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Bloody Do-Gooder Roundup

Post #1403 • October 13, 2009, 11:18 AM • 38 Comments

"The greatest cartoonists ever have really been very mediocre artists. Charles Schulz was always quick to admit that his skills in artistry were limited at best. And in his case it served the strip perfectly. If 'Peanuts' had been drawn with the artistry of 'Pogo' and a Disney animator, it wouldn't have worked." Berke Breathed, who has a new book out.

Brian: There's no pleasing some people. Ex-Leper: That's just what Jesus said, sir! UPDATE: Tom Tomorrow explains.

I knew it: "Juggling boosts the connections between different parts of the brain by tweaking the architecture of the brain's 'white matter' – a finding that could lead to new therapies for people with brain injuries." via

Is the Mona Lisa a hybrid of low and high spatial frequency content? via

Milton Glaser on drawing, while drawing.

what a beautiful day

Department of Skills: Juggling. It's what your white matter craves.




October 13, 2009, 10:43 AM

Breathed is projecting.



October 13, 2009, 10:50 AM

Too, Schultz was comparing himself to Andrew Wyeth, not Walt Kelly.


Chris Rywalt

October 13, 2009, 10:58 AM

I read the first volume of the collected Peanuts strips and was surprised to hear Schultz was a major perfectionist. Before Peanuts he taught a course in pen & ink techniques, practicing and then grading a series of different stroke styles. Later when his hand started to shake, making all his lines wavy, he didn't like it but couldn't help it. Other artists working with him on greeting card designs and animation and whatnot would ask him how he got such great wavy lines and it made him sad.

Breathed sure is projecting. Since the death of Bloom County his work has gotten worse and worse, and his coloring is atrocious. Compare his drawing to someone like Bill Watterson and it's just no contest.

At least Garry Trudeau took some time off to learn how to draw (or maybe hire someone who could draw, I'm not sure).


Chris Rywalt

October 13, 2009, 11:03 AM

Good for Mr. Glaser (creator of the I Love New York logo, for those who don't know) being able to lecture and draw at the same time; I'm not sure I could do the same.



October 13, 2009, 6:28 PM

I like the painting on this pot:

Kyoto 1
Kyoto 2
Kyoto 3
Kyoto 4


Chris Rywalt

October 13, 2009, 7:19 PM

Yeah, looks a lot like Charlie Brown's head.



October 13, 2009, 7:47 PM

Just for that, Chris, here are two more:

nezumi Shino 1
nezumi Shino 2

beni Shino 1
beni Shino 2
beni Shino 3


Chris Rywalt

October 14, 2009, 7:13 AM

This blog is going to pot.



October 14, 2009, 7:15 AM

Chris, you're projecting.



October 14, 2009, 7:28 AM

Is that what the kids are calling it these days?


Chris Rywalt

October 14, 2009, 7:41 AM

Perhaps, WWC, Jack needs an intervention.

Back on track: I just read the Tyler Green column Franklin linked to along with that other stuff. Now I get the title of the post!

The column strikes me as one of those "What do I write about today?" columns you get from someone on deadline (even if it's a self-imposed one). It's why I don't try to write on schedule. (That and I'm no good at it.) It doesn't sound as if his heart is really in it.

Which doesn't excuse his sounding like a dope. "Instead of congratulating ourselves that the Obamas are art people, we should be demanding that the White House innovate, that it create new, progressive federal arts policies and initiatives." Really? Seriously? I understand that everyone has their niche, their pet project, the one tiny little thing they're interested in to the exclusion of all else, and that apparently American politics is all about screeching at your elected officials about it ad nauseum. "Federal subsidies for parrot breeders!" "Regulate the cross-stitching industry!" "When are we going to see cabinet-level posts being filled by transgendered gay little people with achromatopsia?"

But shouldn't we consider that maybe, just maybe, the White House has more important things to handle at the moment than federal arts policy? Two wars, the collapse of capitalism, a suddenly all-consuming health care debate, Glenn Beck -- maybe we can shelve handing out pennies to government-approved crappy artists for a bit. Get back to it later, maybe.

One thing I find interesting about all this: The President gets to pick out his own personal gallery of art from the holdings of major museums? Now that's a job perk! I don't think I've ever had a desire to be President, but if executive privilege means hanging a Rothko, a Morandi, and an Albers in my house, I want in!



October 14, 2009, 8:30 AM

No, Chris, I need an all-expense paid trip to Japan. And you need to address your underpants issue.



October 14, 2009, 8:35 AM

Oh, and newsflash for Mr. Green: Ever hear of PR? Especially when any politician is involved? Look into it, and then get back to me. On second thought, don't get back to me. Sheesh.


Chris Rywalt

October 14, 2009, 9:02 AM

If anything issues from my underpants, you don't want to know about it.

I can hear Franklin screaming again.



October 14, 2009, 9:15 AM

Franklin doesn't scream. He simply fumes inscrutably. It's Zen, you know.



October 14, 2009, 7:58 PM

Chris Rywalt, who is occasionally of some (albeit limited) use, has a distressing new post at his site (follow his ubiquitous url link). It concerns (groan) a show of new "blue" paintings by Damien Hirst (apparently actually painted by him this time, though I have my doubts). That, in and of itself, is bad enough, but of no real consequence. In other words, shit happens.

The real issue is the venue and the context. The show is at the Wallace Collection, London's version of the Frick in NYC. According to the official blurb, this show is: a series of paintings that, in the artist’s words are “deeply connected to the past"...In contrast to the white walls of a contemporary gallery, Hirst has opted to present these works in a classical environment, in the context of Old Master paintings in the great European tradition. His works engage in a dramatic visual dialogue with the works of art displayed in the adjacent sumptuous rooms.

In other words, the Wallace people have either lost their minds or they're closet whores. Hirst, of course, will put on his patented dog-and-pony media and PR show, the media will play along, and the Wallace will get attention--but then again, so does roadkill. I have been to the Wallace, and this show is an appalling stunt showing atrocious judgment, let alone taste.

As I said on Chris's blog, where I go slumming on occasion, this is like an elderly matron dressing up like Madonna in her Like a Virgin phase in order to be "relevant." It is truly, deeply sad.



October 14, 2009, 9:10 PM

In a way, the more of this kind of thing the better, on both sides of the pond, because there's a tipping point to everything.



October 15, 2009, 7:14 AM

Tim, I think the tipping point was reached and exceeded quite some time ago, it's just that the system didn't notice and/or didn't care. All that matters, really, is that the money hold up sufficiently. As long as that's the case, nothing much will change, except for the worse. As I've said before, the problem is not people like Hirst; it's people who enable people like Hirst.



October 15, 2009, 8:22 AM

Jack is probably right about the money people who enable low quality artists but my Irish half has an imagination that easily wanders off the rational path.

For instance, the recent "populist" art circus in Grand Rapids sent a shiver down the spines of the "serious" in-crowd, one of whom said "there are no $250,000 artists here". Of course, that statement was wrong, there WAS one. And a $100,000 artist, and a $50,000 artist.

This thing involved only $449,000, which isn't that much compared to what gets spent on art these days, but apparently was plenty sufficient to put some fear into art establishment types, including wanna be insiders. A "critique" of the 10 winners conducted at the GR contemporary art institute - a place dedicated to trend following by those who have not been admitted to the mainstream - was completely venomous, according to a friend who attended. And the poison was heaped directly on those among the 10 winners who dared to attend. It was so nasty that my friend, who did not win anything herself, wanted to say positive things for the sake of balance, if nothing else, but was thoroughly intimidated by the herd's raw negativity thinly cloaked in objectivity and intellectualism. So she left. (I am always amazed that those who are not and never will be admitted to the central bank get so pissed off at anyone who does not engage in their kind of futile worship.)

Now the meandering Irish half of my brain thinks: how can we get some of the money that floats in the art system to attach itself to our kind of art? While my German half will be the first to admit that such thoughts amount to hallucinations, they still seem like practical hallucinations. There are a few beachheads here and there occupied by artists who still care about visualness - Stella and Ruscha at the top of the feeding chain, Ed Moses, Ken Noland, Jules Olitski and others further down.

Rather than complain about the money, maybe we ought to concentrate on how to re-vector it. A 30-0-6 bullet can be seriously deflected by an 1/8 inch twig.



October 15, 2009, 8:38 AM

how can we get some of the money that floats in the art system to attach itself to our kind of art?

This is exactly the right line of questioning. Cursing the darkness may be cathartic, but it might take much less effort than anyone expects to make a real difference.



October 15, 2009, 9:05 AM

"Rather than complain about the money, maybe we ought to concentrate on how to re-vector it."

John, money does not spend itself. The problem is the people who have the money and how they choose to spend it (or not) in an art context. This is ultimately, as Opie has repeatedly noted, a psychological/sociological (or anthropological) problem, not a financial or commercial one. In other words, these people need therapy and/or medication; a twig is not gonna do it.



October 15, 2009, 9:10 AM

Perhaps a revolt by a few collectors. David Mirvish in Toronto seems to know some who don't settle for basketballs stuffed into aquariums.

It would be to his and their advantage to push our kind of art higher up the feeding chain. The way to accomplish this is NOT to promote the currently accepted crop of "color field" poster children, but to promote new, living artists that the collectors have never heard of, and that don't require the sums of money that even the semi-blue-chip artists command.

Market wise, there is a place for the $10,000 to $15,000 picture. That's enough to suggest it is "real serious" art, yet low enough to inspire the "investment" instinct of not quite wealthy enough would be collectors.

That price point could open up a new segment of the market to original pictures that now must be satisfied with prints by the same old same old. (Actually, maybe even more than I imagine - some Ruscha prints go for over $50,000 ... god knows what the bluest of the blue chips command.)

Seriously visual art is so obscured that its appearance in the mainstream would look like a fresh, new development, if played right. The NYT ran an article on the GR art circus. What would they do if a tightly organized purely hedonistic (eye candy) show of good painting appeared in an established gallery and sold? According to a socio-economist I follow, great recessions and/or depressions inspire a large portion of the population to embrace hedonism, even though the opposition to it also intensifies.



October 15, 2009, 9:17 AM

Jack, most of these people are followers. The right twig can certainly do the job. From their point of view we are the ones in need of therapy for they are in the majority and act as a group. We are the outliers who have not been successful, not them.

They just need the path they were born to follow bent our way.



October 15, 2009, 9:19 AM

I'm reminded, aptly or not, of a Mel Brooks line in a movie where he played Louis XVI:

Minister: "Your Majesty, the people are revolting"

King: "You said it. They stink on ice."



October 15, 2009, 9:31 AM

Well, John, you may have a point, but I'm afraid things are too far gone, and there are too many dysfunctional collectors (i.e., rich idiots) involved. The system itself, meaning the ostensible connoisseurs (never mind the dealers), the supposedly disinterested (ha!) institutional, curatorial and critical types, is quite corrupt (and therefore corrupting). It's very bleak, unless the money simply stops flowing or at least diminishes sufficiently.



October 15, 2009, 9:45 AM

"basketballs stuffed into aquariums"

Funny you should mention that. It's one of my most vivid memories from a visit to the personal museum of arguably the most major of Miami collectors. It's a toss-up between that and the vacuum cleaners mounted on a wall, as I recall. The consolation prize would have to go to, but of course, a Damien Hirst pharmaceutical or medical cabinet. These people are so fearless it's scary.



October 15, 2009, 9:51 AM

Jack, Goliath and Achilles were also fearless (and feared).


Chris Rywalt

October 15, 2009, 10:01 AM

"occasionally of some (albeit limited) use" -- be still my beating heart! Jack LOVES me!

Incidentally, the name of the Frick comes from the phrase, "I forgot Fifth Avenue runs downtown! I need to get uptown! Frick!"



October 15, 2009, 10:03 AM

John, I think you missed my somewhat inside jab. A few years back, the collectors in question put out a book on their collection entitled Not Afraid, if you catch my drift.


Chris Rywalt

October 15, 2009, 10:15 AM

I'm partway through reading the book someone -- was it Tim? -- suggested to me a few posts back, The $12 Million Stuffed Shark by Don Thompson. It's a good read as a look at the art world through the eyes of a Canadian economist. I kind of wish he'd hide his obvious contempt a little better -- it comes off in spots as less objective and more, well, like we sound here -- but he's done his research. I haven't learned anything exactly new but Thompson's rearranged my knowledge into a more coherent pattern.

I haven't finished it yet, as I said, but it seems that his explanation for Damien Hirst et al. boils down to: Wealthy people buy art as a status symbol. They're too busy to really look at all the goods out there, so they trust brand names, like Audemars Piguet watches or Luis Vuitton handbags or Larry Gagosian artwork. A small number of art dealers are brand names. They deal in a small number of artists who are brand names.

So the way to break into this system is basically to have a wealthy backer who can turn you into a branded dealer, or (as an artist) to get noticed by a branded dealer as an artist they can brand.

You will not break into the system by running an art raffle or even by winning one. I'm sure that painter greatly welcomed the $250,000 prize but it's not going to turn him into Damien Hirst.



October 15, 2009, 12:01 PM

Chris, I didn't recommend the book, but Thompson's idea confirms my experience with collectors around D/FW and other places (Calif. for instance.). I mentioned the Ratchofsky house a few days ago on here. The building, a short bike ride from where I sit (Google Ratchofsky house for pictures) is a fine one of Richard Meier's. Meier is a branded architect (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, etc.) The Rachofsky collection it houses is made up of branded artists. But the serene elegance and dignity of Meier's architecture has no relationship with the stupid work in the collection. I've wondered if the Rachofskys are aware of that. It seems to say that they just went for brands but couldn't or didn't bother to discern the quality of the architecture and the emptiness of the art.



October 15, 2009, 12:35 PM

Misspell: Rachofsky rather than Ratchofsky.


Chris Rywalt

October 15, 2009, 12:48 PM

Sorry about the misattribution, Tim. It was someone calling themselves "the HAJ" over at a post on my site.



October 15, 2009, 1:22 PM

Chris, no self-promotion, please. Leave that to the pros, like Mr. Hirst.


Chris Rywalt

October 15, 2009, 6:16 PM

Hey, John, about getting some of that money over to the artists we think deserve it: I just read an interesting line from Barbara Ehrenreich. She says (in an article on Salon entirely unrelated to art), "It's an old story: If you want to sell something, first find the terrible affliction that it cures."

So all we need to do is commission a scientific study to conclude that looking at drawings and paintings of naked women (for me and Franklin) or abstract color paintings (for you and Darby) cures depression, attention deficit disorder, autism, micromastia, and maybe achromatopsia, and we'll be set for life!

If we like Tim that day we can commission something on stained glass, too. Jack, I'm afraid we can't help with your pot addiction.



October 15, 2009, 6:41 PM

Well, Chris, the obvious answer to pot addiction is more pots. Duh.



October 16, 2009, 12:24 PM

Chris, I yield up my charms gradually, some would say almost inperceptibly. But in time the very idea of my absense on here will itself have become a terrible affliction.


Chris Rywalt

October 16, 2009, 1:04 PM

You had me at "affliction".



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