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Whitney 'n' Things

Post #1138 • March 11, 2008, 9:13 AM • 93 Comments

In a time when major print organs will typically accept only art-world apologists into their ranks, Richard Lacayo, to his credit, finds ways to fail to submit. Time Magazine will never hire another Robert Hughes, barring a vigorous starching of editorial nerve. But where Hughes might have knocked some heads together, Lacayo stands back and lets the heads in question knock together in the wind:

Richard Lacayo: How do you make a distinction between a party that's just a party, and the 24-hour dance marathon like the one planned for the Armory by Agathe Snow, which is being presented as an artwork about endurance? How is one a party and the other an art form?

Whitney Biennial curator Shamim M. Monin: They can be both. It's supposed to be a fun event. But it's intended to help you think about things and experience them in a different way. It's about commitment, time, duration - things we've been talking about — within a framework that's pleasurable.

Whitney Biennial curator Henriette Huldisch: We've been asked this question. Why is it art, it's just a party? Well, "A" - because these are some of our more conceptually grounded artists and projects, the ones resistant to conventional categorizations. In some ways it's the more difficult art. And yet it's being talked about as the fun component of the show - which is great, I don't mind that reversal at all. But on the second level, what art does is transform ordinary materials into something else. That's what those artists are doing. They're just using different kinds of materials.

This offers the tantalizing prospect (the interview, not the Biennial) that journalism thus conducted could damn a subject even more thoroughly than a harsh review. But with such a target-rich environment, I can't help but fisk this one.

But it's intended to help you think about things and experience them in a different way.

Monin apparently needs help to think about things. It would explain a lot. As for experiencing things - things! - in a different way, the experience already turned out to conform to Eliot's Wasteland for Ariella Budick at Newsday. (Via AJ.)

It's about commitment, time, duration...

Sort of like War and Peace is about Russia. Which is why it's so great.

We've been asked this question. Why is it art, it's just a party?

They've been asked this question by the grammatically challenged.

Well, "A" - because these are some of our more conceptually grounded artists and projects, the ones resistant to conventional categorizations.

Well, "A", because we don't know how to categorize these artists, even though they uniformly make conceptual art, therefore when they put a party together as an art piece it is an art piece. And "B"... there is no "B."

But on the second level, what art does is transform ordinary materials into something else.

Something else. Maybe some things. Personally, I would feel embarassed to say that to Richard Lacayo, who perhaps thought to himself, Really? What art does is transform ordinary materials into something else? Good thing I'm the art critic for Time Magazine, otherwise I would have no idea how to intellectually grasp the cosmic immensity that issues forth from your lips. (Or perhaps not, but I wouldn't have blamed him if he had.)

That's what those artists are doing. They're just using different kinds of materials.

Those artists are using the materials of a party to make a party. It's just like using paint to make a painting. That's what art does. That's what those artists are doing. You know, things.




March 11, 2008, 8:36 AM

Did Jack guest-blog this post?



March 11, 2008, 8:52 AM

No, Ahab. As Franklin notes, such vacuousness, flimsiness and utter claptrap is self-damning. And by the way, SHAMim is very aptly named, eh? Also, I trust you duly appreciated the condescending tone of the august curators. We're so fortunate to have such people to enlighten us and lead us ever onward. Pretentious assholes.



March 11, 2008, 9:06 AM

Jack, it's only damning if people are willing to see it as damning. This has yet to happen among the art wise guys. When it does, when the Big Top burns, it will be a rush for the exits, for sure.

I don;t get "Good thing i'm the art critic for Time Magazine..." Who is speaking here?



March 11, 2008, 9:18 AM

You're right, Opie, that wasn't clear. See edit.



March 11, 2008, 9:39 AM

What a great interview. The mystic corridors of curating truly need the lights turned on (and not the music).



March 11, 2008, 10:27 AM


Sotheby's Falls Almost 7% After Study of London February Sales

By Linda Sandler

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Sotheby's dropped almost 7 percent in New York after an art-market analyst said more than half of the contemporary-art lots offered by three major auction houses last month in London fell short of or barely beat their low estimates.

The London sales by Sotheby's, Christie's International and Phillips de Pury & Co. totaled 189.8 million pounds ($378.4 million) in February, the most for a series of contemporary-art sales in London.

At Sotheby's, about 60 percent of the items sold below or near their low estimates excluding fees, said Anders Petterson of London-based research company ArtTactic. The two other houses are privately held.

``Auction valuations of contemporary art are now out of synch with demand,'' Petterson said in a report published today.

Sotheby's was at $29.09, down $2.16, or 6.9 percent, at 11:51 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

ArtTactic applies stock-market-style analysis to art sales.

Last Updated: March 6, 2008 12:04 EST



March 11, 2008, 11:22 AM

Right on, Franklin. The gift of this type of journalism is that by asking questions in the voice of an outsider, the “inside” of art looks every more like the vacuum to the void it is. When it comes to literary criticism, I’ve always thought that the questions that really need to be asked are not the nuanced, deeply entrenched and informed queries of an insider. Instead, the whole PREMISE of literary criticism is skewed. A yokel asking “Now what’s that fer?” is a far more damning question than someone getting all Derrida in their attacks or defenses.

Same thing with the art world. You’re not playing dumb, or being dumb, by asking the types of questions Lacayo asks. Those ARE the questions. The problem with art today is that it invites simple questions--when, where, why, what and how (such as when (performative party-time) why (what’s the point?), where (on-site installation?), what (what IS that?!) and how (how again did you glue 1,032094230492304 diamonds to that skull?)

Those are questions of simple incredulity. If art is to advance, it needs to invite better questions, rather than formulating more convoluted answers.



March 11, 2008, 11:36 AM

Franklin just because you can't appreciate the "trend toward creating work of an ephemeral, event-based character" doesn't mean you should mock the curators of the WB 2008 Edition.

After all, the artists in the WB 2008 Edition are just trying to "explore fluid communication structures and systems of exchange that index larger social, political, and economic contexts, often aiming to invert the more object-oriented operations of the art market."

Give peace a chance.


Chris Rywalt

March 11, 2008, 12:24 PM

I think I need to ask my psychiatrist to up my dose of Effexor, because the despair is washing over me again.


Ren B

March 11, 2008, 12:27 PM

I don't want to be one of the 'bad guys', but I believe that "explore fluid communication structures and systems of exchange that index larger social, political, and economic contexts, often aiming to invert the more object-oriented operations of the art market." can be said in less words. The message is more important than words here.

Also, I don't like when people go out trying to label something that CAN'T be labeled like that. Like a party (oops).

Maybe they should call it a 'pARTy'.

Hm, maybe they shouldn't.



March 11, 2008, 12:45 PM

The question (or one question) is, again, why would such transparent nonsense fly? Why would rich, successful and presumably worldy people go for this kind of tripe? And trust me, if the rich weren't biting, this wouldn't be an issue. Money is absolutely critical here. Why, then, are so many rich people so easily duped and manipulated?



March 11, 2008, 12:54 PM

Jack, I don't know how it works in the States, but in Canada, these sorts of relational aesthetics performances happen pretty frequently without much money coming from "the rich". At the Whitney of course, I'm sure it's quite different, but it seems to me that plenty of these performances are done for the love of the thing. At least up here. What do you think Marc/Ahab?


Pretty Lady

March 11, 2008, 1:34 PM

Hey! I pay for an 'artist membership' to the Whitney, yet I'm pretty sure I didn't get an invitation to this pARTy. Meanies!



March 11, 2008, 1:56 PM

In #11 I was not referring specifically to the Whitney party-as-art business but to the ethos or system or establishment that it represents, as well as the kind of curatorial gibberish or "artspeak" employed to dignify it.



March 11, 2008, 2:47 PM

What it takes to end all this nonsense is the following:

A guy walks into a bar. He sees another guy whom he recognizes as a very savvy smart intheknow about all art things guru. He goes up to him and says:

"Hey, did you see that great show at the Whitney? Wasn't it wild? Far out? I loved it!"

Guru says "You still into that stuff? I'm selling".



March 11, 2008, 2:54 PM

An Important Message from an Artist Participating in the Whitney Biennial 2008

I wish you Biennial haters out there would realize that for all of us who are participating in the Biennial this year, “recurring concerns involve a nuanced investigation of social, domestic, and public space and its translation into form--primarily sculptural, but also photographic and cinematic.” And I say to you, what else could art making possibly entail?

Now I don’t want to speak for all of us. A very good friend of mine who was also chosen to be in the Biennial is quite busy these days. She’s not making boring old works of art mind you, but charting “the topography and architecture of the decentralized American city and take inspiration from postindustrial landscapes and urban decay.” So there.

Oh and another good friend of mine has struck gold. Besides being chosen for the Biennial she has been busy day and night, "employing calculated messiness or modes of deconstruction.” Try doing that while you’re attending a lot of openings and cool parties.

Can’t you feel the love? Please realize that we are not opportunists, really good at giving blowjobs, or just well connected. All of us, and I mean every single one of the artists who have been chosen to be in the Biennial (we are all really good friends by the way), make art that is “positioned in the immediate reality of our uncertain sociopolitical times.” And please don’t forget that.



March 11, 2008, 3:16 PM

Same shit different flagpole, craigfrancis, but it's all about breaking boundaries, isn't it?

I won't speak for all of Canada, but in my judgment this "things and stuff is art when it's fun" trend is even more fundamentally supported with big money up here. The galleries and artist-run centres that host such things as ArtBar or stuff like fundraiser-as-art only do so once they've already got hefty Canada Council or provincial (AFA) government grants ensuring that they won't go under if and when the idea flops. They've got administrative staff and designers and executive directors to pay. And event-planner-cum-artist fees.

Besides, just like if someone getting acknowledged doesn't mean their idea was any good, someone making something that gets no credit or kudos or reward or money doesn't mean it's any good either. It's either good as what it is or it's not - and each of these is some other weak thing before it can even be chARTed.



March 11, 2008, 3:23 PM

re: 15

to which guy responded "selling? your art or your soul?"

guru: my art ain't got no soul.



March 11, 2008, 3:27 PM

did somebody fART?



March 11, 2008, 3:47 PM

Don't know about farting, but someone failed to close their underline markup. I'll try it here.



March 11, 2008, 3:48 PM

AND IT DIDN"T WORK. Franklin will have to fix it.



March 11, 2008, 4:07 PM

I am not very good at using HTML. I truly apologize for not closing my underline markup. I hope this works. Just to clarify my position without resorting to satire. As I noted on another art blog, I am sure that I would find one or two works of art interesting at the current Biennial. My critical remarks are mostly aimed at the curatorial packaging of the Biennial and just about all contemporary art exhibitions that appear in big name museums. Press releases for all major galleries should be included in this as well. I am also criticizing the nepotism and in-crowd nature of the current scene. I hate to see art works written about by 'writers' who use dreary post-PoMo gobbledygook. It ends up coating the entire endeavor in shit, and ironically, it usually leads to a situation where most big name art critics dismiss most of the art. I really wonder how the artists in the Biennial feel about the ludicrously stilted and awkwardly phrased text their art is wrapped in.



March 11, 2008, 4:25 PM

For the most part journalists are forced to use less opaque and less pretentious prose because their editors will not permit them to. I learned this by working for the New York Sun, albeit briefly. This has its drawbacks though, because the editors also have allergic reactions to any complicated thought whatsoever. It can be a bit frustrating for a writer.



March 11, 2008, 4:29 PM

"I really wonder how the artists in the Biennial feel about the ludicrously stilted and awkwardly phrased text their art is wrapped in."

That's never appeared to bother anybody so far, and I doubt it would now, at least as long as the fish bite as expected.

If the money keeps coming in, it doesn't matter how utterly ridiculous or contrived or insubstantial the work may be. It will continue to be "validated" by all the players with enough of a stake in the game.



March 11, 2008, 4:36 PM

I am sure the artists in the Biennial aren't losing any sleep over the poorly worded press release. They are signing deals with galleries and starting to make some real money. The collectors need fresh blood...Fresh Blood!



March 11, 2008, 4:52 PM

re: 22

a list of credible 'big name art critics' would include whom today?



March 11, 2008, 4:59 PM

You added the word credible not me. When I say big name I mean NOTHING more than the fact that their reviews appear in publications with large distribution rates. You know who I mean. In #22 I was refering to the commonly dismissive remarks made about the Biennials. Granted there are positive reviews mixed in as well, but I think it is fashionable to smirk while writing a review of it. The ironic thing of course is that 'all press is good press' so the snarky remarks and handful of negative comments about the Biennial do nothing to turn people away from it and in fact I am sure they encourage more and more people to go see it.



March 11, 2008, 5:09 PM


I could give plenty of specific examples of what I am talking about if I scan old issues of the NYT and other major newspapers and magazines but I don't have the time. I am trying to write a review! Ha! I guess I am trying to comment on an even more repugnant aspect of widely read art writing. The critic tries to sound jaded or dubious or ambivalent/critical, but in fact they are still validating the 'things' under review, regardless of how world weary they try to sound. The bottom line is they are pretending to take this shit seriously. And the funny thing is, at the end of last year the NYT critics each published an end of the year round time thingy, and they all sounded bitter anf fed up. It was funny and sad that their real feelings could only appear as an end of the year footnote. Again I could provide specific examples but I don't have the time to do the proper research for a blog comment.



March 11, 2008, 5:12 PM

sorry eric, i hoped that wouldn't come across sardonically. as a non new yorker and also not much of a popular press reader i was actually wondering who you or opie or franklin actually hold in good regard.



March 11, 2008, 5:13 PM

beyond the obvious



March 11, 2008, 5:23 PM

marc or ahab, you guys seem like serious readers. anybody you particularly care for? george?



March 11, 2008, 5:36 PM

I tend to be slightly more open than Franklin and Jack when it comes to art criticism and conceptual art. I might be wrong. Don't hold me to that. At some point in my life I really lost all interest in closely reading art criticism, meaning with any sense of excitement or enthusiasm. For years now I usually just stick to books. I prefer reading non-fiction books but on occasion I will read a SF title or some glum naturalist novel.

I have not been wowed by a widely published art critic in a long long time. It is sad. I still dutifully read something by Saltz, Smith, Schjeldahl, some of the English guys like Jones and Searle, Knight from the LAT, etc., on occasion (usually not from beginning to end though). Even though I continue to write art criticism I have to admit that I have little hope for the genre as a whole. I mean I like what I write. I wouldn't continue to do it otherwise. But as I have pointed out before on other blogs and maybe this one, the structure of almost all widely published art criticism is formulaic, lacking inspiration, complexity, stylistic panache, etc. People comment on the writer's lack of an eye around here. I am commenting more on the weaknesses of the genre. Most art writers who write art criticism not books, tend to be lacking in imagination. There should be more variety in the genre, different approaches to the art from a number of different angles and world views and areas of expertise. It is almost like journalists who write about art are all using the same poorly written manual.



March 11, 2008, 5:47 PM


I would be happy to provide you with a top twenty or so favorite art book list if you would like me to. I might not get around to it until tomorrow though.



March 11, 2008, 6:03 PM

Online you can find Terry Fenton, for one. Piri Halasz, for another. Others at Plain Talk (which I only now can't get to load). And whyeverfor did Bunny Smedley stop writing?



March 11, 2008, 6:10 PM

Considering how dismissive I sound about art critics and the fact that Franklin maintains the Bannard archives, this statement rings hollow,

"I tend to be slightly more open than Franklin and Jack when it comes to art criticism and conceptual art."



March 11, 2008, 6:25 PM

I suppose the quality of the critics simply mirrors the quality of the prevailing work, and the latter is obviously the main problem. The status quo is so entrenched and seemingly immovable that it seems more or less quixotic to go against the flow, and the system naturally resists any attempt to do so. There are too many vested interests on the part of too many people, of all sorts. In other words, the whole art criticism issue may be moot until this modern South Sea Bubble bursts.



March 11, 2008, 6:33 PM

thanks eric. i was wondering if anybody felt that any of the big people writing for the big papers had an eye at all. just wondering if it is really that bleak on the 'serious' journalist/critic front, outside of the'formalis t' camp. (CG, WDB, TF, MF, KM, KW....)


Mr. Nipplebocker

March 11, 2008, 6:33 PM

I'm surprised Franklin failed to congratulate his Miami arch enemy Bert Rodriguez for being recognized by the witless Whitney Curators. Bert 1, Franklin still 0.



March 11, 2008, 6:38 PM

so nobody is really writing critically from within the beast, short of these blithe and lazy yawns i hear when i read about the latest art carnival international?



March 11, 2008, 6:59 PM

My comments are directed at hacks who write for major newspapers and a select few periodicals and who potentially have a million plus readers every time their work appears. Bannard, who is great, is an essayist in my mind (in terms of his writing of course).



March 11, 2008, 7:02 PM

I can tell you from experience that I have been told not to write an overtly negative review not only by print editors but also by Internet editors. So Jack's point is completely valid, based on my experiences in the belly of the beast.



March 11, 2008, 7:12 PM

To write good criticism the prerequisite is a good eye. Not only is that something very few people have, it is something that simply does not count any more. No one can get published now telling it like it is; they wouldn't last a week.

We have dumbed down our profession so radically that we have reduced ourselves to slapping the "art" label on anything at all, anything - just put it out there and see where it goes. This is what art has come to,

The only hope is that the coming recession is bad enough to blow the whole nasty thing out of the water so we can start all over again. I really see no other solution. Just look at that Whitney embarrassment and the talk around it! Looney tunes, all the way, and no one dares say it. Instead they wander around mumbling solemn gibberish.

We are an irrational species.



March 11, 2008, 8:25 PM

#34 (ahab): The URL for "Plain Talk" is - then select "plain talk" from the menu.



March 11, 2008, 9:29 PM

I've been indisposed since 4 pm. Let's see...

Right! Big congrats to Bert Rodriguez, conceptual art's answer to Romero Britto.

Ex, the obvious ones are likely it. I've said before that you can't form a critical reputation from a defensive position, and good art is largely in a defensive position. Remember when I agreed with you about skateboarding as modernist? Writers are going to have to form reputations around subgroups that are small enough to share felt understanding about what makes the form good. We are doing that here.

Eric, I the problem of negative criticism is economic as much as anything else. There are a jillion artists out there and the publisher has $200 to spend on you. Is he going to want you to go out of your way to smack something down or talk up something that deserves it? Even here my time is limited and I sometimes ask myself, well, why not just ignore this piece of crap? The answer is that clear demonstrations revulsion and scorn for unsuccessful works of art, apart from providing an enjoyable read when done well, reinforce the importance of the topic as a whole and embolden taste.

I sometimes think that we might be approaching a point at which people know they can't expect a clearly expressed, highly partisan, humanistic critical response in the traditional sources, and that a writer who could provide such responses, given a good slice of real estate on the internet, could make a go of it. I'm just saying.



March 12, 2008, 4:30 AM

"Is he going to want you to go out of your way to smack something down or talk up something that deserves it?"

It would be easy to make a blanket statement and say it is all about the adevertising dollars. Editors do not encourage biting the hand that feeds the publication. But one will always find exceptions to this. A pan will appear in the arts section of most big name publications (I am repeatedly using the word 'big' as a form of shorthand for 'widely distributed' or 'widely read') and they have appeared in the same pages as an advertisement for the show that is being panned. So clearly the editors or those above them do not think there is any risk of losing business if they run a negative review, and as long as the readership is large enough the adevertisers won't be alienated by a bad review because where else are they going to advertise anyway? Now at this point in the conversation things usually turn to one of the current art world's favorite bugaboos, "Art criticism is dead, or has no influence whatsoever, at least not the same influence it had back in the day." The Greenberg effigy is usually wheeled out at this point and gets promptly burned to the ground. "Thank goodness those days are over. Long live the great Pluralism!"

I could go on but I have work to do. More later.



March 12, 2008, 5:32 AM

Franklin good comment #44. I have been continulally surprised that the "subgroup" thing did not evolve and mature years ago. The art world is like a bunch of mutants all developing in the same egg. It is about time they break out and go their own way.

One problem is that word "art". Everyone wants whatever they are doing to be "art". They usually can't horn in on other disciplines because other disciplines are usually still disciplines. Spectacles of the Whitney sort are just fine as freaky entertainment but they are all crowded into the "art" space. There is plenty of perfectly good art being made (and bought) in traditional vehicles but we need to recognize that's one kind of thing and the Whitney stuff is another kind of thing and evolve some kind of clear differentiation and market vehicles.

As to your second point, I also recognize the futility of negative criticism. It really might be a waste of time. But one is driven to it under current conditions, and, as you imply, it can give people enough nerve to at least think that things might be better.



March 12, 2008, 5:37 AM

Robert Hughes is definitely one of a kind. No one will replace him.



March 12, 2008, 5:58 AM

It seems obvious to me that negative reviews, a constant flow of well thought out ones, would be more likely to lead to change than a constant flow of positive reviews would. I have come to realize though, in terms of the time I have available to invest in the writing process, that taking the time and energy to cobble together a negative review is futile. So I feel that the whole subject of writing art criticism is frought with contradictions. And of course it shouldn't be.



March 12, 2008, 6:32 AM

Catfish, I didn't realize the newcritters had .organized



March 12, 2008, 6:47 AM

On the 'Plain Talk' page on the newcrit site there is a link to a Dave Barry article ("Clearly Not for the Faint of Art") that was inspired by a review of an old rickety armchair sitting on the floor of a gallery. The armchair exhibition was written up by an reviewer I don't know them) using typically outlandish PoMo jargon. Even though I am listed as Associate Editor of artcritical I did not read or edit the review Barry lampooned. David Cohen reads, chooses, and edits what gets posted on 99.9% of the time. Occasionally he will send an editing job my way but very infrequently. He usually warns me not to edit too much. So please do not blame me for that chair review. I realize that my name will be associated with it for all time.


Chris Rywalt

March 12, 2008, 6:47 AM

I'm willing to write negative reviews. I think my problem is not being knowledgeable enough. Franklin knows art and art history. WDB does, obviously. I don't. I'm a dilettante. A perpetual amateur.

I also tend to use "I" too much.


Marc Country

March 12, 2008, 6:50 AM

I only read bad art criticism...



March 12, 2008, 7:05 AM

Man, the WaPo needs a foot in its ass.



March 12, 2008, 7:05 AM

Wait, that was the WaTimes. Well, it looks like they could use one too.



March 12, 2008, 7:30 AM

"inert survey of abstraction from 1950 to 1975"

Sorry next time we will make sure to connect robot legs to the paintings so that the exhibit will be less inert.

"In resuscitating the color-field paintings, the narrowly focused Smithsonian show only reinforces the limitations of the movement rather than proving its relevance beyond the canvases on display."

They actually are displaying wonderful pictures to the public, making them available for the first time in ages. How is this 'reinforcing limitations'?



March 12, 2008, 7:40 AM

Chris according to the rules set down in Journalism 101, you never use 'I' in a news story. Write editorials if you want to use 'I'. I have to admit that my historical knowledge isn't first class but I personally don't read art criticism to get a history lesson. I read art history books for that or attend lectures or watch the History Channel. I feel that too many art critics bog down their reviews with historical references and drown the art and artist being reviewed in comparisons. I also think that historical references in an art review can be used to lend the work being reviewed certain airs, or to conflate its real value.


Chris Rywalt

March 12, 2008, 7:42 AM

I know you're not supposed to use "I" in real journalism, but I think of reviews as being more subjective and therefore allowed. But I still use it too much.


Marc Country

March 12, 2008, 7:42 AM

As if the WaTi has any credibility in accusing others of "autocracy"... in this instance, I find it a particularly disgusting characterization of a man who made very clear and public stands against the totalitarian regimes of Europe prior to WWII.

On the other hand, maybe "autocrat" is just a word in need of rehabilitation... after all, it just means "self-rule", after all, and nothing is more appropriate when it comes to judging art. Art certainly isn't democratic...



March 12, 2008, 7:44 AM

You don't seem to understand, Eric. The show was limited to good art. We certainly do not want to encourage such a thing.


Marc Country

March 12, 2008, 7:46 AM

That WaTi piece is almost enough to make Roberta Smith appear thoughtful, by comparison...


Chris Rywalt

March 12, 2008, 7:53 AM

Roger Ebert is one of my favorite writers of any kind. He sometimes writes about reviewers reviewing the movie they wanted to see instead of the movie they actually saw.

I think that's what's going on in Deborah Dietsch's piece. It seems she has all these ideas about Abstract Expressionism transitioning into Minimalism through Color Field Painting and she's annoyed that the show itself doesn't explore that. Also, clearly she thinks that being "well-collected" is an epithet, and that Greenberg was wrong about Pop Art. Most of us here probably agree with Greenberg, though, don't we?

Obviously Deb would like to put on her own show with her own emphasis. Which is fine, I guess. But it doesn't help her review of the show she saw. Were the paintings any good? Did she like them? Is the show worth seeing? Are there any paintings there I should get out to see before they're locked away in storage again?

A review should answer those kinds of questions, right?



March 12, 2008, 7:58 AM

'I' totally agree with you Chris. She didn't do justice to even one painting in the freaking show! Also, one should always beware of art critics that utiilize neat and tidy art history timelines. They are rehashing the same old shit. It is like some grade teacher handed out a timeline to all of the critics and they all refer to the same thing when they write about an allegedly linear 'parade of movements'. Man is it tiring to read that shit.


Marc Country

March 12, 2008, 8:10 AM

The writer treats Greenberg with the standard, off-the-rack, de rigueur artworld antagonism, naturally, yet still manages to let out a subtextual lament that "Miss" Frankenthaler "only recently has earned her rightful place in art history", without giving a whiff of notice to Clem's own early appreciation of the work.
It seems Greenberg's greatest crime was pointing out the good stuff before the rest of the world was ready for it...

Meanwhile, we have writers wondering why (oh, why!)pop art doesn't get shown in an exhibition of ABSTRACT painting, ferfucksakes...


Chris Rywalt

March 12, 2008, 8:20 AM

And I really don't see what's bad about restaging a show from 1969. That sounds pretty cool to me, actually.

I think it's funny that one of the few paintings she mentions by name is not actually in the show. "Too bad they left out this other great painting. What did they keep in? Uh, I don't know, I was too busy composing my complaints to notice."


Marc Country

March 12, 2008, 8:25 AM

Yeah... gee, where are Jasper Johns' Targets? Duh... Or, maybe some didactics on, or displays of, the "technological breakthroughs and optimistic designs of the Space Age"?... what kind of Colour-field painting show is this, anyways?



March 12, 2008, 8:37 AM

Eric - Top journalists don't need to use 'I' in news articles. Top journalists promote their opinions through the judicious use of 'vox pop.'


Chris Rywalt

March 12, 2008, 8:52 AM

I am personally fascinated by the ways technology shapes art, specifically painting. I've read, for example, that part of what made Impressionism possible was the new bright pigments that became available once the Industrial Revolution got underway.

So I imagine a show on the effect of technology on color field painting would be interesting to me. Too bad a) that's not this show and b) that's not what the author meant. I think she meant all those boomerang and missile nosecone shapes you could get in Formica countertops in the 1950s.



March 12, 2008, 10:23 AM

#49: Ahab, apparently newcrit is .comed and .neted as well as .orged. All three TLDs work, as long as newcrit is in front of them. .org is, of course, the snootiest of the three. Given the narrow formalist bias of the site, .org seems the most fitting.



March 12, 2008, 10:23 AM

Several reviewers seem to have made note that Minimal preceded Color Field or the other way around.

Neither "preceded" the other. Both were in the air since at least the late 40s with Still, Rothko, Newman, et al and developed off & on side by side or together. Reviewers like we have been reading are ignorant, ill-intentioned and full of shit. If any of the regular reporters on their paper wrote stuff like that they would be fired, but art...well, you know, art is weird, and she has a degree in art history...

Ken Moffett is trying to put together a show for China which would have a technical spin, but mostly about the new acrylic mediums and the various specialized acrylic products.


Chris Rywalt

March 12, 2008, 10:27 AM

But Catfish, everyone knows .net and .org are for losers. .com's where it's at, baby!



March 12, 2008, 10:50 AM

The smoking gun (well, the smokiest) in the review in question is that the woman doesn't have a single worthwhile or memorable thing to say about any painting in the show. All she can manage are lame descriptions like "blurry brush strokes and color-saturated fields," "green rectangle flanked by blue windows," "spreading shapes resemble blotchy stains," "painting of interlacing curves" and "monochromatic paintings." So? Does anybody need to be told the blatantly obvious?

Translation: NO EYE.

Of course, her aim was evidently to proclaim her superiority to Karen Wilkin as a would-be curator, as well as the obligatory Greenberg-bashing to score cheap brownie points with the in-crowd. A miserable waste of newsprint.



March 12, 2008, 11:45 AM

it is a waste, i agree jack. and i agree with you eric, reading these things is very tiring. there is obviously no effort to see the work for what it really is. and obviously, no empathy for painting or its history or the quality of art experience we are all talking about. i find it more and more irritating, and i guess its bascially just built into pluralist relativism, how these writers can only address the work in comparison to something else. it's like these people are pathologically opposed to looking at something and talking about it and only it. good or bad.

as i presumed, all you guys keeping watch on these fools have basically answered that there really is no one writing decently for guys like the NYT, WA TI, WA PO, and so on...

franklin's right, time to go independent.

i just can't shake this chilly feeling i get when i read stuff like the wa ti piece or the smith piece or a million others. there is an inability to relate directly with the work at all, and a follow up inability to speak about it in clear terms. i mean how the f#ck does that show get called 'inert'? how is this happening? opie you're right. people are really truly letting themselves be led around. the audacity, to try and capitulate this seemless wretched twisted version of history! it's starting to feel like a conspiracy. maybe it already is.


Chris Rywalt

March 12, 2008, 12:38 PM

I like Jerry Saltz. I don't always agree with him -- in fact I often don't -- but I like the guy. He's got strong opinions and he's intelligent. Not a drone at all. But then I've met him a few times -- he lectured at SVA when I was there, and visited my studio -- so I may be a little biased.



March 12, 2008, 1:11 PM

I wish Saltz would be less repetitive. How many times can you use the word 'mojo' in an art review?


Chris Rywalt

March 12, 2008, 1:21 PM

Personally, if this is the last time I type the word "mojo," it'll have been one too many.

I haven't read a lot of his criticism; I mainly just pick it up when it comes out, and only for the last year or so. So I guess I haven't picked up on his repetition yet.



March 12, 2008, 2:25 PM

I had high hopes for Saltz a few years ago when someone pointed out an article he wrote about museums and curators, which was excellent.

In the meantime he has come out with things that have made me reverse that opinion utterly..



March 12, 2008, 3:05 PM

OP, as you certainly know, the general climate in the art world practically requires playing along to get along, if one wants to be a player. At the very least, it requires not straying substantially from the party line.

Right now, I'm not sure it would make any difference if someone with gifts equal or superior to Greenberg's showed up wanting to work as an art critic. It's highly questionable such a person would get anywhere or last very long if s/he did.

The system has neither use nor desire for such input--quite the opposite. It's resolutely set against it, despite all the lip service to tolerance and pluralism and what have you. The most outrageous nonsense is perfectly OK, of course, as long as it doesn't pose a real threat. It's a racket.



March 12, 2008, 3:12 PM

What did you think of the Ariella Budick piece?



March 12, 2008, 3:58 PM

re: 77




March 12, 2008, 4:24 PM

I know nothing about Budick, and I don't know what kind of publication Newsday is, but her piece certainly sounds on target. The Whitney Biennial, however, has traditionally gotten fairly poor press, so it's a relatively safe target. There seems to be a tacit agreement that it's OK to trash it--unlike, say, some super earnest and much more "sanctified" analog like Dokumenta.

Certainly, going by what Budick relates, the WB is such a lousy joke that the stuff is not even really marketable, and if it has no serious commercial potential, the system won't really care if it's panned. In other words, it seems the WB is like the acting out of an eccentric relative, which is indulged or tolerated but not taken very seriously--so it's OK to snicker and roll one's eyes.



March 12, 2008, 6:13 PM

my computer wont let me have Budick's article but the quote on the newsday site:

" We're told that artists in this year's Whitney Biennial are "challenging concepts," "transgressing boundaries," "blurring lines" and "investigating relationships." But Ariella Budick has some news for the curators: "There are no boundaries left to transgress. Art can't be liminal in the absence of the thresholds. How can you challenge conventions that have already been burned beyond recognition? There's something almost quaint about the use of these cliches. Where have the curators been for the past 20 years?"

Sounds very much like something I have been griping about for longer than that. How much longer are these pathetic "experts" going to get away with this tired academic gibberish? Why won't anyone challenge them on it?



March 12, 2008, 6:38 PM

Jack sent me the Budick article. She tears into the mess. Good for her.

I suspect out at Newsday the critics aren't quite so cozy with the art establishment as they are in the big city.



March 12, 2008, 6:42 PM

Newsday is a Long Island daily (they failed when they attempted to grow a city edition) and they have absolutely nothing to lose in terms of advertising dollars, hence the honesty. I read the newspaper growing up on LI.



March 12, 2008, 6:58 PM

Well (83), that figures. Newsday's art critic can then be dismissed as relatively provincial or suburban rambling from someone that doesn't "get it" and thus doesn't really count. I suspect Budick is not an art scene insider and doesn't move in the "best" circles, nor is she likely to gain entry therein (unless she learns to play by the rules).



March 12, 2008, 7:51 PM

there is not much place as i see it for art with real spirit in this mess. it all reeks of decadence. artists are racing for complexity and banality at the same time. the emphasis on a new meaning for whatever theses artists pluck from life to represent has finally become a pathological m.o. aw, who am i kidding it's been just this bad for so long. it's just bigger. the real price is the obvious devaluing of real art. at least in the immediate sense. these chumps, the chumps who run the show, can't just about face and start fawning over real art. by comparison, real art, good art, without all the academic props, doesn't stand a chance. it takes heart and honesty to want to know something of real goodness, let alone allow yourself to experience it.

Art, the kind that has real affect, is what has really become 'quaint'. jack's comments earlier (modernism will never go over the way it did again), which i wholly agree with, temper the hope i have that in some way quality will eventually just become so glaringly obvious. the art will make its own case for these knuckleheads. is that crazy or just sad? i just can't see the way back to it from within this mire. for crying out loud, i face enough doubt in my studio every day!

if this recession really does hit hard enough to shake some things up, then it will only be that much more difficult a descent from the ivory tower. it will be a long climb down. and i would think there will be some chaffed tails at the bottom.



March 12, 2008, 9:01 PM

I thought she "tears into the mess," too, which is why I was, at first, puzzled, wondering if Budick was being included in the the previous comments about art criticism.
Good art and good criticism seems to be happening at the fringes these days,outside of the scene and that may be the best place for it.


Marc Country

March 12, 2008, 9:30 PM

A related item, on criticism...



March 13, 2008, 4:25 AM

#84 Right on the nosey Jack. There is one 'serious' art museum on Long Island, the Nassau County Museum of Art. They have some really great shows there. They tend to focus on Modernist painters by the way. But that is about it. There are no galleries on Long Island that get the slightest bit of attention from the non-local press. Newsday is completely a provincial affair in the eys of the big city.


Marc Country

March 13, 2008, 6:11 AM

... guess it's time to ignore the big city right back.


J.T. Kirkland

March 13, 2008, 7:09 AM

Since I live in D.C. I saw the Color Field show this past weekend. I was very excited about the show. However, when I got there disappointment immediately set in. I'm not sure if the best examples of Color Field painting were on display (certainly the best Morris Louis' were not... though they may be travelling around in his retro). The majority of the color field paintings on display looked muddy to me. They were lifeless. Sure, they were big and colorful, but they just didn't have a pop to them. Actually, walking through the sort of cramped installation of huge paintings was kind of overbearing. They loomed over me but not in a good way. I didn't want to enter any of them.

Further dis-service was done to those artists who I guess are secondary to the movement. I say secondary because the smaller paintings (i.e. WDB's selection) were shoved to the back wall. It made them feel like an after thought to me.

I think had WDB and others been given ample room to breathe and better positioning, it would have made for a better show. As is, it seems the show was installed with biggest paintings up front and smallest in the back. You know, bigger is always better, right?

I don't know if these were the best examples of Color Field, but the show was pretty weak for me. I was disappointed by the let down.


Chris Rywalt

March 13, 2008, 7:57 AM

Now that's more like a review!



March 13, 2008, 8:15 AM

the morris louis show that folks have mentioned a few times now - is that Morris Louis Revisited or the Kasmin show?


J.T. Kirkland

March 13, 2008, 8:37 AM

Revisited... from the Hirshhorn site:

Now that was a great show!



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