Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The WB 2008 in Brief

It felt dumb as soon as I said it last night: "I'll have to come back to see the actual art."

Of course no one expects to really take in the art at the opening reception of the Whitney Biennial. I mean, we mull about the art, trying not to stumble over other people or the work itself, and ask each other what the stand out pieces were for them, but in all earnestness we go to congratulate the artists, mingle, and see-and-be-seen there.

The art will have to wait until the party's over.

But it was a lovely party, despite the soggy line that ran around the corner and down the block. My friends and I were lucky in that we got in early and headed straight for the bar downstairs. After a few glasses of wine, some nibbly bits, and general chit-chat, we headed to the top floor, where we promptly got stuck a few yards from the elevator, unable to move for at least 15 minutes. Not because of the density of the crowd mind you, but because there were so many people to greet in that area.

Finally we made it into the galleries. There were a few standouts for me actually (work I was lucky enough to see without too many people in the way). Phoebe Washburn's installation (not the one seen in the photo at this link) was incredible, as was Ellen Harvey's (again, nothing at all like the image on the Whitney's website). In fact, few of the images on WB site seems to be of the work in the exhibition, so I'll link to the artists' pages, but with that caveat. I really liked Rachel Harrison's new sculpture (even though I was somewhat ambivalent about many of the drawings that surrounded it) and thought Leslie Hewitt's installation was spectacular (OK, so this image actually is in the exhibition [seen at top]).

The interesting thing about the list of faves, thus far, for me is it's all women (see this demographic breakdown of the artists on artinfo.com).

It's foolish to offer any critique I expect to be taken seriously of an exhibition I've admitted to having trouble seeing, but I hope you'll permit me some broad general impressions:

Raw lumber is hot! Not to make fun of any of the work incorporating it (I truly enjoyed William Cordova's installation, Heather Rowe's, and as I noted, Ms. Washburn's [and I'm leaving at least one artist out, I know, but can't recall which at the moment]), but it was rather ubiquitous. Smart photography is hot at well. I'm actually a huge fan of Melanie Schiff's work. I think Walead Beshty is an intellectual god. And who doesn't love Roe Ethridge? I didn't get to see any of the video (see first sentence above). And bucking the trend throughout the exhibition in general, John Baldessari has never looked more salable.

I foolishly thought I might catch one more drink downstairs before I headed home, only to find a large bouncer blocking the staircase and a "line" (if one could call it that) about 8 people wide and 10 people deep. I did enjoy seeing several of the folks I can't quite get enough of in the crowd (you know who you are). I believe I'll enjoy seeing the art when I return sans the hordes. Compared with other WB's I've seen, I'd rank this one near the top.

Labels:

64 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

Lots to think about. The Armory will be a big draw, many events that could be fun. I like what Fritz Haeg is doing with his Animal Eastes Project.

3/05/2008 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

My Flickr pics

3/05/2008 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a little taken back that anyone would consider this WB's ranking among the top, I would without a doubt place it near the bottom, the bottom of the trash heap which from the looks of it much of the materials used to construct these monstrosities look like much of the hideous furniture and wall components I see thrown out on the streets of NYC, primarily of the 70's and 80's variety. There was an over abundance of formica, plexi and plywood with a measure of cement thrown in. On reflection of this WB's offerings I feel a great sadness. I longed to see great painting, drawing and skill, if painting were ever pronounced dead here is the proof. The work was removed, empty, and inhumane, of course there are some exceptions, there always are. But maybe over all this is just a reflection on todays commercial culture, or perhaps the institutions that support it.

3/05/2008 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

sorry you felt that way, Anonymous, but no WB can be all things to all people.

I was thrilled to see the exhibition push past what I saw as the removed, empty and inhumane eye candy that there had been way too much of going back about 10 years.

Different strokes....and all that.

3/05/2008 05:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes i agree it was lacking in eye candy and in part to its own demise. I see nothing wrong with seeking out beauty.

different strokes.....thats right.

3/05/2008 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I see nothing wrong with seeking out beauty.

I don't think it was lacking in beauty, though. Eye candy is not equivalent with "beauty" to me.

Perhaps it's having been raised in the rust belt, but I have a predisposition for the aesthetics of decay and construction and raw materials...there are few things in life as gorgeous to me as a patch of rusting metal [see this example.] Artwork effectively tapping into that aesthetic thrills me to no end.

So I reject that just because much of the work wasn't glossy or polished or tightly rendered in ice cream flavor colors that it wasn't "beautiful."

3/05/2008 06:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im certainly not saying that art has to be "glossy, polished or tightly rendered" to be valid or beautiful, i can appreciate the beauty in the decayed just as much as anyone else, take a look at Lisa Segal, one of the best pieces in the WB.
I found most of the work simply vapid.

3/05/2008 06:28:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

It is funny that Ed has to defend the aesthetic of the ugly and rotting at this point historically. Dubuffet's earth paintings are over fifty years old at this point. What is it with these anonymous Rip Van Winkles? It would also help me to understand anon's position if he/she told us what art they consider to be the opposite of vapid, or "lacking liveliness, tang, briskness, or force."

3/05/2008 07:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why ED had to defend the "Ugly and the rotting" I never said that the "ugly" or the "rotting" are invalid. I am a huge fan of so called "ugly Painting". I gave the great example of Lisa Segal's brilliant work in the WB. which can be seen as both "ugly and rotting" the aesthetic of decay.

3/05/2008 07:53:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

When viewing any big exhibitions, especially ones that includes as many works as the Biennial normally does, most people will really like a handful of works and dislike or have no feelings for all the rest. Of course many people might dismiss the entire Biennial without even seeing it because they have loaded feelings about what the Biennial represents or what it has become. With the help of the Whitney, the Biennial has become a runaway concept or byword for all things new, for better or worse. That is why the Biennial has become the favorite target of the reactionaries. Artists who have worked for many years without achieving any breakthrough success or big monetary success, and who have a knee-jerk reaction when the word Biennial is mentioned probably aren't thrilled about the way the Biennial is fast track to monetary success for newbie artists who go from relatively anonymity to a blue chip gallery or at the very least a Chelsea gallery after appearing in the Biennial. There is a such a huge variety of work found in every Biennial that it is hard to believe that an open minded art viewer wouldn't be able to get something out of at least a few works of art on display. It is this false notion, the idea that all of the artists who appear in the Biennial will be guaranteed commercial and critical success simply because they managed to get into the Biennial, that riles so many people.

3/05/2008 08:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rather unfair to dismiss all criticism of the Biennial as sour grapes and jealousy. The commentator pointed out there were "exceptions" to her overall judgement of the Biennial. Bias works in more directions than one.

3/05/2008 08:56:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

I wasn't commenting on anon's comment in my last comment. I undrrtsand that anon was disappointed by the Biennial but liked a few things in it. I tried to make the point that that is all one should expect when attending such a sprawling group show. I said that one must have aesthetic tunnel vision to dismiss everything in a Biennial. There are paintings, sculptures, videos, multi-media installations, performance art, computer art. I also said that the very concept of the Biennial has become so loaded that half the time it doesn't even really matter what is in the actual show, it will be dismissed out of hand for other reasons. Not only because it is a golden ticket for the lucky selected to be in it, but also because it represents this notion of the 'new' or 'trendy'.

3/05/2008 09:14:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"Not only because it is a golden ticket for the lucky selected to be in it, but also because it represents this notion of the 'new' or 'trendy'."

Sorry that sentence should have read:

"Not only because it is considered by many to be a golden ticket for the lucky selected to be in it, but also because it represents this notion of the 'new' or 'trendy'."

I don't think that anyone would disagreee that it is not a bad thing for one's career to appear in the Biennial. Sorry I didn't mean to open up a can of worms. Many people despise contemporary art and might actually despise every single thing appearing in Biennial after Biennial. That is fine. After a few months spent getting involved in spats with people with cutesy nicknames or no-names I have decided that it isn't honorable or worthwhile to get into heated and extended arguments with people who don't have enough integrity to put forward their real identity. I got a press pass to the Biennial but passed on it because I would rather walk through the sprawling exhibition when it is emptier. Sorry I can't provide any specific comments about works in the exhibition. I will say though that the Whitney Biennial press release, brought to my attention by Lee Rosenbaum, was like something generated by The Postmodern Generator

3/05/2008 10:55:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

I agree with Anon (if all the Anons are the same Anon.) It's not about the 'aesthetic of decay,' which I have no problem with at all; it's about depth, energy and thoroughness of consideration. Most of the work in this exhibition was just lame. It looked like sketches for finished pieces, not the pieces themselves.

You all like Lisa Sigal's piece so much--I wanted it to go about ten times farther. Why did she only use half the space? Why didn't she go whole hog and create an entire environment, instead of what looked like an abandoned stage backdrop? It was a gesture toward actually engaging your senses, not the actual engagement.

Let me be very clear. I do not care about the 'loaded conceptions of the Biennial.' I am not opposed to conceptual or installation art on principle. I just want art to have a visceral, aesthetic and conceptual power to it, one that comes of passion and intellect and study and trial and error and very hard work.

Most of the work in this show was not charged in this way. It was so vapid and banal as to be an arrogant insult to the viewer. 'Here, I'll leave this random object leaning against the wall for you to look at. Be impressed.'

3/06/2008 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

what an entirely unexpected response from you Pretty Lady. ;-)

I especially like how you've echoed the idea that the work is an "insult to the viewer." Given the amount of work in the exhibition that might fit your description, that's some far-reaching, concerted disrespect on display there.

It does make me wonder when the alternative might dawn on some folks, I must say. That is, that the choices are all carefully considered, that the "visceral, aesthetic and conceptual power" you find lacking isn't a universal experience, and that although your disappointment with the extent of the gestures of certain work is valid (in as much as anyone's opinion is), it reveals nothing about the motives of the artists or curators as much as it does your personal preferences.

3/06/2008 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty Lady, I couldn't agree with you more yes vapid, yes banal.
"The job of the biennial is to bring as much of the talked-about art as possible from the galleries into a museum space. Why these particular artists or pieces are hot topics is one of the many mysteries of the art world. A frustrating side-effect of this puzzle is that the show has an unmistakable art-school feel.
New art, even the most seemingly inscrutable, has the job of engaging with the culture around it, moving and affecting it in some way. Showcasing work that rehashes common themes and styles seems an odd path for the biennial to take. When the mundane fancies itself novel, it becomes nothing more than slightly irritating." The Associated Press-Sara Rose

As for Lisa Sigal, you have a good point but I feel for that reason her work at the armory did engage the senses, due in part to the environment it was created in and the pre-existing "decay" of the armory.

3/06/2008 11:11:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

My rules for art criticism:

1. find out every single thing you can about how the artist made the art work.

2. read all personal statements by the artist (not the press release), even though they will only play a tangential role in the review of the work

3. try as hard as you can (the viewer, me, etc.) to let your imagination and senses explore the art work in the context of the display space for as long as possible

3/06/2008 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

It does make me wonder when the alternative might dawn on some folks, I must say. That is, that the choices are all carefully considered

Edward, my darling, my love--

I grew up visiting major museums as regular recreation. I studied art for four years at the University of Texas at Austin with some highly respected artists, some of them internationally recognized. I studied for two years at the San Francisco Art Institute, with some equally big names, as well as a lot of small ones. I have visited as many major art centers in as many major cities as I can afford to do, (and I have prioritized affording art trips over a lot of other things, including marriage, family, home ownership, health insurance, etc.)

Earnestly suspending my judgment over several decades of devoted art study has become second nature to me. This does not mean that I have permanently disconnected my bullshit detector, only that my bullshit detector has become extremely fine-tuned.

I have had my struggles with coming to appreciate and understand the new; I have had my consciousness expanded. I can tell the difference between an experience that temporarily fails to blow me away because it is genuinely new, challenging my perceptions and preconceived notions, and an experience that permanently fails to blow me away because it is lame.

Contemporary art does not exist in a vacuum of its own delineated parameters, much as it would like to pretend it does. It arises out of a long tradition of visual art, craft, and architecture; it also exists in a world which contains music, theatre, dance, and film, some of which attains heights of virtuosity and integration that transport the soul. I have had my soul transported by contemporary artists working in all sorts of styles and media, as well as by Vermeer, Velasquez, the Bejart Ballet, and the Hilliard Ensemble singing Hildegarde of Bingen. I can recognize the experience, no matter what produces it.

I assess contemporary art by a set of standards that transcends genre. My standards for other artists are exactly as high as my standards for myself.

And my respect has to be earned. This Biennial did not earn it.

3/06/2008 12:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps three things are in play here, 1. Nicolas Bourriaud, (Relational Aesthetics) 2.Ian Burn, (the concept of deskilling)and 3.One must also understand that the museum no longer has a love affair with discrete objects, if they show discrete objects,patrons just want to buy them. If they show sprawling installations, there is nothing to buy, just money to give to the museum. Being frustrated with the dominate discourse no matter what it may be has VERY little to do with what you do. In order to not be reactionary one must discourse with this vapidness. This is why George Bernard Shaw said there are two terrible things in life, the yearning for something, and the getting of it. Or something to that effect. So what you are interested in has nothing to do with this. Consider yourself lucky, if you really see it as you describe it.

I would say plow ahead.
Martin Bland

3/06/2008 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

This does not mean that I have permanently disconnected my bullshit detector, only that my bullshit detector has become extremely fine-tuned.

I have had my struggles with coming to appreciate and understand the new; I have had my consciousness expanded. I can tell the difference between an experience that temporarily fails to blow me away because it is genuinely new, challenging my perceptions and preconceived notions, and an experience that permanently fails to blow me away because it is lame.


Wow, my dear Pretty Lady, you sound like nature's perfectly completed art critic. I'm sorry to have even suggested there might be differences of opinion out there as valid as yours. Your hard-earned state of perfection leaves no doubt that your respect is worth earning, and the next time I see the curators I'll let them know they have failed you and should try harder. As for the artists in the exhibition, it seems from your assessment that they should reconsider art altogether.

As a parting gift to them, though, perhaps you could list a few of those contemporary artists who've transported your soul, as a comparison for what the WB should have been aspiring to be more like.
;-P

3/06/2008 12:58:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

P.L.

"Most of the work in this exhibition was just lame."

In that one sentence you entirely dismissed if not plain insulted the work of the following artists:

Rita Ackermann
Natalia Almada
Edgar Arceneaux
Fia Backström
John Baldessari
Robert Bechtle
Walead Beshty
Carol Bove
Joe Bradley
Matthew Brannon
Bozidar Brazda
Olaf Breuning
Jedediah Caesar
William Cordova
Dexter Sinister
Stuart Bailey
David Reinfurt
Harry (Harriet) Dodge and Stanya Kahn
Shannon Ebner
Gardar Eide Einarsson
Roe Ethridge
Kevin Jerome Everson
Omer Fast
Robert Fenz
Coco Fusco
Gang Gang Dance
Lizzi Bougatsos, Brian DeGraw, Tim DeWit, Josh Diamond, Nathan Maddox
Amy Granat and Drew Heitzler
Rashawn Griffin
Adler Guerrier
MK Guth
Fritz Haeg
Rachel Harrison
Ellen Harvey
Mary Heilmann
Leslie Hewitt
Patrick Hill
William E. Jones
Karen Kilimnik
Alice Könitz
Louise Lawler
Spike Lee
Sherrie Levine
Charles Long
Lucky Dragons
Luke Fischbeck
Daniel Joseph Martinez
Corey McCorkle
Rodney McMillian
Julia Meltzer and David Thorne
Jennifer Montgomery
Olivier Mosset
Matt Mullican
Neighborhood Public Radio (NPR)
Ruben Ochoa
DJ Olive
Mitzi Pederson
Kembra Pfahler/The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black
Seth Price
Stephen Prina
Adam Putnam
Michael Queenland
Jason Rhoades
Ry Rocklen
Bert Rodriguez
Marina Rosenfeld
Amanda Ross-Ho
Mika Rottenberg
Heather Rowe
Eduardo Sarabia
Melanie Schiff
Amie Siegel
Lisa Sigal
Gretchen Skogerson
Michael Smith
Agathe Snow
Frances Stark
Mika Tajima/New Humans
Mika Tajima
Howie Chen
Javier Téllez
Cheyney Thompson
Mungo Thomson
Leslie Thornton
Phoebe Washburn
James Welling
Mario Ybarra Jr.

You did say 'most' however so I would assume that you liked one or two works of art in the Biennial.

3/06/2008 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Eric, I gave credit where I felt credit was due, to the artists in the WB, here.

Edward, I curated my own Biennial, here.

Were this an actual biennial, I would probably consult with a few other curators, to somewhat mitigate the obvious personal bias shown in this sample. But consider the basic principles of my curatorial vision to be exemplified here.

3/06/2008 02:26:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Regarding your own Bienniial PL, I did notice that at least half of the artists you have chosen to be in it have very strong affinities with your own work. Just saying...

3/06/2008 03:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pl, interesting selection for you own Biennial, I would have to disagree with Julie Mehretu, I remember upon first seeing her work being blown away by it but over time it has lost its impact. Speaking of "eye candy" her work is a prime example. they are all based upon a formula with very little variation. "Corporate art"
pretty and decorative.

3/06/2008 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Your hard-earned state of perfection leaves no doubt that your respect is worth earning, and the next time I see the curators I'll let them know they have failed you and should try harder.

Heaven forfend that someone question the unerring judgment of the perfect beings who assembled the Whitney Biennial and the gallerists hard at work tonguing their shoes to a high polish.

Ed just came over to Artblog.net and left this gem:

This does confirm something I say about this clan behind your backs all the time, however...that you move in packs and pile on in hopes of scoring points. ;-0

Curiously, I have seen this phenomenon happen a few times: the rhetorical multiplication of formalist bogeymen into destructive yet quality-obsessed hordes, like a cross between Clement Greenberg and a battalion of orcs. I guess when you're not sure about your taste, you have to adopt a posture relative to out-groupers, and the more of them, even if imaginary, the more refined your taste appears.

3/06/2008 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But thats the kind of critique you get when you are in a position were you have to bow to the "art Gods".
yes sir, yes sir thats great sir, everything you do is great sir.

3/06/2008 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I guess when you're not sure about your taste, you have to adopt a posture relative to out-groupers, and the more of them, even if imaginary, the more refined your taste appears.


How cute...you leave off the part of the quote that clarifies why I wrote that, and why you're writing on this thread now, but still manage to come over flinging insults, more or less confirming what I wrote. It's virtually Pavlovian.

Seriously, though, Franklin, can you open a thread on this topic on your blog, so we're not just rehashing the same arguments here again? Or Pretty Lady, perhaps you can start one on yours? I mean, I don't mind discussing the WB with folks interested in doing so, but PL specifically asked you to come here to "get her back" and I don't really appreciate the nature of such tactics being used here.

3/06/2008 06:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I didn't realize that mattered. I came over and replied because Pretty Lady asked me to. (PL and I constitute a "pack" through the rhetorical multiplication of formalist bogeymen. A "Pavlovian" pack. Oh well. Better canine than ovine.) I'm looking over this thread and seeing passages of insulting sarcasm directed at PL written prior to my comment, so if I have "come over flinging insults," I'm flinging them back. I have noticed this as one of the patterns in your argumentation: sling shit, and then when someone returns it, accuse them of lowering the discourse and resorting to poor tactics. I trust you've heard the saying that turnabout is fair play.

Seriously, though, Franklin, can you open a thread on this topic on your blog, so we're not just rehashing the same arguments here again?

Which topic? The inadequacy of the Biennial? Why, is that verboten here?

3/06/2008 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

amen

3/06/2008 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

I kind of thought that writing two extensive posts on each of my blogs constituted 'starting a thread.' And yes, it was insulting sarcasm, which IMO was not called for. An artist can be expected to have passionate opinions about art, and a self-professed advocate for artists in general should be expected to understand that, and not aggressively belittle them for it.

3/06/2008 09:11:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"Regarding your own Bienniial PL, I did notice that at least half of the artists you have chosen to be in it have very strong affinities with your own work. Just saying..."

I meant exactly what I said here. I thought that the first few jpegs I looked at in your imaginary Biennial list resembled the style and/or subject matter of your own paintings. The other comment I made, which was a long list of artists who appeared in the Biennial, was meant to emphasize the exact number of artists you were calling lame. You pointed out that you liked a few artists in the Biennial, and I looked at your link for the very first time. I did not know that you posted that stuff on your own site before I posted my list.

For artists who have thought about and/or made art for as long as you have, I would almost guarantee that that there isn't a big box museum group show that you would ever go completely gaga over. The more you know or make art the more discerning or picky you get.

3/06/2008 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous J@simpleposie said...

PL, your biennial only has twelve artists in it! Kinda slim no?

3/06/2008 09:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The more you know or make art the more discerning or picky you get." should read...

"The more you know about, have experienced, or make art the more discerning or picky you get."

Eric

(BTW, I was not trying to be rude PL)

3/06/2008 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

"The more you know or make art the more discerning or picky you get."

So EG – are you saying PL is more discerning than the curators? Or that the curators are not discerning enough? Or that the WB calls for a less qualified selection, albeit for a broader appeal?

I’m sure the curators would be only too happy to flash all kinds of academic qualifications to support their judgements, but obviously this is not the same thing as knowing or experiencing art more. PL indicates that her tastes are not limited to (her special kind of) painting, and that she would consult with others for a wider selection. Your assumption seems to be that thinking about/making art for a long time leads to tastes becoming too specialised.

This has not been my experience nor that of many of my teachers. There are some who get kind obsessed with their own niche. But I’d say generally, time brings tolerance, an appreciation of broader, more fundamental values. It’s not so much that they get MORE picky; but that they’re in a position to make picks about more things (a wider category).

I take it PL was just underlining a category of work not included in the WB with her list. Many such lists are always drawn up in response, since the WB is as much about the chosen curators as their choice of work. Talent in curating – dedication, sensitivity, imagination and practice – are just as rare as talent among artists, and failures in the show are often as much the fault of the curators as the artists. So it seems only right that criticism should be levelled at them – for their knowledge of current trends, balance of kinds, their allocation of space to new or unknown artists. Mistakes are to be learned from.

Some artists might make their name from an appearance in the WB. Most don’t. The same goes for curators.

3/07/2008 01:11:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"Your assumption seems to be that thinking about/making art for a long time leads to tastes becoming too specialised."

You are the one doing the assuming around here cap. I would hope that teachers (yours and everyone elses) do come across as open minded about a lot of different styles and mediums. Why the hell would they be getting paid as a teacher if they weren't that way? I am sure in their private moments they probably think most of the student work is shit, but that is another topic. Also, I do find that many college professors act more positively towards student work that is somehow connected to their own creative output, usually stylistically, but not always. Sometimes the professors just like the student for personal reasons (ethically problematic but it happens ALL the time). Human narcissism and desire and all that. I pointed out that people who are into art, with absolutely no attachments to education, meaning they aren't teaching college art classes or taking them, tend to proudly like what they like and call a spade a spade (based on their own aesthetics). This strong sense of judgement is hard won and I don't take it as a weakness of character (which you seem to suggest that I do). Your comment that people become more and more generous or open minded about types of art that they would have pooh-poohed when younger does not ring true with me. Sorry. Difference of opinion here I guess. Also, I pointed out to PL that several of the artists she chose for her personal Biennial reminded me of the art that she makes. Now this was a formal observation. You decided to take it the next step and draw conclusions from that but I did not. I could, but who really cares what I think about the subject. I will save it for my own blog (which I am sure Ed would prefer). Also, if you have a problem with the WB I would entirely blame the people who chose the art, not the artists who took advantage of a great opporunity (which will absolutely help their careers).

3/07/2008 08:41:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I came over and replied because Pretty Lady asked me to. (PL and I constitute a "pack" through the rhetorical multiplication of formalist bogeymen. A "Pavlovian" pack. Oh well. Better canine than ovine.)

You're not being entirely honest here, Franklin. Pretty Lady didn't invite you alone, she wrote:

Dudes. I threw down the gauntlet regarding the Whitney Biennial over at Ed's, including a counter-Biennial of my own, and I could use some backup. Pitch in and I'll let you co-curate.

So unless you've got multiple personalities, she clearly intended to pull over more than just you to "pitch in." To anyone this would suggest a piling-on pack approach to debate, which always leads to threadjacking and other unpleasantries.

As for the laudable characteristics of canines, of which there are many, the instinct to drool on cue isn't among them. Further, the fact that PL asked the herd to come over and back her up throws into question who's being more ovine here.

PL writes: And yes, it was insulting sarcasm, which IMO was not called for.

and Franklin you write:

I'm looking over this thread and seeing passages of insulting sarcasm directed at PL written prior to my comment, so if I have "come over flinging insults," I'm flinging them back.

Because you're her proxy? body guard? gun-for-hire? what? Why are you here really?

Let us be clear about the chronology here. The first we hear from Pretty Lady on this topic she writes:

Most of the work in this show was not charged in this way. It was so vapid and banal as to be an arrogant insult to the viewer.

Sweepingly dismissive and entirely insulting, if you ask me.

Then, yes, my response was snarky. I punctuated it with an emoticon to suggest, however, that I was having fun being snarky. If PL had felt it was uncalled for, she had ample opportunity before she "threw down the gauntlet" and called in the calvary to tell me so (and by the way, throwing down the gauntlet generally implies you are willing to fight your opponent on your own...just saying). Had she phrased it that way, I would have understood I had gone to far, apologized, and backed down. Many nuances are lost in blog threads, and it behooves us to heed such objections.

Which topic? The inadequacy of the Biennial? Why, is that verboten here?

No, the inadequacy or triumph of the Biennial is a very much on-topic thing to discuss. The topic I don't wish to host here, again, is your self-declared superior tastes.

3/07/2008 08:57:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, now children, get back on topic. I thought we were discussing the WB.
It is all opinion after all, we are all entitled to that aren't we....?

3/07/2008 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Had she phrased it that way, I would have understood I had gone to far, apologized, and backed down.

Edward, I've had the night to think about this.

A lot of times, we don't understand what out own emotions are, in the moment. We think we should be able to take whatever comes at us, if we take the risk of putting our opinions out there. It is only in retrospect that I realized, 'hey, I made a statement about the Whitney Biennial, which is a collective aesthetic proposition by a prominent institution, and Ed responded with a personal attack on my intelligence and character.'

Not the same thing.

Artists have dealers, curators, and organizations backing them up--framing the context of their work, writing and refining press releases, mediating criticism. You yourself post reviews and news about the artists you represent, and discuss their artistic goals with measured respect, and that is right and proper.

I don't, at the moment, have anyone doing that for me but myself. It is my responsibility, not only to make the work and talk about the work, but to promote the work, contextualize the work, and support myself financially until the work sells (knock on wood.)

In those circumstances, I believe it is perfectly natural, normal and healthy for me to be drawn to people who have an affinity for what I am doing, to speak up for those affinities, and to let them know when I feel that I am being unfairly denigrated. I'm not an Iconic Entity. I'm an artist just like any other one, with the same needs and vulnerabilities as any other.

3/07/2008 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Pretty Lady,

Thanks for the point of view clarification.

What I think gets missed out in comments like your original one, however, is that the artists in this year's WB are no less vulnerable than you are. In fact, putting it all out there so publicly makes them perhaps more so for the moment.

The first part of your comment was wonderfully detailed and specific. I might not have agreed with it, but it was fairly and respectfully stated. Your conclusion, however, seemed designed to lump together a wide spectrum of different artists and wholly dismiss them, and somewhat unkindly, IMO.

I apologize for the sarcasm. I see now how it was received, and I don't like the way that makes me look, let alone the way it seems to have made you feel. I'm sorry.

I also now agree with CAP that your Biennial choices serve us well to illustrate the type of artist you feel is missing from the WB, not so much as a complete curatorial statement unto itself. As I noted on Franklin's blog, I like a lot of the artists on your list. A counter Biennial is, indeed, a fun and worthwhile idea. To be truly valuable to a wide swath of people, however, it might need to include as much research (far and wide) as the WB curators put into their exhibition. For even though some may not agree with their choices, there's no doubt how hard they worked on putting that exhibition together. A worthy counter statement would probably require as much work. Not that anyone has that much spare time, mind you.

3/07/2008 10:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, you seem to have become very defensive when someone disagrees with you. You were not always this way. But now you seem to take it as a personal affront. PL was not insulting any of your represented artists, was she? And I don't think she was all that insulting, just expressing that she didn't think it was a well-curated show. Why do you allow comments on your blog if you get so upset when people disagree with you?

That time that you posted about Jen Dalton's bracelets was especially unpleasant. You wrote what was essentially a press release for one of your artists, but posted it as a blog entry, so people naturally assumed it was ok to discuss it (and disagree). But that put a real bee in your bonnet. You have also been quite blunt in saying that this blog is meant as PR for your gallery. So it seems you're trying to have it both ways. If you send out a press release, obviously you don't expect it to be dissected and contradicted, but then why post it on a blog?

kalista (remember me?)

3/07/2008 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed,

Just out of curiosity, which of PL's artists do you like?

Regards, Oriane (a completely disinterested observer)

3/07/2008 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Apology accepted. In return, I apologize for seeming to 'gang up on you.' It wasn't intended that way.

The artists in the WB may be publically prominent, and thus targets for criticism, but by the same token they have an army of publicists, curators, dealers and peers mediating that criticism. The very fact that they're being talked about at all is validating, to some extent. When researching the artists for my blog, I noted that the majority of them are represented by prominent gallerists in Chelsea; that's not exactly 'emerging.' It is far more damning for an artist to be completely ignored in all aspects of discourse, as though they were literally invisible, than to be publically criticized.

3/07/2008 01:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Because you're her proxy? body guard? gun-for-hire? what?

Her friend. And to suggest something less than that handily qualifies as the purest insult on this thread.

3/07/2008 01:26:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Her friend. And to suggest something less than that handily qualifies as the purest insult on this thread.

Nice try. But let's review.

My question was in direct response to your statement:

I'm looking over this thread and seeing passages of insulting sarcasm directed at PL written prior to my comment, so if I have "come over flinging insults," I'm flinging them back.

In other words, why are YOU flinging "back" insults? None were directed at you. Unless you're PL's proxy, this makes no sense. So suggesting something else is an honest observation, not an insult.

3/07/2008 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

mars <---> pluto = fireworks

3/07/2008 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Boys! That's enough. Franklin is indeed my friend, and as such he can be excused for taking mild umbrage on my behalf. Edward is also my friend; I consider this quarrel to have been resolved. I respectfully request that any remaining friction between Edward and Franklin will please be carried out without reference to me.

3/07/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

"Most of the work in this show was not charged in this way. It was so vapid and banal as to be an arrogant insult to the viewer." Sweepingly dismissive and entirely insulting, if you ask me.

Are you the proxy, then, of the WB artists?

3/07/2008 02:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Sorry, comment crossed PL's. It's resolved then.

3/07/2008 02:11:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

I feel compelled to watch Ed's back here (not implying he needs it I just feel the need to chime in)

I have been following Ed's blog lately but haven't had, many times I had the time to comment, his posts have been interesting enough, I just haven't found the discourse of the comments all that worthwhile.

We all know the WB is the show we love to hate, but I have said before in posts about Chelsea, that eventually you will be moved by art if you look long enough, and I'll add not be distracted in the didactic need to play art god and decide what is great (and become its cheerleader) or what sucks (and become compelled to argue that everyone agree with you), I have yet to go to a WB and not be moved by at least one piece of art, although it can become a "Chelsea's Greatest hits Album" in which case I get to see work that at one time blew me away, and see if the impact stands the test of time. I would suggest it is best to take a Zen approach and take it in as it is without judgment, let it be what it is, take away whatever positive experience you can, find one piece that is new to you, or an old favorite and take it in in this new context, stare at it intently for awhile and watch the tourist pause take a second look with you, try this on a piece you might not have any interest in, and if some one looks at you looking at what might be the worse piece of art of the twenty first century, look at them and endearing say "Isn't it great".

I haven't seen this years offering yet, but am looking forward to it, thanks to Ed's post and some of his comments,
It's true Ed does post press for his artists, several times since I have been following his blog he has given disclaimers to doing so owning the blatant promotion, but that's one out of 20 posts which he manages to post everyday, and with a good record of solid content, on timely current affairs, which is rare for a blog, so I have to give him an enormous amount of credit for his diligence, and the fortitude to also on an almost daily basis actively respond to comments in a predominantly helpful and informative manner, I am surprised he doesn't get a "Bee in his Bonnet" more often.

I will state that I agree with Ed at least %75 of the time and would hope that when I don't and comment he takes it to be of a Challenging nature not a Critical one, and would say I respect his views %99.999 of the time.

I may be wrong but from what I read I would say Ed is one of the few in this out of a genuine love for Art who has managed to balance a business savvy with an appreciation and comprehension of Art in its present context and I would say thanks and hope he continues for many more days.

Joseph Hussein Rodham McGiannasio

3/07/2008 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

The WB catalog has as much character as a phone book. Too.

Good day.

3/11/2008 03:37:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Ad Reinhardt made some excellent collages using pages from a phone book.

3/11/2008 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Franz Kline started out using ink and pages from the phone book as studies before doing his large canvasses.

3/11/2008 09:01:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

But yeah zip, the WB press release was an embarrassment so I am sure the text in the catalog is laughable and useless.

3/11/2008 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I posted a comment at the end of last week, and came back to see if anyone read it and is discussing it. Nope, too bad, it was the only comment here that really did not concern opinion,(perhaps a broad generalization) but was a possibility to discuss real issues surrounding what is happening. Which is what i thought this forum was about. What I read after my comment was just well, again, sad. You folks must have an awful lot of free time. This seems to happen everytime I try and enter a discussion on blogs, the actual content is overlooked and the misunderstanding of language and its possible interpretations takes over. Perhaps there is some sort of protocol that I am missing. On to find some other blog I suppose.

3/11/2008 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Anon (3/11/2008 01:02:00 PM) maybe you can help us out and tell us which comment you're referring to (of the 15 comments by "Anonymous" in this thread of 54 comments).

There most likely is no protocol you're missing. Sometimes folks don't respond to an anonymous comment though, because it's either clear and not something they'd disagree or agree strongly with either way or because it's not at all clear where the commenter is coming from, because they're "anonymous," and others are waiting for someone else to respond to help clarify it.

Or, perhaps, you are missing something. If this happens on more than one blog, perhaps you're using a form/style of English that's not translating well on blogs. Again, not being sure which comment you're referring to, it's hard to say.

It's not going to sit well with most folks, however, if you respond with implicit criticisms of where the thread is going (or the fact that no one recognized the importance of your contribution). Each thread is entirely organic.

Finally, if you feel this blog is beneath you because of this, you might consider starting your own. They're free.

3/11/2008 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

I've found the forum you provide, Ed, to be very rewarding, and upon discovering it I've visited often. Your diligence in maintaining an open and respectful space is above and beyond, given the work that it takes to create such quality posts.

I leave my comments here, and sometimes, rarely in fact, someone responds to what I have said. Usually it's just out there in the wind. So to the plaintive anonymous, say something of substance and be happy putting it out there in the wind - and if anyone should respond, be grateful for the company. Just think, when you write professionally as an art critic you very rarely, practically never, hear from a soul in return. So it is nice to watch a conversation unfold here, even if what you have said feels to you like it is hanging limp in the air.

For me, having my name on what I post is a barometer of self-possession, if you will, that insures a quality of thought. I am responsible for my ideas and my behavior, and I am good at remaining invisible so it works for me. One of my favorite philosophers, Maurice Blanchot, was only visible as a text, and he counted on there never being a response. He wrote about silence, and talked to himself a lot, without going crazy and with more integrity than I could ever wish for.

So, on hanging in the wind, I've written something nice on the difference between complicity and implication. I think people who read this blog will enjoy it, many of the thoughts expressed there are in response to what I have read and written on this blog and so my debt is real. But it's too specific and weird to really join in here, except to say that if you think the Whitney is as boring as a phone book, you've probably never met your own friends either. I'm glad that the Whitney gave this over to young curators who felt the pressure to take a stand and did so, and I may not be wowed by everything in the show, but I will be taking the time to explain why and why not, because criteria of judgment, rather than lazy dismissals, matters a great deal to me.

3/11/2008 05:32:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

I am a professional art critic and I am very glad that you made this point, "when you write professionally as an art critic you very rarely, practically never, hear from a soul in return." Boy does that ring true.

The only thing I want to point out in reference to your last comment is this: Positive reviews can also be lazy.

I think there are many examples of this out there. A typical positive review will include some basic descriptions of the art work (in whatever medium), perhaps a line or two about the physical space the art work is situated in, a few art historically minded observations like, "This reminds me of...This fits in nicely with the School of...There has been a whole lot of this type of thing appearing in the galleries these days..." And then there may or may not be a clear thumbs up or thumbs down. Many critics (Smith comes to mind)come across as quite ambivalent about the art they are considering. Some snark will be sprinkled on top for good measure. I guess the point I am making is that in-depth analysis of specific works of art is hard to come by. Of course journalists are limited by word counts, or mimimal advertising revenue, or lack of interest amongst a large number of readers, or editors who want to dumb down or 'streamline' the original review they received, and this leads to fairly lazy and certainly unchallenging art writing at times.

3/11/2008 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Absolutely true, Eric, positive criticism can be just awful, bloated hyperbole or vapid flattery. I really believe in being able to articulate strong criteria of judgment, and this surprisingly can occur by considering work that you have either a strongly negative or positive reaction to - the demand is to become truly engaged by it. Even, in fact, if it is work that inspires indifference!

3/11/2008 09:29:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Excellent points Catherine. Thank you for sharing them. For me, it is all about the amount of time you spend with the art you are writing about. I know this sounds simplistic but I really think that it is important. When I decide to write about an exhibition I spend a minimum of an hour looking at the art. So many things happen during the passage of time, things that would never occur to me if I only spent ten or fifteen minutes looking. I like to look at art from different angles, find out every detail I can about how the artist made it. I don't like to write about art that I am not one hundred percent certain how it was made. I think the physical materials and the physical process of making the 'whatever' is crucial to critical practice.

3/11/2008 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Eric, I admire your probity but the appreciation of art proceeds forth from receptivity, not willed effort. Time may matter to your process; it sometimes does to mine, but just as often I find that the art gratifies my lingering on it or it doesn't. In the latter case one might as well move on. One could reasonably give a serious object some extended consideration that it might not seem to merit at first, but making yourself attend something when your instincts tell you to give up on it just insults your taste. I'm sure you have the awareness to tell the difference.

3/12/2008 01:46:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

I had a great gih writing art criticism for the local paper in a small cioty while I was in graduate school, and there was enought to write about, barely. This meant I had to write about artists that I would not ordinarily consider, whether I cared for them or not. Forced to give them my time, some times, but not all of the time, I really cared about their project in the end, and my discernment was benefited greatly. And if it turned out to be a piece of negative criticism, it was a well-considered contribution. So it is not a matter of passing taste, but an openness to knowledge. I have written more about what it is like to bring this experience to New York here.

3/12/2008 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Catherine I agree, and in essence I think what you are saying is personal taste doesn't matter when writing, and needs to be excluded when setting out to understand art as a whole, the important thing is transcending personal prejudice and being open to the art in front of us, that can take time as we wind down from the ordinary madness of life we are caught up in, with a forced effort to remind ourselves we're not the center of the universe or the pinnacle of accomplishment, we begin to open up to the experience of art which allows us to learn and make room to expand our understanding, and through writing share that experience.

3/12/2008 07:58:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"One could reasonably give a serious object some extended consideration that it might not seem to merit at first, but making yourself attend something when your instincts tell you to give up on it just insults your taste."

Franklin I should clarify my comments about the subject. I am just as guilty as the average gallery hopper is of darting in and out of a gallery that is displaying art that I just can't get into. Sometimes I look through the window and won't even step into a gallery that is not displaying something I respond to. Regarding Joseph's comments, I am not sure that my own prejudices have to do with these decisions to flee from art that doesn't do anything for me. I have certainly written about a variety of art works and I think you would be hard pressed to point out clear connections between my writings and the types of art that I write about. But of course there are stylistic, thematic, and conceptual threads running between all of my reviews. So it is more or less obvious that this stuff is coming from me but I would say there is an important element of unpredictability involved the process of choosing what to write about any given month. I also have a hard time agreeing with the idea that the critic needs to be detached from the limitations of their own personality when writing about art. The whole process is very personal for me and that is why a sense of urgency and passion comes through in the writing. I guess we are entering Kant territory now. It took forty years to make this mind of mine and whatever insights I can provide about the art I write about can't be divorced from physiological facts.

3/12/2008 09:49:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

To Anyone Paying Attention:

There were errors in my prior comment. I do in fact think that it is impossible to depersonalize the process of writing about art. This has not led me to limit my coverage to works of art that resemble the stuff I make or only a particular type of object. The fun part of the process of writing about art is not knowing what I will write about before I set off. Obviously this is the opposite of what happens to journalists who get assignments. I worked in that vein for a few years and it does have its downside. When I come upon an exhibition that I end up writing about I would be hard pressed to describe exactly what happens before I make the decision. Usually I get caught up in the art work's appearance obviously, and after a big chunk of time passes I realize that I am moved by it. I would state clearly though that I am trapped by a dynamic process involving the perceptual apparatus. I am seduced by the images first and foremost another words. The image can include nothing but text mind you but I still take in visual art as first and foremost a visual phenomena. This goes for works of sound art as well. This sounds wrong but I guess I mean that sound art usually involves an obvious visual component or tends to conjure up visual phenomena in the mind and imagination. Then my actions become more considered. I make sure that I study the work of art from every angle and from near and far. I try to find out how it was made, the order the individual elements were added, what the elements are made of, etc.

3/12/2008 03:05:00 PM  

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