Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday's Aside : Political Correctness

Tuesday's Aside, a weekly post in which I will try to answer your questions. In order to keep each Tuesday's thread on topic, I'll ask that you post any additional questions on the original thread (even though it will fall off the main page, I'll be emailed each time a new comment is added there and so, thus, will be monitoring continuously).

James Kalm writes:
With the up coming election season I’d be interested in your thoughts regarding politics/political correctness in the art world, and the practice of “black-balling” artists, critics and dealers regardless of their work, on the basis of their perceived political affiliations. Tyler Green has mentioned this, but for a community which stresses its tolerance, this seems to be a glaring example of hypocrisy at the very highest levels.
I would need some concrete examples of this practice to really weigh in on this. I don't recall Tyler's mention of it (anyone with a link?).

My personal take on political correctness is that it's an artificial construct that has benefits in the short run, but will outlast its usefulness and eventually become harmful. What I mean by that is shaming people into considering others' feelings (or at least keep their hurtful opinions silent) long enough for those others to gain some power socially is a good thing, but for everyone to truly be on an equal playing field, that pseudo-politeness eventually has to end. It's foolish to think you'll ever get everyone to like/accept each other. The only practical thing you can hope for is that people have equal opportunity and equal protection under the law and that with those protections they can fairly fend for themselves.

OK, so enough about my opinion, though. How does this spell itself out in the art world?

Clearly the art world is overwhelmingly progressive. I think that's why I'm comfortable in it. I also like to think the art world is predominantly open-minded too though. I agree wholeheartedly with James that as such, one should be able to expect that the art world is open-minded and tolerant as a rule, not just in certain leftist contexts. That means tolerating the right of people to have other political opinions and not denying them access to the inner sanctum because of their feelings.

I read a chapter of a book once about a study of tolerance among prospective social workers. It centered on a questionnaire that was designed to illustrate how even those of us who believe we're tolerant are actually harboring prejudices and that all such bias generally carries with it a sense that "but it's OK not to like those people, isn't it?"

The questionnaire asked whether the future social worker could objectively treat someone who was an alcoholic? A large percentage of candidates said yes. Then whether they could objectively treat someone who had had an abortion. The number of yes responses declined. What about someone who had been a prostitute? Someone who had physically hurt their children? Someone who had sexually abused children? Someone who was a racist? A member of the Ku Klux Klan? and so on. As you might guess, the numbers declined as the socially unacceptable behavior rose. The book continued to note, however, that all these people were in need of the social worker's professional help, whether or not they deserved his/her empathy.

Now I'm not suggesting that anyone should be expected to be objective about a member of the KKK. I'm simply noting that by not being such, you're not really "tolerant" in the broadest sense. Where you personally draw the line, of course, is up to you. But "tolerance" in its purest form suggests you live and let live. Clearly that then would mean you don't blackball someone because their political stand on this or that issue is different from yours. As the questionnaire was designed to show, however, that's a lot easier in theory than in practice.
Within the art community, there are those who seek acceptance for their expression but don't offer it uniformly in return, on both sides of the political spectrum. It's just that the left side is the majority and as such rules.

Having said that, though, representatives of the conservative argument in this country have gone out of their way to scapegoat the art community in the culture wars. So it's hard to turn the other cheek knowing they'll happily smack it as well. Within the arts community, though, there is, IMO, no excuse for not walking the walk with regards to open-mindedness and tolerance.

Again a few examples here would help me be more specific.

Labels: Tuesday's Aside


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who do you think Gagosian will be voting for come November? That's all that really matters on this thread.

7/15/2008 09:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Commenter #1, that's not all that really matters. Many major collectors (I don't personally know about dealers) are Repugnicans. Deal with it. (A lot of rich people tend to be.) So we shouldn't have any illusions about the supposed progressiveness of the art world in general. Marianne Boesky's father is Ivan Boesky. Anyone remember him? Now, I don't know how close to the tree that apple has fallen, politically speaking, and I don't think anyone should be judged by the sins of their parents, but it's just good to keep these connections in mind.

"Tolerance" is a funny word. It implies that one tolerates less than ideal behavior rather than accepts as equal all points of view. But we're human; we make judgments. How can we be expected to accept as equal all points of view?

I know I have collectors that are very conservative financial industry types, people whose politics I don't agree with. I consider myself fortunate to have collectors, period. I can't afford to pick and choose. But I don't have to be best friends with them.

But I agree with Ed; without some examples, I'm not sure exactly what we're talking about.

Oriane Stender

7/15/2008 10:19:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

Is this post about politics or art world politics?

I can't imagine artists, gallerists or academics giving two poops about someone's politics. But I think that players in the "art world" are very concerned with their own politics.

I often see artists and gallerists make surprisingly conservative choices about their own words and actions, for fear of not alienating someone they consider more powerful. If this is what the poster means by politics, then I think that's an interesting problem.

7/15/2008 10:48:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

To clarify what I mean by problem:

If art is supposed to be a means to explore the unknown or otherwise push boundaries, then the tendency for art-world players to make decisions based on affirming an existing power structure is potentially counterproductive.

7/15/2008 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger Carol Diehl said...

There's another, perhaps opposite, issue here as well--cases where, in the eyes of curators and critics, a work's politically correct content trumps its artistic contribution. Do anything that touches on race, the feminine body, the environment, or the tragedy of war, and you're home free. Kara Walker and Sue Williams, are examples here. Or when Fritz Haeg says he's bringing attention to the food crisis. Not that those things can't be done well--Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial is a case in point--but it's rare.

7/15/2008 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger highlowbetween said...

I would say that the politics of the artworld - in the broad sense, national politics - leans left in the social context of politics. But there is often a patrician aspect to this which can be uncomfortable.

However the financial structure of the artworld seems clearly to the right and bears little resemblance to any progressive values that I'm aware of. I mean this in terms of where the money comes from, how the money is distributed, financial transparency, etc. etc.

7/15/2008 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If art is supposed to be a means to explore the unknown or otherwise push boundaries"
An artist might do that in her work itself but navigate the art world conservatively. I don't see that as a contradiction. Or she might make "conservative" work and try to blow up the existing power structures. You seem to have this all or nothing approach, but people do it in a variety of ways.

And I do give a poop or two about people's politics, but if I am offended by someone's politics, I file that information in the appropriate place and can still have contact/dealings with them of a more limited nature. We're not going to go live in a secret commune in the woods and plot to overthrow the power structure; it aint gonna happen. We have to live within the power structure. You can chip away at parts of it and work to change it, but this whole 60's revolutionary mindset is just, I'm sorry to say, because I respect your intellect, naive.


7/15/2008 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I could tolerate impeachment proceedings, less invasion of my privacy (too late) or fewer bugs while landscaping - so that's why I'm a studio painter...

Most Americans, in general, are middle grounders when voting - both candidates are trying their best to maneuver there. Barring extreme circumstances wealthier voters tend to vote for whom ever promises the lowest tax rate, can't blame them, which tends to be Republican.

If Obama gets elected and Denis Kucinich gets his impeachment votes then - yes - we are VERY tolerant.

7/15/2008 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Tyler said...

One of these days Loren will say something about me or in reference to me and he will be accurate. Clearly that day has yet to arrive.

7/15/2008 11:38:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Gee Ed, thanks for sticking your neck out again with this thread

“Again a few examples here would help me be more specific.”

To avoid liable suites, or probably a more likely and dangerous situation, getting “black-balled” at your next high powered cocktail party, I’ll try to present a couple of examples of this “group-think” bias without giving names (although everyone should be able to fill in the blanks).

Submitted for your approval:

Four yeas ago, during the last election season there appeared, on the front page of the “New York Times”, an article about a very influential board member of one of our finest museums. This lady bragged about her visiting Ohio and canvassing neighborhoods for the Democrat presidential candidate. About the same time, said board member, exhibits her selections of “Hot Underappreciated Artists” at an alternative exhibition site in an outer borough that's affiliated with her museum. Although the show was “alright” there was a definite slant to the work as far a “political and demographic” content. Of course this lady is free to select whoever she wants to highlight (although the question of public funding is also involved). But, are we kidding ourselves by thinking that someone who isn’t an active political type, (Dem) pushing the same agenda as our board member, is ever going to get these kinds of opportunities no matter how great their art?

A long time stalwart of New York’s Downtown/Soho community (a 70 plus year old painter of international reputation and contributor to some of the most notable painting exhibitions of the last thirty years), is invited to participate in a group exhibition with a new “Hot” Chelsea gallery. The dealer is fawning over this artist and promising studio visits which will obviously lead to one-person exhibitions, and heavy duty representation. At the end of a phone call to arrange the shipment of art and further visits, the dealer mentions he’ll of course see the artist at the “anti war rally” being held a couple of days in the future. When the artist demurs (he’s a former Marine, once a Marine…) the dealer flips, disinvites the artist and tells him to f… off. There’s no further contact.

Although I’ve had my disagreements with Tyler Green regarding the “journalistic” obligations of art criticism, in the wrap up to the Christian Veveros-Faune flap, he posted a piece that questioned the propriety of major galleries holding political fundraising events and involving some of the city’s most notable critics as enticements to participate and donate. Green raises the question of whether this isn’t creating a kind of political rather than aesthetic standard for consideration of artists and their work.

To avoid boring readers to tears (I could go on for pages) I’ll just close by asking:

In this scene, which supposedly values diversity and creativity, isn’t it the height of hypocrisy to allow a one party stranglehold on the community?

How can institutions receiving public funding be turned into political re-education camps for a particular political philosophy?

Why, in a realm that’ll forgive child molesters, murderers, and scoundrels of all stripes, is the “conservative/non-Marxist” seen as the ultimate incarnation of EVIL?

Apologies if this offends, these are merely conclusions made after close observations of the New York at world over the last thirty years, thanks

7/15/2008 11:43:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I often wonder if the "no political art" rule is more about getting along (along with the wine) than a statement of quality or purity in art.

Why not make political art?

Isn't didacticism sometimes preferable to the obtuse opacity of so much contemporary art?

For me, often, the answer is no.

As I generously comment here, offering my insight free of charge, I am often scolded by lesser minds for my lack of clarity - yet in art lack of clarity is lauded as a quality to be relished and devoured like well seasoned veal!

When Hans Haacke made his most exciting work (and the only one I admit to liking whole heartedly), - a work about slumlords, he was perhaps at his most hamfisted.

Is it a cannonical work?

What do we talk about when we talk about institutions?

It is a rare Republican that can look in the mirror and shatter it into the grey fog of liberal guilt!

I always thought, though, that the participation of clear headed Republicans - in an art world rife with self loathing privileged artists - was a result of boredom - boredom at the clarity of the crystaline Republican utopia, built around such ideas as:

That government which governs least governs best

Life, libery, and the pursuit of happiness (or at least property)

No taxation without representation

Good fences make good barriers to your environmental damage.

From each according to their ability, to each according to their aggressiveness and business acumen.

The best and first cut of meat goes to the killer

If everyone got what they deserved no one would be rich

A man's home is his castle.

And so on - all of these are of course sentiments a Good conservative (Republican or Democrat, Independent or even Anarchist) can embrace.

There but for the grace of a nondenominational "something bigger than me," go I.

And also - as I said, I don't like your politics, nothing makes me tremble, I wince at your naivety!

Call me an idealist, but I am going to die sometime, so I might as well tilt at windmills before I take the ultimate windmill! Playing it safe is for losers puritanical librarians and nebishy cuckolds.

Let us immanentize the eschaton!

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
-Ben "keyman" Franklin.

7/15/2008 11:47:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...


The actual situation is much more complex than my own naivete.

We are all moving forward based on an art historical trajectory that depends on the notion of an avant garde that does legitimately push boundaries and relentlessly searches for the "new."

Increasingly, it does that in an atmosphere that is more like Versailles and less like Gertrude and Alice's house, an ecstatic Ginsberg poem or a hippie commune.

I actually don't have a value judgment about that. I'm saying that it's an interesting conflict.

I don't think it's naive at all to be aware of the conditions you work with.

7/15/2008 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deborah, I have really gotten a lot out of your writing at sellout and your own blog and I know you're not naive. But somehow lately I think you're having a disconnect between what you're thinking and how you're expressing it. (I'm thinking of the whole Chelsea tanking thing, and to a lesser extent, this conversation.)

"I don't think it's naive at all to be aware of the conditions you work with."

I agree wholeheartedly. But being aware of the conditions does not necessarily dictate how you choose to deal with them. There are a number of strategies, and it seems like lately the only one you approve of is "tear the motherfucker down".

"I actually don't have a value judgment about that. I'm saying that it's an interesting conflict"

I may be misinterpreting your comments then, because it seemed like you were making a value judgment.

(The commune in the woods I was thinking of was the one in Fahrenheit 451 where people committed banned books to memory, not really a hippie commune, but I didn't make that clear.)


ps Zip: "clear headed Republicans" - an oxymoron?
Yeah, I'm damn well making a value judgment.

7/15/2008 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"puritanical librarians"

The Mission Statement of the American Library Association includes these goals:

All individuals have equal access to libraries and information services.

Instruction in information use is available to all.

Government information is widely and easily available.

Library collections are developed, managed, and preserved to provide access for users to the full range of available knowledge and information.

Access to information is facilitated by bibliographic organization.

Library use is high.

Fees are not a barrier to library access and service.

7/15/2008 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

With a respectful request for Tyler Green:

I just went to MAN and tried to link the post I referred to, but the archive function is disabled. Maybe you could provide the link and let readers decide for themselves if I’m misinterpreting your piece?

7/15/2008 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Maybe I'm thinking of school librarians. Or the school boards that hire them and stock the libraries. Gatekeepers, I think they are called.

Funny how you can lie by omission - or simply out of ignorance. failure to inform - that's a thought crime.

According to social theorists, knowledge is a weapon. Its also a commodity. I think that's why so many people find the internet so threatening - mostly journalists, but don't be surprised when they come for you.

Google them - they won't show up on any search engine.

7/15/2008 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Why not make political art?

I'd be all over political art if it were usually some advance in understanding a situation rather than (as is the case 95% of the time, IMO), a cheap one liner. But when your average high-school political blogger can eviscerate the supposed insights of a piece because, rather than acknowledge the complexity of a particular issue, the artist merely codifies their own, usually highly partisan, position in some obvious and, only if we're lucky, clever visual, it suggests the artist is out of his/her depth and should leave the politics to the pundits.

We've been all over this topic on this blog, though. See here for example.

7/15/2008 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger Sean Capone said...

Kalm James, sorry, but you seem to be all over the map. I didn't see any examples in your response that pointed to any real black-balling.

Perhaps I missed an earlier part of the conversation, but individual gallerists should feel free to take a political stand in terms of the causes and/or artists they support. The example of the dealer flipping on the older artist sounds unfortunate, but the real story couldn't have possibly been as clear-cut as you told it. As has been said many times in this space, the dealer-artist relationship is very personal and based on mutual trust & understanding. If they had a falling out due to a religious-political-whatever difference, that can affect the relationship. And in any case, it is not a case of 'black-balling' in the sense of any type of persecution campaign being waged against the artist (at least as you told it).

How is a fundraising event at a gallery imposing a political standard on artists? I don't see the connection. These events are usually not associated with the gallery's usual roster or agenda, unless it is a gallery which specializes in political/social issue art. I was quite delighted to be able to purchase a small drawing by Lou Larita at James Cohan's Visual AIDS benefit exhibition.

Be grateful and consider it the noblesse oblige of the high-society art gallery class, haha.

I guess I'm not seeing the same things you're seeing. I don't see any ideology having a stranglehold on the community. (And what community is that exactly? Artists? Collectors? Gallerists? Fans? Each tend to inhabit their own economical and ideological 'scene' which occasionally intersects. That's a gross generalization but you know what I'm driving at).

I don't think that a single show of political poster art is enough to condemn an institution as being a 'philosophical re-education camp'. You are dangerously close to sounding like a hysterical right-wing 'culture war' pundit decrying anti-patriotic art (a diversionary whip argument used to mask some other agenda, typically...).

Is the art world largely left-wing? Probably, yes. But what freakin' world do you live in that "forgives child molesters, murderers, and scoundrels..."?

I never bought the argument against public funding used in the service of expressing a point of view or political message. 'Political correctness' is often attributed to the guilt of liberal apologists, but is in fact largely employed (and IMO, devised and coined) by right-wingers as a semiotic weapon. I think you should make a distinction between political artists and political art (and the aesthetic merits of the latter, something which curators & historians are constantly at odds with determining objectively--if that's possible).

I remember a flap from a several years ago concerning a major retrospective of political & agit-prop & revolutionary art. It had great examples of all the standards with the glaring exception of ACT-UP's famous SILENCE=DEATH graphic. The position of the curators was: the events from which this sprung were still to recent to be judged objectively as part of the historical discourse. Everyone cried bullshit on this, of course. Can anyone refresh my memory about this show/museum, and what the outcome was?

That was a case of blackballing, for sure--but for different, questionably 'aesthetic', reasons.

7/15/2008 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Yes, I don't think the Obama cover was very clever either. Still, it sparked a conversation, and sometimes that's all a bad artwork needs to be good.

Notice how clever can be a pejorative.

Cults use "thought stoppers" - vocabulary or techniques that inhibit or stop the wrong trains of thought from occuring. I think that;s what James Kalm ultimately points to when he refers to the necessity of embracing "wrong" (non progressive) ideologies in the mix.

This ties intot he idea of homeopathic remedies - that to be innoculated (thoughtwise) one must be exposed, and combat on a regular basis, thoughts one is opposed to.

Otherwise its back to corsets and fainting and shit. Fuck that.

I think that;s why the Amish do their dealio with the kids where they are free to leave.

I'm due back to the compuond, but I haven't spent all my money yet and I still haven't slept with any whores. Its sad really because my dad died without him knowing what true depths I could sink to.

Reminds me of that show "Intervention," in a way.

Is it rock bottom if you call it art? Or is it an act of resistance? A non-sited scoial sculture? Active engagement with life as art? A loser losing? A lost cause? A dog without a tail?
To the heros go the spoils. The winners write the histories, the losers get bit parts, because the winners feel bad, because winners have guilt complexes, or are magnanimous, I could go on.

7/15/2008 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

This is tangential to the topic at hand; nevertheless I think it is a very important issue that I don't see discussed in the art world at all.

The current Republican climate is anything but conservative. True conservatism emphasizes limited government, right to privacy, property rights, and civil liberty as guaranteed by the Constitution. True conservatives are opposed to Big Government, not necessarily to the objectives that liberals try to accomplish with Big Government; they believe that the poor and downtrodden are better assisted by free markets, low taxes, and private aid organizations than by government programs.

Emphasis on these sorts of liberties takes tolerance as a baseline requirement. Thus, when the Bush administration brings fundamentalist Christian morality into government, violates Constitutional rights to freedom and privacy, expands the government to aggressive nation-building in Iraq, and balloons the deficit to record levels, that's not conservative.

I need to point out this distinction, because while my personal views are extremely progressive, I can also see clearly the grave dangers we run by fostering a progressive agenda through government expansion. We progressives keep forgetting that 'our guys' won't always be in power, and the more power we assign to government, the greater danger that we will eventually deliver a readymade totalitarian system into the hands of the opposition.

So yes, I do think the knee-jerk progressive bias in the art world that James points out is a grave concern. The first people that totalitarian governments start putting in jail are the artists, writers, academics and freaks. We need to be alive to this possibility, and temper our politics with some awareness of unintended consequences.

7/15/2008 01:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chose to leave a Chelsea gallery because among a long list of strange behaviors they (verbally) forbid their artists to discuss politics at any gallery event, post opening, anywhere, even alone with them, etc. They said it was the third rail. Just one of their control issues that made respecting and working with them not something I wanted to continue.

Speaks to gallery-artist relationships and the need for mutual respect. Much happier now.

7/15/2008 01:22:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

I would like to say that my full time job is art critic but it isn't. I work as a school media specialist or school librarian and I try to help kids find information, finish their book reports and research papers, and in general, open their minds, everyday when I am at work. I order books on important topics that are missing from the collection and I try to get books that cover both ends of the political spectrum regardless of my own feelings and beliefs. We are not the problem zipthwung.

7/15/2008 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Hey sean capone,

I’m not saying people and galleries don’t have the right to show who and what they want, and I respect their efforts to help fund and draw attention to worthy causes. My point is that there is a “chilling affect” to the politically liberal hegemony in the art world. (I personally have rallied against most political incursions into art from a purely aesthetic standpoint, though I’ll make exceptions)

“How is a fundraising event at a gallery imposing a political standard on artists? I don't see the connection.”

Obviously if an artist, dealer or anyone else in the art world refuses to support a particular “cause” they’re excluded from consideration from those pushing the agenda (maybe not collectors or anyone spending money).

“I guess I'm not seeing the same things you're seeing. I don't see any ideology having a stranglehold on the community. (And what community is that exactly? Artists? Collectors? Gallerists? Fans? Each tend to inhabit their own economical and ideological 'scene' which occasionally intersects. That's a gross generalization but you know what I'm driving at).”

Okay, perhaps a bit of generalization, but like institutional racism, homophobia or sexism, it exists and the perpetrators are ether insensitive, or accept it a “just the way things are”.

“You are dangerously close to sounding like a hysterical right-wing 'culture war' pundit decrying anti-patriotic art (a diversionary whip argument used to mask some other agenda, typically...).”

Hey, my life is danger. As I’ve said, I usually find politics in art a major turn off, ditto for much “Identity Art”. In “Revolution and the Concept of Beauty” Harold Rosenberg says:

“Another contrast between revolution in politics and in art: in politics the alternative to revolution is another political position, reaction, for instance. In art the alternative is “the Academy”, which is not a position in art.” (From “The Tradition of the New” McGraw-Hill, New York, Toronto, 1965, p.76)

Perhaps I’m wrong but this implies that there really is no “right wing” or uber-patriotic part to the art scene. Indeed it seem almost required for any institution receiving public funding that the first show you produce is something that “critiques” the “Guberment” or at least the perceived “conservative” part. I personally like any art that goes out on a limb, takes a risk and makes me think about the world in a different way, and due to the PC issue, we’re only getting a part of the whole picture.

“Is the art world largely left-wing? Probably, yes. But what freakin' world do you live in that "forgives child molesters, murderers, and scoundrels..."?”

I was invited to participate in a panel discussion with Irving Sandler a few years ago at the Museum for the City of New York. This was during the hubbub surrounding the sale of John Wayne Gacy’s (the notorious serial killer) paintings. Seems Mike Kelly had recently had a major museum show where he solicited works for inclusion from other criminals (I’m thinking you had to be supper bad, killers, child molesters etc. not just getting parking tickets). To ameliorate the obvious disgusting exploitation, Kelly had a small contribution bucket with a note stating the money was for abused women or some such PC cause. Sandler was less cynical about the piece than I was.

“That was a case of blackballing, for sure--but for different, questionably 'aesthetic', reasons.”

So you agree “blackballing" does happen and aesthetics are always a convenient cover.

Pretty lady makes a good point.

What is this, "Give Ed A Break Day?"

7/15/2008 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

What is this, "Give Ed A Break Day?"

yes, please...if possible...ed could use one just now ;-)

7/15/2008 03:03:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...


I wrote this:

I can't imagine artists, gallerists or academics giving two poops about someone's politics. But I think that players in the "art world" are very concerned with their own politics.

I often see artists and gallerists make surprisingly conservative choices about their own words and actions, for fear of not alienating someone they consider more powerful. If this is what the poster means by politics, then I think that's an interesting problem.

and this:

If art is supposed to be a means to explore the unknown or otherwise push boundaries, then the tendency for art-world players to make decisions based on affirming an existing power structure is potentially counterproductive.

With all due respect, I don't see any value judgments here. I see the phrase "interesting problem." I see a lot of "ifs" and cautious words like "counterproductive" and "tendency."

Um, if I may go out on a limb... these are the most equivocal, least provocative sentences I have written in, I think, years. In fact, I have a reputation to maintain here, and may have to take them back because they are not incendiary enough.

And yet you are accusing me of saying nothing but "tear this motherfucker down?"

7/15/2008 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

Loren: The archive function is not disabled. It is not my responsibility to do your homework for you.

7/15/2008 03:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does the work of Glenn Ligon play into your discussions? I'm interested to know.

7/15/2008 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Tyler Green,

I'd never consider perusing the archives at MAN as “homework”, because they’re so darn enjoyable.

The post in question is from MAN February 4, 2008 “Weekend roundup”. Though I’d ask viewers to read the entire piece themselves, one line seems particularly relevant to the discussions:

“Think of it this way: If you're an artist, you don't want to wonder if you're not getting reviewed because your dealer didn't throw the right political party with the right critic.”

Hope I didn't miss quote.

7/15/2008 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deborah,you can take your two poops and get out of here. Go brainstorm about how to reconstruct Chelsea to better fit your own needs.

7/15/2008 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

"We are all outlaws in the eyes of Amerika. In order to survive we steal, cheat, lie, forge, fuck, hide, and deal... Everything you say we are, we are... Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!"

I mean c'mon that sounds a lot more interesting than what you read in Artforum or October or in a typical Chelsea press realease/artist statement/sales pitch or whatever. And its just as intelligent, as a response, if you know what I mean, and I mean what I say, you know?

What is being taught (formally and conceptually) in schools (and the big "free museum" of Chelsea) as "contemporary art," these days, anyways(?)

Hannah Montana? Agnes Martin? Dale Chihuly? Statistical analysis? Quantitative analysis? Day trading? Branding? Social engineering? Bling awareness?
Class warfare? How to homogenized culture? History really WILL repeat itself!

Raise the rents! Fill the jails! Enforce the curfew! Shoot on sight!

7/15/2008 07:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...


7/15/2008 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For every critic that chooses not to review your show as a result of your dealer's politcal affiliations, isn't there another that will?

And, one hopes, there are more than a handful that will take a more agnostic approach to their jobs.

7/15/2008 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger The Critic Prays said...


7/15/2008 09:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 1:22pm - Please tell on that How's My Dealing blog what gallery doesn't allow talk of politics.

7/15/2008 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

The family that pray's together stays together.

7/15/2008 11:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(if you're still here; I just got home)
I didn't mean to put words in your mouth. Perhaps I had in my mind your posts from last week on the whole Chelsea Tanking thing. I apologize if I projected those forward to this thread. But a statement such as:
"We are all moving forward based on an art historical trajectory that depends on the notion of an avant garde that does legitimately push boundaries and relentlessly searches for the "new.""
sounds a little judgmental and lectury (akin to "Chelsea should tank!") and implies that if you're not pushing boundaries then you're not on the proper trajectory. I mean it's a little presumptuous for you to speak for everyone. Maybe "we" are not all moving forward based on the same trajectory. I don't actually have a problem with that assertion, but the self-assured, speaking for us all attitude definitely reminded me in tone of the Chelsea tank. Again, I apologize if I jumped to conclusions because of that association.

Peace out,

ps Pretty Lady is right to remind us that we use words such as conservative and progressive without establishing precise definitions and that those words are being used to mean various things depending on the context. Yes, a clear argument starts by defining terms.

7/15/2008 11:51:00 PM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

Ed, good read. You might be interested in this:


I've been interested in this issue lately. During my research I actually discovered a few websites that are like help groups for artists who happen to have conservative views.

Based on what I've read it seems that the majority of artists who have conservative views keep those views secret. I also read that a lot of artists who support the Republican party tend to list themselves as Independent on profiles-- Facebook, Myspace, and so on-- in order to dodge making an issue about their actual views with art world peers.

7/16/2008 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

name names balhatain, or it will not go easy for you.

7/16/2008 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Balhatain said...

Zip, off hand I remember that www.conartist.org was one of the conservative artist sites. If you do a Google search for 'conservative artist' or anything close to that, you will find topics involving the issue. You will most likely find people discussing this same issue.

If you mean "name names" as in the link to my article... I don't think that artist wants to be the center of a debate. The point is that the person who wrote to me thought that I should be fired just because I 'allowed' that artist to express those views in the interview.

I found it interesting that someone would have that much hate against a specific viewpoint. The person suggested that posting the interview was a 'crime against free thinking people'. :)

7/16/2008 12:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it odd that some of you are saying that politics are not discussed in the art world that much - when you've got "donate" to Obama or something else concerning him right on the front page of your blogs!.... I go for the art discussion and come across that, time and time again. What, that's not politics...?

But then, he's the cool candidate. Would your art blog be as good, be seen as good if you were promoting another candidate?

7/16/2008 01:49:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

zipthwung said...
The family that pray's together stays together.

closer to point:

Preys together

7/16/2008 02:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Politics you say? Think in The Whitney's Studio Program...OMG. Braiwashing at the bottom, the very rich at the top.

7/16/2008 05:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is very important to make difficult work. That means, involving in a production that is not at all clear, often registering a 'i don't get it'. 2% of this is good! Politics is about presenting very unclear things clearly so people get it! If people want to celebrate an event surrounded by very unclear things, then, why not! No-One cares!

7/16/2008 09:38:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Thanks for the link franklin, you’re saving a lot of people from doing their homework.

I think the most dangerous and pernicious part of this lies with the major institutions, our museums and endowments. Take my word for it, most critics have very little actual influence, and private galleries and venues are free to do whatever they want. But the museums trump them all. Many have the function of public education, not indoctrination written into their charters. The distribution of grants is a whole other area that also needs to be studied. I wouldn’t want to shut down any of their programs, just lift the lid of secrecy and pry back their gatekeepers a bit to give a more inclusive view what’s going on, and whose involved.

7/16/2008 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Burn P. Town!

The question becomes "how to do your work, to mobilize your own criterion, in public spaces or gallery spaces."
history of the Whitney program

I mean ok, getting exposure to important thinkers is good, but what about Milton Friedman? Adam Smith? Thomas Malthus? I don't recall hearing anyone say they were being taught supply side economics in art school - not even in the career development class.

I think one of the most telling experiences for me about how institutions are run, was showing up at the Chelsea art museum for a Whitney Program opening.

The Students had set up their show (It was curated, I think) but the air conditioning was off. But just in their area. Was that a conceptual stunt? I don't think so.

Next door was Miote's permanent installation of his action painting. Yeah boooyeee.

Me, I was oblivious until it was pointed out to me why I was sweating like a stuck pig - I'm like a frog in hot water sometimes.

All animals are created equal, but some animals are created more equal than others. Right?

Shit, just being here is a political act man.

7/16/2008 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I voted for Ron Paul in the primaries and I had to register Republican to do so, but I identify as a libertarian. I can't imagine hiding my political views for professional reasons, but I have a particularly poor sense of self-preservation in that respect.

Robert Hughes noted that we have two kinds of PC: political correctness on the left, and patriotic correctness on the right. Both of them are forms of sentimentality. Since nuance might make political art unrecognizable as such, it is generally doomed to sentimentality, and this is true regardless of whose sentiments it flatters. I don't have a problem with the liberal orientation of the art world per se, but I am continually astonished at the extent to which people latch on to work that is designed to flatter their sentiments. Ironically, this applies maximally to work that people call "challenging" in one way or another, because it ostensibly challenges tradition or bourgeois taste (even if the conception of such taste is a half-century out of date). This is a quintessentially liberal notion, and its predominance in the art world all but assures your marginalization if your art doesn't get on board with it somehow.

7/16/2008 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

“Park West has enough money to blot out the sun,” she said.

7/16/2008 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

One of my favorite aestheticians who’s woefully under appreciated here is Benedetto Croce. In his essay “Aesthetics” from the Encyclopaedia Britannica (Fourteenth Edition) he presents a litany of what art isn’t. In section 6, “Art is not instruction or oratory” he refers to Schiller’s concept of the “’non-determining’ character of art, as apposed to the ‘determining character of oratory; and hence the justifiable suspicions of ‘political poetry’ (or art, my addition) – political poetry being, proverbially, bad poetry.” (from Philosophies of Art and Beauty: Selected Readings in Aesthetics from Plato to Heidegger, edited by Albert Hofstadter and Richard Kuhns, The Modern Library, New York, 1964, p.561)

In essence, those who want to use art as a political tool to mold the masses inevitably produce “bad art”. Art is not a tool or weapon, trying to turn it into one can only diminishes it.

7/16/2008 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, those who want to use art as a tool to mold the masses are most often (with rare exceptions) using the wrong tool. The masses don't follow art (unless you're talking pop art such as Britney Spears, advertising, commercial movies, pro sports, etc.). Call me an elitist, but I do make a distinction between high and low.


7/16/2008 03:24:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"Take my word for it, most critics have very little actual influence..."

Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith certainly do.

Personally, I never got into writing art criticism because I imagined I would be wielding power over artists. I had good conversations with artists when we were looking at their work and I thought that my ability to think about and write about art clearly enriched the general experience of seeing art.

Clement Greenberg, who has had ridiculous accusations leveled against him for fifty years now, was sought out by artists because they liked talking with him. Conversing with him about their art was a worthwhile and useful experience. Many artists felt this way. What Greenberg was turned into by critics and academics late in his life and especially after he died completely misses this point.

7/16/2008 07:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, you could do all the ballyhooing at the Opera, but the logistics make for bad conversation. Large open space, string quintet, stuff on the wall, hanging from the ceiling, looming larger than life, would have travelled the world more often than the president. The speaker, clears their throat, and then sucks it all in, and let's it out like this, 'Thank you all for coming. We thought of doing this at the Opera, but just knew it wouldn't work." Laughs!
The Power of Art.
Al least everyone here agree political art sucks.

Re: Clement, there were no mobile telephones around in his time, so it was a matter meeting, 'Hey Clem, I did what you said, and right, that works, what next? If Greenberg were around today, armed with the i-phone with the new cam cord, believe me, RRRRevolution, with a punch and a mini back up Virtual HD.

7/16/2008 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

I dunno, I like some "political art" that falls into the categories listed (didactic, not nuanced) - at least more than some so called conceptual art.

For example, Banksy, the populist monster, is preferable, in general, to say, Olafur Eliason, the smug elitist, wouldn't you agree?

This is despite the implicit nuance propagated by the inherent ambiguity of OE - whereas Banksy is fairly didactic, so far as his graff goes - and yet...and yet.

And I hate "urban" art like most of Juxtapoze and its tatoo flash heavy paint splatter "grunge" or anime inspired "cartoon" - probably a class issue on my part (where I was, where I aspire to be)

Yep, I got it all figured out just like Greenberg. Sorry Jackson, I;m not your friend anymore...go kill yourself.

7/17/2008 12:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right, Banksy, Ok, I'll take that back! Not so didactic!, tho.
For the same reason, I like Heavy Industries -- Poetic Non-Mission Position.

7/17/2008 08:03:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

First, I’d say even Roberta and Jerry ultimately have less influence than some assume (check out their historic records), but it’s important to keep the illusion alive, “ignore the little man behind the curtain”.

Second, I think we need to clarify: there’s a difference between “political art”, the endemic politics that’s always existed in the art world, (We’re Minimalists, we all wear charcoal gray t-shirts hang out at Max’s and live on the Bowery vs. the Formalists who shop at Brooks Brothers, hobnob with Clem and teach at NYU.) and the PC variety (I’m a major Dem [or Repubic], kiss my ring and supplicate yourself before me or I’ll deny you entrance into the kingdom) that I was interested in focusing on.

7/17/2008 10:14:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"Yep, I got it all figured out just like Greenberg. Sorry Jackson, I;m not your friend anymore...go kill yourself."

In my opinion, that movie sucked.

7/17/2008 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Yes well but "that's the way it was," as an older artists said when asked how he liked the movie. No one had a followup question - implied in the shrug was the impossibility of EVER getting at the truth of the two backed beast known as art and money and its undead child, politics, be they sexual or garden variety school house rock.

But if Lee Krasner was like, Pollock's crutch and totally didn't want a baby, but then Pollock totally did, I guess he should have just divorced her and had a baby. oh but Pollock was a baby and Lee felt overwhelming social pressure to be a wife because her paintings didn't sell because she was a woman and Pollock was a baby.

Another artist on Ovation (the cable TV channel) is Basquiat - i didn't watch that but I've seen it - its the one directed by JS - in it we learn that there are six degrees of separation between art and objecthood, chaos and controll, abstract semiotic noodling and actual defenestrated detonations.

But donkey's vs elephants? Can't we all just be parrots? (i was watching a show on exotic pets).

7/17/2008 01:00:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Have you looked at Pollock's late paintings? Pollock killed Pollock. His early demise would have happened if he was working in a factory or making art. How many people got divorces back then? Not many.

7/17/2008 02:25:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Alcoholism is genetic dude. Greenberg couldn't save or kill him. I always enjoy it when Jeffrey Tambor is in a movie though. Funny but I was thoroughly enjoying Basquiat's work for years before JS decided to enlighten us on the subject. Thanks but no thanks.

7/17/2008 02:30:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

yeah the Pollock movie was a gloss, but anytime to make a movie about an artist for a mass audience, you have to take into account that chick's need drama, so you have to cut down on the car chases.

In the same way, many artists like politics a lot, but the market doesn't, even though it says it does. Really I think its a class issue, and as I point out, its a lot subtler than the N word - no one is so ungenteel as to overtly blacklist someone, are they?

And since when is being an alcoholic a crime? Give a guy a break, right? It should be about advancing art history, not laying down moral judgements with your checkbook.

7/17/2008 03:55:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

oh and I really like the late Jackson Pollock paintings I saw at MOMA - they struck me as transitional, evolutionary and real. Who knows what they could have lead to.

Too bad he didn't/couldn't do what most famous artists do today - retire for a few years to "reinvent" themselves and then have a come back when everybody's happy to play the role again.

7/17/2008 04:03:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

"oh and I really like the late Jackson Pollock paintings I saw at MOMA"

I didn't. They looked like drip paintings that he decided to cut shapes out of because he was frustrated with drips. They would be considered transitional if there was a transition right? There wasn't one. I don't pretend to be Nostradamus, but if it helps you to bide your time...The guy made a few brilliant paintings. What more can anyone ask for? I get annoyed with people who disparage one hit wonders. How many people write a "My Sharona" during their lifetime? Very few.

"And since when is being an alcoholic a crime?"

I never said it was. I was trying to make the point that Pollock was mentally ill and an alcoholic. Remember he was in Jungian therapy for a while? Perhaps Greenberg's disparaging remarks about his figural paintings got him down but it is really simplistic to posit a clear cut cause and effect with regards to the arc of a person's life. Alcoholism is fine and dandy, unless you got to live with an alcoholic. My sister was married to one for twenty two years and boy was he an asshole.

And yes, I would blacklist people I thought were assholes but luckily for the world at large no one gives a shit what I do.

7/17/2008 06:15:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

In my limited experience, the administrative and sales wing of the art market is permissive towards artists. While I am sure my experience is not the whole story, I have never seen an artist "blacklisted" for bad behavior of any sort.

I have seen artists "blacklisted" for not appearing cool enough and for being needy. But never for actual bad behavior.

7/17/2008 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

Id have to deal with the late Pollock's on a case by case basis. A couple of them are as good as My Sharona, Turning Japanese, or Beat It, even.

I do think artists get branded and thus criticality goes out the window - especially if you cornered the market.

Artists get blacklisted for showing work no one likes or which embarrasses the collector/gallerist without providing a value added social status boost.

Same with behavior - bad behavior can be a display of power and thus status. just my theory.

7/17/2008 07:48:00 PM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

Beat It is an amazing song.

Does it apologize in advance for dangling Blanket out of the window? Or naming a baby Blanket in the first place?

7/17/2008 08:27:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

You know what will do the trick more effectively than bad attitudes and/or habits and having the wrong political beliefs? Exhibit your work and have no one buy any of it. Gallerists will be sure to act quickly and decisively. The myth of the supportive gallerist who sticks by the artist regardless of whether or not their work sells is long dead and probably never really existed. Historically speaking, I am sure their have been exceptions but they are aberrations. Real estate is too expensive and their are way too many artists competing for a limited number of slots. Obama in '08!

7/17/2008 08:28:00 PM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing on Beat It really turns the song from good to great in my opinion. Now he is a toothless crystal meth addict who does soundtracks for porn movies.

7/17/2008 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

That is fucked up. The first photo stop was in the ramp where Barry McGee’s work is displayed. The choice of wardrobe, makeup, and jewelry looked stunning in front of the works. We then headed up to the Heinz Galleries where the models were photographed in front of three pieces: Mark Bradford’s A Thousand Daddies, Katja Strunz‘s Echo, and Thomas Hirschhorn‘s Cavemanman. I loved how the wardrobe choices complimented the works. I noticed that, when standing in front of the Mark Bradford piece, One of the dresses picked up parts of the work because the colors were similar. The poses used for the Cavemanman were adorable! The models were peeking around the walls of the cave’s tunnel like they were exploring real catacombs. From there we went to the Scaife Gallery where the models posed in front of the Mark Manders pieces and the front piece to the International, Paul Thek’s Untitled (Earth Drawing I). The dress used for the Manders shoot was gorgeous -- it looked like the print on the overskirt was painted on, which was a good choice with the artwork.

Finally, we went to the Hall of Sculpture to Mike Kelley’s Kandors-- a series of sculptures based on Superman’s hometown on the planet Krypton. Here the two models wore a lime green and a hot pink dress which looked great with the colors of the sculptures. It was a fun and interesting day that will be in my mind for years to come.

7/18/2008 03:42:00 AM  
OpenID ericgelber said...

Synergy (from the Greek syn-ergo, συνεργός meaning working together) refers to the phenomenon in which two or more discrete influences or agents acting together create an effect greater than that predicted by knowing only the separate effects of the individual agents.


7/18/2008 08:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Beat It vs. Whip It

I say Whip It. Whip it good.

Re E. Van Halen, good thing Valerie dumped him and hooked up with Jenny Craig. You go girl!


It's too hot to be serious today.

7/18/2008 10:21:00 AM  
Blogger zipthwung said...

patterns all around you patterns everywhere patterns of behavior sometimes seem unfair can you recognize the patterns that you find? patterns unfamiliar patterns lead you through (to) patterns of discovery tracing out the clues can you recognize the patterns that you find? stuck in your mind in this land where stability is hard to find you can rearrange the patterns so unkind don't bother asking why a pattern never cries old patterns never die they just go on and on patterns multiplying re-direct our view endless variations make it all seem new

7/18/2008 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Joseph Giannasio said...

Come on everybody seems like Ed needs a group hug open your arms...


7/18/2008 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My arms is open, Eddie.

7/24/2008 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger Jen Bradford said...

Just saw this, so I do realize the conversation has withered.

I think it is very difficult for someone who sees an anti-war position, ridicule or hatred for all Republicans, etc. as self-evident to imagine how an intelligent or interesting person could disagree.

The issue is not progressive versus conservative, or even Democrat vs Republican, in my experience. It's a rift between people for whom current political issues are not complex versus those who have reacted to politics post-9/11 with excruciating ambivalence. (Ian McEwan's "Saturday" addressed this so well).

As an Independent, I find myself feeling politically closeted simply because I have an allergy to the glibness and jokes I'm hearing from so-called progressives. I don't find much of it especially liberal at all. Is it not just quaint but actually "fascistic" for me to notice that my life as an artist and single woman would be either impossible or illegal in much of the world? According to a stunning number of "tolerant" denizens of the art-world, yes.

Some of you are saying "not a problem", but I think it's more a matter of "not my problem". What grates for someone who is neither conservative nor a traditional Left-"progressive", is the presumptuousness; the way people will approach me as an artist with every expectation that I will embrace their politics on the basis of my profession. And yet these same people keep having voluble fits about "groupthink". The past several years have been a monumental drag, in this respect.

8/11/2008 05:13:00 PM  

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