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Post #1247 • October 23, 2008, 8:38 AM • 77 Comments

"Alas, the experience of high art is democratic only in theory, never in practice, which is why there is something inherently contradictory, perhaps even deeply wrong, about seeing crowds at an exhibition of the paintings of Giorgio Morandi. Morandi is a difficult painter, one whose still lifes inevitably strike the casual viewer as both repetitive and plain. They require close, quiet attention in order to be appreciated. Giorgio Morandi: The Art of Silence is the apt title of a monograph about Morandi published a couple of years ago. It is inconceivable that anyone capable of talking in the presence of Morandi's late watercolors, which are so concentrated and oblique as to border on outright abstraction, could possibly be appreciating them." - Terry Teachout.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I'm actually being serious here. For while I adore these two Titian paintings - their cruelty is, at least, set back at some distance from life by the plain fact of their man-made beauty, natura potentior ars, all of which can, in a certain sort of light, seem almost consoling - I’m at least under no illusion that my own enthusiasm should automatically translate into someone else’s unwilling expenditure. All of which is at least part of the reason why I don’t think that public funds ought to be spent in order to secure them for me, let alone 'for the nation'." - Bunny Smedly.

"Take those of Caro's pupils and followers known as Stockwell Depot sculptors. Peter Hide, the most prominent, simply welds chunks of matter (steel), comparing what he does with the 'freedom' of growth. Where then are the resistances, conventional and material, with which Hide struggles to create form? Hide has abandoned expression in theory and practice. I do not think that, in any meaningful sense, he can be said to be making sculpture at all." - Peter Fuller.

"A blog, therefore, bobs on the surface of the ocean but has its anchorage in waters deeper than those print media is technologically able to exploit. It disempowers the writer to that extent, of course. The blogger can get away with less and afford fewer pretensions of authority. He is - more than any writer of the past—a node among other nodes, connected but unfinished without the links and the comments and the track-backs that make the blogosphere, at its best, a conversation, rather than a production." - Andrew Sullivan.

"Indeed it would be easy to portray many of our leading critics as a bunch of silver-backed elders of the tribe, caught on the hop by technological change. Of course, just because it's easy doesn't mean it's the wrong thing to do." - Jay Rayner.




October 23, 2008, 11:16 AM

OK, here's a paraphrase for you.

I do not think that, in any meaningful sense, Peter Fuller can be said to be making sense at all.

I have absolutely no patience for these bloviating word-tweakers. You can hate Hide's work (I think it is excellent) but you can't say it isn't sculpture!

On the other hand, Bunny rocks, as usual.



October 23, 2008, 12:35 PM

Teachout touches upon something which is true but so un-PC that many people won't dare go there. Art is, theoretically, for everyone. It should be equally available and accessible to all, of course, but it can only really "take" in those with an innate aptitude or receptivity for it. This capacity or quality is not universally present, certainly not to the same degree, and if it is either absent or weak enough, no amount of exposure or cajoling or encouragement will compensate for the critical deficit. One can lead a horse to water, but one cannot make it drink.



October 23, 2008, 12:41 PM

Even more flagrantlyly, Teachout continues "the use of a cellphone within five hundred yards of a Morandi still life would be punishable by death and/or dismemberment if I had anything to do with it."

Music to my elitist ears!



October 23, 2008, 12:51 PM

You're not elitist, OP. You're in touch with reality. In this case it doesn't matter whether it's "fair" or not; it is what it has always been, and it won't change.


Chris Rywalt

October 23, 2008, 3:42 PM

I'm with you and Terry, OP! Death to -- hang on a minute, I have to take this call.



October 23, 2008, 6:19 PM

In case anyone is wondering what a Morandi etching is going for these days, it's around the high 5 figures. Sigh.



October 23, 2008, 7:29 PM

5 digits are you serious!? I like his artwork, not going to pay that much for it though...



October 23, 2008, 7:59 PM

I don't understand why you all think Morandi is so good. Could someone please explain?



October 23, 2008, 11:54 PM

You can't explain why something is good, Jim. You have to see it & feel it. Most of our judgements in everyday life are made this way, although art is the thing that most excludes reasons.

But when I look at a good Morandi - there's one in a catalog someone sent me today I would do anything to have on my wall - I get the feeling that every stroke is absolutely right and done with exquisite sensitivity to every other element of the picture. There's nothing I can pick at or criticise. On its own terms it is as good as it can be.

This is not an "explanation", however. It is an articulation of a small part of a reaction.

Also, it helps seeing pictures to have spent many, many years trying to make them. You probably have something you are good at. You know what I mean.



October 25, 2008, 12:08 AM

Morandi was a real beacon in school.

'Orangerie', the Caro with the 'petal' forms is magnificent...always loved it. Hope to chance across one out of that series in the flesh someday.


Bunny Smedley

October 25, 2008, 4:44 AM

Thanks for the link, Franklin - and for the kind words, Opie.

As for Morandi, my intoduction to his work was an enormous Morandi exhibition at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice in the late 1990s. It was, frankly, just too much - too many of these small, apparently simple yet incredibly intense works that demand sustained looking - not a good experience. Only later, seeing one of his paintings at the Estorick Collection in London, did I 'get' the point of Morandi. For what it's worth I also don't think his work reproduces very well, or at least, that the viewer has to bring a lot of knowledge of Morandi's astonishingly subtle colour to viewing the reproductions. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that while I very much understand why some people might not feel drawn to his work, it's worth persisting with it - there's a stillness there, for one thing, that almost reminds me of Chardin, but seems all the stranger for coming from such a loud and turbulent part of the past century.



October 25, 2008, 8:23 AM

all good stuff. teachout has nice links. as bunny mentions, the morandi pics like everything can suffer over the net, but many of the images actually show pretty well via the various links.



October 25, 2008, 9:40 AM

Bunny, part of the reason Morandi does not reproduce well is that much of the character of the picture lies in the sensitively exacting evidence of the touch and placement of the brush. The rendering and the subtle shifts in color and value count for so much that even a small modification of those qualities, such as being seen on flat, glossy paper, is quite detrimental. Fortunately the catalog picture in the Christie's catalog I had was full size and very accurate

Partly because of these characteristics, Morandi, more than most artists, demonstrates the futility of large exhibitions. I am always conned by the idea of a big exhibit - more Morandi must be better than less Morandi - but always disappointed, because as soon as I get there the obligation to properly scope out the exhibit overwhelms the delight of the single picture. A Morandi is like a piece of the best chocolate in the world. Eating a whole box spoils everything.



October 25, 2008, 10:07 AM

Morandi's work called to me from the get-go. He succeeded at a basically Taoist problem of manifesting virtue without any outward signs. It's very hard to explain why those still lifes painted with six variations of masking-tape beige are so good. I have visited the Museo Morandi in Bologna twice.



October 25, 2008, 10:14 AM

Im curious how this show came about. Anyone know who is responsible and why that person felt it necessary to bring Morandi to New York?



October 25, 2008, 11:48 AM

I agree; I'm not enchanted with Morandi either.



October 25, 2008, 12:27 PM

Morandi is a monument to meekness, mild mannered color, minimal form. Much more boring than most.



October 25, 2008, 1:36 PM

Jim: Morandi's style was not "exportable", to use a term Greenberg introduced to describe international styles in an article about Noland and Lewis he published in 1960. Unlike the "younger gneration of second-rate artists" (Jasper Johns, for example) who were doing "exportable" work, Morandi was doing first rate stuff that was not "exportable". That is, the nature of his achievement was so singular and specific to his own situation, that it remained "provincial", to use another term Greenberg made good use of in that essay. CG went on to say that first rate provincial could and sometimes was better than second rate exportable.

Myself I believe all art is local and don't pay much attention anymore to exportability. Being better (or worse) is far more important. Exportablity is easier to get a grasp on though, and getting a grasp is indeed a prerequisite to getting excited.


Chris Rywalt

October 25, 2008, 1:45 PM

Let's see if this works:

"Louis and Noland" by Clement Greenberg



October 25, 2008, 3:21 PM

After the AE painters, I'll bet Greenberg never championed an artist who was half as good Jasper Johns. Name one.



October 25, 2008, 3:22 PM

Eithiriel & Jim, keep looking and leave yourselves open to be convinced. It is wonderful work, and I get the feeling you are looking for something that has little to do with art.



October 25, 2008, 3:23 PM

Jim, there are not many artists who are half as good as Jasper Johns. That would be sinking pretty low!



October 25, 2008, 3:35 PM

opie so who do you think is better than Johns? There must be hundreds of painters according to your comment. None of the color painters like Noland are even in the same league. Maybe this discussion group is just focused on minor league painters.



October 25, 2008, 3:39 PM

OP's comments about Morandi's exceedingly subtle and nuanced way with paint, and the uncanny rightness of his pictures, made me think of the contrast with Johns, who is indeed a second-rate painter despite his current overblown status and "exportability."

Morandi, in his particular sphere, is tremendously impressive, endlessly fascinating and extraordinarily gifted. In his realm, his mastery is unquestionable and deeply satisfying. I would never say that about Johns, who strikes me as overrated, ponderous and ultimately boring.

Every artist cannot and need not be great. Good enough will do nicely. I'm perfectly willing, and often quite happy, to enjoy the good-but-not-great, which has always been much easier to find. However, when reputation clearly does not reflect actual quality, that not only bothers me but makes me angry, as if someone were trying to swindle me. I can certainly deal with lack of greatness, but I won't put up with any attempt to sell me a bill of goods.


Chris Rywalt

October 25, 2008, 3:40 PM

Personally I'd about anyone who ever put paint on canvas as better than Johns. Talk about a minor league painter -- even the people who like "ideas" with their art can't help but be disappointed in Johns. Noland, Louis, and Olitski aren't my idea of great painters, but any of them easily paint rings around Johns, whose work is nearly utterly devoid of quality.

I'd take a fart through linen undershorts from Matisse over anything Jasper Johns has ever done.



October 25, 2008, 3:59 PM

It's apparent that opinions are contributing to the blindless of the members of this board. Johns does make every stroke absolutely right, each with "exquisite sensitivity" to every other element of the picture. Look at one of the number or alphabet paintings, they put Morandi to shame.

Noland is, at best, just a fabric designer and those other guys just splash paint around, where's the sensitivity in that? I'm not convinced by the arguments presented here which attempt to just support second rate artists.



October 25, 2008, 4:17 PM

Jim, when it comes to looking at art, opinion is part of seeing it, not a contribution to "blindness". You can tack any adjective you want in front of it (mere opinion, arbitrary opinion, biased opinion, personal opinion, etc.), but without involving it, you can't enjoy art because seeing art is to judge art is to (possibly) enjoy art.



October 25, 2008, 4:18 PM

Mea culp. In my excitement to address Jim I mistakenly typed his name in the top box. The message was from me, not Jim. My apologies.



October 25, 2008, 4:50 PM

I don't know John, I think I'm right. What I mean by "blindness" is the inability to see the paintings without preconception. It seems like some people are making judgments without even looking. Worse, I think some people believe what they have heard and it is affecting how they are making a judgment. Johns made fun of Abstract Expressionism, I guess that upset some people, so they don't like his paintings. But if you really look at them they are very intense, as intense as the painting description that guy opie gave me about Morandi. I'm just starting at this but Morandi is boring. his color is all washed out with white. Anybody can make something look nice that way, check out Ralph Lauren's designer colors at the paint store.



October 25, 2008, 5:13 PM

Intensity per se need not relate to worth. Intensity of what? Intensely what? It's entirely possible for something to be intensely ugly, intensely stupid, intensely pretentious, intensely bogus, and so on and so forth.

I'm sure many consider the work of, say, the Chapman Bros (are they still around?) as very intense. I consider it intensely calculated tripe that's barely worth addressing, if at all.

Johns is far more "Olympian" than that, of course, but I remain intensely unconvinced by his oeuvre. Morandi convinced me early on, and only gets more convincing with time.


Chris Rywalt

October 25, 2008, 5:39 PM

Jim, I went to see the Johns show at the Met. I looked at the work. I had very few preconceptions about Johns. In fact I've learned not to have preconceptions about art at all. When I look at work, I just look.

I wrote how I felt about it here.

I honestly don't care if Johns made fun of Abstract Expressionism. If I saw fun in his work it might improve it a little. Instead I find his work distant and uninteresting, like a dissertation on interactions of the four humours in medieval Greek.

It's pretty clear from his work that Johns is Serious. This sense of self-gravitas is no doubt what you consider "intensity." I consider it flatulence.


Chris Rywalt

October 25, 2008, 5:41 PM

Good Christ, I used the fart through underpants metaphor twice. I've got to get some new material.



October 25, 2008, 5:42 PM

I was just about to link to that. Um, I also wrote about how I felt about it there.



October 25, 2008, 5:44 PM

I just meant it looked like johns paid attention to his brushmarks. This seems to be what opie was saying about morandi which I can see except that morandi's dabs are more mushed together. I can't see any connection to noland who doesn't have any tactile stuff in his paintings at all. Or, what about olitski, didn't he use a spray gun? I think most of those 60's abstract painters just couldn't draw so they did something else and made up some bullshit to sell it as something new.



October 25, 2008, 5:45 PM

Yes. The unbearable weight of Seriousness when the talent underpinning it is too weak to support it. Atlas he's not.



October 25, 2008, 6:19 PM

Jim: You are right about "blindness" if you mean someone "deciding" that they either like or don't like a work before they look at it. Many do this, based upon whether an artist is "in" or "out". Genuine "liking" a work is never a decision. It is a realization that you can't help. There is such a thing as being uncertain, but the uncertainty is resolved by looking again, not by choosing. "Blindness" also and especially applies if someone goes against the judgment of their eyes, to remain properly aligned with group think, whether it is Greenbergian or Gagosian in nature.

For a "Greenberg" artist that isn't so hot, try John Ferren whose style included exportable "vehement brush work", but could not stand up to the quietest Morandi.

If you are looking for an artist amongst the Gagosian group who is better than Johns, try Ed Ruscha. He does not relish the "sensitive brushstroke" either way, but usually suppresses them rather completely - and he can draw like an angel when he wants to. He also has a sense of humor about his place in the universe. When Stella McCartney praised one of his drawings the other night on Sundance, he responded "I stand behind it", imitating how a used car salesman might promote a jalopy.



October 25, 2008, 6:27 PM

Christ almighty Jim.

Go to the Met, right now, or tomorrow morning at 9:45.
Look in the second room at the crazy still lifes in the left corner. There are 5. They are active, like skylines. Trace the contours of the objects with your eyes. See how they run to the edges of the canavs and what kinds of dynamics they create. Check out the color. What kind of range in the turp-y colors does he get. What is the deepest color and how far do you travel into it.

Then go past the landscapes and head to four walls of still life: small groupings nestled on the horizon line and other ones where the openings of vases are doubled, spatially flattening and rounding at the same time. How do they compare to Johns' flatbeds...oh, no comparison--in Morandi a bottle pierces the box behind it--simultaneously pushing the bottom of the box back into space before splitting the upper portion of the box with its neck--it's almost violent. What are these huddled objects in space? Everything, really.

No matter how much you love Johns, he is not talking about depth. Nor mark in the sense of touch. Morandi has both--and flirts with John's flatbed surfaces while enforcing them with depth.

The analogy to Chardin seems right. The world becomes so still when looking at Chardin that the shift from burnt sienna to flesh ochre sounds like a gong through the air. And so too with Morandi's paintings: their little forms, seemingly dull, innocuous, invite a double-take then stop: space, color and light become exquisite and subtle; to turn them over demands slowing down further to fully absorb.



October 25, 2008, 6:30 PM

I don't know about new material, Chris, but you probably are gonna need some new underwear pretty soon.

Jim, don't give motives, please. You have no evidence that anyone here is seeing with "preconceptions". If anything, that is one of the primary things we campaign against around here. Any reference to back blogs will bear this out. And none of the thoughtful bloggers here would ever even begin to resent Johns because he made fun of AE. That is just silly.

As far as Johns vs Morandi, please, just keep looking, and don't hesitate to change your mind when your eyes tell you to.

John, I knew that "Jim" comment was written by you before I was half through reading it. We all have our particular styles.



October 25, 2008, 6:41 PM

ok john. I don't want to make a big case out of johns. It was just that opie spouted all that poetic garbage about "every stroke being absolutely right and exquisitely sensitive."

I still disagree about blindness, It sounds like people are bringing preconceptions to the work which prevents them from getting into it at all. Jack mentioned the Chapman Bros, what did they have to do with the discussion? We weren't talking about them at all. I suppose their mention was supposed to turn on my disgust response. It confuses the issue.

I don't get the Greenburg Gagosian pairing, one is a critic and the other has a gallery. Both are promoters? It seems like most of the artists Greenberg promoted weren't very interesting and just important for a while in the sixties.

I like Ruscha because he can draw. All those abstract painters Greenberg liked couldn't draw to save their lives. It was all hype and promotion, just like today.



October 25, 2008, 7:23 PM

Morandi, if nothing else, is a prime example of an artist doing his own thing, his own way, based on what he does best and what is most meaningful and natural to him. It has nothing to do with fashion, topicality, trendy "relevance," being new or different for its own sake, somebody else's theory or philosophy, posturing, marketing, publicity, celebrity, or any other such extraneous considerations.

His work is a triumph of selectivity, focus, concentration, and persistently sustained exploration within very well defined parameters, chosen by the artist for his own reasons and to his own purposes. One can take it or leave it, of course, but its integrity is rock solid, and its coherence and internal logic are impeccable.

Morandi is the kind of artist that, even if I did not especially enjoy his work, I would still have to respect it. It is an absolutely genuine and, indeed, inevitable manifestation of its maker. There's no pretense, bluffing or funny business of any kind. The result is a kind of distilled purity which is too natural and organic to be sterile or monotonous. It's a very specific life form, but it is definitely alive.



October 25, 2008, 7:35 PM

I mentioned the work of the Chapmans as an example of "very intense" stuff whose "intensity" has essentially no bearing on the work's merit as art. It's simply ladled on, like too much syrup on lousy pancakes, but it doesn't solve the basic problem.



October 25, 2008, 7:44 PM

The problem with Morandi is that he's boring. If you have seen one you've seen them all. They are psychologically passive paintings, pointing inward, hiding from life. I suppose this is comforting to others of a similar mindset.

As far as the Chaplin Brothers go, I'm so tired of castrated dog sculptures, they don't even register. I suppose some people get off on this but I think it's sick.



October 25, 2008, 8:47 PM

Jim, this may or may not be apropos, but what do you think of this? Does it do anything for you? How would you compare or contrast it with, say, the Hirst shark? Anyone may answer.



October 25, 2008, 8:50 PM

Drats. My link didn't work. Go here:



October 25, 2008, 9:08 PM

Jack, the print is great but I don't get the point. They are both fishes? Lets do a cow comparison.



October 25, 2008, 9:58 PM

BTW, I don't know the artist but since it doesn't have many stampings, it might be from a recently printed edition.



October 25, 2008, 10:33 PM

It's by Hiroshige. Very simple, basic, just an image of a fish. No drama, no fuss, nobody trying too hard, no great meaning or message, no pretensions, no bombast. It's just a fish. But it's a great fish, because it's by Hiroshige, who happened to have real talent. A second-rate artist, let alone a brazen fraud like Hirst, may do all sorts of huffing and puffing, resort to all sorts of gimmicks, and/or adopt all manner of gravitas-laden trappings, but he will never pull off something as basic yet as beautiful as a Hiroshige fish--or a Morandi still life.



October 25, 2008, 11:10 PM

Hiroshige, that's interesting, it's a nice print.

I still don't know why you brought up Hirst, or the Chapman brothers. Just because I'm not excited about Morandi doesn't mean I like them. Where did you get that idea?



October 25, 2008, 11:36 PM

Jim, you are showing your ignorance when you say "All those abstract painters Greenberg liked couldn't draw to save their lives."

Lighten up. Consider what you are saying a little more thoroughly, and be more specific. Calling something "garbage" and saying something is "all hype and promotion" doesn't further the discussion much.



October 25, 2008, 11:55 PM

bull, prove it.



October 26, 2008, 8:03 AM

That is more or less wht i am asking of you, Jim. You're the one who made the broad accusations and statements. Prove them, or at least back them up with specifics and reasoned opinion. That's what makes an interesting discussion instead of angry bluster.


Chris Rywalt

October 26, 2008, 8:47 AM

I doubt that Jasper Johns can draw, either.

OP, I've been trying to buy new underwear but it's tough when you're oversized like I am.

Jack's assumption, Jim, that you might like Hirst or the Chapman Brothers was based, I expect, on your liking of Johns; he probably figured if you like one overinflated hype-buoyed artist, you like similar others.

The comparison might be apt: You think Johns is first-rate but you think Morandi is boring. I can't say anything about Morandi -- I'm not sure I've ever seen his work in person. (I'll probably get to it eventually; Franklin will most likely get me to go when he's in the area.) But I know Johns is incredibly overrated. So here you are, putting down a great artist (so they say) and elevating a deeply mediocre one; sounds like you've drunk the Kool-Aid. So, hell, you probably like Koons and Hirst and Currin and the rest of those clowns.

It's probably unfair to put Johns on their level; at least Johns looks like he's trying. I think he's fatuous and I feel waves of cynicism coming off his work, but he's more sincere than a lot of current artists.

So, Jim, you don't like Morandi, you like Johns. Who else is a favorite? Give us an idea.



October 26, 2008, 11:42 AM

Jim, I did not take it as a given that you liked Hirst or the Chapmans. I was simply using them to make a point, which apparently didn't register as intended. There are plenty of people who swear by Johns and his "blue chip" contemporaries but don't necessarily go for more recent "stars."



October 26, 2008, 11:48 AM

The previous "John" wasn't me. I realize I'm not the only boy in the world with that first name.



October 26, 2008, 12:18 PM

The "John" in 53 is really Jack. Not sure how that happened.



October 26, 2008, 12:48 PM

Perhaps it is the approach of Halloween. I've always wondered why we do presidential elections so close to Halloween, BTW. People really do get goofy in the late fall.



October 26, 2008, 1:05 PM

This comment:
The problem with Morandi is that he's boring. If you have seen one you've seen them all. They are psychologically passive paintings, pointing inward, hiding from life. I suppose this is comforting to others of a similar mindset.

has an interesting thought--the psychological passivity. And it's true Morandi is feeling the interior of experience--not presenting an exterior. So I suppose the appreciation of his work has everything to do with that value.

Also, "knowing how to draw" means...?
Ten year olds value mimesis as a measure of competence--and no doubt it provides one of many measures. Baselitz, wonder if he knows how to draw? Eva Hesse, does she?!

If you don't see the Morandi at the Met or Lucas Schoormans (26th St.) or haven't seen the paintings elsewhere to the point where you can summon them in your mind's eye, my time is better spent painting than responding to your points.

Hiroshige for me provides an example of exterior elements seen through the interior.



October 26, 2008, 1:15 PM

opie, I didn't say the artworks were garbage, I said what you said was "poetic garbage" it sounded like press release crap about "perfect marks" bla bla bla. I can't give you any examples of the drawings by those artists that greenberg was promoting, they're hard to find. If you know of some why don't you educate me?

chris, you don't have much of an eye if you think that because I said I respect johns I would then like the junk made by hirst or the chapman brothers. Now you add currin, wtf? how did he get into the discussion? It seems like if I like one of the artists you don't like you think I must like all the artist you don't like. That is totally stupid. I don't get what the fuss is over Morandi, I think he's boring, not bad but everything looks the same. FWIW, I like these guys: lucien freud, merlin james, wayne thiebaud, terry winters, diebenkorns berkeley period, elmer bischoff, toulouse lautrec

who do you like?



October 26, 2008, 2:13 PM

I am quite aware of what you said, Jim.

I am not offended that you call my remarks garbage, nor do I think you are wrong that my remarks sound like a "press release". When you are impelled to write about work you like it always sounds like that, more or less, because it is impossible to justify the quality of art in words.

My point was that throwing the word "garbage" at a perfectly reasonable comment about an artist's work does not contribute to the discussion.

I certainly feel no obligation to "educate you". That's your responsibility. There are countless examples of drawings by "artists Greenberg liked" on the internet. Look them up. If you don't want to do this consider your ignorance before shooting off your mouth.



October 26, 2008, 2:45 PM

opie, ok forget about garbage.

I realize you have no obligation to "educate me" You act like you know it all so who better to ask? I was just curious, iguess you don't know anything about that period of art either. but I'm not pretending I do, so I asked.



October 26, 2008, 4:07 PM

Saying "you act like you know it all" or "I guess you don't know anything about that period of art" doesn't help either. It is insulting, argumentative and boring. Go home and learn some manners.

Where is the intelligent opposition? Does it exist?


Chris Rywalt

October 26, 2008, 4:07 PM

Jim sez:
chris, you don't have much of an eye if you think that because I said I respect johns I would then like the junk made by hirst or the chapman brothers.

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with my eye.

Now you add currin, wtf? how did he get into the discussion?

How did Johns get into the discussion? Are we only supposed to bring up artists you mention?

It seems like if I like one of the artists you don't like you think I must like all the artist you don't like.

No. It seems that if you like Johns, you're just as likely to like other junk, too. It does all sort of tend to go together.

FWIW, I like these guys: lucien freud, merlin james, wayne thiebaud, terry winters, diebenkorns berkeley period, elmer bischoff, toulouse lautrec

See, now we have some grounds for discussion.

I like Van Gogh and Rousseau, mostly. More recently I've enjoyed Chris Ofili (although everyone else here picks on me for that), Inka Essenhigh, Daniel Rozin, Judy Fox, and I guess I kind of like Tom Wesselmann (I'm going to get picked on again) and my friend Tracy Helgeson. Lucian Freud's okay but I find his work too chilly; Toulouse-Lautrec never excited me much. The rest I can't say anything about.


Chris Rywalt

October 26, 2008, 4:12 PM

OP asks:
Where is the intelligent opposition? Does it exist?

I keep thinking it's got to be out there somewhere, but then I keep not finding it.



October 26, 2008, 4:33 PM

opie, I'm guessing your a middle aged artist in the south somewhere, maybe texas or oklahoma, sounds like where you'd find a opie to me.

frankly i don't think you really know as much as you pretend about that period of art. i know i don't, they didn't really teach it. but if you look at all those geometric painters from the sixties, i'll bet they just drew stuff out on graph paper. takes a lot of skill right?

and chris, i didn't bring up johns john did in 18. all i did was say i didn't get morandi and asked for an explaination. all i got was a lot of crap and that guy opie acting like his shit don't stink. it's been a real education.


Chris Rywalt

October 26, 2008, 5:47 PM

Sorry, you're right, you didn't bring up Johns. However, if you go back, Opie's first reply to you wasn't high-handed at all -- he simply stated that he "can't explain why something is good". Pretty reasonable: You asked someone to explain why Morandi is good, and Opie said goodness in art can't be explained. Then he suggested you look at it some more and see if that didn't help.

I mean, if you don't like Morandi, if he bores you, that's fine. Ultimately you have to be the judge.

What most of the people on this board are suspicious of, though -- maybe too suspicious -- is opinions not being based on looking. So you say you like Jasper Johns and you think Noland is lame. That's great. But if if you think Johns is good because you're supposed to, or because his paintings are worth a lot of money, or because you feel he fits into some art-historical timeline, well then, Opie'd jump on you for that.

Do you see what I'm saying? Most of us here respect opinions based on looking, on seeing. If you like Johns' work and you don't like Morandi's, that's perfectly fine, so long as it's just based on your looking at them.

What we object to is an opinion formed on anything else. And clearly we jump too quickly to the conclusion that anyone who shows up here disagreeing with us must have formed their opinion in some other way. (We get that a lot.)

I keep saying "we," but of course no one appointed me their spokesman. But whatever, you know what I mean.


Chris Rywalt

October 26, 2008, 5:48 PM

Oh, and I bet Opie's shit doesn't stink. It's probably as colorful as a rainbow and smells like sandalwood.



October 26, 2008, 6:03 PM

I wish you were right, Chris.

Jim, where I live and how old I am has nothing to do with the discussion, lame as it is. Also, it is none of your business. Also, I did not pretend to know much of anything about anything. Also, we were talking about abstract artists Clem Greenberg liked, not "geometric artists of the sixties".

You clearly don't know what you are talking about and you can't keep a coherent dialogue going. Get it together or get lost.



October 26, 2008, 6:39 PM

hey chris, no hard feelings eh?

so he suggested you look at it some more. well, ok, look closer at johns, i have. his works on paper, not strictly drawings i suppose, but they are better than any sketch i've seen on graph paper by those stripe painters. i also think his touch was really good and i respond to that, in morandi too.

but why would anyone think i like some artist because i'm supposed to think he's good? is that what they teach in school now? the problem is just the reverse, i don't get morandi but i take it i'm supposed to like morandi or i'm a bad guy. who decides that? is that opie guy the boss around here? he must work for karl rove. whatever, i'll just ignore him, he's a webbie-jerk

i saw a show of merlin james awhile back, i can't remember where it was but i thought his paintings were really good. good like morandi but not as boring. they are different from painting to painting so they are not like all the same good, but good enough to be convincing. anybody can take a simple idea and beat it to fucking death with the hope some curator will believe they are serious. the works still end up being boring.

and chris, if you like van gogh, then you should take a closer look at toulouse-lautrec, he really knew how to make drawing work in a painting. he was a big influence on van gogh, i like them both


Chris Rywalt

October 26, 2008, 8:26 PM

I'm willing to try Johns again, and will if the chance comes up, but I've seen enough, I think. He has his good points -- as I wrote in that other thread, he's got a nice brushstroke -- but mostly it doesn't feel to me like he's doing anything with it other than painting Serious Paintings for Serious People.

As to why you might like a painter because someone told you it was good, we get a lot of that around here. Mostly drive-by shooters saying we're narrow-minded. Which I don't happen to think we are. We want stuff that's GOOD. That's pretty broad but also demanding.

Opie's not the boss, but he's well-respected here. Hang around long enough and you'll learn why. He's also cranky. Hang around long enough and you'll learn why.

Everyone else, I think we do seem a little defensive on this thread. We should chill out a bit.

Personally I think Morandi looks boring. When Franklin told me he wanted to go see the show, I asked if he thought he could stay awake for the whole thing. That said, I haven't seen the actual work -- I haven't met the paintings -- so I'm certain my opinion is meaningless.


Chris Rywalt

October 26, 2008, 8:29 PM

Oh, and, I haven't seen a lot of Toulouse-Lautrec. Not that I've been avoiding him or anything. He just hasn't been in front of me much. If I see his work I will look at it and remember this conversation.

Especially since my own work is a balance between painting and drawing. I'm trying to get drawing into painting -- not a new thing to try, I guess, but something we can all try in our own way.



October 27, 2008, 1:36 PM

Here's some quotes from the presidential candidates on their views of the arts in America:



October 27, 2008, 6:37 PM

Obama seems to be in favor of more money for just about everything. I wonder where he expects to find it?



October 27, 2008, 7:54 PM

Both candidates are in favor of more money for many things and neither has a sensible plan for acquring the money. (Both candidates voted for the recent bailout of Wall Street, where the source is "future generations".) So if you are going to choose one over the other, it must be for some other reason than frugal fiscal policy.



October 27, 2008, 10:29 PM

Please, let's not get into politics. I'm sorry I ever responded to that comment. The country is wandering in dreamland right now and the consequences will only be evident in the future, if we have one. Arguing about it will only bring the looney tunes that are polluting every blog on the internet. We don't need it and we shouldn't invite it.



October 28, 2008, 3:19 PM

"The blogger can get away with less and afford fewer pretensions of authority. He is - more than any writer of the past—a node among other nodes, connected but unfinished without the links and the comments and the track-backs that make the blogosphere, at its best, a conversation, rather than a production."

Indeed. I'd been enjoying Bunny Smedley's writing on Fugitive Ink when I saw Peter Fuller's name come up, so when I saw Fuller's book a while back in a used bookstore, I decided I'd better pick it up and check it out, and whaddya know, I came across that incredible quote referenced above (which, of course, carries special meaning for me personally, being a student of Hide's. The continuing conversation, over years and generations, between Caro, Fuller, Smedley, Hide and you and I, is vital.

The 'snide' hijacking of the thread by 'jim', on the other hand, is an obvious waste of time...



October 28, 2008, 6:24 PM

Yeah, well, when "Jim" said "Eh?" I thought something snide was going on.

In the art business you can pompify yourself up and say a sculptor is not a sculptor and no one says "boo".



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