Previous: The non-crisis in art criticism (67)

Next: 1000 True Fans (15)

Roundup

Post #1145 • March 21, 2008, 9:37 AM • 51 Comments

"In Egypt the speaker of the Parliament claimed Danes had violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which seemed a little rich coming just a few weeks after the European Parliament, which itself complained about the cartoons' re-publication, condemned Egypt for the sorry state of its human rights." (AJ)

Carved crayons. (Drawn!)

Department of Who Knew: Paul Stanley of KISS paints. Poorly. (Greg Cookland, who also links to an implausibly titled interview)

Best. Art. Opening. Ever. (Necee)

Knit your own squid. (DT, who also links to this excellent Da Vinci/Battlestar Galactica mashup)

Paddy does the work so I don't have to. (To all who responded last week, I'll get in touch with you soon.)

Well some lady is going to eat my whole candy exhibit, can you fucking believe it? Be sure to hit Next.

Mechanical Turkers name colors. More on the Turk. ( Waxy)

If you can't beat them, buy them.

Department of Added Value: Due to its success, the Artblog.net Utrecht coupon is back in effect through April!

Department of Skills: Bootsy Collins.

Comment

1.

Jack

March 21, 2008, 10:26 AM

Koons currently holds the record for the most expensive living artist: his nine-foot suspended Hanging Heart sold for $23.6m to his dealer Larry Gagosian at Sotheby’s New York in November.

No comment really necessary; such spectacular lunacy is beyond rational discourse. On the up side, at least Koons spends his dough more wisely than Eliot Spitzer.

2.

Oriane

March 21, 2008, 10:47 AM

I didn't read the whole backstory of the lady who ate the whole candy exhibit, but does it refer to Felix Gonzalez-Torres? Like if you ate all the candy that made up the body weight of his dead lover, the dead lover would come back to life when you threw up the candy? It's very meta, very communion-like (that's where they eat the christ-cookie, right?) - candy vomit becomes the body of dead man. I think Andres Serrano, with his expertise in body fluids and Catholicism, could do something interesting with this.

And another thing. All you moja-obsessed boys (you know who you are): perhaps you might refrain from commenting until the blood returns from your nether regions to your brains. You should be ashamed of yourselves - especially after squeamishly asking me to not bring up any "female" issues. Do your wives know what you do online? And Chris, to go from gallantly defending me against wingnut misogynists over at PL's place to posting juvenile locker room fantasies about me? There is some serious testosterone overload going on here. No wonder more women don't hang around.

3.

ex

March 21, 2008, 11:02 AM

oriane, i started it. i wasn't intending it to go all 'locker room'. speaking for myself, i'm just a big austin powers fan and couldn't help it. i knew it was a bit crude but i thought it was safe enough. i definitely wasn't trying to alienate any female visitors (or any visitors for that matter) to artblog.net.

4.

ex

March 21, 2008, 11:13 AM

chris, on the other hand, being the lecherous leching lech, leching his way all around town, well, what can i say...

5.

opie

March 21, 2008, 11:39 AM

I though we were being light-hearted and collegial, Oriane.
A little raunchy, perhaps, but not really offensive.

6.

Marc Country

March 21, 2008, 11:42 AM

I too am offended by a diverse range of moral flaws exhibited by some of the people who comment here (you may or may not know who you are).

What kind of sleazy blog are you running, anyway, Franklin?

7.

Marc Country

March 21, 2008, 12:03 PM

Did Paul Stanley study under Jim Dine? And, if Paul Stanley is the "Star Child", then does that mean that he's really an alter ego of George Clinton? And do they all work for Dr. Funkenstein? So many questions.
Maybe somebody should ask Bootsy...

8.

Oriane

March 21, 2008, 12:03 PM

I just thought you all needed a good talking-to. Offended isn't exactly the right word. I'm not against raunchiness per se, but there is something about an all-male environment that can go a little too far and tip over the edge into an uncomfortable area for a woman. But thank you all for your response. (Although Chris, the lecherous leching lech, has been strangely silent. Hmm...) I'm over it. And Marc, I may or may not be one of your offenders, but I do hope you'll forgive my lapses.

ps I may be especially sensitive today because yesterday, after a driver sailed right through the crosswalk on a red light, I banged his car as he went by me, whereupon he stopped his car, got out and called me a "f-cking c-nt" and said (yelled, actually) that if I touched his car again he would "bash my f-cking face in". This was but one event in a very stressful day and I was already mightily pissed off, so I walked toward him and said, "really? You're going to hit me?" I almost said, bring it on, old man, but fortunately he got back in his car and kept driving, because I'm not sure I could have taken him. Road rage + any other kind of rage = bad news.

9.

Marc Country

March 21, 2008, 12:09 PM

Yikes! Watch out for pedestrians, indeed. Way to sock it to that crazy-driving cunt-basher, Oriane!

Hey... wait a sec,... Now we ALL need a good talking-to? I thought your scolding was just for the "moja-obsessed" pervy pervs here (not to point any fingers at anyone, like Chris...). Now we're all implicated? No fair! I protest!

10.

Oriane

March 21, 2008, 12:22 PM

Marc, you're right, I didn't mean to tar everyone with the perv brush. "You all" was sloppy shorthand for the lecherous leching leches who participated in the aforementioned leching.

Wouldn't it be funny if that driver and I ended up in the same anger-management class?

11.

Marc Country

March 21, 2008, 12:50 PM

For those with an interest in the recent Karen Wilkin lecture, here's an interesting take from one local "art writer" here in Edmonton.

I'm not a doctor, but the writer appears to have suffered some sort of internal head injury...

12.

Franklin

March 21, 2008, 12:56 PM

"Colour field theory"? Oh, that's rich. And that closing graph is just good enough for the local book club. Dialogue. Ptth.

Did you see it?

13.

Marc Country

March 21, 2008, 1:19 PM

Yes, I saw the lecture. It seemed quite different to me than it did to that blogger, it seems (maybe I'm still in my heyday).

Karen Wilkin was delightful, very charming, intelligent, knowledgeable, culture, and funny. I laughed aloud many times. My mirth was enhanced by some of the audience members who can't help but feel a bit "called out". Wilkin tore a strip of of Anne Witless, er, I mean, Whitelaw, curator of the "Seeing Through Modernism" for her ridiculous wall-texts that accompany the very fine paintings an sculptures on display, for their lack of factual basis, or even clear thinking.

She also made some humourous remarks which avoided giving her opinion on the plans for the art gallery's flashy new building, while making her negative opinion fairly clear. She spoke earlier about the meagre budget she had to work with for shows and collections when she was at the gallery, and then contrasted that with the vast sums now being spent on this new architectural boondoggle (not her words).

She basically gave an overview of her time here in her professional life, first as an "prehistory to Pollock" art history instructor, then at the EAG, in her first ever job as a curator.

It was amazing to see the high quality shows she, and Fenton, managed to put on here, back then. I almost gagged with regret, seeing her slide-views of the major David Smith show that was staged here, back when I was too young to know anything about sculpture... now, such a show could never come here.

Maybe ahab, or ex, or others, might add their thoughts...

14.

catfish

March 21, 2008, 1:42 PM

Amy Fung's take is as predicatble as any other, including that she finds at the U of A. "Predicatability" is neutral, yet it is definitely pejorative in current atmosphere of risk worship.

Her reference to Wilkin and Fenton's attempts to collect with "bare funds and no reputation" reminds me that Mondrian never sold a work for more than $300 in his own lifetime. Edmonton may not be a big time money center of the arts, but so what? Big money art and big art have never been the same thing.

As always, the argument that the past is past is true, like any decent tautology. She is assuming, however, that what is going on in Edmonton is the same thing that went on 30 years ago. It gets down to preaching to a certain choir that will accept that assumption, and baiting another group that will not.

Everyone wants a "big name" to speak highly of their work. I don't know how that got to be construed as a cultural sin, but it has.

Funny how really crude painting that borrows from the worst of the "cave painters" never gets criticized for reeking of the past.

15.

Eric

March 21, 2008, 1:50 PM

"Funny how really crude painting that borrows from the worst of the "cave painters" never gets criticized for reeking of the past."

What artists are you referring to catfish?

16.

ahab

March 21, 2008, 2:03 PM

No comment just yet. In my current "no punches pulled demur" I might say something I'll regret; and besides, I've already received a warning about my tempura.

17.

Jack

March 21, 2008, 3:00 PM

Is it me, or is there something very strange about Jeff Koons spending over six million dollars on a medieval religious statue? No doubt he can afford it, but why would he choose to spend that kind of money on such a piece?

Is it perhaps because it represents a direct, hands-on, personal creative act the likes of which is completely beyond him, despite his fame and fortune?

Is it some subconscious attempt at expiation of guilt over his highly questionable material success?

Is it a veiled admission that the stuff he and his peers turn out is cynical, glorified bullshit and he wants to live with real art?

18.

ex

March 21, 2008, 3:11 PM

jack with some more 'no punches pulled demur'. must be catchy. i love that kind of ruckus. koons needs to be strung up. BTW, didn't hirst's empty skull sell for more than that gagosian steal?

yam tempura is my personal favorite, ahab.

19.

Eric

March 21, 2008, 3:37 PM

Since when do we pull punches around here? I think Franklin prefers that we don't resort to name calling, at least amongst ourselves, but everyone in the art world is fair game, no?

Koons and Hirst

ahab for your info I am very very smart. Especially my ass.

20.

catfish

March 21, 2008, 3:52 PM

Try this one, Eric.

21.

ex

March 21, 2008, 4:03 PM

didn't know bodhidharma was shaolin founder.

22.

opie

March 21, 2008, 4:32 PM

It is not possible to talk about "color field" or anything vaguely related to it without taking a stand on whether it is "in" or "out" or "dead" or "past" or "theoretical" or whatever. It all goes back to Clem. They all sit there wondering what to do about Clem. It seems impossible to get anyone to just look at the goddam PAINTINGS.

We should not demur from punches. Our punches should not be demure. We should not tolerate de manure.

23.

Jack

March 21, 2008, 4:54 PM

Re 20, I knew it. I knew Catfish had Baselitz in mind. That particular example, however, is especially appalling, even for Baselitz. But hey, all sorts of major collectors have validated his work, so it must be OK. Idiots.

24.

Jack

March 21, 2008, 5:08 PM

OP (22), it's called real-authority envy, aka genuine-article envy. They hate Greenberg because they know, on some level, that he had it and they don't, and since they can't acquire it, they take out their frustration and impotence by trying to diminish him--like infantile brats. It's the best they can come up with, and it's ultimately futile, but they figure if they persist long and diligently enough, it will finally stick. Fools.

25.

Chris Rywalt

March 21, 2008, 5:15 PM

I haven't been strangely silent, I've been out all day. I do occasionally see daylight.

Lucky for me I turned out two or three paintings I'm happy with the other day; it's lifted my mood enough that I'm not going to end up in a tailspin for half a week because of a cranky couple of days of other people's comments on Franklin's blog. Ahab and Eric are calling each other names; Oriane is offended -- by me of all people.

Are we carrying conversations forward from one post to the next, careening wildly off-topic now? I didn't know we did that here. I guess we all know each other well enough these days to be more personal, to develop our own little dialect, to carry on our little in-jokes. I'm thinking Franklin is either gratified or appalled; I'm not sure which.

Everyone, by the way, can rest assured that I a) did not post and b) did not experience any "juvenile locker room fantasies" regarding Oriane. We've met, Oriane. Surely you know me better than that. All I joked about was imagining you wet; if you want to take the double entendre in complete sincerity and get huffy, well, I won't take the blame.

Regarding Paul Stanley: His work looks like someone ate everything in the LeRoy Neiman drawer at the shopping mall print store and threw up in the Thomas Kinkade stall next door.

Did you know that LeRoy Neiman is "best known for his brilliantly colored, stunningly energetic images of sporting
events and leisure activities"? Well now you do.

26.

catfish

March 21, 2008, 5:32 PM

It is off topic, sort of, but I just downloaded Safari for Windows. It works great for artblog.net because it will spell check your comment as you type it in. The display is also neat. It also purports to check grammar. Can't vouch for that, but it did flag artblog.net as a misspelled word, which I then added to my dictionary.

Naturally, like most other browsers, it is free.

27.

Eric

March 21, 2008, 5:37 PM

Sorry if this is off topic (or post). I read Franklin's post once and enjoyed it.

What the fuck is up with Baselitz and his upside down figures? How long has he been locked into this upside down people bullshit? Is there something about wacky and depressive Germans? Poorly and hastily drawn figures are just as bad, uninteresting, pretentious, absurd, meaningless, when they are right side up or upside down. Did some hack or historian empower this loon? "Hey why don't I paint upside down, lumpy, crappily rendered figures for the rest of my fucking life!?!?!?!" If they were right side up they wouldn't be as special as profound.

Back in the late seventies Burger King hired LeRoy Neiman to produce a set of drinking glasses with, you guessed it, sport actions scenes on each glass in the set. I was obsessed with these things and collected them all; swimmers, baseball players, basketball players. That was my first run in with the Nei-meister. Those of you too young to remember don't have any idea how popular his imagery was a few decades ago. Reproductions of his work were found in middle class households across America.

ahab I don't mean to goad you. I realize that I didn't read your blog comment closely enough. If I had taken careful note of the word 'posting' in your comment I wouldn't have confused Perl’s review of the Richter show, which was being discussed right up until you made your comment, with Franklin's original posting which started things off. Of course I have to admit that I don't read comment threads nearly as closely as I do a good book. Sorry.

28.

catfish

March 21, 2008, 5:48 PM

I'm not sure it's Clem, opie. Most of those who object to him have never read him in the first place. I think it is more the art itself. I believe they do look at the paintings, and they hate them, especially if they have been done lately. That does not diminish your statement they don't know what to do about Clem. They certainly don't. But they hate the art he liked, and they love the art he hated.

29.

ahab

March 21, 2008, 7:14 PM

It was clear enough to me, Eric - I was impolite but temperate. Temperate but drunk. Drunk but not pissed.

30.

Jack

March 21, 2008, 8:10 PM

It may not be about Greenberg per se, Catfish, but it is about his general approach, attitude or MO, which is now not only violently unfashionable but more or less anathema, for perfectly understandable (albeit disreputable) reasons. If the Greenberg approach were to regain ascendancy, the whole rotten but exceedingly profitable enterprise would become untenable, as the two are fundamentally incompatible.

Despite the seemingly unassailable position of the current art establishment, it knows or senses in some way, on some level, that it is fraudulent and corrupt--a glorified racket which could never stand on merit, integrity or talent. Therefore, it must, directly or indirectly, discredit, dismiss, ridicule and/or demonize any antithesis or antidote. The system is powerful but cannot feel secure because it's based on BS and knows it, even if not always consciously or fully.

That's why, whenever the opportunity arises, Greenberg is condemned and symbolically executed all over again. In a way, Greenberg (or what he stood for) is like the blood on Lady Macbeth's hand--it won't let the system forget it's ultimately full of shit.

31.

ex

March 21, 2008, 8:51 PM

amen.

32.

Noah

March 21, 2008, 8:52 PM

I heard that Wilken called Edmonton's new gallery a "wasted opportunity."The same can be said for most of the programming I see in galleries, which is just plain sad.
It's a testament to the strength of some thing or person that years after the spotlight has shifted, such antagonism continues. I think some of the work in the Edmonton show and certainly the writings of Greenberg stand as an accusation to those who profess disbelief in the very idea that art offers pleasure, that something can actually transcend everyday, mucked up life. That very possibility is vehemently denied by those who, bereft of aesthetic experience, deny it and have found some thing/one to rally against.

33.

catfish

March 21, 2008, 11:36 PM

Jack (#30), no it really is about the art. Good abstract painting angers middlebrow taste. Abstract sculpture is less likely to anger, though it gets plenty ignored.

An example. The school where I used to teach hosted an exhibition of paintings by Darby Bannard. But only after some significant wrangling on my part. The budgets were small, so the normal procedure was to have shows of small, cheap to ship work, so the artist could be invited in to talk about the work with the students and deliver lectures that students would be required to write about, and attend classes to talk about their art, what little of it there might be to see. Most of the budget would be devoted to the honorarium, travel, and other expenses associated with the visit by the artist. Bannard's pictures were large and a long way away, hence the whole allotment would need to be spent on transporting the art, not the artist. My rationale was that students were better served by looking at serious art than by listening to an artist yak yak.

My proposal was initially rejected. The official reason was that it had nothing to do with the curriculum. (This is an art school?) I inquired how so. They said there was no provision for the artist to explain his art to the students, with the assumption that would settle my inquiry, because "everybody" knows explanation is "essential". The sub rosa agenda was that abstract painting does not "communicate" anything because it does not support narrative - that's why it is no longer relevant. The rest of the objection was that there would be no lecture that students could be forced to attend, and so it would not qualify as a "co-curricular" event.

I exploded with a brief email diatribe that if explaining art trumped seeing art then the school maybe ought to fold its tent or become a writers and talkers school. I also said that if exhibitions of actual works of art were not "co-curricular" events, then nothing would be. Then I played the "painting is not represented on your committee yet you are using painting student fees without a representative of their interests" card. That got me appointed to the committee, and things got more civilized. My argument that it would actually be good for the students to look at paintings without any interference from the artist was accepted as having something to do with the curriculum in painting (the rest of the school considered painting to be one of the "weaker areas" that only got students into its classes by being nice to them). And the show was held, with the concession that a non-verbal exhibition could be considered "co-curricular".

So the big day arrives when the doors to the gallery are opened. No fan fare, no opening, just some paintings in a room designed for looking at art. This show looked very at ease in that context, unlike the conceptual leaves strewn across the floor "installation" stuff that always looked so awkward - the room had been designed in the 60s and was not that good at showing the with it stuff of today. That, I guess, added evidence to this show being "yesterday".

But color was literally pouring out of the door from the twisty mayonnaise like paint and students went in to look, without being forced, without someone checking off their name, or any of the other ways audiences were usually created for co-curricular events. Most of these students were not yet educated in the ways of middle brow taste and most of them loved looking at the stuff, especially at their leisure, not because they had to. They did not seem to require an explanation. Certainly, none was offered. To quote Steve Jobs, it just worked.

Faculty, on the other hand, are by and large middlebrows. They held back. They had reservations. They were disturbed. I could sense anger in some, though others held their dismay more at bay. If the show had appeared downtown at the art center most would have shot it down, for the usual reasons we hear from George - that it was from the past, that it wasn't relevant, that it wasn't interesting, etc. Many do not even know how to associate Bannard with Greenberg. They just know they hate his kind of painting. And, I'm sure, felt that my love of it was part of "what is wrong with the painting area". But they had made peace with the fact painting students paid a lot of fees and deserved something in return. But there never was another painting show, even though the other two painters on the faculty liked it.

34.

catfish

March 21, 2008, 11:57 PM

Well, one more comment, this one even more personal. A teacher in charge of a 100 or so general studies students made them write a paper about a work of their choosing from a faculty show. The show included some 50 - 60 works, ranging from conceptual/computer works to my old-fashioned exercise in abstract paint slinging.

One of the GAs assigned to read these papers told me the teacher was astonished that the vast majority of students had selected my painting to write about, when the odds suggested no more than two or three would do that. Of course, not everyone liked it, but most, I was told, did. What could this mean?

Well, it means painting may still rule in the eyes of those who are neither vulgarians nor committed middlebrows. I suggests that abstract art "means" something even if it doesn't tell a story or push an agenda. There may be reason to hope that sometime in the next 20 years those non-art students who were drawn to something as old fashioned as abstract painting might support it in some way or another, as their capacity to collect is realized, in a few cases, anyway.

Meantime today is today, and it still seems like the collective enterprise for serious art is on the decline.

35.

ex

March 22, 2008, 1:17 AM

thanks for sharing catfish. glad to hear that the bannards and your work were able to get across all by themselves.

i esp. like this part...'painting may still rule in the eyes of those who are neither vulgarians nor committed middlebrows.' i was mulling something like this around a bit myself tonight and i really feel there could be something to it in the long run. the bloat of the art world comes with a corollary impression on low/middlebrow taste, for better and worse. starved and stricken maybe it will be pushed into needing quality finally. once the illuminati pronounce that quality is finally the new kitsch...our problems could be solved... ;) or did i just inadvertently describe the Whitney Biennial ?!

there is a good quote about olitski in this new book i'm looking at: "He paints with such energy and passion that it is impossible to resist his art" - Keene Sentinel.

catfish, your stories prove that even amongst all the dreck, the real deal still finds its way to any one open enough to want to see it. whatever course this carnival takes, as long as good artists are still making serious art, their art will keep on quietly making its own case.

36.

opie

March 22, 2008, 7:13 AM

The virulent anti-estheticism seems far stronger in academia and the parts of the art world that academia touches directly, mainly museums, than anywhere else. And even museums have to mind their manners some because of their boards & the general public.

There are thousands of reasonably good painters out there working hard. Lots of good painting gets shown in gallerys because the buying public likes painting and hence it gets shown and sold.

Our department has more graduate applications in painting than any other area (I think; I didn't count this time) and we get some good ones. We presented 4 of them at the recent MFA selection faculty meeting but the top choice of the faculty was an artist who knits covers for objects - "tool cozies" and the like - pathetic, unevolved stuff rendered doubly embarrassing because the guy can't knit well and because we have a much more sophisticated "knit artist" (Frances Trombly) showing regularly right here in Miami.

37.

Franklin

March 22, 2008, 7:37 AM

I understand the pressure to cave in, and maybe in a way I have. Earlier this year I applied for a grant with my digital comics work, and it was one of the easiest applications I ever had to write. Everything just plugged right in. Incorporation of alternative methods? Check. Issue-driven narrative? Check. Boundary-pushing use of media? Check. I think my comics work has validity - as comics - but I thought about the contortions I would have to twist into to make my paintings fit the granting organization's program, and felt a certain amount of relief to be moving with the program instead of against it for once. I then thought, no wonder people give up on painting - you'd have to be an idiot to bang your head on this wall. An idiot, or a serious lover of painting, and I find myself in the latter category however much I qualify for the former. Getting anything done in the studio lately has just been a bitch.

38.

Jack

March 22, 2008, 8:34 AM

"starved and stricken maybe it will be pushed into needing quality finally"

Yes, perhaps. Like Jeff Koons with his medieval statue and his Courbet.

39.

Jack

March 22, 2008, 9:07 AM

Catfish, the bottom line may be that it's far easier to be a bullshit artist than a real one, since the latter requires an innate talent that is either there or it isn't. BS, however, is something anybody can manage.

Also, it's far easier to ignore, dismiss or dispense with art historical precedents as "yesterday," "irrelevant," etc. than to have to live up to them, let alone surpass them. That's one of the things that makes painting so threatening, hence the attempts to "kill" it, or at least proclaim its supposed demise.

Then, of course, there's the plague of frustrated politicians, philosophers, reformers, world-savers and so forth masquerading as visual artists, despite their woeful incompetence in terms of producing anything actually worth seeing. They must band together and rabidly shore up each other, as they most certainly do, because they have little or nothing in common with people who truly care about visual art. Hence the imposed primacy of talking and explaining and writing over simply looking.

They are really rather pathetic, the lot of them, with all their posturing and delusions, but their power and ambition, with the associated abuses, precludes feeling pity for them. One is thus left with little choice but contempt.

40.

ex

March 22, 2008, 10:45 AM

re: 'virulent anti-estheticism'

would you guys say that proportionately the relative numbers of appreciators and detractors is historically consistent? too hard to estimate? i just wonder how much or what exactly needs to be recouped in the wake of the con of the last 50 years. i agree that there is a healthy swath of activity going on outside the establishment so maybe it doesn't matter. the system (academia+museums=rot) that usually gets railed against here, like opie's and jack's comments obviate, doesn't really need anything from real visual art. except as a measure for what it is not.

re: ease of being a bullshit artist

a big part of this one in my estimation, is the lack of a serious go for broke work ethic. the kind of physical and mental dedication that it takes to develop good visual art is hardly something most artists seem to see as a prerequisite anymore. young artists just seem to be getting lazier and lazier. clever discerning upstarts just choose from one of many easy formulas, like picking a cake mix, and tweak the recipe...et voila!

41.

catfish

March 22, 2008, 11:03 AM

Yes Jack, "killing" painting is a popular project among academics and their cohorts in museums, as opie says. Franklin's list is on target ... Incorporation of alternative methods? Hell no. Issue-driven narrative? Seldom. Boundary-pushing use of media? When pigs fly. The verdict for my former school's painting area was an easy sell - one of the weakest areas, no need to debate that. The essential "problem" was that the faculty who staffed it insisted that students make paintings. Worse, they did not require that student products conform to Franklin's list of 21st century mandates. And further, the painters did not push any "look" or "trend", instead insisting that students search for their own voice, using paint as the media. This was viewed as "lack of discipline".

The need for a verdict of weakness was stoked by certain facts. Painting was the second most popular major for undergrads, exceeded only by graphic design. At the graduate level, applicants preferred painting by a huge margin, with printmaking, drawing, and sculpture as the only other preferences. To an alien from Mars, painting and its allies would have looked rather successful. But to an insider struggling for a greater share of resources, that success needed to be "deconstructed" into a failure and there was no easier method than the "democratic" assembling of a majority opinion that its popularity was due to the indulgence of student needs. (As if what students need is bad for them.)

But the motive for killing painting is not really understandable in these terms of acquiring resources from the painting area, as obvious as that might seem. It was always clear to me that good painting angered the taste of just about everyone except good painters. Once angry middlebrow taste arrives on the scene, everything else flows. A gang forms, even though those in the gang truly like their colleagues in the painting area. They just can't help themselves, their angry taste drives them to strange extremes. In the case of this school I'm telling tales on, it led to suspending the MFA program, eliminating all GAs and sending them to the music department, and implementing a plan to "sunset" the MFA program. It led to a number of internal "reports" being commissioned to examine what was wrong with the painting area. One was written by a part time faculty member. Another was written by a committee from other areas that included but one, untenured painting faculty member. The ultimate act included three rouge NASAD site visitors (none were painters) who visited one MFA painting studio and complained that the student was obsessed with collecting brushes. This student was actually rather "hip" to pomo deconstruction and used a lot of disparate images in her rather large pictures, but her "sin" was to paint them well, and in oil, no less. To paint them that way she of course required the usual array of brushes, rounds, brights, fans, even real sable. She cared for these brushes as any professional would, that is to say, they were clean and ready to go. That just pissed off this "evaluation team". I mean, "incorporation of alternative media?" Hell no. This student was about competence in using oil paint. Her large array of well maintained brushes was all the evidence needed to convict the entire painting program of being non-competitive and of the past. I know that because I showed them this student's studio. I asked if they wanted to see others. They said no. Then they wrote in their report that they had seen several grad painting studios and reached their negative conclusion on that basis.

Now I must say that the national office of NASAD did not accept the "team's" verdict. We sent the resumes of these "non-competitive" grad students for national's contemplation. It turned out that the 8 grad students had been accepted into over a hundred juried exhibitions between them, had solo shows in commercial galleries all over the country, and a large number of other "professional" activities, since enrolling in grad school and "suffering" the "weakness" of the painting area, a collective record that many similar groups of tenured faculty could not equal. It became the case of the judgment of three team members against that of more than a hundred other pros, many with better credentials than the team's. The national group decided to ignore that part of their report, in effect invalidating it, but not explicitly renouncing it. Thus it became a case of you cannot unring a bell, once rung.

Interestingly enough, another NASAD evaluator was brought in after the group of three, a very distinguished individual who had been granted the "life membership" none of the original three had. He was supposed to tell the local admins how to fix the grad program. Lo and behold, this independent cuss said it was as good as any he had ever looked at, and better than most, with the potential to dominate grad programs in the midwest! It just needed more GAs. He said the school needed to support it if it truly wanted to be "distinguished". He expressly opposed the plan to suspend it in a private letter to the dean that was not seen by the painters until 3 years later, when the dean executed the until then secret plan to suspend the MFA.

So is it easier to be a BS artist than a real painter? Hell yes. But that is not the reason painting gets pushed around. It is real painting itself that pisses these people off and causes them to form gangs. Granted they don't see very well - I've given up on that - but the most amazing thing in this case was how they could ignore commonly well regarded academic "outcome measures" that stood in the way of their forgone conclusion - painting is dead. The life it has among Franklin's "idiots" is the life of a zombie, a seeming life, a life grounded in the past not the future, and so on. The gang's all here and the gang all agrees. Done. Take it out and shoot it.

42.

craigfrancis

March 22, 2008, 11:10 AM

Jack: I read an interview with Koons ages ago wherein he talks about his love for a lot of Christian painting and statuary for its ability to intimidate and invoke fear in the flock of that time. I imagine Koons' love of Courbet comes not only from what amazing paintings the old master produced, but also with Courbet's association with radical politics of that particular period.

As a "world saver" artist, my problem with a lot of painting is my suspicion that it has more to do with home decorating than art. But then, I'm sure it's only my art school that's programmed me into feeling that way about it.

43.

opie

March 22, 2008, 11:30 AM

I am sure you can trace these thoughts to art school, Craig. It is part of the stupid thinking that goes on in those places.

You have to tell them that neither being decorative nor saving the world has anything to do with whether the art is any good.

44.

Jack

March 22, 2008, 1:56 PM

"Neither being decorative nor saving the world has anything to do with whether the art is any good." Precisely.

If you present yourself to me as a visual artist, the first and main thing I'm going to look at is whether or not your work succeeds as visual art.

If it does, your other aims are your business, and you're entitled to them.

If it does not, nothing else will make me accept you as a visual artist. NOTHING.

45.

craigfrancis

March 22, 2008, 3:05 PM

Decorative painting is not the same thing as painting for home decor. Though, I admit, the former is often bought and sold for the purposes of the latter.

Thanks, Jack. I feel the same way as you do.

46.

1

March 22, 2008, 3:24 PM

any way to see the wilkin lecture?

47.

Marc Country

March 22, 2008, 4:36 PM

I saw someone in the back of the room video-recording it, 1... my bet would be that it was either the UofA, or the AGA... I doubt either would be planning to broadcast it, but you could always make an inquiry...

48.

opie

March 22, 2008, 4:38 PM

People called Matisse decorative for years. Decorative is OK. Undecorative is OK. A picture is either good or not. Everything else is just description.

49.

ahab

March 22, 2008, 5:14 PM

I'm slowly working up a studiosavant post on the Wilkin lecture. It should be finished tonight or tomorrow.

50.

ahab

March 22, 2008, 6:13 PM

Catfish's anecdotes sound very very similar to events unfolding in this city's university, only to the sculpture department. There's more about this place than just the seasons that are bass-ackward.

51.

Jack

March 23, 2008, 6:17 PM

Re the last paragraph of #42, it's not at all surprising that those who can't create anything worth looking at would dismiss those who can as "decorative." It's a cheap, obvious ploy, and it won't wash. It's just aggressive insecurity, and I have neither sympathy nor time for it.

I'm not, by the way, addressing this to craigfrancis personally, but rather to the supposed "authority figures" in academia and elsewhere who traffic in such bunk.

Subscribe

Twitter @franklin_e

Instagram franklin.e

Offers

Other Projects

Legal

Design and content ©2003-2017 Franklin Einspruch except where otherwise noted