The Endgame of Postmodernism
Post #1448 • January 29, 2010, 11:59 AM • 93 Comments
Lest anyone conclude from yesterday's comments that Big Red & Shiny primarily features rhetorical sides of barns for one to shoot at, I give you The Endgame of Postmodernism by Matthew Nash. Matt is a friendly acquaintance who, despite working in a wildly different mode than mine, if not diametrically opposite, has invited me to write for BRS and has gone out of his way to praise my painting given an opportunity to do so. "Endgame" takes a critical look at postmodernism from the standpoint of a practitioner, thus demonstrating a self-aware, self-critical view that I have not seen evinced with equal veracity by any postmodernist academic. Do I agree with all of it? Hardly. But it contains some interesting thoughts, and links at the end to another worthy read, Greg Cook's exhortation to his fellow Bostonians to stir it up. Boston, in some ways, reminds me of Miami before Art Basel Miami Beach: self-consciously next-best, and raw enough to reward sustained but not heroic applications of elbow grease. ABMB ruined that vibe - Miami is now unconsciously next-best and the to-hell-with-it attitude has given way to a kind of half-assed professionalization that climaxes around ABMB and spends the rest of the year building up to it. (There are exceptions, I realize, and there need to be more of them.) Boston still has potential, and the whole six-state region is loaded with unsung talent.
Big Red & Shiny, in fact, is what the Miami Art Exchange tried to be when I started it back in 2000: a self-published, community-supported online publication that provided criticism and news to offset the ever-declining coverage by the local print publications. BRS has now published issue #124, which represents 124 continuous weeks of publication. MAEx may have been ahead of its time, in retrospect, but it never achieved anything like what BRS has accomplished.
Back in late 2007 I began a review of a John Sloan exhibition by noting a particularly raucous party:
Imagine it: New York City, January 23, 1917. John Sloan, Marcel Duchamp, and a host of creative types and oddballs stand atop the Washington Square Arch. They release balloons amidst whoops of joy and proclaim independence for the Greenwich Republic.
Much like the children of Isaac and Ishmael, the respective heirs of Sloan and Duchamp seem doomed to mutual animosity and competition for scarce resources over much of the world, but the vibe up here is different. Postmodernists don't denigrate skill, traditionalists appreciate the intellectual climate into which the postmodernists fit, and modernists win a measure recognition, or are at least not actively getting shut out of the scene like they are in Miami. And more to the point, those three categories don't hold so well up here. Everyone is invited to the party.
During a recent visit to Portland, Oregon, I got together with one of my best former students from Miami. An able figurative painter, he is also cursed with the ability to write, as John Link likes to put it about such people. The art criticism in Portland, like the rest of the world, is not great, and he thought he might try his hand at it just to shake things up. I understood only too well. I advised him instead, rather than marginalize himself for the crime of making his high standards known, to put shows together in any available space he could find and flex his verbal muscles by writing catalogues for them. Despite tossing a frag grenade into the comments of BRS yesterday, I'm thinking this morning that I should take my own advice. Let's agree to disagree and get some art out in front of the people.