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The Real Academy

Post #1657 • March 10, 2014, 12:35 PM

John Seed reports from TRAC 2014, which took place last week in Ventura, CA.

During the closing day's panel discussion The Future of Representational Art there was a heartfelt surge of applause for artist Graydon Parrish as he recounted how he had been given a "F" in a high school art class because his drawing was deemed too "tight." Many other artists in the audience had apparently endured similar attempts at conversion therapy during their years in art school. There were plenty of other anecdotes about art world "rules." Odd Nerdrum says that he has been warned that only vegetarians can paint slaughter scenes, and painter Ruth Weisberg recounted the admonition that only lesbian women should paint the nude female body.

Later, at the WhiBi:

I take issue with the idea that there is anything broad or diverse in what is on view at the Whitney: calling the Biennial "diverse" ignores the obvious perimeters of the exhibition's taste and ambitions. Tom Wolfe once wrote that the type of person you never see at a New York cocktail party is a housewife. Classically trained representational artists—like so many of those who attended TRAC—are the art world's "housewives:" ghettoized by critics and curators into their own separate and unequal social and artistic circle. ...

Doesn't anyone remember the September 1995 protest organized by Steven Assael in which some 200 painters gathered outside the Whitney to protest its exclusion of "artists working in a representational mode." The Museum's director at that time, David A. Ross, was out of town during the protest, but he did later issue a statement of reply, noting that the Whitney must support work that "strays outside the boundaries of the official academies and accepted good taste."

The painters I spoke with at TRAC take the contrarian view that the Whitney is in fact the confirmed official academy of 21st century art: they—the 103 "participants" chosen by three curators to take part in the show—are the conservatives, rigidly aligned with the ossified and hypocritical "pluralism" of late postmodernism.

Bingo. As I put it once, you can make academic art just as easily with a camera as a pencil. Or found objects, or relational gestures, or whatever you like. Academicism is a substitution of artistic actions for artistry. We are in a curious situation, in that some of our practitioners of the so-called academic style are less academic than some of our practitioners of the so-called non-academic styles.

(Hat tip: Hope Railey.)




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