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New work from WDB

Post #1260 • December 1, 2008, 11:20 AM • 191 Comments

Walter Darby Bannard checked in during the weekend to report that he has 18 new paintings up on his flickr account, and they're stunners.




December 1, 2008, 11:31 AM

Thanks, Franklin. This was unexpected.

I am very unsure about these, as I usually am about new work, so comments are welcome.



December 1, 2008, 11:40 AM

These images were unexpected, too. There's something about them that make me think of graffiti...


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 12:07 PM

These look pretty wild. I wish a) the photos were bigger and b) I could see them in person. Another reason to have considered a trip to Miami!

They remind me of crystallography. And also of the oil on the surface of the Gowanus Canal. When the water is calm, the oil fractures up and looks almost as if someone shattered colored glass on the river.

I like the vibrancy of the colors and the relation of the colors across the pieces. I like the modulations of tone across the open areas and the way the thicker ropes of dark paint hem them in. The textures look interesting, too, which is why I wish the photos were bigger.



December 1, 2008, 12:23 PM

Chris, you can make the JPEGs bigger by clicking on them, then clicking on the "All sizes" button just to the upper right of the new image. You will get something like an 800x650 image at that point.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 12:47 PM

Thanks, John. Still not big enough, but better. I'm like those old AbExers: Bigger! BIGGER! I NEED IT HUGE!

Oh, that sounds bad.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 12:52 PM

Incidentally, I can't tell you how much it helps me to hear that WDB is unsure about new work, too. Some days it feels like only I don't know what I'm doing. Or as Allen Ginsberg writes: "Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody's serious but me."


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 3:58 PM

Okay, Franklin and WDB, I'm tackling this head-on.

Visually, they're scrumptious. I'm imagining that they're 100% more scrumptious in person; I'd like to see them in person.

But for me, they intimate nothing at all beyond their own hermetic visual language. They don't go farther than pretty. And I am going to quarrel with that.

I am going to initiate this quarrel primarily because whenever I read comments or essays by Franklin and WDB, I agree 100%, to the point of standing on a chair, stamping my feet and cheering. On a philosophical level, it would seem that we are in complete agreement on issues of visual quality, taste, etc. We share a disdain for so-called 'conceptual art' which attempts to gain the cultural high ground by fiat, simply ignoring issues of visual quality which its authors cannot even perceive, let alone compete with.

However. I believe, in fact I know with every fiber of my being, that abstract visual language can evoke inarticulable experience, emotion and insight beyond the merely visual, in the same manner that a cantus by Arvo Pärt or a Buddhist chant can transform consciousness, however fleetingly. For me, achieving visual fluency is a means toward this end, not the end in itself.

So my question to Franklin, Walter and anybody else who is reading this is: Do you think this evocative and transformative capacity is what makes painting an art, rather than a craft? Do you think these paintings are doing that? Are they trying to do that, and I'm just missing it? Is there a line between conceptual content and transformative evocation? If so, where is it?



December 1, 2008, 4:46 PM

Scrumptious is good. I'm very happy with that.

You seem to be saying that the paintings aren't good enough. You may very well be right. I can't decide that because I made them and I have no objectivity.

Maybe you can cite an exmple of an abstract painting that has "transformational evocation".



December 1, 2008, 5:15 PM

My impression is that you're searching or investigating the structure in a way which allows it to both contain the color and remain significant as form. I thought this because I felt the color is WDB's chromatic equivalent of black and white. While "scrumptious", the color seems secondary to what he is exploring in the forms. (This is an observation, more than a criticism, so if I'm totally wrong, that's ok)

Second, the forms seem like they want to be more than they are, like they want to look like something. This may present a problem if there is a strict commitment to abstraction (non-objective abstraction) but as a philosophical point I do not see why. Painting is a working ground for the visual, recognizable or not.

Third, the paintings feel flat. This may be an artifact of the jpegs as I can infer there is surface texture but that is not what I mean by flat. The forms seem to slide or move across the surface, this I believe is one of the more important characteristics of the new paintings. I do wonder about the figure-ground relationship that he has set up. Even if we accept a biplaner approach, it might animate the paintings more if on one plane (say the ground) there was some sense of the surface mark colliding with the forms on the second plane or by the establishment of a deeper illusionistic space.

What I think is most interesting is the animation of the forms in the painting space.



December 1, 2008, 5:39 PM

Thanks, George, Very interesting observations.

The color vs form matter is always a struggle. These pictures are a kind of "draw and fill", which I always tell my students not to do, so there is a conflict there. On the other hand there are characteristics created by this method which I find interesting, like the confusion ("ambiguity" is the fancy word) of space in depth created by the evident flatness and the incomplete hints of illusionism. These things were not deliberate but I liked them when they appeared.

"Want to be more than they are" is another thing that came up accidentally. When first working these things out I was doing much more "formal" forms but they seemed dry and boring and I noticed that getting curvy and varied with the drawing made forms that seemed figuratively suggestive but not figuatively "readable". The was another "ambiguity" that I thought was fun so I went with it. I am wondering how "figurative" I can get without making the pix look really silly but maybe that is just being too inhibited.

About the spatial illusion, yes, I am thinking about how to mix that up a little, exaggerate it more and make it more playful-seeming. This is hard because getting fussy with technique and trying to "fix" painting like this is deadly.



December 1, 2008, 6:03 PM

Excuse me if this seems presumptuous but maybe you are a slave to your technique. ...trying to "fix" painting like this is deadly. or it might be a starting point?

What I'm getting at is that you don't have to do everything you know or use the whole bag of tricks. I felt there is something important going on especially in 08_31A, 08_32B, 08_33B, where the forms seem to animate themselves across the surface.

I don't really think you gan get 'too goofy' if the forms become representational/recognizable. Both the Matisse cutouts and Picasso's "3 Musicians" came to mind as a way the forms can become associative without becoming overly representational. Younger artists might not pickup on the pejorative way "cubist" was used/applied in the 70's but I think this is totally silly. I look at a lot of Picasso's from the synthetic years an a weekly basis.



December 1, 2008, 6:56 PM

You're right about technique. I am fighting it all the time, trying to make it flow rather than dictate to me.

By "animate across the space" I guess you mean that the forms seem to be flying around somewhat? I like that effect but I don't want to get too "futurist" about it.

I am attracted to the suggestive figuration idea and will play with it further.


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 7:08 PM

Did that last comment go through? If this one shows up and the other one doesn't, I'll re-post...



December 1, 2008, 7:10 PM

PL, if reposting doesn't work, e-mail the comment to me. I have little traps set up for the spammers and you may have run into one of them.



December 1, 2008, 7:11 PM

I'm cooking dinner for a friend so my sentences might have been a bit rushed. "Animate" doesn't mean flying around to me, more like the forms have a certain degree of freedom and aren't constrained rigidly, tippy. Picasso does this a lot when he'll align a plane slightly off vertical or make an element which could be rectangular, non-rectangular. I don't really have any problems with the new paintings, I think they are moving in a good direction. So get on with it, there is nothing to fear but fear itself and all that... ;-)


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 7:12 PM

I just sent it to you, Franklin--I think I used too much HTML.


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 7:17 PM

You seem to be saying that the paintings aren't good enough..Maybe you can cite an exmple of an abstract painting that has "transformational evocation".

I'm trying to figure out if your objectives go beyond the purely visual, and these aren't giving me enough of a clue.

Here is some work by Jennifer Coates that I have seen recently that sometimes gets close, in my mind, to what I am talking about. When I look at them I feel like the limits of my consciousness are being extended. I've been meaning to review the show for a couple of months and haven't gotten around to it, but here is my review of her 2006 show.

I don't make as much of a distinction between abstract and representational painting, as I do between painting that depicts and painting that evokes. Nor do I make much of a distinction between pure painting, assemblage, and sculpture as between work that is bound by its medium and work that transcends it. Therefore I consider that artists like Lisa Adams, Anselm Kieffer, Philip Guston, Rufino Tamayo, Lee Bontecou and Isamu Noguchi are successful in bridging that gap, whether or not they are working with strict abstraction or whether there is some sort of recognizable image in a particular piece.

These paintings feel bound by your habits of the medium, to me. I'm bumping up against an invisible wall of some set of parameters you've set up for yourself, whether they be parameters of form, color, or texture. This isn't to say that parameters aren't good and necessary, just that I'm confused by a seemingly arbitrary set of constraints--that maybe you've actually forbidden yourself to create a form that suggests something other than itself, and this is limiting your range?


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 7:18 PM

George sez:
Excuse me if this seems presumptuous but maybe you are a slave to your technique. ...trying to "fix" painting like this is deadly. or it might be a starting point?

I think I know what Darby is getting at here. What makes a painting like this work goes away if you get too conscious with it, if you start trying to direct it too much. I think that's what he's trying to say: If you think there's something that needs to be repaired and you try to repair it, you end up breaking something more fundamental to the work.

I've found in my paintings that I value the spontaneity of the first time I paint it. As soon as I start really working on it, trying to get things just right, I don't like where it goes. I end up wiping everything off and starting over. It's a slightly different thing than Darby is talking about -- I doubt those are purely alla prima paintings -- but I think it stems from the same place.


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 7:18 PM

Woo hoo! Success!



December 1, 2008, 7:32 PM

Re #18, Chris.

I knew what he meant. I've found that sometimes you just have to say "what the heck" and ruin it in order to take it to the next level. That's what I was saying but not what I really meant.

I meant that I felt it might be necessary to let go of something in order to take the paintings to the next level. Like the 07 to 08 step, but bigger.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 7:40 PM

You might have a point, George. I guess I was thinking, when you wrote that he might be a slave to his technique, that you were saying maybe he's too caught up in the idea of spontaneity or anyway too trapped in his self-imposed rules. Which is advice I get (have gotten from Darby himself, actually) but am always unsure of.



December 1, 2008, 7:43 PM

These pictures certainly look like they were painted by someone younger and rather more "with-it" than Bannard is or would be credited with being. If I saw them at Basel as the work of some currently hot or up-and-coming Italian, Swiss or French painter, I'd have no trouble taking them as such. They're surely very well-made, solid, serious work.

However, I'm having guilt-by-evocation issues (non-intentional evocation, to be sure). Maybe it's an idiosyncratic visual response peculiar to me, but I'm being reminded of Keith Haring, and that immediately makes me queasy. There's obviously more to these paintings than that, far more than Haring could ever manage, but the "taint" is there, at least to me. I feel like a Puritan responding to the scarlet "A" on Hester Prynne, but so it is.



December 1, 2008, 7:50 PM

I agree with George in #11 that you probably can't get too goofy. I'm comparing them to late Olitskis I've seen, in which he frames the edge of the canvas with some contrasty color and loads up the center with fried-egg forms, and these really aren't coming anywhere near them in terms of sheer goofiness. It might be an interesting direction to push in - not towards those particular devices, but the playful spirit.

Pretty Lady, as far as I'm concerned, visual fluency is a sufficient end in itself if that motivates the artist in question. Superlative examples of beauty play upon the emotions, and this is equally true of craft as art, or nature itself for that matter. Insight lay beyond the powers of the artist to affect at will; the viewer has to bring that to the table. As for the transformation of consciousness, the quality of consciousness changes from moment to moment anyway, and will occur as soon as any art object, or any kind of object at all, presents itself to your attention. Obviously you want to have a notable, pleasurable, serious experience in front of a work of art, but to insist that a work of art transform consciousness in a particular direction, even in the direction of wonder, is to bolt a function onto art.

Art can be pressed into any service, and the generation of wonder must be one of the most noble services it can perform. Most art is not made in a pure way, and there is nothing wrong with this. But art only does one thing inherently - to act as a repository for visual quality. So loading it up with visual quality is a worthwhile activity. I would tend to favor the evocation of wonder as a side effect rather than a design specification. In fact, I might never get started on anything if one of my guidelines was a profound effect upon consciousness.



December 1, 2008, 7:58 PM

Keith Haring? Kenny Scharf, maybe, but Haring?



December 1, 2008, 7:58 PM

I am having a hard time understanding what you are saying. Pretty Lady.

I am, of course, bound by my habits with the medium. Like any artist I have to conform to the conventions I work within, and the idea of letting go and what have you is always nagging at any ambitions artist.

It is certainly true that I hesitate to go too far making forms that suggest something other than themselves, primarily because of all the complexities and readaptions this would demand, that is, "going back to the drawing board". Obviously I would do it if I thought it beneficial - these paintings are already a very great readaption (as I have heard loudly from colleagues) - but I happen to like the ambiguous "suggestion" rather than, say, painting a realistic figure.

I greatly admire what Miro, for example, did with this idea. I have to say I am not a great fan of any of the artists you listed above, at least not enough to be influenced by them at all.

Is that what you are driving at?



December 1, 2008, 8:05 PM

Jack I mentioned earlier in an email to Franklin that I had the feeling that these pictures may very well be a sublimation of my admiration for Krazy Kat and my short-lived career as a cartoonist in my younger days.

I suspect your queasyness is well founded. I am queasy about them too, but I cannot be a judge. They just seem to come out that way.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 8:10 PM

Pretty Lady's post titled "Now Shamelessly Gorgeous" seems to show up in my bookmark list a lot, and I always think, "Wow, I'd love to be called shamelessly gorgeous, what does she mean by that?" And I go to the link and say, yeah, now I remember, that painting. I can't figure out how to apply that to what I do, except I think Pretty Lady likes backgrounds with low chroma. Certainly she's picked on me for using colors straight from the tube, which I kind of like because part of me feels like painting with paint actually ruins it. It looks so nice all by itself.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, PL's taste in painting sometimes bamboozles me, too.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 8:12 PM

WDB, I don't see any Keith Haring in these (and wouldn't consider it a strong insult if I did), but I can kind of see Krazy Kat, or at least Ignatz's brick. I've read that Herriman invented the motion lines used in comics, and I can almost see these paintings as studies of motion lines.



December 1, 2008, 8:13 PM

Haring-ish forms or whimsy is what I meant. Scharf is such an utter, ghastly joke that I can't go there. This work is too distinguished formally for that. At least Haring had a higher reach, even if it exceeded his grasp.



December 1, 2008, 8:18 PM

as i have told you, but will put it out here, these most recent paintings are really good. very likely your best work since the brush and cuts that culminated with lithia in 1992-1993. the seven paintings, 8_30b to the most recent 8-33b and 8_25b are all very consistent at a high level. 8_32b is still my favorite at the moment. the color is fantastic, exuberant and lively. great combos.



December 1, 2008, 8:18 PM

Ignatz's brick indeed. Sounds like a good title..



December 1, 2008, 8:21 PM

Thanks 1. 32B is the one I have had the gravest doubts about. Just goes to show.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 8:27 PM

I'm good at titles. I'll name your paintings for you.

Also, listen, if you want to pay for airfare I'll come down and pretend to be Greenberg. "That's good. That's bad. That one's upside down. Cut the other one in half. Not flat enough!"

Pretty good, eh?


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 8:40 PM

Is that what you are driving at?

No, it isn't.

I think the crux of what I am trying to articulate is that I need art that simultaneously engages, and confounds, both my right and left brains simultaneously. I need it to produce that gap of surprise, of stillness, of mystery and question and possibility. You can do that with 'suggestion,' but you can do it in a lot of other ways, too. Miro doesn't interest me because it's so clearly just a painting, however whimsical.

I don't think it's necessarily a transforming of consciousness in a particular direction, or a sense of wonder, or awe, though these things can all happen. That's too much of a conceptual agenda. It's compartmentalization of process and visual concerns, unrelated to other considerations, that I have a problem with. Frankly, it bores me; I can sit in my crit group and discuss formal concerns from now until the cows come home, but always there's this big part of my mind that's wandering around outside, aimless and untethered. If the art CAN engage that part of me as well, I want it to do that. Why shouldn't it?

That, of course, is my personal agenda, and it's fine that others don't share it. It's just been a source of mild frustration to me for awhile now. I suspect it may have something to do with the way my brain works, as I wrote in my Brooklyn Days post, 'The Feminine Mind,' (which I'm not linking to because that will break this comment. ;-))

Jack, I TOTALLY see what you mean about Haring. It's the lack of relative dynamism in the forms, as well as the blockiness of the gestures.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 8:46 PM

I find it impossible to dislike Haring because he's just so damned positive. As cynical and nasty as I am, there's still a little kid inside who loves Sesame Street and Robin Williams and Disney films, and Haring's work fits in there for me. I just can't not like it.



December 1, 2008, 8:47 PM

They are growing one me. But the outlining takes some getting used to.



December 1, 2008, 8:48 PM

OK, Pretty Lady. If a Miro doesn't interest you because it is just a painting I guess we are not syncopating here.

I am open to any title suggestions, Chris, but i am very particular about them and suffer over them. I usually title by a kind of free association and wait until something "fits". It is entirely intuitional.



December 1, 2008, 8:50 PM

The outlining and area isolation is what geves me the most trouble also, but I finally gave in to it because it facilitated everything else so thoroughly.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 9:00 PM

PL, I realize now that I completely don't understand what you're talking about. Which is fine, and probably expected. And not negative at all -- I mean, I just re-read "The Feminine Mind" and I understand the words, I just can't get my hands around the import, the actual implementation, as it were, of what you're saying.

Whenever people talk about gender differences, or racial differences, or anything like that, I always remember this one article on gender statistics. The article pointed out that knowing that the average male grade on a math test, say, is 0.5% higher than the female average, sounds important. But the real question isn't the average: The real question is, if I handed you a test grade without a gender on it, and you guessed gender based on the grade itself, would your guessing be any better than random?

There's a statistical name for how that's all figured out and stuff, and I don't remember it any more. The important point is, even though males may have a higher average grade, you may find your gender guessing is only very slightly better than random, because most of the grades are all over the place. Only the averages look clear-cut by gender.

Obviously this isn't statistics. But what I'd wonder is, given a painting, could you tell if the artist is male or female? And would your guess be any better than random?

I don't know, of course. I just wonder this kind of thing.

I get the feeling that whatever it is you're looking for, and the formal attributes Darby talks about, for me they're both kind of irrelevant. I think, for me, they all come in later, after the initial viewing experience. That experience, when it's good, is deep, all over, entirely non-verbal, like a Vulcan nerve pinch. After that happens (or doesn't), then it's time to discuss other things like composition.

Unless that feeling is what you're talking about. But I don't connect that feeling to the same things you do. For me, that feeling comes entirely out of the arrangement of materials.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 9:06 PM

WDB, I used to title my paintings kind of the way you do, back when I was painting more surrealist kind of things. Nowadays I have no interest in titling my paintings. I've been naming the figurative ones after the models I worked with, but I'm afraid my live drawing days have come to a close since I burned the bridge with the guy who was holding them. I'm sure there are other groups out there I could find -- I know there's the Draw-a-thon in New York, for example -- but the whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I think I'm going to be back to Untitled.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 9:15 PM

I mean, what I'm saying is, if I even talk about the first time I saw a Van Gogh in person -- just talk about it -- I get goosebumps. I'm almost getting them now.


that guy

December 1, 2008, 9:16 PM

I'm with Franklin and 1. The outlining doesn't bother me partly because I reminds me of how great it is to squish a fair amount of paint under collaged material and the surprising results that occur from such an effort. In fact these pictures remind me of large scale collage, although I know they were not constructed that way. I also think these hard edged, haphazardly structured paintings are working just fine. More please.



December 1, 2008, 9:19 PM

For what it's worth, 32A is my favorite.

Ignatz's Brick sounds like an Olitski title.

There is an element of Klee here, and to some extent of Dubuffet. I think part of my problem is that the playfulness or whimsy or cartoon aspect doesn't come across (to me) as entirely organic or natural or intrinsic to Bannard, based on what I know of his work. I don't mean he's being dishonest, but that perhaps his natural bent or constitutional make-up as a painter is not quite suited to this approach. I think he may be a little too serious or rigorous naturally for this (which is not a value judgment but an observation).

Poussin was not suited for genre scenes. Chardin was not suited for classical subjects. They were both great artists, each in his own vein.



December 1, 2008, 9:21 PM

Of course, Chris. Seeing is everything. Most of what we have been talking about here has to do with the problems of making paintings, or of trying to analyze why the experience was good or not so good.

"Untitled" is a bad idea. it makes it very difficult to keep track of work, and somehow dealers end up with pix they haven't paid for when identification is weak.


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 9:22 PM

PL, I realize now that I completely don't understand what you're talking about.

No, you don't. So many things have just come clear! I realize that I have always approached art as a function of how my mind works, and my mind works holistically. It's always integrating science, intuition, emotion and sensation, as part of its natural flow. An insight in one area naturally transfers to and enriches all the others.

Thus, since visual art is an inherently non-linear construct, it feels completely natural to me that visual art should operate as holistically as my mind does. Separating formal concerns from conceptual, emotional, or spiritual overtones feels forced, unnecessary, and unnatural to me.

Ergo, I am intensely frustrated when the apparent dichotomy is between 'visual quality' (the Franklin Paradigm) and 'conceptual progressivism' (the Winkleman Agenda.) For me it seems obvious that aesthetics and concept can and should be seamlessly integrated, for a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts. Furthermore, since there's no necessity for a linear agenda to be set forth, visual art can and should operate on a number of levels at once, like a poem or an opera.

And finally, I sense that this makes no sense at all to you fellows, and that it never has.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 9:23 PM

Over on Facebook, Steve LaRose said these Bannards made him think of "a less serious Michael Kessler." I considered arguing, but then I felt I knew what he meant; and also that not being serious, in this sense, isn't a drawback. In fact I think Kessler's work is too serious, or anyway self-serious.

I personally like the non-self-serious tone of Darby's works here.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 9:29 PM

I find it hard to avoid dichotomies when thinking, even though dichotomies often make things harder than they could be. Often splitting things up -- analyzing them -- makes certain things easier. Analytic thought is really important. So when Descartes splits up mind and body, it's very helpful in advancing certain disciplines, certain sciences, and so forth. And yet clearly there's no "real" split between mind and body. It's a model which is helpful in some areas.

But it's so hard to shed when you don't need it. Plenty of other things are similar: True/false, for example. And Franklin likes to lament the objective/subjective split.

I don't know if it's a male/female thing -- there it is again! -- or if it's just a Western cultural thing you didn't get a big enough dose of. Could be a combination. I don't know.

I know my wife is a much more black/white person than I am in a lot of ways. So maybe it's not as gender-based as you might think. Could just be a tendency.

The important thing here is, yes, I can see that the visual/conceptual isn't necessarily the way to break things up, but I can't get away from it.



December 1, 2008, 9:47 PM

Pretty Lady, when we look at a painting (or whatever medium), everything goes in. Things only separate out when we talk about them. I think you are making the process much more complicated than it has to be.

The comparison to grafitti, Klee, Dubuffet, Haring etc tht have been made all have something to them but I really don't get the comparison to those Kessler pix, Chris. How did he arrive at that, I wonder.



December 1, 2008, 10:07 PM

Conceptual progressivism? Does the guy actually use that term? Well, I know that's what I go to art for, "conceptual progressivism." Just as I look to sex principally for interesting anatomical configurations from a mechanical or bioengineering perspective. Sheesh.


Chris Rywalt

December 1, 2008, 10:09 PM

You mean you don't, Jack? I'm always, like, check out those catenary curves!



December 1, 2008, 10:12 PM

Wow! I've always wanted my own paradigm.

I think I understand just fine, PL - you should simply be working with content. And you are, so you're all set. Darby's an abstractionist, one of the best alive, and it may be that pure abstraction doesn't entice you.

My argument with the Winkleman Agenda is only that I don't think you can dispense with visual quality and end up with anything worthwhile as art. (He does - he thinks ideas themselves can be beautiful.) The degree to which art concerns itself with problems besides visual quality depends entirely on the temperament of the artist. Pure abstraction is not going to be enabling to every artist. Me, for instance. I like having a figurative subject and I make better work when I do. There's no dichotomy between visual quality and content (including concepts). Rather, I'm saying that content has no visual value. They aren't two halves in need of integration - they are two problems in need of their own solutions, hopefully none of which contradict the others. Solving both problems does not necessarily result in better art than solving the visual problem alone.

When you get rid of content, like Darby has, you are relieved of all the problems that content entails. You pay for it by not having a logical scaffolding to hang elements of the picture on. As Dogen said, there is no privileged state of existence.


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 10:19 PM

I think you are making the process much more complicated than it has to be.

What you don't understand is that this isn't complicated for me. It's the most staggeringly obvious thing in the world.

It's like when a friend of mine made the comment that I like dance 'because it's visual.' Except that dance isn't purely visual; it's kinesthetic. It's about movement which becomes form which indicates sound which communicates emotion. Saying that 'everything goes in' to an experience which is exclusively visual is just nonsensical. Everything hasn't gone in; just the visual has gone in.



December 1, 2008, 10:26 PM

I am bewildered by what you are saying, PL. Do you want paintings that dance & sing?

Actually, lets leave it.


Pretty Lady

December 1, 2008, 10:35 PM

Rather, I'm saying that content has no visual value.

Yes, and I've always agreed vociferously with that. I'm merely coming to understand that for me, visual value is a necessary tool, but not an end in itself. It literally can't be. It triggers too much other stuff.

Do you want paintings that dance & sing?

Yes, of course! One of my major breakthroughs in understanding abstract visual concepts came when a professor of mine blurted out, 'It has to be singing! Every bit of it has to be singing!'

Your paintings are singing; they're just singing in a relatively narrow range, to my visual ear. There's nothing wrong with that, and we can certainly leave it there.



December 1, 2008, 10:45 PM

i think george makes some good points and the associations to cubism and cutouts are relevant. and i do get a picasso feel as well, but less "musicians" and more "dryad". but i would give more credence to color in these pics than george seems to.

i also get a little howard hodgkin. of course when you have floating rectangles of color you have to think hofmann as well.

in 8_31a the five floating orange rectangles and the three yellow pie shaped accents in 8_32a are reminiscent to goodnough.

but these are really headed towards a variation on the earlier brush and cuts by darby himself.

and my refernces are mainly associated with the pictures i thought the best from this group.



December 1, 2008, 11:00 PM

for those concerned with the outlining on these pics please pull up picasso's "tryad". do you see and feel an association?



December 1, 2008, 11:05 PM

I see wht you mean, 1, but that sure ain't my favorite Picasso. And Braque went ahead and made a bigger monster than that one.



December 1, 2008, 11:17 PM

re: #45 pretty lady




December 2, 2008, 12:09 AM

Regarding "outlining", I think it's a problem if you call it that. It is "drawing" and I assume WDB treats it as drawing. If that's a problem, try crosshatching.

Franklin said in #51 "When you get rid of content, like Darby has..."

This is not a very interesting line of inquiry in todays world. I do not see these paintings this way, nor do I suspect that is their direction. While it may be an academically interesting point of inquiry, it will tend to confuse the issue when one is making a painting.

Labels, abstract, representational, geometric, you pick one, all function to define some appearance or approach. As an observer these views may be helpful, but as a painter I find they get in the way. They get in the way by constraining a boundary of thought which allows some specific event to happen in a painting. If we think, 'Oh I can't paint an angel', we won't. The point is extreme, but covers the problem.

From a personal point of view I would suggest that a master painter, one who has worked 40 or 50 years must fight to exceed and defy his/her experience. It is the label, the "oeuvre", the ego of personality which attempts to bind an artists hands with experience. Well, I can tell you, from experience, there aren't any rules other than the ones we accept.

My Picasso references had little to do with any specific association or similarity and that the pictorial ides presented in these cubist pictures might be a good kicking-off point today. Picasso tried everything and good or not, his paintings are a good source of ideas or inspiration.

Finally, there comes a point in an artists life where there is nothing to prove, the last ten paintings did it, or the last twenty, or the last one. If one considers this perception carefully, one will realize that it doesn't matter what one does. It never did, but it takes awhile to realize this.

One can do whatever one wants, the ultimate freedom, or not.

You are allowed to paint Krazy Kat legs with striped sox. You are too old to paint anything you are not. Like my friend said to me "What do you have to lose?"



December 2, 2008, 1:00 AM

I'd like to weigh in because I think I understand what Pretty Lady is seeing in these paintings. First, they are gorgeous. They remind me also of graffiti, but not Haring, or Cy Twombly either, for that matter, although Twombly's graffiti is my favorite. They are more like the best subway graffiti of the 80's, with a shallow space. That's it, their depth of field is 2" to 3" (sorry, but these impressions are only from the small jpegs and may be flawed because of that). I can see the Krazy Kat reference. I read these paintings as being more like a great paint job on a truck, rather than as any kind of space, hence, they have no nature in them, and so, little appeal to transcendence. This is my very subjective reading. The Jennifer Coates paintings and drawings have space and nature in them. Twombly also has space and nature, which may be why they seem so large in their effect to me.


David Rchardson

December 2, 2008, 1:18 AM

I don't know, I may see some space after all. 08-2C could be "Samo in the sky", very spacious. 08 10A looks a little like some Google Earth photos I was looking at last night of Moab Utah. 07 56 and 07 51 are mysterious, striking, they have both the shallow cartoon space, a Carroll Dunham space, and a little Hubble telescope space. These musings may be irrelevent, but the mind does reach for light, for space, for meaning. If they were my paintings I don't know if I'd want people to say "Oh that looks like a squashed frog", "that looks like Las Vegas from 20,000 ft., but you're welcome to use the titles.



December 2, 2008, 2:23 AM

Hi George. Labels are dangerous, to be sure, and are easily challenged by the intellect. But, as H. Rosenberg pointed out, if you don't avail yourself of them, you can miss some of the deepest aspects of a group of works. I'd add that this applies mostly to talking about them. Myself, instead of saying Bannard gets rid of "content" I'd say he gets rid of "subject matter", quibbling with Franklin, of course, but even with my word change I arrive at approximately the same place he does.

I like your friend's statement about having nothing to lose. It is a good form of freedom, but not everyone who reaches the point where it is possible, takes advantage of it. Bannard certainly does, though, much to his credit.



December 2, 2008, 8:02 AM

I am grateful to Franklin for posting this and for all the comments and opinions. I paint in relative isolation and have few eyes around to see the work.

I think Franklin meant "subject matter" when he said "content". This is of course a purely semantic distinction. "Content", to be a useful term, should be broad, and is better used to simply designate whatever is there.

You are right George, that there comes a point when there is "nothing to lose", but I (probably like most serious artists) am bound up by lifelong habits and this makes it difficult to say "to hell with it". The part you mention about not letting something happen in the painting because of some "boundry of thought" is the scary part. My model is not Picasso (who let his painting fall apart in his later years) but Hofmann, who continually risked everything, to the point of seeming like 10 painters and incurring criticism of inconsistency, but managed to paint his best pictures in his 70s and 80s by taking these chances.

Nevertheless, as John says, fretting over the details is unavoidable and also pays dividends. I was getting terminally frustrated with my previous method of building the paintings around skeins of gel in a linear pattern and over a course of very frustrating experimentation I suddenly realized that instead of drawing with dark gel I could simply spread it smoothly over a colored surface and cut into it, literally sgrafitti style (which MC & David noticed above). Playing with this method led quickly to fanciful, semi-figurative forms, which I then had to either reject or accept. I went with them primarily because I enjoyed the process and the result. It meant giving up a lot of precious concepts of what a painting "should be", but as George implied, to hell with it.

On the other hand, the method has certain visual coinstrictions that bother me, but this is a perpetual condition no matter what I do.

David, the space thing interests me. I like to play with degrees of illusion and am pleased when something strange happens spacewise. And when I am looking at the paintings with friends who can see well we often find references in the pictures and I am complimented when they think the images they see are funny. I'm not a real fan of Carrol Dunham but I think he is a better painter than most of the cartoony artists (except for Basquiat) and interesting to look at, usually, anyway.

When we looked at Jules Olitski's late pictures on our frequent trips to the Keys we often made reference to the "outer space" look they had, and Jules was always amused, and my abstract painter friend George Bethea actually named some of his pictures after Hubble images. I don't think we should preclude anything that is fun and interesting in the name of dogma and protocol.

Enough. This is going on too long.



December 2, 2008, 9:14 AM

WDB: my previous remarks were all offered as encouragement to continue the current direction which seems fruitful. One interesting thing about being able to say "the heck with it" is that, in fact, no matter what course you take, it's yours. All the habits of a lifetime won't allow it to be anything else. This isn't generally true for younger painters.

JOHN: "I'd say he gets rid of "subject matter"" This is a silly debate. 'Content' or 'subject matter', it's always there and the question is whether or not the artists is acknowledging or working with it. It exists in the mind of the viewer, after the fact, nothing can be done about that.

The references to the graffiti kind of make my point. While I can see why some suggested these associations, it wasn't the first connection I made. We tend to recognize certain forms and associate them with the figure, arms and legs and eyes and mouths, even on Mars we see them, it's built in.

In general: I suggested Picasso and Matisse, not so much as 'models' but sources. I look at Picasso and Van Gogh fairly intensely, usually about 500 paintings (jpegs) a week. This is something that wasn't possible 40 years ago and as a result, I think I probably look at them differently, quicker and frequently just focusing on one particular pictorial aspect in several paintings in succession. The input is different.

That all said, there is no substitute for seeing the actual paintings. By a miracle of chance I was able to view the small Van Gogh exhibition at MOMA with nearly no one else in the galleries. Alone with a masterpiece, thank you God.


Chris Rywalt

December 2, 2008, 9:14 AM

You're getting your lines by the edge of the paint as you move it around, and I think that's really interesting. I do the same thing in my painting, although I'm usually using a loaded brush. Sometimes I want the line; lately not so much, and I have to rub it away without ruining whatever form I was trying to delineate.


Chris Rywalt

December 2, 2008, 9:19 AM

George, did you get to the Picasso show at Acquavella? I was able to get in on its last day last Saturday. I'm not a big fan of Picasso -- when I saw the big Matisse/Picasso show a few years back I enjoyed it but wasn't deeply moved by it -- but I liked the work on display. One in particular, The Dream, is very well known but rarely displayed since it's in a private collection.



December 2, 2008, 9:28 AM

Chris Re: the Picasso show at Acquavella?

No, I went but the gallery was closing when I got there and I never made the trip back ;-(

Picasso has his good moments and his bad ones. He was voracious about consuming pictorial ideas and made so much work he just about covered all the territory. However looking back on the work, we can pick and choose what we want.

It's all here:



December 2, 2008, 9:29 AM

"Subject matter" and "content" are necessary terms when discussing recent art, George. I don't think it is silly to know what we mean when we use them.

I think looking at jpgs (which I also do a lot of) has allowed me to ingest a lot of good info - of the nonverbal sort - about paintings. I download everything which either appeals to me or seems like a good example of technique from the auctions reported by artnet, so i am looking at sometimes hundreds of images a week and I have a folder with about 10,000 images, mostly late 19th & 20th C.

Exactly, Chris. The squeegee raises ridges of gel. But triying to modify them I think would be that deadly fussing we were talking about.



December 2, 2008, 9:40 AM

Yes, that Picasso project site is a killer. I like to show the appropriate year to a student and say "Look what Picasso was doing at your age. Now gt to work!"



December 2, 2008, 9:46 AM

"Subject matter" and "content" are necessary terms when discussing recent art
I agree. I thought the arguments about it were silly.

so i am looking at sometimes hundreds of images a week
Yes, I didn't mean to suggest I'm the only one doing this. Only a few years ago this wasn't possible, it's affecting how we make paintings.

Since the Tamu site has jpegs of EVERYTHING he ever made, what's oddly fascinating about Picasso is that it's possible to look at the scrawls on paper, doodles, drawings, the paintings in various versions and see the thought process at work.



December 2, 2008, 9:55 AM

They don't have everything. Just close to it. I have downloaded some early drawings that they don't have - from the auctions - and they are not fakes.


Chris Rywalt

December 2, 2008, 10:14 AM

I followed along through Picasso's biography with the Website. Since the bio had no plates at all, it was really fantastic to be able to call up the exact painting being talked about at any point.

The Picasso show also had a lot of photos of Pablo and Marie-Therese. I expected a really beautiful woman but, judging by the photos, she was actually kind of stern and scary. Looked to me like she grabbed Pablo by the scruff of his neck and made him love her.

Like I said, Picasso's not my favorite, but I appreciate his willingness to scribble.


Chris Rywalt

December 2, 2008, 10:30 AM

I worry sometimes about all the JPEGs we look at. Roger Ebert once noted, I think, that more and more films are being made for TV viewing, not just because eventually they all end up on DVD, but also because all of the equipment -- monitors on set, editing computers, and so on -- now uses TV-sized screens. Time was to compose your film images you had to look through a lens and then wait for the film to be processed to see what it looked like; now you watch the movie as you're filming it, on set, on TV.

I worry that the same thing is happening to us in painting. We're looking at so much illustration, and so many paintings via JPEG, I worry that we're starting to paint -- not on purpose, not directly, but nevertheless -- for reproduction.

Once upon a time I'd have argued that the line between fine art and illustration is imaginary. That was before I'd seen a lot of both. Now I think I see the difference and it's enormous. Illustration is designed to make you hungry; art fills you up. And that's not a matter of content or intent: It's purely a matter of technique. Illustration is about doing as little as necessary to ensure proper reproduction. Illustrations, in real life, are curiously...clipped, to use a term from audio. In audio recording, when a sound is beyond the abilities of the equipment to replicate -- too loud, too high frequency, whatever -- the resulting sound is called clipped. Basically the waveform is just chopped off beyond the boundary of your technology. Illustration is the same way, only visual.



December 2, 2008, 10:57 AM

Oh George (#64): all art has content, not all art has subject matter. It is much easier to discuss subject mater than content because subject matter is word friendly. content is intuited and felt, not intellectualized. toccata and fuge by Bach has content, but no subject matter. The 1812 Overture has both, though not a lot of subject matter. Tammy Wynatte's STAND BY YOUR MAN has plenty of subject matter, but not so much content.



December 2, 2008, 11:04 AM

And it's not silly to bring up the distinction when Franklin is getting at the difference between abstraction and representational painting. I'd say it is silly to say calling attention to the difference is itself silly, as you have, twice. Except I think it is even more silly the way people go out of their way to call each other silly around here.

It is the sort of stuff one must tolerate if you want to participate on the web, I guess.



December 2, 2008, 11:11 AM

John, Come on, what are you talking about?

The content I can talk about is 'subject matter' but if I "feel it", it's only content? This is formalist thought at its most profound?



December 2, 2008, 11:16 AM

Chris, Your thinking about art and illustration is all wrong. Technique has nothing to do with making something be art, that's about craftsmanship. Illustrations are often made by artists with strong technique.

IMHO, Christo's drawings are not as good as Miro, they border on illustration.



December 2, 2008, 11:29 AM

George, it is just a matter of having useful terminology. Content is whatever is there, or whatever can be agreed in discussion is there. Subject matter is content that is recognizable referential form, that looks like something in real life. it is a useful distinction.



December 2, 2008, 11:37 AM

Chris the art/illustration thing is interesting and can become contentious because of the impled value distinction. It is odd, because, as you say, it is immediately obvious when something is illustration but it is impossible to say why, like the justice who said he couldn't define pornography but would know it if he saw it.

Some years ago a friend sent me a book he had written and apologised for the "awful" representation of Venice on the dust jacket. It was indeed awful as a painting, but it was excellent as an illustration.

And don't forget the Cugat dust jacket for "The Great Gatsby", which wasn't much as art but was so imaginative that it made Fitzgerald go back and revise parts of the book.



December 2, 2008, 12:11 PM

There's obviously such a thing as great illustration, per se, and when it is great, it goes beyond mere craft (though that's typically part of its merit).

Jean-Michel Moreau, considered the greatest French illustrator of the 18th century, is a case in point. He is best known for illustrating the collected works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (12 volumes), as well as truly exquisite plates depicting the fashions and manners of his day (the last years of the ancien regime).



December 2, 2008, 12:31 PM

I have to be brief because I'm at work. I've seen all of these in person. They are wonderful pictures. Very original and full of life. They have a similar quality and may be as good as Jules's late work.



December 2, 2008, 2:07 PM

There's a practical marker for illustration if anyone needs it - illustration is art intended for reproduction. But it's true that the problem is a lot more complex than that, and I've been meaning to write about it for several months. Watching the press releases roll in for shows all over the world, I observe that illustration is basically taking over fine art right now, or rather, what I see being presented as fine art is increasingly often illustration presented in an art context.



December 2, 2008, 2:20 PM

In fact, most postmodernist work is simply glorified and specialized illustration,and unapologetically so.

Jack, good art can be effectively used to illustrate something. It just doesn;t work the other way around.


Chris Rywalt

December 2, 2008, 5:31 PM

Just to clarify for George: When I used the word "technique" up there, I didn't mean it -- damn English! -- the way we usually use "technique" around here, as artists, saying that so-and-so has technique, like an academic painter has technique. Of course technique in that sense belongs to both fine art and illustration, and either one can be an example of good or bad technique. I meant technique in its more general meaning, like (from "the manner in which technical details are treated".



December 2, 2008, 7:14 PM

Re 85, "the manner in which technical details are treated" is a definition for style, or approach if you prefer.


Chris Rywalt

December 2, 2008, 7:29 PM

Yeah, that's about what I meant. Approach, not actual painting technique per se. What I'm getting at is that illustration, because it's intended for reproduction, involves different choices than fine art. A heavy impasto, for example, isn't probably the best approach for illustration.

And what I think is that intended purpose -- reproduction -- drains out of the work whatever it is that true art conveys. By which I mean to say: reproduction the process certainly drains it, but also, creating a work with the intention of reproducing it -- making choices which lead to better reproduction rather than other choices -- drains it.



December 2, 2008, 8:03 PM


You're confused.

A work of 'art' is the result of the efforts and vision of the artist. It has nothing to do with what it is finally used for. A work of art can be a reproduction, a poster or an ad. Think Toulouse Lautrec.



December 2, 2008, 8:06 PM

About illustration: My wife teaches at Leslie U. in Cambridge, which now includes the Art Institute of Boston, and evidently the illustration department has some talented people teaching there. I've heard that if a student wants to learn technique, go through the illustration department. I recall the story of Dekooning teaching a drawing class, it may have been at Black Mountain College, and having the students work on one drawing for the full class. I think I most recently read about this in Jed Perl's New Art City. Anyway, it seems that today, to get that kind of experience, you might need to go through an illustration department.



December 2, 2008, 8:30 PM

re 89

Ron Kitaj taught drawing like that as well.



December 3, 2008, 1:34 AM

I've not so much withheld comment as have been withheld from commenting by commitment and circumstance.

However. The page of new WDB work surprised me, for sure - the squarish forms in place of scallops I didn't expect. On review, I still like the pictures well enough, but I'm going to hedge my praise a little.

Is it just me or are these composed in a different way from the usual cropping upon cropping that I understand is normal procedure. It's a new kind of format that I think the biggest difference in them, not the shift to squarer geometry. Rather than presenting itself as a picture, I'm getting each as a panel with a picture in/on it. And the way colour is used inside of black outlines reinforces them as framed illustrations.

One other thing, regarding the ridges that strafe the underside of each picture: they help the rest of the image most when they seem made by tines larger than a dessert fork's. But that is likely just a function of being unable to grasp the real size of each painting from a .jpeg.



December 3, 2008, 6:40 AM

"Rather than presenting itself as a picture, I'm getting each as a panel with a picture in/on it"

this sounds like an interesting observation but I don't think I quite understand it.

These paintings seem to me a reversion to a simpler method of picture-making, which I believe you are implying. It is a kind of draw and fill, "painting by number" of a sort. The concerns me a lot, but the reason I let it happen is that the very simplicity of the method allows so much suggestive variety with play on figuration, relationships, surface effects and color. Insted of a struggle involving supressing many potential pictorial characteristics to get basic clarity the struggle is choosing which of the dozens of ideas that pour into my head should I use.

The striations are done with a street broom, a very rough broom with long wooden bristles. I think the effects are best when more pronounced, which I think is what you are saying.



December 3, 2008, 7:02 AM

BTW the paintings are about 4 x 5 feet, if that helps any.



December 3, 2008, 10:56 AM

There is a fairly clear path taken over the last year that involves an investigation of how to delineate or define a form/shape within a visual field.

In some of the paintings (pg5 04-66, 04-65, 7-33) the separation between the form and the field is defined more by the drawing than the color. In others (04-79 to 05-02) the form is defined by a color/contrast difference from the ground which is generally more complexly defined or cluttered.

I would say that a primary visual characteristic of the 'field' is that it has no horizon line, it's like looking up or down, the ground (plane) or sky (space) Because of the blue at the top of paintings 08-1A and 08-1B there is some reference to an horizon which orients the viewer differently.

With that exception the paintings on pages 2 -5 are working within a field which allows the forms to congeal or be defined by the gel-line.

By contrast the later paintings on Page 1 are moving towards allowing the forms to define the space rather than the other way around. I think this is a significant difference, the space is mow populated by forms.

I think this distinction places greater emphasis on both the drawing which delineates the forms and their coloration which identifies them individually.

The earlier paintings seem like the were confined by a set of assumptions (prior histories) which kept them confined to a simpler pictorial arena.

The last paintings seem to break away from these assumptions which creates a new set of interesting problems. The minute you take one of those shapes, separate it from the ground and the other shapes, you have taken responsibility for it (In the sense of the old superstition about saving a man from death entails responsibility for his life)


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 11:00 AM

David: I've heard the same thing. If you want to learn how to paint, go through the illustration department. However:

George sez:
A work of 'art' is the result of the efforts and vision of the artist. It has nothing to do with what it is finally used for. A work of art can be a reproduction, a poster or an ad. Think Toulouse Lautrec.

My observations come from recent exposure to a fair amount of true illustration originals, which is to say work done on a deadline for the purposes of reproduction in advertising a product. Book covers, for example. And while these illustrations can be technically masterful, showcasing the artist's ability to render textures, for example, ultimately illustration is flat -- not flat geometrically, I mean flat like flat soda. Flat and lifeless.

I believe this is a definite result of the work's being intended for reproduction. There's no point in working in subtle hues beyond the ability of, for example, process color to reproduce. This becomes a habit, a reflex, in the working process of illustrators.

I've come to believe that the two processes aren't compatible. Whatever it takes to get soul in a painting, it's blocked by illustrative concerns.

And I am thinking of Toulouse-Lautrec, whose posters are really only accepted as art these days because of the blurring of the line between art and illustration. Of course he was a painter, also, and that helps lend his posters some credibility.

I don't think it's black and white anyway. I mean, I think art can appear anywhere and be made of anything.



December 3, 2008, 11:10 AM

Chris, I'll say it again, you're confused.

Your assumptions about Toulouse-Lautrec posters are wrong.

People were following the poster hanger around so they could get them off the wall while the glue was still not set. All this so they could take them home and hang them up as artworks.

Further Toulouse-Lautrec sent posters to salon-style exhibitions in order to make the point they were art. It's an interesting story.

"Good and Bad" don't care about whether an item is intended as an illustration or not.



December 3, 2008, 11:35 AM

"The last paintings seem to break away from these assumptions which creates a new set of interesting problems."

This is exactly the case, George, and because it is my nature to worry everything to death I am preoccupied (in my thinking) not so much by the interesting problems (which are multifarious and lots of fun and don't bother me at all) but by abandoning the vexing problem of making a "formless" painting, which, as you imply, was a kind of continuing project.

That's why it is so interesting to get comments, which helps me adjust to what I have already decided to do anyway.

Painting is a a real bitch.



December 3, 2008, 12:02 PM

re 97: WDB

"but by abandoning the vexing problem of making a "__________" painting"

Whose problem? (rhetorical)

No matter how you rationalize it, leaving the 'known' for the 'unknown' is scary.

The known, by definition has validation, the unknown has no validation, it can be anything from plain stupid to genius and you are not allowed to know in advance, by definition.

That's what makes painting a bitch, not all these little things we argue about here which all belong to the known.

It's the 'unknown', that dark moment in the studio, when you are alone and have to take a step, without knowing the floor is there.

For what it's worth, there comes a point when you say to yourself, "why didn't I just do that before?"


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 12:04 PM

Good and bad don't care, George, you're right. But the works themselves do. When someone sets out to create an illustration, they're much less likely to get art. Much the same way as someone who sets out to paint with seawater is much less likely to get art, or someone who paints with dog crap. Do I believe, in theory, that it's possible for someone sitting on a public toilet smearing their own feces on the stall wall to create a great work of art? Yes. Do I believe, in practice, that's it's likely? No.

That people like to decorate their homes with posters doesn't make them art. It's precisely this attitude, this confusion of art and illustration, that I think is an infection, and it's spreading because of how many reproductions we look at. We're starting to forget, as a culture, that true art has a value which can't be predicted, copied, reproduced, or explained.



December 3, 2008, 12:25 PM

Chris, you're full of it, really, you don't know what you are talking about.

If an artist doesn't care if his illustration is art or not, it's probably not. On the other hand, a lot of artists are trying really hard to make something be art and it's not. Intention has something, but not everything, to do with it.

Again, our assumptions about Toulouse-Lautrec posters are wrong. You are trying to make your own view right, it's not.

Toulouse-Lautrec established lithography as an art form, he did it intentionally and the "poster" was the output. In particular he developed a number of techniques for softening the 'flatness' of the color areas.

In addition, around the same time, Japanese woodcut prints were popular and influential among several artists, including Van Gogh who used the flat areas of color, typical to the Japanese prints, to good advantage.

It's ok if you don't like this kind of work, but that has nothing to do with whether it is any good or not.



December 3, 2008, 12:40 PM


Further, the woodcut, a popular medium for illustration in the 19th century, exists because black and white force "flat areas" A number of graphical techniques, cross hatching etc, were developed to allow for less stark contrast.

Van Gogh hoped to have some of his paintings be used for "illustrations" as a way of generating income. The case can be made that his drawing style and painting style (brushmarks) were influenced to some degree by the formal qualities of the woodcuts of the period.


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 12:42 PM

Good and art aren't the same thing, George. True art is good, but good things aren't necessarily art. I like Boris Vallejo calendars but they're not art. They're good calendars, they're good decorations, they're excellent illustrations, but they're not art.

The fact, too, that non-art can be used to inspire art -- van Gogh and the Japanese prints, for example -- doesn't cause the non-art to become art. I've seen some Japanese prints -- the very ones that made Franklin swoon -- and while I found them technically impressive, and beautiful, and full of craft beyond my wildest dreams of competence, I didn't get any feeling of art from them at all, not even the barest whiff.

I appreciate, by the way, your dragging the discussion down to the level of "you're full of it" rather than arguing the points. And to think I was actually thinking everyone else picks on you here for no good reason.



December 3, 2008, 12:49 PM


I'm sorry but you are being terribly dense about all this. The fact that you cant see the are in a great Japanese print just exposes your own predjuices or lack of knowledge. Whatever, it's all a pointless discussion because it's going nowhere, so I'll leave it there.


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 12:53 PM

By the way, Mr. Bannard, I'd like to apologize for sullying the interesting discussion of your works with this pointless sidebar. I know how important it is to get feedback and real criticism -- one of the things I feel I'd really like from a valid art career is widespread notice so I'd get remarks from all kinds of people who don't know me and don't care how I feel. You know, real honesty. (Of course I know it also means I'd get a ton of crap from morons, and I'd probably take it all too seriously, and it wouldn't be worth it. But I can dream. Lately I'm also dreaming that, were I to become reasonably wealthy for some reason, I'd spend a year in a hotel with a pool so I could eat out for every meal and swim once a day. Dreams are good.)

Anyway, I'm sorry we've hijacked any part of the discussion.


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 12:54 PM

You know, George, there's a difference between "terribly dense" and "just doesn't agree with you." You might want to explore that a bit.



December 3, 2008, 12:58 PM

I think you & Chris are arguing at cross purposes George.

Yes, my problem - making a painting within a framework of some perhaps unhelpful conventions I had adopted.

The point of discovery was that instead of creating lines I could make "negative" form by cutting it out of a layer of contrasting gel is something I have done in a very different way back in the early 90s but it never ocurred to me to actually use it mess around with figurative suggestion. Painfully obvious in retrospect, but I think most useful inventions are.

it is comforting to see how long it took Picasso & Braque to evolve Cubism out of Cezanne, to look at the process and watch the pictures of 1910-14 evolve out of monsters like Demoiselles and that Dryad painting someone mentioned above, and those awkward transcriptions out of Cezanne Braque did after he abandoned Fauvism. Makes me think "just give it time".



December 3, 2008, 1:00 PM

Don't worry about that, Chris. This is standard procedure for this blog., It's the way it ought to be.



December 3, 2008, 1:07 PM

re #105
It's not a question of disagreement, I'm allowing for that. I believe you are factually incorrect and that's different.

I'm just finishing up reading David Sweetman's book "Explosive Acts — Toulouse-Lautrec, Oscar Wild, Félix Fénéon and the Art and Anarchy of the Fin de siècle". As the title suggests it is an history of Toulouse-Lautrec and covers a number of points regarding Toulouse-Lautrec use of lithography and the poster. It's out of print but available used from Amazon



December 3, 2008, 1:23 PM

Re 101, I assume you mean wood engravings, or that's what you should mean in that context. Woodcuts are not the same thing; they're an older, more "primitive" technique and have a quite different look or feel. I also assume you're not implying things like cross-hatching were a 19th century development; they're far older than that.

Re the last sentence of 102, Chris, it took you long enough.


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 1:28 PM

I'm not exactly sure how I can be factually incorrect about anything we've been discussing, since I've been talking about the feelings one gets from fine art. If you don't get the feelings, or get them from other places, well, okay. What's factual about that I don't know.

I mean, we can argue forever about whether posters (or lithographs, or photos, or hell, even oil paintings) are art or not until we're the same color as a Darby Bannard painting. There's no way we're going to answer it and end the argument for all time.

I assert that art can't be reproduced. You say, sure it can! Okay. We disagree. The end.



December 3, 2008, 1:41 PM


Regarding Van Gogh, I meant both. I know the difference between the two. Van Gogh worked as an art dealer and was aware of both techniques.



December 3, 2008, 2:07 PM

Re Japanese prints, which I love and study, the issue of whether they're art vs. popular illustration is not as simple as it may seem. They were not considered fine art by the Japanese themselves until very late in the game, and that belated and somewhat reluctant recognition may not have happened at all if the West had not made such a (justified) fuss over them starting in the latter 19th century. Perhaps it's a case of familiarity breeding contempt, but so it was.

Of course, the prints were very popular (and profitable) in Japan from the latter 17th century till the end of the 19th, meaning they were a mass market product (though their production was largely confined to urban Tokyo and, to a much lesser degree, the Osaka/Kyoto region). One of the main sources of subject matter was kabuki theater, also a popular form of entertainment (as opposed to Noh theater, which was for the aristocracy).

It is generally accepted that, artwise, the last third of the 18th century was the golden age, except for landscape prints (Hokusai and Hiroshige were both 19th century). However, figure subjects, which always predominated, are considered to have distinctly declined in artistic quality from the beginning of the 19th century, possibly related to increased commercial ambition and competition to appeal to popular or mass taste.

The latter 19th century (Meiji era) is relatively complex, partly due to the influx and incorporation of Western influences throughout Japanese culture and society. There's also some element of fin de siècle decadence or lassitude, perhaps, but there's still plenty of interesting and lovely work.



December 3, 2008, 2:19 PM

George, I may have misunderstood what you meant in 101, but not what you wrote. Woodcuts were a popular medium for illustration in, say, the 15th and 16th centuries. Wood engravings were a popular medium for illustration in the 19th. Woodcuts were made in the 19th century also, but more for artistic than popular commercial purposes.



December 3, 2008, 2:24 PM

Jack, Again, I know the difference. It was pointless to go into that degree of detail with Chris.



December 3, 2008, 7:38 PM

You guys are funny. About illustration: I thought that in the contemporary world, "art" must have a critical component built in, whereas illustration is perhaps just art as it has been known for the rest of human history (pre-modern).Is this idea 30 years out of date? Seriously, I seem to remember Jeremy Gilbert-Rolphe pointing out somewhere along the line in my critical reading, that the art critical conversation is stuck in the 70's, and I do agree. Have you already hashed this out here?

About Japan and japanese prints: Pre-modern Japan is a completely different story, isn't it?. For instance, the ceramics artist (using contemporary terms) Ogata Kenzan(1663 - 1743) is the japanese Rembrandt, so contemporary comparisons with western modern art are hard to stick. Personally, I think the japanese tea bowl is the perfect art form, but I'm a craft artist. I recently did a few paintings that appropriated some elements from Hokusai's prints, specifically his graphic inventions for depicting rain. I'll get some uploaded to Flickr to see what you all think.

I'm still not sure what Chris means when he uses "illustration" pejoratively. O.K., George has agreed to disagree. I can think of my own examples however. There's a gallery in Edgartown, on the Vineyard, where I go regularly to work ( I restore antiques out there). They carry "traditional" art - you know the stuff. Ray Ellis, for instance, does Martha's Vineyard scenes and is extremely successful. There are several others. I love looking at these paintings for their skill, their craft, but they make me crazy. I hold on to Bacon's description of a painting that "works directly on the nervous system." I guess it's a "modern" thing. "When did you first discover the modern world" - (Ron Bladen to Bill Jensen, from the Rail). I try to keep that in mind. Jensen's answer, by the way was a room with Chaim Soutine's "Hanging Beef", a Beckman triptich, and a Clifford Still.



December 3, 2008, 7:56 PM

Here's my painting, one of two I've just done where I borrowed the "rain" convention from japanese prints. The color isn't very good. I'll try to get a better photo and get the other one up. I recently showed these with contemporary furniture in a coop gallery in New Bedford, Ma. in a show called "Views of the Hozu River".


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 8:15 PM

Well, David, you may be right about the current art world's definition of art versus illustration. I don't know. I don't usually engage in these kinds of debates with art world people. Lately I haven't engaged in any kind of dialogue with them, mostly, because I found it too frustrating. That's why I bloviate here.

All I'm saying is what I've been thinking lately. Lately I've been thinking about illustration and reproduction and seeing art photos and JPEGs. On and off. Nothing too serious.

I don't intend to use "illustration" pejoratively. Usually art world people do mean it that way. I don't. I actually used to argue -- not even that long ago -- that the border between fine art and illustration is entirely artificial. But lately I've changed my mind, mainly because I've encountered some original illustrative work from artists I admired in print. I found their work to be flat soda. I've heard similar things, for example, regarding Norman Rockwell. "Who here likes Norman Rockwell?" Jerry Saltz once asked us at a lecture. A few hands went up. "You wouldn't if you saw the originals," Jerry said.

Your Bacon quote rings true to me. I believe true art works on the nervous system. I think it causes indescribable, ineffable, pre-language effects through the human visual system. Roughly speaking.

I also think, these days, that work intended strictly for mechanical reproduction cannot carry that. What about hand-pulled lithographs? I dunno. I've never seen one that did much for me, but I dunno. It's a gray area.

Regarding Japanese woodblock prints, the whole process behind them was so far removed from what we think of as mechanical reproduction -- it really was a long chain of craftsmen, like you'd find working on a Gothic cathedral. Not really what I meant when I talked about reproduction. I was trying to discuss photographic, mechanical reproduction more than anything else.

That said, I agree with the craftsmen and original audience of those Japanese prints that they're not true fine art. They have the potential to be beautiful and well-crafted and to ennoble the viewer's spirit upon seeing what human beings can do if they work hard and with dedication. But I wouldn't call them art. I didn't get the feeling of art from them. Again, that's just me. I feel much the same way when looking at the Verrazano Bridge, or the George Washington, or the Bayonne (my particular favorite). A Boeing 747-400 is as beautiful in its own way as a print from Hokusai.

But to call any of those things art, to my mind, dilutes the term. There's a wider definition of art that covers them, sure, as in "liberal arts", but I prefer to narrow it down. It's a personal thing.


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 8:18 PM

A coop gallery? Is that like where you take over an old roof and kick the pigeons out?

I know, you mean co-operative. I like the idea of moving in where the pigeons live, though. It's the kind of thing artists in New York would be forced to do after being evicted from their cardboard boxes under the bridge so yuppies could move in.



December 3, 2008, 8:51 PM

re 115-6 John,


Japonaiserie: Flowering Plum Tree (after Hiroshige)-- Sep/Oct 1887

So Van Gogh thought Hiroshige was hot and made a cover.
Japonaiserie: Bridge in the Rain (after Hiroshige)-- Sep/Oct 1887

LAter the definitive "rain painting" for the century
Wheat Field in Rain -- Nov1889

Jasper Johns also covered this, rain and snow (another Japanese print theme), I have jpegs but don't know where I got them.


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 8:55 PM

Spare us the Johns, thanks. You should have colon cramps just for mentioning his name in the same comment as van Gogh.



December 3, 2008, 9:04 PM

"I like the idea of moving in where the pigeons live, though."

Oh yeah, like Ghost Dog. Great movie.

It's a valid distinction Chris - illustration vs. art. What about Shepard Feary? I have a big Obama Hope poster on my front door. I think it's the best political art since the Russian revolution, but it probably has more to do with Obama than with Feary. Art in the age of mechanical reproduction eh?, I think that was the title of a book. My dad had some original posters from the Russian revolution ( he was born in 1916 in Moscow) that my grandfather brought back. They weren't art as we are discussing it, but they were powerful images.

The japanese prints were a popular art form, but then again, the whole context is completely different. I like to think about these different contexts and to use them in a contemporary way, which I think you can do now, as art.



December 3, 2008, 9:10 PM

Nice George. The wheatfield in rain is stunning. I've never seen that one.



December 3, 2008, 9:16 PM

The attitude towards "illustration" is a modern one. In the early part of the Twentieth Century a number of artists were also illustrators. My favorite was Stuart Davis, but there are a bunch of others. In the second half of the century folks got uppity about it and it was a no-no. Also as I mentioned "cubism" or "cubist" became a pejorative word in the 70's which was applied (incorrectly) to any geometric painting with a semblance of a grid. No-no's seem to be generational, changing from era to era.

I cannot abide by no-no's because they cut off the answer you are looking for by taking if off the table.

Bannard has it right when he said "Painting is a a real bitch" [#97]

This is the information age. Kerplunk, terabytes of jpegs flying around the internet like smog.

There are two major problems for painting today.

1. How do you make people look at it?

2. How do you claim an identity?

In all fairness to Chris, I think he understands something which he is misrepresenting when he tries to discuss it here.

Functionally, how does one compete with terabytes of digital images, acres of printed advertising and the other visual spam in our lives? This is part of the subtext of question 1 above.

A painting is the residual evidence of the action by the artist's hand, and it appears that the audience today responds to this differently than just seeing image. I think this is what Chris is actually responding to but falling into a trap over how it might or might not be achieved.


Chris Rywalt

December 3, 2008, 9:22 PM

Illustration can be good and even great, and is important and has its uses. I like illustration. If I could be a good illustrator, I'd do it. Posters are fun. One upon a time I wanted to have my work on posters in every dorm room in America. I'd still be really happy with that as a legacy.

I don't think illustration is a no-no. I think illustration is not art. Neither are refrigerators, fall leaves, cumulus clouds, orange juice, or my pants. Nothing wrong with not being art. It's okay.

How to get people to look at your art is a good question. I don't think art needs to compete, however. Art, once seen, is its own argument.



December 3, 2008, 9:44 PM

If you're in NYC over the holidays...

Five paintings from the current MOMA Van Gogh exhibition. The MOMA site has better illustrations but flashy. There are a number of other famous paintings but these five are from European collections and not easily viewed. The first Sower (0451) is an amazingly luminous little painting.

Don't draw conclusions from the jpegs, that's my point. I spent a couple of hours looking at these and no jpeg can do them justice, you only think you know what they look like, and that's what it's all about.

The Sower
Arles: November, 1888

The Sower
Arles: November, 1888

Starry Night Over the Rhone
Arles: September, 1888

Landscape with the Chateau of Auvers at Sunset
Auvers-sur-Oise: June, 1890

The Night Café in the Place Lamartine in Arle
Arles: 5-8 September 1888


Chris Rywalt

December 4, 2008, 11:38 AM

You see, this is exactly what I'm talking about: You can't tell by looking at the JPEGs. Reproductions don't do them justice. I learned this from van Gogh years ago, and it was a surprise then. These days we see so much by JPEG, I think even if we know not to take them too seriously, I think it leaks into our practice anyway. Well, I don't know for sure. I just worry.

The van Gogh show is on my list. I'm planning on taking the kids. My kids have been talking about van Gogh in school, looking at images and discussing them. My son's had a van Gogh book for years and years. I was looking through it a few weeks ago and it inspired me to do my own quasi-van Gogh attempt.

I may also be seeing Morandi next week if I can get out. And Cupid peeing on Venus!



December 4, 2008, 12:11 PM

Well, Chris, she's his mother. I'm sure your wife would remember and understand, even if this is a tad, well, explicit.



December 4, 2008, 2:05 PM

Also, Chris, I'm sure you're aware of the rule that says putti can do, uh, rude things in public. Cupid, of course, is the Putti King, more or less.


Chris Rywalt

December 4, 2008, 5:39 PM

My wife?! I remember and understand! The painting reminded me of this one time my son peed on me in the shower! God, I got peed and pooped on so damned many times....

Okay, too much sharing. I understand.


Chris Rywalt

December 4, 2008, 5:44 PM

Getting back to van Gogh: This is me pretending to be van Gogh.



December 5, 2008, 12:47 AM

"Rather than presenting itself as a picture, I'm getting each as a panel with a picture in/on it" - this sounds like an interesting observation but I don't think I quite understand it

It may have been just another way of gesturing at how (as others pointed out ahead of me) these are cartoon depictions in and on paint, which is an unexpected divergence from the earlier straight ahead depictions of... well, paint.

With repeated viewing my taste for these is solidifying:I'm not liking the group very much (as .jpegs, at least), I'm sorry to say. But I'll pick 08_26B as best in show. In almost every case the fluttering tickertape bothers me, and when it serves as limbs or cilia all the worse. The colour schemes are generally striking, but I can't stomach the pepto pink, in any combination. The forms loom - too zoomed in, I feel - I want to back away to get the wider view (which maybe has something to do with my earlier question about cropping).

There are things I apprectiate about them nonetheless: the varying weight of the black line, the multi-layered broom-applied textures. And they give me the sensation of, having put on a magnifying scuba mask and stuck my face in the water, peering down into fishtanks full of briny marine life.



December 5, 2008, 9:53 AM

I'm inclined to agree with Ahab. The wiggling strips bother me also, which is one reason I prefer 32A. There are too many sharp, geometric angles and shapes, or they're too overt, possibly due to the black outlining. The coloring is relatively acidic or Day-Glo-ish, which adds to the vague sense (for me) of a Pop or even PoMo element, however unfair it may be to say that. Maybe the problem is that these paintings are too "contemporary" for their own good (or at least mine).



December 5, 2008, 10:03 AM

Re 130: I think it's more like Monet.



December 5, 2008, 10:46 AM

Thanks for following up, Ahab.

As I have said above, or impled, the change from "just paint" to the cartoony figuration is jarring to me also, but it came about as a consequence of cutting out forms rather than setting them up with linear patterns. Whe I was using the linear pattern the more complex forms were impossible to work up even if I had wanted to; when cutting in they just happen. The disturbing thing is that I take to them so easily. They are fun to do, just like cartooning was many years ago, and I decided to go with what worked rather than worry about what didn't.

Of course I am beginning to feel as if I am doing a "Phillip Guston of Formalism" number. All I can say is that what is happening came about purely within the process of painting and had nothing to so with gaining an effect by conscious planning.

08/26B is an intersting choice. I think it might be my least favorite. Those who have ranked the pictures have favorites all ofver the place but the consensus seems to be the recent ones. That's a relief, at least.

There is certainly a pop or pomo feeling here, Jack. I am not concerned with that as such, but there is every indication that it certainly will not expand my already miniscule fan base, for sure.


Chris Rywalt

December 5, 2008, 11:58 AM

I like the colors a lot, Darby, and the wiggly forms are my favorites. I'm reluctant to pick a "best" from the JPEGs, but I like 8_25A and B and 8_33A and B. The 33s look most to me like oil on water, which I like.

I also like this series a lot more than the earlier photos you have on Flickr, and probably more than most of what I've browsed through on your site. Admittedly, there's a lot there, the photo quality leaves a lot to be desired, and we're still talking about JPEGs.

Whatever else might be said by anyone, though, I'd say these pieces are certainly successful enough to keep fooling around in this direction. Just the discussion here is enough to make that clear.


Chris Rywalt

December 5, 2008, 12:01 PM

Jack: I was trying to aim for van Gogh's little dashed brushstrokes, but somehow I couldn't resist a certain amount of blending. Also, I don't think my brushes are stiff enough -- I have very few bristle brushes and mostly soft sable filberts.



December 5, 2008, 12:30 PM

There is certainly a pop or pomo feeling here, Jack.

Oh no! Let's not go there, these paintings don't have anything to do with these descriptors which have been misused and misinterpreted to death here.

A reasonable precedent might be Conrad Marca Relli, but POP? no way.

Regardless, I'm in full support, I think this is a courageous move for Bannard, one that most artists don't have the balls to make. From my point of view, the risks are probably less than they appear, the old series of paintings feel scompleted and have no where to go but in a circle.

Hey John, pay attention. If you have your feet nailed to the floor, take off your shoes.



December 5, 2008, 12:39 PM

I am beginning to feel as if I am doing a "Phillip Guston of Formalism" number.

I think there's something to that, and it doesn't really matter whether it's Guston or Haring or someone else. The problem is that this approach seems alien or out of place somehow, at least from my perspective as a viewer, apart from what did or did not go through your head, consciously or subconsciously. It's as if someone else is being channeled, and the sort of work being evoked (for me) is meeting with distinct resistance (again, from me).



December 5, 2008, 12:47 PM

Oh, and thanks, George, for characteristically coming to the rescue to disabuse us poor, blind and stupid fools of our pitiful misconceptions. My only cavil is, what took you so long? However, I trust Mr. Bannard can now rest easy and simply abide by your pontifical dictum. I hope he realizes how fortunate he is to get your unassailable opinion gratis.



December 5, 2008, 12:55 PM

Gee whiz Jack,

Sometimes you can be a real ass. If you've bothered to read any of my previous comments, you will see that I fully support and encourage Bannard's new work and do so without ruse.

You among others are falling back on the old language of disparagement in order to mask your uncomfortableness with his new direction. Some friends you are.



December 5, 2008, 12:57 PM

Thanks Chris & George & Jack. The Positive & negative comnments are equally stimulating.

Interesting you say "channeled", Jack. I felt this very stroingly once right before I started writing about art so many years ago. An old instructor at school - a very tough writing teacher - had died, and I really did feel as though I was inhabited by him and just had to write. Now maybe George Herriman has taken over!

BTW the Guston reference was specifically in reference to his change from total abstraction to the cartoons in the late 70s. I don't think Haring every did anything but pseudograffiti.


Chris Rywalt

December 5, 2008, 1:19 PM

I certainly don't see any stylistic similarity with Guston, which I personally consider a very good thing. Just in color alone....

I think about the scene in Pollock with Jeffrey Tambor as Clement Greenberg: "The colors are muddy...they're muddy, Jackson."

I see no mud at all in these, Darby, which is part of why I like them. I like colors that ring, like a good open A-minor chord on guitar. Think the opening of "Behind Blue Eyes."



December 5, 2008, 1:45 PM

I didn't mean that they look like Guston, Chris, just that there might be a dynamic analogy, going fom abstract "paint as paint" to a kind of (semi) figuration..


Chris Rywalt

December 5, 2008, 2:07 PM

Yes, yes, I was just saying I got you the first time, and also saying how good it was that your work doesn't look like his, because -- yech.

I'll take any opportunity to offer an opinion.



December 5, 2008, 2:43 PM

Bannard does not lack talent, he does not lack courage, he is open to change. Change is not automatically good, nor is it automatically bad.

The Scylla and Charybdis of abstract painting are too much doodle on one hand and too much mess on the other. These avoid the mess quite nicely. But they have a doodle aspect that I cannot make a judgment about based upon the JPEGs.

Unity is usually a desirable characteristic. The planes of color tend to separate because the boundaries between them are almost everywhere strong and often reinforced by the dark, raised lines, and the colors themsevels are contrasty. The pictures begin to look like filled in doodles.

These words sound negative. They are words I might say if I was certain I didn't like the paintings. However, I am not certain. I may like them. Words are tricky.



December 5, 2008, 2:55 PM

the color to me is very refreshing and strong in the these most recent pics (30-33) .

in addition to the welcome change with the color, it seems you have broken out of a rut in general. the pictures have somewhat been going round in circles. and you could somewhat sense your frustration leading up to these pics. it looked like you were taking a variation on the 1978 pics and just throwing different things at them. granted you still did some nice pics over the last 15 or so years, but some of them were pretty tired and it looked like you were chasing your tail a bit.

these newest pics are a fresh variation on some of your best work ever, the 1992-1993 pics. the new pics (30-33) are lighter, more whimsical or playful and figurative compared to the 1992-1993 pics which come off more allover, abstract and brutish. both are serious, but the older seem more serious. all the 1992-1993 pics on your site are great, time will tell on these newer ones.

looks like you are having fun again.



December 5, 2008, 3:33 PM

Speaking of field paintings, I saw one yesterday which was a killer, probably the best I've seen by a younger artist ever. I had wandered into the Stellan Holm Gallery whaich had a group show up.

There was this huge pale painting which was simply amazing optically. It's hard to describe, but it felt transparent, solid, luminous, ephemeral. Whatever no jpeg can do it justice. So I went to the desk and looked at the checklist to find it was by Dan Colen. Now if you Google him, you get Saatchi and stuff. If you rest on your laurels, you'll get run over by a kid who is not hung-up over labels or what you can or can't do.
Fuckin Flash Site so go to current exhibitions "The Unforgiven" scroll through all the other stuff to

Dan Colen
Miracle on 34th Street
93x184 inches



December 5, 2008, 4:30 PM

Re 140, only sometimes, George? Geez, I must be going soft or losing my touch. As a matter of fact, I did not bother to read all your previous comments; I'm enough of an ass to know better by now. However, I did not impugn your encouragement to Bannard as being illegitimate or a "ruse." What I did do is express my personal reaction to this body or work, like everyone else, which has utterly nothing to do with you, and I most certainly have not "masked" my reservations (unless, of course, you've become dyslexic). As for the implication that friendship precludes honesty, it's not worth addressing.



December 5, 2008, 4:37 PM

I hope you figured out I was quoting WDB, not you, in comment 137. I have no idea why you bothered to address me at all.



December 5, 2008, 4:46 PM

It is hard to see much about that Dan Colen painting from that annoying web site George, but going to images reveals him as all over the place with fairly jubenile pomo stuff.



December 5, 2008, 4:46 PM

i'd love to see jack and george get all oiled up in their speedos down at spring break and go at it in the inflatable baby pool.



December 5, 2008, 4:55 PM

Your observation is correct, 1 - the technique is very much like that of 15 years ago, the difference being the type of mark and the second being the addition of color. I tried adding color back then but couldnt make it work. I think I was afraid of the "look" they would have. At this point I don't care any more.

John, you could well describe these as filled-in doodles. It is hard to get used to them, for sure, but I am heartened that some pretty good eyes liked them as art also.



December 5, 2008, 5:29 PM

opie, I expected the reaction to Colen's Google links, I was aware of his work but I hadn't actually seen anything before and as a result his name didn't ring a bell until I did the search.

The point is, if a painting is supposed to be visual, Colen's, "Miracle on 34th Street" is just that, in spades. Too bad about jpegs because the painting is mildly textured and if you move your head, the slight shift changes what you are seeing in a way which is almost disorienting. It's all about visual perception and I think that's what we argue about here?

This is a great painting, I honestly think it would hold its own against any other painting in a similar style. That's what it's all about in my book.

Anyhow, given my experience with this one piece I would give the rest of his work the benefit of doubt.



December 5, 2008, 5:57 PM

Re 151, if I'm going to go the Speedo-and-oil route, you'd better believe it wouldn't be to roll around with George.

Re 149, yes, I knew whom you were quoting; I'm not the one who's dyslexic. As to why I bothered to address you at all, that's a remarkably good question, possibly the most sensible thing you've said here in ages, if not ever.


Chris Rywalt

December 5, 2008, 7:56 PM

You mean wouldn't wear a Speedo to wrestle George?



December 5, 2008, 8:30 PM

"The attitude towards "illustration" is a modern one. In the early part of the Twentieth Century a number of artists were also illustrators. My favorite was Stuart Davis, but there are a bunch of others."

"I don't think illustration is a no-no. I think illustration is not art. Neither are refrigerators, fall leaves, cumulus clouds, orange juice, or my pants. Nothing wrong with not being art. It's okay."

In addition to Stuart Davis, there were lots of other artists who were also illustratiors, including Toulouse-Lautrec, John Sloan, George Bellows, Everett Shinn, William Glackens, Edward Hopper... the list goes on and on..

Does the above comment mean that any of their illustration work is not art? how could that be? an illustrator is not an artist unless his or her work is hanging in a gallery? Is it more than just a little condescending to these and other artists to make a blanket statement that says their illustration work is not art?
The only difference between "Art" and illustration is that the illustrator is commissioned to produce a work of art that is intended for reproduction,
and therefore has to be conscious of the guidelines given by the publisher .
Can't guideliness for a work of art open the artist to creative, or Artistic freedom?


Chris Rywalt

December 5, 2008, 11:12 PM

Just because an artist has worked as an illustrator, or because an illustrator might work on fine art, doesn't mean art and illustration are interchangeable. There's no reason at all, generally speaking, why an illustrator couldn't create a work of art. There's no reason at all, generally speaking, why anyone at all with no training, practice, or background of any kind couldn't create a work of art.

However, plumbers are not known for their artistic contributions. It's not impossible for a plumber to create a work of art. But it doesn't happen often. It's not impossible for a toll collector to create a work of art -- then there's Henri Rousseau. Of course, he's notable partly because of how rarely toll collectors create art.

Similarly, illustrators can produce art. It's probably even more likely than a plumber or a toll collector. And yet it's still not that common.

Hell, it's not all that common for fine artists to create art. Lots of times they get something that resembles art but isn't. Lord knows I've seen enough of it in the past couple of years. Hey, Darby, how often would you say you create truly fine art?

Maybe it is condescending to say that something intended as illustration is unlikely to be art. Something intended as plumbing is unlikely to be art, too. That's not condescending. It's not supposed to be art. It's supposed to be plumbing. Or a movie poster. Or a logo design. Or a pair of pants. Or a book jacket. It's not supposed to be art.

What I'm trying to get at, but which is being resisted very strongly for some reason, is that that which makes something art cannot be reproduced. And that therefore it doesn't end up in something designed to be reproduced. Much the same way airfoils don't end up on something designed to toast bread.

I mean, if you told me there was no reason why internal combustion engines couldn't be made of mud, I'd have to say, okay, I suppose there might be some way to make an internal combustion engine out of mud. But I wouldn't expect it to work all that well.



December 6, 2008, 12:14 AM

Art vs illustration is a false issue. What something is is how we use it. Art can be illustration and illustration can be art. It is as simple as that.

Art is taken to be superior to illustration so the comparison is loaded and makes people defensive, and they start talking about artists who were illustrators and how some illustration is art and lots of other side issues. But the the matter of artistic value is only interesting case by case.

What Chris said way up there somewhere (I don't want to go looking for it) is that much illustration "looks" like illustration, that is, it it has a certain visual character which says "illustration" and it does not want to be taken as art I can't specify what that character is, but I know just what he meant, and I reckon most knowledgeable people also do.



December 6, 2008, 12:40 AM

Is your point that illustration can be easily defined and put in a box that makes it non-fine art?

Is your point that illustration is not fine art because it requires more training?

Is your point that art is only art if it is "truly fine"

Is it the collaborative nature of illustration that keeps it from being art?

In a broad sense, I agree with Robert Henri's definition that art " is simply a
question of doing things, anything, well. It is not an outside, extra thing."

Dancing, music, writing, even sports are described as art.

So if anyone can make art as you suggest, than why can't anything made by
human hands be art?

But to defend illustration as fine art, is to defend the actual piece of art made
by the illustrator. A fine illustration can be appreciated for all of the traditional reasons one can appreciate fine art.

the only difference is context, and some sort of elitist attitude masked by saying that anyone can make art.

Maybe there is a confusion between your definition of art and fine art, and "truly fine art."

Give me a real reason why illustration is not art. and don't mention plumbers.



December 6, 2008, 2:44 AM

Some of this discussion about illustration reminds me of the "craft vs. art" debate that takes place in the contemporary craft world. That debate seems tiresome, if not specious to me, but nevertheless reflects some truths about the current art world, if not art. Sculptor Martin Puryear said that art doesn't need craft to be art, though he uses an exploraton of craft his work. I think he is surely correct. When artists who come from the traditional crafts make it in the contemporary art arena - Bety Woodman and Josiah McIlheney are examples - they are often considered to have broken through to Valhala, mainly because the "rewards program" is better, as ceramics dealer Garth Clark has put it, and those who don't cross over to Chelsea or Art Basel are seen to be existing in a kind of purgatory. Allison Elizabeth Taylor's marquetry pictures are another example, though Allison seems to have appropriated craft technique to go directly to Chelsea. This turns some craft artists back to the defense of an idea of pure craft, and misty references to a modern craft "movement", steeped sometimes in no small amount of nostalgia, and for some, a sense that the "art world" just doesn't give a hoot about them anyway, which is true. The recent rise of design stars like Marc Newsom and Ron Arad only confuses the issue, although Garth Clark again points out that design and craft are natural allies and that craft artists who wish to be just "artists" should leave the craft field.

Many of these arguments are about the art world, the art business, and don't have much to do with art really, except in the following way: "It could be argued that one of the reasons for the problem of criticism today is its redundancy when changes in art practice, notably Conceptual art, displaced criticism from its role in relation to the avant-garde by incorporating critique - including the critique of a descriptive, objectifying epistemology into the practice itself: art theory replaces art criticism as the appropriate way of mediating the practice, and is often carried out by the artists themselves" - Michael Newman from The State of Art Criticism. This is what I was referring to above when I said that the contemporary work of art is supposed to incorporate a critical (theoretical) position.

Anyway, the comparison with illustration as you have been discussing it, isn't perfect, but I find it interesting to consider. The mention of japanese prints above (way above) was also interesting to me because my perfect art object is the japanese tea bowl - a utilitarian object that, in its time and place, often contained high art - which can carry beauty, utility, ceremony, cultural history, human history. What more could you want?



December 6, 2008, 5:55 AM

"So if anyone can make art as you suggest, than why can't anything made by human hands be art?"

It can, and these days just about has been. Art is what we decide is art. it is defined by use. There is nominal art, which are things we call art and hang on the wall, and actual art, which is something experienced as art. Usually, but not always, they are the same thing. Anything can be taken and used as art. The the only useful consideration is whether it is any good.

Undestanding what we really do with things is the key to clear thinking about them.



December 6, 2008, 9:35 AM

Re#161, I agree with opie on this.

What is art is decided by the culture, the "we" and defined by use. Whether or not an artist says something is 'art' is a moot point. It may or may not be, but the question is only decided by the cultural consensus and this consensus may take time to evolve.

At any given moment in time, the artists, along with the culture, have an amorphous definition of what is art. We find some solace because we can formulate general categories and prescriptions which lead to art.

These definitions are subject to change. They continually change and we are want to look back in history in order to validate some opinion in the present. However, we are allowed only to look beckward, into the past and even that knowledge is colored by the present.

To assume that at some point in the future, what one does will be considered art is a matter of faith.



December 6, 2008, 10:01 AM

I wouldn't even call it a matter of definition, George. There really isn't a definition except to say that the greatment of an object determines its status as art or not art. It is really just a matter of cultural assumption.

If a thing is hanging in the Met everyone will call it art. If a thing is in your kitchen cabinet we don't call it art, but you can make it art by looking at it as art, by "actualizing" it as art.

In the last century we have accepted more and more as nominal art - notably through so-called pop art . This doesn't mean it is any good, or that we hve made progress toward some sort of strict definition, only that we now call a Brillo box or a beer can or taking a dump on a bowling alley "art".



December 6, 2008, 10:52 AM

I pretty much agree with George and Opie. The key word is "culture", as was said earlier. Or you could just say "audience". An artist needs an audience. It is for others to say if I'm an artist or not. My job is to do the work. This is a new concept in art right? - in the history of art? As descendants of Duchamp and conceptual art, we face something new, "after the end of art" as Danto says.



December 6, 2008, 11:14 AM

"It is for others to say if I'm an artist or not. My job is to do the work."

That's it in a nutshell.

I cannot take anything Danto says seriously. He is the type specimen of what is wrong with academic art writing.



December 6, 2008, 11:24 AM


I was just parroting what you said, regardless, the culture attaches some sort of specific functionality to objects it considers art and then deals with them in a special way.

I saw a show last week of abstract paintings from the 1950's, I thought it was at Matthew Marks, but couldn't find any info. Whatever, there were about a 100 small paintings from probably 80 artists working at the time. You name one, they probably had a work on the wall. I actually took the checklist around, to see who was who. All these artists were passionately committed to what they thought "art" was and it was also clear how interconnected the thinking was, how artists were influencing each other about what they thought was art.

History doesn't die, people die. People die, and we forget what happened then in some passed time, memories become condensed, reinvented, lost, blurred, they become the best available cliche. This has always been the case. The only art we know is in the present and it is what the culture decides, like it or not, right now Warhol rules.

It's not about art vs illustration, the real issue on this front is the commodification of art and how we respond to it.

Young artists should read "The Gift -- Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World" by Lewis Hyde



December 6, 2008, 11:50 AM

I know, George. I wasn't challenging you, just expanding on the notion of difining art.

A lot of what people "think of art" is just an acceptance of conventions for making it. I remember the late 50s and the de Kooning-on-every-wall mentality. Conventions need to be revised regularly.

Warhol needs to be deposed. God it is DREARY stuff, and looks drearier by the hour. Warhols are getting bought in at the auctions. I hope this recession flushes them out of the system.



December 6, 2008, 12:25 PM

Warhol's work is very much like his life, or lifestyle. Lots of flash, fizz, posing and sleazy-cheeky glamour, lots of "colorful" surface activity, all ultimately imploding into its dreary, hollow, desperately tarted-up emptiness.



December 6, 2008, 12:52 PM

Re #167: opie

Warhol needs to be deposed.

It doesn't matter, it's a continuum and everything fades into the past. Every once in awhile, there is a change of course in the culture, it is happening now.

You said earlier, regarding Colen, "... going to images reveals him as all over the place with fairly juvenile pomo stuff." I don't see any point in debating his work since I'm probably the only one who's seen it and I've already said what I can about it.

However, your comment reveals something else which I think is generational in it's viewpoint, "reveals him as all over the place" Ignoring Colen, I question the premise of this point view and believe it may be at the root of what is, in part wrong with art. In the 60's/70's artists responded to market demand, to commodification of art, with the idea of the "series." This seemingly benign notion has seeped down through the ensuing years effectively diluting the art to a tincture which can be sold en mass.

One of the characteristics of contemporary art exhibitions, at least here in NYC, is how well artists have assimilated the essentials of "production" In the last month I have seen exhibition after exhibition of the same paintings permuted in a large enough quantity to fill the gallery.

Now some of these bodies of work do represent a real investigation into a particular idea or approach and are not what I am referring to. But, on the other side, we have one idea spawning paintings like cockroaches, how many? how big? what color? one size fits all. The theory was that the "series" idea would even out the "quality", sort of Henry Ford's mass production applied to art.

In theory, so many ideas seem good "in theory", it might work but if it doesn't, then we get the carcass (car;-) without the art. What Chris is struggling with is where the art is, Lewis Hyde would say it's a "gift." Something which happens while we are working and something which lies outside the carcass, you go there in the process of working, usually by accident.



December 6, 2008, 1:40 PM

What Do Museums Have That Sporting Events Don’t?

"About 140 million people in the U.S. will attend a major-league sporting event this year, according to this NPR article.

But as the same article says, museums will draw about 850 million attendees this year.

So why do more people make trips to museums than to sports games? Well, they are obviously cheaper, and more abundant, but it may also have to do with how each experience translates onto a TV or computer screen.

Forty-one percent of sports fans surveyed by the Consumer Electronics Association and the Sports Video Group said that sports programming in HD is almost as good as the live event."


Chris Rywalt

December 6, 2008, 3:10 PM

Aiee. Too many words for me to catch up on right now. My brain is mushy at the moment.

Here's what I'm trying to say: We don't define art. We recognize it. We don't decide things are art. We don't make something become art. It either is or it isn't art. All we do is experience the thing. The nature of the experience tells us if it's art or not. An object doesn't become a work of art because we hang it on the wall. It either is experienced as a work of art or it isn't, and it's all up to how it affects you. You have no choice in this. Greenberg wrote this and I agree with him, came to the conclusion independently (in fact he was writing about it, lecturing about it at Bennington, almost exactly as I was being born).

Let me say it again, only with emphasis: You have no choice. You can't choose to make something art. It either is or it isn't. The question is not, is this thing art? The question is, does it make me feel in the way that art does?

So when I say illustration often -- usually -- isn't art, it's not a decision I'm making. It's an observation based on my experience. The illustration I have seen -- I can't talk about things I haven't seen, can I? -- the illustration I have seen isn't art. And from this I've extrapolated to say that, given what I've observed, it seems to me to be unlikely that any given illustration would be art. Because -- again, based on my observations -- whatever it is that causes something to be art -- which is unknown to me at this point -- whatever that is, is congenitally absent from illustration.

This is not PREscriptive, it's DEscriptive. A mistake a lot of people make for some reason.

The question of whether or not a given object is a work of art is independent of museums or critics or history or anything else outside of the human nervous system, and it's something no one can answer for anyone else.

I'm convinced that anyone who thinks decisions are involved, anyone who thinks culture and society and museums and imprimaturs and opinions and so forth are involved, anyone who thinks those things are important has simply never truly experienced art. They have eyes to see but they haven't seen; they have ears to hear but they haven't heard.

They're deeply impoverished and I feel kind of bad for them. Anyone who thinks Warhol is as good as van Gogh, that Carole King is as good as Beethoven, these people are very unfortunate.

Art is that which makes you feel the way art does. Yes, it's a circular definition. They crop up all the time when you're defining what it is to be human, because that which is doing the defining is what's being defined.

If a sporting event makes you feel the same way a work of art does, then you're short on some feelings. If you think the two classes can be equivalent, then you need to expand your horizons.



December 6, 2008, 3:55 PM

Forty-one percent of sports fans surveyed by the Consumer Electronics Association and the Sports Video Group said that sports programming in HD is almost as good as the live event.

I hope the other fifty-nine percent said that HD was BETTER than the live event. Becasue it is.

Ever sit high up in the stands on the 15 yeard line at Texas Stadium during a chilly Thanksgiving Cowboys game with two ladies in front dressed in buckskins eating a half gallon of jalepenos and singing "Mamas Don't Let Your Bablies Grow Up to Be Cowboys?


Chris Rywalt

December 6, 2008, 4:25 PM

HD has helped me to understand football -- and understand its appeal -- in a way I never could before. It's pretty amazing, between the HD, and the computer-aided graphics on the field, and the new camera positions, I actually enjoy football somewhat. I especially like the wide-angle above the middle of the field God camera shot. Gets me every time.



December 6, 2008, 4:35 PM

Everyone is saying smart things today.

I guess I'm not a purist but watching the game on HD is absolutely better than being there, even under much better conditions than John describes.

Chris your define/recognize opposition and the rest in #171 is right on. We should take some of these precepts and make people learn them by heart before allowing comments here.

(just kidding, Franklin)



December 6, 2008, 8:01 PM

Well, in order to maintain at least nominal OAP status, I went on a Basel outing today (by the way, OAP stands for Official Art Person, not Old Age Pensioner as it does in the UK). I skipped the main venue in Miami Beach, as previously discussed, and headed for Wynwood, where I hadn't been for some time. The gentrification is annoying; it makes an already dubious scene seem even more plastic (there are even outdoor Britto thingies now). I went to a few satellite fairs and a few galleries. It was fairly painless, since I expected very little going in.

The fairs were quite predictable. The whole art fair concept is seriously flawed (except, presumably, from a commercial standpoint, which does not concern me). It presents and treats art, or purported art, essentially the same way as non-art merchandise in any trade fair. This immediately trivializes and cheapens everything (I'm obviously not talking about sales prices). The approach inevitably entails sensory overload and excessive distraction; the atmosphere is impersonal, even sterile, and any interaction with gallery people tends to be awkward and thus offputting. I realize that as long as sales are good enough nobody cares, but there has to be a better way.

The galleries were a mixed bag. I enjoyed a luminous formal abstraction derived from cut-paper collage by Jenny Brillhart and a triptych of small and intimate related interiors by John Sanchez, both at Dorsch Gallery. The Current show (2412 N. Miami Ave) was also worthwhile, as others have said here.

This brings me to the Bannard pictures being discussed in this thread. I saw two of them (29B and 31B) in Wynwood today, one at Current and one at Cane (2200 NW 2nd Ave). In person, they certainly have considerably more presence, body and life than in reproduction. This relates to scale, color, textures and immediacy. I preferred 29B, even though 31B benefited from better lighting. Generally speaking, I think the vertical format tends to work better in this series.

Once again, it's evident that the pictures are solid and well put together by an obviously serious artist who knows what he's doing. The experience and authority show and also tell. I would like to see more of these in the flesh to get a better sense of them, though I still have mixed feelings. However, I'm more intrigued by them now; they're clearly better, more persuasive live than they appear reproduced.



December 6, 2008, 9:29 PM

What do museums have that sporting events don’t? Let's rephrase that. What do sporting events have that museums don't? Well, they have rich, grown men playing games, literally, largely for customers they only care about as sources of revenue. One customer is certainly as good as another, meaning customers are completely interchangeable.

The players, extravagantly well paid and outrageously fussed over, with media coverage that far more significant people never get, tend to develop grotesquely hypertrophied egos, not to say absurd delusions of importance. They also frequently behave as if ordinary rules and conventions do not apply to them, and are routinely humored to that effect.

In addition, they are now highly likely (if not virtually certain) to be seriously chemically enhanced, often unmistakably so to anyone not blind, which of course they steadfastly deny. Nobody believes them, but their lies are tolerated.

There are, of course, other aspects, such as obscenely overpriced food and drink items, ticket prices, parking fees, etc. If you ask me, 140 million is an amazingly high figure, but then again, I'm not exactly a pushover, generally speaking.



December 7, 2008, 12:15 AM

Thanks, Jack.

Actually, I saw the one at the UM gallery today and I thought it looked pretty good.

I know that sounds absurd, but as I said I have as many doubts about them as you do,and the only way to get any kind of objective look is to see them hung properly and to give them time, especailly the latter.



December 7, 2008, 9:49 AM

re #170,

I ran across the NYT article and thought it was an interesting coincidence.
The museum experience required the actual presence of the viewer for enjoyment, but the sporting event was acceptable in media reproduction.

I posted the link because it related to Chris's remarks earlier about reproduction and also because the raw attendance figures are somewhat amazing

I didn't think it would trigger another piece of hate mail from you know who, sorry about that.



December 7, 2008, 10:56 AM

Of course, sporting events are televised, and museum exhibitions are not, so strict comparison is difficult.
(If museum shows were available as DVDs, you can bet they'd get snapped up...).
In reality, vastly more people will satisfy themselves with looking at reproductions of artworks than the comparatively few that will go to the actual museum, but I suppose we don't have those numbers handy, whereas sporting attendance/TV viewership is much better documented...

Feel free to (weirdly) consider this comment 'hate mail'...?



December 7, 2008, 11:03 AM

LOL, MC You're an amateur!



December 7, 2008, 11:37 AM

I've been thinking for a while that easily-shared creative forms are gaining prominence over forms that rely on in-person interaction. The comparison of art to sports doesn't interest me, but the comparison to illustration does, because of this connection to reproducibility. In illustration, the end product isn't the object, but the image that comes out on the cover of the magazine or what have you. And as I've noted already, there's a major incursion of illustration into the realm of fine art going on right now.

Perfect snow right now, pancakes for breakfast, Monk on the stereo. Good morning.



December 7, 2008, 11:59 AM

Re 178, don't be sorry, George; be gone. John's curious view as to your purported usefulness to Artblog is not universally held, even if you do tend to sharpen my teeth.

We can all dream, I suppose.



December 7, 2008, 12:15 PM

There is an incursion of anything and everything into the "realm of fine art", Franklin. When anything goes, it makes sense to give it the high-prestige, high-return label.


Chris Rywalt

December 7, 2008, 12:59 PM

Franklin sez:
I've been thinking for a while that easily-shared creative forms are gaining prominence over forms that rely on in-person interaction.

Certainly true. So true as to be verging on the painfully obvious. In audiophile circles a similar lamentation has been ongoing regarding MP3s versus higher-quality formats; SACD and DVD-Audio, two attempts to better CD sound quality, both failed to catch on even a little bit, while MP3, which is significantly worse than CD quality, has taken over the planet. There are probably a lot of reasons why the higher-quality formats died -- SACD was handled badly (almost evilly) by Sony, for example -- but one of them is certainly that most people care more about easy copying and carrying than quality.

And that's just in the reproduction market -- live performances are of course better in pretty much every way. (Setting aside rock concerts, which can be pretty lousy. I guess I'm thinking jazz and orchestral works here.)

But "gaining prominence" is a difficult phrase we might want to unpack, as they say. I think "gaining prominence" as in attracting more audience is accurate, and in attracting more critical notice, I guess we could say, and being treated more seriously.

But "gaining prominence" in terms of market share? I'm not so sure. In 1800, or 1900, how many people got to see an original Titian? And then how many people got to see a reproduction? And then how many people got to see a colorful image of any kind?

Now fast forward to the present. Many more people get to see an original Titian. Many more get to see a reproduction. And many more people get to see colorful images in general. Does this mean the original Titian has lost prominence to, say, that Obama poster everyone's been on about?

I'm not so sure. Lots more people go to museums these days, I think. Every museum I go to is always crowded. Lots more people go to galleries, too. There are, simply, lots more galleries than there used to be.

Lots more artists, too.

Maybe what's happening is audiences are fragmenting simply because of the vast amount of content; fewer people have any given original work of art in common, but lots of people have reproductions in common, by their very nature. Maybe in 1800 there were 1000 people alive who had seen Titian's "Venus of Urbino" in person. Maybe today there are a million. But there are 7 million who watched the last episode of "American Idol."

Maybe. I'm just thinking aloud (atype?) here.



December 7, 2008, 1:52 PM

Representational art dominated culture for thousands of years, why is it so curious when todays art critics are surprised by the current increase in the number of representational artworks?

We live in a culture infested with images of all sorts. What makes an artwork any more important than the rest of the visual detritus in our fields of view?

With the increasing shift towards representational or recognizable images, is it a possibility that "illustration" lies somewhere along the path between conception and completion?

Everybody knows a jpeg is not the real thing. They may not be prepared for the real thing when they see it in person. A reproduction, reproduces what is reproducible and scalable, what is not is discarded or misrepresented. Never the less you can learn something from reproductions but not whet it feels to be in the presence of great art. So if you are an artist, you must discover what this feeling is and continually reinforce your knowledge of its affect on your spirit. Then It's ok to look at jpegs and any confusion between art and illustration will disappear.



December 7, 2008, 2:07 PM

Yes Jack, George is "useful". I really do belive that differences of view point are important ... always have. That means those who disagree with me are important to me. Logically, at most only one view point can be "true". More likely, none are.

More than "useful", I believe George is likeable. Dots on the screen block so much of what makes us human, so much of what makes it worth enduring the various foibles each one of us harbors -- typically in abundance.

Sometimes I fancy that, should you and George meet without knowing who you are here, you would get along well, if not actually like each other. Both of you are very sincere and forthright and have a sophisticated knowledge of culture.

Myself, I would love to have lunch with the both of you. I've had my share of Malox lunches, but I don't think this would be one of the,



December 7, 2008, 5:38 PM

I'm not just talking about representation, George, but a distinctly illustrative attitude: the ascendancy of Lowbrow, artists working slavishly from photographs, the phenomenon I refer to as Wan Figuration, and arch, faux-naif, delicately drawn stuff.



December 7, 2008, 6:03 PM

Chris, for what it's worth, I've never watched any episode of American Idol, but I digress.

Went today to the newly opened Frost Art Museum at FIU here in Miami. It's very well designed to fit the available space, and, appropriately enough, much nicer inside than out. I don't know what it cost, but I got the sense that FIU got good value for money, very unlike the situation with the Miami Performing Arts Center, a criminally expensive, ultimately dull mediocrity.

There are several different exhibitions on now, but I'll concentrate on the main one, "Modern Masters from the Smithsonian Art Museum," devoted mostly to mid century American abstraction. It's beautifully mounted in galleries with warm, dark wood floors, high ceilings and good lighting. The ambience alone is superior to that available at MAM or MOCA here, and it definitely enhances the works.

It's an excellent show, certainly for Miami. It includes two Hofmanns, one from 1938 and one from 1965, which by themselves are worth the trip. There are a couple of highly interesting late Klines in color (as well as a "normal" one), some early Motherwells, a big Diebenkorn, a huge mess of a picture by Joan Mitchell, Gottliebs, an unusually good Nevelson bronze (which looks exactly like painted wood) as well as a much more perfunctory Nevelson, and various other pieces of varying interest but all worth seeing.

Another exhibition from the museum's own collection was a kind of hodgepodge, albeit containing some very interesting pieces. There was a superb 1st century head of Buddha, some late Benin bronzes, a Rodin evidently inspired by the Belvedere torso, a highly incongruous but nonetheless charming portrait by Largilliere (not something one expects to find in South Florida), and even some Japanese prints. One of the latter, labeled as by an unknown artist, was recognized by me as part of a notable 1888 series ("32 Aspects of Women") by Taiso Yoshitoshi, one of the foremost Meiji-era print designers (which I duly informed the staff).

But to recapitulate, by all means go see the show on loan from the Smithsonian if you're in the Miami area.



December 7, 2008, 6:25 PM

Thanks for the report, Jack. A number of people have told me about it and it is good to hear about the building as well as the work.

The show sounds like a very unexpected burst out of the bonds of mediocrity that blights art in this town and I can't wait to see it.



December 7, 2008, 10:40 PM

Gee Franklin, don't think there has been any valid representational work which was based upon the photoghraph, ever. So there is nothing to argue about, we agree. How wierd.


David Rchardson

December 8, 2008, 1:27 AM

What do you all think of David Hockney in light of illustration and photography. I just finished reading True to Life, Lawrence Weschler's concise book on his 25 years of following Hockney's exploraton of photography and painting. Hockney essentially felt at a dead end in the 70's because of the 1 point perspective of photography that he was using in his paintings, especially some of his famous double portraits, which led to his photo collages, and then into his discoveries about the use of lenses and the camera lucida in the 15th c. through to Ingres. I may have always thought of Hockney as an illustrative painter, but then his work of the last many years has been about perception as it is in life as opposed to both Rennaissance 1 point perspective as well as photography. And he's so devoted to painting. I saw some of his English mill paintings and landscapes a few years ago in Boston and they were wonderful, in spite of his garish colors.
The book also begins and ends with Weschler's parallel relationship with Robert Irwin over the years, ending with the remarkable idea that both artists are ending up in the same place, devoted to perception and the phenomenological experience. It's a very tight book, though overpriced.



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