Monday, May 04, 2009

Pluralism : Post to Present Again (or the Revolution is Probably Already Here)

Advanced warning: Setting my thinking cap to "ramble."

During a recent studio visit, an artist used the phrase "post-pluralistic."

"What does that mean?" I asked. "Post-pluralistic?"

He responded (more eloquently than this summary, mind you) that given that artists had unpacked everything (during Pluralism), we were now in an age in which artists were rebuilding.

I really enjoyed the visit with this artist and liked the work a great deal, so I'm not using this exchange to suggest otherwise, but I had always thought that we saw the great unpacking during the Post-Modernism phase and that Pluralism represented the beginning of building things again, only this time without any predetermined rules or regulations.

Then I got an email from an artist asking:
When an artist's portfolio consist of a range of visual styles, is
this a sign that the artist: a) is eclectic and curious b) not
matured to a point of consistency or c) unfocused and undisciplined?

How does such an artist match himself to a gallery when almost all
galleries present artists by curating exhibitions that visually
cohere as a 'body of work?'
OK, so there are two questions in there, the second of which I'd answer by saying you find a gallery that doesn't do that. There are several good ones in New York alone known for such.

The first question tangentially informs to some degree what I think with regards to whether we're still in the age of Pluralism or have entered something post-pluralistic, though. I'll both answer the question as best I can and springboard off it into responding to the exchange above.

Using Gerhard Richter (who has one of the most impressive websites of any artist I've seen, mind you) as the quintessential example of an artist working in a range of visual styles, we see that none of those three descriptions above need be applied to an artist, if his/her overall project/process/framework intentionally allowed for/demanded such a range. (Do we put Richter into the pluralistic phase of Art History? Could we call him post-pluralistic? I think neither...I think he's post-modernist, no? So the unpacking would seem to have fallen to the PoMo's.)

I actually think the practice of looking for what comes "post-pluralism" is a leftover habit from the "kill the father to supplant the son" push of Modernism's history, and we now need a new model to even discuss such matters. That model would seem to go hand in hand with accepting that a range of visual styles (not to mention the use of a wide range of media) does not automatically indicate that an artist is eclectic and curious or not matured to a point of consistency or unfocused and undisciplined.

That's not to say it automatically won't either though. Perhaps the post-pluralistic phase of art history will see the most intense specialization art history has ever known.

OK, so clearly I have no idea what I'm talking about (and yet, amazingly, that doesn't slow me down one bit, does it?)

Further to this last point, I was struck by the logic outlined in Clay Shirky's remarkable essay [which I found via
bloggy] "Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable." In discussing the revolution that journalism is undergoing, he hits on the essence of all major shifts in paradigms and/or long-established models:
That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place. The importance of any given experiment isn’t apparent at the moment it appears; big changes stall, small changes spread. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen. Agreements on all sides that core institutions must be protected are rendered meaningless by the very people doing the agreeing. (Luther and the Church both insisted, for years, that whatever else happened, no one was talking about a schism.) Ancient social bargains, once disrupted, can neither be mended nor quickly replaced, since any such bargain takes decades to solidify.

And so it is today. When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.
And so it may be, I suspect, with art history. The reason we're not seeing the "Dawn of Post-Pluralism" (or at least not seeing it clearly) may be because this next stage in art history is likely going to be truly revolutionary. And as such, it will not be "apparent at the moment it appears." Folks focused on big changes will be foiled as small changes spread and incrementally break the old systems forever.

Because I just can't help myself, I'll note that I suspect that the revolution will be one that not only continues to blur the current (i.e., traditional) expectations of media-centric practice ("I'm a painter" will more and more be understood to be parallel to claiming "I'm rooting for Lil Kim on 'Dancing with the Stars'"...that is, defining a position or interest only for the foreseeable future, not a lifetime), but also will push the definition of "artist" more and more toward a lifestyle than a practice, per se, paradoxically freeing up the object from its maker more than ever in the process.

But then again, as Shirky notes, it's foolish to demand to know what it's going to look like, really. If it's worth getting there, indeed, if it's a true destination and not just another false start, we aren't going to know it until well after the fact.

Labels: ,

151 Comments:

Blogger Donna Dodson said...

'Perhaps the post-pluralistic phase of art history will see the most intense specialization art history has ever known.'

That's the direction I am heading in with my work.

5/04/2009 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

"What does that mean?" Ed asked. "Post-pluralistic?"
.
Nothing

What has been described as "pluralism" was an attempt to codify a style to fit a moment in history. Pluralism is a condition, not a style, moreover it is an ongoing condition -- artists do whatever they want to do (pluralistic) and the marketing system tries to deal with the results (art)

What has occurred is demographic in nature, the population has increased enough to cause a bifurcation which destroys the possibility of ever having stylistic hegemony. When this was first realized, the term pluralism was used to try and corral these events again under the umbrella of one hegemonic style, "pluralism".

Since by their very nature, styles evolve over time, pluralism had nowhere to go, it was trying to encompass the possibility of everything, a definition of a non-style if I ever heard one.

Ed said The reason we're not seeing the "Dawn of Post-Pluralism" (or at least not seeing it clearly) may be because this next stage in art history is likely going to be truly revolutionary.
.
I agree with 'truly revolutionary' but suggest that anything Post-Pluralistic slides off into territory which artists inherently will want to characterize as a 'style' of some sort or another.

Rather than this being the case, I suspect that how art interacts with the audience will change and that these changes will be independent of style or medium.

For example, I feel that most painters are just making decoration, varying some small set of parameters in order to make another pleasurable variant on past paintings. In this respect painting is indeed dead.

On the other hand, painting is capable of functioning philosophically within the confines of its own history, linking past and present in order to reveal the real truths of existence. Yet, in order to achieve this, the audience must be dislodged from their expectations, one reason other media with a less precisely defined history, come to fore.

When you take enough small steps eventually you may find yourself somewhere else.

5/04/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

George, you make some good points - but I don't know about the "painters just making decoration, varying some small set of parameters in order to make another pleasurable variant on past paintings..." I think it's more complicated than that for most artists. There's investigation going on in their work, and varying small sets of parameters (one form of process) can lead to breakthroughs in new, different directions or styles.

Maybe that's what you mean when you say "when you take enough small steps eventually you may find yourself somewhere else." ???

5/04/2009 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I actually think we have only scratched the surface of plurality. Things have moved way beyond media non-specificity to the very nature of subjectivity itself. Collectives, alternative/faux personalities (ala Claire Fontaine), avatars, social network profiles- all these are just a part of the continuing de-centering of self. So, perhaps we can see artists with multiple practices, working within multiple platforms, agendas and geographies.

5/04/2009 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

William James - The Pluralistic Universe.

Note the many are contained within one in order to be counted.

5/04/2009 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedic Casp said...

The young artist gets it all wrong and think "pluralism" is an art movement or a trend invented by Moma.

It's not possible to turn back (or move forward) from pluralism unless we invent new art dictators that are able to influence everything around them.

What I would-say is that post-conceptualism is the major trend of this new "pluralism", one which has governed the market (Hirst and Koons), and which I often describe as "art conscious of its museal status". Conceptual works that are designed to emulate the glamour of the museal (giant curios for Hirst), or that loves to play around what can or cannot be done inside the museum (or gallery space). It's very obsessed by the exhibition space.

I think we are going away from that. I certainly am. My worst ideas are always "post-conceptual" ones. It's very tempting (and easy) to go that path. As I said earlier, I think Koons nailed it down. Nobody can hope more from Post-Conceptualism than to ironize Versailles. I could be wrong.

I also beware wanting to "move away from the museum" as a goal to my practice, because that's also very post-conc. What one needs is irradicate completely this awareness of the museal. The fellow who sells sea aquarels on the street is oblivious to it. That's what I mean. In the early
20th Century, museum wasn't as obvious. People painted and showed in salons, where you could sit down and talk loud about art. Before, artists would make art as command to their benefactors (conceived for their homes) or for churches. It wasn't always so obviously museal, and Post-Conc has reached excessive levels in that matter, that's why I think art needs to go out.


Cheers,

Cedric Caspesyan

5/04/2009 05:18:00 PM  
Blogger John Hovig said...

A friend once said you can always see connections if you stand back far enough. Maybe this is a truism, but on the other hand maybe it's a helpful simplification. To the artist that asked Edward whether they were unfocused, I'd say step back and try to find the common themes among your work. Then try your best to articulate them, or get your friends to help. And focus most intensely on the ones that are represented most strongly in your output to date. This is the type of self-knowledge that can give an artist great strength, no matter what media or styles they prefer.

5/04/2009 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

“The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new." Pema Chodron

5/04/2009 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Ced said...

The revolution will be Youtubised.

Ced

5/04/2009 08:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I'll note that I suspect that the revolution will be one that not only continues to blur the current (i.e., traditional) expectations of media-centric practice... but also will push the definition of "artist" more and more toward a lifestyle than a practice, per se, paradoxically freeing up the object from its maker more than ever in the process.I don't know. I've been skimming a collection of interviews with Ed Ruscha and that was already in effect by the early 1970s. He indicates repeatedly that the major influence on his art was the move from Oklahoma to Los Angeles, not any particular medium or style.

I think we might very well see a bleeding of artistic identity into other roles, in which art-making takes place in a matrix of practices that reach into non-fine-art media and non-fine-art period: Andrea Zittel, Shepard Fairey, David Lynch, Julian Schnabel, David Byrne. In this scenario, people who can't cross modalities and instead decide to stick to art are incresingly going to be seen as decorators, to borrow from George. I would go further, though, and say that the same problem he observes among painters is going to creep up on all self-identified artists in the imminent future, even the video and installation people. This would be a natural outcome of both pluralism and postmodernism. It would also suit a widely held belief (which I don't share) that aesthetic problems are basically solved and/or non-urgent compared with certain philosophical problems.

My wife and I were just looking at a painting by Masolino di Panicale, a favorite of Balthus's, and I was thinking of how Western painting started as uncredited decoration and may very well end up back there - taking the rest of art with it.

5/04/2009 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

Putting ‘post’ in front of anything is just a cheap one-up and frankly underlines that a little theory is a dangerous thing. I’m always wary of artists that cast around for sweeping mission statements.

But to go back to the first question about the diverse folio – whether it showcases
a) eclecticism and curiosity
b) immaturity or inconsistency
c) lack of focus and discipline
This largely depends on the folio. If disparate parts make a single work (say an installation) then the first priority of a presentation is to describe the necessary relations. If an artist is eclectic, the implied variety must still fall across a discernible range. The artist has to be eclectic about something, not just anything. The same goes for curiosity. There’s no point being curious about anything or everything, because this, by definition, denies the artist means to investigate or learn. Again, a folio attends to both range of approaches and scope of application.

Immaturity is not the same thing as inconsistency. An artist fixated on sweets and toys may be consistent, but hardly mature by normal standards. Lack of focus and discipline are just as easily identified as immature and generally amongst students, it’s allowed that these take time. Acquiring skills is one thing, the judgment and perseverance that directs them, another. Then again there are late bloomers or starters, like Cezanne, Gauguin, Mondrian and Kandinsky. For some people it just takes a while for the penny to drop, so it’s unfair to completely dismiss the seemingly undisciplined or dedicated artist, more a matter of measured encouragement.

Inconsistency is a little different. Inconsistency is something any adventurous artist must constantly weigh up in experimenting or changing. This is because consistency with preceding or surrounding work will largely determine how new or different work is understood. Too much consistency makes for boring, trivial art and too little actually makes for the same. The artist that constantly ‘reinvents’ his or her self never really develops anything but a taste in fashion and is rightly dismissed as shallow. The artist that methodically explores every tiny variation to their work is rightly dismissed as dull or timid. So it’s one of those horns of a dilemma deals, a Scylla or Charybdis choice.

This is also an issue in assessing an artist’s career or life’s work. Clearly, early stages see an artist typically put in place striking inventions and bold departures. We expect that from youth. But just as often, there is criticism or disappointment that an artist does not continue with the breakthroughs, that they somehow settle into a routine, and that later or last works seem no more than labored restatements. From what I’ve said above, it should be clear that this cannot be otherwise. Where the inventions are truly bold, serious consolidation is needed to demonstrate their range and versatility. Ingenious and intricate variation are called for. To simply abandon one bold insight for another reduces them to no more than flip gestures. So focus and discipline are something we generally expect of the mature or established artist, the artist that has found a solid platform.

Knowing when an artist has found a sound platform rather than simply created a splash with their immediate circle, is quite another thing.

5/05/2009 04:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Thomas Frank said...

From Modernism (the era of the avant-guard, the scout that went beyond) >

> Post-Modern (beyond Modernism) >

> Post-Pluralism (?)

I ask what does it mean and who does it serve to “go beyond the era” that looked to “go beyond the era” of “going beyond?”

Who’s adopting the coinage “Post-Pluralism?”

So Edward's prepared for this next era he has a vessel in search of an entity. He has clues.

To a certain degree I want to say Artists are beginning to operate in highly specialized dialogues where they were previously not found. So much of Post-Modernism has been a preoccupied with Popular-Culture / Propaganda / etc. (so called Low culture). We have seen Artists collaborating with other artists. We also saw Artists as Project Managers bringing together in collaboration disparate disciplines of non-artists possessing highly specialized skills. Today we are seeing artists commit to very particular and highly technical skills-sets, going so far to engage statical relevancy. The Artistic hubris has some gaining advance degrees in other disciplines and operating in realms of research, production, and theory. And collaborating with other Artists with highly specialized skill-sets.

5/05/2009 05:12:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

"...Our search is always outgoing; the mind seeking any experience is outgoing. Inward going is not a search at all; it is perceiving. Response is always repetitive, for it comes always from the same bank of memory." Krishnamurti

5/05/2009 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Taleb's Black Swan Theory"Taleb regards almost all major scientific discoveries, historical events and artistic accomplishments as 'black swans' - undirected and unpredicted ..."

"Taleb's Black Swan has a central and unique attribute: the high impact. His claim is that almost all consequential events in history come from the unexpected - while humans convince themselves that these events are explainable in hindsight ..."

"Decision theory based on a fixed universe or model of possible outcomes ignores and minimizes the impact of events which are 'outside model' ..."

"A fixed model considers the 'known unknowns,' but ignores the 'unknown unknowns' ..."

"Beyond this, he emphasizes that many events are simply without precedent ..."

5/05/2009 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

I've been fascinated by the above, not that I've understood a lot of what has been said - my fault, no one else's. What has struck me though is how there seems to be a parallel with the financial market. We are going through a period of market correction; this will prove difficult for some but should give rise to innovative energy-conserving, ecological-based products which will in turn replace the more traditional output. The process may be slow but by focusing our attention on such products, and developing new technologies, we should see a turn round in the future. Unfortunately such a development will lead to a rise in unemployment amongst the more traditionally skilled workforce but systems of retraining should ensure a more flexible & wider skill-based labour market. Stockholders will inevitabily see a downturn in the value of their assets but providing enough money (preferably public) and energy is chanelled into such a restructuring we remain confident that a better future awaits us all.

5/05/2009 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

There isn't any such thing as "Pluralism" -- as a word it was used descriptively within postmodernist thinking to indicate that the speaker couldn't conceptually organize what was occurring.

Therefore the term "post-pluralism" is meaningless, it does not describe a condition nor a temporal location.

5/05/2009 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Tony said, "... we remain confident that a better future awaits us all."

All the evidence points downward - evidence that includes most of the black swan events of the past one-hundred years. If art continues to exist (and there are questions about that), it can only do so as an irrelevant "other." The path it's on now - embracing flux, noise and superficiality (our common and constant realities) - will, I believe, prove self-destructive. The death-wish of artists to lose themselves in the flow of negative history (decline).

5/05/2009 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

CAP's 4:23 remarks are well thought out and worth close reading.

5/05/2009 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

Dear Tom, i) The last phrase was largely written tongue in cheek or rather finger on keyboard.

ii) I've thought for a long time that painting was a ridiculous occupation for a human being but one that was well worth taking & doing seriously.

iii) Nature, being a smart old bird, has always played the multiple options game and out of that the Black Swan Theory may hatch an egg which proves us all wrong in our pessism, or right as the case may be.

5/05/2009 10:34:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Tom says "All the evidence points downward - evidence that includes most of the black swan events of the past one-hundred years..."
.
Sorry but this is utter nonsense.

Tony's posting from France, so I'm not sure which markets his remarks are referring to. The Eurozone markets are still in trouble but the US markets bottomed in February. As we enter this new millennium we are also entering a new golden age.

There is still a considerable amount of millennial anxiety, fear that the world is going to collapse at our feet and we will all end up being eaten by bugs.

5/05/2009 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, I hope you're right.

Tony, re: options. There are often points in history where the only options people have are unattractive ones (each of which is unattractive for a different reason). I think artists are faced with that situation now. Either blend with a culture of flux, noise and superficiality (a culture in decline) in order to remain relevant (attention-getting), or become an irrelevant "other," i.e., a creator of stillness, quiet and depth that only appeals to a minority (and a very small minority at that). But then, it's the isolated population that survive the ecosystem catastrophe, isn't it?

As for the coming, highly probable black-swan revolution in the arts: it won't necessarily be a good thing.

5/05/2009 11:05:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

Oh God - now I've done it ! My little foray into the economic future was a little bit of a joke - a heavy-handed parody of some of the stock phrases I've heard European and American sooth-sayers blowing in the wind. Sorry about that, folks, but I was only trying to point out the notion of (if it exists) pluralism could be seen as diversification & flexible skill abilities; new media techniques = new industrial technologies etc. George - I sincerely hope the 'new golden age' we are entering proves to be something other just the same old model with public-funded gold-leaf wrapped around it.

5/05/2009 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Post-Pluralism may be just another step toward the Singularity.

5/05/2009 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such jibber-jabberish. All these terms/labels. Do you really care about them, their definitions, who dreams them up? Whether they're attached to and/or used to compartmentalize your work? When I'm at an opening and someone starts their rap, I walk away and want to vomit.

What does these terms REALLY mean to you, your work, how you're living your life today? Now.

Most viewers don't understand. Even when they read the wall tags - or walk around with the headsets. They look, but don't comprehend, listen, but don't comprehend.

They don't invest the TIME it takes to form the relationship with the art.

They can't wait to get to the museum shop, or go for coffee/lunch. They go to gallery or museum for something to do. AMUSEMENT really. (they're "Amused to death." (Roger Waters, Amused to death, circa. 1992").

Some of this is obviously a generalization - but meant to the direction this post went in.

5/05/2009 12:10:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Even when they read the wall tags - or walk around with the headsets. They look, but don't comprehend, listen, but don't comprehend. They don't invest the TIME it takes to form the relationship with the art.Anon, you forgot to mention Twittering.

BTW- The Waters album is great.

5/05/2009 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David said: "Anon, you forgot to mention Twittering."

Thanks David - If they aren't "amused to death" they're Twittering their lives away!

5/05/2009 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I don't think there are many, if any, true paradigm shifts in art.

Art is an expression of the human condition manifested through some medium or technology. While the mediums and technologies can change over time, the human condition does not, we are a species with self awareness to outside stimuli.

I would suggest that, as a species, the things that make us human, our psychology, perceptions, morality, affinities, etc change very little over time. As individuals, these qualities may assume wide polarities, be subject to fashion and the culture, but they persist over time. We love, hate, fear, appreciate beauty, conceptualize, etc, all to differing degrees, but in total these are the things which make us human.

Shifts in art do not occur because the qualities which make us human change, but because individual artists focus differently on them. If, for example, artists choose to focus conceptually on how art functions within the culture, the human qualities they they provoke and expose may be different than the beauty response. This doesn't mean that the beauty response no longer exists, just that in the momentary conceptual structures which define art it is a less emphasized quality. It does not mean that the art should eliminate the idea of the beautiful, or whatever quality seems threatening by its momentary lack.

I honestly don't expect that many artists will concern themselves with these issues. Just suggesting that there are "issues" raises the anxiety levels in many who just want to travel down a well known predefined continuum. This is fine but society moves forward in time and we act by anticipating the future based upon imperfect past knowledge. The artist can act to perturb our past-conditioned responses towards a new self awareness.

Of course change is a huge source of anxiety and to be avoided at all costs.

5/05/2009 01:53:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Shifts in art do not occur because the qualities which make us human change, but because individual artists focus differently on them.Actually, I think shifts in art occur because that's what's expected of artists, that they present the viewing public with something unfamiliar enough to cause some disorientation. It's not so much that the audience gets perturbed toward a new self awareness, but one that's a bit different from the current one. A certain amount of recycling occurs, but you have to reach back a few "-isms" to find something that feels new again. And of course you give it a new name...

5/05/2009 02:32:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

David, no real disagreement with your point.

I was addressing the idea of paradigm change, which I do not think is something which happens that frequently in art, if at all. I was using the term human condition, for lack of a better explanation, to refer to the qualities which make us both human and individual.

While we are all have different personalities, we also share tendencies and as a result respond to particular types of art accordingly. We may like artworks which we feel a particular concordance with but also artworks which we appreciate their foreignness because it is 'unlike' us.

I think this set of qualities is reasonably finite and unchanging across history, we may characterize art which effectively addresses them as being more universal in scope.

While these qualities don't change the context does, society changes and to be effective the artist must find new ways to interpret or express them. This falls into line with what you expressed in your comment. The need for the new, unfamiliarity, is a quality which persists throughout history and has a basis in our survival responses.

5/05/2009 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

The need for the new, unfamiliarity, is a quality which persists throughout history and has a basis in our survival responses.George, I just finished reading Morse Peckham's book Man's Rage for Chaos, which has an interesting take on that.

"Art, as an adaptation mechanism, is reinforcement of the ability to be aware of the disparity between behavioral pattern and the demands consequent upon the interaction with the environment." He says it's "rehearsal for those real situations in which it is vital for our survival to endure cognitive tension..."

5/05/2009 04:37:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

If a "need for ... unfamiliarty" and enduring "cognitive tension" are based in "our survival responses" and "vital for our survival," did life originate in the primordial soup of Delacroix's brushwork? Are Picasso's figures evidence of intermediate forms?

5/05/2009 05:30:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom,

Hindsight is 20/20 whatever you/we think about Delacroix has been massaged and filtered down through the centuries and therefor not much of an example for your point.

I could use Delacroix and Ingres to illustrate a point I made earlier. These two artists have obviously different visual temperaments and form a polarity which resonates with certain individuals more strongly than others. It is the "tight" opposed to "loose" approach to the making process and is evident in painting across history and cultures. One is not better than the other and this polarity continues into the present, manifested differently as we move through time.

The need for the "new", a heightened response to the unfamiliar is indeed a survival characteristic which has been documented. The "unfamiliar" is a threat which makes us want to flee, with good reason if it's a dangerous animal.

A number of what might have been primal responses with high survival value in the wild are no longer necessary in modern society. Never the less, they exist, hardwired into our brains along with the love of big eyes on chubby little faces.

Whether or not art is an adaptive mechanism, I'm not sure I'm willing to say at this point. However I do believe that much of the cultural and social functions of art were usurped in the last 150 years, leaving art free to find other ways to function within society. This stripping away of arts former functions as documentation, publicity, propaganda, and pleasure caused the reflexive self examination which is modernism.

In this respect, yes, Picasso's figures are evidence of intermediate forms.

5/05/2009 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, art as "unfamiliarity" or "cognitive tension" is a relatively recent development - is it evident at Lascaux and Altamira? That was my point. That, and this: do we really need Darwinists as art authorities? The positions are already filled with enough of the unqualified.

5/06/2009 12:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I'm not sure about "Pluralism" not existing. I would rather say that art has always been pluralist,
and the self-attributed authority that the West applied on intellectual and aesthetic realms
for a long time ignored what was happening on the other side of the world.


+++Most viewers don't understand. Even when they read the wall tags - or walk around with the headsets.


Pluralist is very easy to understand. When Moma used it recently in their contemporary
section, they merely meant "this is a mixmatch of all sorts of stuff". If you mean that I
mentioned post-conceptualism, well indeed it's a very bad term. It mostly separates artists who were strictly conceptual from those who are primarely conceptual but
embrace the quality of objects again (which the true conceptuals rejected).

It doesn't take Einstein to understand basic art terms, just 5 minutes of learning. Most artworks can be explained to a 5 year old child. Critics and artists love to complexify their statements so they don't look like idiots, but yes I believe most art discourses can be Twitted.

Examples:

West + Noth + East + South Art = Pluralist Art

Conceptual Art + Bauble = Post-Conceptual

Black Swanism = ...err? What was that again?..

Cedric Caspesyan

5/06/2009 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Stefano Pasquini said...

I would be interested to see what an 18 years old artist would think of this discussion. A museum director I know said to me that people don't need art anymore. They don't need museums, as the creative experience is already part of their life. And if they need an extra fix they can go on Youtube. Going through all the visual and sound stimulations of MySpace users, for example, I tend to agree with the director, but I keep thinking about what the future could be for the art world. Is art blending with life to a point of no return?

5/06/2009 06:31:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Cedric C asked, "Black Swanism = ... err? What was that again?"

High impact events in the future of art are (A.) without precedent today, and therefore (B.) unpredictable. (After these high impact events occur, hindsight will explain how they could have been predicted - but this will be nothing more than an attempt to comfort ourselves about the real nature of the world.)

5/06/2009 07:08:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Stefano Pasquini, people don't need restaurants - they can make and eat their own food at home. But people can want a better/different experience, if they have a taste for such. There's a lot of hope for the future of both art and museums in that fact. (Many museums are becoming part of the online experience, too.)

5/06/2009 07:21:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, It was at the time of Lascaux and Altamira that the issues of "unfamiliarity" possessed actual high survival value. The ability to perceive something "new" to decode camouflaged objects (saber toothed tiger) was encoded into the brain because it had very high survival value.

Now clearly, we don't know what the cave dwellers thought of their art, that wasn't my point. All I am suggesting is that as a species, we have a fondness for the "new" and while I suggest it may be evolutionary, it doesn't matter -- people act with this perspective and denying it won't make it go away.

5/06/2009 09:07:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Cedric, While I understand what you're getting at, it seems like something which has always existed is not much of a candidate for a movement. As a term it functions better as an acknowledgment of a condition which occurred the first time the art world hegemonic style structure broke down.

5/06/2009 09:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Youtube is not able to eat all of art in itself. There is a good portion of art where it would sufficed if they were all videotaped by James Kalm. But there is still art where the document doesn't transmit the experience. James surely
has an idea about that.

I have video shots of the installation Ann Hamilton (a fave artist of mine) did at Mass Moca. It's pointless to look at them. You really had to be there to feel all that pink and papers falling over your head. Some works
of art (or the experiences of visiting them) are tainted by an undescribable sanctity.


Cedric Caspesyan

5/06/2009 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Exchange Student said...

Xiu Ping Jiang on Poster Boy Remixes MoMA Subway Ads…Was it Commissioned?

5/06/2009 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

Nice restaurant analogy.

Bollocks to the stupid Darwinist art theory.

I don't have anything else, or constructive, to add.

5/06/2009 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cedric said: Quoting Anon. 12:10pm +++Most viewers don't understand. Even when they read the wall tags - or walk around with the headsets."

I guess I should have written "Most viewers don't care/understand.", to better make my point.

Cedric said: "Pluralist is very easy to understand. When Moma used it recently in their contemporary
section, they merely meant "this is a mixmatch of all sorts of stuff". If you mean that I
mentioned post-conceptualism, well indeed it's a very bad term. It mostly separates artists who were strictly conceptual from those who are primarely conceptual but
embrace the quality of objects again (which the true conceptuals rejected)."

Ask anyone walking around MOMA if they understand Post Pluralism, much less know what it is - or cares. No disrespect meant Cedric. I was only trying to make the point in my original post.

5/06/2009 10:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has been a most interesting post, but a lot of the comments read like they were lifted from art history books, and not original thoughts. Made me think of: "Who are these guys?" from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

My studio is in a building with other artists. I have a number of artist friends there, and some artist acquaintances. There are times we visit each others studios, but honestly, our conversations are never anything like most of the comments above - such as defining our work with a term (post conceptual, plural, swirl), or defining it by alignment with a movement. There's very little "art-psychology." Talk is usually more about technique, (which I kind of hate talking about), or art materials, satisfied/dissatisfied with what's going on with the work, sometimes it's just quiet looking-no comment (usually the acquaintance artists-I sense some jealousy). Sometimes gossip about someone we know who has a gallery show (why them- not us?), or what's at the museums.

That's all I have to say.

5/06/2009 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

"History Keeps repeating itself."

"What was old, is new again." Picasso @Gagosian.

The blue chip artists continue to be featured at the blue chip galleries. Flip through any art magazine, you'll recognize the names. The public doesn't seem to tire of their work or other art from the past (look what sells @the auctions), If the Met decides to have another Impressionist exhibit it will be a blockbuster. as opposed to a limited draw audience for new, cutting edge work.

I think Kalm James should do shoot a video in museums based on Anonymous 12:10 "What do these terms REALLY mean to you... how you're living your life today? Now..." "Most viewers don't understand. Even when they read the wall tags - or walk around with the headsets. They look, but don't comprehend, listen, but don't comprehend...." "They go to gallery or museum for something to do. AMUSEMENT really. (they're "Amused to death." (Roger Waters, Amused to death, circa. 1992")."

5/06/2009 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 10:54, do you and your artist friends see yourselves as part of a tradition ... concerned about that tradition ... contributing to that tradition? I ask out of curiosity alone. Thanks. : )

5/06/2009 12:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom,
Good questions. No, I don't believe anyone thinks of it in terms of tradition (whether about, or contributing to). At least it's not come up in conversation.

Stopping at someone's studio - it's very informal, not like you set up a time. It's more like your door might be open and someone is walking by, see's something your working on, or just stops to say hello, and it goes from there. The artists I talk to the most are in close proximity to my space. By coincidence, we (3 or 4 of us) make a living from our work, except for one who teaches college.

5/06/2009 02:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

Anon,

Post-Pluralism doesn't make much sense, that's what this topic discussed. I'd be shocked if it was used at Moma, but who knows?


As far as categorization:

I was talking to another artist I love at some point, and he was mentioning that he hates people who categorize, because he feels like he's just making the music he wants to do and doesn't want to deal with the pressure to not try something out because he's been categorized in a "genre". I was kind of embarassed, because to me it was clear his music fell kind of in an experimental "drone" music scene, and that it wasn't rock or metal. There might be a group that can succeed in mixing genres that don't seem to fit well together (Atlas Sound mix retro-ish indie rock with electronic drones), but generally categorization is just a normal activity of the intellect to index things. It's not immutable: the definition for "gothic rock" (a type of post-punk music) has changed a lot with time and depending on perspective. But it's no evil either to try to make sense of the world around you?


I agree though that we have to stop using the term "Post" to define these categorizations.
If you can't describe it, let it go, wait until other people can.


While media-centric might be going away, I don't think categorization is. Pluralism doesn't mean we can't categorize some artits in groups depending of their aims or general approaches to art.


Cedric Caspesyan

5/06/2009 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/06/2009 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

Do we put Richter into the pluralistic phase of Art History? Could we call him post-pluralistic? I think neither...I think he's post-modernist, no? So the unpacking would seem to have fallen to the PoMo'sTrue. In fact I’d say Richter is more accurately thought of as Post Modernist, belonging to a period style that extends from around 1960 to the mid 80s. And while his style allows impressive variety, it does not splinter into unrelated styles.

Where pluralism arises, more problematically, is with the following generation that emerge in the 80s, especially the Cologne-based artists like Kippenberger, Trockel, Krebber, Von Bonin, etc, and then on to younger artists like Meese, Althoff, Bock, Breuning, etc. where they not only paint, print and sculpt, but DJ, design clothes, perform and document, commission fabrication, publish and inevitably favor installation, even curating, with equal or shifting weight. They want the whole range basically. All works are then parts of the one continuous and discursive masterwork or individual works in their own right, temporarily or permanently, in any combination. Whatever works, right? Whatever, works.

Well the problem here is that any distinction or signature to the works either rapidly evaporates under lack of context or is continually deferred in lieu of future possible parts. The artist is not only a skill-challenged jack-of-all-trades, but ‘the work’ simply lacks definition.

This is definitely a departure from Po-Mo (another period, I’d argue). But whether we call it Relational Aesthetics or Pluralism or Globalism, there are clearly severe limitations. You get some of this in recent criticism of Anyspacewhatever, the New Museum’s Generational: Younger Than Jesus or in London, The Tate’s Triennial, Altermodern.

But for the young artist committed to this approach, obviously there are special difficulties in presenting ‘a folio’. I think the best advice is to push the installation side which allows the inclusion of diverse parts and importantly, to think of completing/presenting one work at a time. Just get to first base. While it might be nice to announce from the outset your ambit runs the gambit, pragmatically, you’re better off demonstrating that you can focus on one strike at a time.

5/07/2009 01:07:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 2:03, I'm jealous - that's a nice situation. Me and my artist friends do talk about art history, artist psychology, the state of the arts, etc. But that might be because we all grew up isolated in small Midwestern cities (we still are), and reading/talking about art issues has been a way to feel connected with the rest of the world. Who knows? If we were all together in the same large-city-slash-world-art-center, we might talk less and do more. Or talk more. And drink too much good beer.

5/07/2009 07:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I just realized that ever since I entered an "Interdisciplinary Arts" program at U I became a pluralist artist, and that's depressing, because that was not my original intention. I once had a fair focus of what I wanted to do, but a pluralist approach taught me to always think "hey, but have you tried this way? Or that other way? Or have you tried each and every ways?". It became about seeking the best way to express an idea, but the problem is that they are thousands good ways to express an idea. Now I've been spoiled because I instinctly will think of a dozen ways to express something whereas before I was more limited and comfy. I am trying to un-learn this, and go back to this niche where I wanted to be in the first place, which was really more just a meeting betweem two disciplines than pluralism.

I'm afraid I can't go back. It's vertigo, a swirl of different thoughts that affects everything I do. "There's always a better way, Ced...Brrr....".


Cedric C

5/07/2009 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

But CAP, I think "lacking definition" is itself definition. Could artist-as shape-shifter simply be part of contemporary conditions of enhanced potentiality? I agree it is difficult to find a coherent subjectivity among the web of potentiality but perhaps that is the subject of art today itself- incoherence.

5/07/2009 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Again I think CAP has thought this through and I disagree with Marks premis.

Lacking definition and incoherence imply a lack of identity. In modern times, all great art has identity. Within reason, we can identify an artwork as belonging to the body of work of a particular artists. There are no exceptions.

5/07/2009 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cedric said: "Post-Pluralism doesn't make much sense, that's what this topic discussed. I'd be shocked if it was used at Moma, but who knows?"

Cedric, your earlier comment was" "Pluralist is very easy to understand. When Moma used it recently in their contemporary section, they merely meant "this is a mixmatch of all sorts of stuff"...

Pluralist - Post Pluralist, Moma used it, Moma didn't use it. It's easy to understand..."

Whatever. I come back to my "it's jibber-jabberish." To me, those most concerned with terminology/labels are the curators, critics, writers - they think, or maybe they're supposed to (as they see their jobs) define art for the public(?), or I don't know who they're aiming for.

I suppose the point of whether art is or should be elitist must also be considered in all of this.

But the point I was trying to make in my original comment is that I don't think the general public CARES.

Let's consider where these terms/definitions/analysis/criticism stuff is written (art magazines, and/or papers with art coverage, blogs), and who is reading it (artists, gallerists, curators, critics, dealers, the small portion of people with a genuine interest in the arts, and maybe a very small portion of the general public). I don't believe the general public is reading, much less subscribing to art/trade magazines.

Ed's opening to this post seems appropriate here: Advanced warning: Setting my thinking cap to "ramble."

Which is what I'm doing now, and let me close by saying: "Cedric, I truly respect your writing (far better than my own) and POV.

5/07/2009 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, I think you just ended my four-week dry period, filled with doubts about my style - but it's my style. Thanks!

5/07/2009 04:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom,
Your situation doesn't really sound that different. I didn't mean to imply that we never talk about art history or the state of arts - just not that often (the art/psychology, well rarely).

I'm at the studio at least 5 days a week, and average 6-8 hours/day depending. For me, it's all about the work, and that whole process. I have forged a few good/close relationships with some artists I've come to know and respect (both as people and their work). None of us are looking for, feedback about our work - we're confident about what we do. We discuss the work, but not usually as criticism or suggestions.

Maybe this is unique, but it's very similar to the experience I had in college years ago. Interesting note: Only one from that group of grads. is still a painter. Everyone else has a different career, kids, and couldn't care less about the art world. They do like to get my exhibition cards though.

5/07/2009 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger CAP said...

@ Mark - No, lack of definition, cannot (by definition) be a definition.

If definition allows non-definition, it is a contradiction. And, as I'm sure you know, where you allow open contradiction anything follows... discourse ceases.

A work can be confused and vague, so long as it’s about that, or clearly exemplifies it through stylistic differences. Careful viewers will weigh this up based on past and surrounding versions. Otherwise a confused and vague work simply doesn’t work, doesn’t represent confusion and vagueness; merely presents an instance of it.

But where the pluralist artist is accepted (and all those Germans have their followers obviously and not just in Germany) what seems to happen, to judge from reviews and catalogue notes, is that advocates argue for basically two things. 1) for the ensemble, the value of the range of parts over merits within individual categories – parts taken as painting, as performance, as music, etc ; each part only has be a token of its kind, in other words, a gesture toward the category. And 2) for the coherence of content or an underlying theme.

As C.C. mentions, the many ways of expressing or stating an idea are often urged in interdisciplinary studies and supposedly sanction pluralism. But 1) here actually works against 2). If parts need only nod to their respective categories, they clearly haven’t time or effort to address some further theme, and if parts are all ways of saying the same thing (strictly, synonymy) firstly, it rather defeats the purpose of variety but more importantly they will need to say it wholly or solely, or by more than just a nod to category. Either way, there are serious objections to the advocacy. But these are not unknown in art criticism or aesthetics!

And whether we go along with this endorsement of synonymy is actually controversial as well, but this is another topic.

5/07/2009 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"... whether art is or should be elitist ..."Art is elitist whether it wants to be or not. If it's not uncommon, it's not art (much less fine art, much less high art). A urinal is a common thing - a urinal that's signed "R. Mutt" and displayed in a museum is not. But is it art? Insofar as it's uncommon, it is. Whether or not it has all of fine/high art's uncommon qualities, well ...

"... I don't think the general public CARES."The general public - at least the males - will go out of their way to see a urinal when they need a good piss. But a urinal with a signature on it? Not so much.

My point is that the public might care about art that tries to be all that fine/high art can be. But we won't know until art tries (again).

5/07/2009 09:53:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Don't stand so close to the fire. There is no such thing as the "general public" there is society, the present culture, which does care and has cared for centuries. They waited in line, in Brooklyn and LA to see Basquiat's paintings, works which I would hardly consider "elite"

If one is an artist, it is easy to get the craft, the conceptual issues surrounding the means of production, confused with the experiential transaction which the viewer equates as art. There is a give and take between what the artist offers, and what the viewer is willing to take as art.

In a way, this dialogue is a game between the artist and the culture, neither side ever knowing quite what the response will be until the artwork is actually experienced. As artists we have our opinions, our personal metrics for quality, but we often disagree and are surprised by the response from the culture.

Generalizations about "the public" should be made with caution. It is this mass of humanity, society, which to some degree sees everything and defines the present as we know it. When we ascribe something to "the public" we are actually expressing aspects of our own biases and fears.

I believe the "general public" cares, and cares a lot when the art touches them in a special way. There are a lot of ways to do this.

5/07/2009 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

good points CAP. And I agree that some heterogeneous art practices are mere synonymy and use contradiction for its own sake. But I also regard many of those artists you mentioned exemplify work that is a result of experimentation (which, by the way, is really the concept cedric's professors are advocating) and are informed by a key aspect of contemporary life that allows for multiple identities, forms, and praxis.

The problem that arises when art is discussed within blog threads (and this is not a critique of anyone here but rather an observation of the process) is that we have to speak in broad terms when we know that that is insufficient if we look at matters in the micro.

So, in the micro, i also prioritize cohesion but also contradiction that leads to apparent coherence. But I also ask self refexively, Why do we prioritize these things? And also how is it possible for any art practice to avoid cohesion and defintion of identity when subjectivity is involved in both the making and the reading? (obviously I think those artists you mentioned are only "apparently" incoherent)

Obviously my line of inquiry reveals my predilection for the heterogeneous and contradictory (the kind that leads to insight). So I have to be careful not to overly aggrandize a way of working that I am engaged in either in my own practice or in my relationship to that of others'. And with that I cannot see any reason to say a more unified practice is not as valid today.

5/07/2009 11:30:00 PM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

ah, found this interesting tidbit from Albert Camus:

To be sure, a succession of works can be but a series of approximations of the same thought. But it is possible to conceive of another type of creator proceeding by juxtaposition. Their works may seem to be devoid of inter-relations. To a certain degree, they are contradictory. But viewed all together, they resume their natural grouping.

5/08/2009 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

Multi-discipline work has always struck me as a strange fashion of working. It seems to carry with it the notion of being the 'total' artist, which I can't help associating with vaunting ambition & dissipation of force. I'm afraid I'm sufficiently narrow-minded to appreciate the obsessional which, whilst not necessarily locking out 'vaunting ambition', may allow a greater chance of harnessing both force & clarity.

5/08/2009 01:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom said: "Art is elitist whether it wants to be or not. If it's not uncommon, it's not art (much less fine art, much less high art).

Art is incapable of deciding.
If the signature on the urinal had been "on the back", out of view, and still displayed in the museum, it's still art. It's like saying if the museum curators started hand signing the wall statements, they would be uncommon and therefore "art."

The public doesn't care about art - the public only "wants." And they are adeptly influenced by marketing, media, etc., i.e. those in power. The public doesn't lead, it mostly follows.

5/08/2009 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Christopher Quirk said...

You might find parts of this, just out, by Irving Sandler, pertinent to the conversation:

http://www.brooklynrail.org/2009/05/art/how-to-look-at-postmodern-painting-and-its-criticism

5/08/2009 09:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George 10:41, Compliments to you - well said, but...

You wrote "There is no such thing as the "general public" there is society, the present culture, which does care and has cared for centuries. They waited in line, in Brooklyn and LA to see Basquiat's paintings, works which I would hardly consider "elite"..."

This is Splitting hairs. Whether we address the masses as "the public", "general public", "society", whatever, here we go with terminology again, like what Anon. commented on several times earlier. (jibber-jabberish).

There may have been lines in Brooklyn and LA to see Basquiat's paintings, as much from the affect of promotion, as opposed to his paintings meaning something to the individuals. More people stand in line to get into sporting events and rock concerts every week than a museum. I barely waited any time to see the Jasper Johns retro. @Moma years ago.

I interpreted Anon. various comments to be toward that type of comparison -- "general public doesn't care about art" versus the "smaller percentage of people, artists, collectors, those with interest/passion for art who do care."

You also said: "Generalizations about "the public" should be made with caution. It is this mass of humanity, society, which to some degree sees everything and defines the present as we know it."

I think Anon. 6:25am is more on target with:
"the public only "wants." And they are adeptly influenced by marketing, media, etc., i.e. those in power..."

"The public doesn't lead, it mostly follows."

- Another Anonymous.

5/08/2009 10:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Christopher, thanks for pointing out the Sandler article.

Quoting from it:
"artists, even the most individual and accomplished, find it more difficult now to claim the attention of the art world and be recognized by it."

This is probably what's bothering everyone.

My next project: Art Landfill.

- Another Anonymous.

5/08/2009 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Anon, fair enough on the terminology surrounding 'the public' I only meant to point out that I think there are some assumptions being made about the public which are overly generalized.

As for Basquiat, his hook into the culture is through Graffiti which has a huge populist following. It's what catapulted him into the public eye, but had it not been for his gifts as a painter, he would have faded away like the other graffiti painters (Crash, Daze, etc)

I disagree with the notion "the public only "wants." this is shortsighted at best. Certainly we all, artists included, are affected by the attempts to influence us through the various forms of the media. I would suggest that this has always been the case to one degree or another.

The problem is, as an artist, are we just feeding the public what we think it wants? Because, when we makes the assumption "the public only wants" it implicitly says something about us. Are we considering ourselves a part of this wanting public? Who is pandering to whom?

And I say, "Aw come on now
You know you know about my debutante"
And she says, "Your debutante just knows what you need
But I know what you want"
Bob Dylan

5/08/2009 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George, we're not that far apart on our views.

Regarding your fourth sentence, I hope that artists aren't even thinking about what the public wants when they work. I know I don't. I believe most artists are making the art they want to make, and for whatever reasons it's important to them (starting with simple self-expression).

On some level, yes, we're all part of the wanting public, etc., etc. But it's not the artists who get to decide who to pander to. Isn't it the galleries, museums, curators, critics?

Basquiat was "discovered." (afraid to use any term here so as not to start another firestorm), but he could have just as easily remained an unknown. Robert Motherwell once said (something like this): "there are many talented artists who never receive recognition of any kind - due to history, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the affects of alcohol, or just unfortunate luck..."

You can disagree about what the public "wants", but all you need to do to see my point is look back at the "fallen stars" of the art world.

"every generation throws another hero up the pop charts." Paul Simon

-Another Anonymous.

5/08/2009 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

General public loves art. It just loves technical talent better than
discourse (not necessarely hand-made talent, the public is also able to taste the wonders of technology). But sometimes art has both and it becomes successful, as in "why reject discourse if you already have the talent (or technology".

Museums get very filled when a good artist is in town. Maybe if visual arts travellled more, art would be as popular as cinema is.

You have these wonderful retros that travel to about 3 or 4 major
cities. What if these shows were shorter (1 month) and travelled
to 40 cities? Maybe art would be more popular?

I really think it's a question of logistics and access, at this point. Art is elitist because it's not accessible. Who has the time
and dedication to travel all over just to see exhibits? Specific-clientele art will always exist (like you will only see a certain kind of "author cinema" reach the Oscars), but art would be more popular if people were widely able to see the same visual artworks as they do the same books, films and musics, and even some of the most popular theatre plays that travel.


Artists focus on selling work to a few collectors, when they should think about how to make their art be shown by the most people possible. Not just in New York!
Unless... Well unless they don't care about the public. Than what? Why should the public care bavk?


Cedric C

5/08/2009 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger Ralph Ivy said...

I ain't makin' decorations. I'm telling a life story. Tryin' to anyway. Thru pics, words, quotes, drawings, journals, sketching, colorin', playing on being an ol' coot (three score and @M!# 10 - and countin'), growing up in Ozark hill country, Tom & Huck childhood, army at 17, loving comics, drawin' comics,
serving 30 months overseas (from Ozarks to Paris by age 18), out, in Cal town, L.A. area, first in my family (and only) to go to college, took art, left, moved to Chi-town, the Windy City, studied more art, American Academy, Art Institue, ahhh...not a painter, just a drawing addict, colorin' with pencils and crayons and markers, middle-age, discovering computers, bingo!, more tools, drawin' with mouse, not selling any work, mainly just keeping notes, still playing with words, fakin' memories, lovin' art, from Wyeth to Bosch to Kurtzman, stumblin' on. What kinda artist am I? Hell, one who does my art. What more could I ask!

(Well, I would like 6 young groupies hanging out by the mailbox, screaming & peeing their pants when I come out to get my latest bills and credit card offers. Ain't happened yet. But could.)

Thanks. Ralph

5/09/2009 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

1:20 anon, agreed, I don't think we're that far apart.

Artists who aren't "discovered," and I mean this precisely, they remain undiscovered because they avoid discovery. An artist who is trying to be in play, who is making some attempt to be discovered, and exhibits the genius of Basquiat will not remain hidden. Middle of the road artists, may suffer the fates Motherwell describes, but the truly gifted remain hidden only because they want to.

Basquiat is a tragic case. Rather than being discovered, he was literally exploited to death.

5/09/2009 05:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw an interesting film about Keith Haring on some cable TV channel last night. Haring seemed to lead the way, Basquiat coming after. Haring and his work became much more known to the general public than Basquiat (Basquiat residing more in the elitist arena in the end).

Haring's work had a universal appeal, spoke to the masses.

I prefer Basquiat, but with the public, it's a popularity contest.

Regarding the Motherwell statement - some of the painters mentioned were no "hacks", some were excellent painters, and weren't "avoiding" trying to be discovered, rather just "missed" at that time, or however you want to see it - as in Haring/Basquiat race to fame.

5/10/2009 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 9:04, I think George was being precise (as he said): an excellent but nonetheless middle-of-the-road artist who is trying to be discovered might never be, but an artist who is a true genius and is trying to be discovered certainly will be. To put it another way: there are an awful lot of excellent artists around, and most of them will be lost in the crowd; but there are very few geniuses, and it will be almost impossible to miss them. Because everyone in the art world is on the lookout for them.

5/10/2009 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, George,
I get it, but am not sure where/how "genius" entered in to the discussion. I guess it was when George mentioned Basquiat - and maybe George thinks he was a genius. I don't think so personally.

Since you and George raised the issue though, WHO decides true genius? HOW is true genius determined, selected, bestowed upon? What basis? Stands the test of time? Exactly what is/are the test(s). It can't be defined with any authority or certainty. It is and always will be open and subject to debate among art historians, curators, collectors, artists, the general public, if/when they care.

And THAT happens most often when "adeptly influenced by marketing, media, etc., i.e. those in power..." The public decides to pay attention (care), because they got the message.

The public has the attention span of a flea.

You guys wanna go to McDonald's and explore the many flavors of McCafe?

Annonymous 2.

5/11/2009 10:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon: 9:04. Agree with your various comments, and after watching the James Kalm opening reception piece for the Dalton/Powhida show - the thinking/questioning in there seems along the same lines.

Vger.

5/11/2009 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

OK, lets not choke on "genius" -- My point was that I believe Basquait was a great painter -- a great artist.

So rephrasing anon's question "WHO decides who is a great artist? etc.?
This ultimately is decided by the culture, through a consensus developed over time. I agree that is is subject to debate by the members of the artworld and that they will disagree but eventually these opinions sort themselves out and become a consensus. You will note that a "consensus" does not guarantee agreement by everyone, just a plurality at a point in time.

It is important not to confuse fashion with a cultural consensus. Fashion, by definition is constantly changing and artists who find their work becomes "fashionable" may feel that their beliefs are vindicated, only to be crushed when fashion shifts again.

Fashion functions as a cultural tool, it is a method of selecting something specific from the undifferentiated mass, but this does not guarantee anything other than momentary visibility. It is what an artist does with the visibility given by fashion that allows the work to enter into the cultural dialogue. Also, I don't think it is necessary for an artist to become fashionable before the work successfully enters into the cultural dialogue, the reverse path can also occur.

I find attempts to dismiss "the public" humorous, what is "the public?" Why everybody? As an artist I have an imaginary audience, but it doesn't include everybody. I have found, in more than one field of inquiry, not just art, that there are some people who will just not "get it" regardless of the veracity of what is presented. For others it may be a life transforming event, or just a clarification of something they already know or feel.

But, just because someone cannot comprehend what is presented does not mean I ascribe their lack to everyone else.

5/11/2009 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 10:28, "the public" doesn't matter. All that matters is that an artist's work finds ITS public - and it will, if he keeps putting it out there. There might only be a SMALL public for his work, but then, a LARGE public guarantees nothing. Picasso enjoyed the status of "artist of the century" while he lived, but he never stopped worrying about the judgment of posterity. With good reason, it turns out. A recent poll of 500 art experts voted Duchamp's urinal the 20th century's most influential work of art. I guess my point is that artists should keep doing what they feel an inner drive to do, and leave questions about the public to pollsters. Even the art world is "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma."

5/11/2009 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

The basic of anthropology for tradition to occur involves an individual that is able to synthesize, exploit, or contradict certain sets of values shared within a society, itself contextual to its own history and cultural heritage. In other words, an artist can be a complete genius but not correspond to the current values of his time. So part of finding success is unfortunately always a little about fitting in the mold. And it IS a social process. If anon truly thinks that
people don't care about contemp. arts, than it will all forgotten in 50 years. But I don't think all artists will be forgotten. People will be too bored by their home dvds to forget about every contemporary artists.

Cedric Caspesyan

5/12/2009 12:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric c said...

I meant, for tradition to evolve, (or shift), but occur is ok, because all traditions are started by people (or "gods") able to influence a lot of people to believe or share similar values.

Cedric

5/12/2009 01:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, George, Cedric,

All relevant, and good comments.

Tom - the 500 art experts...
that's like the "9 out of 10 doctors prefer Bayer Aspirin." or as my doctor recently said to me, in reply to "should I get another opinion (I have 3 now): "If you keep asking, you'll eventually get the one you want to hear."

All that being said I agree totally with the rest of your comment.

George, I agree with most of your comment too. But somewhere back in this post - my own comments were meant to the point that those individuals who achieve the level of success where they are recognizable to the masses, have not only been talented, lucky, etc., but behind the scenes, if you will, there was some manipulating (into the public's consciousness), string pulling, financial backing, or whatever. in the art world - bishof, saatchi, and the like have helped a few get there - and not necessarily because they were more "genius" or talented than you or me. That's more the point.

Cedric,
It's not that people don't care - just not for very long.

What I wrote was in the context of the "masses; general public; includes those considered unsophisticated, never set foot in a gallery like Ed's, - those american boars/hoardes so often referred to getting off the tour buses in Europe, who trample over to Michaelangelo's David, but spend more time tossing coins in the Trevi Fountain." I don't think myself better than them, nor do I dislike them - on certain levels I am one of them.

You'd be hard pressed to disagree there is that segment (rather large) of the population - and they have a short attention span. They want the "next" big thing whatever it is.

We can easily go back 50 years and find "stars", whether it be art, movie, sports, who are long forgotten and/or on the verge of becoming irrelevant.

These folks might be more likely to remember (in the art world) Peter Max, Andy Warhol, Piccaso, maybe Haring, as opposed to Basquiat, Richter, or me.

5/12/2009 01:08:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

anon 1:08,
... have not only been talented, lucky, etc., but behind the scenes, if you will, there was some manipulating (into the public's consciousness), string pulling, financial backing, or whatever. in the art world - bishof, saatchi, and the like have helped a few get there - and not necessarily because they were more "genius" or talented than you or me.
.
What you are suggesting is that it is a conspiracy. So I ask:

Why?

What is to be gained?

How were these particular artists chosen?

Why were these particular artists choses?

Which came first?

Is what occurs different from the ideal reality you imagine? How? Why?

Do these answers apply to all famous artists?

5/12/2009 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 1:08, whatever it is you're getting multiple opinions on, I hope it turns out well.

As for the poll, it's not quite as meaningless as Bayer's slogan. The 500 didn't decide on the 20th century's best work of art, but only on it's most influential - which is analogous to TIME choosing its sometimes notorious Person of the Year. It's an answer to the question, "Which 20th-century work of art (or anti-art, as the case may be) is having the greatest impact on the art world, currently?" That's all, nothing more. Poll 500 experts twenty years from now, and the answer will be different. Because the art world will be different.

5/12/2009 03:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George said:

What you are suggesting is that it is a conspiracy.

No, not suggesting conspiracy at all. It's more like a "confluence" of various circumstances.

For the artist, LUCK plays a large part, but that could include simply meeting the right people, or a friend of a friend introducing the right people. A rich person buys a painting, and then his friend wants one, and a dealer or collector gets involved and it builds from there - not necessarily as a conspiracy - but at some point someone recognizes what CAN happen from what's happened. Sometimes the work/artist is totally deserving Not everyone involved is aware at the time that a "confluence" is occurring (including the artist). But at some point, I believe someone (usually connected - more than you and I) recognizes it, and then gets the momentum going - they may or may not believe, or know if the artists work is genius, (or whatever you want to label it). Maybe they only LIKE it and think the work deserves attention. If the artist has the right sort of "personality", say like Schnable, Hirst, Koons all the better. I actually think Schnable is genius - and if he's following this, understands exactly what I'm pointing out. He's written that in his beginning, he originally went to Italy, with the goal of making some paintings and eating a lot of pizza. What happened for him (the confluence), was not really expected - although in his own mind he believed he was and would be a great artist.

If you are unaware of things like this, I don't know what more to say.


You ask:

Why?
Because. Because its what some of these people do, and "because they can." They also do it for money, power, fame, ego, maybe a place in history, among other reasons.

What is to be gained?
See above.
Did you read the Gagosian article (as one example) in the Times awhile ago?
And in a completely different world - last night, on Public TV , was a feature about Bernie Madoff. He's an example of someone who knew what he was doing. However, many of those who worked for him, or with him, were unaware of what was happening (the "confluence"), which, in this case, was "created" by Madoff -and who made it happen. In his case for money, and because he thought he could - despite now claiming he knew he'd eventually be caught.


How were these particular artists chosen?
It doesn't work that way - it's not that people are sitting around saying ok, we have to choose the next art star. I refer you back to the why and what's to be gained answers.

Why were these particular artists chosen?
Same as above, but also - LUCK - and the artists work does play a part - the quality, how/where it fits historically, it's ability to appeal to the art world (buyers, collectors) and/or world at large.

I'm not suggesting that every "confluence" is created by the rich and powerful, or that every confluence is of the spectacular nature, or involves an artist achieving the levels of fame and fortune as some names we have tossed out during this extensive post. Some are of a smaller scale - could be with a gallery like Ed's, where an artist whose work Ed feels is worthy of representation and attention. Ed begins showing the work, introducing and cultivating a following for the artist, from within Ed's contacts - but all the time working toward Museum placement and sales to important collections, and if a certain level of notoriety was to happen, would probably welcome that.

Now, as an artist, if your work was also a good fit with Ed's gallery program, but for whatever reason (even knee-jerk), he chooses to represent the other artist, and not you - that's "wrong place, wrong time" for you, but doesn't deny that the "confluence" occurred for the other artist. I mean no offense to Ed either, in mentioning string pulling, or manipulating, because those words have a negative connotation. But a good gallery owner/business person, does exert influence and attempt to position their artists with the best chances for sales and success.

Which came first?
Not sure what you mean. But in relation to what i'm saying - there is no order. Just recognition of opportunity.

Is what occurs different from the ideal reality you imagine? How? Why?
I don't imagine an ideal reality. I recognize the reality we're living in. The difference between us right now, is that you can't seem to imagine that an artist can get a "break" over you and your work, due to "circumstances" that aren't entirely about the art work, and whether you/they are a genius or not - but it would help.

Do these answers apply to all famous artists?
I'm not suggesting that all famous artists have achieved their fame through "behind the scenes" conspiracies or manipulations of the art market. On the contrary. I'm saying that it has happened. If you read enough artist biographies (one of my passions) you come to know that there is no formula that could ever be applied to explain the how fame is achieved - sometimes it's total LUCK, or other times, an introduction, or confluence gets it all going. But to deny the other?

Anon. 2.

5/13/2009 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

On "Luck"
A famous artist once told me that, everyone gets lucky once in awhile, what matters if that you are ready to take advantage of being lucky.

As for the rest of it, how does it affect you?

Do feel lucky?

5/13/2009 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Being aware of all the things that can play a part in success (Anon.2's last comment) reminds a not-yet-successful artist to stop beating himself up. Some of the things that play a part in success are simply out of the artist's hands. Nonetheless, George is right: the artist needs to stay ready for success - regardless of how success might/will come about. The most obvious way to stay ready is to always have a current body of work to show. Slacking off or giving up (temporarily) might be cutting your own throat. You have no idea when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity might present itself.

5/13/2009 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, what's interesting about this discussion is that it has parallels in other areas of life.

I have a degree of expertise in the functioning of the stock market and over the years I've shared this information with others. What's interesting about the financial markets is that you act on an opinion and see the results almost immediately, you were right or you were wrong.

Regardless of this truth validating mechanism, there are some who continue to insist they are right, in spite of the fact the numbers disagree. It is a similar form of rationalization that some people make in other areas of their life. Now, far be it from me to say this is 'bad' (reflects badly on the person) but I generally advise them to avoid this type of investing.

In addition to being lucky, one needs to seize the opportunity when it is presented and maybe more importantly, one needs to understand how to attract opportunity. You make your own luck.

5/13/2009 03:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for validating my points in my previous comment.

"what matters if that you are ready to take advantage of being lucky..."
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. I think Picasso said that too.

If you take my sayings and explode them in the air, they remain only sayings. But if you fit them together in their correct places, you will have the whole story. i think Picasso said that too.

The 'refined', the 'rich', the 'professional do nothing', the 'distiller of quintessence' desire only the peculiar, and sensational, the eccentric, the scandalous in today's art. And I myself, since the advent of cubism, have fed these fellows what they wanted and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my head. The less they understood, the more they have admired me! ...Today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand meaning of the word. ...I am only a public clown, a mountebank. I have understood my time and exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession, this confession of mine, more painful than it may seem. But, at least, and at last, it does have the merit of being honest.
Picasso for sure said that.

Do I feel lucky?
“I've been lucky. I'll be lucky again.”
I think Bette Davis said that too.

That sums it up for me. You?

5/13/2009 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Wow this post is long.

Anon. 2. 12:08 and Anon. 3:56 I assume you're the same person - and I agree with much of what you say. But regardless of whether an artist gets career advancement through "connections" or not, the artists work is probably quite good. It should be added that it also doesn't take away from the accomplishments of other artists, who have achieved some measure of success just through recognition of their work - which I think is part of what George meant - and maybe had something to do with the tone in his 12:45pm comment. Artists whose work is the reason they are where they are (as opposed to those who have been helped in another way), sometimes get defensive - but I think everyone is enjoying this post overall. I'm glad I came back to it.

All the best guys!
Bill-

5/13/2009 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"Picasso for sure said that."For those unfamiliar with the quote, it is a fake statement from a fake interview with Picasso published by Giovanni Papini in 1951. Papini's purpose was to discredit Picasso, because the artist was an influential public advocate of Communism.

5/13/2009 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

If you say it's black, when it's actually white, turn on the light.

I said that

5/13/2009 06:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Or paint the white black?


Anon, if a person is able to persuade a whole lot of people
than an artist is great, it only means that the artist is not the persuador himself, but the dealer or the collector is. That still requires for that person (dealer or collector) to be able to touch or fullfill just the right amount of zeitgest or values or common consciousness that is enveloping a current society at a given moment (the protagonist can eitheir confirm peoples' beliefs with
their proposal, or set them on fire if it's exactly just the fuel that can trigger a fire and create social trauma).

So it's like you have this big crystal ball of quasi-infinite hazards and possibilities, but in the end there is social conscious
that functions like gravity and will absorb all if it's getting in
the "same ways" of where it's going.

So who's Saatchi? He's just a victim really, of the same conditions as everyone else around. He picks up what his mind permits him to pick up. Society has a social consciousness has already decided the type of artists it will create and which one might succeed.

There is only that between many artists saying the same thing,
it's a little like a zillion sperms reaching an ovula. One will
get there first. But truly moronic is the artist who believes they invented the world. You never invent anything. You listen to the whispers of society's conscious, and all the answers are there for anyone to catch, really. Maybe it's in your genes, all the anxieties and joys of your parents past, and what they'd like to see change.

Cedric Caspesyan

5/13/2009 11:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Sorry for the english mistakes (has = as, than = that, etc),
but I think what I want to stress is that, instead on focussing on who has the greatest ego or coolest career, we might be interested in making a general reading of what a general state of art can say about our society, or vice-versa how are the ungoing shifts in society can influence art. And this is why we speak about pluralism, etc, as we try to understand what's going on.


Yes, people talk about Picasso, Picasso, Picasso all the time. I'm not interested. When I think of Picasso I think of Braque, Matisse, Brancuzi, etc..I think of all the arts made into that era. An artist might be better than another. I might prefer Matisse over Picasso. But that's irrelevant. Matisse is not the World. It's not even all of Painting, which is just some darn media across so many others.

I'm interested in everything. What were artists at the times of Matisse saying, and why? What economical, technological, political and philosophical (religious) conditions enhanced or permitted these artists to simply exist and exert their egos (big ugly large PICASSO signature on every canvas, for example).

At some point, discerning the good from the bad artist is irrelevant to me. That could be dust in 500 billion years. What about the conversations? What are we dialoguing about? Or is there really a forum? Are we each just striking the wild cards of our individualities? What does remaining anon says about discerning one's art and opinions about lives?

What single word would describe best the current state of the social conscious? (I'm tempted to say: Fear).

This is the sort of things art should help us think about. And if art turns out to be nothing but stupid fun, than great, maybe I'd live in a society where conciousness is set to HAVING FUN.



Cedric Casp

5/14/2009 12:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Ced said...

Woh I made Brancusi sound italian there, sorriz.

I love forums when I can edit my posts. My comments are always works in progress.

Ced

5/14/2009 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"Society ... has already decided the type of artists it will create and which one might succeed."


Determinism is only convincing in hindsight, and hindsight does nothing but rearrange reality - straighten things up, make them look nice and neat. The real world was, and is, a messy place. (A messy world is a fascinating world to live in, yes?)


"What economical, technological, political and philosophical (religious) conditions enhanced or permitted these artists to simply exist ... "


The artist as cog in the social machine? To me, the artist has always seemed like the wrench thrown in from no-one-knows-where. Get ready for some surprises you can't predict.

5/14/2009 07:34:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

This thread is about to rollover into the archives so I want to go back to pluralism for a second.

If one imagines the artworld like a baseball league (soccer etc), in the sixties the league started to expand, more teams were added and more players were able to became members of the new teams. While everyone was playing the same game, the different teams wear different uniforms.

In the late nineties, the baseball teams became so successful they expanded and added a new league, snatching the new players right off the college teams. All seemed well for a decade until the economy crashed and attendance dropped off, there were fewer cheerleaders but the home run leader is still the home run leader.

5/14/2009 09:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom said: For those unfamiliar with the quote, it is a fake statement from a fake interview with Picasso published by Giovanni Papini in 1951. Papini's purpose was to discredit Picasso, because the artist was an influential public advocate of Communism.

FOR THE RECORD:
I only found "one" web site which alleges the Picasso quote is a fake. However, I found more sites than I cared to - that list the quote as being by Picasso (circa. 1952). Whatever.

If someone wants to contact "fact-checkers" be my guest. If Picasso didn't say it, all the better and cheers to whoever did since it would be a different POV than Pablo's and Cedric is sick of Picasso, Picasso, Picasso.

It's funny that George's comment referred to Baseball. I was glancing at this book about stress @ the library last night, and it had this anonymous quote (honest).

THE WORLD BATS LAST.

5/14/2009 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 11:41, yes, every cranky anti-Modernist out there has given the "confession" a spot on their website. It should suffice that Picasso asked his biographer, Pierre Daix, to expose the "confession." If that's not enough, Picasso expert John Richardson (and other art historians) have exposed the "confession." And what is there to expose? The fact that the "confession" appeared in a book of fictional interviews by Giovanni Papini titled The Black Book. Insofar as there is actual fraud in all this, it's on the part of those who continue to present Papini's polemical fiction as fact.


You said, "Whatever."


If we're going to discuss the possible futures of art, it helps to start with the truth about the past.

5/14/2009 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doing my best to help this post be the first to generate a million comments. Got a ways to go, but if Tom, George and Cedric and the other Anon's don't bail it can be done.

Ed, you could help get us to 100 at least - any opinions on some of the comments?

Do confluences occur?

Any answers to George 3:15:00pm questions and answers with Anon 2.. 12:08 pm?

What's your take on how an artist could suddently go from point A to pinnacle (besides years of work)?

Do dealers/collectors/galleries have influence on which artists are (as George wrote, "chosen")?

Anyone? Please this is good stuff.

Vger.

5/14/2009 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Since this is still going...

A huge factor which has become important in the last couple of decades is demographics. The world population has doubled since 1969 and the US GDP has grown almost sevenfold since 1950 (inflation adjusted dollars) While we live ou daily lives as if these events haven't occurred, they don't matter on a daily basis, they do make a difference when we look back at history to make certain comparisons.

Specifically, "pluralism" is a result of both the growth in information technologies, the growth in population and the growth in the world economies. There seems to be a series of cascading events which alter the critical mass required to sustain certain social and economic structures.

For one, in the early to mid seventies, artists adopted the attitude that making art was a profession, that they could have a career as an artist. Coupled with the post war baby boom, there suddenly was at least twice as many artists as before. This increase in artists broke the back of the previously held belief that there would only be one or two styles, rigorously supported by the art world infrastructure.

All of a sudden there were too many artists for agreement, styles proliferated and more importantly were developed by strong artists across the board. This through the critical community into disarray, no one could be boss any more and to make things worse, the post structuralist philosophy wrecked havoc in all fields.

Fast forward to 1995 or so. The second major development was the internet. First, the internet boom created more wealth than any period since the build out of the railroads in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. As a result, the art world started to expand in the late 1990's, fueled by the wealth created by the internet bubble, and by 2002 had again reached another point of critical mass where economics caused the art business to double in size nearly overnight.

Again, the increased size both in numbers and in aggregate sales comes into play to support any number of styles and mediums, calling this pluralism is incorrect as it is nothing more than a word applied to a field which has grown large enough to sustain stylistic diversity.

Some of the events which occurred in the last twenty years (suddently going from point A to pinnacle) were a result of the dislocations caused by this expansion of the art world -- These dislocations are being corrected, both by the current economic recession, and because with a slowing marketplace the participants have more time to reflect back on events.

While this was all happening, it wasn't as apparently clear as it is now looking back.

5/14/2009 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George said, "... calling this pluralism is incorrect ..."


Because that implies intention - as if everyone subscribed to a Pluralist manifesto, right from the beginning? When, instead, the reality developed in spite of what anyone wanted art and/or the art world to become?

5/14/2009 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, yes -- intentionality would be an issue.

While I think there are some artists which have a multi-faceted practice, 'pluralist' seems like a poor descriptor for "jack of all trades" It lacks the ability to create a philosophical argument for the work. I don't have a problem with multi stylistic approaches, I believe that style is a tool for expression when used with the correct intent.

5/14/2009 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Okay. So what is the difference between pluralism and (sorry Cedric) Picasso, who worked with a wide variety of mediums, and in a variety of styles (even a variety of styles within any one particular "period")? Or Matisse - prints, painting, sculpture, book design, ceramics, paper cut-outs and architecture? Or Chagall - prints, painting, sculpture, stained glass, tapestries, ceramics and book illustration? The list of early 20th-century artists could go on ...

5/14/2009 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Okay. More questions. In the first decade of the 20th century, world population was one-quarter what it is today, and the art world was - proportionally - even smaller. Yet in a ten-year period, from 1903 to 1913, you had the Brücke, Fauvism, Expressionism, Analytical Cubism, Futurism, Orphism, Synthetic Cubism, the Blaue Reiter and Abstraction - plus individualistic artists not associated with "isms." So, might pluralistic periods in art be the result of, say, a time of radical changes in a culture as a whole, more than a result of numbers (not that numbers don't play some part)?

5/14/2009 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, that's the problem. One can apply the notion of 'pluralism' to the period, as an indication that more than one style was occurring simultaneously. The death of the idea of a hegemonic style holding sway.

Trying to apply this term to an artists body of work doesn't make much sense for the reasons you describe. Further, the use of multiple styles needs to be supported in some other philosophical way which makes sense. Otherwise it just starts to look like an artist is throwing a bunch of stuff at the wall and hoping something will stick.

I believe in the idea that style is a tool of expression, that any style carries historic overtones which shade the meaning and location of the work.

With painting, I am of the opinion that it is a language which was fairly thoroughly defined by the latter part of the twentieth century. As such I'm more interested in how it functions as a language rather than trying to define another niche style.

Once you accept this then painting becomes a conceptual art. It not only reflects an expression of the present but does so, through an ongoing dialogue with the past. The process of making an image by marking is most primitive and highly symbolic, a conceptual process of identity transfer and capture. Because of the restrictions of the medium it is an inherently poetic process which cannot resort to the use of some startling new technology as a diversion.

There is a big difference between a cave painting and wall decoration.

5/14/2009 10:11:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom,

The driving force at the turn of the last century was industrialization, the slow shift from a rural to an urban society. I think there was a population bump here as well but I don't have the numbers (but the US population quadrupled since 1900)

My original argument against 'pluralism' was that this is a natural condition, that different artists do different things naturally. Within the art world identifying styles tended to become visible sequentially, sometimes in parallel, but never to the degree we saw in the late twentieth century.

What you describe, the litany of styles were a force behind defining or creating what became the avant guard. 'Pluralism' [sic] acted just the opposite, it made it difficult to define an avant guard.

I think the culture goes through a cyclic sequence of changes in a forty year cycle (roughly) which is driven by generational memory. We are going through such a change right now but I have no idea where we will end up.

5/14/2009 10:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

We are confusing notions of the "pluralist" artist and the "pluralist" state of the arts (I agree that there has always been pluralist artists). The "pluralist" state of the art is that you don't find much relevant new art movements these days. The relevancy is a state of pluralism. But what does that express about our current state of global communications and our weaknesses in gathering and synthesizing all information? This is what interests me: how is the audience, or the pluralist artist, are able to synthesize? Do we or do we not have common grounds of understanding? Are we in fact just celebrating the fact that economical history has turned us into individualists?

If we are going to be experience a state of "everything for his own" (which actually many artists collectivs right now are rebelling against), than perhaps the artists who get the most popular recognition are the one best able to communicate, exploit, titillate, shock, the current status of social values (which right now in Youtube era may or may not be shifting toward international values, which is very intriguing).

I think a good philosopher, someone able to predict 50 years in advance where the social conscious will be moving, is able to have a general idea about the type of art that will unfold in the future. But generally people discover this as it moves on, and it always seems like big surprises. In retrospect it's most of the time very logical. Say, Nietzche probably saw what permitted Einstein to find the theory of relativity. It's about how you are ready mentally to find it.


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


I want to come back to anon. who hates his public (just kidding). Robert Lepage (another artist I admire) was saying in an interview that though many people have little culture, the general population is intelligent enough that it's the role of the artist to titillate this potential for
interest. If it doesn't work, it's the fault of the artist, not the public. "Art should titillate intelligence better than titillate cultural references" (RL).


Cedric Caspesyan

5/14/2009 10:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Relativism in science reflects much what was happening in the art (and other fields) at the time,
and so Pluralism goes along the way of the parallel universes theories.

The social conscious is powerful and always seem to govern everything. People in very different fields are not aware that they actually think the same way and have the same questions.


Cedric C

5/14/2009 11:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Ced said...

So I was answering Tom in the previous comment that early 20th was more relativist that plural-parallel-ilist. I don't know if that was clear.

Ced

5/14/2009 11:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom said:
"If we're going to discuss the possible futures of art, it helps to start with the truth about the past."

"The truth? You can't handle the truth!" Jack Nicholson.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Here's where I got my original information about the quote:

"PABLO PICASSO (FROM: ORIGIN 12, January 1964 Cid Corman, Editor Kyoto, Japan.; cited by Artcompasas Amsterdam: GOTOBUTTON BM_1_ http://www.euronet.nl/users/artcompas/index.html )"

And here: "Comments: Just for your information, the Picasso confession is genuine. Here is a site link to Source 9 a book shop that has for sale the April 1964 issue of Origin magazine that contains the confession and discussion of it by Sir Herbert Read.
I'm just saying there's been "debate" and "difficulty" in whether the quote is by Picasso or note)"

There are also many other references to the Origin magazine interview besides this one. So I don't know what else to say accept "maybe Picasso said it,, maybe he didn't. Maybe he decided after saying it to retract it, in which case he still said it." At this point in this post, it doesn't matter really - If I had found that Papini wrote the words, I'd have given him the credit AND still used the quote, but that hasn't been established as "fact" either.

I still like what's being said in the quote and think it was relevant to what was being said (back in the storied past of this post).

"From the moment that art is no longer the sustenance that nourishes the best, the artist may exteriorize his talent in all sorts of experiments with new formulas, in endless caprices and fancy, in all the expedients of intellectual charlatanism. In the arts, people no longer seek consolation, nor exaltation. But the refined, the rich, the indolent, distillers of quintessence seek the new, the unusual, the original, the extravagant, the shocking. And I, since cubism and beyond, I have satisfied these gentlemen and these critics with all the various whims which have entered my head, and the less they understood them, the more they admired. By amusing myself at these games, at all these tomfooleries, at all these brain-busters, riddles and arabesques, I became famous quite rapidly. And celebrity means for a painter: sales increment, money, wealth.

Today, as you know, I am famous and very rich. But when completely alone with myself, I haven't the nerve to consider myself an artist in the great and ancient sense of the word. There have been great painters like Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya. I am only a public entertainer who has understood his time. This is a bitter confession, mine, more painful indeed than it may seem, but it has the merit of being sincere."

Anon.

5/15/2009 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anonymous 6:48, The problem is that Papini's 1951 book, El Libro Negro (The Black Book) has never been translated from Italian into English (though a Spanish translation is available). If it were available in English, then it would be easy to say, "Go see for yourself. You will not only find the first appearance of the 'confession' in an imaginary interview with Picasso, but you will also find imaginary interviews with Freud, Kafka, Dali, Hitler, Huxley, Wright and others - just about everyone Papini considered responsible for ruining the 20th century."

You say you like what the "confession" says, whether it's real or not. Would you tell us which statements you like and why? Do you like the implication that all Modern and Contemporary art has been a bad joke deliberately played on the public (something cultural conservatives desperately wish was true - desperately wish could be proven)?

5/15/2009 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

"You can't handle the truth."

It doesn't matter what Picasso said, one minute clutched from a life of over 90 years. Look at the works he made in his lifetime, he stands alongside the other giants in the history of painting, as an equal. To argue otherwise seems a bit petty.

5/15/2009 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, I agree that Picasso's art speaks for itself. But then, so do these people:

It's The Jews (the "confession" appears at the end)

It's A Con GameIt's All About The MoneyPeople Tell Me To Like ItEtc., etc., etc.

So, maybe it does matter what Picasso actually said, when you read the sort of things the "confession" supports. The dark side of the art world.

5/15/2009 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

What's the point? a bunch of small people throwing rocks at a giant.

Time grinds it all to dust, a few are left standing through some surrogate for their life's work. Almost everyone will be forgotten by all but a few family members, and that for only a generation or two.

Like I said, it's petty.

5/15/2009 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Ah, but George, "small people" have a way of becoming big people when the times are right. We should all be aware of the consequences, by now, of simply dismissing the fringe.

Anyways, back to one of the "rambling thoughts" of Edward's original post. Is the Modern-through-Contemporary age of revolutions in art over? If the history of art since the Late Middle Ages can be seen as a cycle of revolution, followed by development, followed by decline - then revolution and etc. again - might we now be entering a time of development? A time when mastery will matter more than shock/newness/originality? When artists will (non-ironically) play off of this artist/ism in the recent past or that artist/ism in the recent past, i.e., off the revolutionary experiments of the Modern-through-Contemporary age (again, non-ironically)? Is the broader cyclical model better than the narrower "kill the father" model for guessing where we're at now?

5/15/2009 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, no. There is no reason to guess where we are now, all you need to do is look around. You are alluding to the same old argument that somehow art got it wrong and must return to the old aesthetic paradigms, mastery of the medium etc. It's a trap into circularity.

The implications of a multi-stylistic and multi-media environment for art, the destruction of sequences of hegemonic styles redefines what the culture will have to comprehend as 'mastery.' It is more than just mastery of the medium, it now is also about achieving mastery of the dialogue. Now, I can hear the purists out there gnashing their teeth, but mastery of the dialogue may or may not be conceptual, it may also be intuitively arrived at.

There is no going back to the past. Time, a growing population, exploding technologies and the density of information have overwhelmed past paradigms and suggest that what we need is a new avant guard, one operating on enough fronts to cover the expanded bounds of the new culture.

The changes wrought when society changed from being agricultural to industrial, the exodus from the country to the city, from the farms to the factories, in all its numbing regimentality shaped the art of the last century and a half.

The changes that are occurring now are centered on information technologies which profoundly change how we assimilate and communicate within the culture. This dialogue would not have been possible a mere ten years ago. The advent and subsequent digital death of film changes image making in the past and continues to change it today.

While I can't begin to suggest where any of this is going, I am positive that the twenty somethings are going to do it their way using youths exuberant, honest, creativity with a disregard for yesterdays rules.

All the things you suggest we should go back to are yesterdays rules and about to be buried along with the industrial age and GM.

5/15/2009 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom said to: Anonymous 6:48, The problem is that Papini's 1951 book, El Libro Negro (The Black Book) has never been translated from Italian into English (though a Spanish translation is available). If it were available in English, then it would be easy to say, "Go see for yourself.

That is the problem - you can't validate either, but yet staunchly, and perhaps foolishly deny the other.

Your link to the article "The Jews in Art" (very good I might add) gives Picasso credit for a quote. It states: "To end this article, it is only fair to let Picasso have the last words, written to his friend G. Pagin. They were published in the magazine Von Atelier Zu Atelier 1953, No. 5 and were later re-published in the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung in December 1955."

No mention of Papini there, but it appears a slightly different version of "the confession" quote. But I digress. If it would make you happy - I say, "give credit to Papini for a fictional quote by Picasso."

Tom said: You say you like what the "confession" says... Would you tell us which statements you like and why? ..."

Sure Tom. Here goes - I liked the whole quote. Each and every sentence meant something to me upon reading it. It spoke to me, like a poem. I believe it's an honest and valid statement about what he thought both the art world and his own work was and had become (or the writers "fictional" Picasso" if you prefer). My thoughts are in ( ) and CAPS.

"From the moment that art is no longer the sustenance that nourishes the best (WHAT ART WAS), the artist may exteriorize his talent in all sorts of experiments with new formulas, in endless caprices and fancy, in all the expedients of intellectual charlatanism. (THE ART GAME - THIS SENTENCE BROUGHT TOM WOLF'S "THE PAINTED WORD." TO MIND. I'M NOT SAYING ALL ARTISTS ARE GUILTY OF "intellectual charlatanism" BUT I BELIEVE IT EXISTS AND NAMES HAVE ALREADY BEEN NAMED ) In the arts, people no longer seek consolation, nor exaltation. (THE GREATNESS ART ONCE WAS) But the refined, the rich, the indolent, distillers of quintessence seek the new, the unusual, the original, the extravagant, the shocking. (WHAT THE ART WORLD HAD BECOME FOR/TO HIM, and IMO WHERE IT IS AT, somewhat TODAY). And I, since cubism and beyond, I have satisfied these gentlemen and these critics with all the various whims which have entered my head, (AS AN ARTIST, DOING WHATEVER HE FELT LIKE DOING WHEN MAKING ART) and the less they understood them, the more they admired. (LIke I COMMENTED EONS AGO - THE ART CRITICS/WRITERS/CURATORS AND THEIR JIBBER - JABBERISH (WHO ANNOINT THEIR OWN FAVORITES AND DISREGARD THE REST), AND THE MUSUEM, GALLERY-GOER'S (the "public" followers) AND THEIR "RAP. (feigned understanding)." By amusing myself at these games, at all these tomfooleries, at all these brain-busters, riddles and arabesques, I became famous quite rapidly (JASPER JOHNS RING A BELL?, HE TELLS THE WRITERS, HISTORIANS, CURATORS, COLLECTORS, ETC., THAT THEY ARE MISUNDERSTANDING/MISREADING THE "CLUES" IN HIS WORK ). And celebrity (WHAT I COMMENTED EARLIER ON - POLLOCK, HARING, BASQUIAT, KOONS, HIRST, et al) means for a painter: sales increment, money, wealth. (WHAT MOST WANT TO ATTAIN).

Today, as you know, I am famous and very rich. But when completely alone with myself, (WHEN YOU COME OFF THE STAGE, YOU STILL HAVE TO LIVE WITH YOURSELF THE REST OF THE DAY.) I haven't the nerve to consider myself an artist in the great and ancient sense of the word. (SELF-DOUBT AND COMPARISONS/JUDGEMENTS THAT ALL ARTISTS HAVE) There have been great painters like Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt and Goya. ( HOMAGE TO...) I am only a public entertainer who has understood his time.(HIS BELIEF OF WHO HE REALLY WAS VERSUS "PUBLIC PERSONNAE" This is a bitter confession, mine, more painful indeed than it may seem, (EGO) but it has the merit of being sincere." I THINK IT SINCERE.

Tom, I don't think all modern/contemporary art has been a bad joke deliberately played on the public. Quite the contrary. But I do believe there is/has been modern/contemporary art that hasn't been worthy of the "greatness" bestowed upon on it by the "powers that be." It's the fact that that "art" even achieves (and the HOW) acceptance, and public adulation that I've been commenting. I don't believe the art or artist/personality got there on its own.

I've been involved in the art world for over 40 years (as both artist and gallery employee) long enough to know that it's not always fair - just like life. You are welcome to think otherwise - but it's time to move on from the Picasso quote.

Anon. 2

5/15/2009 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cedric said: I want to come back to anon. who hates his public (just kidding). Robert Lepage (another artist I admire) was saying in an interview that though many people have little culture, the general population is intelligent enough that it's the role of the artist to titillate this potential for
interest. If it doesn't work, it's the fault of the artist, not the public. "Art should titillate intelligence better than titillate cultural references" (RL).

I never said I hated the public. I love the public and publicity, promotion, advertising, marketing, sales, TV ADS, REALITY TV SHOWS, stores filled with stuff to buy and use and consume and then throw away to create a giant landfill which can then be advertised as "green", and that WM can adverstise they created a "wildlife habitat" (the landfill) pointing at the fact that migratory birds now stop there (to eat garbage that will probably kill them and wipe out their species). I love that after 25 years, giant chemical companies are now in control of most of the production of the food that's grown (save some small local farms), and they're advertising their line of "green products" that do no harm to us or our environment, it's a happy ad, with no mention of the harm they've done to the environment and we humans as well for the past 25 years. I love that we're wearing so many types of clothing that are made from recycled plastics or other synthetic material. Must be good, all those plastic bottles they don't want going to the landfill, they want you to wear. SOMEBODY STOP ME!

In several comments about ART, I said the "public" or "general Public" "doesn't care.", that "the public doesn't lead, it follows."

They don't "understand" the art they're looking at.

The artists can hardly understand it themselves, they've been studying their work for months, some, for years, before they release it out to the world. They're trying to have a dialogue between themselves and the work because the real artist knows that's the only way he can "understand."

I said "The public doesn't take the time to understand the art." I don't mean everyone in the public, just the vast majority.

Anon. 2

5/15/2009 05:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Ced said...

I see it as: baroque vs classicism vs renaissance )looking for archetypes) vs baroque vs classicism vs renaissance (looking for archetypes), etc
(mess, order, revolution (origin of thought or belief), mess, order, revolution (origin of thought or belief))

My comments past George above look silly for repeating much of George's opinion. This is the delay of comment moderation which made that I never read them first.


Ced

5/15/2009 11:16:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

They don't "understand" the art they're looking at.
.
Oh let's not be so specific, most of the time, hell probably all of the time, people don't understand life itself. The notion that we are in control is just an illusion.

People form beliefs they use to negotiate the world they live in, but when you really get down with someone, you will find their world and your world aren't the same. Oh yes we have some points of congruence, but start discussing religion, or money, or sex, or politics or even art, and see how far you get with someone who has different views.

So it is not surprising that it is painful to see an artist you hate, publicly revered. It is a bitter pill to realize that the truths of ones youth, built in stone, are now nothing more than rubble to be recycled by new generations. It is a bitter pill to realize that history grinds on, filtering those youthful opinions, keeping some, but discarding most.

Nothing is more pathetic than a aged closed mind trying to dampen youths enthusiasm to build a world of their own.

5/16/2009 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Anon.2, I mentioned that Picasso biographer John Richardson (who was an intimate friend of PP, and has done more research on PP than anyone) says the words of the "confession" are Papini's and not Picasso's. So, yes - until you can cite an authority of equal stature who says the words are indeed Picasso's - I agree it's useless to discuss the matter further. But thank you, anyways, for your personal commentary on the "confession." I even agree with the gist (though only the gist) of your comments.

George, when did I say anything about returning to the past - much less advocate returning to the past? Yes, I did suggest that a cyclical model of art history might be more helpful than a linear model. And what that cyclical model might look like. And where we might be in that cyclical model. And what might soon matter most. These were very broad brushstrokes. I did not suggest that this period would or should play out - in all its particulars - the same way as similar periods in the past have played out.

But heck, if you want to argue, I'll ask: What is more out-of-date than the idea of an avant garde - especially now that anything avant garde is quickly assimilated by the mainstream? What, today, could be more contra-mainstream than mastery and aesthetics?

5/16/2009 05:04:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

It's not about the past but making forward assumptions using past paradigms. Cyclicality I understand, it's something I've devoted a bit of time to. Cyclical behavior has its roots in the inflation-deflation cycle of some behavior, idea or economic modality.

Simply, it involves a psychological sequence beginning with early adoption, accelerating with recognition, rolling over and topping with exhaustion, only to finally decline in abandonment until the cycle starts again. When you think about it metaphorically, it is a sexual process.

It is a mistake to suggest that I saw the problem as linear, rather what I was seeing was an attempt to apply a cyclical modality to a linear process which is not inherently cyclical.

"Mastery" is binary, an absolute which not subject to cyclicality. Aesthetics is a more complicated issue, since from one point of view it can be binary when we allow for a multiplicity of tastes. In either case, I don't think there is a valid cyclicality between aesthetic mastery and its lack. So then what?

We might find that there is some cyclicality between points of emphasis, say form and content, or the emotional and intellectual. It may well be that its possible to permute these two simple polarities with some degree of predictability.

In the process of forming new intellectual or formal positions, the artist may find that questions of mastery and aesthetics become temporarily blurred because the focus lies elsewhere. This does not make these issues cyclical, because any medium is at its height when mastery of the esthetic is at its height.

Further, it may well be that the narrow sighted focus on the mastery of the esthetic causes the artworks to lose their connection with the culture destroying the normal cyclical oscillations which we use to maintain some perspective on the present.

The problem in accepting the idea of an avant guard is similar. By taking a linear view, one which is modeled on past history, the avant guard must be the point of the spear of linearality.

What I am suggesting is that a profound cultural change has occurred because the world population has reached a critical mass large enough to change the cultural dimensionality. Rather than a linear progression of culture, essentially a one dimensional process, I would like to suggest that this progression has become two dimensional.

The difference between two dimensionality and linearity, is in the boundary. The linear boundary is at the point of the moving line. A two dimensional boundary lies at the edge of a closed shape and therefore possesses the ability to have more than one avant guard at once.

5/16/2009 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

By the way, I don't believe that the avant garde is quickly assimilated by the mainstream is true.

While communication technologies make us aware of new information more rapidly, I do not think that its implementation or expression happens any faster than it did in the past.

5/16/2009 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom said:
Anon.2, I mentioned that Picasso biographer John Richardson (who was an intimate friend of PP, and has done more research on PP than anyone) says the words of the "confession" are Papini's and not Picasso's. So, yes - until you can cite an authority of equal stature who says the words are indeed Picasso's - I agree it's useless to discuss the matter further.

Tom, I cited Your link to the article "The Jews in Art" which gives Picasso credit for the quote. It states: "To end this article, it is only fair to let Picasso have the last words, written to his friend G. Pagin. They were published in the magazine Von Atelier Zu Atelier 1953, No. 5 and were later re-published in the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung in December 1955."

This is quite a few years before Richardson's claim, and another source was Sir Herbert Read. Just because Richardson is claiming the statement is false doesn't "prove" it's anymore true than the sources that already give Picasso the credit.

Look, no one has, and I doubt will prove whether the Picasso quote is authentic. People come out of the woodwork years after the fact, and "claim" something did or didn't happen one way or another in a past that they weren't there for.

This is a ridiculous example, but the president of Iran recently "denied" the holocaust occurred.

more to come tomorrow.

George 5/16/2009, 9:59pm: Good luck with that hypothesis. Can Tom quote you?

5/17/2009 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, reckless risk-taker that I am, I'm going to go ahead and quote you without waiting for permission.

"... the edge of a closed shape ..."

Your model, then, is a spreading puddle on a level playing field?

5/17/2009 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/18/2009 09:52:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

By the way, I don't believe that the avant garde is quickly assimilated by the mainstream is true.

While communication technologies make us aware of new information more rapidly, I do not think that its implementation or expression happens any faster than it did in the past.

// ================

Tom says, Your model, then, is a spreading puddle on a level playing field?
.
I thought about my description after I made the post and was afraid it would be interpreted as a smooth 2 dimensional shape. It's more spiky than that, more like what happens as a tree branches out, or the root system, or a river delta.

My original idea for this was posted in 2006 on Artblog.net [comment #70]

The change that I think is occurring has more to do with the structure of how art is situated within the culture. For the most part Modernism followed a linear path of development which was reasonably confined by a focus on a sequential evolution of styles. Of course there were always other artists working a parallel path at the same time.

I could use the analogy of a river for the flow of art over the last 150 years. The mainstream was just that, the central part of the river where the current was the fastest. Other stylistic movements, say figuration during periods of more intense focus on abstraction, were still part of the rivers flow but closer to the banks.

The change that I am suggesting is occurring is more analogous to a river that has broadened out in the delta.
.
In the May 2009 Brooklyn Rail Irving Sandler says "Instead of one style being considered mainstream, growing numbers of critics began to think of art as a delta of multiple styles."
.
Further commentary by other writers on Franklins blog attempted to use this idea as a metaphor for the dilution of the aesthetic which I find unfortunate. If you have difficulty with the river, think of a tree growing new branches. Whatever model one uses it is a fractal expansion.

5/18/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George 5/06/2009 09:07:00 AM said...
"All I am suggesting is that as a species, we have a fondness for the "new" and while I suggest it may be evolutionary, it doesn't matter -- people act with this perspective and denying it won't make it go away."

Anon.5/08/2009 06:25:00 AM said:"...the public only "wants..." And they are adeptly influenced by marketing, media, etc., i.e. those in power.

"...fondness for the new..." ... public only "wants (definition - always wants something new)."

Semantics you two.

Tom said: "thank you, anyways, for your personal commentary on the "confession." I even agree with the gist (though only the gist) of your comments."

So let's hear YOUR commentary/feelings on the "confession" rather than just "calling out" others for their answers. I've given my justifications for comments - while others "pick and choose" parts of posts to change the direction to suit their own purposes/agenda rather than giving their own answers.

George said: "...Oh let's not be so specific..."
That's all you are.

Tom said: Your model, then, is a spreading puddle on a level playing field?
Unless there's an edge the spreading puddle will spread past the lines of the enclosed shape and prove the playing field isn't level.

Vger

5/18/2009 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope my comment wasn't the one removed. I thought it relevant and no ill will or sentiments expressed.

Vger

5/18/2009 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Vger said: They don't "understand" the art they're looking at.
.
To which I replied:

Oh let's not be so specific, most of the time, hell probably all of the time, people don't understand life itself. The notion that we are in control is just an illusion.
.
Parsing this one should notice that I do not disagree with your statement, rather I think that it is more profound and encompassing than you suggest.

But, yes I was being specific.

FWIW,
The deleted comment was mine, which I reposted to fix the punctuation.

5/18/2009 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

...and prove the playing field isn't level.
.
Why on earth would you begin to believe the playing field is level?

5/18/2009 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, thanks for the link to the ArtBlog discussion. Your argument, as you presented it there, was both convincing and helpful - on a number of levels. (It's a shame the disaffected couldn't see past their personal tastes and experiences.)

Vger, I'm sorry, but like I said, I'm done with that subject.

5/18/2009 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

One thing I found interesting when I first proposed the idea that the historical flow of stylistic development was branching out into multiple styles like a delta, was that the responses wanted to infer that this entailed a dilution of the aesthetic, the watering down effect.

No I find this particularly odd because, correctly interpreted it is expansive, it allows more possibilities for the artist for the artist to choose from. In almost all cases, the dissenters are suggesting that there is some breakdown in aesthetics and I assume that this would indicate they have an answer, but it is not being heard.

I do not think that there are very many artists who are charlatans and/or are deliberately trying to deceive and dupe the audience. Most people are capable of being assholes at some point in their lives and if we take this into account, most artists are reasonably sincere and serious about what they do.

What artists may say about their work over the course of their career, should be taken with a grain of salt. It really doesn't matter what Picasso said, what matters is his body of work, a collection of objects we can call art. What he said are quotations, but they don't change the artworks, inert physical objects that are the residue of his creative process.

But suppose Picasso, at ninety two, said "It's was all a joke, nah na na nah na" would all his artworks crumble to dust?

AND, suppose it did, how would that affect you or me? Would our art, all of a sudden, become startlingly better?

Would the curators from the Icelandic Museum be beating a path to our doors? I don't think so.

Over the course of this discussion, it appears that some of the participants feel the art world, isn't developing like they imagined. They suggest that it is unfair, overly focused on fashion, or internal politics, or money, or inherently nepotistic and cliquish, or something. They are absolutely right, this is similar to how the rest of society functions.

I suggest that part of being an artist is about being able to negotiate a life path which allows ones work to be seen, and maybe, assimilated by the culture. This really is not something new it's part of the human condition.

There are doers and there are complainers...

5/18/2009 07:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Tom:
+++It's a shame the disaffected couldn't see past their personal tastes and experiences.)


It's Artblog. I wonder how George survived the crucifixion or skinning he must have endured there several times.

Cedric

5/19/2009 05:03:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

"... unfair ... fashion ... politics ... money ... nepotistic ... cliquish, or something."

I suggest that the root of their disaffection is the fact that a state of pluralism (in society and art) is also an absence of certainties. Where did art come from? Where is it now? Where is it going? Disaffection provides a sense of certainty ("it's all crap") over against the feeling that art has become meaningless and directionless.

Danto's statement "Accommodation is the key to survival in an art world in which everything goes" isn't the only alternative to disaffection. As you've suggested, George, the artist can practice integrity of vision - and just accept the fact that the state of the art world (like the state of the whole world) is beyond his control.

5/19/2009 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

Cedric C said, "It's Artblog."

As in, "Forget it, Jake - it's Chinatown"?

5/19/2009 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Ced Caspesyan said...

+++As in, "Forget it, Jake - it's Chinatown"?

As in Hell paved with good intentions.


I think what anon is trying to say is that, it's not because the artist claims to make art, that he accepts it as art (or good art), or that the general people see it as art. If Picasso said "my art is great", anon replies "not really, you're just a lucky bastard". So it comes back to the problematic of who defines the artwork: the artist or the audience? Can the audience creates the art without the artist? This was Beuys' idea, that art basically is just the eye of the beholder, therefore we are all artists (potentially).

Does art exists for as long as one person is able to perceive an object or event as art, and does it stop the moment that all sensorial/thinking receptacle reject it (or have been lost)?

The notion of admitting the audience's power in these decisions about what should constitute art obligedly confront the artist with a pluralism which is one of psychological reception. And the hope that you can touch a large number of person affecting the same types of sensibilities seems meager faced with the equation of "we all think differently".

Pluralism is a direct consequences of the permissivity of pomo toward developing autonomous thinking. It's not about art, it's a state of mind.

It's officially a world of detractions (as opposed to attractions), and the artist works harder to convince the very few that listens.


Cedric Caspish

5/20/2009 01:09:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, I think Cedric [5:03] was being sympathetic.

Cedric raises some interesting questions...

If Picasso said "my art is great", anon replies "not really, you're just a lucky bastard"
.
.
This doesn't tell us anything about Picasso and art, only something about two opinions in a sea of opinions. Together, logically the two statements are incapable of changing the cultural consensus under any circumstances.

... who defines the artwork: the artist or the audience?
.
The terminology is imprecise, but the artists acts as the agent, the creator, the initiator, and presents something as an artwork. The culture forms a consensus and decides to what degree they are willing to accept what is presented as an artwork. However since the population of the culture is large, their rejection is not absolute and does not strip the artwork of its classification, only lowers it in the ranking. Over time, accident reduces non-art to dust.

Can the audience creates the art without the artist?
.
No. Art is the result of some human activity, therefore it requires an agent. What the audience can do is recognize an agent(s) and declare them artists, thus making their activities capable of being art.

Does art exists...
.
This is the tree in the forest question. The difficulty in answering this question is that it presumes there in only one viewer. The actual answer is probably more of a quantum phenomena with the object potentially remaining art until it is reduced to dust. The model for this approach is Feynman's "sum of all events over time"

Even at the 'turned to dust' stage, the artworks residue as memory will still exist for at least generation. Further, in the contemporary world, documentation increases the life span of an artwork as memory.

The notion of admitting the audience's power in these decisions...
.
As noted above, I don't disagree over the idea of how important the audience is. What I call 'the culture' is the collective audience which has the power to accept or reject something as art. Again, the art itself is the result of the activities of an artist, the agent of causation for the artwork. Without the artist, there is no artwork.

Pluralism is a direct consequences of the permissivity of pomo toward developing autonomous thinking. It's not about art, it's a state of mind
.
.
Well, not as I view it. Pluralism is the recognition of a cultural condition which rendered prior attempts to view art in some monolithic stylistic fashion. Autonomous thinking always existed for artists. For the reasons I outlined earlier, several social factors, including demographics, changed all this allowing the culture to accept more than one point of view. In this respect it was a change in the state of mind.

It's officially a world of detractions (as opposed to attractions), and the artist works harder to convince the very few that listens
.

That's a gem.

5/20/2009 08:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Casp said...

We both know George that we really agree about this consensual thing.


I was really delimitating the issue to a situation where indeed there would no one left in the world but you and objects around you. If perceiving art is an ability of the mind, aren't you being a little an artist every
time you look at an object or event and embrace it as art? Isn't that you doing the work, there?


If art is first an "idea" of art, aren't people automatically artists each time they develop an
"idea" that is "artistic" (say, in interpretating a work as art?). I think Beuys was coming back to this concept of the readymade, seeing Duchamp as no special exploit, as for him, the transmutating into art of the everyday object was something that everyone could do, a question of imagination and philosopophy.
Duchamp casted his imagination into the museal realm, but everyone can alter bits of reality into something artistic in their minds even for fractions of seconds. It's merely a decision. I think that is what Beuys was coming at, that art is merely
a condition of will and decision, and that the actual objects or results are secondary.


+++documentation increases the +++life span of an artwork as +++memory.

Yes, but until people still agree to perceive the documentation as documenting "art". What if it turns out people in the future reads it as an expression of madness or an activity symptomatic of some mental disease?


I'm not sure about artists always being autonomous. Some cultural settings oppress the autonomy. Example, when it was impossible for gay artists to express their sexuality. Pomo has encouraged personal sensibilities to unfold because of a premiss that "you are not like your neighbor". People would think for a long time that they were exactly like their neighbor (and still do in many parts of the world as we speak).

Pluralism for me means that we are digesting this new reality, and we've made aware that communication is something very fragile, as you eloquently described earlier.


Cheers,

Cedric C

5/20/2009 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Considering the "no one left" premise, this is an extreme case which doesn't occur in the real world. You suggest that "perceiving art is an ability of the mind" but this requires a stimulus, the art work which is exterior of the mind. Otherwise we are talking about hallucinations.

If art is first an "idea" of art...
Well, I'm not sure I would accept this other than as part of the creative process. In the end the artwork is a stimilus, generally in the form of an object (using the word philosophically, not necessarily a physical object)

The issue here concerns Duchamp positing that anything can be art. If one accepts this then it is a chess endgame (for which Duchamp was noted for) -- there is no where else to take this point, it is the ultimate triviality.

This then creates a new set of question about how me might make distinctions about what is significant enough to isolate from everything else and call it art. If we start at the level of the individual, we will find we are essentially dealing with noise, disagreement is rampant enough to render any decision debatable and useless.

Yet, this is what we do as a culture, utilizing an inherently statistical model to filter through the results well enough to start positing which things might be art and which might not. This method is still subject to static and misjudgment but over time the culture again filters and refines its opinion reducing, or at least establishing a hierarchy among the existent artworks.

Regarding Beuys and that the actual objects or results are secondary .

I think one has to be careful here. Part of his work is the residue from his performances, and performances are ethereal in themselves. Never the less he did choose specific materials to work with, and for Beuys no other choices may have been appropriate. Without the resulting objects, we would only have the memory (or documentation) of the performances.

... symptomatic ... is begging the question, who knows what people will think after we are dead?

I'm not sure about artists always being autonomous.

Sorry but I really think the evidence is to the contrary. Artists have/are doing everything imaginable at any moment in time. Where there is a problem is when artists are acting in a manner they believe the culture wants in order to achieve some specific goal.

Pomo is, for the most part, nothing more than a fad philosophy, a Weegee board would work as well.

You suggest "you are not like your neighbor". People would think for a long time that they were exactly like their neighbor...

This is nonsense. Yes people want to conform, but I suggest that this is a tribal impulse. No one wants to "be like their neighbor," so they wear different clothes, of course clothes which conform to the tribal style.

I am fairly confident that my position suggesting that what we call "pluralism" is in fact the result of demographic influences which broke the cultural restrictions which existed in the late twentieth century. The reason Greenberg is so vilified is because he represents the domineering critic if the period immediately preceding the breakdown.

I suggest that at every moment, reality is a new reality. "Pluralism" is a dead idea, along with "Pomo" abd that the real problem is to be found in seeing the present clearly without past prejudices.

5/20/2009 12:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cedric said: I think what anon is trying to say is that, it's not because the artist claims to make art, that he accepts it as art (or good art), or that the general people see it as art.

Sort of.

But my focus throughout was more on my belief that much of the "general public" accepts art (or music, film, tv, musicals, soft drinks) more because they've been "informed" it is art, rather than had the experience for themselves.

Again, keep in mind I'm generalizing here - so this wouldn't apply to people like George, no offense, it's a compliment.

For the rest (masses) they come to it after the "message" has been fed to them/society, (by the powers that be) that this is the best "art, music, film, musical, soft drink, etc.). They then flock to the museums, concerts, theatres and stores because they "want" it.

This is what a large part of our world is, and the art world is included.

5/20/2009 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

George:
++++Otherwise we are talking about hallucinations.

That's very interesting: art as a cultural hallucination.


Beuys's project (his oeuvre) was definitely a failure. I'm interested by his ambitions and philosophy.

Duchamp saying "anything can be art" sounded like a statement nobody could ever reply to, but I think Beuys did just that, chessmate Duchamp, because his
opinion was that it's not that anything can be art but that everyone can be an artist. That you can switch in any instant
between the urinal and the "Fountain" when looking at the Duchamp piece (if you get my drift).

Beuys sold his residuals in order
to gather funds for his future projects (installations, social works, etc..), but he was always interested in the impalpable, wrether it was metaphysics
or politics (socialism). When he sold a shovel, it wasn't "look at this shovel, it's art" (a la Duchamp), but more a "this shovel served when we built that winery in the south of Italy as a social project...because you can make community projects and see it as art if you're willing to (or whatever...social is as beautiful as art..or IS art, etc..)".


Basically. Art as a philosophy.
I question wrether that is pertinent, or important, but less that it's possible to reduce art to an activity of willfull thinking
and perception.

In this philosophy, consensus
about any object becomes irrelevant, because you are freeing art from any specifity but an action of singular perception. Everything is always art and non-art at the same time, through a constant fluctuation of consciousness, where the individual
decides everyday what objects and events they receive as art that day and which aren't.


I know this is rhetorics but,
it's really about the fact that
we're able to even regard some
works as art. Does this simulus
really comes from the object?
Or do we "project" that stimulus
unto objects or events? Is intrepretating art absolutely
passive? Or is the human mind
striving toward a constant fluxus
of thinking creativity which could
even turn art itself redundant some
day?


I'm kind of intrepretating your demographics into quantities of self-determinate thoughts:

Pluralism X Pluralism X Multipluralism X Exponentpluralism

That's a lot of thinking that's unique and different, and I wonder if one day consensualism will even be possible. Maybe then it would become irrelevant to seek spectacles that everybody's opinions can agree on, because focussing on creative thinking would make consensus something
people would not be interested in finding. A world where individual expression would be entirely or exaggeratingly valorized.


I think I'm disgressing...


Cedric Caspesyan

5/20/2009 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Ced, You're babbling which is the natural result of postmodernist philosophical thought.

The problem occurs when one puts the ideas to the real world test. Does this really happen in the real world? Or, is it just an idea? The difference occurs when ones ideas expose or describe or occur in the real world, the day to day, tie my shoes real world.

It's not just Pomo that's at fault here, it is easy to concoct some explanation (a philosophy) for something which does not in fact occur in the real world.

If one suggests the 'playing field isn't level' it makes sense in the real world because that is the natural state of affairs. It is a result of the human condition where one person tries to optimize their situation, to the detriment of yours.

Consensus exists. It is a manifestation of the result the result of considering all opinions over time. If you examine a subset of these opinions, you no longer are dealing with the consensus set and you may find a subset which disagrees with the consensus. In a similar fashion, one may find ones own opinions differ from the consensus. It's probably better to accept both as true.

5/20/2009 03:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

But the concept of pluralism sends a warning against consensus, I find. It's as saying "whatever you people agree on, there will always be this and this and a thousand other things, all as valuable".

I think we're moving toward an age of micro-consensus. Instead of having just one Brangelina, you'll get a Brangelina, a Dangelina, a Frangelina, a Grangelina, a Slangelina, etc...with each
having a few followers. I think this is close to be the case.

Exponientating this to the level where there would be only one
follower left for every gelinas is probably something that Borges
fantasized about in one of his books.


Cedric C

5/20/2009 11:53:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Ced, you're not thinking this through.

Pluralism is a vague term which at best describes a condition which has now become the norm and allows for a multi stylistic environment.

The very fact we recognize that there has been a change in how we might view the art world stylistically increases the number of opportunities which will require and achieve a consensus over time as to their artistic merit.

In the context of this discussion the term consensus was being used to describe how the culture decides what is art and what is not. Inherent in this process is disagreement, for consensus relates to the idea of a majority not that everyone agrees.

While in theory we could potentially have a condition where the consensus is like you described, highly diffused, but I would suggest that this condition does not occur in the culture, which is required for a real world test of validation.

The positive development we now have is that the consensus, the cultural decisions about what is art and what is not, are now much more diverse

5/21/2009 01:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Does this really happen in the real world?

Yes George,
"Stuff happens!", The science guy.

Round and round and round you go - where it stops nobody knows.

This post is starting to sound like a bunch of frustrated college professors, academicians, writers who can't get enough attention. REAL ARTISTS do their work, not sit around espousing this ridiculous and pointless pseudo-art psycho babble.

Get a copy of "Seven Days in the Art World", by Sarah Thornton - read what is going on in the art world. No offense, but It's not what you're saying George.

Time is passing and it's the time of your life.

O-blog-dee-blog-da.

5/21/2009 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

+++bunch of frustrated college +++professors, academicians, +++writers who can't get enough attention.


Ah come on. There's just about 3 or 4 people still reading this thread. Be fair.

And I think we're all artists more than anything else. Academician, moi? I can't even write properly.


George, I think I thought this through but that I started writting science fiction.
I'm afraid we're stuck with Brangelina for a while.


Cheers,

Cedric

5/21/2009 11:39:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I agree with Cedric here, there's just a few of us left following this discussion and we're all artists.

The internet has made it possible to carry on this type of debate with people one doesn't know, that live somewhere far away, and that may have a different perspective on the topic.

It makes for an interesting discussion, possibly stirring up new thoughts, or clarifying older ones, and of course intimidating others who haven't bothered to considered what is being discussed.

I don't teach, or read heavy books, so my opinions are based upon experience, observation and analysis. But, having lived in NYC for close to thirty years I don't need a book to tell me about the art world. I lived it out for the other 8700 plus days. "Time in grade" as they used to say in the military.

Science fiction is good, I spent last year re-reading William Gibson, all of them.

5/22/2009 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Neuromancer is pure genius.

5/22/2009 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Neuromancer is pure genius.

Yeah, I first time I read it was on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, the mental dislocation was heightened by that grey morning arriving in Schiphol. Gibson has brilliant command of the language and an interesting philosophical viewpoint. Every copy of Neuromancer I owned, I've given away to friends as a 'starter' At the moment Pettern Recognition is my favorite, there's something sadly haunting about the story and a deep perception into the cultural moment.

5/22/2009 11:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There are only three or four reading this..."

But Ed came back, as we were hitting the 150 mark! YAY!

5/22/2009 02:07:00 PM  

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