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I labor under no illusions
Post #1432 • December 15, 2009, 11:49 AM • 73 Comments
Joanne Mattera has coverage of the art blogger panel at Art Miami this year.
December 15, 2009, 2:36 PM
I have to admit to feeling slighted whenever I hear of another panel featuring Paddy and Hrag and Joanne and, most importantly, not me. Even among the misfits, I'm a misfit.
You too, Franklin, I guess. Unless you were invited and turned them down.
December 15, 2009, 5:28 PM
Chris, there's always an in-crowd, a clique or a mutually congenial group from which those who don't belong (for whatever reason/s) are typically left out. No surprise there.
December 15, 2009, 5:57 PM
I labor under no illusions of in-group status either. (Although Roberta and Libby didn't even know I was blogging.)
December 15, 2009, 7:05 PM
I was invited to exactly one in-group art bloggers event, a party at Ed Winkleman's gallery. I met a bunch of art bloggers there -- Paddy, Barry, Tyler, I think, a few others. I'd barely begun writing on art. I can't imagine that I said anything to insult or alienate anyone at that point; I don't remember really talking much at all, because Ed's gallery at the time (he just moved, I think, but it probably won't be better) was really horrible for conversation, with its concrete ceilings and floors and enamel paint causing the slightest sound to bounce endlessly. I have a hearing problem on top of that which makes it pretty much impossible for me to hear people speak at parties, so I remember mostly wandering around like a dopey deaf-mute, smiling like an idiot. And how could that piss anyone off?
For whatever reason, I was never invited to anything else related to art blogs again. I am persona non grata. Which is okay, I guess. I don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member anyhow. Still, I feel mildly slighted. I'd like to be given the chance to say, "Miami? No way am I going to Miami!"
December 15, 2009, 7:18 PM
Chris, your behavior at that gathering may not have helped you, but I doubt it hurt you. The opinions expressed by you in your blog are much more likely to be the problem. You're not sufficiently, uh, open-minded, or at least equivocal (though equivocal probably wouldn't be enough to get you in, given that officially-sanctioned or standard-issue "open-mindedness" is readily available, and thus taken as a minimum basic requirement for being co-opted into the club).
December 15, 2009, 9:07 PM
Oh, no, you're right, Jack. My later blog posts are more than enough to disqualify me from ever being invited anywhere art blogger-related again, especially the past few where I've just attacked people for no good reason. What I don't understand is why I stopped being invited way back when. It turned out to be the right decision on their part -- by now they'd be throwing canapes at me, if art blogger parties had canapes -- but I don't know how they could tell I'd turn into a jerk.
That said, Joanne Mattera seems to like me. She kissed me hello last time I saw her and she responds favorably when I write to her. I get an aunt-like vibe from her, like I'm some wayward nephew and she doesn't understand why I'm always hurting myself, but that's understandable.
For everyone else, I'm beneath notice.
December 15, 2009, 9:27 PM
Well, I expect you weren't sufficiently eager, earnest and overt about being correct. You may not have said the wrong things back then, but you evidently didn't say the right ones, at least not convincingly enough. In certain systems, it's not enough to offer no opposition; you're expected to actively support the party line, or else be seen as suspect and unreliable.
As for being beneath their notice, your situation is different from mine, so maybe said notice matters to you, but I don't have that issue. My problem is that most (if not all) the players in the official art establishment are beneath my notice, which kind of sucks--it leaves me very little to work with.
December 15, 2009, 9:58 PM
Here's the thing, Jack: I want to belong and be respected. Somewhere. I think most people do. It's a very human thing. Of course I don't need or want to belong with or be respected by people whom I do not respect. So for the most part it doesn't matter to me that these people don't even notice that I exist. I don't really care about them.
That said, part of me wants everyone to love me. I understand that this is impossible and in fact not even desirable. But that part still feels what it feels. So although I don't care what these people think of me, because I don't respect them, that part of me is sad when I don't get invited to their parties.
I've never been very good at belonging to anything. It's just not in me. I'm not sure why. I used to think it was a virtue but now I feel it's just how I am, good or bad.
I do appreciate when the regulars here on Artblog respond positively to me. Even when they argue with me. I respect a lot of them and their approval has meaning for me.
I've always tried to hang out with people who were better than I am -- smarter, quicker, sharper, more knowledgeable. That way I can work up to them.
December 15, 2009, 10:00 PM
I should add that in the art world it's hard to find those kind of people.
December 15, 2009, 10:10 PM
You more or less beat me to it. If the only way to be "in" is to adulterate yourself to conform, and it is, then "membership" wouldn't work for you anyway (unless you were an opportunist who didn't care what means you had to use to get what you wanted).
December 15, 2009, 10:39 PM
Anyway, here's a pot:
It's porcelain decorated in underglaze blue, also known as sometsuke ware.
December 15, 2009, 10:46 PM
Something a bit more austere:
It's vaguely Cubist, or maybe geometric abstraction.
December 15, 2009, 11:25 PM
Birds of a feather flock together. After all,they only have one feather between them.
Franklin, they must know about this blog, and the only possible reaction is that they are scared to death of you and your regulars.
I have seen some of these blogs - having for example, stumbled on the "other" artblog a couple times - and most of them are the twittery, yakkity-yak variety typical of the usual mid-IQ level internet surface noise.
I have never seen one that sustained even the slightest interest. Winkleman is probably the best of them and it isn't worth the time of day. Do you think anyone commenting on any of them could have sustained any part of the very challenging and interesting "reality" show we put on 2 posts ago? I don't think so!
You are a victim of your own natural superiority in an age of determined mediocrity. No, do not have any illusions.
December 16, 2009, 10:09 AM
Of course they know about this blog, but it doesn't "fit." To be fair, Winkleman wasn't on the panel either, but it seems highly likely he was invited and declined. The same probably goes for Tyler Green, although the other panelists may not have wanted someone so high-profile to hog the spotlight.
December 16, 2009, 11:35 AM
A self-convened panel of self-identified experts? Are folks supposed to take that kind of shameless self-promotion seriously?
Oh yeah, this is a Miami art fair: a mecca for myopia and misplaced enthusiasm, no doubt.
December 16, 2009, 11:36 AM
Chis, you can either be a critic or a candidate in a popularity contest, but the two categories are mutually exclusive. This I have learned the hard way, but I might add that art critics are not alone in this, it applies to any sort of critic -- in theater or literature as well as art.
Book publisers loathe Michiko Kakutani of the NYTimes,and theatrical producers loathe Ben Brantley of the same publication, for good reason. When these two pan a book or a play (and both do so frequently) it cuts into sales of whatever product they're writing about. But neither Brantley nor Kakutani are in the business of boosting sales for the producers. If they were, they would be writing advertisements or press releases, and receiving handsome emoluments from the producers of these commodities. Since they are critics, employed by an independent publication, they are in the business of telling their readers what to buy or not to buy, and their first obligation is to those readers---readers in their capacities as consumers, not creators.
Inevitably, this means that that such critics also have to be willing to offend all the people involved in creating whatever art form in under discussion, including playwrights, actors, authors, editors -- or even artists, alas. The only one of the artblogs that I've read, in the list at the Mattera website to which somebody furnished a link, is artcritical, and, much though I admire it, it doesn't seem to publish too many negative reviews. I would suspect this is the case with many other art blogs as well--- at least not negative reviews that deal with really substantive issues, or criticize prevailing norms.
December 16, 2009, 11:56 AM
I have published at least two scathing negative reviews at artcritical (see the Leon Golub and Dieter Roth reviews in my archive [if you can find it!]) but I entriely agree with Piri. There are way too few negative reviews being written by art critics. David Cohen, who runs artcritical and has the final word on everything that gets published there, is very much enmeshed in the NYC art scene and I am sure that he does not encourage contributors to pan exhibitions.
Hey Franklin I hope the latrines had wireless so that the bloggers could at the very least, you know, blog, while they were banished to their ghetto.
December 16, 2009, 12:40 PM
The bland niceness is what makes those blogs worthless, along with the lack of any real critical intelligence.
I met David Cohen after a panel years ago and he was full of barely veiled references to the horrific state of the art world and how we must "keep up the good fight" so I read his articritical page with anticipation when it started up and... same old niceynicey.
I understand perfectly well that honestly telling it like it is - that most art is just plain bad - is probably suicide for a critic trying to make his way. But why can't our business develop vigorous opposing points of view like politics does? Or just about any other type of human activity does? It would be a much healthier atmosphere.
Instead we have these minor league back-scratching fests. Yuck.
December 16, 2009, 12:47 PM
This is a direct citation from the linked Mattera post about the bloggers' conference in question:
[Libby] Rosof: Whether she’s writing for print or on line, Rosof focuses on what interests her, what she likes. “We don’t take much time writing about what’s bad.”
Rosof and Fallon run a Philadelphia-based blog (the "other" Artblog).
December 16, 2009, 1:00 PM
It's a moot point, because my personal circumstances wouldn't allow it anyway, but I've had the occasional suggestion to try writing official art criticism, as well as to try to get involved with local art institutions more or less formally, but that would never work. The system only welcomes diversity of opinions as long as those opinions don't seriously challenge the system, let alone threaten it.
December 16, 2009, 1:21 PM
Let me state for the record that Sharon at Two Coats of Paint is the reason I have a job right now. Joanne has been personally helpful to me as I try to establish myself in the Boston art world. (She's in Salem and shows here at Arden Gallery.) I do not go along with much of what has been said above about them as part of that group of panelists.
I was not asked to participate on this panel. I don't know why, and I genuinely, truly, and peacefully don't care. If they ever invite me in the future, I'll likely accept.
Roberta and Libby started The Artblog to advocate for Philly artists at a time when they were receiving no local press. They are unabashed cheerleaders, have little interest in criticism, and are beloved as the scene's grandmothers.
Hrag does a credible job and I've had good interactions with him, although his taste doesn't especially interest me. Paddy has really fallen off as a blogger since she started, in my opinion - she used to be more critical, and has since gotten sucked into the surrounding ethos of New York art-world fabulosity. Hollingworth is a known plagiarist and I find Artlurker extremely grating.
Honestly, I'd like to know how Kakutani does it - a reputation for writing brutal criticism that somehow doesn't cut into his success as a novelist. Is there anything like it in the art world?
December 16, 2009, 1:47 PM
Ah, cheerleading. Well, that's one way to be popular. The problem is that's the last thing the current art world needs or calls for, however much it may want and foster it.
December 16, 2009, 2:01 PM
I understand that you are sensitive about this, Franklin, because you know these people and they probably do good things and all that. In fact I feel guilty about being negative because I know it might affect you and I won't feel bad if you just tell me to shut about something.
But someone besides you has got to step up the place and create that "dialogue" they all blather about. This is a tough business, and everyone is talking like some kind of sewing circle.
It is also a subject (art) that lots of very smart people have spent lots of head time on and we need smarter talk.
Of course maybe there is no one else out there that can hack it. Everytims one of them comes here they say something stupid, get called on it and then say something nasty and run off.
Anyway, I'm glad it doesn't bother you. It bothers me.
December 16, 2009, 2:12 PM
I wanted to follow Franklin's example and note that I have nothing against Sharon -- I've reviewed her art favorably and she's seemed nice on the rare occasions when we've been on the same blogs, although I'm hard-pressed to think of any actual contact we might have had. I think our art was in the same Blogger Show (the one art blogger thing I was invited to). Joanne is also, as I wrote above, a fine person, although I do find her blog very uncritical. I've met Roberta and Libby and liked them both, and also showed with them in the Blogger Show. Again, their blog is very uncritical, which is okay, just not my thing. It's dandy to be a cheerleader if you're cheering for something you really believe in and care about. I personally want more from my art writing, but I'm a cranky bastard.
I've never found anything especially worth commenting on from Hrag and I've already picked on Paddy enough for now.
I guess I don't expect to win any popularity contests. But I'd like to note that I never set out to be negative. I set out to be honest with myself and anyone reading my site. I want to be transparent. I want to be like the Visible Man, I want you to be able to peer inside my skull and see my brain ticking away.
I am, however, a little annoyed at being ignored in favor of a plagiarist. Franklin may be peacefully okay with that, but it bugs me a bit.
(There are days when I think that Franklin is like Spock: He's actually a roiling sea of inner torment, more emotional and crazed than most humans, and he requires a steely, emotionless exterior to maintain control. Even if it's not true, I think it's a funny picture.)
December 16, 2009, 2:28 PM
Libby and Roberta did something for Philadelphia that I might have done for Miami had Art Basel/Miami Beach never showed up and brought all that hype with it. I should note, here, that criticism requires a particular temperament that not everyone possesses, and not everyone blogging should be engaged in it. Likewise, I'm not a natural cheerleader and don't feel that I owe cheerleading to my community or colleagues or anyone else. I have more of a problem with people who present themselves as critics and don't rise to the role than artists or art aficionados who have blogs so they can showcase items of interest to them.
Libby and Roberta and I saw each other in Miami for the first time in four years, and before we were done chatting, they had given me the names of three contacts that might be interested in hosting my project for Main Library in Miami next year. They serve their stated purpose and do not pretend to another. This in turn allows them to act as a resource regarding the Philly art world. It may still need a hard critic, but that isn't their problem.
It's not that these bloggers should be writing harder criticism, but that harder critics should blog. I'm excepting Paddy and Holllingworth here, who should be writing harder criticism as self-described critics.
December 16, 2009, 2:45 PM
Unfortunately, OP, the reality of the situation is that there is a price to be paid for pulling no punches, a potentially expensive price, especially if one is somehow dependent on or beholden to the established art system. The system can and does retaliate, and it will always protect itself and its interests, regardless of legitimacy or respectability. "Pluralism" and "diversity" are only practiced or promoted within limits, which are set by convenience or expediency, not to say ass-covering.
This is, of course, extremely frustrating, though at least I personally have the luxury of telling absolutely anybody in the art world to fuck off, at will, because I'm outside the system. Even when somebody in the system is perfectly clear as to its nature and refuses to play the game, or play it well enough, he will pay for that in some manner. That's why somebody like Darby Bannard has been in Miami for 20 years and the local art establishment appears not to have ever noticed. It's like he doesn't exist, and that's not a fluke, coincidence or aberration. Actually it is aberrant, in a real sense, but not in the sense of being unusual or unexpected. It's only too predictable.
December 16, 2009, 2:48 PM
I agree, Franklin. I have nothing against people who don't claim to be critics not being critical.
December 16, 2009, 3:59 PM
Chris, those who don't claim to be critics are not obligated to be critical, but there's still a problem. Cheerleading will always be welcomed by those being cheered, but if it gives the false impression that the situation or the scene is generally positive, healthy and commendable, is that truly beneficial? Is that likely to promote change for the better, or rather "validate" and perpetuate the problem?
December 16, 2009, 4:15 PM
I took chemistry where I was taught if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.
Ha! Laugh now!
More seriously, I tend to break things up into threes. This is a Bucky Fuller thing, triangles and whatnot. So when I look at art bloggers I'd say we've got the properly critical ones, the wrongheaded cheerleaders, and the others. The others are fine doing what they're doing. I can't say I approve or disapprove because it's not my place. I don't think they're helping but neither can I be sure they're hurting. They've got their own thing going.
But there are those who are actively hurting the cause of good art and good art world to go with it. One of the many problems with them is they're likely to misinterpret me here and assume when I say "good art" I mean "art I like", which isn't the case. I want to see art for which a good argument can be made, art which clearly appeals to people I can respect. I don't have to like it.
Those people are the ones we need to be fighting against, while we can just let the others get on with whatever they're doing. The scary thing is those people are the ones bubbling up into the establishment.
On the other hand, I have to admit to not really trying to get into the establishment. I'd like it to knock on my door, but I haven't gone looking for it. This may be a character flaw of my own.
December 16, 2009, 4:28 PM
Franklin I know that someone told you a while ago that you "own" everything that gets said on this blog but I think it would be pretty unusual for someone you are friendly with to blame your completely open-entry blog for what an old crank like me says on it.
Obviously it is completly legitimate for anyone to have a blog and go on about art this and art that and promote art in the community and be nice guys, and criticising this sounds like going around kicking peoples pets. But after all the job of art is to be good and if it isn't any good then why bother with it.
No public benefit is derived from promoting art in general as if it is something sacred, becase it isn't. Most of it is just pollution. Someone has to say so.
December 16, 2009, 4:53 PM
Just for the record, I too like David Cohen & he has been kind enough to publish some of my reviews in artcritical (as well as an excerpt from my book). But like every editor -- and every critic --- he has his likes, his dislikes & his areas of expertise & potential contributors need to be aware of them.
PS I think Michiko Kakutani is a woman, no?
December 16, 2009, 5:06 PM
She is I apologize for that inexcusable mistake. Michiko even sounds like a girl's name.
December 16, 2009, 5:27 PM
Jack, I am not particularly disturbed nor discomfited by this. I have always been based in NY and I have never made any effort to cultivate anything here in Miami.
My writing and and (I guess you would call it) "conservative" stance endear me to few and my painting is abstract and relatively austere, at least until recently, and it is not the sort of thing Miami people seem to like.
That may change with the show at Barry Fellman's gallery, but I am not holding my breath.
December 16, 2009, 5:32 PM
No public benefit is derived from promoting art in general as if it is something sacred, becase it isn't.
It depends on the nature of the problem you're trying to solve. The Philly Inky is a piece of junk, so it makes sense to have a general-interest site for the art there - the obscurity you prevent may be your own. It's hard to get a critical culture going when you can't figure out what's going on in town in the first place. That was arguably the case in 2003 when they started, and the local paper is still junk.
December 16, 2009, 5:51 PM
Well like I said in my first comment, and which got repeated by opie, Cohen DOES NOT encourage his contributors to write negative reviews. However, when I have submitted a negative review to him he has not asked me to tone it down. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum, Walter Robinson over at artnet changed the wording of my Mark Kostabi review and turned a very ambivalent last paragraph into gushing praise. Like I have said elsewhere it is really pathetic that the art criticism isn't as multifaceted as the music and literary criticism. I find even the good stylists and competent writers quite boring to read because I pretty much feel like it has all been said before. That is why I tend to stick with history and theory (books about big ideas) when I have an inkling to read about art, which has happened less and less over the past few years. A new approach to the genre would be nice, but I don't have the talent or time to play explorer.
December 16, 2009, 6:26 PM
Darby, regarding #34, I know you haven't bothered to play the Miami game, and I certainly don't fault you for that--it may, in fact, be the dignified thing to do, given the nature of the Miami scene, such as it is. However, your response or reaction is really beside the point.
The point is that the "scenesters," for all their extravagant pretensions, have essentially ignored a major painter who's been in their midst for 20 years. No, you haven't courted them, but so what? Aren't they supposed to be courting good art, especially if it's practically staring them in the face? Heaven knows they regularly fall all over themselves for stuff that's dubious at best, or not even that.
I'm not and never have been part of the art establishment, not even locally; I'm not a player; I'm not "major," yet I managed, years ago, to find out about you and your work, visit your studio, etc. So what the hell is their excuse? Don't they supposedly "live for art," or some such? It's a joke--a bad one.
December 16, 2009, 6:31 PM
I don't read widely in the music press, but when I had a subscription to Rolling Stone a few years back one of the things that bugged me was how all their music reviews were fairly positive. There was no one saying, "You know, hip hop sucks." If a hip hop CD was being reviewed, they gave it to the guy who liked hip hop.
And David Fricke, the top music guy there -- he's a senior editor now -- once boasted of having some ridiculous amount of music in his collection, something like 300,000 recordings. If he started now he'd most likely never listen to them all before his death. That strikes me as a bit crazy. Fine if it's your thing, but notso hotso for a critic. A critic shouldn't collect things like Dan Aykroyd collects bad film credits.
Compare this with their political criticism -- which is why I got the subscription in the first place. P.J. O'Rourke was always sharp, and the new guy, Matt Taibbi, is like a shark. An evil, nasty, hilarious shark out to eat all the bad politicians. He's great.
I aim to be the Harlan Ellison of the art world myself. That's what we need.
December 16, 2009, 6:34 PM
You know, Jack, as much as Mr. Bannard is ignored by the Miami scene, I don't think his career's going too badly. I'd certainly be happy with it. He's got enough money for supplies, anyway, which is better than a lot of us.
December 16, 2009, 6:55 PM
Let me clarify what I mean Chris. Pitchfork.com will call shit shit. And there are a number of literary critics that will do the same thing with bad books even if they are written by authors in the western canon. Look at Kutani's reviews of most of what Roth has written over the past ten years. Where is this balancing act in the world of art criticism? If you are overly critical you are labeled an evil conservative and how many critics really pan art exhibitions these days in an interesting fashion, in a way in which they really explain themselves? The New Yorker guy panned the current exhibition at the NuMu, the one by Uri whatever his name is, but it is like shooting fish in a barrel. He should have tried to explain why the show was shit and related the shitty art in the exhibition to other shitty things going on in the art world. Pat cutesy little put downs are not intellectually interesting although they can be entertaining, as Chris pointed out. There is so much happy happy good news out there, in print and in blogland, that it is embarrassing. If you have the audacity to criticize something you will be ostracized, literally or figuratively. There are no real dynamics in the world of art criticism. Yes, as Piri noted, critics have their interests and areas of expertise, but they are afraid to make definitive and analytical statements that are in a negative vein. There are no real explorations or fleshing out of why something is bad. We pretty much get one liners.
December 16, 2009, 7:00 PM
Chris, the point is not Bannard's personal situation or feelings. The point is his work, its quality and the scene's obliviousness to it. The point is what that illustrates and signifies. Remember, we're talking about supposedly major players. As I said, when you consider what they do go after, it's like a bad joke.
December 16, 2009, 7:10 PM
In the long run, and from the point of view of probability, negative reviews are the most likely to pan out true. Just say it's bad - every time, no matter what is in front of you. You will bat damn near a thousand.
But critics are more likely to be remembered for when they get it right about the very rare great art than they are for being negative about the bad, or for getting every call on the mark. Greenberg, for instance, in his hurry up work, over praised a lot of unremarkable artists, just like some of the writers getting their butt whipped here are. Who remembers? Who cares? It's those few great ones he nailed when no one else was paying attention that put him on the landscape. Then, of course, there was his incredible and insightful follow through.
December 16, 2009, 7:15 PM
In my first paragraph above I am of course assuming you visit shows of living artists selected randomly.
December 16, 2009, 7:59 PM
You're right Chris. While I wouldn't mind acclaim & riches one bit, having enough wherewithal to paint is certainly reward enough.
In fact, there was a time many years ago when my Paintings were all over ARTFORUM & LIFE & TIME and in museum shows and I was asked to lecture all over and the money rolled in (and I spent it all). Oddly enough, while I loved it, it made me very uneasy and I didn't trust it at all.
Good thing, too, because pretty soon fashions changed and it all went away.
December 16, 2009, 9:45 PM
MC says: "A self-convened panel of self-identified experts? Are folks supposed to take that kind of shameless self-promotion seriously? Oh yeah, this is a Miami art fair: a mecca for myopia and misplaced enthusiasm, no doubt."
How about this as a description: An invited group of bloggers who convened to talk about blogging.
Here's how it worked, MC: Art Miami invited me to put a panel together for the fair. I contacted my Art Bloggers @ partner, Sharon Butler, and we came up with a group of people who 1) we knew would be in Miami; 2) who represented more than a NY point of view; 3) who we knew we could count on to be lively and, equally, who didn't all necessarily agree with one another.
I will likely organize other panels, and will certainly invite other people.
All you complainers are free to give up your complaining time to organize your own panels.
On a personal note: Franklin, that picture is hilarious! I'd asked for a stand with directional sign, but in the tradition of making do--no, bad choice of words given the placement--we did the best we could.
December 16, 2009, 10:15 PM
Kakutani's name reminded me of Kutani porcelain, even though there's no relation (her father, an important mathematician, was from Osaka, and Kutani ware is from a different part of Japan). There are several more or less distinct Kutani styles. One of them is Iidaya, which uses predominantly red painting with touches of gold. Here's an Iidaya-type sake bottle, decorated with phoenix birds:
Kutani 3 (detail)
December 16, 2009, 10:49 PM
Opie (#14) I disagree about Ed's blog. I think it's one of more important blogs for young artists to read. Ed presents an art dealers perspective on the art world that graduating art students will face. It's fairly clear that most graduates are completely naive about what to expect. Ed has provided a glimpse into the gallery world that I wish I had back when. It doesn't need to be smart.
December 16, 2009, 10:58 PM
Opie (#19) But why can't our business develop vigorous opposing points of view like politics does?
This is an interesting idea. Maybe the art world is big enough for two sheriffs in town. The critical community is in total disarray at the moment because no one understands what is going on.
Maybe what the art world needs is their own version of Siskel and Ebert.
December 16, 2009, 11:04 PM
Christ did I spell Kakutani wrong? Oh fucking well. If I was able to read 200 plus pages a day again art criticism would be very low on my reading list. I enjoy reading the writing of Bunny, Piri, Franklin and Chris when I am online. I did not mean to denigrate what they are doing. But I still feel how I feel. John you make a good point, but I still wish there was more honest criticism, stuff produced by writers that were not afraid to say something sucked, and in great detail, but is that really possible in this day and age (except maybe in the pro bono world of the art bloggers)? I am actually amazed that more negative criticism doesn't appear in the art blogosphere, especially considering how little advertising revenue is going into it right now. What John says makes sense. Finding and writing about unrecognized talent is a worthy task, but I don't have a trust fund to support such a noble mission. Everyone who writes art criticism in the print world is compromised to a certain extent. The days of Greenberg and Rosenberg are gone (obviously their great writing still lives on). There are a number of competent writers out there but again mediocrity is pretty boring, to say nothing about the actual art that is getting paid attention to and lauded.
Joanne I do not begrudge you your blogger panel. I wouldn't think for a second that I would or should be asked to participate in such a thing. I visit your blog regularly.
December 16, 2009, 11:30 PM
Re#48 The problem with negative criticism is that doesn't effectively serve the purpose many hope it would. I think this approach may be ineffective for psychological reasons. On one hand, you have one crowd foaming at the mouth with glee. On the other you will probably find the counter argument supporting the work and its investors. This amounts to a wash, a slight smudge on the artworks but otherwise it's a draw or non event.
To be truly effective in presenting a counter opinion. What is required is an alternative supported with a positive critical response. This creates a situation where the consumer has a choice between two critically supported artists rather than the choice of critical positions for a single artist.
I think maybe the art dealers are figuring out that the artworld has now become larger in a way which is significant enough to support more than one stylistic attitude. Yet we still see heated debates over conceptualism vs retinal art as if winning the debate is going to change anything. Worse, either side resorts to denigrating the other in order to gain some advantage. It's poor marketing and poor psychology.
December 17, 2009, 12:06 AM
An art world Siskel and Ebert would be a sign of maturity for us and certainly a refreshing change if done in an interesting and intelligent way.
I am sure all these bloggers are nice and help artists and all that and I guess I should just shut up about them.
I am not interested in negative criticism, I am interested in bringing humor, intelligence, skepticism, humor and verve to art talk and art writing. Right now it is just an embarrassment.
December 17, 2009, 12:10 AM
By the way:
"we came up with a group of people who 1) we knew would be in Miami; 2) who represented more than a NY point of view; 3) who we knew we could count on to be lively and, equally, who didn't all necessarily agree with one another."
All of which describes Franklin to a T.
December 17, 2009, 1:49 AM
Re: the Siskel and Ebert idea. I think Opie and Franklin should collaborate on a web-comic. All the artblog regulars could show up in cameo once in awhile. Now that would drive some ad revenue for sure. You would have to come up with a catchy name though. I like Opie and Frankie.
I'd bet you could find ample outlets to publish them as well.
If any artblog reader would like to submit to Opie and Frankie, please visit this page. You may also email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org to submit posts into a simple queue for approval.
December 17, 2009, 8:38 AM
"It's poor marketing and poor psychology"
I wouldn't argue with that, but it probably should, perhaps must, come about in an evolutionary way.
Visual art traditionally had a clear-cut high and low and basic form which was obliterated in the last century - not the high and low but the clear cut and basic form parts. so that no matter how "pop" the art it still demands to be considered "high", and of course the market supports this.
In music it seems that the production of "high" music, the concert -type "classical" music, has just dried up and turned into simple performance with a specific and very limited audience, while "pop" music has prolifereted into infinite variety. Literature, and movies (I think) maintain "high" and "pop" within traditional forms of the novel and feature film.
The problem, one problem, with visual art is that evolutionary change essentially attacked the conventional forms of painting and sculpture and began borrowing from performance and literature and then further attacked the very bases for judgement by eroding the primacy of esthetic evaluation. This went much further than in the other arts, which seem to still be judged on an "I like it" basis, and this change seems to be at the root of the unsettled condition of our type of art making.
It certainly would seem that the visual art world would be better off settling into categories, each with it's own basic forms, audience and market.
This is a very crude and oversimplified account, of course, but it is interesting to think about.
December 17, 2009, 8:56 AM
I can be Ebert. I'm fat and I wear glasses.
December 17, 2009, 9:05 AM
Re 49, Kakutani is the correct surname of the NYT literary critic; it simply reminded me of Kutani, which is a well-known ceramic production area in Ishikawa Prefecture.
December 17, 2009, 9:13 AM
Did anyone enjoy Newsweek's December 3 article about Warhol?
December 17, 2009, 9:14 AM
Opie & Frankie sure is cute, but they don't disagree about much. Geo & Frankie or Geo & Opie are better bets, though they don't rhyme.
But this is not the 40s and 50s. While I'm not sure what art writers and commentators had to do with it then, they have even less to do with it today, now that the system is awash with money. What is needed is an opposing cadre of dealers funded well enough to get through the startup losses, until they can get "our side's" prices up to a respectable level. I don't mean $400k a pop per painting, but I do mean more than $10k. To paraphrase LBJ, if you've got his wallet in your pocket, his heart is sure to follow. So will the art writers, but under such a scheme, they would have to make a choice between the two sides, unlike now when there is just one side. They might like that.
With the fall of Soviet power, the world became stuck with a "one-party" system, according to Piri in the politics section of her book. That party, of course, is America - us. And most of the world doesn't like it, even many who side with us. Everyone likes a choice. So a two party art system might be more appealing to more people than the single party we have now, thus benefiting both sides.
We could have the "explainables" and the "unexplainables". The fact of the unexplainables being unexplainable might be just enough of an explanation to satisfy some of the masses who cannot live without an explanation. Add in some jive about the "true highbrow", multireferential imagery, enlightenment, hedonistic spirituality, and so forth ... as long as a reasonable amount of money was either diverted from the current stream or added from somewhere else to jack up the prices of the new party, it might work.
Anyone know Donald Trump?
December 17, 2009, 9:23 AM
Hi Tom. That was an interesting article - thanks for the link.
December 17, 2009, 9:39 AM
Yes Tom, thanks. Warhol is perhaps the most explainable of the explainables. I often wonder how his prices stay so high, given the huge quantity of things made at the Factory. Ultimately it comes down to the "law" of supply and demand does not hold in all matters of trade. "Always leave them wanting less" works as long as prices remain high.
December 17, 2009, 9:52 AM
Tom, my ancient computer would not get the article but I got the gist of it from the letters. Something like this, in national media, is the first step in the fall of Warhol, of getting the "smart" people to see Warhol as schlock art.
The resistence can be seen in the first letter in response to the article (which for some reason I could read) which goes on reverentially about "Andy's accomplishment". Even this is a step down from "Warhol was a great artist".
Next we will see "Yes, Warhol isn't so good but Pop art was a great (blah blah blah).
I haven't read Newsweek in 10 years so I would have missed this. Thanks!
December 17, 2009, 10:00 AM
John, I think supply & demand is doing OK. It is just that demand for Warhol among those who don't know how to get rid of their money is so high. A Warhol painting is the ultimate trophy tchotchke.
Your basic fresh MBA trying to impress his own Gordon Gekko will shell out $10k for a Warhol drawing or print. The crash comes when the Gordon Gekko looks disdainfully at it and says "You still like that stuff?"
I really like your "explainables" polarity. Of course it has to be worded catchier, but it could work. It is the right spin for a division of visual art into some kind of revival of a non-commercial hierarchy, otherwise known as "elitism", which I am violently in favor of.
December 17, 2009, 10:30 AM
Warhol was like an empty outline of a figure, or an artist, blank and meaningless in itself, devoid of substance, but open to being "filled in" by others however they might choose or wish. Evidently, such a prospect, both flaccid and flashy, demanding nothing, indifferent and indulgent, with its tawdry glamour and cheap daring, had and has significant appeal to enough people with enough influence and money to make Warhol an "icon." Needless to say, what it did for Warhol is very different from what it did for art and the art world, but Warhol himself was never the real issue, or the real problem.
December 17, 2009, 11:42 AM
Opie, I too felt the article was an indicator that the times are beginning to change. But just beginning. There's still this sort of foolishness going on.
December 17, 2009, 3:49 PM
Thanks for answering my (admittedly cynical) questions.
You're right: everyone here (indeed, everyone not here, too!) could organize a similar panel, although the discussion might sound different if we did.
It might look something like this blog, which, fortunately, I don't have to be in Miami, or NY, to participate in, being open to uninvited-type folks like myself who don't know the right people get invited to panels, so don't have our voices hear by an interested public, etc...
How was the audience, Joanne? Did Art Miami pay y'all for the appearance, or did you volunteer?
December 17, 2009, 6:00 PM
A good read on art is Boris Groys, it would be great, if he would write also on the Daily Art Life, but he does more on the Global Art Questions.
I also enjoy the HenriMag http://henrimag.com/blog1/
I am glad to see the return of hot art discussions here to Franklin's blog
December 17, 2009, 6:15 PM
Tom I think the drawing actually is a Warhol.
I wonder if, in Andyworld, it would make any difference one way or the other.
$20k might be a tad high, even so.
December 17, 2009, 6:30 PM
John #58 What is needed is an opposing cadre of dealers funded well enough to get through the startup losses, until they can get "our side's" prices up to a respectable level. I don't mean $400k a pop per painting, but I do mean more than $10k.
This is partly true. The opposing cadre of dealers already exists, true there are not as many of them but they are there (or here in NYC) Moreover, there are several galleries which handle paintings of this type (whatever you are thinking of) which also handle other type of more conceptually based art as well. This is even a better situation.
The problem is the total lack of critical support that is tuned into the postmodernist trained audience and capable of making an interesting case for the paintings. It will also be necessary to turn "good taste" (whatever) into a fashionable commodity in order to compete with everything else in the secondary market which is where careers and fame are made.
December 17, 2009, 6:37 PM
I wrote a bit about the 1962 Ferus Gallery exhibition of Andy Warhol's soup cans
December 17, 2009, 6:40 PM
I wrote a bit about the 1962 Ferus Gallery exhibition of Andy Warhol's soup cans Here . (oops, fixed the link)
December 17, 2009, 7:54 PM
I really like your "explainables" polarity. Of course it has to be worded catchier, but it could work.
How about "explicables"? It's got the "ick" in it.
The opposing cadre of dealers already exists, true there are not as many of them but they are there (or here in NYC).
Very true. Just today I saw Hendrik Smit at Thomas Jaeckel. He's billed by the gallery as an Action Painter but on another site he's called an Abstract Expressionist. Either would fit. I saw Cubist-ish breaking up of piers and quays by Denyse Thomasos at Lennon, Weinberg. And I saw color field-style stain paintings by Makoto Fujimura (juxtaposes with Roualt) at Dillon Gallery.
So there's a lot out there. Also -- Franklin, alert! -- I saw small Picabia and Fairfield Porter shows at Tibor de Nagy. Between them and the Roualts, you might want to make a trip in soon.
My big surprise, however, was in accidentally stumbling into Louis Meisel and finding an amazing array of Photorealists and one really good life caster, John DeAndrea.
December 17, 2009, 10:39 PM
Chris, thanks for your report. Some of the shows you mention I'd like to see. THE ext time I go to Chelsea, I also plan to see the Frankenthaler show at Ameringer, and the Winter White show at Tria. But what is so surpising about Louis Meisel showing hyperrealism? To the best of my knowledge, that's been his specialty since the 70s.
December 18, 2009, 12:08 AM
I'll have a much fuller report at my blog in the next couple of days, Piri, if you're interested.
As for being surprised by Meisel, it wasn't so much the content -- although I tend to forget which gallery shows what half the time anyway -- it was that I wasn't expecting to go to Meisel. I was walking between the Scholastic Bookstore (where I'd gone looking for a specific present for my son -- plan failed) and Campton Gallery (where a friend of mine is showing) and happened to see some Photorealism through a window I walked by. I don't think I've ever been in Meisel before.
I recognized some of the artists from my old airbrushing books, which was one shock, and then I saw that there were a few naked women standing around the gallery. Turns out the naked women are painted bronze statues, but what a paint job! You know how when you've got a nude model working and you don't want to stare too closely because then everyone feels uncomfortable? Imagine getting that feeling from a statue. It was weird.
Anyway. Right. Meisel. According to the gallery this is their 40th anniversary and they've always been into Photorealism and suchlike. Hence the big group show with work ranging from the 1970s (you haven't sold it yet?!) to now.
December 15, 2009, 12:09 PM
I suppose this article is appropriate to reference here...