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The public speaks

Post #1291 • February 6, 2009, 1:44 PM • 108 Comments

Last week, Edward Winkleman contrasted the philistinism displayed by the leadership at Brandeis with the valor of Rose Valland, whose subversion during the Nazi occupation of France saved a goodly amount of its cultural treasure from rapine by the Germans. The only connection was the similarity of names - Rose Museum, Rose Valland - and the whole exercise violated Godwin's Law at the starting line, but it did afford an opportunity to reflect on various levels of commitment to the arts and why, here in contemporary America, people seem to value art so little. Ed commented:

Personally I blame the government, and the wing-nut branch of the conservative elements in it in particular, for this very American ambivalence toward culture. Rose Valland was celebrated as a hero for risking her life to safe French culture. In the US, she would have likely been mocked for diverting resources away from efforts to secure energy resources, weapons, and geographically desirable encampments.

I responded:

I respectfully suggest a glance in the mirror regarding this point. There is nothing nourishing to the soul in the intellectual games to which much contemporary art has been reduced. Art that represents the quintessence of pleasure, the perfection of capability, and the ennoblement of the human has been out of vogue for four decades and counting. To compare its current concerns to the genuinely difficult intellectual work going on in the sciences, and even most of the other humanities, is embarassing. In many cases the price tag is the only interesting thing about it. I'm trying to picture some modern Valland risking her safety over the work of the last three years of visual arts MacArthur fellows, as if it were the very soul of America, and it's giving me a chuckle. Blame the erstwhile conservative government if you like, but really, what have you done for conservatives lately that they should be clamoring to board the great vessel of culture?

I don't blame Ed for not wanting to have a conversation about whether conceptualism is responsible for the devaluation of art objects in the larger culture. He's running a gallery in Chelsea with a roundly conceptualist program and it doesn't benefit him to discuss it, even if he had the personal inclination to do so. Yesterday, an editorial by critic Ed Siegel appeared at, lamenting the same sort of conservatives.

The good news is that President Obama wants to include the arts in his bailout package. Conservatives, however, are up in arms. The one constant in all this is that art in America has come to be seen as a frill, by everyone from right-wing talk-show hosts to the trustees of Brandeis. It may seem, after the Mapplethorpe controversy or the never-ending bickering about National Endowment for the Arts and Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding, that it has always been thus.

He has a point about the conservatives and their arms. A current version of the bailout would supplement the National Endowment for the Arts with $50 million. Republicans responded with Pavlovian consistency.

Representative Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, wants to transfer the proposed NEA funding to highway construction. He failed to get the House to vote on his proposal, so he is now trying to get on the conference committee that will determine the fate of the funding. "We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that's going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous," Kingston said in an interview yesterday, adding the time has come to examine all of NEA's funding.

Unfortunately for them, Republicans, who initiated the bailout in the first place, have used up quite a bit of credibility in their opposition to federal underwriting of dubious enterprises, such as the spread of democracy in Iraq through the use of military force, for which we are paying $340 million a day. At that rate of expendeture, we could fund the NEA for the year at its newly supplemented level in thirteen hours. In a month, every artist in the country could have his own blimp hangar to work in. Remember Sarah Palin, who oversaw her state's doling out of thousands of dollars per person in oil revenue, trying to brand President Obama as a socialist? Maybe they need to lose a third election cycle to get the message that their actions must match their rhetoric in some ways.

But to answer the original question, the two Globe articles above provide us with reader comments that we might use as data points, albeit often unlettered data points. What visual artists, art works (actual or remembered only in spirit), and movements are cited by readers in favor of the Rose Museum's continuation, or federal funding of the arts in general?

An architect composes sketches to make his structures esthetically pleasing. Just two examples - the St. Louis Gateway Arch and Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes - are marvels of mathematics and geometry. ... Visit the Staniford Street office of Dr. Frederick, a Boston opthalmologist specializing in retinal eye surgery, and you'll find his photographs of flowers truly amazing.

I dare anyone who doesn't think that the arts are worth supporting to visit the Boston Public Library, walk across the street to Trinity Church and look at the stained glass windows or go to a concert at Jordan Hall or Symphony Hall.

...just imagine how Picasso, Cezanne, Monet, and Van Gogh might have done if paint (or sculpture) had only been invented 70 years ago and had only been widely affordable for the last 10. With new media emerging in which to create art, contemporary artists are finding the need to experiment, to see what can be done, what works and what doesn't. Yes, a lot of contemporary art is rubbish, but a lot of it is sublime, as well. And for every Cezanne, how many once-favored artists have faded into obscurity?

...were the Renaissance artists state subsidized? Of course they were. Was Baroque easel painting ever subsidized? Yes, by the wealthy and it was displayed only for the wealthy. I'd say a system that got art into the mainstream is superior.

Anyone who has ever seen a Broadway musical ("Dirty Dancing" anyone?), taken their children to the Boston Ballet "Nutcracker", bought a music CD of the Boston Symphony "Holiday Pops", or placed a Monet poster on their wall, purchased at the MFA, is participating in the arts.

Michaelangelo WAS supported by the equivalent of tax money for his time - commissions from the Church. ... Van Gogh had to depend on contributuins from his brother to survive, and his work didn't sell when he was alive.....

It can be argued that without government funding there would be no Great Pyramids, no Sistine Chapel Ceiling, no statuary nor paintings on the Massachusetts State House, Fireman's Vendome Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue Mall, etc.

After all, Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most popular artists today, was a rejected artist who had no popular or financial success during his lifetime.

Most of this country's creative resurgence in the 40s, 50s & 60s (abstract expressionism, musical comedies, modern jazz, drama) resulted from the WPA's support of the arts & theater.

you morons would have no document of Massachussetts if it weren't for Copley ( who Copley square is named after) and John Singer Sargent. But in this throw away "death culture" you wait for the new piece of technology to download your brain with. That's nuts. From the cavepaintings to Andrew Wyeth, from the morality plays to Broadway, from drum beats to orchestral arrangements Art will always be the highest aspiration the human mind can attain

Ok. All politicians and citizens against any all arts funding I propose that you supporrt my bill to remove all the statuary from the Washington Mall. Knock down the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, level the Washington Monument, bulldoze the Vietnam Memorial. Close the Smithsonian and sell off all of it's contents. And remove every portrait from every government building and office and sell them too. That includes all citizens against funding for the arts. toss out those landscapes on your walls, your record album covers with all that art. Take all art from the walls of restaurants, close the Museum of Fine Arts, the Rose, oh sorry, that's taken care of. Next, the library of Congress must go, all thiose useless books. Then you'll turn your back on films, all of them. Toss your radios because another form of art, music, blares nonsensically from them. You don't need that. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, close it, don't need it. Forget about the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Boston Ballet.

I am from the Berkshires and if it were not for the summer arts scene (and now increasingly more year-round, thanks be to the visionaries at Mass MoCA) that area would be even more economically depressed than it already is. I always enjoy taking the Merrit Parkway through Connecticut where all the overpasses were designed by different architects.

by the way, the artist Leonardo Da Vinci, not only would have been the first human to fly if he had access to very simple modern materials (certain fabrics and lighter wood) he is also the person who pioneered the thinking that led to the contact lens.

Michelangelo put up with a lot of crap from Pope Julius when he did his work on the Sistine Chapel; but the paintings there outlasted Julius, Michelangelo, and a parade of critics, including scaffolding experts.

And which among those siding with the university's plan to shutter the museum, or against federal funding of arts in general?

there have to be priorities...we have hundreds of teachers probably being laid off in seeing a rembrandt more important than teaching your child to read?(and i was an art history minor in college)

Hey I would gladly forgot essential like food, medicine , housing etc. To keep the nut case folks that think, some nude covered in excrement is of real importance and essential to there lives. The rich, wacky and sort of perverted, need our help. I think I wll apply for a grant too, I got this thing about archie comic books, will her ever get veronica?

Picasso didn't have government subisdies, nor Cezanne, nor Monet, nor Van Gogh, nor.... you get the picture. All those who think art is better now, raise your hands. I thought so.

Give some bucks to the artist who displayed his creation of a bronze penis, or the glass of stale urine! Great works of art!!

Thank to people like warhol, lichtenstein, etc leroy neiman, we have a vast expanse of commercial art or pop art, that is nothing more than crap. huge amounts of warhols work was done by other people atthe factory, he would have them mass produce by screen printing. Look at thomas kincaide, them man expanded his "art" to everything from mousepads to toliet bowl lid covers. not exactly art for arts sake. artists now are more interestedin how they shock or confuse you. Il give you some examples. one of englenad smost prestigious art awards a very nice chunk of money, went to a woman who submitted as art, a toilet. an internation art copetetion was blown away by a man who exhibited his masterwork, a huge canvas like 20 feet by 10 feet, with the word "big" printed in very small letters in the center of the canvas, and that was it. we need to seperate this stuff from art. it does not belong in the same catagory as say michangelos david, or monets gardens at giverny.

How about the "art" of a crucifix in a glass of urine- that was a great piece of art. Good spend, huh? [The reply to this, although it belongs above, will make more sense here: Well, considering that it was created 20 years ago and people are STILL talking about it and debating its worth, I'd say yeah, it was a terrific spend!]

I actually have a great appreciation for the classic impressionist painters and classical music performed live. I'm just against my tax dollars paying for it.

Will this money be going to the two "artists" who put the bomb-like signs all over the city a couple of years back or the idiot who walked into the airport with the bomb-like "art" around her neck?

I wrote and attempted to post comments this morning concerning funding of the arts. My comments were not posted and, in fact, I received a message that the comments would be reviewed before posting. The reason, I have to assume is my inclusion of the name of a work of "art" funded by the NEA -"P--s Ch---t" (You NEA supporters know what I'm referring to.).

DaVinci was both an artist and an innovator. I don't know of any artist today who falls into that category and I am certain there are no DaVinci's among them.

What do we learn from this? First of all, just about everybody needs a slap on the head. You wouldn't postulate the existence of arts supporters who can't construct a grammatical sentence, but there you are - evidence that arts education does little to affect overall cognitive function in certain specimens. Secondly, with scant exceptions, people in favor of public support for arts cite works that conform to a fairly standard idea of beauty. Thirdly, people who oppose public support of arts cite basically the same material, but when they need a negative example, they reach for art that typifies the contemporary aspiration to cultural critique. They recall these works poorly, even hilariously, but those of us familiar with the art world can easily supply the right referents. There are exceptions, but not many of them. If not proof, I think I have evidence in support of a later comment I left chez Winkleman:

I can't speak for other fields, but the proponents of an extremely narrow and somewhat arcane set of artistic priorities have overrun the centers of of the contemporary art world. Even I, as a participant, have ambivalent feelings about that material; I have no idea how casual observers might even understand it, much less feel inclined to fight for it. ... I completely agree with the basic charge left by the unnamed Brandeis apologist, that our chemistry, biology, and physics graduates have a better chance of improving the life of mankind than artists. I assume we all agree that it makes no sense to translate this into a decision to can the Rose. But the centers of the contemporary art world have been proving him right by producing and promoting work that sets out to do things - question this notion, challenge that conception, push this other boundary. And again, compared to the genuinely difficult intellectual work going on the sciences, this stuff hardly merits notice.

In most creative forms, you have a central group of people trying to do their utmost with the fundamentals of the genre, while some playful outliers attempt kooky things at the periphery. This is healthy because successful mutations at the edge can inform the center, and even work their way into the center. For whatever reason, visual art has gotten itself turned the other way out - a center of kooky play and people trying to do their utmost with the fundamentals of the genre at the periphery. But as always, the interesting things are happening at the periphery. Your position at the periphery puts you at a disadvantage of funding and opportunity, and at an advantage of making a lasting contribution to the genre if you know what you're doing. This creates a very different phenomenon for the public to assess compared to literature or music. As someone involved in art, consider your relation to the fundamentals and where that places you in the grand scheme of things.



Bunny Smedley

February 6, 2009, 2:08 PM

I tried to follow the discussion on Edward's blog, but I could never get past the initial comparison: an astonishingly brave woman who for several years put her own life, and that of those she loved, at serious risk in order to thwart the activities (not just the 'cultural' outrages either) of one of the most completely vicious, murderous, evil regimes in human history, versus - a few trustees who've made a silly, short-sighted decision to sell off some paintings.

To put it even more starkly, in one of these stories several million people die amid unimaginable horror, while in the other story, some pictures are sold.

There's a lot to admire about the comment you posted on Edward's site, Franklin - but as much as anything else, I admire your moderation, and your ability to discuss what Edward wanted to discuss, rather than the frankly repellent lack of historical perspective he in fact revealed.



February 6, 2009, 2:12 PM

That conversation was not as productive as either of us would have liked, I suspect, but by moderation some good may yet come out of it. Thank you, Bunny.



February 6, 2009, 2:16 PM

Ed W. is being disingenuous if he blames conservatives and fails to address (or admit) the blatant problem of what contemporary art and the current art system are largely about and represent. If he fails to give proper weight to the latter (and it's easy to see why he'd ignore or seriously downplay it, given an obvious conflict of interests), he has absolutely no credibility. Not that I expect that to bother him; it doesn't seem to bother anybody else.



February 6, 2009, 2:22 PM

Well, Bunny, you can call it moderation, which is, in itself, moderate. I rather think of it as throwing pearls before swine, or something along those lines, which is why I don't emulate Franklin's forays into the Land of the Lost.



February 6, 2009, 6:19 PM

Bunny is right. (Hey, news flash!). Winkleman goes on and on and on and that kind of comparison is just idioti.. Conservatives, liberals, C'mon!. It is emart positive creative people - naturally in the minority - versus dumb people who mess up. The Brandeis people messed up, and now they are selling one of their prime resources to make up for it. What they really need to do is fire the dummies and hire smarties, but who is going to do that? In Academia? forget it.

It is not just that you are being moderate in this bloated discussion, it is that you are plainly smarter and make more sense. The minute anything like this reverts into political categorization it gets stupid and boring and wrong. The Endowment people screwed up by giving money to art that disgusted Americans. That was dumb. Now arts fiunding is the first thing the pols like to pick on. This should be a surprise?

The only way arts funding can survive here is to show that it creates jobs, because that's what this looneybin legislation is supposed to be doing (and will not do, mark my words) but there is no one to demonstrate this so it will probably fail. It's politics, that's all. Deal with it.



February 6, 2009, 6:21 PM

BTW I think I read somewhere they are only $10 million behind and that they could sell one of those awful Warhols for $10 million.

That sounds like the classic win-win situation to me.



February 6, 2009, 6:38 PM

Honestly, Franklin, I don't see why you bother with someone like Ed W, who is squarely and unequivocally part of both the system and the problem. I suppose you may like the exercise, so to speak, and possibly the exposure, for what little it may be worth, but surely the concomitant aggravation and frustration are considerable.

Yes, it's noble enough to preach to the heathen, as it were, but their problem is not so much that they don't know any better, but that they don't want to. In the case of someone who benefits from the staus quo, who's clearly invested in it and identified with it, and who would be adversely affected by bucking the system or rocking the boat, what on earth can you possibly expect except wasting your time?


Chris Rywalt

February 6, 2009, 7:00 PM

I don't know why Franklin grapples with Ed -- maybe he likes bear baiting, too, I don't know -- but I know why I did it. (I gave it up a couple of days ago and decided to keep it on my blog.) I did it because, two years ago when J.T. Kirkland introduced me to Ed, it wasn't clear to me what his tastes in art were. At the time he had a stable of artists all over the map. It turned out -- I learned this maybe six months ago -- his stable was partly inherited from an earlier partner. Over the past couple of years he's been adjusting his focus -- even dropping artists who were profitable -- to include only the kind of thing he's truly interested in.

It turns out we don't see eye to eye on that. Our tastes differ. (What's the word for the opposite of hyperbole? Oh, yes. Understatement.)

Also, I've spent the last two to three years working out what I truly like. I wasn't as different from him then as now.

So I maintained something of an acquaintance with him based on finding out what I liked, what he liked and seeing if there was any shared ground. Also, I like to think you need to rub a knife against a rock to sharpen it. No rock, dull knife.

My thinking now is, crappy soft rock, dull knife and annoyed knife sharpener.



February 6, 2009, 7:35 PM

In #7, I obviously meant to write status quo. I really should get therapy for my extreme aversion to typos (especially those made by me).


Pretty Lady

February 7, 2009, 12:18 AM

My God, I'm a fundamentalist at the periphery. So much is clear now. Sob.



February 7, 2009, 12:27 AM

Selling off those dud works they've got would be the smartest move they could make... pawn that crap off for top dollar before everyone wises up to how worthless their pile of Warhol-et-al detritus really is.

Dividing artistic appreciation along political fault lines is a common, if idiotic, trap, so I'm not surprised a superficial public thinker (sic) like Winklenuts fell for it. Of course, political partisans on the far right and left fringes make it all to easy to make the error. Left wing politics has infected, smothered even, mainstream art so such a degree that right wing politics ends up being against it on principle, that may be... but whether you're conservative or liberal says nothing at all about whether you've got any taste or not.

Speaking personally, my politics may be consistently Left, but my taste in art is always right...



February 7, 2009, 10:03 AM

I like Winklenuts, MC, but I think I prefer Winkletoes.


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 10:20 AM

It occurs to me, too, that not only is it dumb to compare the thinking in the art world to the hard work going on in the sciences, it's dumb to compare it to the hard work going on in philosophy. It's like the people who, in a discussion about religion, will argue against the existence of God by asking, "If God is all-powerful, why is there evil?" as if this is a brilliant rhetorical stroke by which they've demolished the opposition, while being blissfully unaware that some of the greatest minds humanity has ever produced have already been over exactly the same point and answered it thoroughly over the past few hundred years. Not even the most half-assed Jesuit would even consider that a rhetorical speed bump, let alone a masterstroke of argument.

The questioning of this notion, challenging of that conception, and pushing of this other boundary going on in art are so pathetically shallow and obvious it's like watching an especially dim checkers player attempting chess.



February 7, 2009, 11:20 AM

Chris, as I told Franklin, don't waste yourself on Winkletoes & Co. His reaction to your last attempt speaks volumes. It's quite of a piece with his reaction to Pretty Lady's alternative Whitney Biennial a while back, when he showed up here to preempt unwanted input on his blog.

As I said, these people are not like hapless illiterates waiting and willing to be taught; they're knowingly playing a certain game and they fully intend to stick to it. They don't want to hear what you or Franklin have to say, because their game is incompatible with that.



February 7, 2009, 12:02 PM

Chris, no offence, but that analogy is retarded.

Seriously, we may not be able to keep politics out of our discussion, but please, for Thor's sake, let's try to not bring religion into it.



February 7, 2009, 12:33 PM

MC, religion is closer to art than politics is. Religion is about ideals and standards, politics is about what gets the job done. Religion is about attaining and preserving ultimates, politics is about manipulating means. Religion, like art, loses its stuff when it gets involved in politics.

On the other hand, Chris, the difficulty of reconciling an all powerful God with the existence of evil has not been solved by any Jesuit anymore than Hume or Aquinas solved it. It is a question that seems dull on its face but when people begin discussing it, the debate can go on for hours.

What is dull is the NEA. Funding or not funding it is unlikely to change the course of American culture much at all. But if I had to choose, I'd say eliminating it might have a slightly more positive effect than keeping it.

If Brandeis can get $10 million for one of their Warhols, more power to them. "Get it while you can" as an old friend once told me. Deassessioning is part of the process of any museum. People who give art to museums ought to realize that nothing is forever and their donations can't change that. Forever is not for sale.

Franklin's comparison of the last three years of work by MacArthur fellows to the soul of America gave me a chuckle too. This is a tempest in a tea pot.



February 7, 2009, 12:36 PM

I support Chris's analogy. He's only addressing the complexity of argument, and yes, theologians produce more thorough analysis.

I want to point out that not only does it not benefit career conceptualists to discuss whether conceptualism has caused people to devalue the art object, it neither benefits them to discuss the robustness, or lack thereof, of the intellectual activity that underlies their art practice. Hence my repeated insistence that it doesn't compare favorably to other fields that wield language, logic, or math as part of the core enterprise. The intellectual work behind conceptualism consists almost entirely of bromides and felt truth. To an astonishing extent these people lead unexamined artistic lives and they hate examination.



February 7, 2009, 12:43 PM

It's a Winkletoes tempest, John. What did you expect, Shakespeare?



February 7, 2009, 12:46 PM

More like piss in a teapot.

The main rankle in that Macarthur award is the word "genius". Instead of "genius" it should be :"Current Politically Correct Very Admirable People ".

Not only that, they miss a lot for the wrong reasons. I have a friend who is a type specimen of one who should win one of those damn things, and he certainly has come to their attention, but he is a little too much of a wild bohemian screw-you personality and he might do something to embarrass them.

Committees can't give away money I learned that at the Endowment years go. Look at the damn Stimulus thing. Good grief!


Pretty Lady

February 7, 2009, 1:42 PM

I not only support Chris's analogy, for me it's not even an analogy. If you think it's difficult being a New Modernist in this artistic climate, try being an artist who tries to communicate transpersonal spiritual experience through a visual medium, in an intellectual climate wherein people think it is the height of wit to make references to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.



February 7, 2009, 1:43 PM

I am friends with the friend Opie is talking about, and Opie's analysis of the guy's predicament is perfectly on target. The guy has "matured" enough, though, that the MacArthur people should not fear that he would do anything embarrassing, not that the public would ever see, anyway. They should give him their goddamn grant. He is more a "type specimen" than the vast majority of those who receive them.



February 7, 2009, 1:50 PM

Oops. Apologies to the religionists, I didn't mean to start a tempest in a celestial teapot. Never mind, carry on.


Pretty Lady

February 7, 2009, 2:43 PM

I am not a 'religionist,' MC, and neither are Franklin and Chris; Chris is a nihilist, and Franklin is one of those Zen/martial arts people who lives transpersonal experiences as a matter of course, without getting all dogmatic about it. Religion and spirituality aren't even remotely synonymous. Unfortunately, this is one of those obvious facts that both religionists and relignoramuses totally fail to understand.



February 7, 2009, 3:13 PM

Pardon me, PL, but when you read Chris' comment, you will see it has nothing to do with 'spirituality': it was clearly about an imagined argument against the existence of a specific deity, and and imagined (but unspecified) 'sophisticated' rebuttal of that argument by 'theologians'.

Obviously, these are questions about religion, not spirituality.

I don't know what 'god' Chris had in min, though. Yahweh, Allah, Adoni, Shiva...? I don't really care though, either. This is an art blog, not a religion blog, which is why I read it and comment here.


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 4:50 PM

Franklin's exactly right about my intention: It was about complexity of argument. I'm not arguing for or against the existence of any god or gods. Although I'm a big fan of Thor. The main point is that what is the end of the discussion for a person who thinks they're smart, but isn't, is just the beginning -- and a distant one at that -- for someone who is actually smart. I wasn't saying that the God/evil question was solved or anything, just that the simple assertion "The Christian God is incompatible with the existence of evil" isn't a winner: Pull that on even a lowly parish priest and you'll get popped. Try it on a Jesuit and you won't last eight seconds in the ring.

Just for the record, Pretty Lady, I'm not a nihilist. I was rather surprised to discover, just a week or so ago (I was browsing Wikipedia), that I'm an Abdsurdist. I believe that there may be inherent meaning in the universe, but humans can never prove it. Nihilists believe there is no meaning in the universe, which strikes me as requiring too much faith.

My true religion, however, is Secular Humanism.

I would also like to note that this blog, and the commenters here, especially the ones showing up in this thread, are what keep me from thinking I'm a completely horrible person. Because after I go and get pounded on at Ed's or any of the other blogs where I get pounded on, after I take my punishment, I actually start to wonder if maybe I'm wrong, I'm a bad person, I'm a jerk, I'm rude and arrogant and should maybe accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and shave my head or something. Vows of silence come to mind.

This, incidentally, is the difference between guys like Franklin and me and guys like so many art worlders: We actually consider criticism. It makes us think about ourselves.

So I start thinking of vows of silence, but then I come here and find I get along fine with everyone. Not because we all agree -- we don't -- and not because we're all drones or boring people or sheep. Because we're all willing to argue and fight and still be friendly. I realize, yes, I'm okay -- it's these other venues and the people that frequent them that are the problem.



February 7, 2009, 5:11 PM

But, complexity doesn't equate to accuracy. A smart eight year old might get out-rhetoricized by his Sunday school teacher, but it obviously doesn't mean the kid is necessarily wrong and the nun is therefore right.

I'll take simple unvarnished truth over byzantine delusion, any day.

(another simple problem with the analogy laid out by Chris is that its premises are unrelated. Being "all powerful" doesn't imply anything at all about being opposed to the existence of Evil. Think Dick Cheney...)

Moving on... Up in Canader, we have a federal arts council that doles out money, and as far as I know, they do a dandy job, at least when it comes to dance, theatre, etc... but completely fuck up their visual art funding so consistently that most artists I know just scoff at the idea of even bothering to apply, since their funding quite explicitly favours minorities who deal with 'issues'.

Detractors of funding rarely bring up the tax dollars spent on film, theatre, music, etc. promotion... it is, as Franklin pointed out, always the ludicrous conceptual anti-art that they point to.

So, how do you intelligently fund an art form, like visual art, where notions of 'ideals and standards' have been chucked to the wayside by the appointed ersatz experts?



February 7, 2009, 5:14 PM

... to my mind, the best answer is to keep the funding, but get new experts.

Perhaps the Medicis are available... although, they'd probably go for Mapplethorpe, too.


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 5:56 PM

MC sez:
I'll take simple unvarnished truth over byzantine delusion, any day.

Of course the trouble is, what is truth? And this is where the discussion starts.

If you really want to get into it, I suggest arguing with a Jesuit, see if he can't convert you. They're pretty good at that kind of thing, I hear.

Perhaps the chess-checkers analogy is better. Less loaded. Art world people think they're great chess players when in fact they're notso hotso at checkers and are only playing solitaire anyhow.


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 5:57 PM

Look, I even phrased it as an epigram for you.

The Medicis might have liked Mapplethorpe, but only for a very private sock-drawer collection.



February 7, 2009, 6:16 PM

Chris, I think your problem is either masochism, Don Quixote syndrome, or giving far too much credit to Winkletoes & Co. (or a combination thereof). Trust me, it's not worth the time or effort, let alone the aggravation. Let them wallow in the muck, which they're going to do anyway.

Again, it's not because they don't know better; it's because they have multiple vested interests in the status quo. Needless to say, that goes triple (at least) for an art dealer in Chelsea who clearly means to be taken as a serious player by the prevailing system. Of course he shut you down. Don't go where you're not wanted, and keep your pearls for more discerning recipients.



February 7, 2009, 6:19 PM

About complexity: The frustrating thing for me in these discussions of conceptualist vs. the other kind of art ( modernist? formalst?) is this: I think conceptualism is now in the toolbox. I see this in contemporary crafts. Some of the best craft artists ( and that is quickly becoming a historical term as we breathe) can pick it up and use it along with other tools like tradition, formalism, modernism, 70's process art, what have you. The conceptualist thing is part of history and can be used as such. This is an argument for complexity and also for being contemporary, as in using the past to explore the contemporary moment.


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 6:24 PM

My toolbox has paintbrushes and paint and OMS in it. No concepts.

Seriously: Concepts aren't a tool for art. If anything they get in the way.



February 7, 2009, 6:30 PM

This piece by Matthew Collings was interesting in this context. It's a transcription/description of a keynote address to a conference. I don't know what the word on the street is about Collings, but I find him reasonable and sympatico. He's basicaly talking about the poverty of the current discourse and Greenberg, which seems to be what y'all are frequently talking about here.

"Matthew Collings began his address to the conference by saying that modernism was a key issue now because it was “the thing we don’t have, the thing most missing from the scene. It’s the shadow you can’t avoid.” There are various “modernisms”, he argued, represented by writers such as Yve-Alain Bois and T.J. Clark, but these are “the little tributaries of modernism”. We no longer have the “mainstream”, narrow modernism, associated with the writings of Clement Greenberg, who, above all was concerned with assessing the goodness or otherwise of works of art. In the context of his own experience of the tedious and boring content of much contemporary visual culture however, Collings felt himself increasingly drawn to aspects of Greenberg’s modernism, although its wholesale return, like the return of Christianity, he regarded as “impossible”. Even if the return of modernism were possible, he believed it would unfortunately have to be discussed in the limited and opaque vocabulary of current critical rhetoric, not on its own, and certainly not on Greenberg’s, terms."



February 7, 2009, 6:30 PM

Concepts can be enormously enabling for some artists. The mistake is thinking that they are in themselves good. The conceptualist mistake in particular is that concepts are the point of art.



February 7, 2009, 6:34 PM

"The conceptualist mistake in particular is that concepts are the point of art." That's exactly my point. And Chris, if you think concepts are not in your toolbox, I think you're mis-understanding what I'm saying. Saying you are an absurdist is a clear concept.


Pretty Lady

February 7, 2009, 7:14 PM

Oops, sorry Chris, you told me you were an absurdist at the time, I just misremembered. The Wikipedia chart you sent me didn't make much sense to me, but then I didn't care all that much.



February 7, 2009, 7:23 PM

It seems ridiculous to suggest that concepts, or conceptualizing is "NOW" in the toolbox, as if art didn't have concepts before 1970? Heironymous Bosch wasn't conceptual?... The problem isn't what's been added to the tool box: nothing has been. The problem is obviously what has been left out of the toolbox.

Chris, I've heard in the news recently of some very powerful and influential Roman Catholic folks who firmly believe in a loving God despite the fact that (according to their modest count) nearly 300,000 Jews might have died in the Holocaust!

I suspect they might find the task of converting me to their sophisticated point of view a tad difficult...


Pretty Lady

February 7, 2009, 7:30 PM

And the religion analogy is not just about complexity--you can make complex arguments that are not only wrong, but insane, i.e. not grounded in logic or empirical reality. It's about depth. It's easy to dismiss something you know nothing about, and to feel clever by doing so; it's much more difficult to actually delve into the topic and consider the history, the paradigms and the modes of thinking about it that have already been put forth, not to mention the empirical experience of the people who have devoted their lives to a certain practice.

Far too often in the contemporary art scene, obscure rhetoric and arcane, trivial concepts are put forth as a substitute for depth. This doesn't mean that concepts shouldn't be in the artistic toolbox, but if they're going to be there, they should at least have some more substance than that.

So MC, I confronted you about using the term 'religionism' not because I was married to Chris's analogy, but because you made a flip, shallow comment which was indistinguishable from the kinds of comments frequently made by the kinds of people you like to rail against. At least have the grace to acknowledge that just because you have no interest in a topic, that doesn't mean there's no substance to be had from it.



February 7, 2009, 7:45 PM

"The problem is obviously what has been left out of the toolbox."

Dave Hickey said something about the options available to the contemporary artist are a fraction of what was available to Titian "on his worst day."



February 7, 2009, 7:48 PM

Options are abundant, David. Ability, evidently, not so much...



February 7, 2009, 7:53 PM

Dave Hickey said something about the options available to the contemporary artist are a fraction of what was available to Titian "on his worst day."

I just wrote a paper about this that I'm going to deliver at the FATE conference in Portland, OR in April. Conceptualism largely tries to replace freedom of ability with freedom of possibility. Consequently in art we have a situation in which everything is permissible but only the trivial is possible.



February 7, 2009, 7:56 PM

Why not deliver it in Portland AND in April, Franklin? I can't see why the two should be mutually exclusive...



February 7, 2009, 8:01 PM

Nope, can't be done.

>>> "Portland" AND "April"
File "", line 1
"Portland" AND "April"
SyntaxError: invalid syntax


Pretty Lady

February 7, 2009, 8:01 PM

And speak of the devil:

I don’t believe I have the right to an opinion about something I know nothing about—constitutional law, for example, or sailing — a notion that puts me sadly out of step with a growing majority of my countrymen, many of whom may be unable to tell you anything at all about Islam, say, or socialism, or climate change, except that they hate it, are against it, don’t believe in it. Worse still (or more amusing, depending on the day) are those who can tell you, and then offer up a stew of New Age blather, right-wing rant, and bloggers’ speculation that’s so divorced from actual, demonstrable fact, that’s so not true, as the kids would say, that the mind goes numb with wonder. “Way I see it is,” a man in the Tulsa Motel 6 swimming pool told me last summer, “if English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for us.”

Via Sullivan.



February 7, 2009, 8:30 PM

Well, no matter which you choose, Franklin, bring an umbrella... I hear both Portland and April can be rainy...



February 7, 2009, 8:48 PM

Some further random thoughts on the original post:

Hasn't most of the cultural treasure looted by the Nazis been returned by now? As well intentioned as her efforts to save French masterpieces surely was, it seems to me that perhaps those efforts might not have been worth the trouble, in the long run, in hindsight...

Of course, as Bunny pointed out earlier in the thread, Valland "put her own life, and that of those she loved, at serious risk in order to thwart the activities (not just the 'cultural' outrages either)" of the Nazis, but I couldn't help be reminded of Greenberg's words on art and morality:

“No work of art,” he maintained, “is worth a single human life.”



February 7, 2009, 9:00 PM


>>> a = "portland"
>>> b = "april"
>>> a and b
>>> a or b



February 7, 2009, 9:03 PM

In the long run, the sun turns into a red dwarf star. I think the important consideration is what inspired her to risk her safety.



February 7, 2009, 9:13 PM

Franklin, you take really long runs. Me, I have bad knees...

So, she was inspired to risk her life because she cared so much about the art, and she cared so much about it because the work allowed her to care so much about it, by its inherent value.. and without that inherent value, it is impossible for people to care too much about art.

Sounds a bit Frankfurtian, to me...

(Sweet Thor, how I love sitting around on Saturday, drinking beer, typitty typing... all praise to your mighty hammer!)



February 7, 2009, 9:14 PM

p.s I believe the politically correct term is "Native American Midget" star...



February 7, 2009, 9:17 PM

p.p.s. In hindsight (from my time machine) I think we should get the hell off this dying planet, PDQ...


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 9:28 PM

I do think Valland was nuts. That might be okay, though. But as I wrote in the thread following the original log post on Valland: She saved all that art from, what? Hanging on a different wall? If the Nazis were carting the paintings off to be burned, the sacrifice makes a lot more sense. Just thwarting the Nazis, I guess, was a worthwhile goal. And making sure the art didn't disappear into private collections so it could be returned to the rightful owners, I guess that's really good. But from the perspective of the art itself, and from the view of the Arts, as it were, it wasn't a good trade, if she'd been caught.

I think taking a stand on principle is wonderful. Nuts, but wonderful. Wonderfully nuts. What this has to do with art as such is beyond me.



February 7, 2009, 9:31 PM

911 hijackers took a stand on principle, Chris. Nuts, not so wonderful...


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 9:32 PM

PL sez:
It's about depth. It's easy to dismiss something you know nothing about, and to feel clever by doing so; it's much more difficult to actually delve into the topic and consider the history, the paradigms and the modes of thinking about it that have already been put forth, not to mention the empirical experience of the people who have devoted their lives to a certain practice.

There's also the simple fact that some of the most intelligent, learned people on the planet have devoted their lives to studying religion. To think you -- no matter how incredibly smart you may be -- can wander in and demolish the whole thing with one pithy thought is absurd in the utmost.

I may not be Christian. I may not believe organized religion in general. But I'm not going to dismiss it easily, off the cuff, simply saying it's something for the ignorant. Far too many really, really smart people have spent too much time on it for it to be insane.



February 7, 2009, 9:36 PM

Or, in other words:

"1.8 Billion Muslim's Can't Be Wrong!"



February 7, 2009, 9:36 PM

Damn grocer's apostrophe...



February 7, 2009, 9:41 PM

Seriously though, Chris.. good point.

Risking murder to prevent theft is kind of a bizarre concept...

Ok, that's it, I'm out for now....


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 9:45 PM

Well, I mean, not so much 1.8 billion people can't be wrong. I imagine they can. More like, they could be wrong, but I'm not going to even understand how they might be without spending a lot of time working on it.


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 9:49 PM

Oh, David: I'm not an Absurdist when I paint.



February 7, 2009, 9:50 PM

Yes, the question of whether Muhammad REALLY ascended to heaven on a horse is a puzzler...

Ok, seriously.. I'm out... it's my 1st wedding anniversary today, and my wife would be a bit peeved if the had to go to dinner alone... women, eh?


Chris Rywalt

February 7, 2009, 9:55 PM

Since you're feeling so literal, MC, I should warn you that if your new wife offers to give you head, Holofernes will not be involved.



February 7, 2009, 10:13 PM

"Oh, David: I'm not an Absurdist when I paint."

Yes, I was wondering. Well I'm sure there's more than one concept under your hood Chris.



February 8, 2009, 1:50 AM

But, Holofernes is what I call my wang...



February 8, 2009, 7:30 AM

I don't think anyone could say for sure at the time that prime selections of French art weren't going to end up decorating the Fürher's Speer-designed palace in Munich, which any proud Frenchman would have found impossible to tolerate. Back in the day they were talking about the Reich lasting a thousand years. We speak of Impressionism, for instance, as quintessentially French, the sublime product of cultured leisure and unbridled love of beauty. To watch those thugs try to make off with it would have been, sorry, galling. Yes, we could argue for the value of life over art, but a straightforward situation confronted Valland. She saw iniquities happening in front of her, she acted valiantly to thwart them, and she won. Brava.



February 8, 2009, 7:56 AM

Actually, religion provides a germane example for comparison. Among writers critiquing religion, we have Christopher Hitchens, who has produced thousands of erudite, well-argued, often entertaining pages on the subject. Among artists, we have what, this guy? We might say that both of them are critiquing religion, but with Montoya we pretty much have to end there, while Hitchens has done the heavy intellectual lifting that will help us understand, in detail, the shortcomings of religion and the weightiest arguments against it.

Indeed, we should prefer true arguments, not complex ones, when they exclude each other. But certain propositions have endured severe testing over a great length of time and consequently have a great depth of discussion beneath them. Hitchens knows this and argues accordingly. Even he insists that atheist or not, literate persons should read the Bible.



February 8, 2009, 9:28 AM

"Native American Vertically Challenged Space-based Luminary"" is how I read it, MC.

We have to get these things right.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 9:51 AM

Actually, I tend to think even Hitchens is in over his head. He's a smart guy, but I don't think he's more than scratched the surface of religious thought across the ages.

One of the things I liked about Greenberg's Homemade Esthetics is that he kept going back to Kant. It was clear he'd read Kant, understood him as well as anyone (which is pretty impressive on its own; but then, Greenberg read German, which makes it easier), and used him as a touchstone in his own work.

Since Kant had, of course, gone over everything preceding him, in a sense with Kant you get the previous couple of thousand years of philosophy. So Greenberg was working with the entire field. And he'd read a lot beyond Kant in both temporal directions. That's the kind of wide-ranging scholarship I respect.

It's so far beyond the capability of most artists I've met. Which is not to say that disqualifies them as artists; of course being able to paint well or create sublime esthetic experiences may have nothing to do with scholarship. It's just that, insofar as a work has scholastic underpinning, it's usually really dopey.

I mean, check out this piece I did when I was a callow youth. It's sophisticated, right? I mean, I needed to know about the Surrealist show in 1923, have a working knowledge of (a very early version of) Photoshop, a familiarity with the comic book word balloon idiom, and a feel for contemporary dadaism and irony.

Yeah, okay. It's a stupid joke I tossed off. I spent the most time on getting the "paper" to look folded. (It's almost exactly ten years since I made that dopey thing. Wow.)

It's fine that the art world have its share of tossed-off jokes. Play is a good thing, and a playful art exhibit is fine. Maybe it seems wasteful, but really, it's okay -- think of the economic stimulus and the paltry amount wasted on the NEA. Sure it's a waste, but in the scheme of things, it's minuscule.

What bugs me is the unwillingness to admit they're just fucking around. If you're just fucking around, then take the criticism and shrug it off. Don't get upset, don't get shrill, don't curse at people. Because it's just not that important.

It seems to me you really have three choices of which I'd approve: Admit that you're being dopey; skip the concepts altogether; or get in there and really learn. Instead we have a bunch of self-serious people getting all mad when we call them on their bullshit.

That's what bugs me.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 9:57 AM

Franklin sez:
She saw iniquities happening in front of her, she acted valiantly to thwart them, and she won. Brava.

I tend to read stories on multiple levels at once. So while I'm thinking just like Greenberg, "No work of art is worth a single human life," I'm also thinking just as you are, Franklin. Valland did the right thing, regardless of consequence, and I do think that's wonderful. Robert Anton Wilson once wrote that the only truly inalienable human right is the right to say no and take the consequences, and I truly think more of us should exercise that right more often.

What I guess I'm not willing to do is extend Valland's aura to cover the art work she saved. Just because she was willing to risk her life for it doesn't mean the art itself was worth it. The principle was worth it, the symbolic meaning of her act itself was worth it, the importance of undermining evil in whatever way you can, yes, all great. Doesn't mean the art was any good.


Bunny Smedley

February 8, 2009, 11:02 AM

Heaven only knows what Valland did what she did. (Obviously, those who object to 'heaven' should feel free to substitute Allah, Thor or indeed Christopher Hitchens at this point - we've got enough battles on our hands without that one.)

All I know about Valland's life comes from the link Franklin posted. Certainly, though, one could make the case that what motivated her was less some dedication to Art per se, than some fairly standard resistance theory suggesting that everyone can at least try to make life that much difficult for the occupying regime by putting up obstacles in its way in whatever field of endeavour one can - in other words, that just as e.g. sabotaging an electricity sub-station, or quietly unbolting some railway points, might be appropriate resistance gestures for electric workers or railwaymen, the opportunities that presented themselves to Valland (and that she seized with such bravery and persistence) were art-related ones.

This isn't to undermine Franklin's point that the German thefts of art would have had great symbolic value, and thus great morale-raising benefits, for the Nazi regime. Of course they would, and by helping to deprive them of that sort of morale-boost, doubtless Valland's contribution to the war effort was a significant one. All I'm trying to do - and this comes back to why I found Edward's original comparison marginally offensive - is to suggest that there was rather more at stake in Valland's bravery than a mere [sic] commitment to Art.

No painting is worth a single human life - but standing up for La Patrie, or indeed frustrating Nazi goals, may well have been - at any rate, it seems possible to me that those were the terms in which Valland framed her decision to help the Resistance in the way that she did.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 11:11 AM



Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 11:43 AM

Although the question that occurs to me is, if you had these thoughts, Bunny, why didn't you post them on Ed's site? Because, you know, it got really enervating to be the lone voice in the wilderness over there. (Note past tense -- I'm not going back.) I knew that Pretty Lady and Franklin were out there rooting for me, and Franklin would wade in, but where was everyone else?

Part of why people like Ed can appear to be bulletproof is not enough people are shooting at them. "The best lack all conviction" and all.


Bunny Smedley

February 8, 2009, 11:49 AM

The honest answer, Chris, is that the whole comparison struck me as so grotesque that I really had a big problem about engaging with it at all, while at the same time, there's probably a practical point about life being too short to show up on someone else's well-established, in many ways very successful site and launch into a mega-rant about how basically wrong the whole basis of a post so clearly is. The best may lack conviction - personally, I lack energy, free time and the psychological robustness to hack that sort of thing. Not great, but that's just how it is.

(That doesn't mean I don't rather admire others for doing everything that I'm too lazy or spineless to do, though!)


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 12:09 PM

Not to pick on you personally, Bunny. Obviously we all have our priorities, and if mine, for a little while, involved jumping up and down like a crazy person on a hostile blog, well, that's my stupidity.

I do wish sometimes that the silent ones would speak up, though. Even on my own blog. Especially on my own. I want people who disagree to come in and let me know. I really want to be criticized -- it makes me better. Instead I get a couple of chuckleheads who remind me of nothing so much as the two agents of Lucifer leaning against each other and wobbling around in Lewis' That Hideous Strength.



February 8, 2009, 12:19 PM

Chris, no one has any obligation to interact with people one neither likes nor respects, especially when there's no benefit to be had from it. However good your intentions, your judgment was faulty. You knew, or should have known, who and what you were dealing with. The outcome was entirely predictable, and frankly, you asked for it.

As I keep saying, these are not poor, helpless unfortunates who honestly don't know any better. These are not people who are innocently wrong or misguided. Innocence has nothing to do with it. They have their motives and their agenda, and they mean to keep playing their game by its established rules. They're too invested in it to accept, let alone heed, people like you or Franklin. Leave them be.



February 8, 2009, 12:21 PM

I think art is a cultural expression from talented people. It is not worth one human life, and yet it is highly valued for sentimental reasons . I think there is a superficial emphasis on artistic expression though. I think if you are an artist it is just who you are, there is no need to spend hours trying to figure out how to be artistic. It is a natural expression that leaves you happy because you have expressed what you felt. That being said, I think people who are dedicated to art , or anything for that matter, enough to give their life for it are noteworthy.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 12:29 PM

Well, Jack, I never meant to imply any kind of obligation. Just my own vague wishes. I suppose you're right, that I should've known what I was dealing with. But while I often sound very cynical, I am in fact an idealist. Just a tarnished idealist, like most cynics.



February 8, 2009, 1:41 PM

Literate people should read lots of books. The bible is one, but not a very good one. There are many others.

"Heaven only knows" is a widely-established euphemism for 'nobody knows'. The meaning is clear enough.... I doubt anybody around here wants to change a single word of what Bunny writes.

"Actually, I tend to think even Hitchens is in over his head. He's a smart guy, but I don't think he's more than scratched the surface of religious thought across the ages."

There's nothing below that surface, though. "Religious thought" (sic) is skin deep.


"No Winkleman blog-post is worth a single human minute."


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 1:58 PM

Clearly, MC, we just disagree. You're that guy who thinks he can demolish millennia of religious thought because he's so obviously right. Dude, if it was so easy that you could figure it out on your own, we wouldn't even be discussing it now.



February 8, 2009, 2:07 PM

Come on, Chris...

I don't have to try to 'demolish' anything, and obviously, there is no argument here about religion, and nor should there be one (art-blog, remember?). The onus is on those who believe ludicrous things to back them up, not the reverse.

Just as you probably don't feel the need to try to 'demolish' the millennia of magical thought, phsycic thought, astrological thought, bigfoot thought... people are welcome to believe whatever they want, but don't expect me to buy it just because people have believe in it in past centiuries... slavery was pretty popular once, but it hardly takes a genius to know you shouldn't use other people as farm machinery against their will. It doesn't take deep study to realize thet Joseph Smith, or L.Ron Hubbard, or every pope, were all frauds.

Enough with the religious debate. It's pointless. There probably is not god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life.

Moving on, I hope.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 2:28 PM

Well, I've told you what I think about religion already. We're not really arguing about that because we agree on that much.

But Hitchens is a perfect example. Him and Dawson and Bill Maher. Bill Maher made that movie -- I haven't seen it but some of what I have seen is really funny -- where he says, you know, we're taking these people pretty seriously considering they believe in talking snakes.

But I think it's not that easy. E.O. Wilson, who is an atheist, pointed out that while any given religion might not make any sense at all, it's pretty clear that having a religion is really important to humans, and therefore probably has some kind of evolutionary advantage.

As for millennia of Bigfoot thought, hey, they guy who made up Bigfoot only just died, and he admitted it was a hoax. So we don't have to demolish millennia, just a few decades' worth of thought. Much easier. You can demolish Bigfoot thought using Wikipedia. That's a jawbreaker we can suck on, alright.

As far as arguing about religion here on an art blog, I'll argue about anything anywhere if it lets me slip in some good lines like that jawbreaker one. That's a keeper.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 2:30 PM

In other words: I'm not really arguing all that seriously, so I figure it's okay to keep going here, even if it's a tangent. We might entertain some people as we go. Also, it may keep Pretty Lady from showing up and being all serious about how soulless we all are.



February 8, 2009, 2:37 PM

I'm gonna guess you meant Dawkins...

"Religulous" is the name of the Bill Maher movie... it's available free online in full to watch (or was a while back), and I recommend it.

Did I say Bigfoot? I meant Yeti... or maybe it's Sasquatch I'm thinking of...

And, if you want to go on the millennia-of-thought equals accuracy formula, then we should all be Hindu. They've been at it longer than anyone else, I think, so they must have figured it out better than anyone else.

Then again, there are millennia of atheist thought too.. but those guys usually got literally demolished as heretics and witches by the 'learned theologians' of the past...



February 8, 2009, 3:20 PM

I never liked that "no painting worth a life" thing. All it does it make me think of paintings I love and people I would like to see dead.

Obviously religion has evolutionary utility, delusion or not, merely by its omnipresence. I don't feel comfortable being sure about anything I don't understand and which transcends experience.

Look what's happened to scientists, with their black holes and string theory, and, worst of all that idiotic "big bang". Makes me want to go join the Flat Earth Society.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 3:41 PM

No, I meant Dawson. "Top five Darwinists on the board. Survey SAYS!" XXX!

Anyway, I never equated millennia of thought with accuracy.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 3:45 PM

I once looked up what math I'd have to learn to understand string theory. As I went down the list from easiest to hardest, I was like, okay, I know that...okay, I kind of know that...right, I had a class in that, I could probably pick it up, that was really hard...I seem to remember reading about that once, I didn't quite grasp it...I think I've heard of that...what the FUCK is THAT?

And then there were another couple of levels past there. Makes the Jesuits look like morons, I tell you, MORONS. If there's a scale with Feynman at one end, you can't even tell Tara Donovan and Zippy the Pinhead apart at the other.



February 8, 2009, 4:47 PM

"Obviously religion has evolutionary utility, delusion or not, merely by its omnipresence."

The same could be said of art. Of course, for most of our evolution, we did just fine without either religion or art: both are relatively new innovations.

Perhaps the time is coming soon when both may eventually be discarded in the course of our continuing cultural evolution.

No religion is worth a single human life. It's sad that the religious, so often, don't see it that way.



February 8, 2009, 4:58 PM

have you been to the bookstore lately? i think obama mania has reached it's climax. and it may be true that he is more famous than brittany. every other cover has him resting his chin on clenched fist or otherwise it is the kids running through the flowers with mom. i miss paris and bin laden.

but thankfully this week in a distant second, YSL and pierre berge will be giving him a run for THE money. what is being hailed as the single owner sale of the century has also been unable to escape the public's eye and the magazine racks. with the goods going up for sale in a few weeks or so the duo are getting another 5 minutes plus.

while it is evident from this thread that we are going nowhere with religion or politics maybe we can get back to trivial words concerning art.

pierre berge supposedly was the driving force in the aforementioned collection. most of the time pierre would bring a piece forward and just get a confirmation from YSL. but with YSL not around, the interviews will only have one side of this story. thus, for what it is worth, pierre noted that he bought just cubist picassos because they are the only picassos he really liked. he also mentioned that they never bought dali, chagall and balthus. when then asked if these artists were not to his taste, he responded, not at all!! he goes on more about taste and mentions that he much regrets the absence of b. newman. he also comments on certain artists ups and downs and notes that YSL never had any downs.

it also appears that since YSL was good friends with warhol, he thus had the self portraits done, although pierre was not a fan.

there is also interesting commetary concerning the business side of the relationship. YSL was the sole creative force, but quite often he went to pierre for critiques of the yes or no type, but no recommendations. YSL was also often crticized for putting out a variation on the same line for 20 plus years. but they claimed that they did what was good and never put out anythig bad eventhough that meant, yes, putting out the same thing for 20 years. SL thought that changing every year was ridiculous. he created a style and was faithful to a style, but hated fashion. pierre, "people who have more than just talent never change".



February 8, 2009, 5:08 PM

I got Surely You're Joking and What Do You Care What Other People Think? on CD from the library for my long commute to Eastern Connecticut State University two days a week. I'm really looking forward to it. He painted. He played bongos. He was awesome.



February 8, 2009, 5:28 PM

There is such a thing as social evolution, MC. Both have been around for about 30,000 years, enough time to demonstrate something is going on.



February 8, 2009, 5:39 PM

"If there's a scale with Feynman at one end, you can't even tell Tara Donovan and Zippy the Pinhead apart at the other."

I wrote a positive review of the Donovan show you went on about over at Winkleman's. Sorry but you haven't convinced me that I am a worthless idiot who should stop writing art criticism.



February 8, 2009, 6:03 PM

I said as much in my comment, opie... perhaps you missed my point, or paerhaps I'm missing yours?...



February 8, 2009, 6:11 PM


You can add Peter Max to the list of cultural producers hitching their wagons to Obama's star...



February 8, 2009, 7:06 PM

MC, you said "Of course, for most of our evolution, we did just fine without either religion or art: both are relatively new innovations."

If we are talking about social evolution, 30,000 years is just about all of it. If we are talking about evolution from the green slime there isn't much point to the comparison.



February 8, 2009, 7:18 PM

Nonsense. We've been walking upright for some 3 million years already!



February 8, 2009, 7:42 PM

Let's not fight any more. The FSM is all about love, after all.

Back to art: check out the gift I got my wife for our anniversary...


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 7:57 PM

eag sez:
I wrote a positive review of the Donovan show you went on about over at Winkleman's. Sorry but you haven't convinced me that I am a worthless idiot who should stop writing art criticism.

Not at all. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. That why we have vanilla and chocolate: Because vanilla sucks.

No, seriously: Enough people I respect like Donovan for me to not dismiss her out of hand. If it makes you feel better, on that scale you probably can't tell Zippy and me apart, either.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 8:03 PM

I read a Feynman book many years ago -- Surely You're Joking, I think, although I'm not too clear on it -- and really enjoyed it. He was a great man.

I expected, just now, to think his art wasn't that good. But I actually really like his drawings. Dammit. He's better than I am at everything!



February 8, 2009, 8:20 PM

I like vanilla.



February 8, 2009, 8:34 PM

MC that looks like a gen-U-ine Fenton painting. Nice!



February 8, 2009, 8:34 PM

You got her art? Nothing else? No jewelry? I don't know, but I think somebody isn't thinking very clearly. You must have missed the memo, MC.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 8:48 PM

At least he didn't get her a print of poor Holofernes.

I like vanilla too, Eric. I'm only kidding. In fact vanilla is really more exotic than chocolate, when you consider where it comes from.



February 8, 2009, 9:01 PM

I just hope Canadian women make allowances for Canadian men being, well, Canadian. I mean, I suppose they have to, the poor creatures, unless they can get an import. It's a lovely landscape and all, but she can't very well wear it, can she?



February 8, 2009, 9:30 PM

I'm a traditionalist, you see, and the traditional 1st anniversary gift is paper, which is what the picture is painted on, so I figure I'm blameless, from that point of view, at least.

Besides, she sees my Holofernes all the time...

She loves it, by the way.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 9:33 PM

Beware of knives!

Paper is the old first anniversary gift. The cheap one no one wants any more. The modern one, says Wikipedia, is clocks.

So you should have gotten her a Dali print.


Chris Rywalt

February 8, 2009, 10:50 PM

By the way, why do humans believe in impossible things?



February 8, 2009, 11:37 PM

That modernized list is crass, Chris.

And trust me, I could have bought plenty of clocks for what I paid for that piece of paper.

A Dali print, on the other hand, I would consider grounds for divorce.


Chris Rywalt

February 9, 2009, 9:29 AM

Giving a work of art as a gift is absolutely wonderful, MC.


Tim McClure

February 11, 2009, 8:54 PM

To all, very entertaining. I recall a line in a song about the thread being lost. Is that the point here? Where is this going? Shall we open another bottle?



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