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Wings

Post #1160 • April 18, 2008, 2:02 PM • 61 Comments

Henry Miller, from The Waters Reglitterized:

But one of the moments I like best, after doing what I imagine to be my utmost, is the realization that it won't do at all. I decide to convert the quiet, static picture in front of me into a live, careless, free and easy thing. I strike out boldly with whatever comes to hand - pencil, crayon, brush, charcoal, ink - anything which will demolish the studied effect obtained and give me fresh ground for experiment. I used to think that the striking results obtained in this fashion were due to accident, but I no longer am of this mind. Not only do I know today that it is the method employed by some very famous painters (Rouault immediately comes to mind), but, I recognize that it is often the same method which I employ in writing. I don't go over my canvas, in writing, like the meticulous Frænkel does with his drafts, but I keep breaking new ground until I reach the level of exact expression, leaving all the trials and gropings there, but raising them in a sort of spiral circumnavigation, until they make a solid under-body or under-pinning, whichever the case may be. And this, I notice, is precisely the ritual of life which is practiced by the man who evolves. He doesn't go back, figuratively, to correct his errors and defects: he transposes and converts them into virtues. He makes wings of his larval cerements.

Comment

1.

Eric

April 18, 2008, 6:55 PM

I think that is a wonderful quote.

2.

Eric

April 18, 2008, 10:07 PM

I am not sure how Miller's articulation of a profoundly nebulous process ibes with master Murikami's wisdom:

"You cannot create an art piece unless you know how to make and sell it...Art is the supreme incarnation of luxury entertainment."

3.

Eric

April 18, 2008, 10:30 PM

jibes not ibes

4.

Jack

April 19, 2008, 7:21 AM

Well, yes, some people are far more easily entertained than others, and there is certainly profit to be had from them. Hence television. Hence the music industry. Hence the movie business. Hence the "best-seller" book mill. Hence...

5.

Franklin

April 19, 2008, 7:23 AM

Miller would probably have beaten Murakami to a pulp given the opportunity, at least in writing.

6.

Jack

April 19, 2008, 7:24 AM

Oh, and it's Murakami, not that it matters.

7.

Jack

April 19, 2008, 7:31 AM

Poor van Gogh. What a loser. He should have quit long before he did.

8.

Eric

April 19, 2008, 9:16 AM

van Gogh is the reason why I started to draw and paint many years ago. Thanks for the spelling correction Jack. I would hate to get Moronkami's name wrong. It is simply amazing and sadly consistent how much praise and press Moronkami's show is getting. (by the way, for all you PC people out there, I am not xenophobic.)

Miller's quote is great because it just feels right. He is obviously describing something that is an entirely non-verbal process (except for the occasional, "This sucks." or "Ah!") using words. His description of the plunge one takes when one begins a work of visual art acknowledges the importance of intuition without romanticizing the concept.

9.

db

April 19, 2008, 9:55 AM

Thanks for the quote. Made my day. Exactly the way I work when I'm doing my job well. A mentor said about production, "[one] might as well be making shoes." Or handbags.
Money talks, to the blind.

10.

Marc Country

April 19, 2008, 10:37 AM

Sorry to interrupt, but I had to share this little paragraph blurb from the NYT:

SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM : ‘COLOR AS FIELD: AMERICAN PAINTING, 1950-1975,’ through May 26. An overdue, if far from perfect, reconsideration of Color Field painting reintroduces the joyful pictorial derring-do of an art movement partly done in by the single-minded advocacy of its biggest fan, the great American art critic Clement Greenberg. It is wonderful to see some of the best of this work float free of the Greenbergian claims for greatness and inevitability, propelled by the fantastic soft power of brilliant color, big scale and judicious amounts of pristine raw canvas — especially as wielded by Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski. Perhaps humorless power-lust prevented Greenberg from seeing that if, as he said, Abstract Expressionism was Baroque, then Color Field might be Rococo: beautiful, sometimes frivolous and even comedic. Eighth Street and F Street, NW, Washington, (202) 633-7970, americanart.si.edu. (Smith)

Wow! Three digs on the long-dead Greenberg, in one tiny paragraph! Truly breathtaking...

11.

The Rug Factory

April 19, 2008, 10:45 AM

I had to re-read the entire quote 2-3 times to make sense, and once it did I was impressed. Yes, this is the way most artists proceed, they pick up their instrument and go about their way until something is completed which may or may not make sense but the great present in the manner that their work is taken to be path breaking and that's why the great are called great

12.

Jack

April 19, 2008, 11:56 AM

Marc, that sounds like a condensed blurb of the review by some woman or other previously trashed here. Her biggest point was essentially that she would have curated the show differently from Karen Wilkin. Duh. Needless to say, nobody gave a damn about what she might think of her personal curatorial acumen.

13.

opie

April 19, 2008, 11:59 AM

That's right Marc. Got to put that humorless powerluster in his place so the art can "float free" of his "claims for greatness".

Being pinned down by too much "greatness" has alway bothered me a lot, especially when other people are suffering with it.

14.

Marc Country

April 19, 2008, 3:57 PM

Yes, it must be so nice to see the work without having to think about Greenberg. I mean, Greenberg is irrelevant, after all. Thank god Greenberg is gone. Greenberg ruined our experience of this art, but now, Greenbergless, we can look afresh at this work, uncorrupted by anything about Greenberg at all... Greenberg.

15.

Eric

April 19, 2008, 4:06 PM

Does anyone think there is a hint of anti-Semitism behind the anti-Greenberg rhetoric?

16.

Marc Country

April 20, 2008, 9:57 AM

My letter to the Editor of the NYT:

Seriously, guys. What's up with Roberta Smith? Why is she employed at your paper, writing about art? She clearly has no business doing so. Did you read her latest? "Small may be beautiful, but where abstract painting is concerned, it is rarely fashionable." Fashionable? Who cares about "fashion" lady? We're talking about ART, aren't we? Jesus...
Then, there's her absolutely moronic little paragraph blurb about the Smithsonian Color-field show... wow! Is she trying to look like an idiot? Three inexplicable mentions of the long-dead Greenberg (her better by a longshot, of course), all of them rendered in disparaging tones. Despicable. "Perhaps humorless power-lust prevented Greenberg from seeing...", blah blah blah. Uh, yeah... right. Perhaps mental retardation and the love of the taste of Satan's cock prevents Smith from attaining a better grasp on her subject, but, really, who can say?


I can't wait to see it published....

17.

Jack

April 20, 2008, 10:27 AM

I sympathize, Marc, but it may be just a tad too graphic. The NYT, of course, is not really concerned with the quality of its art critic/s. I expect it assumes that since Smith is employed by the NYT, most people will assume she's the real deal--and sure enough, most people will.

18.

opie

April 20, 2008, 10:56 AM

The phrase "Satan's cock" might be just a tad strong for the Times, Marc, but the editors will be pleased that their rag is being read in the frozen north.

19.

Chris Rywalt

April 20, 2008, 11:23 AM

I wouldn't be so mean to Roberta, since she's Jerry's wife, and Jerry, as I've said, seems like a good guy. So I'd assume his wife isn't a bad person, either -- although for all I know she's a bitch on wheels like my wife.

That says nothing about her criticism and her love of Satan's cock, though.

Eric, I don't notice any anti-Semitism in this particular anti-Greenberg quote. I do think she makes something of a good point, though, which is that Greenberg (it seems to me, anyway) was very serious about color field painting, and Roberta seems to find it lighter and more playful, so at this distance from both "living" color field and Greenberg, she can recapture some of the fun.

I mean, I definitely think it's easier to be looser about things when there's no longer a war going on over them. Greenberg's days in the trenches are long past, so we can just relax and enjoy.

It seems to me one of the great things about art is that it survives the petty squabbles of its time. It endures.

20.

Jack

April 20, 2008, 12:18 PM

Chris, who the woman's married to or whether she's a bitch on wheels is not what Marc was concerned with or addressing. Here in Miami there's a woman who was and may still be the chief art critic for the Miami Herald, the city's main paper, and despite appearing to be a very nice person, her reviews were useless to me. I simply stopped reading her. You get the idea.

21.

Eric

April 20, 2008, 1:22 PM

I guess I brought up anti-Semitism because the quote that Marc included in #10. reminded me of the references to Emmanuel Goldstein found in Orwell's 1984.

"So I'd assume his wife isn't a bad person, either -- although for all I know she's a bitch on wheels like my wife."

Chris although I guess you are going for the Rodney Dangerfield effect with lines like this, I find it repulsive. I say this because my wife would be fucking horrified if I referred to her in such a way on a blog available to the public and as widely read as Franklin's is. To each his own I guess.

22.

Jack

April 20, 2008, 5:12 PM

That's OK, Eric. None of the right people read this blog (or at least they'd never admit to it). Mrs. Rywalt is safe.

23.

Eric

April 20, 2008, 5:21 PM

"Right people" meaning anyone who knows Chris or the Mrs. personally? Maybe bitch on wheels is a term of endearment. Who the fuck am I to say.

24.

roygbiv

April 20, 2008, 5:39 PM

Now for the record Chris, were the wheels a factory option or are talking after market? Also, do they come with alloy rims?

25.

Eric

April 21, 2008, 6:11 AM

A passage from 1984:

"[A]lthough Goldstein (Greenberg) was hated and despised by everybody (the art world), although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were in spite of all this, his influence never seemed to grow less."

26.

opie

April 21, 2008, 6:26 AM

Interesting analogy, Eric. Greenberg has been dead for the better part of a generation but after 3 vile books and dozens of articles and infinite talk they still feel the need to hammer away at him. Around here all straighforward attempts have failed and they are left with nothing but the "so yesterday" approach.

I think the world really, underneath, doesn't disagree with Goldstein/Greenberg; they just don't want goodness in art to be put forward as clearly, simply and straightforwardly as he did. In a way it is the same reaction Freud & Darwin got - the reaction was less a matter of truth than habit.

27.

db

April 21, 2008, 6:28 AM

Off-topic, but relevant:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120848379018525199.html?mod=taste_primary_hs

28.

Franklin

April 21, 2008, 6:28 AM

I feel obliged to point out here that Smith likely has nothing against Jews, based on the fact that she married one.

29.

db

April 21, 2008, 6:30 AM

on-topic after all (opie 26)

30.

Eric

April 21, 2008, 6:44 AM

I read the Gibson piece on the death of art writing in the WSJ. I just wish Gibson had named names (meaning art critics he gives a failing grade to) rather than bring up Duchamp so often.

Franklin I don't think Smith is anti-Semitic, but my jew hating detector goes off when I contemplate the whole anti-Greenberg phenomena.

I could cite numerous quotes by Greenberg and Rosenberg that are better written and more penetrating than anything being published by contemporary art critics. Why this is not enough to earn these writers the respect they deserve is beyond me.

31.

Jack

April 21, 2008, 6:49 AM

Eric, there are plenty of people of all sorts in the current art world who are getting far more respect than they deserve, just as there are plenty (past and present) who are being ignored or dismissed unjustly. It's the nature of the game, that's all.

32.

Eric

April 21, 2008, 6:58 AM

Yep.

33.

opie

April 21, 2008, 7:17 AM

Eric, I can't think of any way that anti-Greenberg is anti-semitic. The art world is heavily jewish, and many of his most intense critics are jewish. Also note that jews are justifiably very sensitive to anti-semitism, and you don't see this kind of observation brought up anywhere in this very acrimonious and politicized debate. I have never seen it.

No, I'm afraid the crusade against Greenberg stems entirely from what he said and did. It's to his credit that this is so.

34.

Eric

April 21, 2008, 7:30 AM

Makes sense opie. I fully retract my claim of anti-Semitism is this instance. God bless America!

35.

Chris Rywalt

April 21, 2008, 7:31 AM

Eric sez:
Chris although I guess you are going for the Rodney Dangerfield effect with lines like this, I find it repulsive. I say this because my wife would be fucking horrified if I referred to her in such a way on a blog available to the public and as widely read as Franklin's is. To each his own I guess.

I forget that not everyone here knows me and my wife and our relationship. It's the kind of thing I work on over time until you have a good picture of it.

My wife, Dawn, knows how I talk about her and has no problem with it. In fact she knows how I am online and I stopped surprising her a long time ago. We've been together almost 20 years and understand each other pretty well.

She'd agree that she's a bitch on wheels. The wheels are factory, and they're alloy rims, and they burst into flame at the touch of a button.

Dawn's bitchiness is one of the things I love about her. She doesn't take any crap, is confident, competent, makes no excuses for herself, and puts all of herself into everything she does. She's nothing like me, that is, and I'm glad she's on my side.

So don't worry about it if I call her names. She can take it.

36.

Eric

April 21, 2008, 7:40 AM

Thanks for the description of your personal life Chris. Many people lead secret lives online that their spouses know nothing about (until one day...Oops!) and I am glad that you are not one of them. Not that it is any of my fucking business. The wheels on the bitch go round and round...round and round...round and round...

37.

Eric

April 21, 2008, 7:41 AM

re #34:

"in this instance." not "is this instance."

38.

Marc Country

April 21, 2008, 7:46 AM

I think Eric might have hold of a good idea, though... right now, people ignorantly bash Greenberg out of some form of artworld political correctness... but, if such _berg-bashing were "framed" as anti-semitic, then THAT trump card becomes the new PC reality, and Greenberg becomes as immune to criticism as Israel itself... Genius!

Then, we'll see what Smith and the Times have to say about Greenberg, when we sic Alan Dershowitz and the ADL on their asses...

39.

Marc Country

April 21, 2008, 8:45 AM

... or, how about this gem, plucked from The Australian:

""I really do not believe - for many reasons, including political ones - in the neo-colonial globetrotting curator who goes to all these countries and visits studios and says, 'You, you and you ...' That doesn't make a cultural construction, it makes a telephone book," she says, sipping a comforting tea at the Biennale of Sydney headquarters near the wharves of Woolloomooloo.... I think that real curators are not selectors, they are not (American modernist critic) Clement Greenberg picking a good artwork, but they are participants in the art making," she says.

40.

Jack

April 21, 2008, 9:07 AM

Participants in the artmaking, indeed. It's always nice when the pretensions of these people are so bloated that they can't even sense how pretentious they sound. It doesn't make things any better, but at least it's good for a laugh.

41.

Eric

April 21, 2008, 9:19 AM

Can anyone name the year that curators, as a group, started to believe and put forth the notion that they were "participants in the artmaking"? The MoMA went down the toilet soon after this became the general consensus among curators, when they decided to package and present a glorious permanent collection in a pseudo-philosophical conceptual framework that was more prominent than the works of art actually were.

42.

Chris Rywalt

April 21, 2008, 9:27 AM

Continuing our completely off-topic conversation....

My goal, Eric, is for the person you "know" over the Internet to match the real me as closely as possible. This is completely at odds with almost everyone else on the Web, who seem to enjoy creating and destroying new personalities like mini-Kalis. I mean, that's okay, pretending to be someone else. I imagine it's fun. I'm just not very good at it. I kind of feel like that's a virtue, but then a wise friend of mine -- wise enough that he stopped being my friend eventually -- once said that I tend to make my preferences into virtues. I extend that to say that I tend to make my built-in programming into virtue; so naturally I think being honest is a virtue since I'm so lousy at being dishonest.

Anyway, the upshot is that I have no secrets, no private life, and don't hide behind anything. There will never be, I hope, another "Oops!" in my life, where someone finds something I didn't want them to see.

Unless my kids check the top shelf of my bedroom closet....

43.

Eric

April 21, 2008, 9:29 AM

Tell me about it Chris.

44.

opie

April 21, 2008, 10:42 AM

"...I think that real curators are not selectors, they are not (American modernist critic) Clement Greenberg picking a good artwork, but they are participants in the art making, she says."

And as much as he has been accused of it, this is somthing that (American modernist critic) Clement Greenberg never did.

45.

catfish

April 21, 2008, 11:25 AM

#44: Well, there was this sculpture that Clem did at a workshop. Caro argued that Clem was merely "helping" him do it. Willard Beopple, who was working as Caro's welder, I think, said "No, Clem did the sculpture and Caro did the helping" or some such. Eventually the sculpture was taken to Clem's place in upstate NY. Clem said Caro was still "sore" over that outcome. Whichever way it really took place, it was clear that both men were taking an active role in making the thing.

For my part, Clem certainly DID "participate" in my art making, but not like modern critics do. He once pointed to the studio floor where overlapping semi transparent strokes were laying as left overs from gessoing the edges of stretched canvases and told me that's what I ought to be doing. Had a big influence, but he never "helped" me as Caro "helped" him.

#41: I doubt 1993 was THE year you seek, but Barbara Rose wrote an article on Orlan's plastic surgery as art that was published in Art in America. The title was "Is It Art? Orlan and the Transgressive Act". I think this article is exactly the type of "participation" that is being touted. Rose ends the article, "So it is altogether appropriate that the article you have just read is actually the work that Orlan will exhibit in the show titled 'Is it Art?' curated by Bard College instructor Linda Weintraub."

These circumstances also illustrate the intimate connection between "advanced" art and art criticism and the academic world that was well developed by 1993.

46.

opie

April 21, 2008, 11:46 AM

Oh sure. The first time Clem saw my paintings, during the time he was doing the lectures at Princeton in 1959 (?) I was into extreme minimal and he pointed at some older pictures of mine and said "that's what you will be doing in ten years". I thought he was full of shit at the time, but ten years later I was indeed doing the looser, more painterly work he predicted. And not because he had said it but almost despite it.

He also would comment on a crop once in a while.

But this is a far cry from the virtual claims of co-creator given in Marc's example or your second one.

I didn't know about the Caro example, but I am not surprised, and I suspect it was very unusual in any event. Caro practically asked for suggestions, and at the various workshops where I saw him work they were amply given. I can see Clem getting into it despite his extreme diffidence about making art.

47.

opie

April 21, 2008, 11:51 AM

I believe he also pointout out some splatters on some plastic in Larry Poons' studio which may have influenced Poons to go vertical again after the Elephant Skin pix..

48.

Chris Rywalt

April 21, 2008, 12:25 PM

Wow, you guys are old.

49.

roygbiv

April 21, 2008, 12:44 PM

Fine wine takes time.

50.

catfish

April 21, 2008, 12:56 PM

Everyone gets to be young. Old is reserved for the lucky.

51.

opie

April 21, 2008, 1:02 PM

Excellent, Catfish.

Older but better.

52.

opie

April 21, 2008, 1:06 PM

Besides, I was a boy genius, like Schnabel. But my work fell out of favor because I got too friendly with (American modernist critic) Clement Greenberg. It's all his fault.

53.

Jack

April 21, 2008, 1:59 PM

You should have done the broken crockery thing, OP, or velvet paintings. Gotta have a gimmick, even if it only gets you 15 minutes or so.

How about broken crockery on velvet with a homoerotic slant? Or has that been done already? It's so hard to keep up with these things.

54.

Marc Country

April 21, 2008, 5:34 PM

"How about broken crockery on velvet with a homoerotic slant?"

I believe the politically correct term is "Asian", Jack...

55.

Marc Country

April 21, 2008, 5:40 PM

... unless you're a McCain supporter, in which case 'gook' will do nicely...

56.

roygbiv

April 21, 2008, 5:46 PM

yeesh...

57.

Marc Country

April 21, 2008, 5:55 PM

"Well, there was this sculpture that Clem did at a workshop.... Eventually the sculpture was taken to Clem's place in upstate NY."

Where's it at now, you think? Portland?...

Making a part to part sculpture in a 'vicarious' way is inherently more possible than making a painting... you could say, "put a fat brushstroke of this red here", but it would be the mark of the painter, not the director... but, you could take a couple of bits of metal, tell someone to weld them together in the spot you suggest, and reasonably call it YOUR sculpture, without crediting the fabricator.

58.

ahab

April 21, 2008, 6:06 PM

I think a field trip to the Portland Art Museum may be in order. Any takers?

59.

Marc Country

April 22, 2008, 3:17 PM

Hey, speaking of the 'Bergs (and their continuing cultural irrelevance, of course), this show looks interesting...

60.

Chris Rywalt

April 22, 2008, 4:12 PM

That looks really interesting, especially since I'm working my way through Rosenberg's Art on the Edge right now.

61.

opie

April 23, 2008, 8:16 AM

I dunno, Marc. It's SO yesterday...

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