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Post #1455 • February 12, 2010, 12:51 PM • 101 Comments

Image links to larger version.

Pears, 2010, acrylic on panel, 9 x 12 inches, ©FE




February 12, 2010, 1:25 PM



Eric Gelber

February 12, 2010, 1:34 PM

I love it. Great vibrating blue.



February 12, 2010, 1:57 PM



Chris Rywalt

February 12, 2010, 4:18 PM

Much better. The blue outlines work better here, maybe because of the colors. I think it clashed with the apple red, but looks great here. And the background is properly background, not coming forward as it did in the previous one.

The bright unmixed blue shows only around the fruit and not in the background at all. That makes it really work.

Very, very nice.


Chris Rywalt

February 12, 2010, 5:48 PM

What are you using for panels? The brushwork makes me think of Gessobord or something similarly non-absorbent.



February 12, 2010, 6:06 PM

Gessoboard it is. Surfaces can be made nonabsorbent at will using acrylic, of course, but the board preserves the brushstroke in a way that canvas wouldn't. I'm going to see if I can get these to turn out on canvas since I have a lot of it laying around.



February 12, 2010, 6:10 PM

The "apples and orange" from last week I disliked initially, but found that it got better the more I looked at it (and the more monitors I viewed it on - as though I could better appreciate the mean colour after seeing enough digital variations of the real thing). I can't be sure that I understood George's heavy critique of that one, but maybe I agreed with his upshot.

This one of the pears I liked immediately. I still like it.


Chris Rywalt

February 12, 2010, 7:01 PM

Gessobord has a unique texture and lack of absorbency which I expect would be hard to replicate without acrylics and a spraygun. Certainly my traditional gesso formulations (using either rabbitskin glue or PVA) have been far more absorbent and smooth. And my recent use of acrylic gesso hasn't worked out so well. It's too brushy and sticky. I probably should try a paint roller.

Gessobord can make some really interesting textures (see some I did), especially if you wipe the paint off and smear it around. But it can be bothersome, too, when you find you want a heavier application of paint but instead of putting paint down your brush is taking it off.

I'm impressed I noticed it, though. Damn, I'm good!



February 12, 2010, 7:13 PM

I like the pears better than the apples and oranges. I was telling Ahab that I'd like to see one on canvas, just to compare how the paint will sit on or in each surface. Not sure the slippery surface of the panels is helping you to always get the right density in your stroke. That said, these are very much your own, Franklin. I've grown quite fond of your line's clumsy drunken-master feel.



February 12, 2010, 7:18 PM

This one is prettier, softer and more soothing than the last one, and rather French.

Here's a Japanese image for comparison:



George R

February 12, 2010, 7:22 PM

Re: Acrylic gesso on canvas. I use #10 cotton canvas which I de-fuzz with a damp rag first. (I just like the #10, lighter canvas has a tighter weave and would be easier to get smooth)
Thin out the gesso with water, apply it to the canvas laid flat with a gesso knife and a brush. Scrape it down with the knife as you're applying the gesso, it won't leave draggy/sticky brush marks. Use a spritzer if necessary to keep it moist enough to work with the knife. Sand lightly between coats. The knife works to keep the gesso flat and it also scrapes off any nubs. You can get the surface as smooth as paper with a little effort.



February 12, 2010, 7:24 PM

Nice feeling of "melting color" in this, very sweet, as if everything is dissolving.

The yellow pears didn't need the shading.



February 12, 2010, 7:29 PM

George I have alwas found this method (to get it as smooth as paper) needs either a lot of sanding or so many thin coats of gesso you never get to painting. I have a student who spends hours at it and it really amounts to a kind of block to actual art-making.


George R

February 12, 2010, 8:32 PM

opie, I just finished priming a medium sized canvas this way. It took about a day.

FWIW. I'm using a spatula knife -- It's about 12 inches overall and has 6.5" x 1.25" blade with a rounded end (important) It looks similar to the Liquitex #18. The knife is the best tool I've ever found for applying gesso. Better than a squeege. It's wide enough to scoop gesso out of the can or stir it up. Easy to clean. The scraping action smoothes the canvas surface down eliminating the need for much sanding.

I sand lightly after the first coat of gesso because it raises the nap in the canvas. I knife on two more thinned coats, lightly sanding after the 3rd. You could stop here. I usually add two more thin coats which are sightly tinted, using the spatula, there's usually no need for further sanding. Because I'm scraping it down with the spatula, I'm not using a lot of gesso, the coats dry quickly.

I still have some of the canvas weave showing which is what I want but the surface is smooth to the hand. At this point it's not paper smooth but smooth enough to make the paint slide. If you really want it flat-smooth then use a finer weave portrait canvas or precoated aluminum.

It doesn't really matter until it matters to you. If you're brushing the paint on, then it matters how abrasive the surface is, not because it's better one way or the other, but because it feels different.

Students might be in a hurry. It takes me at least a month to make a painting, spending a day preparing the ground isn't an issue


Chris Rywalt

February 12, 2010, 10:48 PM

Over the past year I've been making my own panels. I cut down birch plywood and cradle it with poplar strips. Everything gets sanded down with my orbital palm sander. Then I mix up gesso out of PVA and marble dust. I paint it on thinly using a pad or a roller, wait for it to dry, sand it down, repeat. The result is very smooth.

The only trouble is first, it's very absorbent; and second, it's unevenly absorbent. I've been painting on a layer of linseed oil to get soaked up but the uneven absorbency is bothersome. Still trying to work it all out.

I worked on canvas for the past four paintings. I'm not sure I like it that much.



February 12, 2010, 11:12 PM

While the interest here seems to be smooth non-absorbent grounds, this ONE makes smooth, evenly absorbent surfaces on canvas or board. I have only done test patches, and distributed the actual gesso to students when I was teaching. It does more or less what it says it does, that is, allow you to produce effects on canvas that mimic those you get on paper. The absorbency is quite consistent across the surface.

They make a number of other out of the box special GROUNDS that might be of interest, including some that work with ink-jet printers and another that works with silverpoint. I would expect the quality of Golden products would give people like Chris the even performance that he seeks.



February 12, 2010, 11:21 PM

Cripes, you painters sound like a bunch of friggin' pastry chefs...
Sorry to intrude, ladies. Carry on.



February 13, 2010, 2:10 AM

Mo' bettah! I think the best painting here is the floral print surround- nice light touch, both spatial and flat/solid, more active/abstract.



February 13, 2010, 7:51 AM

Three coats of Golden gesso applied with a housepainter's brush, lightly and casually sanded between coats just to get the boo-boos off, works for me. Knifing it and pre-dampening the canvas are great ideas, though. When I was thinking about doing these on canvas, it was partly to see whether every brushstroke really needed preservation in order to get the overall effect to work. I suspect it doesn't, but there's only one way to find out.

I'm a past victim of the phenomenon Opie describes. It took years to figure out that you get a flatter stretch of canvas if you don't pull it with all your might using pliers. In some respects, less is more when it comes to canvas. Boards you can make as smooth as porcelain but unless you're a super-tight realist I don't see the point of the effort.

Chris, you would have to mix marble dust and PVA with a muller in order to get it to be evenly absorbent, or non-absorbent. You'd better better off using the PVA like you're supposed to, as a sealant, and going over it with Gamblin oil ground.


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2010, 9:28 AM

John, the problem is I don't entirely trust oil paint over acrylics. A lot of people do it but I'm unsure it's a good idea. There have been too many stories of paintings delaminating. Every time anyone says anything like this someone crawls out of the acrylic-coated woodwork to say that they have oil-over-acrylic paintings that are 25/30/40 years old and they look like the day they were painted. Too bad I'm looking at 200 to 500 years, which is why I'm trying to go traditional.

It was a big step to go to PVA over rabbitskin glue, but my thinking there is that rabbitskin glue readily absorbs and releases water to the surrounding air, thus expanding and contracting. PVA doesn't do this as much -- it's extremely stable -- so I thought it might work.

You may be right about the uneven absorbency, Franklin. I hadn't thought of that, that it could be due to uneven mixing. I've been thinking it's due to uneven sanding -- the surface dries with ridges and valleys, of course, and when I sand I'm basically sanding off the ridges, so the valleys are untouched; I've thought the absorbency is based on whether the gesso surface is sanded or air-dried. It seems to follow the grain laid down as I paint the gesso, anyway.

Yes, MC, I sound like a pastry chef. When I was at SVA I was using rabbitskin glue which needed to be heated in a crockpot, and I was standing there mixing up a batch when Josh saw me and said, "There he stands, grimly stirring his porridge." I think of that every time I make gesso now.



February 13, 2010, 11:38 AM

MC, most painters get a bit OCD when it come to their grounds. It makes sense if they literally want their art to stick around awhile. I slap a coat of gesso on loose canvas and get on with it. The canvas is taped down on foam core or masonite. This allows me to paint now and crop later. For a time I did the rabbit skin glue shuffle when I painted with oils. Now that modern acrylics have largely replaced those oils in the studio that would be overkill.

BTW I congratulate your nation for finally marking the high point in video / installation art last night with that opening ceremony. $30 million plus in production work and all we get are a few virtual whales swimming across a hockey rink and confetti snow flakes. Oh well, it was an excursion in taste that had to happen I guess.



February 13, 2010, 11:41 AM

Also, some would argue that gesso itself is overkill with acrylics but I like a bright ground.



February 13, 2010, 11:58 AM

I'll have to take your word for it, Lucas, since I didn't watch. I hear tell kd lang was pretty good. I'd try to find some video on YouTube, but I have no doubt the official Olympic organazis organizers would never allow such a thing to exist.



February 13, 2010, 12:02 PM

There is a fundamental mechanical matter here which we are all missing - and if we are missing it you can be sure the art world at large is missing it - and that is the long-term effect of deliberate innovation within a type.

Once innovation becomes an explicit imperative rather than a means to an end conventions are rapidly eroded, and without clear conventions innovation is vitiated; it doesn't register because there is no ultimate aim, and nothing substantial to innovate with or from, and art reverts to a primitive level. Limitation of means is a precondition of excellence. When anything can be art, art is not much of anything,

It is now very difficult to have something "new" in visual art because the form has absorbed the imperative of innovation enough to allow any variation. Innovation within the medium really stopped happening by the 70s and became reduced to a cycling of styles - like skirt length in women's fashion - and devising ways to relate materials to ideas. When you "break all the barriers" you get a pile of rubble.

This kind of maturity of type can be seen in all forms of human activity. Creativity goes where real change and building and improving is going on. It is very independent; if the form has matured to a point of stasis creativity will go where the action is, and right now the action is not in visual art.



February 13, 2010, 12:16 PM

K.D. Lang stole the show. That one solid signer can out preform that kind of production budget says a lot.

Via Youtube:
"This video contains content from International Olympic Committee, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."

How do like them apples? I'm sure it will be leaked out somewhere. Hey IOC; Suck it!



February 13, 2010, 12:21 PM

Chris, sorry for belaboring the obvious, but do you realize that you're using a recipe for an absorbent ground to make a non-absorbent ground?


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2010, 12:23 PM

Lucas sez:
Now that modern acrylics have largely replaced those oils in the studio...

This is the wrong crowd in which to say this, but I think trusting acrylics at all is perhaps not the best idea. I'll be happy to be proven wrong, but of course then it'll be my ghost and OP's ghost laughing about it on Franklin's ghost's blog, because again I'm looking 200 to 500 years down the road.



February 13, 2010, 12:25 PM

Plus, you should use more cinnamon, Chris...



February 13, 2010, 1:30 PM

OP, I'm afraid Art is headed down the "serious music" route, and it already amounts to pretty much the same thing as far as the general public is concerned. There is no rational or practical reason for said public to bother with the stuff; it has far more enticing alternatives. Even the rich-idiot contingent, which is crucial to the game as it now operates, may eventually see the expensive futility of it all and bail. The whole thing is so ultimately ridiculous, as Franklin put it, that one would think it cannot be sustained indefinitely. But then again, the whole concept of fashion is ridiculous, a blatant crock, yet there are still plenty of suckers being manipulated by it and paying for it.


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2010, 1:45 PM

Oh, no, Franklin, I'm sorry if I gave you the idea that I was trying to recreate Gessobord with marble dust. I'm not trying to make Gessobord at all. The absorbent ground thing is fine with me, I just don't want it to be too absorbent (hence the linseed oil) and I don't want it to be unevenly absorbent (hence the trouble I've been having).

I just went from discussing Gessobord to discussing grounds in general, and mentioning what I've been doing with them.

I forgot to mention that I have used Gamblin's oil-based ground as you suggested but it's really, really, really goopy. Like, really. Imagine trying to spread a 50-50 mix of peanut butter and warm Silly Putty. And, being oil-based, clean-up is a bitch and a half.

The traditional gesso I make is thin. Just slightly thicker than water, really. Easy to use. The rabbitskin glue version needs to be kept warm in a crockpot, which works okay. PVA doesn't need to be kept warm and so is easier to deal with. I use the Gamblin PVA, also, which is pre-thinned, so I don't have to mix it with anything. I tried using Lineco neutral pH PVA glue but it was lumpy as hell no matter what I did to it, so I gave that up right quick.

Whether you use rabbitskin glue or PVA you need to let the marble dust sit in it a while because it's not quickly soluble in water. It will eventually stir smoothly, though.

My most recent paintings were on pre-stretched canvas. Bad, I know, but I couldn't quite bring myself to buy canvas and stretch it myself for some reason. (I've done that exactly once and I didn't enjoy it.) The pre-stretched canvas was the better kind and on sale really cheap, so I figured, what the heck. My main problem with panels is I can't prep them in my studio because I share the space with comic book artists who have a lot of paper and stuff around which isn't amenable to sawdust and other particulates flying around. This means prepping panels at home and then dragging them in to the studio. It also means having space at home for prep work.

I was thinking I might switch to canvas because the prep -- if I worked as George suggests, or Franklin -- could be done in my studio. So I bought four canvases and acrylic gesso and added my own layers of it to see if I liked it. It's okay, I guess, but I'm not thrilled with it. You can see two of them here.



February 13, 2010, 2:22 PM

Skill: an 18th century mezzotint engraving.

J.R. Smith after Sir Joshua Reynolds (click on image to enlarge)


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2010, 2:42 PM

That looks really good. I wish it was a better scan.



February 13, 2010, 3:12 PM

It comes through pretty well for me, especially after clicking on the image to enlarge it.

So Franklin, why don't you put on a portraits show, of actual people (not just you), and see if you can generate commissions? I don't mean canned likenesses just for money, but genuine stuff, your way, only it happens to be portraits. It's worked for a lot of painters, and not a few great ones.



February 13, 2010, 3:27 PM

By the way, OP, the guy in #31 was a friend of Dr. (Samuel) Johnson.


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2010, 3:45 PM

Just like OP was!



February 13, 2010, 4:05 PM

"So Franklin, why don't you put on a portraits show, of actual people (not just you), and see if you can generate commissions? I don't mean canned likenesses just for money, but genuine stuff, your way, only it happens to be portraits."

Jack, that's a potentially very good idea, depending on how it's done..



February 13, 2010, 4:32 PM

Still life elements could obviously be incorporated into portraits as appropriate or desired.



February 13, 2010, 4:34 PM

And Chris, please. OP is only old enough to have known Charles Dickens.



February 13, 2010, 4:47 PM

why don't you put on a portraits show, of actual people (not just you), and see if you can generate commissions?

I'm going to try figures first. I have doubts about whether the above style would be effective for portraits. The watercolors haven't turned out so well.



February 13, 2010, 5:27 PM

Well, whatever style you decide to use, it just needs to be effective, not photorealistic. Incorporating suitable inanimate elements of visual interest, such as still life, fabrics, wallpaper, etc. is obviously an option. Matisse certainly used that. I think it's doable, specifically for you, and portraits have always been good business for those who could pull them off well enough. Again, I'm not talking about generic, mechanical stuff cranked out for a fee, like Warhol did, but portraits are a perfectly legitimate venue for art of the highest quality. Always have been.



February 13, 2010, 5:32 PM

Brown is beautiful (or can be):

Earlom after Claude, mezzotint


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2010, 5:43 PM

Portraits are hard. I got to know several professional portrait artists two years ago when I was going to this one figure drawing group. Portraits are technically challenging, although that can be overcome with practice and discipline. That part's not too hard, especially if you're willing to use photos, which everyone does.

The business side of portraiture, however, is the really hard part. Portraits are commissioned by people who have money. Usually a lot of money. And people who have a lot of money are pains in the ass. The level of salesmanship required to fish those waters is beyond most people. And the compromises are huge.

I have no doubt that Franklin could do it if he put his mind to it. I don't know that he'd want to. I know for a fact it's more than I could manage.

There's money to be had there, though. If you can weasel your way in to that henhouse enough to generate word of mouth, you can feather your bed quite nicely.


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2010, 5:44 PM

That last mezzotint, Jack, is severely less than optimal.



February 13, 2010, 5:52 PM

Chris, you're from New Jersey. It figures.



February 13, 2010, 6:02 PM

Jack, Chris is right about the mezzotint. Way beneath your usual standard.

Chris: "Portraits are hard."


The three categories worthy of competition or of just showing are Portrait, Landscape, and Still life. You could do "either or." All three are really portraits. And all three can be related to via any style or medium or era.



February 13, 2010, 6:45 PM

'Figure' can be in there also.

Here's a bit of an idea of snow down Texas way, as seen from a porch in the middle of dallas.



February 13, 2010, 6:59 PM

The mezzotint in 41 (actually etching and mezzotint) is not after a painting but after a drawing or sketch, so it's not supposed to look highly finished. If some of you still don't like it, so be it, but I do. It is not, of course, as good as the actual drawing by Claude; it cannot be, but it is a lovely translation, in its way, and conveys a sense of what Claude was about, or it does to me.



February 13, 2010, 7:09 PM

Jack, sorry, it looks flattish and broken down. And, it's copied from a lesser Claude.


Tom Hering

February 13, 2010, 8:32 PM

"Pears" is very nice. No quibbles with this one.



February 13, 2010, 8:41 PM

The "Pears:" The pears almost relate to the ground. It has to do with the 'skin' of the pears. Everything else is fine. The introduction of the blue in the background provides the light effect which gives dimensionality which the pears have, sort of, but it's clumsy.



February 13, 2010, 9:30 PM

Franklin, here's the deal with the "Pears." You didn't engage the pears with the ground. It has to do with figuring out the treatment of the ground with the treatment of the pears.

Everything else is alright. It's only about the pears. Their bodies.


Chris Rywalt

February 13, 2010, 10:27 PM

The etchings and mezzotints you usually show us, Jack, always look far better than anything I could hope to manage, even with years of practice. Not this one. I think I could manage this one.



February 13, 2010, 11:05 PM

Well, Chris, you have to go with your own judgment. We all do.



February 13, 2010, 11:18 PM

I wish I had a better image, but here's a French etching (ca. 1875), about 4 x 6 inches, after a landscape by Rousseau (the Barbizon painter):


I'd really like to see it live. It's a small plate, but it seems fully loaded, as they say.



February 13, 2010, 11:38 PM

Here's a Nanteuil portrait engraving (XVII century):

Colbert (click image to enlarge as needed)

Unlike most engravers, Nanteuil frequently worked from his own drawings from life. He was also a superb portraitist in pastels.



February 13, 2010, 11:43 PM

Jack, it's dead as a doornail to those who only get the passing thing. Thanks. I delight in the craft and the ardor.



February 13, 2010, 11:45 PM

An even better Nanteuil, his famous portrait of Turenne, the great military commander:

Turenne (click image as needed)

Engraving hardly gets better than this.



February 13, 2010, 11:58 PM

One more. Nanteuil's subjects were almost always men, very important men, including Louis XIV, but here's Anne of Austria, the king's mother, in a surprisingly frank and touching portrait:

Anne of Austria (click on image as needed to enlarge)



February 14, 2010, 12:11 AM

Yes, Jack, really telling.



February 14, 2010, 12:33 PM

Here's a little tint, taken from a porch in the middle of Dallas a couple of days ago just after record snows.



February 14, 2010, 12:42 PM

Anne looks a little like Samuel Johnson - but yes, touching. A friend of mine who paints wonderful portraits, says he is always reluctant to paint women because they are never satisfied with the results (my nose doesn't look like that does it?), whereas men will be more accepting of a portrait's inevitable divergence from how they may see themselves.



February 14, 2010, 3:13 PM

Old women, of course, are extremely good subjects for portraits.


Perspired Art

February 15, 2010, 6:15 AM

Good Work!


Tom Hering

February 15, 2010, 3:04 PM

Has everyone seen this? What do you think?

"To paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis, there is a whole lot of art making going on right now. All different kinds. But you’d hardly know it from the contemporary art that New York’s major museums have been serving up lately, and particularly this season ... I started to feel as if it were all part of a big-box chain featuring only one brand ... it often feels as though an agreed-upon master narrative is back in place ... What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand. A lot but not all of this kind of work is painting, which seems to be becoming the art medium that dare not speak its name where museums are concerned." - Roberta Smith, NYT, 2/10/2010


Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2010, 3:19 PM

Stephanie mentioned that article to me yesterday. Although she's been out of the art loop apparently she's in enough to have seen that. It seems Jerry pushed it on his Facebook page, too, and it started a big conversation.

Of course, one of the artists in the slideshow Roberta puts forward as being personal (and presumably worthwhile) is Nicole Eisenman, whose work is completely irredeemable dogshit. She has the ability to put paint on canvas, yes, and if you take her paintings seriously it definitely seems that the artist has many personal issues she's trying to work out in paint. Unfortunately if you have any visual sense whatsoever; and any real respect for the medium of oil painting; and if you pine for the sublime in art; you quickly realize Eisenman is terrible, absolutely awful, wallowing in degradation and disgust for pure shock value.

I'm not sure Eisenman, whose work I've seen, is preferable to Orozco, whose work I have not but have heard described. One of the flaws of Orozco, of course, is that he's one of the Conceptualists whose art can be seen by the ears: "Four yogurt caps nailed to the fours walls of the gallery", for example.

Which is worse? As Jack once put it, I think, that's like trying to determine which pile of dogshit smells best. Which is worse for art and humanity in general? Hard to say. They're both pretty bad for you.



February 15, 2010, 3:30 PM

"it often feels as though an agreed-upon master narrative is back in place"

No shit, Sherlock. And how long did it take you to figure this out, hon? I mean, you're in the epicenter of the art world, and a NYT art critic, to boot. It's your frigging job to pick up on this blatantly obvious situation, which is a rather old story. How long have we been saying this here on Artblog?



Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2010, 5:00 PM

The more I look at the pears here the more I like them. I bought some pears and apples for eating today and thought, hmm. I wonder if I could....

But aside from that, I also wonder: Could work this good be its own argument? Is it powerful enough to quietly turn things around all on its own?

If Matisse himself appeared today, making the work he's most known for, would he be able to turn the tide?


Tom Hering

February 15, 2010, 5:27 PM

Would Matisse turn the tide? No. It would be the wrong time in history for him.



February 15, 2010, 6:22 PM

Or, he might've turned out to be another kind of Matisse entirely.


Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2010, 6:27 PM

I'm not so much imagining Matisse simply being alive right now and being an artist and seeing what happens. I mean, what if Matisse appeared -- poof! -- and started painting at the level he was best known for. Would people look at his work and say, wow, okay, yeah, this is what we really wanted, sorry about all that Conceptual stuff?

It's not a real question, exactly, since it's obviously impossible.

There's another, more realistic question, which is whether it's possible for anyone at all to attain Mattise-like heights of talent without the kind of cultural, peer, institutional, and financial support he enjoyed. Does Franklin have it in him to be that good? We may never know, because it's just not possible, the way it's not possible to, for example, climb to the peak of Mount Everest without a certain level of technology. Might as well try to build a moon rocket in your back yard.



February 15, 2010, 6:40 PM

Well, trying to look on the bright side, such as it is, I suppose it's conceivable that the linked Smith piece may be an indication that the status quo is getting a bit static and/or stale, even for the inside crowd. Of course, it could all be largely talk to stand out and get some "maverick" mileage, but surely these people have to do some sort of growing up and moving on at some point. Or so one would think, though I'm not holding my breath.


George R

February 15, 2010, 7:16 PM

Tom(#64) I was wondering if anyone here would take notice of "Post-Minimal to the Max" in the NYT.


Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2010, 7:43 PM

I have Jerry's page on the New York rag, er, magazine site bookmarked, but since it's not an RSS or Atom feed I don't see immediately when new things are posted. So I only check in a few times a week. I'm not on Facebook and I don't read the New York Times online or in real life (the Sunday Times is FIVE BUCKS!) so unless someone points it out to me, I don't see it.



February 15, 2010, 8:01 PM

Five bucks, as in dollars? I don't think so. I mean, as if.


George R

February 15, 2010, 8:15 PM

Roberta's NYT article "Post-Minimal to the Max" is a watershed event, the most important article of the decade.



February 15, 2010, 8:22 PM

And Chris, it's not like you have to apologize for not being instantly up on the latest from Smith or Saltz. It's not as if either of them deserves any particular attention, except as potential signs of how the wind may be blowing.


Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2010, 9:19 PM

Lou Gagnon writes to me every so often with interesting things and he wrote to me about a show called Why Beauty Matters. It's basically a video essay by Roger Scruton (who we've discussed here before).

I'm not going into my long-form discussion of the show -- it's a good watch, and not too long, and the art reproduced is excellent (especially if you watch it in HD on a big screen, as I did). Suffice to say Scruton says in it much of what we've read from him before, namely that contemporary art sucks, Emin and Hirst are prats, and when are we going to make some really nice paintings and sculptures again? That kind of thing.

Now Roberta has jumped on the bandwagon, and I think we've heard rumblings from various other places, and it all leads me to believe that there may be a big shift happening.

What worries me is that people like Scruton and Roberta are going to run off with it as if they've been championing it all along while people like WDB, John Link, our Edmonton friends, and Franklin -- to name a few -- are still going to be left in a metaphorical backwater.

That'd be bad all around, but also for me, since they're the people I happen to know.


Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2010, 9:20 PM

Of course the fact that Roberta thinks Eisenman is a shift at all, let alone in the right direction, may be the sign that there's no shift coming at all.


George R

February 15, 2010, 9:24 PM

...and it all leads me to believe that there may be a big shift happening.




February 15, 2010, 9:32 PM

Just left this comment on Ed's blog:

"Unfortunately, Smith's alternatives, at least the ones among the living, almost exclusively consist of latter-day surrealists, Pop artists, or some combination thereof: Owens, Schutz, Pittman, Trockel, Fischli & Weiss, De Forest, Wesley, Eisenman, Saul, Nutt. Everyone on that list and several of the others mentioned in her article would only give us hand-painted versions of the same arch, insular commentary we're already seeing. Where is Jane Freilicher's criminally overdue retrospective? How about a show of Alan Feltus? Even Smith can't think that far outside of the box. But yes, her description of the curatorial world as a hive-mind confirms what many of us have been saying about it for a long time."



February 15, 2010, 9:35 PM

Yes, Chris, it appears some people, supposedly expert, highly in-the-know people, are just getting around to discovering warm water, the wheel, and the roundness of the earth. Other people have been right on target all along, vocally so, but disenfranchised and ignored. The former group will, of course, try to maintain the upper hand and look "progressive." Still, if there really is a shift for the better, I'll take it.


Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2010, 9:37 PM

I see over at Ed's, George, that you intend to see some of the #class thing. If you're going to Franklin's bit, maybe we could meet there.


George R

February 15, 2010, 9:48 PM

Chris, I'll be at the opening Sunday for sure, the other week days it will depend on my work schedule.



February 15, 2010, 9:50 PM

And in answer to Chris's question via e-mail, my slot is Friday, March 19, at 4 PM.



February 15, 2010, 10:05 PM

I see EW is dismissing or at least downplaying Smith's point, compromised though it may be. Sounds like "If it ain't indisputably broke yet, don't make an issue of it, let alone fix it."



February 15, 2010, 10:14 PM

I should have said "irretrievably" instead of "indisputably" in #85.


George R

February 15, 2010, 10:23 PM

FWIW, The RS article was linked by Jerry on his FB page which started a 400+ comment discussion in which RS responded as well.



February 15, 2010, 10:27 PM

Maybe I can send this to Roberta to perk her up:

Mumyoi 1
Mumyoi 2
Mumyoi 3
Mumyoi 4

No glaze, no coloring, just clay fired under oxidation vs. smoking without oxygen.



February 15, 2010, 11:02 PM

O yummi mumyoi!


Chris Rywalt

February 15, 2010, 11:24 PM

I assume, Franklin, that you'll be coming down in person, then.



February 15, 2010, 11:27 PM

I will.



February 15, 2010, 11:49 PM

mumyoi = minimal to the maximal


Tom Hering

February 15, 2010, 11:51 PM

George @ 72: I knew nothing about it until I saw the topic at EW's blog this morning.

Chris @ 70: I think all the art lovers from Matisse's time would have to "poof" into the present as well.



February 16, 2010, 12:00 AM

I read Smith's article, and found it galling, though more or less on the right track. Galling because the Times, including Roberta Smith, pours oceans of ink into the very thing she is bemoaning, and lets many excellent exhibits proceed without the blessing of the (once) mighty Journal of Record.

The word for this is "hypocrisy"

The Jacobson-Howard Gallery in NYC did a museum-quality exhibition last fall entitled "1959", closely examining a year that marked the extraordinary change from an Abstract Expressionist approach in new painting to a more subdued and simplified approach presaging Minimalism, curated expertly by Roni Feinstein, with lots of never-before-seen paintings and a documentary catalog.

The Times couldn't be bothered to even come see it.

If Roberta is going to rant about how boring the art world is she ought to start by making some changes in her own territory.



February 16, 2010, 12:06 AM

Roberta Smith: ...A combination of forces threatens to herd all of our major art institutions into the same aesthetic pen.... [Curators] have a responsibility to their public and to history to be more ecumenical, to do things that seem to come from left field.

Somethun's got the lead cow spooked. Git along, little dogie!



February 16, 2010, 12:21 AM

And wave a stick with a flag on it right behind its butt. Irritate that animule into the promised land, where ever that might be. The herd is suddenly getting restless. Perhaps they don't like jumping off cliffs after all.



February 16, 2010, 1:01 AM

I thought it was a great article and I participated in the Facebook discussion with Roberta.I tried to draw her out a little on craft because I find her to be very fair and ecumenical on the subject - a practically unique position in the big time art press. I don't know what influence the article will have, but as a daily reader of the Times, it was a pleasure to read something sensible. I thought it was a simple message calling for curators to do a better job, to counter the entertainment/bottom line ethos, to look for real artists before we forget what that might mean.


Chris Rywalt

February 16, 2010, 8:31 AM

I miss many things about Facebook. One of the things I feel slightly bad about is losing the connection to Jerry and his posts. Jack may sneer, but I still like the guy.

I don't miss all the "Look at me! Look at me!" replies to his posts, however.

If you go to you'll see that someone has parked the domain and added a note for Jerry: "Jerry, get a blog. Facebook is not the Internet." What this wag does not say is a) The World Wide Web is not the Internet either and b) Facebook may not be the Internet but it is a manageable slice thereof. A conversation like the one kicked off by Roberta's article wouldn't be possible on a blog with a large audience.

Although I wonder if Roberta or Jerry would get an audience much larger than, say, Ed Winkleman's. The art world isn't that enormous, and the subset of it that uses the Internet is pretty small.



February 16, 2010, 9:12 AM

OP (94), it's called wanting to have it both ways, or actually, every way. I suppose one should be grateful for any move in the right direction by anybody who supposedly matters and has some sort of traction, but of course she's compromised. She wouldn't be where she is if she weren't.

And Chris, you're welcome to like Saltz, at least as a person, since you've apparently interacted with him directly, but what he does as a critic is a rather different matter. He's been described (by John Yau) as "big, bright, shiny, colorful, crowd-pleasing, and heat seeking," and I think that pretty much fits. He's very much in bed with the problem and is therefore part of it. The wife comes across better, certainly as less embarrassing, at least in terms of style if not of substance.



February 16, 2010, 9:23 AM

OP, you (and others) may like the book Modern Masters: American Abstraction at Midcentury, the catalog to a Smithsonian show that actually came to the Frost Museum at FIU and which I saw. It's very well illustrated and looks like an interesting read.



February 16, 2010, 10:09 AM

Jack that show was jarringly out of place in Miami, a real shock of absolutely good art suddenly appearing in this wasteland. It Reminded me of that humming metallic slab from outer space in the opening scene of Kubric's "2001" - something dropped into the ape colony that got them all excited for a while and then disappeared.

The Times has managed to compromise itself every which way, and the art coverage fits right in to the pattern. It is sad to see a solid institution compromise its reputation for integrity, as it has done in recent years.



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