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Super Summer Sabbatical

Post #1025 • June 23, 2007, 11:55 AM • 121 Comments

Artblog.net is granting itself a sabbatical. The next two months require that I find a new domicile, then pack up and move myself, Supergirl, two dogs, three cats, two cars, and the contents of two newly-combined households from Boston to Orange County. Upon arrival, my new institution and I need some face time before the faculty meets in the third week of August; setting up house and a semester's worth of course prep will take place concurrently.

Too, I'd like to put some additional energy into The Moon Fell On Me, which now has an XML feed, by the way. I also would like to address some issues in Artblog.net's creaking innards. Its hand-hacked content management system was fine for a good long run. Sadly, program logic deals with the entire thousand-post pile every time it loads a page, which is spanking the CPU. My recent programming studies now make a solution thinkable.

So drop in on The Moon Fell On Me and look forward to a better-running blog. Next post: Monday, September 3.

Comment

1.

BMD72

June 23, 2007, 6:16 PM

Hmmm, Franklin maybe you could do what they 've been doing with Ebert recovering(on his awful TV show) and have some celebrity guest art bloggers. Kevin Smith, Martin Scorsese, that fat guy from aint it cool news.com, Peter Bogdanovich, David Ansen, Elvis Mitchell, Joel Siegel, Jay Leno, John Mellencamp, AO Scott and Bruce Willis (He once filled in for Letterman).

Or better yet, maybe you should keep a comment page up for the next 2 months and your faithful readers can do some guest blogging.

Come on, raise your hand if you would like to read Bruce Willis/John McClaine and Opie get into it?

2.

opie

June 23, 2007, 8:13 PM

Opie doesn't have the skills, but it would be a shame to not have something going on.

Or can we just go ahead and argue for 2 months, and run up hundreds of comments?

3.

catfish

June 23, 2007, 8:22 PM

Franklin, you have an extra "c" in the URL for your new college.

4.

ahab

June 23, 2007, 9:47 PM

I'm no Franklin, and MC's only Opie's shade, but he did presciently post a "Wednesday Roundup" at studiosavant last week and we'd be happy to host further conversations on art and the like there during Artblog.net's hiatus. Come September 3 and Franklin's back online, you'll all be unwelcome there again.

5.

Marc Country

June 24, 2007, 12:06 PM

Indeed, come over to Fra Ahab and MoldCrow's blog for our Wednesday Roundup... there's something for everyone (even Franklin... although he's probably busy).

6.

Pretty Lady

June 25, 2007, 2:13 PM

Well, drat, Franklin, I shall miss you. However I thoroughly understand the rejuvenative aspects of Summer Vacations, and should probably take one myself. Tallyhoo!

7.

BMD72

June 25, 2007, 4:29 PM

1000 posts. Surely longtime readers or even Franklin occasionally could post links to the best posts of the thousand.

Or maybe not.

8.

opie

June 25, 2007, 8:01 PM

Franklin, tell us what exactly is going to happen. Will this just run on (or peter out) for the next 2 months? Are you going to shut it down altogether? Will it just go dormant after some unspecified period of time?

9.

Lisa L. Crandal

June 26, 2007, 5:47 AM

Recently I went to Palm Desert and saw Bill Marx & The Desert Cities Jazz Band with my brother. They were GREAT! !
They were recording that session on June 2nd. I would LOVE to be able to, firstly, contact Bill & the band to express what a fantastic time I had and secondly, to find out how I can order a copy of that session for my brother & I.
I would GREATLY appreciate any info you could send me that will help me.
Thank you so much!
Respectfully, Lisa L. Crandal

10.

George

June 26, 2007, 1:21 PM

In the ‘passing time while the paint dries’ category...

I was reading something recently about Gerhard Richter’s work.

I got to wondering what some of the abstract-color-field painters who read this blog think about his large body of abstract paintings. [link is Google search]

Do you guys/gals pay any attention to his work at all?

Just curious.

11.

Franklin

June 26, 2007, 1:27 PM

I was thinking I would just let it peter out for the summer, but I like BMD's suggestion, just to keep the threads alive, and partly because my advertisers just renewed and it's kind of a shame to board up for the summer. On the other hand, I may not even have internet for the last half of July. I'll think about it.

George, I wrote about Richter here.

12.

1

June 26, 2007, 2:41 PM

richter's abstract paintings on a whole are nothing special.

that said, he can get lucky once in a great while with his style of abstraction and do something that works.

13.

opie

June 26, 2007, 3:40 PM

George, I agree with Jed Perl. Franklin goes too easy on him. Those "abstract paintings" give abstract paintg a bad name. I have seldom seen a worse eye for color.

Neo Rauch is much better!

What do you think?

14.

George

June 26, 2007, 6:36 PM

Link to the Gerhard Richter website

I haven’t spent much time looking at Richter’s paintings but I thought the Jed Perl’s quote was just opinionated bullshit.


Color? or Color?? , I’m not sure I understand what you think is good color, or maybe European tastes are different?

Seems to me that his later abstract paintings are not all that different from many of the other color-field painters working in the US and Canada. They do have an odd quality, they look like Richters, whatever that is.

15.

opie

June 26, 2007, 8:00 PM

You either see it or you don't, George.

16.

George

June 26, 2007, 8:03 PM

See what?

17.

opie

June 26, 2007, 11:11 PM

You know perfectly well, George. Good color, bad color, the difference between art that lives and art that is dead. There is no other point to all this, is there? Or are you just being cantakerous.

18.

Marc Country

June 26, 2007, 11:36 PM

Please. Not two months of this...

19.

George

June 27, 2007, 12:38 AM

Color is just a piece of the picture, it's not the whole game.

I've got no investment in Richter, I can take him or leave him and I'm not interested debating his work. I do think color is more subjective than you're letting on, that 'good color' and 'bad color' are debatable only in how they are used.

Certainly one can always make a mess of it but other times an edge of unplesantness can convey something emotionally

Whatever, I guess I just don't understand what painters like Richter are trying to do

20.

Marc Country

June 27, 2007, 1:17 AM

Make money?

Any thoughts on Saltz' recent take on Biennials?

21.

jordan

June 27, 2007, 11:01 AM

For years now I have been reading this blog and the comments posted - and yet I still wonder what the heck "Modernism" is ? Is it a style, an era, a movement, an esthetic, a genre, a philosophy, a mystery...?

22.

opie

June 27, 2007, 11:16 AM

When Saltz - who often writes well about the organizational aspects of the art world - opens with "Ugh, Venice" I looked forward to a satisfying flaying of the horrendous incarnation of PC posturing that the Bienalle has become, but instead he muses harmlessly on the usual complaints, such as the art is hard to see (which in the case of the Venice show is a distinct positive) and how "tribal" it all is. I would like to see him rip it up some.

23.

opie

June 27, 2007, 11:17 AM

Jordan:

http://www.sharecom.ca/greenberg/modernism.html

24.

catfish

June 27, 2007, 11:44 AM

I agree with Terry Fenton that Clem's view of the importance of modernism was over-extended - "the whole of what is truly alive in our culture" is too much. I disagree with Terry, however, in that the facts of art history point to the centrality of pictorial art, as Clem suggests. That's just the way it is. That does not diminish the enjoyment good sculpture provides, not one bit. But where the picture makers go, the rest are sure to follow. (To pharaphrase Lyndon Johnson.) I'm sure an exception can be found. But it would be an exception.

If I were a critic, Clem's writing would depress me, literally. After reading him, what else is left to say?

25.

catfish

June 27, 2007, 11:53 AM

BTW, I took considerable liberty with LBJ's famous statement, which was: When you have his pecker in your pocket, the rest of him is sure to follow.

26.

jordan

June 27, 2007, 12:27 PM

So then Kant's views as filtered through Greenberg relate Modernism to Biblical, ethical, moral, and righteous duties expected by conscientious Western citizens.

27.

Jordan

June 27, 2007, 12:39 PM

When I studied Kantian "Moral Ethics", the philosophy of "right and wrong" as the focus of an undergraduate philosophy class, all I could think about was Nietzsche. You see, that was the 80's and 90's ideology. One Artist said to me "I can't stand Kant". I missed my final exam and got an "F" in the class because the night before the final I decided to go out with a couple of classmates and do some rails and get laid.

28.

catfish

June 27, 2007, 12:40 PM

Jordan: you are right that Clem talked "righteously" from time to time in his early writings. But Terry Fenton found the key concept in this essay, which is that modernism sought to entrench art all the "more firmly in its area of competence". Morality is not one of art's areas of competence. Our local preachers are much better at that, as they ought to be.

29.

Marc Country

June 27, 2007, 2:05 PM

Usually, I don't find myself in disagreement with catfish, but...

1. Although, importantly, humans are picture-makers, they are more essentially thing-makers... (in other words, sculptors rule, and painters drool, so there).

2. If art critics today took an approach like Clem's to current art, not only would there be lots to say, but, more to the point, there might actually be some art writing worth reading.

3. Morality, it would seem, isn't really one of the clergy's areas of competence, either. It is interesting, though, that both morality and aesthetics rise from simple human intuition alone...

30.

Marc Country

June 27, 2007, 2:06 PM

... as informed by experience, of course.

31.

catfish

June 27, 2007, 2:44 PM

Marc, it is not necessary for a preacher to be morally good him or herself to be effective in motivating others to be morally good. It may be important, however, for the flock to be ignorant of the personal immorality.

When I was a grad student in philosophy, the faculty member who had dedicated himself to the study of ethics also required that any female PhD candidate sleep with him to get his OK for the degree. He was an expert in moral theroy and many students thought highly of his classes. Some may have even liked the sex. I avoided him, but that was just me. Had I not known he was so creepy, I probably would have liked his classes too.

32.

catfish

June 27, 2007, 2:51 PM

Marc ... why am I not surprised at your comments?

You are right, on the whole humans make more things than pictures. But that is not the case when you limit the set to artists. Artists make more pictures than things. And pictures are central to where the flock migrates, though not more important. (I deliberately held back on the issue of importance.)

Just as the brain of a person is not less important than the heart. But the heart can continue to beat with a more or less dead brain, though not vice versa. So the heart is central. You of course, are free to say this a lame analogy.

You are also right that if critics took to talking about today's art like Clem talked about yesterday's art, there would be something to say, though it is doubtful anyone could say it as well as he would if he were still commenting. But when it comes to the "big picture" of what art is all about, Clem pretty much exhausted it.

33.

George

June 27, 2007, 3:45 PM

It was the stressing of the ineluctable flatness... bla, bla, bla, is bunk.

34.

opie

June 27, 2007, 4:31 PM

George lately you have reduced yourself to random razzing. Try to say something, so we can argue about it.

Poor Clem. I never figured out how anyone could get so much trouble for saying painting is flat. It's lucky he didn't get himself ito really hot water by saying the sky is blue, or the sun is hot, or rocks are heavy.

35.

George

June 27, 2007, 5:48 PM

Well, I hadn’t read the article by CG, so I had a look.

Would someone please explain what he is talking about? Jordan, if you read it, can you fill me in on what modernism is?

So, reading right along and I come to the section on ‘flatness, whoop de do!

This is a period article. Does any painter out there think that painting is about a plane? De plane!, de plane! Come on, get real.

At best one might argue that an essential characteristic of a painting is that it is an image on a surface. Take the term ‘image’ figurally and the word ‘surface’ literally.

Is there another painter out there who would argue that ‘flatness’ is somehow irreduciblly connected to quality?

I’m all ears.

36.

Franklin

June 27, 2007, 5:56 PM

From the postscript of the CG article linked above:

There have been some further constructions of what I wrote that go over into preposterousness: That I regard flatness and the inclosing of flatness not just as the limiting conditions of pictorial art, but as criteria of aesthetic quality in pictorial art; that the further a work advances the self-definition of an art, the better that work is bound to be. The philosopher or art historian who can envision me -- or anyone at all -- arriving at aesthetic judgments in this way reads shockingly more into himself or herself than into my article.

37.

George

June 27, 2007, 6:04 PM

OK, Franklin

Explain it to me in simple english.

38.

Franklin

June 27, 2007, 6:20 PM

Okay. Modernism is an attitude in which one attempts to make better art based on the intrinsic properties of one's medium.

39.

George

June 27, 2007, 6:46 PM

Isn't that what artist always did?

40.

Franklin

June 27, 2007, 6:51 PM

Hardly, although I think good artists have always done this on some level.

41.

opie

June 27, 2007, 7:18 PM

Plain English, George? OK.

You said "Is there another painter out there who would argue that ‘flatness’ is somehow irreduciblly connected to quality?"

What "other painter"? Nobody said that. Nobody but you. Greenberg wrote that anyone who did say this "reads shockingly more into himself or herself than into my article."

Plain enough?

42.

George

June 27, 2007, 7:44 PM

My 'another painter out there' is directed at the blog readers who happen to be painters, nothing else, though, I didn’t really expect a dialogue.

The fact that he attempted to clarify the 'flatness' point in the 1978 postscript in an indication that his earlier comments were misinterpreted. I think his viewpoint was misread contemporaneously, at least that is my recollection of the dialog at that time.

So I guess I can assume that ‘flatness’ is just a buzzword from the period and that those two or three paragraphs can be ignored.

In other words flatness is only a relevant issue if one chooses to make it one. One can also just accept that ‘flatness’ comes with the territory when painting on a planar support, it’s a fact of life, the paint has to go somewhere.

I guess that Greenberg is just PrePoMo, it sounds the same if you don’t know all the codewords.

43.

Marc Country

June 27, 2007, 7:59 PM

George, now that your understanding is broadening, I'd encourage you to re-read the essay again, fresh. See if you understand it better the second time.
Read it slowly. Clear your mind of preconceptions, and just read what the words themselves say. re-read the postscript, too.
Then, report back for further clarification.
Repeat as necessary.

44.

opie

June 27, 2007, 8:01 PM

Greenberg was describing how the process of modernism forced illusionistic depth out of painting and made it conform to the fact of the support so that it ended up looking flat as well as being flat. He did not make it a "relevant issue", modernist artists did, but he is the one that described it and subsequently was unjustly accused of making his observations proscriptive, mainly because most art people can't think straight and start scowling muttering whenever anyone makes any sense.

I can't imagine you are unaware of this, George, but you seem to be taking pains to make it seem so.

45.

Franklin

June 27, 2007, 8:13 PM

"Flatness" is hardly a buzzword. He's using it describe something flat, painting, flat relative to theater and sculpture.

In other words flatness is only a relevant issue if one chooses to make it one. One can also just accept that ‘flatness’ comes with the territory when painting on a planar support, it’s a fact of life, the paint has to go somewhere.

In order to make the paint go somewhere in a good way, the interaction between medium and support is crucially important. This is not an optional parameter as a modernist.

I guess that Greenberg is just PrePoMo, it sounds the same if you don’t know all the codewords.

What codewords?

46.

George

June 27, 2007, 8:19 PM

OK, Plain engrish.

[CG] In the meantime the other cardinal norms of the art of painting had begun, with the onset of Modernism, to undergo a revision that was equally thorough if not as spectacular. It would take me more time than is at my disposal to show how the norm of the picture's enclosing shape, or frame, was loosened, then tightened, then loosened once again, and isolated, and then tightened once more, by successive generations of Modernist painters.

Successive generations of Modernist painters explored the way the pictures enclosing shape or frame could be used. Now unless this process of exploration arrives at a definitive solution, one which produces an arguably ‘better’ painting, then we must assume that the whole process is either just a formal exercise, or that it is put to use as a method of enhancing some other pictorial or psychological aspect of the painting. In other words, given an adequate pictorial solution, it doesn’t matter how the painter approaches the ‘frame’ problem. It is something we can notice and talk about, but it is not a make or break point.

[CG] Or how the norms of finish and paint texture, and of value and color contrast, were revised and rerevised. New risks have been taken with all these norms, not only in the interests of expression but also in order to exhibit them more clearly as norms. By being exhibited, they are tested for their indispensability.

Absolutely correct, different painters will try different techniques. Unless one can argue that one technical approach is superior to others then their indispensability is a matter of fashion more than anything else.

[CG] That testing is by no means finished, and the fact that it becomes deeper as it proceeds accounts for the radical simplifications that are also to be seen in the very latest abstract painting, as well as for the radical complications that are also seen in it.

Again artists experiment, some push for simplicity, some for complexity, this would seem to be an expected norm, channeled only by the moment of fashion.

So to use a one liner from the world of finance "Prices will fluctuate".

47.

George

June 27, 2007, 8:28 PM

Hey Franklin, I beg to differ ‘flatness’ was a buzzword, it was before your time though.

48.

Franklin

June 27, 2007, 8:51 PM

...unless this process of exploration arrives at a definitive solution, one which produces an arguably ‘better’ painting, then we must assume that the whole process is either just a formal exercise, or that it is put to use as a method of enhancing some other pictorial or psychological aspect of the painting.

There are no definitive solutions in art, at least no definitive solutions to the problem of producing quality work. There are people, obviously, who consider the whole run of abstract painting as "just a formal exercise," but we generally regard them as philistines. Maximizing the effectiveness of abstract forms turns out to be a hard and fruitful problem.

In other words, given an adequate pictorial solution, it doesn’t matter how the painter approaches the ‘frame’ problem.

It is easy to solve a painting adequately. To solve it superlatively, one has to deal with the relationship between the content and the edges.

49.

ec

June 27, 2007, 9:51 PM

The CG read is articulate about how painting becomes conscious of itself. I enjoy the point that painting as empirical and therefore reflective of an artist's individual proclivities. Also that the rising of some reputations did not compromise others. Unfortunately, I started at the bottom and read the article backwards before reading the script--Greenberg's writing has that effect; it took years to assimilate Avant Garde and Kitsch. Same with John Link's Hardness of Art--it's not that the writers are wrong, or unreasonable, but..who is talking? The booming voice of God?
Richter's abstractions, first time I saw 'em in Chicago in 1985 or 6, shocked me like early Salle or Nolde. Rude, rude, rude. His commentary in contrasting the abstracts with photo paintings made a lavish point, and then he published Painting as Practice, so he was provocative for a while, but somehow his work does not feel urgent. I still like his bird's eye views of cities the best; they make that material to image transition Vik Muniz is so articulate about when he describes his work. Now that's a modernist concern. Then isn't post-modernism a literal extension of that situation, so conscious formal decisions of modernist painting become conscious post-formal decisions. Oy.
There is an Avery watercolor show at Knoedler and a wonderful breezy Elliot Green painting at Feigen. At the summer residency program at Cooper Union, there is a painter from Chicago who loves comic illustrators. He makes rectangular canvases in lurid greys and browns portraying featureless faces resembling Fischer Price toys. There are minimal clues of their activites, since their heads are truncated, but you'll see a visor, or dreadlocks flying in the wind, or simply a configuration of heads only possible on a motorcycle. They are lavishly painted, like Guston, but much sloppier--matte paint, muddy color, barely finished . He said he didn't care, why should he care about adding purple to a grey, that sounded cute, like something Wayne Thiebaud would do. He could do it with black, white and brown.
Those are some of the weirdest paintings I have seen in a while. If he really did it up, they'd be fantastic. As they are, good for a gallery like ATM.
Perhaps self-exhaustion will replace the postmodern extension of modernism.
I wonder if Richter's abstractions follow the Golden Mean.

50.

George

June 27, 2007, 9:52 PM

F. I’m just thinking out aloud here, so whatever I say isn’t directed at anyone in particular. I agree that there are no definitive solutions for the process, the fact that there are none and we search for them anyway, may be in part what art is about.

MC made some remarks that I should read closer. Maybe so, but I’m a born skeptic and as such I have little use for the Kool Aid thinkers.

I read CG closely and deconstructed a paragraph. He quite correctly notes that certain aspects of painting’s formal practice oscillate back and forth. While this is a correct observation, when viewed from a purely formal perspective, is also just noise in the system which he fails to explain or explore in any meaningful way other than to just observe its existence.

51.

jordan

June 27, 2007, 9:59 PM

I was joking about the Kant comment. I studied Kant in the "Philosophy of Moral Ethics" course offered at the University of Windsor in the early 90's and got a lot out of it. We never discussed Art in this class much to my disappointment. I see Greenbergs argument - truth to what something is - flatness seems to mean that no paint should be added to the canvas at all - thus rendering it a wall sculpture.

1. Although, importantly, humans are picture-makers, they are more essentially thing-makers... (in other words, sculptors rule, and painters drool, so there).
Maybe Marc is right.

I can't recall the name of this certain Japanese painter who used a rather loose weave, perhapes jute, and pushed the paint with pressure through the back of the surface, and allowing it to ooze through to the front (the regular way a painting hangs on a wall ) with great sensitivity and control. The surfaces where far from flat, yet maintained a none virtual space appearence. However, since they where/are monochromes, they could be perceived as virtual spaces pictorially. I find that monochrome paintings often recede visually, (poke holes in the wall ) not advance ( come forward ). Hoffman's paintings are basically figurative (metaphorically) illusionistic pictures.

52.

jordan

June 27, 2007, 10:30 PM

Also, I wanted to add that in my opinion John Walker, who shows with Knoedler, handles the tense balance between abstarction and representaion, virtual space and material physicality, better than most.
His scale engages the viewer physically, his use of paint, from lean to fat and his values and color pallet create an illusionistic spce made palpable. Especially his landscapes, which are his most recent paintings.

53.

jordan

June 27, 2007, 10:38 PM

Check out "Cloudburst"

http://www.guildfordarts.org.uk/images/clydeco/cc20/walkercloud.jpg

and "Dry Dam"

http://www.artgallery.mq.edu.au/images/resizedWalker.jpg

( sorry Franklin... these drag and drops are small though )

54.

George

June 27, 2007, 10:52 PM

Suppose we assume there is something to the ‘flatness’ issue, but that it’s not what it seems.

First, I would discard the idea that a flat two dimensional plane is a requirement for a painting and any of the CG baggage that might be associated with the idea.

Second, just for simplicity of discussion, let’s assume a ‘painting’ is painted image, paint applied to a surface/support. Of course in the future, technology may change this, but for now, lets assume it’s the case.

Also for the sake of simplicity, let’s avoid dealing with painting as installation, it’s a subset of regular painting.

So we begin with a painting object, a mechanical support with a painted ‘image’on it. It’s probably flat, but this is not an absolute condition for our object to be a painting.

What happens when we view a painting? First, we classify it as a ‘painting’, a special type of cultural object. IF we are unable to tell it’s a painting, then it slips into a broader class of cultural objects which may be painted or contain an image. Let’s assume we can tell it’s a painting.

Once we know we are looking at a painting we view it with a different set of expectations. We know we are looking at a painting, we know what we are ‘seeing’ is a fiction, OR it is literal, OR it is both.

While I would choose to ignore ‘flatness’ as an issue, the same cannot be done for literalness, out perception of a painting object as an object, made from colored paint applied to a surface.

I believe the viewer has a perceptual relationship with the painting. By accepting it as a literal object, the viewer creates a reference point which is believable, and not a fiction. Further visual exploration and perception of the painting as an image is held in tension with the knowledge of the literal object. This tension occurs when we perceive the painting as an image of what’s not there.

This is not a pipe.

55.

George

June 27, 2007, 10:55 PM

EC,

Are you in NYC?

56.

Marc Country

June 27, 2007, 11:20 PM

"MC made some remarks that I should read closer. Maybe so, but I’m a born skeptic and as such I have little use for the Kool Aid thinkers."

And to think I thought you were beginning to see the light... well, the essay will still be there, if you change your mind, and get thirsty, George.

57.

opie

June 28, 2007, 12:15 AM

It is not all that complicated. All Greenberg did was describe what was taking place in the best art, and he did it very well when no one else was doing it.

One of Greenberg's virtues, a virtue which brough him little but obloquy, was to see the obvious and describe it clearly. Most of us like the comfort of our ignorance too much to do anything but growl like lazy dogs when it is disturbed.

58.

ec

June 28, 2007, 8:11 AM

Jordan, I cannot agree with you more about John Walker. He is a wonderful artist and his landscapes are his best work: cogent, focused, beautifully painted. I am also fascinated by your description about the jute painter: are you saying he paints on the back of the surface? Enoc Perez does that as well--for a printed quality, in his case--but his work does not possess the delectability of your description.
Opie, I think you're right, Greenberg said it when nobody else did.
George, I go back and forth between NY and FL and am in NY through December 2007.

59.

George

June 28, 2007, 8:57 AM

re #57 Word for the day goes to opie.

Thoght it was a typo but googled it anyway

ob·lo·quy (o˘b'l?-kwe¯)
1. Abusively detractive language or utterance; calumny: “I have had enough obloquy for one lifetime” (Anthony Eden).
2. The condition of disgrace suffered as a result of abuse or vilification; ill repute.

Re #58
EC, email me, we should get together.

60.

Hovig

June 28, 2007, 9:18 AM

George,

The discussion of flatness seems simple. Here's my take, as someone untrained in art history and completely unfamiliar with Greenberg's writings.

Before Modernism, artists complained that their works were flat, static, unrealistically colored, bound by the picture frame, and otherwise not perfectly biological. Maybe photography burst the bubble, or maybe art had simply achieved all it was technically capable of, but you could say they hit a wall.

With Modernism, artists decided to embrace those qualities that were previously considered shortcomings, unapologetically making art which explicitly played to them, and played off them. Today they would write wall texts saying they were exploring the material qualities of the media. Instead of bemoaning a painting's flatness (inter al.), they embraced it, and started making paintings which in fact took advantage of it, like Cezanne's still lives of fruits on tables.

Maybe you're assuming that Greenberg used his writings to set the stage for activities he did away from the typewriter, like collecting and promoting the work of certain artists and styles which may have benefitted from the attention he gave their specific subcraft. Maybe that's where your reading of 'flatness' as a codeword originates. I don't know enough to offer an opinion either way, but if that's the real issue here, I'd like to see it come to the surface and get a proper airing.

61.

opie

June 28, 2007, 9:32 AM

That's another way to look at it, Hovig. I don't think it was that conscious a process, and the interplay between what artists decided to do and why they think they decided it and the Marxian "historical necessity" angle is a fascinating one - a micro-instance of human cultural evolution - and one that Greenberg really only made explicit without thoroughly examining. It might well be examined more scientifically.

62.

George

June 28, 2007, 10:37 AM

Re #60 Hovig,

So we don’t get lost in the words, ‘codewords’ was a joke, a swipe at pomo lingo, as was PrePoMo which is akin to a double negative.

Regarding the ‘flatness’ issue, I get it, as I mentioned to Franklin, it was a buzzword at one point many years ago. I only brought it up because it was mentioned in the article by GC on Modernism.

Maybe photography burst the bubble Well, yes but I suspect it may not have occurred quite as you described. Photography may have instigated painters to investigate the aspects of painting other than just its ability to mimic the real world.

I would suggest this change in emphasis had little to do with flatness, after all a photograph is flat too. Rather, I believe that painters chose to exploit aspects of painting that photography could not yet approach. This would include distortion, line, color, physical surface, and above all, the fact that a painting is hand made.

63.

opie

June 28, 2007, 11:33 AM

There has been a lot of speculation about the effect of photography on painting, particularly because photography was invented and became very popular at about the same time that modernist innovation in painting surfaced, but I think it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Early photography was mostly portrait work, and the primary effect was that portrait painting of the "everyday" sort got hit hard, but this kind of work was hardly very avant-garde. Also, most salon painting consisted of exotic, relatively unphotographable subject matter. The usual claims that painting got abstract because photography could do realism better seem careless and would not stand up to a hard look, in my opinion. I am not familiar with the literature; maybe this has already been done.

64.

A.T.

June 28, 2007, 6:41 PM

(1) Modernism is an attitude in which one attempts to make better art based on the intrinsic properties of one's medium.

(2) Isn't that what artist always did?

(3) Hardly, although I think good artists have always done this on some level.


The problem is with F.’s definition of Modernism in (1): too general since it admits George’s counterexample in (2). Is a medieval artist that fits F’s definition is a “modern” artist?

65.

Hovig

June 28, 2007, 7:15 PM

Actually, A.T., I think Franklin's definition is problematic not because it's inaccurate -- I think it's perfectly accurate, for reasons I danced around in #60 above -- but because it makes Modern Art sound like the research arm of Liquitex. A hundred and fifty years after a major aesthetic shift, when do we know we've reached a point of diminishing returns? When does an art become a craft?

66.

opie

June 28, 2007, 8:12 PM

AT and Hovig, I think you are both trying to inject a neutral matter with notions of value. Modernism is a term which arose from certain facts, as most words do. It is not to be confused with "modern" or "craft" or "good" or "bad". It is merely a word which tries to point to something tht happened.

Franklin is correct to see modernism as an attitude or procedure or set of procedures or a methodology because the word arose to refer to the attitudes (procedures etc) of the best artists of the last century+. His description of that attitude is oversimplified because it is so short, but even a much longer explication will end up being inadequate to anyone who is not well familiarized with the history of the art of the period.

This does not mean that the word is not useful. It just means that we have to know what we are talking about.

67.

George

June 28, 2007, 8:34 PM

I think opie underestimates the role of photography. As I view it, photography was the catalyst which initiated modernism. A new medium is avant garde almost automatically and photography raised a number of issues concerned with image making and the role that painting fulfilled in the culture. I think Art in America had an article on Manet and photography.

Hovig asks ... when do we know we've reached a point of diminishing returns? When does an art become a craft? This suggests to me that the formal arguments for Modernism are weak at best and that Modernism occurred for some other cultural reason, I suspect primarily as a response to industrialization.

I suppose we could argue the finer points of its history but it seems academic and not that interesting.

However, as I have mentioned before, I do believe we are in another inflection period which is being caused by the advent of the internet. I think it is affecting painting now and that it will be obvious in retrospect.

68.

opie

June 28, 2007, 9:02 PM

George arguing "for" Modernism is beside the point. Modernism is not a cause, it is just something that happened and may or may not still be happening. What you and Hovig and AT are implying seems like nothing more than some sort of general "out with the old" bias with Modernism as the fall guy.

I would certainly take issue with the idea that photography instigated modernism, but I really can't argue it because I don't know enough about the relationship of photography with painting during that time. However, I do know a lot about the art & art history of the period and such an assertion seems unsupportable.

69.

George

June 28, 2007, 9:38 PM

... but I really can't argue it because I don't know enough about the relationship of photography with painting during that time.

I wouldn’t suggest direct cause and effect between painting and photography. I think it is safe to assume that painters could sense what the implications of photography were for the future of image making. I think this freed painters up to explore other aspects of the pictorial. I vaguely recall some mention in the supporting text at the MOMA Manet exhibition which suggested that Manet was directly responding to photography. As a painter I don’t find this surprising at all.

I’m still at a loss for a clear definition of Modernism.

A. "Modernism is an attitude in which one attempts to make better art based on the intrinsic properties of one's medium." [Franklin]

Anyone else?

70.

Marc Country

June 29, 2007, 2:18 AM

How 'bout this:

Modernism: "Art for art's sake".

Oversimplified, maybe, but at least it doesn't take long to read.

71.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 7:42 AM

..."wan figuration" is still the best description regarding contemp. figurative art tht I have ever heard - amazing ! (laughter)

72.

George

June 29, 2007, 8:26 AM

WIKI sez:

Modernism is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation, and is thus in its essence both progressive and optimistic.

The term covers many political, cultural and artistic movements rooted in the changes in Western society at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.

Broadly, modernism describes a series of reforming cultural movements in art and architecture, music, literature and the applied arts which emerged in the three decades before 1914.

73.

George

June 29, 2007, 8:50 AM

It should be fairly clear that Modernism ushered in 20th century art.

It also should be fairly clear that Commercialism ushered in 21th century art.

It's a new age.

74.

opie

June 29, 2007, 9:09 AM

As i said, I think that any definition of Modernism will be inadequate because the subject itself is not a clear entity, but I also think that understanding Modernism entails understanding the spirit of the time when it arose and spread, a time when the individual began to feel empowered to do something about circumstances. It seems to me that Modernism is very much in step with representative democracy and its outcomes.

It also seems to me that Postmodernist cynicism, irony and relativism and the hyper-commercialism that George mentions may be symptomatic of the exhaustion of that spirit.

75.

Hovig

June 29, 2007, 10:55 AM

Opie - You used three interesting words: procedure, exhaustion and spirit. Let me frame them for you. I'm wondering whether the spirit of Modernism has been exhausted to the point of diminishing returns, and whether it has become bound by its own procedures.

I don't know much more art history than what I've read on this blog and seen in the paintings themselves, (OK, I admit it: I may have read a wall text or two!), but I'm thinking of Modernism as a conceptual movement for its day. It created a great explosion of unbounded intellectual exploration. Much was possible after Manet that was not before.

Yes, Modernism is about the physical qualities of art, but the movement was not possible before the conceptual leap which engendered it. The question is whether it has now become bounded by the ineffable qualities which defined it 150 years ago, and whether these boundaries are of any concern.

That's what I mean by science. I'm wondering if the gains in each new Modernist effort have diminished, and the limits on each new effort have been bounded, to the point that Modernism is more procedural than creative. (I didn't say uncreative. I said more procedural. Sorry if the question offends anyone.)

Hasn't the rate of incremental innovation declined since Manet? Isn't the difference between Olitski and Pollock smaller than the difference between Manet and Bouguereau, or between Pollock and Manet? Isn't the difference between Bethea and Olitski smaller still? And is that difference of any concern?

76.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 10:57 AM

Thus, we go back to my initial comment, that after reading for a few years, I'm still not sure what "Modernism" is - I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't care and I honestly don't really give a shit.

77.

opie

June 29, 2007, 11:05 AM

"more procedural than creative" is a good way to put it, Hovig. I think this is an interesting question and involves more than just art but the whole matter of the nature of invention. There are "deep" inventions and there are refinements, certainly, the "deep" kind seem to come in company with better art.

I would throw in 2 qualifications, which may constitute buiulding blocks for a discussion of this kind.

First, in art the important thing is that the art is good, not more original. We are in an era of forced innovation right now, and the two tend to be conflated.

Second, Yes, Bethea reflects the influence of Olitski, but the real question is, what of it? The comparison might not be between Manet and Bouguereau but between Monet & Sisley, or Picasso and Braque's Cubism.

I've got a class to look after but this is an interesting idea to follow.

78.

opie

June 29, 2007, 11:07 AM

Also, I would say not that invention has declined but that the importance given it by the art world has. I think Olitski was one of the most inventive artist who ever lived.

79.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 11:34 AM

In a rather crass manner - that's what I was insinuating Opie. Invention comes from an/the individual doing something that they feel/think they have a grip on or want to reflect on/upon visually - self reflection of sorts, and not necessarily an ism perse. Technology aside, it seems that nvention is everywhere in painting and allways has been. Selection, admiration and categorization are other issues, which reflects George's comment regarding the 21st Century and it's standards.

80.

Marc Country

June 29, 2007, 11:40 AM

Modernism is essentially, like science, a product of the Enlightenment. Does anyone think that Science is suffering from "diminishing returns"?

E=MC2 was a huge leap from what came before it... and then, a period of small discoveries, refinements, but wait, what's that over there? BOOM- a new discovery, theory, invention.

Science continues to use the same "modernist" processes (scientific method) to come to new outcomes. The procedure works. Of course, modern science has sooo many practicioners, in part because of the clarity with which they see that "postmodern science" (like "intelligent design", for example) is utter garbage, complete nonsense. Artists don't have the surety of scientists when it comes to evaluation of value of work, so they have been taken in, converted, or otherwise dropped the effective procedures of modernism for the ineffectual fashions of the POMO.

81.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 11:43 AM

Perhapes George, in this century, money and affirmative action could be seen as synonyms.

82.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 11:45 AM

No Marc, space/time intellegence came long before Einstein.

83.

opie

June 29, 2007, 11:50 AM

Small qualification, MC: take note that the "harder" the science, the less tolerance for BS. My son is into particle physics; no way are they going to do anything but laugh at any pomo garbage, if they even take the time to laugh.

On the other hand, the "humanist sciences" are chock full of pomo relativism.

84.

Marc Country

June 29, 2007, 11:58 AM

Sure, Jordan, and painting the figure came long before Manet, but look what he did with it.

Opie, thanks for that. That's precisely the point. Science has a cutting edge (the hard sciences you speak of) and a dull one (funded by the Templeton Foundation, no doubt). The progress, in science, comes from the Modernists.

Same with art. The "Hard Arts" keep going about their mission, trying to make the best painting, sculpture, whatever. The "Soft Arts" (for the soft-headed) subscribe to the distorted view that all art is personal, and abandon the tried and true Modernist method, for whatever feels right for them. Hence, progress in art is at a virtual standstill, and we are at the point of corruption and decay we find the artworld in today.

85.

Marc Country

June 29, 2007, 12:01 PM

Not to worry.. progress in art isn't really stalled, it just looks that way in the media. There's a ton (literally) of good art in my studio...

86.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 12:23 PM

If a wan figure with a mass of (lets say a weight as reflective of a price) .25 is pulled into a black hole (not tossed, thrown or chucked) and its energy is nil (since it was pulled and no energy was used to propel it into this circumstance as it is only wan ), then at what velocity does it transform into a string, ie. a Barnet Newman ? Or shall I say, what kind of velocity is needed to transform it into something of greater or lesser mass ?

87.

opie

June 29, 2007, 12:27 PM

Hey, there's a ton (literally) in my studio, too, and I'm not even a sculptor.

Funny, isn't it, how "modernist" & "postmodernist", "hard" & "soft" and "smart" & "dumb" seem to all line up so neatly.

Yes, George, it looks like I am contradicting what I said in #66. Go for it.

88.

Opie-wan Kenobi

June 29, 2007, 12:38 PM

Jordan, according to my formulation it is either wan flew over the cuckcoos nest or excellence = Modernism x speed of thought squared

89.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 12:41 PM

Opie, do you have any good "Pomo" links to offer ? Can a Modernist turn "Pomo"; you know, in order to feed the family and such...

90.

RG

June 29, 2007, 12:48 PM

Jordan, first we have to consider the mass of the gravitational pull, and its velocity. Only then we can interpret the .25 wan /nil factor with a quantifiable numerical amount.

91.

opie

June 29, 2007, 12:55 PM

Not sure what yu mean by "pomo links", Jordan.

A painter with very good skills does not need to "turn pomo" to be successful in the market.

92.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 1:01 PM

Opie - ever tried trading a drawing for some food, shelter and a wife - doesn't work, trust me .

93.

downlow

June 29, 2007, 1:14 PM

Ya, everyone has allready made enough shapes and orderly looking stuff. Did anyone ever see that movie called Art school confidential ? That teacher said it took him 30 years to make that triangle and that circle. Wow, I'm glad I got a chance to tag-up on walls now. They could not do that then in the past. My shit is fresh bro, and those stupid shapes are wack.

94.

George

June 29, 2007, 1:51 PM

Well...

All’s not fun and games in the science world either. Physics in a turmoil after 20 years of string theory (M-theory to some)has led to zip because so far it cannot be tested. I’m hoping for a Higgs particle to fall out somewhere.


I think Hovig’s question about incremental innovation is relevant. What it reveals is that the art making process is cyclical, multi-cyclical, and when a particular frame of reference or point of approach becomes over-explored or over emphasized, its cycle turns down. This does not mean it goes away, just that its relegated to the back burner.

For example, the visual aspects of abstraction have always been present in painting but were relegated to a supporting role.

MC says, progress in art is at a virtual standstill.

I would observe this has always been the case, art does not progress, it moves forward in time in a cyclical fashion. As we move forward in time, the cultural environment continually changes and art re-cycles what it needs to expressively adapt to its era.

The problem with the Modernism question is that I think we are approaching it the wrong way. Opie hints at thin in comment #74. The process of looking backwards in time is tricky, we know the results and it is often too easy to attribute ‘reasons’ for them which might not have been so obvious or clear-cut at the time.

Case in point, Jordan’s question on pomo writing. Again, I would suggest this is looking back in time, just not as far back, and that the results will be the same.

We are breaking into the 21st Century, to me this is a huge psychological inflection point. Looking back on the 20th century we can see what worked, what failed the hopes and results of industrialization.

About 25 years age we began to move into the information age. This is a bit more complex that it appears on first glance, it’s not just about bits and bytes, but also about how they are causing change in the world. We have globalization, worldwide communication, the failure of Marxism, and who knows what ion the horizon.

If you put yourself back in 1907 and look at the world around you, the changes due to industrialization, what to you think and feel?

OK, do the same thing for today.

95.

Jordan

June 29, 2007, 1:59 PM

If you put yourself back in 1907 and look at the world around you, the changes due to industrialization, what to you think and feel?

OK, do the same thing for today.


Nice George, I was just now thinking the same time-based thought.

96.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 2:14 PM

One more thing George - the Prado has some of the most eye-popping paintings in the Western World - Modern, Postmodern; post everything and simultaneously pre everything.
Technology in painting techniques and materials is the only prevalent change that is visible with painting; (except for the personal sensibilities of the painter which is subjectively scrutinized by collectors, critics, historians and all others who can't do it but have an appreciation for it.)
The "isms" are just paint technologies, coupled with the philosophies floating around at/in the time (period) that things are made.

97.

Hovig

June 29, 2007, 2:22 PM

Thanks, Opie. Much food for thought to munch on.

98.

Hovig

June 29, 2007, 3:00 PM

George - I agree that art does not progress, but with difficulty.

I mean my agreement comes with difficulty. It's human nature to see incremental change as "progress," especially since the world has improved (in general) in so many ways every day for so many millenia. Also humans want to believe they belong to a continually improving set.

In art, we tend to assume today that we've seen so many things, and our view of history is so remarkably clear, that we must have vastly superior insight to those who came before. Which may in fact be true! But it might only be the case that art only progresses technically -- imagine that the Last Supper was painted with more archival techniques -- while aesthetically and conceptually it only cycles or swings.

But I have no idea how to test this theory. Or whether it is in fact testable.

99.

jordan

June 29, 2007, 3:18 PM

...but Hovig, you thought that before when you were a female Sumerian child...only your name is different and your awareness is capable of grasping now as eternity.

100.

A.T.

June 29, 2007, 3:21 PM

The worst sin in definitions is circularity. Here is one:

(1) Modernism is a term which arose from certain facts, as most words do.
(2) It is not to be confused with "modern" or "craft" or "good" or "bad". It is merely a word which tries to point to something that happened.


Let’s plug (2) into (1) it reads:

“Modernism is merely a word which tries to point to something that happened, which arose from certain facts, as most words do.”

Wordy, circular, uninformative. “Modern” also arises from facts, as most words do (according to Opie), and it also tries to point to something that happened. What????

101.

Hovig

June 29, 2007, 3:29 PM

Dammit, Jordan, I knew the whole thing sounded familar. Now what do I do? I think I'll check my horoscope.

102.

George

June 29, 2007, 4:32 PM

Re #98, Hovig

I've noticed that as I get older, my friends look the same, they don’t look any older. Yet the twenty-something’s look like teenagers.

It's all relative. Every moment in history is 'modern' if you're alive. When we look back we have a different perspective because we can know the future for someone in the past.

I would agree that there is technical progress, new mediums and techniques which can facilitate new aesthetic developments. However, I would not underestimate the aesthetic or conceptual cyclical swings. I suspect these changes come about for a number of reasons, maybe the audience gets bored with the status quo and/or maybe it is something the artist is addressing in the cultural environment which calls for its own formal or pictorial solution.

103.

opie

June 29, 2007, 4:39 PM

All definitions are by nature circular insofar as they must use related terms to clarify the meaning of any particular term, AT. No definition would have any meaning if words were not based in experience.

The fact that "modern" and "modernism" and thousands of other words point to something that happened does not indicate any confusion on my part. However, in #64 you confused the two by using the word "modern" instead of "modernist" in your final sentence.

Go look. If you had used "modernist" you would have made an interesting point: all artists have been "modernists" in some respect.

But by using "modern" you are implying that Franklin mistakenly stated that anyone who uses Modernist techniques is a modern artist, which he did not do.

104.

opie

June 29, 2007, 5:07 PM

I think the more interesting subject is the one Hovig introduced in #75, about the exhaustion of methodologies. There are lots of interesting questions, such as the relationship of genius to "exhaustion" (Monet, for example, continuously renewing Impressionism into old age while it went stale in the hands of his colleagues; Pollock putting fresh life into Cubism, etc) or whether Modernism can become exhausted when its premise is innovation (is Postmodernism simply Modernism with Alzheimer's?) etc etc

105.

George

June 29, 2007, 5:13 PM

So,

The premise of Modernism is innovation. ?

That's good.

106.

opie

June 29, 2007, 5:19 PM

That may be too overstated or oversimpified, but innovation seems to be built into Modernism because of the drive for renewal.

Postmodernist forms can be seen as Modernist innovation undertaken without inspiration, which to my eye is how it looks, all the shock schlock of the last 40 years, for sure.

107.

George

June 29, 2007, 5:33 PM

Could you be more specific about "the drive for renewal"?

108.

opie

June 29, 2007, 8:14 PM

It means tht making the painting better involved an explicit and conscious examination of the medium itself and how it can be used, as opposed to the more traditional idea of learning how to "do it right" in a school at the knee of a master.

It has always been my contention that the effort to make art has always been "modernist" (hence I would answer ATs rhetorical question in #64 with a :yes") but that it "came out of the closet" with the landscape painters of the late 18th C and became unambiguous with Manet.

109.

opie

June 29, 2007, 8:16 PM

That is, the effort to make art better has always been modernist.

110.

Hovig

June 29, 2007, 8:42 PM

Opie - By your latest definition, couldn't I claim that art has always been postmodern, because it has always used cultural signifiers to advance ideological or symbolic notions, and that it only "came out of the closet" during the early to late 20c? There are plenty of cultural symbols contained in the works of the previous centuries, which were exactly as relevant and meaningful to those paintings' contemporaries as Elvis is to ours, and as meaningless to us as would be Elvis to them. And can't the same be said for surrealism, given for example the proliferation of mutant flying children fluttering around all those Renaissance canvases?

111.

ahab

June 29, 2007, 8:45 PM

j@simpleposie laid this on me after I'd been preaching the truth elsewhere:

"If understanding and true opinion are distinct, then these “by themselves” things definitely exist - these Forms, the objects not of our sense perception but of our understanding only. But if - as some people think - true opinion does not differ in any way from understanding, then all the things we perceive through our bodily senses must be assumed to be the most stable things there are. But we do have to speak of understanding and true opinion as distinct, of course, because we can come to have one without the other, and the one is not like the other . . . Since these things are so we must agree that (i) that which keeps its own form unchangingly, which has not been brought into being and is not destroyed, which neither receives into itself anything else from anywhere else, nor itself enters into anything else anywhere, is one thing. It is invisible - it cannot be perceived by the senses at all, and it is the role of understanding to study it. (ii) The second thing is that which shares the other’s name and resembles it. This thing can be perceived by the senses, and it has been begotten. It is constantly borne along, now coming into being in a certain place and perishing out of it. It is apprehended by opinion, which involves sense perception. . ." Plato

Even Plato was a modernist, by my reading.

112.

ahab

June 29, 2007, 8:46 PM

Can't vouch for the translation myself, though.

113.

opie

June 29, 2007, 8:59 PM

That's funny, Ahab, as i was reading that I kept saying to myself :wow, this person is a dyed in the woll Platonist".

Sure, Hovig - I think art has always been more or lkess moderist, as I said. Unfortunately I am having trouble understanding "cultural signifiers to advance ideological or symbolic notions" so i can't really comment on that.

Where it became explicit might just be a matter of choice; it has usually (and reasonably) been put with Manet ca 1860 (with "Dejeuner" etc). I don't think it is as much a matter of symbols as it is the attitude toward picture-making.

114.

George

June 29, 2007, 9:07 PM

re #108-9: opie,

This sounds like the painter is just finding a different way to be good at his/her job.

I am assuming that making the painting ‘better’, is viewed in relationship to what the culture acknowledges as the ‘best’ paintings out there, the cream of painting’s history. It’s a pyramid with a flat top though, I doubt the entire culture could come to a consensus for a pinnacle, that’s ok.

So assuming the quest for the painter is to make a better painting, in that relative sense, what difference does it make what path he/she follows to achieve this?

115.

opie

June 29, 2007, 9:19 PM

Because the path changed, George. i think the path art takes the get better is interesting. You can maintain it makes no difference if you want to, I suppose.

116.

opie

June 29, 2007, 9:21 PM

That's "to get better". Sorry.

I gotta go eat.

117.

George

June 29, 2007, 9:41 PM

Yes the path painting takes is interesting. I seriously question if this path is totally a function of making painting ‘better’.

While I would agree that painting is in a continual dialog with itself, it is at its weakest when that’s all there is.

118.

Marc Country

June 29, 2007, 10:04 PM

Speaking of definitions, let me clarify one for y'all.

Progress: a forward or onward movement.

as opposed to

Progress: gradual betterment.

It would be nice if Art could do to latter, but all I meant in my usage was the former.
That misunderstanding is cleared up, I hope...

119.

Hovig

June 29, 2007, 10:53 PM

Opie - All I meant was, if you see a ring on someone's finger in a Holbein painting, you would see a golden object with certain physical qualities. But his contemporaries would have seen a symbol of something else, like favor by the King, or disfavor, or wealth, or protest against the pope, or whatever.

There were social meanings in his culture that Holbein could tap into by including that ring. For those of us not born in Holbein's era, there are only wall texts to guide us, with all their talk of momenti mori, and pure Afghan lapis lazuli, and etc, and whatnot.

One objection around here to postmodernism seems to be that it is too much about symbolism and cultural signs, and not enough about the physical qualities of its media. (Isn't that right?)

So if you can say Holbein was "Modernist" for using his physical media as innovatively as he possibly could, then I'm thinking you can also say he was "Postmodernist" for using symbology as an element of his art. And I'm saying you could call a Renaissance artist "Surrealist" if he so much as paints a single cherub into a scene.

Which is my way of saying I think we might want to abandon this line of inquiry, as interesting as it might be, and stick to Franklin's original definition, where Modernism is defined with respect to the pursuit of physical innovation in and of itself. This distinguishes it from Holbein, for whom physical innovation may have been important, but was not the master element.

Hey. Not bad after a couple glasses of port, eh?

120.

opie

June 30, 2007, 12:33 AM

George, the discussion was not whether the path is "totally a function of making painting ‘better’", but that it is the path better painting took.

I envy you the Port, Hovig, but it may have convoluted your thinking a bit. Your comparison is worth considering, as long as you arre williong to shoehorn all use of symbolism in painting as being "postmodernist".

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.

I wouldn't want to abandon any line of inquiry that sheds more light. I don't think we are clear enough on the subject to deliberately narrow the discussion in that way.

121.

George

June 30, 2007, 8:32 AM

Re #119, 120

First off, I think it’s an error to try and apply the terms ‘modernist’ and ‘postmodernist’ to an earlier historical era.

Modernism, and therefor modernist painting, was a response to the advent of the industrial age.

I would suggest that if one can find parallel characteristics between modernist painting and paintings from a prior historical period, that one is discussing core concepts expressed differently at different points in history. It is the way they are expressed in the 20th century which is modernist, not the expression of the concept itself.

Opie noted that painting has two sides, "one of explicit meaning" and "the esthetic part". I should have stopped reading there.

I do not believe that the ‘meaning’ and the ‘aesthetic’ qualities of a painting exist in exclusion of one another. By this I am stating that the aesthetic response does in fact incorporate more than the awareness of visual formalities, that it includes recognition and conceptualization of what is seen as well. While these perceptual and cognitive responses are simultaneously registered in separate places in the brain, our perceptual awareness is a holographic cascade of these multiple stimuli.

If we are moved aesthetically, I do not believe it is possible to attribute the response to the response at the brain locations F1, F3, F4 etc. It’s all or nothing.

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