Friday, June 01, 2007

Thwack! and Tonic


Michael Kimmelman, head art critic for The New York Times, isn't all that impressed with contemporary art in general it seems. So little, in fact, that he takes this gratuitous swipe at nearly everyone who isn't Richard Serra today:

The Richard Serra retrospective, opening Sunday, arrives at the Museum of Modern Art virtually a foregone matter, in the way that Picasso and Matisse shows arrived in the old days. It’s a landmark, by a titan of sculpture, one of the last great modernists in an age of minor talents, mad money and so much meaningless art. [emphasis mine]
You gonna take that? Or are you going to prove him wrong?

Part of the Solution

For ages now, it seems, I've been beating the drum for artist-led solutions to what ails the contemporary art scene. It's pointless, in my opinion, to expect galleries or curators or whomever to lead the way into the 21st century. Despite the heady market, it's STILL about the Art, and like Frieze or Pierogi or other revolutionary ideas that led to seismic shifts in the landscape, the next meaningful revolution, I believe, will have to come from artists, which is why I was thrilled to learn from artist Austin Thomas that she's opening an "away-from center, off-center, exhibition, salon and social space" called Pocket Utopia in an abandoned hair salon in Brooklyn. And tonight, there's a "soft opening" of the space with a site-specific installation by one of the smartest artists I've ever met, Jonathan VanDyke:

Jonathan VanDyke’s provocative site-specific installation with performance on June 1, 2007, pays homage to an abandoned hair salon and the future salon and exhibition site of Pocket Utopia. His pre-demolition intervention in the space, titled “The Salon of the Covered Bride,” is inspired in part by an image of “the runaway bride,” Jennifer Wilbanks (who staged her own kidnapping in 2005 to prevent her wedding).

Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride, and the police officer become a strange couple. The cop is escorting “the bride” as if she is being walked down the aisle. The blanket, resembling the Flag or a Kenneth Noland painting, or even a burka becomes a veil that signifies shame. Jonathan VanDyke turns the blanket into an object of investigation. In an old hair salon, he sets the stage; where beauty, everyday routine, and societal ritual get the “Jennifer Wilbanks” treatment.
The "soft opening" with a performance is tonight, by the way, so here's what you need to know to be able to say you were there when it all began:

Pocket Utopia
1037 Flushing Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237
T 718.303.2047

via subway: coming from Manhattan take the L train to the 5th Stop, Morgan avenue, exit the front of the train, and leave the station to your right, continue walking down Morgan, passing Varet and Rock Streets. At Flushing Ave., take a left and find storefront #1037 right next to Wong Foo Chinese Food establishment.

via car from Manhattan: take the Williamsburg Bridge (inside lane) to the Humboldt Street exit. Turn right at Humboldt Street, go 7 blocks and turn left on Metropolitan Avenue. Go severalblocks and turn right on Morgan Avenue. Follow Morgan to the where it become a V, staying left, and turn left at the light – Johnson Avenue. Make the first right, onto Porter Avenue. Go 5 blocks and turn right on Flushing Avenue.

ArtCal has more details and a map.

Labels: ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what Michael Kimmelman say's. I also agree with this: what Mr. Serra disdainfully calls, in the show’s catalog, “post-Pop Surrealism,” by which he lumps together all contemporary art that leans for a crutch on language and Duchamp.

I personally really am very sick of seeing 'art' that needs verbiage and is based on that hack Duchamp.

So much of what passes for 'conceptual art' is just boring crap.

6/01/2007 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


6/01/2007 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course my comments are subjective.
Which I should have stated. I just don't like most conceptual art.

sorry I just don't enjoy most of it.

That said I have seen some, very few mind you that are really great so there you go.

Bad conceptual for me would be Justin Lieberman is an example of bad conceptual art. He's smart and all but the jokes are not funny and the work is lazy or seems that way.

Sarah Sze is in my humble opinion an example of very good conceptual art. Engaging, well thought out, fun, interesting.

6/01/2007 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous David said... of the last great modernists in an age of minor talents, mad money and so much meaningless art.

But Edward, it's always been an age of minor talents and meaningless art (though the mad money comes and goes). Certainly the artists we remember from the past do not represent the average during their lifetimes. They are the exceptions, not the rule, no matter what historical period you look at.

PS - I visited your gallery a couple of weeks ago when I was in NYC. You had stepped out, but I enjoyed the show and had a nice talk w/ Max.

6/01/2007 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

sorry I missed you David. Hope our paths cross next time.

Yes, there are always more minor than major players, but that's not how Kimmelman framed it. He certainly meant to suggest we have fewer right now than one might expect/hope for, etc. It was, to my mind, again, a gratuitous swipe that didn't add anything to his review.

And while I'm critiquing his critique, I don't mind adding that this is nonsense:

The public’s perception of Mr. Serra’s work has also obviously changed from the bad days of “Tilted Arc,” a quarter-century or so ago. That same vocabulary of curved, giant metal walls, once vilified as art-world arrogance, is now better understood and broadly admired. This is how radical art operates.

The public may have thrown disparaging responses to Serras work on top off their comments about "Titled Arc" but it was the context (i.e., placement) of that piece that angered so many among the public, not the vocabulary. And it would still be viewed as arrogant on Serra's part to attempt to put that piece back today.

yes, at Dia or other more appropriate (read: less obstructive) locations, the animosity raised via Titled Arc has clearly subsided, but Kimmelman is misreading this, IMO.

6/01/2007 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Kimmelman's critique is a bit gushy. Serra's last show at Gagosian wasn't that good either. In fact, I've heard complaints about Serras work being too big for MoMA's sculpture garden, ie placement is disruptive like his Tilted Arc. Anyone else hear that?

6/01/2007 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You saw the retrospective?


6/01/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a video on about the Serra Show.

6/01/2007 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Richard Serra sucks. Michael Kimmelman sucks. Contemporary art sucks. Right now I'm in my studio preparing to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!

Or something like that.

6/01/2007 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/01/2007 10:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't leat MK, a critic and writer, is not trying to sell me his work (books) like Walter Robinson, a critic and painter, in Artnet.

Weekend Update by WR

"While you’re out, go see "Culinary Arts: Delicious Still Life Paintings" at Bernarducci Meisel Gallery on West 57th Street. I have a painting of some waffles in it!" (and photo)

6/01/2007 11:06:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/01/2007 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

I just saw the exhibit last night during late Friday free hours, and the sculpture garden was closed (WTF, MoMA?????). So I can't say about the garden situation, but I had a hard time calling the exhibit a retrospective. The exhibit, which has some astounding new pieces, didn't feel like a thorough exploration of his career, but more a selection of his favorite pieces. I also found myself missing some extras like photos or films which explain his process and history. One of the best parts of Smithson's recent retro were the films, and everyone's posting the time lapse photos of Serras installation process, so why doesn't the exhibit offer more material like that on Serra? I mean, not even a photo of his site specific works like Tilted Arc or the piece in Iceland, which are set solid in the history books already. Maybe there's a mention in the catalogue, but I could easily see a visitor go through this retrospective and come away with no awareness of these very well known works of the artist.

6/02/2007 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Thank god someone was equally disgusted by that retrograde review by MK in the NY Times. I read it on the subway and had to look at the byline twice, the date on the top, even check to make sure I wasn't reading Hilton Kramer in The Observer.

Those exact lines killed me. Richard Serra has made some very interesting work. He's pushed the boundaries of sculpture beyond what they used to be. I respect that.

But I was disgusted to see him used as an example of great art in an age of mediocrity. What's so mediocre about today? Jesus the art world has never been so diverse, so filled with women and gays and South-Asian-Russian imports and exports. Yeah, there's a long way to go, but there always will be.

I think Richard Serra is macho. Intimidation art WAS cool and fascinating. Now it's simple and I want to see what Serra can do next. Torqued ellipses my ass. The man should be forced to make art out of tissue paper and a glue gun. I wonder what he could do.

Anyone who saw the Gordon Matta Clark show at the Whitney knows that a great artist can be as powerful as a chainsaw against a home. And make art out of something as simple as a haircut.

Sorry, enough ranting. But Kimmelman, who I believe also plays piano, needs to move on. No one should be in the same career for this long.

One word: atrophy.

6/02/2007 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

(Serra) a titan of sculpture, one of the last great modernists in an age of minor talents, mad money and so much meaningless art.

How's this:

Richard Serra -- a legacy talent.
Still doing the same damned thing forty years later. A titan of the past in the same way that John Wayne was a titan of the past: he had one trick and built a career flying it as many ways as he possibly could.

Kimmelman is apparently infatuated with an imagined golden age of art. He can have it, if you ask me.

Send him a Sha-Na-Na record and a bottle of grape Nehi and be done with it.

6/02/2007 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/02/2007 10:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Bob said...

post pop surrealism? Wha? Serras generation were lucky in that the major issues were spelled out to them. They denied imagery with protestant glee. we're dealing with a period of reassessing the validity of images. Its chaotic but no less valid than his era.

6/03/2007 01:16:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Bob -- damn, that says it.

We forget that these people had a map. They expanded it themselves, but the points at which the various roads ended on the map's boundaries gave them clear starting places, and the road's directions suggested where the next few miles could lead.

We're drifting island art worlds now, no map, no true north. I can sit on the beach with my legs in the water and kick hard enough to push this thing any direction I choose.

There's a shipping lane out here somewhere...

6/03/2007 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger D Howard said...

The Church has ministers, so why can't the art world have ministers.
If you don't like the doctrine then change churches. I prefer churches that are more congregation focused, decentralized and have less super stars.

6/03/2007 09:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Serras generation were lucky in that the major issues were spelled out to them...these people had a map...We're drifting island art worlds now, no map, no true north.

Somebody cue the violins.

Serra wasn't even done with art school until the mid-'60s. By then, even Clement Greenberg was noting that certain tendencies in abstraction were becomming mannered. Serra could instead have gotten involved with Pop, earthworks, happenings, or any number of movements besides abstract sculpture. Apparently he did a bit of video in the '70s. He has recently done protest art. He draws. He has had to make the same choices that every contemporary artist has to make. He is unusual only in his ambitions, which, yes, make most contemporary art look about as substantial as lint in comparison.

So in regards to Ed's question, "Are you going to prove him wrong?", the answer is no, you're not. You're going to complain about how Kimmelman is "olde guard" and irrelevant and atrophied, and how Serra had it easier than you somehow. Nothing much will come of it, certainly not art on the level of Serra's.

I probably won't either. I have a list of problems with Kimmelman as long as my arm and Serra's work is not flawless. But I'd rather hit a ring around the bullseye than bitch about width of the target. Making good art is hard.

6/03/2007 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Making good art is hard.

Oh, I'm hearing violins, baby.

Sure it's hard the first time you do something.

Doing the same thing over and over again for thirty or forty years? Not so hard.

The range of Serra's experiments only suggests to me the weakness of his insistence on playing the same tune over and over again -- and on the market's continued receptivity to it.

Hey guys, look, Richard's calling up the steel fabricator again. What do you think he's going to do with those big rusty slabs now?

Incidentally aren't we the ones in the advantageous situation? The narrative that guided legacy artists such as Serra -- while being predictive, wasn't it also restrictive?

Was it not much more difficult to be taken seriously if you were making art outside the narrative?

As I said before, with no narrative we can move in any direction and still stand a chance of being taken seriously.

So ask not for whom the violin whines... ;)

6/03/2007 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Loving this!

(just had to throw that in there...) carry on

6/03/2007 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous nick said...

Kimmelman's gushing was utterly predictable (someone needs to get him a bib), since this whole exhibition has had an inertia that made the raves seem fait accompli. I mean, they built the dang museum *for this show*! To me, it eerily recalls the march to the presidency of GWB: you can see this thing taking shape years in advance, forwarded by interests so powerful that the opinions of the masses might as well not even exist.

Some of the work is awe-inspiring, but after working for so many years on a level of ambition that is really divorced from any idea of art that matters to 99.9% of artists, how can anyone say that Serra has changed the language of sculpture with the big stuff? It reminds me also of Brice Marden's retrospective there: by the time the artist gets the MoMA treatment, he's had to operate for so long in a rarefied environment that the work has long since ceased having any real influence or effect on the discourse at large. What's radical and interesting about Serra is the earlier stuff. (And I disagree: the paths in the 60s were not clearly drawn--it only seems that way in retrospect. Maybe some artist will emerge tomorrow whose path also seems self-evident.)

6/03/2007 12:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Oh, I'm hearing violins, baby.

Making good art is hard. That's a fact. "We're drifting island art worlds now, no map, no true north" is sentimental twaddle. You may be demagnetized, but there's still a north.

Doing the same thing over and over again for thirty or forty years? Not so hard.

He didn't do the same thing over and over again; he refined the same thing over and over again. Great art typically operates in a narrow range. If you look at masters of anything, art or otherwise, you typically find someone with a lot of specialized practice and some supplemental cross-training.

Sure, it's false mark of seriousness these days to work in a great variety of media or styles, but there's no connection between doing so and quality. You can "can move in any direction and still stand a chance of being taken seriously." By someone, anyway. But what you see in Serra is someone who persisted in a single direction, and the results actually are serious, not just things that someone may take seriously

6/03/2007 01:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



Thank You.

6/03/2007 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks, Franklin. Very well put.

Might I add that what annoyed me was not the well-deserved attention Serra is getting but as Edward called it, the "gratuitous swipe" at other artists who will never be so honored--i.e. don't just rub our faces in it, make us eat the dirt, too.

As for artists getting the "museum treatment," well that's what museums do--though, of course MoMa does it bigger and grander (and mostly for men). You don't want to see museum shows in the galleries pace, Pace); you want to see what coming out of the studios.

6/03/2007 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

You make some strong points.

He didn't do the same thing over and over again; he refined the same thing over and over again.

OK, just to be clear, I see some variety. But the word refinement implies to me a progression, and in Serra's case I don't see much progression.

He twisted them. He leaned them. He made them tall. He made them curved. Recently he made them about four feet tall. He laid them against (into? Gagosian show) the walls of a hallway-like gallery space. Then he laid out a few big steel cubes of various sizes in a row.

In short, he flew those slabs every which way he could. I see a restricted variety the way I (would) see it on the menu of a steakhouse -- "Ya gotcher T-bone, yer Porterhouse, yer filet mignon," -- but I don't see a progression.

Great art typically operates in a narrow range. If you look at masters of anything, art or otherwise, you typically find someone with a lot of specialized practice and some supplemental cross-training.

I completely agree that the art historical era is replete with these kinds of artists. Some still work this way.

Even so, the exceptions are numerous and noteworthy: Klee, Dubuffet, Borofsky and Richard Prince come to mind -- also now that I think of it May Stevens, Komar and Melamid, Hans Richter, Bill Jensen and Hannah Wilke, among others -- these would be artists beginning (and in some cases ending) in the art historical narrative era who used a variety of styles, approaches and/or media concurrently, or whose styles changed markedly over time.

My contention (maybe I'm alone in this) is that twenty plus years of the same thing equals contentment beyond credibility.

Now, if there is true refinement going on during that time, then what limits are there in refinement? At what point should an artist say, "These big steel slabs have done just about everything a steel slab can do. Hey, look at that piece of dried gum on the sidewalk, that's interesting..." ?

6/03/2007 04:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

He twisted them. He leaned them. He made them tall. He made them curved.

When you're working primarily with shape and scale, those parameters have huge consequences. It could be that his work doesn't interest you, which is fine. My point is that the narrow range is not in itself a failing.

the exceptions are numerous and noteworthy

I wouldn't pick anyone on that list as having made a sustained career of great art. There are very few generalist masters. Fairfield Porter could both paint and write exquisitely. Miyamoto Musashi was a beautiful painter and one of the great martial artists of all time. People like this are extremely unusual and often have some kind of trouble in the background - Porter's personal life was a mess and Musashi led a life of slaughter from the time he was fourteen until his mid-thirties. My feeling about skilled generalists is that they understand a fundamental problem extremely well and are able to adapt it to unlike pursuits, so the range looks greater than it is. They also, for whatever reason, are able to invest a lot of time into each of them. This is an area of keen personal interest and may not be germane to the thread.

At what point should an artist say, "These big steel slabs have done just about everything a steel slab can do.

There's an easy answer to this: When he becomes bored. As long as Serra feels jazzed up about what those big steel slabs can do, he ought to keep making them do it. I don't think this point about art-making is adequately appreciated. It's not the range, it's working in an inspired manner within the range that matters. I used to tell students, if you're an artist, and you're bored, it's as bad as being a doctor and killing your patient. Your job is to give a shit and do what you do extremely well.

6/03/2007 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...


I'm enjoying your defense of Serra, and by extension the act of exploratory artmaking. I love Serra's earlier sculptures (steel and lead slabs and tubes balanced against each other) and his oilstick drawings, and I've climbed through and around more than one of his enormous works with great pleasure, but it's entirely fair for someone to say his later works are starting to turn into an assembly line.

I make the following comment facetiously -- because I do in fact have great respect for Serra as an artist -- but between you and me, his next installation might well be at Disney. That's either good or it's bad, but it's something to consider when discussing his last ten years of production.

But I'm really writing to ask you about this comment of yours above:

Making good art is hard. That's a fact. "We're drifting island art worlds now, no map, no true north" is sentimental twaddle. You may be demagnetized, but there's still a north.

In a previous discussion on this blog you challenged someone to "prove it." Could you show me your compass? Or at least give me some northward directions? I'd like to know how you made this statement with such certainty.

Also, I don't think it follows that if it's hard to make good art (arguably a truism, and a sentiment I might reverse on you someday when we're talking about art you don't care to defend), that therefore there exists a true north. You might go to a library someday, put as many great books before you as you can find, and see whether they all point the same way. I can't imagine they would, or that all the "good art" about us would do so either. But I'm open to suggestions.

6/03/2007 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

This talk reminds me of the time I went sailing with Serra, Joseph Beuys, and Bruce Nauman. They argued for hours over which way was north. Sheesh...luckly the coast guard found us!

6/03/2007 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger Dilettante Ventures said...

Unfortunately we went sailing with Bas Jan Ader...

6/03/2007 11:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Henry, that's a reasonable enough response to Serra's ouevre. I wouldn't dispute it.

You're right that it doesn't follow that there's a true north simply because making good art is hard. In fact, for some people, apparently making good art is not hard. Mozart, I'm told, could compose about as easily as breathing. You might even say that all great art is an exception. But those of us who are not Mozart find that it takes years to build up a skill base, more years to figure out what we're doing, and that's just the beginning. Typically even people with a lot of talent spend long hours at their art, sometimes out of pleasure, sometimes driven by frustration. Not all geniuses are naturals, nor do they all have complete skill sets.

So north is a separate question. To get out of the metaphor, the idea was that Serra had his artistic path indicated for him and we don't. But the path is in front of you: you have to care about what you're doing and do it extremely well. This is one of those things that's obvious and yet nearly impossible to accomplish. A lot of people, the majority of the world, are working on problems that other people care about and doing so in a half-assed way. A friend of mine, a painter, calls them "civilians." ("Fuck them," he says.) I'm sure you'll agree that an artist who neither cares about what he's doing nor does it well, or one or the other, might as well go and do something else. Life is too short, right?

If you're going along with this, then your two main questions in life as an artist are Do I really care? and Am I doing this extremely well? These turn out to be hard questions to answer. Motivation comes and goes, you get tired, you figure out that the teacher or hero you've been carrying around in your head needs to go find a new place to live - you're constantly clearing the debris from your will. At the same time you're called upon to make finer and finer distinctions about whether you're succeeding; sometimes you just don't know and you plow onward (or give up and start over), sometimes you know you're sucking and you can't do anything about it, sometimes you think painting A is better than painting B on Tuesday and change your mind on Wednesday. If you're unlucky, you had an education that beat the notions of good and bad out of you; you ask, Am I doing this extremely well? And you answer, According to whom? By whose elitist standards? (To which I answer, yours, dipshit! Do other people eat your food for you? Tell you what hottie in the street to turn your head to look at? Yours! But such people don't like hearing that.)

Affirmative and semi-affirmative answers to these two questions is north.

If you took all those great library books and opened them up, that's the north you would see them pointing toward. The art doesn't all look alike, becuase everybody had his own life and his own problems. And yet they share something.

I could be wrong about all this, but I don't think I am, and in any case if I do it, I will have spent my time in a good way, and what the hell.

6/03/2007 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Thats tough d.v. We avoided him like the plague cuz Bas is such the cry baby.

sigh. im such a NERD..its amazing my wife married me!

6/04/2007 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Henry said...


... your two main questions in life as an artist are Do I really care? and Am I doing this extremely well?

Excellent response in total. I think you've said a lot of good things, but I don't know if you've covered all bases. Is there a third question? "What should I be doing?" In other words: What's the this?

I find your two questions much easier to answer when the third is settled. (I didn't say "easy," I said "easy-er.") When I've defined myself a target, I can tell myself when I've hit it -- more or less -- or I can tell when my arrow just isn't going to reach it. After I've hit a target (or unredeemably missed it), my next question is: Where do I point my next arrow? I think the hottie in the street or the food on the plate is describing in fact this question, not the one of how well a prior-defined target has been hit.

Your distinction between an artist's inner voice and the Voice of the Elite is an important one, because an artist won't survive long without serving their own inner master, but it's not an issue I'm uncomfortable with. I have a rainstorm of ideas I'm continually exploring. Some of them make sense to other people, and some don't. I have a choice to make: Keep working at them as is; bridge the gap between my brain and the brains of others; or capitulate to their will. Even if capitulation is not desirable to me, a little bit of bridge-building should not be such a tragedy, as long as I'm still pointing to my north.

I'm going to reject the notion of a single north, or the attempt to distinguish between different representations of a single north, and the actuality of different norths. Beckett and Cervantes are not even in the same boat, let alone on the same path. A friend of mine in grad school once said evolution is a good process, but it can get stuck at local maxima. There are a lot of local maxima out there.

6/04/2007 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger prettylady said...

*loud round of applause for Franklin, whose blog I have just bookmarked, after removing myself from Art Discussions for a long period in order to listen to that Inner Voice*

6/04/2007 01:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

What's so mediocre about today? Jesus the art world has never been so diverse, so filled with women and gays and South-Asian-Russian imports and exports.

Is quality a measure of who is making art or what art is being made? It's the latter.

Making any art, good or bad, is hard, from an ego perspective. To lay your work out in public and announce "Look! I have something to say!" takes a certain amount of guts. Once you've achieved some level of agreement that you do indeed have something to say, it takes even more guts to change what you're saying or how you're saying it.

6/04/2007 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

If the answer to Do I really care? is no, What should I be doing? is a reasonable next question. No argument there.

If you've completely stumped your colleagues, you might as well ask if you're doing what you're doing extremely well. You may be, but it's a red flag.

6/04/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Future Trash said...

It seems that if one really cares about what one is making - what they need to be working on next is addressing some of the most pressing questions that arose during the making of the previous work. A warning sign should appear if these questions don't arise.

6/04/2007 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger Henry said...

Future Trash - Good answer. We started out by asking whether Richard Serra is in the middle of a lengthy and interesting exploration, or stuck in a rut. What do you think? Also, what if an artist wants to take a bigger leap (escape from a local maximum), and stop trampling the path they're on?

Franklin - How do I know when it's time to stop making, say, heavily impastoed post-impressionistic figural paintings bruied in tons of white acrylic paint, and start making colorful flat graphical paintings of faceless people in urban settings? When does 'north' change?

Once you've decided on a direction ("north"), measurements of quality suggest themselves over time. (Once you define "this," you can ask, "am I doing this extremely well?") Future Trash says inquisitive artists can find new questions in their current work, but for how long? Where does the next decision come from? I don't think this is a trivial question.

6/04/2007 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Henry, for me, the signal is boredom. That at least was the signal to stop doing the heavy impasto work from life. I became interested in the artistic issues behind the flat paintings after taking a silkscreening class at MassArt. Why doe inspiration get used up after a while? I wish I knew. You get to a point at which the variations are no longer meaningful. The time after that point and before the next problem becomes apparent sucks floor tiles. But you keep asking yourself what you care about, and trying it out in the studio, and it eventually becomes clear.

6/04/2007 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

I think about the narrative of the material. The way each variation or arrangement is a chapter in that narrative. Some chapters are more interesting than others and, inevitably, there is that final page. Hopefully, its a good read overall.

6/05/2007 12:34:00 AM  
Blogger Henry said...

Franklin - Interesting. So the "this" in your questions above is generally that which the artist cares deeply about. I'll buy that.

6/05/2007 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

I think it works both ways- sometimes artists and their ideas are much more interesting than their work and sometimes the work is alot more interesting than the person making it- and i guess i dont buy psychology as the only or the definitive mirror or for that matter, even a very helpful one- with my current work- i am into it- and i can defend it- i do feel special and that its really important work and great art- i think this gets back to the 3 questions about great art and the criteria for great art and if you matter and to whom- your peers or to the art market- or to fame- or even to mass appeal- for example if you walk into richard serra's 'linus' sculpture in fort worth texas and look up, its a pretty cool experience and its art- for me, with other work i have done, i didnt feel like i was the best or that the 'this' was about me- i would wind up agreeing with my critics- so i think its about the work- to have a body of work that you like- and then you can have confidence in the work- but i dont think its that easy to stay with the within- or to keep moving towards the within- as some other people raised on this thread- but sometimes that doesnt work either- i get ideas from conversations with people- thats something i have defended before- and other people raised too on this thread about when to tweak your work, etc- i think for me its the fear that if i tweak my work i will lose myself entirely- so by tweaking my work i find out more about what that means- did i lose my self respect- was the tweaking good- did someone give me a good idea that was helpful and i used it? then i won... so in that sense i am flexible within the narrow parameters of what i am doing, if that makes any sense

6/05/2007 11:31:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home