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Post #1176 • May 12, 2008, 8:29 AM • 24 Comments

"In place of public edification, I believe criticism is better seen as a (potential) public pleasure. It sounds obvious, but a piece of criticism, in the first instance, has to be worth reading." Sebastian Smee. (AJ) Ya'think?

"When he's embraced by art critics, I'll find something else to do." Larry Reid pwns Regina Hackett.

Lance Esplund on Action/Abstraction. (NESW)

FontStruct. (Reddit)

Trailer for Line of Beauty and Grace, a documentary about Jock Sturges.

Carol Kino profiles Lynda Barry on the occasion of the imminent release of What It Is. For the record, in several years I will probably also end up somewhere no one has heard of, growing my own food.

Evolution. (Reddit)

Department of the Cultural Juggernaut That Is Terry Teachout: Right Turn at Albuquerque. Not art related, but too impressive not to note.

Remembering Nana on Mother's Day by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki. I picked up the mightily impressive Skim this weekend.

Probably this will thrill no one except those of us in the art/geek subset, but holy fucking hell. Possibly related, the Piet Programming Language is making the rounds again.

"Is taking a photo or video of an event for later viewing worth it, even if it means more or less missing the event in realtime?" An economist replies.

Kaibo Zonshinzu anatomy scrolls. (Drawn!)

Department of Skills: Crump battle.

Comment

1.

Chris Rywalt

May 12, 2008, 11:33 AM

What I find suspect about Jock Sturges and his work is that, although he claims -- or anyway the DVD trailer narration claims -- that he's interested in beauty, his idea of beauty seems to be limited to mostly young, mostly thin, mostly naked women.

Now, I'd agree that young, thin, naked women are beautiful. I'd agree that naked children are beautiful. Naked babies are beautiful, too. Naked boys, naked men. There is, to me, a lot of beauty in humans in general, and I honestly feel there's no higher subject -- which is why I myself am a figurative painter. Still lifes, landscapes, furniture, wallpaper, whatever, all that bores me. I like people, I'm interested in people.

But I am suspicious when I see nearly nothing but thin, young, naked women. Watching the DVD trailer and seeing Jock surrounded by these fetching young ladies in various states of undress, all I found myself thinking was, "What happens when they get old? Where do they go? Does Jock banish them from his presence? Does he keep them in his basement? Are they off-camera keeping things clean and cooking for the pretty young things?"

Now I suppose it could be I'm not familiar with Jock's vast outpouring from his explorations of photographic beauty. For all I know, if I click through his Website long enough, I'll find his section of prints inspired by Ansel Adams or Anne Geddes or William Wegman. Maybe Jock is the author of that poster with the kitten in a tree reading "HANG IN THERE!" I don't know. I's ignorant. But judging from what I've seen of his work -- and it seems to me I've waded through a lot of it online over the years -- I find it suspect.

2.

catfish

May 12, 2008, 11:58 AM

I'm not exactly sure where the "line" is that defines taking advantage of children versus portraying their beauty, but Jock Sturges is definitely on the wrong side of it in some of those pictures.

Sally Mann went out on a similar limb with pictures of her kids, but stayed on the right side, if you want an example of photographs with similar nudity involving children of a similar age.

3.

Chris Rywalt

May 12, 2008, 1:02 PM

I'm not so sure I'd say he's on the wrong side of the line; I don't mean I suspect Jock Sturges of being a child pornographer. I mean he's artistically suspect -- that he's not purveying some truth about the world, but just using his camera as an excuse to hang around models who give him a boner. Which is okay, I suppose. The idea of when females are of age for sexual consent varies so much from culture to culture I'm unwilling to simply condemn a guy for liking to look at younger women. After all, most men I know started liking females somewhere between 12 and 14 years of age, and looking at 12 and 14-year-old girls was okay then, so I can kind of understand some men not growing out of it. Myself, I can find a female attractive anywhere from 15 to 55. (I've been practicing going higher since in a few years my wife'll be that old and I'll have to be attracted to her. So I'm working my way up.)

And I don't detect anything especially sexual about the younger younger girls he's photographed. Nudity isn't, by itself, sexy.

4.

Oriane

May 12, 2008, 3:28 PM

Chris, you are surprising in what is (to me, probably not to you) your inconsistently applied sense of right & possible wrong when it comes to relations between the sexes. Our last online interchange left me offended to the point where I wasn't planning to post again here, and yet you're now saying exactly what I'm thinking re Jock Sturges. I watched that trailer and wondered, when Jock said it was about "Truth" (and it sounded like he said it with a capital T), are there no people with an extra ounce of body fat included in his Truth? No one with saggy or imperfectly formed or uneven breasts (newsflash: people have 'em!) or thighs with some padding, or baby-bearing bellies, stretch marks, visible leg hair? And those are just the things that " normal" people have. We won't even go into skin discolorations, buck teeth, unusually formed or asymmetrical features, etc. Yes, his Truth is quite selective. Definitely very pretty. Also very white. And yes, there appear to be no men in his Land of Truth, well, maybe some male children, back when they're still young enough to pass as girls.

Chris, you are a surprising individual.

5.

ahab

May 12, 2008, 3:55 PM

The Lance Esplund link doesn't seem to go anywhere.

And I'll lamely admit that I don't get the significance of the art/geek subset link.

6.

Franklin

May 12, 2008, 4:37 PM

Esplund link is fixed - thanks for the catch.

The significance of the art/geek link is that Processing is really cool and Javascript is an absolute bear to work with. Resig has done the computer equivalent of making a working, high-performance bicycle by winding together paper clips. Furthermore, he has a proof-of-concept that will run Processing in the browser.

7.

McRoder

May 12, 2008, 10:43 PM

I swear I was crumping back at my first junior high school dances listening to Tower of Power back in the 70's. From observer accounts my version was more like a precursor of Elaine's "Seinfeld" dance. Maybe I was actually "Crumbing" since I was mimicking poses I saw in the contraband Zap Comix hidden under my mattress.

8.

MC

May 13, 2008, 7:52 AM

Here's a good animated video to go with that Evolution mural...

9.

Oriane Stender

May 13, 2008, 8:12 AM

McRoder,

Did you grow up in the Bay Area? Tower of Power was pretty much our local street fair band.

Oh, I just looked at your site, I like your paintings, and noticed we both were at SFAI at the same time. I was in sculpture. I had a show in the Diego Rivera (which Richard Berger called the Dago Riviera) with Chris Wilder.

unrelated: I just read that Rauschenberg died.

10.

cinque

May 13, 2008, 9:04 AM

Am mostly in agreement with Oriane and Chris. Also, am I the only one who has noticed that Sturges seems to equate truth to beauty to unmitigated whiteness? You not only have to be young, thin, and female, you also better not be darker than, say, a manila folder to get into the World of Truth and Beauty. I needn't mention the frightening precedents of equating ultimate beauty with whiteness.

11.

cinque

May 13, 2008, 9:05 AM

Oops, just saw where Oriane said that. Sorry I missed it.

12.

MC

May 13, 2008, 9:13 AM

Man, I just assumed this photographer was a Laplander, or something...

13.

Franklin

May 13, 2008, 9:18 AM

Close - he's in Seattle.

Paul Cadmus's vision of beauty was white and male. Mapplethorpe's sympathies were a litte more diverse but you can easily tell where they concentrated. I think you have to go with what works for you.

I'm one of the few people I know who doesn't have a problem with Balthus, so maybe I'm not one to talk.

14.

Oriane

May 13, 2008, 10:45 AM

Franklin, if the dude had said, "I dig young, thin, naked white chicks so that's what I'm going to take pictures of," that would be the truth. And who could argue with that? (Who doesn't dig young, thin, naked white chicks? In our culture they're pretty much the definition of sexiness.) But when you start spouting lofty terms like Universal Truth and Art and Nakedness and the Beauty of Nature, etc. (I think he used those words in that video) you leave yourself open to skeptical reactions.

I bet Mapplethorpe would have been, or was, open about why he photographed hunky naked men; because they turned him on. I don't remember reading anything about the Universal Truthiness of it all. Other people, writers, might have used some of that language to make the point that gay desire was part of the universal truth of humans, but that's kind of a political interpretation, and I don't think (I could be wrong here) it was spread by the artist himself. I don't think Mapplethorpe cared what other people thought of him, but Sturges doesn't want to be thought of as a high-brow soft-core porn photographer, so he spouts this crap.

Oriane

ps The real world calls. Later.

pps Cinque, are you named after the SLA guy?

15.

McRoder

May 13, 2008, 12:51 PM

Hey Oriane, I did grow up in the Bay Area, and I remember my older brother and I putting on our bellbottoms and platforms to go to a street fair in the East Bay and hear them. Around the time you showed at SFAI I was enrolled for a term - I took a class with John Roloff as I was interested in ceramics and installation work when I was getting started. While in SF some evil painters distracted me, and many pairs of spattered jeans later the results have been mixed.
Checked out your images at Frumkin/Duval and much enjoyed the weaving of image, symbol and objects. Smart cultural appropriation. Are you living and working in Brooklyn? What part?
BTW, I was able to visit Rauschenberg's studio on Captiva Island in the late 1990's and it was a modernist wet dream. Clean, white, glass and cement and metal. Fantastically equipped and he had a great rapport with his assistants and the community there. Although his work was past it's prime for me I admire him in the way that I do Chuck Close and a few others, not for his iconic status but for a sliver of selflessness, for their commitment to their practice in it's bigger cultural context. He seems to actually have embraced his role as mentor and imperfect voice for environmental and political causes.

16.

opie

May 13, 2008, 2:10 PM

We ought to carry "nihilism" over to this thread. Clem was just getting warmed up.

17.

Franklin

May 13, 2008, 2:11 PM

We will. Check back in a little bit.

18.

catfish

May 13, 2008, 2:22 PM

Yes, do carry it over. I tried to post my observation about the "back and forth" between opie and Flatboy, only to find the magic twanger would not twang...

19.

Franklin

May 13, 2008, 2:23 PM

Yeah, we'll have a new, related post in a manner of minutes.

20.

cinque

May 13, 2008, 3:24 PM

Re #14. Spot on. It's not the specificity that's the problem, it's the claim that that specificity is somehow general and all-encompassing. Mapplethorpe doesn't make that claim. Cadmus doesn't make that claim, etc. None of them even occupy a social position that would allow them to do that with any traction. Sturges can and does so seemingly without a drop of self-awareness.

No, not named after SLA, but he and I are both named after the same historical figure.

21.

Katie

May 13, 2008, 7:02 PM

I'm astonished that nobody has addressed the question of why Jock Sturges was shown not wearing any pants while taking models' photos in this film trailer. That was really strange.

22.

Oriane

May 14, 2008, 5:55 AM

Hi McRoder,

Thanks for the nice words. Sherry Frumkin hasn't updated her site in quite a while. There's a little more variety here:
http://artistregistry.artadia.org/registry/view_artist.php?aid=99
and by google/image. (I don't have my own website, I know, I'm a lazy bum).
I was an undergrad at SFAI too, not some visiting artist or anything fancy. That show I mentioned was the student gallery, just thought you might remember Chris Wilder. I was also friends with Dan McCarthy; he shows with Anton Kern now. And the Khedoori twins were there. So painting, you must have known Sam Tchkailian. Maybe the Clemites know his work. He was a character. Can't think of anyone else in the painting dept at the moment.

Yes, I recently moved to fabulous Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, jewel of the Bridge & Tunnel nabes, setting of John Travolta's home and dance contest in Saturday Night Fever. (If you want to be in touch, I'll send you an email through your website.) Since I've lived in NY, I have steadily moved father out from the trendy areas. In other words, lifestyle-wise, I'm downwardly mobile. You, however, have an absolutely beautiful home and studio, if your website is to be believed! Where is that place? It deserves to be written up in House & Home, or at least recreated by Joe Fig.

Yeah, Tower of Power was always playing at Provo Park or other place. What high school did you go to? I went to Berkeley High. You know what, this is getting too personal. I'll email you.

I also have an affection for Close because he's always tooling around Chelsea spreading encouragement and beneficence to other artists, very unselfishly it seems. BUT I was shocked to see on the back of the current New Yorker a full page ad, pic of Chuck Close wearing a Chuck Close-designed tshirt for the Gap! There was no mention of it being any kind of charity thing, but it did mention that Gap is a proud sponsor of the Whitney Bi. What's up with that, Chuck? Why are you shilling for the Man?

Cinque, ditto to everything you said. And personally, I'm relieved that you're named after the slave rebellion leader and not the SLA guy.

Oh, Katie- I wondered about the bare ass Sturges thing too, but didn't know quite what to make of it. Maybe he figured the models would be more at ease if he was naked too, but wanted to protect his upper body from sunburn? Who knows, that guy is wack.

This comment is way too long. Sorry. I'll stop now.

23.

Chris Rywalt

May 14, 2008, 8:04 AM

I didn't say anything about Jock not wearing pants because it made sense to me. I've often said that, if the models are going to be nude, the artists should be nude, too. None of the artists I've drawn with want to take me up on it.

24.

MC

May 14, 2008, 10:18 AM

This is funny... Christopher Knight's (LATimes) understanding of Greenberg, as exemplified in a piece on Rauchenberg:

"The influential critic Clement Greenberg, who championed the Abstract Expressionists, wrote a 1955 essay extolling the rise of those artists and the decline of the School of Paris. Europe had been the home of the avant-garde, but Greenberg unfavorably compared postwar developments in Paris to the distinctive work he described as "American-type painting." Conforming to Greenberg's idea, Johns began to use the American flag and the map of the United States as subjects, while Rauschenberg made his canvas for "Bed" from a pieced quilt -- a unique bit of traditional Americana.
...

While conforming to one aspect of Greenberg's thought, combines such as "Bed" and "Monogram" also contradicted the critic's central idea, which held that a good painting is one that articulates its unique characteristics as a flat, illusion-free surface that is covered with colored marks and hangs on a wall. "Bed" took Greenberg at his literal word, but the result didn't look anything like an ordinary abstract painting."


Amazing...

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