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Post #1079 • October 26, 2007, 2:43 PM • 91 Comments

Artblog.net is normally excluded from Top 10 Lists, art blog roundups in the non-blogosphere, and blogrolls of a certain ilk. I've never given it much thought, but I have to confess that I feel a little saddened that I was left out of this essay by Charlie "Bull" Finch. Possibly never in the annals of art writing has cluelessness intersected tastelessness with such dimwitted abandon.

Roberta Smith covers the Seurat drawing show at MoMA.

"If I am not moved by the sight of a glass of water mounted on a gallery wall, or a small animal fashioned out of carpet fluff, is that because I have failed to understand it? Or could it be that the artist has failed to communicate with me?" (AJ)

Waters of Trevi Fountain dyed red.

"The sign has been improved!"

Caturday! (CO)

The film version of Frans Masereel's L'Idee by Berthold Bartosch. (TCJ)

Deborah Solomon: "Do you think cartoonists have received their artistic due?" Marjane Satrapi: "No. People either like to write or they like to draw. And we like to do both. We’re like the bisexuals of the culture."

A 24-cell convex regular 4-polytope. (Reddit)

"A New Jersey second-grader's drawing of a stick figure shooting a gun has earned him a one-day school suspension."

"When your best friend is a trained ninja who reads body language as a first language, it's hard to keep some things to yourself. I never have to let her know if I'm getting along with my boyfriend or if I'm fighting with my parents... or if I'm wearing an uncomfortable tampon." (TCJ)

Department of Skills: darts.

Comment

1.

antonio hicks

October 26, 2007, 4:44 PM

i like your analogy that the artist has "failed to communicate to me". Art in many forms fails to communicate with many people because we cannot see beyond the individualistic ideas that the artist wished to portray. We can never truly understand art until we understand the artist.

2.

Franklin

October 26, 2007, 4:52 PM

It's not my analogy. It's not an analogy anyway. Art isn't supposed to be understood so much as seen correctly. I have unlinked your website.

3.

Jack

October 26, 2007, 6:29 PM

Isn't this Finch person some sports writer or other? He evidently labors under the delusion that anyone gives a damn about his petulant little hissy fit. Again, who or what is this jerk, and why on earth am I supposed to care what he thinks about art blogs or art anything?

4.

opie

October 26, 2007, 8:22 PM

"We can never truly understand art until we understand the artist."

Yeah, I know. I don't look at Van Gogh & Gauguin paintings any more. I just watch "Lust for Life".

5.

Jack

October 26, 2007, 9:43 PM

Nice try, OP, but still too visually fixated. Just read what Rosalind Krauss or some such has to say about them. That will do you.

6.

JL

October 27, 2007, 8:32 AM

Finch is a garden-variety troll, nothing more. He and his editor enjoy trying to piss people off and the attention that ensues. The Art in America article provided an occasion for them to take potshots against some people who've criticized them in the past and they took it. At the same time, Artnet's editor is quoted in the same AiA article comparing his site to a blog, trying to get some of the buzz that publication's providing. And I can understand the anxiety that leads Finch to write as he does and Artnet to publish it: no one pays to read Finch--it's hard to even conceive of doing so--and the website essentially amounts to a very useful artist/gallery listings service and auction database with a vanity magazine attached. Growth in other online media and art writing only exposes that fact more and more each day.

7.

Jack

October 27, 2007, 9:00 AM

Regarding the piece on conceptual art linked above, if I were to be troubled by every work of presumed art I see that "fails to move me," I'd eventually have to shoot myself. If something doesn't work for me, you'd better believe I'm not going to make it my problem. I mean, please. Why is this even an issue, or is this sort of rhetorical masturbation considered "deep"?

8.

opie

October 27, 2007, 11:11 AM

Ms Alice O'Keeffe, who wrote the admirably level-headed commentry on the crack in the floor (yes, it is literally a crack in the floor) entitled "shibboleth", and the remarks surrounding it, is still clearly in the dark when it comes to seeing art.

She writes "Conceptual art, at least when it's as good as Shibboleth, is powerful because it works on many different conscious and unconscious levels. Its ambiguity, its openness to interpretation, is also what makes looking at it more enjoyable than, say, reading a polemical essay on race relations".

Unfortunately, as I advise my writing class, "working on many levels" is a description of window cleaners on a tall building, perhaps, but does not work at any level when applied to art. She has simply replaced a limited "interpretion" with the possibility of multiple "interpretations", when the job at hand is not "interpretation" at all but something much more simple, direct, straightforward and singular: is there art there or not? In the case of the crack in the floor I am guessing there is not. Time to move on.

9.

Arthur

October 27, 2007, 1:04 PM

"Working on many levels" is a sensible metaphor for a very real phenomenon in art. Aside from raw formal impact (which I agree is central), an artwork can do lots of other things. It can evoke or resemble the real world. It can offer symbolism or philosophy. It can offer a link to a culture that exists outside of the work.

10.

opie

October 27, 2007, 1:15 PM

An artwork can drop on your head and kill you. An artwork can be a dartboard. An artwork can be a tabletop. An artwork can be a resotration project. An artwork can be an item of trade. An artwork can be a reminder of your grandfather. But every time it is something else it is not an artwork, it is something else.

11.

Arthur

October 27, 2007, 1:31 PM

The things I mentioned are central to many people's experience of artworks as artworks. The things that you mentioned are not.

12.

Jack

October 27, 2007, 2:23 PM

I went to see the Goya show at Freedom Tower on Biscayne today. Almost all his graphic work is there, over 200 prints, comprising his 4 main series in their entirety. Of course, it's too much to tackle in one sitting, but better too much than too little.

There's practically nothing I can say about them that hasn't been said already. They are, certainly, the work of a very great artist operating at a very high level of imagination, invention and technique. Unlike a number of painters who have dabbled in graphic work with varying degrees of success (such as, for instance, Manet), there is absolutely no dabbling here. If Goya had never painted anything, his prints alone would have secured his immortality (same as with Rembrandt).

He must have loved this sort of work. Much of it had at best very limited circulation in his lifetime, which was entirely predictable. It was clearly not apt for commercial or career advancement, rather the opposite, and surely Goya knew that all along. He must simply have wanted to do it. I suppose the gift or aptitude for it was so pronounced that it had to be exercised, even if only for himself.

The Caprichos, the most famous series, is enormously impressive, not least for the amazingly consistent level of achievement over some 80 prints. The quality of draftsmanship, tone (a wonderful feature of the aquatint technique), light and shadow effects, and composition is uniformly superb, and that's just the technical or formal aspect, which matches and obviously elevates the content (for lack of a better word). This series is better balanced in terms of form and content than the Disasters of War, which is predictably more inclined towards the latter. I personally find the Caprichos richer and more complex, and ultimately more satisfying.

The Proverbs is a strange and relatively cryptic series of striking but rather obscure imagery, something like the best possible sort of surrealism. The Tauromaquia, on the other hand, chronicling Goya's passion for bullfighting, is the most immediate and straightforward of all, and absolutely ravishing in formal terms. It is printed in shades of brown, which adds a wonderfully warm and earthy feel, and his identification with the subject matter is very telling. These images of men, horses and bulls are never trite or "picturesque;" they are dramatic and intense but not theatrical, and there is a sense of pictorial inevitability that is tremendously convincing.

Well, enough. Just go. The show is up till November 9th, open Tuesday-Saturday from 12-7, free admission. Don't miss it.

13.

Franklin

October 27, 2007, 2:30 PM

The metaphor is inappropriate - "levels" conceives of these different usages as arranged in tiers (by implication, in order of goodness or importance) which they are not. And even among clichés that one is especially worn.

14.

Arthur

October 27, 2007, 2:45 PM

The levels don't have to be arranged in terms of ultimate value. They can be arranged in terms of immediacy or relevance. For art, you could say that formal impact is in the middle. The kinds of things I listed above might be close by. An artwork's function as a paperweight is probably marginal. Or perhaps the levels are interwoven; what is above at one point might be below at another.

Of course, the metaphor has its limitations. All metaphors do. Is it a cliche? Well, it doesn't seem that way to me. But if you're unsympathetic to begin with, I can see how you might think so.

15.

Franklin

October 27, 2007, 3:28 PM

Some of my former students were prone to using it. They said, for instance, that they wanted to take surrealism to the next level. It was a clue that they had no idea what they were doing. I'll bet Opie found the same thing in his writing class.

16.

Arthur

October 27, 2007, 3:40 PM

Thats a different metaphor.

17.

Franklin

October 27, 2007, 3:47 PM

It's the same misconception.

18.

Arthur

October 27, 2007, 3:49 PM

How is it a misconception? How is it the same misconception?

19.

opie

October 27, 2007, 4:21 PM

Yes, it is what I term in my class a major, enduring cliche. There are many. They pollute art writing.

My point is twofold. First, that the word "levels", as Franklin has pointed out, is inappropriate and misleading because it immediately invokes value, and value fluctuates with circumstances just as much as definitions do. Is its not "levels, it is "uses".

Now, we are in the habit of finding all sorts of uses for artworks but the reason we have them around is because they have value to us as artworks, the same way we have cars around because they take us places. We can use a car as a motel, but we certainly would not have such a large, expensive thing around if it did not function primarily and efficiently as a method of transportation. An art work may indeed, in your words, "evoke or resemble the real world. It can offer symbolism or philosophy. It can offer a link to a culture that exists outside of the work", but the problem is that other things do this better and more efficiently than artworks do, just as motels do their job own better than cars do.

The underlying problem, the corrosive factor at work in the idea of art functing on "levels", is that it tends to not only demean art by putting it to uses it has no business being put to but also because art therefore tends to be valued for how well it performs these jobs. This is perhaps the primary vehicle for the almost universal misunderstanding of what art really is and why we have it in the first place.

Only when we understand this do we begin to respect art for what it is and not for "levels" of usage, for the jobs it can do, for the functions we can put it to which it was not made to do. Only when we understand this will we stop making labels which reduce works of art to illustrations for hackneyed ideas.

20.

g

October 27, 2007, 5:40 PM

Arthur, stick to your guns, I think you have the right idea. There are many ways to initiate the experience of an artwork, the aesthetic experience, the oh-ah it tickles me to my toes is only one, and only one aspect of how we experience art. The crowd here wants to believe there is only one, I think they’re wrong, for example consider:

As one walks into Turbine hall I suspect one might feel overwhelmed by the size of this crack. This is a real perceptual experience, and one might even feel that tingle in the toes without any other associative response.

It’s certainly a big crack. Too big to put you finger into with any affect or sense of its real size.

If you get down on your knees, you can put your nose in it and smell the crack, it might be a bit musty, different from the surrounding surface.

Experiencing this crack is primal, it conjures up deep memories of ones initial experience with a crack, the sense of forbidden pleasure of the parted surface. The way it wiggles along the floor, from one end to the other takes your breath away.

Cracks divide things into two sides, a left side and a right side, miraculously, if you turn around, the sides switch places, the left becoming right, and the right what’s left. Even more perplexing is the inside, which does not change, regardless of how you turn. If you put your finger in the crack, it will remains inside it, regardless of which way you face. This particular topological property is worth knowing for other things.

Cracks van be wet or dry, the crack in Turbine hall is a dry crack which is appropriate for a public place. Wet cracks, especially on the floor tend to be slippery and potentially unsafe.

As one traverses the length of this big crack, one will be surprised to find that it bifurcates, becoming two cracks which continue to bifurcate into more and more cracks. One cannot but feel anything but overwhelmed at the realization that this is the perfect metaphor for mankind. That mankind started as one crack and divided, and divided, and divided again into millions of smaller cracks.

At no time does the crack appear on the wall, for that would mean we have cracked up.

21.

Jack

October 27, 2007, 6:11 PM

If, as stated in #9, "formal impact" is central, then it follows that if the center cannot hold, so to speak, then the kind or number of "levels" intended, imagined or imputed makes little or no real difference.

Now, if someone is disposed to accept, say, a pile of dirty laundry tossed in a corner (artfully, of course) as art, and also manages to find "levels" of meaning in it, s/he can hardly be prevented from doing so and is perfectly entitled to it. However, that is entirely that person's affair; it has no real bearing on anyone or anything else beyond that person's mental processes.

Regardless of how I personally may feel about said pile of laundry, I have nothing really to say about that other person's experience or perception, so long as I am left out of the business and no attempt of any sort is made to impose it upon me or to penalize me for "not getting it."

Everyone is free to deal with and respond to art any way s/he damn well pleases, which can't be prevented anyhow, just don't try to intrude into my space, as it were, because that space is only big enough for the art in question and ME.

22.

Jack

October 27, 2007, 7:11 PM

I can't bring myself, by the way, to look at the Trevi Fountain with red water. I fear Christo (and Jeanne Claude, of course) can't be far behind. Yikes.

23.

opie

October 27, 2007, 7:54 PM

You can "experience" something by falling over it, G. What you describe is a kind of associative investigation taken to an extreme. Something of this kind must take place when apprehending any work of art, even if limited to a glance, but it does not amount to esthetic evaluation.

24.

g

October 27, 2007, 8:49 PM

oh stuffit opie,

it was intended to be funny not analytical

sheesh

25.

Cal State Fulerton

October 28, 2007, 1:26 AM

Art is important. Some Art is more important than other Art. Most Art that is important is made so by those that a small community have "chosen" to make important. "The high road" makes "Franklin happy" in that it "advances the conversation" to the point of nepotism.

26.

Elizabeth

October 28, 2007, 1:28 AM

You want funny....seems the fountain is menstruating, now thats going to be some big tampon!!

27.

g

October 28, 2007, 1:37 AM

Oh shit,
gag me with a spoon.

28.

Elizabeth

October 28, 2007, 3:19 AM

Thanks G, I very nearly spit my coffee out all over my keyboard for laughing....

29.

opie

October 28, 2007, 5:18 AM

Advancing the conversation to the point of nepotism is an interesting concept, Cal State. Sort of like advancing an apple to the point of being an orange.

Intentions don't count for much in humor, G., just as they don't for art. It's either funny or it ain't.

30.

harumi

October 28, 2007, 9:18 AM

Hello Franklin. How are you? This comment is nothing to do with your post but I just saw your moon site. I like it very much especially the ones that has landscapes and observation of it changing by time, or weather.
How are you planning to show those image? Is it like a book? I just thought it might be nice to see as book.

31.

Marc Country

October 28, 2007, 9:20 AM

I find it nearly impossible to tell the difference between g's earnest comments, and the ones he later identifies as 'jokes'.
Just goes to show how difficult it is to out-parody the already-absurd.


"An artwork's function as a paperweight is probably marginal."

Unless it's a small work of sculpture, sitting on a desk. Then, its function as "symbolism or philosophy", for example, might be more marginal than its function as a paperweight. None of these 'functions' (or 'levels') make it work any more or less as a work of art, though.

32.

Franklin

October 28, 2007, 11:28 AM

Just goes to show how difficult it is to out-parody the already-absurd.

This may in itself be some kind of measure of value. If it can't be parodied, it may not be making enough of any kind of a stand.

Harumi, thank you. I don't know if these will become a book but I am thinking about a book.

33.

ahab

October 28, 2007, 8:17 PM

but I am thinking about a book

Coy devil.

34.

ahab

October 28, 2007, 8:33 PM

Most Art that is important is made so by those that a small community have "chosen" to make important.

Very enlightening, Cal State Fulerton, the willy-nilly pointing of your finger at insider suspects. As it happens, I'm all for conspiracy when it colludes to shut out the voice of the nim-witted.

Now, rather than attempting to discredit witnesses by painting them human, explain to me why a small community shouldn't discuss openly and with clarity what they've found to be valuable or important.

35.

opie

October 29, 2007, 5:46 AM

You are frightfully non-PC, Ahab. Shutting out the nim-witted? I say bring 'em on! They provide most of the amusement around here.

36.

Jack

October 29, 2007, 7:27 AM

Really, Ahab, how obtuse of you. "A small community shouldn't discuss openly and with clarity what they've found to be valuable or important" because that challenges and contradicts the established status quo. It really shouldn't matter to the "with-it" crowd; you'd think they'd feel safe in such numbers, but either they want too much (absolute unanimity) or they're too insecure.

37.

ec

October 29, 2007, 8:50 AM

I like the analysis of the crack--it's funny. I agree with Arthur that art operates on many levels and I agree with Jack those levels needn't be imposed on everyone: clearly cannot be.
There is also an "us and them" sense in the discussion, which is amusing yet insular.
Thank you for the Goya comments Jack.

38.

opie

October 29, 2007, 9:52 AM

Golly, ec, "No man is an island..." (surging violins)

If you agree wirh Arthur about levels, perhaps it might be interesting to get a discussion going why you therefore do not agrree with me & Frankln, who took an opposing position.

"Operates in many levels?" What is that, a busy surgeon in a multi-story hospital?

39.

RL

October 29, 2007, 12:11 PM

I always hated that term "Conceptual Art" Does not all art Have a concept?

As I write this I already know this is going to sound silly - How can a crack in the floor be art? I guess if one falls into the Duchamp school - all things can create an expressive experience if an artist says so?

To really discuss this I guess I would have to be there and trully see/experience it for myself to make a valid judgement.

40.

beWare

October 29, 2007, 5:13 PM

Any time a discussion of an artwork can continue without the need of actually seeing what is being discussed in front of you I become very skeptical.

The crack in the floor is bogus! It seems most art around today still needs to be propped up with other "stuff". What a crying shame.

41.

opie

October 29, 2007, 7:17 PM

RL I think reading G's description in #20 is probably much more fun than seeing the stupid thing.

42.

ec

October 29, 2007, 10:21 PM

Fair is fair Opie, I was wrong to pass judgments without making points in my earlier comment.

First, semantics. It seems Arthur's intention behind his use of the word level was generally understood as "use," though there's no problem in clarifying terms. But is expansion, or extension intrinsically hierarchical? Doesn't every artist want to find his or her place within the history; insert their own experience? Which can be regarded as better or worse, or inclusion or integration.

Second, an artwork's "raw formal impact links to culture outside of the work" so that "art tends to be valued for how well it performs these jobs." The distinction being made in yours and Franklin's argument, when the mind is on a larger conflict/issue prompted by the artwork, it is no longer on the art and therefore art is stripped of its function, arresting sight and mind. This carries back to Franklin's essay several weeks back about panjectivity: "I'm proposing an extended self that includes everything in its awareness." I believe such awareness in front of an artwork relieves, temporarily, the pressures of raw formal impact that in turn enables one to return to it in more nuanced form. Perhaps that deflates the immediacy of visual primacy. But not if the work is visually convincing.

I don't deny the vicissitudes of critical thought and the regret this painter feels in the wake of postmodern theory. Postmodernism's foundation in language is democracy at work, post 1969. But as Guston said, a painter who cannot speak is like a painting monkey. And so too a viewer has language: an artwork does function on many levels: the visual arrest, the associative: what am I looking at? (Morris Louis: how do you break it down: invariably you'll mutter "maximal, minimal" and then go back to the pure weirdness of it) and so on, between them.

43.

interpretive,narrative,aesthetic

October 30, 2007, 3:54 AM

where is the art in art?

44.

opie

October 30, 2007, 4:48 AM

I'm not sure I understand everything you are saying here, EC, but i will do my best.

Re semantics, the word "level" implies hierarchy. If you change it to "use", then my objection refers to your second point.

As I have tried to say, art and other things can be used in whatever way their physical constitution allows them to be used for. This is not necessarily corrupting in itself; there is no harm in looking at Rembrandt's "Night Watch" to see how certain people dressed at a particular time and place, for example. The danger is when we take this to be the purpose of the art, rather than an adjunct usage, thereby turning the art to illustration (or something else; there may be thousands of examples) and shutting out its function as art.

This occurs chronically and has come to the point that we will seriously entertain the idea that a crack in the floor can be put forth as "art" because it is supported by cliche-ridden labels full of hackneyed, politically correct ideas. This turns our beloved enterprise on its head by deliberately diminishing "art" in order to expand literaral interpretation, replacing the deep communication of human feeling, that perception of "life" in an great art, into a shallow (but immediately comprehendable) political message which after all can be more effectively put forward by other means.

When this attitude is institutionalized, as it now is, it effectively teaches people that this is what art is, thereby diminishing their ability to get what art really has for us. Saying that art "functions on many levels" says not only that we can misuse art in any way we please but also isn't art just wonderful because it allows us to do this.

45.

ec

October 30, 2007, 6:20 AM

Well, in that sense art is no different than any other enterprise these days: invading countries, for example.

The serious artist will seek and find art beyond the expedient and for others, democracy art can provide surface introduction that may lead to deeper inquiry.

Such as it always was--the Salons, for example. Same impulse: many viewers of Olympia were not thinking about pictorial construction, but about image and spectacle. Spectacle can have a funnel effect: grab attention then let it take shape (hopefully). By maximal and minimal with Louis, I was referring to his process: the opulence of pouring paint, embodying action and waste at once--experienced through scale--with a minimum of means. These are elements of the process that expand into other ideas yet remain in the physical and pictorial construction of the painting.

I like the idea of a pure art, but don't know that people are automatically receptive to all levels, if you will, of quality so spectacle can serve as an entry point. I support kids pondering a crack in Turbine Hall more than not. It's new for them and if they have interest, they'll go deeper.

Not fighting for the primacy of visual literacy in works of art indulges the situation, while exclusion divides it. I don't know the answer except to paint.

46.

opie

October 30, 2007, 8:01 AM

"if they have interest, they'll go deeper. "

Into the divide, I assume.

I don't get "invading countries".

I am not talking about "pure art". "Pure art", whatever that may be, has nothing to do with it. People think about all kinds of things when looking at art and there are all kinds of ways to get at it, and so on and on and on and I am not saying this should not take place because that would be silly. All I am saying is that art is made to do one thing, that is why it is valuable to our species and that deliberate, institutionalized diversion and degrading of this fundamental function prevents us from getting what art has for us. It is really a very simple, basic concept.

47.

Marc Country

October 30, 2007, 8:07 AM

"an artwork does function on many levels"

No, an object functions on many levels. One of those functions, or levels, is as an artwork. So, if we take a certain object that we have called an "artwork", it can function as an artwork. Or a paperweight. Or as philosophy. Or...


"democracy art can provide surface introduction that may lead to deeper inquiry. "

... or, more likely, astray, entirely. Navel-gaving is one thing, but crack-gazing seems to be solipsism at its lowest level.

48.

opie

October 30, 2007, 8:29 AM

No, Marc. I think a hole in the floor looking down at the cellar is at a lower level.

I am of course assiduously avoiding the nasty implications of your "crack-gazing" comment. I feel deeply that we should keep the blog clean and wholesome for all ages

49.

ec

October 30, 2007, 8:46 AM

Well you can't know for sure, can you, Monsieur Country?! Painters are still painting! There are great artists working out there--we all know this, come on.
Er,
from Opie's quote, "saying that art "functions on many levels" says not only that we can misuse art in any way we please but also isn't art just wonderful because it allows us to do this."
Exploiting resources, whether art or oil, has become commonplace, aka democracy in action. In our age of spin and exaggeration, meaning becomes permeable. Not everyone is starting from the same gate, so exposure broadens possibilities. Perhaps judgment is the only way to preserve meaning: that seems to be the case in this discussion.
Spectacle work can be a gateway, no matter how low we may think it is. Looking is better than not looking and thinking about looking is better than not thinking about it. Yes: it would be great if the kids began with Veronese at the National Gallery, and if it takes, they'll find them. All I'm saying is, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater with strict judgments that prevent entry.
Finally, level is a neutral term, influenced by its preceding qualifier:
new level
not level
on the level
predetermined level

50.

Arthur

October 30, 2007, 9:22 AM

I don't agree that only formal impact is art qua art. Certainly many features of art objects are best treated as extra-artistic: their price or their molecular structure, for example. But if I'm standing in front of a portrait, the fact that it represents a human being, a type of a human being, perhaps a recognizable individual seems artistically important. Exactly how important will depend on the piece in question, I think.

If I understand say Olympia solely as a skillful arrangement of lines and colors, then I'm missing a substantial part of its artistic significance and value. I would be missing the "statement" (admittedly an awkward and misleading expression, and yes, a cliche) that it makes about race and sex, or its allusions (not just formal) to other paintings. And so forth. All of this was clearly intentional on Manet's part and not marginal to the formal considerations he made.

You all will say that this sort of thing is irrelevant to art as you experience it and I have no choice but to believe you. Thats fine with me, to each his own. I can respond only that that isn't so in my own experience and in that of many others I have spoken to or read. I'll speculate hesitatingly that most people are capable of grasping various artistic "levels", however inchoately. Perhaps this leads to impovrished experience. I'm sure it can, but I see no reason to believe it does so necessarily.

Regarding the levels metaphor, I could take it or leave it. I feel no compulsion to leave it because of flippant talk about window washers and hospitals. Evidence based on experience with students or others using it in a confused manner is more interesting. But at this point, it all seems rather anecdotal. Do tell more.

51.

Noah

October 30, 2007, 9:40 AM

Re: "a painter who can not speak is like a painting monkey" This places a demand on the painter to justify their work. Some painters aren't particularly good at this, in fact, if this kind of defense is required too soon after finishing a body of work or worse before working, the result is often fiction. Requiring artists to do something other than make art, super-imposition of meaning or reliance on ambiguity seems faithless maybe blindly faithless.
That people come to or make art for many reasons is obvious. One can also like a piece for reasons that are not about aesthetics but then it's not art that is providing pleasure or interest. Nobody comes to make or view art without all kinds of attachments ,prejudices and preferences. Art gets made and enjoyed despite not because of all that.

52.

M. Country

October 30, 2007, 9:49 AM

"Well you can't know for sure, can you, Monsieur Country?! Painters are still painting! There are great artists working out there--we all know this, come on."

I don't know what part of my comment this refers to, ec. What is it that I wrote, that you think I can't know for sure?

53.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 9:51 AM

What do you do with hierarchies like highbrow, lowbrow etc and so forth in this discussion of levels?

54.

Franklin

October 30, 2007, 9:56 AM

Fred, those are levels of ambition, for which the level metaphor is less ill-suited (although still imperfect), rather than levels of appreciation, for which it is not.

55.

Franklin

October 30, 2007, 9:58 AM

I mean, not suited. Not less ill-suited?

56.

Marc Country

October 30, 2007, 10:00 AM

"I am of course assiduously avoiding the nasty implications of your "crack-gazing" comment. I feel deeply that we should keep the blog clean and wholesome for all ages"

I was shooting for the philosophically-minded 8-12 year old demographic with that one, Opie.

57.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 10:01 AM

I thought they were the levels at which taste permitted they could be received and made use of (ec's term use works for me) culturally.

58.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 10:08 AM

ec's term use works because if I'm an artist who makes cracks, I need an audience who values them to one degree or another.

59.

Franklin

October 30, 2007, 10:14 AM

You all will say that this sort of thing is irrelevant to art as you experience it and I have no choice but to believe you.

That's not quite right. The rendering of the narrative and what we awkwardly call psychology are problems of composition and drawing, and therefore form. The narrative itself doesn't have much value. The way in which the narrative is executed matters utterly. Any novelist will tell you the same thing.

60.

opie

October 30, 2007, 10:29 AM

Carrying on this discussion is a real education why writing about art is such a random, chaotic exercise. Yeats write "...the center cannot hold" but in art there simply is no rational center to begin with.

I have made a very simple, clear assertion, which amounts to "lets try not to get too far away from taking art for what it is", and I get responses which often just do not seem to be very responsive.

"Formal impact" is not my term, Arthur, nor would it ever be. "Formal" is a loaded term and "impact" is a current cliche buzzword. I never said or implied that recognizing the image in a painting was a problem. I never said that considering the price of a work of art was a problem either, only that when we consider the work's price we are treating it not as art but as a commodity. I am really only stating the obvious fact that the "Olympia" is on the wall because it is great art and we should probably not get buffaloed by the culture mavens into thinking it is something else or should be treated primarily as something else. And "levels" is plain misleading and a cliche and should not be used when talking about art, period. If you like it, go ahead and use it.

EC, I can't really grasp what you are saying. Was I "preventing entry"? And of course "level" can be used many different ways, like most words. Good grief! So what? I merely said "levels" should not be used when talking about art, and I gave my reasons above. 'Nuff said.

Noah, I think I basically agree with what you said.

Fred, I believe "use" was the term I insisted on, but I am not making any claims.

My God, Marc. I didn't know you were a Dirty Old Man.

61.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 10:31 AM

Strictly speaking metaphor

62.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 10:33 AM

is a literary term - "well suited" to the idea of use.

63.

Arthur

October 30, 2007, 10:52 AM

Opie,

I wasn't addressing my remarks specifically at you. I was trying to articulate my own position and spell out how it differs from the consensus on this site (and I do believe there is one). In order to do so, it is unfortunately necessary for me to paraphrase, using my own terms. Unless you have a real, substantial objection to my use of a certain term, it would be good if you could cut me some slack in the usage department. Cliches will do the trick if what is meant is clear.

"Formal impact" sounds like a serviceable phrase for what is apparently valued by most here as the sole domain of art proper. "Formal" is indeed loaded, but it would be hypocritical for anyone here to object to it usage. Give me a break. "Impact" can be used in cliched ways, and perhaps I did so myself, but what I meant should be fairly obvious. Art hit you.


I have made a very simple, clear assertion, which amounts to "lets try not to get too far away from taking art for what it is", and I get responses which often just do not seem to be very responsive.

But see, its precisely "what it is" that is being debated here. So don't assume that everyone should take it for granted.

64.

Arthur

October 30, 2007, 10:56 AM

Hits you

65.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 10:56 AM

I re-read your comments Opie and I do think I understand what you are trying to say. I would wonder if there is any art that is not susceptible to misuse. Misuse seems inevitable, historically responsible even for certain new forms, new languages and narratives within languages.

66.

g

October 30, 2007, 10:56 AM

Again, I’ll come to the support of Arthur who I believe understands there is more to this than meets the eye.

Painting evokes the stimulus-response pair, we respond to what we see. Franklin is correct in suggesting that there are problems of composition and drawing, and therefore form involved in the creation of the stimulus, the painting in this case.

However, no artist will ever know how another viewer experiences, responds internally, to the stimulus, the painting. Certain individuals may completely block out part of their response, on one day and not the next, the response will be different on both days, and more importantly it will be different for different individuals.

When form becomes ‘significant’ it evokes up greater meaning than is just contained within the raw form itself. This ‘meaning’ occurs because of a cascade of associations which occur in the brain as a result of perceptual stimulus. This cascade of associations will not all be visual, regardless, they do contribute to the perceptual and psychological experience of the painting.

67.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 11:08 AM

"When form becomes ‘significant’ it evokes up greater meaning than is just contained within the raw form itself. This ‘meaning’ occurs because of a cascade of associations which occur in the brain as a result of perceptual stimulus. This cascade of associations will not all be visual, regardless, they do contribute to the perceptual and psychological experience of the painting."

With awareness of what you just said g, a savvy artist would take pains with his/her craft to offer significators that would/could operate on many levels embedded in the work to increase its audience and its use value for that audience.

68.

hovig

October 30, 2007, 11:15 AM

The way in which the narrative is executed matters utterly. Any novelist will tell you the same thing.

Maybe conceptual art is a koan.

69.

g

October 30, 2007, 11:21 AM

a savvy artist would take pains with his/her craft to offer significators that would/could operate on many levels embedded in the work to increase its audience and its use value for that audience.

Not necessarily.

70.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 11:23 AM

No, not necessarily but why not either?

71.

ec

October 30, 2007, 11:26 AM

To Monsieur Country:
"democracy art can provide surface introduction that may lead to deeper inquiry. "

... or, more likely, astray, entirely. Navel-gaving is one thing, but crack-gazing seems to be solipsism at its lowest level.

I responded to these as I would to Chicken Little (the sky is falling! It's all going to hell!) Now, I think of Courbet.
To Arthur's comment:
I'll speculate hesitatingly that most people are capable of grasping various artistic "levels", however inchoately. Perhaps this leads to impovrished experience. I'm sure it can, but I see no reason to believe it does so necessarily.
This would be the point I am trying to make, more eloquently stated.

To Noah, about Guston's painting monkey: yep, that is a tough one, but I don't think anybody who really cares about an artwork needs to have the information delivered in an unnatural way that is not associated with the work. So even the shyest, most inchoate artist can verbalize in one way or another, what they are up to--jettisoning expectations of what it is supposed to sound like, etc. So if color glimmers on wood differently than linen and that's what compels, then that is what will be said. DeKooning was always good with talking paint, esp "content is a glimpse"and "then I take a walk and I walk in my own landscape."

Strict judgments about art sometimes resemble societal stricture. If art is about, represents, or promises a freedom in conveying something essentail about one's own experience, then it can seem like a boundary or point of tresspass rather than an open invitation. There's no solution to that, simply a comment.

72.

Fred

October 30, 2007, 11:28 AM

The church of gothic times took pains to let the Guilds have panels with their own images in the stained glass of the over all monument. It just looks like a bunch of guys standing around maybe to our eyes but the design or concept was meant to significate to an array of people.

73.

opie

October 30, 2007, 11:59 AM

Last time you came to Arthur's support you were trying to be funny, G. Is that still the case? I see you are plumping for "differences" again. You know, if everything were all that different Rembrandt would not be hanging in the Met. Or, he would be hanging next to Kinkade. It is the similarites that count, not the differences.

Good grief, EC. Now we are "grasping" levels? Grasping for straws is more like it. I think you should try to be a little more understandable. Your penultimate sentence in #71 is complete gobbledegook.

74.

opie

October 30, 2007, 12:09 PM

I don't follow the logic of your premise & conclusion, Hovig, but you certainly have a point. Most conceptual art is so vacuous that one is obliged to come up with something on one's own.

75.

g

October 30, 2007, 1:24 PM

most art's not very good.
for some that shouldn't matter, the reward is in the doing.
most artists concerned with making 'good art' don't.

if you can't see the whole picture, you do not understand the problem. a crack joke isn't funny. tough.

76.

ec

October 30, 2007, 1:56 PM

yes, I am a dense and confusing writer. Which is why I love to paint.
I was quoting Arthur when using the term 'grasp,' which in the context of his sentence is a serviceable term, like level. So are you critiquing the syntax or something else. The point is reasonable: people most likely discern layers of meaning within an artwork.
As to the confusing penultimate sentence, it wants to say that strict judgments about art feel constraining and uninviting to those who perceive art as a path to freedom.

77.

Jack

October 30, 2007, 3:22 PM

Noah's comment (51) brings up (for me, at least) a rather annoying issue. Guston, or any artist, can say whatever he likes and/or believes, but I tend to look askance at people who say things like "Well, yes, she sings like an angel, but she can't act." My response (especially if the putdown comes from another singer) is something like, "Well, can you sing like an angel? No? Then I'm afraid you're out of order. When and if you can manage to sing angelically, then we can talk."

In other words, I'd much rather have a "painting monkey," however inarticulate, who can deliver the visual goods, than someone who talks a brilliant game but can't. I don't require an artist to say or explain anything, but I most definitely require those goods. Can't deliver? Then speak till you're hoarse; I'm not even remotely interested.

78.

opie

October 30, 2007, 4:33 PM

Please, EC. Paintings do not have "layers of meaning" Meaning is for words, not paintings. This layers thing is getting preposterous.

Art is a "path to freedom"?? You really do have art multitasking for you, don't you. Will it cure hiccups?

79.

opie

October 30, 2007, 4:34 PM

Please, EC. Paintings do not have "layers of meaning" Meaning is for words, not paintings. This layers thing is getting preposterous.

Art is a "path to freedom"?? You really do have art multitasking for you, don't you. Will it cure hiccups?

80.

opie

October 30, 2007, 4:36 PM

Sorry, Franklin. it didn't come up the first time.

81.

ec

October 30, 2007, 5:18 PM

Opie
Sometimes while painting I enter a state of freedom, which visually translates into air when I correlate paint, earth and air in a physical and visual way. This quality of air is not hard won, but achieved. I often look at Chinese painting for its qualities of air and dynamic mark. In Chinese painting, 'ch'i' is an aesthetic property that is valued and translates as energy, a kind of spirit in the painting. In Chinese tradition this is what makes a painting great. It's not quite aura, but there's a relationship there, I have not researched the history.
The handling of paint, the ease or difficulty of the visual decisions and resolutions might be defined by this community as quality rather than meaning.
I love a talk given by Guston towards the end of his life, to which I have referred before in this thread. He talks about one by one, people leaving the studio until he is all alone. I understand what he is saying. I also understand what he is saying when he states that what a painter wants to do is see it. The painting monkey thing has already been dealt with by others and is not my favorite point, though this talk is very articulate about painting and opens new ideas about Guston's own work.
Painting demands resources and commitment. It resists contemporary culture in so many ways. It takes strength and love to do and the endeavor brings freedom. It doesn't multi-task though it shapes the parameters of my life both in and out of the studio.

82.

opie

October 30, 2007, 8:40 PM

That is very eloquent, EC and I feel many of the same things when I am painting, but making art can be just as convincingly described as an obsession and addiction.

I am a stout pragmatist, as you may have guessed, and I find the only freedom not granted me by circumstances, by living in a free society, say, is gained by making a very hard and realistic appraisal of things so I can see them as they are and thereby find some way get some distance on them.

The alternative, as rosy as it sounds, is helpless romanticism.

83.

Marc Country

October 30, 2007, 8:48 PM

"My God, Marc. I didn't know you were a Dirty Old Man."

Well, I don't mean to brag, but I am Google's number one hit for "Edmonton Erotic Statues"...

To ec:
So, you say "democracy art", like this nothing-but-crack, is something that "may lead to deeper inquiry", and I say, nah, probably not... and you "responded to these as I would to Chicken Little (the sky is falling! It's all going to hell!)"

Seems like quite an overreaction, to me. Let's just agree to disagree, shall we?

I do like your bit about "ch'i", though. It corresponds to what opie has noted about "life" in #44 (and previously), which I think is a much more interesting line of discussion, anyway.

84.

ec

October 31, 2007, 1:04 PM

It is my pleasure to discuss and argue back and forth with Opie, Monsieur Country and all else. It is always useful to ponder what one says--oneself and others.
Pragmatism is perhaps the difference between LA and New England. Timing is perhaps the difference between shades of meaning in words, so that what is a point of entry at one moment in the day becomes a falling sky in another.
Onward.

85.

me again

November 1, 2007, 8:28 AM

this month's Art in America, a roundtable discussion between PeterPlagens and several bloggers around the country including Edward Winkleman, Jeff Jahn, and others..
where are you?

86.

Franklin

November 1, 2007, 8:36 AM

My Zen teacher used to ask me questions like that.

87.

Jack

November 2, 2007, 6:53 AM

Franklin is safely out of it. Art in America is not doing this to rock the boat or upset its patrons. We're talking uphold and validate the establishment here, that's all.

88.

Marc Country

November 2, 2007, 8:06 AM

Roberta Smith:

"Mr. Puryear is a formalist in a time when that is something of a dirty word, although his formalism, like most of the 1970s variety, is messed with, irreverent and personal. His formalism taps into a legacy even larger than race: the history of objects, both utilitarian and not, and their making. From this all else follows, namely human history, race included, along with issues of craft, ritual, approaches to nature and all kinds of ethnic traditions and identities."


Ms. Smith is an art critic in a time when that is something of a dirty word...

89.

opie

November 2, 2007, 9:37 AM

Definitely a good way to look at it, Jack, but it still pisses one off.

What do you think og Puryear, Marc? He has always seemed a bit far into the "organic form saves the day" camp, like Moore in a previous generation.

90.

Franklin

November 2, 2007, 9:43 AM

I like Puryear quite a lot. His show at MAM was one of the best things that ever went through there. Richard Lacayo has been interviewing him.

91.

opie

November 2, 2007, 9:57 AM

He is an interesting case, an artist whose seriousness and committment to his craft seems impeccable, but I cannot look at his art without seeing a kind of terminal cuteness, kitch at it's highest "level", to use a word recently abused here. Art that needs to be liked.

I put him with Marden and Ryman and Serra and Scully on the eminently respectable but not quite 100% artists of our time.

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