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Congratulations to The Artblog

Post #1306 • March 3, 2009, 11:05 AM • 45 Comments

Busy day today, so I'd like congratulate the Fallon and Rosof art blog, now at, on their relaunch, rechristening, and fine work over many years. They were an early inspriration to and I wish them all the best for the future. Now that I'm thinking about it, I believe that among currently produced art blogs, only Tyler Green and Roberta & Libby have been going longer than

In related news, my blogroll is so out of date it's pathetic. I'll add that to the interminable to-do list.




March 3, 2009, 11:19 AM

You have a blogroll?

I got yelled at by the boss the last time I argued with someone over at Fallon and Rosof's blog but boy is their site comprehensive. It must be nice to spend almost all of your waking hours looking at and writing about art.



March 3, 2009, 11:39 AM

Interminable to-do lists indeed.

They are like a chronic disease.

What is a "blogroll"?



March 3, 2009, 11:41 AM

It's this. Warning: sucks.



March 3, 2009, 12:19 PM

A to-do list is where I list all the things that I will never do. The sheer act of placing a task on the list relieves any tension that was irritating me to perform the task. The act of entering it on the list suffices to put it out of sight and out of mind.



March 3, 2009, 1:05 PM

Exactly, John. That's just what I do. Only I keep it around where i can see it and let it irritate me.

The only relief is when I occasionally refer to it and gratefully cross off something that is too late to do anything about.



March 3, 2009, 1:07 PM

If I write it down, I won't forget about it. Unfortunately.



March 3, 2009, 1:36 PM

Okay, I see now why nobody knows who I am.



March 3, 2009, 1:40 PM

That's also my bad. The form shouldn't accept malformed URLs.



March 3, 2009, 2:00 PM

I had in mind more your invisible blogroll.



March 3, 2009, 2:29 PM

You've got Richard Lacayo on your blogroll?

I was just reading these lines of his the other day, in Grace Hartigan's obituary:

"For a time Hartigan also had the support of Clement Greenberg, the all powerful critic whose competition with Harold Rosenberg for influence over American art is the organizing theme of the "Action/Abstraction" show. It was Greenberg who persuaded the Manhattan gallerist Tibor de Nagy to give Hartigan her first solo exhibition in 1952."

... Which ("all powerful" aside) I would think puts the lie to the silly notion propagated in the 'Action/Abstraction" show that Hartigan represented a "blind spot" for the Greenbergster... then I read Lacayo's very next line:

"But for Greenberg the only kind of painting that mattered was resolutely abstract."

Seriously? Lacayo is writing the art page for TIME magazine, and yet clearly he's never read any Greenberg himself, which must be the case to come up with such a doozy...



March 3, 2009, 2:51 PM

MC, if memory serves, Lacayo is a known issue. We've been over him before, as I recall. It makes little difference if what he says is accurate, or even true, as long as it conforms to the currently fashionable perception of Greenberg. He's not after your approval, or mine; he's got other fish to fry.



March 3, 2009, 4:11 PM

"But for Greenberg the only kind of painting that mattered was resolutely abstract."

Exactly the opposite was true, as I have said here before. On a visit to an unfamiliar museum it was always "let's go see the old masters". He often lamented the fact that the best art of his time was abstract. And so forth and so on.

it is part of the armor of any civilized person to be able to determine what is true and what is not true, but the perceptions of Greenberg are so far off as to make it impossible unless you knew the man for 35 years and read just about everything he wrote, as I have.

It is beyond frustrating.



March 3, 2009, 5:09 PM

Supposedly Fairfield Porter started painting figuratively because Greenberg said he couldn't, although that contradicts everything Greenberg wrote about the matter. Sometimes I get the notion to start painting abstractly because people have so badly misunderstood Greenberg.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 6:24 PM

Thanks to EAG I was just reading about Fairfield Porter. Porter says Greenberg said that to de Kooning: "And he once said -- I introduced him to de Kooning -- he was publicizing Pollock and he said to de Kooning (he was painting the Women), 'You can't paint this way nowadays.' And I thought, 'Who the hell is he to say that?' He said, 'you can't paint figuratively today.'"

Aside from that -- which could have been a misunderstanding -- I want to grow up to be Fairfield Porter.

Regarding to-do lists: I keep them around after I've made them up. For years. There are few things quite as depressing as finding a to-do list from five years ago listing all the things you didn't do, which were important at the time, none of which matter a bit today.



March 3, 2009, 6:24 PM

Said he could not, as in not allowed, or cannot, as in incapable?

Either way, very unlikely.



March 3, 2009, 7:01 PM

Then, after the move to Peekskill, he met Clement Greenberg. As Porter recalled it, "We always argued. We always disagreed. Everything that one of us said, the other would say no to it. He told me I was very conceited. I thought my opinions were as good as his or better. And he once said-I introduced him to de Kooning-he was publicizing Pollock and he said to de Kooning (he was painting the Women), 'You can't paint this way nowadays.' And I thought, 'Who the hell is he to say that?' He said, 'you can't paint figuratively today.' " De Kooning's comment on this was "He wanted to be my boss, without pay." Porter's reaction was, "I thought, 'If that's what he says, I think I will do just exactly what he says I can't do! That's all I will do.' I might have become an abstract painter except for that." When Greenberg first came out with his program for the arts in Partisan Review, Porter was prompt to reply in a letter to the editor (1941): "He seems to say in 'Toward a Newer Laocoon' that History justifies the latest fashion. He confuses the arts of painting and history instead of the arts of painting and fiction. I would say that art exists not for history or for fashion, but for men." This exchange prefigured the politics of style in New York painting for the next 30 years. Porter also recalled that Greenberg, who had just become an editor at Partisan Review, asked him to contribute a piece on de Kooning; Greenberg and Dwight MacDonald liked it, but it was turned down by the other editors, and again by the Kenyon Review, this time on the grounds that de Kooning was unknown. This was Porter's, and evidently, the first article written about de Kooning.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 7:11 PM

I didn't pull all that context because I didn't think it was helpful.

I can only imagine that Greenberg meant -- if those are his words -- "You can't paint like this today, no one will accept it." Or maybe "No one will accept it from you." Or maybe "Good lord, Bill, you're terrible. Just stop this crap." Which is what I'd say.

I mean, the one time recently I said "You can't paint like this," that's how I meant it, more like, given today's art world, I can't believe painting in this style would be acceptable. And today is certainly more catholic than Greenberg's time. (I was saying it about work in a ground-floor gallery in Chelsea.)

But then I think that when de Kooning was painting the Women, the Abstract Expressionists hadn't fully broken through, yet, had they? I don't know. Anything I come up with is just trying to make Greenberg consistent, and who knows? No one's really consistent. "Don't try to make me consistent," Bucky Fuller liked to say, "I'm learning all the time."

More than likely Porter just misunderstood, or Greenberg misspoke. If there's anything 20 years on the Internet has taught me, it's that even intelligent, thoughtful, well-meaning people can completely misunderstand each other.



March 3, 2009, 7:15 PM

I have a feeling that if the recollection is accurate that this was what Greenberg meant, Chris. That would be much more typical of him than saying not to paint some way. He never did that.



March 3, 2009, 7:29 PM

Yes, that's the introduction to "Art in Its Own Terms", Porter's collected writings. It's a wonderful piece of writing - one artist writing about another. I've been slowly working my way through the book. I love Porter too Chris. I read the bio,"Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art" a few years ago and he's now regularly in my thoughts. My best friend's mom took classes with him on Long Island. He did write the first review of Dekooning, which I find very revealing. Around the same time, I read Jed Perl's "New Art City",and the Dekooning and Gorky bios. The one I'm missing is Greenberg - I haven't read much of his actual writing, so that should be next after Porter. Opie - can you share anything more about the circumstances of your relationship with Mr. G.?



March 3, 2009, 9:09 PM

If I remember the Irving Sandler lectures I attended as an undergraduate at SUNY Purchase, he pointed out how de Kooning's Women paintings were shocking at the time because the scene was overwhelmingly abstract. Or at the very least, the NY avant garde was painting abstractions. So if Greenberg did say that, he was being pragmatic and not making some absolute staement about what a painter should or should not paint. But contemporary art writers love to see Greenberg in a certain light and reality will not change their lopsided opinions. Also, note how Greenberg tried to get Porter's de Kooning essay published even though the two of them had their differences. Greenberg respected him. That is the kind of thing art world nincompoops will overlook, because Greenberg was the tyranical overload of all things art, blah blah blah.



March 3, 2009, 9:22 PM

Should read:

"If I remember the Irving Sandler lectures I attended as an undergraduate at SUNY Purchase correctly, he pointed out how de Kooning's Women paintings were shocking at the time because the scene was overwhelmingly abstract."



March 3, 2009, 9:28 PM

Yet another fuck up:

tyrannical not tyranical


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 9:38 PM

I thought that was kind of cool, how, although Porter said they always disagreed, they still worked together. I caught that Greenberg wanted to publish the de Kooning essay and thought it was excellent.



March 3, 2009, 9:54 PM

Hard to know what to tell you, David. I met him in 1958 when he came down to Princeton to do the Gauss lectures. My collegues and I pretty quickly knew he was the one to listen to - we had little respect for any of the other art writers, though God knows it was not as bad then as it is now.

We were friendly for all those years & I saw him more often some times and less others. Other people I know had serious trouble with him but when he gave me trouble I just gave it right back to him and he always got over whatever it was.

I always enjoyed talking and arguing with him, and he was amazing in the studio - the very first time he saw my paintings he said a number of things I dismissed as totally wrong that turned out completely right in time, and he just about always called things right with that great eye..

He said "I have an argument with my reputation" several times in conversation, and I can see why. The general misunderstnding of him is deep and universal,
and says a lot more about the art world and the caliber of the people in it than it does about him.



March 3, 2009, 10:06 PM

BTW the shock of de Kooning painting women in the early 50s was quite widespread, more even than that which greeted Barney Newman's "Bauhaus" pictures in his 1950 & 51 shows.

The avant-garde had gone completely abstract in the late '40s and although there was nothing like fame and fortune there was no doubt among the art people in NY that something was brewing big time. Life magazine had had a feature on Pollock and another on abstract painting, Harry Truman had called AE "scrambled eggs" and the collectors who had been buying postwar School of Paris were beginning to hedge their bets.

So when De Kooning - the main man of AE, much more unreservedly admired than Pollock - came out with the "women" after several years of complete abstraction the reaction was extreme. People really felt let down and betrayed.



March 3, 2009, 10:14 PM

Opie, let down and betrayed because the paintings were not "abstract?" I seem to recall discussion among the "AEs" to the effect that, just because they eschewed the anicdotal, they weren't abstractionists at all. Didn't Rothko publicly chafe at the label? Do I have my history mixed up?



March 3, 2009, 10:44 PM

" just because they eschewed the anicdotal, they weren't abstractionists at all."

I don't understand what that means. Wouldn't an abstractionist "eschew the anecdotal"?

Yes, because they had a figure in them. It's not that there wasn't plenty of realist painting around, it was that it was De Kooning doing it.

The chafed at any labels. Rothko and others didn't even like titles. When Alfred Barr asked "what do you call yourselves" at a Club panel De Kooning responded that a label would kill the movement.



March 3, 2009, 11:06 PM

The term "abstract art" has always been tricky and unhelpful to me. I don't know how a painter would make a nonspecific expression. I don't see how it would connect.

Anyway, someone decades ago suggested that, in order to link Mark Rothko to the tradition of Western painting beyond Avery, I should place his works beside Whistler nocturnes, things by Casper David Friedrich and Turner. Made sense to me next to some of the things Rothko wrote.

The Rothkos in the Phillips Collection (only ones that I know of which are properly presented, because they don't allow viewing from a distance) employ color to place the viewer somewhere specific, not unlike a landscape painting, it seems to me. Very complicated, and I don't know whether I've expressed it clearly.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 11:18 PM

Rothko was a big fan of Matisse. I didn't understand that until -- I forget what TV program it was on -- I saw the camera zoom in really closely on a Matisse background, and it looked a lot like a Rothko.



March 3, 2009, 11:50 PM

Wasn't AE the "last chapter" of Western painting? Wasn't it called the New York School because NY is where the boats landed?


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 8:20 AM

Anyone who said it was the last chapter wasn't thinking too clearly. Just the latest.

Although I suppose an argument could be made that following them, the art world exploded in a million directions, so Western painting is done with and now we have Everywhere Painting. That'd probably be skipping over Pop, which was also centered in New York, but Pop was only partly painting anyway, and also, it sucked.

These days you see a ton of Western painting coming out of China. That's a clue, I guess, that the style was never truly Western; or maybe that some Chinese would prefer to dump all their culture in favor of the West. I'm no expert, so I don't know.

Certainly it looks as if everything is a lot more pluralist than it was during the AbEx heyday, and it's been that way since at least the 1980s, maybe even earlier.



March 4, 2009, 8:50 AM

I don't see AE as particularly American painting. More in the European tradition. So that's what I mean: AE being the logical "last chapter" of European painting. It seems that a threadline ended with AE resulting in a void which, for a very large complexity of reasons, hasn't been filled.



March 4, 2009, 9:07 AM

Oh, the void's been filled. With compost. Hence the smell.



March 4, 2009, 9:15 AM

Pluralism goes everywhere and gets nowhere. Too dissolute, no center of gravity, sort of like multiculturalism.


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 9:38 AM

I think threadlines are something one finds after the fact, and we're too close to the past fifty years -- look, Opie's telling us about it because he was there! -- to really see the line. It looks like a straight line from, say, Van Eyck all the way to Jackson Pollock because a lot of the distractions have been cleared away.

Then again, things are different now. People often say that, that the times they're living in are different, but the past hundred years have been really different. The next hundred should be even more so, as culture accelerates. So maybe that's a new feature, that there are no through-lines any more.

But I suspect at some point someone will find the line and everyone will say, ah, yes, it was there all the time.



March 4, 2009, 10:04 AM

In the days of AE, there existed what was left of a comparatively "high" culture, the European tradition. The audience was expected to, and had to, rise to the occasion and level of the culture. The art never pandered to the audience. The popular culture has completely overwhelmed that out of existence. I was recently in an arts magnate school classroom which was dealing in a Beethoven symphony because it was featured in a movie score, reduced, in that context, to the level of a jingle. Pop culture is entertainment, 100% subjective. The terms are "I want it, I don't want it, I like it, I don't like it. All about the entertainee, all about confirming the values of the audience. No challenge for the audience to attain anything beyond themselves. In that kind of arrangement, the audience is the user, and the "artist" (entertainer) is the pusher. I don't see how the real deal can exist in an arrangement like that.



March 4, 2009, 10:22 AM

Chris, I get what you're suggesting, but I don't see why proximity necessarily has to mean lack of clarity.


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 11:42 AM

I think it takes a while for things to settle. For the full history to be brought out, for events to be better understood. For the chaff to be blown away. There's a lot less noise in the signal from the Renaissance, partly because over the years intervening people have "removed" some of it from consideration. You know, like most of the really bad paintings from that time aren't out on the walls, or don't even exist any more. (Franklin and I went through the Sex show at the Met last year and one thing that showed clearly was that there are a lot of really lousy old paintings you don't see very often. They got trotted out for the theme of this show, but are worth displaying for no other reason.)

When you're right in the middle of everything happening it's hard to know what the important stuff is. When you're landing on the beach at Normandy on D-Day, you're focusing on not getting killed. It takes later historians to see how and why the battle was won.



March 4, 2009, 11:51 AM

So are you saying, Chris, that people of the Renaissance couldn't tell the lousy paintings from the good ones? Hmm...
Focusing at Normandy means that everything else gets momentarily suspended, not forgotten.


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 12:51 PM

I think it was hard for the people right there in the middle of the Renaissance to tell for sure which paintings were the really good ones and which ones were merely okay. Partly because the people right there couldn't see all of them at once.

Now, no one person, even today, could see all of them at once. But people-plural can cover all of them, and by choosing which ones to pass on -- recommend to friends, copy, word-of-mouth praise, write about -- bit by bit the best are filtered out from the rest. After years of this process it's possible to come along and see the through-line.

There's some inherent bias in the process, and of course early judgments can direct the course of things later in ways that are, let's say, unfair. Maybe the greatest painter of the Renaissance worked in his parent's basement in Florence, died unknown, and his entire oeuvre burned to ashes in a massive fire set by his great-grandson. I mean, shit happens.

But we work with what we have. The result of this flawed process is that we can look back and have a general, somewhat linear through-line on the Renaissance, which we couldn't have had if we'd been contemporary.

Same thing now, only I think it's magnified. Back then certainly no one could've connected Florentine painting with, say, Japanese silk painting and Chinese watercolors and African woodcarving. Nowadays it's all connected to some degree and therefore even harder to see when you're in the middle of it.



March 4, 2009, 1:22 PM

Of course, Chris. My question is: How can the real thing exist in the present conditions? Who said that, in the USA, art is an underground activity? That person knew what the popular culture does to art. I'm not saying art isn't happening, but it obviously isn't getting a lot of attention for all the reasons I've mentioned. Other ages haven't had to rely on hindsight to bring their artistic achievements to the surface. I wouldn't presume to have the ability to discern whether this is good or bad, but ages and areas with conditions similar to ours were problematic (Multiculturalist Hellas, for instance).



March 4, 2009, 7:17 PM

Creative efforts can only make progress when their participants and audience feel allegiance to a finite set of parameters. The world of books, for instance, is not dominated by people who doubt the importance of words, but something analogous is going on in the art world, which is dominated by people who doubt the importance of the visual. It's hard to know what art of this time is going to be preserved. I think there's going to be a massive churning of reputations over the next few decades.



March 5, 2009, 12:26 AM

I get the gist of what you are saying Franklin. But don't you mean "Creative efforts can only make progress when their participants and audience feel allegiance to ITS BASIC MEDIUM"? The art world of today certainly does feel allegiance to "a finite set of parameters" - they just happen to be at odds with what's fundamental to art, viz., the visual. Eh?

Isn't that why there may be a massive churning of reputations?



March 5, 2009, 10:41 AM

Right, John. I still don't really know what a parameter is.

Allegience to a "medium" of some sort is an absolute prerequisite for any productive activity, not just art.



March 5, 2009, 11:20 AM

I wouldn't contradict that. But it's not just medium, it's style as well. Hence certain genres of literature might progress better than others even though all feel allegiance to words. On the other hand, maybe between medium and style, that about covers it.



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