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Critic with a sky-high ego

Post #1228 • September 12, 2008, 10:13 AM • 150 Comments

Mary Christa O'Keefe, for the self-described Bullshit Issue of Vue Magazine in Edmonton, AB, put Clement Greenberg on her BS list targeted at the local art world:

So people in Edmonton had him over for dinner sometime in the '70s. It doesn't make him relevant now, and I bet a New York critic with a sky-high ego wouldn't be having dinner in Edmonton in the '70s if he were still relevant in New York at the time. Yes, he defined part of mid-20th century art and art criticism. Yes, he's a writer with provocative ideas. Yes, his connection with the Edmonton Art Gallery shaped the AGA collection and influenced university departments, so he's a legitimate part of our history and continuing dialogue on art. But it's pathetic he's considered the end point of all artistic development by a vocal minority of our art community. Art is an onward story with multiple threads, not a mausoleum of ideas with one heroic thrust inherited from New York or London. Focusing on an iconic figure the rest of the universe already put in proper historical context isn't worldly - it's the definition of provincial. Anne Whitelaw did a fine job this year of dealing with Greenberg's local legacy - now let's move on.

I responded like so to the editor:

I'm a US-based artist and writer with an exhibition on display at Common Sense Gallery here in Edmonton though September 28. I'm also the producer of Artblog.net, one of the longest-running blogs about visual art.

Mary Christa O'Keefe's piece for this week's Vue (Aug. 28) goes out of its way to lambast the art critic Clement Greenberg. She also complains that "...it's pathetic he's considered the end point of all artistic development by a vocal minority of our art community."

Since no names are named, it's hard to know how anyone not already on the inside of your art scene might make sense of this. Insult-laced caricatures of Greenberg are so entrenched in the art establishment that aficionados of his work have a term for it - Clembashing - and as such, O'Keefe's comments are unremarkable in their conformity. But that "vocal minority" bit is chilling. Apparently she would like this minority to be less vocal, or not vocal at all, or vocal in a manner better suiting her sensibilities.

Common Sense is run by some talented artists who, like me, find value in Greenberg's work, and comment freely on goings-on in the art world locally and abroad. We would be happy to discuss Greenberg or any other topics with Ms. O'Keefe, if indeed she values dialogue. She's read "critical/cultural theory," as she puts it, and admits that she and her kind are "complicit in distancing art from the public sphere, because for a while, if you couldn't speak Lacan-ese, you were excluded from the discussion." But that's not the whole problem. People who refuse to sling the jargon, and disagree with the premises behind the jargon, are equally excluded from the discussion, at least the one O'Keefe thinks we all should be having.

Dialogue requires communication with actual persons who may not agree with you, not making nameless straw men the subject of cheap brickbats. Your readers would be better served by an art critic who didn't need this explained to her.

Since he didn't publish it, here you are.

I'd like to get some questions answered: What does she mean by "relevant"? Who thinks of Greenberg as "the end point of all artistic development"? Who belongs to this vocal minority? "Move on" and do what, exactly? As noted above, O'Keefe appears to have concern for "the discussion." My comment threads are open and she's welcome to provide us with some. Or was that, to use the apparently preferred term for this sort of thing, just bullshit?

Comment

1.

MC

September 12, 2008, 8:47 AM

"I'd like to get some questions answered: What does she mean by "relevant"?"

Good question. I suppose we could look for "Clement Greenberg" in the news. I suppose, for that matter, we could look up "Mary Christa O'Keefe" in the news, too.

(Since she's a living writer, she'll probably get at least one hit for something she wrote, complaining about the big ego of someone famous, no doubt...)

p.s. The uncredited picture that Vue Weekly stole to accompany their article is 'Ocean' by child-painter Marla Olmstead. In addition to not giving the artist any credit, they also printed her picture sideways... The Bullshit Issue, indeed.

2.

opie

September 12, 2008, 8:52 AM

"relevant", to the vocal majority, means "currently in fashion".

3.

MC

September 12, 2008, 9:02 AM

Well, I did just read that he's "a now largely discredited critic of narrow Modernist background" who proclaimed "perverse edicts"...

4.

Snide

September 12, 2008, 9:54 AM

I read O'Keefe's piece as a reaction to the brouhaha around Whitelaw's characterization of CG's history and influence in Edmonton's art scene. The defensiveness from certain quarters that I heard only seemed to make her point more evident. Moving on is not about neglecting this history, or the value of CG's work, but taking the reasonable step of engaging with more of the work, writing, and culture that's out there now. Do I really need to belabor the point that it sometimes seems like you boys don't get out that much (cross-continental rving aside!)?

5.

Snide

September 12, 2008, 9:56 AM

p.s.

"Dialogue requires communication with actual persons who may not agree with you, not making nameless straw men the subject of cheap brickbats".

Couldn't agree with this more-- Artblog.net and NESW could both keep this in mind a little more often!

6.

MC

September 12, 2008, 10:54 AM

The defensiveness from certain quarters that I heard only seemed to make her point more evident.

Would you care to summarize that eminently evident point, for those of us who may have missed it?

7.

George

September 12, 2008, 12:55 PM

Hi folks.

This post makes O'Keefe's point. There's no Clem bashing in her remarks. To the contrary she gives Greenberg his due and comes to what I believe is a fair conclusion.

I can understand why everyone here is so upset, since she isn't bashing Greenberg, she's bashing provincialism and all of you took the bait.

8.

George

September 12, 2008, 1:07 PM

If you re-read O'keefe's article, without the section on Greenberg, how much disagreement woud you have with her other points. Probably not much.

So how does this article foster Franklin's lead "Critic with a sky-high ego"?
Isn't she just saying all the same things everyone here has been saying right along?

9.

MC

September 12, 2008, 1:23 PM

Woof! Speaking of bait, that was a real stinker, George.

Evidently, O' Keefe is criticizing the Art Gallery of Alberta, since they held their Greenbergian-themed "Flat" show in spring 2007, and followed that with the Whitelaw-curated modernist show she mentions in the spring of 2008. I assumed this was her way of suggesting the AGA's spring 2009 season shouldn't continue this line of programming... I mean, what else could she have been talking about? These are the only local public events that were "Focusing on" the "iconic figure" in recent memory that I can recall, and you'd think I would know, since I'm something of a Greenberg fan, after all...

"So how does this article foster Franklin's lead "Critic with a sky-high ego"?"

That was a quote from O'Keefe, George. She somehow mistakenly thinks that her estimation of Greenberg's EGO, of all things, is relevant to his worth as a writer, critic, etc... and if assessments of ego are up for grabs when weighing a writer's merit, then O'Keefe opens herself up to the same scrutiny.
How do obvious points like this evade you so easily, George?

It must be said that Ms. O'Keefe, by her own admission, is neither a critic, nor a journalist, so one is justified in being disappointed by her writing, as it clearly amounts to neither criticism nor journalism, but merely egoism.

10.

George

September 12, 2008, 1:38 PM

Yeah, I misread that MC, then I thought Franklin was talking about himself.

Any way you cut it, Franklin's response to O'Keefe does Edmonton artists no good. It only acts to reinforce the perception of their provincialism. Literally, if you read her article, point by point, it's reasonable for this moment in history. Since I don't know anything about the local scene I read her remarks about Greenberg for what they were. I think she comes to the same conclusion others might come to, she is not disagreeing about Greenberg's contribution but putting forth the idea that his time has passed. He has become an historical figure like other great art writers, his writing addressed the art made in the era he lived in. This in itself makes his writings interesting, but he did not write about the contemporary moment we find ourselves in. That makes him less relevant for the current moment, but not less relevant for history.

11.

John

September 12, 2008, 1:48 PM

Greenberg was "relevant" enough in the 70s, 80s, and beyond then. Anything he wished to publish was published.

He was pursued, in fact. I saw one letter in Clem's Norwich house that came from Donald Kuspit in the middle 80s asking him for an essay to include in a book Kuspit was doing for the University of Michigan Press. Clem said he had refused. The editor of the New Art Examiner told me he had attempted to get an essay from Clem at about the same time. Clem confirmed that indeed this had happened and he had also refused that. He had been choosing talking to artists over writing in public for at least a dozen years by then, though he would sometimes (rarely) respond to a request for an essay, from Arts or the New Criterion, for example. He also spoke, by invitation, at a number of museums and universities, participated in symposiums, and so on. Basically, he prefered talking over writing and he was plenty in demand ... "relevant", if you like, long after the 60s.

So he not only "had dinner" with Edmonton artists in the 70s, but throughout the 80s he returned to look at their work, at a time when he was much in demand - more demand than he was willing to meet. He travelled there because he was interested in their art, period.

12.

MC

September 12, 2008, 1:54 PM

"He has become an historical figure like other great art writers, his writing addressed the art made in the era he lived in."

Is that what you think? Really George, you should actually read some Greenberg sometime. For real. you'd be surprised to learn that he adressed more than just the art made in his own time. Seriously. Check it out...

13.

Snide

September 12, 2008, 2:08 PM

"It must be said that Ms. O'Keefe, by her own admission, is neither a critic, nor a journalist, so one is justified in being disappointed by her writing, as it clearly amounts to neither criticism nor journalism, but merely egoism"

Whose egoism again?! It is statements like these that make it really difficult to discuss anything with you, MC.

I'm not in a position to speak for O'Keefe, but clearly she's not talking about the AGA, but the group of individuals who get so riled up whenever CG is mentioned in a context they don't completely agree with. See the fiasco resulting from Whitelaw and even O'Brien's talks.

For me, it doesn't seem like an outlandish claim to say that a certain fashion set in, and resisted newer developments in art practice and criticism. Many parts of our community continue to cling to a particular style of art and art writing-- and that's the heritage that CG contributed to. Even if O'Keefe is exaggerating about how everything revolves around his writing for some people, it isn't out of order to note the fixation and possessiveness that have been on display over the past couple of years. It is on the subject of these attitudes, that I'd also call bullshit!

14.

George

September 12, 2008, 2:22 PM

You know, MC you think you're so smart and not provincial.

I agree with O'Keefe's remark "Focusing on an iconic figure the rest of the universe already put in proper historical context isn’t worldly—it’s the definition of provincial."

So, prove me wrong. List me out ten talking points you've taken from Greenberg that you feel are relevant to making art today in 2008 not 1958.

Tell me, hell, show me, what would we have? What kind of art would we have? Why would anyone care? Well?

15.

opie

September 12, 2008, 2:37 PM

Greenberg's style of writing is the style that the best writers have advocated through the ages: clear, perceptive, insightful and interesting to anyone truly interested in the subject. It stands in contrast to most art writing, which is quite the opposite.

This is not a matter of "relevance", a word unfortunately kidnapped by the fashionistas. It is a rare instance of high standards put into practice, and in the current climate, a reasonable and admirable thing to "cling" to. It is a lifesaver in a sea of shit.

16.

George

September 12, 2008, 2:41 PM

What's this? Are we debating Greenbergs style? or his clarity?

I thought the point was his ideas?

If he is still all that influential, where is the art that results?

17.

Snide

September 12, 2008, 2:57 PM

"clear, perceptive, insightful and interesting to anyone truly interested in the subject"

With the exception of clarity, which you seem to put down to simplicity, who wouldn't claim the same things about writing that they undertake or support? truly?

18.

George

September 12, 2008, 3:09 PM

The problem with Greenberg discussions here is that they end up being filled with nitpicking and complaints. None of them have moved the topics forward, to the present.

In my opinion art market is crashing along with everything else. This will create a blank slate going forward for new art and new criticism, but you have to take from history and push it into the future, not just dawdle with ideas from fifty years ago.

19.

George

September 12, 2008, 3:16 PM

Keith Tyson has a show of objects at Pace in NYC right now. They look a bit constructivist, Malevich and friends revisited, an idea so simple and obvious one wonders why no one thought of it before. This is what I'm referring to when I talk about pushing something into the future.

20.

John

September 12, 2008, 3:17 PM

List me out ten talking points you've taken from Greenberg that you feel are relevant to making art today in 2008 not 1958.


#1 - from MC's post a few days ago:
"...not every decision received in the course of making formal art has to be an esthetic intuition or a judgment-decision. There are decisions motivated by extra-esthetic factors having to do with religion, politics, or social considerations. Such decisions are not judgments of taste, not in themselves; they don't contain their results in themelves. But they can become judgments of taste, judgment-decisions, and usually do, for better or for worse."

#2 - from a page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"conventions [have decayed] because the conventions in question prevented certain artists from saying new things that they had to say -- or else prevented them ever from finding out that they had new things to say."

#3 - from another page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"there are art lovers who'll express a positive 'esthetic' judgment because they are at a loss for any judgment at all. The more 'unreadable' they find a work of art, the better they assume it to be."

#4 - from another page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"Well, I said there's change. As long as a tradition of art stays alive, it changes. As long as civiliazation stays alive."

#5 - from another page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"There's no question in my mind that Goya's Third of May is better than anything Pollock could paint."

#6 - from another page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"Aristotle said the eye was the most important of the senses, or he said the most intellectual of the senses, and by that he meant that the eye automatically associates a concept, a class, with what it sees -- does so automatically, quicker than the ear or the senses of smell, taste, touch. It's very hard for us to see anything without automatically attaching a name to it. That means a concept, a general notion, or what they used to call a universal classification."

#7 - from another page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"There are more important things than art or the esthetic."

#8 - from another page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"To come back to conventions, and then to decisions. Grasping a convention, digesting and assimilating it -- certainly doing so enough to be able to change, expand, shrink, or discard it in the interests of art -- that means appreciating those works in which the convention is enabling and dys-appreciating those in which it's disabling."

#9 - from another page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"From everything I've said so far it ought to emerge that esthetic judgment is not voluntary."

#10 - from another page selected randomly from Homemade Esthetics:
"I think one of the ways in which you can stab at saying what art does to you is that it puts you in a state of heightened cognitiveness. Not cognition, but cognitiveness. It's somehow as though you've risen above impediments to knowledge or awareness, but not on the basis of anything specific, that you are specifically aware of."

NOTE: I absolutely avoided "peeking" at the random pages, and I never rejected a page because I could not find anything of value on it.

21.

MC

September 12, 2008, 3:21 PM

"It must be said that Ms. O'Keefe, by her own admission, is neither a critic, nor a journalist, so one is justified in being disappointed by her writing, as it clearly amounts to neither criticism nor journalism, but merely egoism"

"It is statements like these that make it really difficult to discuss anything with you, MC. "

"Mary Christa O'Keefe is holding the arts up to her ear like a giant universal conch shell, hoping to hear the whispers of deeper human culture. Over the past eight years, the Edmonton-based writer has practiced what she considers 'cultural response' (defiantly *not* criticism or journalism), covering visual arts, music, ideas, science, and people all over the world who are engaged in acts of expression or creation...."

I bet statements like this make it even more difficult for you...

22.

George

September 12, 2008, 3:32 PM

George does Greenberg

Stuff you should already know.

1. Artists can make both aesthetic and non aesthetic decisions.

2. Conventions fall out of favor if they get in your way.

3. Don't assume the viewer knows what he's looking at.

4. Things change.

5. Opinion only, Goya over Pollock.

6. Senses are associated with concepts.

7. Art isn't everything.

8. Pay more attention to artworks which are enabling to your own work.

9. Esthetic judgment is what you like.

10. Art reveals mystic truths.

23.

MC

September 12, 2008, 3:32 PM

An excellent riposte, John.

24.

George

September 12, 2008, 3:37 PM

MC, in #21 you aren't dealing with O'Keefe's article but with her. I can't say anything on this one way or the other. I can say that her article is relevant to the kind of questions that are being asked now, with or without Greenberg. It's a lame response.

25.

George

September 12, 2008, 3:39 PM

The point is, take my list or John's list, what do you know? Isn't this the kind of stuff that goes on automatically while you work in the studio?

26.

John

September 12, 2008, 3:40 PM

George said: "In my opinion art market is crashing along with everything else."
AGREED.

Then he said: "This will create a blank slate going forward for new art and new criticism, but you have to take from history and push it into the future, not just dawdle with ideas from fifty years ago."

This is a little confusing. If we are to take from history, then "ideas from fifty years ago" are part of that history. "Dawdle" means to waste time. Why is fifty years a marker for wasting time, and the rest of history (presumably) not?

Further, there really are no "blank slates", but in this time of hyperbole generated by politicians seeking office, I'll forgive that exaggeration. The conventions of our time have indeed "prevented certain artists from saying new things that they had to say" (#20, point 2) and for serious art to emerge today and tomorrow it must recognize the conventions that are disabling.

One of the most disabling of current conventions is that art criticism is important to the well being of art and artists. So called formalists have fallen for that as much as any other group, too.

27.

John

September 12, 2008, 3:45 PM

George, in #14 you asked for a list of 10 things CG said that are relevant to "making art in 2008." In #25 you acknowledged that my list indeed satisfied your request. You are welcome. But I suppose you ought to thank me first.

28.

George

September 12, 2008, 3:55 PM

John,

Thanks, I thought it must have taken a long time to type out as well.

Still, it's the daily stuff of the studio.

29.

MC

September 12, 2008, 4:00 PM

Yes, the things that Greenberg said and wrote are the daily stuff of the studio.

Um, so, what was the problem, again? Before it wasn't relevant, and now it's too relevant?

I can't make heads or tails of what you're saying, but perhaps that's because your heads are up your tails...

30.

George

September 12, 2008, 4:14 PM

John, re #26...

Let's start with "blank slate." This was meant only as an indication that points of radical change start with the metaphorical "fresh sheet of paper", that the ideas are not necessarily continuous going forward. That in reconsidering old ideas, history, one is able to come up with something new, possibly startlingly new, yet obvious in its lineage.

I brought up Keith Tyson independently, but his current exhibition is brilliant, beautiful and maybe obvious in retrospect. I don't have photos yet, but if it doesn't rain tomorrow...

History is a anchor, it holds the line taut or drags you down into the deep to drown. What we as artists must know about history is point 8. We must know where we come from, the source of our art known through history. For history reveals our self to us. It reveals what might have been, what we like because it is resonate with us and what we like because it is something we cannot do. All this provides a path to move forward and any place along this path we can become trapped. Trapped 50 years in the past, or five.

Now, if you are honest with yourself, you know something of this lineage, your lineage, through the fields and thickets of history. It leads you forward towards the future, towards death. If you stop and dawdle along the way, the art dies.

31.

George

September 12, 2008, 4:16 PM

MC, to you it is irrelevant but that is your specialty, carry on.

32.

Jack

September 12, 2008, 4:22 PM

Everyone, meet George, the ever forward, ever with-it, ever evolved-beyond-Artblog artiste-philosophe. In other words, the new black. Better yet, the new Greenberg. Here yet again to chastise the wayward and tell them what's what. The wayward, of course, can't possibly be left to figure out these things for themselves. Their minds are too fuzzy and weak, and they require instruction from those superior beings who have climbed the mountaintop and seen the light. We are so very, very fortunate that someone of George's intellectual and artistic stature deigns to condescend to bring us out of darkness. I cannot go on. Words fail me. Either that, or I'm about to hurl.

33.

george

September 12, 2008, 5:41 PM

fuck off jack

34.

Franklin

September 12, 2008, 5:46 PM

Cut it out, both of you.

I read O'Keefe's piece as...

I could just cite this as what's wrong with the whole paragraph attached to it. I don't have to read as when I can read. And I read a bunch of indefensible statements. But they will pass as truth to the Vue's readers, who cannot make up their own minds about what is being said because O'Keefe has withheld key details that would enable them to verify it. I doubt even Greenberg's most enthusiastic supporters considers him the "end point of all artistic development." (I don't know what this means.) But to say so is to argue against caricature, which is easier than going down to Common Sense and finding out what they're about. It's also easier than coming here and defending what she writes.

I would be content to disagree with her about Greenberg if his approach didn't work for her. If there is a case for that, she can make it without maligning his personality and rehashing all the canonical (and largely distorted) complaints about him. And she is very clearly calling for greater inclusiveness in "the discussion" in one paragraph and demonstrably cutting off discussion in another. Edmonton's modernists are working at too high a level to have their work and their intellectual participation dismissed categorically. Let her go dismiss them piece by piece if she will. That's how the hard work of art criticism gets done. She's taking the easy way out, into hyperbole, displays of attitude, and glib phrasing.

35.

Jack

September 12, 2008, 5:47 PM

George, that is exactly what I expected you to say. Verbatim. In some respects, you never disappoint. Thank goodness for small favors. Take comfort in the fact you're of some use.

36.

John

September 12, 2008, 5:50 PM

Whatever else George may be, he is good for artblog. He isn't really one of the regulars, but look at how things spark up when he makes a comment. I don't think he is quite as conforming to the archetype of the contemporary enlightened type as Jack thinks. If he were, he would not show up around here as often as he does.

The most important of my dada selected pages seems to be #5, after I thought about it for a while. In 1958, Alan Kaprow wrote that Pollock had brought painting to its ultimate end, that painting wasn't possible anymore. Many of today's "with its" would easily say that Kaprow's statement is still "relevant", despite its being 50 years old, and despite the fact painting has continued its merry way for each and every one of those 50 years.

Clem, on the other hand, said there was lots left to be done and "history" has born him out more than it has Kaprow. Yet Clem is the one they are always calling "old hat". Maybe being dead wrong is intrinsic to being with it and on top of contemporary things.

37.

George

September 12, 2008, 6:10 PM

Franklin, "even Greenberg's most enthusiastic supporters considers him the "end point of all artistic development."" No, they don't, but at the same time I don't think they realize they are responding as if it was true.

You know, O'keefe's article touched on several points which are currently bothering other artists. I find it incredible that you focused on two or three lines out of her piece and used them to effectively dismiss the entire article.

I didn't come in here to start a fight, I disagreed with your points. John (thank you) at least took my simple challenge seriously enough to come up with 10 points. It provided a point of departure and I simplified them all (but the one Goya preference) to one liners. In both forms, they might be useful cogitations in the studio, but they cannot answer the questions about what is next.

Now, I believe that most of the readers here don't care "what's next", that they decided that X years ago and are defending their private philosophical and aesthetic territory. John started to get into my point about history, he stumbled a bit on the "50 years" part, but it was just a metaphor problem.

The point is, that events are unfolding within the art world which are going to provide an opening for new ideas which break from the current ideological cliches. This means new art, art everyone here probably won't like any more than what we already have. There is NO going backwards and emptying out the bin from 20 years ago. You can rethink it, repackage it, reattach it to the present day, but recycling is a longshot.

On the other hand, it means it is a moment to be heard if you can make clear points which can gain traction within the culture.


jack I was kidding, I know it's too short

38.

Jack

September 12, 2008, 6:11 PM

John, I sincerely admire your capacity to remain civil and even gentlemanly when faced with, uh, what George brings to Artblog, but I would remind you that the introduction of a live cobra into a room is bound to spark up even the dullest gathering. Not that I think George poisonous, exactly, or even dangerous, but patience (at least mine) does have its limits.

39.

John

September 12, 2008, 6:11 PM

Keith Tyson's two pieces at the Chicago Hyatt are at least interesting, though "cold", that is, unexcited with themselves, the only way I can put it in words, which are not up to the task anyway. Maybe i could say they are logical, both to their advantage and disadvantage. Pace does not offer any images from his current show.

Regardless, George's point that "new" usually has something obvious from its lineage is true, as a general guideline. And I'm glad he recognizes that lineage can be good or it can be bad for the work. It all depends ... art is as art does.

40.

John

September 12, 2008, 6:19 PM

George, the future of art is never understood until it is over, and then it usually isn't understood all that well. Then after that, it gets revised. And maybe revised agan.

It is like the "fog of war". Those of us who are engaged in the moment have great difficulty knowing what the positives are. That insecurity serves to tenderize our egos, I think, which is much better for art than it is for artists, who suffer a lot as a result.

41.

opie

September 12, 2008, 6:36 PM

I missed all the above, doing other things.

John, I suspect George was astonished that anyone took him up on his challenge, which was really just another feint, and answered it so well.

If I were George I would have gone off with my tail between my legs. But George is George, and he is the artful dodger.

George, we both know that all that counts is what's good.

Recycled art can be good. Manet showed us that.
There's not such thing as good art that's old hat. Good art is always new.

42.

george

September 12, 2008, 6:37 PM

John, let's start with "In 1958, Alan Kaprow wrote that Pollock had brought painting to its ultimate end, that painting wasn't possible anymore."

Aside from the obvious fact that it is not true, what's wrong with this statement?

First, an "end" assumes that the progression was directed towards a goal, a point of completion or death. This is the first fallacy, which may be idiosyncratic to Kaprow's moment in history, the belief that their was some sort of progress in art, there is not.

When I think about painting, I go back to the caves, to some compulsion to make a mark on something. I don't dwell long there, Fra Angelico is the deep root for me. Regardless of where this journey starts for you, or for me, it takes a path into the present.

We look back, often in awe, at the accomplishments of our heros. Do we ever wonder how they got from "here" to "there" at "that" particular point in historical time. Moreover, our sense of "that" historical time is a fiction we create in the present, it is "then" here now, but perhaps not as it will be seen in the future.

So what makes painting unique is its long history. It is such a fragile archaic medium that has barely changed over several millennia. If the medium barely changes, we can establish metrics for judgment within the medium. To some extent, this was the trap Kaprow fell into, he was making a judgment within the medium.

This is not what painting is about in its most glorious sense. Painting reveals how the artist views the culture, his culture in his lifetime and as a result it reveals to us, the future from there, this vision of possibilities. The very fact that the medium is so constrained, means that its language is defined, precise within its own cultural moment.

Execution with power aids the revelation of both the individual, the artist, and the cultural moment, the metaphors of the artists era, for the future viewer, us. It is this continual re-invention of painting which gives it its power to endure.

I knew Kaprow, but on this he was wrong.

43.

george

September 12, 2008, 6:44 PM

John,

Keith Tyson's "Large Field Array": is the best work of modern sculpture I have ever seen. In my opinion it may be the best sculpture of the last 100 years.

The current works at Pace are remarkably different but probably more instructive about how a historical reference can manifest itself in a totally new fresh way, and at the same time maintain the reference. You look at it and think, of course, why didn't I think of that?

44.

george

September 12, 2008, 6:47 PM

Opie says "George, we both know that all that counts is what's good."

Well, if you make it 'count', in other words, make it relevant, the culture will consider it 'good' Otherwise it gets demoted to craft.

PS, you are right, I didn't know John was in, I didn't think the mouth would answer.

45.

opie

September 12, 2008, 7:00 PM

"Relevance" has nothing to do with it, George. "The culture" has nothing to do with it. Relevance is part of the mantra of the fashion victim. Relevance is for marketing. Screw relevance. Screw the culture.

What counts is what it does for you.

How can you possibly say those things about that ludicrously overblown Joseph-Campbell-in-3-dimensions junkheap-in-a-grid of Tyson's? Are you pulling our collective legs?

46.

Jack

September 12, 2008, 7:08 PM

Keith Tyson's "Large Field Array" is the best work of modern sculpture I have ever seen. In my opinion it may be the best sculpture of the last 100 years.

No, I won't. There are others here better suited to address such a remarkable assertion, but even apart from that, I shouldn't touch it. It is untouchable...in the old Hindu sense.

47.

ahab

September 12, 2008, 7:10 PM

how much disagreement woud you have with her other points

A lot actually.

48.

george

September 12, 2008, 7:13 PM

Opie, re #45

About Tyson, I'm quite serious. He is brilliant.

If you don't understand why art has to be culturally relevant maybe I can explain it to you.

1. The culture decides what it considers "good" regardless of what you or I think.

2. The culture reviews these decisions about "goodness" over time and refines the judgment.

3. Eventually these cultural opinions become history and are viewed differently.

Point one is only taken if the artwork is "relevant" to the culture. By relevant, I mean it generates enough interest that people will pay attention to it, and therefore make quality judgments.

I think making an artwork "good" is instinctive, something we do automatically in the working process. I also believe that making an artwork 'relevant' is difficult and beyond the comprehension of most artists.

49.

Franklin

September 12, 2008, 7:19 PM

I find it incredible that you focused on two or three lines out of her piece and used them to effectively dismiss the entire article.

Show me where I dismissed the entire article.

Now, I believe that most of the readers here don't care "what's next", that they decided that X years ago and are defending their private philosophical and aesthetic territory.

I don't care about what's next because I deal in the here and now. What's next will take care of itself.

50.

John

September 12, 2008, 7:24 PM

Aside from the obvious fact that it is not true, what's wrong with this statement?

Being "not true" is a fairly serious problem for an essay, wouldn't you say?

Having said that, there was an element of poetry in Kaprow's piece, a sense of outrage and shock that Pollock was extinguished for good. Even though his gift seriously faded in his last few years, the car crash eliminated any possibility of redeeming it. That's what really "ended".

The problem with that essay is that people have confused its poetry with reality. I've heard too many cite it as if it was delivered at a burning bush to an infallible messenger as truth for all time.

51.

george

September 12, 2008, 7:35 PM

re #49 Like I said, I don't know the local politics (seems like Ahab has the hatchet) but by singling out the one talking point without commenting on the rest, it appeared that you were dismissing her entire article. Sorry if I misunderstood your intention.

You remark about "what's next' suits you and was anticipated. However, "what's next" is one of the most important questions we ever have to deal with. On the most mundane level it defines our direction forward. On another, it addresses the absolutely unknowable, the point where there is no "what's next"

52.

MC

September 12, 2008, 7:37 PM

"Aside from the obvious fact that it is not true, what's wrong with this statement?"

Indeed! My hat is off to this: GRADE A bullshit! Seriously George, you might just get yourself a job on VP Palin's staff yet...

53.

ahab

September 12, 2008, 7:38 PM

Designers worry about what's next. Artists make it.

54.

Jack

September 12, 2008, 7:39 PM

Oh, I see now. What matters is the herd, I mean "the culture," whatever that is. Who cares about me, my taste, my judgment, my eyes, my brain, my understanding? What am I or my concerns, relevant? Please. I'm a lowly, insignificant worm who must look beyond itself to "the culture" for guidance, meaning, and of course, relevance. I'm sure Mao would agree.

So no, I shouldn't try to see, think or judge for myself; I should just go with whatever "the culture" deems worth noticing. This is SO much easier than my old approach, you know, the quaint notion that art is ultimately a personal relationship between me and the work, and everybody else be damned. Well, it's just like they say, you learn something new every day.

55.

John

September 12, 2008, 7:41 PM

Nice job, ahab. My only quibble concerns the "artist statement". I might concede, in the interest of technical truth, that one or perhaps more than one of them might be good, or at least not bad, but the world would be better off if they were banned. You're way ahead of the game to get someone else to write about your work, if a "statement" is required (in an ideal world it would not be). Even then, certain words must still be banned, no matter who writes it - issues, explore, experiment, challenges, evolve, relevant, dialog, engages, and so on.

56.

george

September 12, 2008, 7:43 PM

John, (#50)

Yeah, being not true is a problem. We're viewing it with a hindsight that makes the point unquestionably clear. I obviously have a different attitude from most here, about how painting functions within the culture. I believe what I wrote in comments 42 and 48. That "good painting" is part of the technical requirements for being a painter but the things which make a painting "good" have more to do with what I said in comment 42. If a painting isn't culturally relevant, it's worthless.

57.

Franklin

September 12, 2008, 7:46 PM

However, "what's next" is one of the most important questions we ever have to deal with.

I could see that working in the appropriate context. But for me the pressing question is "what's this," and to try to answer that as rightly as possible. I don't want my ideas about the future to mess that up.

58.

george

September 12, 2008, 7:55 PM

Franklin "I don't want my ideas about the future to mess that up."

In a micro sense, we are constantly predicting the future, but I can understand your point which can lead one to the delusional.

None the less, we direct ourselves into the future by belief and will of our actions. We make paintings with the hope that some viewer in the future will find pleasure in them. We are living in the futures past.

59.

Jack

September 12, 2008, 7:55 PM

So then, George, if you were to be, talent-wise, a current-day equivalent of van Gogh, but "the culture" didn't find you "relevant," you should just conclude you're "worthless" and get a job in, say, accounting? And I, even though I might recognize the greatness of your work, should simply ignore it and transfer my attention and support to what "the culture" goes for?

60.

John

September 12, 2008, 7:55 PM

As a person raised to be a guilty Catholic I will admit that for a period of time I tried very hard to deal with "what's next" back around 1970. I eventually wound up thinking it would be extreme minimalism after trying sex and social commentary, so in I plunged. I was unable to extinguish my rococo impulses but managed to conceal them to the point where to find any color you had to shine a flashlight into the dark dark monchromatic fissures of texture that the pictures were made out of. Mercifully, I destroyed every one of them (but saved the stretchers, which were all the same size, and have found little use for since).

It is a losing game to try to out-guess art.

61.

John

September 12, 2008, 7:58 PM

Art may well have a plan. Artist's don't.

62.

opie

September 12, 2008, 8:00 PM

"If a painting isn't culturally relevant, it's worthless."

If a culture finds a good painting irrelevant, the culture is worthless.

63.

Franklin

September 12, 2008, 8:02 PM

I have plans. I just try to remind myself to gleefully discard them when something better comes up in the course of pursuing them.

64.

Jack

September 12, 2008, 8:03 PM

Re 62, yes, folks, we have a winner. BINGO.

65.

George

September 12, 2008, 8:23 PM

John, (I was stretching canvas and my stapler broke, so it's this or TV)

You said, "It is a losing game to try to out-guess art."

Bingo, that's correcto mundo.

But it doesn't have anything to do with what I'm talking about.

On a macro level, the art world is relatively stable, styles and philosophies gradually evolve over time. Periodically, there are major changes within the culture and I believe we are in one of these now. I'm speculating this is generational in nature, a changing of the guard, and it is occurring in all fields as we speak. The baby boomers are retiring.

I believe this change is going to be fairly significant, something similar to the sixties. I don't have a clue how it will play out but it's happening now.

The problem with trying to "out guess art" is that it is a response to something external. You will always be playing catch up. When I speak of ones history, your lineage, I am speaking about the internal path you take by acknowledging your historical favorites and ordering them, however loosely, as a corps of support.

Second, with this strength of belief behind us, we try to forge a path for our art into the future, the next day, week, year, decade, lifetime. Everything conspires against this, and it is this particular battle we wage. Whether or not anyone here is willing to admit to it, society, the culture, pays its respect to us for how well we wage this battle for visibility. Painting's relevance within the culture is determined on several levels.

66.

george

September 12, 2008, 8:31 PM

"If a culture finds a good painting irrelevant, the culture is worthless"

Oh come on, what's wrong with this? It doesn't pass the real world test, it's delusional.

A better, or therapeutic solution is to just not aspire to relevance.

67.

MC

September 12, 2008, 9:08 PM

Just about 20 months ago, ahab posted this relevant little gem from Robertson Davies:

"Culture is simply the way in which people live. The culture of the cave man meant sitting on a rock gnawing a bone. The culture of Germany between 1935 and 1945 involved making soap out of Jews."

There's your real world test for ya...

68.

george

September 12, 2008, 9:16 PM

MC, that was a lame analogy sorely for purpose of deflecting the uncomfortable truth of my comment.

69.

ahab

September 12, 2008, 9:24 PM

Read the rest of the posted quote at the link, George.

70.

ahab

September 12, 2008, 9:24 PM

Or don't.

71.

MC

September 12, 2008, 9:53 PM

Have another drink, George... maybe you can try to figure this out again in the morning.

72.

MC

September 12, 2008, 10:02 PM

Funny.. it was about thirty months ago that I posted this, and dedicated it to George:
"How could art that's proven itself satisfying, that's elicited a positive value judgment, fail to have "content," "relevance," "human interest," and so on? Esthetic value judgments, and nothing else, not interpretation, not explication, not argument, answer that kind of question.
That the content or "meaning" of the Mondrian can't be put into words is not something that should give pause. The content of the Divine Comedy can't be put into words either, nor the content of any Shakespearean play, nor that of a Schubert song."


Of course, to some of us, this is all beyond obvious; others, however, never learn...

73.

opie

September 13, 2008, 3:54 AM

George, in #66, you say " If (a work of art) doesn't pass the real world test, it's delusional".

This amounts to saying that direct experience of art is not real. Is that your position?

If so (or if not) PLEASE keep it short.

74.

george

September 13, 2008, 7:03 AM

Opie #73

"This amounts to saying that direct experience of art is not real. Is that your position?"

No it does not amount to saying that, you are misinterpreting what's said.

If I am understanding you correctly, you are suggesting that if the audience has a positive "direct experience" of the artwork it makes it good. I won't argue against that but I insist that one cannot pick and choose the audience.

Next, I think you assume if the above is true, that's all there is. Good art filters down into history.

This is where I disagree. If no one is willing to pay attention to the artwork, it doesn't matter how good it is, it will end up in the dustbin. If the artist cannot make the work "relevant to the culture", it is ignored. By default, regardless of the quality of the direct experience, it's quality, its goodness, is deprecated and the artwork isn't preserved. Please note, that "relevant to the culture" can happen at any point during an artists career.

In days past, I worked construction here in NYC. A couple of times I had the unpleasant task of clearing out the work space, this entailed moving large numbers of paintings into the dumpster. I never forgot this, the paintings weren't great but I assumed the artist believed they were (good).

The art world isn't fair.

75.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 7:09 AM

"I read a bunch of indefensible statements. But they will pass as truth to the Vue's readers, who cannot make up their own minds about what is being said because O'Keefe has withheld key details that would enable them to verify it. I doubt even Greenberg's most enthusiastic supporters considers him the "end point of all artistic development." (I don't know what this means.) But to say so is to argue against caricature, which is easier than going down to Common Sense and finding out what they're about."

So now we see why you're riled up. You and the boys feel its a direct attack. Where did Common Sense come up anywhere in the article?


"It's also easier than coming here and defending what she writes."

Self-promotion at it's best! Arguing on the internet has sure gotten us far to date...

"I would be content to disagree with her about Greenberg if his approach didn't work for her. If there is a case for that, she can make it without maligning his personality and rehashing all the canonical (and largely distorted) complaints about him"

Where is ANY of this done?

"Edmonton's modernists are working at too high a level to have their work and their intellectual participation dismissed categorically"

Again, where is any of this in the article? Please consider your own hyperbole, displays of attitude, and glib phrasing.

76.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 7:23 AM

"It must be said that Ms. O'Keefe, by her own admission, is neither a critic, nor a journalist"

HENCE

"one is justified in being disappointed by her writing as it clearly amounts to neither criticism nor journalism"

HENCE

"merely egoism"

As usual, more of your logical thought on display MC...

77.

ahab

September 13, 2008, 7:31 AM

Good argument, Snide! Using a weekly advertising rag to vaguely accuse unnamed persons is eminently reasonable and deserves no criticism.

78.

MC

September 13, 2008, 7:37 AM

Snide offered an argument? Where?...

79.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 7:44 AM

What's the expression again, dumb as sculptors?

80.

MC

September 13, 2008, 7:47 AM

Oh, wait, I think I've discerned the gist of it.

We cannot disagree with John O'Brian about Greenberg.
We cannot disagree with Anne Whitelaw about Greenberg.
We cannot disagree with Mary Christa O'Keefe about Greenberg.

HENCE

If we do, we are causing a "brouhaha", being "defensive", not being "reasonable", getting "riled up", causing a "fiasco", displaying a "fixation and possessiveness". etc...

HENCE

We should all stop pointing out these people's errors because we don't want to be accused of being uppity jerks by these same error-ridden people and their error-ridden defenders.

Logic, Snide-style... You can keep it, thanks.

81.

MC

September 13, 2008, 7:50 AM

Is anyone else as puzzled as Snide is, over my suggestion that when I read an article on art in a newspaper, I'd like it to be either journalism or criticism, and when it's neither, it disappoints?
Anyone other than George, I mean...

82.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 8:04 AM

This from the fellow who first included an amazon review in the list of publications on his professional cv...

There's a difference between showing disagreement and having a hissy fit. As I've said, I think that's what O'Keefe is pointing out.

83.

Franklin

September 13, 2008, 8:12 AM

George, I assume you're simplifying for effect but it bears noting that people choose to preserve particular works for all sorts of reasons, and categorizing all of those reasons as variations of being "relevant to the culture" is a pretty odd way to put that.

Please consider your own hyperbole, displays of attitude, and glib phrasing.

I Accuse You of That Which You Accuse the Author I Like. You're like a clock. With seven hands. Set to Martian time.

So now we see why you're riled up. You and the boys feel its a direct attack. Where did Common Sense come up anywhere in the article?

It doesn't. I was just saying, comparing things that one might do as an arts writer, that arguing against caricature is easier than going down to Common Sense and finding out what they're about. But you seem to have some kind of insight into who belongs to O'Keefe's "vocal minority." This one of the questions I'd like answered. And yet...

There's a difference between showing disagreement and having a hissy fit. As I've said, I think that's what O'Keefe is pointing out.

So we're not allowed to assume that O'Keefe is referring to us, but you are. You're one nasty piece of work, Snide.

84.

MC

September 13, 2008, 8:16 AM

I'll add "hissy fit" to the list of Snide's euphemisms for people that disagree with her... Seriously, you have to tell us what makes any of it anything other than passionate disagreement with bass-ackwards thinking... "hissy fit" implies jumping up and down, screaming, etc, which are untrue characterizations of the disagreement at the O'Brian and Whitelaw lectures you mention, and "hissy fit" hardly describes Franklin's polite unpublished letter...

Sorry Snide, you can put lipstick on a pig, but you're still an idiot.

85.

opie

September 13, 2008, 8:22 AM

Sorry, George (#74). You are stuck with this one. Your statement was clear, plain and simple. It was:

"If it doesn't pass the real world test, it's delusional."( I assume you meant an "if" at the beginning)

This can ONLY mean that if I get a charge out of and make a positive judgement on a work of art which has not "passed the real world test" my experience is delusional.

And, presumably, if I get a positive reaction from a work that HAS passed the "real world test" I am NOT being delusional, not matter how bad the work may be.

And, presumably, if I do NOT get a positive experience from a work that has passed the "real world test" there is something wrong with my taste.

You are very skillful at weaseling out of dumb statements, but this one is a virtual syllogism.

If you do choose to answer, could you PLEASE keep it short?

86.

MC

September 13, 2008, 8:24 AM

My "professional" CV... lol.

(Yeah, I'm really worried that my tongue-in-cheek listing on my CV won't help me land that next big position at the sculpture company... I hope one day you grow a sense of humour, Snide).

87.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 8:24 AM

"I Accuse You of That Which You Accuse the Author I Like"

Again, see the title of this entry for the same. And why don't you actually show how the offending article has done most of the things that you accuse it of? Running up against those pesky facts are we?

For "Hissy-Fit" see this recent illustration of a tantrum:

http://www.nesw.ca/studiosavant/2008/09/too-rich.html

88.

Franklin

September 13, 2008, 8:30 AM

I was merely quoting what I thought was one of the nastier bits of Clembashing from the article. You were asking for evidence of Clembashing, right? There's some for you.

89.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 8:33 AM

"Oh, wait, now I see... you think the purpose of a CV is to IMPRESS people, never mind the real content... Whereas I am simply offering a list of my writings that are available, no matter the location, for people to read." MC

90.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 8:38 AM

As George already pointed out, there is minimal reference to CG, period.

"Edmonton's modernists are working at too high a level to have their work and their intellectual participation dismissed categorically"

Again, where do you find any of this?

91.

Franklin

September 13, 2008, 8:42 AM

O'Keefe devoted an entire line item to Clement Greenberg. Pesky facts.

You get to slag MC's resume when I get to see yours.

Who is the "vocal minority," Snide?

92.

george

September 13, 2008, 8:44 AM

opie, re #85

Sorry but you just don't get it.

Yes I agree that ones "direct experience" is important in the evaluation of a work of art. More often than not the judgment process starts there.

BUT, if the culture does not pay attention to the artwork, it DOES NOT MATTER what the "direct experience" was like, the artwork DOES NOT ENTER into the flow of history.

It is the culture which ultimately decides on goodness, what you or I think is only one opinion, one vote.

Repeating my points from comment #45

1. The culture decides what it considers "good" regardless of what you or I think.

2. The culture reviews these decisions about "goodness" over time and refines the judgment.

3. Eventually these cultural opinions become history and are viewed differently.

To view this process any other way is delusional, because it is just NOT WHAT HAPPENS in the real world as a matter of course.
A. There are artists which were popular at one point in history who were later viewed differently.
B. Conversely, there were artists which were less popular who were reevaluated.

BUT unless the artist in "B" was somewhat visible within the culture this work becomes lost. So whether it was "good" or not becomes a moot point.

93.

MC

September 13, 2008, 8:48 AM

Your fixation and repeated tantrums over my CV are downright spooky, Snide.

94.

MC

September 13, 2008, 8:53 AM

Who is the "vocal minority," Snide?

Evidently , from O'Keefe's writing, it seems that she is identifying those who "had dinner with him in the '70's" as the culprits, but she doesn't elaborate on who this vocal minority of diners are...

So, anybody have an alibi for where they were on the nights of 1970, right around suppertime?

95.

opie

September 13, 2008, 9:06 AM

You should be running for public office., George.

None of your long-winded, misdirected and obvious description of the process of public acceptance or rejection for a work of art (#92) applies to the matter at hand, which is that you stated emphatically, clearly and without equivocarion:

"If It doesn't pass the real world test, it's delusional",

which means PRECISELY what I said it means in #85

You said it. You're stuck with it.

96.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 9:36 AM

Franklin, maybe it is understandable that you take this article's focus to be Clembashing, because you probably don't really have a good sense of our arts community here in Edmonton. As I said, I take O'Keefe's point as focusing on some of the attitudes and squabbling that have gone on over the past couple of years. I'm not going to name names on her behalf, but I think the examples I've already given make the point.

"Edmonton's modernists are working at too high a level to have their work and their intellectual participation dismissed categorically"

Again, Again, Again, where do you find any of this?

97.

Franklin

September 13, 2008, 9:41 AM

Again, Again, Again, where do you find any of this?

I think the examples I've already given make the point.

Get lost, Snide. You're useless.

98.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 10:00 AM

What's useless is grandstanding in a town that you know next to nothing about.

99.

Jack

September 13, 2008, 10:05 AM

While I realize this is exceedingly unlikely to make George and others like him reconsider, let alone change their minds, here's some food for thought:

Sharaku, now universally admired as one of the greatest figures in Japanese ukiyo-e prints, had a career that lasted less than a year (1794-95). His work, despite being appreciated and promoted by one of the most discerning connoisseurs of the time, the publisher Tsuta-ya, was not a popular success with "the culture" of his day. He was forgotten till the late 1800s, when his prints attracted Western notice, initially due to the perceived "ugliness" of their striking psychological realism verging on caricature. The Japanese "culture" at that point, the Meiji period, was still not especially interested or impressed, though it eventually came around.

Japanese prints are relatively delicate, fragile things physically, and no museum or other such entity had been safeguarding or preserving Sharaku's prints in Japan, or anywhere else, before he was rediscovered. Yet they survived, and so did he, not because of "the culture," but because he was good enough.

The essence of #92 (and related comments from the same source) is quite alien to the way I think, feel or experience art, but that goes without saying to anyone familiar with this blog.

100.

Snide

September 13, 2008, 10:09 AM

He was forgotten till the late 1800s, when his prints attracted Western notice... they survived, and so did he, not because of "the culture," but because he was good enough...

I hope that even you can see the mistake in your thinking.

101.

Franklin

September 13, 2008, 10:30 AM

No, what's useless is arguing with someone who exempts herself from the demands she puts on everyone else.

102.

Jack

September 13, 2008, 10:34 AM

Thanks, "Snide," or whatever you're calling yourself this month, but as much as I object to George, you're completely beyond the pale, which is why I've purposely ignored your comments thus far. Unlike Franklin, who's rather more tolerant than I would be if this was my blog, I have absolutely no use or time for you. Enjoy your local "culture," or whatever, but I expect you'd be much better off among your own kind. Bye.

103.

opie

September 13, 2008, 11:25 AM

Geez, Snide. Franklin was there and presumably saw a lot of work. He thinks it is on a high level. What's the problem?

104.

MC

September 13, 2008, 11:38 AM

I reckon folks like Snide, and O'Keefe, don't take kindly to fancy-pants 'Merican critics coming into town and throwing their big-city opinions around...

105.

that guy

September 13, 2008, 12:18 PM

Yeah Franklin, be careful who you have dinner with up there. It would be a shame if in 40 years we look back at how you corrupted those Canuks with your swag R.V. and distain for the local provincial art criticism (or whatever they are calling it these days). Even if you help a few artists with your studio visits and postings on your blog, lets not rock the boat too much. Better just cower down and swallow like George, its sounds so much easier.

106.

that guy

September 13, 2008, 6:12 PM

wow, I shut down a 100 comment day with one little snide. gotta say, go buck eyes. I hate the buck eyes but USC is even worse. Jesus, where are you guys? I addressed the writing. I thought! Maybe not?

107.

george

September 13, 2008, 10:04 PM

Well guy, you were late to the party and didn't say anything worth responding to.

BTW, Jack, good point regarding Sharaku, there are always exceptions.

108.

george

September 13, 2008, 10:06 PM

Opie, absolutely not! I'm not backing up on anything I said. I honestly feel you are doing everyone a disservice by dismissing the role the culture plays in ascribing quality to works of art.

Further, you are one person with one point of view, it does not make you correct. It's just one point of view, it may be just as flawed or biased as any of the others may be.

The art world disagrees over what is good and what is not, there is an ongoing battle of opinions which migrates towards a consensus about what is good. Even over time there can continue to be disagreement.

I do feel my use of the word "worthless" was excessively harsh, sorry if I offended anyone.

109.

george

September 13, 2008, 10:07 PM

Relevance isn't popularity. Relevance is about being relevant, about presenting the work in a fresh way. As if we are seeing it for the first time again. Relevant is about being connected with the era, it is about being connected with the human condition.

Rehashing some worked-over artistic territory without connecting it again to the present cultural era is not going to be seen as relevant. There is a lively market in impressionist style paintings, they sell them to the tourists by the handful. The art world doesn't take them seriously, so they may be good or not, but since they are not considered relevant, it really doesn't matter.

110.

ahab

September 13, 2008, 11:59 PM

MC, I'm pretty sure I can verify that I was suckling on my mother's teat every night in 1970. She made a damn good dinner.

John, I can handle a little quibble and easily admit to the general inadequacy of artist statements. It was the writer's backtracking I tried to pick at.

George, 'culture' does not DO anything; it does not decide or review; it does not sift for relevance. You clearly did not take Davies' (or MacKintosh's (or Opie's)) point about 'culture' being merely the byproduct of creative and artistic human activity - it is only justified when it can be deemed (by people) to be excellent.

Snide, 'self-evident' does not mean that you, yourself, find a thing evident, but that that thing is so universally obvious it requires no further explanation. The reason you're getting shortbus treatment here is because your dissent demands instead that I read between the lines, guess your mind, or solve your opaque riddling (see #100). If you must continue with your condescension, try typing things out for me at a grade-five reading level.

To take your own example: "Edmonton's modernists' work and intellectual participation is being dismissed categorically", is what Franklin is saying. In his own words this is the gist of O'Keefe's paragraph that he feels is undeserved - not quite fifth grade phrasing, but easy enough, eh?

Regarding your characterization "hissy fit", it simply does not apply. I very carefully edited the unfinished studiosavant post, "Too Rich", and very cooly hit 'Publish', after allowing myself a full two weeks decompression time. If, instead of dismissing it as a "tantrum", you said you didn't appreciate the tone of my red-ink treatment, I'd believe you and there'd be nothing to disagree with.

There I go again giving too much credit.

111.

opie

September 14, 2008, 4:50 AM

The problem with discussing anything with you, George, is that there never is direct engagement. You are like a puddle of mercury, forever flowing away from any area that is raised.

I said "If a culture finds a good painting irrelevant, the culture is worthless"

You said "(if) It doesn't pass the real world test, it's delusional."

Your response clearly intends to mean that a positive reaction to a work unappreciated by the "culture" is "delusional". However, as we all know, the "culture" is composed of accumulations of such "delusional" responses.

Your statement is wrong on the face of it, and your various subsequent responses have skirted the issue.

112.

george

September 14, 2008, 6:32 AM

opie, re #111:

Your response clearly intends to mean that a positive reaction to a work unappreciated by the "culture" is "delusional".

NO.

It is delusional to ignore the fact that it is the culture which ultimately decides on whether a work is good or not.

Your experience is your experience, I'm not denying that.

The real world test is the consensus of all opinions as it evolves over time.

Just look at what really happens. Regardless of what a number of dissenting critics may think, Jasper Johns is considered "good" (not popular but "good") To deny this process is delusional.

113.

MC

September 14, 2008, 7:14 AM

"So people in Edmonton had him over for dinner sometime in the '70s."

Obviously, Greenberg's relevance is not dependent on his 'having dinner' with anyone, at any time. So, we can scratch out that first sentence.

"It doesn't make him relevant now, and I bet a New York critic with a sky-high ego wouldn't be having dinner in Edmonton in the '70s if he were still relevant in New York at the time."

This "bet" that O'Keefe puts forward is an incredibly embarrassing statement, based on nothing so much as her own ignorance. Retarded on its face, it was dispatched by John in comment #11. Strike two...

"Yes, he defined part of mid-20th century art and art criticism. Yes, he's a writer with provocative ideas. Yes, his connection with the Edmonton Art Gallery shaped the AGA collection and influenced university departments, so he's a legitimate part of our history and continuing dialogue on art."

Wow! Whaddya know... this part wasn't too bad, except for the questionable line that his completely tangential "connection with the Edmonton Art Gallery... influenced university departments". Some specific proof of either any connection to the EAG, or an example of that alleged connection influencing a particular department in some way, would have been helpful here... but, we'll give this a pass for now.

"But it's pathetic he's considered the end point of all artistic development by a vocal minority of our art community."

Again, the question arises: who is this vocal minority? Where, when, how has this minority expressed this bizarre view, that Greenberg, who is not an artist, is somehow "the end point of all artistic development"? What the hell does that even mean? I'd need O'Keefe to explain it to me slowly, no doubt, as I only have an MFA, which I know for sure is not the end point of all artistic development, but I bet it's a shade or two farther than O'Keefe herself has gotten...

"Art is an onward story with multiple threads, not a mausoleum of ideas with one heroic thrust inherited from New York or London."

It's a multi-threaded story, not a mono-thrusted idea-mausoleum! Thanks for the opaque metaphors... so, whose ideas are we supposed to throw on the junk pile, and exclude from the onward story? And, why is that, again?

"Focusing on an iconic figure the rest of the universe already put in proper historical context isn't worldly - it's the definition of provincial. Anne Whitelaw did a fine job this year of dealing with Greenberg's local legacy"

Aha! Anne Whitelaw focused on Greenberg, and O'Keefe deems that fixation to be fine, after just saying it was provincial... contradiction, much?

"- now let's move on."

Indeed...

114.

george

September 14, 2008, 7:50 AM

MC what a pathetic response.

But you did a fine job making her case for provincial.

It doesn't seem like you are able to move on.

115.

MC

September 14, 2008, 7:55 AM

You sure showed me, George.

116.

george

September 14, 2008, 8:03 AM

it's petty MC

117.

MC

September 14, 2008, 8:06 AM

Coming from you, George... LOL

Sorry, don't get me wrong, I think George and Snide are funny and all, I just liked their act better the first time I saw it, as performed by John Cleese...

118.

opie

September 14, 2008, 9:27 AM

Thanks for the video, MC.

George, enough already

119.

George

September 14, 2008, 10:00 PM

File under: this could have been you...

Color abstraction makes the big time with a beautiful atomic collision of flames, force of nature painting

120.

opie

September 15, 2008, 4:46 AM

I guess because this painting by Damien Hirst will sell for over a quarter million dollars it is, by your definition, a painting considered good by the "culture" and therefore a good painting - is that right, George?

121.

george

September 15, 2008, 5:18 AM

My opinion?

To me it's just another colorful but arbitrarily abstract painting which does nothing for me. In the flesh I've just seen one, discounted it. (1 vote = nay)

The culture?
I think this broader based opinion is mixed but not particularly favorable.

Hirst's work in considered 'relevant' by the culture. All this means is that the consensus opinion about the "goodness" of any particular work is more likely to be made.

Being relevant does not change an art works quality, only its visibility. Good or bad, for the moment the painting isn't ignored.

122.

MC

September 15, 2008, 8:33 AM

"Good or bad, for the moment the painting isn't ignored."

It is by me. Good thing I'm part of the "culture" too...

123.

Snide

September 15, 2008, 8:59 AM

"To take your own example: "Edmonton's modernists' work and intellectual participation is being dismissed categorically", is what Franklin is saying. In his own words this is the gist of O'Keefe's paragraph that he feels is undeserved - not quite fifth grade phrasing, but easy enough, eh?"

Nothing of the sort is found is the excerpt. Christ!

RE: 100

A CULTURE was responsible for valuing the work.

124.

Franklin

September 15, 2008, 9:09 AM

Who is the "vocal minority," Snide?

125.

opie

September 15, 2008, 10:53 AM

Quotes from the note book of blogger George. Note the flexible interpretation of the work "relevent".

44.
Well, if you make it 'count', in other words, make it relevant, the culture will consider it 'good'

48.
The culture decides what it considers "good" regardless of what you or I think.

56.
If a painting isn't culturally relevant, it's worthless.

92.
It is the culture which ultimately decides on goodness

112.
the culture ultimately decides on whether a work is good or not.

121.
Being relevant does not change an art works quality.


This is why it is impossible to have a coherent discussion with him.

126.

Jack

September 15, 2008, 11:02 AM

Re 123, ask George to explain it to you, Snide. Or go fly a kite. Just take your business someplace else. I'm not interested.

127.

ahab

September 15, 2008, 11:15 AM

From O'Keefe's paragraph on "The CG Experience", comments #4, #13 and #96, it is clear someone, along with his/her/their work and intellectual contribution is being dismissed categorically.

If it is not Edmonton's modernists, then whom? If it is Edmonton's modernists, but only two of them, then whom?

Neither Snide nor O'Keefe will ever say (except in whispers to one another or published obliquity) because between them there's not even one leg to stand on.

128.

george

September 15, 2008, 12:17 PM

Re #125

Viewed as a process:

1 - Any individual viewer can experience an artwork, have a personal response and therefore make a judgment about the quality (goodness) of the artwork.

Opie was getting confused because he was not understanding this point comes first. If the culture can make any kind of judgment, it implies the individual judgments start the show.

2 - Relevance. The culture, the members of the art world make an initial decision on whether or not the artwork under question is culturally relevant, OF INTEREST. While an assessment of quality may be a factor at this stage it is not the only requirement.

2a - If an artwork is of little or no interest, the culture will fail to pay attention to the artwork, it is ignored. If the artwork is ignored, it's quality, good or bad depending on who you ask, becomes irrelevant. Chances are the artwork is not preserved.

2b - If an artwork generates interest, is deemed relevant, then the questions of quality become more important, The artwork enters into the queue of history and is screened and evaluated over time. The artwork is preserved.

3 - Quality is a consensus opinion formed over time by aggregating individual opinions which of course vary all over the map. Relevance, as described above helps an art work stay visible so this process of aesthetic judgment can occur.

4 - Relevance cannot change artistic quality.

5 - Individual opinions of quality are only single opinions which become part of the cultural consensus over time.

6 - Over time, the cultural consensus of the quality of an artwork/artist may be reevaluated and change. Unfortunately, if the art work was not preserved, or is lost, then this cannot occur.

Now from what I have seen, in the real world, the process described above is a fair description of what actually happens. It is what I mean by the "real world test" and if an artwork fails in the above process, it is lost. So whatever quality it possessed it may still have, but no one cares.

It's a tough truth to swallow.

129.

george

September 15, 2008, 1:31 PM

Re #119

Well, I forgot the sale was over there on the other side of the Atlantic and so "evening" meant afternoon here.

BID (Sotheby's stock) jumped $1.50 in the last hour of trading while the DJIA was crashing.

Conclusion, there still are buyers out there, stuff probably sold within the range or the stock wouldn't have gone up. We'll see tomorrow.

Hirst may not be any good but he sure is popular.

130.

opie

September 15, 2008, 4:31 PM

Screw it, George. I was not the slightest bit confused. Your "tough truth to swallow" is nothing more than what everyone knows, whether or not you repeat it 10 times. I never even tried to disagree with it.

The problem, which you characteristically sidestepped right out of the box, was your contention that an indivual perception of the goodness of a work was "delusional" without the approval of the "culture".

This is plain horseshit.

Goodness is perceived by individuals. It may or may not be accepted by the "culture". Usually it has been; maybe it won't in the future. Whatever the "culture" does, whatever happens to the work, whether or not it is "relevant" or goes in the trash bin, the individual perception is primary. There is no "culture" without it.

If you don't agree, that's fine. But spare us another long, numbered, tediously detailed recitation of the obvious.

131.

george

September 15, 2008, 4:48 PM

gee opie, got a burr up your ass or what?

132.

J@siimpleposie

September 15, 2008, 5:00 PM

Haha!

133.

Jack

September 15, 2008, 5:43 PM

Re 131, George, you really must try harder. If the best you can do is a two-bit schoolyard retort, you will hardly help your case. You're rather too old for something so sophomoric. Besides, isn't "got a burr up your ass" a tad unsophisticated for New York? One would think so, at any rate. And please, don't go "fuck you, Jack." That is beyond lame.

134.

opie

September 15, 2008, 5:47 PM

Yeah, and it's got your name on it.

135.

Snide

September 15, 2008, 7:33 PM

"But it's pathetic he's considered the end point of all artistic development by a vocal minority of our art community."

DOES NOT EQUAL:

"From O'Keefe's paragraph on "The CG Experience", comments #4, #13 and #96, it is clear someone, along with his/her/their work and intellectual contribution is being dismissed categorically"

GOSH!

And I don't have any additional insight into who exactly O'Keefe is referencing than any of you (at least those who have a clue about our arts scene in Edmonton). But since there's a number of you continuing to make a fuss about anyone mentioning Greenberg or his local legacy in less than reverent terms, by all means count yourselves amongst the poor victims of her call-out. Why don't you draw a cartoon and be done with it?

136.

MC

September 15, 2008, 7:57 PM

Because we'd need you to pose for it first, Snide...

137.

Franklin

September 16, 2008, 5:21 AM

No, we could just draw a professor's cap on an anthropomorphic turd.

138.

Snide

September 16, 2008, 7:01 AM

Why? You lost your job teaching, I thought.

139.

MC

September 16, 2008, 8:09 AM

Make that a tall pointy hat, Franklin. Wait... I think that might look too much like Hankey the Christmas poo...

But, seriously... O'Keefe's "vocal minority" according to her writing, seems to either be the group of people who feel that having dinner with Greenberg in the 70's makes him relevant (do such people really exist? No...), or it's the people who consider him the end point of all artistic development (do these people really exist? No...), or it's the people who focus on the iconic figure (and the only person she mentions doing this is Anne Whitelaw, to whom she inexplicably gives a pass).

OK, fine, criticism, or even journalism, is too much to ask for from Vue Weekly, I get it, but, come on, can't they at least try, at bare minimum, to make sense? Because sorry, this is just garbage...

140.

Franklin

September 16, 2008, 8:33 AM

Snide, the irony of #138 is that you demonstrate by your hissy fit responses above, and elsewhere, that you don't really believe that turnabout is fair play.

141.

Jack

September 16, 2008, 8:56 AM

Franklin, why don't you just flush the turd, instead of letting it continue to stink up the place? Obviously, it lacks even the merest sense of what is due to one's host when one is visiting said host's domain. Really, enough of this shit already.

142.

Chris Rywalt

September 16, 2008, 9:42 AM

HOLY CRAP! I mean, HOLY CRAP! I'm away for a few days and I come back to THIS? HOLY CRAP!

143.

MC

September 16, 2008, 9:46 AM

I guess Mr. Hankey is, literally, holy crap...

144.

J@simpleposie

September 16, 2008, 9:55 AM

poo is underrated

145.

Chris Rywalt

September 16, 2008, 12:13 PM

Good point. Crap is good for something. This conversation, on the other hand....

146.

MC

September 18, 2008, 7:36 AM

Well, looks like this conversation helped shame VUE into manning up and running your letter, Franklin...

147.

Jack

September 18, 2008, 8:01 AM

I doubt shame was the motive, MC. Publications like Vue, which I expect is equivalent to Miami's New Times, can't afford shame. Too inconvenient and restricting. However, the prospect of a "controversy," even if it's just a tempest in a teapot, which could generate added attention or higher visibility for the rag, is another matter.

148.

MC

September 18, 2008, 8:47 AM

"I'd like to get some questions answered: What does she mean by "relevant"? Who thinks of Greenberg as "the end point of all artistic development"? Who belongs to this vocal minority? "Move on" and do what, exactly? As noted above, O'Keefe appears to have concern for "the discussion." My comment threads are open and she's welcome to provide us with some. Or was that, to use the apparently preferred term for this sort of thing, just bullshit?"

Well, now that the letter is published in VUE, along with Artblog.net's web address, O'Keefe will deign to speak to the lowly minorities, and answer these questions, as "a legitimate part of our history and continuing dialogue on art".

But, somehow, I doubt it...

149.

Jack

September 18, 2008, 10:20 AM

But MC, the part you quote above was edited out by Vue, wasn't it?

150.

MC

September 18, 2008, 10:45 AM

I don't suppose it was part of Franklin's original letter, Jack. I'm sure O'Keefe's web-savvy enough to find her way here, though... Perhaps she's already a reader.

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