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Getting thoughts together roundup

Post #1463 • March 5, 2010, 11:25 AM • 139 Comments

Contemplating an angle for my #class talk on March 19 has obliged me to figure out the difference between art and entertainment, a topic of much back-and-forth on this blog. I'm saving the full explaination for the 19th, but here are some bits of nicely intersected art and entertainment, via Andrew Sullivan and John Porcellino respectively.

Chris sends in this Christopher Lydon interview with Yehudi Wyner. "In his case new music comes out of a sort of compost of the canon, from Bach to Bartok, and then everything else he’s heard over 80 years, from his father’s Yiddish art songs to boogie-woogie and gospel music."

Jane Morris Pack, ally at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, has an exhibition opening tonight at Somerville Manning in Delaware.

Anyone up for reviewing art at this level of intensity? Or maybe a better question would be: Video games can take it. Can art?




March 5, 2010, 12:50 PM

Video games have to be successful in practice. Art, in the official art world, only has to be successful in theory. Needless to say, this makes a huge difference.



March 5, 2010, 12:59 PM

Franklin, you should invite Roberta Smith to your talk.



March 5, 2010, 1:39 PM

For anybody who would like to see a really, really good show, may I recommend "John Griefen: Recent Paintings" at Gary Snyder/Project Space in Chelsea (through May 1). The cutesy little stuff at Snyder's website doesn't begin to give you the full flavor that you can get from looking at the actual art.


Chris Rywalt

March 5, 2010, 3:33 PM

Piri, did you see Daniel Rozin at bitforms? I saw Daniel's last show and it was really fantastic.



March 5, 2010, 4:06 PM

I'll go see Daniel Rozin if you'll go see Griefen. Then we can compare notes. Deal?



March 5, 2010, 4:25 PM

I must be the only person in the world who has absolutely no interest in Rube Goldberg contraptions. Can I claim disability?



March 5, 2010, 4:40 PM

Can you ever.



March 5, 2010, 5:28 PM

I mean, what's there to be bored with? I enjoyed that performance quite well enough.



March 5, 2010, 5:47 PM

I'd rather look at Japanese porn. For its aesthetic qualities, of course.


Chris Rywalt

March 5, 2010, 9:00 PM

I like Rube Goldberg contraptions but I have to admit I'm tiring of the Rube Goldberg Contraption Filmed in One Long Take subgenre.

This video reminds me of the Rube Goldberg contraption on display in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. It used to run but these days just sits there sadly in its dusty Plexiglas box. I wonder what it would take to get it running again.



March 5, 2010, 9:01 PM

Someone just sent me this link about conceptual art vs. aesthetic art, as he puts it. I thought I would pass it on. There might be something in it you can use in your class Franklin.



March 5, 2010, 10:15 PM

Ah, I see. You guys have been overexposed to youtube-goldberg.



March 5, 2010, 11:03 PM

David, the article started well and then slowly fell apart. The author did not seem to have a firm enough handle on his subject to conclude appropriately. But it was mostly well wirtten and I am pleased to see someone at least making a clear distinction.

Sooner or later each kind of art making will just go its own way and find its own audience.



March 5, 2010, 11:03 PM

Forget the Rube business. Try these:

Soma 1
Soma 2
Soma 3

Shino 1
Shino 2
Shino 3
Shino 4



March 6, 2010, 7:50 AM

The glaze of the soma vessel is not in synch with the form.

The Shino piece is wonderful, very elegant. Has that "edible" feeling I get with many of these good pieces.



March 6, 2010, 8:08 AM

Opie, Sooner or later each kind of art making will just go its own way and find its own audience. That would be a good outcome I'd say.

I was thinking of something R. Smith said in her recent critique about people forgetting how to read a painting, or forgetting what the use of art might be and this seemed to be an attempt to offer a counter argument in the face of strong headwinds. I don't know specifically what they teach in London art schools, so I was also looking for clues. I know someone who studied at Goldsmith's fairly recently, where this was presented - an older woman who's a painter, though I haven't spoken to her about the atmosphere for painting there.

I was offered the link by a British artist through comments on Matthew Colling's Facebook page. Colling's wrote something I enjoyed in the latest Modern Painters.

Modern art from Courbet to Pollock is the vital key to the mystery of what on earth we can do to stop being plastic zombies if we’re art people. Nostalgia or retroreverence is, of course, not the answer. Inquiry is — not photo-opportunity inquiry like Mark Leckey’s lectures but genuinely opening up to history. Modernism tells us that a lot can be retrieved from the useless past of art. This past is useless because the old rulers for whom the art was originally created are no more. But visual sincerity and power are found in traditional art’s formal meanings, its abstract musicality. And modernism’s concern with this level of meaning is all about homing in on power and sincerity and renewing them for a new age.



March 6, 2010, 8:18 AM

I like both pots, though I see Opie's point about the Soma. But why can't it present two ideas - sort of above and below, earth and sky, which is how I read the imagery. The Shino is perfect - a galaxy in a tea bowl.



March 6, 2010, 8:36 AM

I know Collings rambles but I often find good points in his writing, and he's a practicing artist with an interest in the craft of art. I'm catching up on yesterday's Times arts section and it's pretty bleak in spite of massive activity in N.Y. R.Smith reviews the New Museum Dakis Joannou show, as she must I guess, saying it sounded like a bad idea and yes, it was a bad idea. What else is new. Carol Vogel gives the history of a Bronzino drawing new to the Met, "Justice Liberating Innocence". We can only hope.



March 6, 2010, 8:49 AM

I seem to be stuck in italics. So much for super powers.



March 6, 2010, 8:51 AM

I'm on it.



March 6, 2010, 8:54 AM

It's fixed. Also I just killed an incoming comment. Sorry, 1, please repost.



March 6, 2010, 8:54 AM

it would be great if someone could post some pics of griefen's new work



March 6, 2010, 9:07 AM

I'm not entirely sure about this, but I tend to like it:

Seto (click on any image to enlarge the set)



March 6, 2010, 9:10 AM

The Soma is clearly not as good as the Shino, but I have a weakness for that kind of crackled jade-green glaze.



March 6, 2010, 9:37 AM

My anti-Rube stance predates YouTube. It goes back to at least 1997, when the old EAG exhibited a 1987 "art film" called "The Way Things Go" by Fischli and Weiss. It is probably available on Youtube now, though, and is likely a source of "inspiration" to these other latter-day Rubistes.

Judging by the Griefen thumbnails on the gallery's website, he looks to be something of a New York Mitch Smith...



March 6, 2010, 10:53 AM

Collings seems to be sensible, but the quote kind of threw me with "This past is useless because the old rulers for whom the art was originally created are no more" which makes no sense at all. And "formal meanings" and "level of meaning" and the "all about" sentence is pretty much artspeak. Collings should edit himself better.

Pots should not "present ideas". They should just be pots and look good.

I saw the Times article too and I cannot read any more about these silly shows. When the art sucks they simply should avoid it. There is enough good stuff they miss because they don't pay the right kind of attention.

I like the last pot, Jack. It's solid and substantial, like a fat cook.

MC I can't see their stuff as art, MC, but Fischl & Weiss are fun, I think, but it seems like you just don't like that sort of thing.

Smith & Griefen are a lot alike, of course, but Griefen has been at it a lot longer. I like both of them, but having gone through & gotten past my own minimalism I am critical of others.


Michael Paraskos

March 6, 2010, 10:59 AM

On the difference between art and entertainment - you might find this on Anish Kapoor interesting:



March 6, 2010, 11:01 AM

I just friended Michael Paraskos, who wrote the essay linked in #11. Interesting guy. He's penned a book with an irresistable title.



March 6, 2010, 11:02 AM

And his taste in blogs is excellent.



March 6, 2010, 11:05 AM

Always appreciate your read on things Opie. Assigning ideas to pots is a mistake. But I do like it when a revered pot is given a name (like Lucky Bowl, or Galaxy - which was the name given to the second 1,200 year old tea bowl by Kaji Aso). That's why I persist in giving names to my furniture pieces even though some think it's silly.



March 6, 2010, 11:07 AM

Hello Michael.



March 6, 2010, 11:56 AM

I like giving names to things, David. It's harmless and brings them closer to us, personalizes things, particularly things we have made, which really are extensions of us, like children.

I guess the noun "friend" has joined the mass migration to verbization. (that's a neologism, not a typo). I'm not against this tendency. It seems like a natural consequence of the types of and increase of verbal connection brought about by the internet.

I know we hashed this out here a while back, and we can refer to that, but aren't art & entertainment the same thing? I guess entertainment is the broader category, but art as art is certainly entertainment, if not the other way around. Entertainment carries a "lower" implication, but it needn't. Seems to me it all depends on who is being entertained, and by what.



March 6, 2010, 12:23 PM

re. entertainment. I was going to say something about the tea ceremony regarding entertainment - just to say that it is regarded as such, at least in it's root form. I didn't want to seem too japanesque, but wtf. Actually I really appreciate the entertainment of Artblog today. An encounter with a Massachusetts state trooper yesterday resulted in my van being towed to a yard in Stoughton (something about insurance), and a surprisingly fun afternoon waiting to be picked up by my son. The joint turned out to be a clubhouse for a great group of blokes and a deal to get a much needed brake job in lieu of 4 or 5 days storage fees while I raise some cash. Anybody need a nice piece of furniture? Prices are adjusted to a "still wicked bad economy", as they say in the Bay State.



March 6, 2010, 12:31 PM

"Friend" as a verb I reserve particularly for Facebook. In other contexts I prefer the traditional "befriend."

I'm thinking of entertainment as a necessary component of art. They are not the same thing. In fact, I'm going to make the case that conceptualism is a form of entertainment. Heh!



March 6, 2010, 12:31 PM

Appreciate the comment on names Opie. They are harmless. I'll use that next time some smart ass says something.



March 6, 2010, 12:34 PM

Franklin feel free to delete #33 if it violates any Artblog rules, though I've read them very, very carefully.



March 6, 2010, 12:43 PM

David I don't think Franklin will put you in the same category as random spamming Viagra peddlers.

That being said, anyone wanna buy some hot paintings?

Franklin I am just looking, as always, at what we do with art, so as to say what art is. It seems that it entertains us, pure and simple. I can't see that it does much else. I think something more "profound" comes across by means of the entertainment, but that does not change the basic function.



March 6, 2010, 12:55 PM

I think something more "profound" comes across by means of the entertainment, but that does not change the basic function.

I agree with that right up to the comma. I think the more profound bit is the art, and the driving force that gives you the feeling that something is happening is entertainment. In the art part, nothing is happening. It just is, and its mere existence is enough.



March 6, 2010, 1:05 PM

Thanks for the cover Opie. I think Conceptual art as entertainment is a great angle F.



March 6, 2010, 1:34 PM

If conceptualism is entertainment, I'm sure as hell not part of the target audience. The issue is not whether art is entertaining, but how well it does that, in what way and why.



March 6, 2010, 1:35 PM

All minimalism is not alike. Griefen's minimalism is very different from Bannard's, as anybody would know who had seen both in the flesh -- and particularly a variety of the Griefens such as are visible in the current show. I realized this creates problems for people who don't live in the New York area (or may have been able to see the occasional Griefen in Edmonton, or were willing to hunt for his work at Miami Basel), but you really don't get an idea of these paintings' scale or facture or variety from the images on the web, any more than you really get an idea of what an 80s Olitski looks like in photographs. I have a whole theory about modern art and its relationship to the camera. I think that modernist artists inevitably vie with the camera, and the better the cameras become, the more the artists strive to create paintings that elude the camera. First the impressionists went in for color that none of the cameras of their day could reproduce, then when color photography got better, the cubists started started exploring inner landscapes that corresponded to nothing a camera could depict, and finally the abstract expressionists adopted a heroic scale that never comes across in photographs. I don't think it's a conscious effort, just something that happens more or less inevitably. In Griefen's case, his minimalism is a sort that has evolved through his earlier immersion in Olitski, and I've watched over the past 10 years to see how gradually he's evolved into doing what he's doing now. As far as I know, Smith didn't go through this whole long process. He just decided that this kind of minimalism was the way to go after he saw how effective it was for Griefen. I could be wrong about this but it's my understanding at present.



March 6, 2010, 1:39 PM

Unfortunately I can't get into this until later because I have to go do grading, but I would like to because it is one of those basic questions.

You say, in effect, that the entertainment is the train and the art is what it is carrying. I would say that is a good image to get started but I am skeptical, or cautions, about separating art and entertainment and "demoting" entertainment. The experience is too unitary. describing it right is a matter of characterizing modes of existence accurately. At least I think so.



March 6, 2010, 1:42 PM

Do we have a link for Greifen?



March 6, 2010, 2:03 PM

To get back for a moment to Matthew Collings, I can never quite swallow or trust him. I'm not the trusting sort, admittedly, but there's something vaguely suspect about him. It doesn't help he writes for "Modern Painters," which I was foolish enough to subscribe to a few years back and found highly disappointing (the subscription was not renewed).

As for the for the people behind the Turner Prize (which has virtually nothing to do with Turner in practice), they're like an obnoxious bore who persists in telling leaden jokes because he fancies himself funny, or like some big shot who tells jokes he knows are lousy because he can count on subservient and/or opportunistic laughter.


Chris Rywalt

March 6, 2010, 2:07 PM

Piri sez:
I have a whole theory about modern art and its relationship to the camera. I think that modernist artists inevitably vie with the camera, and the better the cameras become, the more the artists strive to create paintings that elude the camera.

There's a flip side to this which I've thought about for some time, which is the ascendence of art which can be easily reproduced. The line between fine art and illustration has been blurred to the point of nonexistence in the mainstream; many otherwise intelligent individuals will tell you the line is artificial, drawn only by anti-commercial snobs. In fact the non-existence of the line is an article of faith among those considering themselves educated and cultured in art. Meanwhile I personally believe -- based on my experience with both -- that the line between art and illustration is clear and as strong as ever, but only when looking at originals. The trouble comes in when people freely make judgments based entirely on reproductions, because the line doesn't exist there.

This has resulted in at least a full generation, maybe two or three, of artists creating work for reproduction, or which reproduces well, at any rate.

Even people who know differently -- as on this blog -- fall into the trap of judging by reproduction all the time. It's too convenient not to. But it can lead to a flattening of expectation, which feeds back into what kinds of work get created.



March 6, 2010, 2:10 PM

I have no inherent need to demote entertainment but it does seem to be a lot easier to produce than art, not that there isn't a craft to it. We could regard most of the drama that appears on television, for instance, as long on entertainment and short on art.

I'm equating entertainment with profluence in the way that John Gardner used it - the sense of forward movement in a work of fiction. Entertainment is that participatory illusion of movement; you're carried along, and you want to see what happens next. Art's very existence gives pleasure. The interesting thing is that art's fundamental immobility and entertainment's fundamental motion aren't mutually exclusive. I wouldn't say that art is the cargo and entertainment the train. I'd say that entertainment is the hiking trail and art is the scenic lookouts. This is a wretched metaphor, but I'm still on the first draft.

One can cite many examples in which entertainment overwhelms artistic concerns and results in a cheap, superficial product. My assertion is that conceptual art is the same phenomenon - scaled-back artistic concerns, and an external application of narrative, buzz, wall text, or what have you in order to provide a sense of forward motion. The difference is that the latest dance hit tries to be seductive, whereas wall text tries to be intimidating.


Chris Rywalt

March 6, 2010, 2:13 PM

The name Matthew Collings rings a bell somewhere in my head. Were we friends on Facebook? I can't quite remember. Oh no, wait, I read his book It Hurts.

If I remember correctly the book was a little too hip for me. He made some good points, said some things I strongly disagreed with.

I have a couple of quotes from him on my page. Here's one:

An artist doesn't really exist unless they're having exhibitions in a gallery. And an exhibition never happened unless it's been covered by an art magazine. Ad space is taken out in the magazines to advertise the shows. And to keep the general communication system going. The system is based on the idea that the magazines will cover the shows. It's not a direct financial relationship, where the reviews are actually paid for. But it is nearly. On the other hand, it's a system that seems to work quite well.

Aha. It's the "seems to work quite well" part that sums up what I didn't like about his book. He thinks this is all okay.



March 6, 2010, 2:20 PM

Not exactly or necessarily intimidating, Franklin, but rather persuasive by way of pseudoprofundity, facile and banal "relevance," and seductively fashionable correctness.


Chris Rywalt

March 6, 2010, 2:22 PM

I find dance hits intimidating. Anything can be intimidating if it comes from a universe of discourse about which you know nothing.

I think the answer to the art/entertainment dilemma is to say that art can be an entertainment and some people find art entertaining, but art is larger than entertainment.


Chris Rywalt

March 6, 2010, 2:32 PM

Speaking of Michael Paraskos and his irresistible title, the question in his title is almost exactly what I started asking myself as I started seeing more art a few years ago. When I realized how many people were making Pop Surrealism -- and better than I ever could -- I changed what I was doing. Not abruptly and not just because of that, but it's an important question to ask: Is my artwork really necessary? Or are other people doing and saying the same things?

This, to me, is just another way of following the advice given by Orwell to writers: "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." In art that would be, don't create anything you've seen before.



March 6, 2010, 2:32 PM

Have you read Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", Franklin? There's a dialogue that starts 3/7ths of the way through the fifth chapter where Dedalus juxtaposes the kinetic desire or loathing of the improper arts with a stasis of aesthetic emotion. Which doesn't seem that far off of your entertainment and/vs. art track.



March 6, 2010, 3:28 PM

"I'd say that entertainment is the hiking trail and art is the scenic lookouts."

I would agree tha this is a wretched metaphor. One could easily reverse it, even.

I am not saying that all enytertainment is art, just that art is essentially entertainment. It might just boil down to semantics.

But more later. I've got to finish my grading.



March 6, 2010, 3:37 PM

Art, at least good art, is a stimulant, and the stimulation it provides could be considered a type of entertainment. It is not, however, the same as other kinds of entertainment.

And by the way, Franklin, if conceptualism is entertainment (which it decidedly is not as far as I personally am concerned), it is entertainment for the easily or dysfunctionally amused.



March 6, 2010, 4:29 PM

this is what i could find for the recent griefen show:



March 6, 2010, 4:33 PM

Pleasure is the category, while art and entertainment are intersecting subcategories. Can a brother get a Venn diagram?

It may be a semantic distinction, sure. But if all art is entertainment, then what distinguishes art from entertainment? When art provides that profound experience, in the case of sublime objects, is it some kind of super-entertainment? I think it's something else - a pleasure not provided even by good entertainment.


Chris Rywalt

March 6, 2010, 4:42 PM

That's what I was saying, Franklin, when I said that art can be entertainment, but is larger than that. Venn diagram indeed.

Many things qualify as entertainment but are also other things. A basic fact I've learned is that anything humans do, they will do for fun, usually in a much more complex and refined form. For example, last weekend a good friend of mine took my son shooting (and I came along to watch). Shooting is something people do because, bottom line, they need to kill something, either to eat it or to defend against it (or them). But my son didn't kill anything. He just shot at targets. The details of shooting at targets are complex, often beyond what's necessary for killing something for food.

A lot of human activity falls this way and doesn't seem weird. No one finds it odd that food can be enjoyable but also necessary for continued existence. And as for what happens to that fancy food you enjoyed... (A friend of mine who worked in a high-end restaurant once plated a hamburger for an American President's daughter. He told me what he thought as he was handling her food: "I'm touching Chelsea Clinton's future shit!")

Anyway. Food, drink, sex, exercise, fencing, horseback riding, gardening, almost any gerund you can imagine, all these things are entertainment but also something else. Why not art?



March 6, 2010, 4:58 PM

First of all, I think we should agree not to weigh the word "entertainment" down with implicit valuations but take it for what it is. We do not diminish art by calling it entertainment; we merely use the word accurately. My online dictionary has it as "agreeable occupation for the mind; diversion; amusement, something affording pleasure".

This is what entertainment is, not something that is better or worse or higher or lower than something else until an evaluation is made, not before. Art fits the definition.

As far as I am concerned, and I think anyone who claims to be an "art lover" should agree, art of all kinds is basically entertainment. This does NOT mean that all entertainment is art. It does NOT mean that all entertainments entertain everyone.

Then the question arises, legitimately, I think, is art "more than" entertainment? That is, does it provide something which can be perceived as apart from or other than its function as entertainment? Is it like food, which tastes good and is enjoyable to eat but provides nourishment?

I would say yes, this is reasonable and accords with my experience. Furthermore, perceiving art this way, coming this far using terms carefully, isolates the "value" which gets wrongly mixed with the word and the concept of entertainment. It is this quality or character which we are chasing whenever we get into the "what is art?" question, and it is valuable to be able to isolate it this way.

My problem philosophically is that this separation is conceiveble intellectually but not experientially. The entertainment and the "value added" are simultaneous and inseparable. More than that I can't say for now.



March 6, 2010, 6:58 PM

Fun with porcelain (Imari, Edo period):

Crane dish



March 6, 2010, 11:08 PM

1, what's at gary snyder's website does not give you a clue as what Griefen's paintings really look like.



March 7, 2010, 9:53 AM

What about the social component to both art and entertainment - enjoying the society of friends and artists? From Thoreau's 3 chairs, to the tea ceremony, from a local, small town museum show, to Chelsea on a Thursday night, to Facebook.



March 7, 2010, 9:59 AM

piri, that is true. so i hope someone can load some better images.

yet i am familiar with his painting prior to these and i am also with you in that i would not consider these minimal in the classic sense, yet i could understand why someone might classify them as such anyways.

i also do see these as an extension of bannard and olitski painting that would not be from the true minimal periods.

say bannard 1972-1974.

and sorry below from artnet, "bronzine":

you can link olitski with various pictures from the early spray years all the way to the mid 1980's.


Chris Rywalt

March 7, 2010, 10:25 AM

David, the connection between entertainment and socializing is, of course, huge. Sharing experiences with others is part of what makes entertainment entertaining in a lot of ways. Other humans are what makes us human, after all.

I've been thinking about this more as I watch my son playing video games. Since Santa brought him an Xbox 360 for Christmas my son's been playing a lot of video games -- a lot -- which is still often seen as an anti-social, solitary activity. "Go outside and play!" people say. Except he hardly plays alone any more -- he's always on with his friends and his cousin. In fact it's helped him bond with his cousin who's about the same age but lives eight hours away in Virginia. It keeps them closer.

The social aspect lends a dimension to video games that takes them to a whole new level of entertainment, almost to the level of a participatory sport, like a soccer league.

Getting back to art, of course part of the fun of going through Chelsea -- especially on opening nights -- is seeing all the various other viewers. You can connect with the audience for art that way. And it's a small enough audience that, if you go regularly, you keep seeing the same people here and there. Somehow I keep bumping into Gary Petersen, for example. (We're both originally from Staten Island so perhaps there's some radioactive magnetism or something.)

I said "fun". Fun's probably too fun a word. It's not exactly fun. Sledding with the kids is fun. It's neat, though, almost like fun. Certainly part of what keeps me coming back. There's an energy to it. A lot of times the art is absolutely dreadful, but there's a lift from seeing it with a crowd, at least.



March 7, 2010, 10:38 AM

David everything is connected and related. My effort here is to hone down on the specific, on the "what is art" question.

I'm not sure there is a lot of interest in it, however, but that's OK. I'm a little pressed for time this weekend anyway.



March 7, 2010, 10:52 AM

Yeah Chris, seeing an awful show by someone you know and like socially, for instance, might be where art and entertainment part ways. I had that experience recently. My son is 20, lives at home, and has the best computer and TV in the house. We call his room the bat cave. But he's totally plugged into his friends network. A broken phone charger this week is a major crimp in his system. Fortunately he likes to play midnight football and since his car is iffy, he often walks to friend's houses, and he needs to get to school regularly. If you are a professional in the arts (strange way to put it maybe), society is often an obligation, so it can be complicated.



March 7, 2010, 11:01 AM

Opie, yes I'm not sure how far this can go. I'm still processing the tea ceremony experience of a few weeks ago which boiled down a few of these basic concepts some 300 years ago -art, entertainment, society, philosophy. And I'm off to work myself. buon lavoro.


Chris Rywalt

March 7, 2010, 12:04 PM

Art is matter arranged by a human nervous system in order to affect other human nervous systems.



March 7, 2010, 12:21 PM

Soothing green:




March 7, 2010, 12:51 PM

Absolutely accurate, Chris.


Chris Rywalt

March 7, 2010, 3:55 PM

Accurate, yes. Useful? I'm not sure. Maybe. Maybe it needs a little tweaking: In order to do nothing but affect other human nervous systems through their senses. To exclude objects like knives, which affect nervous systems by, possibly, cutting them into pieces. And games, which are made to affect human nervous systems and interact with them.

Although maybe those things shouldn't be excluded. It seems to me an overly broad definition isn't especially helpful.



March 7, 2010, 4:41 PM

"If/when art is matter..." could be a cornerstone if there were other foundational bricks to lay in against and atop of it. #66 may as well stop at "art is matter". (Except when it is music, or spoken-word - then one of the corresponding cornerstones could be "if/when art is immaterial".)

For arguments' sake...

When art is matter:
- it is matter that can be perceived
- it is matter that can be manipulated
- it is matter that can be felt
- it is matter that can be reorganized
- it is matter that can be appreciated

When matter is art:
- we've perceived its plasticity
- we've manipulated it at an essential level
- we've felt its haptic information
- we've reorganized it into a new whole
- we've appreciated it as a good thing


Chris Rywalt

March 7, 2010, 5:32 PM

Music is matter. It's notes on paper, and then it's moving instruments, and then it's vibrating air molecules. No matter, no music.

The problem with your definition, Ahab, is that it includes things like automobiles and roast chickens. The trick to my definition is that automobiles and roast chickens (and other non-art matter humans have manipulated) have purposes beyond affecting other human nervous systems. In fact, most non-art items really don't have to interact with human nervous systems at all, except insofar as any matter sort of has to. I mean, the main thing about a car isn't how it looks or how you feel about it, it's that it gets you and your stuff from point A to point B quickly, safely, and flexibly. People care about how their cars look and how they feel about them, but that's not primary to their purpose -- cars wouldn't exist if not for the need to get us around. A car you couldn't see or otherwise interact with would be perfectly acceptable (aside from practical problems like finding it after you've parked it). If someone could develop food which simply appeared in your stomach -- so you wouldn't have to see it, taste it, or touch it on its way in -- it would still perform food's main function, which is nourishment.

The fact that humans like to tack on all sorts of extraneous fillips on their manipulated matter -- fins on Cadillacs, caviar on toast -- doesn't change that matter's main function in human existence.

Art, however, has only one function, and that's to affect the human nervous system.


Art is matter arranged by a human nervous system primarily for the purpose of affecting other human nervous systems.

That leaves some room for a knife to be art, and also for food art.

"we've appreciated it as a good thing": I've argued before (not around here) that art, by definition, cannot be bad. Bad art is simply not art, it's a collection of stuff which may have been intended as art but fails.

I'm not sure I want to bring that in now, though.



March 7, 2010, 5:54 PM

I see a significant difference between "art is..." and "when art is..." statements.

If words and music and thought are all rearranged matter, then why bother mentioning 'matter' at all? For that matter, why bother even mentioning 'human' since I'm a human and you're a human and we can't talk about anything but from human experience?



March 7, 2010, 7:25 PM

Let's not get too complicated. Chris's definition (description) was not all-encompassing, just accurate. It describes what we do with art, or what art does, not "everything" it is. It's a good start.

A good start is just that. Let it be, or build on it.

The matter matter is just semantics. Call it "something".


Chris Rywalt

March 7, 2010, 8:40 PM

I suppose, at some level, thought is simply rearranged matter. But I wouldn't go that far for our purposes here. That's like the old computer saying, "Don't get upset, it's only ones and zeros." And even running computer programs are matter, ultimately, but it's not especially helpful or useful to think of them that way. I went to school to learn computer programming and I know very, very little about how a CPU actually, physically works.

Words, therefore, aren't really matter, either. Neither are ideas. In order for words to be communicated they need to be embodied (like computer programs) but they're really something different. The meaning of words exists apart from the physical representation: I can write "YOU'RE UGLY AND YOUR MOTHER DRESSES YOU FUNNY" in any number of typefaces, on any number of surfaces, and you'll read it the same way.

Music, on the other hand, doesn't exist apart from its embodiment as vibrating air molecules. People with perfect pitch can "read" an orchestral score (or so I've heard) but for most people, the score is just an approximation. Until and unless someone plays it for you, it's not music. Music notation isn't perfect anyway, so even reading it off the page doesn't recreate it until it's played. (One of the things conductors do is study the piece before conducting it, choosing which version will be played, making decisions about what the composer meant at different passages, and so on. A composer -- or a solo musician at times -- is an interpreter, not merely an instrument.)

Anyway. OP has the right idea here. One sentence won't encapsulate everything. There are nuances.


Chris Rywalt

March 7, 2010, 8:44 PM

Oh, and I say "human nervous system" to distinguish it from, say, an ant's nervous system, or a carp's or cow's. I don't know anyone who makes art for them. Someone probably makes art for dogs and cats because some human nervous systems are insane. But let's not count them. Especially the cats. I also wanted to exclude the creations of, for example, termites.

I actually thought, as I was writing earlier, of the possibility that there exists some extraterrestrial species -- maybe lots of them! -- with nervous systems or something which create works of art for each other. And maybe us, too. But then I decided to leave the science fiction out of it.



March 7, 2010, 11:48 PM

Do lets get a little more complicated than "art is something that matters to people".


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 12:12 AM

I'm pretty sure I got significantly more concrete and complex than that. Because food, water, shelter, medicine, love, all these things matter a good deal more to people than art.



March 8, 2010, 12:53 AM

I think the entertainment trope will give Franklin a good angle to work on, especially when coupled with conceptual art. It's clever because it's counter intuitive - we probably think conceptual art is the least entertaining kind unless we're the logical, mathematical type. I mentioned the social aspect, which might also be somewhat counter intuitive and applies to how artists seek productive milieus in which too grow and develop. Another quality of art that could be discussed is how it mediates between old and new, how the artist uses the past to do something that works for the present.



March 8, 2010, 1:55 AM

I was initially willing to go along with it for the sake of gabbing, then got a nunnish earful for it instead - so, no, I don't think Chris' reduction is nearly accurate enough, nevermind absolutely accurate, nevermind meaningful.

- Is all art comprised of matter? It seems semantically ambiguous, so since we're not going to kick 'art' out of bed the word 'matter' becomes the dubitable one.

- Does one ever not use one's nervous system? Not so far as I know, except maybe when being used by it.

- Does one actually "arrange matter"? That's an odd construction - one may arrange material, but matter and material are not exactly synonymous.

- So, supposing one does arrange matter via one's nervous system, is it always/only to affect another's? Once made, arranged matter MAY affect another, but my studio experiece suggests I "arrange matter" in order to organize it according to my own judgment. That's all, other nervous systems be damned.

"Art is matter organized for affect", though, hm, that I could maybe get behind.



March 8, 2010, 8:19 AM

No new post today - Supergirl's out of town so I have to get myself ready and out the door for my 100-mile drive to work. Here's what I'm still wondering - when it comes to the best art, is the payoff for looking at it some kind of super-entertainment or something different entirely from entertainment? Right now I'm leaning towards no. I think that entertainment is an enabling mechanism in art but not a required one. Specifically, I'm not sure that the pleasure I get from looking at Rothko really qualifies as entertainment, although the act of going out to the museum and having a gander at it certainly qualifies as diverting myself.



March 8, 2010, 8:20 AM

Leaning towards the latter, I mean.



March 8, 2010, 8:23 AM

Ahab, Chris said "Art is matter arranged by a human nervous system in order to affect other human nervous systems." He seems to think it lacks "nuance" when in fact it lacks precision and elaboration.

Saying anything true and sensible about art is valuable because our species finds it hard to do so, so doing so is alway swimming upstream against a tide of BS.

I have a strong bias toward fact and reality based on observation and the statement seems right even if it would be righter if we said "something" instead of "matter" and "brain" instead of "nervous system" and "construct" instead of "arrange", or whatever. In other words, it puts us on the right track.

I think the word you want is "effect". Then the question is: what is the nature of the effect?



March 8, 2010, 8:28 AM

What we get from the best art is a kind of satisfaction, pleasure or desirable stimulation, as well as a kind of visual/mental exercise or workout, the exact nature of which is variable. One could pin the entertainment label on it instead, depending on how one qualifies "entertainment." It's essentially a matter of semantics.



March 8, 2010, 9:43 AM

A really nice fat pot to start the week:

Otani 1
Otani 2
Otani 3
Otani 4
Otani 5

Click on images to enlarge as needed.


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 10:15 AM

I cannot tell you -- all sarcasm turned off, I mean this sincerely -- I can't tell you how much it means to me to have OP speak positively about my assertion.

Now let's quibble a bit because that's the fun part.

...even if it would be righter if we said "something" instead of "matter" and "brain" instead of "nervous system" and "construct" instead of "arrange", or whatever.

I'm not tied to "matter" over a word like "material" or even "something", although "something" sounds a little vague to me.

However, I specifically used (and have in the past also) "nervous system" rather than "brain" because human perception is more complex than just the brain. In fact recently researchers have been looking at the complex of nerves in the abdomen and some are calling it the second brain due to its density. Eyes, ears, nose, hands, these are connected to the brain but there's processing that goes on earlier than the brain. So I say "nervous system"".

And I specifically used "arrange" rather than "construct" because all we do is rearrange existing matter. We don't create matter, we don't construct iron oxide, we don't build marble. We rearrange matter. I like to think of IBM being spelled out in atoms. (Some scientists are creating matter -- new elements and particles -- but there aren't too many of them. Some are even creating antimatter, but it's kind of expensive.)

Those quibbles aside, I appreciate your support on this one, OP.

Ahab, I didn't intend to give a nunnish earful. I'm trying to take your side of the argument seriously. Let me tackle it separately.


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 10:25 AM

Is all art comprised of matter?

I honestly don't see how it could be made of anything else. Partly this is to kick the Conceptualists out of bed, because they think art is in the idea. I argue it isn't. That's why I say it's matter. I think, in order to be art, it has to made of something, it has to be tangible, perceivable. Ideas don't qualify.

Does one ever not use one's nervous system?

No, one is one's nervous system (unless you happen to believe in a soul or atman or something like that -- and even if you do, for our purposes here on Earth, you're still defined by your nervous system. When it stops working, you're dead by definition).

The nervous system is part of the formulation because otherwise we'd have to include naturally occurring phenomena as art, such as sunsets and pretty rocks. It's defined as a human nervous system to exclude termite mounds and beaver dams.

Does one actually "arrange matter"? That's an odd construction - one may arrange material, but matter and material are not exactly synonymous.

I'm not sure what the difference is between matter and material.

So, supposing one does arrange matter via one's nervous system, is it always/only to affect another's? Once made, arranged matter MAY affect another, but my studio experiece suggests I "arrange matter" in order to organize it according to my own judgment. That's all, other nervous systems be damned.

Your own judgment is based in your own nervous system. So in this case the matter is arranged to affect your own nervous system, which I just see as a special case of "another nervous system". Also, are you sure you only create art for yourself? You never expect anyone else ever to see it? Do you throw your drawings in the fireplace as soon as they're done? Smelt the bronze down right when you're done casting it? Even Francis Bacon left his paintings around the studio for a little while before burning them.

"Art is matter organized for affect", though, hm, that I could maybe get behind.

The trouble with this -- my formulation started out here in my head -- is organized by whom? For what effect? Again, sunsets are organized matter with an effect. We need to exclude stuff like that to get a meaningful definition, otherwise we're just saying "Art is something", which makes us sound like the worst kind of Conceptualist around.



March 8, 2010, 10:26 AM

I shouldn't have said that pot was fat. I should have said it looked gravid.


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 10:39 AM

Gravid is certainly less insulting to a female. On the day when you guys were talking about the pot that looked like a fat cook I was frying bacon and I was insulted. Fat cook indeed!



March 8, 2010, 11:13 AM

Æesthetic pleasure is both affect and effect. I must've meant æffect.



March 8, 2010, 11:14 AM

A latter 18th century pillar print:

Beauty at her Bath

Looks like Modigliani, no?


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 11:56 AM

It's similar to Modigliani in its lack of anatomical reality. Reality isn't strictly necessary but in that print it looks less like an affectation and more like an outright mistake.

I think the artist was probably concentrating on the chin-shoulder juxtaposition. It's something I've explored myself so I understand.



March 8, 2010, 12:23 PM

-- Art, said Stephen [Dedalus], is the human disposition of sensible or intelligible matter for an esthetic end.


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 12:34 PM

Sounds like Joyce beat me to it. I'd want to further define "an esthetic end", which is what we're discussing here.

I should go back to Kant, really, but I'm not sure my nervous system is up to it these days. Lately I feel like one of those apes who can do sign language.


Bunny Smedley

March 8, 2010, 2:17 PM

Collings is certainly one of the most interesting high-profile figures commenting on British art today.

Does that claim sound just slightly too much like faint praise? Perhaps - and I'd certainly agree with those here who've commented on his need to sound hip, his rhetorical sloppiness and so on.

Still, David makes an absolutely crucial point - although Collings can be very tolerant of low-quality 'artists' like Sarah Lucas, to the extent that one is left wanting to shake him while shouting 'why? why?', he's also a painter - by no means a bad painter, either - who clearly seeks to invest his work with a degree of aesthetic seriousness, rather than the usual showy cynicism that reigns hereabouts in high art circles. That's worth something, surely?

Mind you, for a very long time I couldn't stand him, especially that sub-Jamie Oliver, wilfully amateurish tone. I literally couldn't understand why Peter Fuller kept him on the payroll (I assume there was a payroll?) at 'Modern Painters'.

Now, though, that almost two decades have passed since Fuller's tragically early death (the anniversary is 28 April, in case anyone is wondering) one almost convulses with surprise and gratitude when pale shades of Fuller show up anywhere - not, of course, that Fuller was always right, either, but he did at least approach the whole subject with a seriousness and intensity virtually absent from art criticism today, and was always worth reading. And curiously, for all their differences of tone, education and character - and although his judgements are very much his own - I find more echoes of Fuller in Collings' writing than anywhere else.

Collings wrote, once, in his usual elaborately casual way, that he was retained at 'Modern Painters' as a court jester. Perhaps this is true. But like the best court jesters, he occasionally comes out with mordant truths all the more impressive for being so generally unexpected.



March 8, 2010, 2:22 PM

Mr. Dedalus said it a little better. I don't think we have to worry a lot about definitions of matter and nervous systems and the like because with a little care we can easily describe how we make art and what we do with it.

I think you are right that the next step would be to analyze "esthetic end" or effect. Certainly the very idea of art presupposes that. Just what it is demands particularization. This is the hard part.

I am not up to it either. School & other matters are very demanding right now, just when I am beset by seasonal ennui.



March 8, 2010, 2:31 PM

I have no trouble at all accepting the "court jester" explanation. Whatever Modern Painters was under Fuller, it is now simply not worth serious notice, if any, pace Collings. He may be sincere enough in what he says, but I remain at least somewhat skeptical. His general style or affect, if you will, hardly inspires unconditional confidence.



March 8, 2010, 2:38 PM

Hi Bunny. I am hypercritical of art critics because I was so close to Clem, who was so damn good at it and so much fun to talk to and argue with, and took it all so seriously even as he decried the practice. I would be more patient with them if they were willing to call out the bad stuff, as critics in any other field will do.

Collings may be about the best we have right now, but that in itself is a lamentable situation. So many of them seem to ooze a contrite defensiveness, by being smartass or cute or by manifesting some kind of attitude, like the "elaborate casualness" you say about Collings. Their manner of expression makes you suspect that they really do not understand the art they are talking about. Then when they talk about it you see that it is true.


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 2:42 PM

I'm reading From Eternity to Here by Sean Carroll and just found this quote hidden in the footnotes. I think it's appropriate here.

"Physicists tend to express bafflement that philosophers care so much about words. Philosophers, for their part, tend to express exasperation that physicists can use words all the time without knowing what they actually mean."



March 8, 2010, 2:42 PM

As you say Bunny, Modern Painters is very different now, especially since the editorial move to N.Y. a few years ago? I read Jerry Saltz there first and used to enjoy his reports from N.Y. It used to actually have something to do with painters -always a good read or two. I have a pile of old copies somewhere to prove it. So Collings stands out as sensible. We could also give him credit for getting older and wiser. I picked up that Fuller was an important voice that was cut short, and I have one of his books around here somewhere. Does he still exert an influence of any kind? Did he die just before the YBA artists hit big? Did he know about Damien Hirst?


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 2:44 PM

OP sez:
Mr. Dedalus said it a little better.

Only a little? High praise indeed! I'm putting that on my business cards: "Slightly worse writer than James Joyce". Or should it be "Almost as good a writer as James Joyce"? Something like that.



March 8, 2010, 2:53 PM

That "contrite defensiveness," OP, appears to be a mixture of insecurity and fear, and I expect the latter is not entirely unfounded. The system is nowhere near as tolerant as it claims to be, and there are potential adverse consequences to straying too far from the party line.



March 8, 2010, 2:55 PM

But really, who needs dubious critics, when one can admire gravid pots instead?



March 8, 2010, 2:56 PM

I think you are right that the next step would be to analyze "esthetic end" or effect.

Right Opie. Sounds like a good direction. I realize my points about the social aspect of making art and making the old new for the present, apply more to Modernism than a general definiton of art, if that's what we're doing. I like "effect."



March 8, 2010, 3:35 PM

That's true David but the social things we also do, and they should be considered. The job is to find as precisely as possible why art leads to these things, why does it have this seemingly exaggerated value for us.

I like "effect" because it is accurate and avoids "meaning". Art's value is in what it does, not what it means. This is general misunderstood or resisted.

Unfortunately, Chris, Mr. Dedalus's statement might be one of the few comprehendable things in the book.

Jack I hope your gravid pot has lots of little pots.

And, yes, a mixture of insecurity and fear is exactly what it is.


Bunny Smedley

March 8, 2010, 3:37 PM

Hello, Opie. For what it's worth, I entirely agree with all your comments about Collings. 'Contrite defensiveness' (good phrase, that) is a major problem, not least because, like compulsive irony, it seems to offer a way out of meaning anything one appears to say. All of which may be a good recipe for a quiet life and lots of friends in the art world, but rarely makes for particularly bracing criticism.

Regarding today's 'Modern Painters', though - ugh, just don't! A few years ago, I was mad enough to buy the full set of Fuller-vintage back issues. Honestly, five minutes with one of those is guaranteed to provide considerably more intellectual nourishment than whole years' worth of the present-day dog's dinner. The sooner that ghastly thing is put out of its misery, the better.

Finally, David, the question about Fuller's influence - both short-term and longer-term - is a seriously fascinating one, albeit one about which I know too little to say anything very sensible. Still, perhaps you might find this Jonathan Jones piece an answer of sorts ...

I'll stick with the original point, though. Whatever his flaws - and his books, by the way, are full of factual howlers - he really is one of the best we've got here. Faint praise, indeed, but praise of a sort all the same.


Bunny Smedley

March 8, 2010, 3:53 PM

PS. I should add that there's a lot in the Jones piece with which I don't particularly agree - and the Fuller quotes at the end are, in at least a few cases, so brutally extracted from their original context as to extinguish any actual meaning they may once have had. Whatever his flaws, Fuller had the Petrean inclination towards qualification and complication, if also an un-Petrean tendency towards moral seriousness. But he didn't really 'do' soundbites.

The point of the Jones reference is really just to provide a sort of answer for anyone who wonders who this Fuller person is, and, for David, the start of an answer - however defective - regarding Fuller's influence on the art of his time, and ours.


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 5:17 PM

Speaking of cranky critics, I just started watching Dreams with Sharp Teeth, the documentary about Harlan Ellison. Almost from its first frame it's brilliant and hilarious as Harlan responds to the filmmakers as they introduce him, "Just shoot the fucking thing so I can go back to my life!"

Bunny, do you have any pointers to Fuller's writing online?



March 8, 2010, 6:12 PM

I wrote a review ( of an exhibition of Lucien Freud etchings for Art Influence (, a quarterly online journal founded by Fuller's wife.

"Art Influence is a quarterly online journal with a unique take on art writing and criticism, incorporating video and audio footage from the Peter Fuller archives, up coming artists and interviews with current leaders in the art world."

Full text versions of a few of his essays are available here: (



March 8, 2010, 7:31 PM

It would appear, Bunny, that Collings is notably better than what is now the norm, which is indeed something (albeit not very much), but he is still compromised, either intrinsically or by choice. If it is the latter, I suppose it's to be expected, given the realities of survival, let alone success, in the current art world order.



March 8, 2010, 7:37 PM

"A way out of meaning anything one appears to say" is a way to avoid responsibility or commitment, thus avoiding the possible consequences of being incorrect. In other words, it's a way of having one's cake and eating it, too. No doubt it's convenient and practical (or pragmatic) enough, but it's also ennervating and ultimately suspect.



March 8, 2010, 7:49 PM

A rather late example (c. 1900) of the great British mezzotint tradition:


It's after the well-known self-portrait by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, who was among other things a friend of Marie-Antoinette as well as a prolific and highly successful painter in several countries. She reportedly got in some studio time even between labor pains on the day she delivered, so she was not quite as delicate as she looked.


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 7:54 PM

Jack, I specifically request you turn your attentions to Aesthetics & State Of Patronage. Fuller takes on your favorite hobby horse, the art market:

From all this, I conclude nothing except that the market clearly does not cause good art (art of high aesthetic value) or bad art (anaesthetic art, art of low aesthetic value). In art, at least, the operations of the market seem in a certain sense neutral, neither implying nor eliminating aesthetic values; the market, on its own, is simply insufficient or incapable of creating that ‘facilitating environment’ in which good art can be created.



March 8, 2010, 8:55 PM

The market as such doesn't care about good or bad; it only cares about what sells and for how much. In that sense, it is indeed neutral. The problem is the ostensible art people with sufficient or excess money (or some other form of influence) but insufficient or no eye, taste, or discernment.


Chris Rywalt

March 8, 2010, 9:00 PM

I think Fuller was trying to say that the marketeers aren't any different than they were in times of great art, so clearly the market and its denizens aren't the problem.



March 8, 2010, 9:07 PM

Chris, you are confusing the business people, the sellers and purveyors of anything that sells well enough (good, bad or indifferent) with the buyers or consumers, i.e., the art public or audience.



March 8, 2010, 9:13 PM

Thanks Bunny and Eric for the Fuller references. One sentence struck me as I started reading the first volume of Art Influence:

"Peter instead wrote about his own journey as a critic and summed up his views of the aesthetic experience compared with what he saw as the aesthetic idleness of some of his contemporaries."

"Aesthetic idleness" is wonderful.



March 8, 2010, 9:15 PM

Yes, aesthetic idleness, or a form of anaesthesia. It fits, all right.



March 8, 2010, 9:31 PM

buy testosterone 2100 adaptation buy soma



March 8, 2010, 9:37 PM

The Fuller book I have, and read way back, is Beyond the Crisis in Art, 1981. Some things never change. It's interesting to hear of the connection and relationship with John Berger, beginning as a mentor of sorts followed by a falling out, who we all (my friends and I)read in art school in the early 70's. I remember there was a backlash against Ways of Seeing at some point, maybe instigated by Fuller. We still go back to Berger sometimes for inspiration. Thanks again Bunny for "a start" on the context and back story.



March 8, 2010, 11:31 PM

I'm not sure that the market has no influence on art quality, or perhaps it should be posed as that no market can have an influence.

It is an interestiung question, and bears examining.



March 8, 2010, 11:56 PM

A good, or even just decent market for excellent contemporaneous art would nourish it, though I have written somewhat to the contrary HERE, where I said:

When art finds that pressure on artists keeps the quality of their work up, it encourages anxiety, to soften the defenses of the ego, to keep it tender and sore, so that the artist can't evade the demands of art, which are extreme when the level to be achieved is high. When an artist is prepared to do anything which would make his or her work better, undergo any hardship or humiliation, when he or she is totally defenseless before the demands of high art, then he or she can be truly serious.


Bunny Smedley

March 9, 2010, 12:56 AM

The Art Influence site, mentioned by eageageag, is well worth reading in its own right, as well as for the occasional old Fuller essay. The books are slightly different, though, Chris, as I do think that understanding what Fuller is trying to say (there is always a degree of struggle in what he writes) always requires a bit of context. And in that case, 'Beyond the Crisis in Art' is, as David says, a good place to start. So is the posthumous volume 'Peter Fuller's Modern Painters'. It's a shame that more of the 'Modern Painters' magazine archive isn't online.

Having veered off topic with all this Fuller nostalgia, I'll go ahead and add that my copy of Terry Fenton's 'About Pictures' arrived earlier this week. What a marvel - so spare, but with so much on every page - thanks to everyone here who suggested it.



March 9, 2010, 1:47 AM

Collings has a decent eye. He put me on to Patrick Heron's late work in one of his Modern Painters run-on-reviews. I think he declared Heron to be England's best painter at the time. It was about 1998, and he made me laugh (not with his effusing over Heron, whom I think is great) and you could tell he actually felt for the stuff.

For any Fenton fans I recommend the Noland catalogue which accompanied a survey exhibition he curated in Edmonton in the early 90's. The book is called 'Appreciating Noland' and he's got an online version up on his site which has been added to since first publication. It's a great breakdown of Noland's work, and abstract painting in general, and reads much the same as 'Pictures'. There's another great text called 'Olitski and the Tradition of Oil Painting' from the 80's.

..."to keep it tender and sore"... as in no mercy, fool.



March 9, 2010, 8:27 AM

Appreciating Noland by Terry Fenton



March 9, 2010, 8:42 AM

Franklin, you might want to delete the current #118.



March 9, 2010, 9:00 AM

The problem is not so much the marketers or marketeers, who would gladly and eagerly promote and sell good work if the buying public expected and demanded it. The problem is everyone who buys or otherwise accepts and "validates" mediocre or worse work, while ignoring or dismissing better art. When the people doing this are "major" collectors and "important" curators, critics and assorted institutional types, all of whom are clearly supposed to be discerning and most certainly presume to be, we have a perverse travesty, as is indeed the case. It would be comical if it were not so sad.



March 9, 2010, 9:02 AM

By coincidence I have corresponded with Terry Fenton recently and have alerted him to the praise his book is getting here, which I am sure will please him.

It really should be a primer for art students everywhere, but given the barmy state of the art business, particularly in academia, fat chance of that ever happening



March 9, 2010, 9:07 AM

John's statement about the relationship if certain kinds of markets to certain kinds of art is an example of what I meant above. We tend to underestimate the influence of the environment on our art, which, in turn, is part of the "isolated genius" conceit we artists indulge in.

Dude, with all due respect, I'm not sure that lauding Patrick Heron's work is evidence of a good eye. Just an opinion. Perhaps I am not familiar enough with the late work.



March 9, 2010, 11:02 AM

Thanks Franklin. That link happens to end up at a new excerpt page but the full text can be found here.

Opie, I'm just trying to say that at least the guy is willing to engage real stuff. I don't read art mags anymore so who knows where he stands now. Of late, he's written for a Noland catalogue, amongst other endeavours, but I do think he is tethered to the affected gravity of a British scene that went supernova in the 90's. He seems willing to call a spade a spade, which I respect. That said, I haven't read much of Collings stuff since the late 90's.

As for Heron, he's minor, but still really good. The late work consists of fauvey semi-abstracted oils based on his garden in St. Ives, I think. Very playful work, made by a real painter with some real experience.



March 9, 2010, 12:46 PM

One wonders how the more or less arriviste nature of British contemporary art relates to the remarkably brazen MO of its chief exponents, who are considerably more notable for how they sell themselves than for what they're actually selling. The New York AbEx crowd was once comparably arriviste, but its MO was radically different. Is it that times have changed? Is it that different societies are involved? Or is it that art is now an altogether different matter, at least at the establishment level?



March 9, 2010, 1:55 PM

It is just a lot bigger world, Jack, with all the consequences thereby.

Dude, you may be right. I don't think I have seen late paintings of that description. I was never a big fan of the bright circles and the like.

Of course, once again, we are damning Collings with faint praise.



March 9, 2010, 2:06 PM

Well, at least Collings doesn't go in for embarrassing bombast like "ultrapowerful technique," as Jerry Saltz gushed regarding, yes, Gerhard Richter.



March 9, 2010, 2:09 PM

OP, maybe people are just more vulgar and shallow now. Call it the Warhol Curse.



March 9, 2010, 2:31 PM

Pattern recognition:

Toyokuni (III)



March 9, 2010, 9:51 PM

More pattern recognition. Katsura Rikkyu



March 9, 2010, 9:57 PM

More pattern recognition? Katsura Rikyu



March 10, 2010, 8:47 AM

Well, David, it's bettert than Carl Andre, for what it's worth.



March 10, 2010, 8:58 AM

I think it's very conceptual.



March 10, 2010, 10:55 AM

The Japanese are remarkably good with patterns. I'm not sure if that's inherent or culturally acquired, or both, but they get away with stuff that should never work, but does.



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