Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Five Things to Give Thanks For

Blogging will be sporadic over the next 10 days or so. With everyone traveling for the Thanksgiving Holiday and then the annual migration for the Miami mayhem, I'm not sure how easy it's going to be to carve out much time. Still, as I like to do this time of year, I wanted to stop to reflect on a few things I have to be thankful for, both personal and professional. It's not an entirely original list, but the truest of such sentiments rarely make one, and so....here goes:
  1. My dear friends and family. I just finished reading McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Road. I can't imagine anyone coming away from that book not wanting immediately to hug their loved ones and never let them go. So consider this a big virtual group hug (grrrrrhhhhaaaahhhh). Especially for that dynamo of a descendant of Genghis Khan who gives the Energizer Bunny a run for his money in terms of sheer staying power and constant encouragement...my darling, the man they call "Bambino." We've had a really tough year (as have many, I know), but Bambino seems to just get stronger and more supportive the tougher things get, and I don't thank him anywhere near enough. So, here, publicly, let me say that I simply couldn't imagine doing this without you. You are a Rock. Thank You!
  2. Our artists and colleagues. Most of us are still here!!! More than a year ago, predictions were that "40 to 50 New York galleries will close." Fortunately it hasn't come to that. The industry, indeed the nation, is not out of danger just yet, obviously, and I've noted this before, but it bears repeating...when you can walk through many neighborhoods in Manhattan and see restaurants and boutiques by the dozen who've closed down, it's quite amazing how many galleries have managed to stay open. It ain't been easy, let me tell you, and I'm very impressed with my fellow art dealers. I'm also very grateful that our artists have all been so supportive as we've navigated these times. I love you all! But that still doesn't mean we can turn the gallery into a speakeasy, so stop asking. :-)
  3. Our President. Yes, he's managed to piss off just about everybody, which, given how long he's been in office is some accomplishment, but at least now we're debating issues like health care reform and not whether state-approved torture is sometimes OK. He's an adult and an intellectual who doesn't abuse his power to promote his party, and despite the turmoil in the world, I personally sleep much better knowing he's at the helm.
  4. Miami!!!! The temperature in New York is supposed to nose-dive this weekend, making early next week the perfect time to grab my flip-flops and sunscreen and head south! This will be our 7th year in Miami, and a renewed optimism about how things will turn out this year has been steadily building. Please do stop by and visit us in Booth B-203 at the PULSE Miami Art Fair.
  5. Ben Davis's fabulous defense of "conceptual" art.
    On both sides, "traditional" and "conceptual," the perceived ill of the other is actually just the displaced face of the market itself, with its tendency to transmogrify and vulgarize everything. Which should provide a lesson for critics about the kind of promises they make for art: There are no formal or esthetic solutions to the political and economic dilemmas that art faces -- only political and economic solutions. Consequently, the only critical temperament that makes any real sense is an eclectic one that doesn’t build up one or the other side into the answer for problems that they both share.
    Read the whole thing.
BONUS thing to be thankful for: Narrowly missed disasters.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving Holiday, y'all!!

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22 Comments:

Blogger Dalen said...

Happy Thanksgiving, Edward. I'm thankful for your blog :)

11/25/2009 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks Dalen.

I say this in other forums, but not so much here: I'm very thankful for the commenters here. I've read it again and again in reviews that the special value of this blog is the dialog in the comments thread. I learn from it daily.

11/25/2009 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

You're right - that defense was fabulous, in the sense of "lacking factual basis" or "barely credible." Dutton's argument is flawed, but Davis calling the editor of Arts & Letters Daily an anti-intellectual for the temerity disliking the art that he likes just shows the grandiose regard that certian aficionados of conceptual art have for their own sophistication and mental gifts. The double invocation of Searle's "the unexamined prejudices, the kneejerk anti-intellectualism and cultural suspicion of contemporary art" was especially choice. If only life were so simple for them that people who didn't like conceptual art were just too dumb to understand it. Then they wouldn't have to entertain the possibility that they aren't smart enough to reject it.

Happy Thanksgiving anyway and see you at Pulse.

11/25/2009 01:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Conceptual art. I love Post-Impressionism and International Gothic too.

Have a great holiday, Ed. And may the coffers reopen when you are in Miami.

11/25/2009 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Clayton said...

I too, am thankful for your blog and the dialogue. Although I don't comment often, I glean much from visiting this site.

And as someone who's geographically removed from art and culture, I'm also thankful for the internet because without it, I truly would not have a sounding board, nor other valuable resources.

I'm also thankful that in a bad economic climate, art is there, and- at least for me- great opportunities for introspection and creating.

11/25/2009 01:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm thankful for Franklin and George's fights. I find them therapeutic. Thanks guys!

11/25/2009 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Gobble gobble! and best of luck in Miami.

11/25/2009 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Counting our blessings is good. I'd like to express my appreciation to Ed and for making this all possible and wish both you, Bambino and the rest of the gallery staff (inc. Max;-) a gluttonous Thanksgiving - go for it and diet Friday.

Regarding both the Ben Davis and Adrian Searle articles: Well, conceptual art is here to stay, primarily because it has always been a part of the art making process and most recently unmasked by new approaches and media.

Dutton's letter in the NY Times was merely another case of the old guard harangue, what he grew up believing in and appreciating as art, has been supplanted by something new which he neither likes nor understands. It makes perfect sense that he would complain. When he starts talking about art as investment his train runs off the tracks, he doesn't have a clue and it hurts his arguments.

What many fail to understand is precisely what Ed pointed out in the previous post. We all grow up in our own historical bubble, with our own music, movie stars and with our own particular art and philosophical movements. These aspects of the culture move onward through time. Generations reject past examples because they have become no longer relevant, engaging or exciting.

Periodically a generation will search out something they feel is radically new, if only to tattoo themselves as different from their parents or teachers. Of course there will also be a legion of goody twoshoes who will conform and maintain the continuity of history.

I think Adrian Searle really nailed it with "... it was still 1995. It's the same old same old: here comes Tracey; there goes Damien." Gee wiz folks we are a full decade into the new millennium and we're still talking about Hirst and Koons. Worse, some are still worried about the postmodernist demons and I even read somewhere that "abstraction" was still too "radical."

I don't think there really is a crisis. When there are no clear guidelines, stylistic or conceptual, people mill about aimlessly.

11/25/2009 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger nathaniel said...

what a few weeks - so glad for the holidays... enjoy!

11/25/2009 11:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

I'm thankful for Franklin and George's fights. I find them therapeutic. Thanks guys!

I aim to please, Anon. Happy Thanksgiving!

...what he grew up believing in and appreciating as art, has been supplanted by something new which he neither likes nor understands.

He understands it fine - conceptual art is quite amenable to explanation, especially by the intellectual standards of the contemporary art world. It's far more amenable to explanation than art made for visual reasons. Again, the apologists would like to think that people who don't like it just don't understand it, even if that means calling an intellectual an anti-intellectual like Davis called Dutton. It makes Davis look desperate for justification, which is the quintessential marker of middlebrow taste. Dutton has put out an incorrect argument about the matter, but its flaw was an overreaching attempt to reason about art in evolutionary terms, plus the fact that his idea of artistic skill is pretty much mimetic. It could be disproved on those terms, but conceptual talent is social talent, not artistic talent, and Davis mounted a social counterattack.

11/26/2009 08:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Generations reject past examples because they have become no longer relevant, engaging or exciting.

What many fail to understand (well, George, anyway) is that this phenomenon is not necessarily generational, sentimental, or forward-looking. Maybe Ed's conversant in the last post longed for fondly-remembered times in his life, but I came to the same conclusions about peoples' declining ability to detect quality since the '40s and '50, and I was born quite a bit later. In 2007-2008 I spent a year teaching at a realist atelier, and there's a significant movement of young artists, largely centered around Los Angeles, who are taking their cues from Caravaggio. One of them modeled for me, and we ended up having a protracted conversation about the beauty of mars violet. It's quite a scene.

The radicals reach backwards to move forward. Manet innovated by reaching out to Valezquez, Picasso to Cezanne, Seurat to Piero, Pollock to Michelangelo (via Thomas Hart Benton). The process is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

11/26/2009 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George exclaimed, "Gee wiz folks ..."

Might we be stuck in past decades, mentally, because the idea of progress in art is no longer operative?

Anyways, I'm thankful for my "second life" (after cancer), and the grace I receive to make art each day.

A very happy Thanksgiving Day to all!

11/26/2009 09:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Bill said...

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Agree with Ed, that the commenters make this blog special -- not to mention Ed's commitment, which we're all THANKFUL for!

All the best!

11/26/2009 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Tom, "...because the idea of progress in art is no longer operative?"

No, because it was never true. Art evolves and changes, along with the changing culture. The is no "progress" in the sense of improvement, only difference between one period and another. There may be periods which are less significant than others but art is not progressing towards some ideal.

FWIW, I think as a result of the recent economic contraction there is an amazing energy now among young artists who are looking forward for something new to explore.

11/26/2009 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

The weakness of positions similar to Franklins is that they are prejudiced in a way which divides everything into two camps, essentially what they "like" and what they "don't like." Gerhard Richter falls into the "don't like" camp (too conceptual, no taste, bad color, can't draw whatever) yet he has an exhibition of paintings up now which look like other paintings from the "like" camp (squeegeed abstractions.) Richter's aren't all bad but it seems like they are being dismissed as 'bad' because he belongs to the wrong union.

Further, Franklin quotes me where I say Generations reject past examples because they have become no longer relevant, engaging or exciting.

If this wasn't the case we wouldn't be having this discussion. To be precise, there are historical moments when change occurs more easily. Typically when some mode of fashion or intellectual investigation has worn thin and artists are looking for something different as an answer. Like now.

Franklin prejudicially assumes that I have an agenda when I say "radical" and assumes it is the worst case of his fears conceptual art or something close. Why is that? Why does he assume I'm not expecting a revival of painting inspired by Caravaggio?

To be fair, I don't, but I do think young artists are reacting against art of the recent past, the very art which Franklin and Dutton hate. What I don't suggest, or even offer guidance on, is how this reaction will proceed, what kind of art will result.

I attended the Hunter Open Studios last week, I paid the most attention to the young painters and was struck by their optimism and forward vision. This was my third visit to some of their studios and as a group I had the gut feeling that the recent downturn was liberating and that the real dialogue was now amongst themselves and more distanced from the NY gallery scene. It was all very exciting and I wouldn't have the gall to tell any of them what to paint, they seem to have a good handle on that for themselves.

In other words, the debate over the conceptual vs. the retinal is really over with. It appears that artists are doing whatever they want, mix and match, whatever fits their own vision for the future of art. Good for them.

11/26/2009 12:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, I have a sense of your being through this forum and am thankful for it too.

Happy day to all.

Cathy

11/26/2009 01:43:00 PM  
Blogger nina said...

Happy Holiday and thank you for your always thoughtful posts.

11/26/2009 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Franklin prejudicially assumes that I have an agenda when I say "radical" and assumes it is the worst case of his fears conceptual art or something close. Why is that? Why does he assume I'm not expecting a revival of painting inspired by Caravaggio? To be fair, I don't...

Then I guess you could say that my prejudicial presumptions predict pretty prodigiously. Happy Thanksgiving, George!

11/26/2009 05:29:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks, Ed, for your blog. (Your generosity inspired me to start mine.) Is it my imagination, or has the discourse, including disagreements, assumed a higher degree of refinement?

11/27/2009 03:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

George, progress in art may not be real, but it has been an operative idea at times - has led some artists to search for the new. And find it.

Cathy, thanks. Your comments often bring a smile to my face.

11/27/2009 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

(Tom) Two geezers sitting in rockers soaking up the sun on the front porch...

Remember back in the 60's when we were young turks, "progress in art" really did mean that people thought "art was getting better," that each new stylistic development was serving to purify the medium and take art further towards the peak of the goodness mountain?

My pappy told me about "Progress," he was at the '39 Worlds Fair in Chicago, she said it was really a great dream until the war came, then everything got put on hold. It wasn't until about '47 that we swapped out the old icebox for a refrigerator, ma liked that. Got us one of them streamlined Fords in '50, road like a dream. Yup, kids today don't know what progress means anymore.

Cut to present...

That ideal was the conceptual bait of the day used to sell art to the aficionados and nothing more. Art 'progresses' through history but not towards some ideal as implied by the use of "progress."

"New" is what's not yesterday, and as noted often is nothing more than a recycling of past tropes, modes, styles or conceptualities. I've meditated deeply on Picasso's 1907 painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and marveled on what a radical set of decisions was required to bring it into existence.

Picasso took two years to reconcile the ideas into Cubism and then a month for others to copy. From the present vantage point, there is no way to undo history, no "reset button" we can push that will allow us to see the world the same way as it was in 1907. Everything we do is new, but not necessarily "new."

The "new" runs in cycles because it takes time to develop, expose, assimilate and finally become bored with "the latest and greatest" The "new" is both the salvation and the grave for artworks, it refreshes stale ideas with a fresh vestment and eventually builds its own rigid rationalizations for its existence which periodically become fuel for the bonfire.

It's not about reviving Caravaggio but how you revive Caravaggio, or ...

11/28/2009 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I always feel like americans are cheating with that Thanksgiving. It's like having two Christmas. Ah well, merry holidays anyway.

Cedric

(pro-anything: concept, formal, trad, avant, revolut, conserv, handcraft, techno, bring it on!)

11/28/2009 10:40:00 PM  

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