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The importance of what we care about

Post #1181 • May 20, 2008, 4:42 PM • 488 Comments

From the essay of the same title from the book of the same title by Harry G. Frankfurt:

What makes it more suitable, then, for a person to make one object rather than another important to himself? It seems that it must be the fact that it is possible for him to care about the one and not about the other, or to care about the one in a way which is more important to him than the way in which it is possible for him to care about the other. When a person makes something important to himself, accordingly, the situation resembles an instance of divine agape at least in a certain respect. The person does not care about the object because its worthiness commands that he do so. On the other hand, the worthiness of the activity of caring commands that he choose an object which he will be able to care about.

Consider this a continuation of the new modernism thread.

Comment

1.

opie

May 20, 2008, 7:59 PM

Perhaps one might learn something about the quality of art by considering the people who like it.

Of course in our culture this would have to be done on the sly.

2.

Clem

May 20, 2008, 10:41 PM

A couple of things (since there's been a lot of water under this particular bridge)

******

I'd be interested to know what your angle in opening up with that quote is, Franklin. I'm pretty sure that we're each sick of the other's hasty framing of our motives and arguments, so I'll leave you to it.

It reads to me like a case for highly individual rather than "objective" or "factual" quality. And I'm not sure how it would be specific to visual qualities.

I've been trying to give some fairer thought to your position. Something that my last post didn't sincerely do-- but arguments which seem to aim for any kind of stricter biological determinism really get me worked up...

I can see that you're not abandoning the role of linguistic or narrative meaning from art, but rather subordinating it to the visuality of a work. And your key argument against forms which privilege the first is that they mostly appear to diminish or result in less attention to the latter. (Let me know if this is reducing your argument too much).

Personally, I was never moved to become interested and involved in the art community until I fell for works whose meaning is explicit and compliments the visual style and artistic practice. I find these pieces visually beautiful but have a hard time disengaging this part of my judgment from the history and meaning of the pieces. And when I think about trying to, I'm troubled by the question of why?

I was leafing through Klee's Pedagogical Sketchbook not long ago, and I was struck by how his descriptions of visual elements was caught up such explicit themes, such ase "active" and "passive", "hot" and "cold", and "pathos" or "tragedy"-- all forms of "pictorial thinking". It is these visual poetics, a way of seeing how the visual and ideational intertwine, that seem closest to my own strongest aesthetic experiences and thus the basis for my taste.

I'd sincerely be interested in hearing how some of you feel that your taste was shaped.


******

"color... transparencies... sharpness/cleanness of the contours... clarity of definition... the apparent lightness or fineness of the layers despite the chromatic richness/intensity... elegance of the overall effect."

Are these not visual ideas/concepts? It often seems like your opposition to the centrality of ideas to a work's visual quality has to do with a specific kind of idea. Is it that you see overt social and political themes overwhelming the visual nature of a lot of work? Do you have any examples of work whose "text" is central, but still meets your judgment of "visual quality"? Are you just sick of social science grad students having group shows on the side (I know that even I am, at times!)?

*******

Not that I want to jump into specifics of the anti-theory parade that capped off the last thread, but come on fellows!
Please don't lump and generalize specific writers without the context of their work. Until you make an honest attempt to read any of the particular writers or works that you're trying to impinge, don't pass such indefensible judgments.

If you want to make a weak argument that general intention of complicated jargon and thought is purely to obfuscate and falsely derive authority on particular subjects, then explain to me how what you're saying about "seeing" quality is any more helpful (or less a grab for authority). There is no broad consensus on visual quality, which is why we're here arguing. Point me to some scientific "facts" that say otherwise. And while we're talking about the science that you've brought up on a number of occasions, let's remember that most of it is not even uncontroversial amongst the scientific community. It also is important to remember that specific scientific discourses don't simply discover said "facts", but go on to make use of them in particular ways, which is precisely where ideology seeps in.

3.

ahab

May 20, 2008, 11:04 PM

"color... transparencies... sharpness/cleanness of the contours... clarity of definition... the apparent lightness or fineness of the layers despite the chromatic richness/intensity... elegance of the overall effect." Are these not visual ideas/concepts?

No. These are one individual's choice of words to describe observed traits of a (jpeg of a) particular painting. A painting which that individual deemed in this instance excellent. Those very same qualities could potentially be used to describe the failings of some other painting.

Whatever "kind of idea", it either applies or not - is either accurate and germane, or irrelevant and disposable, and at each observer's discretionary discretion. (S/he may change his/er mind about what s/he thinks about what s/he sees.)

4.

opie

May 21, 2008, 4:38 AM

Thanks, Ahab. Well put.

Clem, as for myself, I love to argue & hash things out, but I am not going to discuss anything with you until you state your position, your point or your disagreement clearly, specifically and briefly and answer when others do the same. The kind of thing you have posted above is little more than an invitation to jump into quicksand.

5.

george

May 21, 2008, 4:52 AM

I'm sooo confused about what your trying to market.

Quality is Job One?

but this is what the market thinks it already has.

6.

Eric

May 21, 2008, 5:23 AM

George can you talk about your use of juxtaposition and recognizable imagery in your own work?

7.

george

May 21, 2008, 5:30 AM

not here, it's not relevant to this topic.

8.

opie

May 21, 2008, 5:38 AM

I think the idea is to respond to the post, George, not Franklin's motives in posting it.

9.

george

May 21, 2008, 5:46 AM

Well, I was really responding to the jist of clem's comments.

He's asking real world questions just the way an outsider viewing these threads would. If they seem muddled, then I suspect it's partly because what he's asking about is muddled. Obviously, you all are trying to promote something but what is it? If you reply 'good art,' then my previous remark holds.

10.

george

May 21, 2008, 5:54 AM

op, also I am not questioning Franklin's motives, they seem clear, he wants to promote the art he thinks is good and a critical position to go with it. I think that's fine.

11.

opie

May 21, 2008, 6:40 AM

If you are not questioning his motives, George, then don't question his motives, which is what you did in #5.

I can certainly see that you will be a natural ally of Clem. Not in your opinions, necessarily, but in your methods. Saying his questions are muddled because the subject is muddled is typical of the obfuscating nonsense you both prefer.

12.

MC

May 21, 2008, 6:40 AM

Rater than keep kicking Clem's deflated pigskin back and forth through the rhetorical goalposts, I'll simply add this to Franklin's start:

" The fact that a certain object possesses intrinsic value has to do with the type of value the object possesses--namely, a value that depends exclusively upon properties that inhere in the object itself rather than upon the object's relationships to other things; but it has nothing to do with how much value of that type the object has. What is worth having or worth doing for its own sake alone may nonetheless be worth very little. It may therefore be quite reasonable for a person to desire as final ends, entirely for the sake of their intrinsic or noninstrumental value, many things that he does not regard as being at all important to him.

For instance, there are numerous quite trivial pleasures that we seek exclusively because of their intrinsic value, but that we do not truly care about at all. When I want an ice cream cone, I want it simply for the pleasure of eating it. The pleasure is not a means to anything else; it is an end that I desire for its own sake alone. However, this hardly implies that I care about eating the ice cream. I generally recognize quite clearly on such occasions that my desire is inconsequential, and that its object is not at all important to me. A person cannot fairly be presumed to care about something, then, even if he wants it just for its own sake and thus regards fulfilling his desire for it as among his final ends.

In designing and managing their lives, people need to confront a number of significant issues. They must make up their minds concerning what they want, which things they want more than others, what they consider to be intrinsically valuable and hence appropriate for pursuit not just as a means but as a final end, and what they themselves will in fact pursue as final ends. In addition, they face a distinct further task. They have to determine what it is that they care about."

Excerpted from Chapter One (The Question: "How Should We Live") of Harry G. Frankfurt's The Reasons of Love.

13.

george

May 21, 2008, 6:50 AM

umm, I was questioning the methods not motives, it was more of a marketing issue than aesthetics.

14.

opie

May 21, 2008, 6:57 AM

George:

Your initial comment: I'm sooo confused about what your trying to market.

Your subsequent comment: ...I am not questioning Franklin's motives, they seem clear, he wants to promote the art he thinks is good and a critical position to go with it.


I have had enough of this kind of crap. That's why I am not answering Clem until he decides to discuss things straightforwardly.

15.

Jack

May 21, 2008, 7:01 AM

I have two words some of you may find useful:

Tar Baby.

16.

george

May 21, 2008, 7:07 AM

gee op. just because I say I accept Franklins motives doesn't mean I understand what he is trying to market.

After the discussion is over, what do I get to see?
What kind of art is this program going to produce?
That's the bottom line, what product are you going to bring to market?

Once, you have a product, how are you going to sell it to everyone else?

17.

roy

May 21, 2008, 7:19 AM

Two things stuck out as I read your comment, Clem.

'Until you make an honest attempt to read any of the particular writers or works that you're trying to impinge, don't pass such indefensible judgments.'

This seems quite reasonable and necessary. Which texts, authored by your namesake, have you actually read?

For myself, after I read more than just the usual essays that his critics try to nail him on, like Avant Garde and Kitsch or Modernist Painting, (the Greenberg critique's status quo draws on a very shallow address after all), I quickly learned that the criticisms leveled at his take are completely manufactured.

Second thing...regarding seeing quality...the tough part, the part even I don't want to swallow is that not everybody gets it or sees it. It's been said many times in this discussion already, but i think it's an aspect that makes this line of enquiry difficult to mete out for discussion. I can talk about it with many people here and elsewhere without a hitch, and other times, with other people I know it's just not there as common ground. It doesn't say a damn thing about me or them (the Frankfurt contributions bear on this) outside of our relations to the aesthetic.

18.

opie

May 21, 2008, 7:56 AM

Jack: "Tar Baby" is certainly pertinent, but I don't think this generation will know the reference.

19.

MC

May 21, 2008, 8:17 AM

People try to put us down... talkin' 'bout my generation?

20.

John Link henceforth to be known as John

May 21, 2008, 8:29 AM

Franklin's choice of a paragraph that discusses "caring" is insightful.

Instead of going around and around the bush about quality and how so few people can see it (and that is true), taking a look at what the art establishment cares about might further the cause of "new-modernism" a lot more effectively.

Clearly what gets paid attention these days, what the establishment cares about, is largely non-visual. I just listened to a recent talk by Diane Headly on Morris Louis, and she noted that color-field (a very visual group) had been so out of favor for the last 20 years that there had not been a major show of Louis's work since the MOMA retro in 87. BUT, the talk was on the occasion of a new exhibition of Louis in 07 at the Hirschorn (as I remember it). This may be a sign the visual has been out of sight, so to speak, long enough that the system is starting to care about it again, or is at least willing. Emphasizing that visual art is something worth caring about might get us further than berating those who don't seem to have good eyes. After all, a good eye is developed by looking. The system hasn't been looking much lately, and cajoling them into resuming that practice is an easier pill to swallow than accepting that they are defective.

Maybe a door has opened. What would make it possible for the art world to pay a lot of attention to art that exists mostly for visual pleasure?

21.

John

May 21, 2008, 8:32 AM

Robert Hughes, BTW, panned the 87 Louis show by saying it proved that "beauty was not enough". Erroneous as that statement was, it certainly pointed squarely at what was to come.

22.

Franklin

May 21, 2008, 8:33 AM

I picked this quote to re-open because I like the idea of the worthiness of the very act of caring. Once I read that, I thought that we need more emphasis on the worthiness of the activity of caring in our writings about art. Greenberg's writings take it as given. Much of what came after disregarded it, and tried instead to tease hidden agendas out of the art under discussion. This latter approach has become so widespread that we now have people like "Clem" who seem unable not to do this.

I am not arguing for biological determinism, but for biology, and against the extreme social determinism that characterizes a lot of postmodernist thought (such as Judith Butler's notion of gender as performative and socially coerced). I'm trying to account for perception and feeling, and that requires, first and foremost, a body. I'm also trying to account for the fact that you can have an aesthetic reaction to objects far removed from your culture and time. The best model I can come up with at the moment presupposes that the human brain has an innate ability to respond favorably to certain forms, and so people have produced objects designed to entice that response. Once duly aroused, certain people - artists - will make more enticing forms. Back and forth it goes. This is what prompts me to say that quality exists in the object. In other words, objectively. I'm not saying that learning, thought, and socialization aren't important, but that they're also biological, and don't happen independently of perception and felt responses.

I can see that you're not abandoning the role of linguistic or narrative meaning from art, but rather subordinating it to the visuality of a work. And your key argument against forms which privilege the first is that they mostly appear to diminish or result in less attention to the latter.

This isn't quite right. Visuality is just the state of something being visual. I'm interested in visual quality. Whatever else art can do, art that fails visually fails artistically. Since art needs traits, narrative and language may have a place in a work of art, and like any trait, they may constitute part of its draw. But the traits aren't the quality themselves.

George, I don't know what kind of art this is going to produce because I'm describing a working attitude, not a style.

23.

Chris Rywalt

May 21, 2008, 8:38 AM

I think the Internet has become one big Tar Baby.

Clem sez:
"color... transparencies... sharpness/cleanness of the contours..."

Are these not visual ideas/concepts? It often seems like your opposition to the centrality of ideas to a work's visual quality has to do with
a specific kind of idea.

To clarify what Ahab replied about this: You're putting the cart before the horse, here. The artist didn't start with "visual ideas/concepts" and then execute them, followed by the viewer decoding them and writing them out for us. Rather, the artist began working entirely visually -- blank canvas, bunch of paint, application tools, let's see what I can make that looks good -- followed by the viewer appreciating the painting visually and then writing out a verbal approximation in an attempt to explain those feelings.

More specifically: Most Saturdays for the past year or so I've gone to a drawing session where a bunch of people sit around drawing and painting a nude model. How I start is this: I sit down and spread out whatever tools I've brought with me. Usually Conté, various pencils, a bunch of pastels, some brushes and inks. Then I pull out my various pads of paper. I pick which I'm going to use based on how I'm feeling that day -- lately I've been diggin' ink.

Then I look at the model and her pose. (The model is always a her, even though I've tried to get my host to order up a he now and then. Heck, I've tried to get him to pose. No luck so far.)

Then I think -- not consciously, but this is how I reconstruct it later -- I think, What's the story of this pose? What lines interest me? What parts excite me? How do I feel about this pose right now? I want to make this clear: These sentences don't enter my head at the time. At the time, I'm not thinking verbally. (Okay, I'm lying. I am thinking verbally. But -- and this is important -- the verbal thoughts aren't related to the seeing thoughts. The verbal center keeps talking, like monkeys chattering in the trees, but I'm not listening. I'm looking.)

Then I start drawing or painting or whatever I've chosen. As soon as I put a mark down, each following mark is determined by the one before it and how it interacts with my view of the model.

In all of this there are no visual ideas or concepts. I don't start with an idea or a concept of transparency or contour. I start with seeing, and with the connection between my eyes and my hands which I've spent 37 years forging.

Do you see the difference now? If I started with an idea -- "This is a naked woman before me" -- I'd end up with a stick figure or some travesty of a naked woman called up out of my left brain. At the absolute worst I'd just write "NAKED WOMAN" on my pad and be done with it.

But the whole beauty of art -- the thing that makes art so worthwhile -- is that it can start without a concept. That's the core of what New Modernism is about, I think.

24.

Chris Rywalt

May 21, 2008, 9:23 AM

Franklin sez:
I thought that we need more emphasis on the worthiness of the activity of caring in our writings about art.

Is it worth it to care? Should we care?

25.

George

May 21, 2008, 9:27 AM

Franklin said "...I don't know what kind of art this is going to produce because I'm describing a working attitude, not a style."

ok fine. But I think this 'working attitude' is already prevalent among other artists. Whatever intellectual conditions might have existed in 1986 or 1996 don't exist in the same way today. In other words, I think painters today are paying attention to the visual, it counts, but they may talk about the paintings from some other point of view, or not, depending on when and where they went to school.

As an example, look at Thomas Nozkowski's paintings recently exhibited at Pace Gallery in NYC. This was an impressive exhibition, decidedly visual, inventive and well painted. In addition, there have been a number of other painting exhibitions which relied on the visual above anything else, primarily abstraction and frankly I cannot remember all the venues.

So, if some of you are just judging the art world from an art magazine, you're probably missing something, but for the first time in history, all the information is there via the internet if you dig a bit.

26.

Franklin

May 21, 2008, 9:43 AM

So I Googled Nozkowski, whose paintings look pretty bad, and found this review on the Rail:

An artist today must do more than simply make things. It would be nice, of course, to churn out work and exhibit it as a pure, and therefore valid, expression of your most immediate impulses. But it is not enough, though it is important, merely to yell, “Here I am!” An artist must additionally yell, “This is what I mean!” Artists must represent something. They must stand for something beyond a success story or a market value. Tom Nozkowski does this. Through and through, his work bespeaks a faith in unadorned painting to communicate the immanent reality of a richly imagined and complex world. He validates our love for painting by showing that it has every bit as much to offer as we had hoped.

While I'm glad the author (Ben La Rocco) comes to that conclusion, I'm sorry about the route he took to get there. No, an artist need only make things, and make them well. My biggest problem with writing as much as I do is that someone is going to see me as representing something. Oh well.

Sure, there are lots of artists out there who work according to the attitude I describe. I didn't make it up. I'm recognizing its value and spelling it out a bit.

27.

Chris Rywalt

May 21, 2008, 9:45 AM

This is from Barry Schwabsky's essay on Nozkowski:


Thomas Nozkowski has been one of the most quietly influential painters on the New York scene over the past two decades. Some people may find that statement surprising. After all, where are the tokens of blue-chip status that would attest to this position of influence-the retrospectives in major museums, the glossy hardbound coffee table monographs, the auction block records and so on?

Well, I did say quietly influential, after all. Undoubtedly to the detriment of his worldly career, though always in the service of the one career that counts, namely the progress of discovery and invention that occurs in the studio, Nozkowski has set his face against everything that signifies "importance" in the contemporary artworld....

28.

opie

May 21, 2008, 9:51 AM

Chris: last 2 paragraphs of #23 - very good.

Clem, George: please read.

29.

george

May 21, 2008, 9:54 AM

I know Tom a bit, he worked for Mad Magazine for years, put that into the mix.

Second, note that his exhibition was at Pace, one of the best NYC galleries, which indicates that in spite what some may be writing about him, someone else has backed him up including inclusion in the 2007 Venice Biennale.

30.

george

May 21, 2008, 10:10 AM

op, bullshit. You and I both know how hard it is to make a good painting. No matter what, there are never that many around to see.

I don't think it has ever been any different. So anyone, not just Chris, can walk out on the street and find something they don't like. I really could care less.

This could be an admirable project but only if it supports an alternative.

31.

opie

May 21, 2008, 10:55 AM

George, are you respondoing to what I wrote in #28? If so, I don't understand your response.

Another statement from you above: "Whatever intellectual conditions might have existed in 1986 or 1996 don't exist in the same way today." Really? Some "intellectual conditions" have simply evaporated? What are "intellectual conditions" anyway? I truly think you are on a perpetual search for anything to pin this obsessive time bias on.

Nozkowski's paintings aren't bad, but they are not very interesting or compelling. They are worked out and stylish, the sort of respectable abstraction one sees at galleries like Haller.

32.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 10:56 AM

I'm going to try to reply to some of what's been said, but thought that sharing some of the things that this conversation have led me to look into might be of interest. Alternately, you could in bad faith put this down to "jumping around"... But here goes!

I'm not sure if any of you have looked that much into "neuroesthetics", but thought that this might have some commonality with what you've been saying about our shared biology.

Here's a link to two of the (more or less) founders of the discipline's research on common neurological responses to art.


http://www.neuroesthetics.org/research/pdf/neurobeauty.pdf


Here's a more dumbed down version of what he's saying on his blog:

http://profzeki.blogspot.com/2008/04/objectivity-of-subjective-experiences.html

What interests me is the degree to which the variety of aesthetic judgments is pushed to the background, while the shared biological aspects of neural activity relating to visual perception dominate. I find it telling that they end of in this manner:

"The definition of the activity of neural structures that are implicated in the judgment of beauty or in conscious experiences opens up the possibility of studying what in turn determines the strength of activity within the implicated structures"

As I read it, they still haven't begun to account for why people have such markedly different tastes. Here's your is/ought fallacy if there ever was one. Like I said earlier, you find me a "key" to objectively evaluating differences of aesthetic opinion, then maybe we have the basis for a discussion. Until then, what we're left for is people having similar reactions to drastically different qualities.

Someone mentioned orgasms the other day, and this piece plays out the same problem:

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=the-orgasmic-mind&print=true

Just because we can find similar biological reactions, doesn't mean that we can pinpoint a "natural" or consistent cause for said responses.

Anyhow, best get back to what you guys have written when I have a chance.

33.

george

May 21, 2008, 10:58 AM

op, nevermind.

I'm not part of this discussion and I hadn't intended to get involved. Carry on as you were. Later.

34.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 11:20 AM

Okay, I'm going to try this again. Responding primarily to Franklin's comment #22:

This is what prompts me to say that quality exists in the object. In other words, objectively.

I do believe in a sense of visual quality that transcends cultural differences. (Although I also think understanding a work's cultural context is important.) But it isn't clear to me in what sense you can it it is an intrinsic property of objects. To say this is rooted in human biology, is, I believe correct. But this means that our aesthetic judgements are still relative—relative to our genetic makeup. People around the words can appreciate a Velazquez; give it to a donkey and all bets are off. So the objectivity, if that's what it is, would have to be in the relation, not the object itself. (But philosophy is not my forte, so please set me straight on this.)

I'm interested in visual quality. Whatever else art can do, art that fails visually fails artistically. Since art needs traits, narrative and language may have a place in a work of art, and like any trait, they may constitute part of its draw. But the traits aren't the quality themselves.

Clearly, by "art," you mean visual art. But if you look across all of the different art-forms—literature, music, etc.—visual quality just as clearly cannot be the only form of artistic quality. I have little interest in trying to define art in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. It does seem to me though that one of the former may be a poetic effect of some kind. This can be achieved in a enormous range of ways.

For example, in literature, part of what makes a good novel or poem is things like plotting, characterization, symbolism, the ability to evoke the real world. (The fact that people write poems composed of nonsense syllables doesn't change the fact that such things are important in most literary writing.) The ability to handle such things is widely considered to be part of the skill of the author. To deny that the results of such skill are artistic quality seems willful.

Similar characteristics can be found in much visual art. They work in a different way, in part because paintings and sculptures don't unfold in a sequence in the same way that words do. But they do appear, and it seems to be that their placement can be handled in a more or less effective manner. Verisimilitude, for example, or the ability to use color in a more metaphorical manner—such things are valued and are often central to the art experience. Relating as they do to our experience of the world at large, they cannot be assimilated to the category of visual quality (at least not as I understand it).

If all this is granted (doubtful, but there it is), I don't see any grounds upon which you can you can relegate these things to the realm of "traits," "extras," or "interest" rather that the more foundational one of "quality." The fact that such characteristics are dispensable in (some) abstract art doesn't change the fact that they can be central to the experiencing of other kinds of work.

Granted, if your project is to come with definition of art (necessary and sufficient conditions again) than the fact that these traits are disposable is indeed relevant. They wouldn't be needed for arthood. But as far as I can tell, nobody here is trying to do this.

35.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 11:22 AM

Sorry if that was too long. I'm fussy with my writing, so the conversational style can be difficult for me.

36.

Franklin

May 21, 2008, 11:26 AM

As a professional writer, you have a fine excuse. Reply coming at you...

37.

Hovig

May 21, 2008, 12:05 PM

I found in John Link's artist statement the story of how Greenberg introduced him to the work of Bannard et al:

"Some of that stuff took considerable getting used to, but what seemed tough at first turned out to be the directness of its beauty, not freakishness."

Is there a reconciliation between stuff which takes "considerable getting used to" and the suggested "innate ability to respond favorably to certain forms"?

38.

Franklin

May 21, 2008, 12:07 PM

But this means that our aesthetic judgements are still relative - relative to our genetic makeup. People around the words can appreciate a Velazquez; give it to a donkey and all bets are off.

Hang on there. We're talking about objects made by humans for humans. A donkey also can't use chopsticks but that doesn't invalidate them as eating utensils. Among humans there likely is enough common structure to lend universality to their responses.

But if you look across all of the different art-forms—literature, music, etc.—visual quality just as clearly cannot be the only form of artistic quality. ...in literature, part of what makes a good novel or poem is things like plotting, characterization, symbolism, the ability to evoke the real world.

Especially for the sake of this discussion, I think it would be more accurate to refer to this as literary quality. Not incidentally, I think we have an innate response to a good story that's similarly part of our genetic heritage. It's just a separate thing than our innate response to good form.

Similar characteristics can be found in much visual art.

I observe three things: One, visual art has limited success when it comes to literary quality - to reach the heights of literary achievement, you really need language. Sure, narrative appears at least implicitly in all figurative art, but we don't compare such narratives to narratives in literature, which is where narrative comes into full force. Two, even if art were capable of richly developed narratives on par with literature, we would still be talking about something different than visual success by itself, which is enough to establish an object's worth as art. Three, there's a certain amount of evidence that indicates that narrative, at a certain level of preponderance, becomes inimical to visual success - I'm thinking of 19th C. academic painting here.

I don't see any grounds upon which you can you can relegate these things to the realm of "traits," "extras," or "interest" rather that the more foundational one of "quality."

Hang on there too - traits aren't extras. Apart from traits there isn't any art. Something that has no traits doesn't exist. You need actual things to make art, so traits aren't disposable - far from it. I'm saying that the traits aren't the quality. Quality exists in the arrangement of traits. This is as true of literature as art.

39.

Jack

May 21, 2008, 12:11 PM

Well, my fond hopes that the EW blog would prove useful as an effective flypaper have been disappointed. We are not amused.

40.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 12:19 PM

Your neurological patterns indicate otherwise!

41.

roy

May 21, 2008, 12:24 PM

I think the conceit that theory has saddled visual art of the last 60 years with, is the main obstacle for any art goers that new modernism doesn't make sense to. There is zero, nothing, zilch, wrong with wanting to address myself to the visual without taking theory on board consciously. Fifteen, twenty years ago that would sound mostly preposterous. Why is that?

The establishment just doesn't want to hear that the art they like is ugly and lesser because of it. Call it anything else and you've got no problem. Why is it so hard to agree on this? Somebody above made the point that artists are just more serious than anybody else about about making good looking stuff. 'Bad' writing (my own especially) isn't so elusive a verdict to arrive at. My point (I think) is that the new modern is his own audience. He has nothing to recoup from the establishment. George seems to hinge it all on support from the juggernaut which the new modern has no real reason to engage, short of small inroads for adequate exhibition space. The pedigree of any one gallery has nothing to do with what we are calling new modern.

New modernism is not trying to displace anything. There is nothing to displace. New modernism creates its own terms for appreciation.

42.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 12:47 PM

Among humans there likely is enough common structure to lend universality to their responses.

Agreed. My question was an obtuse one about your use of "objective." If humankind was wiped out somehow, it seems that the visual quality of such objects would disappear. In what sense is this quality a property of objects?

I think it would be more accurate to refer to this as literary quality.

No, because I was trying to get at a sense of quality that transcends music, visual art, etcetera. As for the stuff that I described in my paragraph specifically about literature, yes, I suppose "literary quality" is an okay term. But substantially similar things do appear to take place outside of literature proper.

Hang on there too - traits aren't extras.

No, but extras are traits, right? But your saying that certain kinds of traits don't count towards quality. Or not towards the type of quality that counts.

43.

opie

May 21, 2008, 12:50 PM

Roy I can go along with that.

Hovig: interesting question. New stuff, genuinely new stuff, often takes getting used to. (this of course does NOT mean that stuff that takes getting used to is necessarily new or good). Greenberg, so I am told, sat in silence for 45 minutes in front of Pollock's drip paintings when he first saw them.

I am less sure about the innately likeable forms, although I think there is something to it and I have tried for a long time to reconcile the idea with other suppositions I harbor which tend to contradict it. I do feel that the question cannot be adequately answered until is is a more adequate question. One reason for that, which art demonstrates us all the time, is that we cannot specify any combination of forms that does it, we can only recognize it when it happens.

But to answer the question with what I can understand I would say no, there is no contradiction, there are only newer and less familiar ways of making the right relationships (if it is relationships; that word doesn't quite cover it for me).

44.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 12:56 PM

narrative, at a certain level of preponderance, becomes inimical to visual success - I'm thinking of 19th C. academic painting here.

I think this is an example of narrative poorly used, as well as of formal failure.

45.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 1:03 PM

And I don't think narrative is a strictly linguistic phenomenon. Consider, wordless comic strips, or slapstick comedy. I think the important things is unfolding in a strict sequence of some kind. Of course this isn't usually done in painting and sculpture. But it could be, surely.

46.

opie

May 21, 2008, 1:19 PM

Arthur: Let's go farther. Roundness is a property of a circle because roundness is part of what a circle is by a definition we have devised. "Quality" cannot the property of an object in this way because an object is not defined as having quality. It is determined by judgement.

However is is possible for us to sensibly say that quality is a property of a particular object in terms of its relationship to humans. We are the ones making these rules; it is merely a matter of extending the idea of inherent characteristics beyond what is general and tautological. In this sense I would have no philosophical difficulty saying that a piece of music by Mozart or a painting by Rembrandt is "good", period. As long as we have established the possibility of this whether or not I get agreement becomes another matter.

Furthermore, there is no "sense of quality that transcends". Quality is contained in the experience. It cannot be transcendent.

Traits (this is Franklin's term, not mine) are ingredients. They "count", but do not count as such.

47.

opie

May 21, 2008, 1:28 PM

Arthur: yes, there are degrees of narrative, as per your examples and others, and it needn't be linguistic. But if we try to pry narrative and visual apart we will end up in a semantic quandry.

I believe the point is whether "enough" narrative of a certain kind harms the visual parts of any work in question.This may not be something thet can be answered except case by case. Most "narrative" visual art I see is just plain bad, as you imply.

48.

John

May 21, 2008, 1:29 PM

Thanks roy for steering back to new-mod. In checking through the letters I received from Clem G for a response on another thread, I found a statement (1983) that's relevant to our "project".

"Dealers & critics don't launch anything, at least not in my experience. That's too convenient a myth. Artists still do start tendencies, movements, fashions, 'waves,' but it takes art opinion to back up & confirm them, which makes art opinion the sole guilty agent ... The dealers & critics just troop along, the dealers for good, solid reason, the critics because of pusillanimity. It's hard for the latter to stand, usually alone if one does do so, against a 'wave'. I say it's 'hard' simply because hardly any critic has done so in these latter years."

So Clem considered "art opinion" something different than critical theory/writing/opinion. And artists are the true headwaters of what eventually is considered to be a movement. The latter is easier for me to understand than the former. What is "art opinion"? He never said. Guess he thought I was smart enough to know, but all I can speculate is that the "total system" is what he meant. Putting that in the context of Franklin's start of this thread, and I'd say "art opinion" is what the total system really cares about. That changes over time (george has made some good points in that respect - gotta give him credit for that). It seems like studio artists have it in their grasp to initiate that which ultimately alters "art opinion", but only if we create "our own terms for appreciation" as opposed to accepting whatever is provided by current "art opinion".

The terms for appreciation are rooted in the objects we make, not the attitude we hold towards making them. As Bannard has pointed out elsewhere, art is made without recourse to pre-existing criteria. That puts the art works in front of everything else, including "working attitude".

So everybody go back to their studio and make great art? Maybe it is as simple as that.

49.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 1:41 PM

"Furthermore, there is no "sense of quality that transcends". Quality is contained in the experience. It cannot be transcendent"

"This is what prompts me to say that quality exists in the object"

One of the troubles of arguing with you NewMos (to the extent that you identify with each other) is the disparity of your positions.

50.

roy

May 21, 2008, 2:03 PM

Clem, what are we arguing about exactly? I'm also not sure where the disparity is between those two 'bites'...

51.

MC

May 21, 2008, 2:09 PM

"One of the troubles of arguing with you NewMos (to the extent that you identify with each other)..."

OMG conditional unitariness!!1

52.

george

May 21, 2008, 2:22 PM

"which makes art opinion the sole guilty agent"

CG's observation seems like it's a good fit with what occurs on the ground.

I think everything percolates up from the artists, "art opinions" are artists opinions. It's the buzz, or the opinion of one of the respected artists within the system (gallery, museum, etc) This seems to fit what occurs today as well.

It seems to have a lot more to do with the new work being 'interesting,' or 'fresh,' than just quality which may not be initially obvious.

53.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 2:44 PM

Good point, Clem. I meant the idea of quality, not somebody's subjective experience of it. Its the former, we're discussing, right?

I also think some of Clem's points made in comment 2 deserve more attention. Not that I'm saying my position is his.

Further responses to Opie (46 and 47),

Yes, I was trying to be obnoxious with my pedantic philosophical distinctions. (Relative to our nature being isomorphic with relative to our culture, that sort of thing.) Of course you can say that Mozart and Rembrandt are good. They are, I agree.

Traits (this is Franklin's term, not mine) are ingredients. They "count", but do not count as such.

But then if these so-called "literary" characteristics are traits, then why do they only count towards "interest" and not towards "quality?" Apparently this is because quality in (visual) art is taken to be only visual. (And only formal; realism seems to me a non-formal visual value, taken autonomously.) But this seems like an arbitrary stipulation. Symbolism, characterization, etc. seem to contribute to the poetic value of some visual artworks.

But if we try to pry narrative and visual apart we will end up in a semantic quandry.

Only if we try to make this abstract distinction square with actual experiences of art. Or if we're confused, which might be the case.

I believe the point is whether "enough" narrative of a certain kind harms the visual parts of any work in question.This may not be something thet can be answered except case by case.

Case by case is probably best. But I think its more a matter of how (and how well) the narrative is used. Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes is loaded with narrative. But it works well, and so it enhances the dynamic formal qualities of the painting. Or so it seems to me. If the postures were just a little bit more mannered than they are, it might not work so well.

Most "narrative" visual art I see is just plain bad, as you imply.

I didn't mean to imply that, but I'll take your word for it.

54.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 3:51 PM

(In rough order of appearance)

Roy,

I honestly haven't read as much Greenberg as I would like. I actually put the first volumes of his collected writings on re-call as soon as I began an earlier "discussion" with Ahab and MC. I've checked out Fenton's archive of some of his major writings, but fully intend to flush out the material when I get the chance. I'd even be grateful if you want to point out specific passages which further detail "seeing" quality. I've been taking some time looking over the Bannard archive too. If there are specific generalizations or error's that I've made in mentioning them, please point them out.

"I can talk about it with many people here and elsewhere without a hitch, and other times, with other people I know it's just not there as common ground. It doesn't say a damn thing about me or them (the Frankfurt contributions bear on this) outside of our relations to the aesthetic".

I guess this is precisely the situation that I see developing in our arguments here. Am I right in saying that you see different kinds of plausible "relations to the aesthetic"? The problem of course, as I keep harping on it, is how would you begin to adjudicate amongst them? Do you just leave them to their own devices? That's hardly what we seem to be doing here.

Did Arthur's response clear up the difference in those positions?
******************

Franklin,

I don't for a minute doubt your sincerity in believing that you've chosen to care about art for what you feel are the right reasons. But when you restrict "quality" to one aspect of art, you necessarily run up against those who hold equally strong feelings about the art they make or appreciate, but that takes visuality in a much different direction. How is maintaining the implicit social and political dimensions of art any less about "caring"?

In terms of strict biological or social determinism, it doesn't make sense to castigate our differences to either of these. Personally, I don't think you have a leg to stand on if you want to talk about how something like gender is "natural" (either in essence, or as point of development). If you understand Butler's argument of performativity to imply no role, or origin in biology, then I think you're distorting what she has to say. Her qualms mainly come from political discourses which attempt to "naturalize" particular gendered identities as a means of enforcing them. Claiming something is or ought to be natural is an easy way of reaching for authority. Do we need to go through specific examples? Getting back to the subject at hand, I feel it's equally false to claim that visual quality has it's "implicit" criteria what is "natural".

Again, I'm all ears as to how the "facts" of perception translate into a criteria for judgment.

Regarding what you've said about narrative and the visual, maybe I can leave Arthur and someone much more eloquent than I to flush out the debate:

"Every good story is of course both a picture and an idea, and the more they are interfused the better the problem is solved"


*******************

Chris,

I really hate arguing about what you feel to be your own artistic practice. What I want to make clear is that what I've been saying about the necessary connection between ideas, language, art, and seeing might not mean what you think. I don't think that thought or language are things that we are conscious of or clearly articulate all of the time. Your description of doing isn't much different than what I myself might do when trying to make "something look good". But because it doesn't require us to first articulate the language or thoughts behind the act, doesn't mean that they are either thoughtless or, as it were, mute.
I'm interested and somewhat sympathetic to what you're getting at when you write "the verbal thoughts aren't related to the seeing thoughts". Reconstructing these processes and experiences into a language that we articulate does indeed distort them. (This is something that someone like Breton harped on constantly). But it is an entirely different thing to suggest that meaning is abandoned in the ways that we see and create. Aren't you reading, and in turn, writing, the model. That's the communicative aspect of visual identification and ensuing artistic representation that takes place, even without a constant barrage of conscious thought or meticulous planning.

Does any of that make sense? : )

55.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 3:54 PM

Franklin,

strike out "maintaining" and replace it with "championing", s'il vous plaiz!

56.

opie

May 21, 2008, 4:05 PM

Well Clem, despite opinion to contrary, us Newmos have not gotten together to write the Newmo Testament according to St Franklin with definitive Unitard Doctrine just yet. I guess we should call a council so we are sure to be utterly consistent.

Besides, the two positions are not contradictory, and furthermore I have already clarified above (as best I can) the question of the residence of quality. I'm sorry of this is hard for you to follow.

Arthur:

(Relative to our nature being isomorphic with relative to our culture, that sort of thing.)

I have no idea what that means, Arthur.

I didn't think you were being obnoxious, either. These statements are puzzling.

Traits do count towards quality inasmuch as they are ingredients. They do not count as quality AS SUCH, as "traits", any more than the color red does. Frankilin and I have said this exact thing at least a dozen times lately. It really is very simple. Why is it so difficult for you, and Clem etc??

Caravaggio's Judith Beheading Holofernes is loaded with narrative.

In a previous thread I tried to show that calling a still picture a "narrative" it stetching the word too much. The painting is really an illustraction of a narrative. Calling it a narrative is inaccurate and serves no purpose. If you want to do this, for whatever reason, go ahead.

57.

opie

May 21, 2008, 4:13 PM

We spend altogether too much time here trying to figure out how to communicate. I have no idea how to solve this. We may need to set a limite on the number of words in a message, or simply not respond to anything that doesn't make sense. I have been able to correspond with Arthur to some extent, but God help Franklin with what Clem has addressed to him above.

58.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 4:27 PM

Opie,

I have no idea what that means, Arthur.

Look up the word. My point roughly is that relative is to x has the same general form as relative to y. But just forget about it, its not that important.

I understand the claim about traits not counting as such and I agree with it. Quality supervenes on the arrangement of traits. It can't be reduced to them. What leads you to believe I don't get this? Please don't mistake me for Clem!

I was trying to bring up the matter of non-formal traits (of the kind I keep mentioning over and over again).

In a previous thread I tried to show that calling a still picture a "narrative" it stetching the word too much.

I agree that this is stretching the term a bit. Strictly speaking, illustration is more accurate. My point is that paintings, etc. can have characteristics that are substantially like those of literature and that can add or detract from the artistic quality of the result.

59.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 4:37 PM

Hey, Franklin and poor MC were the ones who brought up Butler. And explaining her writing is, er, naturally queer! : )

60.

opie

May 21, 2008, 4:38 PM

I know what isomorphic means. I didn't know what the statement meant. I will disreard it, as you advise.

I have already distinguished you from Clem. I will try to keep the distinction clear.

Can you give an example of a "non-formal trait"?

Paintings may have characteristics similar to literature, recognizability of elements, in a way, I suppose. Like all other elements they do not add or subtract from quality as such, but they are ingredients of the work. I don't see why this is important, or more than obvious.

61.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 4:42 PM

I agree that this is stretching the term a bit.

Or a lot, perhaps--it makes sense to say such pictures are narrative (symbolic,etc.) by analogy. Ideally, I suppose, we would have another set of terms. But we don't.

62.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 4:47 PM

I don't see why this is important, or more than obvious.

Its important because (I am arguing) when things work out, they can contribute to the artistic quality of the whole. Just as certain combinations of colors can combine in a pleasing way, so can bits of non-formal "content" combine.

63.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 4:56 PM

Can you give an example of a "non-formal trait"?

The gruesome drama being shown in the above-mentioned Caravaggio.

Franklin (22): "Since art needs traits, narrative and language may have a place in a work of art, and like any trait, they may constitute part of its draw."

I assume that this means, for Franklin at least, that "narrative and language" and the like are traits. Sure, they aren't enough by themselves. But they can contribute to the success or failure of the whole.

64.

opie

May 21, 2008, 5:08 PM

Everything in a picture, everything that is comprehended by a viewer, including recognizable imagry, is part of that which presumably will be comprehended by that viewer and processed for the viewer's judgement. I have never maintained anything different.

Again, this seems obvious. Do we have a difference of opinion here?

65.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 5:19 PM

Uhm, "The problem is that ideas don't have any quality as art"

66.

opie

May 21, 2008, 5:22 PM

Clem, if you have something to say for God's sake SAY IT and stop trying to be cute.

67.

Arthur Whitman

May 21, 2008, 5:36 PM

I didn't know what the statement meant. I will disreard it, as you advise.

I was alluding, somewhat flippantly, to things I said above about objectivity.

68.

Eric

May 21, 2008, 5:45 PM

Sorry guys but the book I am reading ("Consider Phlebas" by Iain M. Banks) is too good for me to try and keep up with this back and forth. I am also trying to take digital photos of drawings from old sketchbooks. Are the differences between a Modernist and Postmodernist approach to visual art really a great mystery that requires an excruciatingly long and drawn out debate? I find this hard to believe.

69.

Chris Rywalt

May 21, 2008, 6:02 PM

Clem sez:
But because it doesn't require us to first articulate the language or thoughts behind the act, doesn't mean that they are either thoughtless or, as it were, mute.

Yes, it does. This is exactly what I'm saying. There is neuronal activity unrelated to verbalization. No thoughts, no language. Mute. Visual only. Not engaging the parts of the brain involved in language, spoken or written.

Aren't you reading, and in turn, writing, the model.

ABSOLUTELY NOT. There is no reading and no writing involved. It's drawing (or painting or whatever). It does not involve reading or writing -- it doesn't involve symbols or symbolic manipulation. This is exactly and precisely where postmodernists go wrong. They think everything is language -- Foucault and Lacan went so far as to say the whole concept of the self is a trick of the language -- that if our language didn't require us to say "I" (or "je", in his case) we'd never develop an ego. Which is hilariously wrongheaded. It's putting the cart before the horse and then eating the horse for breakfast.

70.

opie

May 21, 2008, 6:11 PM

And not even giving the horse a chance to talk his way out of it.

71.

george

May 21, 2008, 6:20 PM

When Language Can Hold the Answe

72.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 6:49 PM

It's like you read my mind George (not that I'm saying we're in any way alike, other than how our neurology processes visual quality... apparently...)!

Chris,

I think that you're behind in your science & facts. There is a notable difference in how (and where in the brain) pre-linguistic infants perceive something like color, and how linguistic adults do. I realize that you don't really want to get into Lacan, but maybe, just maybe he had something right after all about our entrance into the symbolic...

73.

MC

May 21, 2008, 7:06 PM

"What makes it more suitable, then, for a person to make one object rather than another important to himself?"

A sticky question when you consider, as Frankfurt does, that what is important to you need not be in any way anything important, need not make any 'real difference', one way or another. As a citizen, or a sociologist, or a historian, there are of course loads of political, or social, or historical facts in art to latch on to, to make "important", and any are as good as another. As an artist, or an art-appreciator, these facts fade into insignificance, as it is only the visual that "makes a difference" to this mode of perception.

74.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 7:13 PM

Sidebar, MC,

So why would an artist, let's pick one at random, tack on the following to round off a description of his work:

"The forms suggest classical Greek, Indian, and African sculptural influences (among others), and range from statuary and ‘idols,’ to busts and ‘monuments’, with subject matter exploring spiritual, philosophical, and political themes"

75.

MC

May 21, 2008, 7:19 PM

At random? I wrote that, Clem. What are you confused about, Clem? That there is subject matter in art? That subject matter can be described? That a person can be a citizen, and an artist, and a historian?...

Keep digging that hole, Clembot. Send me a t-shirt from the Great Wall, when you get there...

76.

MC

May 21, 2008, 7:19 PM

What does "tack on" or "round out" mean in your context, I wonder... No, just kidding, I don't, really.

77.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 7:22 PM

Compare your artist statement to someone like Franklin's, and you'll see how much more careful he is in adhering to the tenets of NewMo than you are.

78.

MC

May 21, 2008, 7:31 PM

Clem, the reason why so many people find it so frustrating to converse with you is not simply your ignorance, or your lack of humility about same. It is your blatant malice and dishonesty (Yes, you can call it "bad faith", as I know you've taken a shine to the phrase). What it means is that you assign no real importance in actually getting to the bottom of these issues. What evidently is important to you is you merely giving air to your own ill intent. You should be ashamed, but somehow I don't think you've got it in you...

79.

opie

May 21, 2008, 7:58 PM

Say no more, MC, until I check the Doctrine of Unitard section of the Tenets of Newmo.

I've got to see you are following scripture in your approach here...

80.

MC

May 21, 2008, 8:42 PM

Speaking of what we care about, the NY Sun has a review of "Color [sic] as Field" that mainly, get this, actually discusses the actual paintings in the show. Go figure...

81.

ahab

May 21, 2008, 8:46 PM

That's twice now that the NYSun's artwriting has been worth reading?

82.

Clem

May 21, 2008, 8:47 PM

I wish you guys would touch on the biology and other arguments at hand, rather than hurt feelings or speculating about sinister motives.

83.

Chris Rywalt

May 21, 2008, 8:51 PM

Actually, Clem, the article I found specifically says "Yet there are several reasons to be cautious about such an interpretation of the present results." My reading leads me to think that it's extremely premature to claim anything regarding language and perception of colors at this point.

84.

ahab

May 21, 2008, 8:51 PM

Frankenthaler's "Off White Square" in the Sun's slideshow looks awesome.

85.

MC

May 21, 2008, 9:02 PM

Agreed, Ahab. Not much of a "multi-image slideshow", though... Two pictures is 'multi-image'?

86.

MC

May 21, 2008, 9:56 PM

Clembot sez:
"There is no broad consensus on visual quality, which is why we're here arguing."

Wrong. Here's just one quick refutation, from "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature":

"Though people can argue about whether the glass is half full or half empty, a universal human aesthetic can be discerned beneath the variation across cultures."

-Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT.

Oops, again, hey Clem? Where do you teach again, Clem? And, what's your subject, I wonder...?

87.

MC

May 21, 2008, 10:14 PM

Now that we've dispensed with that, back to the "New Modernism" thread...

Clem sez: "Is there any such thing as art, let alone good art, unto itself. No. It only becomes art because of our judgment and the particular function we assign it."

AGAIN, here's the question for Clem: what is "the particular function" that we assign to an object that makes that object "art"?

You've almost had a week to come up with the answer, and you're the one who said yourself that art has a "particular function", so, come on... what is the particular function of art, Clem?

88.

MC

May 21, 2008, 10:31 PM

Clem sez:"... pre-linguistic infants perceive something like color..."

Chris says: ... it's extremely premature to claim anything regarding language and perception of colors at this point.

Well, I guess at least one uncontroversial claim we CAN comfortably make is that, if colour-perception exists in pre-linguistic infants (which I think we must all agree it does), then it logically follows that perception precedes language.

For a second there, I thought somebody was trying to argue the opposite... perhaps I was mistaken.

89.

Franklin

May 21, 2008, 10:59 PM

Spent the day up in LA hanging out with Chris Meesey.

#32: Neuroaesthetics looks promising and I think they're going to turn up something significant one day, but I don't follow it that closely - they're not yet near enough to the answers I need.

#37: As taste improves you can make finer and finer distinctions. Before you're used to an entirely new thing, you can't make these distinctions. I've had this experience too - a simultaneous positive and negative reaction to an unfamiliar object that settled out one way or another as I looked at similar objects and came back to it.

#42: I was trying to get at a sense of quality that transcends music, visual art, etcetera.

I thought about this and I don't think there is such a thing. Is a good meal good in the same way a good novel is good? If not, do they share some kind of essential meta-goodness? I'm pretty sure the answer is no. I think we experience their goodness through different senses and so they have different experiential flavors, if you'll pardon the phrasing.

#44: I think this is an example of narrative poorly used, as well as of formal failure.

That's a better description.

#53: ...realism seems to me a non-formal visual value, taken autonomously.

Content is just recognizable form. Realistic content is highly recognizable form. Getting realism to happen using materials is a seriously formal value. I realize that the standard idea of "formalism" concerns itself with abstraction even in the midst of a figurative problem, but I don't see them as separate. It's all manipulation of shape. Doing realism effectively requires dealing with form in a certain way, so it's formal.

#54: I don't for a minute doubt your sincerity in believing that you've chosen to care about art for what you feel are the right reasons.

I want to make something extremely clear here: I didn't choose to care about art for any reasons whatsoever. The caring happened on its own. The reasons came after the fact when I tried to clarify what was going on in my experience.

But when you restrict "quality" to one aspect of art, you necessarily run up against those who hold equally strong feelings about the art they make or appreciate, but that takes visuality in a much different direction.

Nobody likes hearing that their taste is bad. It's also important to note that people with bad taste enjoy their bad taste with the same intensity as people with good taste enjoy their good taste. Such is life.

How is maintaining the implicit social and political dimensions of art any less about "caring"?

Less about caring than what? Actually, it doesn't matter. People care about ridiculous things all the time. (Anyone remember high school?) Caring and quality are two separate problems.

Again, I'm all ears as to how the "facts" of perception translate into a criteria for judgment.

If you're actually using aesthetic judgment, there are no criteria.

#69: It's putting the cart before the horse and then eating the horse for breakfast.

This is brilliant.

90.

opie

May 22, 2008, 4:50 AM

people with bad taste enjoy their bad taste with the same intensity as people with good taste enjoy their good taste

I sense something amiss here. I can remember - particularly with music - "enjoying" stuff I later grew out of and got bored with. And I remember the character of my first strong take on abstract art, when I was 11 years old, and the way my mind made the intuitive distinctions. I don't have it pinned down at all but there is a some sort of difference in kind between these "enjoyments".

91.

Chris Rywalt

May 22, 2008, 5:04 AM

MC sez:
Well, I guess at least one uncontroversial claim we CAN comfortably make is that, if colour-perception exists in pre-linguistic infants (which I think we must all agree it does), then it logically follows that perception precedes language.

Obviously. But Clem was saying that before we develop language, we perceive color quite differently than we do after. Which, according to some very limited studies with some serious methodological difficulties, appears to be true. The article I cited explains that brain scans of infants show an area in the right hemisphere of the brain lighting up during a color exercise; in adults, an area in left hemisphere associated with language lights up.

Incidentally, MC, quoting Pinker and listing his qualifications is begging the question (in the true sense of the phrase): Pinker is a proponent of the extreme Chomskian view of language (that there's an underlying universal grammar hard-coded into all humans) still engaged in debate against the extreme Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (which is roughly that language determines the speaker's entire worldview).

Holy crap: Reading the Wikipedia entry on Sapir-Whorf, I find that "In Iain M. Banks's science fiction series, the Culture has a shared language, Marain. The Culture believes (or perhaps has proved, or else actively made true) the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis that language affects society, and Marain was designed to exploit this effect."

Eric, are you really that smart and subtle or is it just coincidence?

92.

george

May 22, 2008, 5:20 AM

Looking only at painting for the moment.

Production:

One can say that a painting is nothing more than the record of a large number of decisions which are rendered visible (recorded) through the use of some medium (paint or....) on a surface.

While the actual working process is an iterative loop of relational decisions, if, on the final visible layer, one makes the 'correct' decisions, the result is a 'good' painting, quality.

It doesn't matter how or why the individual decisions get made, only that in the end, they produce a layer of correct decisions.

Consumption:

The observer, the viewer, perceives the painting and in the process can draw a conclusion about the paintings quality. This is conclusion is the result of the viewers taste, their ability to perceive quality.

How the viewer comes to a judgment, the enjoyment of a painting, or not, does not matter, it is an event the result of looking and assimilating what is seen by the viewer. This is an internal process which occurs within the viewer, therefore in this case, the notion of 'quality' is strictly applicable to only the viewer.

Since the above is an internal process, confined to the consciousness of the viewer, it does not matter what factors are involved in arriving at a quality judgment, or an awareness of pleasure.

Distribution:

Problems occur when trying to aggregate the opinions of several viewers which is what must occur in order to generate a cultural opinion about the quality of a painting.

That last one is the stickler.

93.

Eric

May 22, 2008, 5:41 AM

Well Chris the last substantial contribution I made to this ongoing mental Olympiad was way back in the New Modernism thread (comment #105) so obviously any traces of smartness or subtlety I might exhibit are slave to a very limited supply of PATIENCE! Luckily, I can make myself feel better by drawing and painting and sculpting. You know why? Because I get lost in the making process and I am temporarily relieved of the non-stop internal logorrhea which typically takes up my ever waking moment. That is why many artists are interested in dreams. The linguistic function takes a backseat to the image generating capacities of our brain. The bottom line is this. Postmodernists think that there is not a single aspect of brain function that does not get influenced or modified by WORDS!

The Culture’s language Marain, is a sort of universal Esperanto, but like everything else connected to the Culture, it will probably have negative ramifications for organic sentient beings. I am up to page 50 and “Consider Phlebas” is the first book in the series so I don’t know much about Marain or the Culture yet. This is the first Space Opera I have read in quite some time and it is very well written. The book begins with an automated spaceship self destructing and then cuts to a ‘sewercell’ where a ‘Changer’ is imprisoned. The ‘sewercell’ is basically a prison set up at the bottom of a sewer system. The victors who captured the person trapped in one have a huge banquet and each time they defecate the ‘sewercell’ gets filled up. So they are literary drowning their enemies in their own waste. I guess the reason why I love SF as a genre is because of the imaginative imagery, the visionary aspects of the writing. The writers of SF try to create realistic images of things that aren’t real. I love the contradiction and the imagery; the imaginary beings, fantastic landscapes, the impossible machines.

94.

opie

May 22, 2008, 5:55 AM

Since the above is an internal process, confined to the consciousness of the viewer, it does not matter what factors are involved in arriving at a quality judgment, or an awareness of pleasure.

George, I think your analysis of the overall process is good and accurate but I think I would change the wording or emphasis of the above. I know what you mean - that the critical factor is the arrival at the judgement or the pleasure - but there are two other elements that should be considered:

1. Whether the person is making the judgement because he "should" make it, or for other reasons, which largely excludes the pleasure part (people do this all the time).

2. Whether in fact this process of arriving at actual esthetically-derived pleasure is more or less the same in everyone, which I suspect it is, in which case we needn't even mention the various ways of getting to it.

95.

Eric

May 22, 2008, 5:56 AM

every not ever

96.

george

May 22, 2008, 6:26 AM

"1. Whether the person is making the judgement because he "should" make it..."

It doesn't matter, we aren't privy to the brain function of another, it's a black box, you put something in, and get a result, whatever the reasons.

Second, this process is continuously updating over time. The viewer, more or less, continuously assimilates a wide variety of information, some of this information may change their perceptual opinions.

If information generated outside the viewer, by the culture or someone in the culture, is sufficiently compelling, it will have the affect described above. If this occurs in in a large enough group of people to form a cultural consensus, then there is a redefinition of 'good' or 'quality.' (example: Pollock)

Because the individual aesthetic responses are potentially random, it is the aggregate response of the culture which must be considered as a metric of 'goodness' or 'quality.'

If there are commonly shared reasons among the individual members of the culture, for these decisions, aesthetic pleasure experiences, or perceptions of goodness or quality, then the culture will derive a conclusion statistically. This process is reflexive and self perpetuating, todays opinions affect tomorrows opinions but over time opinions change.

97.

opie

May 22, 2008, 6:39 AM

George: If your entire point is a description or analysis of the process of arriving as a consensual "good", no, it doesn't matter.

But if you ever wanted to elaborate on and expand this description, which is basically a good one, you need to account for the real wellspring of the consensus, which is the authority of those who can tell the difference and have had the actual experience. In that sense it is neglectful to say "it doesn't matter", and it will detract from your thesis.

BTW it's "effect", not "affect".

98.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 7:04 AM

I'm rather enjoying staying above it all, sort of like watching a hamster running on a treadmill. It's a foregone conclusion it won't get anywhere, but perhaps the creature enjoys it somehow, or thinks it's accomplishing something. Ah, rodents!

Anyway, carry on, if you must. It has the virtue of running the numbers up to impressive levels, which is at least nice for Franklin. However, there comes a point when messing with a tar baby (which is only tar and turpentine, after all, and hardly worth the trouble) becomes not only pointless but rather farcical, not to say demeaning. It may furnish some exercise, which I suppose may have some salutary effects, but it seems a bit dearly purchased.

99.

george

May 22, 2008, 7:12 AM

a vs e, yup

"... you need to account for the real wellspring of the consensus, which is the authority of those who can tell the difference..."

Why? This is a process which crystalizes from some starting point and either it continues to crystalize, develop as a consensus, or not. When it does, it may be easy to look back and suggest who or what started and supported the process, when it doesn't those factors are ignored.

This process is probably time sensitive. I think it's possible to affect almost anything over a short timeframe, either by authority or seduction. Over longer timeframes, the cultural consensus is formed through not only the exercise of authority, or seduction, but also as a result of a deeper collective need.

In the late fifties, there was an art movement loosely characterized as 'assemblage' (Kienholtz et al) which I think everyone thought was going to be something important. MOMA did a big assemblage exhibition, and killed it on the spot. Why was this, I suspect that the culture was done with the post WWII angst, and signaling it wanted something else.

100.

george

May 22, 2008, 7:26 AM

I think it is difficult to argue against quality as long as one is willing to allow for some variance in taste. The rallying point here seems to be this is good, that sucks, we're for the good stuff. I can even accept that. Then what?

What does the culture need?

101.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 7:29 AM

I sense something amiss here. I can remember - particularly with music - "enjoying" stuff I later grew out of and got bored with. And I remember the character of my first strong take on abstract art, when I was 11 years old, and the way my mind made the intuitive distinctions. I don't have it pinned down at all but there is a some sort of difference in kind between these "enjoyments".

Opie, I think you've described it here - the difference isn't in the enjoyment at any given moment, but what happens to the enjoyment over time. There's more enjoyment to be had out of the music you like now, and you couldn't make those distinctions as a kid. You probably had too little exposure to what else was out there. This is what better art offers - sustained and rich enjoyment that rewards repeated exposure.

If information generated outside the viewer, by the culture or someone in the culture, is sufficiently compelling, it will have the affect described above.

George, this starts to go off the rails. If the culture had that much influence, you wouldn't have so many examples of people who don't go along with the consensus even after being exposed to it, nor would you have a basis for the kind of love at first sight experience that one sometimes has in front of art. Also, what would make the information "compelling"?

Because the individual aesthetic responses are potentially random, it is the aggregate response of the culture which must be considered as a metric of 'goodness' or 'quality.'

Individual responses are not potentially random. Some people like roses, others don't care for them, but roses induce terrorized screaming in no one. (At least no one sane.) Individual responses fall into a narrow range of experience by design of the objects in question. Some of the responses will be positive, some negative, but we're looking at individual specifics of general, shared, universal responses, not randomness all the way down. And the consensus doesn't prove anything except its own existence - you perceive quality as an individual, and if you have the independence of taste you ought to have, you will happily buck the consensus if you disagree with it. Quality doesn't have a metric anyway. The consensus is interesting as a by-product of quality. As a by-product of mutually reinforced confusion, which can happen just as easily, it is less so.

102.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 7:32 AM

Then what? What does the culture need?

Then nothing. This refining of taste is what I call "getting the pleasures right" and it is the highest work of civilization. Not the most important work, but the highest.

103.

george

May 22, 2008, 7:43 AM

Franklin, Individual responses are most likely statistically random. This is why, even after the culture reaches a consensus, there are so many disbelievers. This set of conditions occurs in other areas of life as well.

compelling, etc. I was referring to op's remarks on 'authorities,' and to comment posted above on the same subject by CG.

Argue as you may over quality, it is not really what was behind the original Modernism, Modernism was a cultural response to the era. Any historically significant art made today must do the same.

104.

george

May 22, 2008, 7:50 AM

"Then nothing..."

Ok, I have no problem with having highest aesthetic aspirations.

But, ignoring the cultural need dooms this program to failure.

105.

MC

May 22, 2008, 7:53 AM

Chris, with respect, "quoting Pinker and listing his qualifications" is in no way "Begging the Question".

The question was, essentially, does science back up the view that "There is no broad consensus on visual quality"?

The answer I provided was that at least one ivy-league scientist (an appeal to authority, but not at all an improper one) says precisely the opposite, that "a universal human aesthetic can be discerned beneath the variation across cultures." Behind this brief summary statement, is an entire book dealing with "The [Post]Modern Denial of Human Nature"...

How many more Ivy league scientists do I need to point out for it to not be "begging the question"? How many fossils do anthropologists need to dig up to prove evolution happened? Just one more? a Hundred...?

106.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 7:56 AM

Individual responses are most likely statistically random.

Maybe if you look at it statistically, but if you look at individuals, such as yourself, you're not going to agree that every response you have is a coin flip.

Argue as you may over quality, it is not really what was behind the original Modernism.

Hence new modernism.

Modernism was a cultural response to the era. Any historically significant art made today must do the same. ...ignoring the cultural need dooms this program to failure.

Ooh! I'm going to go up to my studio and respond culturally to the era. No, on second thought, I'm going to go make something I care about personally and do it well enough to sign my name on it with pride. Last time I checked, art "must do" nothing in particular. Maybe you can tell me what the cultural need is.

107.

Eric

May 22, 2008, 7:58 AM

Non-sensical juxtaposition (a la David Salle) perhaps?

108.

MC

May 22, 2008, 7:58 AM

Jack, the problem is, all these painters, they can't resist tar and turpentine... it's all butterscotch to these crazy MFers...

109.

Arthur Whitman

May 22, 2008, 7:59 AM

Opie,

Everything in a picture, everything that is comprehended by a viewer, including recognizable imagry, is part of that which presumably will be comprehended by that viewer and processed for the viewer's judgement.

Assuming that "judgment" means judgment of quality, this would mean that non-formal traits can be used to rank visual artworks for quality. Is this correct? Again, I think I understand what is being said about the whole being more than the sum of the parts. But the parts have to contribute in some specifiable way; otherwise, you just have magic.

Or does the term just mean something like understanding. I don't think that I have ever accused anyone here of saying that recognizing objects, story-illustration, etc. are somehow problematic. (I say this because MC's charge against Clem in comment 75 has been leveled against me as well.)The problem is a narrower one of specifying how the way in which these elements contribute to an artwork's value.

Franklin,

I was trying to get at a sense of quality that transcends music, visual art, etcetera.

I thought about this and I don't think there is such a thing.


I tentatively suggested a notion of poetic value. I admit this is very vague, but I think it can be distinguished from, say, economic value. A painting may be worth a million dollars, but this has no bearing on how we experience it as art (or at least it shouldn't). This doesn't mean we don't recognize the dollars when its appropriate to do so.


Content is just recognizable form.


This looks like its central to whatever disagreement we might have. I choose to label certain certain manipulation of form as content, you don't.

It seems to me that the value of what I'm calling content is more contingent than that of straightforwardly formal elements. It isn't quite as tied up in human biology. It adds an element of cultural specificity and individual choice to the mix, which is something I want to uphold.


people with bad taste enjoy their bad taste with the same intensity as people with good taste enjoy their good taste

I'm not so sure about this either. For one thing, it doesn't seem to give us a reason to improve our taste. Although that might happen accidentally, as it were, through continued exposure.

110.

opie

May 22, 2008, 8:07 AM

George, I think you are reverting to stubbornness again. You came up with a good analysis and all I am trying to do is suggest a correction that makes it better. if you do not particularize the nature of the "votes" that make up the "consensus" you willfully diminish the effectiveness of your thesis, that's all. Have it your way.

You ask "what doers the culture need" and then waste no time invoking a "deeper collective need". Why not try answering this yourself?

Franklin, what you say about types or refinements of pleasure is right, and you summarize it with the nice phrase "getting your pleasures right", but what I was reacting to what your implicit equating of the pleasures of good and bad taste.

111.

MC

May 22, 2008, 8:17 AM

Mo' Pinker:

"organisms get pleasure from things that promoted the fitness of their ancestors, such as the taste of food, the experience of sex, the presence of children, and the attainment of know-how. Some forms of visual pleasure in natural environments may promote fitness, too. As people explore an environment, they seek patterns that help them negotiate it and take advantage of its contents...
Vision researchers such as David Marr, Roger Shepard, and V.S. Ramachandran have suggested that the pleasing visual motifs used in art and decoration exaggerate these patterns, which tell the brain that the visual system is functioning properly and analyzing the world accurately. By the same logic, tonal and rhythmic patterns in music may tap into mechanisms used by the auditory system to organize the world of sound.
As the visual system converts raw colours and forms into interpretable objects and scenes, the aesthetic coloring of its products gets even richer. Surveys of art, potography, and landscape design, together with experiments on people's visual tastes, have found recurring motifs in the sights that give people pleasure."

I'm not going to type the whole book out, but you get the idea...

112.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 8:28 AM

I tentatively suggested a notion of poetic value. I admit this is very vague, but I think it can be distinguished from, say, economic value.

That distinction is fair, but I think you're going to have a hard time proving the existence of some kind of transcendent poetic value that includes the quality we find in the many creative forms. It would be really interesting if you could, so try if you think you might succeed.

I choose to label certain certain manipulation of form as content, you don't.

I also label it as content, just as a subset of form.

It seems to me that the value of what I'm calling content is more contingent than that of straightforwardly formal elements. It isn't quite as tied up in human biology. It adds an element of cultural specificity and individual choice to the mix, which is something I want to uphold.

Naah, we're image-recognizing animals and the cultural specificity is laid down on top of that innate functioning, to no denigration of the cultural specificity. You can have them both.

...it doesn't seem to give us a reason to improve our taste. Although that might happen accidentally, as it were, through continued exposure.

Good taste improves itself by exposure. The very fact that you get bored with something, as Opie described it, is evidence of your taste operating. After a while you hear deficiencies in what you once enjoyed, you respond with boredom to what you used to respond to with excitement, and so you seek out something better or at least different.

Franklin, what you say about types or refinements of pleasure is right, and you summarize it with the nice phrase "getting your pleasures right", but what I was reacting to what your implicit equating of the pleasures of good and bad taste.

The pleasures are equally intense, but they're not equally rich or nuanced. I've read excited descriptions of certain works of conceptual art and I have no reason to doubt the author's excitement. This excitement corresponds to the irritation I can provoke when I point out shortcomings in the work. It's his unwillingness to examine those shortcomings, and to examine his response, that impugns his taste.

113.

opie

May 22, 2008, 8:30 AM

Arthur: Let's try to keep it simple. Everything comprehended by a viewer goes into the experience. This may differ from person to person, but usually not much, (although you must realize that it is possible to judge the quality of a painting without knowing what it may illustrate). If you want to call recognizable imagery "non-formal", go ahead, but remember that the recognizability itself is in turn based on form.

As for "content", let's not mystify it. Content is whatever is there, or whatever two viewers can agree is there. Franklin and I or others may disagree on this but the disagreement is slight and remember we have not yet called a council to settle the Doctrine of Unitard of the Tenets of Newmo.

Try to clarify your points on that ¶ that starts "It seems to me..."

114.

opie

May 22, 2008, 8:46 AM

It's his unwillingness to examine those shortcomings, and to examine his response, that impugns his taste.

Or having no taste at all.

I can remember a specific incident as a teenager when I was actually lying to myself, feigning (although I didn't really know I was feigning) excitement over a type of jazz. A more knowledgable friend immeditely scoffed and played me something so obviously better that I had no choice but to get actually, deeply and permanently excited about the new stuff.

Perhaps I am just a bit more cynical about the person who gets "genuinely excited" over some piece of crap art.

115.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 8:47 AM

Quick question (Franklin, Opie):

What, if any, kind of inherent distinction between visual art, and visual advertising/design would you make?

MC, Pinker and like-minded sociobiologists are but one position in the scientific community. It works that way there too...

116.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 8:49 AM

Franklin, Opie,

And I'm asking in light of our argument about "visual quality", if that wasn't clear.

117.

MC

May 22, 2008, 8:50 AM

MC, Pinker and like-minded sociobiologists are but one position in the scientific community.

Ok, fair enough. What's the other side of the debate? Who are the opposing scientists? Make your case...

118.

MC

May 22, 2008, 8:54 AM

While you're at it, Clem, there's still an overdue question waiting for you to answer in #87... tick tock...

119.

george

May 22, 2008, 9:01 AM

op, [110]

The thing is that I understand what you are suggesting but that I think what occurs is viral, it grows rapidly from a few small recognition points and ultimately becomes a consensus.

Take Pollock. At the earliest stage of his recognition, even he may have doubted his own paintings. Over time, other painters who saw his paintings responded, one way or another, creating a buzz, an "art opinion," in the underground of painters. This harks back to GC's remark "which makes art opinion the sole guilty agent" [see #48] From there on out, it is amplified by the rest of the system.

So, yes I believe these early opinions are important in forming a broader cultural consensus, I don't think it matters who they are, or what they say, as long as it stimulated the consensus. The problem is that any opinion or judgment about the quality of a particular work, body of work or nascent movement may fall on deaf ears, regardless of its veracity.

This creates a situation where the underlying cultural interest may not be responsive to what is being presented, it is disinterested. This should not be read as a judgment of quality, but one of interest. The cultural need, what it is interested in, will vary over time with varying frequencies. Some interests may be just passing fads, others are responsive to the longer term evolution of cultural and social history.

Over the very long term, the culture comes to a refined consensus that most seem to agree upon. The cultural consensus within our lifetime may be coarser in its distinctions and for better or worse, that is the context we have to deal with.

These discussions of 'quality' and 'goodness' are non threatening, each of us just turns around and works on whatever we were working on the best we can. We think we know what is 'good' or 'quality' and that's what we are trying to do, so there is no real problem with the details being argued over, we just ignore then as not relevant because this is seen as being personal.

However, the beast of discussing the 'cultural need' or the 'deeper collective need' of the culture, is more threatening because it is seen as being collective, hence it has more authority. Just the fact I raised the issue raises the fur on peoples backs as they immediately assume the worst and therefore exclusion. Odd.

120.

opie

May 22, 2008, 9:05 AM

Clem it is mostly a terminological and use distinction rather than an inherent one. Advertising graphics can be art and vice versa. The nominal difference simply allows one to imagine or expect certain types of visual diffferences in discussion.

121.

opie

May 22, 2008, 9:22 AM

Yes, George, the collective authority of the consensus (and there are many of them, at least one for every opinion group) is threatening and oppressive at times. But we just have to deal with it.

You ought to work this thing out. It certainly makes sense and it is basic for an objective look at the way things work. Being more conscious of the process would keep a lot of people from asking dumb questions.

122.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 9:26 AM

However, the beast of discussing the 'cultural need' or the 'deeper collective need' of the culture, is more threatening because it is seen as being collective, hence it has more authority. Just the fact I raised the issue raises the fur on peoples backs as they immediately assume the worst and therefore exclusion. Odd.

You misunderstood my reaction. I was making fun of "cultural need" because it's a silly generalization. I don't presume to know what other people need. Robert Henri wrote about the gift that Walt Whitman made of himself, an unasked-for gift of his honest account. That's the stuff of art, not meeting some vague cultural need.

123.

MC

May 22, 2008, 9:29 AM

People aren't wearing enough hats...

124.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 9:31 AM

Now OP (#110), I expect George knows, or thinks he knows, what the culture needs, and it's safe to assume he's doing his best to provide it. Of course, what "the culture" may make of that, if anything, is another matter entirely.

Maybe there should be polls, followed by suitable constructs to meet the needs of "the culture." I mean, politicians do this all the time, and I hear they swear by it.

125.

John

May 22, 2008, 9:37 AM

George, in # 103: "quality ... is not really what was behind the original Modernism. Modernism was a cultural response to the era. Any historically significant art made today must do the same."

Certainly "cultural response" was important to the original modernists, especially late in the game, when Greenberg ended "Avant-garde and Kitsch" with the admonition that everything good in culture came from Marxism. But "quality" was even more important and was the reason he later repudiated his statement about Marxism. For the early modernists quality, not culture, was the primary focus (the stews and gravies of the Academy and so on.). I think their problem with the level of quality in the Academy is pretty much understood as fact now, though some still wanted to be accepted by the Academy. (Just like many of us would like to be accepted by today's Academy.)

Wanting to be accepted by the Academy amounts to wanting to change what the Academy cares about, to change its taste.

In one of CG's other letters to me he proposed a symposium titled "Who's Been Most Hurt by Developing Taste since the 1850s?" Then he added, "Notice that I say 'developing', not 'changing.'" To develop is a special case of to change and I am struck by CG's insistence on the more restricted word. It is consistent with opie's report about his personal encounter with music, but CG went much larger in his scope, covering western civilization for more than 100 years. "Developing" seems positive, where "changing" is neutral. What Greenberg added was the idea that positive changes have at least some negative consequences. His list of those who suffered the negatives went "collectors most, then dealers, then critics, museums least". The only group from the art system missing from his casualty list was artists.

As I said somewhere else, he regarded artists as the headwaters from which the whole art system flows. If you agree with that, and I certainly do, then it is not true that we "must" do anything, including the making of a "cultural response". We don't have to do anything but art, that is. If artists don't cotton to cultural issues, then the rest of the system will be forced to adjust.

History, I think we all agree, repeats itself. But most smart people will add, "but not exactly in the same way". It is possible that the next development in the evolution of taste will not be a response to cultural "issues', but perhaps to "quality" ones, as the early modernists did. Ultimately, we don't know because the future contains no facts at the present moment. But we can guess, and my guess is that history will repeat with quality as the difference. Trash that sells for millions of dollars seems like an "accident" waiting to happen. Collectors who paid those monstrous sums, as CG declared, will be left holding the bag.

126.

george

May 22, 2008, 9:37 AM

franklin, The thing is that I do think the culture picks and chooses what it wants. Some things stick, some don't.

127.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 9:43 AM

I don't disagree with that to the extent that we can call one thing "the culture." But asking "What does the culture need?" is not a good approach to making art. Screw the culture. I'm going to make the stuff I make.

128.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 9:57 AM

"But asking "What does the culture need?" is not a good approach to making art"

Franklin, could you elaborate on this? Are you just saying that "playing to taste" is no way to make art? Or the broader implication that Art either shouldn't or can't address what's going on in culture?

MC, do your own homework if you can't see where this is already addressed in the thread.

129.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 9:57 AM

Rembrandt was supplanted in his culture's need by one Bartholomeus van der Helst, who became quite the popular devil. The "culture" preferred his bright coloring, high finish, even lighting and distinct and solid modeling to what Rembrandt, the poor deluded fool, had to offer. Bart's reputation survived into the 18th century, but he's become rather obscure since.

Any of you ever heard of him?

130.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 10:04 AM

Jack,

But does the fact that Rembrandt "survives" relate simply to his quality, or the fact that subsequent cultures "picked" him up? I confess that I don't know that particular history all that well!

131.

opie

May 22, 2008, 10:18 AM

Of course, Jack. He is the only artist named after a truck robbery.

No, seriously now...

I recall one in the Met. it is a nice comparison to Rembrandt.

Clem, both. The latter depends on the former.

132.

John

May 22, 2008, 10:20 AM

Many are asking "what does the culture need?' Better art seem like the obvious answer to me. Even though "better art" may not be as interesting as what we have now, at least not on a verbal level.

Regardless, what the culture is going to get is what our artists provide. If we get back to the strategy of newmo, getting more artists, especially young ones, to take on the project of making better art, is the one most likely to work. To do this, artists must give up their allegiance to "what's in", and what the system declares as the best career path, based on what it currently recognizes. Eventually, and I'm being optimistic here, the system will change - develop, in the sense Greenberg laid out - and it will revert back to the norm that has been what art has cared about for eons - its own goodness.

133.

Arthur Whitman

May 22, 2008, 10:33 AM

you're going to have a hard time proving the existence of some kind of transcendent poetic value that includes the quality we find in the many creative forms.

Yes, I am and now isn't a good time to start. I'll just note that intuitively, there appears to be something in common between music, dance, literature and the visual arts -- if not in the things themselves, than in the way that we respond towards them. This seems to at least hint in the direction of why we call all these things art.

Probably though, I shouldn't be tossing around a word like "transcendent" so casually.

Regarding the issue of form and content (which I also need to think more about): I agree that strictly speaking, its all form. I also believe that certain aspects of this form --including those we call content for lack of a better word--have a degree of autonomy which makes it useful for us to treat them as being separate.

I agree that there is an aspect of quality-recognition that is universal to the human species. This seems to be the only way of accounting for the widespread phenomenon of appreciation of artifacts from alien cultures.

But the fact of the matter seems to be that most people are not drawn to the art they are drawn to solely through this universal faculty. As someone who writes art-criticism, I find it to be an invaluable metric. But it feels emotionally dishonest to me to pretend that there isn't a whole load of other stuff and that this other stuff contributes to what I experience as quality. By this I meant interests that are unique to particular cultures, sub-cultures, and individuals--particular styles, genres, techniques, subjects, and so forth. Particular formal strategies, as it were.

How does New Modernism place such contingient factors?

Opie,

Let's try to keep it simple.

This notion (which you've confronted me with before) seems like a rhetorical manoeuvre designed to constrain the parameters of the debate. Now of course, there are cases when you might want to do this. But I don't think that what I'm saying is beyond the pale.

Everything comprehended by a viewer goes into the experience.

My question was not about what goes into experience. I'll ask it again, somewhat revised: granted that non-formal (or extra-formal) traits enter into judgement, do they or do they not enter into assessments of quality?

134.

Arthur Whitman

May 22, 2008, 10:47 AM

Hope I didn't go over the word limit.

135.

george

May 22, 2008, 10:49 AM

When I refer to the 'cultural need' or the 'collective cultural need' I am not talking about the marketplace, or fashion or intellectual fads.

I am speaking about the deep psychic needs a culture has in relation to the stresses of its own epoch. Marx and Modernism responded to the stress of a society evolving from an agrarian base towards an industrial base. It appears to me that almost all the significant art made since Manet took these changes into account in one way or another. Moreover, this point of view says nothing about quality, which I assume was always an underlying goal.

World events shape the art of an era, they become the hidden nudge to millions of decisions artists (and everyone else) make every day. The fact we have this discussion is a case in point, it's not that anything said will have a direct affect on what someone does, but it potentially shifts the climate for decisions, now or later.

John said, "Regardless, what the culture is going to get is what our artists provide." which is true but the culture will only keep what it wants. This is a two way street. If the culture really desires to celebrate beauty to the exclusion of all else, it will support this type of art, regardless of what is said.

Ask yourself the question, how and why did conceptual art come into being?

136.

opie

May 22, 2008, 10:51 AM

This is not high-school debate. I am not interested in "rhetorical manouvers". I am interested in clearly defined and understood terms because without them discussion is useless.

You want isolateble characteristics to be qualitative. They cannot, not if you are considering the object as art. I have said this several times on this blog: there are thousands of cricifixes; all have the same conten; some are good art and some are not good art, ergo: the content is secondary. Or, as I have said elsewhere, if content determined quality any painting of an apple would be as good as any other painting of an apple.

I suggest that if you reflect on this you will find that your need to isolate characteristics as having quality in themselves is simply a sentimental attempt to prevent "quality" from being detached from subject matter you like.
Art is art, not a collection of stuff. In art, all elements of content serve the art.

137.

MC

May 22, 2008, 11:02 AM

Nice try, Clem.

Tick tock...

138.

george

May 22, 2008, 11:05 AM

Form and content, "... strictly speaking, its all form."

Then, at what point do we recognize content in the form?

I think it becomes a function of part-relationships, scaling and pattern recognition. It has turned out to be one of the most difficult topics to analyze and reduce to a computer algorithm ever attempted, anyone who has ever chuckled at Google image results knows what I mean. The fact that humans can perform such tasks nearly instantaneously is a small miracle and an indication that 'content' is separately inferred from form.

139.

Chris Rywalt

May 22, 2008, 11:13 AM

MC, going back a long ways now -- I'm not sure it's worth following up this tiny bit, awash as it is in the vast ebb and flow of this comments thread, but -- said:

The question was, essentially, does science back up the view that "There is no broad consensus on visual quality"?

The answer I provided was that at least one ivy-league scientist (an appeal to authority, but not at all an improper one) says precisely the opposite....


I said quoting Pinker was begging the question very specifically. What I meant was your proof assumes that which needs to be proven -- that is, quoting Pinker as proof assumes Pinker has been proven as correct, which he hasn't, because he's part of the debate right now. I happen to agree with Pinker (in outline -- I haven't read his books, although some of them are on my list), but I don't think you can use him as the conclusion to a debate when his statements are still part of that very debate. There are good researchers in solid positions in institutions around the world wrestling back and forth between Chomsky and Sapir-Whorf and Pinker is only one of them.

As for who is on the other side, I'm not sure -- I'm only dipping my toe into this now (although I did some reading on it back in college). George Lakoff would seem to be one guy, anyway.

140.

opie

May 22, 2008, 11:23 AM

Chris, as far as I know no scientist has ever seriously attmpted to assess quality in art. Most of them allude to it either very gingerly or very ham-fistedly or regard it as secondary. But my reading is very limited here.

Do you have any quotes to the contrary? I would love to see them.

141.

Arthur Whitman

May 22, 2008, 11:27 AM

Opie,

Rhetoric is inevitable in any discussion. Saying keep it simple, stupid is rhetorical move. I think its an unfair one in this situation and unduly condescending. Obviously, I see these things differently from you and others here. I'm trying to make my position clear; to do this I have to make distinctions that are different from the ones you are used to making. I might be wrong, but I don't think that this has been shown clearly.

Franklin doesn't do this stuff to me.

Yes, taken generically, a depiction of a crucifiction or an apple is artistically banal. That isn't the whole scope of content though; its just the tip of the iceberg. What I at least mean by content is everything that works by reference to the external world--to "life," as some people like to say. This includes everything from facial expressions and gestures to the use of color to symbolize or evoke emotional states.

You want isolateble characteristics to be qualitative.

Isolatable formal characteristics like color and brushwork can clearly be judged as being better or worse. These are subservient to the success or failure of the whole. But surely they must play some determining role. Otherwise they wouldn't matter at all, which is absurd.

It is hard to show a parallel role for iconography, etcetera. This is something that remains for me to do. (Bear with me, I'm still figuring this stuff out for myself.)

Opie, you have a lot of typos in your responses to me. Not a big deal--=I'm just pointing that out.

142.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 11:31 AM

I also believe that certain aspects of this form --including those we call content for lack of a better word--have a degree of autonomy which makes it useful for us to treat them as being separate.

This is undoubtedly true. Realism has its own kind of logic to it, as does text, as do symbols, and it would be silly to treat them only as compositional elements in an analysis of a work that has them. But again: Visual quality is the only inherent function of art. Everything else is either a subsidiary function or a trait. Art needs no subsidiary functions, but it needs traits. Content is a trait, because any form is a trait.

The fact that humans can perform such tasks nearly instantaneously is a small miracle and an indication that 'content' is separately inferred from form.

The miracle would be inferring content with no form to perceive.

143.

John

May 22, 2008, 11:39 AM

George asks: "how and why did conceptual art come into being?" That is an important question, I think.

Conceptual art was the logical extension of shock for shock's sake, a one sided understanding of the avant-garde's contribution. If rebellion is a characteristic of good, then maximum rebellion is characteristic of maximum good, or at least, a continuation of the good. Rosemberg pointed out around 1971 that artists had gotten too big for art. Conceptual art was the realization that going against art was the ultimate rebellion. That is about as one sided as you can get, but, as I think we all recognize, it went over.

So why? I'd say several reasons. It was hormonal, sexy, risky, rebellious, and therefore appealing. Yet it was intellectual too, very intellectual because it was easier to yak about than anything that had immediately come before. And ultimately easier to understand. Abstract art of the 50s was very difficult to talk about. Greenberg was perhaps the only one who was any good at it. ABEx threw up an anti-literal wall that was impenetrable to most viewers. Conceptual let just about anyone, as long as they were open-minded towards it, discuss it and come out looking smart. Close your mind towards it, and you seemed like a vulgarian, but that was OK because no one wanted to be a vulgarian.

So far, I've only been thinking about the true blue conceptualists, like Kosuth. Lots of others who were not so pure embraced it as well, for all the hormonal reasons, and because of its intellectual airs too. So more conventional work was presented as having its conceptual dimensions - made it seem more hip, more with it, more respectable, and certainly more discussable. The mixed breed versions seem to have lately generated "performative" offspring, which I think the alien from mars would say is theatre, but which "everyone" agrees is important to what art has "evolved to".

Artists that are better than this have been outsmarted, it looks like. Clem G often said the cream always rises to the top. I wrote an ESSAY that disagreed with his assertion. I exaggerated here and there to make my point, that it is up to artists to either use their power or lose it - the automatic aspect of the cream rising no longer seems to exist. If we allow the good stuff to be ignored long enough, another dark age is certainly a possibility.

144.

opie

May 22, 2008, 11:43 AM

Arthur: If we can't keep it simple, let's at least keep it accurate. Here's what I said:

Let's try to keep it simple. Everything comprehended by a viewer goes into the experience. This may differ from person to person, but usually not much, (although you must realize that it is possible to judge the quality of a painting without knowing what it may illustrate). If you want to call recognizable imagery "non-formal", go ahead, but remember that the recognizability itself is in turn based on form.

I did NOT say "keep it simple, stupid" which would have been agressive and demeaning. I tried to just explain something simply that is, in fact, simple, so that we could talk about it clearly. If you disagree, present your side. This is not a sound basis for hurt feelings.

No, the depiction of Jesus on the cross is not the "whole scope" of the subject matter, although I am not sure what you mean by "whole scope". It is just simply what it is within the scope of the art when it is considered as part of the art. Obviously this subject matter has a thousand lives outside of the art. This is basically why we have crucifixes.

As for isolatable characteristics being better or worse, Yes, BUT ONLY IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WORK.

I'm sorry about the typos. I am prone to them,and especially when I get impatient, which is another fault.

145.

MC

May 22, 2008, 11:44 AM

Chris, again, respectfully, you are conflating two different issues. You keep going on about "Chomsky and Sapir-Whorf" language debates, but language is not the issue at hand in the question I am addressing. This issue is whether there is a broad consensus on human pleasures. Language doesn't enter into this particular narrow question.

There may be controversial theories involved in Pinker's work on language, but this specific issue isn't contrained by that unrelated debate.

146.

opie

May 22, 2008, 11:47 AM

John, thanks for answering that, and so well.

Whenever I see such a question my heart sinks - Damn, do I need to handle this one too?

147.

MC

May 22, 2008, 11:48 AM

... Hence, the reference to "Vision researchers such as David Marr, Roger Shepard, and V.S. Ramachandran". This is about visual cognition, not language processes, so Chomsky and Sapir-Whorf aren't in this debate.

148.

opie

May 22, 2008, 11:50 AM

Franklin #142 - and it is a miracle performed daily in the columns of the critics.

149.

Chris Rywalt

May 22, 2008, 11:54 AM

OP sez:
Do you have any quotes to the contrary? I would love to see them.

I don't recall any scientists really researching quality of any kind, let alone in the arts. What we were talking about was research into whether all human thought is governed by language; that is, whether there could be, as I described in my art practice, any intentional action proceeding without a verbal component. I think language is a subset of human thought; Clem disagrees; MC quoted Pinker as a proponent of the former view; Sapir, Whorf, and Postmodern philosophers take the latter view. There's empirical research to corroborate both sides at the moment, and, even better, a lot of the research so far is really badly flawed. For example, Whorf cited the idea that Eskimos have many words for "snow," and that this caused them to see the world differently from an English speaker. Unfortunately, further research shows that Whorf apparently invented this idea from whole cloth -- Inuit ("Eskimo" is out of favor these days) do not, in fact, have multiple words for snow any more than English speakers do.

So that's still ongoing. But regarding research into artistic quality, um, I can't think of anything. I seem to recall reading something about researchers trying to find some biological basis for the appreciation of beauty, but I can't remember exactly. I did read a very interesting article on empathy in mice, though, which suggests a biological basis for empathy in humans.

150.

george

May 22, 2008, 11:55 AM

Form and content, "... strictly speaking, its all form."

Content is inferred from form.
Form is immutable, shapes don't change but their 'content' interpretations are not fixed and can change.

151.

george

May 22, 2008, 11:59 AM

"The miracle would be inferring content with no form to perceive."

imagine that

152.

MC

May 22, 2008, 12:01 PM

"I think language is a subset of human thought; Clem disagrees; MC quoted Pinker as a proponent of the former view"

No, Chris. We're talking about different things entirely, Chris.. I didn't quote Pinker as saying anything at all about language, in #86...

153.

MC

May 22, 2008, 12:05 PM

... or in #111.

If you keep confusing things like this, Chris, Clem is gonna think your on their side...

154.

MC

May 22, 2008, 12:13 PM

"A universal human aesthetic can be discerned beneath the variation across cultures."

Is there anything in George Lakoff's work that refutes this statement, Chris?

Not that you should be doing Clem's homework for them...

155.

george

May 22, 2008, 12:18 PM

John [143]

It's understandable how Conceptual art came to be adopted by young artists, aside from the rebellious characteristic it appealed to those with a more intellectual or cerebral bent. There had always been an artist here and there taking this tack but with little follow through from the larger art community. What is more surprising is how and why it gained such traction in the culture in the late 60's. We can chalk it up to "art opinion the sole guilty agent" and add a new young generation of critical writers to the mix. Since there was nothing to sell, in a period when the galleries couldn't sell anything anyway, they went along as well and it was a perfect storm.

None the less, its influence and staying power is an indication that at some level the culture 'needs' a conceptual (or intellectual) connection with an artwork.

156.

Arthur Whitman

May 22, 2008, 12:19 PM

Opie, yes, that was an uncharitable paraphrase on my part. It reflects my annoyance at the repeated injunctions (aimed at least in part towards me) to keep it short, keep it simple. I think my writing here has been basically clear and direct. Some of the distinctions I'm trying to make are subtle ones and this some times necessitates convoluted sentence structure and and big words. Suggesting that no, it just like this, when that has not been established (not for me) is unfair.


I also need to get out of here and cool off though. So I will.

157.

opie

May 22, 2008, 12:23 PM

Content is inferred from form.
Form is immutable, shapes don't change but their 'content' interpretations are not fixed and can change.


More accurately, form is content, and we infer whatever we want to infer from that form. if we say "that is a picture of a man" we have inferred that from the form. What we infer is what is not fixed, although in most cases it is agreed, as would happen in this example.

158.

george

May 22, 2008, 12:35 PM

op [157] "More accurately, form is content, and we infer whatever we want to infer from that form"

Using primitives, a forms 'form' is its most basic content.
Assemble two forms, its content becomes the sum of each of forms content, and their geometrical relationship with each other.

Using primitives again, a complex form can infer content through the unique relationships of its sub-forms (parts) This exists above and inclusive of whatever shape content exists and therefore is a more complex expression of content.

I also would suggest that what content we infer from a form is not necessarily a conscious act but may occur because of specific filters in the perceptual process.

159.

MC

May 22, 2008, 12:36 PM

"...Conceptual art... appealed to those with a more intellectual or cerebral bent."

You mean they were more intellectual/cerebral than their peers, or that their "bent" was more "intellectual/cerebral than it was visual?

The former interpretation is unsupportable, I'd say, while I'd agree entirely with the latter...

160.

george

May 22, 2008, 12:43 PM

mc,

I meant some people approach the world in a more intellectual or cerebral way rather than in a visual way. Bent meant leaning.

161.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 12:47 PM

John, Opie, Franklin, Chris,

Just like when I mentioned in the last thread how strange it was to me that someone like Bannard could maintain that quality art should continue almost exclusively in the areas of painting and sculpture, sometimes it almost most seems like your NewMo attitude plays out in terms of a similar exclusivity to different types of work. I realize that you've been careful to say that NewMo doesn't have to look like the particular modernist styles that you've appreciated, and that new materials and forms can and should be undertaken. But I'd be interested if you could give some examples of work or artists who achieve "visual quality" in art that is conceptual or performative? We haven't really talked about visual mediums like film or digital either.

MC, go back and read your own posts.

162.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 12:55 PM

In his lifetime, Rembrandt had his day in the sun with respect to public favor and commercial success, but that eventually failed him, and van der Helst became top dog. Even direct Rembrandt pupils like Bol and Flinck discarded their master's style to paint like Helst, and reaped the material rewards they were seeking.

Van der Helst, it should be noted, was quite highly accomplished technically, meaning he was not some posturing bozo who simply talked a good game, like the ones who have become ubiquitous in our time. Standards were a just a little bit higher in the 17th century than they are now. Even as late as the 1780s, one of his large group portraits was deemed superior to Rembrandt's Night Watch by no less an "authority" than Sir Joshua Reynolds.

Fortunately, Rembrandt stuck to his guns, much as Franklin stated in #127, and decided to do his thing as an artist, as opposed to worrying about and/or pandering to his culture's supposed needs.

163.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 12:57 PM

Using primitives, a forms 'form' is its most basic content.

Content means "something that is contained" and the above is a strange usage of the word. If a form has its form as its content, what's the container?

My version is simpler and relies on dictionary definitions. Form is shape and content is something we recognize in the shapes. Hence content is a kind of form. Since a work of art aggregates forms, you could talk about the work containing any of the forms, and therefore any of the forms as content of the work. Saying that each form contains itself doesn't seem like a useful way to describe what's happening.

164.

MC

May 22, 2008, 1:01 PM

So, the latter. Ok, thanks for the clarification, George. I agree with you, there. High five!

Tick tock, Clem...

165.

opie

May 22, 2008, 1:06 PM

"how strange it was to me that someone like Bannard could maintain that quality art should continue almost exclusively in the areas of painting and sculpture".

What is your source for this? I doubt this was ever stated or averred. "Has continued" might be more accurate.

If it is difficult to cite video and conceptual artists who might be considered by someone like myself as being interesting or good there is always the possiblility that none of them are.

However I have a graduate student whio conceives his videos in "formal" terms and as far as I can tell they are very good. They seem so to me, at least.

166.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 1:07 PM

"Clem," I have a few in mind but it hardly seems fair to answer your questions if you won't answer MC's.

167.

george

May 22, 2008, 1:25 PM

"saying that each form contains itself doesn't seem like a useful way to describe what's happening."

In the most general case it is, a square is a square, basic primitives.

recall wdb's early single shape paintings, 1 and a 2, kerchunk.

168.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 1:31 PM

Saying that a square is a square, which is true, is not the same as saying that the content of a square is a square, which is strange. Bannard's work doesn't support the latter distinction. I'm not sure anything does.

169.

MC

May 22, 2008, 1:37 PM

is a square more than just a square?

Early Bannard...

170.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 1:46 PM

"Quality in visual art has belonged to painting and sculpture for hundreds of years. Despite a thousand new materials and methods it still does, because painting on a rectangular canvas and the organizing of a static, three-dimensional object still keep our best talent busy" - Bannard

Alright, Alright, thanks for making me go back to the last thread for each of these!

"Quality exists in the arrangement of forms which creates possibilities for knowledge"

That was my first attempt, if you remember. On a rainy day like today, I'd probably clean it up to "(visual) art's inherent function is to communicate (visually)".

171.

george

May 22, 2008, 1:55 PM

draw a square

are you saying it has no content?

what is the shape recognized as? a square!

form and content in bed doing the nasty

172.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 2:01 PM

Before you get too excited there, George, you have just demonstrated that you can't distinguish a perimeter from an area.

173.

george

May 22, 2008, 2:08 PM

hardly,

you would have been correct if I said circle (disk)

174.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 2:13 PM

Quality exists in the arrangement of forms which creates possibilities for knowledge

you would have been correct if I said circle (disk)

We have entered the land of the lost...

175.

ahab

May 22, 2008, 2:30 PM

"land of the lost" s/b "square footage of the lost"

176.

1

May 22, 2008, 2:33 PM

i feel like i just approached a few squares in a circle jerk

177.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 2:39 PM

Well, pony up you about "visual quality" you jerks!

178.

MC

May 22, 2008, 2:40 PM

"(visual) art's inherent function is to communicate (visually)"

GONG! Ooooohhhhh..... No, I'm sorry, that's incorrect. Good try, though. WRITING's "inherent function is to communicate (visually)". ART is not quite the same thing as writing, of course ('art' can happen in nature without an 'artist' to make it, for example), so naturally, its inherent function is something specific to it, distinguishable from the inherent function of writing, which you have just described.

Would you like to double down, and try again? The clock is still ticking... you still have a chance to get this right, and win a prize, Clem...

179.

Chris Rywalt

May 22, 2008, 2:51 PM

MC and everyone, I'll admit to having lost track of the conversation in its entirety. I'm kinda skimming and picking things up here and there. So my comments might be a little off.

But I do think, discussing visual quality, Sapir-Whorf comes into it, because according to the hypothesis, language underlies everything, including vision. In other words -- simplifying hideously -- if your language has no name for "chartreuse" then you're incapable of conceiving of "chartreuse" or even seeing it. (That simplification happens to be dead wrong, but that doesn't really dent Sapir-Whorf, even if we'd like it to. Consider it my straw man, I guess.)

So this ties into Clem's argument: There is no such thing as purely visual quality, because what a viewer sees is always linguistically determined. In other words, you don't simply see, you convert visual impulses into some symbolic, linguistic representation which you then interpret as "seeing." What this does is make all seeing into a completely relativistic act: There is no seeing without doing so through the bias of culture, socialization, and native language.

So we can't say that anything is simply "good." There is no "good." There's only what we've been taught to see as good, what we've been acculturated to accept as good, and what our language allows us to consider good. Change the culture, socialization, and language, and poof! "Good" disappears!

I happen to think this is wrong, because I believe humans can simply see things. I think seeing is very complex, but the complexity is basically biological; and then above that we have culture, socialization, and language. So those may condition how you react intellectually to what you see, but what you see is basically the same for all viewers. And that's where quality lies.

Again, I may have wandered off, because I'm not reading everything straight through. Too much for me. And now I have to go get dinner.

180.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 3:31 PM

Oh, dear. It appears incivility has reared its ugly (but diverting) head, even before comment #200 of the thread. How distressing. Or not, depending on one's perspective (pluralism, you know). I'm sure the good people over at the EW blog are simply appalled at this unfortunate turn of events. Ah, well, just another day in a hostile environment.

And Chris (#179), don't worry about skipping or skimming comments. In some cases, that's just as it should be. I do it routinely when circumstances call for it. Bon appétit!

181.

opie

May 22, 2008, 4:07 PM

1, your comment was nasty. For shame! it was also timely, appropriate and very funny.

Thanks for digging up the Bannard quote, Clem. Please note that there is no "should" anywhere to be seen.

This is what happened to Greenberg. He described what HAD happened and what IS happening and everyone ran around tearing out their hair saying Greenberg says this is what MUST happen.

182.

Eric

May 22, 2008, 4:09 PM

I am sure it is obvious by now that I am too stupid to take part in an extended argument. I have to admit that I did skim the entire thread looking for my name.

183.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 4:12 PM

I was pondering the same thing - this relentless drive, against the words themselves, to transform description into prescription. Why does this happen?

184.

Eric

May 22, 2008, 4:12 PM

My subjective proofreading has ended. I have come to the conclusion that I did not play an important role in this discourse.

185.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 4:26 PM

No, I re-read the quote and recognized the distinction you'd made. But it doesn't make it seem any less startling that Bannard couldn't "see" and "visual quality" in other disciplines-- or that you can think of but one grad student (and kind of hedge a bit--though I do genuinely appreciate you at least trying!).

MC, thanks for letting me know that I'm just plain wrong, it's never come through quite as clearly before. Though I would like you to expand a bit on "art without artists".

186.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 4:27 PM

"see" ANY "visual quality"

187.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 4:49 PM

Bannard has praised good video when he has had the opportunity to do so.

188.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 4:54 PM

Eric, you have my sympathies. We can't all be stars, after all. And frankly, some vehicles aren't all that worthwhile, in my opinion. Besides, with certain actors on stage, it may be better not to venture forth any more than necessary. Some plays really shouldn't go on, certainly not for long.

189.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 5:07 PM

How about you, Franklin?

190.

John

May 22, 2008, 5:10 PM

Some plays really shouldn't go on, certainly not for long.

The QUALITY PLAY is surely one of them.

191.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 5:13 PM

It has happened here and there. I'm sure scouring Artblog.net would turn something up.

192.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 5:20 PM

I also address video here.

193.

opie

May 22, 2008, 5:42 PM

Franklin It happens so the people who can't hack it have someone to blame. Description to prescription is a very easy jump to make, and the other jelloheads will swing right into line.

194.

opie

May 22, 2008, 5:45 PM

Arthur, I hope we haven't lost you...

195.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 5:52 PM

Re 190, John, that depends on the quality of the players.

But then again, I'm an elitist, so of course I'd say that.

196.

MC

May 22, 2008, 6:01 PM

We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor
Jack was feeling kinda seasick
but the Clem called out for more...

197.

John

May 22, 2008, 6:10 PM

I can hear that in my mind, MC. Nice.

I'm convinced it is more than Jack who is seasick, though. Quality is a black hole and those who play in it are doomed to turn to butter. Some physics article I read a while back said those who are falling in a black hole aren't necessarily aware of what is happening to them.

As far as hormones go, the only one that comes to the fore in a quality discussion anymore is adrenaline. No endorphins, that's for sure. Not for me. Maybe for someone.

Of course, that does not mean I don't know quality when I see it.

198.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 6:15 PM

Why Marc, you are poetic, after all! It gives the lie to all those horrid people who tried to make you out as some vulgar provocateur (I mean the, uh, elephant matter). I knew they were wrong all along, of course...it's just that, well, one doesn't really associate poetry with Canadians...

199.

MC

May 22, 2008, 6:22 PM

"I'm convinced it is more than Jack who is seasick, though."

Yeah, I almost didn't change the line, but I thought that Jack deserved the mention more.

Although, Jack, I'm a little surprised that you've got me mixed up with Chris Ofili... I'm pretty sure he's the "vulgar provocateur" who uses "elephant matter" in his work, not me...

200.

ahab

May 22, 2008, 6:31 PM

Marc uses elephant 'forms' for elephant 'content'.

201.

Jack

May 22, 2008, 6:38 PM

No, no, no, Marc, not that sort of matter. I'm too well bred to even mention such a substance (unless provoked), though of course you're right about the Ofili business. I meant the e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t incident (I dare not be more explicit lest I upset a rather large ethnic-religious group). You should have written a poem in response to your detractors. That's what Alexander Pope did. It was a masterpiece, even if it did get him into even more hot water. He called it The Dunciad.

202.

swimmer

May 22, 2008, 6:38 PM

all should stop trying to convince people to like the same art as "you" do!

203.

ahab

May 22, 2008, 6:46 PM

Again with the 'should'.

204.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 7:02 PM

Maybe Swimmer's afraid we'll succeed.

I wonder what it means when you put "you" in scare quotes...

205.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 7:07 PM

Because proposing a "working attitude" isn't a should? I realize that Franklin has said he's merely describing what he is already seeing in a number of artists' work and practice, but considering what it prescribes and thereby limits is pretty should-like by any reasonable standard.

206.

Chris Rywalt

May 22, 2008, 7:07 PM

Are we quoting classic rock songs now?

Who are "you"?
Who who
Who who

I believe that was from the rock opera Quotophenia.

207.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 7:10 PM

You can do something entirely different if you want, Clem. I'm likewise free to critique the results as I see fit.

208.

ahab

May 22, 2008, 7:17 PM

Thanks for noting that, Jack. Here's an excerpt from The Dunciad (about 3/5's the way down the page):

How hints, like spawn, scarce quick in embryo lie,
How new-born nonsense first is taught to cry, 60
Maggots half-form'd in rhyme exactly meet,
And learn to crawl upon poetic feet.
Here one poor word an hundred clenches makes,
And ductile Dulness new meanders takes;
There motley images her fancy strike,
Figures ill pair'd, and similes unlike.

209.

swimmer

May 22, 2008, 7:24 PM

man can rationalize anything! i think it is one of our strongest traits because it is how we make sense of our beliefs. a defense mechanism.

210.

MC

May 22, 2008, 7:26 PM

"pretty should-like"

There's a novel defense mechanism for perpetrators of the is/ought fallacy, for ya...

211.

ahab

May 22, 2008, 7:32 PM

Man, The Dunciad is almost laugh-out-loud funny. By Pope's scathing measures mid-18th century England seems postmodern as all get-out.

212.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 7:41 PM

Franklin,

You are completely right about that. But I've continued up to this point on the assumption that this blog and your writing are here because there is some importance to discussing these differences. But at the moment, I agree that this has become uncivil and somewhat stale.

MC,

You know I've always hated your misuse of logical jargon and terms like "is/ought" (even more than your tendency to jump into verse, if you can believe it). The least amusing part has been your constant reference to naturalist thinkers like Pinker, who are constantly accused of honing in on biological "facts" in order to make their social/political claims. How about you talk about art sans artist instead?

213.

MC

May 22, 2008, 7:51 PM

You know I've always hated your misuse of logical jargon and terms like "is/ought" (even more than your tendency to jump into verse, if you can believe it).

Ahem....

Seven hundred fanatical Hindus
tellin' me all the "should" and "shouldn't dos":
(but Ganesha, sans wiener
to me, seems much meaner)
My sculptures can earn cheers, yet, still win boos.


Thank you, thank you, ladies and mentalclem...

214.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 7:52 PM

I'm starting to get a grip on what you guys mean when you throw out "postmodern"... It's like Bannard said, there's only good and bad isn't there?

215.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 7:54 PM

That would have made a great publication, er, letter to the editor, MC!

216.

opie

May 22, 2008, 7:54 PM

That's right, Clem, and even there I am being generous. The kid's paintings are much more interesting.

I have done my best to see as much as I can of installation and video and all the rest but it's as if there is some kind of vast conspiracy of dullness going on. The stuff is just plain boring. It is overtly, obviously, deliberately boring, boringness only mildly alleviated by it's willfull silliness.

Go to a NY auction and see people who have made fortunes in business squander hundreds of thousands of dollars on teddy bears and Japanese cartoons and piles of hard candy and snapshots (and videos) of girlfriends and prosthetic limbs and stuffed animals. It is way out of control, but no scam lasts forever, and when it crashes they will all be standing there saying "what the hell were we thinking?"

Either that or we are in terminal decline.

217.

opie

May 22, 2008, 8:05 PM

Clem that rant refers to your response to something I said, both way back in the mists of time. I'm too tired to even try to find it.

218.

ahab

May 22, 2008, 8:07 PM

It is important to discuss what's important about the things we care about, clementine. But you haven't demonstrated an honest appreciation of our position (I'm not sure you could even summarize a newmodernist position).

219.

ahab

May 22, 2008, 8:30 PM

"vast conspiracty of dullness going on"

Still her old empire to restore she tries,
For, born a goddess, Dulness never dies.

220.

Eric

May 22, 2008, 8:36 PM

Who are "you"?
Who who
Who who

I believe that was from the rock opera Quotophenia.

Chris you were probably being facetious but I must correct you. I must! "Who Are You" which I am ashamed to say, became the theme song for the hit TV show "CSI", is the last song on the album "Who Are You". Keith Moon had one foot in the grave when this album came out, they never toured for the album, and Moon was so out of it that he couldn't even play drums on one of the tracks. Moon shows a bit of life on the title track but on the rest of the album his playing is sad. Interestingly, Entwistle has a few really good, SF flavored songs on the album ("Had Enough" and "905"). I think Entwistle overdosed on cocaine (It caused a fatal heart attack. He had a bad ticker) when he was staying in a luxury suite in the Hard Rock Cafe partying with prostitutes. It is a weak album though. Quadrophenia on the other hand was the band's second rock opera. They never recorded a good live version of it and on the studio album "The Real Me' is by far the best song. If you really want to hear an outstanding and powerful version of their first rock opera "Tommy" don't buy the studio recording, which is pretty dull. Buy "The Who - Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970", which includes live versions of all the songs off of "Ttommy". They come alive when they play them live. Really great stuff.

221.

ahab

May 22, 2008, 8:39 PM

Whom are you??

The rest of the chorus would suffer, though.

222.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 9:03 PM

But I've continued up to this point on the assumption that this blog and your writing are here because there is some importance to discussing these differences. But at the moment, I agree that this has become uncivil and somewhat stale.

You assume correctly. However, considering what you've called MC in the past, I thought we've been doing pretty well on the civility front.

MC, the limerick was spot on.

223.

Franklin

May 22, 2008, 9:04 PM

Eric, I knew you had a valuable contribution for this thread! You just needed the opportunity.

224.

MC

May 22, 2008, 9:33 PM

"MC, the limerick was spot on."

Well, what can I say?
I am what you might call a
"syllable-counter"...

225.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 9:35 PM

"considering what you've called MC in the past"

I was merely trying to be descriptive for once...

And I guess it's understandable, but the way that you guys often seem to handle different or outside opinions is affirmation rather than argumentation. But I've tried, for the most part, to keep my jabs playful.

Opie,

You've no argument from me that much of the art world seems to be a spectacle. I guess we just differ on the artistic possibilities that these conditions allow for. There have always been fads and fakers, market highs and free-falls, but I tend to believe that work which is both interesting and of high visual caliber is still being produced that will be of lasting importance. The role of the visual is only going to increase, and these new mediums seem suited and attuned to this aspect of our culture. I'm glad to hear though, that you're not closing your eyes to what's happening, even if you don't identify strongly with it.

226.

MC

May 22, 2008, 9:50 PM

Hey Franklin, I never did tell you how pleased I was to see your clip of ol' Harry Frankfurt posted here. It made me dig out "Reasons of Love" the other day, over at the studio, and re-read part one, and then read the "TIOWWCA" essay again when I got back home.

It is such a pleasure to read Frankfurt's clearly written clear thinking, that, it occurs to me, it transcends being merely communicative (visually), and crosses over into becoming art...

227.

Clem

May 22, 2008, 10:29 PM

Personally, the typography of Frankfurt's books has always seemed like bullshit...

228.

opie

May 23, 2008, 4:36 AM

There is a stong temptation to close the eyes, Clem, when they are so assaulted. It is tiresome and depressing to see thousands of instances of a whole species of art which give evidence that it has nothing to offer. After a while you have to think there is something basically wrong with the form.

For exampIe, have nothing against video as such, but the damn things take TIME, for one thing, and I look at one after the other and all I can think is why in the world with all of art history and cinematic history to learn from and all the great technical means at hand do these artists produce such inane, idiotic stuff? The temptation really is to just not look at it. I've got better things to do.

If you have some artist of another "persuasion" you think is interesting I will be happy to check it out, and I am sure everyone else here would be too. It might lend a little substance to all this abstract talk.

229.

John

May 23, 2008, 4:54 AM

"I look at one after the other and all I can think is why in the world with all of art history and cinematic history to learn from and all the great technical means at hand do these artists produce such inane, idiotic stuff?"

That's right, opie. The system permits "artists" to ignore the traditions of time-based media. Just because one is an "artist" the flood gate to be dull, crude, and abjectly unaccomplished is opened wide. Like I said about "conceptual" art, if one is not open-minded to accept these defects, one is a vulgarian. Yet, if a Hollywood producer tried to pass anything like it off, he could never get financing for another project. I would say it is amateur hour on steroids, except many amateurs do a better job with their home movies, movies that are at least interesting to the family.

While I'm convinced somewhere along the line the art business adopted the model of the ready-to-wear business, time-based is an exception. Ready-to-wear delivers the goods, well made and over priced, to be sure, but all I see in the "art type" video is the over pricing.

Permission to ignore past tradition ought to be withdrawn from these artists. Someday they've got to eat their spinach like everyone else and grow up. They would ultimately be much better off, if they are serious. But the system grants them an incredible short cut, and they take it, hook, line, and sinker.

230.

Jack

May 23, 2008, 6:21 AM

A few interesting quotations from Pope:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance, as those who move easiest have learned to dance.

The way of the Creative works through change and transformation, so that each thing receives its true nature and destiny and comes into permanent accord with the Great Harmony: this is what furthers and what perseveres.

Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.

Genius creates, and taste preserves. Taste is the good sense of genius; without taste, genius is only sublime folly.

A work of art that contains theories is like an object on which the price tag has been left.

Fools admire, but men of sense approve.

All nature is but art unknown to thee.

Praise undeserved, is satire in disguise.

Lo, what huge heaps of littleness around!

(I'm laying claim to that last line from now on. It will come in very handy at countless "major" art events, no doubt).

231.

Chris Rywalt

May 23, 2008, 6:27 AM

Eric, I was certainly being facetious, and trying to goof on the idiot quotes around "you" used by Swimmer (what were they supposed to mean? Emphasis? Or to indicate that the word "you" couldn't possibly apply to us? I mean, duh). But I don't mind being corrected -- at least something useful came out of this comment thread.

I'm not a big Who fan myself. In fact I've found I like them less as I get older. Led Zeppelin, on the other hand, just gets better and better. The more I listen to them the more impressed I am by John Bonham, and the more I understand why Led Zeppelin had to end after he died.

232.

Hovig

May 23, 2008, 6:38 AM

It looks like everyone is trying to depressurize after all this talk about pneumo art.

233.

opie

May 23, 2008, 6:48 AM

"A work of art that contains theories is like an object on which the price tag has been left."

And a work of art that is all theory is like a price tag with the object gone.


"Praise undeserved, is satire in disguise"

A wonderful thought to ease the pain of reading foolish criticism.

234.

roy

May 23, 2008, 6:57 AM

re: 231

RIP Bonzo. It's true, by all accounts, there was no way for them to go on after his death. Thankfully...'Genius creates, and taste preserves.'

Zeppelin is like Rock's Mt. Fuji. Unmistakably impressive and iconic. They are the original art rockers. One of the first and last (in my time so far) great marriages of musicianship, persona, and hormones. F*ck, they blew the top off the whole thing, let's be serious. I think they are the only band I can listen to without tire. There is so much range and talent in their music it's bonkers.

BTW, do I get to pick the colo(u)r of my unitard?

235.

Chris Rywalt

May 23, 2008, 7:06 AM

I figured your unitard would be Red, Orange, and Yellow.

236.

roy

May 23, 2008, 7:12 AM

My comment makes it sound like I was around for Zeppelin's rise and fall. I wasn't. Born in '74, first album...Houses of the Holy...purchased circa 1990 along with Paranoid by Black Sabbath. These are two of the monsters that bequeathed hard rock unto the world. There is a fascinating documentary by ahem, a proper Canadian rocker, called something like Metal: A Headbanger's History or some such. It's awesome and very well done. It starts with an examination of metal's roots, and part of that history is heavy classical music. Mozart likely would have been in a metal band if he were around today. I recommend it to anybody curious about rock n' roll. There is a sequel coming out too. He's traveled round documenting metal's appeal to youth everywhere in the world.

237.

roy

May 23, 2008, 7:17 AM

Yes Chris, i do have more of an 'Autumn' complexion.

238.

Hovig

May 23, 2008, 7:45 AM

Roy,

At the risk of talking complete nonsense, I don't think Mozart would have been into heavy metal. I've always felt our closest contemporary analog to Mozart is Paul McCartney. Both are masters of elegant melodies and lovely songs. Mozart's famous Clarinet Concerto is basically a vocal piece. A singer could sing the solo part.

Beethoven is another story.

Chris,

The drummer in my little college garage band (1990-92) was into Peart, not Bonham. He couldn't lay down a groove to save his live. The guitarist and I tied him down and forced him to play The Lemon Song once or twice, so I could have some fun, but it was a short-lived experiment. I don't think we ever managed to get him to play Bonham again. I'm racking my brain back 18 years but can't recall any cases.

But he could knock out Peart in his sleep (even with all those 5's, 7's, etc). So we played YYZ, Tom Sawyer, New World Man, The Trees and a few others on a regular basis. With immense pleasure, I might add. But a little more groove every so often wouldn't have killed us. We tried Spirit of Radio a couple of times too, but I could never quite figure out some of the transitional sections.

The grooviest we ever got was a few Boston tunes like Rock and Roll Band. We managed to toss out Couldn't Stand the Weather a couple of times, because fortunately all the groove is in the guitar. All the drummer and I needed to do was play straight for four minutes and not screw up. Our guitarist had a mythic struggle with that one, but he did a good job. He had his fun and so did we.

Ach, good times.

Anyway, the only Who song I'm really a fan of is Can You See The Real Me. I might be visually postmodern but musically I'm pretty Baroque. I think the straight line between the two is my love of complexity. Maybe it's an ADHD thing.

239.

Chris Rywalt

May 23, 2008, 8:08 AM

Over the past decade or so (I'm three years older than Roy) I've come to feel that Peart and Bonham were trying the same thing, which is to make the drums into a melody instrument. If you listen to Rush, the weird thing about them is the guitar is the rhythm instrument, with the bass and drums often carrying the melody. (I'm a big Rush fan from way back, but I admit I don't think they're as awesome as I used to.)

Peart and Bonham went at this in very different ways, of course. But these days I think you could learn everything you needed to know about drumming from listening to "When the Levee Breaks" and "Fool in the Rain."

Hovig, I know what you mean: I love complexity. I'm just not very good at it -- I'm impatient and lazy (a bad combination).

240.

opie

May 23, 2008, 8:12 AM

Hovig I agree about Mozart. Not heavy metal, for sure. The clarinet concerto is one of the all-time best pieces of music ever.

How about Mozart as Brian Wilson?

241.

Chris Rywalt

May 23, 2008, 8:21 AM

Brian Wilson has been the beneficiary of a wholly undeserved post-career rewrite. He always labored in Lennon-McCartney's shadow for good reason: He lacked their talent. Wilson was an okay songwriter with a few good hooks in him and a family band who could sing some lovely harmonies.

In other words, Mozart he ain't.

I could almost see Mozart being a McCartney, maybe. I don't know. McCartney had a lot in him -- maybe still does, somewhere -- but I'm not sure it was Mozart-level genius. The big question I guess would be, would our modern culture derail Mozart or allow him to steam to the proper end of his line? I could easily see him being shunted off into Rick Wakeman land.

242.

george

May 23, 2008, 8:25 AM

Keith Jarrett

243.

opie

May 23, 2008, 9:00 AM

would our modern culture derail Mozart or allow him to steam to the proper end of his line

That's a big question re the nature of genius, nature vs nurture and all that.

244.

Arthur Whitman

May 23, 2008, 9:02 AM

Brian Wilson has been the beneficiary of a wholly undeserved post-career rewrite. He always labored in Lennon-McCartney's shadow for good reason: He lacked their talent.

No, you're wrong; Brian Wilson was one of the best pop-songwriters ever. Or at least he was, for a period of three or four years. (It would have likely been longer if not for his personal problems.)

245.

Clem

May 23, 2008, 9:02 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WFMWR_HAfk

246.

Arthur Whitman

May 23, 2008, 9:11 AM

Nice.

247.

opie

May 23, 2008, 9:29 AM

I agree, Arthur. That's why I mentioned him. The guy is a mess, but he has those definite genius characteristics. And the Beach Boys are more than just different.

248.

roy

May 23, 2008, 9:56 AM

re mozart...ok ok. i'm dropping names but i haven't got a clue...if mozart's a poof then maybe they said schubert or beethoven...not sure...whoever you might equate with ominous heavy and especially complex sound...

also, my enthusiasm runs pretty unchecked for led zep. they are giants, but at the risk of a twit, there have been many serious acts besides them...like RUSH!!!

249.

roy

May 23, 2008, 9:57 AM

that's...at the risk of sounding like a twit, i must admit...aaarggggh

250.

Hovig

May 23, 2008, 10:49 AM

I don't know Brian Wilson. I don't get the same enjoyment from the Beach Boys as the Beatles. "Hooks and family harmony" sounds about right. I also don't know the music well enough to say anything interesting. I haven't really heard it very much since I stopped listening to AM pop radio 30 years ago. If someone wants to make some recommendations I can listen more closely.

Another bass player 20 years ago told me he respected McCartney's work. I nodded my head politely, but inside I went, "WHAAAT???" But I know what he meant now. After I started listening more carefully to McCartney as a whole -- singing, melody and instrumental -- I realized what a good all-around musician he was. He's not a virtuoso player, but his bass parts are always "just right." We'll never know what would have happened if McCartney's father was a respected musicologist like Mozart Senior, but for whatever reason I see them in a similar light.

Chris - I agree about Rush and guitar. I've never quite been able to unpack Lifeson's contribution to the group except that he can solo melodically in 7/4, which is a unique skill in itself. If I ever make it back to Boston I'll try to look up my old guitar-playing buddy and get his take.

Despite the futility of this type of exercise, I'm pretty confident that Mozart would not have gone into Rick Wakeman-land. He didn't overthink his work. Another comparison between Mozart and McCartney is the sheer effortlessness of their talent. The lovely melodies just flow out. Mozart had the benefit of a formal education to stretch his talent upon, but he never tried to overthink it or overconceptualize it. The other comparison is of course that Mozart's Figaro is like Hey Jude. It's nice and all, but it just ... keeps ... going ....

It's funny, I always jokingly call Tom Sawyer "Drumset Concerto Number 1." Our drummer never really played the solo sections of Sawyer fast enough. He tried to hit all the notes, but he lost site of the forest for the trees, and those solo sections would drag when he wasn't on top of his game. But don't forget LedZep's The Crunge. A James Brown tribute in 9/8. How funked up is that.

251.

Chris Rywalt

May 23, 2008, 11:01 AM

If you've ever heard Lifeson's solo album, you'd get an idea of his contribution, which is just straight-ahead hard rock. Lifeson is sloppy as all hell, but that's what makes him great -- I like to listen to his solos and just try to find a recognizable note. His older solos are easier, but when you get to things like "Tom Sawyer" it's hilarious. Rush's CD of covers is excellent, also -- I think Rolling Stone said something like "You always knew Rush would make a great bar band," and hot damn, they do. Those covers were the highlight of their last concert, in my opinion; the rest was just, you know, the same stuff they've been playing exactly the way they've been playing it forever, plus their new songs, which I really don't like very much.

I'm a fogey at heart.

I don't know "The Crunge." I guess I'm no Zep expert -- I pretty much go up to the first four albums (which I had on cassette in the Way Back) and then after that, it's whatever you hear on the radio. Here in New York they play Zep on the classic rock station a guaranteed twice a day -- Carol Miller tells a little story from Zep history and then plays a song.

I'll download it, though.

252.

opie

May 23, 2008, 11:05 AM

Another comparison between Mozart and McCartney is the sheer effortlessness of their talent.

Indeed. Maybe Mcartney is a better choice.

253.

Clem

May 23, 2008, 11:18 AM

"For example, I have nothing against video as such, but the damn things take TIME, for one thing, and I look at one after the other and all I can think is why in the world with all of art history and cinematic history to learn from and all the great technical means at hand do these artists produce such inane, idiotic stuff? The temptation really is to just not look at it. I've got better things to do"

"The system permits "artists" to ignore the traditions of time-based media"

"Permission to ignore past tradition ought to be withdrawn from these artists"

I'm quite interested in these candid comments. A couple of questions.

Is it often the "technical" proficiencies that bother you? Is this at the heart of the "amateurishness" that seems to be one of the group's common complaints?

I take your point about time, Opie (and am myself guilty of moving on before the show's through on more than one occasion). But doesn't this have something to do with the medium itself, no so much individual works (as uninteresting as many of them may be)? Video/Film lend themselves to narrative much more easily than flat/static objects. It isn't that painting/sculpture haven't predominantly been communicative before, but this form is based on its ability to expand narrative, to unfold visual stories/scenes. (I realize I'm probably being a little too literary for most of your tastes).

Also, remember when I asked you about any distinction you might make between art and design? Part of John's comment about commercial film vs. video "art" made me wonder if you're not making an unfair separation of the two. I'm assuming that you would again agree that commercial films can be "artistic" and possess "visual quality". Is it maybe easier to find a visuals that both interest and delight you in the context of movies? And if so, is this maybe tied to their more straightforward intention/ability to communicate? If this doesn't make sense, let me know!

254.

Clem

May 23, 2008, 11:22 AM

Also Opie,

I'll try to find some specific examples of "quality" videos. Hopefully there's something on UBUweb that everyone could have the chance of seeing.

p.s. I almost feel like I have to apologize for starting off again on something that's not related to tunes. Honestly though, I felt a lot better when people were arguing about PE!

255.

opie

May 23, 2008, 11:59 AM

Clem, you have to understand that I do my best not to do a lot of prior thinking about what I am going to look at. I just look at it and decide whether I like it. I really have very little interest in categories.

If I start thinking that video is hopeless it is not because I care one way or the other about video it is because I see a couple hundred videos and they are all lame so I start thinking maybe there is something lame about videos. All it takes is a few non-lame videos to change my mind about any prejudice I might be building up.

OF COURSE video takes time and that is part of the medium itself. It would be idiotic to say anything different, and I didn't. I was just bitching because you can see a dozen bad paintings in the time it taked to see one bad video.

In terms of your "art & design" question, here was the answer I gave last time you asked it:

Clem it is mostly a terminological and use distinction rather than an inherent one. Advertising graphics can be art and vice versa. The nominal difference simply allows one to imagine or expect certain types of visual diffferences in discussion.

Does this look like "unfair separation" to you?

256.

opie

May 23, 2008, 12:36 PM

And to follow up, yes, I suppose regular movies may please me because of those characteristics, but I do not watch a movie thinking of characteristics, and I am not looking for "visuals". I am looking at a movie, which is its own kind of visual experience.

I have no problem with the idea of videos; there is no reason why a time-based series of images of any kind cannot be good art. I just have the feeling - I am quessing - that the practitioners, for whatever reason, are following certain conventions set back in the'60s which weigh against making good art.

257.

Chris Rywalt

May 23, 2008, 12:39 PM

I've said multiple times in multiple places that there's nothing inherently wrong with video as art -- there's no intrinsic reason why video can't be art as much as a painting or a sculpture. However, in my experience -- admittedly limited -- video just sucks. I think we should give up on it as art, not because it's impossible to make art out of video, but just because it's extremely unlikely. I mean, I suppose Picasso could've made a compelling and brilliant work of art out of dogshit. But he didn't (and probably didn't try) because dogshit's not a particularly good medium.

I think we tend to see a lot of video work, though, because, first of all, it's easy; and second, a lot of people in the art world have this knee-jerk reaction that video is new and therefore must be good; and if most people think it sucks, it's just because they're philistines. The old "they laughed at Cezanne" argument Darby writes about. But video isn't that new -- it's barely younger than Abstract Expressionism, really. And it's possible people think it sucks just because it sucks.

The time element makes it more tedious than bad painting or sculpture, too, as OP says. Occasionally I decide to sit through a video installation just because I feel bad always dismissing it immediately, but I'm always disappointed.

The most interesting use of video I've seen recently was a piece projected on a blank canvas. The video was of a painting being built up, then painted over by a new image, and so on, and then finally being painted over white, returning us to the blank canvas. It was sort of a moving painting, and kind of neat. I don't remember the artist's name, alas.

I've downloaded Matthew Barney's Cremaster series, which I expect will suck big hot hairy purple moose balls, but I haven't seen any of it yet. I'll let you know how it goes.

258.

Clem

May 23, 2008, 12:59 PM

I was saying that in reference to John's "they can't get away with that in commercial productions". My assumptions about your position were based on your reply.

I was trying to find Stan Douglas' "Win, Place or Show" which was at Dia a couple of years ago. Maybe these will do (and have the advantage of being relatively short & non-sequential).

http://www.ubu.com/film/douglas_television.html

259.

Clem

May 23, 2008, 1:05 PM

And one of my favorite conceptual moments in cinema:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nn1VO1HIPk&feature=related

260.

Franklin

May 23, 2008, 1:09 PM

I've walked out of movies, and I'll walk out on video art too.

One of the things working against video is that it's not a robust category. People pretty much agree on what painting is based on its long history. A lot of things presented as video could be otherwise presented as film or animation, and consequently I think there's confusion about what constitutes its great works. That leaves a lot of openness but it also gives you nothing to push against or react to. Usually what I detect in video is this lack of pressure or urgency - things could more or less land anywhere with the same results. I don't think it's an accident that two of the strongest video artists are Bill Viola and William Kentridge, the former who is often reacting to painting and the latter who clearly understands the animation tradition.

261.

opie

May 23, 2008, 1:57 PM

Clem: when John said that video artists couldn't get away with what they do if they were doing commercial productions he was just stating what seems to be an obvious fact.

Unfortunately I will have to wait until I can get back to my office computer to watch wht you sent me, but thanks.

262.

Chris Rywalt

May 23, 2008, 2:10 PM

Touch of Evil is a great film, and the opening shot really amazing. Robert Anton Wilson wrote an interesting essay on how Welles puts the viewer into relativistic space (instead of the objective space usually used by filmmakers). Some of the things he praises are from the studio's meddling -- he loves the Mancini music which Welles detested -- but he makes some good points. Welles' use of lenses with odd focal lengths is one.

The only real flaw in the film is Charlton Heston's attempt at playing a Mexican, but he does what he can.

263.

Chris Rywalt

May 23, 2008, 2:13 PM

Led Zeppelin downloaded: Oh, that's The Crunge. I know that song. I'm really bad with Led Zep titles, and I know more songs than I realize. Great song.

264.

roy

May 23, 2008, 6:07 PM

Can't wait to hear what you think of Mr. Barney's opus, Chris. I have to admit there are moments I enjoyed, but more as film, whatever that means. Purple moose, by the way, are hairless by the time of the rut.

265.

george

May 23, 2008, 7:46 PM

Clem [259]

My first studio was 3 blocks from that location in the Touch of Evil clip, though several years and a bunch of arches later.

266.

Clem

May 23, 2008, 9:14 PM

"film, whatever that means"

Yeah, I'm not very comfortable with setting categories either.

Opie,

Hold off on the Douglas... It was a bit of a second/hasty choice. I was just at our gallery in Edmonton today and there's a Nauman / Viola show that I'd somehow heard nothing about-- what the hell. If it wasn't apparent, "video" isn't really my area of interest either-- but I don't think I'm as annoyed by it as you might be.

267.

Clem

May 23, 2008, 9:25 PM

Chris,

I haven't read that essay, but will definitely need try to check it out. But casting Heston and Dietrich always tickled my (racially insensitive) fancy...

Someone told me the other day that Vincent D'Onofrio had self-produced a short where he plays Welles arguing with Green & Reed about the climax of The Third Man... Yikes!

George,

I live in a city that Clement Greenberg visited (a few too many times). That's all I've got : )

268.

opie

May 24, 2008, 7:05 AM

Well, Clem, I will look at it (later at my office), because it is fun to look at whtever anyone recommends, but I'll tell you what, I won't hold you responsible.

269.

Jack

May 24, 2008, 7:13 AM

"I was just at our gallery in Edmonton today and there's a Nauman/Viola show"? Do elaborate. Some of us, evidently with far too little to do on this Saturday morning, are somewhat curious as to what that's about. And I don't mean the show.

270.

ROY

May 24, 2008, 7:59 AM

I would very much like to hear Clementine's take on Viola and Nauman...

I found the Viola piece to be very disappointing...it's an early work...he's goofing with some effects...in this piece the technology looks dated and the piece is worse for it...besides that it's just a slow boring loop...nowhere near the best of his work i've seen and I found it very very boring.

Nauman...a piece called okokokok...two monitors stacked casually in room showing close-up of nauman's head with big nauman head projected on wall...all three images show his head spinning around (he is likely in an office chair spinning but we only see his head) while he repeats "ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok ok alright ok ok ok ok ....." and on it goes...the stacked monitors - bottom monitor 'head' is inverted...it is a bit funny but gets tired, not annoying, but tired, in about 15 secs...the salient thing i left with was that there was no way in hell that I could go back to that piece and get the original experience back (feeble as it was)...in other words these works are both fleeting and don't allow a viewer to come back the way other art does. This for me is part of their shallowness. I say shallow relative to the depth that can be had elsewhere.

Both of these artists have extremely overblown reputations and I'm sure many young Edmonton artists were very excited to see a Bill Viola and a Bruce Nauman...yawn.

271.

MC

May 24, 2008, 8:05 AM

From the Art Gallery of Alberta website:

"American artist Bill Viola has been creating videotapes, video installations, sound environments and works for broadcast since 1972, and is now internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading contemporary artists.... Bruce Nauman is also one of the most influential artists of our time.... Using only this short, percussive, single-syllable text, Nauman is able to create an overwhelming sensory experience that is at once absurd but deeply menacing."

Wow, yawning IS contagious...

272.

ROY

May 24, 2008, 8:05 AM

I did see MC there though, attempting rather awkward sketches from the spinning Nauman heads...likely these were studies leading to a series of busts based on the artists he reveres. LOL.

You probably didn't even go down there, did you MC? Smart bastard.

273.

MC

May 24, 2008, 8:11 AM

I try to go down there on the odd Free Thursday, Roy, but, what can you say? The shows they've got on now "create an overwhelming sensory experience that is at once absurd but deeply menacing."

274.

ROY

May 24, 2008, 8:22 AM

I guess I'd have to say i found this Nauman piece less compelling than a piece I saw called 'black balled' (sp?) where I was treated to a mammoth close up view of the artist smearing what looked like black shoe polish on his nards.

An aside...graffiti from a skate ramp in the old hood..."NARDS DANGLE"...very nauman-esque...

275.

opie

May 24, 2008, 9:49 AM

"yawning IS contagious..."

And so is dumb behavior, and irrationality, and follow the lead sheep, and ...

This should be written in stone.

276.

Clem

May 24, 2008, 9:56 AM

I didn't have a chance to see it yet. Just found it pretty odd that it happened to be there. Maybe not as odd as what you're talking about Roy, but certainly more interesting than say a this guy who was gonna use a clock in his work, but then it didn't look good, so he didn't, etc. etc.

Also,

"A work of art that contains theories is like an object on which the price tag has been left"

Far be it for me to question Pope's intention--he who questioned and adultered even Shakespeare's--but I wonder if he wasn't referring moreso to the discretion with which art references and employs ideas/theories. I agree that there is often something to be said for tact, just as their is for obviousness.

277.

Clem

May 24, 2008, 10:03 AM

I realize that I'm probably going to get challenged on the "obviousness" of a lot of conceptual work. I mean giving clear reference to influences, sources, intentions-- price-tags and ingredients having some relevance, even after dishes/dresses have been bought/experienced.

278.

Clem

May 24, 2008, 10:18 AM

By the way, articles like this must kind of grate on a number of you, huh?

http://intertheory.org/albu.htm

279.

opie

May 24, 2008, 10:22 AM

I'm doing a bit of catch-up here.

I have seen TOUCH OF EVIL several times and I like it a lot. It has its awkwardly theatrical and "over-mcguffined" parts, but it keeps you in the drama. The sequence you linked is beautifully done. Is that done the way Welles wanted it or is it the studio version or inbetween?

I don't mind the Douglas bits at all but then I am one of those people who likes other people's home movies. I could watch stupid stuff like this for hours. The only problem is requesting that they be seen as art when they are just raw slices of life. It is not only misleading but presses an obligation that, if followed, destroys their charm as video snapshots.

280.

opie

May 24, 2008, 10:38 AM

Clem #278: My problem with this kind of thing is that it is torture to read (and it is not the worst thing I have ever tried to read about Caro, although I quit a third of the way through so I don't really know). Someone has to take the author by the hand and say "I rewrote this, and here is what I think you are trying to say, in less than a thousand words"

Caro never completely abandoned figuration. He just sublimated it, made it less obvious. Everything he has ever made, at least after the 60s, is packed with somatic visual references. And it is certainly not hard for "formalist" critics to write about him. Greenberg and Fried did it, and here's a couple more:

http://wdbannard.org/?mode=by&id=20

http://wdbannard.org/?mode=by&id=59

281.

ROY

May 24, 2008, 10:46 AM

Clem #277 - It's just not that interesting. Maybe the process of running down in your head all the motives for the piece might be interesting for you, though. It forms the bulk of the experience of this kind of work. This is the only 'function' i can point to but qualitatively it's just so thin. It's so conventional. I don't feel art has a 'function' either by the way. I'm just using your term to locate the operation you find significant.

What about the absurdity you can find on TV or in the news or on the street, any day of the week? Somehow, in the ART-world we're supposed to care more about the how of it, or I'm supposed to engage it different, like "oooh, now that it's art I'm really finally thinking about this issue." It's intellectual arrogance. I would be willing to try if the work truly asked it of me. If it gave me new terms. Gave me a real road in. In my experience, the work very rarely achieves this.

The modernist art object, on the other hand, comes with it's own terms clear and present (not better, not worse) with which i can make something of the unity it tries to get across. Those terms are there, backed as they are by all the intricacies of context, but they are obvious visual terms that I am aware of first, and they are ample enough to get something from before I decide to try and slog through why the artist made this or that (in other words start the little meaning hunt)...yawn. Hocus-pocus.

I just don't see the gap that is supposedly there, separating this stuff off from life in a significant way. It just isn't singular enough for me. It's not special enough, though the establishment would have us all believe that art is always ever so special. I tend to sound pretty middlebrow around here but I know it when i see it.

Beyond all of this I strongly object to the rampant waste, greed, and unaccountability of the larger art world. This is the context that needs to be addressed. It's been said here many times.

282.

opie

May 24, 2008, 11:06 AM

Roy, that "gap" you mention is an all-important strategic tool of conceptual art. The simple fact that ordinary, hum-drum, deadpan, everyday things are magically transported into the rarified precincts of ART is in itself enough to bamboozle the viewer, to set the viewer thinking "wait a minute, I've obviously been missing something and this artist is seeing it..."

And when enough viewers are bamboozled, the herd rushes toward the cliff.

283.

Jack

May 24, 2008, 11:12 AM

"Using only this short, percussive, single-syllable text, Nauman is able to create an overwhelming sensory experience that is at once absurd but deeply menacing."

Oh. My. Gawd.

Somebody please reassure me that such ludicrous, risible drivel was NOT said or written by anyone even REMOTELY interested in being taken at all seriously.

Of course, in all fairness, what could POSSIBLY be as compelling as "a mammoth close up view of the artist smearing what looked like black shoe polish on his nards"? Can't match that, for sure (unless, of course, one's Matthew Barney).

And by the way, Clem, you're quite free to question Pope, whether it be Alexander or Benedict XVI. I've no doubt he'd question you, only with considerably greater wit. The quotation you allude to was brought up for its potential interest; it was not taken or offered as Holy Writ.

284.

Chris Rywalt

May 24, 2008, 7:49 PM

OP: Regarding Touch of Evil, the version of the opening shot on YouTube linked to above is as close to Welles' original vision as could be managed. As the preamble says, after the studio took the film away from him and mangled it, Welles wrote a 50-some-odd page memo detailing the changes that needed to be made to get it back to where he wanted it. The studio ignored him and released their version of the film -- Welles made very few studio films after this for a reason -- and that was the only version known for many years. Then a few years back, with all the DVDs and re-releases and director's cuts and whatnot, whoever owns the film now gave the go-ahead for the restoration. The new version follows Welles' memo as faithfully as possible given the archives of footage and so forth.

You can read about it in mind-numbing detail here.

285.

ahab

May 24, 2008, 8:56 PM

re: 278's "journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image" article on Caro and Manet.

I made it only as far as the third paragraph, the last sentence of which put me over the edge: "The play between the two déjeuners’ denotations and connotations is highly vivid in the context of their temporal and spatial distance from one another."

286.

opie

May 24, 2008, 9:22 PM

That's what I mean, Ahab. It's not so much that it is totally wrong or completely garbled or utter nonsense, it's just bad writing. It is a fact that virtually goes without saying, but it gets said anyway, and said badly. This is what gets shoved down the throats of our students.

287.

Clem

May 24, 2008, 10:11 PM

Opie,

Thanks for those specific references. I was quite interested and took note of a couple of phrases/comments which kept coming up:

"to make feeling spring readily from mere physical fact"

"evoking rather than picturing"

"The life itself remains as unfathomable as it is evident"

"Evaluating (not perceiving or describing) these evocations is very difficult. Certainly they are one with his style"

It read to me as though Bannard is trying to make a clear distinction between "trumpeted meaning" and what he sees as Caro's ability to "evoke". In both articles he talks about the "relationships" that a viewer can experience, and I'd be interested on how/if this would be distinguished from other content. Does it come back to the questions of discretion, subtlety, appropriateness? That last quote really seems to drive home the idea that what is evoked is closely associated or inseparable with the visual means of doing so.

Is this a fair take on his arguments? How would you clarify what he means by "evoking"? And can you (or anyone) point to anything that Greenberg wrote in any detail about figural work?

288.

John

May 25, 2008, 12:57 AM

Clem (#278): No, that article does not "grate" on me. I can see why that particular journal published it, too. Its virtue is that it shows how a postmodern take can be successfully attached to a blatantly modernist sculptor. While that doesn't surprise me, it might some. (The critical reactions to Duchamp's urinal show the ease with which critical theory can be wrapped around any object.)

289.

MC

May 25, 2008, 6:58 AM

"Somebody please reassure me that such ludicrous, risible drivel was NOT said or written by anyone even REMOTELY interested in being taken at all seriously."

Sorry Jack, that's just about par for the course over here at the AGA, although, surprisingly, these folks do indeed take themselves very seriously. The curators at the gallery are bad enough, but then they occasionally outdo themselves by inviting "guest curators" to put together shows, with similarly comic results.

That kind of comic foolishness is all too tragic when you consider that Terry Fenton and Karen Wilkin, bot highly intelligent thinkers and writers on art, used to run the place, and now, well, as you can see, it's turned into perpetual amateur hour...

Hey Clem, have you ever curated a show for the AGA?

290.

MC

May 25, 2008, 7:00 AM

Ahab and I have been pretty savagely critical of the AGA and its asinine curation on our blog... when recently, "Clem" here popped up, as something of a "White Knight" to defend them(selves)...

291.

Jack

May 25, 2008, 8:08 AM

Well, Marc, I certainly hope you only set foot in such a place when it's free. That's my general policy here in Miami. It's bad enough to be offended or disappointed in a venue explicitly supposed to provide the opposite sort of experience, but paying for it is undignified, not to say demeaning (it could also qualify as masochistic, but true masochists enjoy pain).

You should hear me cackle maniacally when I get the occasional letter from such an outfit asking me to spring for an annual membership. It'd make the witch in the Wizard of Oz run for cover. That's why this past winter, when the Art Basel circus came through town, I skipped anything that charged admission, including the main venue. The satisfaction that gave me was probably greater than that I would have gotten from seeing most of the stuff I thus missed.

292.

Jack

May 25, 2008, 8:15 AM

Yes, John (288), critical theory is much like old newspapers.

293.

opie

May 25, 2008, 8:49 AM

Clem, #287 the problem was what to make of something new in Caro's sculpture, something which pervaded it but was not really comprehended by previous writing on Caro.

Instead of picturing or directly alluding to physical nature (what we used to call "organic forms" in 1950s sculpture) or figuration, Caro evoked it by forcing metal to make us feel it. If a piece of metal is lying down we are led not only to see that it is lying down but to feel what lying down is like. In this way non-figurative forms often exhuded the feeling of figurative states of being. The originality lay not only in these evoctions but in the utterly new way Caro sublimated figuration into abstract form.

This is less content, strictly speaking, than a specifiable consequence of content. The "difficulty of evaluating" was in its newness, in the fact that it was so plain dazzling, ("the power to move us arises just so, just as we wonder at trompe I'oeil"). Sometimes a really good artist will do things which are so fundamentally new and different and effective that we are distracted from simple esthetic evaluation, for the moment, anyway.

I'm not sure that answers your question, but there it is

As for Greenberg, you would have to look through the published work. I can't recall anything offhand that deals exclusively with figuration.

294.

MC

May 25, 2008, 9:00 AM

I don't own a copy of it, but didn't Greenberg write a book on Matisse?

295.

opie

May 25, 2008, 9:48 AM

MC - I believe so, it was one of those small, popular-series type books. He did a similar one on Hofmann and a larger one on Miro.

For whatever reason, he once said to me "I am never going to write a book on one artist again".

296.

Clem

May 25, 2008, 11:56 AM

Opie,

I guess that my qualm is with making a clear distinction between feeling & meaning. As MC once sputtered, "Feeling IS meaning, you dimwits...". I recognize that the type of content that Bannard is referencing is very specific (would you say it is primarily "bodily")? And I'm not sure if you are arguing against this, but can't feelings be evoked by political & cultural content also? Is it maybe a matter of finding examples where the visual form and specific content are interrelated/complimentary enough?

I guess another question is whether someone like Bannard found these "evocations" to be a significant development/improvement compared to his more purely abstract work? In a number of the interviews that I've read, I seem to recall Caro speaking of wanting to move past modernism/abstraction-- and perhaps relatedly paying closer attention to representative work. What's your take on this?

297.

opie

May 25, 2008, 12:40 PM

Feeling and meaning are obviously two different things. That is not a matter for discussion. We are not trying to revise the English language here. If you can't differentiate beween feeling and meaning we have a problem.

MC was undoubtedly "sputtering" because he was irritated at the weight given to "meaning" in a medium where feeling is everything. Feeling is to art as meaning is to writing, roughly speaking. As ihas often been said here, meaning, in itself, is not qualitative.

Whether or not the reference is to "content" is iffy; I guess you could call it content. It does "come out" of the work, after all. "Bodily" is OK; I think "somatic" is better. Neither word does the job perfectly.

Feelings can be evoked by a zillion things, of course. The special thing with Caro is the evocation of those particluar "somatic" feelings by (mostly) abstract means, and that he does it in such a startling way.

"significant development" for sure, although this quality extends pretty well back into the very abstract work of the 60s also. "Improvement"? I suppose so. that's part of the difficulty of analyzing one's own process of evaluating. Frankly, too much of it gives me a headache.

Caro has done representative work in the recent past. I don't think it was as successful as his earlier work, and he recently had a show in NY which was mostly abstract and very good.

298.

John

May 25, 2008, 1:32 PM

Opie (#297): "Feeling is to art as meaning is to writing, roughly speaking."

Excellent. Besides ringing true in itself, this also explains why abstract art can work, but abstract poetry doesn't.

299.

opie

May 25, 2008, 1:45 PM

I was a bit tentative about it, but thanks. One can derive esthetic feeling from writing, of course, and one can recognize images in painting, of course, so it isn't that exacting, but it gets across the difference between feeling and meaning.

The problem being that "meaning" doesn't mean "meaning" in critical writing any more. It means "good". Value-laden terminology is a pain in the neck.

300.

Clem

May 25, 2008, 3:25 PM

I'll have to get back to your responses in a bit.

I'm pretty interested with this paragraph of the second review-- and particularly the sentence I've marked out:

"I've been making a lot of the figuration I see running through this work. You can see it or not, however you want to, any way you please. Caro sees a rose bloom where I see the old gray mare. It doesn't matter. These things are not visual facts, they are symptoms of life. There are no abstract figures here, no ingratiating concessions to "meaning" and "content." The sculpture is just too rich not to be suggestive and too strong to be bothered. Their utter self containment implicitly demands sensual apprehension, discouraging analysis and sanctioning analogy, and we are reduced, not without a certain sense of relief, to observing and noting. We engage them enthusiastically and we are grateful for the pleasures they afford"

301.

John

May 25, 2008, 3:43 PM

I suppose another way of looking at this is that meaning is necessary for writing, optional for art. In neither case is meaning enough to guarantee feeling.

In both cases, viewers/readers over focus on meaning, as if it is identical with feeling, or even that it trumps feeling, if they recognize feeling at all.

In the case of writing, feeling arises from the physical sound of the words combined with their meaning and whatever the mystery ingredient always is in beautiful things. I once caused quite a stir in a correspondence group when someone asked "What happens when you translate poetry?" and I responded "The poetry is lost." It was clear that a lot of people believe that meaning is all that counts. The way words sound, to them, is just a transport mechanism for meaning.

I pointed out the difference between the opening of the Canterbury Tales in Middle English and in its modern translations, since, with a little work, you don't really need to be fluent in Middle English to hear the difference, but to no avail. Most everyone said as long as you get the meaning, you get what poetry is all about. That fails, of course, to differentiate between poetry and essays in general, and why a few essays are somewhat poetic. One person who seemed very offended that meaning was not all and who knew I taught college marginalized me as an "academic" who did not really care about poetry.

Meaning is the opium of the masses.

302.

John

May 25, 2008, 4:07 PM

To go a little further and associate this with some of the issues George raises about culture and its demands ...

After WWII and the GI Bill that opened higher education to the surviving soldiers, the audience for all the arts underwent a geometric expansion. "Enlightenment" spread like wildfire, but "cultivation" did not. It is much easier to teach enlightenment than cultivation, if cultivation can be taught at all. Enlightenment and meaning, though, go together like ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Once the baby boomers went through higher ed, they had families and sent their kids through it too, and so the enlightened audience expanded some more and culture became a much larger business than ever before. It was a case of the utopians getting what they asked for. Everybody could be an avant-gardist. The need for meaning began to drive the enlarged culture machine when Rosenberg's "action painting" moniker caught on over the more accurate AbEx. By the end of the 60s meaning was king of the enlarged hill. The new art mob was tickled pink and all the benefits of a mass market (compared to the 30s and 40s) began to flow to all the participants. Contemporary art had become just another rather simple math problem with its solution implicit in the problem itself, waiting for someone to explain.

It does not do a lot of good to rail against this. Bannard's essays cited above, for instance, helped expand the reader's capacity to experience Caro. The essay cited by Clem helps the reader wrap a theory around Caro. To many in the expanded audience for art, there is no difference between the two approaches. Both are "explanations".

Somehow we need to deal with this. Otherwise the world of art will continue to spread out horizontally and give up much of its depth.

303.

MC

May 25, 2008, 4:10 PM

..."feeling is everything".

Which, of course, is precisely what I meant when I wrote "feeling IS meaning", as in, feeling is what is meant to be conveyed, feeling is the significant quality. Put another way, "feeling is all".

Hope that's clear now...

304.

Jack

May 25, 2008, 4:12 PM

An analogous situation occurs with opera sung in translation. It is never the same, which cannot be disputed, and in my opinion it is practically never as good. Knowing what the words mean is certainly desirable, as it adds to and enhances the experience, but it is not crucial or necessary for significant enjoyment, including very significant emotional enjoyment or feeling. Knowing the gist of the story, or even having a sense of what is going on, can be quite enough, even if it is not ideal.

I am reminded of hearing Cecilia Bartoli sing an obscure Baroque aria from a Vivaldi opera that had probably been off the stage for two centuries. I had never heard it before, but the title referred to a woman whose husband had been unfaithful. In other words, it was the lament of a woman betrayed. It was very beautiful and deeply moving. The music and the singing supplied all I needed. I didn't need to know the text.

305.

John

May 25, 2008, 4:13 PM

Since it won't be obvious to many, "cultivation" is the capacity to feel art, as opposed to "enlightenment" which is the capacity to explain it.

306.

opie

May 25, 2008, 5:29 PM

Very good John. You might have to change that to "opium of the culturati"

It always sets me back to once again come face to face with the blunt fact that most people - and by now most people in the art busness - do not understand art at the most basic level. Explaining what you meant was probably a wise afterthought!

You could write a book from just what you write. But then, it probably wouldn't make a bit of difference...

307.

John

May 25, 2008, 5:54 PM

Thanks opie. One of the difficulties in all this comes up when someone swears that art's explanations are what they "feel" and love so much. There is no way to refute them. They love what they love, the art world expands that much more, and gives up some more of its depth. Right now it seems like it is a mile wide and an inch deep. Yet it has acquired more wealth than at any time in the history of the world.

308.

ahab

May 25, 2008, 6:13 PM

Feeling and meaning do easily tangle up - we feel something, then pay attention to the feeling; then we try to describe it, then understand it (not always in such an ordered fashion). And that's before considering the artwork that provided emotional impetus.

309.

Jack

May 25, 2008, 6:21 PM

OP, try "opium of the dilettanti" or, better still, "opium of the would-be illuminati." .

310.

ahab

May 25, 2008, 6:40 PM

We humans are so complex as to care about the feelings themselves.

311.

John

May 25, 2008, 7:33 PM

Jack and opie: I'm not so judgmental about "the masses" myself. They are, after all, the majority.

"Feeling art" is not the same thing as day-to-day feeling life as lived. Many in "the masses" think they are the same. But when I have had a chance to be with these regular ole art lovers in the presence of very good art, some of them seem like they are feeling the art, even if they don't distinguish that from their feelings in life as lived. That's why I don't think the case for really good art is lost, yet.

312.

Clem

May 25, 2008, 8:51 PM

Again, I think a big part of our disagreement stems from a different conception what it is to use and experience language.

When Bannard writes about how Caro's work constructs an alphabet based on visual/sculptural gestures the differences between this and verbal communication are apparent to me. But I'm not willing to disregard their similarities either.

I'm open to being challenged on this, but I think it's pretty apparent that art shares something with its audience. I don't want to blur the fine distinctions to be made about "evoking a feeling" or more directly referencing an idea or thought, but I think the communicative aspect of art is pretty generalizable. If it hasn't been apparent, it's the quality of this communication (more than even the merits of the particular message itself) that I think forms the most appropriate subject for our judgments.

Now regarding the difference between what is communicated/imparted, as I said there is a lot of difference in how you might share the sensations of falling, from the sensation of walking down the street of a city, or of the sensation of being an oppressed body (I know you guys are rolling your eyes at that last one!). But my guess is that it's not so much the subject, as the particular means of communication that get underneath your skin. Textual explicitness and wordiness in (or around) visual art certainly don't seem to be your cups of tea. Now correct me if I'm mischaracterizing your position(s), but it seems like you want art to remain firmly in the realm of the visual, and our experiencing of art as something "felt" that doesn't require endless explanations or justifications. But don't you think it's possible to "evoke" more complicated ideas/feelings in less heavy-handed, more concretely visual ways?

(As someone like Beneviste took pains to make clear, meaning is something that is enunciated, something that is not simply abstract, but bodily. In this sense, I'm not so comfortable separating/demarking feelings from ideas, etc., as I strongly believe that language is something that we often feel. This may not be that clear, and I didn't want to get too sidetracked, but it's the best I've got for tonight...)

313.

opie

May 25, 2008, 8:56 PM

I remember years ago sitting next to two old ladies at a performance of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar", listening to them overreact, reaching a crescendo of sobs and repeatings of "et tu, Brute..." at the climactic moment. It was annoying everyone around them, but who could tell them that they were not "feeling", but just going through a little demonstration of their sensitivity to Great Art?

What we call "feeling" admits of much variety, and if we go after "real" feeling we will be lost in a verbal maze. It is not something that can be pinned down, or even located. But there is that "get it" factor, that recognition of the good stuff, which is freely available to everyone but at the same time intensely personal. It generates more or less of a certain kind of pleasurable reaction, depending on circumstances, and tells us that there is something out there which is all right.

314.

george

May 25, 2008, 9:15 PM

I get it. Get the feeling.

This is right, but it's only 'one' step on a journey.

That feeling in your gut is elusively attached to your experiences of a painting. Getting it is the first step but not the only step and this is I think where we disagree.

All the rest of our experiences with an art object count just as much towards our total comprehension.

Every conductor knows what to play to pull your heart strings, there is more to it than that.

315.

opie

May 25, 2008, 9:20 PM

Really, Clem, I think you are just trying to pull our collective leg.

"...when Bannard writes about how Caro's work constructs an alphabet based on visual/sculptural gestures"

Constructs an alphabet? Based on gestures? Huh?

"Art shares something with its audience"

Wait,,,hold on, that one really sent me reeling...

"the communicative aspect of art is pretty generalizable"

So, generalize it.

"Now correct me if I'm mischaracterizing your position(s), but it seems like you want art to remain firmly in the realm of the visual, and our experiencing of art as something "felt" that doesn't require endless explanations or justifications."

I won't correct you, Clem. I will commend you on your inspired comprehension of something we have been saying repeatedly for the last week or more.

316.

george

May 25, 2008, 9:23 PM

when does pink stop being pink and become red?

317.

opie

May 25, 2008, 9:27 PM

I knew someone would throw in a misunderstanding of the word "feeling" sooner or later. That's why I said what I said above. To no avail, obviously.

We are not talking about heartstring-pulling, George, and you know it.

OK... what constitutes "total comprehension", and how does that relate to our judgment of how good the work is?

318.

george

May 25, 2008, 9:29 PM

I am

Nightwish Phantom

319.

John

May 25, 2008, 9:39 PM

Thanks George. They had something going at the beginning - pretty and strong at the same time - until they squashed it with all that "muscularity" that rock groups often indulge in. Once nice thing about music, you don't have to like the whole thing to get a kick out of its parts.

320.

ahab

May 25, 2008, 9:57 PM

...it seems like you want art to remain firmly in the realm of the visual, and our experiencing of art as something "felt" that doesn't require endless explanations or justifications.

I won't correct you, Clem. I will commend you on your inspired comprehension of something we have been saying repeatedly for the last week or more.


I can appreciate your commendation of Clementine's babysteps, opie, but I don't think she's quite got it. She's strayed into is/ought territory again. Though it's true that it doesn't require explication, our experience of (so-called visual) art IS in the realm of the visual, regardless of whether we want it to be.

321.

Clem

May 25, 2008, 10:05 PM

"His elaborations of feeling, and their specificity, seem to run against the current of high art, but perhaps I think like a painter and perhaps the modernist refinement of means, which Greenberg has described so aptly, is more generative for sculpture than for painting. It has given sculpture an alphabet, building blocks which enhance and simplify the creation of relationships"

322.

george

May 25, 2008, 10:06 PM

For whatever reason Tarja Turunen left the band last year. The devil-angel thing worked and though she's good, she isn't as good as she thinks she is.

Check this out the Hungarian Janice Joplin, honest, give her a chance.

323.

Clem

May 25, 2008, 10:08 PM

I guess now I just have to await your eqully "inspired comprehension" of visual language, concepts, and ideas...

324.

Franklin

May 25, 2008, 10:38 PM

I believe there are not hard divisions between thinking and feeling. In fact, this is the whole reason for having distinct creative forms - literature to entertain one aspect of the human organism, art for another, and so on - and this is what makes it worthwhile to think about what these forms do well and do inherently. Boundary-crossing is great if you get a new form out of it, like comics, but I think it has to be that viable and rich to justify itself otherwise.

325.

ahab

May 25, 2008, 10:46 PM

This goes back up a few comments.

Confusion about the communicative nature of art is mostly tied up in the predicate. Visual art does not communicate visually - art does not communicate. However, when art is looked at, something *is* communicated. I am okay with the paradox: nothing is delivered yet something is received.

326.

george

May 25, 2008, 10:51 PM

a painting is just like a billboard

or an ad in a magazine

327.

Eric

May 25, 2008, 10:51 PM

Bonham rules!

328.

george

May 25, 2008, 10:54 PM

hey eric,
clue me in, I never read Bonham, what are his rules?

329.

ahab

May 26, 2008, 7:19 AM

And, george, a billboard doesn't deliver meaning either. A meaning *is* conveyed, but the billboard doesn't do it. And the installers of the billboard don't do it. And the designer of the billboard doesn't do it. And the corporate client doesn't do it.

It doesn't even matter what the billboard has stamped on its surface, the client is not buying a message delivery system but public presence and individuized awareness. The person who sees the billboard has been bought and sold in their passing glance.

330.

ROY

May 26, 2008, 7:22 AM

George, I believe the rulez have been duly collected in 'Bonzo's Montreux'.

'One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.'

Bob Marley

331.

opie

May 26, 2008, 7:29 AM

Franklin, mental states are very fluid, as anyone knows. but we have those two words because we have two different things that need describing. This is why we have language. The fact that there are not "hard boundries" does not mean they are not distinct. Saying to the people who read this blog that "boundries are fluid" plays into their lack of understand of the difference between language and life and encourages the soggy relativism that pervades their comments.

Clem, the "alphabet" or "building blocks" mentioned in the quote, refers not to gesture but to the apparent "units" of somatic states that Caro evokes. Perhaps this should have been made more clear.

I guess now I just have to await your eqully "inspired comprehension" of visual language, concepts, and ideas...

Once again, I don't know what you mean here.

332.

george

May 26, 2008, 7:32 AM

Meaning resides in the viewer, it is a construct in the viewer's mind, an associative process occurring in their awareness.

A painter, or a billboard designer, arranges information in some particular way which may enhance the visual stimulus of the object sufficiently above the background level to grab the viewers attention.

In the general case, there is no guarantee that the meaning elicited by an object will be the same for different individuals or at different times. Since it is an associative process it is shaped and modified by both the experience of the viewer and external stimulus from the environment. It is constantly in flux.

333.

george

May 26, 2008, 7:34 AM

roy, I wuz kiddin 'bout the rulez.

334.

ahab

May 26, 2008, 7:39 AM

arranges information

Here we go, down the rabbit hole.

335.

george

May 26, 2008, 7:41 AM

soggy relativism?

336.

Eithiriel

May 26, 2008, 7:43 AM

"The power of consumption has been usefully theorised by the Marxist sociologist Georg Simmel. In The Philosophy of Money, he looks at how buying an object is an act of individual subjectivity, the person stamping himself on a thing and claiming his right to its exclusive enjoyment. Simmel cited the example of a friend he knew who would buy beautiful things, not to use them, but to ‘give an active expression to his liking of the things, to let them pass through his hands and, in so doing, to set the stamp of his personality upon them’."

"Shopping remains a way in which our choices have a tangible effect, in which we can make something in our lives new and different. It also becomes the primary way in which people can enjoy the creativity and efforts of others, even if this is done unconsciously, without knowing who made something or how."

- Josie Appleton

337.

george

May 26, 2008, 7:46 AM

[334] ahab,

what don't you understand about arranges information?

is it 'arranges?' or is it 'information?'

If you weld two pieces of metal together, you are arranging information.

338.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 8:04 AM

Not to be too cute George, but I think you should qualify "information" as ""units" of somatic states" just to be safe...

339.

george

May 26, 2008, 8:10 AM

'Arranging information' is the simplest way any ordering process can be described. It is the opposite of entropic. I guess I could have said 'ordering information.' whatever.

If one makes a painting, with paints and brushes, when the painting is done it is ordered information. When you clean the brushes, the gray gunk in the bottom of the coffee can is less ordered, entropic.

340.

opie

May 26, 2008, 8:17 AM

George, it is beside the point that "meaning" can't be "guaranteed". The advertiser expedcts to get a point across, and is satisfied with percentages.

Why wind up such a simple process in such a tangle of verbiage?

341.

Eric

May 26, 2008, 8:21 AM

Are far as I can tell the jury is still out with regards to human perceptions, emotions, memory, speech and language developmnent, visual apparatus, etc. So we can go back and forth about these things forever or until brain science has finally caught up with these issues. Aesthetics are a personal and collective phenomena. People judge things based on their individiual criteria but often people judge things based on prior judgments made by other people. If Postmodernists want to relegate visual phenomena to a secondary position along with all the other things the mind can bring to the experience of viewing visual art than they should go right ahead. However, it is false to say that people who want visual phenomena to be the most or the only thing that is important when it comes to making and/or looking at visual art are somehow retardaire or fascist conservatives, or in denial about how the mind really works. There is no irrefutable evidence currently available that will bring victory to either side of the debate.

342.

george

May 26, 2008, 8:22 AM

Why wind up such a simple process in such a tangle of verbiage?

gee, after 340 go nowhere comments we are trimming the verbiage?

343.

opie

May 26, 2008, 8:23 AM

Also, you are not "ordering information". You are rearranging things, from which information may be derived.

This is not a trivial point because it keeps language and reality separate, which many of those commenting here have a very hard time doing..

344.

opie

May 26, 2008, 8:28 AM

Yes, George. A little editing would do wonders around here.

345.

george

May 26, 2008, 8:30 AM

Postmodernists want what?

Why does anyone care? It's old news. Turn the page, what's happening today?

346.

george

May 26, 2008, 8:35 AM

[343] Also, you are not "ordering information". You are rearranging things, from which information may be derived.

This is false. Everything is information, things are information. Break it down to atoms, you'll see I'm right.

Form is nothing more than information. If we can analyze form, we can analyze...?

347.

george

May 26, 2008, 8:42 AM

Young artists today were born after the graffiti movement, postmodernism, modernism, cubism, surrealism, they are all chapters in their book of 20th Century Art. They are there to slice and dice, to use as they see fit, in any combination or mix. The postmodernists are getting to retirement age, the modernists are dying and everyone else is dead, it's time for a change.

348.

MC

May 26, 2008, 8:43 AM

Re #320:
Damnit, Ahab, you beat me to it!

Bannard writes: "... the modernist refinement of means... has given sculpture an alphabet, building blocks which enhance and simplify the creation of relationships"

Yet, it gets misunderstood as:

"...when Bannard writes about how Caro's work constructs an alphabet based on visual/sculptural gestures"".

This is just another example of the widespread functional illiteracy in our society.

What started out as just an ass on my blog, has turned into a morass on this one... sorry folks.

349.

opie

May 26, 2008, 8:46 AM

George, you are wrong. Things are not information, they are sources of information. Information is a conceptual invention of the human mind.

This is what I mean by keeping language and reality separate.. The resistance to that simple and obvious perception is massive. It is a primary basis for misunderstanding, and probably the root cause of 95% of the wasted words on this very blog.

Get it George: LANGUAGE is NOT REALITY.

350.

MC

May 26, 2008, 8:46 AM

"The postmodernists are getting to retirement age, the modernists are dying and everyone else is dead, it's time for a change."

What can I say, George, when you're right, you're right.

The time for New Modernism is at hand! Huzzah!

351.

george

May 26, 2008, 9:03 AM

Measuring information entropy

The view of information as a message came into prominence with the publication in 1948 of an influential paper by Claude Shannon, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication." This paper provides the foundations of information theory and endows the word information not only with a technical meaning but also a measure. If the sending device is equally likely to send any one of a set of N messages, then the preferred measure of "the information produced when one message is chosen from the set" is the base two logarithm of N (This measure is called self-information). In this paper, Shannon continues:

The choice of a logarithmic base corresponds to the choice of a unit for measuring information. If the base 2 is used the resulting units may be called binary digits, or more briefly bits, a word suggested by J. W. Tukey. A device with two stable positions, such as a relay or a flip-flop circuit, can store one bit of information. N such devices can store N bits…[1]

A complementary way of measuring information is provided by algorithmic information theory. In brief, this measures the information content of a list of symbols based on how predictable they are, or more specifically how easy it is to compute the list through a program: the information content of a sequence is the number of bits of the shortest program that computes it. The sequence below would have a very low algorithmic information measurement since it is a very predictable pattern, and as the pattern continues the measurement would not change. Shannon information would give the same information measurement for each symbol, since they are statistically random, and each new symbol would increase the measurement.
123456789101112131415161718192021

It is important to recognize the limitations of traditional information theory and algorithmic information theory from the perspective of human meaning. For example, when referring to the meaning content of a message Shannon noted “Frequently the messages have meaning… these semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem. The significant aspect is that the actual message is one selected from a set of possible messages” (emphasis in original).

In information theory signals are part of a process, not a substance; they do something, they do not contain any specific meaning. Combining algorithmic information theory and information theory we can conclude that the most random signal contains the most information as it can be interpreted in any way and cannot be compressed.[citation needed]

Michael Reddy noted that "'signals' of the mathematical theory are 'patterns that can be exchanged'. There is no message contained in the signal, the signals convey the ability to select from a set of possible messages." In information theory "the system must be designed to operate for each possible selection, not just the one which will actually be chosen since this is unknown at the time of design".

etc etc, you are wrong

352.

opie

May 26, 2008, 9:12 AM

George, you cannot disprove something by smothering it under a mass of irrelevant words.

Reality is what is out there. Information is in our heads.. Information is derived from reality. Information and reality are different.

If you cannot internalize this very basic distinction your ability to discuss anything coherently is severely compromised.

353.

george

May 26, 2008, 9:14 AM

[349] A less challenging way of looking at it.

Any activity on the part of an artist increases the order within the aggregation of materials that constitute part of an artwork. This increase in order is anti-entropic and constitutes what can be called information.

Entropic processes, such as rusting reduce the ordered state of an object, therefore decrease the amount of information it possesses.

A paint mark is a paint mark, it has a certain degree of order, therefore it contains information.

If the paint mark is fashioned into a letter, it not only has the information inherent in a paint mark but also contains information of the letter.

If we fashion several marks together as letters, they can become a word. The word contains a higher degree of order and information and it can also be broken down into smaller units, each containing less order than the assembled whole, hence less information.

Information in this context has nothing to do with the "information" say provided by writing this comment.

354.

opie

May 26, 2008, 9:22 AM

#351 was not "challenging", George, it was beside the point.

Saying it was "challenging", with all due respect, is also just a wee bit pompous, wouldn't you say?

Slice it any way you want. What I said stands.

355.

george

May 26, 2008, 9:46 AM

What I wrote in comment 353 states the process correctly as it is viewed by others who are a lot smarter than me.

You act like you are always the smartest person in the room, well you are not. It isn't a put down, there is always someone smarter than us, but in this case it makes for a boring conversation because you are posturing.

If you took the time to reconsider what "information" means in the broader context, not just "language" as you wish to distort it, you would see that the concept could provide an effective way of thinking about art on all levels including the visual

Commentors like Clem and Eric try to offer up a slightly different viewpoint and are bashed down because it doesn't conform to the party line. Well, the party line, fifty years old at least, is dead and festering in detritus of the past. This is a really encouraging way to start off a new intellectual position, it's stillborn, no one who matters cares.

356.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 9:48 AM

"LANGUAGE is NOT REALITY"

So are "Feelings" any more equivalent to "Reality" or will you concede that they're equally reactions to / reflections of it? If you want to say that feelings are corporeal, then you still need to make an argument against why our experiences with language aren't.

Ahab, MC, I've just figured out that neither of you know what an is/ought line of argument is in the first place. Look into it.

Opie,

I'm still interested in how you would distinguish what Bannard sees as an "alphabet" and you are terming "units of somatic states" from a broader conception of language. Sounds like hedging to me.

357.

MC

May 26, 2008, 9:57 AM

You've figured nothing of the sort out yet, Clem, but do carry on...

358.

ROY

May 26, 2008, 9:57 AM

Going back a bit...

Does salt taste like information? Or do I call the taste of salt after I've tasted it, information? Seems like two things to me. One involves language, one doesn't.........

359.

MC

May 26, 2008, 9:58 AM

"Line of argument"... ooh, that's good... lol.

360.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 10:04 AM

Honestly, this is by now beside the actual point of what we're talking about, but here goes anyways.

We're disagreeing over what IS involved with visual perception.

Is/Ought arguments are critical of the latter basing themselves on the former.

This is what I mean about your constant misuse of terms.

361.

opie

May 26, 2008, 10:08 AM

Getting nasty doesn't help, George. This is a real pattern, isn't it? Are we about to invoke "the other N word"?

Clem as soon as I worte "language is not reality" I realized that some one would immediately say something to the effect that language is in fact real. OK, ok, ok. Yes Language is real. Feelings are real. Everything is part of reality, but language and reality are not the same thing. Will that do?

I never said an experience with language is not "corporeal", that is, any experience takes place in our minds, language, feelings whatever.

Jesus, it drives me nuts belaboring the obvious!

I'm still interested in how you would distinguish what Bannard sees as an "alphabet" and you are terming "units of somatic states" from a broader conception of language. Sounds like hedging to me.

How does one answer such a question, Clem? You are asking for a comparison between perceived characteristics of works of art and a "broader conception of language". There is no comparison there. It is not apples and oranges it is...well, imagination fails me.

362.

opie

May 26, 2008, 10:11 AM

Cite my misuse of terms, Clem, or this discussion stops right here.

363.

Jack

May 26, 2008, 10:12 AM

Re #348, morass indeed.

Morasses, actually, but who's counting.

Yeah, it's time for a change, all right.

364.

opie

May 26, 2008, 10:13 AM

Roy #358. Thanks! Good example.

365.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 10:25 AM

Opie, I thought it was apparent enough, but it wasn't you that I've criticized for this on a number of occasions.

I still don't think you've really answered my questions (which were meant to distinguish feeling from language).

1. Are "Feelings" any more equivalent to "Reality" than language

2. What does Caro's "alphabet" (as perceived by Bannard) do, if not carry/transmit information?

Roy,

"There are two cranial nerves that innervate the tongue and are used for taste: the facial nerve (cranial nerve VII) and the glossopharyngeal nerve (cranial nerve IX). The facial nerve innervates the anterior (front) two-thirds of the tongue and the glossopharyngeal nerve innervates that posterior (back) one-third part of the tongue. Another cranial nerve (the vagus nerve, X) carries taste information from the back part of the mouth. The cranial nerves carry taste information into the brain to a part of the brain stem called the nucleus of the solitary tract. From the nucleus of the solitary tract, taste information goes to the thalamus and then to the cerebral cortex. Like information for smell, taste information also goes to the limbic system (hypothalamus and amygdala). Another cranial nerve (the trigeminal nerve, V) also innervates the tongue, but is not used for taste. Rather, the trigeminal nerve carries information related to touch, pressure, temperature and pain."

I kind of love that this was from a "Neuroscience for Kids" page...

366.

ahab

May 26, 2008, 10:31 AM

#343 uncovered the rabbit hole I was pointing at. And Roy's onto it, too. The artist chooses material to arrange, the viewer feels what he will. It only becomes information when we name the material or the feeling.

Clem, all you're doing is saying, "you don't get it." But you're not telling us what it is that we don't get.

I do get that we have (constantly and over again) said something along the lines of, "art is felt with the eyes"; while you keep ascribing to us, "art ought to be felt with eyes." You are the one imagining an 'ought' where there an 'is' exists. It's not our line of argument, it's your fallacy.

367.

opie

May 26, 2008, 10:36 AM

Once again, and no more:

1. Feelings and language are different. They are both real. Equivalence has nothing to do with it.

2. What Caro (or any artist, or writer, or whatever) does is create a circumstance with things (reality) that has a certain type of effect on us.

"obvious" won't do it. Sorry. I've got other things to do.

368.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 10:56 AM

"I do get that we have (constantly and over again) said something along the lines of, "art is felt with the eyes"; while you keep ascribing to us, "art ought to be felt with eyes." You are the one imagining an 'ought' where there an 'is' exists. It's not our line of argument, it's your fallacy"

Is/Ought is not about "imagining" one in the place of the other, it's about basing one on the other... That's your confusion. Is that clear?

369.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 11:04 AM

Well, if you've got other things to do then by all means.

"What Caro (or any artist, or writer, or whatever) does is create a circumstance with things (reality) that has a certain type of effect on us"

But dithering with language like "creat[ing] circumstances with things (reality) that has a certain type of effect on us" doesn't seem get away how art signifies something-- AKA is communicative...

Now if you want to argue about how difficult it is to translate that kind of language into verbal/textual form, then I think that's a pretty valid point that was raised earlier. But it doesn't make it any less of a form of communication.

370.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 11:06 AM

And I am in no way being ironic when I say that I need to practice more self-criticism and do a better job at editing and toning down my verbiage!

371.

george

May 26, 2008, 11:26 AM

[366] It only becomes information when we name the material or the feeling.

I don't think so. The information is a result of ordering and therefore is there whether it is perceived by the viewer or not.

Meaning and information are not equivalent. Information can evoke meaning for the viewer but this is not necessarily guaranteed. Further, the meaning depends on the viewer. For example the word "die," to die in English, means "the" in German. So even though the 'information' is the same, the meanings are different depending on the viewer.

Information can also evoke feelings but information is not feeling.

372.

Chris Rywalt

May 26, 2008, 11:45 AM

Christ on a Popsicle stick, this thread has gone insane. I can't even be bothered to read most of it let alone refute it; but I do have to say, George, you're wrong about "ordering information". It's the ordering that creates the information. Information is defined as the part of a signal which can't be predicted. If you can predict it, it's not information. The physical world, therefore, isn't made of information. Paint isn't information. The way in which someone orders the paint conveys information by creating a signal which cannot be predicted. So when you say "What I wrote in comment 353 states the process correctly as it is viewed by others who are a lot smarter than me" you don't have the handle on it you think you do: The others may be smarter than you are, but you've misunderstood them, too. If you can use a phrase like "ordered information" you clearly don't get it -- information is by definition ordered.

Also, note that Wikipedia marked this sentence as "citation needed," mostly because it's complete crap: "Combining algorithmic information theory and information theory we can conclude that the most random signal contains the most information as it can be interpreted in any way and cannot be compressed." Because anything random can be predicted using probability theory and is by definition noise. White noise is completely random and can be filtered out of a signal precisely because it's random and can therefore be predicted to high degree of accuracy.

Trust me, man, I'm an information scientist.

373.

Chris Rywalt

May 26, 2008, 11:52 AM

George is right, though, that Ahab is wrong. It's information whether we name the feeling or not, at least mathematically speaking. However, it's worth pointing out what B.F. Skinner meant when he wrote that a theory about a thing doesn't change that thing itself. Humans have developed a mathematical theory of information, but that doesn't change paintings, or anyone's appreciation of them, or the mechanism of that appreciation.

374.

roy

May 26, 2008, 12:03 PM

Hi Clem,

Re: confusion...is/ought...etc...Your namesake dealt with this over and over again by pointing to the art. The art bears all this out. It is the source for everything he had to say. And please tell me you don't honestly believe that every single artist who paid attention to the guy decided they were going to paint Greenberg paintings. Sheesh. Alas, he went even further and gave his opinion about his experience, deciding finally that the experience itself points to better and worse of its own accord. And the more he looked the more better and worse he found. It's the quality of that opinion that many want to argue with, but can't. Not sensibly. Because finally, he is just pointing to the facts. But it gets taken for prescription, and you've got the is/ought bee in your bonnet.

Also, you sound a bit snide with your characterization of opie's comment as 'dithering'. That statement, which sounds to me like he is describing 'communication' (er, the effect), sounds very general, but i take it as a reinforcement of the understanding that it is the specifics of each and every thing individually, that really count. But remember, there are no rules on how anybody might cause an effect. Notice how UN-prescriptive opie's comment is? Are you about to share with us HOW art communicates generally? Or at least on which days? Again, what exactly are we arguing about?

BTW...your reference to the kids' brain taste neural blah blah doesn't bring any clarity to the matter at hand. It uses the word 'information' over and over. So what? Jeezus, Clem. I can label anything...EVERYTHING...information if i want to. That would be part of the act of calling everything 'information.' Not tasting salt.

Sorry folks, i'm a bad writer and a worse editor.

375.

george

May 26, 2008, 12:32 PM

"information is by definition ordered." That's correct, however on a practical level we add a layer of order by manipulating our materials. Paint is information, it's a chemical compound separated out and concentrated.

"Because anything random can be predicted using probability theory"
Not quite, truly random individual events do not succumb prediction by probability theory, the aggregate over time will.

I have some expertise in these areas, but it goes back several years.

376.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 12:54 PM

Roy,

My criticsm of MC and Ahab's repeated invocation of Is/Ought is directly about their misuse of it. Look at what's they've written specifically. If you want to present a different definition of Is/Ought like I tried to, by all means put it out there.

In regards to Greenberg, as I've said I just don't think he's grasping all of the "facts" regarding how we see. Including the social context and development of seeing is not an "ought".

I take your point about tone.

What I was saying was that Opie (amongst others) seemed to be avoiding calling art communication. Though unfortunately we may not be able to clarify this with him.

I already generalized that "(visual) art's inherent function is to communicate (visually)". All I got was MC letting me know that I was wrong, and Opie trying to distinguish between the effects of art--meaning vs. feeling. Do you really think that we're on the same page about this?

Chris,

Your science credentials trump mine, so what do you make of this salt as information debate?

377.

opie

May 26, 2008, 1:00 PM

...i take it as a reinforcement of the understanding that it is the specifics of each and every thing individually, that really count

Not really, Roy, although I don't disagree with that, of course.

What we call "communication" is one brain taking some part of reality and organizing it to have a predicted effect on another brain. "Communication" is usually thought of in terms of language, which uses a very complex system of symbols which stand for things we experience in reality, and it is very easy to fall into the habit of confusing these symbols and their combinations with that which they imperfectly correspond to.

In my opinion using language effectively demands a continuing awareness that the language we use is an extremely poor equivalent of reality even in the simplest and most rudimentary cases. The awareness causes one to reshape and re-edit and clarify ruthlessly to try to get straightforward meaning across at all times and to avoid the murky clumsiness of the sort we see everywhere here. I'm merely trying to get this across to some of our correspondents, but it looks hopeless.

378.

Jack

May 26, 2008, 1:00 PM

So many comments, so little use...

It appears it's time to terminate this tedious tangling with tar babies. It was clear ages ago nothing worthwhile would come of it, except running up the numbers, but some of us persist in trying to get blood from turnips. There may be some quixotic virtue in that, but it's hardly practical.

Word to the wise:

Just as selectivity is called for when dealing with art, so it is when dealing with people who want to discuss art, after a fashion. In other words, consider the source and consider the motive/s, then act accordingly.

There, Franklin, doesn't that sound vaguely Zen? Well, maybe not, but it's probably about as Zen as I get.

379.

opie

May 26, 2008, 1:59 PM

Aw, c'mon, Jack. Let's get to 400. It's never been done before.

380.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 2:16 PM

So to the heart of it Opie! Is art communication-- not can, should, but is it?

I'm telling you, that would be strange if we could agree on even that!

381.

opie

May 26, 2008, 2:36 PM

Clem I am serious about your accusation of misusing language. This is not appropriate blog behavior. You need to either stand behind your accusation with citations or apologize.

I suppose art can be said to be a kind of communication, in fact it must be according to my very broad definition of communication, but I am afraid of the word because it almost always immediately becomes "what does it say". For this reason I usually stay away from it when discussing art.

We actually have disagreed very little because we spend most of the time trying to figure out how to... yes..."communicate"

382.

MC

May 26, 2008, 2:44 PM

Man, if only we had someone with a communications degree around, to help us out...

I wanted to post this on the John Link thread, in regards to 'wormy' paintings, but comments are closed there, and, well, we're almost at 400 comments here, so...

I just read via google news that Ann Clarke is being inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of arts... perhaps some of you know her work.

383.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 2:50 PM

Ahab:

"She's strayed into is/ought territory again" (320)

"I do get that we have (constantly and over again) said something along the lines of, "art is felt with the eyes"; while you keep ascribing to us, "art ought to be felt with eyes." You are the one imagining an 'ought' where there an 'is' exists. It's not our line of argument, it's your fallacy"(366)

I've said:

"We're disagreeing over what IS involved with visual perception.

Is/Ought arguments are critical of the latter basing themselves on the former.

This is what I mean about your constant misuse of terms"(356)

"Is/Ought is not about "imagining" one in the place of the other, it's about basing one on the other... That's your confusion. Is that clear?"(368)

384.

opie

May 26, 2008, 3:16 PM

So "misuse" was not directed at me? This is really confusing. Please try to be more clear and straightforward Clem.

I am happy for Ann Clark, MC. the painting is rather Marden-like, isn't it?

385.

roy

May 26, 2008, 3:47 PM

opie - #377

I know I'm construing things a bit to try and make my point. I keyed on your use of 'certain type of effect' to emphasize specifics. All this talk happens here, dependent on the thing, but the thing is not here, and the experience of the thing is not this conversation.

That's as zen as I get.

386.

Chris Rywalt

May 26, 2008, 3:50 PM

George sez:
"information is by definition ordered." That's correct, however on a practical level we add a layer of order by manipulating our materials. Paint is information, it's a chemical compound separated out and concentrated.

Um, no. Paint isn't information. Information requires a signal of some kind. Chemicals are not signals. They're chemicals. They can carry signals, as from one ant to another, but they are not themselves signals.

You're confusing your levels much the way you accused others of being confused. They confused information with meaning, and you're confusing signal with the material carrier for the signal.

I'm trying to wrap my mind around the idea that just re-ordered materials qualifies as information, but it's not working. Perhaps there's a sense in which the existence of paint -- or any other synthetic substance -- is information. Sort of. All it says is "an intelligence ordered this," but I guess that's a kind of information.

But it's well outside of information theory proper, which is strictly mathematical. This is something postmodernists love to do, by the way: Completely misunderstand and misuse narrow statements from a scientific discipline outside of the realm to which they apply. It's kind of like New Agers citing Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.

"Because anything random can be predicted using probability theory"
Not quite, truly random individual events do not succumb prediction by probability theory, the aggregate over time will.


Well, yes. Not sure what this has to do with anything, but, yes.

I have some expertise in these areas, but it goes back several years.

To be fair, I'm only roughly an information scientist -- I'm really a computer scientist by training and a loser by inclination.

Clem sez:
Your science credentials trump mine, so what do you make of this salt as information debate?

Er. I've skipped a lot, I think. We were discussing the taste of salt as a subjective experience a while back, weren't we? What about salt is information? Nothing, I'm thinking. Salt isn't information at all, it's a compound. By itself it carries no signal. The flavor of salt isn't information, either. In fact I can't think of anything about salt that's information, since it's entirely predictable. And information, remember, is the part of the signal that can't be predicted. And, yes, George, each individual random point can't be predicted either, but over time they can be, and a signal requires time (also by definition).

387.

ahab

May 26, 2008, 4:56 PM

I ought to just give in, clementine - you're right that I can't tell whether you've been mistakenly imagining or mistakenly infering.

388.

MC

May 26, 2008, 5:23 PM

"But it's well outside of information theory proper, which is strictly mathematical. This is something postmodernists love to do, by the way: Completely misunderstand and misuse narrow statements from a scientific discipline outside of the realm to which they apply. It's kind of like New Agers citing Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle."

Indeed, Chris. This is exactly what Sokal and Bricmont (and their many eloquent and positive reviewers) were on about...

389.

Franklin

May 26, 2008, 5:33 PM

I'm pleasantly indisposed this weekend so I haven't been as much a part of this conversation as I would otherwise like. I thought I'd throw in a few thoughts, though:

- It would be interesting to talk about meaning in the panjective model I've put forth. It should exist in the physicality of the world along with quality and along with everything else. Consider this: The experience of meaning may be personal, but we can encode meaning into the physical world using language. The experience of quality may be personal, but we can encode quality into the physical world using art.

- An information scientist reducing all reality to information? Talk about turning everything into a nail once you have a hammer. If George wants to pursue this, I'm going to start talking about how everything is reducible to quality, just to piss him off. As a matter of fact, I think I might do it anyway.

- Bannard's comment about Caro's "alphabet" should not have caused this much discussion, and only did so because Clem is looking for support for the language- and concept-driven model of reality he subscribes to. Roy said something similar about a visual language on an earlier thread and I clarified it (he didn't protest, so I presume I got it right) - that's fine as a literary metaphor for something that happens in the studio, but it's not substantial enough to reinforce a linguistic model for visual art. The same goes for Bannard's metaphor.

- I have yet to see MC misuse any terms he has put forth so far. This is part of the defensive postmodernist arsenal - to say, essentially, "I can't defend what I've written, but you can't defend what you've written for the same reason." This drags the conversation into a discussion about language being used, which is home turf for the All Is Language camp. Roy astutely pointed out that CG solved these problems by looking at the art again, which bears it out, or, I might add, doesn't.

390.

george

May 26, 2008, 5:55 PM

Chris, your grip on this science stuff is weak. You want to bend it to fit your needs, regardless of the truth.

Information is a measure of order, it doesn't require a signal.
As I am using the term, 'information' in an artwork refers to the accumulation of order. This means if you draw a line visually in response to seeing the model, the charcoal or paint is rearranged to a higher degree of order than it was in the tube or stick. It takes energy to do this.

As I said before, information is not "meaning," nor is it "language," it does not "communicate" but it can be perceived.

I am a painter, I have a lot vested in the visual and I agree that painting is a visual art. I totally disagree that the experience of painting only involves a visual emotional or psychological response. I will not close it off like that, we have visual experiences which involve the conceptual, which involve language, association, symbolism and any number of things which requires the viewer to think, even if only momentary. Paintings which do not acknowledge this are weak.

In painting, the accumulation of the painters decisions, where, what color, what speed, how sharp, how soft every mark is, in relation to every other mark orders information within a painting. How the information is ordered, the harmonic relationship between these decisions, is what ultimately makes a painting great or not.

In the end, it may not matter what you, or I think. It is the culture which is the final arbitrator over what it thinks is good enough and interesting enough to support and keep. Since, we as artists, are also part of the culture, we can reconnect with the past historical traditions and bring them to the attention of the culture in the present-future. This maintenance of the tradition is the only thing which can keep alive historical works which have faded in popularity and importance. If todays artists can make a good case for this, the traditions will continue, if not then the older works were probably not all that good or interesting in the first place.

FYI, I did my undergraduate studies in math/physics, designed something that went to the moon, worked on the first integrated circuit computer, and helped develop imaging software which made digital printing into a viable industry. I have geek chops.

391.

MC

May 26, 2008, 6:16 PM

"I am happy for Ann Clarke, MC. the painting is rather Marden-like, isn't it?"

Yes, rather... I had never seen her
Tissue Box collages before, but they look surprisingly good. She certainly seems like she has a sense of humour...

392.

Franklin

May 26, 2008, 6:18 PM

Information may be ordered but not all order is information. You were saying something about bending science to fit your needs, George?

393.

George

May 26, 2008, 6:22 PM

I'm going to start talking about how everything is reducible to quality, just to piss him off.

I have my own internal awareness for quality which I trust, it's all I need. I'm not a joiner, so I'm just watching.

Attempts to force neo modernist thought onto art is just as boring as postmodernism was. It's the "my way or the highway" approach, sorry but I'll pass. WDB has been preaching "quality" for fifty years, in case you didn't notice, this horse is dead, dead, dead. Oh well, carry on anyway.

394.

george

May 26, 2008, 6:24 PM

[392] ? nope, information is a measure of order.

395.

Franklin

May 26, 2008, 6:25 PM

You can get information from chaos as well.

396.

george

May 26, 2008, 6:26 PM

This is all getting intellectually petty.

Regardless of what gets said here, the only thing that matters are the artworks that result. You can talk theory until you are blue in the face, it won't make a good painting.

397.

Franklin

May 26, 2008, 6:28 PM

Let me show you what intellectually petty looks like:

Attempts to force neo modernist thought onto art is just as boring as postmodernism was. It's the "my way or the highway" approach, sorry but I'll pass. WDB has been preaching "quality" for fifty years, in case you didn't notice, this horse is dead, dead, dead. Oh well, carry on anyway.

398.

george

May 26, 2008, 6:32 PM

Let's cut to the chase.

Who in your mind are the most important painters working today?

399.

george

May 26, 2008, 6:34 PM

They have to be living painters,

Let's hear it, make a list.

400.

george

May 26, 2008, 6:35 PM

franklin go first

401.

Franklin

May 26, 2008, 6:45 PM

I don't track the importance of artists. I track how good their individual works are.

402.

george

May 26, 2008, 7:27 PM

Come on Franklin, what are you afraid of? You're posturing.

It is a really tough question, unless you are suggesting there are no important artists alive today. Or, then how about a list of the best paintings made by a living painter, one of our contemporaries?

So what does everyone else think? I know other artists, other painters pay attention to what's going on around them, that they have favorite contemporaries whose work they like. So who are these artists. Are they neo modern?

403.

opie

May 26, 2008, 8:14 PM

Hey...400 comments. New record!

George you & Clem may be full of you know what, but it certainly has fertilized the blog!

The "good artist" question is difficult not because there are not good artists but because the best artists have been pretty much underground for years and also the result would be a helter skelter of throwing in names.

It might be a good idea to make a list sometime...

404.

george

May 26, 2008, 8:30 PM

I think it's really hard to come up with a list of living artists who should be considered important because they are making good work and extending a tradition.

I think some readers may be shy about admitting who they like (think is important, etc) but this seems like it would be central to this project. Without some basic examples, some works to focus on, the entire discussion just becomes rhetoric leading nowhere.

405.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 8:43 PM

"I ought to just give in, clementine - you're right that I can't tell whether you've been mistakenly imagining or mistakenly infering"

Ahab, you just didn't use the Is/Ought argument properly. Are you saying otherwise?

"I have yet to see MC misuse any terms he has put forth"

As I think I made clear, I was writing about Ahab. But when MC throws around the same Is/Ought line, or other accusations that something is illogical, or not an argument, he's always using those terms/arguments correctly, huh? I don't think it will help what is already an overly charged atmosphere, but we can definitely go into concrete examples.

"This is part of the defensive postmodernist arsenal - to say, essentially, "I can't defend what I've written, but you can't defend what you've written for the same reason." This drags the conversation into a discussion about language being used, which is home turf for the All Is Language camp"

I don't really know what you're driving at here. I'm pretty actively defending what I've written. When someone throws out jargon improperly, I'm just going to respond to it.

And how about you point to your discussion about Caro's "alphabet" rather than treat it like a fair conclusion, end of discussion.

406.

george

May 26, 2008, 8:53 PM

Frankly, I can't understand how one could be a working painter and not be aware of ones peers, of other working artists and their works.

What makes an artist important? It's not just about success in the marketplace, nor is it just about quality. There are a number of painters who are making good work but that I would generally classify as 'journeyman artists' they have found a niche for themselves and done good work within it (Thorton Willis or Thomas Nozkowski for example) I think important artists, not only make good work but also revitalize the medium by reopening closed off paths. This is a much smaller group, maybe only 4-5 per generation.

Maybe interesting would be a better adjective, artists who are making good work that is interesting, fresh and not just a rehash of yesterdays fare.

407.

ahab

May 26, 2008, 9:10 PM

Nice mcguffin, george. And necessary.

332:
"A painter... arranges information"
339:
"...when the painting is done it is ordered information."
346:
"Everything is information, things are information."
"Form is nothing more than information."
353:
"Entropic processes... decrease the amount of information..."
"...less order than the assembled whole, hence less information."
371:
"...information is a result of ordering..."
"Information can evoke meaning..."
"Information can also invoke feelings..."
375:
"Paint is information..."
390:
"Information is a measure of order."
"...information... can be perceived."
"How information is ordered..."

408.

MC

May 26, 2008, 9:12 PM

Clem, as I have repeated over and again, I'd be happy to sit down with you and discuss any of what might be troubling you, if you are indeed sincere about your concerns, but your refusal to actually put your REAL self on the line, and stand behind your ideas, leads me (and surely others) to think you are simply interested in yanking chains.

To put it bluntly, put up, or shut up.

409.

george

May 26, 2008, 9:14 PM

ahab, whatever, none of it makes much difference to anything I'm doing, so I could give a damn.

tackle the important artist question, it's more relevant than anything else to this general discussion

410.

MC

May 26, 2008, 9:27 PM

Well, George asked about painters, which does seem a bit narrow, bound to old media, and all that. Nevertheless, I'll toss in a name, just to see if we can hit 500 comments (besides, anything to distract us from this shitpile of previous nonsense would be welcome at this point, I think).

Peter Hide is surely one of the best sculptors working today, and I'm proud to say I have a hand in organizing his next exhibition of 5 large-scale sculptures at the Royal Alberta Museum.

411.

Clem

May 26, 2008, 10:08 PM

MC,

If you're not willing to respect arguments and ideas for what they are, it hardly seems like you'd be someone who would show any basic respect in person. Not agreeing with you hardly translates into yanking your chain. Address the writing, and I'll try to do the same.

Obviously I haven't seen these specific Hide pieces. But most of his work that I have seen is nice. But I'm willing to admit that I'm neither interested or knowledgeable about abstract sculpture.

What interests me about a lot of the examples and references that you guys make on here is how close they are to one another; Greenberg to Bannard, Caro to Hide. And the number of times that many of you have mentioned personally knowing, talking, or working with one of these figures has surprised me. I don't want to paraphrase some of what George has been saying, but sometimes it seems like you don't get out much intellectually or artistically. Admittedly I'm basing this on a week's worth of conversation, so maybe I need to go back a bit to fully assess it.

412.

MC

May 26, 2008, 11:26 PM

Come off it, Clem, I've been as respectful of you as you have been of me... what was your very first comment on my blog, Clem? Was it respectful commentary, or crank-yanking? Be honest...

I'm pleased that neither your lack of knowledge, nor your disinterest in abstract sculpture, prevent you from recognizing Hide's achievement in at least some way; however, I can't elp but be astonished at such an unqualified statement coming from someone ostensibly interested in visual art.

"What interests me about a lot of the examples and references that you guys make on here is how close they are to one another..."

Do you have a criticism to make about the references themselves, or is the meere fact that we all can agree that Greenberg, Caro, Rembrandt, etc. are greats that tars them, in your mind?
And, what are your examples/references? Adorno, Benjamin, Barthes? They are the familiar names of the present academic orthodxy; one espoused by people who profess neither interest or inclination towards an entire species of art (like, say, 100 years or more of abstract sculpture), in toto.

"And the number of times that many of you have mentioned personally knowing, talking, or working with one of these figures has surprised me. I don't want to paraphrase some of what George has been saying, but sometimes it seems like you don't get out much intellectually or artistically."

Imagine the nerve of someone suggesting that, if you had actually known, talked to, or worked with Adorno, Benjamin, or Barthes, that could somehow be plausibly equated with not getting "out much intellectually or artistically"! Talk about absurd, hey? "What's that? You worked with Anthony Caro? L-o-s-e-r!... Huh? You used to correspond with Greenberg about art? LAME!"... Does this make any sense to anyone, honestly?

413.

Franklin

May 26, 2008, 11:49 PM

I don't posture. I genuinely don't think about who is important except in the most personal way, and there I'm working on a problem with tangential solutions in the work of several dead people. But even among the living, I agree that it would be a list of underground names, like Opie said. We should do it sometime anyway.

Clem, this in-person aspect has long been a part of art. Students used to apprentice to masters as a matter of course. This has remained true to some extent even with the academicizing of art training. A lot of what we do in art is based on bodies in action. Reading doesn't convey the urgency or demonstrate the nuances of what's important.

414.

opie

May 27, 2008, 4:43 AM

Aside from Caro I can't think of any better sculptor than Peter Hide right now. He is very good.

He doesn't have much competition. Koons? Botero? Britto? The guy who piles candy in the corner?

George, if we are going to play this game, let's stick to "good" and forget "important" and mixing in other confusing criteria.

415.

george

May 27, 2008, 5:21 AM

[414] Good it is, lets see what people think.

416.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 5:44 AM

George sez:
Information is a measure of order, it doesn't require a signal.

I'm afraid, George, that you're dead wrong here. The term you're looking for is entropy, not information.

But you're right, it is all about the art:

I am a painter, I have a lot vested in the visual and I agree that painting is a visual art. I totally disagree that the experience of painting only involves a visual emotional or psychological response. I will not close it off like that, we have visual experiences which involve the conceptual, which involve language, association, symbolism and any number of things which requires the viewer to think, even if only momentary. Paintings which do not acknowledge this are weak.

I agree that paintings -- that art in general -- can involve responses aside from the visual. I don't think anyone's said we should "close it off like that" and limit art to the purely visual. What we're saying is art is primarily visual, and if that part doesn't work, no amount of language, association, symbolism, or concept will save it.

How the information is ordered...

ARGH! Information is by definition ordered! You don't order information!

In the end, it may not matter what you, or I think. It is the culture which is the final arbitrator over what it thinks is good enough and interesting enough to support and keep.

Well, we agree on this.

George, you asked about living painters. You asked who's important, and I'm afraid I can't say anything about that -- that'd be like asking a shrimp to name the parts on a passing nuclear submarine. But I can tell you who I've seen lately and liked.

I responded strongly to Chris Ofili's work. I really like Inka Essenhigh. Danny Scheffer is doing great, enjoyable work, but he's a friend of mine, so he may not count. Daniel Rozin's work is completely awesome (Peg Mirror and Weave Mirror blew me away). I like Madeline von Foerster, too, but I'll probably get reamed for that on this blog. Nicola Verlato really turned me on with his most recent Stux show.

I'm sure I'll think of a few others, but that's what I've got for now.

417.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 5:52 AM

Oh, and Josh Garber's pretty cool, too.

418.

george

May 27, 2008, 6:01 AM

Chris,

I'm not interested in going on further with the information thing, it's beside the point.

Thanks for answering my earlier question with a list. It's fine to just use 'good' as a criteria, I was more interested in seeing what people were interested in.

419.

opie

May 27, 2008, 6:53 AM

That is an even better directive, George. Given what Chris goes for, any consensus is probably unlikely.

Now that Chris has put himself on the line, how about the rest of you? There is a lot of good stuff up in Edmonton that never gets seen in the states. From what I can gather, Clem doesn't get out to see art much, but I would certainly like to see what he likes. I have a class in 10 minutes but I can put some things up later.

Maybe Franklin can do a "blog choices" post, and hope we don;t get any ads.

Also, can someone tell me how to put links in here so they work directly?

420.

Eric

May 27, 2008, 6:54 AM

Comment #419.

421.

george

May 27, 2008, 7:01 AM

http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_links.asp

422.

Jack

May 27, 2008, 7:03 AM

Petty (396)? Posturing (402)? And this is coming from George? Who the hell do you think you're kidding? I mean, talk about people who live in glass houses...

I know. I shouldn't bother to point out the obvious, but it's the first day of the work week after a long weekend, and I'm a tad less serene than usual. Sheesh.

And then, of course, after being essentially trounced, we get this astonishingly lame getaway line:

"Whatever, none of it makes much difference to anything I'm doing, so I could give a damn."

But wait, there's more:

"I'm not interested in going on further with the information thing, it's beside the point."

And some of you still want to engage such a pile of...Jell-O?

We may need a 12-step program around here. Look into it, Franklin.

423.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 7:06 AM

Putting links in your post is easy:

This would be a link to my site.

424.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 7:08 AM

Hey, Franklin, your software converted my HTML entities! And, worse, the preview didn't!

Sorry about that, OP. My previous comment was supposed to be much more informative.

425.

opie

May 27, 2008, 7:09 AM

Thanks George. (Chris, having a link to your site and saying it is easy to do doesn't help much!)

Jack maybe we should devise a 12-step program for Franklin as a supplement to the guidelines.

426.

George

May 27, 2008, 7:10 AM

I sat at in a bar with a friend after touring the NYC galleries Saturday and we played this game with painters, it was hard to come up with a list, we had tighter restrictions, but never the less it was tough.

I also think it would be helpful if we don't jump all over people for their picks. Without question there will be disagreement but I think that's something which can be discussed later once we have a bit of a list.

Without visual examples to discuss in the context of neo modernism, these discussions just become talk, fun but not very relevant to anything else.

427.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 7:18 AM

OP sez:
Given what Chris goes for, any consensus is probably unlikely.

Hey, I don't want to like this stuff. I just do. I went in to Ofili's show expecting to dislike it intensely!

I don't think any of the artists I listed qualify as New Modernists, though. Ofili's an Old Modernist. Maybe Garber's a fit. But the others? Probably not.

428.

george

May 27, 2008, 7:30 AM

It's one thing to have lofty theoretical discussions about what is 'good' or 'quality' in artworks, something else to have examples we can look at. Whether or not they qualify for the new modernism cut, shouldn't initially matter.

Chris said, regarding Ofili, "Hey, I don't want to like this stuff. I just do. I went in to Ofili's show expecting to dislike it intensely!" and I think that's a fair remark. One problem people have when viewing art, is that they bring to it their prejudices and it colors their viewpoint. I had the same prejudice and reaction as Chris to Ofili's recent show.

429.

MC

May 27, 2008, 7:38 AM

"Aside from Caro I can't think of any better sculptor than Peter Hide right now. He is very good.

He doesn't have much competition. Koons?..."


The sculptures on the Met's patio've got nothing on the ones at the RAM (well, ok, the Koons' are shinier)...

Perhaps it would help George's game to tryo to touch on 'new modernist' artists who work in particular veins... So, like, an abstract sculptor, a figurative sculptor, an abstract painter, a landscape painter, a figure painter, a video artist, etc....

I quite like Terry Fenton as a landscape painter (quite aside from his excellence as a writer), but I suppose there's probably more competition out there that I don't know about, as compared to sculptors as good as Hide....

430.

Franklin

May 27, 2008, 7:40 AM

If you're really using your taste there's almost no choice involved in the matter.

I've seen only a few works in person but I've been thinking a lot about Leon Kossof lately.

431.

george

May 27, 2008, 7:53 AM

MC,

See comment [415], where I responded to OP with 'good' was fine.

I'm a painter, so I don't pay the same attention to other media, it makes sense if one was a sculptor, your choices would be there.

I also don't think there's much of a point in over classifying this. We all know who we like, and I'm assuming it's because we think their work is good.
It would probably be helpful to the discussion to just accept peoples choices at face value.

F. both Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach

432.

MC

May 27, 2008, 8:04 AM

Uh, thanks for your concern, George, but I don't let what I write in my own comments be dictated by what you choose to write in yours.

433.

george

May 27, 2008, 8:12 AM

gee mc, only my first line was a response directed at you.

I was just trying to keep this from descending into a name calling match over peoples choices which I don't think contributes to the discussion. I really have no interest in influencing what you choose to say.

434.

MC

May 27, 2008, 8:19 AM

"gee mc, only my first line was a response directed at you."

And, so, your point was...? Were you just particularly proud of your comment #415, and wanted to make sure I didn't miss it? Well, surprisingly, I caught it the first time... it was right there between #411 an #416, which I also read...

Carry on, George... let's have your picks.

435.

george

May 27, 2008, 8:23 AM

well MC, I've tried to tone down my responses to you because it is clear that you are perfectly capable of prooving you are an ASSHOLE without any help from me.

436.

MC

May 27, 2008, 8:25 AM

Yawn... I don't care, George. Let's have your picks.

437.

opie

May 27, 2008, 8:27 AM

No, this will not descend to name-calling. If people are making their choices like Chris made his there is no reason to get exercised about it. It is a simple, honest take. And of course it should not be categorical in any way. Case by case...

Let's use links so we can see what we are talking about.

I am not stalling, I'm just in class until 1 PM Eastern time.

438.

MC

May 27, 2008, 8:30 AM

"No, this will not descend to name-calling."

Your comment came a little late, Opie...

439.

george

May 27, 2008, 8:33 AM

I agree completely with op in #437.

440.

MC

May 27, 2008, 8:37 AM

Ok, so get on with it, then! "Use links so we can see what we are talking about", and show us your picks, George.

Man, it's like pulling teeth with you...

441.

1

May 27, 2008, 8:41 AM

EVERYONE needs to chill just a little, the hostility, anger, whatever, can become quite annoying.

in general it is good to have a lot of posts. and usually this takes two sides to the story, but i for one prefer when the converation amongst you all does not go down the shitter to achieve this.

442.

MC

May 27, 2008, 8:43 AM

Sorry, 1, but that doesn't really help. Instead, why not ignore this shitpile of hostility, and just give us your picks for George's game?

443.

opie

May 27, 2008, 8:48 AM

OK, 1, but on the other hand we need to be able to disagree strongly at the same time. That should not be inhibited, and it is helped along by Franklin's excellent guidelines.

Actually when people start name-calling it is nothing more than a display of weakness, usually, and I think everyone here is aware of that.

Besides, George and I have now agreed twice on one thread. That has to be some kind of record.

444.

george

May 27, 2008, 8:53 AM

:-)

445.

opie

May 27, 2008, 9:36 AM

Thanks again, George. Needless to say, I agree with that article too.

446.

opie

May 27, 2008, 9:46 AM

Here are some interesting artists, completely at random and a couple with very little info. I am forgetting dozens more but they will some to me in time.

Sorry, I haven't the time to figure out the linking mechanism yet, but I will.

http://www.sharecom.ca/fenton/

http://georgebethea.net/

http://kathleenstaples.com/

http://www.sharecom.ca/fenton/walsh.html

http://roylerner.com/

http://www.artnet.com/artist/425178424/ann-walsh.html

http://www.sharecom.ca/hide/

http://irondavis.com/

http://www.larrypoons.com/ (Larry's wife Paula deluccia is an excellent painter but I couldn't find much).

http://www.artnet.com/artist/424536573/willard-boepple.html

http://www.anthonycaro.org/

447.

1

May 27, 2008, 9:52 AM

i guess i am just ultrasensitive.

k. noland, ron davis and w. d. bannard as listed artists, and george bethea for an unknown. you can google because i am too lazy to add the link. i'll add more later. i am sitting comfortably right next to hide's "groove" too.

i'll add more later.

448.

roy

May 27, 2008, 9:55 AM

I like this guy's stuff. The images don't show enough surface though...they are actually very physical.

http://www.jonathanforrest.com/fullpageimage.php?id=10200421

449.

opie

May 27, 2008, 10:00 AM

I like these, Roy. He is doing something new with an old idea. In what way are they "physical"?

450.

roy

May 27, 2008, 10:01 AM

An aside...re: 1 & Noland etc..through John's flickr page I came across Darryl Hughto's flickr page and found a great photo tour of a recent visit to the David Mirvish collection. There are some humdingers hanging on those racks.

451.

george

May 27, 2008, 10:01 AM

The bar napkin list, sorted by age. The discussion criteria was good plus influential or important.

Neo Rauch - 1960
FutureModern
David Zwirner
Google

Peter Doig - 1959
Saatchi Gallery
">Google

Chris Martin - 1954
Mitchell-Innes & Nash
ArtNet
Google

Terry Winters - 1949
Matthew Marks
Google

Anselm Kiefer - 1945
White Cube - London
ibiblio.org
Google

Sigmar Polke - 1941
Michael Werner Gallery
Google

David Hockney - 1937
Website

Larry Poons - 1937
Jacobson Howard
Google

Jasper Johns - 1930
Matthew Marks Gallery
MOMA
Google

Cy Twombly - 1928
Gagosian
Google

452.

opie

May 27, 2008, 10:06 AM

to compensate for 1's laziness


http://www.sharecom.ca/noland/

http://www.kennethnoland.com/

http://bannard.com/

http://flickr.com/photos/bannard/


I already linked Bethea above

453.

roy

May 27, 2008, 10:07 AM

he scarpes the ground colour in to basically fill the weave then the slabs are 'stencilled' on at various thicknesses...he's playing matte and gloss finishes off each other all the time...the darks can stay put a lot of the time because of dimension of the surface. I have a soft spot for minimal and he's careful not to get dogmatic. Just strict enough, they have an awkward haphazard charm. And then there's the colour.

454.

Jack

May 27, 2008, 10:08 AM

GEORGE calls Marc (or anyone, for that matter) an asshole. This is like Hillary Clinton accusing absolutely anybody of being calculating and/or consumed by ambition.

I know I'm convinced. I suppose it's par for the course, but again, Sheesh!

455.

opie

May 27, 2008, 10:10 AM

George, I'm glad you linked the Jacobson/Howard link for Poons. That was a hell of a show.

Damn...well, you know what I think about Johns. But Hockney? How can you stand it? There's that wonderful term "cack-handed", reserved just for him, in my humble opinion.

Doig can be interesting at his best.

456.

opie

May 27, 2008, 10:11 AM

Better and better, Roy. I think if I had a gallery I would show this person.

457.

1

May 27, 2008, 10:18 AM

roy thanks for the heads up on mirvish warehouse pics. please let me know if you know of any other way to see his collection on line other than through hughto.

458.

george

May 27, 2008, 10:27 AM

op,

My list was generated with slightly different criteria and without thought about the idea of New modernism, Hockney belongs on it. A lot of artists didn't make the cut for various reasons. The sleeper on my list is Chris Martin who I think may be the best abstract painter working at the moment. I've just seen a 1/2 dozen or so of his paintings, every time I've come away convinced. Same with Peter Doig, I kept running across images of his paintings, in a context with no labels or information, and stopping to look. MOMA recently hung one of his paintings, it's very good. I think that Neo Rauch is the best painter working at the moment, he's influencing a lot of other painters.

459.

opie

May 27, 2008, 10:45 AM

Well, we certainly have different taste. Maybe it is the influence of teaching painting for so long but I just recoil from bad paint handling.

460.

george

May 27, 2008, 11:03 AM

op,

The curious thing is that most of the artists on my list aren't people whose work I actually spend much time looking at. I haven't really followed Larry Poons' work all that closely, it doesn't relate to what I do, but I think he, along with Gerhard Richter, are carrying the color-field lineage into the future, which is why he made the list. I think the idea of 'lineage,' how artists are extending the tradition is extremely important in painting.

Not sure what you are referring to with the paint handling remark, aside from Polke and Hockney the others wouldn't have made it if that was an issue. The new Neo Rauch paintings are better in this respect than his previous work, but it isn't the only criteria that makes something interesting to me.

461.

MC

May 27, 2008, 11:14 AM

Speaking of "carrying the color-field lineage into the future", lets not leave John Link out...

462.

1

May 27, 2008, 11:21 AM

suprisingly, here is one from the saatchi stable that george might like and i have never seen in person, but would like to. daniel richter.

has anyone seen his work in person?

463.

opie

May 27, 2008, 11:24 AM

I think only Doig and sometimes Kiefer work paint nicely, on that list. Poons and Twombly I would think are exempt by the nature of what they do. Winters, Martin, Rauch (we had it out with Rauch here some time ago) are well into the "cack-handed" category, Johns & Polke sort of.

And to say that Richter is "carrying color field" with those cutesy/ironic and perfectly bilious "abstracts" is painful to an extreme. You've got to be able to see how bad they are! Aargh!

464.

opie

May 27, 2008, 11:26 AM

Right, MC, I didn't link Link because we just had a long blog on his pix.

Also, George, you are always harping on the time thing. Don't you know any young unknown types?

465.

roy

May 27, 2008, 11:30 AM

Winters, Bleckner, Martin...doing their best to breath life into 80's Pattern.

Flipping through a big Auerbach book of my wife's the other day and more than a few were looking kinda weak to me. Like the paint is so serious he doesn't have to deal with holes (even the literal ones) in his pictures. I haven't looked at him in a long time but he had a lot more appeal when I was in school. Haven't seen any Kossoff in the real. Always liked Dubuffet, but he's an old mod i guess. I'll take Daniel Richter over Neo Rauch if I had to choose.

I'll be honest George, Rauch looks like a latter-day well-read Dali to me. I'm sure if i took out my magic decoder ring i could sit for hours making all the connections across his limp surfaces ;)

466.

roy

May 27, 2008, 11:32 AM

I'm a pleasure hound, straight up. No need fo' ugly.

467.

george

May 27, 2008, 11:49 AM

You're being unduly sensitive to the time thing. I sorted the list by date because it avoided ranking. It also seems fairly clear that a generational change is happening, maybe it was Rauschenberg's death that made me sensitive to this, all my heros are dead. Also, I do think there is a void around those born in 1950's, I mean Richard Prince? nope, David Salle? nope, Eric Fischel, nope... George Condo, maybe etc.
....

As for new young painters. I thought that was Chris Martin initially, then I discovered he was born in the 50's.

There are other younger painters, Franz Ackerman comes to mind, along with Daniel Richter mentioned above, but I was hoping that some of the younger artists here would mention them. Part of the problem is that many of the more interesting new painters seem to be European, and I just haven't seen enough of the work to be suitably impressed.

My point could be that the Twentieth Century is done, who is leading the charge now?

468.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 11:50 AM

Speaking of Noland, I downloaded (back when we were talking about it) Painters Painting and I tried to watch it earlier today. I fell asleep. Just passed right out on the couch. Woke up in a puddle of sweat to my daughter yelling for me to come hook her camcorder up to her TV -- she and a friend have been making movies all day, using stuffed animals as puppets. Their work is ten times as compelling as Painters Painting and additionally is really short.

OP, back to the lesson: To make a link, you enclose the text you want to link in HTML tags. HTML tags are set in less-than and greater-than signs which I probably can't use because Franklin's software will eat them. The link is made by using an anchor tag, which looks like this:

a href="http://www.crywalt.com/"

So it'd look like this, only use less-than '' instead of [ and ] :

[a href="http://www.crywalt.com/"]My Website[/a]

469.

Eric

May 27, 2008, 11:57 AM

"I do think there is a void around those born in 1950's, I mean Richard Prince? nope..."

So the million dollars that was recently spent on a Richard Prince nurse painting doesn't validate his art in your eyes George? You said the market and the culture at large would sort things out and you have repeatedly shared auction numbers with us in order to validate an artist that was being criticized. I'm confused about your thinking process.

470.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 12:00 PM

George sez:
My point could be that the Twentieth Century is done, who is leading the charge now?

All the artists I listed are artists whose work I've seen in a show over the past two years or so. I imagine there are other artists I might like from JPEGs or who I was in the program with at SVA last summer or who are friends; Tracy Helgeson is absolutely stunning, a knockout painter, but she's a friend and more, none of her brilliance comes through via reproduction; and Nancy Baker is really good, too, but again, she's a friend and her reproductions don't do her justice. I also like Kelli Williams but not as much as the other two.

I don't feel bad pulling non-New Modernists out of my hat for this. That's okay. I don't feel the New Modernist idea we've worked out here is prescriptive at all; it's just setting up something we can point to, as artists, when someone bugs us about what we're doing.

But I don't think anyone in my list is leading any kind of charge. I'm not sure there's a charge to be led. The avant garde is dead, along with all the metaphors about leading a charge, advanced movements, vanguards, and what have you. What we have is like the European Union: No more invasions, no more wars, no more fighting over territory. Just a big space we can all move around in. The walls are not only breached, all the bricks have been removed to use in new buildings, and we can all wander around freely.

471.

roy

May 27, 2008, 12:07 PM

I'll take Howard Hodgkin over Hockney.

As far as Englishmen go, i think Patrick Heron has made some good work too. His late stuff (the 90's esp.)is an interesting turn. The colour light is very lovely. Handling makes me think of late Olitski a bit. Cuoldn't find much 90's work though.

http://www.artnet.com/artist/8163/patrick-heron.html

http://www.waddington-galleries.com/artists/heron/

What about late Stella? I'm on the fence.

472.

george

May 27, 2008, 12:11 PM

eric,

You clearly do not understand the workings of the markets. I'm not going to waste my time explaining this right now, it's a distraction.

Clearly, Richard Prince is seen by the present culture (and the market) as an important artist, I just don't think he's much of a painter, so he doesn't make my cut, neither does Currin. Why is that so hard to understand?


So who are your fav's?

473.

george

May 27, 2008, 12:12 PM

Patrick Heron died in 1999

474.

george

May 27, 2008, 12:17 PM

roy,

I was a big fan of Stella when I was in art school but things just went down hill from there. I saw the recent show at Jacobsen Howard, and wasn't impressed. In the vein of 3D, it might be painting or it might be sculpture, John Chamberlain eats Stella for lunch, no fuss, no muss.

475.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 12:22 PM

I read an article on Stella -- late 1990s I think, maybe in a cigar magazine -- where he was using a computer-based 3D camera to capture swirls of cigar smoke he was blowing into a box and then rendering them into sculptures. Something like that. It struck me as really interesting, but I haven't heard anything about it since.

What I'd like is some way for me to draw in space. Sculptors seem to aim for this -- David Whatshisname did it with iron and welding, right? -- but I'm not into bothering to work with static materials to make stuff that looks spontaneous, because I'm lazy. And I'm no welder. What I'd like is something where I can wave my hand around and end up with a line in space....

I'm pretty sure the stuff exists to make this happen. Rapid prototyping, 3D pointing devices (I saw a 3D mouse in Staples, I think), CAD/CAM software. But I'm kind of out of it.

I dig François Dubeau's electronic drawings -- I'd like to do something like that in sculpture. That'd be cool.

Anyway, I heard Stella was doing that, but that's all I know.

476.

george

May 27, 2008, 12:22 PM

The avant garde is dead.

There was a time I would have agreed with this statement but I'm coming around to the idea that it is not the case. The avant garde is being expressed differently because the size of the art world has expanded to such a degree there is no longer a single front. It's a topic for a different discussion.

By 'who is leading the charge?' I mean who is making the most interesting painting today.

477.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 12:29 PM

George sez:
There was a time I would have agreed with this statement but I'm coming around to the idea that it is not the case.

Funny, I'm exactly opposite. Once I would've agreed with you, but I changed my mind. It seems to me that the difference between art today (say the last fifty to seventy-five years) and the past is we now have so much of the past at our fingertips. And more is available, more easily, every day. This is both a boon and a trap: A boon because an artist can now pick and choose the very best from every era, from cave paintings to today, and use it all immediately (which is how Darby defines Modernism); a trap because so many artists seem to fall into mere dumpster diving (which is really what Pop is all about).

That leaves no room for an avant garde. An avant garde needs to be at the head of a linear movement, and movement isn't linear any more -- there's no longer any local norm to push against. You can't be ahead of that which surrounds you.

478.

opie

May 27, 2008, 12:33 PM

I think the recent Stellas are pretty good, George.

the prices on some of that awful stuff at auction recently! It still makes me gasp with horror. I think that Richard Prince nurse painting went for 6 million? That painting wouldn't even get him into out MFA program. Those hedgefund tchotchke hounds out there oneupping each other sure does piss a lot of money away.

479.

george

May 27, 2008, 12:34 PM

chris,

That's the logic I would have used before but I sense something else is happening. It may be the "avant garde" doesn't appear the same way it did in the past, it may be more fragmented by media etc. Whatever, we'll see what happens.

480.

opie

May 27, 2008, 12:44 PM

Chris it is purely a matter of physics. A hundred artists can get in a line. A million artist's is a mass. No way anything "linear" can form with a million artists. It is just too big.

481.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 12:45 PM

Well, George, I changed my mind once, I'll probably do it again. I'm like Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes. Unlike Walt Whitman, I look like I might have eaten multitudes.

482.

John

May 27, 2008, 3:17 PM

Here are a few images to look at:

Ed Moses

Susan Roth

Darby Bannard

Darryl Hughto

Ed Ruscha

Billy Al Bengston

Elaine Grove

Scott Bennett

Mark Raush

Ryan McCourt

Dan Christensen

Perhaps a few more later.

483.

John

May 27, 2008, 3:21 PM

Here is the specific Dan Christensen I was trying to get at.

485.

Chris Rywalt

May 27, 2008, 4:18 PM

I don't know about that Einspruch guy. Seems repressed and irritable to me.

486.

george

May 27, 2008, 4:22 PM

John,

gee, a bunch of my friends and the Flickr links don't work.

487.

John

May 27, 2008, 4:29 PM

George, I just checked and every one works for me. Which specifically don't work for you?

488.

george

May 27, 2008, 4:38 PM

john,

none of them work, I get asked to login, which I can't.

try loggin out of flickr, and then try the links.

the links looked funny to be, since I'd studied the flickr database before and image links are usually written in alphabet soup.jpg

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