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Good times with public art

Post #1134 • March 6, 2008, 5:59 AM • 286 Comments

Via AJ, Arifa Akbar reports for The Independent with the headline, "Modern public artworks are 'crap', says Gormley. This is how it should be done":

A decade after his experimental 65ft-high figure was erected in Gateshead, Gormley said the success of the sculpture had inadvertently set a precedent for the proliferation of unchallenging works of art in public spaces.

He singled out The Meeting Place statue of two lovers embracing at St Pancras International Station for criticism. Other works he dislikes are a statue of Churchill and Roosevelt on Bond Street and David Wynne's Boy With a Dolphin in Chelsea.

He went on: "I don't like the way the Angel of the North has been used for some kind of precedent to encourage people and local authorities looking for European funding or investment. When we made the Angel, it was an experiment. We managed to get lottery money and European funding but it was a huge risk."

Later he supplies the quote of the week, whose sentiment I don't argue:

"A lot of public art is gunge, an excuse which says, 'we're terribly sorry to have built this senseless glass and steel tower but here is this 20-foot bronze cat'," he said.

Commenters on the article proceed to kick him around like a soccer ball.

Gormley commenting on the low standard of public artworks is possibly the greatest case of The Pot Calling The Kettle Black in living memory.

I recently finished reading What It Means to Be a Libertarian by Charles Murray. Murray devotes a chapter to what constitutes a public good, and he offers three test questions for picking a stopping point on the slippery slope that descends from public good to boondoggle:

Is the good something that cannot be provided by individuals on their own?

Am I asking my neighbor to pay for a government service that he doesn't want?

Am I asking my neighbor to pay for a government service that benefits me, or people whom I favor, more than it benefits him?

We might apply those questions to Gormley's complaints to interesting effect.



Marc Country

March 6, 2008, 6:29 AM

Good questions, in theory; in reality, people's neighbors are often idiots who want to pay no taxes whatsoever, yet still be allowed to complain about potholes in the roads... (Or, maybe that's just here in Alberta.)



March 6, 2008, 7:15 AM

By his comments above I would say Gormley doesn't insist upon good public work. He wants challenging public work; but has been dismayed to see that his own installations of challenging public work just don't last, as such. So now he wants lasting work, which, he has not yet discovered, along with challenging, happens to be a spin-off of good public work.


Marc Country

March 6, 2008, 7:22 AM

"... Gormley said the success of the sculpture had inadvertently set a precedent for the proliferation of unchallenging works of art..."

I wonder what exactly the word "success" refers to in this context, to speak of the "success" of a sculpture that sets a precedent for unchallenging works of art? And to speak of that sculpture being an "experiment", too...



March 6, 2008, 7:53 AM

Methinks Gormley doth protest too much.


Chris Rywalt

March 6, 2008, 8:39 AM

Yay, pubic art! I love pubic art!

What's that? There's an L in there? Oh. Public art. Who cares about that?



March 6, 2008, 8:52 AM

Marc, surely you are being disingenuous when you wonder what Gormley means by "success" in this context. Obviously he is talking about the public success of the sculpture, that it had generated a considerable amount of favorable response from the public and became a plus for the location in terms of tourism. I suspect you have been reading the RSS feeds on this and realize that a number of other British towns have jumped on the pubic sculpture bandwagon, and for the most part they are not very interesting. You’re the sculpture expert, ‘experiment’ might be in a context related to those totem pieces he put on the beaches awhile back.



March 6, 2008, 9:14 AM

Haven't we had enough pubic thatches displayed in public in merry old England?


Pretty Lady

March 6, 2008, 11:55 AM

Dudes. I threw down the gauntlet regarding the Whitney Biennial over at Ed's, including a counter-Biennial of my own, and I could use some backup. Pitch in and I'll let you co-curate.



March 6, 2008, 12:20 PM

don't bother "pitching in" folks...I don't intend to respond to PL's personal Biennial. It includes some artists I like a lot, but isn't comprehensive enough to make any meaningful comparisons to the WB, IMO.

This does confirm something I say about this clan behind your backs all the time, however...that you move in packs and pile on in hopes of scoring points. ;-0



March 6, 2008, 12:23 PM

I'll be right there, PL.



March 6, 2008, 2:25 PM

Wait, is #9 like don't call us, we'll call you? Like pre-emptive censorship, I mean, pre-comment comment moderation? And who's this Ed person? Does he know Tyler Green or something? I expect George can tell us, though it's bound to be a moot point, from the sound of it.



March 6, 2008, 2:35 PM

All I can get from #9 is that Edward talks about us behind our backs, and it isn't nice. But I can't really figure out what it actually means. Piling on is usually defense, scoring pints offense. Defense of what, I don't know, nor do I understand where points are being scored. Nor do I understand how Pretty Lady's choice of artists confirms anything about the rest of us.

Maybe the moving in packs means we agree about quite a bit of stuff - if so, that's true for at least some of us.

I guess I'm frustrated. I like to understand how I'm being insulted when someone is sticking it to me. Makes the experience more worthwhile and raises the possibility I might learn something from it.



March 6, 2008, 2:40 PM


It's like you stepped in dogshit and didn't notice until you got home and sniffed.



March 6, 2008, 2:46 PM

Just left this message chez Ed:

Curiously, I have seen this phenomenon happen a few times: the rhetorical multiplication of formalist bogeymen into destructive yet quality-obsessed hordes, like a cross between Clement Greenberg and a battalion of orcs. I guess when you're not sure about your taste, you have to adopt a posture relative to out-groupers, and the more of them, even if imaginary, the more refined your taste appears.



March 6, 2008, 2:52 PM

Catfish, don't trouble yourself. Just another drive-by shooting, and a rather lame one at that. We've had considerably better ones before, but I suppose standards are declining for everything.



March 6, 2008, 3:02 PM

Re #12, Cat

The best thing about this years Whitney Biennial is that I can save a dime and see it online.

It's a blessing in disguise that there is so little painting, painters should have less to be depressed about.

The problem with most contemporary painting is that it is not all that relevant to the moment. I assume everyone will want to argue that all that other non-painting stuff isn't relevant either, well maybe and maybe not.

On the other hand I find it interesting that an abstract painting like Richter's (the smushy one) should generate such vociferous feelings among some of the viewers here. I haven’t seen enough of his work to bother defending it, but I find it more interesting than say the paintings in PL’s list of artists.

The big problem with painting is that it’s got a history, which is death itself, and therefore must be resurrected anew each time. Most of the works that I see around are of a known quantity and while possibly accomplished, boring.



March 6, 2008, 3:12 PM

I think Ed made his comment because he wanted to bring the two blogs together in a loving embrace.

George this is a gem:

"The problem with most contemporary painting is that it is not all that relevant to the moment."

Does this mean that most people who are living and painting right now aren't relevant to the moment? Who defines the moment in this formulation? Please explain. My hands and entire corporeal form is starting to disolve while I paint, at this very moment.



March 6, 2008, 3:19 PM

Re: #17 Eric,

Relevant to the contemporary moment. Fresh.

Certainly work by artists who established themselves at an earlier period will probably not be concerned with this idea, and just keep on doing what they are doing.

However, I think painting exists as a visual dialogue within the contemporary culture and for the most part it is falling on deaf ears. One only has to look at the curatorial choices for recent museum exhibitions to see that the choices are being made from the same old shopworn list of yesterdays painters. This leads me to believe that something is askew.



March 6, 2008, 3:20 PM

I don't understand all this clever, arch talk. Can't anyone just say this is great, that sucks, what do you think?



March 6, 2008, 3:29 PM

For George:

All those painters seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they're here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.

all that pomo starts to look like shit,
There's a shadow hanging over it,
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.

art was an amusing game to play,
Now there's only dreck to haul away,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.



March 6, 2008, 3:32 PM

Okay George. Based on your intense statistical analysis of big box museum exhibitions during the last ten years, you have decided that painting currently doesn't matter. Proof of this is the fact that when paintings do appear in the big box museums they are or were made by old fuddy-duddies, who are past their prime, in the history books already, and simply don't count as 'contemporary'. Of course the fact that most fine art galleries in all of the major cities across the world (and I include paintings or drawings that are one element of a multi-media piece) have paintings hanging in them doesn't matter.

Just like books, paintings will never disappear. If installation art takes over every single gallery and museum in the world or video art does, painting will inevitably have a resurgence if for no other reason that it will become novel or provocative. Phrases like the 'moment' are silly.



March 6, 2008, 3:32 PM

Clever, arch talk? Where? Did Evelyn Waugh drop by while I wasn't paying attention? OP, you're too kind. Quit it.



March 6, 2008, 3:34 PM

Shirley you don't think Gerhard is POMO?



March 6, 2008, 3:40 PM

Of course. And don't call be Gerhard.



March 6, 2008, 3:42 PM

Damn. Just when I was getting almost typo free.

Don't call ME Gerhard.

Or Gertrude.



March 6, 2008, 3:44 PM

Re:#21 Eric,
Gawd sometimes you are so dense.

Deep statistical analysis? Just look at the online Whitney catalogue.

Look at how current (you know, like today, the last few months, not a grape) curatorial decisions are being made. MOMA linked above, Kelly, Kelly, Richter etc. these are just picked from last years (plural, go back a few too) A-List.

I never said paintings would disappear, I make paintings for crying out loud, just that most contemporary (like today man) painting is boring.



March 6, 2008, 4:07 PM

Well, I'm not going to any blog that tells me, in effect, "Don't bother to sully our pristine propriety with your beastly commentary" before I've even visited the damn place. So George, who's on Pretty Lady's list?



March 6, 2008, 4:15 PM

27 see 8



March 6, 2008, 5:17 PM

So PL's choices, in painting and otherwise, couldn't make the cut at some doubtlessly certified and approved proper art blog? Oh, dear. It must be getting awfully difficult to be in. Even if I actually gave a rat's ass about that, it looks like my chances have plummeted from "equal to the chance of winning the lottery" to "equal to the chance Mrs. Clinton would forego her presidential ambitions, even if her competition were the Second Coming of Jesus Christ" (Hillary: "Yes, well, the Sermon on the Mount sounds nice, but has the Son of God lived in the White House for 8 years?").




March 6, 2008, 5:25 PM

re29 - you're babbling



March 6, 2008, 5:52 PM

Thanks, George; I needed that. Shall I tell you what you need? Probably not. Damn guidelines.



March 6, 2008, 6:09 PM

I promised myself I would lay off tonight but since George decided to call me stupid I guess I will have to start typing stuff into this little box again.
"One only has to look at the curatorial choices for recent museum exhibitions to see that the choices are being made from the same old shopworn list of yesterdays painters."

WRONG. The same old shopworn list of: sculptors (Serra, Smith, etc.) conceptual artists (Weiner, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, etc.), video artists (Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, etc.), multi-media artists (Rauschenberg, etc.), appropriation artists (Duchamp, etc.), keeps appearing in the museums over and over again because there is a hierarchy, and the concept of history, as we have constructed it, would collapse if this hierarchy didn't continue ad infinitum. The stubborn linear structure of history will pick various favorites depending on the deacee. So let's get it straight. Painting isn't dead, or boring (your paintings might be boring to you and if they are I am sorry), or a backwater art at the moment. We see the same old shopworn painters appear in museum shows and gallery shows over and over again because of things that have nothing to do with the medium itself.

Since you started with the name calling I will continue with it: you are a doo-doo head.



March 6, 2008, 6:17 PM

Eric, please, mind your tone. This is a respectable blog (or at least it has eminently respectable guidelines). The trick is to insult George obliquely, so that the guidelines are technically observed. Besides, we all know he's a doo-doo head. You have to make it sound more interesting.



March 6, 2008, 6:25 PM

"The stubborn linear structure of history will pick various favorites depending on the deacee."

should read...

"The stubborn linear structure of history will pick various favorites depending on the decade."

After all, the chapters in the art history books will only be able to include a limited amount of content.



March 6, 2008, 6:41 PM

Doo-doo head?

I wouldn't take that lying down, George.



March 6, 2008, 7:42 PM

Re:#21 Eric,
Gawd sometimes you are so dense.

Deep statistical analysis? Just look at the online Whitney catalogue.

Look at how current (you know, like today, the last few months, not a grape) curatorial decisions are being made. MOMA linked above, Kelly, Kelly, Richter etc. these are just picked from last years (plural, go back a few too) A-List.

I never said paintings would disappear, I make paintings for crying out loud, just that most contemporary (like today man) painting is boring.

Gee Eric, you’re so sensitive. I take painting dead seriously, so I’m going to just ignore all the name calling and get on with it.

I can understand how you might have been confused, I was talking about the curatorial choices made for painting, not the decision to include painting.

My inference was that the curatorial choices being made for painting are coming from the some old shopworn list. Now of course, I’m not talking about every single occurrence, but the general trend.

What I would suggest is that if painters were making kick-ass paintings, relevant works, there would be a few more of them in the Whitney Biennial. Moreover, I would also suggest that the MOMA show would have included a few fresher faces than it did. (Here, I have to be a bit careful, I’m basing this opinion on the NYT article, I haven’t been up there yet.)

When I say painting is "boring," I mean that just that, it’s predictable. This is NOT the same as saying it’s bad, just that I feel like I’m seeing something I’ve seen before.

I laugh at your response to "the painting is dead" statement, this is something people have been saying for years. Each generation must reinvent painting anew, breath life back into its decaying corpse. Each generation must decide on what is important for them in painting, and discover a new paradigm based upon paintings past accomplishments.

What makes painting so difficult is that it is a medium which is fairly clearly defined, an image on a surface. Further, it has a very long history which means that generation after generation have sorted through its inventory of possibilities, and created a hierarchy of works deemed to be important or superior.

Any artist who takes up painting, is up against this forty thousand year history, and must find a fresh way to communicate through the medium. This requires not only addressing the history of painting itself, but of finding a way to make works which address the issues of the era in which it is made.

It is my position that painting has both a formal and a conceptual component. I’m assuming the formalist position will stake their claim on the primacy of the visual. This is fine as far as it goes, but to do so at the expense of the conceptual is their failing. Painting must also address the conceptual, if it does not it becomes nothing more than wall decoration.

It is the conceptual part of painting, its content, which allows the viewer to engage the painting on a deeper more complex human level. It is true that we can visually appreciate a sunset, a well turned form or just a rotting stone wall, the issue will always be is this just a pleasurable somatic response, or something deeper?

I would suggest that we are living in an age awash in images, random, electronic, printed, whatever, precisely formed images, that dull or overload our senses and nullify their potency. It is paintings responsibility to restore the image’s potency.

There are very few people who can do this.



March 6, 2008, 7:45 PM

Sorry about that, the first part of comment 36 is unintentionally a dupe of comment #26. Please ignore.



March 6, 2008, 7:55 PM

Thank you for not calling me any names. Now I can go to bed.



March 6, 2008, 9:38 PM

Re #9,
Ed, I've started commenting here occasionally, although I often disagree with what a lot of the regulars say and seem to spend a lot of time defending my position. Does that make me a member of the "clan" or am I an outerloper? I never got my membership card or paid any dues.

But now, to the real point of my post: AGAIN I'm foiled by the "one week" rule. Re whether Jeff Koons has a studio, I interviewed for a job there once and it was fascinating. It was like a well-run factory, with the faux surface finishers in one room, the realist painters in another, the photoshoppers extraordinaire in the their cubicles near the admin crew. It was quite an operation. In a way it reminded me of that Wim Delvoye sculpture that was so carefully crafted and engineered, in which food was put into one end upon which various gastric processes were imposed and after passing through many digestive chambers, poop came out the other end. An awful lot of work to devote to the finished product of poop.

I didn't get the job.


Marc Country

March 7, 2008, 5:57 AM

Thanks Oriane. I was right to be skeptical about Koons having a studio... of course, there was never a doubt in my mind that he'd have a well-run factory... Good to see you can spot the difference, too, and glad to see you didn't get the job (it's always sad to see an artist have to resort to factory work for a paycheck).



March 7, 2008, 6:55 AM

re #39: You can't polish a turd.

I just got to reading the thread at EW and I have to say I heart you Pretty Lady. Hook 'em. It's like he can't get that your tastes actually can be backed up with argument, with reason. The only recourse he has is to say, "Well that's your opinion..." I had a professor at UT who tossed a student from class for using that line in a crit.



March 7, 2008, 7:32 AM

wwc I want to comment on one theing that you said.

"The only recourse he has is to say, "Well that's your opinion...""

I don't think this phrase necessarily implies weakness of argument or position. Plenty of people use the phrase around here. I think the phrase is often employed because there is no authority or authoritative position available when it comes to discussions about art, art making, aesthetics in general. The individual who cares and thinks enough about these subjects is an authority unto themselves, or at least they should be.


Pretty Lady

March 7, 2008, 7:36 AM

Hey, wwc, what prof was that? Maybe I know them.

George, actually you're right about the challenges facing modern painting; however, if you think you can assess modern painting from a JPEG on the Internet, you don't understand painting at all. I agree that there's a huge difference between a painting that's just blandly duplicating a form, and a painting that blows your socks off with its shattering of paradigms and raw aesthetic force.

But if you've decided that the paintings on my website are 'boring' because they look small and flat on your little screen, you're an idiot. A great painting must address formal and conceptual concerns simultaneously and seamlessly, but it also must carry an energetic presence in person that simply doesn't reproduce digitally.



March 7, 2008, 7:43 AM


I am aware of the difference between viewing a jpeg and the presence of an actual painting. I’ve seen a lot of both and can make a reasonable translation between the two. I’ll stand by my remark.



March 7, 2008, 7:47 AM

Oriane (39), while I assume your first paragraph was not intended to be taken seriously, neither you nor anybody owes this Ed guy any explanation or justification. Let him bask in the comfy glow of fashionable propriety. No doubt it serves him well enough, as it does so many others.



March 7, 2008, 8:04 AM


I don't mind opinions, but in a discussion one should back them up with some kind of argument. That was missing from EW's reaction. Pretty Lady made an argument and was slapped down sarcastically with no attention paid to her actual statement. That's why I like here better.

and as for EW's "pack" comment - to me it looks more like we're circling the wagons.



March 7, 2008, 8:09 AM

"I'm just going to ignore all the name calling and get on with it..."

"Gawd sometimes you are so dense."

George in one instance you sound like you find name calling undignified and that it is beneath you. In the second instance you are practicing name calling.

So which is it George?



March 7, 2008, 8:15 AM


Here is PL's first comment on EW's blog:

""Most of the work in this exhibition was just lame. It looked like sketches for finished pieces, not the pieces themselves.

You all like Lisa Sigal's piece so much--I wanted it to go about ten times farther. Why did she only use half the space? Why didn't she go whole hog and create an entire environment, instead of what looked like an abandoned stage backdrop? It was a gesture toward actually engaging your senses, not the actual engagement.

Let me be very clear. I do not care about the 'loaded conceptions of the Biennial.' I am not opposed to conceptual or installation art on principle. I just want art to have a visceral, aesthetic and conceptual power to it, one that comes of passion and intellect and study and trial and error and very hard work.

Most of the work in this show was not charged in this way. It was so vapid and banal as to be an arrogant insult to the viewer. 'Here, I'll leave this random object leaning against the wall for you to look at. Be impressed.'"

Definition of argument: "a discussion involving differing points of view"

Definition of opinion: "a personal view, attitude, or appraisal."

I don't see the argument in PL's comments. This does not mean that I don't agree with her opinions wholeheartedly.



March 7, 2008, 8:27 AM

re #47 Eric,

I apologize for any confusion there, I inadvertently cut and pasted in a previous comment along with the new one. In comment #37, which follows, I provided a brief explanation that this was accidental.



March 7, 2008, 8:33 AM

So PL's points were:

- the work looked sketchy and unfinished.

- Sigal's piece in particular looked half-assed.

- Most of the work was not charged with any intensity. It was vapid, banal and an arrogant insult.

Those are legitimate points to be discussed, not waved away with EW's statement that the works are "carefully considered" so must be good.

Down the thread an anonymous commenter DID bother to engage her:

"As for Lisa Sigal, you have a good point but I feel for that reason her work at the armory did engage the senses, due in part to the environment it was created in and the pre-existing "decay" of the armory."



March 7, 2008, 8:52 AM

shattering of paradigms?

address formal and conceptual concerns?

Two more excellent examples of artspeak for my writing class. Thanks.



March 7, 2008, 9:03 AM

I think if I had a gallery I would call it Shattered Pair o' Dimes. And the logo (or I believe they call it a "corporate identity") would be two smashed dimes.

Or maybe it should be a band, not a gallery.



March 7, 2008, 9:06 AM

Really, the shattering of paradigms is what makes life so harsh in the big city. That and the noise and crowds and filth and high rents.



March 7, 2008, 9:12 AM

That's good, Oriane. Someone once had the temerity to ask a fellow panelist once "what are paradigms" and I volunteered "twenty cents"

Somehow I have never been quite sensitive enough to be affected by shattered paradigms. It's a fault, I know.



March 7, 2008, 9:16 AM

BTW there is a wonderful sample of the Greenberg Fixation in today's NY Times. There's an article on the Color Field show in Washington where Greenberg's name is mentioned more often than any of the artists.



March 7, 2008, 9:18 AM

There used to be a bumper sticker in San Francisco that read SUBVERT THE DOMINANT PARADIGM. It was hard to tell if people were using it ironically or not. In SF, they were probably sincere. Oh, this reminds me of other favorite bumper stickers (yes, it's free association, off-topic for sure):

I'd Rather Be Smashing Imperialism
My Karma Ran Over My Dogma



March 7, 2008, 9:24 AM

#49 - George let me address all of the dense people out there and clarify things for myself. I pointed out that you regularly resort to name calling but at the same time you try to sound as if name calling is beneath you. So please stop confusing me and pick one or the other: call people names and be prepared to be called names in return or don't call people names. It will make you look less hypocritical.



March 7, 2008, 9:29 AM

Okay wwc now I get it. PL was offering up specific reasons why she didn't like specific works and no one challenged her on those grounds. They just dismissed her viewpoints without really addressing them. Now I understand. Thanks.



March 7, 2008, 9:36 AM

re #55: opie

Not quite, considering he was the major critic championing these painters.

Greenberg - 12 times
Frankenthaler - 10 times
Louis - 6 times
Noland - 4 times
Olitski - 4 times
Newman - 3 times
Poons - 3 times
Stella - 2 times
Rothko - 2 times



March 7, 2008, 9:44 AM

re 59:

And then there's the fact that he was sleeping with Frankenthaler. Talk about conflict of interest. If Christian Viveros-Faune had been writing back then, he could have ran the art fairs, curated the Whitney Bi, sold the art AND written the reviews.



March 7, 2008, 9:45 AM

#58 Eric,

Think whatever you want, my remark in comment #36 (referring to your comment #32 - see comment #37 for my explaination of the incorrect cut and paste) was an attempt to just futher the discussion without further name calling. I am sorry if you cannot let it go, that is really not my problem.



March 7, 2008, 9:45 AM

re: bumper stickers

'left has never been so right'



March 7, 2008, 9:46 AM

he could have run the art fairs.




March 7, 2008, 9:47 AM

And right has never been so wrong.

No, that's wrong. Right has always been wrong.



March 7, 2008, 9:48 AM

c'est une double entendre, cheri.



March 7, 2008, 9:49 AM

Yeah, I got it. And I'm a cherie, cheri.



March 7, 2008, 9:50 AM

Thanks for the count, George, but I said he was mentioned more than any of the artists, not all of the artsts. Not only that but the story opened and closed with paragraphs about Greenberg. The piece was essentially about Greenberg; the exhibit was secondary.

Oriane, I collect bumper stickers & Tshirt sayings, among other things. Here are a few of the former. Yes, they are pretty nasty.

Answer my prayer. Steal this car.
Actually I do own the road.
Come The Rapture Can I Have Your Car?
Daddy Farted, and we Can't get out!
Did the aliens forget to remove your anal probe?
Forget World Peace. Visualize Using Your Turn Signal
FREE TIBET! (with the purchase of a small pizza).
God was my co-pilot but we crashed in the mountains and I had to eat him
Heavily medicated for your safety.
Hello, officer. Put it on my tab.
Horn Broken Watch for Finger
I'm Not Losing Hair I'm Getting Head
I brake suddenly for tailgaters
If we call it tourist season why can't we shoot them?
If You Are Born Again Do You Have Two Belly Buttons ?
Jesus loves you, everyone else thinks you're an asshole
Practice Safe Sex, Go Screw Yourself
So Many Cats, So Few Recipes
So many pedestrians. So little time.
The earth is full. Go home.
You called ma a bitch. That's a bad thing?



March 7, 2008, 9:56 AM

OP, I prefer the more explicit Actually, I do own the whole goddamn road.
I Know Jack Shit.
Dog is my co-pilot.
Born Alright the First Time.
I'd Rather Your Were Sailing.



March 7, 2008, 9:57 AM

I'd Rather You Were Sailing.



March 7, 2008, 10:02 AM

dog is dead



March 7, 2008, 10:04 AM

Q. What do dyslexic philosophers ponder?

Q. Is there a dog?



March 7, 2008, 10:06 AM

Are x, ex and aex all different people or just alternate spellings of the same person?

So, a dog walks into a bar...



March 7, 2008, 10:13 AM

Oriane, Greenberg and Frankenthaler were together for a short time in the early 50s. He was sensitive about this relationship and that is part of the reason he never (as far as I recall) wrote specifically about her work except to relate the Louis/Noland visit to NY, and maybe another mention here & there, usually in the context those artists.



March 7, 2008, 10:18 AM

Uh oh, I hope I haven't started another Clem Kerfuffle. Opie, you clearly know more about him than I do, including details of his lovelife (were you a threesome with Clem & Helen?), so I will bow out here.

I especially liked
Jesus loves you, everyone else thinks you're an asshole.



March 7, 2008, 10:30 AM

re 72

oriane, they are the same. sorry i'm not trying to be irritating. i adopted this 'x' moniker and it's bugging me now. i would also like to distance myself from some of my initial hot headed shots at participating here. blog etiquette takes time i guess.

there is ample address to many questions/concerns i had in the archives. as i get slowly through much of it i feel silly for sounding off the way i have at times. ah well. itself is the kind of serious (at times, and thankfully not so at others) record that i thought contemporary modernists could benefit from. the stalwart contributors (get ready for some ass kissing y'all) here have amassed something very special. and franklin's energy to keep it all going is amazing.

i'm curious though, as someone not remotely web or blog savvy, how anonymous are we here? does franklin have a behind the scenes look at our entries in some capacity?



March 7, 2008, 10:33 AM

For security reasons I won't answer that in detail, but you can rest easy knowing that unless you tell me who you are, I pretty much have no idea.



March 7, 2008, 10:34 AM

Oh, and thank you.



March 7, 2008, 10:46 AM

Unfortuntely not, Oriane. At that time I was ensconsed in a boarding school with no females in sight, alas.



March 7, 2008, 11:37 AM

franklin, in an earlier thread you had asked me where i was located. if you can recall, what was your motive for asking? i was talking about geographical limitations at the time.



March 7, 2008, 11:40 AM

I was just curious about which area of the world you regarded as limited in that respect. values your privacy.



March 7, 2008, 11:46 AM

i wasn't going back to that out of paranoia. i was jsut curious if you had something to say about the development of those whose practice was somewhat more provincial.



March 7, 2008, 11:47 AM

er, geographically that is.



March 7, 2008, 11:50 AM

Whatever George. My point has been entered into public record. Have a nice day.



March 7, 2008, 11:54 AM

we need an Eric vs. George poster like the goofy one Warhol and Basquiat did up when they worked on some paintings together.



March 7, 2008, 12:29 PM




March 7, 2008, 12:41 PM

eric, does that punctuation mean something?



March 7, 2008, 12:43 PM

ok duh. it's a link but it's getting me nowhere.



March 7, 2008, 12:44 PM

Sorry about posting a dead link Franklin (#85). Feel free to delete it.

G vs. E



March 7, 2008, 12:47 PM

ha ha. time for some more low brow sci fi...Clash of the Titans was on last night. i adored it as a kid and i think in the right hands it could be an awesome remake...



March 7, 2008, 3:00 PM

So tell us, Oriane, since you would seem to know, what it's like at the blog of this Ed that didn't want us nasty Artbloggers making trouble over there. Do any fights ever break out, for instance? Or does it never get more heated than "Well, that's just your opinion," or some such weak dodge? I could, of course, check it out personally, but I'd much rather save myself the time and bother and hear it from you instead.



March 7, 2008, 7:37 PM

Yeah, there are occasional fights, mostly between Ed and Franklin. It's pretty interesting; you should check it out.



March 8, 2008, 6:03 AM

Yes, I expect it only gets interesting when Franklin shows up to shake things up a bit. Sheep don't fight much. They just graze. Thanks, but I think I'll pass.



March 8, 2008, 6:28 AM

Jeez Louise, I always seem to be defending someone here (usually myself). I have to say that some commenters here jump to conclusions too quickly and read too much into one or two statements. I meant the blog and conversations generally are interesting, NOT it's only interesting when Franklin and Ed go at it. And why would you make a judgment about it without checking it out yourself? Let's all try to bit a little more open-minded, ok?



March 8, 2008, 7:15 AM

the word (or phrase) "open-minded" has come in for considerable abuse on this blog, Oriane, as you might imagine.



March 8, 2008, 7:25 AM

Well, genuine, intelligent open-mindedness remains a virtue in my book. What came in for abuse was the exhortation that people be open-minded as a way of deflecting criticism. Obviously that's not what Oriane's saying here. I read Ed's blog and often enjoy it.



March 8, 2008, 8:17 AM

Oriane, given that "Ed" showed up here (#9) to discourage us from commenting on what Pretty Lady posted on his blog, and that he couldn't resist a little snide jab while he was at it, I think you might take the "open-minded" business up with him. In any case, I remain uninterested. Proper art blogs are clearly not geared to people like me, and I have precious little use for them. But yes, I'm sure it makes a nice contrast to this blog, if you like that sort of thing.



March 8, 2008, 9:19 AM

Jack, you're right, Ed did show up here being a little snide (he can be tetchy, just like other blogfolk), but I don't want to buy into the herd mentality that he brought up. In response to his herd remark, you said "Yes, I expect it only gets interesting when Franklin shows up to shake things up a bit. Sheep don't fight much. They just graze."

I only meant to point out that both he, who brought it up first (so you do get points for merely responding in kind rather than being the first offender), and you, are wrong about the herd mentality. No one at Ed's (well, maybe one or two, but certainly not the majority), nor here, are sheep.

Well, come to think of it, I did get jumped by the Clem gang very quickly here (I am not an antiClemite!) so maybe that's partly why I'm defending Ed. Because there is a grain of truth to what he said. And I didn't have to endure any hazing when I started reading and commenting on his blog. But I don't mean to provoke further defenses; I'm merely explaining why I said what I said. Peace.

love, O


Marc Country

March 8, 2008, 9:27 AM

Who jumped you, Oriane? Who's the "Clem Gang", exactly? Who are the members of this gang, that assaulted you? And was your own entry into this blog totally snide-less?

This isn't an attack, mind you, just a few questions, to get you to perhaps re-examine your stated impressions...



March 8, 2008, 9:45 AM


i think that was mostly me doing the jumping. if i read over my remarks and their tone, i admit i got a bit silly. i am working on my fundamentalist streak. your 'St. Clem' remark unfortunately, is the kind of thing that anti-Clemites (lol) would drop as an indicator of their position. i know you weren't intending to communicate a dismissive tone, at least now i do. after the fact. but if i went over to ed's and made the same sort of snide comment, without qualification and regardless of intention, i imagine i'd get blasted too. or maybe not. what would be the equivalent? the Pluralist Posse? is ed a Pomo Mofo? just to be fair.



March 8, 2008, 10:01 AM

Marc, are you really throwing down the gauntlet here? Yes, I believe my entry into this blog was snideless. My first comment was something to effect of "Franklin, I really enjoyed meeting you and I look forward to following your blog." No welcoming response followed (until much later, when, in fact, I was being ganged up on and Franklin, said, hey guys, I met Oriane and let's give her a warm welcome, after which several people paused in their ganging up to say "Welcome," then went right back to the ganging. There were phrases such as "that reflects the typical know-nothing, pomo thinking", etc. I really don't feel like going back through the threads and finding examples, but someone (I believe it was Opie?) said, basically, yes, consider it a hazing, but you've passed, so welcome to the club. Then I was a little grumpy and said I don't want to be a member of a club that requires hazing to join, etc., then I got over it and continued to comment.

I think what people took offense to was my use of the phrase "Saint Clem", which I endlessly explained and justified and do we really have to go through that roundabout again? I said that I was surprised that you all seemed to place the critic over and above the artists (at least judging by the amount of chat about him) and that, from a bunch of artists, I found that odd. Blah, blah, I'm bored with it by now.

And Marc, you, of all people, do you really want to pick a fight with me? I seem to recall the last time we sparred, you crawled back to your North by Northwest cave with your anagrammed tail between your legs.

Alright, I'm not really mad, just reminding you that if you're dishing it out, I can take it, and dish it right back.

La O



March 8, 2008, 10:04 AM

It is as much a matter of style as it is Clem support. He did what he did and history will take care of that. If someone has a negative thing to say about him and it is interesting and has some basis in fact it may get an argument but it won't get "blasted". He had his faults.

I won't speak for everyone, but I think a lot of people here (and elsewhere) are sick and tired of unsupportable innuendo and the mindless, knee-jerk buying into the great anti-Clematic myth of the Evil Theorist who Ran the Art World for Thirty Years, eg Roberta Smith in her "Color Field" review. It is absolutely preposterous, but no one outside of this little "gang" here seems willing to say it.

Clem did something to really piss people off, but it is not what we think it is. It will take a trained and clever social psychologist with a real sensitivity to what art is to figure it out. I have a feeling it will line up with one of my favorite Tshirt slogans: " The truth will set you free, but it won't make you many friends"



March 8, 2008, 10:09 AM

Mr. x/ex/aex,

Thank you for that apology/acknowledgment. I don't know what would happen if you went to Ed's. Try it and find out. I don't speak for him. I like Pomo mofo. In San Francisco, all the big corporations would have a contingency in the Gay Parade (it's kind of like the St. Patrick's Day Parade here; all the politicians take part). There's a big law firm there called Morrison & Foerster (nickname: MoFo) and their contingent wore tshirts emblazoned with "MoFo Homos". I believe there was also a black gay performance group (or something) called the Afro Pomo Homos. Yes, there are many entertaining possibilities for incorporating Pomo and Mofo. But since Ed is gay, you might want to be careful with what could be taken as an anti-gay slur, at least until you know him better.




March 8, 2008, 10:16 AM

Mr. abex,

I realize you didn't say anything about homos; that was me, because the pomo mofo thing reminded me of homo. So of course your formulation was not anti-gay in any way.



March 8, 2008, 10:19 AM

Well, Oriane, if it's any comfort to you, George has been around far longer than you, and he pretty much always gets jumped on (which I suspect he likes, since he consistently asks for it). But yes, it's true: around here, if you ask for it, you'll get it.



March 8, 2008, 10:20 AM

There was also a gay Asian contingent that transformed the "queer nation" phrase into "Queer 'N Asian". So clever and arch, those homosexuals, n'est-ce pas? Rather like Evelyn Waugh.

Gosh, it's fun chatting with you guys when we're not bashing each other.



March 8, 2008, 10:44 AM

I'm for euthanasia.



March 8, 2008, 11:27 AM

re: roberta smith colors 'color as field'

i don't read newspapers, generally, and these reviews do a good job of reminding me why i don't. that roberta smith review is so pathetic. what an incredible disservice to the art. her tone is so packaged it's incredible. like star tv or the enquirer or something equivalent. opes you've railed against the NYT before and rightly so.



March 8, 2008, 12:19 PM

I just made myself read that Roberta Smith review. The whole thing is dripping with condescension, as if she were above the whole affair, most especially above Greenberg. It's astonishing that someone who traffics in prosaic banalities would expose herself so openly, but she may well assume that her audience will applaud her for it.

However, the fact that her assumption may be correct hardly makes her look any more respectable. If this is the best the NYT can do, I'm afraid it might as well be the Topeka Star Ledger. Sheesh.



March 8, 2008, 12:19 PM

Re: 101. opie
Clem did something to really piss people off, but it is not what we think it is.

Thinking back, I was a student in 1968 and pretty much reading all the formalist stuff. I don’t recall any anti-Greenberg sentiment among my peers at that time. It was also around then that October magazine started up, so there were two camps in the critical sphere with the October writers being the force behind conceptual art. Being young and impetuous, we read both and while we may have disagreed with each other, I don’t ever recall Greenberg being singled out.

By the time I was out of school, there was two camps Fried, WDB and some others as 2nd generation formalists and the October crew. The country was in the middle of an economic crisis and not much art was selling. Since the earthworks guys and the other conceptualists really didn’t have anything to sell it worked in their favor and gave them the toehold they needed.

So I have a really different picture of all this than many here. I saw, along with many of my peers, post painterly abstraction, as a decorative dead end. Even though, like many a student, we had flirted with this style or approach, at one point most of us were looking for some other approach. We went to see the shows, but it was yesterdays news as far as we were concerned in the studio. By 1973 or so, conceptual art felt like it was the dominant theoretical position, if one was a painter, the period between 1973 and 1980, was a rough one.

If we segway into the present, I don’t think to many painters think one way or the other about Greenberg. I read him 40 years ago when he was fresh, and that’s it. In all fairness, I don’t read much criticism today at all, so it’s not like I’m singling him out.

I also have a different take of the NY Times review. In my view, Greenberg made part of his reputation by critically supporting a group of artists and a couple of identifiable styles. So if one has an exhibition which explores the history of post painterly abstraction, it is fairly difficult to pretend that from a critical perspective, Greenberg had no part in its development. It seems highly appropriate to bring him into the picture and fair to find fault or praise where it is due. For me it’s a non event.

It’s forty years after the fact and when considered in the broader view, the idea that there is some conspiracy against Greenberg is silly. The bigger truth is that no one cares, no one is paying much attention to him anymore, it happened a long time ago, he is history.

PS, no about the Poons exhibition.



March 8, 2008, 12:20 PM

I really wish they would just be our paper of record and leave off all the smug liberal earnestness. It really is annoying. That horrendous hatchet job they tried to do on McCain seems to have flown off the radar screen for some reason, but I hear moans from the Hillary camp about the reporting on her vs. Obama. And so on down the line.



March 8, 2008, 12:33 PM

George, the review mentioned him more than any of the artists, as I have pointed out, and began and ended with paragraphs about him, as I have also pointed out. This is not "bringing him in" it is writing about Greenberg and using the exhibit to do so. As far as I am concerned this is obvious. If you don't think so, so be it.

No one mentioned "conspiracy". There is no conspiracy. No one got totgether to hatch a plot. I don't know how it came about; it just did. It is the way everyone thinks, and it is wrong.

No one is paying any attention to him?? Aren't we just talking about someone paying TOO MUCH attention to him?
Have you noticed that there have been 3 books written about him in the last 10 years? Innumerable articles? Check Google. Have you noticed that no one can talk about the art of the second half of the 20th C without getting him completely wrong at great length?

I've said before that you seem to say totally wrong things merely for the sake of provocation, George.I guess this is another instance.



March 8, 2008, 12:41 PM

Well, OP, the NYT clearly sees itself as the non plus ultra, and it's convinced its position is impregnable. As long as it feels it can do what it damn well pleases with impunity, it's hardly likely to change its ways.



March 8, 2008, 12:48 PM

Honestly, aside from what I hear on this blog, nobody I know is talking about Greenberg one way or the other, it's ancient history. Forty years ago is a long time in the past.

I really can't understand why everyone here gets so excited about this. His critical writings or influence or whatever have no direct affect on what is being done today by the majority of younger artists. It's a chapter in a book, if the writers got it wrong, the kids will never know the difference. Time moves on.

This is just my honest take on this, I talk about it here but not anywhere else.



March 8, 2008, 1:00 PM

re 113:

My point exactly.



March 8, 2008, 1:01 PM

Not Just Dead Words On A Page



March 8, 2008, 1:09 PM

OMG, two 'bergs (must be Siamese twins cuz they have the same arm) are giving life to something in the night sky, while smoking, and there is a floating egg being aggressively fertilized. What can it all mean?



March 8, 2008, 2:09 PM

re: 110

It's to McCain's advantage that people have forgotten about the silly article about him in the NYT. LBJ was known to have his campaign circulate untrue stories about his opponents on the basis that "at least we can make the bastard deny it." In the minds of many, including my 5th grade teacher Sister Beatrice, "the very fact you deny it proves your guilt." It didn't work on McCain and I'm relieved. Clinton, on the other hand, seems to be having better luck with the technique when she applies it to Obama, and her result is far more typical of the effect of public negativity (and which is why Reagan's 11th commandment works so well for the Republicans).

Thus, and in general, when someone states in print that a certain art group/form/style is "of the past", such as is often said about "formalism" and "color field", we are guilty as charged, even though we are obviously "of the present". Pointing out that we are "of the present" does little to change anyone's mind - we are just LBJ's bastards who deny it - and may contriubte to augmenting the negative implications of the initial statements.

To anyone who thinks Greenberg is a neutral figure for "today's thinkers and doers", just read any of the several "biographies" written about him in the past few years.



March 8, 2008, 2:21 PM

Can I get that comment box with a side order of extra strong, dripping, gooey, sarcasm? Thanks!



March 8, 2008, 2:22 PM

George, you should investigate the blog of this Ed guy. I have a feeling your, uh, insights would go over much better there. Oriane can serve as your godmother, so to speak, in case your Artblog past makes Ed antsy, or you can just bash Artblog in your debut comment--that will get you in for sure. Of course, they'll never go after you like we do, and you may never stand out among the like-minded, so it may not meet your needs after all. Still, it's worth considering.



March 8, 2008, 2:42 PM

On Greenberg:

Linda Nochlin:

"He will be seen as the spokesman for a very rigorous form of modernist reductionism. His prose was totally comprehensible and, like Roger Fry, he wrote for a very wide audience. They are the formulators of the classic modernist position, and any other positions that come after are always taking account of them. This is what the so-called rebel groups rebel against, so, in a way, you need them."

William Rubin:

"Art history will remember him as one of the major critics...which doesn't make a hell of lot of difference, because art history is made out of artists and not critics. He will be meat for a couple of Ph.D. students, but the issues will be basically historical at that point; they don't stay alive the way the pictures do."

Robert Rosenblum:

"He represents the purest, most absolute statement of a formalist viewpoint. And since the visual is finally the core of art, what he declared had the sense of essential truth, and that was in part responsible for his papal position, part of his grandeur. He had an extreme and coherent position and you had to deal with it, either by becoming a disciple or rejecting it. One of the astonishing things about him was the psychological power he had as the dictatorial father to a whole generation of critics who either followed him slavishly or rebelled against him, and who very often tried to be, themselves, Clement Greenberg. All of his relationships with his disciples were Oedipal and resulted in either mindless obedience or patricide."

Hilton Kramer:

"Clem was certainly the critic, of my own time, from whom I felt I learned the most, even when I disagreed with his judgment. He wrote the clearest, most easily comprehended prose around, and rejected what he called "fancy writing" about art. In the fifties when he was an editor of Commentary, he invited me to write for that magazine on art. And while he was sometimes a very difficult friend, who was not at all shy about registering his disagreements, we had a long friendship and a good deal of mutual respect. The thing about Clem was you didn't have to agree with him to find him the most interesting writer around."

John Russell:

"Back then he had great authority in one to one conversation with other critics. He communicated to me the feeling that the things he liked were the most important things going on at that time in the world of art. I shared his opinions then, but I later diverged. I felt that he had shut down -- had locked himself into an extremely small room and would never come out. As far as I'm concerned, he never came out. We have lived through an extraordinarily active and compelling period in art, and he left out 98% of it."

Article by Tim Hilton:

"There was something like a vendetta—which still goes on, years after his death in 1994—and it is a discredit to the art world. Some of the attacks were deliberately disgusting. In one famous London art school, a tutor persuaded students to rip pages from their library’s copy of Art and Culture, chew them, then expectorate the chewed paper into a bowl of acid. I knew a couple of the students concerned. They told me that they had been so full of drugs that they did not know what the book was, or what they were doing. But their tutor knew, and he kept the results of their exercise, claiming that it was part of his oeuvre. The chewed-up book was respectfully displayed in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford in 1991–2. The curator of the show claimed that it was “a major piece of conceptual art.”"



March 8, 2008, 3:00 PM

i think opie's excellent point about greenberg being a focus point for a certain set of values is worth keeping in mind. it gives more cred to the artists and less cred to the idea that greenberg orchestrated it all.



March 8, 2008, 3:19 PM

Exactly, Ex. Those values lie at the core of the human good represented by great art and of the continuing battle to keep it being made. They may be on the defensive right now, but this opposition will never change.



March 8, 2008, 4:04 PM

This is hilarious. I didn’t have anything bad to say about Greenberg and all I related was my memory of the period from, my point of view. I didn’t have an adverse reaction to his mention in the NY Times article, am I supposed to say I did when I didn’t?

Opie, said "Aren't we just talking about someone paying TOO MUCH attention to him?" to which I would reply that we are only because someone here made a fuss over it, not me. It seems ironic.

And while, to a young painter, reading anything might be inspirational, I doubt reading any critic will result in them producing better paintings. I would allow that reading him, might be of value to an aspiring critic, who is capable of thinking for their self and would like a model for clarity of expression.
Still, we live in a different age, with different priorities, in my world he doesn’t matter any more.



March 8, 2008, 4:22 PM

And in my world, George, you...oh, never mind.



March 8, 2008, 4:23 PM

George, in your world accuracy doesn't matter much either.



March 8, 2008, 4:28 PM

Inaccurate? about Clem?

Gosh, could be, I didn't know him and like I said I read him 40 years ago, it's in the past. What's he done for us lately?



March 8, 2008, 4:32 PM

The more this goes on, the more the quote by Robert Rosenblum seems like it hits the nail on the head. [see #120]



March 8, 2008, 6:09 PM

The wingnut described by Hilton must have been a mighty sick puppy. Not exactly a credit to his employers, either, though I suppose a trendy art school is as good a fit as any for a perverse asshole. Of course, as assholes go, one can hardly top the curator of that Oxford museum show.

Welcome to the art world.



March 8, 2008, 6:18 PM

Oh, and George, you should really be a little more circumspect. If you keep flashing your open-mindedness, there's no telling to what madness you may drive Oriane. She's only human, after all.



March 8, 2008, 9:06 PM

re 119 & 129,

Jack, you got something to say to me? Don't hold back. You don't have to go through George to do it. If I'm the Godmother, does that mean people will kneel and kiss my hand?

Leave the gun. Take the canolli.



March 8, 2008, 9:13 PM

Also Jack, the phrase is "ne plus ultra", and, such a coinkidink, Ed's gallery used to be called Plus Ultra. It's funny how things come full circle.

Good night, all.


Marc Country

March 9, 2008, 6:51 AM

Oriane, you seem to have misread and wildly misunderstood my last comment, and responded so obnoxiously to it, that I fear I must have been wasting my time in the first place. You are fighting with me, I guess, but I have no desire to "fight" with you. Good day.



March 9, 2008, 8:03 AM

Oriane, for what it's worth, both "ne" and "non" are acceptable and considered correct in that phrase.

Re 119 and 129, I was simply using you as a handy reference to communicate with George, although getting through to him may actually require a craniotomy.

As for Ed's former gallery being called "Plus Ultra," I find that both predictable and mildly amusing. I suppose it's less obvious and prosaic than calling it "Cutting Edge" or "Avant-Garde," but it's still a bit strained. However, I'm not in the selling or image business, and I'm hardly part of his target audience, so he's free to knock himself out.



March 9, 2008, 9:19 AM

"Non" is more Latin I, which I failed twice, so I remember. I never could figure out the "Ne" usage. I suppose it is correct.



March 9, 2008, 9:22 AM

Ragarding #116: My feeble collage was meant to be a tribute to two art critics who had a very real and substantial influence on my development as an artist, not simply as an art critic. That is not to say that I would read Rosenberg or Greenberg when I was an undergraduate and then run off and make a painting or modify a painting based on same exact phrase or idea I picked up from their texts. They influenced my development as an artist (you might say "What development loser?!?!") because they helped me to take making art more seriously and to look at artists who I knew nothing about seriously. Perhaps if I was an art major in school a professor would have done this for me. Based on the experiences I had in the handful of art classes I did take, I would say there was a fifty/fifty chance that that would have happened.



March 9, 2008, 9:44 AM

"ne plus ultra" is the Latin phrase meaning.

1. The highest point, as of excellence or achievement; the acme; the pinnacle; the ultimate.
2. The most profound degree of a quality or condition.

The French may use "non plus ultra" which comes up as a result if you Google in french.

It has little to do with the idea of "Cutting Edge" or "Avant-Garde" although one might infer it as postmodern phrase for quality or goodness.



March 9, 2008, 10:08 AM

George, "non plus ultra" is an accepted usage, as you will find if you google for it in English. It is not a French matter.

"Plus ultra" means "further beyond," "further yet" or "yet beyond," and clearly relates to the concept of "cutting edge" or "avant-garde" or "pushing the envelope." It is not the same as "non plus ultra."



March 9, 2008, 10:30 AM

Gee Jack, I was pulling your chain, but I can see it went right by you.

Oh well, any attention is good attention, right?



March 9, 2008, 10:52 AM

Eric (#135), when I taught art history since 1945 I did a section I named in my notes "The Two Bergs" (I did not use a text - saved the students money and forced them to attend class without my taking roll.) You can deal with a lot of art from 1940 to the present by reading just those two men. They both had good eyes and admired the same artists, more or less. Rosenberg's eye, however, was attached to seriously misguided ideas, such as "action painting broke down every distinction between art and life." On the other hand, he was responsible for such gems as it all started happening when American artists decided to JUST PAINT. And his essay on Coonskinism provides one of the best metaphors for understanding the art scene in America during the 40s and 50s, maybe still applies to those who work outside the mainstream even today.

Interestingly, just before he died, Rosenberg recognized that his theories had spawned some of the worst art he could imagine. In one short essay he asserted that many artists had become too big for art. He was talking about the emergence of "issue" art and other forms, like "performative art", that were derived from his assertion that art and life were the same. Yet he defended his theories, even as he acknowledged their dreadful progeny.

Greenberg, on the other hand, wrote with classical soundness. Yet there was the 10th Street phenomonen that seems to always happen in the vicinity of great art, and that Greenberg understood as weak. But no one has yet accused him of being responsible for it and I'm crossing my fingers that it will remain so. Interesting contrast to Rosenberg who proactively took responsiblity for the bad stuff that flowed from his kinky take on things. Once art and life are thought to be the same, a whole lot of shit easily flows, literally in one case (Cloaca).



March 9, 2008, 11:08 AM

The two 'bergs got me excited about art and helped me to take the whole creative process more seriously. I have not gone back to read either of them recently, unless I am borrowing a quote for a review, but that does not mean that they are not part of my mental firmament and current mindset. The mind is too complicated for me to say they have absolutely no influence on my current way of thinking or seeing or making art. I would also include Leo Steinberg as another great 'berg.

As dismissive as many artists are of art criticism in general, many great artists would attest to having read art criticism avidly during one point during or throughout their lives. I have not met or interviewed an artist who has told me, "I have never read art criticism and I never will." In fact every artist I have interviewed or chatted with reads art criticism often and with more than a passing interest. The obvious point that there would be no art criticism if there were no artists or art isn't even worth noting. Everything else in life, everything besides art criticism, influences artists and their artworks just as much or even more than it, but I don't think it should be taken for granted how much artists get from art criticism. Again there will be exceptions. George for instance has stated that he does not read art criticism any longer. But he did read it fairly often during an earlier stage in his life.



March 9, 2008, 11:14 AM

Re #139, Cat

I would agree on the art and life point relative to the way it was seen by the action painters. This is a subtle area though, because if painting is not informed by life, it becomes disconnected from the viewer. By "informed’ I do not mean specifically something as an idea or action, but an inner awareness of ourselves, of our being.

Suppose we eliminated painting as a human activity, or more practically, suppose people just didn’t have paintings around at all. What would happen? Would we replace our "art paintings" with something else? Maybe we don’t need painting at all, maybe we can just live with bare walls and a vase of flowers or two and still find visual satisfaction?



March 9, 2008, 11:27 AM

Re #140, Eric

That’s what I said, but I realized it’s not quite true. I don’t read criticism the same way now as I did when I was a younger artist. At this point my interest is usually more historical than anything else. Recently a friend had lent me one of Leo Steinberg’s books which I read. I am also piece-reading Malraux (Voices) at the moment. I don’t have a TV, so I read.



March 9, 2008, 11:47 AM

art is born out of life. not sure how it can equate with it. which aspects of life make for the best art or condition our experience of it and vise versa seems a more interesting a notion.
cat, not sure what you mean about clem and 10th st...



March 9, 2008, 11:48 AM

You weren't pulling any chains, George. You were inaccurate and Jack was right.

Sometimes painting is lifeless, but it is always "informed by life"



March 9, 2008, 12:01 PM

"ne plus ultra" is the preferred usage as far as I can tell.
"non plus ultra" defers to "ne plus ultra" in a search.

The whole business of cutting edge etc, used the code word "postmodern," I thought you'd get that.



March 9, 2008, 12:04 PM

Still, my question in #141 is,

If we didn't have paintings would we be any worse off?

What would we be missing?

An inquiring mind wants to know.



March 9, 2008, 12:39 PM

No, sorry, I still don't get it.

If painting is a good thing, as I think it is, then we would be incrementally worse off.



March 9, 2008, 12:43 PM

Or, of you mean no painting but still keep all the other stuff, I'd say that art would certainly be the worse off, because no other visual art form except possibly sculpture have been able to hold as much of the good as painting has.



March 9, 2008, 12:46 PM

of course george your questions can't really be answered. but given what i experience as my awareness, without paintings we would likely aspire to confer something of our own goodness in another way, participating with our material reality such that it might satisfy our appetite for a deep aesthetic of one sort or another.

art history already answers your question over and over in a way.



March 9, 2008, 12:52 PM

my awareness is already its own expression, as is my body and its proportions.



March 9, 2008, 1:18 PM

Thanks, OP (144), but don't bother. It's Jell-O time again.



March 9, 2008, 1:37 PM

OK, there were no tricks here, it is a thought experiment.

I didn’t really care about sculpture, I could say my space is an environmental sculpture or I could put some object on a cinderblock and call it a sculpture. Sculpture belongs to the world of objects.

I meant no painting.

I consider the primary property of painting to be image. Everything else, its other properties work in concert to create its image, which is what we see.

Is painting’s image uniquely different from other types of images, such as posters or photographs or just a large LCD digital display?

If so, how?



March 9, 2008, 3:37 PM

Re 132,

Marc, you are right, I don't know what came over me, I was in a fighting mood and shouldn't have been allowed near a keyboard that day. I responded atrociously. Please accept my apologies.




March 9, 2008, 3:37 PM

I don't care to work with your preference that painting = image, but aside from material differences, no, painting is like other flat pictorial things. It seems to be more able to become good art than the others, but that could change.



March 9, 2008, 3:51 PM

Painting as image just neutralizes out the object aspects, I think it’s how we view paintings even bumpy ones. My use of the word ‘image’ has more to do with how we perceive a painting than anything else.

But, suppose we have a good painting, we digitize it and make a photographic print, or a LCD display of it. Aside from the material differences which can’t be avoided, is anything gained or lost between the three?



March 9, 2008, 4:00 PM

yes. definitely. absolutely. unequivocally. beyond all certitude.



March 9, 2008, 4:36 PM

ok, ex, but what and why?



March 9, 2008, 4:51 PM

I'd have to see it.



March 9, 2008, 5:00 PM

See what?



March 9, 2008, 5:00 PM

ex (#143): The 10th street painters were those who worked in the general stance of the Ab Exes, but did not hold up quality wise. The could splash paint but they could not paint.



March 9, 2008, 5:13 PM

re 160 - cat, i'm aware of 10th Street mannerism (although isn't it more specifically an address to de kooningesque mish mosh), but i'm not sure what you are saying greenberg's relationship to it was.

re 159 - the thing.



March 9, 2008, 5:26 PM

Saying "the thing" suggests a kind of equivalency between the three things, or at least the unwillingness to say no.

I would disagree and say paintings are unique.
I cannot recall ever having had an experience with a photograph which compared to the experience of a great painting.



March 9, 2008, 6:02 PM

in answer to what would be lost george, i do believe something is lost in reproduction. but taken at face value all of these 'versions' should be assessed based on the experience available through each 'medium'.

i believe that painting, good painting, provides a very special experience indeed. something only painting can provide.



March 9, 2008, 6:21 PM

"I cannot recall ever having had an experience with a photograph which compared to the experience of a great painting."

Possibly because a photograph, despite human input, is ultimately a machine-generated image, whereas a painting is created entirely by a human being. It's sort of like the difference between a mannequin and a warm body.



March 9, 2008, 6:33 PM

george, maybe you should go see the Poons show and answer this for yourself.



March 9, 2008, 6:53 PM


Poons is currently being exhibited at which gallery?



March 9, 2008, 6:58 PM

George offers up a hypothetical. "What if every painting in existence disappeared? What would be lost? Would it matter? What would be missing from life if there were no paintings in our world?"

The first thing missing from George's formulation is this, "Were there paintings up until now? Would humanity be stuck with the memories of paintings or is George asking us to imagine what our lives and the rest of humanity since the origins of our species would be like without the concept or material reality of paintings? I think knowing the answer to these questions would greatly impact the responses to George's hypothetical.

The act of painting has been a part of the evolution of the species and sculpture has as well. Printing, Photographing, Xeroxing, Silkscreening, have not. Clearly proto-humans painted, and they didn't fret about why they were doing it. In other words, painting was an integral part of the development of self-consciousness. Painting was there when we made the transition from hunter gatherers to agriculturalists. Historically speaking painting has always been associated with magic and religion. Eventually it became just another commodity, but its old associations with magic and religion never fully disappeared in my opinion. I think the vestiges of these things remain but, as Jack points out, they have been transferred to the notion of the individual. Integral to the reception of any painting is the fact that a human made it with her/his own body. It represents a summation of human gestures, human thought, human feeling. It is a record of a segment of the maker's thoughts, perceptions, and actions.

I will stop now because this is turning into a thesis.



March 9, 2008, 7:14 PM

Jack makes a point I had considered, Possibly because a photograph, despite human input, is ultimately a machine-generated image, whereas a painting is created entirely by a human being.

This seems true on first glance, but in principle it may not be. I think in a photograph, the human input my in part be about the photographer positioning himself relative to what is photographed. Even so, I would agree we still are at the mercy of an optically mapped image.

But, if we consider digitally manipulated photographs, or pure digital images, then the microsurface of the image can be infinitely manipulated by the artist. This is not unlike what a painter does. I don’t know of any photographer working this way but in principle there is no reason why not. Note, I am not talking about photoshopping the image like some are doing, this is something different.

Then there is the possibility of an image which reproduces a hand-painted image with very high fidelity. Somewhere I have a jpegs of a small painting from around 1500, which is actually bigger than the painting itself. Since I have a color calibrated screen I can view this reproduction accurately (relative to the reproduction, but not necessarily to the painting). Still, while it’s entertaining to look at, it’s not equivalent to seeing the painting.

Re Poons, if you are referring to the physicality of his paintings, I think this is only a matter of topological granularity and that in fact we view them as flat.



March 9, 2008, 7:15 PM

See the work, George. You were asking a question about whether the painting and the versions of it were different or worse or better or whatever it was you were asking. The only sensible response is that they have to be seen to make a judgement.

I don't know why i keep falling for your damn games.

Jacobson/Howard Gallery



March 9, 2008, 7:40 PM

Re:#167. Eric,

Well obviously it cannot happen on a grand scale, and that’s why it’s a thought experiment. It can happen at an individual level.

I am not suggesting that it happen.

I was asking "what would we be missing?" not as a challenge but as a way of reconsidering what is important about painting.

Certainly it has nothing to do with money or the marketplace, painting has always been a "commodity" in one fashion or another. It is why it can even possibly be a commodity that is important. Why it has value is precisely why it can become a commodity.

In my opinion, "art as commodity" is the dragon to be slayed. It is a cancer which taints everything at the moment.

So I was just wondering if anyone really thinks about what is important about painting, other than making it a successful commodity. I think not.



March 9, 2008, 7:48 PM

Re:#169 opie,

I wasn’t asking the question because I was trying to find an answer, I know what I think. I wanted to see what others thought and why. To my surprise, Jack had the only reasonable answer, one which reflects a certain viewpoint. The rest of you took this off in a less interesting direction.



March 10, 2008, 5:04 AM

"The rest of you took this off in a less interesting direction."

What direction did you take the "What if..." question YOU formulated about painting in George? If you are going to throw a silly hypothetical into the wind at least come up with something convincing or interesting on your own, so that it inspires others to do the same. Don't offer up a hypothetical and then do nothing but dismiss whatever content it generates from strangers.

"painting has always been a "commodity" in one fashion or another."

That is all you have to say George? The point I was trying to make, before you tried to pooh-pooh it away into oblivion with yet another pseudo-truism (pseudo because I don't agree with you that painting was always a commodity), is that painting (or drawing) was around before any economic structure existed and before the agricultural revolution. Even the most basic definition of commodity, 'something useful or valued', can be brought into question because I don't think we have a clue as to what Neanderthalers got out of those cave paintings of theirs. Recent evidence indicates that even older types of proto-humans made art.

We know that they threw their spears or rocks at those animal drawings but maybe it was because they hated them and wanted to exorcise all of their negative feelings. Certainly they weren't trading them on the open market (it is hard to move a cave). And the last time I checked magical thinking and religious sentiment, although they can certainly be manipulated to sell a lot of worthless trinkets and programming, are interior phenomena.

Painting was done by proto-humans before they had structured language use either spoken or written. I am sure there was some rudimentary system (I use this word for lack of a better term) of communication in place but we don't know who these proto-humans were trying to communicate with, what if anything they were communicating to other proto-humans, why they did paint or draw on cave walls, and if anyone but the proto-human who made the cave drawings even saw them (Some of them were made very deep inside a cave). The whole concept of the commodity assumes an interaction between at least two people, no? In other words in order for something to be a commodity, something of economic value or just plain value, don’t you need some sort of agreement among a minimum of two people that this thing has value and is therefore a commodity?

Back to Jack’s idea…I do think the fact that a person made a painting is essential to its intrinsic value. George your points about photography are silly because they are so basic. Obviously a person takes pictures and manipulates machinery to accomplish this. The process of photography is not free from human input. Warhol made paintings that were slick and incorporated the silkscreening process, but I would say that the drips and irregularities found in any of his silkscreen works are more important with regards to them being considered paintings.

So as slick as minimalist or pop painters might try to make their paintings, the ghost in the machine is always of utmost importance in the process. Of course contemporary ‘painters’ could easily utilize machines to make paintings from beginning to end, with no direct human contact with the painting surface taking place at all, but there is a reason why this possibility will never take a real hold. Mangold draws his lines on his paintings by hand. Early Warhol paintings of advertisements have evidence of the human hand all over them. So in some sense paintings are symbols of free will, and this is true whether or not free will really exists or not. Humans can decide to make something, and then make something out of the nothing that is the blank surface. Yes there are plenty of products that are marketed and sold to us that try to manipulatively harness this same notion of freedom and free will, but these promises are illusory and are nothing more than lubricants in an economic process.

The painting process, making a painting, is the real deal. There is an affirmation of the individual as a being free from determinism, the determinism of biology and the determinism of society, when one completes a painting and can stand before the work and see the collection of choices made and actions taken. And this is the case whether or not the artist really has any say in the matter to begin with.



March 10, 2008, 7:10 AM

Eric, where’s your imagination?

I was posing a hypothetical question not a challenge to painting. If you didn’t understand what I meant, you could have asked instead of going off half-cocked.

Frankly I zeroed in on commodity and said "painting has always been a "commodity" in one fashion or another," because I noticed this idea seemed to creep into some of your previous comments enough that it stood out to me.

One of the major problems in today’s art-world is an over awareness or over focus on the art-market. It has nothing to do with, or at least should have nothing to do with, painting as far as I am concerned. Yet what I see in the galleries is painting as commodity (and yes, of course, not everything)

We don’t know what went on in the caves 40,000 years ago. Transactions between individuals, shamanism or stump pissing, what’s the difference? It is just a different form of commodification which results from an activity or object having some worth or value to the culture. No worth or value = no commoditification.

George your points about photography are silly because they are so basic. You didn’t understand what I was saying which was a potential extension or work around of Jack’s statement that despite human input, is ultimately a machine-generated image, whereas a painting is created entirely by a human being. It is entirely basic, that’s the point.

I’m not sure what Warhol has to do with the photography issue other than drips can be viewed as painterly, hence less mechanical.

After 600 words you finally say this So in some sense paintings are symbols of free will, and this is true whether or not free will really exists or not.

That is one answer to my question.

…when one completes a painting and can stand before the work and see the collection of choices made and actions taken.

That’s another.

So people how friggin hard was that?



March 10, 2008, 7:24 AM

For many people who make paintings, painting has nothing to do with commodification or commodities.



March 10, 2008, 7:31 AM

Well, I expect that is true either in what they say or what they say their intent is.

But what I see in the galleries feels like commodification and I think this is a deeper problem within the system because people are rewarded for it.

Painting as commodity, wins out over painting as exploration every time. The marketplace wants a "brand," with brand consistency.



March 10, 2008, 7:33 AM

That was one of those wierd typos, I meant

Well, I expect that is true either in what they say or what they say their intent is.

But what I see in the galleries feels like commodification and I think this is a deeper problem within the system because people are rewarded for it.

Painting as commodity, wins out over painting as exploration every time. The marketplace wants a "brand," with brand consistency.


Eric (the real Slim Shady)

March 10, 2008, 7:46 AM

George wrote #175. I did not.



March 10, 2008, 7:47 AM

Following up on your definition of "painting as exploration" could you tell us what is being explored by the painter when they paint?



March 10, 2008, 7:52 AM

George you are starting to sound like Miss Prig the 3rd grade teacher, directing everyone to answer a badly posed "question" the way you want it answered. As it stands, it is unanswerable in any event.

Give us a break, man.



March 10, 2008, 7:57 AM

Yes, the intent is not to produce a commodity product which by its nature requires action that is specifically directed towards some goal.

Painting as exploration is about the act of discovering what the painting is.

Decent examples of painting as exploration, De Kooning or Pollock. Or see the exhibition of Diebenkorn's paintings (at the age of 30), at the Grey Art Gallery.

Painting as commodity got a toehold with the concept of "series" in the sixties. This essentially takes an idea and permutes it enough times to create a product line. How this plays out depends on the artist, but in lesser hands it's about as interesting as appropriation.



March 10, 2008, 7:59 AM

You're such a stick in the mud, it was an attempt at an open conversation, a discorse on something, not a fucking term paper. I can see it's a waste of my time.



March 10, 2008, 8:06 AM

Emphasis on "attempt."



March 10, 2008, 8:11 AM

"Painting as exploration is about the act of discovering what the painting is."

George you will have to forgive me for finding this sentence a bit circular. I understand the concept 'discovering the imagery through the process' but is that all you have to say about what painting is about? Can you provide more concrete details?



March 10, 2008, 8:14 AM

Yeh, it was an "attempt" that fell on deaf fossilized ears, not my problem.



March 10, 2008, 8:17 AM

Forget it Eric, I'm sorry you don't get it.

I'm done with this, discuss it amongst yourselves.



March 10, 2008, 8:27 AM

"Painting as exploration is about the act of discovering what the painting is."

"painting has always been a "commodity" in one fashion or another."

"paintings are unique."

"I consider the primary property of painting to be image."

This is pretty thin gruel. Can you add anything to this George?

"I'm done with this, discuss it amongst yourselves."




March 10, 2008, 8:28 AM

George your question was:

"But, suppose we have a good painting, we digitize it and make a photographic print, or a LCD display of it. Aside from the material differences which can’t be avoided, is anything gained or lost between the three?"

My answer was:
I'd have to see the pictures.

I regret being fossalized, but any other answer is nothing but empty speculation, a crime you accuse the rest of us of with some regularity. And poor Eric, who did his best anyway, does not "get it".

We are all cast in shadow by your magnificent light, George.


Marc Country

March 10, 2008, 8:33 AM

Emphasis on "mud", mre like it... some examples of classic Georgean intellectually consistency:

"painting has always been a "commodity" in one fashion or another"
"Painting as commodity got a toehold with the concept of "series" in the sixties."

In short... Always = since the sixties

Wake me up when there's a Monday post.



March 10, 2008, 9:03 AM

Like I said, I'm done with it.

Opie and Eric, go ahead and see if the two of you can take it from Eric's earlier comments towards anything interesting. I don't think you can do it.



March 10, 2008, 9:06 AM

george or eric, are either one of you thinking about going to see the Poons show? dunno if it's even still up.



March 10, 2008, 9:08 AM

I believe that should be Georgian, Marc, as in Georgian England. I would have let it go, but if I had, Oriane would probably have seized upon it, and there's been enough friction between you two. I'm just trying to be pre-emptive here. You know, like that Ed guy.



March 10, 2008, 9:11 AM

Definition of the word 'image' - "a reproduction or imitation of the form of a person or thing"

Easter Monday

Lets work with this well know de Kooning painting, which has been on permanent display at the MoMa for decades.

There is an inherent contradiction in these two concepts George,

Painting is an image
Painting is an exploration

In my mind, Easter Monday is an anti-imagistic painting. Just try describing every square inch of it accurately. Perhaps if painting is considered to be a process of searching with no conclusions reached, no final steadfast images obtained by the end of it, then painting as exploration makes sense. So your philosophy of painting limits itself to AbEx type painting, where the process, the gesture, is paramount. But if you say that paintings are images, the AbEx's modus operandi would lead to one failure after another, because no concise image becomes manifest by the end of the painting process. Painters who are more interested in gesture and process tend to be abstract, but obviously both abstract and realist painters can be counted among the painters who make images. You can have painters who are interested in image and gesture equally as well. But to flat out say that painting is about image making is false in my mind, and to say painting is exploration (I tried to get you to give a few more details about this process of exploration but you refused to) is also not necessarily true. Many painters plot out in an exacting way what their paintings will look like before they paint them.

Feel free to ignore this post George. I know that you threw your hands in the air and gave up on the discourse about five comments ago. I just wanted to finish my thought on the subject at hand. I wouldn't want people to think that I couldn't explain myself or support a position.



March 10, 2008, 9:16 AM

im·age      /??m?d?/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[im-ij] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation noun, verb, -aged, -ag·ing.

1. a physical likeness or representation of a person, animal, or thing, photographed, painted, sculptured, or otherwise made visible.
2. an optical counterpart or appearance of an object, as is produced by reflection from a mirror, refraction by a lens, or the passage of luminous rays through a small aperture and their reception on a surface.
3. a mental representation; idea; conception.
4. Psychology. a mental representation of something previously perceived, in the absence of the original stimulus.
5. form; appearance; semblance: We are all created in God's image.
6. counterpart; copy: That child is the image of his mother.
7. a symbol; emblem.
8. the general or public perception of a company, public figure, etc., esp. as achieved by careful calculation aimed at creating widespread goodwill.
9. a type; embodiment: Red-faced and angry, he was the image of frustration.
10. a description of something in speech or writing: Keats created some of the most beautiful images in the language.
11. Rhetoric. a figure of speech, esp. a metaphor or a simile.
12. an idol or representation of a deity: They knelt down before graven images.
13. Mathematics. the point or set of points in the range corresponding to a designated point in the domain of a given function.
14. Archaic. an illusion or apparition. –verb (used with object)
15. to picture or represent in the mind; imagine; conceive.
16. to make an image of; portray in sculpture, painting, etc.
17. to project (photographs, film, etc.) on a surface: Familiar scenes were imaged on the screen.
18. to reflect the likeness of; mirror.
19. to set forth in speech or writing; describe.
20. to symbolize; typify.
21. to resemble.
22. Informal. to create an image for (a company, public figure, etc.): The candidate had to be imaged before being put on the campaign trail.
23. to transform (data) into an exact replica in a different form, as changing digital data to pixels for display on a CRT or representing a medical scan of a body part in digital form.



March 10, 2008, 9:19 AM

You are making the assumption that the image is something other than what you see.

A painting is just a painting.

It's image can be just what painted.



March 10, 2008, 9:25 AM

The alternate definitions of the word 'image' that you posted under the pseudonym 'image' (wow you are 'image' and 'Eric'), over half of which are completely irrelevant to the topic at hand, do not disqualify my arguments. Sorry.

I give up.



March 10, 2008, 9:28 AM

I find it amazing that a bunch of people who profess to be experts about painting can be so constipated when it comes to understanding the broad possibilities the meaning of the word image.

It obviously has nothing to do with a picture of something.



March 10, 2008, 9:34 AM

I am sorry that the 1000+ words I have written in an attempt to get you to explain yourself constitutes a state of 'constipation' in your mind George. Because I have better things to do, I will not attempt to engage you in any way ever again. Have a nice day. Drive safely.



March 10, 2008, 9:56 AM

When I used the term "investigative painting" before, no one choked on the idea, as I recall Catfish thought it had some merit.

In the modern world of streamlined production, the manufacturing process is often divided into two parts:
1. R&D
2. Production

I’m just suggesting that "investigative painting" is more like R&D but what we are seeing is more like production, or commodification.

My use of the three AE painters as an example had NOTHING to do with style, it was about a generational attitude which leaned more towards painting as investigation. I never expected that anyone would rigidly attach AE to the idea, to the exclusion of everything else, it was just an historical example.

The development of serial painting in the 60’s was the exact opposite of this, the Production of a series of similar paintings which essentially results in the commodification of painting.

Of course if one uses two polarities to define an activity space, it will always be true that there is stuff in-between. None the less, what I am suggesting is, that at the moment, the art-world is leaning strongly towards the commodification side of things. They might call it "branding" or something else but it amounts to the same thing.



March 10, 2008, 9:58 AM

People who drive in circles are always safe, Eric.



March 10, 2008, 10:23 AM

Okay now we have a little more meat to work with. You lament the loss of the unique image, the one of a kind work of art. You feel that reproducability and repetition are bad things for painting. Did someone say Walter Benjamin? I think Rothko grew frustrated with the painting process because he felt like he was trapped by his signature style. Collectors want signature style works for their collections. Can a painter really make themselves over from scratch with each new painting though? This would be an insurmountable task. There are always going to be stylistic and thematic parallels between works done by the same artist during a set period of time. But is the serial nature of some artists' work really the problem though? Paintings done in a series do not have to be exactly alike. There might be many variations between individual works.



March 10, 2008, 10:31 AM

You lament the loss of the unique image, the one of a kind work of art.

That's not what I said.

It's about the painters attitude towards their painting.

If Rothko grew frustrated with the painting process because he felt like he was trapped by his signature style. then he succumbed.

I do not think Monet had this problem, nor Van Gogh, nor Picasso, nor Mondrian.



March 10, 2008, 10:33 AM

Collectors want signature style works for their collections.

Focus is on commodification here, it's problematic.



March 10, 2008, 10:34 AM

hofmann was undervalued for a long time because of his 'discontinuity'


Terry Fenton c/o ex

March 10, 2008, 10:36 AM

from: Appreciating Noland 1990?

ONE OF THE THINGS many painters strive for is an approach or method which contributes to pictorial unity. To some extent this frees the artist from some aspect of "composing" while allowing him to focus on what he does best. This accounts for a portion at least of what we call an artist's style. When carried into format it becomes the rationale for "series" painting. In Noland's case this approach has involved a succession of geometric formats. The format of a "Chevron," "Surfboard," or "Flare" helps unify individual pictures yet can be repeated many times. This enables the adjustment of colors and handling without fussing to "compose" the format itself.

Working in series was practiced by many artists before Noland, but seldom so strictly or methodically. One has to go back to Monet in the 1890s for such a resolute approach to painting in series. But the approach seems more necessary and productive for Noland than it was for Monet. In his series which use repeated motifs -- "Haystacks," "Cathedral Fronts," and "Poplars" -- Monet didn't rise to the heights he'd reached in the 1870s and early '80s with more conventionally varied compositions. In comparison, Noland has found freedom in formats that on the surface seem rigidly preconceived.



March 10, 2008, 10:45 AM

Noland's a perfect example.

It was about branding, we called it "signature style" then, but as art students it was the buzz bullshit of the time.

Noland's style was overly simplified, therefore a dead end he hasn't been able to work out of.

Poons beat it.

Monet's style was so broad it wasn't a problem



March 10, 2008, 10:45 AM

'on the surface seem rigidly preconceived'...

hence, a cursory or superficial assessment of each indidvidual work or series might lead one to percieve a body of work as homognenized for the sake of marketability, when in fact the rationale for working in series is exactly its ability to develop particular strengths and variety



March 10, 2008, 10:46 AM

for a sec there george, i thought you didn't have your head up your arse but you quickly snuffed the notion



March 10, 2008, 10:52 AM

Don't get me wrong about Noland, I like his early work.

He's trapped and never managed to sucessfully take it any farther.

I was a student at that time, we knew the "series" idea was bullshit, we did it anyway.



March 10, 2008, 10:52 AM

this whole discussion is oriented around the necessity for you as viewer to assess and experience each thing for what it is worth, on its own terms. slamming noland like that is so silly, and why is poons better exactly? if one painting satisfies and another does so but in a different way, doesn't this tell us there is lots of room for variety at the top of the quality heap? you are talking very dismissively about two of the best painters anywhere, anytime george.



March 10, 2008, 10:57 AM

your link between 'working in series...strictly or methodically' and commodification does not hold george.



March 10, 2008, 11:04 AM

I'm sorry ex, you're misunderstanding me.

Like I said, and have said before here, I like Noland. I do feel that his "signature style" is too restricted (say like Albers) which for me limits his historical importance.

I think Poons beat the style trap of his early work. On the basis of the early work only, I thought Noland was better.

I like Poons' later work better than Nolands.



March 10, 2008, 11:04 AM

i think a continuity always develops out of the practice of painting, be it representational or abstract. it emerges first from the continuity of dedicated practice and hard work, informed always by the character of the given practitioner.



March 10, 2008, 11:06 AM

if 'style' doesn't involve 'series' or method then i don't know what we're talking about...



March 10, 2008, 11:09 AM

postulate: there is an identifiable serial aspect to the style of warhol, lichtenstein, and johns.



March 10, 2008, 11:11 AM

"I do not think Monet had this problem, nor Van Gogh, nor Picasso, nor Mondrian."

You are oversimplifying to the point of inaccuracy. Monet felt constricted by classic Impressionism by the 1880s. Van Gogh was still evolving his method when he died; he hadn;t had time to get tired of it. Picasso was ready to abandon anything on the spur of the moment. You might be right about Mondrian, but even he was uneasy about the simplicity of his method when he got to NY in the 40s. Poons started to fiddle with the classic pours by the early 1980s.



March 10, 2008, 11:17 AM

Style and series are only tangentially related.

Style in it’s perfect sense, is a manifestation of the artist’s personality. It is not something conjured up as a marketing device. An artist’s style is something he cannot not do, it just happens. It evolves gradually over time because it is the sum of ones experience.

If style involves "series" or "method," these aspects are part of the working practice. There is nothing personal about working in series, what one does within the series, with the "method," is what constitutes the artist’s identity or style.

To say "I work in series" is meaningless in terms of style.



March 10, 2008, 11:18 AM

the style or branding of warhol and de kooning directly supports commodification, whereas the style (if we choose this word)of noland resists the same label, even while it exhibits continuity. it is exactly the variety of intent and accomplishment in the work which distinguishes noland from the former.



March 10, 2008, 11:23 AM

style as a word, in its relation to fashion as a word, is obviously linked to a word.



March 10, 2008, 11:24 AM

George, your definition of artistic style is too idiosyncratic to be useful, especially for a general discussion like this. Style is what a picture looks like apart from any differentiations of quality. What you are saying nearly amounts to the opposite.

You do things like this and then go off in a funk when no one goes along.


Marc Country

March 10, 2008, 11:29 AM

"I believe that should be Georgian, Marc, as in Georgian England."

Yeah, but if you spell it like that, Jack, it seems to lend a patina of respectability to it. My differentiation was intentional...



March 10, 2008, 11:36 AM

Re:3217 ex, wait a minute here, your mixing things up.

My initial point mentioning De Kooning, and Pollock, was about "investigative painting," it has nothing to do with what style they were working in.

In my opinion, every major Western artist for the last two hundred years has an identifiable style, a visual identity. Without this quality of "identity", they are not considered major.

Warhol and De Kooning may have both been subject to market branding but these two artists are far apart in what this actually means. The branding of De Kooning was Greenberg’s fault, he made him a household name and his sales increased making the concept of branding a viable possibility.

Warhol, was no dope, he saw this and exploited branding, series and therefore commodification to the max.

Painters work in series because they know they can more easily make and therefore potentially sell more paintings that way. If they tell you something different, they are lying.



March 10, 2008, 11:38 AM

modernism says the best artists impose limitations on themselves for the sake of expression. these limitations whatever they are, end up generating certain tendencies in their output (style?). in the end some artists go further than others developing, questioning, and strengthening and revising these limitations. the best artists go all the way, and you know it because their best work whallops your neat and tidy expectations, challenging your taste and asking more of your sensibilities.

Paint or go home.

(those of you not up on the skate/surf parlance, back in the day it was 'skate or go home' and 'no posers')

my treatise on the innate modernist aspects of skate/surf culture is forthcoming. ;)



March 10, 2008, 11:39 AM

Opie, Bullshit

Style in it’s perfect sense, is a manifestation of the artist’s personality. This is a truth, it cannot be faked.

Anything else is branding or some other market related decision



March 10, 2008, 11:41 AM

george your last sentence is nonsense!!!

and proves you are opting to not read or acknowledge any of the sensible things anyone else here is saying



March 10, 2008, 11:43 AM

Opie, Bullshit

Oh, I think we hit bullshit at #173.



March 10, 2008, 11:44 AM

I don't know what "style in its perfect sense" means, and I never said it was or wasn't a maifestation of anything or had anything to do or not to do with "branding", I only said that your very specialized definition rendered the term unusable in this discussion, or any discussion for that matter. Style is what something looks like.



March 10, 2008, 11:46 AM

Franklin I can't remember a thread this long since the good old days of Jerome and Dr B three years ago.



March 10, 2008, 11:49 AM

In todays world the way opie is using style equates to branding.



March 10, 2008, 11:51 AM

You're right, Opie, and I was noticing that it hasn't utterly crashed into a swamp of name-calling, as it might have done at the time.



March 10, 2008, 12:00 PM

here's some style for y'all...sorry i don't know how to do the link biz



March 10, 2008, 12:14 PM

George we cannot have a discussion if we all make make up our own definitions for the words used in the discussion. says:

"A particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character: the baroque style; The style of the house was too austere for their liking."

That's how we should use the word. Same goes for all words. OK?



March 10, 2008, 12:20 PM

Ok I mean it like identity.

You mean it like fashion, branding, style look.

Commodication rules, Warhol got it right



March 10, 2008, 12:21 PM

and george got it wrong.



March 10, 2008, 12:25 PM

Thanks for the vid clip ex. My kid enjoyed watching it five times.



March 10, 2008, 12:42 PM

hey no prob eric. my sister just sent me that. ever since the gygax post, i've been mulling over the ways in which the aesthetic played a role in my youth.

i am thinking a lot about skateboarding as a truly modernist sport, or at least another useful analogy for modernist art production. it's value is completely wound up in the quality of expression that the individual manages to eak out of the medium of skateboarding. the best skaters develop their skills through trial and error and pushing at convention until something great happens. there is infinite room for variation on tricks and this becomes the driving force behind innovation.

the best skaters have an obvious style, although they all use a core group of tricks (that is always developing by the skate 'avant garde' if you will) to communicate their singular expression.



March 10, 2008, 12:54 PM

there is a curious sentiment these days that labels vert skating as bascially academic and not really what skateboarding is or should really be about. skateboarding started in the streets and was available to anyone. twenty years ago when back yard pools in cali were the limitations skaters used to take skating to a new level nobody would have guessed it would become mannered. but then nobody saw what street skating held in store. sorry guys i hope this isn't a big stretch. i think it's fair and for myself at least more interesteing than going round and round with george (on this one at least george).

(vert denotes 'vertical' because the ramp hits vertical at its extremes - half pipe, huge u-shaped ramps like on xtreme games etc)



March 10, 2008, 1:11 PM

There is something totally to what Ex is saying. I'm trying to work up an idea along those lines: each medium has a set of properties that makes it good, and in a robust medium, practitioners, critics, and aficionados share a felt understanding about that goodness. Skateboarding celebrates a certain kind of movement that you can only get out of a skateboard, and a particular warrior/surfer aesthetic that goes along with it. That felt understanding becomes diluted or lost past a certain point of popularity, beyond which you end up with mannerism at the high end and poseurs at the low end. This is basically what has happened to visual art, and the solution is a similar back-to-the-street attitude - one that says, hey, let's return to what made this good in the first place. Hence the phenomenon of the backward-reaching radical: Manet going back to Velazquez, The Abex painters reaching over to early Cubism, and so on.



March 10, 2008, 1:32 PM

Well, Marc, in that case, how about Gorgon? The sex is wrong, but George is far too progressive to object on that basis.



March 10, 2008, 1:40 PM

Re: #237. Franklin

So about reaching.

What are today's young painters returning to? To what made it good in the first place?

Rauschenberg, Warhol, POP



March 10, 2008, 1:42 PM

Re: #237. Franklin

So about reaching.

What are today's young painters returning to? To what made it good in the first place?

Rauschenberg, Warhol, POP



March 10, 2008, 1:43 PM

I couldn't let this one go.

"Style in it’s perfect sense, is a manifestation of the artist’s personality."

Hunh? What? Happy people paint happy pictures with happy imagery, happy brushstrokes, happy colors, happy drawing, happy happy happy.

And sad people paint sad pictures with sad colors, sad lines, sad subject matter, sad brushstrokes.

Depressed people paint depressing pictures (like Van Gogh right?), using depressing colors, depressing lines, depressing brushstrokes, etc.

Can we reduce style and personality to a set of distinct elements that we can clearly identify and draw parallels between? I sure as hell can't.



March 10, 2008, 1:51 PM


What's your point? You don't understand what a personality is? You're young, you'll find out eventually, you're stuck with what you have.



March 10, 2008, 1:57 PM

In all fairness to the lamentable George, Eric, I believe he meant something more "deeply interior" than happy & sad. He is just not expressing it well.

And we certainly would not have a ca 250-comment thread without old George to kick around.

Franklin #237. Yup. the correspondence between the brainn and the thing. That's it. it applies to everything.

Unfortunately, it is called "formalism".



March 10, 2008, 1:59 PM

What are today's young painters returning to? To what made it good in the first place? Rauschenberg, Warhol, POP

Let's not insult "today's young painters" by referring to them as a monolithic entity. I teach at an art school in which they are exploring figurative realism. I personally am looking back at Hakuin and his circle. I know young abstractionists. There's a huge Pop Surrealism movement out here in California, which resembles Warhol and Rauschenberg not at all. They each have their own thing going.



March 10, 2008, 2:08 PM

And there would be nothing contradictory about an impulse to reach into Warhol-style Pop for something revitalizing. No style has a lock on quality. Pop just happens to be a poor source environment because so much of it aimed so low.



March 10, 2008, 2:16 PM

Pop aimed at what it wanted to hit, hit it, and was duly rewarded for doing so. Kind of like a perfect crime.



March 10, 2008, 2:19 PM

If you think my treatment of your analogy, personality equals style, was too reductive then let's look at it the other way. Let us say then that personality is so complex that you can't pin down the concept at all. Therefore you can't pin down the concept of style either. Therfore equating personality with style is pointless.



March 10, 2008, 2:21 PM


First off sorry for the double post, it's caused by an error in your code. A refresh on the thank you page reposts the comments, it shouldn't do that since the comments are no longer on the page.

By todays young artists, I ment that affectionatly, and I wasn't including your age group.

I made three choices for examples, based upon some stuff I've seen here at NYU and in the Lower East side galleries, nothing definitive mind you, just an suggestion. You're teaching, so you probably know better than I. I was just curious. You don't have to be so snotty about it.



March 10, 2008, 2:23 PM

It occurs to me that if George gets any more "with-it," he may qualify as the male Clara Bow. Actually, Clarence Bow has an interesting ring to it, no?



March 10, 2008, 2:28 PM

So you're refreshing the thank-you page, and when the browser warns you that you're resending POSTDATA, you click "yes"? And this is the fault of the code?

Meanwhile, you write something simplistic and hackneyed about "today's young painters," I point out that this is nonsense, and the fault is that I'm being "snotty"?

Has it occurred to you that your input might have something to do with your response? Or are you just going to keep on blaming everyone else for the problems generated by your inability to get your arguments together?



March 10, 2008, 2:31 PM

No, that's not what happens.
I'll click post on this page



March 10, 2008, 2:31 PM

No, that's not what happens.
I'll click post on this page



March 10, 2008, 2:31 PM

No, that's not what happens.
I'll click post on this page



March 10, 2008, 2:32 PM

Okay, testing.



March 10, 2008, 2:33 PM

Then I get the page that says:

comment on: Good times with public art

Thank you for your comment. Proceed to Good times with public art or

If I inadvertently referesh the page or do it on purpose three times then you saw what happens.

The user shouldn't be able to do that

It's a bug



March 10, 2008, 2:33 PM

Works for me. Do you see that "click once" thing next to the Post button.



March 10, 2008, 2:35 PM

We will get to 300 in no time that way, George, but I don't think it will "make Franklin happy" as they say in the guidelines.



March 10, 2008, 2:41 PM

Jesus, George, you're using IE5. That entire program is a bug. Any browser updated in the last five years will stop you from resending POSTDATA.

So, to follow your reasoning, should I respond to your inability to get your arguments together by deleting your comments?



March 10, 2008, 2:49 PM

Re #250 Franklin

I said, What are today's young painters returning to? To what made it good in the first place?

I paraphrased via cut and paste mind you, this:
hey, let's return to what made this good in the first place.

I looked at the time differential, roughly 40-50 years and landed in the 1960's. This fit some work I've seen out here which seemed indebted to, or aware of, early Rauschenberg, Also the collage/assemblage movement which immediately preceded him, but died on the vine after the big MOMA show.

I talk with younger artists (under 35) at openings here on the lower east side, they had an interest in the "Yeh Baby" sixties, psychedelia, bright colors etc.



March 10, 2008, 2:52 PM




March 10, 2008, 2:56 PM

I agree about IE5 being a shitty browser but it doesn't crash as often as Mozilla (when I'm running under OS9) IE9 doesn't give a warning on a Repost, I sent an email to Microsoft four years ago but never got an answer. Whatever, that's how it happened.
The multiple posts were accidents you can delete them if you want.



March 10, 2008, 3:10 PM

re: today's young painters

i think most 'young' painters are looking just about everywhere for something to glom their ideas onto. problem is most young painters today don't really look or know how to look at the best painting that preceded them. George, do you really consider POP etc to be the most relevant source for painting?

there is a secret parallel history to the last 40 or so years, one in which painters that tried to build on a history of excellence in painting have been doing so way under the radar. the work is there though, if you want to look for it. problem is it really has little to do with the fashionable work that has had the spotlight since the sixties.

for myself, as i relate to this hidden history, i find myself looking back, in the so-called grandfather fashion, to the openness of early olitski, noland, and louis and for the same and other reasons hofmann. in an effort to solidify tension across the surface of painting, the generation after noland and early olitski have worked a certain physicality (that olitski mastered - later bannard comes to mind as an example of a fusion of this physicality with a drawing that works with it) for a long time and my sense is that there is fresh ground in a return to some of the openness of classic color field. lately i have been thinking about sculpture in the same way.



March 10, 2008, 3:32 PM

Re:262. ex

George, do you really consider POP etc to be the most relevant source for painting?

Did I say that? I don’t think so. I was not offering any recommendations one way or the other, only relating what I was seeing and hearing. It is a very small sample set.

It makes some sense because it is two generations back, not many readers here remember PopArt when it was happening. It was fun.
Never the less, I was just hooking up to an historical period, one which is close enough to still be in the air, but far enough away that a young artist won’t get saddled with a second or third generation something label. Of course a viable alternative would be to look back at the early conceptual artists and if the economy goes further in the tank, it is what I think will happen. It’s somewhat reflected in this years Whitney Biennial which I’ve only seen online so far.

The truth of the matter is that people are like sheep, they tend to herd together (in the markets we call ‘em "sheeple") and follow the same trends. It’s a good survival mechanism and it’s somewhat predictable.

There are examples of parallel movements in recent history, the Ash Can School of painters and more specifically Stuart Davis, who is increasingly getting more respect. On the other hand there was an American Surrealist movement which kind of died on the vine in the late 50’s.



March 10, 2008, 3:40 PM

Re: 289, ox

Just to toss out a really oblique viewpoint. The Rolling Stone recently had an article on the way music is mixed today compared to in the past. They talked about dynamic compression or something, and at first I wasn’t sure what they meant.

Then I realized what they were doing was compressing the dynamic range of the music and that this was like cranking up the contrast on an image. The darks get darker, the whites whiter, and a lot of subtly gets lost in-between.

In music the same thing happens, partly because the data compression formats are more efficient that way, but we loose the subtly in the music. It appears no one seems to notice, that with iPods and street noise, everything is jake. It appears that maybe the same thing might be happening in painting, the subtlety will be wiped out by the noise.



March 10, 2008, 3:42 PM

"On the other hand there was an American Surrealist movement which kind of died on the vine in the late 50’s."

Do I detect a hint of regret, George? Do tell.



March 10, 2008, 3:47 PM

No, I couldn't even remember their names.

I like regular surrealism, french roast.



March 10, 2008, 3:56 PM

What there was of a classic American Surrealist movement of the daliesque weird realism type was pretty moribund by the late 40s.



March 10, 2008, 4:15 PM

Silly me. Of course George wouldn't hanker after some forgotten has-beens (more like never-weres). George likes contemporary surrealism, as in Neo Rauch. Similar dog, different collar (dog, of course, being the operative word).



March 10, 2008, 4:42 PM

Opies got it, it was before my time.

No Jack, I mean't Ernst et al



March 10, 2008, 5:02 PM

That felt understanding becomes diluted or lost past a certain point of popularity, beyond which you end up with mannerism at the high end and poseurs at the low end.

I think this is true as far as it goes. But where the real surprise is going to come from is China, where artists are ransacking western contemporary art and repurposing it to their own needs.

Initially the results often look clumsy, but there are a lot of Chinese artists, space is available like SoHo in the 60’s, and there is patronage. I doubt they are bothering with the critical infighting that goes on here, it looks like they are running roughshod over the landscape trying anything they think will work.

Link to China Square NY gallery which shows a number of mainland Chinese artists here in NYC.



March 10, 2008, 5:07 PM

'artists are ransacking western contemporary art and repurposing it to their own needs'

they sound like modernists.



March 10, 2008, 5:11 PM

they sound like modernists.

My point is that they are hung up with that distinction. And before you make that assumption, you had better check out what they are doing, it runs the gamut of contemporary art. Actually I think it's really interesting, partly just because they are just doing it.



March 10, 2008, 5:20 PM

They're not behaving like modernists so much as Post-Communism hypercapitalists, like everyone else with the resources to do so over there, but I don't expect them to produce anything of note any more than any other cog in the contemporary art machine.

I except the Taiwanese from this. Some of the new media art I saw in Taipei in 2006 was jaw-dropping, and they have a surprisingly good school down in Tainan that produces ambitious artists. They make new work without disparaging the old, and they get some striking results.



March 10, 2008, 6:50 PM

If what we mean by Chinese modernist art is that stuff that keeps coming up at auction and getting big prices it isn't modernist or anything else except totally godawful.



March 10, 2008, 7:32 PM

i was jabbing at george's text. i have no opinion on chinese art except to say that the painting i have seen in the flesh was strangely vacuous. there is a surrealist thread that runs through a lot of it, and just like its progenators it is also backed by a lot of facility that begs to taken seriously.



March 10, 2008, 7:34 PM

that's progenitor. sorry folks. flubbed my big word drop.



March 10, 2008, 7:40 PM

jack bush is the goods too.



March 10, 2008, 8:23 PM

If what we mean by Chinese modernist art is that stuff that keeps coming up at auction and getting big prices it isn't modernist or anything else except totally godawful.

Not exactly, it's the tip of the iceberg.
There's 100 artists in that link I provided. I'm no defender but my intuition is telling me the Chinese are going to play a major part in the art of the next century.

They've got attitude and don't give a shit what you think, or what I think either.



March 10, 2008, 8:32 PM

If they really didn't give a shit what anyone thought, they would produce something more than cursorily distinguishable from their Western counterparts. But here we are back to the facile speculations about the future. Have fun with that.



March 10, 2008, 8:50 PM

It's not hard to see how the fabric of world economics is changing. Look at the Forbes list of billionaires, it’s becoming more homogenous. China has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

With their new found wealth, they have taken an interest in supporting their artists. This along with working space makes it fairly clear that Chinese would develop a vigorous art community fairly rapidly. This isn’t a facile speculation, it is fact, and it is occurring now as we speak. Your view is pathetically shortsighted.



March 10, 2008, 9:02 PM

And what view is that, exactly? Go ahead, tell me what my view is.



March 10, 2008, 9:16 PM

if we are back to predicting the future i suspect the ratio of quality to dreck will carry on into the future as it ever has, be the artist chinese, mexican, east indian, brazilian, canadian, american...

china i'm sure will enjoy a big splash in the tub and things will recede again and so on...



March 10, 2008, 9:24 PM

Your world view.



March 10, 2008, 9:26 PM

Do tell. What about my world view is so pathetically shortsighted in your exalted opinion?



March 11, 2008, 4:39 AM

Are we finally shifting into the name calling stage? So close to post number 300...


Marc Country

March 11, 2008, 6:33 AM

Gorgon? Nah...
Gorgonzola, maybe.



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