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Art plus research equals... something

Post #1167 • April 28, 2008, 2:17 PM • 17 Comments

Brett Sokol on the Craig Robins initiative to start a graduate, perhaps post-graduate art program in Miami. Details are hard to come by.

This area will also be home to his new program, headily named Art + Research. If all goes according to plan, it'll open in September 2009 with eight-to-twelve "resident artists" - who will receive full scholarships, studio space, housing, and stipends. They hope to expand it later. The University of Miami-operated venture already has an impressive roster of New Yorkers onboard.

Walter Darby Bannard responds:

"To have $2 million given to this rich man's fantasy camp is more than annoying; it's a complete kick in the teeth to the art department," says [University of Miami] painting professor Darby Bannard. "We are hurting so bad over here for basic facilities. I spent two years just trying to get the floor in the wood shop fixed—it was so rotted out you could put your foot through it." Bannard's own pedagogical style eschews theoretical discussions. "It's very simple," he cracks. "I teach people to paint. Inspiration is fine, but if you don't have the skills, it's not going to go anywhere."

As a product of the UM graduate program, I can say with certainty that we could have found something more promising to do with $2 mil than cultivate the next scions of theory art. I note that no one on the side of the project says that it will result in some great art getting made. Will it? And does anything else really matter?




April 28, 2008, 3:03 PM

As far as UM administative types are concerned, I'm sure the bottom line is not facilitating the best possible art. These are not art people, anyway; they're not fit to deal in those terms. They're far more likely to be thinking money, publicity, image, status and so forth. Robins is a high-profile, trendy, big-bucks operator. University development types love that, and I expect they figure that if they cater to Robins now, they'll likely get more from him and/or his fashionable rich crowd later.

In other words, the UM people making this kind of decision are not people who really know what's what, like Bannard, but precisely the sort of people who'd be only too susceptible to the "charms" (not to say wiles) of someone like Robins. It's not just a perfectly "logical" scenario from their standpoint; it's a very tempting proposition. Bannard, of course, is pretty much crying out in the wilderness on this one. The powers that be evidently have other priorities.



April 28, 2008, 4:59 PM

That's obviously "administrative" in line 1. I detest typos.



April 28, 2008, 6:27 PM

I notice that this project validates itself in a series of "me-toos". Art Basel came first in Europe, then Miami became its "me-too". Terry Riley got his credential at MOMA, now Miami inherits it. The South Beach Art Deco buildings came first, then they were restored, according to the aesthetic of "cleaned up bohemia", a double "me too" they call "Soho in the Sun" for a third hit on "me-tooism". Then there is the "impressive roster of New Yorkers onboard". This is credentialism of the worst sort, credentialism without courage, without originality, without any accomplishment except sheer credentialism itself, as if that is an accomplishment. The standards were all created and set somewhere else, then imported, cleaned up (stripped of their authenticity?), and touted as the NEXT NEW THING. "Everyone knows" they are "great" because their greatness is so past tense and therefore easily understood before anything, if anything, happens.

What is a damn shame about it all is that it will work - for a while, at least. But maybe longer, especially if the Miami art scene never develops anything substantial of its own. Which it probably won't with the temptation of a ready-made Black Mountain on quick fix steroids (instead of the "eat your spinach" discipline that the original Black Mountain used to bootstrap its open approach to art), right there in Miami belching up "fame" and a modicum of money, though not that much by today's art world standards. I mean, three artists in the Whitney Biennial. That is the equivalent of letting them eat cake. And don't expect even that to last long. Houston went through a similar love affair with the Whitney Biennial in the 80s. It turned out Houston loved the Whitney far more than the Whitney loved Houston.

As a former educator, I have to agree with Robbins that conventional foundation courses, art history courses, easels, and models are not "necessary", even though they may be useful. But that is because nothing in art is necessary except art itself. So it follows that neither are "ideas" necessary. Neither are "art stars" and their "hovering presence" (which is another way to say they mostly will not be around). And certainly "critical literature" is not necessary.

On the other hand, if I were part of the UM art department, I would not give the enemy such easy facts as Bannard did when he talked about the rotten floor. That identifies UM's MFA as "for losers". Stick with the basics, which he does when he says UM teaches "people to paint". Tout the importance of product over process. The weakness of this Art + Research is that it is nothing but a glamorized process that is not innovative at all, but borrowed from here, borrowed from there, and very vulnerable to straightforward historical analysis of these facts. Duchamp is as much "yesterday" as Picasso.

Miami, the "me-too" city, is set to prove that an easily understood derivative process can, well, be easily understood.



April 28, 2008, 6:54 PM

Yes, Catfish, this sort of thing is perfectly in character for the Miami art scene, such as it is. As I said above, clueless but ever-eager institutional types, in Miami or elsewhere, typically eat this stuff up. It's like putting candy before children. The last thing on their mind is actual nutritional value, so to speak.

The local art pooh-bahs, of course, would rabidly contest everything you say, even though it's right on target. Aggressive cheerleading is part of the Miami Art Syndrome, and it's a form of over-compensation for the inherent shallowness and flimsiness of the general enterprise.

And yes, the "impressive roster of New Yorkers" bit is pretty sad. Evidently, some people are exceedingly easy to impress.



April 28, 2008, 7:33 PM

"... an impressive roster of Edmontonians..."

Sorry. I just wanted to try it out...



April 28, 2008, 8:29 PM

Wow. Good statement, Catfish.

The "me too" list is excellent and very telling.



April 29, 2008, 7:01 AM

Ah, yes, from "boutique hotels" to a boutique art school (?), program (?), whatever. You do what you know. Makes sense to me.

As for the appropriately named Mr. Madoff, who may not be mad but is decidedly off, well...what can I say about such uncontestable wisdom as this?

the two-year program...will revolve around a topical theme that changes with each entering biannual class. Accordingly, don’t expect to see the “resident artists” hunker down in front of easels and live models. “Most art is conceptually based now. It’s art based on an idea,” says Madoff. “It didn’t turn out that the twentieth century’s most influential artist was Picasso. It turned out it was Duchamp … We don’t need to do foundation courses, how to draw, how to sculpt … You don’t need three credits for American Art History From 1945 to the Present.”

But of course. Let's go with the flow, stick with the program and uphold orthodoxy. Fashion, after all, rules.

And doesn't Mr. Robins look fetching in that article photo? Fabulous.


that guy

April 29, 2008, 9:45 AM

Finally we will be able to bask in the glow of some real New York Artists. It is like Christmas all over again.

"the two-year program...will revolve around a topical theme that changes with each entering biannual class."

In other words 'we'd rather we come up with the topic that your art WILL be about'. I don't get it? What if the two year scheme tends produce art that blows? Is there any mechanism to give the artists back control over their own work? Sounds very likely to become either a well funded, top notch loony bin or an MFA program with the seeds of its own destruction sown neatly into its founding documents?

It would take a small minded artist indeed, to sign up for a school like this.



April 29, 2008, 10:14 AM

Nice observation, that guy. Even if the "topic" does not produce art that blows, it is very "uncreative" to dictate what a whole group of artists will make art about.

But if they must have topics, I'd like to see the first group tackle how unfair the tax code is for the very wealthy.

Next I'd like to see them take on fiat money, advocating instead for a return to the gold standard.



April 29, 2008, 11:45 AM

"The University of Miami-operated venture already has an impressive roster of New Yorkers onboard."

I am from New York. Not the fancy and smart part of New York. None the less, the above sentence embarrasses me. Is the school mission a parody written in the style of Jonathan Swift? Art programs across the country should go conceptual and do away with all shop equipment, easels, spinning wheels, lithography stones, printing presses, dark rooms, etc. Think how much money schools and students will save.

It is all in your mind dude!



April 29, 2008, 11:54 AM

The "topic" really doesn't matter. It will be vague, and the "artists" will be advised by the hovering "professors" to do whatever they want to do, and they will.

It's all just cotton candy.



April 29, 2008, 11:59 AM

It just hit me. It doesn't matter what will come out of this project, even assuming it becomes an established program. The results are irrelevant. What matters here is the concept of the thing, the idea/s behind it. Just remember, as with so much that passes for art these days, it's the thought that counts. You gotta admit, the conceptual approach is mighty, uh, inclusive (practically anything will do), not to mention extraordinarily convenient.

If you can't do, postulate.

Hell, it's a great racket.



April 29, 2008, 5:14 PM

Miami as usual: superficial and vain.
Rolex for a Dali. Classic!



April 29, 2008, 6:25 PM

He should have made the Rolex something less, er, predictable, and he most definitely should have made the Dali something more reputable, or rather, respectable. But again, it's the thought that counts, isn't it?



April 29, 2008, 10:28 PM

Thanks for the read.



April 30, 2008, 9:32 AM

I want a pair of jeans just like Craig's. He can keep the Scheibitz and the chandelier, but those jeans rule. I'm not shaving my head, though...but maybe I can dye my hair to match the jeans. I could use some lessons in posing for the camera, too...



April 30, 2008, 10:17 AM

Now I'm conflicted. Should I base my artperson persona on Robins or some other icon, like Hernan Bas? And no, I'm not doing the Mera Rubell thing. I need an image consultant. Maybe I'll ring up Julian Schnabel, but for that look I'd have to become obese...Grayson Perry is out...what does Currin look like, anyway?



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