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Welcome back, Cotter

Post #1296 • February 17, 2009, 11:38 AM • 42 Comments

Holland Cotter, January 2007:

Maybe [the fictional artist invented and "exhibited" by Triple Candie] and his work, however uncelebratable, will get a dollar-glutted art world thinking in more complex and alternative ways than he, had he existed, could possibly know.

Holland Cotter, December 2007:

Triple Candie is one of few nonprofit spaces in the city, or at least in Manhattan, to offer a serious alternative to the market-addled art mainstream. It has done so in a series of exhibitions that have had, by traditional standards, no art at all, and that might even be considered a threat to the very idea of art as the market defines it.

Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbitt, directors of Triple Candie, last week (via):

Our program is decidedly anti-material and anti-market. We are very much against the fixation and fetishization of the object. These are meant to be ephemeral exhibitions, and we recycle most of the material from show to show. It's fundamentally about this sort of fleeting temporary experience dealing with issues of art history. A lot of our shows were realized when the art market was going through unprecedented growth. The greed that we saw in the art world was coupled with the greed that we were seeing in society at large, so we tried to do shows that shifted the emphasis. Because we saw artists as complicit with the problems we were seeing, we were motivated not to work with them.

Holland Cotter, the same day:

Never has the American art world functioned so efficiently as a full-service marketing industry on the corporate model.

Every year art schools across the country spit out thousands of groomed-for-success graduates, whose job it is to supply galleries and auction houses with desirable retail. They are backed up by cadres of public relations specialists - otherwise known as critics, curators, editors, publishers and career theorists - who provide timely updates on what desirable means.

Many of those specialists are, directly or indirectly, on the industry payroll, which is controlled by another set of personnel: the dealers, brokers, advisers, financiers, lawyers and - crucial in the era of art fairs - event planners who represent the industry's marketing and sales division. They are the people who scan school rosters, pick off fresh talent, direct careers and, by some inscrutable calculus, determine what will sell for what.

This last article is worth reading in its entirety as classic Cotter, typically and inimitably elevating inchoate hatred of commerce to the realm of arts commentary. This one has it all: "corporate" used as a pejorative, veneration of unsellable art, denigration of work that can sell, ill will towards painting, even Clembashing:

Debate about a "crisis in criticism" gets batted around the art world periodically, suggesting nostalgia for old-style traffic-cop tastemakers like Clement Greenberg who invented movements and managed careers.

When the markets were flush, the way to better art was to resist the market. Now that the markets are drying up, the way to better art is to resist the market. It's as if some inscrutable calculus reckons all circumstances as affirming our tendentious conclusions. Let's wind up with a paroxysm of petty ideology.

Will the art industry continue to cling to art's traditional analog status, to insist that the material, buyable object is the only truly legitimate form of art, which is what the painting revival of the last few years has really been about?

To which I ask in reply, what do you mean, analog? At any rate, let's step back here. We're trying to find our way to better art, and perhaps a better art world, not select a bishop. But while we're in the neighborhood, we might as well call for some walking of walk here. The New York Times, I presume, pays Cotter to style his conceptual slurry into prose. So start by liberating yourself, Comrade Cotter, from the corporate behemoth that is the New York Times Company and its subsidiaries. Imagine with me, if you will, art criticism that is "impossible to buy or sell." Scrawl your thoughts on a tar roof using a burnt stick and tell no one about it. If fiscal futility is quality, then critical greatness lies within your easy reach.

It's day-job time again in America, and that's O.K. Artists have always had them - van Gogh the preacher [as his day job? WTF? - F.], Pollock the busboy, Henry Darger the janitor - and will again. The trick is to try to make them an energy source, not a chore.

So get one. I'm sure you'd make as fine a janitor as Darger. Like him, you could secretly noodle your thoughts onto rolls of tracing paper and we'll celebrate your brilliance posthumously if we find any.

We've all heard of people who judge quality by its price tag. In Cotter we have a case of a man who judges quality by its price tag, and he knows he's found it when the price tag has a zero on it.

Cotter has confused a few things here, to say the least. That art market stardom results in heinous distortions of humanity doesn't indict the market; it merely demonstrates that there is more money in the world than taste. P.T. Barnum observed as much and profited handsomely, but that doesn't mean that all business efforts are circuses. In many ways, the problem of sustaining a studio practice, both in quality and remunerability, promises to provide a satisfying intellectual challenge unmatched by the paltry critique by art-worlders of the market, defined by Cotter, Nesbitt, and Bancroft as any use of art that keeps penury at bay. Critical theory has sunk to quite a nadir when it regards this as a valid activity. Meanwhile, Cotter's wholesale slam of painting (which ought to be philosophically impossible in these allegedly pluralist times; I'm reminded of a song by Kinky Friedman in which some unsatisfactory character remarks, "I ain't a racist, but Aristotle Onassis is one Greek that we don't need") and the conceptual shenanigans of Triple Candie don't increase the amount of taste in the world. Quite the opposite - they disdain the appreciation of objects that makes taste possible.

Please - if you're anti-market, do us all a favor and take yourself out of it. Some of us are busy with the honorable work of getting our bills paid and making the things we have to make. Paintings, in my case.

Comment

1.

MC

February 17, 2009, 1:10 PM

Jesus fuck. Preacher, bus-boy and janitor are respectable jobs, but artist is not? This isn't art criticism, it's S&M, and sorry, but I refuse to be the sub for Cotter's dom.

Some form of your post would make an excellent letter to the NYT, but, then again, why the hell would you want to let them publish it without paying you for your effort? Oh wait, then it would be anti-corporate "art", right?

2.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 1:26 PM

Franklin, this Holland guy, and anybody who pays him to write such drivel, is so out to lunch that it's barely worth pointing it out. It's hard to tell which is worse, his fatuous posturing or his self-righteousness.

I suppose that, lacking anything worthwhile to offer, he's opted to try to stand out from the herd by being, essentially, irrational. He's wasting whatever space he gets on the NYT, and it's a waste of time to pay him any notice. I can see how you would, at least in this instance, but as far as I'm concerned, he might as well be a figment of Triple Candie's imagination.

3.

opie

February 17, 2009, 1:26 PM

Good thing Rembrandt didn't think of this make-it-ephemeral idiocy!

Franklin, your problem is you see things in a smart way. Dumb people don't like this.

Some of the stupids want to think art is holy and commerce is evil. They don't want a good artist to get paid for good work. They want to be pure, free from the contamination of Mammon. Hungry but virtuous.

The other stupids think if it is expensive it is good and if no one wants it is no good.

So the two stupids fight a sham battle and the stupid NY Times prints the stupid news. Just like any other stupid war, I guess, except no body dies except maybe an artist now and then who gets depressed and jumps off a bridge because he can't get money to eat.

4.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 1:45 PM

Well, one thing's for sure. Triple Candie and little Holland are made for each other. They're both full of it. And then some people have the gall to complain when non-artsy types see this kind of outrageous nonsense going on and figure that maybe taxpayer money would be better spent on other endeavors. I mean, wake the fuck up and smell the coffee sometime. Sheesh.

5.

Tim McClure

February 17, 2009, 2:46 PM

Holland Cotter, Shelley Bancroft, Peter Nesbitt: dope talk in a college dorm. Buncha kids blowing daddy's money til they have to grow up. Grow up? In this environment? What am I thinking?

6.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 3:05 PM

Maybe I should call myself Algeria Bunker and give the NYT a call.

7.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 3:21 PM

On second thought, I think I'll go with Mongolia Cleaver. Gotta reference some Chinese thing...

8.

John

February 17, 2009, 3:46 PM

That's a great phrase, opie, "the stupids". Better than "the herd" or "the vulgarians".

9.

opie

February 17, 2009, 4:14 PM

When I was in college I had a girlfriend who worked for Vogue and lived in the village and knew Truman Capote. She was always going on about "The Stupids".

10.

Mike

February 17, 2009, 4:22 PM

I was going to write a longer response, but Cotter's not worth it...

Ephemera over a good old painting? I love this comment in response to Moore's article in the Guardian:

"Sir, Mr Moore is quite right to point out that there is no risk of damage to the exhibits in this exhibition. I have never heard or read of anyone violently attacking rubbish. That is probably because badness usually attacks goodness. For badness to exist it needs goodness. Goodness has never needed badness to exist. We should pity these "artists". There is nothing anymore to excite neither their eyes nor their ears. Their lives must be colourless and dull. For them everything is art therefore art ceases to have meaning. And so does their lives and work.

What might shake these "artists" in their nihilism? Ridicule."

I'm done with cardboard art.

11.

Mike

February 17, 2009, 4:25 PM

Oops, article in question:

"The unbearable pointlessness of subversion"
Charles Moore reviews Altermodern at Tate Britain.

12.

Franklin

February 17, 2009, 4:27 PM

Gotcha.

13.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 4:30 PM

No, Cotter definitely isn't worth it. As for the New York Times, either it has no clue about art or it doesn't give a shit. I know the pickings are slim, but a venue like the NYT can surely do better than Holly boy.

14.

opie

February 17, 2009, 4:39 PM

Hey, maybe comes the revolution. The times they may be a-changing. That is a pretty nasty article - the one just mantioned that Franklin linked. It wouldn't have been written & publiushed 5 years ago.

15.

Tim McClure

February 17, 2009, 4:58 PM

Not worth comment? Here we are commenting. If the attention-craving children in question see this blog, they'll love it! They got a rise out of some dumb old farts.

16.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 5:43 PM

Well, Tim, if I were so inclined, I could tear into Cotter's cant line by line, but it would be both pointless and wasteful. The bunk he's selling doesn't deserve to be taken seriously (and neither does the NYT).

17.

Jack's Ass

February 17, 2009, 6:20 PM

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/arts/music/17vaul.html

18.

MC

February 17, 2009, 7:23 PM

Some of us are dumb young farts, thank you very much.

On further consideration, I vote for Opie's #3 to be reworked into a NYT letter to the editor (although I doubt the nytwyts would have the sense to print it).

19.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 7:55 PM

I hate to break it to you, MC, but in certain parts of Miami, like South Beach, I'm afraid you'd be considered over the hill. Of course, I'd be considered a living fossil.

20.

Tim McClure

February 17, 2009, 7:58 PM

Jack, re #4, the FIRST thing that happens to taxpayer money is that it gets politicized. Thus, a good portion of it inevitably gets spent on "outrageous nonsense" (re the "stimulus" bill). What do you do about that? I'm certain that you could cut the "stupids'" notions to ribbons, but the "stupids" don't respond to good sense.

21.

Tim McClure

February 17, 2009, 8:03 PM

MC, welcome to the Fart Club.

22.

MC

February 17, 2009, 8:06 PM

Fartblog.net...

23.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 8:07 PM

I'm certain that you could cut the "stupids'" notions to ribbons, but the "stupids" don't respond to good sense.

That's one reason I didn't bother, Tim. I'm afraid the only thing to do with somebody like Cotter is to call him what he is, a waste of newsprint at best, and treat him accordingly. In other words, as if he didn't exist, because, in fact, he's nothing.

24.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 8:51 PM

This may be off-topic, but I suppose the art world isn't the only venue for brazen BS. I don't know all the details, nor do I want to, but the latest steroid scandal in big-time sports has all the makings of classic theater of the absurd.

Yes, I'm talking about the "A-Rod" business. I mean, who do these clowns think they're kidding? Just let them shoot up till they grow extra heads or explode or whatever and be done with it. Geez, enough already.

25.

Tim

February 17, 2009, 8:51 PM

Well, Jack, this Cotter guy (We don't have Cotter in the Southwest that I know of, though we have pockets of his brand of goofiness here and there) admittedly got your attention, to the point of your publishing comments on this blog, so he's something to you. Uh oh, I'm pshycologizing. But your irritation resonates.

26.

Chris Rywalt

February 17, 2009, 9:35 PM

Franklin sez:
...Cotter's wholesale slam of painting (which ought to be philosophically impossible in these allegedly pluralist times...

And here I was thinking lately of the fascism of pluralism: "We must all stand together because everything's allowed." I was mulling an essay drawing a distinction between everything being allowed and everything being acceptable. Like, freedom of religion doesn't mean human sacrifice is okay.

But since Cotter can bash painting, I guess it's not as bad as I thought.

27.

Jack

February 17, 2009, 9:42 PM

I really shouldn't, but I'm too weak. It's your fault, Kriis.

Will the art industry continue to cling to art's traditional analog status, to insist that the material, buyable object is the only truly legitimate form of art, which is what the painting revival of the last few years has really been about?

Cotter doesn't know what the "painting revival" is about. I mean, how could he, when he apparently doesn't know what painting is about? And I'm supposed to take this putz seriously? Because he's in the NYT? Please.

28.

MC

February 17, 2009, 11:15 PM

Jack, the A-Rod nonsense seems almost sane next to the Phelps absurdity...

As for Cotter, I don't think he even knows what he wants... digital art? That guy is an anal-log...

29.

Chris Rywalt

February 18, 2009, 2:02 AM

He wants Happenings, man, like Woodstock.

30.

David

February 18, 2009, 3:48 AM

Tyler Green via tweeter from a Mapplethorp symposium in Philly:

"Storr coins 'misconceptual' art: artists who shortcut to the now via conceptual art without understanding history of conceptualism."

This could be useful.

31.

Chris Rywalt

February 18, 2009, 5:44 AM

Because understanding the history of Conceptualism is important because....

I guess once you're an expert in French military successes and English cuisine, it's time to read up on something new.

32.

David

February 18, 2009, 10:24 AM

or like this :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_Nothing

33.

eageageag

February 18, 2009, 10:27 AM

I came up with fartblog first!

34.

opie

February 18, 2009, 10:56 AM

Thanks for the compliment in #18 MC but I haver given up writing letters to the Times. They used to publish them a lot but lately nothing, and it has become a waste of time.

The only critical writing they go for now is anything bad about conservative politics, or what they construe to be conservative.

35.

eageageag

February 18, 2009, 11:02 AM

You can't make valid art until you take my art history course stupid! That is what Rob Storr thinks. Artists are not artists until they take a college course in art history and fully understand their professor's version of the HISTORY OF ART. Then they will be able to make art that neatly fits in with tens of thousands of doctoral theses. Storr's pomposity is astounding. When he taught as an adjunct at SUNY Purchase when I was attending classes there as an undergraduate the female students were REALLY into him. Storr says, "I have honed my lecturing skills so that I can unwittingly seduce the young padawans. Oh yeah, and they learn a thing or two about art history."

36.

Chris Rywalt

February 18, 2009, 11:27 AM

It is a well-known fact that much of art history involves men seducing young women. And sometimes young men.

37.

MC

February 18, 2009, 12:31 PM

Hey Chris, you might want to add 'jesuit theology' (or, really, any other sort) to your #31... just sayin...

EAG, all credit to you for the coinage.

38.

Fr. Chris Rywalt, D.Div

February 18, 2009, 12:54 PM

You're just making fun, MC. I guess I need to point out that I'm no defender of religion. I won't post any links, but Google Pope Icky Fundament, PZK.

39.

MC

February 18, 2009, 1:06 PM

I'm a fun-maker.

40.

Chris Rywalt

February 18, 2009, 2:18 PM

And a heart-breaker. Don't you mess around with me!

41.

MC

February 19, 2009, 3:48 AM

Speaking of not messing around, I've just removed my NYT arts feed from my Google reader...

42.

Eriich

February 19, 2009, 4:32 PM

Superb Pat Benatar reference.

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