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Post #1111 • January 14, 2008, 12:54 PM • 180 Comments

Sometimes I wonder whether artbloggers drink from the same water supply. This morning Modern Kicks linked to The Chronicle of Artistic Failure in America, while Ed Winkleman linked to Sellout. Both of the latter sites attempt to address the contemporary art market, either psychologically or practically. Along the way Regina Hackett at the Seattle PI (link at ModKix) attempts to refute CAFA's assertion that art criticism is failing along with art, and an Artnet article (link at EW) bumps up against raw truth and then brushes the cooties off its sleeve:

Seen in review, 2007 could be taken to provide evidence that the condition of art is changing, to be something more akin to contemporary fashion, where designers make unwearable, esoteric prototype projects that are then reprocessed for mass consumption, where they find their actual home. This may be what the incursion of design into the art galleries is unconsciously about. But I doubt it. The devil-may-care, anything-goes "complicit" condition [Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity author Johanna] Drucker outlines is bound up with the art boom, where collectors literally seem to be buying anything, a phenomenon that has the effect of drawing more students to art, producing more art programs, and thus a more pluralistic scene... and so on, round and round.

Rather than hack on yet another internally inconsistent art analysis, I'd like instead to share some thoughts that I've had lately regarding the market.

1. Taste is the ability to detect visual quality. People with taste are relatively rare. People with inclinations towards art and the mental capacity to wonder about it are quite a bit more common.

2. The art market grew to its present size thanks to the latter group, not the former. It has done so by flattering the latter group into thinking that it has progressive taste, not a lack of taste. Museums have largely assisted this effort, flattering its own deficiencies of taste as progressive taste as well.

3. This is basically how all marketing works. People with taste can detect quality using their own powers. People lacking taste can be talked into thinking they have progressive taste by setting up an excluded other. You drink Coke, because unlike those Pepsi-swilling rubes, you know how to live. This is where Clembashing came from.

4. Ever since the dealer Sidney Janis reconstructed Duchamp's Fountain 34 years after the orginal had appeared in an Armory show and was lost, theory-driven art has served commercial interests and continues to do so today. It interests the larger portion of high-art consumers: people who possess interest in art but not the ability to detect visual quality.

5. The art market has grown enormously in the last fifty years and now includes a huge range of ostensibly viable styles. These are also related phenomena.

6. "It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of art." - Oscar Wilde.

7. If we measure the health of a profession by the richness of its production and its ability to maintain its practitioners in reasonably comfortable circumstances, art criticism is not only dying, but was never alive in the first place, except for a few months in the late 1940s.

8. Even though the kinds of things taken seriously as art have diversified exponentially in the last fifty years, the idea of art-career success is identical to when there were a few musuems and a few good galleries. Everyone from the neotraditionalists to the denizens of the bloodiest edges want recognition from the same middlemen. The middlemen have not expanded in scope or quantity relative to the explosion of art objects.

9. Musicians have figured out how to cut out the middlemen. How do we?




January 14, 2008, 7:44 PM

"9. Musicians have figured out how to cut out the middlemen. How do we?"


Chris Rywalt

January 15, 2008, 6:26 AM

That parody commercial was hilarious. "My pleasure doesn't pass that way." Brilliant.

I can't answer your question about middlemen -- I'm not sure I want to cut out the middlemen, honestly. I think middlemen -- in this case I'll call them "editors" -- are more important now than ever before. There's just too much of everything out there for most individuals to keep up with. Trusted editors are necessary to keep everyone else from getting buried.

Do you really think people with taste are relatively rare? I think everyone has taste, but many people have had that taste stunted, like a twisted, half-dead bonsai. This serves everyone really well because someone with atrophied taste will buy anything and like it. I've been noticing more and more how many overpriced "luxury" items there are on the market -- things which aren't really luxurious, or really accoutrements of the truly wealthy, but which have come to seem that way. Like Lexuses. They're not really the cars of the rich, but the bourgeois think they are. As Andy Warhol wrote, "What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest....A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke....All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good." Except Coke isn't really very good. It's only good if you've lost your taste.

The art market is no different from every other market: In order to sell crap, first convince your customers that they love crap. And, let's face it, crap is easier to manufacture reliably.



January 15, 2008, 7:43 AM

Editors of the Maxwell Perkins variety are virtually on a par with the artists, Chris, but there are just as few of them as there are of great artists. Most of the middlemen are in the business of convincing us to buy rather than improving the product.

My take on taste, in painting at least, which is what I know about, is that it is quite rare and very unevenly distributed. There are a lot of people in the art business who have none or perverted taste and there are people in business and politics and the like who have wonderful, instinctive taste. But it is rare. It also seems to be confined to people who are self-confident and judgmental.

As you say, most people buy stuff because other people buy it, and art is at the very highest end of this syndrome. Hence the $70 million Warhol.


Jack the Judgmental

January 15, 2008, 8:12 AM

People with taste can detect quality using their own powers.

Not only can but must, in order to qualify.

It's fine to avail one's self of suitable and useful "accessories" or "tools," but the basic aptitude or capacity MUST be there to start with, innately. It's very clear that, regardless of collecting zeal or proclaimed "passion" for art, the basic, crucial element is all too often absent. Either it's there or it isn't.


Marc Country

January 15, 2008, 8:51 AM

"It also seems to be confined to people who are self-confident and judgmental."

What about the necessity of 'disinterestedness'? And, how does 'disinterestedness' go with "judgmental-ness'?

The best way to remove a middleman is to become one yourself, "and pass the savings (or pleasure) on to your customers".



January 15, 2008, 9:23 AM

Wwc, you know, that could work.

I'm not sure I want to cut out the middlemen, honestly.

I happen to be quite fond of a select few of them. I still think there's a widely shared and outdated model for art world success in play.

Regarding disinterestedness: I think it depends on what you mean by that. When you can see quality independently of traits, that is a kind of disinterested clarity. On the other hand, I think it requires a significant investment of feeling, feelings that can be injured when you look at bad art.


oriane stender

January 15, 2008, 9:34 AM

Re: Taste is the ability to detect visual quality.

When someone calls me an elitist, I like to reply, "but you say that like it's a bad thing."



January 15, 2008, 9:53 AM

You will never get rid of middlepeople because art is a business. Even if you could get rid of middlepeople would you really want the rare breed of people who have genuine taste that you write about so often doing the mundane business end of things? There are so many gatekeepers nowadays that there just aren't enough of 'the chosen' to replace them. Plato's Republic comes to mind. In a utopia we could have the people with genuine, natural born taste be the ones in charge, dedicating their whole lives to the cause of creating and exhibiting the best art possible, free from all corruption. I am afraid that these chosen few, if they even exist, would only be able to rule over very small digital kingdoms in the present. The mainstream art world would crumble the moment mediocre people disappeared. Perhaps that is what you are getting at.


Marc Country

January 15, 2008, 10:07 AM

Wait... are we talking about circumventing blind and corrupt media and gallery 'paradigms', or are we talking about literally "disappearing" the mediocre people?

'Elitist', or 'elitest'?



January 15, 2008, 10:08 AM

re #6

It already does work with a lot of webcomics folks, though most of them are not so great. I also know a couple "middlemen" who sell quite a bit over the internet, though I can't imagine those buyers are serious or discerning at all.

That model would only work with things made specifically for the web or print - I'm not suggesting that its any sort of replacement for seeing things for real for things that need to be seen for real.


Pretty Lady

January 15, 2008, 10:24 AM

it requires a significant investment of feeling, feelings that can be injured when you look at bad art.

This explains my physical feelings of nausea when attending, say, a Jeff Koons retrospective.

Speaking as someone who attempted to solve the problem by becoming a middleman as well as an artist, I have to say that it doesn't work very well. People don't take you seriously as an artist when you are also dealing art, and it takes so much energy to properly represent other artists that you don't have enough for your own work. The internet is changing things rapidly, however, and I am still optimistic that I will someday, somehow, be able to support myself through my tiny little soapbox.

However, today is not an optimistic day. Today is a day for writing screeds inspired by Franklin's more measured approach. I shall calm down presently.



January 15, 2008, 11:09 AM

Pretty Lady, I read your blog of November 25 in which you said about your lack of talent and your early work: (it had) "no redeeming qualities whatsoever, except for a certain cheerful willingness to keep flinging paint around..." Reminded me a lot of Pollock, about whom I would say the same thing, especially his early stuff. Talent is necessary at some point, but the way you find it is by "flinging paint around". Nice observation.



January 15, 2008, 11:48 AM

I actually like a lot of Pollock's early work, the stenographic abstractions and mythological stuff.



January 15, 2008, 12:05 PM

Re disinterestedness, yes, certainly, if you mean dealing with the art as such, for itself, regardless of extraneous factors like fashion, PC, market status, "expert" opinion, "major" collector or even institutional interest, etc. But as OP says, self-confidence and readiness to pass judgment are also needed. As I've said at least a million times, it's between the individual and the art, period. Everything and everyone else can pretty much go fly a kite.


Pretty Lady

January 15, 2008, 12:53 PM

Actually, Catfish, I've only recently come to terms with the quality of Pollock after seeing that god-awful 'After Picasso' exhibit at the Whitney last year--the Pollock was the only one that created a significant resonant field, albeit an irritable and abrasive one. I've learned to experience painting as primarily a set of meta-waves set up by the physical presence of the painting, and you can tell instantly when something has been constructed cerebrally, without any perception of this dimension. The object just sits there, instead of charging the space around it.

So anyway, thank you for validating my mud-pies method of uncovering talent.



January 15, 2008, 2:05 PM

By Pollock's early work I mean the stuff he did while working with Thomas Hart Benton.



January 15, 2008, 3:07 PM

coke is superior to pepsi. classic coke is a very good beverage that has depth of flavor, great texture and full-bodied cohesive taste. it really is a remarkable man made product. i was just thinking about this last week.



January 15, 2008, 4:21 PM




January 15, 2008, 5:01 PM

Pretty Lady, if a Koons work makes you sick, you are an esthete. If you go to his retrospective, you are a masochist.

Marc, disinterested is more a matter of will than it is of natural ability. For example, I know that I am disposed to like art more easily if it lhas a certain "look". So I have to look harder. Looking at art is not pure and it shouldn't be.

Oriane, better yet, peer intently at the person and say "yes, I am, and right now I am reconsidering you..."


Pretty Lady

January 15, 2008, 8:17 PM

The Koons retrospective was required for a class, or I would have skipped it. Also I was still young enough to remember the belly laugh I got from listening to him lecture, in 1987 or thereabouts. In 1993, it already wasn't funny anymore.



January 15, 2008, 8:39 PM

All the C--- references forced me to go get a bottle with a refreshing red label - buy one, I mean. Thanks a lot.

Clarifying #1: people with taste are also people with inclinations towards art, but whom of late possess no sway within the larger crowd ('cept maybe de Montebello). Yes? Also, it may require mental capacity to wonder about inclinations towards art, but not to wonder about art.

I'm not sure I understand #2. Who's flattering whom?

#3. The problem with C--- is that corporation's propagandist manipulation of the populace, not any one individual's declaration that the stuff actually tastes good. Anyone agreeing it tastes good is not necessarily locked into the "people lacking taste" group. This number three screed is interesting: can people with taste be talked into this and that other thing? Of course. Can people without taste detect quality using their own powers? I think so, though they may not realize it. Example: at portfolio reviews of student work I've observed entire groups of demonstrably taste-free people (the teachers) sigh simultaneously with pleasure at the presentation of a particularly good art project after so many bad ones.

#8. Wanting recognition seems to me more the problem than whom it's wanted from. The middlemen, they want recognition too, and it haunts their endeavours no less. It's a pet theory of mine that this disinterestedness MC mentioned, at least disinterest in commerce (though a tough row to how) is where the high-yield Quality crop lays.

#9. The middleman dilemma looks different to the artists than to the middlemen. Some musicians may have some solutions, but the middlemen themselves have even more... and more to lose, so they bend their considerable resources to the problem as they see it.



January 16, 2008, 10:51 AM

Ahab taste or some or none is locked up with all the other characteristics of a person. That's why when it is strongly employed and expressed as in someone like Greenberg we have to understand that it is coming on company with a forceful personality who is way more intereted in comprehending art and making judgements about it than anything else. Everyone has likes and dislikes but other factors have to come in before it amounts to an ability to see and point to the best art with no regard for other influence..



January 16, 2008, 12:44 PM

Everyone has likes and dislikes but other factors have to come in before it amounts to an ability to see and point to the best art with no regard for other influence.

What "other factors" precondition a disregard for "other influences"?


Dave Green

January 16, 2008, 2:01 PM

I do not know what category I fall into and would not stand and say that I am an oficionado.

I am a collector.

I live in NYC and visit the galleries on a regular basis. All I see now is sensationalism, for the most part. A couple months ago I viewed an artist's work that was pattern on a canvas and in the corner was a naked "SheMale." Personally I did not find it shocking or sensational. I thought it was stupid. I may have remembered his work, but I would not have purchased it. And isn't that what it really comes down to? If an artist is not selling they cannot afford to make more work.

OR, will the gallery owner convince the buyer that they have taste if they buy this "work."

I do not need a landscape to find beauty in someone's work, but I want something that captivates me or moves me emotionally, preferably both. Looking at the grotesque violence that I see on every movie screen and news program is not something I want in my home either. I understand their purpose, to make us aware of what we are doing, but...does it sell?

My personal favorites are Jan Aronson and Nikolai Makarov. The beauty that both these artists create is captivating. I have to say that you can see the beauty of Jan Aronson's work without seeing it live, i.e. the Internet, but I think Nikolai Makarov's work needs to be seen in person. You need to see what happens to the piece as you dim the lights. It's truly beautiful.

I am not an art critic, but I do put my money where my mouth is and buy art. If I am going to put something in my home I would rather have today's Monet as opposed to sensationalism.



January 16, 2008, 2:12 PM

Gosh, Ahab. you sound like a psychologist taking a survey.

You know, self confidence, aggressiveness, courage, the urge to do things right... whatever.



January 16, 2008, 3:44 PM

It's neither grill, nor rhetoric. I just shortened up your last sentence of #22 into the form of a question.

Are you simply giving primacy to personal traits such as "Self confidence, aggressiveness, courage, the urge to do things right", they being factors that one can have too much or too little of and only secondarily beneficial or detrimental to one's taste in visual art? Seems a little vague - based on what I know of an average opie-comment.

Do such traits similarly affect one's taste in beverage? Mousy little wine connoisseurs come to mind.



January 16, 2008, 5:09 PM

Ahab, I was not saying that these characteristics affect the faculty of taste, only the expression of it. This was in response to your observation about the professors who suddently appreciate the good student project.

They may have some inherent taste but are usually busy letting other things get in the way of it, things like fashionable received ideas about what is good, and such like. in your example they are momentarily caught off guard and react honestly.


Marc Country

January 16, 2008, 6:22 PM

Ok, so maybe taste, rather than being rare, is completely common... so common, in fact, as to be virtually universal... downright innate, you might even say... and the only problem is, "fashionable received ideas about what is good, and such like", and the tendency to let such other social factors get in the way of our FSM given taste, is just as universal.



January 16, 2008, 7:50 PM

Perhaps the notion that you either have it or you don't easily frustrates the obfuscating mediocrities that run the universities and the art world. They all need something to talk and write about and they don't want to hear about innate abilities. Why would thousands of heedless morons run off to art school every year if there weren't any vague promises of gaining some precious skill or knowledge, something besides putting off getting a job for a few years?



January 16, 2008, 8:05 PM


Re: #19
"For example, I know that I am disposed to like art more easily if it has a certain "look". So I have to look harder. Looking at art is not pure and it shouldn't be."

It seems on own hand you're saying that taste is something disciplined into being. If you are inclined to like some art because of a "look," and not its quality, then #19 implies that you resist your impulse and try to make a more nuanced judgment. By that logic, taste is a desire for taste and the dedication to refine the sensibility you have. The "not pure" part clinches it.

Re: #27
"They may have some inherent taste but are usually busy letting other things get in the way of it…"

But #27 implies something different. Saying that someone has "inherent taste" that something "gets in the way of" implies that taste is innate, and bad taste is the result of not being able to filter out the white noise. It implies a pure taste that is degraded by circumstance or lack of self belief.

I'm not bringing this up to point a contradiction in your argument. This is THE contradiction about art-looking and art-making. Are we naturally good artists and critics if only we shut out the nonsense? Or are we naturally "impure" artists and critics who can only develop through resisting our base instincts? Born sinners or saints? Are we pre or post artistic Fall?



January 16, 2008, 8:13 PM

I wouldn't want to boil it down so much, Marc. We are using a symbol (a word) to denote something we feel and observe and there is a lot of disjunction and flex involved.

I have seen instances of natural taste at work in people who know little about art and the opposite, and I am reasonable sure that there is a faculty for perceiving quality in art and that it is relatively rare.

It seems to be fair to assume that taste is more common innately than seen in practice because there are so many ways to inhibit its exercise, such as the "social factors" you mention.

I also can use my own experience and that of others to be reasonably sure that although taste really cannot be learned that it can certainly be improved with cultivation.
In this way taste is a little like athletics, or skill in chess.



January 16, 2008, 8:26 PM

Now Re: #31--Hard to know if the discipline or cultivation we talk about in crit and art isn't just a disciplined screening out of impure elements. Thus making it still innate. Or if the discipline is improving the mediocre taste we're all born with. Thus making it willed. I like how I'm sounding more like a Puritan preacher the later it gets.



January 16, 2008, 8:28 PM

I assume we are sticking only to art, McFawn.

No, taste is not a desire for taste. That is semantically contridictory in any event. Taste is a facility. The wish to exercise it probably depends mostly on other characteristics of the personality.

Your paragraph beginning #But 27..." seems to be what i said, yes, except that you might want to refine it by presupposing, as I do, that taste is an innate facility which a person will have more or less of and that its expression can be inhibited by other factors and this inhibited taste will end up appearing the same as bad taste, will be indistinguishable from it in the expression.

I know that when I was making my way in art as a kid painter I would "like" something because of some idea I have about the quality of its properties or because some authority said it was good or some such, but it remains in my memory that I really did not like it, that it did not have the kind of inner thrill I got in private moments with something I actually loved. I am convinced that this is what all the trendoids are doing. I don't think they really like much of anything but are driven about by the winds of fashion to think they like things, declaring what they hear as their own opinion. Learning about what you yourself are up to is vitally important to any growth in art.



January 16, 2008, 10:41 PM

You feel our taste for art is somehow different in character from our other faculties of taste, opie? I've been assuming they were, if not identical, more than analagous.



January 17, 2008, 4:40 AM

I was just narrowing it for the sake of clarity, but it is an interesting question, perhaps largely a semantic one.The word should properly be used to specify any similar function, but taste in art may be as specialized as art itself is. it would be fun to work that out. Right now I got to get to work.



January 17, 2008, 8:31 AM

Re #32, McFawn, "impure" may be misleading; nothing about art is very pure, try as we may to make it so. The actual process is more just one of familiarity and learning. You could call it a "disciplined screening" I suppose, but I am convinced that taste is more like a talent than something purely consciously constructed.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2008, 9:38 AM

Dave Green sez:
If an artist is not selling they cannot afford to make more work.

OR, will the gallery owner convince the buyer that they have taste if they buy this "work."

Mr. Green, you are welcome to come by my studio any time. I just wanted to say that up front.

I've often wondered about how New York galleries choose their work. Back when I went to the Armory Show -- about three years ago now -- I was blown away by how dreadful most of the work seemed to me. What I wondered was, are gallerists putting up what they like or what they think will sell? And if it's what they like, why do they have such lousy taste? And if it's what they think will sell, are they right or wrong? I mean, is this stuff really selling?

All these years later, and all that time mingling with the fringes of the art world, I still don't have a definitive answer. But I think I'm closer.

I think the art world is very opaque. No one knows, in a formulaic way, what makes good art. You can only tell if it's good or not by looking at it once it's done. You can't guarantee that this guy right here can make X pieces of good art per Y number of months the way you can with spark plugs or socks. So no one really knows what should sell.

On top of that, no one really knows what is selling because there are no hard numbers. Dealers talk, of course, but a lot of that is smoke and mirrors -- more opacity.

I think this leads to something of a herd mentality: If Joe is showing such-and-such a style of art, then I should be showing it, too. After all, Joe seems to know what he's doing. He's got a gallery, after all.

But little does anyone know, Joe also has a day job. His gallery isn't financially independent; he hasn't sold a thing in years.

Or maybe Joe is just independently wealthy. Or maybe Joe's lover has a lot of extra money for Joe to play with. Or maybe Joe's dad owns the building and Joe doesn't pay rent.

Or maybe Joe's gallery is selling that stuff. Maybe it's really great art! That's possible, too. Who can tell?

It's tough. And I don't think anyone gets into art to be a shyster. You certainly don't become an art dealer to get rich. There are plenty of much easier ways to get rich with that kind of investment. Hell, a good mutual fund would probably turn a better profit.

On my trips through Chelsea I often find myself thinking, "Either I am the greatest artist alive today or I know absolutely nothing about art." Then I wander into, for example, the Chris Ofili show, and I remember why I go to Chelsea in the first place. Because sometimes the system does get it right.



January 17, 2008, 10:25 AM

Chris, you make some interesting observations and speculations. I just wish you did not end them with your admiration of Chris Ofili.



January 17, 2008, 10:33 AM

Right, Catfish. Kind of like a shaggy dog story with a big letdown at the end. Ofili is about as lightweight as it gets.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2008, 11:38 AM

I liked the most recent Ofili show. In terms of subject matter he may be lightweight, but his paintings are visually very moving. I found them so, anyway. And he's one of the few mainstream practitioners of Modernism these days. I mean, his paintings are directly related to Picasso and Matisse. I actually like Ofili's work better than either of those.

Maybe you need to meet his paintings. Well, you always have to meet a painting to appreciate it. Maybe you haven't seen his latest work? Or maybe we just disagree.



January 17, 2008, 12:12 PM

Thanks for the handy taste case study, Chris.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2008, 12:24 PM

I'm not sure, Ahab, if that's intended sarcastically or not. I'd just say that you need to be in front of those Ofili works before you knock them. Their presence doesn't come through the JPEGs.

It's not that I think Ofili is the greatest artist of all time, either. I've never been all that excited by Picasso or Matisse. I still prefer Van Gogh or Rousseau, just to name two artists I've reacted strongly to.

I used to think I liked Realism and Surrealism. I told Franklin this when I saw him a couple of weeks ago: I'm a reluctant Modernist. I started looking at art thinking I was a fan of Dalí and Magritte, of Alma-Tadema and the Pre-Raphaelites. It's only over time that I've found that I don't react emotionally to most Realism or Surrealism; and I've found I'm a Modernist painter.

It really wasn't my idea.



January 17, 2008, 1:18 PM

OK, Chris. I haven't seen any recent Ofili paintings, so I will reserve judgment. I can't imagine that they could suddenly be real good, but I love to be surprised. Obviously you think they are pretty good, and the buck stops there.

Did you have some recent Ofili imnages on your web site? I didn't see them, but I am not that great at navigating.


J.T. Kirkland

January 17, 2008, 2:22 PM

I'll jump in for Chris...

Chris' Site

I also thought the Ofili show was the best in Chelsea at the time and prior to that I didn't care much for his work at all. You can see some small installation shots of the show on my site:

J.T.'s Site



January 17, 2008, 2:28 PM

Re: intentional sarcasm

That's the sticky part of discussing taste, now isn't it? What to do when one person's taste butts up against another's - one person ends up being ranked against another. Athletes take such competition as a matter of course, but artists are way sensitive.

I think, sorry to say, what does come through on the Ofili jpegs you linked to is a distinct lack of visual awesomeness. I'm happy to argue the why, but in the same breath I'd defend your personal authority over your personal aesthetic sense. Good for you for putting your taste on the line.


J.T. Kirkland

January 17, 2008, 2:31 PM

More images here



January 17, 2008, 2:35 PM

...artists are way sensitive.

I was just saying to some artist friends (Jim and Annie, actually) that artists are thin-skinned and take umbrage at any little slight. Writers are thick-skinned, but attack each other with highly crafted, brutally sharp weapons. It's an important difference between the cultures.

I want to apologize for being such a lame blogger this week. This is the first week of the semester and I'm getting completely crushed.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2008, 3:23 PM

I would say, Ahab, that you really need to see the paintings themselves. I'm not saying that'd change your mind, and I don't mean this to sound dismissive or nasty at all; I really mean it. It would be good for you to see them in person and then we could compare notes. If all I saw was the JPEGs on my site (which, to answer OP, are all from Ofili's most recent show) I wouldn't like them, either.

That said, I saw the show with Pretty Lady, and she was less taken with the work than I was. We both agreed that Ofili is a real artist -- as opposed to most of the chuckleheads on display these days -- but she wasn't blown away like I was. Again, I'm a Modernist, and these struck that nerve hard. Particularly the sculptures and drawings, which look kind of silly online, but which in person really have a presence. The bronzes were especially captivating -- and I usually dislike sculpture intensely.

Again, I don't think Ofili is, like, the best living artist or anything. He's just good, and I like his stuff. Compared to almost everyone else showing in New York, he's nearly God incarnate. But that's like saying he's the top shelf in the basement.

As far as sensitivity: It took me a long time before I finally admitted to myself that I am, in fact, sensitive. I just admitted it very recently, too. I've come to realize that I'm sensitive and fragile. I never wanted to think of myself that way, but I was forced to accept it.

It sucks.

Pretty Lady says I should accept it as a blessing or something. I can't quite remember.



January 17, 2008, 3:30 PM

You usually dislike sculpture? Intensely?



January 17, 2008, 4:09 PM

Oh, dear. Well, I'll stay out of this, at least for the time being. I had to work late due to an inconsiderate colleague; it was already quite dark out when I finally left (thanks to the totally idiotic and dysfunctional time change in Florida), and I'm not up to anything even passably clever just now.



January 17, 2008, 4:45 PM

Well, when I look at a bunch of images and the best thing there is by Marlene Dumas, of all people, then I will just back off and let it go. Yow!

I guess it has gotten so bad that one goes around Chelsea hunting for the "real artist". It's like living in a jungle teeming with life and starving to death.


Chris Rywalt

January 17, 2008, 5:17 PM

The thing is, Chelsea is really big. I mean, the art world that's burrowed into Chelsea is really big. Chelsea itself is a fairly large neighborhood, but the number of galleries spread throughout it is monstrous. I think I've maybe set foot in half of them and I've been going pretty regularly for over two years.

So wandering around Chelsea looking for good art is a major expedition. And most of the time, most of the art is just absolutely dreadful. Depressingly awful. Not even merely incompetent, but actively wrongheaded. It's like going to Africa to see the jungle and getting stuck in the airport while people passing by throw rotten fruit at you. For a month.

But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of excellent art on show at any given moment. It's just, Chelsea is so large, it's easy to miss the good stuff.



January 17, 2008, 7:15 PM

The weaker the competition and the lower the standards, the easier it is to make a favorable impression. In other words, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king, even if he wears Coke-bottle glasses. Chelsea sounds like an elaborate, sophisticated fraud. Figures.



January 17, 2008, 7:38 PM

Well, we have a recession underway. Maybe that will shake out some of this lunacy.



January 18, 2008, 5:53 AM

Re:Chelsea sounds like an elaborate, sophisticated fraud

I know we're all shorthanding here, and I agree that most of what one sees in most of the Chelsea galleries at any given time is crap*, but I think we should keep in mind that "Chelsea" is not some consistent monolithic entity, but contains a lot of individual spaces run by individuals. Do the galleries that relocate from Williamsburg instantly become "Chelsea"? Ok, maybe Bellwether, but is Schroeder Romero "Chelsea"? Are the nonprofits located there "Chelsea"?

* Isn't 90% of everything, in every aesthetic field, crap? Isn't one defining feature of excellence its rarity?

And, playing devil's advocate here (because generally I agree with the judgment that most of Chelsea is crap), but couldn't there be just a wee bit of sour grapes here, as in, I'm not showing in Chelsea, and look at all the crap they're showing instead of my work?

Just something to keep in mind.



January 18, 2008, 6:21 AM

Amen to that, Oriane. I would have put it far less diplomatically.



January 18, 2008, 6:27 AM

I'm not showing anywhere. Never have, never will. I'm not an artist.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2008, 7:54 AM

I don't think, in my case, it's sour grapes. Confusion, maybe. I don't honestly think I've done much, if any, work yet that deserves to be shown. One of our instructors at SVA over the summer, I asked him directly at the end of the class: "Are any of these Chelsea level?" He pointed out one and said, yeah, that one's Chelsea. The rest, no. I pretty much agree with his assessment.

But that's my assessment of my work. When I compare my work to what's actually showing in Chelsea, then I get confused, because I think my work really is better.

But I haven't tried to convince anyone to show my work yet. I'm still working my way up to that. When I feel I have a body of work that's really up to my standards, then I'll give it a shot. If I fail then, well, maybe it'll be sour grapes. In the meantime, it's just my honest feeling.

As far as Chelsea not being a monolithic entity, well, that's what I was getting at when I wrote about how big Chelsea is. It's not geographically big, but it's got a lot of people doing a lot of different things. At any given time I wouldn't be surprised if I missed two or three shows of work I'd really like.

As far as Sturgeon's Law goes, the formulation is "Ninety percent of everything is crud."


Marc Country

January 18, 2008, 8:41 AM

No offense, Chris, but your "is it Chelsea level" anecdote made me throw up a little in my mouth...

Maybe it's sour grapes talkin', but, seriously, holy shit... Chelsea is ONE neighborhood (a big neighborhood, fine), in an awfully big world.

New York is undoubtedly a centre of finance, and has some of the inarguably great art museums of the world, but there is just no reason at all why any shit hanging in an commercial gallery in Chelsea, or SoHo, or, for that matter, in any city (even NYC) is gonna be any better than something hanging in a commercial gallery in... Duluth. Art is a global game. Chelsea, schmelsea...


Pretty Lady

January 18, 2008, 9:14 AM

Re: the Ofilli show, and tangential observations thereof--

To put it bluntly, nobody white from a First World country could have gotten that kind of work shown in Chelsea, and that's a pity. It was direct, non-ironic, emotional and disturbing, and the line and color quality were rather exquisite. It was created by a consciousness that never seemed to have heard of postmodernism.

I had the same thought when visiting the museum of modern art in Mexico City. About 90% of the work there was figurative, and it was figurative in a genuinely passionate, original and affecting way; there was none of the ironic detachment and cynicism, or dry formality, which permeates most figurative work I see being created and shown in NYC today.

For me, development of taste is a progressive thing, which can either be nurtured by thought, attention and discrimination, or crushed by the absorption of too much fashionable drivel. When I was six, I loved Boucher. When I was ten, it was Courbet. At fifteen, Picasso; sixteen through twenty-one, Bacon; then Vermeer, Tamayo, Noguchi and Bontecou. My taste for pure abstraction was fed by noticing the abstract elements which contributed to the visual and emotional force of the representational work.



January 18, 2008, 9:29 AM

I don't detect any sour grapes in what Chris says. From what I can understand of him he seems like an unusually guileless person. And even if sour grapes motivates a comment, that does not make it innaccurate.

I have been in the art business for many, many years and got in at a very young age. I am also quite familiar with other arts. I have never seen at any time a "scene" that is as deliberately and assertively bad as this one is, where virtually all reasonable conventions and checks and balances have been banished and where the very worst human qualites are tranlated into materials and slapped eagerly into gallery spaces.

I really am puzzled by the rapt admiration for the Ofili work - "...seems never to have heard of Postmodernism"??


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2008, 9:40 AM

That's one of the things that makes the Ofili show stand out: It had no pretensions and was content to be exactly what it was. His work is a throwback to the days of visual art, before the art world glommed on to the Word. When Pretty Lady says Ofili's work has never heard of Postmodernism, I think she's exactly right, and that's praise. High praise. Postmodernism is stupid.

Marc sez:
No offense, Chris, but your "is it Chelsea level" anecdote made me throw up a little in my mouth...

You may not like it, but the fact is New York City is still the center of the art world. This is where the dialogue happens. This is where the artists who will be in the history books show their work. Chelsea may not show work that's "better" than the work in Duluth, or anywhere else, but the bottom line is, work that shows only in Duluth doesn't even exist for most of Western civilization. Work that shows in Chelsea does.

Some people think the Internet is decentralizing the world. If it is -- I'm not entirely sure about that, especially in areas where physical interaction is required, like art -- if it is, it hasn't completely decentralized it yet.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2008, 9:42 AM

OP sez:
From what I can understand of him he seems like an unusually guileless person.

I'm going to take this as a compliment. I think of my openness as a virtue, even if it's really not something I can help. Pretty Lady says I might have a mild form of Tourette's.


Oriane Stender

January 18, 2008, 10:37 AM

With all due respect to PL and Chris, both of whom I consider friends, I think the comments about Ofili are bordering on condescending. To the artist. A consciousness that has never heard of postmodernism? Chris Ofili is an internationally renowned artist, one who is educated and sophisticated and who I guarantee you has heard of postmodernism. Maybe he has the ability, and has made the decision, to ignore or discard the high volume of bullshit that permeates the art world, but he is no "primitive", is not a naive folk artist blissfully ignorant of the ways of the modern world. He was born in Britain, went to several art schools, won the Turner prize, represented Britain at the Venice Bienale, etc., etc. I also think his work, on occasion, does show not just a knowledge of postmodernism, but a savvy use of it. He has used imagery derived from blaxpoitation films of the 1970's and other forms from black popular culture along with African motifs, P&D (pattern & decoration) elements, and puts them together, assemblage-style, to create a unique, signature look. For the record, I did not see his recent show in Chelsea, but I do find his work interesting and worthwhile. I also agree that it doesn't reproduce well, that if you just see it in jpegs, you miss a lot.

I guess what I'm saying is, go ahead and say his work is great, but don't let your dislike of postmodernism compel you to say that Ofili doesn't engage in it. In most hands, postmodernism is crap (I believe there was a 90% ratio mentioned above), but in the right hands, it can be fantastic.



January 18, 2008, 10:37 AM

It was meant to be a compliment. I don't know you, but everything you say on the blog seems to be completely plain and straightforward and free from hidden agendas. I can't say I agree with you about the art you like, what I've seen of it, anyway, but that's just the way it is.

Even so, how can you go ga-ga about that simpleminded drawing of Ofili's on your site when your own drawngs have twice the line quality, suggestion of volume, interesting disposition of parts, etc etc?


Pretty Lady

January 18, 2008, 11:26 AM

Oriane, my comment was the exact opposite of condescending, given my known opinions of postmodernist ideology. What's condescending is an industry that only pays attention to direct, non-ironic, highly visual work when it is done by a black person referencing black culture, particularly when that black person is educated in London. It's as if the Art World is saying, 'It's okay for your paintings to look like Nigerian Matisses, even though that's hopelessly retro, because Your People are still catching up.'


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2008, 11:30 AM

Oriane sez:
With all due respect to PL and Chris, both of whom I consider friends, I think the comments about Ofili are bordering on condescending. To the artist. A consciousness that has never heard of postmodernism?

Oh no, you misunderstand. I'm not saying Ofili has never heard of Postmodernism, just that he paints as if he hasn't. In his most recent show, anyway. I know Ofili's background, which makes it even stranger that Chelsea would "allow" him to paint the way he does.

I mean, a lot of people paint as if Postmodernism didn't happen; hell, a lot of people paint as if Modernism didn't happen. You just don't see their work in huge ground-floor well-attended openings in Chelsea these days. The thing that struck me most -- after I was swept away by the emotion of the work -- at Ofili's show was, Christ, no one else is allowed to show work like this. Why Ofili?

The only thing I could imagine was that Ofili is black and from the Caribbean. Later research showed that Ofili is black and lives in the Caribbean, but is actually more Western European than I am -- and I'm ostensibly white.

Of course, what I take away from this is that racial designations are becoming increasingly useless. They never really meant a whole lot in the first place, beyond what people brought to them, and now they don't even mean that half the time. But that's beside the point.

The point is that no one is showing straight Cubism, straight Modernism, on a ground floor in Chelsea. You're more likely to see appropriation, or collage, or assemblages of crap ala Tara Donovan. Some ground floor shows I can recall: Stux showing Chinese art; Tara Donovan at Pace with her giant stack of plastic cups; that environmental artist with the uncured plaster falling from the walls; Tom Otterness' enormous bronze parodies of everything decent and good about sculpture.

Not anything that would be at home with Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and Gauguin. But there's Chris Ofili! It was a breath of fresh air. It was fantastic. I was just overjoyed to see Modernism being shown. It gave me hope for myself.



January 18, 2008, 11:31 AM

That Offili show was so good. It seemed to play with a Blaxpoitation/1960s space age/Gaugin-inspired imagery with paint moving thick to thin like Gorky in some cases. The imagery looked internal and external simultaneously, ie informed by popular culture (how can it be avoided) and yet processed, somehow, in a completely different way than his earlier work. Cotter's review mentioned Offili moved to Tahiti and radical change was clear in the work. Saltz was more critical than the fawning Cotter, asking, "do you want to see another show like that in the future?" Yes, I think so--the paintings were open and raw, like he just didn't want to do anything but make a painting, and wasn't going to finesse them to suit another agenda.
There was also a fantastic show by Andre Pretorius at Zieher Smith at the same time--better in person than reproduction. The paintings had a real intensity, esp a young woman at her canvas and the deposition ripoff.
Quality does spring out but you have to be open to be surprised, too; I didn't want to like the Pretorius and caught myself closing down.
In Miami the Janet Cardiff/George B. Miller show at MAM was much discussed. The first piece, an installation with little cameras and a doctor's chair, was scary, dramatic, changed the character of all things for a moment, like theater. But other, lesser pieces by those artists didn't have the same impact and seemed to exist to fill out a show. This was not something I heard about in conversation but experienced seeing the work. Another show in Miami, the Jordan Massengale, had one wonderful painting: different than the others: a winter scene: the way it was painted had a different feeling. It wasn't the difference that made it so good, but the way it was handled, the lavishness of it.

Schooled in pomo, I am leery of absolute truths and the definition of taste as something fixed so that middlemen, galleries, crap art, chelsea and duluth are all part of it. I love to see what's going on, see how people are thinking. At some point, though, too much crap tires the eye. It's really important for these eyes to just keep looking, stay honed and knowing what to hit and miss back in the studio.



January 18, 2008, 11:34 AM

go see Jackie Saccoccio on the Lower East Side, the gallery --can't remember thename--is the one owned by Brice and Helen Marden's daughter (sorry)--JS is a fantastic painter.
You will be galvanized.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2008, 11:40 AM

OP sez:
Even so, how can you go ga-ga about that simpleminded drawing of Ofili's on your site when your own drawngs have twice the line quality, suggestion of volume, interesting disposition of parts, etc etc?

I'm blushing.

What you can't see in Ofili's drawings online is that they're not just lines he's using, but aggregations of very small, very fine circles and ellipses. They're kind of neat. Also, there are no online images (that I can find, anyway) of the drawings I liked best.

And I'll admit that some of what I liked about them is that they reminded me of my own drawings. There are times, though, when I wonder if my drawings are a little too good -- too consistent, too solid, too obvious, too measured. And that what would make them art would be more messiness, more mistakes. I'm not saying what I mean quite correctly, but maybe you get the idea.

But thank you so much.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2008, 11:45 AM

I actually saw Jackie's work at Black & White Gallery exactly one year ago today. I liked her drawings but her paintings not as much. I think I will try to hit that show, though.



January 18, 2008, 11:58 AM

Chris writes "There are times, though, when I wonder if my drawings are a little too good -- too consistent, too solid, too obvious, too measured. And that what would make them art would be more messiness, more mistakes."

My heart sinks. Or make the lines out of little circles? Let's not have well-done drawings, let's have drawings with cute little gimmicks?

I know what you mean by messing around, let the mistakes happen, and the like. That is standard shake-up-the-student talk. But ONLY if the drawings do get "too good -- too consistent, too solid, too obvious, too measured" as a result. Let me tell you something: nothing can be "too good".

As for Ofili, so many sensible people have chimed in about how wonderful this work is that I went back and looked and then scoured the interenet. OK, some of the pix would make dynamite book jackets, posters, etc. some of the color is good. He can design a picture. But I am still left with a distinct sense of a bunch of starving people who came upon a day-old pizza. The stuff just is not that great. I suppose I should actually see the real thing but here in Miami that is highly unlikely.



January 18, 2008, 12:04 PM

I suppose somebody should hire a medium to notify Ingres that his draftsmanship was a little too good, even if Degas liked it well enough. At least now we know better.



January 18, 2008, 12:05 PM

Apologies to Chris & PL if I misunderstood.

But, back to the Chelsea thing: Chris, you're still talking as if Chelsea was Big Brother or The Military Industrial Complex or something:
"which makes it even stranger that Chelsea would "allow" him to paint the way he does"

"The point is that no one is showing straight Cubism, straight Modernism, on a ground floor in Chelsea. ... Not anything that would be at home with Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and Gauguin."

Off the top of my head, with no research, I'd say I've seen some of those artists at Matthew Marks and Pace (ground floor, Chelsea), and maybe Marlborough. But the particulars don't matter. The point is you're using "Chelsea" like one might use "the Bush Administration". The art world is a little more complicated and diverse than that, and definitely bigger than Chelsea. Do you ever go to the galleries on the upper east side? Not to blow my own horn here, but I've shown in a few galleries in Chelsea (ok, one was on an upper floor), but Allan Stone Gallery on East 90th Street has sold more work for me than any other gallery. They also show Cornel, de Kooning, Gorky, Kline and many others. I'm getting a bit off-point here, but you might consider expanding your art universe beyond the big C.

And to opie:

I bet there are some Ofilis in at least one of the museums in Miami, or in the Margulies or Rubell collections.



January 18, 2008, 12:27 PM

Starving dogs, pizza.
I know what you mean, sometimes new work just doesn't look that good and one has to ask did everyone drink the Koolaid. I went there with Pretorius at first, snarling at the overt references to paintings of the past, the Deco edges, the clarity of it. Until the sheer wonder of the vision and rigor kicked in. The paintings demanded respect.
Pomo remixing trash to make sensation would be a line of thought..
Hard to say about Offili,"I've never seen this before."
Plenty of references and always were.
Easier to say, "I've never seen this before like this!" Allowing room to kvell about the paint, which was drippy and yet methodical, varied--really, like some Gorkys in its off-handedness--and the ways images became shapes, yadda yadda, and the scale of the things, --but the paintings were fresh, and that's hard to talk about, but I bet he experienced it; I know I did.



January 18, 2008, 12:48 PM

I have seen some here, Oriane. I meant the new ones.

OK, ec; if someone really likes something I really have no argument, only disagreement.



January 18, 2008, 12:51 PM

This may be neither here nor there with respect to the Chelsea business, but the comments about drawing reminded me of a print by one of the Carracci (Annibale, I think), who dabbled in graphic work despite being mainly devoted to painting. There was no color or paint involved, of course, meaning it was all basically drawing and design, but it was so strikingly beautiful that I had to keep looking at it to convince myself I wasn't imagining it.

There was no sense of laboriousness or prissy fussiness; it was simply perfect. It gave the impression that it had flowed out of his hand like water from a faucet, that he simply did it. It is forever imprinted on my mind because it was for sale for what now seems a ridiculously low price (sort of like OP's Morandi story), but I hesitated too long and somebody beat me to it. Sigh.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2008, 12:55 PM

OP sez:
My heart sinks. Or make the lines out of little circles? Let's not have well-done drawings, let's have drawings with cute little gimmicks?

And then Jack sez:
I suppose somebody should hire a medium to notify Ingres that his draftsmanship was a little too good, even if Degas liked it well enough.

Now my heart sinks a little. You didn't understand me. What I'm talking about isn't a function of draftsmanship per se -- that's craft. I don't think that art comes out of craft. Craft can help (although I also think it sometimes hinders). But that's not what I'm talking about.

The closest parallel I can think of is symmetry. Just as an example: One way to immediately improve your photography skills is to purposely not photograph the horizon across the middle of your image. Because having the horizon dead center is, in general, boring. Images that are too symmetrical usually are. That's just basic composition.

I'm thinking the same kind of thing might apply to my drawings, but not in terms of composition. In terms of...something intangible I can't quite express. It's the kind of thing completely missing from kitsch -- the absence of this is what makes something kitsch. It's something real, human, gritty, maybe abrasive, flawed. It's got elements of the Japanese wabi sabi.

It's the kind of thing that might make an imperfect drawing great art while a technically awesome drawing is boring. (It could also make a technically awesome drawing truly great art.) It's independent of the draftmanship of the drawing, I think.

Anyway. I'm not really expressing it the way I want. The point is, I think my drawings might not have that soul.


Chris Rywalt

January 18, 2008, 1:00 PM

Oriane sez:
The point is you're using "Chelsea" like one might use "the Bush Administration". The art world is a little more complicated and diverse than that, and definitely bigger than Chelsea. Do you ever go to the galleries on the upper east side?

Well, I do occasionally stray out of Chelsea. Not too often. There's just so much out there you have to limit yourself somehow.

I know Chelsea's not some monolithic entity, as I said before, and I know there's a lot out there beyond Chelsea. But -- and I said this, too -- Chelsea is the epicenter. It's where what matters happens. Important stuff happens elsewhere, too, sometimes, but ultimately -- at this historical moment -- it migrates to Chelsea. New York is the heart of the art world and Chelsea's in the middle of it.

So I'm sure there are plenty of Cubists out there still beavering away. But they're not being reviewed by Saltz, recognized in the Times, hung in the museums. That's what I mean when I talk about Chelsea.



January 18, 2008, 3:37 PM

All true, Chris, but if, as you say (and I also applaud your refreshing self-awareness and articulate honesty) you're a Modernist, you might find that other neighborhoods and markets are better suited to your taste and to your work. I think the foundation of a successful career in this business is a brutally accurate understanding of where one's work really belongs both aesthetically and commercially. Lack of that understanding can lead to much frustration, and some of the bitterness that Oriane first identified about 600 comments ago (which I don't think was coming from you.)



January 18, 2008, 3:46 PM

Chris, being able to draw like Ingres is not mere "craft," and I'm pretty sure Degas (whose drawing ability was not too shabby) would have agreed. When the ability to do something reaches a plane so high and rarefied that it seems suprahuman, and might as well be, we're not talking about something that can be either learned or taught. It just is, and it's damn rare. Those who cannot reach such heights can, and often do, dismiss the matter as mere technique or facility, but I don't buy that, and that sort of criticism frequently is sour grapes.

Just as it is possible to make a fetish out of proficiency, it's possible to make one out of "spontaneity" or "chance" or "letting it all hang out." Regardless, the bottom line is always the same: How good is the final product?



January 18, 2008, 4:04 PM

I wish people would be a little more careful about separating legitimate, serious complaints about the awfulness of the art business from "bitterness". Jack, for one, spends half his time here explaining that he is not even an artist.

Chris, your attitude about "craft" is nothing more than an unfortunate hangover from the "anything goes" 1960s. I am not one to disqualify an idea because its day is past, but that is one that is long since dead and not yet buried.

Check out "Craft and Art Envy" 1986



January 18, 2008, 4:10 PM

here you go



January 18, 2008, 4:22 PM

Permit me to add, as one who made his way in the NY art world in the '60s, that the disdain for craft which was born in the early 20th C, matured in the 60s and pervaded the art world in the 70s and 80s, has gone hand in hand with the wholesale deterioration of art into the forlorn state it is in today, what we might call the "Chelsea Syndrome" on this page. Determining causality for this is a book-length project, of course, but as far as I am concerned there is a straightforward, step by step relationbship.



January 18, 2008, 4:23 PM

Legitimate and serious, maybe- but still just complaining, which in my experience is not an effective transformative force. It's also boring.



January 18, 2008, 4:32 PM

Fine, but leave out "bitter". It's giving people motives without sufficient evidence.



January 18, 2008, 4:50 PM

It's more of a tone thing, really.

And as for the lack of craft, sure, there's an ocean of dreck out there, but it was ever thus. It is bigger now, but so is the art world/market; the percentages haven't changed. And there are a ton of talented, hardworking people for whom craft is an integral part of their work on both sides of the success line. I'm not seeing the complete breakdown that you are. It's a much more complex and varied scene, and it's a job to find great work sometimes, but it's there. And from my point of view, when I see great work, I go make more of my own. When I see shitty work, I go make more of my own. So it's win/win, you see?



January 18, 2008, 5:10 PM

A Minimalist Play

(Yes, I've found my calling. At least until further notice)


Jane Doe (a no-name artist, though potentially anybody)

Jeff Koons (or any analogous type, even if not so major)


Jane: Mr. Koons, you're a clever opportunist, a slick charlatan and a very lucky bastard.

Koons: Jane, you ignorant slut. You're just bitter.

The End

(Soon to be a major performance piece at some swank art fair or other suitable gathering of rich idiots)



January 18, 2008, 6:45 PM

Bravo. That's what I'm talking about. You can title it "Fish in a barrel." You must be very proud.



January 18, 2008, 6:46 PM

#87 I'm not seeing...

That's okay, maybe you can echolocate it.



January 18, 2008, 7:03 PM

If the fish fits, fry it.

And if the criticism and/or complaining here is boring, the remedy for that is so simple that it's, well...boring.



January 19, 2008, 6:59 AM



Marc Country

January 19, 2008, 8:26 AM

"Chelsea is the epicenter. It's where what matters happens."

Uh oh... there I go again... urp.



January 19, 2008, 9:23 AM

ca 1947:

"Paris is the epicenter. It's where what matters happens"

No one would have disagreed. But they would have been wrong.


Marc Country

January 19, 2008, 9:46 AM

Just yesterday, I was telling Ahab that, on my way to the studio, as I went through the french door to my garage, I noticed every little window pane was decorated beautifully by a different pattern of frost.

That was where what matters, happened...


Chris Rywalt

January 19, 2008, 10:03 AM

I agree, OP, that the art center moves around. I don't think it's moved from New York yet. It may be moving -- it may be moving to the Web, even. I'm not sure and I'm not qualified to say anyway. But I don't think it's moved yet.


Chris Rywalt

January 19, 2008, 10:18 AM

Peter sez:
All true, Chris, but if, as you say (and I also applaud your refreshing self-awareness and articulate honesty) you're a Modernist, you might find that other neighborhoods and markets are better suited to your taste and to your work.

You're probably right. Like I wrote earlier, I haven't tried to get my work shown; part of that is figuring out where I'd find a receptive dealer. My immersion in Chelsea is the first part of that; I'm learning as I go. Discussing things on blogs is part of it, too. Meeting people like Franklin and Pretty Lady and Oriane, too. When I started out I wouldn't have expected to find that I'm a Modernist, so it's all a learning experience.

I'd like to see a niche within the mainstream art world where my kind of work can flourish. That'd be nice. I haven't yet found any galleries that show my kind of work, although Museum Works Gallery represents Peter Stanick and Jim Wolanin (not that you'd know it from their site), whose work is sort of tangentially similar to mine. More Pop, though. Stanick particularly is an artist I think I'm responding to -- I'm trying to do something he isn't, trying to bring something to painting that he's missing. Stanick and Tom Wesselmann, too.



January 19, 2008, 10:28 AM

The contention, Chris, is that there is no art epicentre.


Chris Rywalt

January 19, 2008, 10:31 AM

Incidentally, I've gotten more compliments in this one comments thread than in the entire last two years online combined. To quote James Brown: I feel good!



January 19, 2008, 10:38 AM

Hey Chris, I'm here to share the love. We may disagree occasionally, but I love Pretty Lady! I love Chris! When I'm not being a miserable misanthropic cynic I love you all!

Love, O



January 19, 2008, 10:48 AM

Paris in 47 is so true, opie. Greenberg made the Parisian pilgrimage earlier but "It" moved to New York by 47. However, all those who beleived that Paris was still the epicenter could at least observe that "something" was going on in New York. Peggy Guggenheim's Art of the 20th Century" was there, MOMA was there, many European early modernists had moved there, lots of major museums were there ... the only thing missing were "sales opportunities" on the same scale as Paris. Today those sales opportunities are there and vast - the only thing more vast is the number of artists who want to participate in them. But "It" is not longer there.

So where is "It" today? Does the internet provide an adequate substitute for the geographical foundation all previous episodes of "It" seemed to require? I mean, do dots on a screen provide the fertility that face-to-face interaction between artists and their work provided in the past? I don't think so.

My feeling: Just as the best artists seem to be analogs of Unix's "nobody", so does the computer screen seem to provide little more than "nowhere" as a scene that might inspire them. "It" requires a real location, before the scene can rise to greatness. Unlike many artists who believe they "paint for themselves", I believe insipration that incites greatness usually if not always comes from serious association with certain other artists, an association that requires more than dots on the screen as its sole basis, though dots on the screen certainly can reinforce such associations. Maybe they can even get the ball rolling, so to speak. But in the real world of art, an object in motion does not tend to stay in motion - the forces of art business reality slow then stop it unless it can muster support for what inspires it. Without face-to-face talking, shows to access, and interest from Franklin's middlemen, the support finally becomes "nothing".

We can't paint for ourselves in the pure sense. It has to matter for someone. Otherwise the story is nobody, nowhere, and nothing.



January 19, 2008, 10:52 AM

Chris, your goals and game plan are clearly none of my business, but take care you don't devote too much time and energy to chasing the pot at the end of the Chelsea rainbow, because it may be the wrong rainbow (and even if there is a pot, it may not be what you imagine).



January 19, 2008, 11:01 AM has become to art criticism what Tristram Shandy was to the novel.



January 19, 2008, 11:03 AM

You are a special case, Chris. Not only are your drawings better than all the bad artists you admire, but you really sincerely admire those bad artists and do not seem defensive about criticism at all. I think that's great!

As Greenberg liked to say, art does not get made in the spotlight. The difference between now and the time of the AbEx artists is that now there is a monster art market. But they were completely on the defensive also; the market, what there was of it, liked Social realism, American Scene painting, Magic Realism, latter-day Dali-esque Surrealism,. School of Paris and all sorts of deservedly forgotten second-rate stuff. They couldn't sell squat and when they did have a show it was in one of fewer than a half dozen galleries that would even bother to look at their work. And this held true even in the peak year of 1950 when they were all in NYC painting their best pictures.

No, what is "happening" in Chelsea has little to do with art as such and a lot to do with a huge money bubble. Let's see what this coming recession does to it.

George? Are you still tuning in? Any comments on this?



January 19, 2008, 11:18 AM

George may have retired, but his potential replacement may have already appeared. Needless to say, there was bound to be no shortage of suitable candidates, it's just that the job pays poorly, if at all, and it hardly has the cachet of appearing in some trendy art rag (or blog). Let's face it, this ain't no Modern Art Notes. Thank Providence.


Chris Rywalt

January 19, 2008, 11:37 AM

Jack sez:
...take care you don't devote too much time and energy to chasing the pot at the end of the Chelsea rainbow...

Thanks. I'm not actually chasing anything in Chelsea, not really. I'm there to meet people. The reviews on my site are really just a way of keeping myself going to shows -- otherwise it's too easy to stop and do other stuff, like play around on the Internet. Because, as Catfish sez:

Unlike many artists who believe they "paint for themselves", I believe insipration that incites greatness usually if not always comes from serious association with certain other artists...

And I agree strongly. My time at the School of Visual Arts was fantastically productive. And the last opening I attended was for an SVA friend and a few more showed up, making us a little group, which I loved. And what I got from that is that it's vitally important to have other people who think of you as an artist -- it's important to have a group of artists around you. Just being in their vicinity, even if they're not working in your style, even if they're not very good, maybe, just having them around is good for you as an artist. Also, I've been going to drawing sessions, which have not only made me a better draftsman, but have given me another community of artists who consider me an artist. (And some of them are very talented.)

The online world has helped me meet artists, but I consider it an adjunct to actually meeting them in person, seeing their work, visiting their shows and studios. As Marc said about the frost on his studio windows, that's where the real work happens.



January 19, 2008, 1:48 PM

Chris, I think your drawings are very good. Your paintings, not so much. But painting is really hard, and takes a long time to master. I'm sure you'll be just fine, whatever your trajectory.

As for the other stuff from last night, you guys are really something. I'm blind, and I should leave (someone else's blog?) That's the best you've got? And busting on Koons? That's as interesting as my Dad complaining about Rush Limbaugh.

All my comments were made in good faith, to move the conversation forward. Instead of responses in kind, I got snarky, sarcastic jibes or harping on a word choice.

I would never use gross caricature like "gathering of rich idiots" to describe an art fair (unless it was funny, which it wasn't.) I don't understand why you have such chips on your shoulders, but it is UNPLEASANT. It does not foster open discussion. Do you guys get passes on the guidelines? Is it inconceivable that someone might have a less pessimistic view of the art world? Or do you just try to drive out anybody who disagrees with your certain certainties?

I joined this thread because it seemed a bit more open than usual, with new voices- female ones, even- and I liked the positive energy. But now it seems like the same curmudgeonly chamber of echoes, guarded by the same grouchy bloglodytes.

Mazel tov. It's like Fox News all up in here. Peace.



January 19, 2008, 3:00 PM

Painting is really hard, and takes a long time to master.

No shit, Sherlock. But whereof do you speak? Still, it's consistent with the condescension of #80, which may have been lost on Chris, but not on everyone.

You come in here calling people bitter and boring, and you expect what, exactly? We did indeed respond in kind.

As for Fox news, can't you do better than that? Go ahead and use the other f-word. Fascists. I expect you want to.

And do you actually believe that one's mere gender has anything to do with the validity of one's opinions?

If you find us UNPLEASANT, could it possibly be because we make you DEFENSIVE? Where do you and your work stand with respect to the Chelsea scheme of things?

I repeat the same suggestion you might make to someone who barged into your studio and started lecturing you to the effect that your work was the equivalent of bitter and boring: go find something more congenial. Peace indeed.



January 19, 2008, 3:09 PM

Moving right along… another drive by shooting.

Re# 62. Chris: You may not like it, but the fact is New York City is still the center of the art world. This is where the dialogue happens.

Not quite. NYC is the center of the art market, there’s a difference.

I understand Chris’s remark about ‘good enough for Chelsea’, it really has nothing to do with Chelsea, more the desire to make work good enough for some art center he sees as ‘important’. A reasonable aspiration.

The consensus on Ofili is correct, they were better than I expected.

Sikkema Jenkins had a very good painting show by Merlin James, he has an exquisite sensibility and feeling for the paint. They’re small, very nuanced. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Twombly exhibition at Gagosian, didn't expect it.

When you paint it with a broad brush, any art center will suck. Nearly the same thing can be said for individual artists, it’s very hard to make great artworks. Generalities are not very effective for understanding what’s going on.

Re #15. I thought the Picasso and his friends exhibition at the Whitney was one of the best I saw all year. David Smith, Gorky, Stuart Davis, along with Picasso, Braque and Gris were standouts. The Pollock’s were a mixed bad, and most of the contemporary stuff didn’t work that well for me.

I don’t think ‘taste’ is genetic, it is learned from the culture. I agree that some people have better taste than others, that people with good taste disagree and that good taste can be acquired by paying attention.

Happy New Year



January 19, 2008, 3:40 PM

Before the rhetoric elevates even further, I'd like to thank everyone for keeping the discussion going as I lame out this week. This is the first day I've had to myself since I put up the above post. I took the dogs out to the dog park.

Somewhere above I mentioned the injury one feels when looking at bad art, and may be the only reasonably safe place to express that. Even here, people show up to respond to that sentiment with accusations of bitterness, jealousy, and general uselessness. Too, they multiply the people expressing that sentiment into imaginary mobs with whom no reasonable discussion is possible. I tend to think that if mainstream success correlated to merit in the art world more dependably, damning opinions about it would come up less often, and those on the receiving end of such opinions would respond in a manner befitting the solidity of their position.



January 19, 2008, 4:15 PM

Peter, I don't want to read the whole page, but I can't recall anyone calling you blind or asking you to leave. That would be very much against our guidelines, and I would espect Franklin to come down on it. What are you referring to?

As for snarky & sarcastic, there will be some of that, but you just deal with it. We do all the time. We are not exactly mainstream, and we get some pretty tough comments.

And if we disagree with you, then disagree back.



January 19, 2008, 4:57 PM

OK, bear with me as I work my way down a dirty laundry list...


"No shit, Sherlock." Unkind, unwarranted, unhelpful, and exactly the kind of tone issue I was trying to point out earlier. Whereof do I speak? I don't know, Watson, what the fuck are you talking about? Here's the thing: there was NO condescending in #80. That was my advice, sincerely given, to a recent grad who makes very traditional figurative work, and who clearly has brains and skill enough to make something happen.

I called nobody bitter and boring; I called complaining boring, and an ineffective means for changing the world, and as for my choice of the word "bitter", if you're going to keep riding it like you're Rudy Giuliani and it's 9/11, then I hereby retract it and replace it with "angry."

I don't think any of you are fascists, since I know nothing about your political beliefs. I do know that you cut precious little slack for anyone who might deign to question some opinions that appear to be taken as givens here; e.g. that the art world is in a state of "wholesale decline."

One's gender has nothing to do with the validity of one's opinions, but it did seem briefly to affect the tone (that word again) of the discussion.

You're not making me defensive. I have nothing to be defensive about, because you've just been taunting me with silliness rather than trying to further the discussion.

And this isn't your studio, it's Franklin's blog, and I'm not calling your work bitter and boring, since as I seem to recall you're not an artist. I just don't think that the antagonism so easily aroused here is conducive to real discussion.

As for my work, why ask when you can find out for yourself? You're one click away from my site, where my work and CV are available to all.


I hope you don't think I'm creating imaginary mobs; I'm dealing with actual snarks from three regulars here.


If you have alternate interpretations for #90 and #91, I'd love to hear them. Mastery of the workaround does not equal fealty to the guidelines.

I don't have an axe to grind, and I did not come here looking for a fight (or a drive-by shooting, whatever that means.) If you think I'm uncomfortable with sarcasm, then you misjudge me gravely. I'm a grown-up. I expect to be treated like one.

If you had disagreed with me, rather than getting histrionic (you collectively) then I would have disagreed right back.

And look, speaking from the heart here, as a painter and fervent advocate of superior visual culture- righteous indignation may be the coin of the realm, so to speak, when it comes to public discourse these days, but as such its ubiquity makes it worthless. If practitioners of culture (and their groupies, Jack) can't look out for each other, then who else will?

Just be nice, for crying out loud. You'll feel better.



January 19, 2008, 5:53 PM

Lighten up, Peter. it is all just give and take, So give and take. You are the one generating the heat here.



January 19, 2008, 5:59 PM

Everyone stop talking about each other and come along with me as I think more thoroughly about #8. Maybe the point is not to cut out the middlemen, but to proliferate varieties of success. If I sold enough art, consistently enough for comfort, I'm not sure whether I would care if I ever got a positive review. I would like to show my work in the museums that show my heroes. But if the curators that put said work into the museums are retired or dead, and the current staff has completely different priorities, what would be the point of the honor? You end up the Groucho Marx problem of belonging to a club that would have you as a member.



January 19, 2008, 6:47 PM

Peter, you'll have to forgive me for not believing that you are a disinterested, objective observer with no conflict of interests when it comes to the Chelsea scene, dubious rich collectors or anything related to the current art scene in general. If anyone is such a creature, which may well be debatable, it is more likely to be someone like me, who's not an artist, not even an amateur one, and in no way connected or beholden to the art system or establishment, now or ever.

It is not only conceivable but beyond obvious that MANY people have a FAR less pessimistic view of the art world than some of us here. That is their affair, just as our view is ours. We are not here to be scolded or otherwise "rehabilitated" into seeing things as others do, or claim to do, simply because they perceive us as retrograde, bitter, boring, angry or whatever.

We do not owe anyone any apology for our convictions, and I will offer none. Your (or anybody's) opinion of said convictions is of no concern, though you are obviously entitled to it and will no doubt keep it. I expect we will also keep ours, come hell or high water, just as I expect we will rebuff any and all attempts to be "shamed" into "playing nice" or getting with the program.

If you want and prefer something different, as you evidently do, you know only too well where to find it. Everyone does, as it is more or less ubiquitous. Those of us who want no part of it, or can barely stomach it, need to create or find alternatives that suit us. Artblog is one such alternative. I trust you would not deny us the right to choose, think and act as we see fit. Nobody ever said you had to approve, go along with it or join in.



January 19, 2008, 7:42 PM

Re #8 and "varieties of success":

Deborah Fisher, on her new Sellout blog is discussing possible varieties of success (or context).
I agree with her that finding the right context for one's work is necessary, but really, let's be honest, who here wants their context to be cafes and the other venues lower down on the hierarchy? You could call it reality, growing up, "settling" or making do with what is available, but I think that for an artist who wants to play in the big leagues (and yes, that is assuming a hierarchy of contexts rather than the politically correct, it's all relative, all contexts are equally valid viewpoint) accepting cafes as your context is admitting defeat.

Of course aiming high almost guarantees some degree of failure (or at least failure to achieve every goal), but don't we, as artists, have to strive for the top? And sure, everyone can define their own Top, but don't we really all want the same top? I know I'm wandering off topic here, but doesn't it really come down to the fact there isn't enough room at the top for everyone, because, by definition, if there were, it wouldn't be the top, it wouldn't be so desirable. If everyone was in museums, it wouldn't be such a distinction to be in them. Yes, this is the elitism/hierarchy/scarcity world view rather than the We are all One, There is Room for Everyone love and kindness model. You can rail at capitalism, the market, the art world, chelsea, all you want, but it is reality. And we live in it.



January 19, 2008, 7:51 PM


If you say so.


Show me where I represented myself as those things. Show me where I stated or implied synonyms or even ideas of "rehabilitation" or "shame." And I said "be nice," which is different than playing at it.

My point, my sole point in this thread, is that if your goal here is to shout at people you already agree with (à la Fox News) then Mission Accomplished. If your goal is to budge the larger discourse, and win over a bigger audience to your point of view- which, to be clear, I didn't accuse of being any of those adjectives at the end of your second paragraph- then I suggest that a change of tone would suit that end handsomely.


I work with galleries, I work with nonprofits, and I sell out of my studio. To date, I'm my own best representative. It's not the fantasy, it's the reality, but it's real money and it keeps me in the studio where I belong. Institutional imprimaturs, how history views my work, etc., are out of my control and I don't concern myself with those things, and welcome what comes.

As for the existing system, it's the one we have. All markets and societal structures are there to be followed, gamed, ignored, or changed as one is willing or able to do. If my work is less fashionable right now, that still means there are plenty of people who really like it. It also means that it stands a good chance of being more fashionable in the future, especially if I make it as well as I can, and I behave like a professional.

The size of the market does nothing to change the ratio of talent in the pool; as I told Chris, I think the sine qua non of success is a true understanding of where one's work really belongs in both the market and the world. Self-delusion in that area is mortally injurious to happiness.



January 19, 2008, 7:56 PM

Sorry, I know that was a bit of a ramble, but here's some more, I'm just letting it bubble out.

Franklin, the problem of wanting to be in the museums with your heroes while the new curators/critics/environment that put them there has changed - isn't that the general life problem of Evolve or Die? We have to keep up with change and try to be aware of what venues will be the MOMA of the future. * As someone mentioned, all the guys who are in the museums weren't very popular when they were making those paintings so maybe it is our lot to live without the rewards, to not expect success during our lifetimes. That reminds me of when I was just out of art school and I would tell someone (usually a lawyer or business person) that I was an artist, and they would ask, do you sell your work? (in other words, are you a real artist). I would say, well, I've already sold more work than Van Gogh did in his whole lifetime.

*Or as you might put it, based on the very preliminary perusings I've done of your blog, find our Clem. Or better yet, create whatever the current/future Clem would be. Probably not an individual, not an entity, not a school or movement, but maybe some kind of mindpod of overlapping space in a Venn diagram.



January 19, 2008, 8:23 PM


I have noticed that a lot of current art looks like a product, go figure.



January 19, 2008, 8:27 PM

Peter, it appears your stated intentions and my perceptions are at odds. Frankly, I find you disingenuous, as you no doubt find me similarly objectionable, or quite possibly worse, but there's no point pursuing this further. It will only get more acrimonious to no good or useful end, and, if nothing else, that would not be fair to Franklin and his blog. I'm as beyond your persuasion as you are beyond mine. Let's leave it at that.

I believe Oriane has the floor, and her tack seems rather more promising and potentially productive than ours.



January 19, 2008, 8:38 PM

(I warn you these remarks are not cohesive)

I think, "proliferate varieties of success" is an excellent way to put it. I think it is possible to sell your own work consistently using the Web but right now, at this moment in history, it isn't possible to get your stuff in any museum (at least ones that have Franklin’s heroes in it) without working your way through the art machine, critics, press, academia, curators, galleries, etc., worlds that must be run by middlemen to a certain extent, because so much of it entails extensive, boring, and uncreative work. If the artist is dead when this happens a great effort on their part is not required. Maybe private investors can be convinced to open exhibition spaces (big and small) in which art that they think is really good can be displayed. These donors would have to have excellent taste. The point is in order to have artists control more than the means of production, money and time, a lot of both, are needed.

Of course if the entire process was democratized, if artists (not bullshit artists) handled all aspects of it on their own say, making, promoting, analyzing, displaying, recording, archiving, etc., they wouldn't have any time left over to make art. The need for middlemen will occur all over again. Of course, if artists could decide who would enter the golden realm, the museums, the history books, and who would not, rather than business people, or academics with agendas, things might improve substantially.

The problem with that though is that artists are very cliquish, they like helping their friends, and performance artists, digital artists, conceptual artists, sculptors and painters often stick together, even though they might give lip service to the notion of plurality. Artists like to see artists they like or art that resembles theirs (this is a two edged sword of course because artists might also resent when an artist gets credit for something they think they discovered first) succeed because these are substitute satisfactions, not necessarily the triumph of quality.

If the model we use for success consists solely of financial independence, making enough money from our art to sustain the process of making and the other stuff that is kind of important, rent, mortgage, health plan, etc., more and more people say they are able to do this thanks to the Web. I wonder how genuine or how numerous these success stories really are though. Life is really expensive after all.



January 19, 2008, 8:48 PM

Peter, as for myself, I write on the blog because I love to formulate my thoughts and opinions and ideas in words. It interests me and I like to argue.There was a time when I published all the time, but what I have to say is no longer fashionable so I say it here. This is not in any way "bitter" - my career is fine and satisfying and does not depend on publishing - It is just a fact.

Think about what you are saying about a "change of tone". A change of tone does no good. There are plenty of blogs and plenty of "tones" and none of them make much difference. Making sense, being clear, having a good point - all of this is just its own reward, like virtue (or perhaps making art) because the market doesnt care. It doesn't have to. What makes a difference, commercially at least, are the winds of fashion, and they are driven by crowds, not individuals. All we can do is make the best art we can and see what happens.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2008, 8:09 AM

Well, Peter, since everyone is jumping up and down on you, I'll jump in here. I didn't find anything really negative about any of your comments and I thought your observation about finding the right market was very good. I appreciate the advice, even though I have to point out that I'm not a recent graduate. I've never been to art school. I was at SVA for their Summer Residency program, which is sort of a class, I guess, but is really more of a studio rental. That's the closest thing to formal art training I've ever had. By the way, I'm 37 years old -- a bit late for getting a degree. And I hate school anyway. None of which changes your posts, which I liked. I thought you added something to the conversation here. So don't leave because Jack is being cranky.

I also think your work, Peter, looks good. Kind of Op Art blended with Modernism. I'd like to see it in person.

As far as my drawings being better than my paintings, well, you've nailed that one. I'm still finding my way in paint. Part of what I'm working on is bringing the drawing into the painting. Basically, I need to paint a lot more.

And Oriane: You've made so many interesting points here that I want to respond, but I don't have time right now. Maybe later.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2008, 8:10 AM

Hey, Peter, I see you're showing at Seton Hall. Is Jeanne Brasile still there?



January 20, 2008, 8:52 AM

Back a thousand comments or so I composed then deleted a comment on the uselessness of reading for tone. Regulating for correct tone is akin to demanding correct thought. Instead of worrying about pinching someone's feelings we assume community and take stabs at accurate arguments and rebuttals.



January 20, 2008, 9:01 AM

Is that what Jack's one act play was? A stab at accurate arguments and rebuttals? I liked Marc Country's vignette better, the one about the frosted window paynes.



January 20, 2008, 9:06 AM

Interestingly, though Franklin quoted an article referencing Drucker's Sweet Dreams: Contemporary Art and Complicity - no one here has taken a stab at its accuracy. Has anyone here read this book?


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2008, 10:25 AM

I haven't read it, but judging by its summary on Amazon, it sounds pretty awful.

"Drucker shows that artists today are aware of working within the ideologies of mainstream culture and have replaced avant-garde defiance with eager complicity. Finding their materials at flea markets or exploring celebrity culture...."

Sounds like what I call Dumpster Diving Art. Blech.



January 20, 2008, 10:32 AM

Re #126, Jack's play was an attempt to illustrate how those holding the money, clout and status, like their apologists or sympathizers, can easily and readily dismiss practically any criticism by playing the bitterness card, especially against those who are considered marginal, "out-of-it" or "incorrect."

I used Koons, but any number of other current luminaries would have fit the bill. My point was not about Koons per se or any one such specimen; he was simply meant to stand in for the prevailing art establishment as a whole. The fact he's such a spectacular example of the system's dysfunction obviously made him a particularly "attractive" poster boy.



January 20, 2008, 10:39 AM

I don't have my copy of the book here (must've lent it to someone) so I can't quote you a more nuanced passage and there are several. It's a worthwhile read.

It's reduced to something analogous to a jpeg (remember the Ofili portion of the discussion above) in the amazon bite. And reduced to something even more vague still in the passage from Artnet that Franklin has quoted. All the received material floating about renders the "tone" some are perceiving a little silly don't you think?



January 20, 2008, 11:51 AM

Fred anybody who writes a serious and at the very least fairly well thought out book about how the market and contemporary artists are intertwined is A-OK in my book. I am sure that a mini-book review of the Drucker book will not make for interesting dialogue simply because the noteworthy intellects who roam about these parts have taken the art/market journey many times before. That's why I won't go into the book any further. I also don't remember much of it. I read it soon after it came out and reading a lot of books tends to equal forgetting a lot of the books you read. (Sorry too rushed for grammar/spelling check)



January 20, 2008, 12:13 PM

I didn't call for a book review.

But I do think Sweet Dreams touched on a lot of issues surfacing here, from quality to middlemen to finding the right audience for your work. I think it amounts to somewhat more than some " devil-may-care, anything-goes 'complicit' condition" to which it is reduced in the artnet piece. I think Franklin's eight ruminations and the ensuing discussion would have more heft in the acurracy and rigor departments if the state of the arworld weren't described with such a broad and general paintbrush.



January 20, 2008, 12:31 PM

nine ruminations



January 20, 2008, 3:08 PM

Go for it Fred. If you can make specific not general (Are you an academic? Do you have a degree in art blogging? Are things not nuanced enough for you around here? Start a new blog called points studying the minutiae of the art world then you should. I come here because I am happy with the depth of analysis and the tone of the discourse although I have been testy in the past. Toneless prose (does it even exist) won't win many fans. I am not sure what art blogs you think do what you are asking for. You should start one. The same goes with Peter. I read a lot of them and I know what flavor each blog is, what the tone will be, what the topics will often be, what the moderator thinks, etc. They are like TV channels. Why get angry at an atmosphere. You can change it by joining it but that is the only way you can alter it.



January 20, 2008, 3:20 PM

Eric, puhleesse, read what I wrote. If you're not too overstimulated from all the millions of books you've been reading followed by forgetting you'll notice there's no mention of anger anywhere 'cause guess what? I'm not angry. I offered a suggestion based on an observation in response to Ahab. #125. And I responded to Chris #128.



January 20, 2008, 4:08 PM


"if the state of the arworld weren't described with such a broad and general paintbrush"

Sorry if I wasn't crystal clear there Fred. If you think Franklin's essay like blog entries do what you say in the quote above I would LOVE to know what blogs you have been reading. I find them nuanced and well thought and well written. I do not think that happens on most other art blogs. The content tends to be gossipy and self promotional.

That is what I was saying. Sorry if your quote above unfairly represents you but I can't think of anything else to use but your own words.



January 20, 2008, 4:13 PM

Sorry if you think I bragged about reading a lot. Satan forbid! It is funny but the one single point you made about the Drucker book (it was more nuanced than some gave it credit for), I made on Winkleman's blog last week. Since you have such excellent retention skills why don't you fill us in about Drucker yourself? Some general point that hasn't been made already would be super. What points did she make that really wowed you? I am truly curious to know. Artnet bites cock by the way. Please don't think I am defending them in any way.


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2008, 4:41 PM

Don't mince words here, Eric. What do you really think about Artnet?



January 20, 2008, 4:54 PM

Eric, please, let's not be small-minded or discriminatory. I expect there are people who like what Artnet does, even enough to pay for it. Do try to be progressive about this.



January 20, 2008, 5:12 PM

Let me modify my caustic statement which was meant to be humorous. The artnet regulars, Robinson, Finch, stink. On occasion a really good art writer writes for them and I am sure they do not get paid or get paid $200 for a full-length piece. I have two pieces in their archives. Robinson, when I met him in person the one and only time in his office, was nice enough to extend me an offer (as a freelancer of course) but he made it clear I would not be paid. Thanks for nothing.

Sorry I won't use the word coc- around here again. Check out my exciting blog if you want to hear that kind of language.

I will make this my last comment in this run because I have to go draw. Yes Fred, I have made millions and millions of drawings. I just don't buy it when people criticize this blog for being too general and nastily toned. The only reason I paid attention to it to begin with is because I thought that Franklin was very smart and articulate.



January 20, 2008, 5:19 PM

I read artnet, along with the bloggers and every day. So I am entitled to my opinions. Sorry for lowering the bar around here temporarily. I guess these blog runs that are little more than wheels spinning round and round get tiresome. My opinion is that Franklin reads a thoughtful and intelligent blog. His views on the art world and they way he expresses them do not make dialogue impossible. Casual discourse free from all general statements is an impossibility. Falsely encouraging or supporting or defending viewpoints or artists that you do not think much of is simply lying.



January 20, 2008, 6:03 PM

Eric, I trust you know I was being facetious in #139.



January 20, 2008, 6:12 PM

Jack you are a genius.



January 20, 2008, 6:41 PM

I hope you can find a uric acid filter for yor cheerios, Eric. I think I'll just go back to reading for tone.



January 20, 2008, 6:46 PM

although i have drawn a little bit and painted a few pictures years ago, i definitely would not consider myself an artist.

while this goes for all artists, it is in response to chris's search for challenge and inspiration to push his art forward. instead of chelsea, i would first recommend hitting your museums. moma, the met, the guggenheim, the frick...what more can any man ask for. if you need more fire under you ass go to nature. marc country's "frost on the window" is a great example from this thread or take anything else that mother nature provides.

sure it's great to be part of a community of artists for comraderie and other reasons, but to fuel the fire you will never beat nature and proven masters.

of course without practice, intense hard practice, like with anything, you will only get so far. and you can't be afraid to try anything that will make your art better, even steroids.seriously. or maybe just a few beers. just whatever it takes.



January 20, 2008, 7:12 PM

Chris, Jeanne is still there. I only met her briefly when I delivered the work, since I didn't get to the opening. Sorry I assumed you were a recent grad. Glad you found the comments helpful.

Eric, I do have a blog. Franklin even linked to it a while back. Probably not what you had in mind.

Re: frost on the window, I just stood outside in the balmy 16˚ evening to watch the moon be higher than it will be again until 2023, with Mars glowing pink off to the right. Now I'm glowing (though lamentably not higher than I will be again until 2023.)

You can all give me shit about the tone thing all you want, but if you removed all the various jumping-on-each-other-over- minor-shit-or-sarcastic-cracks comments, this thread would be half as long. So there's the efficiency issue, not to mention the carbon footprint.



January 20, 2008, 7:28 PM

Whatever you say, Eric. I hope you like my new and improved tone.



January 20, 2008, 7:41 PM

I can't believe it's not bitter better butter!



January 20, 2008, 7:42 PM

Eric, thanks for the clear-cut support for Franklin. I agree, of course.

Peter, you say "if you removed all the various jumping-on-each-other-over- minor-shit-or-sarcastic-cracks comments, this thread would be half as long"

And half as much fun.



January 20, 2008, 7:46 PM


I went to your website and checked out your art. Looks interesting. I am sure if I saw your stuff in person it would stir my curiosity and hold my attention. I haven't decided what kind of colorist you are but the sculptures and reliefs look really cool. However, my questions still stand:

"Since you have such excellent retention skills why don't you fill us in about Drucker yourself? Some general point that hasn't been made already would be super. What points did she make that really wowed you? I am truly curious to know."


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2008, 8:09 PM

Eric: This ain't my blog, so my approval is worthless, but as far as I'm concerned, you can use the word cock as many times as you want. Cock! Balls! Hooha!

Peter: No apology necessary. Of course you didn't know I wasn't a recent grad. You don't know me. And I didn't expect you to read my entire blog. Just half of it.

Now I have two reasons to go to Seton Hall: To see your work and to ask Jeanne why she stopped returning my phone calls.



January 20, 2008, 8:11 PM

Sorry it is late and I am losing track of who is who around here. I am not sure what to make of the piss and cheerios comment but...if you can't love me for who I am...


Chris Rywalt

January 20, 2008, 8:12 PM

1 sez: response to chris's search for challenge and inspiration to push his art forward. instead of chelsea, i would first recommend hitting your museums.

Museums cost money to visit. Galleries are free.

No, seriously, of course I hit the museums. Chelsea for me isn't about inspiration, it's about meeting people, seeing what's out there, getting to know how things work. Learning. Learning mostly that, yes, 90 percent of everything is crud. But learning nonetheless.



January 20, 2008, 8:48 PM

Re #145: sure it's great to be part of a community of artists for comraderie and other reasons, but to fuel the fire you will never beat nature and proven masters.

Chris, this is bad advice. The comminity is very important. The dialogue between you and your peers is important bacause it helps to make you aware, which makes other art relevant to you in a personal way. A lot of wannabe artists can appreciate a Velasquez or a Vermeer, but they have no clue how to bring this appreciation into the contemporary context.

Regardless of where you find your inspiration, the work exists in todays context, not in the past. You can revisit the past, but unless you can revitalize the work into the contemporary context, it will be appreciated only through nostalgia and nostalgia fades away.



January 21, 2008, 5:26 AM

Eric, thanks for looking. They have a hand-paintedness that is not visible in pictures.

You've confused me with someone else regarding the second half...

Only if they're funny, Opie, which most of them aren't.



January 21, 2008, 6:13 AM

Heated discussions and debates are not "funny" by their nature, Peter. Humor is always welcome, but a requirement like that would be fatally inhibiting.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2008, 6:58 AM

George sez:
Chris, this is bad advice. The comminity is very important.

Thanks, George. I agree that community it very important. I was never as "inspired" as I was during that month at SVA, but the inspiration wasn't direct, as in "This guy's work is great, I must measure up to him" or "This girl's work fills me with the desire to create my own." It was just the space, and being surrounded by other artists working on their own projects. And the fact that, when I was bored, I could wander around and bullshit with people.



January 21, 2008, 8:12 AM

George: A lot of wannabe artists can appreciate a Velasquez or a Vermeer, but they have no clue how to bring this appreciation into the contemporary context.

If you're saying wannabe artists should stop using time machines to appreciate art, then how could I not agree? If you're suggesting there's a contemporary context that's somehow different and more profound than their personal, in-the-moment experiences of the thing, then ALAS & ALACK.



January 21, 2008, 8:13 AM

Chris, I'm glad you had such a good experience at SVA. My experience of art school was on the whole negative, without much sense of community. In fact, when I met Pretty Lady a few years ago, we discovered that we attended the same art school, not at exactly the same time, and we bonded over our similar feelings about how detrimental art school was to our individual creativity and growth as artists/humans (that's condensing it way down; I could go on and on and I'm sure you've heard PL rant about it because once you/I get started on this subject, it's like lancing a festering boil. Bitter, me?). But I digress. Maybe coming to art school (I know you weren't in a degree program, but it was still art school, in a small dose) at a later age, as a more mature person (I know, you're going to tell us how non-well-adjusted you are, but really, think of the maturity level of 18 year old art students) with some life experience puts you in a better position to take advantage of the good stuff and filter out the bullshit.

Please excuse all the parentheticals; I seem to be in a very tangential mood.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2008, 8:37 AM

I had a great time at SVA. Nothing but positive. Well, not absolutely nothing -- there was a little bit that wasn't awesome. But mostly it was just fantastic. If you read through my three posts on my blog about it you can get a more specific idea of what I thought of it.

But my time at SVA wasn't really art school per se. It was more like what they used to call "adult education" and then called "continuing education" and now call something else. I forget what. It was kind of like a pottery class at the nursing home. Well, maybe a bit more serious than that. But I felt like one of those old fat guys on American Idol who think they can finally put some time into their singing career, you know?

No, really, I had a great time. Met some wonderful people. Made some friends. Got a ton of painting done -- more painting in one month than in the preceding two years. I surprised myself.

I imagine my maturity level helped. I know I'm still hopelessly immature, but I'm certainly more mature than I would've been had I gone to art school at 17, which is when I arrived at college. God, I was young and stupid. Art school would've given me way too many opportunities for being even stupider. Also, I wouldn't have met my wife at art school -- and then who'd be paying for my art classes now?



January 21, 2008, 8:46 AM

to george and chris:

as a non- artist giving advice on how to make your art better, it should not disqualify me from possibly being right. i am deep into art and sometimes it helps to get an outside perspective.

i never said the community was not important and i think it is. but i do think if you want to make the best you will get more from proven masters in museums and nature than you will from "the community". sure vermeer and velasquez are great to lean on as george mentions, but art has not really moved forward much from pollock, smith and hofmann. so why not build from here. they are undeniably masters.

from what i have read, many of the best artists to have ever lived have said something very similar. and i agree.

there is still so much to take from these 2 sources, you just need to dig. "the community" is fine as a support system and some commraderie, but you need to go to the best to get better.

many lost,terrible artists are too caught up in "the community" and "todays context" to create great art.

of course you need drive and god given talent, but...

Cezanne, Hofmann and numerous other masters repeatedly said that you have to go to nature.

olitski himself said,"One reason, maybe the best, why we go to the museum, is to see great art, to get the look, the feel, the smell of "quality". It's as simple as the reason Willie Sutton gave for robbing banks: "It's where they keep the money." The great museums are where great art is."



January 21, 2008, 8:52 AM

chris i also failed to mention that i think your drawings are good as well. they have a matisse type feel. unfortunately the paintings are not up to the level of the drawings. since you draw in somewhat of a matisse type manner, maybe it would help your painting to look deeper into his painting as well.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2008, 8:53 AM

Ahab, I think was George is saying is that you can't paint in the past. You can't paint like Vermeer because Vermeer and his times are long gone. Even if you copy a Vermeer perfectly (in terms of technique or otherwise), it's dead.

Modernism -- as W. Darby Bannard writes about it -- is about looking to the past to find what they got right and then bringing that into the present. That's where community comes in: You need to be aware of the present moment, both in terms of your own experience and in terms of what other artists are doing. I think that's important; otherwise you're an Outsider Artist, some kind of idiot savant laboring away in obscurity. Art is about communication, dialogue: If you're talking to yourself, it's not art.

Personally, I've found that community provides necessary reinforcement. No one treated me like an artist until I met artists. When you tell an artist you're an artist, they just assume you are and treat you as such. Suddenly you're not some computer programmer with unbelievable aspirations, you're an artist. That's important. Also important -- for me anyway -- is having someone say, "What have you been doing?" and when you reply about taking the kids to school and cooking dinner or whatever, they say, "No, no, I mean, what have you been painting?"

It's so easy in this world to lose track of things, to forget to do what you should be doing and instead keep doing what other people think you should be doing. (Cf. E.E. Cummings.)


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2008, 9:00 AM

Thanks, 1. I should note, I guess, that the paintings on my site are a mixed bag. I never filled in the date field in my database properly, so there are no years on them, but some of those go back as far as 1998, when I was painting in an entirely different style. Nowadays I'm exploring more along the lines of this one and this other one. (Jerry Saltz called that last one "visionary." Not to toot my own horn or anything.) The work I did at SVA isn't up there yet, except for the portrait of Ling, and that's a terrible photo. A couple of my SVA paintings are in that first SVA post I linked to above.



January 21, 2008, 9:02 AM

Oriane and Pretty Lady: Have you seen Art School Comfidential? I don't think it is supposed to be a comedy, but I laughed my butt off watching it the other night after ignoring it for a long time. It was on The Movie Channel.

Much of the time it is more a parady than an accurate rendition of what goes on in art schools - at least the three that I've worked in and the 10 or 15 that I've had pretty good knowledge of. But it is dramatically fun.

The ideal art school gives students permission to do their best. That does not rule out discipline because you must have discipline to exercise permission in any meaningful way.

However, the problem that plagues most art schools is that discipline is too often practiced for its own sake, rather than to enable permission. The pomos are as guilty of this as the most traditional figure fanatic. That is, pomos will defend their limitations to the death, seemingly. "Advanced" and "enlightened" faculty get so angry if even a single person wants to stray from "the path".

My own experience in art school was very brief, two years. But I was lucky that the place was soaked in permission at that time. There was real trust that students could work it out for themselves, as long as we worked and worked hard. Students welcomed faculty comments because we knew faculty would get out of our way if we wanted to take a different approach. I took my exprience with me when I left, and it certainly informed my teaching approach for the four decades that followed, often to the benefit of those who worked in my classes (nothing works for everyone).


Marc Country

January 21, 2008, 9:09 AM

"... otherwise you're an Outsider Artist, some kind of idiot savant laboring away in obscurity."

Actually, we prefer the term Studiosavant...



January 21, 2008, 9:17 AM

Yes, I saw Art School Conf and was quite disappointed with it because Terry Zwigoff's previous movies (Crumb and Ghost World) were so good. I know Terry slightly and was planning to interview him when ASC was released, but it was so bad that I was embarrassed for him and didn't want to ask him anything for the public record. Privately I might have asked, WTF were you thinking, but I don't know him well enough to go there, and I don't think I could confront another artist, one whose work I have respected in the past, with such a judgment. That's why I don't make a good art critic. I do some writing, but mostly interviews and essays.

From what I remember, the film was mildly entertaining as farce, and there were several times when I laughed out loud at some perfect skewering of something, but in general I thought it was a letdown. Crumb was really great.


Marc Country

January 21, 2008, 9:39 AM

Art School Confidential was just a little too deadpan, a little too scathing, and too much of an inside joke, to be as widely popular as those other films. I found it hilarious, and suspect (although I certainly don't mean to point fingers at Oriane) that many people in the art world just couldn't laugh at all the jokes, because so many of the jokes were on them. For all its obvious absurdity, the art world takes itself very seriously...


Marc Country

January 21, 2008, 9:44 AM

... meanwhile, regular folks not in the artworld, just couldn't be bothered with a film like this, because for most people, the real art world is already a joke.

Now comic books, on the other hand... everyone loves comic books...



January 21, 2008, 10:00 AM

Oriane, please, no festering boils. Too indelicate. Think of our tone.



January 21, 2008, 10:01 AM

" need to go to the best to get better"




January 21, 2008, 10:02 AM

Re #54, my comment to Chris.

Everything happens in a contemporary context, our experiences are colored by the culture we are living in. I did not say anything which suggested that a young painter could ignore past masters. I was suggesting that the artistic community is important for a young artist.

A case in point. If one looks at the development of Van Gogh’s paintings, it is quite clear that when he went to Paris he was influenced by his peers, the community. No doubt all of them looked at the masters in the Museums, but as a community, as a group of artists, they took fresh view of the past which became Impressionism. In Van Gogh’s work, this change is abrupt and clearly a result of this experience.

[1] but art has not really moved forward much from pollock, smith and hofmann. so why not build from here. they are undeniably masters.

Sorry but I disagree. It is more complex than this. There is a lot of art which has been made in the following 50 years which is or will be considered the work of masters. Time marches on, and so does art. Where I find community important is not in the dark way alluded to here. It is in the ability to have deep conversations with your peers, to examine and investigate your reactions to the art you see, the masterful, the good AND the bad.

A year ago I ran across a bunch of paintings from the late 1800’s on a Belgian auction house website. I looked at a few, dismissed the paintings as uninteresting, and started to move on. I stopped myself, wondering why I had so quickly dismissed them. I went back for a second look, picking them apart. Now, if one is just trying to discern good from bad, it was a waste of time, I already knew they were not good. However, as a painter, the "why" factors were useful information because part of the process is knowing what not to do, as well as how to do it better.

This same kind of dissection can happen visiting the galleries with your peers, and it can happen here online. In order for this kind of conversation to be valuable, it must extend past the trash talk we all make when looking at art we don’t care for.

Further, I am convinced that there are generational factors which come into play. That artists of each particular generation have a predisposition to see or approach the world in a particular way. I am not sure what causes this but I have seen it occur with untrained artists I knew. Whatever the cause, it would obviously be reinforced by ones peer group and this gives the young artist the confidence to move forward.

Chris seems like he is excited by what he is doing, that’s as good as it gets.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2008, 10:10 AM

One of the reasons I write the reviews I do is to do exactly what you're talking about, George. It's easy to say "I don't like it," but to say why you don't like it, to figure that out -- that's important.



January 21, 2008, 10:24 AM

re 168: Oh I laughed at the jokes, but it was sort of like when a great sketch idea gets turned into a feature-length movie: jokes aren't enough to sustain the larger format. And some of the basics were off. For instance the hot happening opening was in Soho (Chelsea was never mentioned). And the women characters were not fleshed out at all. As I recall there was the beautiful, sought-after girl (object of main character's desire) and there was an an angry lesbian art student who hated men... can't remember the details, but I do remember that the women characters, to the extent that they were present at all, were shallow stereotypes.

I'm mortified at the thought that the aforementioned festering boils might bring down the tone here. How bout if they're just slightly simmering? Maybe a tone poem is in order. An Ode to The Festering Boil that is My Resentment, the Angry Polyp that is my Regret.



January 21, 2008, 10:44 AM

Now that's funny.

I thought the movie sucked, too. Cheap stereotypes, no believability, no oxygen. Worse even than "For your consideration."



January 21, 2008, 11:45 AM

Oriane, I'm sorry, but polyp is absolutely off-limits. Think of the anatomical location. Think of the physiological milieu. Think of the political associations--after all, He Who Cannot Be Named had such a thing. It's just too dreadful to contemplate.

We really must have some sort of sensitivity training course here, Franklin. Maybe Supergirl can put something together if you're too busy, but this shocking state of affairs cannot continue unchecked. Next thing you know we'll be facing a morals charge.



January 21, 2008, 11:59 AM

Now comic books, on the other hand... everyone loves comic books...

The Dan Clowes comic that Art School Confidential was based on is a work of unalloyed genius.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2008, 12:10 PM

I must admit I'm not a big fan of "art" comics, like Clowes, or that American Splendor guy, or Chris Ware. This'll probably make Franklin unfriend me, but I have to say it. Maybe it's because I grew up on deeply unpretentious comics. I don't know.

I think guys like Alan Moore and Frank Miller have done so much more to improve comics than any "art" comics creators ever have.



January 21, 2008, 12:16 PM

Are you kidding? I own the original Watchmen series. I think I have original Dark Knights too, or two out of three.

Clowes is good and I admire Ware. Pekar never did anything for me.


Chris Rywalt

January 21, 2008, 12:28 PM

I have my original Watchmen issues but I don't read them. I have the trade paperback for that. And Dark Knight, of course. Also all of Sin City, which isn't as amazing in terms of breaking new storytelling ground, but is artistically fantastic.

Alan Moore's Promethea is the most recent comic that really got my attention, but only after it had finished its run. I was collecting David Mack's Kabuki: The Alchemy, which is visually stunning, but ran out of steam when I realized I had no idea what was going on in the story since I never read any of the previous Kabuki comics. Also, the publishing schedule has been somewhat erratic.

Joss Whedon and John Cassaday are doing great things over on Astonishing X-Men, too, but again, the publishing schedule is so erratic I have no idea what the plot is any more.



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