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The art of the end run

Post #1115 • January 24, 2008, 3:00 PM • 58 Comments

Chris Hoff of the OC Artblog has established a private granting entity.

The Hoff Foundation announced today that it will award quarterly grants totaling more than $3,000 per quarter to Artists and Arts Organizations based in Orange County and Long Beach. The Hoff Foundation is a private arts foundation formed in 2008 with a commitment to and passion for the arts. The Hoff Foundation will play a significant and unique role in the development of the arts in Southern California. More information about The Hoff Foundation and how the grants will be awarded can be obtained at their website located at

Greg Albers has formed an alternative art book publishing company, Hol Art Books.

Unique in the industry, we are building an internet-enabled publishing system that will allow anyone to suggest titles, form professional-level publishing groups, peer review one another's work, and collaboratively develop their title to ultimately be published as a Hol book. No matter how it's published, a successful book is first and foremost the result of passionate and talented individuals that come together to make it happen. With an open, networked publishing system, our aim is to build the best possible team for every book by giving everyone involved the freedom to choose their own project and a stake in that project's success.

James Welborn has opened Hub Comics, "a comics shop for NPR listeners."

Some of his market research involved sussing out the crowd in line at the restaurant: families with young children and people wearing band T-shirts. He said there was "a guy there with a Superman tattoo on his arm, and I thought, 'OK, he'll be a customer.'"

As Alan Kay said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it.




January 25, 2008, 5:32 AM

And the best way to promote art which is somewhere slightly north of kindergarten level is to give money to it. Ouch!!



January 25, 2008, 6:02 AM

opie what exactly are you referring to?



January 25, 2008, 6:18 AM

The art - if you can call it that - on the OC page



January 25, 2008, 7:09 AM

Ah yes. Thanks for the clarification. It is hard to argue with your judgement. It reminds me of the unmediated slop I see exhibited in countless California based galleries all year round.



January 25, 2008, 7:46 AM

I live in NY state by the way. I study the gallery scene in other major cities fairly regularly (via the Internet) and I guess I have always been astounded by how amatuerish so much of the painting done by California artists looks. Obviously this is a generalization, but the stuff on the OC website reminded me of it, and the stuff I use to sneer at when I was an undergraduate at SUNY Purchase is also brought to mind. I could easily say the same about the stuff done by my fellow high school and grade school students. So I guess it all comes back to your original comment opie.



January 25, 2008, 8:05 AM

Ouch! As a born and bred Californian (but now Brooklynite) I can't let this regional slur go unaddressed. First of all, many East coasters (notice I didn't say "East coasters," as that would be unfairly generalizing) think that California means the greater Los Angeles area. CA is an extremely large and diverse state, geographically, politically, ethnically, economically, and in just about every other way. I'm from San Francisco and I can assure you that SF is culturally very differently from LA, so to lump us all in together is just plain ignorant. Second of all, didn't we establish here recently that 90% of everything is crud and/or crap? And weren't we talking about Chelsea (another category/generalization that I took issue with, but for the sake of argument here, I'll let it stand)? So can we all agree (to quote another Californian of note, "can't we all just get along?") that approximately 90% of everything, from any particular place, is crapular/crudular and not cast geographically based aspersions on the quality of artwork?

And yes, I am just a tad defensive after dealing with obnoxious New Yorkers (oops, I mean SOME obnoxious NYers who think NY is the center of the universe).


Marc Country

January 25, 2008, 8:52 AM

"I live in NY state by the way. I study the gallery scene in other major cities fairly regularly..."

You ever look at any cities up in the Great White North, Eric?



January 25, 2008, 9:08 AM

By the way, there's another grant like the ones Franklin mentions above from a guy in SF who works as a waiter. He will donate one night's tips ($ amount varies) to a project he deems worthwhile. He posts this occasionally on the NYFA listings. I find this kind of homey and charming. There is some kind of application process, but here's no middleman, no fiscal sponsor, no bureaucracy involved. Can't remember his name offhand.



January 25, 2008, 9:17 AM

Sorry but Geddy Lee's voice popped into my head when I read your question. One of my favorite painters is represented by a gallery in Canada. Her name is Susanna Heller. It is sad to me that she can't sell her work in NYC but she does quite well in the Great White North. It says a lot about Canada's citizen's taste in art and I will try to check out the work on display in Canadian galleries in the future. Can you make any recommendations? I live three hours away from Montreal.



January 25, 2008, 9:36 AM

Marc lives in Edmonton, which is happily remote enough not to be too infected by the current art plague, and has a remarkably rich painting and sculpture culture. An island of relative sanity.

Oriane, the things on the OC site were so blatantly and literally "crudulous" (good word) that it seemed more than just the "90% bad" problem. This is stuff that is not even evolved in any direction, except maybe the plates, which, like ceramics are sometimes, extremeply well-crafted, but derivative to an extreme and devoid of any visual interest at all. They are not even fun.

I don't know if this is an LA thing or not, but we seldom see art quite that primitive anywhere. It is an extreme of some kind of don't-give-a-shit attitude and it is really tiresome. Someone has to tell people that they should reflect a little on what they are calling art.



January 25, 2008, 10:01 AM

Opie, the plates: you mean those lame "fuck that" in gothic script on porcelain things? Yes, I agree, besides being derivative, completely crudulous. Almost incrudible. I'm not defending the quality of work on the OC blog (I believe the blog might be named after that tv show; need we say more?) But I was taking issue with the Cal-bashing expressed in the following statements by Eric:

It reminds me of the unmediated slop I see exhibited in countless California based galleries all year round... have always been astounded by how amatuerish so much of the painting done by California artists looks.

That's all. That's about as much "stay true to your school" spirit or hometown pride as you'll get out of me.

(Those plates weren't painting, were they?)



January 25, 2008, 10:26 AM

No, wait, "incrudible" would mean "cannot be made cruddy", wouldn't it?

We need the opposite, like "crudable" (incapable of doing anything not crude) or "crudulous" (inclned to make crude) or "crudified" (deliberately made crude), or....



January 25, 2008, 10:35 AM

You know, I thought of that, that that was an inappropriate use of "incrudible" but I used it anyway, probably out of laziness (you know, I'm a California girl, a stoner surfer chick, a slacker. But I see you are a force to be reckoned with, at least grammatically. Those plates achieved a state of high crudulosity.

And now I have to split, cuz, dude, I have a life. Peace out.



January 25, 2008, 11:47 AM

Oriane you are right to take issue with my statement about CA. Every city in America is capable of pumping out really bad art every day of the year.



January 25, 2008, 12:20 PM

Oriane I apologize for the potshot.



January 25, 2008, 6:00 PM

She forgives you, dude.


Pretty Lady

January 26, 2008, 8:15 AM

Los Angeles art DOES seem to be rather more flagrantly dreadful than art in other cities; it's talentless crap without the mitigating filter of Midwestern bourgeois sensibilities. I had a truly horrible experience with a curator/artist from L.A. which convinced me that as bad as Chelsea can get, it still does not plumb the depths of badness in quite the feckless way that L.A. can and does. It must be all that sunshine.

San Francisco is its own thing entirely. You can work hard and actually apprehend the San Francisco aesthetic, even if you don't share it.



January 26, 2008, 9:24 AM

Frankly, Pretty Lady, I think the art business is attracting the dregs of humanity these days, but then I am just an old fart cynic.



January 26, 2008, 9:56 AM

opie, i'm curious about what you think of michael fried's criticism? moffett?



January 26, 2008, 10:10 AM

That is a little too complex and personal to go into here, X. They are both very bright guys who saw the best right away and proceeded on that basis, and their writing has been influential and beneficial second only to Greenberg's.

I have had disagreements with things they have said over the years but then I disagree with almost everybody about something sooner or later - Greenberg included - and that does not in any way diminish their importance and stature in my eyes.



January 26, 2008, 10:12 AM

That is a little too complex and personal to go into here, X. They are both very bright guys who saw the best right away and proceeded on that basis, and their writing has been influential and beneficial second only to Greenberg's.

I have had disagreements with things they have said over the years but then I disagree with almost everybody about something sooner or later - Greenberg included - and that does not in any way diminish their importance and stature in my eyes.



January 26, 2008, 10:13 AM

Sorry - I don't know how the double comment happened.



January 26, 2008, 10:55 AM

ok we'll leave fried out of it. i guess i am most interested in your take on the likes of the new new crew. moffett has championed these guys all along beginning in the late 80's. they seemed to embody, at least for him, a new kind of space for painting. more physical, more relief, more sculpture-like in identity. in his artletter at the time he seemed to misread 'flatness' as a physical constriction on the picture plane that was to be overcome (one of his quibbles with greenberg). does this hold? if not more physical, how does abstraction proceed? that was 20 years ago and i'm not sure painting has sorted this one out yet. for myself painting should privilege the pictorial...



January 26, 2008, 11:11 AM

I am not sure he has actually said all you say he has said, but I seem to recall a certain misuderstanding of Greenberg's "flatness", which iof course has nothing to do with surface relief.

Greenberg never advocated flatness, nor would he deny that it is a "constriction that has to be overcome". He only said that painting conformed to flatness visually as modernism evolved. It was description, not prescription.

I'm not wild about the Newnews but they are seriously trying to make paintings and "push the envelope" and I give them credit for that.. There seems to be a consensus that Roy Lerner is the best of them, with which I would agree.

As always, abstraction, like any method, proceeds by coming up with good art.



January 26, 2008, 12:19 PM

what do you make of the critical vacuum left in the wake of writers like wilkin, fenton, moffett, bannard (just as NB as a painter) and the artists they supported? Once this generation is truly gone (these are the twilight years for sure) do you see a role for real criticism or are we just getting deeper into a dark age? will blogs such as this be the last bastions of real ideas about real art? the influence of the artists and thinkers who embraced greenbergian ideas is on the wane - has been for a long time i know. my point has more to do with the fact that the more provincial (geographically only) educators with a modernist take are disappearing as well. gosh this sounds so dark but it is the bitter truth. are there any writers or artists or institutions you can point to that offer any hope. recently i have been looking over a study based on the first 15 years of the Emma Lake workshop. it was an incredibly fortuitous thing that happened here in canada and our region would not be what it is without it. you can see a line of development stemming from those early workshops with newman, greenberg, olitski and noland etc. Unfortunately, in the face of the spectacle of contemporary art, the import of this development is more and more difficult convey to young artists. does it take a major figure like greenberg to cohere these energies and make them count outside the small circle of sympathetic practitioners? does it matter? can it matter today the way it held 20 years ago even? is something like emma lake an answer to the problem? there are obviously pockets of worthy activity going on but what are the necessary (possible) steps serious young artists can take to keep things going...



January 26, 2008, 12:25 PM

what is it about lerner's work that elevates it above the rest?



January 26, 2008, 1:29 PM

I have been bouncing ideas off of Supergirl that relate to questions in #25. I will involve other people soon once I have an idea about what I'm doing. I just bought the domain names.

I like this question:

does it take a major figure like greenberg to cohere these energies and make them count outside the small circle of sympathetic practitioners?

Postwar abstraction enabled Greenberg more than the other way around. If he was working now, he would have very little to work with, not only because of all the bad art getting made, but because of the declining fortunes of criticism in general.

So I think we should ask instead how to bolster the strength of the small circle of practitioners and encourage like-minded people. The community is going to be philosophical rather than geographic. As for it counting outside of that circle, I think insecurity, if not outright fear, drives fashionable taste and one might manipulate it without too much difficulty. Like I said, I'm still working through the details.



January 26, 2008, 2:17 PM

#26 is basically unanswerable of course, but I could say that to my eye Lerner's work seems more of a reflection of trying to make a picture, whereas much of the other newnew work seems just piled paint or aimless organization. This proves nothing; it is just an impression.

Franklin's comments are accurate, as usual. I might add that if Greenberg were to come on the scene now he might very well just not be heard. The art business has changed in such a way to literally preclude any intelligent assessment of visual quality of any kind; it is considered irrelevant.

There may have to be some sort of divvying up. "Visual Art" has been forced to play host to all sorts of parasitical forms that don't belong there, mostly theatrical, technical or academic in nature. It may be that they have to begin developing in different directions and each live in their own venue & find their own audience rather than all lumped into the art gallery/auction/museum house.



January 26, 2008, 2:25 PM

Also, by the way, and there is perpetual misunderstanding about this: when "real art" makes its comeback it may indeed not look anything like the "Greenbergian" artists.

What it takes is not conformity to a type but serious and talented people working with given conventions and procedures and a hard, tough, true devotion to making something visually fresh and vital and exciting. The problem with art right now is not that it doesn't look like Olitski and Noland; the problem is that it cares nothing for visual esthetic excellence in the first place.



January 26, 2008, 2:43 PM


'It may be that they have to begin developing in different directions and each live in their own venue & find their own audience rather than all lumped into the art gallery/auction/museum house.'

i agree. i've been thinking that modernism cannot thrive in the current system and alternatives seem more and more necessary. i think an outright break will develop in the long run as contemporary art's value drifts more and more towards entertainment and commodified spectacle. it really has nothing to do with a human response to the aesthetic.

franklin do keep us apprised of what you've got cooking.



January 26, 2008, 4:25 PM

Modernism in the broad sense, yes.

I have always felt that all art forms have always been basically modernist inso far as they refine their means and entrench themselves in their own competence. Unfortunately this entails separating from everyday life,and that will ultimately vitiate an art form even as it moves it into clear expression of its own strength.

It also makes it vulnerable to the deadly virus if academicism, which is a far worse killer than commercialism. Commercialism, no matter how corruptive, is at least alive and in the living market place, while academicism is a cold dead hand. Witness serious "classical" music, for example.

Right now we have both - a real stranglehold: academic fashion and a market full of tchotchkes with simple, readymade pseudoelevated "meaning", not for the "masses" - who cares about them! - but for the rich and ignorant.

In the meantime, like the Christians in the catacombs, serious artists labor on.

I haven't the faintest idea what will come of all this.



January 26, 2008, 6:02 PM

I take it, OP, you mean the rich, would-be profound, maniacally "committed" (but to what, and why?), ostentatiously and even histrionically "fearless," trendy-unto-death, smugly avant but hardly savant, and, despite monumental pretensions and extravagant self-regard, ultimately pitiful, deluded and tiresome.

Sometimes, possibly often, pursuits more mundane and prosaic than Art are, in fact, a much better way to go.

Now you may all call me elitist. You know you want to.



January 26, 2008, 7:04 PM

Re#28: Op, There may have to be some sort of divvying up.

It seems positively amazing to me that the expanded artworld continues to operate with the old monolithic business model. I cannot see how this will be able to continue as the first downturn in sales begins to extend itself. It seems fairly obvious that if there are factions of artists with a particular point of view, there will be matching factions among the consumers, the collectors. Therefore, in terms of sheer hucksterism, each ‘faction’ should promote their own hero’s in order to maximize their prices. Raw capitalism.

#29: Op, the problem is that it cares nothing for visual esthetic excellence in the first place.

I believe this is incorrect, at least to the degree implied. As far as painting goes, I think there are a number of artists who are working within the tradition and are quite serious. Certainly, some of these exhibitions may be overshadowed by the general carnival atmosphere in the artworld today.

I caught an exhibition of small paintings by the British artist Merlin James at Sikkema Jenkins & Co These were small gems, modest but quietly present within their gray British atmosphere. MJ really knows instinctively what to do with the paint to pull an image together. The paintings are not quite abstract, nor are they quite representational, kind of just painting paintings. They remind me of the early New Mexico works of Diebenkorn now on exhibit at the NYU Gray Art Gallery – another killer show by a thirty year old artist, fifty years ago.

I guess my point is that things changed, the artworld is still playing catch up, but it doesn’t mean criticism is in decline, just lopsided in its focus.



January 26, 2008, 9:58 PM

I give a hearty "Hallelujah, AMEN!" to that quote from 29.



January 27, 2008, 7:45 AM

You're an elitist, Jack. Me too.

George I said 40 years ago that everything would find its own place and so far I have bebeen wrong. The reason is probably the very capitalist model you invoke. Unlike most other arts visual art is a unit sale, that is, the original must be shown and sold; it can't depend on numerous multiples distributed at a lower price like literature and music and film. Therefore it needs a specific time and place to be shown and sold. Visual art built the gallery/museum system and it remains the only venue for this type of unit sale no matter how many bastardized forms come in to compete. Some, like video, need not only the space to be shown but the "art" label to continue at all because it obviously could not survive as entertainment.

All this would be a lot more tolerable if the new forms and their supporters were not so virulent and intolerant. It is like a form of religion, not only claiming exclusive rights to the high ground but literally declaring that traditional forms should not be practiced any more, and if they are they are fatally incomplete without sufficient "discourse" to "engage the larger issues". This is the academic sickness, killing anything living by nailing it down with labels, like butterflys on pins.

I do tend to hyperbole and I certainly agree that the art world is a more complex place than how I portray it. It would be interesting for a sociologist to analyze. There is a lot of good work going on (the little paintings by James look good but the images I could get were small and unclear) but it is very hard for it to grow and thrive swimming against the tide. The AE artists were up against similar hostility but they had a certain real-life cohesion and esprit de corps and far-off European artists to emulate. And they did not have to fight the deadly "passe" label because the mainstream had not yet laid claim to being the avant-garde, as it now has.



January 27, 2008, 10:21 AM

Yes, co-opting the avant garde (however imaginary or contrived) was a brilliant move by the establishment, and it has had terrible effects. It's sort of like communism, a ruthlessly totalitarian system which co-opted all sorts of "progressive," "egalitarian" and "populist" notions in a totally cynical, calculated and fraudulent way, in order to get and keep what it really wanted: absolute power. Sadly, it found plenty of dupes who should have known far better.

It's very hard for me to forgive or even understand such folly, if it be folly and not perversity. It's hard not to be harsh and scornful when faced with the contemptible. No doubt everything is not black or white, but when things get sufficiently derailed, not to say irrational, I am increasingly unwilling to extend the benefit of the doubt. I'm really, really tired of glorified bullshit.



January 27, 2008, 11:05 AM

they did not have to fight the deadly "passe" label because the mainstream had not yet laid claim to being the avant-garde, as it now has

Damned nice statement, opie. It sheds light not only on the AbExes, but what everyone who followed them has had to cope with. What remains to be taken apart is exactly how the mainstream succeeded in applying this label to itself. Mackay's Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions seems to have something to do with it, but the art mainstream is not really much of a crowd - it is scattered here and there in what amounts to little clumps of people who exist amidst far larger groups of people who don't care either way about art. Several thousand amongst Miami's millions, same ratio in Chicago, same in LA, and so on. Despite the dispersion, the clumps do manage to act like a crowd. But public support for the art system does not anywhere approach that which the crusades enjoyed, for instance. The typical middle class American seems to look at most of what goes on in the art world as bizarre, even if they more or less tolerate it. Maybe it is this underlying resistance from middle class vulgarians that furnishes the glue needed to keep the avant-garde label from falling off. But the vulgarians are a paper tiger, casual resistance that is entirely outside the boundaries of art. The original avant-garde had to confront resistance that was internal to their business and that was serious and strong.

So how did this label get to where it is today? I think it was a gradual process, one relatively small mistake, then another, then another. As in Robert Rauschenberg, then Robert Morris, then Frank Stella, then Sol LeWitt, and so on. (Greenberg himself participated in some of it when he assembled his list for the Post Painterly Abstraction show.)

So today we have Damien Hirst and an "avant-garde" that drinks the most expensive wines at the best restaurants, is driven about in the finest automobiles, lives in the most expensive sections of incredibly expensive cities, and enjoys fame and acceptance without question. Allowing the term "avant-garde" to stand for all that constistutes part of the delusion.

One of McKay's statements describes a solution to mainstream madness: "(humans) go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one". Thus, and even though the art crowd is a tiny minority, McKay may have told us how those within it must unwind their perdicament, if they want out before it crashes. Otherwise, "errors that (are) consecrated by time and long familiarity, (are) heightened and embellished, and (succeed) to their heart's content." The truth, on the other hand, is treated as an "intruder" and cannot enter until the delusion collapses of its own weight and disappears.



January 27, 2008, 11:36 AM

It took over in the 70s but it had been cooking for a long time. It was noticed that good art came in company with antimainstream activity by the middle of the 19 C and by the end of that century it was a common attitude of artists and by the mid-20th almost an article of faith. Duchamp gets all the credit but he really is just the poster boy; he had very little to do with it.

Anything that is seen to be a characteristic of good art will generate inferior art tailored to it. The 70s saw artists straining mightly to be "different" and "shocking" - sometimes to the point of extreme self-damage. Critics mindlessly celebrated anything "far out". This has simmered and boiled down and institutionalized. and has turned into a kind of cozy, broadly accetpted, relatively harmless lunacy in order to garner the rewards any mainstream has to offer..

Comments by McKay pertain directly related to this and are always relevant to human behavior, but, as usual, will not change it. Look at post #1111 here a while ago, wherein Paul Graham calmly and dispassionately pointed out that all the "great thinkers" got it more or less wrong. It changes nothing to know this. Broad error is the stuff of denial, and human beings live on denial. Take denail away and you would have worldwide mass suicide.



January 27, 2008, 12:23 PM

I sometimes think a book that was specific and went through the history in detail of how the avant-garde transformed from a band of outcasts into the in-group it is now would be widely read - and violently opposed. It would be a book "everyone who is anyone" would love to hate, but it would sell. (If someone would publish it.)



January 27, 2008, 1:22 PM

Well, as you know Lynne Munson wrote "EXHIBITIONISM: Art in an Era of Intolerance", which took the whole thing apart, piece by piece, and it didn't even make a stir.

I think McKay is right. It takes people deciding it is all bullshit, one by one, until the whole thing falls apart.

Or it might get done in by the major recession we have staring us in the face.



January 27, 2008, 1:25 PM

Sorry, names need to be right: Charles MACKAY, not Mckay



January 27, 2008, 1:50 PM

There are now far too many people in the system who benefit from the status quo and have a strong vested interest in maintaining it. Their chief concern is obviously not to reform or improve anything, no matter how foul or bogus or unjustifiable, but rather to keep feeding at the trough.

This includes not only the predictable culprits, dealers of various kinds, but also the ostensible "keepers of the faith" or presumed guardians of the true values of art. The corruption has set in from top to bottom, and there is basically nobody minding the store, so to speak. Everybody who "counts" appears to be in on the scam or at least quite willing to condone it, if not actively promote it.

Those who still refuse to play along or remain "difficult" are excluded, marginalized, dismissed or maligned by any means deemed suitable. Despite its power and control, the in-crowd is highly intolerant of any opposition, however lacking in clout or influence (as we have repeatedly and consistently witnessed here). How much of that is insecurity and how much is arrogance is debatable, but it's very real.

Many people are far more comfortable fitting in and go along to get along, even if they can see the problem. Many are "into art" for extraneous reasons; art is simply a convenient tool or conduit to achieve certain ends. And many people with serious money, more than ever before, have latched onto the art scene's glamour and cachet because they want in on it regardless of how shallow and confabulated it all is. In other words, they are perfectly willing to take the system as is and accept it on its own terms; they simply want to be players.

As has been said before, as long as the party can keep going, there's little or no incentive to change much, because the party is far more important than what it's supposedly all about, benighted art, which has been largely reduced to a convenient and easily manipulated pretext.



January 27, 2008, 2:30 PM

You are right about Lynne's book, opie, it did not create much of a reaction. But she went after the NEA, not the avant-garde per se. And she has a political background in the "wrong" party too. But I thought of her book when I wrote that. Might be the best indicator we have that the world will ignore any intrusion on what is working for them, as Jack says ... "shit works," as I think you said upstream.

Lynne is making far bigger waves these days working for the reduction of college tuition. She was quoted on CNN recently as saying Harvard (or was it Yale) should not charge tuition to anyone, no matter what income level they come from ... their endowments are that huge. She testified in Congress that tuition for her one year old kid will be $500,000 by the time he is 18, if the problem is not abated. That is a message that many will welcome because it presents a widely held fear. What is there to fear in a giant pile of bad art?


George Rodart

January 27, 2008, 3:55 PM

Re: #25: op. I don’t think what I envision happening could have happened 40 years ago, maybe not even 15 years ago. Industries need to achieve a critical mass before they can move beyond the mom and pop shop. I’m suggesting that the art market has reached that point but that the participants have not quite adjusted their approaches to take advantage of its new scale.

I honestly do not believe that collectors are necessarily all that different from anyone else. As a group I think they probably have the same variety of tastes as can be found in the variety of works produced by artists. As the system now functions, the collectors are persuaded to accept what is offered as ‘good’ by the marketplace. For various reasons they accept this condition even though it may not always coincide with their own taste.

From a marketing standpoint this suggests that a large segment of the marketplace may be insufficiently exploited by the retailers (galleries). At the same time, the increasing number of people in the support areas of the art world, the curators, writers etc all must be looking for some way to distinguish themselves from the crowd. As a result there are more people who are willing to focus on areas within the art world than there were a few years ago. If these people could get their act together, I think they would find that there are a number of consumers ready and willing to collect the art.

Certainly at any given time one segment of the market or the other may garner more attention. I suspect because of the very retrograde (traditional) nature of painting, it will always be at the mercy of more media savvy and publicity driven art forms. I do not think this means painting will go away, the battle to breath life into a tradition is metaphorical for the human condition.

One brief slam against the new new painters. I saw the show KM did a few years back here in NYC, I wasn’t impressed. Chris Martin is a better painter than any of them.



January 28, 2008, 6:19 AM

I more or less agree with what you said above, George. (What is to become of us if we agree?)

The matters of scale, market maturity, niche markets are all things that would be interesting to analyze further. The "taste" matter is affected by the "one venue" problem I alluded to above; if we had some kind of established, separate "real painting" market with its own customers, galleries, magazines, curators, art departments, etc. there would be much less of a "painting is dead" hassle and much more attention to good painting vs bad painting, and there would be sufficient "media savvy and publicity driven art forms" within that system to argue about anyway. As it is now there is way too much "out of fashion" pressure on painting.

I do hope this will happen in time. If art keeps on being as popular as it is there is room for everything to exand into its own terrotory.

I'm puzzled by the Chris Martin reference because he really doesn't paint enough like the Newnews to be an apt comparison.



January 28, 2008, 5:02 PM


I saw some paintings of CM's that had chunks of stuff on them, I guess it just made me think of the nuenue group. Regardless, the more I see of his work the more I think he's the real deal.



January 28, 2008, 5:03 PM

Susanna Heller shows in NY at Lehman Magnan. She's a wonderful painter.
All, I wish for the time to participate in this and look forward to at least reading it.



January 28, 2008, 5:24 PM

martin's work seems too clever. too fraught with ideas. colour really not that developed.too self-conscious. heller seems to suffer the same plights. she borrows so much from kiefer -who is not that good in the first- its hard to take her serious-ness seriously. show me the colour.



January 28, 2008, 6:56 PM

'x' I totally disagree with you about Heller. You can mention Kiefer all you want but I think the connections you are making are superficial. Look at this recent image:

and this one from 1975

and this one from 1973:

Now granted that her work has become much more linear in the past decade, but she is a brilliant colorist and draftsperson. If you read the studio visit I did with her (
you will see that she isn't a pretentious nihilist like Kiefer (although I do like a number of his paintings [his sculptures are awful]). I wish you could see some of the paintings she did in the late 80s and early 90s. As a colorist she was absolutely breathtaking. These were profound paintings of the real world.

EC I am aware of the fact that she exhibits in NYC and is represented by a NYC gallery but based on what she told me when I did the studio visit for artcritical several years ago, she actually makes money from sales in Canada where she has a great relationship with a gallery. As usual, with any NYC gallery she probably gets stuck waiting forever for a solo show to happen and has to settle for occasional appearances in group shows.


Marc Country

January 28, 2008, 8:37 PM

I dunno, Eric.. her recent stuff doesn't look like it's changed much since '75, going by those links...



January 29, 2008, 4:48 AM

Unfortunately there are no images online of the specific stuff I am referring to. I promise you I saw this stuff in person as an undergraduate (not that I don't think highly of her current stuff). Her drawings, none of which are online, are excellent as well. Well observed and full of energy. But trying to convince someone using words to like works of visual art that a person has already made up their mind about is a useless task. As usual, I recommend not judging works based solely on jpegs (unless of course there is nothing more but the jpegs). The last show of hers that I saw in person "Harbor of Wakes" based on images of the wreckage of the Twin Towers and the rides at Coney Island were great, color wise and in terms of inventiveness.



January 29, 2008, 7:42 AM

Heller at Olga Korper



January 29, 2008, 9:11 AM

I can't say I share your enthusiasm, Eric. Of all the images on Fred's link above only "Steel Fence" looked at all pictorially solid, and even then I would do some serious cropping to improve it. She just doesn't handle paint very well.


Marc Country

January 29, 2008, 9:48 AM

Sorry, Eric... I was just making a wee wise-crack about your double-linking to "Last Blues of Dusk"...



January 29, 2008, 9:52 AM

I guess we can debate what good paint handling is until the cows come home, but it is easier to say we agree to disagree. The links Fred provided do not include any images of the older work that I referred to.



January 29, 2008, 10:03 AM

I have found that the only way to settle things like "what is good & bad paint handling" is to go around looking at paintings and pointing to examples. Nothing gets proven (nor can it be) but information and learning gets exchanged.



January 29, 2008, 10:09 AM

Yes opie you are right that "looking at paintings" is key to having a worthwhile discussion about paint handling, etc. The energy, insights, and humor, painters share when visiting with artworks together in person and live can never be duplicated in cyberspace chats, in my opinion.



January 31, 2008, 5:33 AM

Sadly, my online connection isn't taking me to Korper or anywhere, in an efficient way. So, if I want to speak about concrete works, it's difficult. However, there are several bodies of work by Susanna Heller that I find great: the World Trade Center residency paintings, the Coney island rollercoaster paintings she showed at Luise Ross dunno, late 90s early 00s and a few of the 9/11 paintings. What I love about her work is the role of line, as an active entity within teeming space. In the Coney Island paintings, this becomes the contour of the roller coaster, but roller coaster is potentially equal to any other element; wind, a car, a flow of direction. She's a drawer, and she brings drawing to painting. She loves rich deep earth colors and keeps the surface messy and gritty (love that, also love it in Freud, tho' share Jack's lessening of excitement about Freud). The paintings can get muddy, but they also have a freedom and excitement in their process that speaks to the act of painting, a siren call to get in there and throw it around. In her first Magnan Lehman show, there were small still life studies of WTC sites. WOW. Clear, jewel-like. Stunning in their clarity and focus.
Eric, having interviewed her you know her keen intelligence, integrity, political acumen and passion for art as a way of living life. I agree she has not had the level of success in NY she deserves. That is true of many, however.



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