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Friday roundup, Monday edition

Post #1399 • October 5, 2009, 7:05 AM • 57 Comments

"Yale's censorship is of course very damaging. Not only to academic freedom and freedom of expression but also to those Muslims around the world who want to enjoy the same kind of liberties that we do. Why is this? Well, by legitimizing censorship in the U.S., Yale sends a strong signal to those forces in the Muslim world who use censorship to silence criticism of the powers that be. They also tell Muslim majorities that they can play the offense card to attack religious, ethnic or sexual minorities. I think censoring the cartoons is very discriminating against Muslims because Yale in fact is saying, 'OK, we understand that you are so wild and uncivilized that we apply a different standard to you than we do to everybody else.' If I were a Muslim I'd be very offended by this." FIRE's Adam Kissel interviews Flemming Rose, editor at the Jyllands-Posten.

Untitled, the movie. This promises to lampoon those lampoonable with such veracity that people will be citing it for years to come when discussing the associated players in real life. via

"I'm sure 'care ethics, affective labour' and 'corresponding notions of otherness and the marginal' are gripping subject matter, at least for an undergraduate socio-political thesis. Or for arts funding applications, with which such things may sometimes be confused. But are ruminations on 'affective labour' and 'the politics of otherness' really in demand as themes for a publicly funded city-wide art festival? Is that what punters want, and artists, and taxpayers?" David Thompson wonders.

Art Bum Comix and other drawings by Lawrence Swan.via

"The problem was much more elementary, and for that reason considerably less explicable. Perhaps the most basic requirement for any art exhibition is that it should somehow add up to more than the sum of its parts - the gathered objects somehow coaxed into telling a story, making a case or at least conveying an insight. Insofar as Futurism told any sort of story, however, it was one in which the Italian regional specificity of Marinetti's Futurist movement was swapped for a blandly international smorgasbord including some rather good art that influenced the Italians, some rather weak art influenced by the Italians, and, if one wished to be cynical about it, a few Cubist masterpieces to boost the overall 'oomph' quotient, insofar as the rather dry and esoteric alchemies of analytic Cubism might be said to deliver something so coarse as an 'oomph.'" Bunny Smedley, as far as I'm concerned, is writing the best art criticism anywhere.

The good people at GYST are sponsoring an artist statement workshop in Los Angeles on October 17. Any GYST users out there? I'm intrigued, if a little doubtful that I can get it running on Ubuntu.

"Reports of the art world's demise are greatly exaggerated. That much was clear from the enthused crowds that swarmed through Wynwood during this past season's monthly gallery walks, blithely unaware that the Miami art scene was now supposedly 'dead' - another victim of the economic downturn." Brett Sokol reports.

American Artist magazine and its subsidiary publications have a new mega-site:

Piri Halasz has a new book out. Walter Darby Bannard writes: "The writing is animated and very personal and self-reflective, particularly in the earlier parts, where she just comes right out and says what she is seeing and feeling, giving us a refreshingly open and impartial 'you were there.'"

Ben Towle: How Different Cartoonists Draw Water. via

Department of Skills: Falco Scheffler.




October 5, 2009, 7:32 AM

The Miami art scene was already dead, or at least seriously infirm, before the economic downturn. Zombies, however, don't notice such subtleties.



October 5, 2009, 8:03 AM

LOL jack.

The cartoon controversy is a good thing because it puts PC up against our basic American values, and PC will lose in the long run, visibly and emphatically, I hope.


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 8:48 AM

Franklin, I'm sad to find you don't read my blog. I broke the Untitled story over a month ago!


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 8:57 AM

I'm pretty sure in that video, at about the two minute mark, Falco grows a third arm.

I never got past regular old 3-ball, and I'm not even that good at that. But I felt, going off to college, that juggling was something a college guy should know, so I learned it over the summer. I used it to impress the girl who would become my wife -- 21 years and counting! -- so I guess it was worthwhile.

Freshman year this guy Jay and I used to do a two-man 3-ball in the dorm hallway. It was fun. Very collegiate.



October 5, 2009, 9:04 AM

Thanks for the mention, and the two links. Sorry to see that amazon is no longer discounting the book but its website is worth looking at anyway because of the reviews, and readers can get the book for at least six bucks less at my website. You have a lot of other good stuff in this issue of the blog, too. As opie indicates, the Yale controversy is a clear case of knuckling under to prevailing art world taste---ever since 9/11, really, and more emphatically since Bush invaded Iraq, it's been let's-be-kind-to-Moslems-week on the cultural front. But academic publishers are under the gun. They no longer get the grants and subsidies they used to, so they have to knuckle under to what will sell to their rather special audience--which is not the same audience that makes a best-seller out of Ann Coulter and will shortly propel Sarah Pallin to the top of the lists. Ay me! One goes from the frying pan into the fire.



October 5, 2009, 9:09 AM

What I found most frustrating about that Yale story was how, in every media outlet that covered their cowardice, none of the articles published the images the article referred to. So, Yale won't print the pics in a book about the pics... but then again, CBC, WaPo, NYT, etc. won't publish the pics, even when they write specifically about them, either.



October 5, 2009, 9:50 AM

MC, they're simply afraid of retaliation, and I don't mean the verbal or written kind; I mean the violent, deadly kind. The fear is not without foundation, as everyone knows. Of course, they won't admit to that; they'll try to pass it off as some sort of high-minded understanding of "otherness" or whatever. That won't fool anybody; it only makes them look even worse, but it's expedient and convenient. All too often, that's good enough.



October 5, 2009, 9:56 AM

Anyway, here's a little graphic sweetener for this potpourri:

Yoshitoshi print


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 10:10 AM

Given the West's prevailing attitudes towards Mohammedans over the past few hundred years, a decade or so of Be Nice to Muslims Week wouldn't be the worst thing. The motives are all wrong, of course.

The Yoshitoshi print, Jack, is technically very lovely, but I must admit I have trouble getting past the very different ideals of feminine beauty proffered in this style of art. It's just so far from my own ideal.



October 5, 2009, 10:25 AM

Chris, nobody's asking you to renounce your ideal of feminine beauty, even if you are a vulgar barbarian. Just enjoy the print from a formal standpoint.


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 10:54 AM

I am a barbarian, and uncouth, too. The problem is I have trouble appreciating the formal qualities of the print because the feminine ideal on display is so unlike my own. It gets in the way.

There's a lovely page of scans of other Yoshitoshi prints. Some of these are quite lovely. I especially like the cloudy night sky in this one.



October 5, 2009, 12:21 PM

All right, Chris. I expect you're hopeless, but try this:

Eisho print


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 12:33 PM

I am indeed hopeless. It's part of my charm.

I find your latest offering somewhat lacking in grace and elegance. A little clunky. I like this one from Tomioka Eisen better.



October 5, 2009, 12:54 PM

Clunky? Lacking in grace? Let's just say we have rather different conceptions of, uh, charm.

The Eisen is nice, in a vaguely decadent Meiji era way (which has a charm of its own). The design is very good. These people knew their graphics, and then some.


Bunny Smedley

October 5, 2009, 1:57 PM

Thanks, Franklin - the generous words mean a lot, coming from you.


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 2:09 PM

Franklin, can we start a blog that's just all about how great Bunny is? (I'm sincere in my admiration if not my actual suggestion.)


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 2:12 PM

Jack: Come now. That Eisho print has no beauty to its lines, its details are cluttered, and the tones flat. I'd look for better examples but I came up with Hiroshige, which seems a little unfair, like tossing you in the ring with George Foreman.



October 5, 2009, 3:57 PM

Chris, given the probably congenital nature of your infirmity, I will forbear. Hiroshige would not be apt, anyway; his principal field was landscape, not bijin prints.


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 4:01 PM

I was just looking on that site you linked to for examples of the kind of lines I like. Of course Hiroshige would be a winner.


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 4:03 PM

Aha, bijin is a helpful search term. I like this.


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 4:05 PM

Oh, and I'm totally in love with Beauty in front of Mirror.

Both of these are Utamaro Kitagawa.


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 4:07 PM

The Lovers is fantastic, also. Not sure if that's a painting or a woodblock print, though.



October 5, 2009, 4:20 PM

Your images in 20 and 21 are almost certainly copies, but Utamaro is an unimpeachable choice. The Lovers is indeed superb; it's quite possibly the frontispiece to an album of shunga (erotica), which was typically much less explicit than the prints inside.


Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 5:43 PM

Further research brings me to the word bijinga which takes me to which lists in its gallery (as you can see) "Vintage," "Contemporary," and "Patrick Nagel".

And so I've come full circle in my life. I liked and admired Patrick Nagel's work (in reproduction only, of course) back in the late 1980s.

In keeping with the barbarian theme, the first print on that site that really struck me is a 20th century work from Shimura. I'm so gauche.



October 5, 2009, 6:12 PM

Bijin, in case anyone's wondering, means a beautiful young woman, which in classical Japanese prints is frequently a courtesan.



October 5, 2009, 6:23 PM

Chris, this is a nice copy (made manually with recut wood blocks) of another "Girl Before a Mirror" by Utamaro:



Chris Rywalt

October 5, 2009, 6:34 PM

Of course "beautiful young woman" and "courtesan" are approximately synonymous in all languages. Ba-dum-bump! I'm here all week!

That last one is nice, Jack.



October 5, 2009, 9:25 PM

Chris, I'm all in favor of being kind to Moslems when it's a purely political situation (and when every other religion and people with no religion are being treated exactly the same way). What bugs me is when the politics are used to evaluate the quality of the art or artist. I get very sick of mediocre Moslem artists getting shows in New York when good WASP or Jewish artists are passed over. As to other media not reprinting the cartoons either, I can't speak for all of those publications, and I daresay that in some cases, fear must be the motive, but the Times at least evaluates whether or not something they want to print is in good taste, and they won't print it if they decide it's in bad taste. Did you know they even have an editor whose sole role is to pass judgment on the tastefulness of something they want to print? I learned this last spring, when I was given a tour of their new building.



October 5, 2009, 11:18 PM

Piri, do you take ANYTHING the Times tells you at face value? Moslems, Jews, WASPs... You get very sick of mediocrity? Then I guess you stay sick. The Times evaluates according to taste? Wrong. Agenda.

New York...convoluted relic museum. Have to get out of there to know what's really what.



October 6, 2009, 7:04 AM

Tim, be a gentleman. Piri's a longtime New Yorker, a longtime New York Times reader, a longtime reporter, and has actually gone to have a look at the NYT operation. Her opinion about the Times and "what's really what" deserves better than curt disparagement. She's also a first-time commenter and I'd very much like to have her continued participation.



October 6, 2009, 8:01 AM

The art world is beyond notorious for showcasing, promoting and downright slobbering over work for reasons quite unrelated to the actual quality of the work as such. This is bound to be more blatant in a place like NYC. It is always indefensible and disreputable, certainly from an artistic standpoint, but that's hardly the prime, let alone the only concern for those who traffic in art.


Chris Rywalt

October 6, 2009, 8:27 AM

Piri, we agree pretty much exactly, only you know more about it than I do. I was just thinking, though, that Be Kind to Muslims Week isn't the worst idea of all time. I mean, ultimately I'd like to see Be Kind to Humans Week, possibly spread out for...forever. But I don't expect it to happen any time soon.



October 6, 2009, 9:07 AM

Chris, people, any people, only deserve as much kindness as they show themselves.



October 6, 2009, 9:13 AM

I'm all for kindness to humans, as long as that doesn't require any deference or respect to be shown for their silly, insignificant, and entirely false religious beliefs. Life's too short to waste on bullshit.



October 6, 2009, 10:07 AM

Franklin, yes, my comment was outspoken and not exactly inviting to a first-timer on your site. Apologies, Piri. As another on here mentioned, none of the regulars on here are shrinking violets.



October 6, 2009, 10:16 AM

Tim, I expect Ms. Halasz is more than capable of coping with your supposedly inappropriate comment. I expect she's dealt with considerably worse, and often.



October 6, 2009, 10:23 AM

Thank you, Tim.

And Jack, yes, she probably has. But I would like her to not have to deal with such things here.


Chris Rywalt

October 6, 2009, 10:30 AM

"All the news that's fit to print, 'fit' here being defined as tasteful, not necessarily accurate."



October 6, 2009, 11:24 AM

I agree it will be nice to see Piri commenting regularly and I wouldn't worry about her getting easily offended. She is quite adept at taking & dishing out criticism.

And anyway, Tim was really going after the Times, a very deserving target.

The motto used to be more like "all the news that fits, we print", as MAD magazine put it, but lately it seems to be "all the news that fits our political agenda"



October 6, 2009, 2:15 PM



October 6, 2009, 3:11 PM

I freely confess that I'm not objective about the Times. Look, it's my hometown newspaper, and I'm not objective about my hometown, either (or about my mother or father). I frequently get angry at or irked by the Times, especially the way they deal w. contemporary art, but unlike people who have had little or no experience in writing for the major media, I know there are reasons for what they do, and reasons for when they fail. At the head of the list for why they do what they do are the twin necessities for any publication, circulation and advertising. The Times needs readers, and so they have to print what will attract enough of them so that advertisers will want to reach those readers thru the Times. In the realm of art, the sad fact is that almost all of the sort of people who look at and even buy contemporary art in New York have what I consider lousy taste, so they will only read the Times if the reviewers point them in the direction of the sad kind of art they already like. I don't think the reviewers quite realize this themselves(if they did, they might have to quit, the way I quit Time 40 years ago). But they're nonetheless hired because they very sincerely like the kind of contemporary art that I consider second-rate, nor has this changed over the past 60 years (I did my dissertation on NYC painting in the 40s, and it was the same story then---which explains why nobody remembers the names of the NYTimes reviewers from those days, whereas Greenberg, who knew and praised the good art of those days in the Nation and Partisan Review, is very well remembered indeed). As for the rest of the news of the day w. which the Times concerns itself--political news, foreign news, business news, etc.--- I think the people who work there try very hard to be as fair and accurate as possible, but being human beings and not gods -- moreover human beings working against deadlines--they frequently make mistakes--which they can and do try to correct. I don't know what the story is w. the online edition, but page 2 of the hard-copy edition usually carries a number of corrections. Doubtless there are more errors than in most other newspapers, but then the Times prints a lot more news than most other newspapers, too. And, even in politics and other hard news stories, they have to favor their readership or risk losing readers. As Max Frankel, a former Times executive editor, once wrote, he edited for the home team--the Yankees in the baseball coverage, America in the cold war. One thing that gravels me is that the paper never or rarely gets any credit for trying to be fair, and cover both sides of a story, when the nation is riven w. controversy. What happens instead is that both sides accuse it of favoring the other side. Back in the 60s---as I say in my book--the antiwar protesters complained that the paper was favoring the Johnson administration and promoting the war in Vietnam---while the Administration's supporters accused it of favoring the protesters. Now we have the same thing going on with the healthcare debate. The conservatives who want to defeat health care are accusing "the media" of neglecting to give their objections to it fair play, while the liberals are saying that the country really wants a govt. sponsored option and that "the media" is exaggerating the opposition to it.
Basta! Enuf. I daresay this is more than you ever wanted to read.



October 6, 2009, 3:39 PM

"As for the rest of the news of the day w. which the Times concerns itself--political news, foreign news, business news, etc.--- I think the people who work there try very hard to be as fair and accurate as possible, but being human beings and not gods -- moreover human beings working against deadlines--they frequently make mistakes--which they can and do try to correct."

A baffling statement, to say the least.

You describe a newspaper which has to pander to exist. Most do, sad to say, but the one which allows itself to be touted as the "national newspaper of record" is anything but that.



October 6, 2009, 3:50 PM

I don't see what's baffling about it. Tim, your expertise regarding this subject includes what, exactly?



October 6, 2009, 4:06 PM

Franklin, what expertise does one need? I'm commenting from the standpoint of a reader, a consumer. So much of the reporting of the NYT is so blatantly unfair and inaccurate that it's useless except as an indicator of spin. But, as I mentioned, I'm not singling the NYT out, except inasmuch as it's not even trying to live up to it's reputation any more.



October 6, 2009, 4:18 PM

I might add that I don't buy the notion that newspapers are failing because of the emergence of the internet.


Bunny Smedley

October 6, 2009, 4:52 PM

It's great to see Piri Halasz contributing here.

Heaven knows what is going on with the New York Times - I only read the odd online article these days - but what Piri writes about constraints related to circulation and revenue certainly rings true for the UK 'quality papers'.

There's a book by Nick Davies called 'Flat Earth News', published a couple of years ago, that seems to me to make a similar sort of argument. In particular, the number of actual journalists working for UK papers has shrunk dramatically since 1986. Arts coverage - where 'arts' is defined as something distinct from 'entertainment' of the most demotic sort - is very much an optional extra, one that costs a lot relative to the readership it delivers.

So for every Brian Sewell who somehow manages to maintain a readership while writing self-consciously elitist 3,000 word articles denouncing declining standards, there are plenty of junior staffers with no art-historical background Googling some background info to accompany a photo of Tracey Emin's decolletage.

It's not really the staffers' fault, nor in a sense even the publishers' fault - it's just sort of how the world is right now, in a declining market with frightening cost margins.

I'm actually not being bitter, in other words, when I say that I truly prefer to write - and indeed read - about art on the internet, rather than in a printed newspaper. But then I know I'm part of a niche audience, and I'm okay with that.


Chris Rywalt

October 6, 2009, 5:55 PM

Bunny says:
...plenty of junior staffers with no art-historical background Googling some background info to accompany a photo of Tracey Emin's decolletage.

There's a job for me!

I love, by the way, the fact that Piri, you ended your comment with "Basta!" A true New Yorker. I grew up in Staten Island myself and have lived my whole life in the New York metropolitan area. But we were a Daily News family -- very blue collar.



October 6, 2009, 6:58 PM

It may be that Tim and I are the only two so-called "conservatives" contributing to any art blog anywhere, and in that capacity I would like to respectfully respond to Piri by saying that conservatives in general do not want to "defeat health care".



October 6, 2009, 7:28 PM

Opie, you know where that leads. Don't say you weren't warned.



October 6, 2009, 10:21 PM

I know Jack. I regretted it the minute I sent it.



October 7, 2009, 1:13 AM

Well I'm a liberal and don't find any health care to speak of in the current bills under debate, though I do find some long overdue restrictions on health care insurance practices. So I agree you can be for health care reform but against the current bills.

As far as Piri goes, I am absolutely delighted to have her comments posted here. As a group we make a noble attempt to avoid looking at art as this type versus another type and her track record in this respect is astonishing.

To everyone who is interested in how the world of printed words works, heed her words carefully - and especially read her book. And read From the Mayor's Doorstep. She is one of those rare writers who, the more she writes, the better she gets. There is plenty to digest on her site.



October 7, 2009, 9:34 AM

to piri and all, is it just me or are others having a problem opening the "new sept 2009" on the mayor's doorstep page?


Chris Rywalt

October 7, 2009, 10:15 AM

It opens for me, and all there is is an announcement that Piri will be giving a talk two days ago.



October 7, 2009, 11:07 AM

I have no problem opening it, and I have problems with everything computerwise. Try rebooting.



October 7, 2009, 11:18 AM

No problem opening it here. I got the announcement.



October 7, 2009, 7:34 PM

God bless all you nice people trying to open my September issue. Normally my first issue of the season is October 15, but I wanted to get the word out about my talk so I inserted that little placeholder. I have another talk scheduled for reasons beyond my control on October 15 so am currently planning to put the October 15 issue online around October 31. That is assuming I am able to write with both hands by then. At the moment my left arm is in a sling due to a fall in the street that may or may not have broken my elbow. I am pecking this out w. the forefinger of my right hand(which is not as hard as it sounds, just time-consuming).



October 7, 2009, 9:45 PM

PS. thank you John for those kind words and thank you all but especially Franklin for quoting me and being so hospiable.



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