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.
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.