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Criticism and its future roundup

Post #1211 • July 18, 2008, 8:53 AM • 142 Comments

Douglas McLennan: "The kind of mystery here is that as arts journalism disappears out of the traditional media, what replaces it, and how do you build a business model that supports people to do blogs?"

Greg Cook: "My thinking is that at some point within the next five years the newspaper industry will tip and most all newspapers will shift to web-mostly."

Norman Lebrecht: "There are two reasons why newspapers are getting rid of established critics. The obvious one is that newspaper revenues are caught in a double arm-lock by the internet and the credit crunch, neither of which is likely to ease in the forseeable future. Less obvious is the internal perception, right or wrong, that certain forms of commentary and opinion forming are no longer central to what editors want and readers expect."

Jonathan Jones: "It is a vice of second-rate art to come with its own eloquent explanation attached."

Pauline Kael: "When we championed trash culture we had no idea it would become the only culture." (MB)

Paddy Johnson: "Lately I've been having this fantasy where I see a talk or read a review in which someone manages to avoid using any art world buzzwords."

Comment

1.

Jack

July 18, 2008, 11:44 AM

Lebrecht writes that "Lawrence Johnson in Miami [presumably an art critic] is one of the best." I live in Miami, and I've never heard of Lawrence Johnson. Who or what is Lebrecht talking about?

2.

Jack

July 18, 2008, 12:19 PM

Pailine Kael:

"When we championed trash culture we had no idea it would become the only culture."

All-too-possible extrapolation:

When trash became art, and aggressively championed as such, did anybody bother to worry about art becoming glorified trash?

3.

Jack

July 18, 2008, 6:23 PM

I meant Pauline, obviously.

4.

Chris Rywalt

July 18, 2008, 7:50 PM

I thought this was interesting, from McLennan: "However, even if you have a blog that gets 300 to 400 people a day, there are advertisers who would love to reach those people."

I'm halfway there!

5.

Jack

July 18, 2008, 8:04 PM

Turns out Lawrence Johnson is (or was) a classical music critic for the Miami Herald. I'm surprised the Herald even had such a position, though I'm not surprised they did away with it (the profile of classical music in Miami is mighty low, at best).

I suppose the Herald will keep on some semblance, I mean simulacrum, of an art critic, what with Miami being a presumed art center (don't want to upset the Baselites, you know).

6.

Chris Rywalt

July 18, 2008, 8:05 PM

The Paul Schrader quote in the Kael article can be read here if you're interested.

7.

Jack

July 19, 2008, 11:58 AM

Interesting commentary by Paul Schrader in that link:

Cultural history has not been kind to Pauline. She was able to rail against critical snobbery and High Art, defend mass-audience taste and extol "trash" because she never feared for culture. She knew that there would always be standards. Because she had standards. She appreciated great art and literature and opera; no amount of "trash" could change that.

That may have been fine for her, but what about her readers? What standards did they have, or could realistically be expected to have? It's OK to enjoy "trash," as long as one remains clear as to what it is and, more importantly, what it's not.

That's one of the big problems with the current art scene. Lack of standards, obviously, intimately coupled with a ridiculously limited or blinkered frame of reference due to both appalling ignorance and crass arrogance, not to say delusion. "New and different" absurdly revered for their own sake, along with intent or imputed meaning (however tenuous), as if any or all of those things were enough, in and of themselves.

Thanks, but I'll stick to "critical snobbery."

8.

opie

July 19, 2008, 1:00 PM

Sometimes people with taste and high standards can get suckered in when there is some catchy intellectual fad quivering on the horizon.

Postmodernism had a lot going for it in its original form but it came to be misused and deteriorated into what we hcve today, which I won't waste my time characterizing. The "hi/low" "trash is great" idea was OK as a vehicle for letting rejected materials into art, and it worked like magic in the hands of Picasso and Braque and Schwitters and others, but it got sclerotic very quickly, by the late teens, with Duchamp and his you-know-what, and when it hit the fan big time in the 60s it was really old hat and tiresome.

9.

Jack

July 19, 2008, 1:43 PM

We're a good ways from the 60's now, and they're still at it like it was 1917. Talk about old hat and tiresome. The key reason, of course, is that it's not only still profitable but ever more so, at least for the time being.

10.

Jack

July 19, 2008, 7:27 PM

Spent some time loitering at Books & Books. Again. Eventually I'll be discovered and become a big star. Or something. Saw the current/latest (?) issue of New American Paintings, devoted to painters from the South and juried by Peter Boswell (Miami Art Museum curator). It was better than I expected (which was mighty little). Anyhow, among other south Florida entries, I was pleased to find a couple of really nice people whose work I also happen to like, Jenny Brillhart and John Bailly. Congrats.

11.

Jack

July 20, 2008, 4:11 PM

I'm reluctant to make it 3 in a row, but it's been pretty quiet around here. Anyway, while at the bookstore, I passed by a Roy Lichtenstein calendar perched by a window. It was still shrink-wrapped, and since I was certainly not going to buy it, I only looked at the pictures for the various months on the back cover. YAWN. Actually, more like SNORE.

True, by now whatever novelty value the stuff once had is quite gone, and what's left is only stale, dated quaintness. However, it's still "blue chip," or so one hears. How did this guy ever get taken seriously, let alone become a major star? If he'd put the stuff out as a practical joke, the way Duchamp initially did with "Fountain," I'd have rather more respect for it (and him).

12.

MC

July 20, 2008, 7:33 PM

I wonder, if real comic book nerds put their heads together to come up with a calendar of the 12 best comic panels ever drawn, what it'd look like, in comparison...

13.

opie

July 21, 2008, 4:41 AM

Especially when put up against real comic geniuses like Herriman.

In time all that stuff will look as tired and dated as the 19th C salon painters.

14.

dude

July 21, 2008, 7:11 AM

re: 12

I'd have to nominate a panel from Marvel's Secret Wars #4, where the Hulk is supporting 50 BILLION TONS of mountain such that it doesn't drop and end the lives of half of Marvel's dazed and helpless heroes. Never was a big Hulk fan, but that image has stayed with me forever.

Franklin you brought up the film Idiocracy a while back and I wanted to comment in turn but forgot, but we had just watched it at about the same time. Like you, stuff was making me think of the movie daily. I think we are living in a Mediocracy for now.

15.

Jack

July 21, 2008, 7:12 AM

In a published response to a question as to who was or were the greatest influence/s on contemporary painting, Miami Art Museum curator Peter Boswell named Julie Mehretu and James Rosenquist.

What a relief. It turns out it wasn't MY problem after all.

16.

Chris Rywalt

July 21, 2008, 7:24 AM

Hey, Jack, going back a few posts here: I looked up Brillhart and Bailly and, wow, talk about two entirely different artists! But both look really, really good. Brillhart particularly is doing something I've always thought would be interesting, exploring the back ends of buildings, the empty sides, the parts that aren't thought of as "important." That she manages to make work that's both realistic and abstract at the same time is fantastic. Meanwhile Bailly's paintings remind me of a flock of seagulls over a garbage dump in their chaos.

17.

opie

July 21, 2008, 8:05 AM

Julie Mehretu and James Rosenquist??

What an extraordinary response!

18.

Chris Rywalt

July 21, 2008, 8:15 AM

The greatest influences on contemporary painting? Really? I'm not sure most contemporary artists have even heard of either of them.

19.

Jack

July 21, 2008, 8:37 AM

Well, OP, I suppose "extraordinary response" is as good a way as any to put it. Of course, Boswell may have said that without giving it much thought or consideration, but obviously those are the names that occurred to him at the time. Mehretu is a suitably "correct" response, I guess, as things go these days, but Rosenquist seems decidedly, well, "extraordinary" (though maybe it's a MAM thing).

20.

MC

July 21, 2008, 8:42 AM

So then, the essence of contemporary painting is hodgepodgery?

21.

Chris Rywalt

July 21, 2008, 9:34 AM

I prefer to say that essence of contemporary art is Dumpster Diving.

22.

opie

July 21, 2008, 9:38 AM

Jack, on the other hand at least Rosenquist is "historic" in the sense that if he had actually this great influence it would have had a change to pervade the system. but Mehretu is contemporary and also so stylistically narrow that it just seems like he wasn't awake when he said it.

He could have replied that the greatest influence on painting has been the market. That at least could be argued.

23.

opie

July 21, 2008, 9:40 AM

...had a CHANCE to pervade the system

Yes, dumpster diving is another broad influence. Seriously!

24.

Jack

July 21, 2008, 12:18 PM

Re #16, yes, they're very different, but each is very much his/her own artist. They both know who they are and what they're about, and they simply do their thing. Neither has been "picked up" by the local art establishment, predictably enough. Still, Jenny is now represented by a German gallery in Berlin, has had two solo shows there and is selling nicely, thank you. John currently has a solo show up at the MOCA in Jacksonville, FL (the Miami MOCA has other interests, such as showing gaudy glass doo-dads by some French guy whose name now thankfully escapes me).

John is very drawing-oriented, intellectual (sometimes overly so), and fairly obsessive (shades of Giacometti). Jenny is a very sweet, very pretty girl who doesn't look nearly as rigorous as her work (which is only getting stronger). I may have been the first person who bought something from her when she first moved to Miami some years back (though by now I probably can't afford her).

25.

dude

July 22, 2008, 6:45 AM

For those who might be interested, here is a link to a Canadian online academic journal. This issue is publishes the some of the content presented at a special Emma Lake 2007 summer workshop focussed on Greenberg and aesthetics. Unfortunately most of it looks like grad student hokum, excepting Fenton's piece. Seems like there was no shortage of things to say about Kant so maybe the more learned around here might like to weigh in on this business a bit. There is more info on the attendees at Fenton's site or the sharecom Greenberg page.

http://www.uqtr.ca/AE/Vol_14/

26.

dude

July 22, 2008, 6:49 AM

Me thinks some of the recent artblog commenters, in some of the longer more obtuse threads, may have gained some of their insights about Kant and Greenberg at this very get together...

27.

Jack

July 22, 2008, 7:12 AM

No matter how "learned" or well-read or familiar with Kant (or anybody else) someone may be, it's all moot if s/he has no eye (as Greenberg would have doubtlessly agreed). I have absolutely no use for such people's pronouncements on art, and no interest in wasting my time discussing it with them. They can easily find others of their own kind, and so they should.

28.

MC

July 22, 2008, 8:57 AM

Dude, thanks for the Canadian Aesthetics Journal link. Fenton's piece is nicely written. Can't say the same for Dayton's though, although, I confess, I didn't bother reading it through to the end.

It's funny though, to read Fenton in the first essay write: "The vilification was so persistent, that it coined a descriptive term: “Clembashing.” One couldn’t pick up an art magazine without encountering an example, often including the shibboleth, “What Greenberg fails to understand…”";

and then read the penultimate essay in the collection, written by one of the editors, begin with the specious line:
"In what follows I offer an interpretation of the puzzle posed by Greenberg’s failure to come to terms with the explosion of postmodernist experimentation in the 1960’s."


Too funny...

29.

opie

July 22, 2008, 9:09 AM

I think that "Greenberg fails to comes to terms with..." is probably the more common phrase by far. It goes along with the "failure of his eye" after AE.

The thing is, he did come to terms with all of it. He said "It sucks".

30.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 9:22 AM

Dayton's first paragraph also says:

".... Greenberg, one of the most influential critics of the immediately preceding period and a strong supporter of New York abstract expressionism and color field painting, is indelibly associated with of modernist schools of painting. His short essay, “Modernist Painting” [1] valorized precisely these movements and was a tour de force catapulting Greenberg into critic superstar status; it is still one of the central documents in debates about modernism. Because Greenberg there makes references to Kant’s aesthetics in identifying the virtues of modernism his account is usually interpreted in terms of the formalism of the period and Kant’s analytic of the beautiful. This offers a reading of Greenberg as a formalist and as identifying modernism with a concern for the formal properties of art, the flatness of the picture frame and the formal relations between the aesthetic properties. Greenberg was also celebrated as having a legendary acuteness of aesthetic appreciation—a critical eye penetrating immediately to a work’s aesthetic depth."

31.

Jack

July 22, 2008, 10:36 AM

"Acuteness of aesthetic appreciation—a critical eye penetrating...to a work’s aesthetic depth" is the sine qua non of any critic or art commentator worth reading or hearing. NOTHING compensates for the lack thereof.

32.

Jack

July 22, 2008, 11:02 AM

Re the passage quoted in #28,

"I offer an interpretation of the puzzle posed by Greenberg’s failure to come to terms with the explosion of postmodernist experimentation in the 1960’s,"

In other words, it was Greenberg's fault, his failure, his problem. Nothing wrong with what he didn't "come to terms with."

But of course.

How very simple, not to mention fashionably convenient.

33.

opie

July 22, 2008, 12:05 PM

He was severely deficient in his inability to appreciate bad art.

No doubt bout it.

34.

MC

July 22, 2008, 12:40 PM

"...the flatness of the picture frame..."

(Snicker)... and here I thought it was that faux brass strip that was the problem...

35.

Jack

July 22, 2008, 12:41 PM

Yes, OP. It's a good thing we've progressed beyond such narrow-mindedness. Now it's all egalitarian, pluralistic and equal-opportunity fabulousness. No need to be discerning or (the horror!) discriminating any more. Besides, you need a decent eye for that, so screw it. Just talk the right talk and strike the right pose. Like Madonna said, there's nothing to it, and Madonna knows her shit.

36.

Franklin

July 22, 2008, 12:41 PM

LOL!

37.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 1:22 PM

Well done! You've all read the first paragraph!

38.

dude

July 22, 2008, 1:52 PM

"catapulting...superstar...tour de force...critic frosted sugar bombs!!!"

c'mon j, Trix are for kids.

39.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 1:55 PM

Dude, try reading the whole text and get back to me about what cereal you like for breakfast

40.

opie

July 22, 2008, 3:05 PM

Posie at first glance it sounded heavy-duty & serious so I scanned it and read parts.

It really is just another empty shell with a sober demeanor. Even the paragraph you quote has "valorized precisely these movements", "a tour de force" which "catapult(s)", " the flatness of the picture frame" and "formal relations between aesthetic properties".

This is not good writing, and it is unreasonable to expect smart people to torture themselves with it.

41.

John

July 22, 2008, 3:06 PM

An essential point is missed here. "Criticism" does not exist fully when it is merely written. Yet the published word is what everyoe frets most about.

I know that someone is a good critic when what they say out loud (literally talk about) makes sense, sheds light on what I'm seeing, that sort of thing. Such a person may not write all that fancy, they may not write at all. Because criticism, like all verbal communication, starts by speaking, not putting words to paper. It has to sound right before it does anything else.

Good art writing, of course, does sound right when you read it aloud. The best sounds like real talking. Beware big time if you read it aloud and it sounds vaccuous, stilted, or especially off the point of what you would be looking at if you were looking at the art.

It gets down to words are a combination of meaning and sound. Relieving words of their sounds unleashes all manner of silent gibberish. Very few would tolerate a conversation that sounds like that stuff sounds when you read it aloud. Why is it held in such high esteem then?

42.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 3:18 PM

Scanning and reading "parts" hardly constitutes a basis for determining good writing. Have it your way tadpoles, swim in the shallow end.

43.

Franklin

July 22, 2008, 3:27 PM

Scanning and reading "parts" hardly constitutes a basis for determining good writing.

This is quite true. It's a perfectly adequate basis for determining bad writing, though.

44.

Chris Rywalt

July 22, 2008, 3:27 PM

I've always found, MC, that the faux-brass strip peels off after a few years and hangs down. Very unbecoming.

45.

dude

July 22, 2008, 3:39 PM

You don't want to get me started on the plastic-brass frame strip...

46.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 4:18 PM

Re: #43


NOT!

47.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 4:21 PM

The only thing for which (scanning and partial reading) is an adequate basis, is for explaining one's lack of familiarity with the text.

48.

Jack

July 22, 2008, 4:28 PM

"Have it your way tadpoles, swim in the shallow end."

I must say, that's quite choice. Even I, in my impenetrably elitist narrow-mindedness, must confess, however reluctantly, to being impressed (well, tolerably so, at any rate). I mean, really first-rate condescension is not as common as one might think. I feel truly humbled (but perhaps it's merely indigestion).

49.

Franklin

July 22, 2008, 4:32 PM

Not all texts merit familiarity. That one paragraph is a cliché-ridden mess that sounds like a list of modernist bullet points put through a food processor. While this doesn't indicate that the essay totally lacks merit or is completely mistaken throughout, it is poorly written and my time on earth is limited.

50.

Chris Rywalt

July 22, 2008, 5:06 PM

However, it's nice to know we have people like J to go through such texts for us and tell us what we're missing in digest form. And also that we suck.

51.

MC

July 22, 2008, 5:14 PM

I'm not sure what Jsimple was trying to achieve by posting the offending paragraph, anyway... unless it was to wryly point to the obvious hokum, what more would she have us take away from it, I ask?

52.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 5:27 PM

Re #48:

As it is never good to swim with dispepsia-it might be a goood idea to get out of the pool altogether Jack.

Re #49:

Maybe you would prefer the John O'Brian text?

Re #50:

I have nowhere said you suck.

Re #51:

You chose the first twenty-seven words of a hundred and eighty-seven word paragraph to characterize a whole essay. You are cherry picking.

53.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 5:34 PM

Damn dyspepsia. Damn o key.

54.

MC

July 22, 2008, 5:49 PM

Re: #52
"Re #51:

You chose the first twenty-seven words of a hundred and eighty-seven word paragraph to characterize a whole essay. You are cherry picking."


No. I merely stated I thought the sentence from Fenton's piece lent a humourous reading to the sentence from the other writer.
Then, in #51, I asked what you hoped to achieve by posting the rest of the paragraph, a question which your #52 doesn't address... "second request", as they say...

55.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 5:53 PM

I merely provided you with the rest of the paragraph, ie., the context for your giggles and belly laughs, MC.

56.

MC

July 22, 2008, 6:13 PM

Did you thik the rest of the paragraph wasn't available to me before... I assume you cut and pasted the tet from the same link I read if from to begin with... ???

Still puzzled...

57.

MC

July 22, 2008, 6:13 PM

Did you think the rest of the paragraph wasn't available to me before... I assume you cut and pasted the tet from the same link I read if from to begin with... ???

Still puzzled...

58.

Chris Rywalt

July 22, 2008, 6:15 PM

J, you didn't literally say we suck, but you did call us tadpoles. At least one breed of tadpole does indeed suck.

59.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 6:17 PM

I would assume you are puzzled.

60.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 6:18 PM

You make a wonderful rebel frog Chris.

61.

opie

July 22, 2008, 6:23 PM

If you like the writing so much then defend the things we are belly-laughing at, Posie. Characterizing and calling us "tadpoles" and stupid stuff like that just looks weak.

And obviously if 2 paragraphss of a text are bad there is no reason to suspect that suddenly the writer will explode with clarity and insight. That's like the old "you can't tell anything from a jpeg" routine we go through regularly here.

Good grief, I can tell you 99% of the quality of a text from a couple of sentences, let alone a couple of paragraphs! It's not that difficult, espcially after you have read a couple thousand acres of horrendous art writing already. I think you are just too mellowed out from blogging in Jelloland.

62.

MC

July 22, 2008, 6:23 PM

But, you don't need to assume, J, I told you I was puzzled.

So, what was your intention in posting that paragraph, then? Did you find it's content to be noteworthy, for anything other than humour's sake?

Is this the third, or fourth request, now?... If you don't know what you were trying to accomplish, J, you can just say so...

63.

Jack

July 22, 2008, 6:27 PM

In view of the strained, not to say laborious, attempt at wit in #52, I retract #48. It appears #47 must have a been a fluke. My admiration was premature, but we all make mistakes.

64.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 6:31 PM

Opie, indulge me and answer me two questions. First, why do you laugh at the first paragraph of the essay which predominantly lauds Greenberg? Second, do you think this essay is somehow clembashing?

MC, I answered your question.

65.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 6:34 PM

No, Jack, honestly, you really shouldn't swim with a pain in your pinny.

66.

Chris Rywalt

July 22, 2008, 6:35 PM

Considering the names I've been called today, Rebel Frog is a step up.

67.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 6:37 PM

wonderful rebel frog, just so we're clear.

68.

MC

July 22, 2008, 6:46 PM

Oh, ok, so it WAS a mistake... fair enough.

69.

Franklin

July 22, 2008, 6:47 PM

J, I was out for a run or I would have stopped this a lot sooner. Start making a productive contribution on behalf of something or I'm going to begin deleting your comments. Again.

70.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 6:49 PM

I'll reiterate, MC, I merely provided you with the rest of the paragraph, ie., the context for your giggles and belly laughs.

71.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 6:52 PM

Well, anyway, what do you think about John O'Brian's text?

72.

MC

July 22, 2008, 6:57 PM

Wow! A redundancy, in defense of a redundancy! Talk about déjà vu all over again. Colour me as impressed as Jack!

73.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 6:59 PM

MC, do you not agree with most of what is said, in that paragraph?

74.

Jack

July 22, 2008, 7:04 PM

Re #65, I rest my case. The evidence is now incontrovertible. I was indeed rash to be impressed. Alas, just a flash in the pan.

By the way, rumor has it Paris Hilton is coming out with a new book, written all by her lonesome, called "My Vision of the Ideal Society, or the Secret of Happiness" (the use of an alternate title is a deliberate nod to pre-modern literary practice, of course--Paris says archaic style is very, like, you know, stylish).

Anyway, should anyone be inclined to jump to conclusions about the merits of this, uh, intriguing opus, I must insist that the entire book be read first, cover to cover, before proffering any judgment. After all, we must always be open-minded, no matter what the cost in time or trouble.

Needless to say, the same goes for the upcoming treatise by Don King, written on sabbatical from pugilistic promotion. It's called "The Hermeneutics of Early Arcadian Poetry."

75.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 7:12 PM

Do they have those at Books on Books or whatever its called - where they have all the Lichtenstein calendars and such?

76.

Jack

July 22, 2008, 7:23 PM

Books & Books has everything (even Lichtenstein calendars, as a concession to the lower middlebrow crowd, who have as much right to be amused as anybody).

77.

MC

July 22, 2008, 7:24 PM

As all but J@ can clearly see, it was dude, not J@, who provided us with the rest of the text to start with, so thanks again, to dude.
Great, there I go repeating myself...

It seems J@ is unable to see how something ostensibly laudatory in tone could be nonetheless ridiculous.

The first sentence gives the game away though, anyway. The mistaken conclusion that Greenberg was confounded by the "postmodernist" art of the '60's (?) is taken as a given by the author, right off the bat, so that any praise is all lip service. "Influential" is faint praise indeed, when you consider the types of common slights noted by Fenton. The rest of the paragraph is so much twaddle...

78.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 7:25 PM

I'm there!

79.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 7:28 PM

I'm there - at Books and Books that is.

So sure you are MC, of your views. You must be really clever.

Peace out fellas

80.

MC

July 22, 2008, 7:40 PM

Thanks, J.

I'm trying to skim some more of that essay, and this gem popped out at me:

"The avant-garde is a kind of shock force of an imaginary future which its members experience with great vividness and which contains a wholeness existing only in artistic representation and experimentation; in short, existing in works and labour which come about as critique, by way of a critical response to past works which are losing their revolutionary character and the creation of works and cultural events connected as the happening of a new strand of the cultural life."

Sweet buttered jesus! What does this guy think the phrase "in short" means, exactly?

81.

Franklin

July 22, 2008, 7:44 PM

Goodbye, J.

I'm looking over that paragraph again and thinking that they should make these people take a creative writing class. What teacher with an ear for fiction would suffer "tour de force," "tour de force catapulting," "offers a reading," or "formal relations between the aesthetic properties"? Not to mention that "precisely" is wrong, "frame" is wrong, "superstar status" is totally wrong, "immediately" isn't good enough or even necessary, and "work's aesthetic depth" sounds like Sylvester the Cat. This needs a hard smack with a copy of Brenda Ueland's book.

82.

MC

July 22, 2008, 7:50 PM

"I tot I taw a puddy tat..."

83.

opie

July 22, 2008, 8:28 PM

Posie, you ask: "Opie, indulge me and answer me two questions. First, why do you laugh at the first paragraph of the essay which predominantly lauds Greenberg? Second, do you think this essay is somehow clembashing?"

I didn't laugh, Posie. I didn't find it amusing. I thought it was not good writing and I gave examples. Other people have also given examples.The piece seems to be mostly hot air.

Frankly, without reading the piece more thoroughly I can't tell if he was Clembashing or not. From what I read, skimming over it, I really couldn't tell. I got the impression that it was more evenhanded than most.

84.

J@simpleposie

July 22, 2008, 9:18 PM

I see. Thank you Opie.

85.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 5:54 AM

Re MC's remarks in #77:

"The first sentence gives the game away though, anyway. The mistaken conclusion that Greenberg was confounded by the "postmodernist" art of the '60's (?) is taken as a given by the author, right off the bat, so that any praise is all lip service. "Influential" is faint praise indeed, when you consider the types of common slights noted by Fenton. The rest of the paragraph is so much twaddle..."

Actually the first sentence, if you read it, makes no conclusion whatsoever. The so called failure of Greenberg to come " to terms with the explosion of postmodernist experimentation in the 1960’s" (yes the sixties!) is characterized by Dayton as a puzzle, puzzling all the more because of Greenberg's astonishing critical achievements. Dayton's first sentence only claims he is about to offer an interpretation of this puzzle. There is nothing concluded, mistakenly or otherwise.

86.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 6:01 AM

Philosophical texts hardly ever read like fiction, however much we might want them to. That said, this text merits a lot more consideration than a dislike of Dayton's use of the word catapulting.

87.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 6:52 AM

I don't see the problem with insisting that authors not fill philosophical papers with clichés, malapropisms, and overstatements that would undermine any other kind of writing. In contrast, insisting that intelligent people subject themselves to bad writing, for the sake of a valid point or two lurking among the wounded, bloated sentences, is demented.

I don't want readers to coddle my prose in sympathy - I want them to read a sentence and feel compelled to continue to the next one. A writer who doesn't understand this has no business at the keyboard.

Clear writing correlates to clear thinking.

88.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 6:56 AM

Taken sentence by sentence, what is unclear? Or in MC's words twaddle?

".... Greenberg, one of the most influential critics of the immediately preceding period and a strong supporter of New York abstract expressionism and color field painting, is indelibly associated with of modernist schools of painting.

His short essay, “Modernist Painting” [1] valorized precisely these movements and was a tour de force catapulting Greenberg into critic superstar status; it is still one of the central documents in debates about modernism.

Because Greenberg there makes references to Kant’s aesthetics in identifying the virtues of modernism his account is usually interpreted in terms of the formalism of the period and Kant’s analytic of the beautiful.

This offers a reading of Greenberg as a formalist and as identifying modernism with a concern for the formal properties of art, the flatness of the picture frame and the formal relations between the aesthetic properties.

Greenberg was also celebrated as having a legendary acuteness of aesthetic appreciation—a critical eye penetrating immediately to a work’s aesthetic depth."

89.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 7:01 AM

I already listed my problems with the paragraph in #81. Read Ueland's book and get back to me.

90.

opie

July 23, 2008, 7:01 AM

But Posie, with all due respect,the simple fact that he regards this as a "puzzle" disqualifies any argument he might put forward right off the bat because he regards Greenberg's rejection of most or all of this art as a "failure to come to terms with...". This makes the rather large pre-assumption that this "postmodernist experiemntation" produced good art and that Greenberg didn't get it.

In fact Greenberg simply did not think it was any good. This is how he "came to terms" with it. There are quite a few of us who very similarly "fail to come to terms" with that stuff, myself among them. You don't call it a "failure to come to terms", you call it "rejection", and, if you disagree, you take it from there. The writer did not think this through.

As an example, if this writer was working in the late '30s or early '40s he might say that Greenberg could not come to terms with Social Realism, or American Scene painting, or Magic Realism. Of course no one would say this now. And in due time no one will say what this fellow is saying either.

91.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 7:19 AM

With all due respect, Opie I think Dayton's essay is more generous toward Greenberg's rejection of things postmodern than you think. Check out the end of the third paragraph:

"...it seems to me to offer us resources for understanding the puzzle which Greenberg’s place in the art world poses for us. Greenberg is often considered America’s most important 20th century critic, someone equipped with an unerring eye and possessing a keen grasp of the historical irruption of Modernity, but he seemed unable to appreciate the exuberant waves of artistic experimentation in the sixties either ocularly or theoretically. If this is a failure, then of what kind is it?"

If is the operative word in the last sentence.

92.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 7:27 AM

You seem unable to appreciate what poor writing this is. If this is a failure, of what kind is it?

93.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 7:28 AM

I bet you can do better than that.

94.

Chris Rywalt

July 23, 2008, 7:29 AM

Ueland's book looks awesome.

95.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 7:31 AM

Ueland's book is one of the best books about art ever written. Consummately highly recommended.

96.

Jack

July 23, 2008, 7:50 AM

As has already been noted in different ways (#32 and #90), there was no "unable to appreciate" and no "failure to come to terms." There was rejection based on Greenberg's taste, for which neither he nor anybody else needs to apologize or rationalize. What is so difficult to understand about that?

The problem, of course, comes when someone feels or believes that Greenberg should have appreciated or come to terms with Pop Art and what followed. That, however, is strictly (and all too obviously) Dayton's problem, and that of many like him (let alone the overt, blatant "Clembashers"). Greenberg simply chose. He rejected what he found unworthy, bogus or weak. He had the right to do so; everyone does. People really need to deal with that.

97.

opie

July 23, 2008, 7:57 AM

I don't think he was ungenerous toward Greenberg, Posie.

The response in this instance is that the "if" qualifies the discussion too much. "If" it is NOT a failure - and I think it is definitely not - then it does not bear asking. "If" it IS a failure is is a failure of eye only and does not bear examination.

The whole premise is shaky.

In a way this writing is at least sincerely meant and seriously intended and has a scholarly gloss to it. But like so much of its kind it grinds the grain exceedingly fine without separating the wheat from the chaff.

98.

Brenda Ueland

July 23, 2008, 8:15 AM

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other.

99.

MC

July 23, 2008, 8:15 AM

Re#93,
Well, whaddya know, she was right... Franklin COULD do better!

100.

Ben

July 23, 2008, 8:18 AM

Once again it appears that the majority here are only reading what they want to hear (or don't want to hear). Discussing Clembashing is boring. It becomes nothing more than a sequence of circular arguments.

From the standpoint of furthering modernist thought, Dayton's article, for all its apparent flaws, is far more interesting than what Fenton wrote. There is room there for elaboration and discussion, it would be a lot more interesting to see the discussion start from a more expansive and positive point of view. It's there in Dayton's article, but you have to read through it all with a bit more of an open mind.

101.

MC

July 23, 2008, 8:20 AM

Ben, please, summarize for us what you gleaned of value from the Dayton piece, since so many of us won't bother slogging through the half-baked prose for ourselves (not to say I haven't read the whole thing, of course, but I'm the Devil's advocate sort)...

102.

Jack

July 23, 2008, 8:21 AM

It is conceivable that Dayton may even have been trying to "excuse" and perhaps "rehabilitate" Greenberg in the eyes of his more virulent detractors. Again, this would be both superfluous and condescending, because it clearly assumes Greenberg was somehow "mistaken." Those who strongly disagree with his taste are welcome to think so, but they still need to let the man be who and what he was. In other words, grow up, get over it and go your own way.

103.

MC

July 23, 2008, 8:24 AM

Oh, and back to the original roundup topic, it seems like Jonathan Jones fires off a stinger on the subject about once a week... Here's one that didn't make your roundup...

104.

Jack

July 23, 2008, 8:43 AM

"It is a vice of second-rate art to come with its own eloquent explanation attached" (Jonathan Jones)

I wouldn't call it a vice, but a crutch, a dodge, an attempt to compensate for insufficient merit (if any) as visual art.

Still, the ploy works quite well on plenty of people, so no wonder it's so popular.

105.

opie

July 23, 2008, 8:49 AM

Sometimes I wonder at the variety of mentality we humans display.

I had just got through reading the Fenton piece and thinking what a contrast to the Dayton piece: warm, informative, truthful, accurate, factual, untheoretical and with no axe to grind and actually saying a lot of very interesting things about Greenberg and how his mind and personality worked, as opposed to the cramped, unclear, confused, mnisdirected and misinformed style of the Dayton and there, in comment #100, Ben sez:"Dayton's article, for all its apparent flaws, is far more interesting than what Fenton wrote."

I guess we each live in our own little world.

106.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 9:01 AM

You'll notice though, Opie, that Ben is not going to answer MC's request in #101. I think you have to choose whether you're going to live in the world or your world.

107.

Brenda Ueland

July 23, 2008, 9:02 AM

Now there are brilliant people who cannot listen much. They have no ingoing wires on their apparatus. They are entertaining, but exhausting, too. I think it is because these lecturers, these brilliant performers, by not giving us a chance to talk, do not let us express our thoughts and expand; and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts, and unexpected laughter and wisdom. That is why, when someone has listened to you, you go home rested and lighthearted.

108.

MC

July 23, 2008, 9:09 AM

Oh, and I can't quite remember for sure, but was it Catfish who is the Laurie Anderson fan? (an interview w/video)...

109.

Brenda Ueland

July 23, 2008, 9:11 AM

But the most serious result of not listening is that worst thing in the world, boredom; for it is really the death of love. It seals people off from each other more than any other thing.

110.

opie

July 23, 2008, 9:14 AM

Posie, again, it is a little hard to untangle exactly what Dayton is saying about Danto's "arc of art" idea - it is hard to know in places whether it is him or Danto talking - but he apparently disagrees with Danto and because I think Danto is one of the prime intellectual phonies of our time this will certainly endear Dayton to me somewhat.

"Art is dead" - give me a break. What a jerk Danto is!

Dayton's heart seems to be in the right place and I sympathise with what I feel he is trying to express. But when a writer writes as if abstractions are real things which have life and character and ability to act and perform functions like people (a habit he shares with Danto) I have to say no, nothing doing. I think he could be OK if he would think things through better and climb out of that deadly academic style.

This is why the Fenton piece is so appealing, especially relative to the others: it talks about real stuff.

111.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 9:15 AM

In case anyone is wondering, that is indeed j@myquestionisvalid quoting Ueland, apparently confusing listening with unfettered access to Artblog.net comment threads.

112.

MC

July 23, 2008, 9:19 AM

No wondering necessary... whenever mysterious quotes appear without commentary (or discernible reason) it tends to be Jsimple at a loss for words of her own... I've endured the same on by blog as well, and it's even more tiresome that that idiot art history professor who comes on and comments from time to time...

113.

MC

July 23, 2008, 9:20 AM

... THAN that...

114.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 9:21 AM

No , I'm not confused about anything. Am I permitted to respond to Opie?

115.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 9:25 AM

What, without asking "please"?

116.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 9:26 AM

Am I permitted or not?

117.

MC

July 23, 2008, 9:27 AM

Geez, Franklin, you men are so bad at listening...

Jsimple, please, summarize for us what you gleaned of value from the Dayton piece, since so many of us won't bother slogging through the half-baked prose for ourselves (not to say I haven't read the whole thing, of course, but I'm the Devil's advocate sort)...

118.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 9:29 AM

I was speaking to Franklin.

119.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 9:30 AM

You're always permitted to comment. The only question is whether I'll delete it or not. That depends on how impressed I am with the comment.

120.

MC

July 23, 2008, 9:32 AM

You were speaking to Franklin? Really? When? I thought you were in Toronto... How interesting.

But enough chit-chat, how about responding to my comment?

121.

MC

July 23, 2008, 9:36 AM

I can't believe you let that one slip by, Franklin...

122.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 9:37 AM

MC, I might respond to your "comment" if it were somewhat less Dan Pusseyesque as someone in Vancouver once said of your critical style.

123.

MC

July 23, 2008, 9:38 AM

Scene from "Airplane":

"What do you make of this, Johnny?" (hands him a piece of paper)

"This? Well, I could make a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl..."

124.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 9:40 AM

Let what slip by?

Thank you for not repeating your questions, j@myquestionisvalid.

125.

J@simpleposie

July 23, 2008, 9:42 AM

Over to you Franklin. You have my sincere condolences.

126.

MC

July 23, 2008, 9:43 AM

Sorry, Franklin, I thought there was a "comment" (scary, huh?) there before that seemed decidedly unimpressive, but its gone, now...

127.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 9:46 AM

Thanks, J. You have my low opinion.

128.

Ben

July 23, 2008, 10:03 AM

In Carpenter's essay he said, Greenberg does ask other, important questions consistent with his aesthetics: how tensions are established and resolved in works of art (he has a supreme talent for that), how artists place themselves within tradition and relate to their influences...

The questions of tradition and influence are central to how art evolves and to how it becomes relevant within the culture.

Dayton quotes Foucault, ...consists in recapturing something eternal that is not beyond the present instant, nor behind it, but within it. Modernity is distinct from fashion, which does no more than call into question the course of time; modernity is the attitude that makes it possible to grasp the ‘heroic’ aspect of the present moment. Modernity is not a phenomenon of sensitivity to the fleeting present; it is the will to ‘heroize’ the present.

There's stuff to think about...

[Excised for length - see comment below. - F.]

129.

Ben

July 23, 2008, 10:09 AM

Mr opies remark "Art is dead" - give me a break. What a jerk Danto is! while true just serves to continue moving the conversation in a circle. I suspect we all agree Danto's wrong, so what's the point of going on about it? Time to move on.

130.

Jack

July 23, 2008, 10:12 AM

Anyone who'd go major ga-ga over Warhol's Brillo boxes is not worth taking seriously in any context, let alone art-wise. By extension, quoting Danto as if he had any real authority and deserved serious consideration is dubious at best. We're talking people who'd probably like a Lichtenstein calendar.

131.

that guy

July 23, 2008, 10:21 AM

The Fenton article is quite fine. It really makes me want to paint. I like that in an art essay. If it doesn't at least make you want to look at art, there is a problem. Dayton's writing suffers from this. Dayton is a philosophy professor. We should expect unenlightened, dry, art writing from his department. Thats what academics do, they normally produce tons and tons of it every year. Why is everyone so surprised now?

132.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 10:37 AM

Ben, we can go over and read it ourselves. Like MC said, summarize what you gleaned of value from the piece and present it to us. If you want to avoid circularity, you have to provide your own input.

133.

MC

July 23, 2008, 10:49 AM

"MC, I might respond to your "comment" if..."

On the contrary, Jsimple, you did respond to my "comment" (?): you just failed to answer the question, which honestly seems like a fair one, asking you to explain what you appreciated in the Dayton piece (and conversely, why we're all so wrong about it)...

134.

opie

July 23, 2008, 10:52 AM

Franklin's right, Ben. There is a real habit among bloggers to do a lot of chiding, which in itself does not "move on", as you put it.

As for Mr. Carpenter's mention of what Greenberg didn't do, wouldn't you say that is just a bit circular? There are a lot of things Greenberg didn't do, and he was particularly averse to analyzing things like the "resolusion of tensions" in paintings. I suspect if asked he was respond by saying "what do you mean?" I know I would.

As for the quote, about which you say there is somet6hing to "think about" I would say, perhaps, but first we'd have to figure out what the hell it means. All these wildly interacting abstractions just confuse me. Sorry.

135.

MDPC

July 23, 2008, 10:54 AM

Jsimple, please, summarize for us what you gleaned of value from the Dayton piece, SINCE SO MANY OF US WONT BOTHER SLOGGING THROUGH THE HALF BAKED PROSE FOR OURSELVES....

(we'll just delete the excerpts you provide for us)

136.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 11:00 AM

Actually, MDPC, I'm asking people who see value in this essay to argue for its ideas. Quoting it at length and saying there's stuff to think about in it doesn't accomplish that. There's stuff to think about all over the place.

One of the criticisms of the Chinese educational system is the tendency for students to quote from respected texts as if that were sufficient to establish truth. We have our own little slice of China showing up in defense of this essay.

137.

Ben

July 23, 2008, 11:05 AM

Franklin,

I suggested there was room for elaboration and discussion on the linked articles. I provided some quotes to suggest where one might start. It is apparent that there is not much real interest in exploring the topic so what's the point? You might have just as well just deleted my entire comment.

Good day.

138.

Franklin

July 23, 2008, 11:21 AM

Like I said, Ben, you quoted at length and said there was stuff to think about in it. There's plenty of interest around here regarding this topic, so if you can make a case for something in the article, do so, by all means.

139.

MC

July 23, 2008, 11:34 AM

Right, there's plenty to think about, but Ben wants us to to that thinking for him. He and Jsimple are all to eager to provide "some quotes to suggest where one might start", as long as that "one" isn't either of them...

140.

opie

July 23, 2008, 11:37 AM

Ben, you could start by explaining how something eternal is "within" an instant, why it needs to be said that "Modernity is distinct from fashion" and how that "calls into question the course of time", and how Modernity is the "will to heroize the present."

All that and more is in that short bit you quoted above.

Something to think about, indeed.

141.

Jack

July 23, 2008, 2:42 PM

What about just looking at the damn work, whatever it may be, and dealing with it personally, any way you want, using your own taste, judgment, and understanding?

Why should I, or anybody, complicate or obfuscate matters with this theory, that interpretation, this text, that curatorial decision, this "expert" opinion, etc., etc.?

I mean, are we talking about looking at and directly experiencing visual art, or glorified mental masturbation?

142.

Chris Rywalt

July 24, 2008, 8:47 AM

I have an idea. Let's all think about not thinking about it.

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