specific, more than we have with just about any painter I can remember here. I'm sorry if you were unhappy about the results, but we talked, for sure!

60.

George

July 1, 2007, 1:45 PM

Re#59,

Bullshit. Opie, your problem is that ‘you’ve seen it all before’ and relate to it today as it was forty years ago.

I will concede that there are a finite number of solutions, methods, or approaches for making a painting. Understanding how they might be utilized would seem to be a characteristic of formalism?

Since there are only a finite number of solutions, methods, or approaches for making a painting, they gain importance when applied to problems in a given historical context. The use of a particular kind of painting space in 1540 or 1940 should be viewed in its specific pictorial context. While we can use the solutions from earlier periods as historical reference they are not the same as the solution when it is applied to a specific pictorial problem in the present. Further, the ability to recognize a past historical solution and repurpose it for the present becomes ‘new’ in a relative sense.

Let’s face facts, the discussion never revolved around the formal issues, it was a harangue over my use of the word ‘new’.

’NEW’ Strikes Fear into the Hearts of Painters

61.

Marc Country

July 1, 2007, 1:47 PM

Oh well, Opie, there's always tomorrow.

George may have a point about the wealthy being "the only group capable of supporting and preserving the art for the future." No culture can develop without a social basis, without a source of stable income. And in the case of the avant-garde, this was provided by an elite among the ruling class of that society from which it assumed itself to be cut off, but to which it has always remained attached by an umbilical cord of gold.

I've heard this idea discussed before, but I just can't seem to remember where...

62.

catfish

July 1, 2007, 2:05 PM

George: Earlier in my life as an artist I thought the universities might be "the new patrons" for serious art. They would never make an artist rich, but they could free the artists they employed from the need to satisfy the whims of the rich. To an extent, that has worked, but only for those who attain "recognition" of some sort. It does not matter whether the art itself is any good. as long as someone outside the institution says it is. So the university really isn't an audience for great art. In fact, it most closely aligns itself with those who like Marden and such, not because it exercised leadership in choosing Marden, but because it is submissive to those who did.

63.

catfish

July 1, 2007, 2:07 PM

I'll tell you what strikes fear in my heart, George: The Old Masters

64.

jordan

July 1, 2007, 2:21 PM

Spilling, smooshing, splashing and cropping was at once considered new and therefore better at one point in time - but to agree with Catfish here regarding the Old Masters, what seemed to be a Modernist failure to a current audience is the apparent lack of good drawing. I'll give Marden credit for the fact that he can draw !

65.

ec

July 1, 2007, 2:24 PM

George, the pisspot was new and made waves, but in the large conversation of greatness did not attain to greatness, only begat doubt about the relevance of painting.
So the audience for great painting would be those who recognize great paintng, whether they can support it or not. But, the supporters of great painting would be those who can and do. Do the supporters of great painting, like Saatchi, always support great paintng? Sophie von Hellerman, 26 years old, clearly communicates through her work to those collectors, but how do you measure that work, whether she is collected or not? Of course if she weren't collected, her work would not be seen. I take your point there.
Off-topic for a minute, Knoedler closed on Friday, great discontent having traveled an hour to get there in abysmal underground conditions. Some compensation a landscape show on 64th: Averys, John Walkers and Chinese-inspired Donald Sultans. The Walkers' stacked space and lavish paint excite me no end--wish he'd lose the horizon line--the Averys very washy and lightly treated--and Sultan pulled off two handsome compositions that seemed relatively straightforward, for him. The rest, I can't remember..
This definition for measure means a lot to me. Dense like Greenberg so it takes a while to ponder.
“For the artist, ‘style’ represents the closure of a set of symbolizing or symbol-forming intentions. In the formative stages of a style, the painting elements are at the same time discrete technical solutions and glimmerings of possible meanings.” What is at stake is “a revision of one’s understanding of the strategy of imaging, and consequently an uprooting and re-evaluation of all one’s modes of feeling, these being transvalued by their connection to new concrete terms.” Louis Finkelstein, 1971
For a more contemporary discussion that involves the arm of self-consciousness that attaches to much work produced today I think Alison Gingeras is pretty sharp in the 1992 Pomidou catalogue Dear Painter, Paint Me.

66.

jordan

July 1, 2007, 3:26 PM

... EC, yes, I agree with you about the horizon line paintings - mostly the ones that are cut through the middle - they are best when he brings it (the horizon) to either the top, or the bottom of the composition and then cuts through it with a natural looking form. He is surely not a "hit or miss" painter though regarding his abillity to use both virtual space and physical presence via colored material and good drawing.

67.

that guy

July 1, 2007, 3:26 PM

Glad to see this heated post. It has been awhile. The nice thing about this thread is that Franklin has laid out his points so clearly and thoughtfully. If the "status quo art world bonanza" types wish to defend their turf, they will somehow have to grapple with these ideas and concepts in plain English as above. If George is their only spokesperson, God help their house of cards. Who will come to his aid? More is at stake than who will be appreciating and supporting George's nebulous future "advancing" art forms. From my vantage point, the soul of Art hangs in the balance. Speaking of being apocalyptically inclined. Perhaps such a purging of excesses is exactly what Art needs to get back on track.

And its not the "New" that strikes fear in my heart. I wish I could find some new artist's who impressed enough to conjure up fear. That would mean they had something on me of artistic value that could help me improve. The old dressed up as new bores me to tears. Currently thats all I'm seeing. I like new and interesting artists but fear the rare great ones.

68.

George

July 1, 2007, 4:47 PM

Let’s leave the pisspot out of the discussion.

Does anyone believe Pollock could have painted the drip paintings without Dada and Surrealism?

I believe that painting is about both the visual and the conceptual, that both these areas are part of the perceptual process and therefore inform our experience of the painting.

Catfish brought up Kincade earlier, he is a bit of a red herring. Kincade operates on a level equivalent to the Hollywood cliché movie scenes. It’s not quite what I mean when I say ‘connect with the audience’ I think good painting engages the viewers. It gives them a reason to look, by being compelling visually and/or conceptually. If you live in a city where you can visit 15-25 galleries in an afternoon, like I did in Chelsea yesterday, you become quickly aware of how little time you actually spend looking at most exhibitions. Most paintings I’ve seen lately just aren’t that interesting.

Saying "the audience for great painting would be those who recognize great painting" seems like a circular argument.

69.

opie

July 1, 2007, 4:50 PM

George, your obsession with time-based observations is a bore. We talked all around and up and down with Rauch and when your observations were made to look silly you got pissy and started calling names, which I see you are starting to do now again. Give it up.

70.

George

July 1, 2007, 4:52 PM

What are you talking about?

71.

catfish

July 1, 2007, 5:06 PM

George: most of the statements that have shed light for me about what happnes in art have been circular. What "breaks" the circle comes from the art itself, which seems to "harmonize" with them, serving to anchor the free floating statement on something solid. Art, on the other hand, does not seem to need statements of any kind, circular or otherwise. But it can anchor them or deny them.

I don't think we escape the formally circular very often, if ever, when discussing art.

72.

jordan

July 1, 2007, 5:53 PM

Again, it's the Plato/Aristotle issue.
Early Modernism (in the West, without including Malevich here, who worked by "looking inward") begain with painters looking at things/stuff to work from, creating transformations of these interpretations of physical real things into pictorial representations of these things observed. Conceptually, they would question what had been made, and how it looked similar, or different from the objects observed and worked from. ( I must add that Gaugin, who was a narative "Symbolist" painter, took pride in working from his imagination ). This led to stylistic innovations of sorts, and perhapes progression...

Late Modernist painters reintroduced the "looking inward", ie. "self critical" approach that the Suprematists did seventy years earlier. Postmodernists are looking outward at the vastness of content, as it is the "information age", and ingesting parts which they connect with on an inner level - or in a subjective and objective manner. Not pure enough maybe?

73.

opie

July 1, 2007, 6:59 PM

It's not purity, Jordan, just visual interest. Is it worth looking at or not. The rest is all something else.

What is it you don't understand. George?

74.

George

July 1, 2007, 7:02 PM

Whatever you're talking abou when you say "obsession with time-based observations"

75.

jordan

July 1, 2007, 7:13 PM

Just to add, perhapes it is also a matter of Greenberg connecting the East and West Super-powers with a similar ideology. There is a nice quote by Micheal Wood the historian referring to Malevich (which, I don't recall his exact sequence of words ), but something along these lines: when the world provides instability, artists began to look inward for answers...

76.

opie

July 1, 2007, 7:42 PM

Do I have to make a list? OK, I will . Here is a quick selection from this page only, every word is yours:



like a rear guard holding action, an attempt to hold back the tide.

They are both history

artists of an earlier generation

today, both ideas are history

not signifiers of anything that is occurring in advanced painting at the moment.

their time is past and reflective of a past moment in cultural history.

This is a new age, a new century and a new millennium. How can one be alive now and not be considering this? It points towards the future, why is everyone looking backwards?

Modernism has peaked and is in decline.

Postmodernism has also peaked and is in decline.

The industrial revolution is over in the west.

confirmed that modernism was on the wane.

century and millennium changes are important focal points.

people look for change, for something new or an optimistic projection for the future.

none of these attitudes are now a guarantee for success.

It is not a flaw or failing for a mature artist to continue investigating in a prior mode

Regarding the "millennialist bullshit". Regardless of what you think, it is a phenomena which tends to occur

I am interested in the future.

Nothing stands still, painting must progress and move forward into the new era. Why is this so hard to understand? Look backwards, isn’t that what happens?

they have no money and therefore less ability to shape the future.

they are the only group capable of supporting and preserving the art for the future.

Opie, your problem is that ‘you’ve seen it all before’ and relate to it today as it was forty years ago.

they gain importance when applied to problems in a given historical context. The use of a particular kind of painting space in 1540 or 1940 should be viewed in its specific pictorial context. While we can use the solutions from earlier periods as historical reference they are not the same as the solution when it is applied to a specific pictorial problem in the present. Further, the ability to recognize a past historical solution and repurpose it for the present becomes ‘new’ in a relative sense.



Does that make my point?

77.

George

July 1, 2007, 7:50 PM

You got my points,

So what's the problem?

78.

Franklin

July 1, 2007, 7:51 PM

George #52: What's your problem?

I'm glad you asked. My problem is that I have come to loathe engaging at the level at which disagreements occur about my points I put forth a requested definition of modernism and some related assertions, and throw in "That's okay as far as it goes" and "I doubt it works as an absolute descriptor, but it should do okay as a generalization." Since then I've been accused of rigidity (#43), unspecified incorrectness (I'm wrong, but George won't assert what's right #6, #52), cowardice (#43 again, #60), refutation-by-bad-editing (#25) and dime-store deconstructionism (#9). It's additionally frustrating trying to have an argument with people who won't stand behind what they're saying ("totally wrong" means "not totally wrong, but misapplied," et maxima alia; AT earned a preemptive Kiss My Ass because he's been doing this for years). It's like swatting gnats. And I didn't get to reply to the good counterarguments by Hovig because Opie answered him so adroitly and with such class.

79.

Franklin

July 1, 2007, 7:52 PM

Insert period after "points."

80.

Franklin

July 1, 2007, 8:11 PM

Also make that "subjected to refutation-by-bad-editing and dime-store deconstructionism." In answer to #77's "So what's the problem?" see facile, spurious somewhere above.

81.

jordan

July 1, 2007, 8:23 PM

... sounds like a couple of people are going to have to "take it out into the alley" - kind of like a cyber Cedar Bar...

82.

Franklin

July 1, 2007, 8:30 PM

Good idea, Jordan. I'll open one up in Second Life.

83.

opie

July 1, 2007, 8:46 PM

Don't worry, Jordan. I give. I give.

He asks, you answer. He says: SO?

Enough already.

84.

jordan

July 1, 2007, 9:01 PM

No Opie I give... my keyboard fingers are wimpy.

85.

ec

July 2, 2007, 4:44 PM

Power to all painters.
Pollock, Surrealism, Dada, Chinese painting?
In Taiwanese art textbooks, Pollock is a player, deKooning nowhere to be found. Because Pollock's strands of color form calligraphic space.
Chelsea, George, anything at all? 15 shows, it's a lot. Paula Cooper is on my list: Wayne Gonzales? Nothing?

86.

Marc Country

July 3, 2007, 1:07 PM

May I suggest a new discussion topic, but still focusing on contemporary painting?

The BP Portrait Award show is on now in London's National Portrait Gallery. Where does Franklin's recent 'Self-portrait' fit in with these BP submitted works, and where does this all fit within contemporary art-making?

Franklin, care to comment on it all in the form of a new post? (One post a week isn't too much to ask, is it?)

87.

that guy

July 3, 2007, 1:45 PM

Not sure where Franklin's "fits in" here. If I had to rate them, I'd put his in the upper 1/5 percentile. There is a lot of natty ass painting here. Either the jurors can't see so well or the submissions were few. If I was a juror for this type of thing I'd have to cull about 60% out of this mix. Better to show fewer than to create a National embarrassment. You would think the brits could do better. But then again painting never really got off the ground in England, and from what we see here it looks doubtful that it ever will. Lets hope I'm wrong.

88.

opie

July 3, 2007, 3:43 PM

I am always impressed with how many artists out there can do these every-little-wrinkle paintings, but because most (in this case and most others) lack much simple art quality I usually got for the one that does "realism" best, in this case the hyper-real picture at the end of the first row. There is more visual pleasure involved admiring the photolike perfection of that one than there is trying to find artistic merit in any of them.

89.

1

July 3, 2007, 4:36 PM

that is a good post marc.

might take a while to narrow down favorites with so many pics, but that is good fun.

there are definitely atleast some good pictures to choose from however redundant or recycled the group may seem.

the painting, "nicola" by polly benford would be most closely associated with franklin's self-portrait in terms of style and it is not bad-pretty good.

the 2007 winner, "michael simpson" by paul emsley would probably be one of my finalists, but likely not the winner.

i do find myself asking "do i like this picture or am i am impressed by it?" on more than one occassion.

Paintings that i probably include in contention would include:
The Winner mentioned above..
"self-portrait" by ana maria micu -----impressive and good
"looking back" by aram gershuni
"william packer" by daphne todd- not sure

Also like the hair on "redhead" by amanda hext. "cara" by steve wilson did not initially appeal to me, but i find myslf liking it more as i give it more attention.

of course this could all change by the end of the day. many paintings little time.

90.

jordan

July 3, 2007, 10:36 PM

Traditionally, fine art of supreme quality comes from Italy, and China, - Brits are actors, French are cooks and Russians are politicians... where does that leave America ?

91.

jordan

July 4, 2007, 12:06 AM

Since my last post, nobody commented, so I must say that in my honest opinion, the best Art with a capital "A" is African. (period). The rest is political or commercial; and/or both.

92.

Hovig

July 4, 2007, 10:34 AM

Opie, I think your #42 is the finest thing you've ever written on this blog. I don't share your views, but I loved your description of human nature, and I’m glad to read your thoughts on it. Thanks for that.

Before you joined this blog, I used to call Franklin's (and Jack's) view of art "eschatological." I thought they were taking sides in preparation for Armageddon. I don't see art that way -- frankly I don't even see life that way -- but I thought you framed the debate quite eloquently. I have no need to argue about it, so let's leave it there. I just enjoyed reading your comment and thought it made a great deal of sense.

Bouguereau and Ingres might have disagreed that modernism is "high," but I'm sure they would've agreed that pomo is "low" (and indeed far lower than modernism), so your distinction is good enough for jazz. Was it in The Name of the Rose? Somewhere I read that ancient manuscripts had sinful drawings in the margins -- monks defecating, fornicating with nuns, etc -- not to glorify these acts, but to keep their readers focused.

Maybe postmodernism goes too far, maybe it glorifies the low, but it's only natural to want to understand the human experience from top to bottom, if for no other reason than to come to terms with it. If a work of art goes after the low, I think it can still succeed if it does it with enough intellectual remove to make it worth thinking about.

I'm not going any farther with this. The only pomo artist I'd be willing to defend in a discussion might be Samuel Beckett -- his intellectualization of the low made quite an impact on me -- but even then I don't see a need to debate it. I'm just saying that I can see an intellectual justification for the art of the low. If someone wants to pick up on this, that might be an interesting conversation.

But postmodernism and the art of the low is not actually the most interesting thing on my mind. I’m sure we can debate this more productively in the context of the Roger Kimball article that Franklin just posted.

The more interesting question to me -- sorry, but given our fantastic conversation so far, I want to keep going – is about Surrealism and neo-Dada. I know Jasper Johns is The Devil to post-war modernists, because his color splotches mock Jackson Pollock, his paintings with 'red/ yellow/ blue' written on them mock Mark Rothko, and his paintings with 'drowning hands' mock Barnett Newman[*], but I love the fact that his works are intellectual exercises.

To recall my previous question about postmodernism, this time about dada and surrealism, what’s so bad about them? Is it that they use an intellectualism of a sort not concerned with the physical craft of art-making (recalling Franklin’s previous definition)? I’m not going to defend surrealism, but when it comes to dada / neo-dada, I admit I am very drawn to work that exercises my conceptual neurons. (Don’t worry, I swear a solemn oath that I will never mention any ceramic plumbing devices or their genitor, even implicitly).

[*] These are only my personal interpretations, based on seeing the Johns exhibit at the NGA a few months ago, only a few moments after seeing works by Pollock, Rothko and Newman (the uber-heroic Stations of the Cross, for Pete's sake) in the same building. If anyone knows of a publication which says the same things, I would be extremely interested to know.

93.

Franklin

July 4, 2007, 10:55 AM

I'm going to answer Hovig at the next post. Everyone please do the same.

94.

Marc Country

July 4, 2007, 9:24 PM

Thanks for playing along, 1. I think "Looking Back" is strong, too.
Opie, I think you're being too hard on the group. Catfish managed to express a dismissive response, but ultimately, is willing to keep 40% of the pictures around to look at. Surely, that's a better average than most contemporary shows, no?
Curious if Jack's discerning eye will render a judgment that could be transcribed here for our edification... and, resident figurative artist/professor Franklin, as well. Share your thoughts?

95.

Marc Country

July 4, 2007, 9:25 PM

Sorry That Guy, I mistook you for catfish in my last comment... must be the dimmed lights in here... ok, I can take a hint.

96.

opie

July 4, 2007, 10:14 PM

There may be a difference between being too a hard on the group and just describing my personal reaction, which is what I was doing. If asked to simply evaluate the paintings like 1 did I would not be as dismissive, certainly. Most of them knew how to paint, and that in itself is a rare virtue these days.

97.

catfish

July 4, 2007, 11:25 PM

There is something about all those portraits that is so British. Not quite :there: as art, I'd say,

98.

Marc Country

July 5, 2007, 12:24 AM

Thanks for not letting me down, catfish... now, instead of being mixed up, I'm psychic.

99.

Nolameme

July 5, 2007, 3:46 PM

I'm a little late here on the BP Portrait Prize discussion.

I've been following this prize for a number of years now, and have to say I thought this years entires were really strong. In years past they have almost entirely been "every-little-wrinkle-paintings" as opie calls them (nice despcription, by the way). This year there seems to be all sorts of different styles, not just the boring realism stuff, with alot of them having nice painting/mark-making.

I personally think that the following are strong:
Tim by Scott Pohlschmidt - very John Singer Sargent brush work
The King of Spain by Diarmuid Kelley - nice blocky brush strokes
Man Staring by Maryanne Aytoun-Ellis - I'd like to see this one in person to see whats really happening with the area outside of the face
Self Portrait by Jaemi Hardy - although I think the picture is dark, having seen Hardy's work in person I know their depth and richness really comes through the darkness.

It's interesting that Catfish comments on the Britishness of the work, when many of the painters aren't British at all.

100.

catfish

July 5, 2007, 4:10 PM

Nolameme: What you assert is not merely "interesting". You are saying I got it "wrong" and you by implication are getting it "right". I guess it all depends on what your definition of "many" is. Mine does not stretch as far as yours evidently does.

101.

Nolameme

July 5, 2007, 4:38 PM

Catfish, I am not at all implying that you got it "wrong" and I got it "right" with your comment on Britishness.

I was merely questioning why they feel British when some of the artists are not British. Is this because the jury is Bristish? Or, is this an aesthetic that the BP Portrait Award supports? Do other portrait awards in other countries take on the feel of that country too? My comment was only meant as a question.

Next time I'll be more careful to state my comments clearly as questions so as not to get falsely accused of implying anything.

102.

catfish

July 5, 2007, 10:12 PM

I'd probably say these artists felt British even if few of them were. Of course, other countries feature the same type of near miss work, that gets oh so close and yet stays oh so far. As opie observes on another page, "Oh wow" detail, even when combined with the rhetoric of total dedication to discipline and craft, does not make up for "the burn" that I look for. I'm sure someone will say I'm biased against the English. I don't think it matters, though, if I am.

If I had to chose one of your alternatives, it would be "aesthetic". I could qualify but won't. That word gets close enough.

If I have a bias that I'm conscious of, it's the requirement that the pictures be portraits. At heart, I'm a plurallist in the basic sense - anything has the potential to be great art. Why set a limit like this? Let the art delimit itself.

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