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Post #1123 • February 12, 2008, 7:16 AM • 68 Comments

Larry Poons: Paintings of the 1970s, published in conjunction with the exhibition at Jacobson Howard.




February 12, 2008, 8:31 AM

'This vertically striated surface is a template for the visual interaction of the colors and an organizing principle which both replaced the more calculated spot-and-field method and allowed the paint to be "painterly," to look like paint, like a colored fluid rather than an "unnatural" dot or ellipse.'

does the paint looking like paint make up part of Poons' seriousness? how is this wound up in the 'craft'
of painting? Bannard tends to lay some emphasis on craft throughout his writings and CG plotted some thought around modernism and the artisan (see Late Writings) i have been giving this a lot of thought lately. somehow craft has become suspect...

if anyone can point to more specific address in Greenberg or anywhere else please do.



February 12, 2008, 9:16 AM

That the paint looks like paint rather than being worked into the service of depiction is a characteristic of modernist painting but here it is only a description. It may be "bound up" with Poons' seriousness but is not proof of it or evidence for it.

The campaign against craft is a settled part of the Postmodernist agenda but arose in company with the later phases of Modernism. I think what Poons worked out in these pictures can certainly be seen as a specias of craft, although not one readily recognized and identified or "traditional".

I'm not sure what you mean by your last sentence, re Greenberg "address".



February 12, 2008, 9:21 AM

"I call it seriousness: the reckless necessity to make your art as good as you can make it, whatever the consequences."

I'm having some trouble with this statement. For me seriousness is something involving deep thought or concentration. I don't see how anything reckless can come from seriousness.



February 12, 2008, 9:45 AM

You have a point, Darren. It is partly a semantic problem. "Serious" is being used here as a quasi-value term, conforming more to definitions #3 - #7 below rather than to definitions #1 & #2.

1. of, showing, or characterized by deep thought.
2. of grave or somber disposition, character, or manner: a serious occasion; a serious man.
3. being in earnest; sincere; not trifling: His interest was serious.
4. requiring thought, concentration, or application: serious reading; a serious task.
5. weighty or important: a serious book; Marriage is a serious matter.
6. giving cause for apprehension; critical: The plan has one serious flaw.
7. that which is of importance, grave, critical, or somber: You have to learn to separate the serious from the frivolous.



February 12, 2008, 10:09 AM

You have to be reckless about things like reputation and continuity, not necessarily reckless about craft or execution. The term fits Poons well because he was literally throwing paint, but even artists who use more control have to harbor a willingness to contradict all their previous work if that will make their present work better.



February 12, 2008, 10:18 AM

i was just wondering if anyone off the top knew of specific texts that went into the issue of the artisanal aspects of modernism. bannard has some excellent things to say through discussion around craft. i recall a text on glass work and also mentions of certain traditions in pottery. one of the best texts for my money and has nourished me through all of my development is 'The Unknown Craftsman,' by Yanagi I believe. It is a collection of very human texts that deal with aesthetics through the appreciation of pottery and a history of craft traditions. key figures are shoji hamada and bernard leach.



February 12, 2008, 10:31 AM

is there a consensus around the how of handling paint? can we generalize fruitfully about the physicality of good painting? i tend to land on CG's end of the taste spectrum vs. other more aggressive physicality (read olitski or noland vs. new new for example). although susan roth is a case for consideration. poons is pretty physical too but even the lumpiest poons doesn't make me think sculpture or relief for that matter (of the ones i've seen)



February 12, 2008, 10:40 AM

Franklin, I struggle with the word reckless. I find it hard to be reckless about anything regarding art however inconsequential it might seem. Unfortunately today it seems as though reputation is as much a part of art as the art itself.

The idea of contradicting previous work for the sake of making present work better is a tough but good approach I think.



February 12, 2008, 10:42 AM

Yanagi, Hamada, Leach - can't go wrong there. Sometimes a little precious & revivalist but always strong in the "human values" department. I think if I started a religion it might be centered on that sort of thing.

"physicality" in paint is fine but, as always, it has to be done right. The "relief" effect does not interfere with my looking at a painting. Jim Walsh does paintings that are sometimes literally piles of material but they are still obviously paintings.


art looker

February 12, 2008, 10:47 AM

I really like looking at art that I like to look at. This poon's looks real good. I'd like to see more of these.



February 12, 2008, 10:47 AM

i keep running into mostly inane and perjorative notions of greenberg's 'opticality' but nevertheless maybe an aspect of quality is wound up in specific tension between the 'optical' and the 'artisanal'....

ahhh this is all too nebulous. i just like to talk about painting. as a painter (esp. a student) somehow the notion of developing a feel or understanding of the materials was corrupted for me by pomo-ism and it took a while to break down those prejudices. that skepticism is unfounded and thankfully blasted by major art. it did influence my process and can still make me feel like its all schmaltz in those doubtful studio moments. but when you consider the skill and technique involved in a titian or raphael you are face to face with seriousness. noland as an example is a master craftsmen. the empathy to able to see how far painting's language can be pushed seems rarer and rarer as Art Mart exacts its hegemony on real content.



February 12, 2008, 10:49 AM

Darren I think it has to do with the implicit values carried by the words. "Reckless" is not necessarily "uncaring" or "negligent". It really just implies, in this context at least, plunging ahead without hesitation and fussiness and with no regard for what art is "supposed" to look or be like. it's something like having a good game plan for a football game and then going all out and letting circumstances dictate change.



February 12, 2008, 10:50 AM

Art Mart, incidentally, is just down the street from the Academy.



February 12, 2008, 10:51 AM

"blasted by major art"




February 12, 2008, 11:08 AM


is there a listed chronology on the WDBA? i read a lot of stuff maybe six months ago and was wondering if there was a way to tell which are the most recent uploads?

Thanks for investing the time to maintain the WDBA and thanks to Bannard for writing in the first. That archive and this blog are treasures to be sure. I was thinking yesterday after reading 'Art Glut' from 1984 that WDB is exactly what that generation needed and of course all those dare to follow. his writing sometimes kind of updates greenberg, bringing greenberg's ideas AND Bannard's to bear on the conditions of the last 30 years in a way in which CG could never have done. obviously clem is gone by 1994, but specifically i think it's important because for one, bannard is a painter and talks through his experience with art as a maker, and for two, bannard is of a different generation dealing with different issues with a correspondingly different world view.



February 12, 2008, 11:08 AM

good grief. i meant a chronolgy of the uploads....



February 12, 2008, 11:12 AM

i thought we WERE starting a religion....



February 12, 2008, 11:57 AM

Actually the best way to get converts is to start a religion.

"The Church of Latter-Day Paints".

WDBA is listed chronologically.



February 12, 2008, 12:19 PM

i can't find a decent defintion for 'malerische'



February 12, 2008, 12:37 PM

what shall we say of facility? do the major painters elevated by greenberg et al demonstrate as a group a distinct indebtedness to craft? once the process of painting makes the jump to the floor, (just one example in the history of things) i mean that is a quantum leap with brand new criteria folks!!! how does the quality of Titian or Cezanne now work this shit out? we had brushes and paint pots before. the developments since, advanced by the best painters and sculptors are amazing. but i just wonder what acan be said about this salient level of crafstmanship that permeates the whole enterprise. i like that it trumps insincerity so easily.



February 12, 2008, 1:02 PM

You are asking something that needs refinement and redefinition.

Craft is "sincere" (that awful word) and "facile" by nature. It denotes a method of working with materials that provides a certain effect.

Any art that amounts to anything has evolved; it carries a density of choice which amounts to "craft" whether it conforms to defined notions of craft or not. "Advanced" artists usually tackle some element of method an inventive prior artist has succeeded with, hence that continuity of style which we see in the history of art.

The problem is that when we separate art up into words the words get all sorts of inappropriate assumptions attached to them. This is why "craft" and "facility" now have negative connotations.



February 12, 2008, 1:09 PM

Unfortunately there's no listing of articles by upload date. Some of them were installed and then significantly edited later on, so it would have been hard to pick a day.



February 12, 2008, 4:46 PM

I would much rather look at Hamada's pots than Poons' paintings.



February 12, 2008, 5:56 PM

Painting requires that the artist knows how the materials of painting behave, this ‘craft’ is a general requirement of the trade.

Craft cannot make an otherwise bad painting good.

Craft can interfere with the perception of a painting by making the viewer primarily aware of the paintings craft.

Re#7: I do not think the "physicality" of the paint matters as an issue, but the paint matters. A painting is simultaneously an image and an object. For me the best paintings find a way to merge these two characteristics allowing the viewers awareness to oscillate between the paint and the image.

Velasquez was a master of this, from a distance details like lace, look like lace, upon closer inspection they are just paint. If you look at the works by his followers, the details look like details close up, fussed to death. While a painting is an image it is not what it depicts, it’s not lace, just an image of lace made of paint.

This same referential perspective could be applied to Poons. (I haven’t seen the JH show yet, but I’ve seen some similar works)The physicality of the paint allow Poons to find an image, that regardless of whatever external reference it may have, ultimately is also just the paint.



February 13, 2008, 8:40 AM

"Malerische" has currency in art writing, meaning "painterly", but does not have a dictionary equivalent in English, as far as I can find out.



February 13, 2008, 8:40 AM

thanks george.
you guys are kinda tough to crack. part of the discussion of facility and craft i would like to see through hofmann. but i know the discussion isn't necessarily worth having. anyways, poons applies to some other thoughts i've had fairly unfruitful discussions with my peers about. looking at some stuff yesterday we got into our ongoing discussion about the ubiquitous faux brass/gold strip used to frame a hell of a lot of abstract work from the mid 60's on. i have always had a HUGE problem with it. And this is not just a lame gripe. i have had opportunity to mask off major quality work and to my eye it shows that the reflective strip greatly distorts the experience. as an example, it totally corrupts the late seventies olitskis i have access to. any information near the edge is highly influenced not to mention the overall picture. i would like to talk a bit about framing. depending on the particular work finally, i tend to prefer the unframed canvas but i am very perplexed about the old school reflective gold strip? if it is/was about prestige well hell it's just nasty and cheap. but this issue is interesting in relationoship to historical work. and that's pretty deep water for me.



February 13, 2008, 8:44 AM

Framing for abstract or modernist art has never really been settled. Look at those terrible late Picassos in their rococo frames!

A lot of people don't like the gold strip. I am neutral about it myself.



February 13, 2008, 8:47 AM

how does the work leave the studio then get totally transformed and nobody says nothing?! or is there something i'm missing? i can see where a frame can appropriately assist some work but when it gains presence to the extent that it alters the color and light in a work then what the hell am i missing? should i just see past it?
gallery lighting always creates hotspots that seem absurd!



February 13, 2008, 8:55 AM

any thoughts as to why the gold strip in the first? i was in an electronics store recently looking at flatscreens. some (most) of the current screens are framed by a high gloss black border about three inches wide. it struck me first as really distracting. then i got to thinking about the reflection (granted, this was 3 inches wide) and how the liquidy relfection from the gloss plastic seemed a really interesting thing. it remained somewhat unlocatable spatially setting the screen image off in an interesting way. it was more immaterial relative to the matte body screens. then of course i'm thinking about the gold strip
frame wondering if this kind of thing is it's intended function.



February 13, 2008, 9:36 AM

Framing anything of any kind can be tricky, and it clearly requires considered thought and sensitivity. If it's decided that framing is appropriate in the first place (which it may or may not be), then it should be selected so that it at least does not compete with or distract from or distort the piece. Ideally, obviously, framing should enhance the presentation of the work, so that the utility of totally neutral framing is debatable. In other words, if it doesn't demonstrably help, it's probably not necessary, but it should definitely never hurt.

I happen to like going to the framer (a good serious one, not some mall place that advertises framing while you wait), because I like the challenge of finding just the right way to frame something. I always try numerous options and combinations, and I won't go for something unless it truly strikes me as right for the piece in question. No matter how much I may like a frame in and of itself, I'll never use it if it doesn't complement the work, just as I never pick a frame to go with the furniture or the wall or any such extraneous thing. It's strictly about what the individual piece calls for and what suits it.



February 13, 2008, 10:01 AM

i agree. i'm more interested in this as it applies to larger abstract work. work made in and shipped out in a mode that seems far less involved in your kind of discretion, jack. take the olitskis for example. those paintings get more and more physical asserting themselves as objects to the extent that a very convincing total surface is achieved in contrast to a more open (optical?) space we find elsewhere. (they take time, and this is part of the strength of these works, which can get to be near monochromes, they do let you in enough to make them a picture with the mystery that the flat face of the monochrome cannot sustain). so olitksi or whoever is in their studio presumably masking with drywall tape or paper or what have you and finally a crop is decided. and that is the picture. it doesn't have a reflective brass strip around it! how am i now supposed to see the thing? all this emphasis on the edge and then willy nilly it gets bound by this shiny yellow inflected edge? not settled opie? was it considered in the first place? i'm a thirty-something painter who thinks the world of louis noland and olitski and all the best painters they influenced and when i see this work framed up (granted, i haven't seen a show by any of these artists with work in numbers enough to see the gold-strip's prevalence in one artist's ouvre). why not a more neutral material? or is there something to the reflective properties of the gold strip. rococco frames and heavy gilding are another matter altogether i feel.



February 13, 2008, 10:03 AM

anyone touching in here that does make it to the Poons show, maybe you could watch for the framing and let us know what you think.



February 13, 2008, 10:08 AM

hofmann or any more 'inward' work that doesn't rely on it's edges in quite so obvious a way doesn't seem to suffer the same. to my eye anyways.



February 13, 2008, 10:33 AM

About frames: as a matter of percentage, gold in some form or another is the most likely to "work", or at least "not distract" when it comes to paintings. A Noland that I once included in a show I picked had nothing but raw white pine lattice. It had gotten a little dirty from handling (could have been addressed by a coat of danish oil), but it looked fine.

The "function" of a frame is to tell the eye where the picture ends and where the rest of the world begins. The way pictures are hung these days with plenty of space to the sides, as well as above and below, it does not take a wide frame to accomplish this. A wide frame can work if it does not become such a visual presence in itself that it distracts from what it "frames".

Gold plastic may not cost much, but it is hardly "cheap". Rather it is the result of quite sophisticated processes that I personally respect. If you don't put some glue at the ends of it after you cut the frame to length, it will shrink away from the ends over time. Even that does not bother me if the picture is large enough.

Largish pictures can get by without a frame, as long as another picture is not jammed to close to them. Then again, they are not necessiarly hurt by a frame either. A lot of small ones do too. But a frame gives most pictures a look of "finality" - this is it, there will be no more work done on the image.


Marc Country

February 13, 2008, 10:55 AM

Luckily, as a sculptor, I don't have to worry about frames too much (unluckily, there is the question of plinths, which seems to be an even more complicated affair).

I too am a thirty-something, and feel the same as x in this respect. Gold plastic may not be "cheap", but it sure looks that way. Instead of 'cheap', I'd just use the word 'kitschy'... Too often, I've seen a lovely, ageless painting, only to peg the date by the ugly, 1970's faux-brass framing. Apologies, but it usually just comes off as bad taste, to me.

Maybe it's a generational thing...

(That said, I am beginning to think of the possibilities inherent to a shiny gold plinth... this may need practical exploration.)



February 13, 2008, 11:10 AM

I am not by nature a relativist when it comes to questions like this but I think it just has to satisfy the "customer" - viewer, artist, collector, whoever.

I have never been entirely happy about any frame, but also never really disliked any, except some cheap wood ones I used a while ago. X, on the other hand, seems obsessed with the question, which is his thing, I guess.


Marc Country

February 13, 2008, 11:12 AM

"Actually the best way to get converts is to start a religion."

- Opie

"I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is."

- L. Ron Hubbard



February 13, 2008, 11:16 AM

but the gold strip becomes part of the image! on a dark close value picture, the spacing on that frame stock leaves the strip maximum half inch from the picture surface. it is hardly neutral esp. when there is a value jump involved. wood w/o the gold does seem better. but i was just hoping for an angle along greenbergian lines. picture vs. world = frame, ya i get that. but the frame's history is intertwined with 500+ years of a certain kind of picture with a certain kind of space. i was literally talking this out over a light close-valued squeegeed olitksi from the early seventies some 15 minutes ago and we reasoned the only way to know was to see the piece without it to test.(for myself esp. because i don't have the experience going back to when this stuff first emerged ie. studio exposure, nor the luxury of a healthy back and forth between like minded modernists) is the thinking that even though the work embraces its objecthood to the point of obscuring its easy identity as a painting, that the pictorial (optical? somebody help...) is overtly emphasized at the last? the pic gets framed to assure its picture-ness? if that's part of the thinking then i think it's flawed because it introduces a whole new set of tensions that are not part of the picture proper. THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN FRAME AND IMAGE IS NOT DISTINCT. different criteria.



February 13, 2008, 11:19 AM

not distinct the way a rococco filigree gilded frame is distinct from the illusionistic space left in even late picasso.



February 13, 2008, 11:28 AM

it has to do with the specifics of the unity that is the thing. it might seem trivial but it gets my goat because i think it's partly laziness. we wouldn't be having this discussion around a caro or olitski sculpture because everything physical is paramount to the experience in a way that's not so slippery or with the same history. and yet with all the painting made at the same time, framed by collectors or whomever it seems somehow that because it was 'unsettled' stuff got framed this way by default. but again, i wasn't there. i only know how much it pisses me off today. this is the work, as serious as anything else ever made, and it just kinda gets overlooked.



February 13, 2008, 12:02 PM


If you're looking at reproductions the 'gold strip' might be confusing since it's generally brighter than the surrounding surfaces AND the whole painting is in your field of view.

Any painting that can't hold up to a "gold strip" isn't much of a painting.



February 13, 2008, 12:23 PM

X, you seem to be thinking too much. The only way to evaluate this is to look at the paintings and see what happens.

Let's do it Marc. You and me and the Scientoolies.



February 13, 2008, 12:25 PM

actually we were looking at a real olitski. it's not that the painting can't hold up to it, it's why is it there in the first place? why set the work up to have to compete with it? why all the emphasis on the edge and then attach something to the work which changes it, and in some cases hinders the work itself. if we stay with olitksi, he was adding lots of info (drawing and color) right at the very edge of these fields, in other words right where the shiny gold strip asserts itself. to my eye, if i have to live with a frame, it's just not benign ENOUGH i guess. i can't fathom what just seems like a weird apathy historically on behalf of the artist, the collector, the gallerist, and the critic in light of what these paintings are physically and how they work. i haven't come across any discussion so far in grrenberg. fenton talks a bit on his site about his choice to include a frame around the noland jpegs. i'll have to go read and see if there's anything there that can help me. i apologize for beating this horse. it's been contentious to my eye for a long time and it wouldn't require discussion if the practice wasn't so rampantly applied to most of the work i admire so much.



February 13, 2008, 12:30 PM

I have been asked about framing by my dealers. I tell them that my job is the inside of the rectangle, and theirs is the outside, so they should do whatever looks good to them.



February 13, 2008, 12:47 PM

x, i am with you on these thin light wood frames that have an inset piece of faux gold plastic strip and were used on many paintings from the early seventies through the early nineties.

these frames are not so completely terrible. it is primarily the plastic faux inset that hurts the framing of the painting. they can easily be removed leaving a groove that comes off as looking as black as the result of a shadow effect(very subtle). to me this frame is superior without the faux gold inset in most instances. in atleast 85% of all paintings that i have seen with this frame, the gold inset was detrimental. and i think that probably 90% of all paintings with this inset would be better off with out it. they probably would all be better off without it, but i am leaving room for error.

just this past weekend i removed another one of these faux gold insets because i could not take it anymore. the presentation of the painting is better now. the painting was a bannard from 1987-1989. can't remember exactly.

it just feels cheap, reflective and annoying. funny though, that similarily sized thin frames that had been done 20 or so years prior up to the introduction of these, that also have a light wood frame, but then gold leafed on the same edge, look so much better.

the painting is still the same painting, but the frame, placement on the wall, size of the wall, the light, the color of the wall (ceiling/floor), other objects in the viewing area, etc, all impact the experience.



February 13, 2008, 12:48 PM

ultimately that's how this will all play out given the chance. if i were a betting man, the frames that need replacing eventually won't be replaced with the same. in fact i'm not sure how available that frame stock is anymore. and what does that say?



February 13, 2008, 12:57 PM

as for gold leaf vs gold shiny strip...exactly! this bears out my point. we are that subtly attuned to the whole thing. these things are that important. every decision counts 'inside' the rectangle and so it should hold on the outside especially if the work is overtly dependent on its edges. my reason for wanting to talk about this here is to arrive at some kind of consensus to bounce off down the road when it comes time to frame or not frame my own work. i sure won't be using gold strip but if not then what to use? it's just not something i've had the chance to go over with anybody. seriously anyways.



February 13, 2008, 1:06 PM

x, i don't know where you live, but i would go to museums and check out what framing work for you.

but you definitely get an amen when it comes to those faux gold insets.



February 13, 2008, 3:53 PM

My two cents...I prefer to put my smaller paintings between two sheets of glass that are clipped together along the edges. I don't have a dealer so I have to take care of it myself. That way, the edges I have in the original composition remain the edges in the composition that hangs on the wall.



February 13, 2008, 5:01 PM

A guy named Ralph ran an outfit named Alpa Moulding in PA somewhere that furnished the gold strip framing to all of us, at a very good price, too. You did not have to pay him until the material arrived. When he retired it suddendly became very hard to find even though there is an Alpha Moulding in Brooklyn, I think. He may have bought the strips and installed the gold (or silver) himself. The plastic is clear, with anodized aluminum imbedded in it to give the color.

You can reverse the stock and use the "back" side of the strip after ripping out the plastic. That looks good too. Or you can buzz the plastic and its groove off with a table saw.

It is not that big a deal.



February 13, 2008, 5:22 PM

Re #50. catfish
It is not that big a deal.

Whoa, you just don’t get it. Paintings are commodities now, and how the framing is done is just as important as how the artist lays down the paint. A proper frame gives the painting the look of authenticity that luxury items require. Framing with plain lattice strips, or gasp, no frame at all, is a slap to the face of the connoisseur who will know quality when he sees it.

Generally speaking, the more expensive the painting, the more elaborate and expensive the frame should be. If you have a highly valued small painting, ensconcing in a frame with rails 1/3 as wide as the largest painting dimension, not only makes the painting seem larger but enhances it’s apparent value. The choice of gold or silver leaf on the frame will of course depend on both the colors in the painting and the surround the painting will be primarily exhibited in. The same goes for the carving on the frame, which when properly done cane make even an ordinary painting look quite luxurious. With abstracts, a less ornate frame with wide gilt rails will often do the trick and make your friends take notice, even if they don’t get abstract art.

The frame makes the painting.



February 13, 2008, 6:11 PM

I've handled truckloads of gold-stripped abstracts and I'd basically agree that the majority of the paintings so framed are poorly served by the convention, though some of those were just decrepit from age. That style of framing seems to have been chosen as a kind of anti-frame. It effectively delimits visual access to the paint-heavy sides of a canvas stretched after painting. The deep hollow was painted dark and works as a thin fade-to-black, after which an edge-on three-eighths of glimmer steps the viewer past wooden textures to the wall surface. Sounds good in theory, hey?

I'm just as dismayed by paintings baldly stretched over 2x2"s and unframed, standing an inch'n'ahalf-plus off the wall. Especially when the painting itself is less than two foot square. One and a quarter is better, but then your stretcher gets pretty custom. Yes, we're fine-tuned and possibly too highly so.



February 13, 2008, 6:35 PM

I've also handled some of these 70/80's era gigantor Poons' (not unlike Lycoming or Claudio). Square foot for square foot the sluiced aggregate pieces are the heaviest paintings I've ever had to carry.

Seriously reckless disregard for young mens' backs and drywall hooks.



February 13, 2008, 7:03 PM

You're right George. I just don't get it. That Noland was only $50,000 retail, which explains why it got by with the cheap ass lattice frame. When you get to the genuinely valuable stuff, I loves the idea of rails 1/3 the width of the picture. That makes the total frame come in at 4/3 the width of the painting itself, which would more than double the apparancy of the total package. And yes, carving would be the icing on the cake, so to speak. As long as it is done by a properly qualified sculptor with real sensitivity to the content of the painting.

I'm not sure, though, if the frame makes the painting. Perhaps it is the painting that makes the frame? Especially a properly carved one. Perhaps the frame ought to be carved first, then a search undetaken to find a painting that would "go with" the carving? Such a search and decision would be best left up to the carver of the frame.



February 13, 2008, 7:13 PM

Perhaps it is the painting that makes the frame?

R U Kidding?

I once made a 6x8 foot frame, the rails were gilt over ornate carving. The picture was in the style of the old Dutch masters and done quite expertly by a guild certified painter. It was used quite effectivly in a movie which was nominated for an academy award.

Afterwards, they chucked the painting (as far as I know) and replaced it with a big mirror in the big frame. Big frame, big mirror = hot shot luxury.

Honest injun, I'm not kidding.



February 13, 2008, 7:14 PM

okay let's pretend you take a class you happen to be teaching to see the type of painting i've tried to keep this discussion centered around. say you went out of your way to spell out all the significant formal aspects of that particular type of work. the edges of that kind of picture are obviously integral to the creation and the experience of the work. at the end you are forced to answer legitimate questions about the weird frame job. and as you scramble to answer, having built the discussion around an emphasis on the strictly visual, you realize that between your own experience and the opinion of others whom you respect, you really can't explain why that frame was chosen. suppose then you went looking in all the places you could for help on this one but were instead chided for a mistaken overemphasis on the frame instead of the picture. and suppose you spent energy asking specific questions about specific works expecting an intelligent response to the queries you made about that particular type of work, but didn't get one where you thought you might, instead of a browbeating.



February 13, 2008, 7:28 PM

Well x, I'd just say how the picture was framed is no big deal, as long as it isn't a distraction.

Of course, when one tries to explain anything about art, apprarently to include framing, it becomes a big deal. The secret is to forget finding "reasons". Otherwise you may be in for a "browbeating". But the grand browbeater may be none other than oneself for wanting reasons to explain that which is inherently outside reasonablness.

And in trying to explain the unexplainable, one is often driven to distraction.

Whatever lights your fire, though - just make sure the fire stays lit.



February 13, 2008, 7:29 PM


First, generally speaking, if you can't see it in a jpeg, it doesn't matter. That takes care of 90% of the crap wrapped around the edge.

Second, frames are a fashion accessory and chosen accordingly.

Third, if the crap foaming around the edges really matters AND you want a frame, make one that fits the bill, i.e. it protects the canvas, isolates the painting from the wall (just so people don't get the painting and the wall mixed up) and leaves the paint overflow visible. I assure you this is not difficult to do.



February 13, 2008, 7:39 PM

C'mon x. MC and 1 backed you up. I proffered an explanation for the why and wherefore. Don't get your g in a knot.



February 13, 2008, 7:58 PM

You know, there's a Diebenkorn exhibition up right now at the NYU Gray Gallery in NYC. The paintings are all from the early fifties.

The ones on canvas are framed in various different ways, some by (I assume) the collectors and a couple that look like RD did himself.

There is one large painting that is quite good, and it looks good, even though it is in a nasty frame (roughly 2-1/2 rails, minimum ornament with red lead under gold leaf.

A couple of others I'm sure that Dick did himself, they're just 1/4 pine lattice, butt joined and tacked on, brownish maybe stain or just old wood. They were unassuming, (like the artist himself) did the job, and in the end complimented the paintings.

Dick was 30 when he made most of the paintings in this exhibition. If you are a young painter and live near New York, take a look and see what it was like in the old days, the days when painters painted paintings that were not destined to be a product.

Most of the paintings being done today are future Antique Roadshow artifacts and the damn frame will be worth more than the paintings. (If you think I’m being cynical, check it out, antique frames often fetch higher prices than the second rate paintings they framed)

x, you might talk to JT Kirkland he knows about frames.



February 13, 2008, 9:21 PM

i was looking for straight talk about something that nobody ever talks about. it is obvious one would never want a frame to distract. it is obvious that the picture is what matter. experience says that the frame changes the work. now then, with large open abstraction (please folks hear me now) of the olitski/noland/louis ilk circa 1960 and onward, what was the general thought around this? the problem as i see it is the ability of the eye to hijack the reflection into the experience in the simplified edge specific type of painting that i am talking about. i looked carefully at some paintings today and decided that the larger the work the easier for the eye to 'ignore' the frame. i think that in large part an eye that looks at a lot of painting is conditioned to look past the frame as best it can. but even the largest work is still affected by it. some of the work i'm talking about can be corrupted pretty easily by any form in proximity. it seems as though there are a few serious modernist painters checking in here and i figured there'd be more to talk about, not just the obvious. it's still about the art. i am sure as hell not looking for some retarded discussion about framing and context! sheesh! it's more like "hmmm, ya know that frame is really messing with that work. ya this one too. and that one. wow, these guys really liked this frame stock. since so many works are framed that way maybe there is a reason for it. i wish one or two of them were around so i could ask about the rationale for that choice or about why to frame work at all once it gets up in scale."



February 13, 2008, 9:33 PM

and ahab, i was just spazzing in response to george and a bit of opie's remarks but that was left in haste and i'm just flipping trying to properly ask the questions i'd like to ask.

as for consensus...i think i can say that the two sculptors agree with me at least.



February 13, 2008, 9:44 PM

Whoa whoa whoa, let's not get carried awax.



February 13, 2008, 9:45 PM


You think I'm pullin' your leg?

A frame is a fashion accessory. Over the last thirty years, framing tastes have changed a bit, but the black, with silver/gold, strip frame is a classic style. (people choose it for posters too)

While I think one could get into a deep philosophical discourse about the reasons to frame or not to frame, it generally comes down to an issue of decoration.

The frame 'cleans the painting up" around the edges, hides the staples, or tacks, and the raw (usually dirty) canvas, with a bit of clean trim that looks like the surrounding furniture.

Now, I think an artist could turn the issue of framing into an ontological exercise and build a body of work based upon it. Yawn. Same yawn to Olitski's framing edge brushmarks, sorry but not very interesting. FWIW, I think Poons is ten times the painter Olitski was, but he uses too much paint.



February 13, 2008, 10:27 PM


I’ve been painting a long time, so I’ve thought about these things indirectly. Framing has nothing to do with painting unless you make it an ontological issue or make the frame part of the painting (which has prior precedents.) Otherwise, the best person to ask about it is a good interior decorator.

The earlier question about paint is interesting but more or less unanswerable. I find I have a personal preference for a sense of paint density. It doesn’t have to be a lot of paint (a la Poons) but I have some personal sense of what feels right to me. Typically it means the weave of the canvas is "filled in" a bit, look up close at early Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, De Kooning and even Pollock to some extent. Why this should matter I have no idea, but at least for me it seems to.

There are no formulas for making a good painting. It’s all been done before, one way or the other, and that’s what you have to contend with. You have to find a personal way to breath life back into the tradition which means ignoring the ‘rules’ you think you know about in order to find your own voice, your own way of doing it. Great painting is about identity.



February 14, 2008, 4:12 AM

Whoda thought we could get this excited about frames.

I hope X weighs in on other topics. He seems to light a fire.



February 14, 2008, 9:29 AM


i am still right with you. very valid points. as are all the other factors i listed that impact SOME viewers experience. i am looking this moment at an olitski with the drawing on the edge and i am reminded that i removed the plastic insert 2 weeks after i got it. just could not take it fuckin up the picture. it was an first i was hesitant to remove these, but i had to. in the same room i have 2 other paintings by another artist (large as well) that still have the inserts in place. eventually i may remove them as well, but at the moment they don't distract me as much as on some others.

you could take some more time to figure this out yourself. at the moment i don't have the time to get that deep into it, but i have thought about it more than once. it would be a good study for someone. silver leaf, gold leaf, natural wood, white or black (paint or similar), metal (real, but still problematic) all good options to consider. sizes, shapes, combos galore....



February 14, 2008, 9:56 AM

i have come to the conclusion that the most problematic aspect of this type of frame is the distinct and harsh reflection that every lighting condition i've seen it under is prone to produce. i just finished looking at a bunch of work with these frames and the smaller the work the more it affects my eye. that said, a couple of generous sized scallops by bannard suffer far less than a range of close value early 70's olitskis. the bannards have an inward pull that helps but the reflection is still there and i find it enormously distracting. the olitskis are a different kind of painting - all frontal, much fuller presentation as an obdurate surface which obviates any activity at the edge and also quickens the flicker of a physical unity. the elements are just too distilled to allow for this yellow glare at points around the frame. i can't comprehend how i am supposed to see the work properly with this harsh glare which functions as much as color light as anything in the painting itself. but this is not an argument against a frame as such. and none of this would be worth talking about if that type of frame hadn't been used so prevalently. that's it that's all.



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