Monday, April 14, 2008

The Robert Smithson of Our Time : Open Thread

I'm in Syracuse today, jurying the 2008 Biennial exhibition of regional art at the Everson Museum of Art. The building itself was the first museum designed by I.M. Pei, and was dubbed a "a work of art for works of art" when it first opened. I have a lot of work to do today, so I'll keep the post short, but don't let that keep you from being verbose.

The Juicy Feud Friday Post led to where Catherine Spaeth asked an interesting question that I think should be its own thread, so I'll throw it out there:
notice how when you reach for an example of an artist who writes, it's Donald Judd? Can't we admit to a nostalgia for the early years of Artforum? Avalanche? etc.? Is there a Robert Smithson of our time? Who do you think that is?
Consider this an open thread.

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199 Comments:

Blogger Tyler said...

Peter Plagens has written for years.

But I think that Ms. Spaeth is looking for someone who considers writing to be a key component of his/her practice, and I'm not sure Peter fits that bill. On the flip side, if every artist had to create 300 pages of writerly tripe to write one or two interesting things (as Smithson did), god spare us.

Then I'd sorta nominate Paul Chan, who doesn't necessarily write all the time, but who does stuff that is external and practice-relevant.

Alec Soth's dearly departed blog is a better example. It was terrif.

4/14/2008 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Paul Chan:

"Contemporary Iraqi artists have developed a Co-modern aesthetic. Rather than follow both trajectories of Modernism proper (the pursuit of forms that articulate the contradictions of modern life and the bridging of these forms with technology coterminous with the bringing about of these contradictions), Iraqis combine the pursuit of forms that express the tragic dimension of modern Iraqi life (which means the Iran Iraqi War, The first Gulf War, The UN/US sanctions, and now the second Gulf War) and replace the fetish of technology with history. The result is a kind of "traditional" modernism which fuses the language of modern painting -- its concerns with surface and the play of composition that questions both the depth of the painting space and what exists outside this space -- with the ecology of Iraqi historical signifiers."

I'm sorry, but this reads like bad grad school to me. I appreciate the story, but the writing is too stuck on the professionalized jargon of required theory to have any life at all. I'd take Smithson's 300 pages over this any day.

4/14/2008 09:33:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

Robert Irwin is very articulate, though not really a writer. John Perreault is a wonderful writer who makes art, but not quite filling the bill either."Artist's writings" are often like the art, the best examples anyway: kind of poetic, open ended, experiential, abstract. I'm trying to come up with examples, help me out here. I'll have to dig out my Grove book of writing by artists. Great topic.

4/14/2008 09:36:00 AM  
Blogger joy said...

...lots of artists, including myself, write/have written about art, either professionally or in some capacity at some point. why not? here's a partial list off the top of my head, A-Z:

Jennifer Coates
Marcel Duchamp
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
David Humphrey
Bill Jones
Donald Judd
Sylvia Kolbowski
Wyndham Lewis
Glenn Ligon
John Miller
Robert Motherwell
Carrie Moyer
Barnett Newman
Peter Plagens
Walid Raad
Walter Robinson
Robert Smithson
Lawrence Weiner

4/14/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I'm the editor of the Walter Darby Bannard Archive, which contains some of the best writing ever made by an artist, IMO.

4/14/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Bill Gusky said...

Stephen Westfall -- seems like he wrote more during the 80's than now, but I could be wrong -- and Joe Fyfe come to mind -- also Chris Martin, but I haven't read him lately.

Matthew Collings paints with his wife, Emma Biggs, but it's hard to know how seriously to take his work.

4/14/2008 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Harrell Fletcher

4/14/2008 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger concrete phone said...

True!
There are many.

I see glimmers everywhere. They rise like projectiles, firecrackers that flower, bursts in the sky that ultimately subside, vanish, until the next celebration next week.

The internet said in order to find information there is a need to travel. While we may not need to leave our seats navigation still has the hurdle.

Many who posy here and have a blog i read--Part of the digest.
So, thank you.

In as much as there appears to be no one grand story, I still wonder if impassioned and singular writing has seen the better day? If so what style and lucidity can invigorate the leap across one lilly pad to the next.

Ah, so Franklin, I know a little more about you!

Catherine, sorry didn't answer your question. Generally I'm a lurker here, and don't want to be shot down with passengers. Direct hit is OK!

4/14/2008 11:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merlin James
James Kalm

#1 on Google search for
artist-critics

4/14/2008 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom Moody

4/14/2008 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frances Stark

4/14/2008 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Of course artists write, but notice how many lists are being generated around those who have been writing since the "60s and '70s, if not before? I'm not talking about an archive (I have read Darby Bannard, though, and am glad there is one!).

What I miss about Robert Smithson is an artist with the agility of mind to take on everybody at once - His "Sedimentation of the Mind" is not only a philosophy but a critique of Greenberg and Fried, coming at you live and hot. You only get that kind of writing from someone who is really attending to what they do as a writer, self-critically, instead of merely "deploying" words that they learned in grad school. Today when anyone marches out Greenberg and Fried, they are taking a position based upon rhetoric so repeated and stale that it no longer has any basis in the writing it wishes to address. It just isn't fun any more, and when you read Smithson, Judd, etc, taking on the art critics of their day, as well as the artists who precede them, they were having a whole lot of serious fun. What they wrote really counted in a way that the paragraph of Paul Chan I quoted above just doesn't. I do believe this is a widespread enough phenomenon to be noticeable. Zipthwung might very well be the closest thing to Robert Smithson that we've got.

It's fun to watch the names rolling in, like some kind of surprise banquet.

4/14/2008 11:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mel Bochner, whose collected writings have just been published by MIT press.

4/14/2008 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Nathan M said...

I am going with Jeff Wall, though he doesn’t exactly write criticism.

I know his writing can be thick and esoteric but often after I have read one of his paragraphs a couple times, I feel it was a good use of my brain power (I am thinking After All 16). I am confident Mr. Wall considers writing part of his practice but for me it isn’t in the same ways the Smithson used writing.

Hell, I am not confident the world would know what to do with another Judd or Smithson if they walked in the door.

4/14/2008 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

It's absurd to think that artists, whose practice requires them to think outside conventional parameters, would willingly confine themselves to one segment of the art world if they wanted to pursue a broader range of ideas.

Even when our primary identity is as artists, there's no reason we can't write or curate. We're richer for the effort--and so is the art world, which will see art from the artist's point of view, i.e. non-instituional and non-hierarchical.

If you have a point of view and some writing ability--and, ideally, are free of axes to grind--I say go for it. Writing is not easy, so most artists don't follow that path very far; making art is hard enough. If we do pursue writing to any degree, each of us has to determine for ourselves when the balance is tipped and we're no longer artists who write but writers who make art.

I write about art and artists for the Joanne Mattera Art Blog. I'm an artist first, but I describe myself as a reporter with an opinion, as opposed to a critic. I see a lot, and I write about some of what I see but, frankly, I don't want the responsibility that somes with, or should come with, being a critic. In my opinionated reporting I typically don't write negatively. I do try to provide a context via researched information or personal anecdote about the work.

I have found that writing about art brings more clarity to my painting practice.

Other artists who write--to add to Joy's list:
Sharon Butler
Carol Diehl
Laurie Fendrich
Gail Gregg
Maureen Mullarkey

4/14/2008 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous sharon said...

As an artist who writes, the best I can come up with right now is "ditto Joanne Mattera," -- and believe me it's a very sincere ditto.

This isn't exactly contemporary, but one of my favourite books written by an artist is the posthumously released The Artist's Reality, Philosophies of Art by Mark Rothko. The difference is, he kept this for himself and never released it, which is sad but at least we have it now.

Do we need another Smithson, is it really necessary? Times have changed; neither the art world nor contemporary society's reaction to it are what they used to be. I don't know that the singular voice of any artist or critic can hold as much power as it once did; especially now that there are so many voices to choose from.

4/14/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Artists who write. Wow, unfortunately this is a double bind. Would you rather be a mediocre artist who’s a great writer, or a mediocre writer who’s a great artist? Can a great artist also be a great writer? (Even Michael Jordan couldn’t get beyond the minor leagues in baseball.) Do we want them to be critics, elucidate the struggles and notions that they face, or deal in theoretical jargon? Will this writing appeal to the general public or to an elite few in the art world? What about great writers who make art?

I’ll put my money on Ad Reinhardt, he stuck his thumb in a lot of eyes.

Fresh coffee, same underwear.

4/14/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Nathan M.
Hell, I am not confident the world would know what to do with another Judd or Smithson if they walked in the door.

Sharon
Do we need another Smithson, is it really necessary? Times have changed; neither the art world nor contemporary society's reaction to it are what they used to be. I don't know that the singular voice of any artist or critic can hold as much power as it once did; especially now that there are so many voices to choose from.

I'm generalizing a bit here, but I wonder if a larger issue is that NOBODY writes as though there is something at stake, the way that they used to. Now everyone just takes up a position and writes from within their own camp, as though we don’t even have to think about what art criticism is anymore. In that way it has become an industry that is basically running on its own steam.

4/14/2008 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous dubz said...

My favorite book by an artist is Ben Shahn's The Shape of Content, 1957.

I agree with Sharon that we don't need another Smithson. He was the most overrated artist and biggest bag of hot air ever! Rothko is #2.

4/14/2008 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Gracious, what am I, chopped liver?

4/14/2008 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

James K asks, "Will this writing appeal to the general public or to an elite few in the art world?"

Good question. From my point of view, we're writing because we have something to say. As for whom....I guess we write for ourselves. Then if what we have to say has some interest to others, we develop a following. That's true whether we write for print or online publications, for a commercial enterprise or our own blog.

Artists, critics, curators, dealers, collectors, professors, students, art fair entrepreneurs and promoters--art world people, generally--are sufficiently plugged into hard-copy reading and their bookmarked websites that they comprise a following for just about anyone who writes in any medium.

Bloggers can track their numbers online via any one of a number of stat counters. But you can also get a sense of magazine readership. By law magazines are required to list their circulation numbers, which you'll find in the November or December issue each year, buried way in the back in a quarter-page, close-to-the-fold box. Typically, the numbers for art magazines are under 25,000 a month. The same folks who read and buy the magazine one month are the same ones who do so subsequently, so there's your readership: minuscule. Online writing can attract, perhaps eventually surpase, those magazine numbers.

As for writing for the general public, what's the point? These are the folks who want your painting to match the sofa, whose five-year-old can make a better painting, and who don't have a clue about "what it means." They'd rather have a Thomas Kincaid or a Leroy Neiman any day.

Apropos of attracting a following: James, did you see on You Tube that an artist did a French-language version of "the guy on the bike." He toured his own show!

4/14/2008 02:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[i] Apropos of attracting a following: James, did you see on You Tube that an artist did a French-language version of "the guy on the bike." He toured his own show! [/i]

wouldn't that be a conflict of interest?

4/14/2008 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

I love Catherine's description of Smithson. Wouldn't we all like to be good enough to be described that way? Live and hot and taking on all comers.

If we're thinking of a model for a writer/artist, Fairfield Porter was in different mode from Smithson but quite good I think as a painter and as a writer. Many people would say he was a better writer but there's no doubt he was a painter to the core. And he was able to use his experience as a painter in relation to whatever he wrote about.

"What I miss about Robert Smithson is an artist with the agility of mind to take on everybody at once - His "Sedimentation of the Mind" is not only a philosophy but a critique of Greenberg and Fried, coming at you live and hot. You only get that kind of writing from someone who is really attending to what they do as a writer, self-critically, instead of merely "deploying" words"

4/14/2008 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Not to blow my own horn but... I’ve been swamped with “video gallery tours” surprisingly many of them are from Spain and Argentina. Jerry Saltz, who’s been following the “Kalm Report” for months has started his own “high production” version for “New York Magazine” (He’s very entertaining, check out his Jasper Johns piece). I predict everyone will switch to video and leave writing in the same basket as hieroglyphics, just my humble opinion.

Look for “Girls Gone Wild in the Gallery”. Coming soon to a computer near you.

4/14/2008 03:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The irony of what happened to Christian Viveros-Faune is that he probably represents the future: the [x]/art critic, in which [x] is some kind of material role in the art world. I would like to know how many people provide themselves with a viable income by writing art criticism exclusively - not art reporting, not other kinds of criticism. It has long had this problem - the profession of art criticism couldn't even support Clement Greenberg at the height of postwar abstraction. He taught, he advised, and he otherwise made ends meet. I joked somewhere else that art criticism was a viable profession for three weeks during the late 1940s.

So the act of art writing naturally falls to people otherwise involved in the art world, and look, we have blogs now. The overarching majority of the art writing I read is written by people who identify primarily as artists, curators, gallerists, journalists, or some other role. Artists are normally expected to speak in tongues - Smithson and Judd are prime examples - but given sufficient writing ability, they turn out to be as capable as anyone else when it comes to describing their work or that of others. What they lack in polish they regain in spark. So we could be coming into a golden age for the artist/writer. I hope so, anyway - that would work out pretty well for me.

4/14/2008 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

James -- not to knock what you do at all -- but I much prefer to read. Video is real time, difficult to interrupt, impossible to skim, and the current YouTube quality level so low (in terms of physical resolution, both audio and video) I can't stand it for more than about eight seconds. So I'll be humbly grinding through hieroglyphics for some time, I'm afraid.

Just like Pretty Lady up there, I'm apparently the chopped liver on the artist/writer menu. James jokes about being a mediocre artist and a great writer, or vice versa, but I'm fairly sure I'm mediocre at both, which is certainly worse.

Then again, I think Smithson was mediocre (at best) at both also, so maybe I'm in good company.

4/14/2008 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Franklin,

Maybe I mentioned this on one of my recent comments here, or not (I'm dealing with brain-fry from overwork at the moment):

At the recent ADAA panel in NY, Roberta Smith said something--wait let me get my notes. Here: "[In the Seventies] I set out to see if I could make my living as an art critic. . . making money doing something I loved." She acknowledged that she has been able to do this, then added, "There are probably fewer than 30 in this country making a living as art critics."

The AICA might have info as well (www.aicausa.org)

4/14/2008 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Parenthetically: I love how wacky the Web can be. If you go to Robert Smithson's site you'll be met with a very sober, minimalist, serious, button-down site. Click on the entry graphic and you get an even more serious and sober page with the cranky legalese about copyright -- "all material and/or works of art comprising or contained within this website is held by the Estate of Robert Smithson" blah blah blah -- and down underneath that it reads: "site design by Hoopycake!"

Hoopycake! How professional! Next time I want a dreadfully pretentious, soul-suckingly edifying site, I'm definitely going to hire a company named something like Hoopycake! Or Froodpie? or Combonastyface&stump(;) or something else equally insane.

4/14/2008 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

The world needs more sturm und drang

right?

Bring on the big guns!

"His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.

-Donald Judd

4/14/2008 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

sturm und drang

4/14/2008 04:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

"There are probably fewer than 30 in this country making a living as art critics."

Sadly, I was thinking at one point to supplement my art career by writing, which is kind of like reinforcing a condemned building with a glue stick. As it happens, I make better money from my sidebar ads on my blog than I ever did as a regular newspaper critic.

4/14/2008 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

we're writing because we have something to say.

Indeed. The problem with writing as a 'profession' is that we are suddenly called upon to write whether we have something to say or not, which is why I have always been unable to stomach the notion of becoming a freelance writer. It's just like being an illustrator. The horror.

4/14/2008 04:30:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Wasn't the discourse practiced by Judd and Smithson(and Weiner and LeWitt and others) really a product of the time and the specific type of Conceptualism they were involved with? It wouldn't necessarily make sense now. We are very critical of our own time, but I believe there is a lot of interesting writing out there. Blogging is a huge part of it, and it couldn't have happened years ago.

4/14/2008 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

I don't write, though I'm a pretty good speller, and I'm not, nor do I ever expect to be, a well-known artist. But my life is a text-book example of entropy, which was one of Smithson's key concepts.

So I'll go ahead and be Robert Smithson for awhile, until I run out of energy (which could be soon!). If you want to be Robert Smithson next, please sign the waiting list:

1.) David Palmer
2.)
3.)

4/14/2008 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger John Hovig said...

Grayson Perry?

4/14/2008 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger John Hovig said...

Peter Halley?

4/14/2008 06:10:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

PL says, "The problem with writing as a 'profession' is that we are suddenly called upon to write whether we have something to say or not."

Yeah, but when it's your profession you have no lack of things to say. Writers say the same thing about artists. Somehow, amazingly, we're all able to pull stuff up from the depths. Isn't THAT amazing?

4/14/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No offense to Pretty Lady or C Rywalt, but I have checked out your blogs and you guys are not really art writers. You have blogs in which you talk about various things on your mind, sometimes art. Chris, you write mostly on art but you don't have any historical perspective because, and you freely admit this, you are new to the field. Pretty Lady is all over the place, and entertaining, but an art writer. I'm not trying to insult you, just pointing out that I don't think other people see you as art writers, so you might want to reconsider your self-identification as such.

4/14/2008 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Let’s not forget that Greenberg also traded in paintings that were given to him as prearranged deals for reviews (read the Rubenfeld bio) he’d get bennies like cases of whiskey from dealers for favors. He left a collection of works to a museum in the North West probably worth several mill.

Rumor has it that there was more than passion fueling the strident writings and polemics of Smithson . Many writers who have slowed down in the last twenty years did so with the help of 12 step programs. Taking an historic sweep of their lives, many of the most respected art critics didn’t end well. I’ll guarantee that the 80%-90% of the 30 paid professionals will probably be forgotten in ten years.

Writing under deadline is a grind, a serious discipline, but like a plumber who has to unclog a backed-up toilet at three am, you grit your teeth and do it the best you can.

I went to the closing of a show in Williamsburg yesterday. I noticed several (6) new red dots. The artist, a longtime painter friend, said it was because Roberta had waved he magic wand and written a 100 word blurb on Friday. Bloggers will realize they’re taken seriously when they can boast a similar influence.

Have a nice day, and call your mother.

4/14/2008 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger rb said...

Blogging-with-footnotes (if you consider photography and cinema to be arts- which I do):

Errol Morris

Cartesian Blogging

4/14/2008 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Anonymous 6:56 said: "....I don't think other people see you as art writers"

Yo, anon, we don't see you at all. Why not step out from behind the curtain if you're addressing visiblity?

James K: Well, of course a thumbs up from Roberta means a tremendous amount, but why set it up as an either/or. (You did that earlier, too, when you polarized great writer and mediocre artist vs mediocre writer and great artist.) Not picking on you--I dig your art and your videos and your writing--but I'm wondering why we can't claim a larger middle ground.

4/14/2008 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan Kantor left his career as a MoMA curator to focus on painting (now teaches it at CCA, San Francisco, and exhibits frequently). His practice as a writer has continued (got his PhD in Art History at Harvard) throughout, and although infrequently, perhaps, he continues to write thoughtful reviews and essays on his chosen medium of painting and relative to the larger contemporary art world.

4/14/2008 08:28:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Did I ever claim to be an 'art writer'? I am an artist who writes. I write when I have something to say, about anything which inspires me. Do serious artists only make art about art?

4/14/2008 09:00:00 PM  
Blogger concrete phone said...

The vid. really does have something.
Whether or not you need to be a critic to do that I don't know. Kalm has certainly got better at his gig. I remember his first or near first, what [?] Critics Book Week or something. Both jerry and Joe were in it. And who was the dude who told you to turn it off? The vid. was terrrible!
With Kalm's you see a passion, which comes across via a means that I can't really put a finger on.
The vid will take over as the new popular medium. Brooklyn Rail will buy out NYT. And we'll finally get a chance to see Kalm on one of his vids, not just his reflection [for those who don't know him}. There he will be outside Weirs and Bridge juggling red, blue and green balloons, their inside air a soft gray.
The Great Critics will mostly be posting in the comments section of U tube [only joking, they all have top editors jobs at the Brooklyn Times]. Passed over critics will be permitted to take their login details with them. So look for them everywhere.
Blogs will carry on as usual:)

BTW Kalm, Karen Schifano has a nice show up @ Tobey, if you are out that way. Take Zip! He wears a great suit!

4/14/2008 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

The "historical perspective" comment rings bells from an EdThread probably about two years old, so I suspect this Anonymous has been hanging around a while.

I've been thinking that the historical perspective isn't all that necessary anyway -- and I've gotten better with it regardless. I still don't think of myself as a writer, exactly, let alone an art writer, because a) I'm not that good and b) I don't get paid for it. But other people apparently do think of me sometimes as a writer of sorts -- I got recognized at openings a couple of times! -- so I don't know.

4/14/2008 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

joanne,

I am not addressing visibility when i say "people see you as", although nice little literal "gotcha" there. People have reasons for staying anonymous. If Ed didn't want anonymous comments, he wouldn't allow them.

4/14/2008 09:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

xxx267 (54 minutes ago) Show Hide
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whats the name of this song?

4/14/2008 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger the reader said...

My top two artists who write are Joseph Kosuth (collected writings) and Allan Kaprow (essays on the blurring of art and life). Which perhaps reinforces Catherine's point about 60's and artists writings. But I see this as being less important than the fact that what these guys wrote in many cases is equally vital and important to any artist practicing today.

Catherine said...

"NOBODY writes as though there is something at stake, the way that they used to."

Perhaps once again reinforcing this point there was definitely something at stake for Kosuth. What was at stake was the terms of conceptual arts "art historical institutionalization". With this in mind Kosuth is explicit about his view of conceptualism he says

"conceptual art then is an inquiry by artists that understands that artistic activity is not solely limited to the framing of art propositions, but further, the investigation of the function, meaning and use of any and all (art) propositions, and their consideration within the concept of the general term ‘art’. And as well, that an artist’s dependence on the critic or writer on art to cultivate the conceptual implications of his art propositions, and argue their explications, is either intellectual irresponsibility or the naivest kind of mysticism. (p.39-40)"

So for Kosuth writing and thinking about your work is an an absolute imperative. For me this imperative has only grown in importance for any artist who engages with the conceptual histories.

As Kosuth makes us aware, there is something very important that is at stake in this process and that is the meaning of art and the way that art makes meaning. critics and historians make there careers out of speaking for artists. they use artworks for their own semantic ends to support their own world views. Kosuth calls this secondary theory.

Primary theory is the writing of the artist. it is not only is a reflection on a particular practice but it is a specific technology (ie writing) that is used as a tool to develop both the practice and writing itself. video is a different technology with different strengths and weaknesses (ie video can't do all the things that writing can).

Kalm James' suggestion that that the artist who writes inevitably compromises either the writing or the art-making is one that draws far to neat a distinction between writing and practice. Kaprow's essays are as much his practice as any other work he made.

4/14/2008 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Admittedly I have some issues with conceptual art, mainly its endgame nature. Also I’m not one that thinks art should be subservient to philosophy or theories, (which might be a theory).

I think it was the German composer Stackhausen (sp?) who stated that the 9/11 attacks were the greatest art work of the 20th Century. Give a theorist enough words and they can justify anything as art.

Regarding Joanne’s hope for more middle ground, I’d feel like that’s asking folks to just be okay, not good or great, but just okay. Ultimately, you might be just okay, but how are you going to know if you don’t go for the gold?

4/14/2008 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

James,

I'm not making a case for mediocracy. I'm pointing out that you have set up an either/or scenario, and I don't buy the constructed duality--that you can't be good at one thing if you're good at something else. One could be a great writer and artist, or even a very good writer and artist. Or one could be dreadful at both, or better at one than the other. That's the middle ground I'm talking about: the place where things are neither black not white.

4/15/2008 12:06:00 AM  
Blogger concrete phone said...

I think great artists tend to be great writers, as proven by the above lists. So get your pens out!
What is different now is this thing called professionalism, and benchmark. That's great for grapes growing down in Napa, but I think it's kinda squeezing the gas out things.
One of the great things about art, the practice, the problems, the conceptual underpinnings--a work of art has no firm ground. And that is what it's about. That's what needs to be continually argued--in all manner of ways, streams and syntax.
We all know the meaning of a long adjectival phrase followed by the short declarative. it been the style for about two decades. Probably time to move on.

Kalm says go for gold. That's like saying go for the cheese. Rat's Bait.

4/15/2008 12:28:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Cheesie indeedie

4/15/2008 01:44:00 AM  
Anonymous sharon said...

My re entry into this conversation may be a little too late in the game (the day became far too busy) but in response to Catherine-- I doubt that "nobody" is writing like it matters anymore; I'm sure I've written like it mattered before and others here have too. If left to my own devices I would live breathe and eat theory, but it doesn't make for the best art, believe me. I wonder more close to the point if its that art writing has sectioned itself off from the rest of the world and, rather than writing to people, art writers write for each other. Has it become even more circular, more insular? Is the art world bringing in people from outside itself?

Personally, this is what I'm trying to overcome. It's just a thought.

4/15/2008 01:48:00 AM  
Blogger ryan said...

The recent complaints about curator-speak and the bad writing that goes along with it seems like a good reason for more artists to put their hat in the ring.

For that matter how about more artists who curate and fewer curators whose focus is writing.

4/15/2008 02:26:00 AM  
Blogger the reader said...

Far from being an "endgame" conceptual art has been responsible for opening up lots of new territory in contemporary arts practice, particularly if we think of the ready-made as one of the origins of conceptualism.

I would also argue writing for an artist who engages with conceptual traditions is a useful tool in resisting the process by which art might become "subservient to philosophy or theories."

One of the things that artists can do in their writings is work with, but also reveal, the limits of secondary theory, philosophy and science, as ways of knowing. My interest in the artist who writes is fundamentally in how the artist uses writing as a tool to interrogate their studio work. so when an artist writes about someone else's work it is primarily a means to better understand their own practice.

4/15/2008 05:15:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

To be a little more clear I'm making a distinction between writing with something at stake and writing from a position - both writers would say that what they do matters, but I want to say it matters differently. With Smithson you really have the sense that he is inside of his own experience as an artist when he writes, and that he reaches out to other minds that are likewise engaged, and even those that are not, as a way to extend thought as something powerfully materialist. In the case of Paul Chan, above, he has already decided what "Modernism" is, and writes from a position in which iraqi art is necessarily coterminous with that. Maybe the distinction that The Reader makes is applicable, with the exception that Chan, as an artist, is writing at the secondary level. He is uncritically caught up in externalized references. Being at stake has the sense of being skewered by thought, writing from within a position is to see oneself in relation to what is around you as having a known and manipulable history, where words are simply the tools that one uses.

For obvious reasons, I would like to hold open the possibility that someone who spends their life with art in ways other than that of making it could write at the primary level as well. If Kosuth's distinction should hold, though, this might be an "essential" reason why there is no question about an artist's conflict of interest, as the artist is the single true origin of all that he does, and as primary origin, it can never be challenged from outside. It's kind of like a conceptual version of a certain notion of expressionism, except that the emotional residue on the canvas stands forth as the singular and absolute idea.

4/15/2008 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

I'm generalizing a bit here, but I wonder if a larger issue is that NOBODY writes as though there is something at stake, the way that they used to.

Pithy. An issue not limited to the beginnings of conceptual art.

Smithson’s writing is causally bound to his time, which is not to say it lacks relavance now, only that what’s at stake today needs to be refound.

Does anybody know what is at stake? (besides paying off those pesky loans)

Art is being corrupted by money. Green T’s flailing against a critics conflict of interest is a slight of hand which deflects questions away from the real issue, what’s the money doing?

What’s at stake besides establishing yourself as a brand?

Now everyone just takes up a position and writes from within their own camp, as though we don’t even have to think about what art criticism is anymore.

Like, what’s at stake?

In that way it has become an industry that is basically running on its own steam.

Oh, ok.

...I would like to hold open the possibility that someone who spends their life with art in ways other than that of making it could write at the primary level as well.

Why not, there is no reason why this couldn’t be the case.

4/15/2008 08:14:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

If you dont make painting I think talking about painting might tend to be a bit strange. I don;t like writing by non artists in that way.

But if you are talking about curating as art - managerial art I suppose - then you start to talk about higher levels of abstraction - an dat some poin these levels become absurd. I think its probably the level where someone like Takashi Murakami is at - hes not dealing with issues that I care about as an individual, but at an institutional level, whioch affects me, I can see his point.

But I;m not an institution, nor do I desire to be at the macro level.

Art as some sort of anti-totalitarianism or on the other hand, as a sort of community building exercise leaves me cold too.

I don't think artist have to deal with any of that - but art schools make a point of indoctrinating you in these issues.

Issues based art - artist as critic as artist, is what is ruining the art world, I think. Not money, which is rad.

But money is poured at issues based art - which is bad.

That makes me sad.

4/15/2008 09:01:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Formal issues - distilled as cognitive science - and knowledge formation into categorical ontologies, and whatnot, make some of the worst art as manifested in works that are hyped to reveal such hidden structures. Unless they do, which most don't.

4/15/2008 09:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Walter Darby Bannard, from The Unconditional Aesthete (1987):

Recently I gave a lecture at the Aibright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo called "Bad Art and Why We Have It." Part of it was given over to whacking the critics for their high-handed obscurantism, bad writing, and trendiness. Art critics are an easy, if deserving target; a mildly sardonic reading of some ripe bit of highfalutin critical bombast always tickles an audience, and I often take the liberty.

Afterwards a young man stood up and asked, "Where do these critics come from, anyway?" Where indeed? No one had asked me that before. From anywhere and everywhere it seems. They are reporters, academics, and literary people who fall into art criticism as much by circumstance as by inclination or design. They are seldom artists. Artists, for whatever reason, are usually terrible writers. Writers, on the other hand, don't understand art. They adopt an attitude of patronizing kinship, look at subject matter and other evident parts of a work, relate it to "real life" and find "symbolic meaning" and think that's all there is to it. ...

4/15/2008 09:30:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

'...notice how when you reach for an example of an artist who writes, it's Donald Judd?'

Well no. Personally I always reach for Sir Joshua Reynolds, then Vincent Van Gogh, then Wassily Kandinsky, then Paul Klee...

Deep thinking! Form! Ideals! Expression! Feelings!

Then I put them all back on the shelves and go back to work...

I never notice Judd, because his sophomoronic thinking always strikes me as such a joke. Duh, Der ten best dis and der ten best dat... The same with Smithson - that demented landscape gardener with a penchant for airborn views - you've got to be kidding! People only get sentimental about his stuff because he died young.

Boo hoo.

The reason there isn't that kind of formalist writing anymore is because of the dominance of continental or existential philosophy - which eschews the old synthetic/analytic distinction for social and historical issues. While deconstruction pretends that anything goes.

I guess we'll have to wait for another Wittgenstein or Quine before we get back to 'basics'. In the meantime, critics notice technique and technology...

4/15/2008 10:27:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

WDB, whom I respect, sees only one side of the coin.

Writers, on the other hand, don't understand art. They adopt an attitude of patronizing kinship, look at subject matter and other evident parts of a work, relate it to "real life" and find "symbolic meaning" and think that's all there is to it. ...
It is presumptuous to state that someone who is not an artist can’t understand art. If this was true, there would be no audience, no reason for art to exist.
It is presumptuous to suggest that writers consider aspects of an artwork WBD ignores (symbolic meaning etc) and nothing else. I know what he is referring to as "something else," certain visually experienced aspects of an artwork which do not lend themselves to verbal description, but at the same time this is not all there is.
While WDB’s position is admirable, it does not connect with the part of the audience which asks "what does it mean" He ignores the conceptual side of experience is if it does not exist and this is one reason why Smithson and the others buried the formalists six feet under, their position had become moldy.

4/15/2008 10:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zip 9:10 am

I usually don't understand what the @#$!% you're talking about, but whatever you're smoking today, keep smoking it!

james:

"I think it was the German composer Stackhausen (sp?) who stated that the 9/11 attacks were the greatest art work of the 20th Century. "

Except 9/11 was in the 21st century. Don't composers have to have a good sense of time?

Oriane

4/15/2008 10:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob Newhart and Rodney Dangerfield both wrote articulately and concisely on contemporary art and also wrote engagingly on the limitations of relational discourse as it pertains to post 90's praxis. ;-P

4/15/2008 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

He ignores the conceptual side of experience is if it does not exist and this is one reason why Smithson and the others buried the formalists six feet under, their position had become moldy.

As often as I am accused of hijacking EW threads to bash conceptualism, I would very much like not to bring this thread in that direction. I'll say instead that I evaluate the work itself, and in that respect Smithson and others didn't come close to burying what the best formalists were doing. That history was subsequently kinder to Smithson et al., which is by no means a permanent condition, is a market consideration, not a philosophical one.

4/15/2008 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

“…I try to get out but they keep draggin me back in…”

Personalities and styles aside, my greatest revelation about the value of criticism is that one of the main functions of art is its position as something to bitch about, or rhapsodies about. It’s there to ponder within a social context.

One of an artist’s greatest responsibilities to the audience is to stand there and take whatever is thrown out. A good artist is one who can turn that into positive energy. So long as your name is spelled right there’s no such thing as a bad review. The worst review is no review. If you don’t see the value of being society’s creativity release valve, then you shouldn’t come out of the closet.

Oriane, I think he meant it as the culmination of the 20th Century’s tendencies.

Oh and Zip, I agree about non-painters writing about painting it’s like men writing about child birth or Swedes writing about discrimination in Alabama, and don’t kid us, you might not want to admit it but you’re and institution.

4/15/2008 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

re Franklin’s response:

My point was quite simple, that critical thought went in a different direction and rendered the formalists irrelevant.

This is a battle which was fought in the past between two opposing theoretical camps. One only has to look at the ensuing history to verify the fact that the formalist position lost. Worse, are those who insist on re-fighting this battle as if it was still relevant today. Their position insists on polarizing critical thought about the visual arts into two views which are mutually exclusive of one another. The obvious reality is that this cannot be the case, that one may view artworks both formally and conceptually and that attempts to do otherwise can only contain partial truths.

4/15/2008 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

My point was quite simple, that critical thought went in a different direction and rendered the formalists irrelevant.

It's not just simple, it's simplistic. The larger portion of the marketplace went in a different direction and rendered the formalists unmarketable. (Temporarily, I might add. The recent show of Olitski at Knoedler did very well for them.) They remained relevant to the people who pursued their interests in the problems of abstraction and visual quality. To this day, even his detractors can't deal with abstraction in a broad manner without dealing somehow with Greenberg, which represents enormous philosophical persistence for an art writer who has been dead for sixteen years. And while I don't want to overstate my importance, I can tell from my site meter that a lot of people besides my mom are reading Artblog.net, so this line of thinking still has considerable support behind it.

This is a battle which was fought in the past between two opposing theoretical camps. One only has to look at the ensuing history to verify the fact that the formalist position lost.

One of my art history professors was a Caravaggio scholar, and she said that as recently as the late 19th Century, he was dismissed as a pederast, hothead, and purveyor of Baroque nonsense. Historical fortunes can reverse wildly, and there's nothing preventing the same from happening to the history of late modernism. There's no question about who won if you look at the quality of the work. And if Caravaggio can survive 300 years of posthumous critical neglect, Olitski can survive thirty.

Worse, are those who insist on re-fighting this battle as if it was still relevant today. Their position insists on polarizing critical thought about the visual arts into two views which are mutually exclusive of one another. The obvious reality is that this cannot be the case, that one may view artworks both formally and conceptually and that attempts to do otherwise can only contain partial truths.

(Again, I'd like to point out that George, not me, is turning this thread into a referendum on fomalism versus conceptualism. But since this is my thing, please forgive me for answering.)

One, it's our battle to fight. It's relevant to us, and I don't give a rat's ass if you think otherwise. Two, formal and conceptual elements are not mutually exclusive in my view. My view is that conceptual elements have no quality. (Not poor quality, but no quality - no goodness or badness as art.) Consequently, the success of art hinges on form, which can have quality. Therefore, if you like good art, this is the way to go. If you're more interested in "truths," well, good luck to you. That this view isn't popular doesn't make it wrong.

4/15/2008 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I said, The obvious reality is that this cannot be the case, that one may view artworks both formally and conceptually and that attempts to do otherwise can only contain partial truths.

You have consistently both misread and mischaracterized my position which is definitely not polarized towards one side or the other. So it is not possible for me to turn this forum into any kind of referendum because such a polarization is not my position.

I have only suggested that when you look at the history of the last forty years the formalist position has been eclipsed by the conceptual. This is a fact of life, it’s over with and no amount of grousing can change it. It has nothing to do with the marketplace, the conceptualist put forth a more engaging argument which was of interest to more people. Further, such a position, inquiring into both the visual and the symbolic (or conceptual), had traction prior to 1950 with great art historians like Malraux. Greenberg and his crowd rebelled against this but ultimately were forced to retreat.

I am conceptually opposed to any critical position which attempts to polarize the importance of either the visual and the conceptual. I believe that our visual perceptions are both sensory and conceptual, that the search for meaning is part of the process of decoding visual information. Without conceptual participation the visual process just discerns meaningless forms. The fact that certain parts of the brain are specialized for interpreting these forms as a survival mechanism should be the hint that the visual process is doing something more complex than just lump perception.

The weakness of your position is that you are fighting the last war, no one cares, it’s already in the books.
If you want to argue for "good art," from any perspective, I’m not opposed to that, but you have to do it on a case by case basis since there are no hard and fast rules.

4/15/2008 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

You have consistently both misread and mischaracterized my position which is definitely not polarized towards one side or the other.

I have not characterized your position in any manner. I have attempted to characterize WDB's, and mine. Which means that this...

So it is not possible for me to turn this forum into any kind of referendum because such a polarization is not my position.

...is bullshit, as is most of what follows. If you'd like to continue this discussion, please contact me by e-mail.

4/15/2008 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

why would I want to do that?

4/15/2008 02:40:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

George, you rule.

4/15/2008 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

deborah,

no, but I like to argue ;-)

4/15/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OfraHaza (2 weeks ago) 0
Anyone who samples Kate Bush is brilliant!

4/15/2008 02:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Fine. Ed, if you come here and give me permission to continue this, I will do so.

4/15/2008 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

The Cedar Bar was a lot more fun than the sandbox.

4/15/2008 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Fine. Ed, if you come here and give me permission to continue this, I will do so.

Every one has permission to debate passionately (and respectfully) so long as it's on-topic for that thread. So far the question seems to me to be on topic. In other words, please do proceed.

4/15/2008 03:14:00 PM  
Anonymous S.A. said...

Please -- must we flog the formalism vs conceptualism argument. It's all art - and whatever has become fashionable will soon give way to something else. Endorsing one ideology as more relevant than another is the same thing as the critics' retreat into ideology and away from art.

Back to the original question....
Nobody has mentioned Robert Storr as a contemporary writer who has some affinity with the actual artmaking process. Whether you like what he writes or not, he at least seems to be "pro-art", (can't say that about many critics)and appreciates the speculative nature of the process.

Ultimately, it seems anyone who is first an artist who also writes is going to be heavily invested in the ideas he/she is presenting -- writing in support of the basic impulses that drive the work. In this regard I agree with James K. -- Ad Reinhardt --why mince words.

4/15/2008 03:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Ed, Thank you. I ask because I've been upbraided here for swinging around to this very topic, and I wanted to be sure you considered it appropriate to the thread.

You have consistently both misread and mischaracterized my position which is definitely not polarized towards one side or the other.

For anyone just joining in, George continually makes a habit of mischaracterizing my writing and debating against the mischaracterization. I have noted this, and he is attempting, rather flimsily, to return the same criticism.

I have only suggested that when you look at the history of the last forty years the formalist position has been eclipsed by the conceptual. This is a fact of life, it’s over with and no amount of grousing can change it.

I'm sure that settecento Italians thought that theirs was the last word on Caravaggio. As I said, forty years on, this is far from settled, and may not be for centuries. I'm not attempting to change history anyway. I'm attempting to make a case for its better art.

It has nothing to do with the marketplace...

It has had everything to do with the marketplace ever since Sidney Janis recreated Duchamp's Fountain over thirty years after the artist discarded the original. Conceptual art is far more a product of the marketplace than its proponents generally like to recognize.

...the conceptualist put forth a more engaging argument which was of interest to more people.

Again, its popularity doesn't interest me. Its ability to enable good art does, and it tends not to.

Greenberg and his crowd rebelled against this but ultimately were forced to retreat.

Greenberg retreated from his position in light of the conceptual argument? This is news to me. If I understand it right, he stayed where he was, and the center of the art world moved away from him. Or tried to, in its way.

I am conceptually opposed to any critical position which attempts to polarize the importance of either the visual and the conceptual.

Assuming "polarize the importance" means regarding one of them as more important, I would be too if I could. It sounds much more egalitarian, and I would get along so much better with the moment. But if your priority for art is visual quality, it just doesn't work. Concepts have no quality one way or the other as art. Excitement about ideas is philosophical excitement. Excitement about language is poetic excitement. Symbols are a kind of form. Concepts have been hugely enabling to the production of art since its very beginnings, so it's important to honor that. But when you load responsibility for artistic success onto the ideas, disdaining presentation, you make bad art unless you somehow succeed in spite of your intentions, which happens. This seems to be true even of the literary forms.

Without conceptual participation the visual process just discerns meaningless forms.

Conceptual participation in perception and actual concepts are not the same thing.

The weakness of your position is that you are fighting the last war, no one cares, it’s already in the books.

This is more of a taunt than an argument, and if your position was stronger, it wouldn't be necessary to make it. I care, which would be enough both to matter and prove you wrong. Others care as well, quite a surprising number of them really, enough to sustain a modest readership on germane topics. If I'm on the wrong side of history, I'm on the right side of my observations, and I can live with that. Yes, it's in the books. And as we know, once something is in the books, that's it forever - no one ever comes along and questions the books, writes new books on the same subjects, and occasionally revises what we thought we knew on a grand scale. Right? I think my old art history professor might have something to say about that.

4/15/2008 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

As far as artists and theory goes, there’s that famous retort, supposedly by Barnett Newman to Suzanne Langer, to the effect that “Aesthetics for artists is like ornithology for birds”.

Mind you, Newman also ran for mayor at one time on a platform that included public playgrounds for adults.

4/15/2008 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Formalism, as attention to form as content, is probably the most boring way I can think of to talk about art.

For one, most people use the same words, express the same sentiments, and make the same tired revelations.

But don't let that stop you.

I'm missing a w-2 form. Do I just write the company's name down or what?

4/15/2008 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

I'm missing a w-2 form. Do I just write the company's name down or what?

I would suggest replace it with a collage.

4/15/2008 06:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Adopting a surrealist pose and tossing out harebrained quips from behind a pseudonym is the most boring way I can think of to participate on a blog. But don't let that stop you.

I'm missing a w-2 form. Do I just write the company's name down or what?

Wow, I thought Trader Joe's was better organized than that.

4/15/2008 06:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

zipthwung/ the sound of an arrow hitting a target
for more info visit tanslacks@yahoo.com
aka aaron macmasters

4/15/2008 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

How do you describe color to a blind man? How?

4/15/2008 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger Beneful Dog Food said...

The Daily Practice of Painting. The MIT Press book with writings by and interviews with Gerhard Richter.

4/15/2008 06:47:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Unfortunately Franklin doesn’t get it, the formalism-conceptualism debate was a phenomena of the late twentieth century. In the marketplace of opinion, the audience decided it was more interested in ideas, and put their money where their interests were. To deny this by trying to gloss it over, is to distort the historical facts.

I am in agreement that this is a boring debate, as I have stated I think both aspects come into play when making or experiencing art. This is not an egalitarian position, it is based upon experience, the experience of how we perceive the world. The notion of "visual quality" is undefined and ever changing and therefore has meaning only in a temporal sense.

I would ask, of all the activities we embark on, why do we make art and why do we value art within the culture? I do not think there is any one answer. If Franklin gets off on the retinal, that’s great but it might not be what works for me.

Is the artists role in the culture solely one of conjuring up visually delicious baubles for the rich? I do not think so.

What is at stake? Today, roughly eight years into the new millennium, we’re quibbling over a battle lost forty years ago, let's lay it to rest.

What is at stake? As we go forward into an uncertain future does the artist have a responsibility to contemplate the course taken by society and the culture? Or, do we just make more baubles for the rich?

Are we so content with our current condition, an art market awash in cash, that we just are interested in cutting into the line, and getting our piece of the pie?
What is at stake? Do we even care?

We live in an age where our once stable points of reference can change overnight. An age where identity is an eleven digit number, or a death statistic. Why did the price of rice double over the last six months? Who cares, I’m not starving? Hey, they’re rioting over it in Haiti. Who cares? Here, have another "visual quality" bauble for your digs.

What is at stake? The future is at stake, what we do today changes the future. Do we even care?

4/15/2008 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger the reader said...

"it seems anyone who is first an artist who also writes is going to be heavily invested in the ideas he/she is presenting"

Everyone who cares enough to write about art is heavily invested in the ideas that they are presenting. The career aspirations of academics or critics in terms of publishing work are no less significant than the career aspirations of artists. or as Kosuth puts it:

“... writing by artists seems to suggest a different ontology than that of critics and historians: by taking a subjective responsibility for our cultural production we cannot lay claim to pseudo-scientific ‘objective detachment’. Therefore, by some paradoxical twist, my historicizing can be considered suspect because I was, and am, actually engaged. The rather absurd insinuation is that career needs of the professional art writer twenty years removed are more of a direct path to historical accuracy.”

With regards to the primary/secondary theory distinction;

"No matter what actual form the activity of art takes, its history gives it a concrete presence. Framed by such a presence then, this theory is engaged as part of a practice. Such theory I’ll call primary. Secondary theory may be no less useful (in many cases more useful) but the point I’m stressing is that it has a different ontology. Primary theory is no more interesting, the practice, in toto, is."

The question of primary theory having a different ontology is important if we think about how "someone who spends their life with art in ways other than that of making it could write at the primary level as well."

What draws me to artists who write well (and despite what WDB says there are plenty of examples) is that the subjectivity of their practice often gives them very specific and unique perspectives on the work they discuss. I think if a non-artist wants to write primary theory they have to have something that approximates a practice. this could be a rigorous investigation of an area not directly connected to art (science, philosophy etc.) that might stand in for the specific and rigorous vision of that comes from the artist's practice.

4/15/2008 07:29:00 PM  
Blogger ec said...

Mira Schor, for chrissakes!

4/15/2008 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Do not rejoice in his defeat, you men. For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch that bore him is in heat again.

-Mira Schor

4/15/2008 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger concrete phone said...

The Big-W's Tractatus Logico said something about facts ideas and objects.

I could never get my head around that an object is an event standing in for a non-event. And that all objects are the same, when they are the same, except their difference. That an idea can only be linked to an object, seems penchant. That an idea floats round the globe like a single speck of pollen without loosing its scent, is unrecognizable, until experience links to it-able event, is less than quaint.

Answering Z's Q: The dude says that objects are colorless. So I guess color is a concept less than real, in the object sense of real. This might mean that color is a secondary experience, in W's mind. The primary the interaction between object as event. So who needs the secondary when you got the primary?

Concept art, object art, they all end up in the same event, so they are relational, and are both objects, and as object are without color, until we switch on the auxiliary switch.
Concept and object are the same when they share the same shape and event, but are different, all the same, as it's relational.
Monochrome painting was dealing with this quite a while ago. And still is. I hear it is even coming back. Maybe dirt is coming back too!
The arguments are going to be the same! Which one's real? Which one is not? someone is going to put a quiz up to determine which it is. Maybe that guy down at Nasa, He likes doing that.

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus makes zero sense to me, so I'm object. If i am going to have to put something in place of zero I'm going to put my brush with event. Ha!
Franklin.
I consider myself a bit of a master of the formal [nothing much else, but there you go], and have had in the past quite a few queries about concept art, especially the kind that I had to read gallons before I could even get one piston to fire [all you need sometimes if you are on Ducati]. So now i kind of find favor with both.
Still, I consider myself a master of the formal, which needs absolutely zero 'other' language to explain it, especially when a formal is both flexible / material / immaterial -- equally recognizable in in a variety of events. That's difficult enough!
But it seems pretty silly not to use another language that is an equal, and a contingent part of the event [Guess George was saying that]. I mean an idea can shift the formal to create different sets of rules, kind of like the formal/conceptual landslide thing [Cap shame on you--you were almost going to get one of the awards for the good writers--now what?].
So formal by itself is the pie, says dangle-bottom. As a speck of sand is the beach, Kamakura, 700 years ago, then the 4th largest city in the world with 200,000 inhabitants. The fact is they didn't get a kick out of cuddling up on the same speck of sand so the K guy dived into the sea to get his comeuppance, his enlightenment, leaving the rest to spread out--get their own bit of sand.
And we, we, raspberry, less much like salivating over the same slice of pie. We lick our own and find our own.
Speck in the sky.
Concept or material ? [concept packs up neater--one of the little tricks Master Object would do well to take notice of].
Our speck! Our Piece of Pie! Quantum! The dude on the beach. Tsunami!

4/15/2008 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not enough artists write today. Most of them can barely write a statement and the rest write checks that will bounce.

4/15/2008 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(From catfish) Someone asked for commentary where something seemed to be at stake ... George and others say the formalist v. conceptual discussion is dead, boring, and belongs in the past. Yet in this thread that is the only discussion conducted as if something is at stake - on both sides.

4/15/2008 10:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Franklin,

Is that you driving around with the bumper sticker that says
Those that can, do.
Those that can't, Duchamp.
?

It's one of my all-time faves, along with
My Karma ran over my Dogma.

Oriane

4/15/2008 10:52:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

When Robert Smithson wrote about art and the art world it added to an artist's prestige and critical import if their writing appeared in the glossies. The glossies were edited and the artist couldn't submit garbage. They actually had to clearly lay out their arguments and write using a coherent style. This is no longer the case. As long as an artist can give pithy responses to an interviewer or do an occasional spot as a guest speaker, no more is required of them. The amount of money an artist earns is what matters now, what lends weight to the artist's oeuvre. We don't need to know if they are a smarty-pants.

4/15/2008 11:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Unfortunately Franklin doesn’t get it...

George from 2005 called. He says to give it a rest.

I am in agreement that this is a boring debate.

You brought it up.

If Franklin gets off on the retinal, that’s great but it might not be what works for me.

It's called having an eye, and I have some bad news for you.

Is the artists role in the culture solely one of conjuring up visually delicious baubles for the rich? I do not think so.

Real beauty is hard. Pleasure is the high work of civilization. Epicurus was right.

Hey, they’re rioting over it in Haiti. Who cares? Here, have another "visual quality" bauble for your digs.

I promise you that you could make any work of art at all, a triumph in any sense you could name, and it would not stop a Haitian food riot. If politics enables you to make better art, study it. Otherwise you have no business bringing it into your studio, and you are worse than useless for trying to get it there. I just read this on the site of the Dresden Dolls: "our political views, in my humble opinion, are not as important as the artist's role in general, which i believe is may more important than any given artist waving a flag for a cause of a candidate. we may occasionally do things like play 'war pigs' and dedicate it to the president george w. bush, but in general I think we can have a far more profound impact on the political climate of our country and peers by encouraging them to fucking feel free to express themselves. I feel very strongly about this: you can do a lot more for your nation's soul by feeding it's creative urge and giving it art and music and feeling than anything else. most europeans seem to understand this, this is why you rarely see arts budgets being as thoughtlessly slashed the way you do in america. art is food for the soul, and an artistic climate is a healthy political climate because it breeds empathy."

People take art too seriously in ways it doesn't justify and not seriously enough in ways that it does. It stands to reason that if we wanted to do something with art to make the future better, we would try beautifying it, since that is art's primary and most thoroughly developed power. Does that seem inadequate to you? Ask yourself why, and what art ought to do instead. I have poked around under George's handwringing about the future, and underneath it I find more handwringing - it's handwringing all the way down.

I'm a new media artist whose work incorporates text and have no problem with concepts as such. I need them to work. So I'm not rehashing a fight described in quaint terms by George. I'm fighting against a widespread unwillingness to look at what art does well, what it doesn't do well, and how to do it better. I advocate self-criticism in a field overrun with self-satisfaction. Self-criticism is really the only legacy of modernism that must be preserved. Everything else is up for grabs.

4/16/2008 01:07:00 AM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Franklin, personally I wish you would write more of the above-type beautiful screeds on your own blog, where they may exist in authoritative, non-relative glory, and desist arguing with George, who is just mindlessly repeating the same points you eloquently refute, in a different and increasingly poetic manner every time. Be an author, Franklin, not a reactor. ;-)

4/16/2008 01:50:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Someone asked for commentary where something seemed to be at stake ... George and others say the formalist v. conceptual discussion is dead, boring, and belongs in the past. Yet in this thread that is the only discussion conducted as if something is at stake - on both sides.

Catfish,
That’s not quite correct, I took exception to some excerpts Franklin posted from WDB’s "The Unconditional Aesthete" and this discussion ensued, for the most part without the participation of others. There is hardly anything at stake anymore in the debate between the conceptualists and the formalists. This is something which occurred in the past, within a particular set of historical circumstances, and is finished.

To simplify, the formalists attempted to separate the visual from the conceptual as the primary focus of aesthetic theory. [Or the other way around, take your pick] For a brief historical period, the conceptualist viewpoint clearly became the dominant position of critical theory. However, current attempts to address this debate as a basis for ones artistic practice is a retrograde position of only minor interest.

The evidence suggests the attempt to hierarchically separate out the formal from the conceptual was a mistake, that this debate no longer is relevant to advanced art, and that young artists are choosing to utilize whatever they believe is necessary for their creative expression.

Most of the nearly 1000 pages of blog comments I have written were conversational intended to stir the debate in order to refocus or reframe current issues within the artistic community. I am not writing theory nor arguing for a specific point of view.

So when I reiterate "what is at stake?" it is a question aimed at the entire artistic community which is currently more obsessed with money than I have ever seen over the last thirty years. While I understand the long history of craftsmen who have made visual baubles for the rich, I am asking is that all there is?

Franklin makes light over my remarks about food riots in Haiti, well of course nothing I can do in my studio practice is going to have a direct affect on this. Yet I would like to suggest that when people wonder how Bush (the 98.2% failure president)got elected twice, it is because a majority were just going along with the flow, not wanting to ask questions.

I am not going to suggest that the artistic community started the civil rights movement, nor the feminist movement, but I am willing to suggest that the artistic community was on the leading edge of these developments and helped to create a climate where they could flourish and grow.

What we do as artists matters, how it matters may not be subject to direct cause and effect, but it matters. So again I ask, what is at stake? Or are we just making visual baubles for the rich.

4/16/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

I am very attracted to a history of politicized formalism - I regard Polly Apfelbaum, for example, as politicized - and say this with the knowledge and appreciation for the fact that in the activist ‘80s, she was in Spain and was exposed to Supports/Surfaces. So, for me, it is not a matter of pretty or stark, but of the critical discourse that surrounds a work. What I do resent (and this is a word that I so rarely utter, but in this case it just resides in the gut in this way) is the thought that what drives the success of an artists career is that “so and so has one.” I have written about the dangers of artifice and visual interest out of this concern for the ease of its mobility in moneyed social contexts, but this doesn’t mean that “ornament” is without critical edge. What is at stake, for me, is meeting the level of discourse that art has set for itself. So, for example, when Peter Plagens (as a painter) is unable to move past Josef Albers sense of color and give credit to the very real paradigmatic shift that occurs in Albers’ student, Richard Serra, I also resent what I regard as both an inability and a lack of interest in the very real contribution of that show to an understanding of the history of conceptual art with regard to color. Be involved with the history and give credit where credit is due: congratulations, Ann Temkin.

4/16/2008 10:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

So again I ask, what is at stake? Or are we just making visual baubles for the rich.

What's your plan to avoid having your work collected by rich people, George?

4/16/2008 02:04:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

"visual baubles" is in your purview, not mine, so I can't say.

4/16/2008 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

grrr...

let's not get personal you two...stick to the issues, please.

4/16/2008 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I was trying to get specific, not personal. This notion that we as artists are either dealing with so-called larger issues or making baubles for the rich is, first of all, a false dilemma, and secondly doesn't correspond with anything one might do with practice. If you'd like to make propaganda, illustrate some social or political problem, or deal with ideas from outside art, then go ahead. But it would be foolish to do so while thinking any of the following:

1. That this compares in any way to taking social and political action to solve social and political problems.

2. That this is somehow higher work than trying to reach the upper echelons of beauty.

3. That rich people will not ultimately feel inclined to buy it.

So George can ask "What's at stake?" until the cows come home. There's no way to answer the question in the way he's asking it.

4/16/2008 04:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(From catfish again) And George argues as if something important is at stake, even if he "questions' it. The drama is there, the fire is there, as in if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc. it probably is a duck. George is as passionate as Franklin. Bravo for both of them. But please don't tell me this is a "dead issue". The issue is very much alive.

4/16/2008 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

I was totally won over to Franklin's side but then George made a good point. The battle over conceptualism vs. formalism is a thing of the past. Franklin may disagree, but I think conceptualism is just part of the tool bag now. It's been absorbed and is available to all as part of a contemporary practice. I think Franklin is really arguing for beauty and I couldn't agree more. The question of who buys it and why isn't really a question for artists. It is, of course, but it isn't. Serra's advance over Albers, Catherine's point, was a major acheivement that took many years to absorb and appreciate - all those years when Leo Castelli paid Serra without a sale. But now it's history, and it's history we can use. it's available to us.

Great conversation.

4/16/2008 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I am surprised by the rigid of points of view used when interpreting some of my remarks.

David, nowhere have I suggested that I am ‘against’ beauty, go for it if it suits you.

My remark about making more "visual baubles for the rich" had little to do with who buys the artworks and everything to do with the artist’s intentionality in their studio practice. Everybody knows that the money is out their, as bait wiggling on the hook.

How one approaches this is not an either-or question, or one addressing outside corruption, it is about the potential corruption of the soul and how one deals with it.

Catfish. As I saw it, the formalist-conceptualist division was initiated by the formalist critics in the middle of the last century. Prior to this time, formal issues were considered in conjunction with the conceptual issues. Once this split occurred, it is no surprise that those who were more conceptually oriented, would argue their case.

As a result, within this polarized debate, there can be no doubt that the conceptualist held sway for the final thirty years of the last century. Theoretical or stylistic ideas have a short lifespan in art, the bubble up and usually disappear within ten years.

Taking this into account, I again suggest that the formalist-conceptualist debate is finished and over with. I am not positing a theoretical argument here, but just making an observation about how artists are approaching what it is they do.

When I say it is a "dead issue" I mean just that, both points of view are part of the art experience, and it appears to me, that younger artists approach their practice from a considerably less polarized viewpoint.

So in my view, the arguments being presented here in favor of the formalist point of view are weak because they attempt to make their case by attacking the conceptual, rather than by arguing in support of their own position. This is fighting the last war.

I acknowledge that individual artists may find themselves leaning in one direction of the other within their own artistic practice. This is how it should be, artists should chose a theoretical position they can resonate with. At the same time we must accept that other artists, as well as the greater art audience will have an interest in all the other theoretical positions as well, or they would not exist.

One tiny note on "quality" It’s hard to define and it’s even harder to achieve when you are trying.

4/17/2008 02:30:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

There was a time when Minimalism and Color Field Painting were in a sort of face-off, but the next generation of artists didn't regard the boundaries that had been set, no longer felt the issues that had been at stake in the same way. And so you had Paul Feeley, Richard Tuttle, etc. But that doesn't meant that the earlier distinctions was completely lost, they still hold today. I think no matter how conceptual "art in general" has become, there is still something designated and understood to be "conceptual art." My sense of it is that the relation of language to thing opened up a kind of dispersal, a dispersal that Lawrence Weiner isconstantly pointing at, for ex. Conceptual art has the feel of a project held together by a system that supports this dispersal. The beauty of it lies in how the concept buoys and sustains the objects that in turn reveal it. This is different than Rirkrit Tiravanija cooking us a curry - he truly is interested in obliterating judgment.

4/17/2008 07:51:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"The integration of art and non-art is the essence of twentieth century vanguardism in art."

"In the world of the readymade, anything can become a work of art through being signed by an artist. All particular genres and disciplines become superfluous. The title "artist," no longer conferred in recognition of skill in conception and execution, is achieved by means of publicity."

"Once a work leaves the artist's studio, it is refashioned intellectually to conform to prevailing appetites."

"[I]nstitutions of contemporary culture find a need to sponsor activities that will make them seem opposed to themselves."

"The artist today is primarily a maker not of objects but of a public image of himself/herself. The art world is the stage from which he/she projects himself/herself to spectators everywhere."

"An advance in art is considered to take place to the degree that art divests itself of the characteristics of art."

"A new genre seems to have evolved out of the mating of art and words- objects, events, and performances that become art by throwing out hints about art and non-art."

(from "Art on the Edge" by Harold Rosenberg (1971))

4/17/2008 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Catherine,
But that doesn't meant that the earlier distinctions was completely lost, they still hold today.

I agree. Within the panoply of approaches to making art, certainly we will continue to find refined versions of the conceptual along with the retinal. This seems as it should be, individual artists have a wide range of both life experience and personal sensibilities.

It is clear that within the viewing audience there are individuals who find an inspirational art experience either of these polarities and anywhere in-between. As an artist I would not wish to exclude either one.

4/17/2008 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

"The artist today is primarily a maker not of objects but of a public image of himself/herself. The art world is the stage from which he/she projects himself/herself to spectators everywhere."

hmm...

4/17/2008 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Few names are going to get me running to the bookshelf faster than Harold Rosenberg. Eric, you do not include page numbers, but the first essay in the book is “Duchamp: Private and Public” in which Rosenberg writes against the current misunderstandings of Duchamp, and the words of the title of the book, Art on the Edge, are culled from the following sentence:”What was inimitable in Duchamp was the discipline by which he kept himself on the edge of art - neither of it not out of it, a fringe personage, a permanently borderline case.” (p. 10) Rosenberg was a frustrated Marxist, action painting was written with the conviction that freedom of production for all mankind was at stake. And so he is very interested in Duchamp’s “infra-thin” sense of being on the edge as characteristic of his time. Duchamp was extremely ambivalent about the relation of the hand to the machine, Rosenebrg describes him as having "a nostalgia for craft and an antipathy for the machine,” and “suddenly, the image of Duchamp the arch anti-artist gives way to the image of a person troubled by the crisis of art in this era of mechanical duplication.” (pp. 7-8)

And in italics on p. 4; (This one Is really for you, Eric!): “Art is defined not by its technique of production, manual or other, but by the inner shape of society in which it appears. To follow Duchamp’s reasoning is to translate art into archaelogy.”

And so, Eric, by plucking the sentences you like out of context as some kind of evidence, you rather egregiously distort the intentions of Harold Rosenberg who, quite upset with the commodity driven aspects of the art world, saw in Marcel Duchamp a vehicle for introducing the topic of conceptual art as by no means a closed one.

4/17/2008 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Catherine quotes:
"Art is defined not by its technique of production, manual or other, but by the inner shape of society in which it appears. To follow Duchamp’s reasoning is to translate art into archeology."

Catherine, I consider myself to be reasonably intelligent, but I can't parse this sentence into anything meaningful. What is "the inner shape of society," and how does it define art? How does this translate art into archeology?

And why would we want it to?

(Personally, I do try to write as if something's at stake. I really feel -- in all the arguments I've had here on Ed's blog over the past couple of years -- I really feel that the future of art is at stake. I feel that nothing less than our entire civilization hangs in the balance. And I really feel that the rise of conceptual art has been actively dangerous to the future of mankind.

Of course, I get my ass handed to me when I argue like that.)

4/17/2008 10:51:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

CS:

I thought the Harold Rosenberg quotes include distinct ideas and they are what they are. I wasn't trying to prove what side of the battle Rosenberg was on. I was trying to show that 37 years ago this shit was analyzed and accurately described (in my mind). In other words I didn't make any statement about where Rosenberg stood on the battle lines. I think his quotes are insightful and that is that. Most of us know that he championed the AbEx gang but why shouldn't a critic write about the art he/she loves? I also don't think it diminishes the general worth of the quotes I shared if Rosenberg didn't think much of Duchamp.

Page references are listed in the order they appear in my comment box:

page 6
page 18
page 51
page 90
page 248
page 252
page 267

4/17/2008 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Thanks, Chris. Basically, you can still hear Rosenberg defending his critical practice as opposed to that of Greenberg, who he regards as bound to technique and the retinal. He is interested in Duchamp as an artist who questions the role of the artist in society and in relation to the market, and who performs a sort of diagnostic archaelogy upon it. The shift is a huge one, you can hear in it the current concern that art historians of the October variety are getting their PhD. in what is actually some form of psycho/sociology, just to be equipped to deal with the scene of contemporary art. You might say that it was Rosenberg, in fact, who inaugurated the field. And that this inauguration occurred in what was visible to him in Duchamp.

To throw it into the contemporary field, you can't understand Allan McCollum, Barbara Bloom, or Gabrielle Orozco simply on the basis of how these things are made. And they make beautiful things, no question about that. What supports their work is a kind of archaelogy of subjectivity.

4/17/2008 11:14:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

CS:

p.s.

I also think Rosenberg gets dismissed because he did champion the AbEx artists and didn't think much of Duchamp. There was a lot of stuff contained in his writings that is worth remembering.

4/17/2008 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

When I read Rosenberg's essay on Duchamp, I see an admirer of Duchamp as someone who "still stands in the cleft."

Thanks for the page numbers.

4/17/2008 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

could you decode for me please?
"...a kind of archaelogy of subjectivity."

4/17/2008 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

David, you're right, I'm arguing for beauty. I'm a modernist, and as such I'm primarily concerned with quality and self-criticism. It's important to understand that modernists, including Bannard, don't long for a widespread formalist revival. We long for good art to look at. What George mischaracterizes as a rehash of a musty battle between formalism and conceptualism is really the contemporary impulse of self-criticism running up against the art of its time. This impulse is ancient, not to mention style-agnostic, and it forms a core part of human functioning. It is also something that certain apologists for the state of the contemporary art world wish would go away. (One might as well argue against consciousness.)

An interesting thing happens when you apply self-criticism to conceptualism - it starts returning null values, to borrow from computer science. If one went looking for the culture's highest concentrations of visual richness, one would find them in our art. If one went looking for the culture's highest concentrations of conceptual richness, one would find them in our writing. I observe low upward limits on conceptual success in art, and a poor understanding among people sympathetic to conceptualism about what might constitute success. But when it comes to visual success in art, the sky's the limit, and our ability to detect visual success seems innate if extant to varying degrees in people.

Quality is not just hard to define, it's impossible to define except in circular terms. This doesn't mean that it has no substantial or objective existence, but that it falls into a class of perceived generalized phenomena with similar cirucular definitions. One can nevertheless perceive it. George has said before that the people most interested in quality were the least likely to achieve it, and he's scaling back here with "It’s hard to define and it’s even harder to achieve when you are trying." Either way, this is a another taunt from someone who wishes that the issue of quality would go away. Sometimes trying hard works. Sometimes trying hard does not work. One thing was illustrated by the "lessness" theme of WhiBi - quality scares people right up the tree. It's crazy to me that we'll throw massive institutional support behind a workaround for quality, as if it were a bug instead of a feature. But we will, and it's hardly the nuttiest thing we do in the art world.

4/17/2008 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

psst..."and he's scaling back here"

no, I was just being polite...

4/17/2008 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Franklin’s, second paragraph is misleading at best.
It starts with a fixed opinion about the confining parameters of art and then construes an argument to fit.
While attractive to those who wish art was like it was in the good old days, the problem is that the theory does not fit the facts. Art cannot be measured on some arbitrary scale of qualities but is defined by the culture in which it resides.
A theory which disenfranchises a large segment of the viewing audience is patently false and the simple fact is that even within the confines of the readership of this blog, this is the case.

4/17/2008 12:13:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

I guess I'll pick McCollum's Shapes Project as a work of art that gets us to a place where we can think of an archaelogy of subjectivity. Rather than me spouting out my own ideas about it, I think if you spend a little time with it you might come up with thoughts of your own. Just plant those words - archaelogy of subjectivity - into your mind when you look at the Shapes Project and see if anything comes up for you.

4/17/2008 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Catherine,

Weell, I saw the piece when it was exhibited at Petzel and I've known Allan for a long time, I was just being lazy and wanted to hear an intrepretation of it from you.

4/17/2008 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

So you agree with me that it is self-evidently there?

4/17/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger John Hovig said...

Franklin - What attributes would a self-critical piece of conceptual art have? If I understand the term "self-critical," as used in the modernist sense, it means using a specific medium to criticize (i.e., examine [explore!]) that medium itself. Is that right?

4/17/2008 12:39:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Sorry CS I should clarify. Often Rosenberg and Greenberg are dismissed because they alegedly missed the boat when it comes to Duchamp. This is flat out wrong. Thank you for pointing that out (at least with regards to Rosenberg's statements about Duchamp).

4/17/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Franklin said, If one went looking for the culture's highest concentrations of visual richness, one would find them in our art. If one went looking for the culture's highest concentrations of conceptual richness, one would find them in our writing.

By this logic, one would have to say that writing that uses visual language is somehow lesser... that writers would be well advised to limit themselves to concepts and leave visuals (or the evocation of visuals) to artists.

Despite having weighed in, this topics feels like it exists solely to support having a pissing contest. I suspect we all generally agree are the important points, and are simply bickering on details and misconstrusions.

In the future will the balance of concept vs. aesthetics going to stay exactly as it stands today? Nope.

Are artworks that are lacking any concept and/or aesthetics still art? Yes.

Are artworks that succeed both conceptual & aesthetically more satisfying than ones that are only firing on one piston? Yes.

On a side note, having followed your link Franklin, I'm a little surprised you self-identify as a New Media artist. I can see that your using the horizontal scroll bar to effect, and you're certainly entitled to identify your art however you see fit... but it seems a bit like me calling myself a painter because I painted a recent installation element black. I certainly don't mean to come across as hostile (or out to score debate points) regarding this, mainly I'm just curious.

4/17/2008 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

George sez:
A theory which disenfranchises a large segment of the viewing audience...

I think what Franklin's saying -- has already said multiple times in this thread alone -- is that, far from disenfranchising a large segment of the viewing audience, returning to art with visual quality would in fact re-enfranchise a truly vast segment of the audience for art which has been so entirely abandoned over the last hundred years that you don't even count them in the audience for art any more.

In other words, all the people who walk by the Whitney and note yet another show consisting of construction debris and outright garbage, holes cut through drywall, and fluorescent lights mounted at odd angles, and see, not an art exhibit, but an incredibly tiny, privileged minority masturbating for the enjoyment of wealthy but naked emperors; all those people would come back to art if the art world embraced what is so often dismissed as "the retinal."

In short, the audience for art, at some point, was amputated; and now you're saying Franklin's theory is bunk because most of the audience remaining doesn't subscribe to it. Which is patently absurd.

4/17/2008 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

a truly vast segment of the audience for art which has been so entirely abandoned over the last hundred years that you don't even count them in the audience for art any more.

Sorry Chris but this is a patently false statement. A brief look at auction records should make that clear.

Further, if you think about it, my remark is reversible, and would draw the same conclusion about the retinal.

Just because you do not like something doesn’t mean no one else does, the idea that no on else can have a profound experience with a work of conceptual art is just not the case.

4/17/2008 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Catherine, I'm sorry, but I still don't understand. What is "the archeology of subjectivity"? What about exploring subjectivity implies archeology? Is it about finding the most basic shapes our pre-human ancestors began to recognize? What's that got to do with subjectivity?

This phrase simply makes absolutely no sense to me.

Allan's Shapes Project seems kind of neat, but it smacks of the same Sisyphean odor permeating so much of contemporary conceptual art; as if the fact that the artist has chosen a technique or system which takes near-superhuman persistence and patience somehow magically transforms the basically uninteresting or mildly intriguing into something of mystical significance.

This is the same feeling I get from Tara Donovan's work: That here is a room-spanning object of no beauty or in fact any worthwhile quality beyond the viewer's noting that whoever put the thing together had a lot of time on their hands (or a lot of assistants). I can get the same feeling from my kids' collection of Happy Meal toys, only with them I can at least press the button and hear Bart say "Eat my shorts!"

4/17/2008 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

George sez:
A brief look at auction records should make that clear.

Last I checked, Gagosian had to buy Koons' work himself just to keep the price from dropping. That's not a ringing endorsement.

Just because you do not like something doesn’t mean no one else does, the idea that no on else can have a profound experience with a work of conceptual art is just not the case.

I said nothing about anyone having a profound experience with a work of conceptual art. What I said was the audience for conceptual art is much, much smaller than the audience for "retinal" art -- which is to say, art which is visually good (or beautiful or sublime or what have you) interests a much larger segment of the general population than does conceptual art.

I stand by that as being beyond argument.

4/17/2008 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Art is defined not by its technique of production, manual or other, but by the inner shape of society in which it appears. To follow Duchamp’s reasoning is to translate art into archaelogy.

Chris,

Based on the context Catherine gave us (that the writer, Rosenberg, saw Duchamp as someone who has "a nostalgia for craft and an antipathy for the machine"), I interpret the "art into archaeology" line to mean that to consciously eschew new artistic tools is akin to digging around in the past for (artistic) relics.

This certainly isn't the impression I have of Duchamp, but that is what I would take Rosenberg's quote to mean.

4/17/2008 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

This is the same feeling I get from Tara Donovan's work: That here is a room-spanning object of no beauty or in fact any worthwhile …

Your opinions are clouding your perceptions.

This was a visually beautiful sculpture and had little or nothing to do with conceptual art.

4/17/2008 01:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Chris,

You’re hysterical. Check the auction records, don’t just pick and choose to make your argument. Geffen sold a half-billiopn dollars worth of paintings a couple of years ago, a Klimt sold for over 100 million, come on get real here.

4/17/2008 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Just because something isn't "artsy" doesn't make it conceptual.

4/17/2008 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

...interests a much larger segment of the general population than does conceptual art.

No, this is not the case. You are attempting to divide the perceptual and experiential process into two parts, one which interests you and one which doesn’t. I think you terribly mischaracterize as "conceptual art" anything which doesn’t suit your taste but that is not the issue I was originally discussing.

The conceptual or cerebral part of an artwork, a beautiful, or good, or sublime, or whatever, artwork is always there. The public acknowledges this as a form of recognition and identification. This is not the same as responding to the theoretical, it is something else which is at the core of our world experience.

4/17/2008 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Here is the original quote which kicked off the archealogy of the subject line of thought:

"Art is defined not by its technique of production, manual or other, but by the inner shape of society in which it appears. To follow Duchamp’s reasoning is to translate art into archeology."

This is Harold Rosenberg describing what he believes to be Marcel Duchamp’s achievement as an artist. Rosenberg is interested in how artistic practice takes up as its subject the “inner shape of society,” and this practice he refers to as archaelogy. It is not digging around for outmoded craft traditions, but of Duchamp’s exposing of both himself and his production as inextricably entwined together inside of an ambivalent condition. He was resistant to the professionalism of art in the era of mass production, and refused painting as well, but was nonetheless attached to the making of objects, spacing his production out over time in a laziness that was resistant to art world demands. It is as though for Rosenberg Duchamp has embodied the crisis of art as one of human agency in a commodified world, and his "stubborn anti-professionalism” is one of the ways in which Duchamp reveals his own diagnosis and silent criticsm of the art world. “Suddenly the image of Duchamp the arch anti-artist gives way to the image of a person troubled by the crisis of art in this era of mechanical duplication, and giving form to his doubts in visual-verbal ridddles, puns, and enigmas as well as critical detachment from the vocation of the artist.” (p. 8)

As I said earlier, Rosenberg is really a disgruntled Marxist, and he likes troubled people - they become for him the ennervated site from which freedom will emerge (it is only when Gorky is dying of cancer that he is able to find his own voice, for ex.). So it is true that Rosenberg erects a certain kind of subjectivity towards his own ends. But he is claiming something more here for Duchamp, that Duchamp’s reasoning will itself translate art into archaelogy. And I find that this reasoning, let’s call it that of Rosenberg’s Duchamp, is an archaelogy that is visible in contemporary practice.

4/17/2008 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger J.T. said...

Can one of you guys/gals who live in the Northeast go check out this Yale student show and report back?

http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/24513

4/17/2008 02:09:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Since this thread started out as a discussion of artists who write...

"Art criticism consists for the most part of an indescribable compost of promotional copy, theoretical air bubbles, history without perspective, readings of symbols based on gossip and farfetched associations of ideas, visual analyses which the eye refuses to confirm, exhibitionistic metaphor mongering, set phrases manipulated to supply copy for indifferent editors, human-interest coddling of Sunday art-page audiences, in-group name-dropping, ritually repeated nonsense. Given this sum of amateurishness, lack of talent, and willful absurdity, the value of values for art criticism must be the effort to reintroduce art into the framework of humanly serious concerns." (page 140 "Art on the Edge")

Disgruntled Marxist or not, I would celebrate a contemporary art critic who could write something like that.

4/17/2008 02:17:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

what an odd yet interesting thread this has been. Catherine-your contribution is extremely fascinating. I have been trying to tie all these conversations together into a unified field theory to no avail- its beyond my capabilities. But I am sure there is a connection between Duchamp's subjective and pervading response to the perceived crisis of art and the fact that Franklin/Chris/P.L etc speak Hebrew while David/Eric/Catherine/me speaka da dutch.

4/17/2008 02:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Franklin’s, second paragraph is misleading at best.

What in particular do you find misleading?

Hovig - It's actually hard to come up with an answer to that. What's your take?

By this logic, one would have to say that writing that uses visual language is somehow lesser.

No, that doesn't follow. Visual language is language. Writing has its own formal issues to deal with. Nevertheless, we find our greatest concentrations of conceptual richness in writing.

I'm a little surprised you self-identify as a New Media artist.

I'm a little facetious about it - it's a webcomic. Web art is new media, right? And it incorporates text, so there you go.

the idea that no on else can have a profound experience with a work of conceptual art is just not the case.

You can have a profound experience looking at a blank wall if you're psychically inclined to do so. The only question is the nature of the experience. Concpetual excitement is philosophical in nature.

Your opinions are clouding your perceptions.

No, he's right. Tara Donovan is terrible.

The public acknowledges this as a form of recognition and identification.

You've mentioned the audience several times in this thread as an inherent justification for something besides widespread confusion, which is probably all it is.

4/17/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

oops I meant George as dutch speaker..
Carry on

4/17/2008 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Tara Donovan is often sublime.

4/17/2008 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

Tara Donovan is terrible.
huh?
case in point. This is like saying Dubya is a genius. my dutch speakin brain simply doesnt get this at all.

4/17/2008 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

"Disgruntled Marxist or not, I would celebrate a contemporary art critic who could write something like that." Absolutely! Thanks for bringing Rosenberg to the table, Eric.

4/17/2008 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I guess you're right, Mark. How anyone could prefer like Donovan after seeing Sarah Sze is beyond me.

4/17/2008 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

"could like"

4/17/2008 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Franklin said:
If one went looking for the culture's highest concentrations of visual richness, one would find them in our art. If one went looking for the culture's highest concentrations of conceptual richness, one would find them in our writing.

Ethan responded:
By this logic, one would have to say that writing that uses visual language is somehow lesser.

Franklin re-responded:
No, that doesn't follow. Visual language is language. Writing has its own formal issues to deal with. Nevertheless, we find our greatest concentrations of conceptual richness in writing.

I took you to be saying (correct me if I'm inferring incorrectly) that conceptual art has an inherent flaw because concepts are better expressed in writing... so art that is primarily aesthetic can succeed in a way the art that is heavily conceptual can't.

Well, visuals are better expressed in visual art than in writing, so it seems to me pretty analogous to conclude (based on your reasoning) that writing is inherently flawed if it attempts to describe the visual... so writing that is particularly picturesque cannot succeed in the same way that writing that is mainly dealing concepts.

I think the duality that is being drawn in both cases (the point you're making and the analogy I'm drawing) is really unnecessary.

I would certainly agree that art is well advised to avoid editorializing (which is better done in editorials and political cartoons)... but that's a very specific point and not one that I'd generalize to all conceptual art. Just because a really good apple pie is always better than just about any glass of apple juice doesn't mean we should never drink apple juice.

In some thread on Ed's blog you challenged folks to name a single conceptual artwork which is more effective than an editorial on the same subject. I weighed in (after the thread was pretty much dead) putting forward an artwork Fred Wilson did for the Jewish Museum.

The piece consisted of two archival photos that are almost completely matted so we only see 1" of each photo--in both cases we see gray & white stripes. Adjacent to this are the same two photos without the matting. In those photos we can see that the stripes are, in one photo, Jewish refugee children holding tiny American flags (and looking very bewildered & scared) and, in the other photo, the striped uniforms of concentration camp survivors at the moment of liberation.

I found this artwork very moving in a way that I think would be hard to accomplish in writing... a different part of my brain is being engaged. And even if one could point to a piece of writing and say, "Here, this is accomplishing the same thing as Wilson's work, only better," I don't really see why that is relevant. Something doesn't need to be the best in the world in order to be worthwhile.

4/17/2008 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

George sez:
This was a visually beautiful sculpture and had little or nothing to do with conceptual art.

Then define "conceptual art" for me.

You’re hysterical. Check the auction records, don’t just pick and choose to make your argument. Geffen sold a half-billiopn dollars worth of paintings a couple of years ago, a Klimt sold for over 100 million, come on get real here.

This bolsters my argument, not yours. Klimt isn't a conceptual artist. He's as retinal as they come. In fact I was going to mention him but decided the Koons thing was enough: Klimt sells. Koons doesn't. Koons did, because he was a big fad. One can hope he's out of favor now -- but he'll probably make a comeback, as long as his dealer can keep artificially inflating prices and interest.

Citing auction results is kind of pointless anyway, since it begs the question. I say there's a bigger middle-brow audience for art than is currently being served; to prove that art's audience isn't limited you cite stats from its limited audience of wealthy collectors. I mean, tell me if I'm wrong, but the masses aren't buying up Klimts, are they?

The conceptual or cerebral part of an artwork, a beautiful, or good, or sublime, or whatever, artwork is always there. The public acknowledges this as a form of recognition and identification. This is not the same as responding to the theoretical, it is something else which is at the core of our world experience.

I define "conceptual art" as a work which has no essential existence without verbal documentation backing it up. Tara Donovan's stacks of cups or collations of rings of metallic tape are just piles of junk until someone explains how they were made and why. Duchamp's urinal is just a urinal until someone explains why it's on a plinth. That's conceptual.

4/17/2008 03:36:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

I think people realized ages ago that conceptual art wasn't just words, in fact doesn't have to include them at all, and has to be realized materially, so that "dualism" is just so empty and false. And Tara Donovan's work is so saturated with sensuous beauty - and let's drop the word "retinal" and bring the whole body into it, please - that I'm just flabberghasted and speechless at Chris Rywalt's statement above. I don't know what kind of war you guys are really fighting, but it really has no bearing at all on the discussion at hand.

4/17/2008 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

franklin: How anyone could like Donovan after seeing Sarah Sze is beyond me.

uh, didnt know they were dukin it out . Have they been arm wresslin again? girls will be girls.

I find both to make engaging, thoughtful and distinctive work. I could see having a favorite, but to say one is crap and the other great doesnt make sense. And Catherine's note about Donovan being sensuous is accurate especially given Donovan's citing of Robert Irwin as an influence.

4/17/2008 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I'm reading Rosenberg now. I understand what he was saying about "translat[ing] art into archeology". Context is important, and that bit needs a few paragraphs before it to make sense.

Tara Donovan's work is saturated with whatever you bring to it. You want to bring sensuous beauty, you can. A stack of cups is a stack of cups. Metallic tape is metallic tape. As substances these each have their own qualities, to which Donovan adds exactly nothing but her Sisyphean process, which helpfully results in a pile so monumental viewers are apparently stunned into mistaking it for art.

This isn't germane to the original topic, true. We've wandered away from artists who write -- aside from the fact that a bunch of us are artists who happen, right now, to be writing at each other.

Although you say we're fighting a war as if it's a bad thing. I thought you wanted writers who wrote as if something was at stake. That's a war, right?

4/17/2008 04:41:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Chris,

I’ll defer on the conceptual art question to one of the others who would be better qualified to answer.

Regarding Tara Donovan’s piece at Pace. This is as close to a classical sculpture as you can get. It occupies space, and defines form through the use of its materials, which were hundreds of stacked plastic cups. It was as ephemeral as its cloud shape, the shifting light as one moved around the exhibition space, would alter ones perception of its solidity, approaching a luminous transparency at one moment or a soft, but solid feeling, smoky gray at another. It became more than the sum of its materials.

Once you have seen it, you can conceptually reconstruct its fabrication, this makes it seem facile or easy to do, but so is carving marble if you are good with a chisel. This is an additive piece, it came into existence through the aggregation of a lot of smaller parts, ordered by a large number of visual decisions. Of all the objects a "formalist" might dismiss as being "too conceptual" or "not beautiful" or "not primarily visual", this is not the one.

You said, returning to art with visual quality would in fact re-enfranchise a truly vast segment of the audience for art which has been so entirely abandoned over the last hundred years that you don't even count them in the audience for art any more.

I extended the quoted excerpt here a bit to clarify what we are talking about. As I interpreted the above remark, you were suggesting that the audience for the primarily visual (visual quality) had been disenfranchised. I am saying that the evidence of the auction records, or major exhibition attendance strongly suggests that is not the case. I honestly think you are letting your own biases cloud your perceptions and while I haven’t counted I would guess that there were more museum exhibitions of what you would describe as ‘primarily visual’(i.e. not conceptual art) than anything else by a long shot.

I would go as far as to say that the retinal-vs-conceptual is relatively balanced in the galleries as well.

4/17/2008 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

You know the more i think about it. And, Franklin and Chris can correct me if I am wrong. Their dismissal of Donovan and acceptance of Sze has more in keeping with the famous Fried debate over the theatricality of Minimalism, even though, on surface, it seemed minimalist forms was a continuation of the purifying of form. What they mean by "visual quality" has more to do with an adherence to correct relationships between distinctive formal elements. Perhaps this is why we interpret a disconnect when we consider the sublimity of Donovan's work?

Im tryin' here guys, got my translation book out here- give me credit for that;)

4/17/2008 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Ah, but who are the living artists getting attention? Whose work is showing up in museums? Who's in the Whitney Biennial?

Museums like the Met have plenty of visual art on the walls and love to show it, too. Yes, those shows do very well. Not too many living artists, though. Jasper Johns comes to mind, but I wouldn't call his work retinal.

Living artists I saw in the Met last time I was there: Johns. Donovan. Hirst. Koons. Freud. Close. Hockney. Stella.

Who's visual? Freud and Close. Although Close has a strong conceptual component that allowed him to be acceptable, even though he could paint.

Or take our host, Ed. How much non-conceptual art is he showing lately? Not a whole lot.

Maybe we could suggest that he run a show on retinal versus conceptual art instead of boys vs. girls like Jennifer Dalton's piece; that way we could get more definite statistics.

4/17/2008 05:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

And Catherine's note about Donovan being sensuous is accurate especially given Donovan's citing of Robert Irwin as an influence.

Ah. I don't think much of Irwin either.

Once you have seen it, you can conceptually reconstruct its fabrication, this makes it seem facile or easy to do, but so is carving marble if you are good with a chisel.

This is like saying that golf is easy if you're good with a club. Am I right in thinking that you have never carved marble?

4/17/2008 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Mark: Franklin's more technical at this than I am. My idea of visual quality is pretty simple: Does it look good? That's about it. I don't think (yet) in terms of "correct relationships between distinctive formal elements". (And those aren't meant to be snide quotes -- I'm just quoting.)

I've only seen one Sze piece, Corner Plot. I liked it both because it made me chuckle and because I saw how other viewers reacted to it. It did what art's supposed to do, I believe. It wasn't Great Art, but it was really cool.

Tara Donovan's probably not the best artist to use in this kind of debate, though, because there certainly is a physical dimension to her work. It's not purely conceptual. I don't think the physical dimension means a lot -- if you came upon a pile of stacked cups in a garbage dump, you wouldn't immediately think "This is a work of art!", you'd assume it was waiting for recycling. But it is undeniably there, and I guess some people respond to it. Mostly people who don't often see stacked cups, I guess, or tape, or pencils, or whatever.

I mean, I guess one criterion I use to measure a work of art is, if I came upon it by accident in a garbage dump or other public pile of junk, would I know it was art?

4/17/2008 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Who's visual? Freud and Close….

Whoa, wait a minute Chris, none of the artists in your little group are conceptual, you need to change your definition, what you are looking for are "academic" artists who adhere to the classical practices. Otherwise, the way you are slicing up the territory makes no sense at all.

4/17/2008 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

This is like saying that golf is easy if you're good with a club.

I agree with Franklin here. I'm not likely to be impressed by artwork I think I can make myself; if I'm certain I can make it myself, I'm really not going to like it.

4/17/2008 05:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

George sez:
what you are looking for are "academic" artists

No I'm not. I know what academic artists are and I'm not interested.

You can't argue that Donovan, Hirst, and Koons aren't primarily conceptual artists. I saw Hirst's shark in a tank. I can definitely state that you don't need to see the work to comprehend it, all you need is the concept "shark in a tank".

4/17/2008 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

F. No, when I was younger I worked as an assistant to sculptors, carved marble, cast bronze, welded stainless, you name it, I'v probably made it.

4/17/2008 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

Chris, as I see it there just isn't a war in the concocted fiction that you are playing out. Tara Donavan and Sarah Sze are being raised supposedly because they have something to do with conceptual art. (?) I think it is fair to say that most people would first respond to these artists on a purely visceral level, in fact I think the first review Sze ever received compared her work to Judy Pfaff, with something to the effect that "isn't it interesting that formalist installation art continues." Whatever is conceptual about Donavan's work resides in the fact that you needed to rely on a press release to understand it? It feels to me that you are just writing about an artist's work that you don't like, as though your not liking it has some bearing on what has become, yes, a convoluted discussion, but most definitely one that is seeking some clarity and possibly criteria for a discussion of what conceptual art is. I think the Fred Wilson piece described by Ethan above is an excellent example of materialist conceptual "archeology," if you want to stay there, but don't come up with "I didn't like it and I needed a text to understand it so therefore it's conceptual art and that is bad." There is absolutely no stake at all in that, period.

I did see that large installation at Pace, and was not too impressed, but brought people in to see it because at the very least they would respond to it in a visceral way, and some times that alone is worth talking about. if you are upset about the paper cups as 'readymades,' maybe that is an instance where you and I might share the thought that this is conceptually weak. And that it is. But that only secures for me that there is such a thing as strong and weak when it comes to conceptual art, to the point even that something might not qualify as conceptual. But this doesn't mean that someone wouldn't think it's beautiful or have meaning, and that these qualities are less. Or that because it's an ugly stack of paper cups its conceptual art and that explains why you don't like it.

I guess it's true that what I really don't get is why someone who spends all of his time drawing the nude, or making "webcomics," as in the case of Franklin, shows up here as though there is some kind of war you have to fight. You seem to be posing inside of an ideology, taking a position, writing "at" each other, as you put it. And it's just not conducive to relevance when people are gathering up what does seem to be stake in what might be understood as conceptual artistic practices.

What I think is going on here is a discussion of Marcel Duchamp as nothing if not self-critical in his practice, at least as Harold Rosenberg sees it, and if you continue to read "self criticism and conceptual art" as null, I guess you missed what I think is really at stake. But you might not really care about it all, and so why bother?

4/17/2008 05:39:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm beginning to think that the notion of "a" Robert Smithson of our time is the wrong question. The collective discussion here, facilitated by the technology that permits measured thoughtful responses (as opposed to verbal debate where immediate demand for response heats things up too much) amounts to as satisfying a statement about what's what in art today as any given solo impression (doomed to present only one point of view successfully) could ever present.

In other words, you people rock!

Not that I agree with everything you're writing, but at 162 comments in, you're proving that art writing can perhaps be seen in a vital new way.

As for Chris, whose comments on another blog have not gone unnoticed (you know what I mean), I'll point out that you might want to stop and think a little bit about the larger implications of this statement: I'm not likely to be impressed by artwork I think I can make myself; if I'm certain I can make it myself, I'm really not going to like it.

Change a few of the pronouns, and you'll see what I mean.

4/17/2008 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Ethan said...

Chris said if I'm certain I can make it myself, I'm really not going to like it.

And you wouldn't want to join any club that would accept you? ;o)

The sad thing about that approach to art is that it means the more your technique and depth as an artist improves, the less art you'll like.

In any case, you're certainly entitled to like & dislike whatever you care to... but I think it's a mistake to equate personal likes and dislikes with inherent quality (if that is in fact what you're doing).

4/17/2008 05:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Tara Donavan and Sarah Sze are being raised supposedly because they have something to do with conceptual art. (?)

I raised Sarah Sze because her work is better than Donovan's and they are alike enough to compare them. Again, my primary concern is quality.

I guess it's true that what I really don't get is why someone who spends all of his time drawing the nude, or making "webcomics," as in the case of Franklin, shows up here as though there is some kind of war you have to fight.

One of the reasons I asked Ed for permission to continue this discussion, way up overhead somewhere, was because I knew that someone eventually would accuse me of showing up here looking for a fight. I actually tried to prevent this discussion from turning in this direction, and it was at George's insistence that it did so anyway. Webcomics do not take scare quotes, unless you're implying that my work doesn't qualify as webcomics, in which case you're welcome to make a case for that.

if you continue to read "self criticism and conceptual art" as null, I guess you missed what I think is really at stake

Answer Hovig's question, then: "What attributes would a self-critical piece of conceptual art have?"

4/17/2008 06:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, I am surprised that you don't see the beauty in Donovan's work, and also, the "retinal" or visceral. None of her work looks like you might come across it in a garbage dump (you could certainly find plastic cups in a garbage dump, but you could also find paint and canvas and brushes there).

And I also find it hard to see how someone who likes Sarah Sze's work doesn't see anything of value in Donovan's. Here is a quote from my interview with Donovan on the occasion of her last show at Pace (the plastic cup piece):
"The focus on craft that I believe we all [Tom Friedman, Sarah Sze, Time Hawkinson] share separates us from the strictly conceptual or minimal concerns that preoccupied previous generations of artists. Certainly my work has relationships to any number of contingent practices, but I believe it is the challenge of figuring out how a particular material can perform its own act of sublimation that lends my work its distinct identity."

http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/stender/stender4-3-06.asp

Oriane

ps

When you talk about pulling back in the audience who appreciates pure visuals and can't relate to conceptualism, are you talking about the millions of people who like (and purchase) Thomas Kincaide? That's kind of like a musician saying, "more people appreciate Britney Spears [or whoever the latest one is], so obviously she is better than [fill in the blank]". Also, Danielle Steel sells zillions of books - should literary critics and scholars be studying and writing about her work?

Call me an elitist, but this "vast majority of people" argument doesn't do anything for me.

4/17/2008 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger The Intellectual Elitist said...

I'm not likely to be impressed by artwork I think I can make myself; if I'm certain I can make it myself, I'm really not going to like it.

A.K.A. Groucho Marx

----------------------------

I agree Oriane

and it's time to reclaim Elitism.
I'm not going to let my 155 I.Q. suffer for the masses, I'm going to hit the conceptual highway,engage the quantum graviton magneto, dangle a few participles and jockeying the dimensional slip break a few of the lesser misunderstood myths of physics.



Joseph Elitist Giannasio

4/17/2008 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Creegan said...

i know this goes without saying but I am always fascinated how the things we value depend on our self-identity. Reding the above Donovan quote there are many aspects I relate to, both in my own practice and my subjective view of art. It is particularly interesting to hear her summation of her practice as opposed to similar work by others because I sometimes gauge how far I want to take a work based on a Donovanesqe approach- like "i could collect a million of these little guys and make a huge installation" but then i realize my job? is to develop distinct and different statements. This is all wrapped up in why i could never agree with "i dont like work i can make" because my head is intimatley involved in the work of like minded folks and the conversation that is involved (even if its in my own head). But yes, those of us who feel the repurposing of materials and objects is a valid and interesting pursuit are of a specific ilk, make, and model (with no pretensions of superiority at all intended or implied.)

4/17/2008 07:48:00 PM  
Blogger concrete phone said...

Hey JEG,
be there or be square!
I was trying to explain the relation between a DVD and a universe, and how it doesn't cost a penny to add one or two, or three of four at a time. The DVD as universe is a nice model though it has some drawbacks which can be tidied up closer to the end. We've got that if you stack all the information one on top of the other, you get a pile of DVD/ Universes. If you don't like that, there is no problem lining 'em up across. Question was, 'but there must be a limit to the amount of Universes you can have?' The reply was, 'No!.'
One important ingredient missing to understanding that a DVD is a Universe is that as a Universe the DVD has Zero Volume from the outside, different from the regular one we know. When you are on the inside you 'feel' volume, space pops up. From the outside it collapses to zero. So irrespective of how many Universes you have, no matter which way they are stacked, from the outside they account for Zero volume.
I think ideas about art work like this too! Ideas and HTML as well.
Some concept art gets pretty close to it. Spatial art can too! Fred gave a hint. People found his art beautiful without really understanding some of the complex workings at play. How Fred was setting some groundwork for a completely different way to approach experience, not by describing absence in presence, instead giving presence absent anything material.
The art was: Formal/ Conceptual/ Classical/ Radical / Immaterial/ Sculptural / Incomprehensible / Beautiful / Reproducible.
Hmm, sounds he was on the ouside of one of those DVDs.

4/17/2008 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger John Hovig said...

I don't think conceptual art benefits from being self-critical. In fact I think I'm starting to think it's exactly the opposite. "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" is hard to beat. You can only go meta so many ways before exhausting the subject of conceptualism itself. It has to be done carefully, if at all.

Modernists might bristle at the word "explore," but if I'm right, then they "explore their medium" through their work, while conceptual artists explore everything else. So concpetualism and formalism are orthogonal. Each represents one dimension of what a work of art can contain. Through formalism you push at what the forms within the work can do, and through conceptualism you push (or pull) at everything else.

Franklin, your webcomics have both a formal (aesthetic) dimension and a conceptual (narrative) dimension. Deepening the quality of your work in each dimension can only deepen the quality of the whole.

4/17/2008 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

This thread has really morphed.

How did we get onto the differences between Minimalism and Conceptualism? True, text is often a big part of Conceptual Art works, but that's different from artists writing about art - critically, in reviews, or theoretically, as aesthetics.

As for Serra being some kind of colorist - GMAFB!

4/17/2008 09:51:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Some points in chronological order:

I didn't bring up Sze; Franklin did. I just added that I'd only ever seen one of her pieces, which was supposed to imply that I don't know enough about her work to discuss it. So I can't say anything about how conceptual she is or isn't.

Donovan's work is conceptual because once you've read the concept you don't need to see the work. It can be described -- and, in fact, executed -- by anyone. Like Sol LeWitt's "work," none of which I particularly like, either. I didn't define conceptual art as "art I don't like" nor did I define it as "art I don't understand unless I read an essay". Conceptual art is art that essentially doesn't exist -- i.e. literally doesn't exist (like LeWitt's or Yves Klein's) or wouldn't be accepted as art (like Donovan's or Nauman's) -- without verbal (written or spoken) support.

I do occasionally like conceptual art. I don't usually accept it as being strictly visual art (as opposed to performance, theater, or something so mixed it doesn't have a name), but I can and do sometimes like conceptual art. Especially -- and here I want to point out my own hypocrisy -- if it's by someone I know and like. Can't help that.

I didn't show up here to pick a fight. I'm always on Ed's blog, just generally saying whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I have nothing to say (rarely). Sometimes I'm picking a fight.

As far as changing pronouns, Ed, at least I'm up front about my opinions. I've never led you to believe I liked what you're doing, and I've said you're insane before. I don't pick on you as much as I'd like to on your blog because you get all cranky. But I'm sure you're tough enough to take it from me. You know I'm an idiot.

And no, I wouldn't want to join any club that'd accept me as a member. Haven't I mentioned I'm a Marxist?

As far as talking about pop music and art, I've been thinking about this. It seems to me that visual art and recorded music have gone too far in opposite directions; the different directions are due, I think, to reproduction technology, but the distance in those directions is due to market forces.

Music relies far too heavily on popularity because it's easily distributed. Art relies far too heavily on an insular clique; art can't be reproduced for mass production very well.

Both of these approaches are due, I'm thinking, to an attempt by business people to make unpredictable industries more predictable. It's difficult to demand art -- music or painting or sculpture or what have you -- on a schedule, and you can never be sure if what you're going to get next week is as good as what you got this week. But the business person wants to minimize risk and instability. So they resort to, first, creating demand for their products (if you can reliably create demand you don't have to worry about quality); and second, they set themselves the task of making their product as repeatable as possible (consistent mediocrity beats temperamental genius -- at least in the capitalist marketplace -- every time).

Conceptual art is wonderful because it's endlessly repeatable and doesn't take much skill. Stack cups! Stack pencils! Stack erasers! Stack sugar cubes! Throw molten lead at the wall! Throw molten copper at the wall! And so on and so on. Hell, Yves Klein didn't even have a physical object. That's capital's wet dream!

So, no, art doesn't have to pander to Kinkade-level schlock to reach ordinary people. People fall back on Kinkade because there's a vacuum in the art world.

I have now written enough. Possibly forever.

4/17/2008 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Catherine,
Yes, to the earlier unanswered question.
Regarding terminology, you mentioned ‘retinal’ and I’ve had difficulties with using ‘formalist’ and ‘conceptualist’ for lack of anything better. What I need is the residue from an archeology of perception, language which doesn’t start a food fight because people are so polarized in their opinions.
---
A year or so ago, I read a number of scientific papers on perception. Technological developments since the early 1990’s have lead to the fairly rapid advancement in the understanding of how the perceptual processes works. From the literature, it appears that the visual process can function with very little information input, for the most part because the input is subject to a complex set of primary filters in the brain (my simplified terms not the scientists)In other words, a red blob input could be an apple or a ball, and our final awareness, what we think we see, has something to do with how we resolve this association. If one sees something one has never seen before, the brain will match it up the best it can, producing a blob, or a hallucinatory result, to be resolved later.

Now if one compounds the input with a bit more information, and in addition to the genetic filters, adds a set of unique psychological filters as well as a commonly shared set of cultural filters, we are in never never land where distinctions between the formal and conceptual are merely talking points useful for differentiating bits and pieces of the perceptual soup.

Since our sensory input involves a cognitive process, I think we can assume that this dataflow works in both directions, that human perception is immensely complex and intimately bound to the cognitive process. If one is willing to accept that art is about creating an experience for the audience, not limited to just a simple visual experience but a fully rounded out sensory and associative experience, then both the visual and conceptual parts of the artmaking process are equally important.

4/17/2008 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I see what you're saying, George, and I mostly agree with you. "Seeing" is much more complex than merely recording an image of what's "out there." That's what makes it interesting.

But. When I'm discussing art around here, I'm discussing visual art, which is to say art which is primarily visual. Sure, creating an experience for an audience can involve all sorts of things that aren't visual. But then that's not visual art any more. Then it's a movie, or a play, or a concert, or something else. I've lamented before about how the art world seems determined to expand to suck in every other damned thing when it really should just stick to what it's good at.

Which is to say that a movie in an art gallery usually sucks. Music in an art gallery usually sucks. Dancing, poetry, and architecture in galleries usually suck. Because galleries are much better for finding and showing visual art, much the same way that a stage in Atlantic City is a terrible place for seeing a painting.

Also, I think you're merging cognitive processes a bit much. Language is processed in a different part of the brain from visual stimuli. Yes, your nervous system processes the inputs, but it processes them through different channels. There is a difference between concept -- which is verbal -- and visually apprehended object.

Franklin's better at discussing this than I am.

4/17/2008 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Referring to Donovan and LeWitt’s work, you said, once you've read the concept you don't need to see the work.

Well, then once you’ve seen a porn film, you don’t need to have sex.

4/17/2008 10:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Comrade Chris,

I thought you had written enough, possibly forever, a while back? But since you're back...
I like you Chris, but I have to be honest (as I am sure you would want me to be). You do a lot of talking and pontificating and I don't think you always know what you're talking about. I don't think you really know what conceptual art is. The "you can get it by hearing it described" is only true if you don't get the work from experiencing it. Maybe you don't get her work, but I get a lot from Tara Donovan's work. Maybe you have only seen that one show at Pace, but I've been seeing her shows at Ace in Los Angeles for at least 5 or 6 years. Her show several years ago at Ace NY was incredible. "Haze," the piece with all the drinking straws, was amazing, beautiful, maybe even spiritual, and that had nothing to do with its description (a whole bunch of plastic straws up against a wall). That phrase, that description, does nothing. The experience of the piece was transcendant. Some people don't "get" painting. To them, if you tell them what it's a picture of, or what it's "about," they might say, "oh, ok, I get it now." That is not Painting's fault, or problem.

You are fairly new to art, both the study of it and the practice of it. It's nice that you have so much confidence in your opinions, it's nice that you don't feel you have to become more knowledgeable before you write about it, but the downside of that is that occasionally you're going to sound like you don't know what you're talking about. And I know you don't like to give in, give up, concede defeat or apologize or back down. I know you like to have the last word. So I have said my piece and I'm going to bed now. You may have the last word. I know what I know and I don't need to argue.

Goodnight. And, of course, no hard feelings.

Oriane

4/17/2008 11:05:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I suspect what might be at the core of the problem some have with certain types of artworks is that for various reasons they find the works personally threatening. This is the reverse of what Mark said earlier. In this case one feels challenged by either the works themselves or by their acceptance by others. We live in a world of polarities, while it is not necessary that we accept everything, sometimes it’s more productive to just ignore what we don’t like.

4/17/2008 11:08:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

"What attributes would a self-critical piece of conceptual art have?" First of all, as I understand Greenberg, Modernism's self criticism occurs within a discipline, a practice, and can't be understood simply as a matter of attributes - this might be to confuse self-critical with self-referential, and they are not the same.

For me, the self-criticism that might be available in conceptual art would be linked to the singularity of an artist's practice, and to a larger history of conceptual art. And I would start with those histories before I even pretended I could know what self-criticism in those terms might be. So where I began here was very simply in noticing that Rosenberg came up with this description of the ur-conceptualist, and the shift from art to archaelogy that Duchamp's practice seems to intend. And to notice that this archaelogy is quite visible in contemporary artistic practice, in a work that has some provisional claim upon conceptual art. And to suggest that we have what looks like some kind of history here, a very specific one that has its own limits. Rosenberg at least saw something at stake in this, and all of this came up out of the blue only because Eric was citing him with the question 'what is at stake" lurking there. So as meaningful as the conversation may or not be, there has been a friendly caprice that has rather surprisingly yielded some kind of shared knowledge. In Dutch, apparently.

4/17/2008 11:15:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

My attempt at finding meaning in a work by Tara Donovan.

4/17/2008 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Catherine Spaeth said...

And they won't give you a catalog?

4/18/2008 12:03:00 AM  
Blogger The Intellectual Elitist said...

Chris

I was totally thinking as I was writing how the pun on Marxism could operate, you must be tuned into my psychic radio broadcast.

but as for the painting on stage I love that guy, I saw him in the late eighties at an art fair at Montclair State U. those were the days when an art fair and the parking lot of a Grateful Dead concert were all just different stops along the same Morpheus strip and alas the big bang of the DVD universe had yet to pop, he was the Gallagher of painting the people in the first row of the crowd around him got spattered with paint, in those days he was doing the Jimmi Hendrix's to Purple Haze and seeing him before he was preceded by a video, in my case it was by word of mouth sounding like "This dude plays Hendrix and splashes all these bright colored paints on a big sheet of paper, at first I was like this guy sucks he's just making a bad pollock, then all of a sudden it starts to look like something, and its not till he was done that I was like Whoa It's Hendrix Dude it was so cool.."

after that explanation when a friend was like "Dude that guy who splashes the paint to music is gonna be at the art fair, wanna go" how could I say no. (yeah Wayne's World pretty much makes fun of the times I grew up in.:)

It was totally what George wrote about cognitive reactions

As for verbal vs object Roland Barthes writes about ideas, text and language as a process of communication, the text however as he goes into it is any visual construction, take the cave paintings telling a story, or the narrative of the sculptures on the facade of a cathedral, Egyptian hieroglyphs, or Asian ideograms, they are pictograms as opposed to phonograms, pictures (or images) as opposed to sounds. All of which can have a pleasure principle removed from the meaning or idea, an eloquently delivered rhetoric, a finely stroked calligraphy character, or a masterly sculpted bust, as Barthes books title implies "The Pleasure of the Text"

Now if that eloquently delivered rhetoric has a uplifting or enlightening message a multi layered pleasure occurs as how I think Chris is pointing out a different function of the brain processing the same information as a different activity as a pleasure principle in the form of concept.



I missed this earlier

Britney Spears [or whoever the latest one is]

That would be Hannah Montana aks Miley Cyrus (yes Billy Ray Cyrus mended his Achy Breaky Heart then had a daughter that didn't fall far from the tree)

But I must add the train wreck that is Britney Spears is fascinating if she could channel some of that into her music she'd be awesome.

4/18/2008 12:15:00 AM  
Blogger William said...

Raise your hand if you've ever published a critique of a specific show. Provide links, preferably not to your own blog. Let's read some reviews by artists! I know I'm out of practice, but what the fuck.

Interfaith Center

4/18/2008 01:20:00 AM  
Blogger CAP said...

Constance Mallinson in LA is another artist/critic.

4/18/2008 02:55:00 AM  
Blogger Carla said...

Eric, that is an excellent review.

4/18/2008 09:18:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Thank you Carla. I liked the jpegs of your work on your website. Underwater life is truly inspiring.

Catherine they gave me a press kit but no catalog. Luckily there is a bunch of stuff on Donovan available online.

4/18/2008 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Eric, I want you to know -- in case you don't already -- that I like and respect you. Because I'm going to say that that review is incredibly prolix, taking as it does quite a lot of words to simply describe the piece. It seems like you liked it just because you didn't make fun of it while you were describing it (the way I did). But aside from that it's hard to tell if you had any real opinion on the thing, or felt anything while actually looking at it.

4/18/2008 12:29:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Well put it this way. I hope that the words I used to describe the different things going on with Donovan's sculpture make it clear that I thought it wasn't just rows of plastic cups stacked in a warehouse. I tried to describe the complexity of what I saw when I looked very closely at the sculpture during the hour and a half that I stayed in the gallery. I did not think that I was being redundant or prolix. I tried to describe, using clear language, all of the different aspects of the sculpture, the relationship between parts, and the visual impact of the whole. The way I saw it, the sculpture hits you at first as one thing and the experience of looking at it becomes richer when you realize how the individual stacks cohere to form a gestalt that is more than any individual stack of cups. I also think the artist was very self conscious about the impact the rows of cups have on one another and how the height of each row effects the rows that surround it. The artist was thinking of topology, light, contours and concavities. In other words, I didn't think it was simply a case of an artist loading lots of the same thing into a gallery space hoping that it would be transformed into art. You obviously disagree. Although I do think Donovan has inspired a lot of other artists to do that sort of thing. What else can I say.

4/18/2008 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

You're certainly clearer here, but also shorter, which isn't always a good thing when one is being paid to write. I've had to meet a few wordcounts in my time and I understand the challenge (although in my case it's usually hard to keep it short).

I didn't think it was just a case of Donovan piling the cups and hoping for art; it seemed pretty clear that she wanted and expected some kind of transformation to occur. I just don't think wanting and expecting necessarily lead to results, and I don't think her manipulation of the material did a whole lot to help her cause. As I've written before, artists use certain materials more often than others because not all materials are equally good at conveying artness (whatever that may be). Painting and sculpting used to be called the plastic arts, remember, because they worked with plastic materials -- this was before the word "plastic" took on its new meaning as a specific material. It used to mean "capable of being molded".

Plastic cups are plastic but not capable of being molded. I think she did what she could with them, but, really, they're still cups.

And for the record, the other Donovan piece I've seen is the one in the Met. It felt pretty much the same as the cups to me, only smaller, even though the materials were different.

4/18/2008 05:07:00 PM  
Blogger concrete phone said...

Chris the mind moulds! Perception moulds. Memory moulds. Longing moulds. You are so funny when you are muddy and firing from the trenches.
I think the general public can get D work. i certainly can--and good review Eric.
Which leaves us with KLINK, Herr?
Hogaaaan!

4/18/2008 06:43:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

If my review was jargon filled, convoluted logorrhea more people would probably be piling on me right now Chris. I find it boring when critics gush or snipe. The reason why is simple. Cleverly worded, adjective filled judgments have more to do with the persona the critic is trying to create rather than the art they are reviewing. I also don’t like critics’ use of words like, brilliant, masterly, etc., because they really don’t tell readers anything about the work of art. I don’t want to write press releases. (If you only want to read art critics who more or less hate most contemporary art than stick with Jed Perl at The New Republic or Mario Naves at The New York Observer.) As a critic I am supposed to describe things that happen when you are in the presence of the work of art being reviewed. I found this particular work by Donovan interesting and I wrote about. I don't give Donovan or any artist a free pass just because I like one specific work of art they made. If the experience of looking at a work of visual art (I don't separate out formal and conceptual qualities because I think that notion runs contrary to the findings of contemporary neuroscience.) doesn't get more interesting or complicated when I look at it again and again then I won't write about it. This goes for paintings, sculptures, or multi-media works of art. Regarding your comments about word count you are totally off base. I can write about any artist for artcritical and I am not limited to a specific word count. Obviously your comments about word count were just another way of you saying the review went on for too long or was repetitive, whatever. If you read the review and thought that I was just describing what I saw over and over again to meet a required word count that is your prerogative.

4/18/2008 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

What is at stake? Excerpted from Aaron Copland, music and imagination

'to the first question- the need to create- the answer is always the same- self-expression; the basic need to make evident one's deepest feelings about life.'

'just as the individual creator discovers himself through his creation, so the world at large knows itself through its artists, discovers the very nature of its Being through the creations of its artists.'

4/22/2008 08:20:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Eric, I just discovered your reply. I want to make it clear that I never intended to be personally insulting -- I may not think it was the best review I've ever read, but I didn't mean to say (and don't think I even implied) that you gave Donovan a pass; and I certainly didn't mean the wordcount thing to be offensive. I meant that -- and I think this happens to all professional writers -- sometimes there's pressure to perform, and sometimes that can negatively affect the writing, and maybe that was happening here. Maybe.

I understand your wanting to steer clear of "standard" critic words like "brilliant" and "masterful" -- I may fail at that, but I know what you mean. But I couldn't tell at all that you liked the work you were describing. There was no hint that you felt anything at all looking at it, or had any opinion one way or the other. You clearly seem to think it's obvious you only review work you like -- or anyway "get[s] more interesting or complicated when I look at it again and again" -- but there's no way to detect that unless you tell us. I mean, you don't have to baldly state "I liked it" but a clue would be nice.

I also didn't say it was jargon-filled or convoluted -- just prolix. Remember Orwell: Never use a long word where a short one will do; never use a complex word where a simple one will do (that's why I like using the word "prolix" (which I picked up from Catch-22) instead of "wordy").

So we started arguing about Donovan and have moved on to arguing about writing style. What's next?

4/23/2008 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Dodson said...

Kumbaya... is player hating dead?

4/23/2008 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I'm sure plenty of people still hate me.

4/23/2008 08:31:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Chris thanks for your helpful advice. I will be sure to keep it in mind.

4/24/2008 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

No you won't. You just think I'm a jerk. Go ahead, admit it.

4/24/2008 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Staff Brandl said...

Mensch, this post created some inetersting and active commenting. I added a comment to the "Feud Friday" Post that really belonged here. So I'll add it, albeit late.

I am an "artist who writes" as the saying goes, for several places inclusding, like Judd, Art in America. Let me point out ---It is EXTREMELY hard to get real, current, nuts-and-bolts theoretical essays published, as an artist who writes, nowadays. Things like those great essays by Smithson or even Morris et al are simply UNWANTED.

Artforum only takes on what fits its small post-deconstructivist Derridaian agenda and the others want more reportage-style articles.
I get my theoretical musings published in prestigious places, scholarly journals and the like, or in e-zines/blogs, and get the reviews published in art mags (usually with small attempts to sneak larger issues in).

That is one reason why I disagree with anti-internet folks like Plagens and Finch; I think, in fact, that blogs are taking up the slack and are slowly eclipsing glossies in this realm (although the blogs’ other problems are also clear and rampant). To some extent, you are going to have to comb the blog/e-zine world to find such thought "excursions" as Smithson, et al. Like John Perrault's blog and others. I mostly do it at Sharkforum.org. I would love to do more, esp. about new painting for glossy rags, but usually such things end up in places like the CAA conference and then a journal (my last one) or Sharkforum. Two ends of the spectrum, so to speak, with a weak-kneed middle leaving such things out.

4/24/2008 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Staff Brandl said...

Some artists who write well (besides me! plug):
Stephen Westfall, Joanne Mattera (commenting above --- I love her blog posts), Joe Fyfe, and others --- but I think people are aching for an artist who gets a chance to stretch out,, dig down , and --- in part --- promote a new vision. That is what is missing. I get endless opportunities to publish in high quality places, even though my art is much better than my writing, just because I seldom launch into "required" theory (although I'm a heavy theory guy, I'm quirky rather than consensus). Yet only the journals, philophy journals even, and the like offer real theoretical opportunities. The glossies are the problem here --- not the artists. One of the first things I would do if i were an editor would be, besides puzblishing my own stuff, would be to commission a long piece on geo and material painting by Mattera, commission a long Edward W. piece on whatever he wanted, etc. Where are THOSE type of editoral ideas.

4/24/2008 04:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why people are so over Smithson. I mean, he's ok, but I was much more a fan of Joseph Beuys writtings in my young days.

Beuys would have nailed down a few topics mentioned in this thread, especially about beauty, retinal pleasure, and "taking social and political action to solve social and political problems" instead of doing art.

Mind you, the actual "art" of Joseph Beuys might seems boring to many, and I can understand why. I am mostly pleading for his theories.

I do have personal "at stakes" notions about art and discussed them aplenty on this blog last year or the year before. No need to repeat myself.

But I want to stress to Chris that Tara Donovan have merely made a painting with something else than paint. Or a wall frieze for that matter. Her work is very aesthetic, and I don't think you were supposed to notice they were plastic cups or metal tape at first sight. Call it a trompe l'oeil effect, but would you ever reproach a painter for painting a white landscape?

Specifically, "conceptual" arts (and the urinal by Du-Du wasn't meant to be purely conceptual either) reject any effects of aestheticism. Donovan cannot apply. I can grosso modo replicate your painting like you could grosso modo replicate Donovan's landscape. True. But your ruling for masterism nor your discrimination of medias don't correspond with logic: they are plenty of fantastically painted mats in the background of the Hollywood films that you watch.

Art should grasp you. You didn't feel a thing about Donovan, that's ok, but please don't be authoritative that people ought only be grasped by visual information when it comes out a neo-realist painting by Vincent Desiderio. That predictable material is just not my plastic cup.

Cheers,

Cedric C

5/15/2008 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Staff Brandl said...

For people now reading this on archives, we pick parts of the topic back up on Ed's wonderful blog here:
http://edwardwinkleman.blogspot.com/2009/10/thinking-while-making-things-open.html

Go on over and continue reading and commenting!

10/22/2009 03:10:00 AM  

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