Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Who's Your Daddy Now? (or, How Provincial is Influence?)

Things have gotten a bit too serious around here, so, given how lovely it is outside and all, I've decided to lighten up and (picking up on this older post here) to muse on this hardly controversial article from The Art Newspaper in which UK art students voted Marcel Duchamp their most influential artist:

Marcel Duchamp has emerged as the most influential artist in the UK. The French conceptualist who famously placed a urinal in a New York gallery in 1917 and declared “this is art”, has come top of our survey of students from 11 of the leading art schools in the UK. We spoke to over 320 students and asked them which three artists, living or dead, had inspired them most and have had the greatest influence on their work. Using their responses we compiled a ranking of the artists who have had the most impact on the next generation of British practitioners (right). Duchamp is followed by other 20th-century giants Picasso, Bacon, and Matisse.

The British painter Lucian Freud, 83, who comes fifth, is the highest ranking living artist. The only other living artists to make it into the top ten are Tracey Emin, 42, in joint eighth place with Salvador Dalí (her contemporary, Damien Hirst, comes in at number 19), and Bruce Nauman, 64, at number nine, whose work is currently on show at Tate Liverpool (until 28 August).
Bacon and Freud? sure Constable didn't make the top 10? I mean, come on. In this global art market, influence is surely not still that provincial, is it? Looking at the top 20 (you can see more at the link), I'd say you could make a strong argument it still is (British artists in Red):

1 Marcel Duchamp
2 Pablo Picasso
3 Francis Bacon
4 Henri Matisse
5 Lucian Freud
6 Philip Guston
7 Egon Schiele
8= Salvador Dalí
Tracey Emin
9= Joseph Beuys
Bruce Nauman
10 Gustav Klimt
11 Alberto Giacometti
12 Andy Warhol
13 Paula Rego
14=Jenny Saville
Luc Tuymans
15=Martin Creed
16=Louise Bourgeois
David Hockney
17= Andy Goldsworthy
Claude Monet
Vincent Van Gogh
18= Frida Kahlo
Gerhard Richter
19= Jean-Michel Basquiat
Damien Hirst
Piet Mondrian
Charles Rennie Mackintosh
20= Eva Hesse
Mike Kelley
David Shrigley
Tracy Emin above Andy Warhol? I know British beer is supposedly stronger than US beer, but how much do you have to drink of it to see things that wobbly?

So my question: Is there something inherently more influential about artists from one's own part of the world? An inescapable influence? It makes sense that there would be, at least before the art world shrunk to the size of a tent in a park, but that seems so-o-o-o-o 20th Century.


Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

Gee, you could get the impression that several of the world's continents have no artists at all.

5/31/2006 08:59:00 AM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

I am wondering how the British, who have plundered untold quantities of art from different continents, then turn around and ignore the influence that that art has had on their culture and then claim that indluence for themselves.
I agree with Lisa.
There is a famous African artist throughout the British museums that isn't even mentioned....
if I recall the spelling of the name, it is.....Anonymous.
Kudos to the British for at least capitalizing the first letter.

5/31/2006 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Thanks for the reprieve Edward. It's an impossible question to begin with. What's your favorite book, movie, season, food etc. I can't answer any of them, especially when we leave the realm of us white guys... the soup gets much richer.
Sammy Smith's Nut Brown Ale has had a most influential effect on me; this I know for sure.

5/31/2006 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

What if we limit it to people with whom you have at least had a conversation? Sure, Duchamp is an enormous influence, but to rise to the level of personal influence I think it needs to be someone that you know, have studied with, drank many beers with, went to school with, slept with.

What really motivates artists never comes across when related by someone else. The justification for Duchamp's work has become canonical and codified to the point I doubt he would recognize it. It would be more honest to say, "I have adopted the sanctioned Duchamp approach to art" (and this is not to diss the big D's ideas) I wonder how personal it was for him and how much bitterness is behind the leap to readymades.

Anyway, I would list dead artists I have never met, too. Raymond Rousell, for one, but the real influence is the guy who told me about him, Mel Ziegler. We had a few short conversations that were perfectly targeted by him and that still resonate with me to this day. Another is Lee Mullican, gone but I did study with him. He gave a couple of lectures on Surrealism and automatic procedure that spoke from the artist's perspective and made a huge impact on me, right down to today.

This idea that you might know the person would explain the seeming provincialism, maybe they were favoring people they had studied with or met.

5/31/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Anonymous danonymous said...

Tim...I really liked what you said. It triggered a recollection of the person WHO MOST INFLUENCED my work. I fell into art accidentally, no schooling...made spoon rings and sold them on the street in California hippy days. The person I became friends with was quite a good and knowledgable artist...which didn't mean anything.....but when I started to turn to art and was full of myself....he was able to clearly say...
"That's nice...but nothing more than would be expected from a first year undergraduate art student." The way he said it...I was able to hear and not be offended. Years later he took me to the MOMA, new york and picture by picture explained why it was important and the context in which it came out of, time period, style, etc..
When we left the Museum, I was so overwhelmed. I tried to speak but only sounds came out of my actual words could be formed. Everything was short-circuiting with the intensity of recognition and then OVERLOAD.
Duchamps who? Not to belittle him. But I know the name but I would not recognize the influence he had on me unless someone pointed it out.
Apologizing for going off the spirit of "lightness" . It is a disease I sometimes suffer from.

5/31/2006 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

I cast my vote for Henry Ford.

5/31/2006 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

I don't know Edward,

In New York a lot of people are obsessed with art made by New Yorkers.

I don't think it's weird to see Bacon get high. I heard a lot of painters in North America point him as their favorite artist.
Maybe Freud is more like here
they would pick Edward Hopper.

I don/t find the list that weird, these are young people. They've seen art in books more than they've seen it in gallery yet.

Warhol gets boring easily (he would acknowledge it himself) so I am not suprised his rank is low.
He got a couple nice ideas and exhausted them to the end.

Duchamps...people always think of the goddam urinal, but. Duchamps was so much more. Yes, he was the father of concept art, but he was also a very applicated artist that did a lot of different stuff, including miniature exhibits and installation. He was also quite ahead of its time and so I guess all artists secretly wish to be way ahead of their time. This added with the fact that his name constantly comes back in art classes mean that I'm not surprised
he gets the number 1 mark and really, if it wasn't him,
than who should it be?

Louise Bourgeois I find is way too low. Im disappointed.

Tracey Emin is the first name coming up that is doing true contemporary art, of the Artnow kind. That's interesting.
Some of her most famous pieces burned already.

I think her art whines too much
(too self-pitiful), I prefer Sarah Lucas.

No seriously, the UK have been an important centre for contemporary arts since the late 1980's so there is no reason to be surprised seeing brit names popping up (even Hirst got a low mark compared to how high it ranks for collectors).

I'm mostly surprised that painting still rank so high compared to any other art form.

"Triumph" indeed, sir.


Cedric Caspesyan

5/31/2006 02:58:00 PM  
Anonymous eleventh hour said...

I think that there is something more influential about artists from our own part of the world, whether we recognize it or not. we are institutionalized by our collective worldview, at least in terms of recent history. I was dissapointed by not seeing Judd or Smithson on the list, but instead Andy Goldsworthy? that just seems weird to me. Eva Hesse deserves to be higher while Duchamp and Picasso represent something entirely separate- their location is really of little importance. furthermore, I'm just not influenced by Modernism the way I am by artists who have started a dialogue that is still open. I have an easier time relating to artists from my own part of the world, particularly those not bogged down by the weight of history.

there should be a dead white male list, and a list for all the rest.

5/31/2006 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger Future Trash said...

I'm curious what the grad students in that survey would say 5 years AFTER they finish with art school - after slogging it out as a professional for a bit. I know I would surely have changed most of the answers that I would have given as a student - as compared to now (11 years later). Assuming, of course, that those students are still making art (I think about 1/3 of the students from my grad school class aren't still in the ring).

5/31/2006 05:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure there is a local influence. And that may be colored by something as simple as the last retrospective the student saw.

If the same survey was conducted in NY I would imagine Warhol would be close to the top and you would have Raschenburg, Johns, Pollock, and Rothko in place of some of the Europeans mentioned. I think any student is going to mention Picasso, Matisse and classics like Van Gogh.

What is interesting is why Guston would be picked selected as high as 6th as opposed to any other American 20th century artist. No knock on Guston, just curious as to why he pops up in the top 10.

5/31/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Future Trash said...

Actually - Guston is one that I would have put in my top ten while I was in school, and kept now, 11 years later.

5/31/2006 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous eleventh hour said...

I think Guston is hugely important. I'm not at all surprised to see him on this list. I suspect that, like here, it's uncool to be into Pollock and Rothko across the pond anyway.

5/31/2006 06:31:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

This list reflects another interesting aspect of the art world. There are a few artists in unshared positions at the top, and a whole crowd fighting it out for "last" place. Well, number 32 anyway. :)

5/31/2006 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger serena said...

Bear in mind that they asked this question of students. I think that there are artists who inherently resonate with people at certain stages of intellectual, emotional and aesthetic development, and of course from sheer circumstantial saturation. Bacon was one of my favorite artists in school, but that was because I was going through the stage of Screaming Angst. I got over it.

And although I know that one's personal preferences are not the point in this discussion, I take severe exception to the person who thinks that Smithson ought to rank above Goldsworthy. Smithson was all about Big Ego with Tractors; Goldsworthy is about subtle, transient, resonant gestures which connect the artist with all of creation. His inclusion on this list is one of the most encouraging things I've heard all week.

5/31/2006 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous eleventh hour said...

serena, the market would seem to suggest that students actually know somethng about something, since it has become normal to have students showing while still in school. students are held to different standards now. either way, the things that students find important will eventually resonate in the larger realm. yeah, ones tastes change throughout life, but I hardly belive that those tastes pass through standard stages of development(young=rebellious=bacon).

getting back to provincial influence, America is ALL ABOUT Big Egos and Tractors, not transient resonant gestures. thats why nobody in America cares about Goldsworthy, and thats maybe why students in Europe don't care about Smithson.

sorry youre having such a bad week. get over it.

5/31/2006 09:52:00 PM  
Anonymous onesock said...

rudeness abounds at the eleventh hour

5/31/2006 10:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

Now it truly is the 11th hour.

I'd have to agree with the poll that Duchamp is the most influential artist for contemporary artists. But isn't he really the grandaddy of contemporary art? Everyone is going to have their own personal artistic daddy or momma and it seems silly to quibble over them. If you are going to talk about who is the most influential living artist (or recently living artist) I do think that you have to start talking about regional contexts (even west coast versus east coast). The art world is global now and New York and even America is not the center of everything (remember Copernicus?) There are at least two ways of addressing this question of influence. One is to think of who is the most influential artist on contemporary art practice as a whole or for a generation or period of time. Another is to think about who has inspired and influenced you personally, helped you define your concerns. The two might not be the same and not all artists will feel that their favorites hold universal appeal or even have any desire to have to defend there choices. My own personal influences, I have two daddies: Kim McConnel and Robert Kushner and one momma: Valerie Jaudon. I know that there are few who would say the same but is it provincial?

6/01/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Anonymous eleventh hour said...

I didnt realize I had obligation to make nice. I interpreted serenas comments as passive aggressive-perhaps wrongly- I was put off by her italicized 'students' in the first sentence. she seemed to indicate that comments had been posted without regard to the specifics of the thread. I also felt that to finish with the comment, Goldsworthys "inclusion on this list is one of the most encouraging things I've heard all week" just seemed unnecessarily dramatic. its easy to be anti-Smithson because he has been so in vogue in the last few years. choosing Goldsworthy as a counterpoint seemed like a little bit of a slight-- partly because of the wording, and partly because I believe that Smithson is a far more important, and specifically American artist(Big Ego with Tractors is a gross generalization). my intention was to add fire to a potentially passionate conversation. obviously I failed. I apologize.

6/01/2006 12:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Steve Ruiz said...

Reading this post made me realize that I consider literary works and authors more influencial to my art than I do actual artists. (speaking of: - what a great read for artists!) Clearly I like art, am fascinated by art, and derive a lot of technicality from other work, but conceptually I think I get much more from books. Never really thought about that till now.

Gripes ahead, sorry: There are certain artists, listed in the article, that elicit an instinctive cringe whenever I hear their names in the same sentence as "influence." To make this a complete gripe, I'll say that if I hear the name Dali mentioned by an artist, I look immediately for the nearest window and start calculating odds of surviving the fall. I enjoy and respect Dali, its just that I've never seen any transparently Dali-inspired work that doesn't chew my senses.

I wonder who Picasso would have picked as his greatest influence? Or Matisse? Or Schiele? Or Basquiat? Its hard to verbalize, and its going to come out wrong, but here's my point: when I encounter artists making work obviously influenced by, and almost in the style of, as obvious an artist as Warhol or Bacon, I always think of The Ubiquitous One Guy Who Draws Anime.

... or maybe I'm just suffering under-grad disease.

6/01/2006 12:38:00 AM  
Blogger serena said...

I interpreted serenas comments as passive aggressive-perhaps wrongly

Yes, wrongly.

students are held to different standards now.

Students are still, by the vast majority, young and inexperienced. At least in the genre in which they are a student. That's why they're called students. I've been one myself.

its easy to be anti-Smithson because he has been so in vogue in the last few years.

I could care less whether Smithson has been in vogue or not. I'm anti-Smithson because I'm anti-Big Shallow Egos with Tractors. This is a personal preference, not words from On High. Unless you, mister eleventh hour, choose to put me there.

choosing Goldsworthy as a counterpoint seemed like a little bit of a slight

Nope. Putting Goldsworthy in the same sentence with Smithson shows a profound misunderstanding of the nature of reality. Goldsworthy works with the poetry, complexity, transience and interconnectedness of the world; Smithson just bulldozed it.

I believe that Smithson is a far more important

I don't. Thus I refute you.

and specifically American artist

Provinciality rules!

Big Ego with Tractors is a gross generalization

Hey, you know those passionate women artists can get scrappy. Even without a tractor.


6/01/2006 01:04:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Reading this post made me realize that I consider literary works and authors more influencial to my art than I do actual artists...

I'd have to go along w/ Steve on this one. I mean there are certainly plenty of (purely) visual artists on my list, but I'd have to put Brian Eno and Thomas Pynchon pretty close to the top (this is my personal list of course). I notice that on the British student list Thom Yorke (Radiohead) just barely squeaked in at the bottom of #32, which I was happy to see (that he was on the list, not that he was at the bottom). I'm surprised there weren't more filmmakers mentioned.

As far as the great Goldsworthy vs. Smithson debate, I don't see the issue. They're both serious artists (were, in Bob's case), both interested in entropy, and who knows, might have even enjoyed talking to each other if they'd had the chance (maybe about tractors). As far as who is more "influential", this is a list of the students' personal influences, not a contest to decide who is more important. Without a doubt, the most important (and most prolific) artist in history is Anonymous.

6/01/2006 02:44:00 AM  
Blogger Lisa Hunter said...

One encouraging thing on this list is that, if you factor out the long-dead artists, women artists are surprisingly well represented.

6/01/2006 03:26:00 AM  
Anonymous eleventh hour said...

I guess I just dont care about the interconnectedness of the world. I think you are selling Smithson short. anyway, my point was related to provincial influence. after Pollack and Warhol, Smithson is the most uniquely American artist.

6/01/2006 07:24:00 AM  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

You don't have to like him, but it is ignorant to call Smithson's work shallow and about ego and tractors. There are lots of criticisms of Smithson's work that make good sense. But shallow? Tractors?

That's just word flingin'. Either retract that or back it up.

I agree that Smithson is a uniquely American artist. He dreamed big and died young, and wrote well. He links huge existential ideas like entropy to existential wastelands like the suburbs. This linkage is extremely relevant to understanding who we are and where we are going. He understood the scale of America, and understood our wastefulness (what we do with this scale). And he didn't have enough time to play that out fully, so dealing with his work is like reading a blueprint for a monument that will never be made.

There is something enticing about that unfinishedness. It is true that many young artists are doing the "I'm obsessed with Smithson's writing" thing, and that this is about the most boring thing you can do with someone else's great unrealized ideas.

6/01/2006 08:21:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Here is my idea for a posthumous Smithson/Goldsworthy collaboration:

Andy takes a handful of snow and throws it in the air. A carefully pre-positioned photographer shoots a dynamite photo. The photo is combined with the results of many other fashion, er, photo shoots and assembled into a long wordless photo essay on Andy's sensitive genius. The essay is taken to Andy's publisher who shops it around to find a good cheap printer. Huge tracts of virgin rain forest are scraped off the earth and converted into glossy book stock resulting in untold damage to environments half way around the world from that hand full of snow. The book is printed and distributed, but the waste from the printing, representing hundreds of trees and hundreds of gallons of bleach is saved and shipped to Utah where it is used to bury the Spiral Jetty. The excess is shipped back to where it came from and dumped onto the ground where the trees once stood. Nothing ever grows there again.

Next day, Andy throws another handful of snow into the air. Fortunately, his photographer has the day off. Smithson's body spins like a top in his grave.

6/01/2006 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous eva said...

It probably depends on where you are in the globe and how vital or in-your-face that scene is. If you live in NYC, you're happy to believe that you are in the center of the universe.

But when I first moved to the Pacific Northwest (from NY), I found that indeed there was such a thing as 'Pacific Northwest Art' and I didn't relate at all. Kind of foggy and grey. Yuck.
As time moved on though, more and more people moved here and that identity has all but collapsed. An artist is influenced by any number of factors and that's something I can be comfortable with.

6/03/2006 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Mouhahaha I loved Tim's ethical critique of Goldsworthy's achievment.

I always thought that Goldsworthy succeeds as an artist mainly because of the photographs of his ephemeral land pieces, and photography is generally not the most ecologic medium.

Honestly, I think Goldsworthy and Smithson are both depressing.

They are both about the failurew of art against nature.

The only difference is that Goldsworthy is expressing the beauty of momentum, death and fragility, while Smithson was sort of fighting against all fatalities, whatever he pretended.

To me they both have big egos.

They both seemed like they did art for themselves more than the public.

Goldsworthy is more of the pure land art school but you needed Smithson to get to him. I dont see simply an antithesis in them (well, ok..apart from the big Intemporal VS Temporal issue), I think they just follow one from another, attracted by a same idea but responding differently.

I can see why most people would prefer Goldsworthy but Smithson implemented the ideas first.


Cedric Caspesyan

6/03/2006 11:58:00 PM  
Anonymous juryduty said...

Re: Smithson/Goldsworthy vs. Nature, slightly off-topic but kinda to the point, I was at a folky concert last night where the (very talented) guy on stage spent a good eight minutes tuning his 12-string guitar. I had to applaud when he was done.

Point is, his 'tuning' was actually far more interesting to listen to than his virtuoso playing and compositions, which seemed contrived and labored (ego-driven?) by comparison. Smithson/Goldsworthy feel the same way.

Farther off-topic - can we all stop mourning the death of the Williamsburg scene already (not on this blog, just in general)? BOOOOOOORRRRIIIINNNNGGG!!!!

6/04/2006 02:07:00 PM  

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