Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Decade That Wasn't as Bad as Its Rep

I got a lovely Facebook note from my 13-year-old niece the other day. She lives with her mother (my sister), father, three other sisters and brother in another state, so I only get to see her on rare occassions. Let's call her K.

K has come to symbolize to me everything that is right about this world. Born with spina bifida and forced to wear a leg brace, I have never once seen her let that get her down, whether she's chasing her siblings across the yard, back in the hospital for more surgery, or dreaming about her future, she is an energetic burst of good cheer in a gorgeous face and it's not overstating the case to say she has this way of making the clouds part and the sun come out when she smiles at you. Life has been one challenge after another for K, but she remains a paragon of optimism. I honestly don't know how she does it.

I've been thinking a fair bit this year (with the passing of a few dear friends) about optimism. Wisdom, it seems, is the burden of age. Optimism, especially in the face of contradictory evidence, is the burden of youth and the young at heart. On the radio this morning, I heard the "man in the street" interview people about the decade that's passing. Despite turmoil and conflict from beginning to end of the last 10 years, the young folks he interviewed had big plans and big dreams. And even the grumpy older guy who was pessimistic about the future admitted that that won't stop him from buying lottery tickets (the epitome of optimism, if you ask me).

Someone recently scrawled on the wall in our local subway station that all in all things are actually not that bad. Indeed, compared to what Europe was like during WWII or the US was like during the Civil War or plenty of other places (Iran, Afghanistan, etc.) are like right now, overall life is pretty damn good here. Yes, there are hardships, anxieties, stress out the wazoo, and even heart-breaking deaths, but no one is bombing our city on a nightly basis or breaking in with machine guns and searching our home, food is plentiful (if expensive), the water and heat work in our building, we still have friends and loved ones around us. Even the act of contemplating how nice it would be to have a Porsche or a penthouse apartment is, itself, an extreme luxury we shouldn't take for granted.

Plenty of people are bidding "good riddance" to the decade this week. From Paul Krugman ("It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.") to Time Magazine who called it "the worst decade ever," I have to wonder what zapped their memories. Surely they can recall worse decades with just a moment's reflection (the 1930's anyone?). Why all this mindless self-pity? (Because it sells newspapers and magazines?)

I intend to take away from the tail-end of this decade how happy I am to have my health, my darling Bambino, our friends and family, our gallery, and how if a 13-year-old girl with more on her plate than any of the chattering class will likely have to deal with in their lifetime can find the courage and strength to look forward to her own bright future, I simply won't be a part to wallowing in the negative or focusing on how horrible life has been. Life has been grand! And I so look forward to much, much more of the same if this is as bad as it gets.

Have a very Happy New Year! I wish you optimism and growth in 2010!

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42 Comments:

Blogger Brandon Juhasz said...

I always find that my pessimism grows with what I call the globalization of thought. The more I reach out into the world with concerns the more I feel out of control. When I bring my thoughts more isolated I remember how good I have it. So I try to stay more isolated in my cerebral dwellings while still staying connected with the world but letting go more of which I can't change. I care about my local-ness and I find an awful lot of good news.

keep up the good work Ed and watch for the blue moon tomorrow!

12/30/2009 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

The last decade has been PHEONMENAL for progress. If you look at how we worked, communicated, collaborated and produced things in 1999 vs 2009 the very foundations of our social, commercial and spriritual lives have been redone.

Here are some quick examples:

1. A high powered personal computer c.1999 (price ~$3000) has the same power as a $200 cellphone.

2. You have access to more information, news and analysis than ever before, though with this great input of raw power, we are quickly developing the ability for sorting the "good" from the "bad."

3. Collaboration and reachout happens differently now in most ventures:
One example that leaps into mind, is the recent video compound edition would have been nearly impossible in 1999, and you did it in 2009!

4. We mapped the human genome. We have laid the foundations for understanding and treating the diseases that are inherited.

5. We are tackling a number of things done in the last 20 years that are proving to be more painful than they are worth (in the US the high cost of medical care, with the ybrid public-private system, The extreme deregulation of the banking and investment/insurance companies).

6. We have developed the hybrid car - and it is coming down in price. Electric on the way (unless you are fortunate enough to have a Tesla!).

7. Solar power is nearly "grid parity" which means it is going to be cheap enough that solar will likely displace coal-fire and natural gas power plants decelerating the global warming WITHOUT government subsidy. (We can reconvene in 2020 and see how we did on this one)

12/30/2009 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger jami said...

Well said. Happy New Year to all!

12/30/2009 09:41:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

and that beautiful light illuminating the snow this morning, that makes my decade conclude quite nicely. Where the f*ck did it go anyway?

12/30/2009 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks, Ed and all, for these good thoughts.

I would add that the blogosphere has brought together many artists and dealers as colleagues and friends, and it has given all of us the kind of visibility and voice once reserved for critics alone.

As a woman living in the 21st century United States I have (won) the same freedoms that men receive as a birthright. As a queer person I'm delighted that so many of my queer friends have been able to legally marry, and that for the most part, we are now free to live our lives without fear of losing our jobs, or the fear of being stoned to death. These rights are constantly under siege from the right, but we have them and we're not letting them go.

You can put me down as a pessimistic optimistic. (The glass is half full, but it's at the edge of the table.)

12/30/2009 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Staff Brandl said...

Great post. I go for happy stoicism. HAppy New Year --- and new decade. Ein gutes jeues Jahr!

12/30/2009 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Sandy G said...

thank you. Hard to find a space to feel good in sometimes.

12/30/2009 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Hagler said...

People actually break in with machine guns and search homes quite often in the US. However, the homes in question generally belong to poor people with dark skin, so nobody with any power cares.

12/30/2009 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger bca said...

Yes, we are blessed and lucky AND it has been a bad decade.

12/30/2009 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

cite?

12/30/2009 12:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughts Ed, maybe there are a few "human(e)" art dealers in New York after all.

Most of what I get when I walk into a Chelsea gallery is a bunch of money hungry business art poachers /dealers. No one even wants to talk about the art unless it really has to do with making a sale. How pathetic...isn't the art world supposed to be about the art....how did it become so much more about the money!? (I am clearly naive)

Obviously I am pessimistic about the state of the art world, but I have faith that more artists and dealers share my concerns in a world where the bubble has popped.


May the new year see more changes to the art world and hopefully more involvement from people who value art rather trade/commerce and offer understanding and insight rather than speculation and criticism.

As Duchamp so cleverly said..."I don't believe in art. I believe in artists"

Happy new year to all the artists out there and the people (ED) who actually try to understand the plight.

--Delucci

12/30/2009 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Delucci,

with total sincerity, how can you tell by walking into a Chelsea gallery (most of which lately have really, really struggled to keep open) that the place is run by "money hungry business art poachers /dealers"? There are only about 100,000 easier ways to make money in this city.

12/30/2009 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can tell you with honest sincerity what my own experience has been and as someone who appreciates and values art, I feel like a complete fool for even walking into a gallery without money. If galleries don't want to talk with people merely interested in the art, perhaps that should be posted outside so as not to confuse the intent of the gallery.
Yes I understand it is a business, but it is equally a forum and venue for the display and exposure of art, that is after all the service that a gallery supposedly offers artists.

There are galleries that want to talk to and educate people about the work they show, but there are also plenty of galleries who could care less about carrying on a conversation about the work unless as I previously stated it has to do with selling the work. Hey, you don't have to buy art to support it and speak highly of it.

Ed you obviously have a different perspective and that is OK, but my view as an outsider is just as sincere and valid and it does possess a kernel of truth gleaned through experience.

--Delucci

12/30/2009 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Trying to get at what you consider the tell-tale signs of money hungry poachers, Delucci, not questioning your sincerity.

I know from talking with my own artists that many artists and non-artist visitors misinterpret the signals galleries send at times (there really is a very different dialog that happens with collectors than with artists or other visitors and whether it's always smooth or not, a mental transition is frequently required and not always possible given other circumstances)...which isn't to say everyone who's not clearly recognized as a bona fide collector won't get a chilly reception in some places, but that sometimes it's not physically possible to engage each and every person who might want to discuss the art when they're there to do so.

Even if it looks to you that the gallery staff should have the time, they might have other things more pressing from the point of view of what they owe their clients (collectors AND their represented artists).

My point being, if you're sincere about wanting a dialog with a gallery, but get a cold shoulder when you attempt to engage them, consider it something you might need to approach from another angle...or at another time.

Nice or not, paying the bills must be job one in a gallery for it to survive and continue to provide free exhibitions...that's not a license for boorish behavior, but hopefully it provides some comfort to know that it's not personal either.

12/30/2009 01:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the response Ed--

I'm just glad that there are people willing to talk about this issue, because it is hard to understand gallery culture from an outsider's perspective.

By the way, two of my favorite artists reside at your gallery and I hope that they begin to get some serious critical exposure; Shane Hope & Ivin Ballen.

Happy New Year Ed and thanks for providing such a wonderful blog which you so kindly share with the rest of us!

--Delucci

12/30/2009 01:35:00 PM  
Blogger jamm said...

Cite: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/12/architectures-abysmal-year.html

12/30/2009 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

my request for a cite was meant to be for this : People actually break in with machine guns and search homes quite often in the US. However, the homes in question generally belong to poor people with dark skin, so nobody with any power cares.

not sure what your comment cites, Jamm...no one is arguing 2009 wasn't terrible for many industries, but it sure beat a lot of other years I can think of (1929, 1939, etc., etc.)...I'm just amazed at how self-pitying we've become...things have been and could be much, much worse.

12/30/2009 03:05:00 PM  
Blogger jamm said...

Edward, I could cite all day:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/opinion/31iht-edkhouri.html

But, I think what is true is that IF you feel happy with the decade, it is because of the good fortune of living in the western world. For the global community, from tsunami to famine to poverty, things were especially awful. If we are to throw in the uniquely savage wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and the slow collapse of the world economy, to name just a few "trip-ups," we might still be smiling, but happy?

12/30/2009 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

How would that be different from any other decade, though, Jamm?

I don't think the total of human tragedy has been greater the past ten years than in decades past...I honestly think people are simply more spoiled.

I can't buy into the sentiment that things have never been worse...that's nonsense. Things have in so many, many ways never been better.

12/30/2009 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger kalm james said...

It would be way too easy and cynical to go along with the whine fest or turn this into political polemics. If you don’t like the way the galleries treat you in Chelsea we now have the internet and blogosphere. No one is stopping you from getting out there setting up your own web page and flogging your own stuff, creating your own destiny. If you don’t like the way a museum is handling its program, you can write or draw a screed and people will suddenly pay attention. The new state of interconnectedness has empowered millions. This is all good news.

I still remember a period in the mid eighties when the grim reaper cut down a generation of artist, and despite how “tough” things are now, this decade has been a relative picnic.

Besides the new decade doesn’t start till 2011.

12/30/2009 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger jamm said...

Edward,thanks for the reply. Somehow the "cite" question got mixed up. BTW, I am not invoking self-pity. I am more concerned about the degradation of millions and millions of people outside of our experience. I also believe that there is a growing underclass in our country that is suffering. Yes, we move along in our own happiness, but that happiness is simplistic if it does not include some understanding of the greater travail of others in this awful decade. I think the intensity of the world's complex economic, energy and militaristic issues in 1929 or 1939 do not compare to this decades stealth undermining of the planet's bio-diversity, food, education, economy, safety, justice. Some readers seem to think that having a powerful cell phone proves the wonder of the decade. To that I can only say, what the hell?

12/30/2009 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Degrees of pain and happiness are relative, but looking at the bigger picture...few of us have the courage to face what a 13 year old with spina bifida must face every day, with a smile on her face and an optimistic heart...now there is a wise and generous soul. All the best to her and everyone in 2010 as we learn our lessons, so often the hard way...

12/30/2009 05:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting to see what some people qualify as whining. A statement of opinion or fact doesn't necessarily qualify as whining.

This decade did suck, but it was also awesome. I'm not swimming in daisies but my head isn't buried in sh*t. Relatively speaking, I'm doing great and I'm fortunate (blessed) for that, but it would be ego-centric to not recognize the course we are charting as a collective civilization.

I think there are a great deal of people with their head stuck in the sand. Furthermore, today, more than ever I think people (in the industrialized world) are more self absorbed and consumed with their own lives. This is a social critique, it is not whining.

Peace and good will to all, a happy new year and all that, but open up your eyes.

12/30/2009 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Hering said...

For 3,650 days, from 2000 to 2010, 99% of Americans could drink water, eat food, wear clothes and live under shelter. (All thanks to a combination of free enterprise, acts of charity and a wide variety of government agencies - from welfare to regulatory.) Most could also take a shower, adjust their heat or air conditioning, drive to their destinations, and see a medical provider of some sort. Most also enjoyed some form of entertainment, each and every day.

This was the decade from hell? Well, I'll be damned.

12/30/2009 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thank you Tom! My sentiments exactly.

It is interesting to see what some people qualify as whining. A statement of opinion or fact doesn't necessarily qualify as whining.

Ok, sorry, but got to parse that one a bit...the "statement[s] of opinion or fact [?]" quoted include "a decade in which nothing good happened" (really....NOTHING???) and "the worst decade ever."

If that, in the face of the facts that Tom spelled out, isn't whining...I honestly don't know what is.

Had they said something more akin to "it was a very challenging decade on a many fronts" or "there seem to have been more bad things that happened that I recall than good things" then maybe you could claim they're not whining, but hyperbole is the essence of whining and they got hyperbole to spare.

12/30/2009 09:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

I don't know if was the worst decade ever. But in many ways it was pretty bad.

- The US mainland was attacked for the first time in history.
- Incidents of terrorism have visited Bali, London, Madrid, Mumbai, and elsewhere.
- Consumer debt in this country rose out-of-control, with mortgage foreclosures and bankruptcies reaching record levels.
- A second great depression in this country may have been only narrowly averted.
- Real wages for the average American are stagnating, while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
- Two ill-conceived wars have done nothing to bring greater safety to this country and have virtually destroyed its international prestige.
- The US for the first time in its history has engaged in torture, all the while denying it was doing anything of the kind.
- Partisanship has become so endemic in this country that a health care bill that would have been welcomed in the Nixon era is barely squeaking through Congress.
- No serious effort has been made to reform the Wall Street bankers whose irresponsibility contributed to our financial crisis.
- Savings rates in this country are still so low that one wonders how the Baby Boomers will manage when forced to retire.
- Human rights abuses still continue in China, North Korea, and Iran, the latter two of which continue to pursue nuclear ambitions.
- There is still no significant progress between Israelis and Palestinians.
- No significant action has yet been taken towards solving global warming, and skepticism about CO2 emissions in some quarters is threatening to halt progress completely.
- The Bimbo from Wassilla could have been a heartbeat away from the Presidency had Grandpa been elected.
- Judge Judy is still allowed on television.

I'll think of a few more by morning. Just saying.

12/30/2009 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

I can remember exactly where I was when this awful decade came into being. Believe it or not, when I rang in the new year on January 1, 2000, not only was I stone-cold sober - I was at church! My then-girlfriend and I attended a special midnight mass at the local Catholic church to welcome in, not only a new decade, but a new century and a new millennium. I remember feeling filled with optimism. By entering this new era, I felt, we could wipe the slate clean. Maybe this would be a new age of peace, love, brother and sisterhood. EVERYBODY SING!

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius!
Age of Aquarius!
Aquariusuuuuus!

How utterly naive on my part, huh? By year's end, all of that hope was out the window and into the toilet. In December of 2000, an ideologically perverted Supreme Court would assist in a stolen election by stopping the vote count in the state of Florida, installing a corrupt little frat boy with the I.Q. of a half-eaten box of Milk Duds as president of the United States. It was all downhill from that moment on. From the birth of "Reality Television" to the worst attack on American soil since the Civil War, it was quite a strange ten years to say the least. Thankfully this awful decade is a mere three days away from being forever consigned to history's scrap heap. Hallelujah.

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

Tom Degan

12/31/2009 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger tony said...

It's only natural that on a site where, for the most part, American speaks to American any subject ends up UScentric but in the above comments I was struck by the narrowness of perspective & the total lack of realisation that the axis of power & influence has radically shifted within the last decade & that America in general has not yet woken up to the fact.

For all its great resources - whether they be military, economic or cultural - the America that was belongs to history & for the moment I see no sign of a true rejuvenation.

In the past one could say, in a limited sense, that what was good for America was good for the world but those times have passed. If the 'feel-good' factor has any value at all it can now only be in universal terms & not merely limited to inward looking national criteria.

12/31/2009 08:44:00 AM  
Anonymous William Chesapeake said...

The 'decade' is neither good nor bad. It's all in one's perspective. Which I believe was Edward's point. Well said Edward.

12/31/2009 09:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post, Ed. While willful ignorance of the difficulties of life does not protect us, neither does cynicism-and I think it's very true that we create our reality. We're all wandering around in the world, trying to make sense of things and find fulfillment. I've had great interactions with art dealers this year and bad ones too. I made my first "major" purchase (a Teo Gonzales drawing) on time, and the people at the gallery were wonderful because they love art and artists-not just money. Then again, I had a nasty email exchange with a very well-known dealer when I wrote to ask about if a friend's work was included in a 40-year gallery retrospective.
All I'm saying is that although our minds are trained to recognize patterns, it's easy to go too far and draw faulty conclusions. Hoping the next decade is better, but appreciating all the good things in this one. Thanks for what you do!

12/31/2009 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

The real question relates back to "Is the glass half empty or half full?"

The population seems to be divided into two halves, one with a pessimistic bent and one with an optimistic bent. No matter what the actual skew of events the two halves shade it to match their opinion. Maybe the pessimists serve a social function by acting as a moderator on society's enthusiasms but almost all the creative innovations are the work of the optimists, the ones who won't believe it can't be done.

Against the litany of "bad things" there are also the less heralded achievements of the last decade, look to/for those.

Now that we have had an economic contraction, more severe than usual but really not all that uncommon, and a contraction in the art market, it appears that everyone forgot what fun it all was just five years ago.

12/31/2009 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Natalya said...

thank you!

12/31/2009 02:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Winkleman,

I know this is offtrack but I wonder if we may ask your advice.We are quite aware that you are often willing to help artists with a word of advice or two and wish to humbly take advantage of your kindness.

The problem:

An artist friend, whose work is unknown, who nevertheless has been included in biennale or two (serious unfunny yet rather 'artist-defining' stuff that these sort of showings often are) is presently agonizing whether or not to submitted a self-portrait image to Artist Wanted

The image will be nude with a heavy conceptual edge. She obviously wants it out. She says she would gladly buy a page in ARTFORUM but for her pocket. (She barely carries a part time job for any length of time).

She agonizes over this because we say no. We see it as a kind of downgrade (granted that we also believe her showings so far have not served her capacity for irony and humour). We feel however her art will not be served by the flippancy implied in an online competition; that her path so far has been towards the 'serious' artist type--the type who goes on European residencies (sparse as it all may be)--but we see a future. Or not. In any case, she is no pop artist. Nothing casual about her. We feel this competition will make her look desperate. Which she is not. In fact quite the opposite.

Are we wrong? Does it matter?

We are aware that we do not know an awful lot about the art world.


Kindly advice.

With regards and a happy 2010 to your blog.

M.

12/31/2009 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger JP said...

A-frigging-men. Even when I complain about what could have been or how much better I'd like things to be I hope to not forget my health and my ability to make things better for myself and those around me.



A happy twenty-teens to you and yours.

1/01/2010 12:17:00 AM  
Blogger Carlin said...

Aside from Bush and Co - the decade had its ups and downs - technologically SOUND - politically heated and inspiring bringing new levels of HOPE - morally revealing or immorally revealing take your pick.... I hope the 10's bring more prosperity to everyone - best wishes to all!

1/02/2010 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

M, I don't think this is the appropriate thread for you to post that question, I cannot believe you posted it again behind the scenes when I didn't respond quickly enough (this is not an on-demand advice service), and your question makes absolutely no sense to me, unless it's intended to generate publicity for that online contest.

Long and short of it is I have no comment. Happy New Year all the same, though.

1/02/2010 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Clayton said...

Thank you for posting this. I haven't felt so optimistic in ages and I can't blame it on youth. Chalk it up to personal stuff, mainly: finally being in a position to make some big changes for personal and professional growth. From here, 2010 looks pretty good.

Optimism is catching, just like pessimism. And right now, for whatever reasons (and it's not all new year's stuff and youthful exuberance) people seem extra hopeful and optimistic.

And with that, I wish you a joyful, prosperous, healthy and peaceful new decade!

1/02/2010 06:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best post I've ever read on here.

1/03/2010 01:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Patricia said...

Thank you, Edward, for your clarity and honesty. Reading your remarks today has been refreshing. Happy 2010!

1/03/2010 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Hagler said...

"my request for a cite was meant to be for this : People actually break in with machine guns and search homes quite often in the US. However, the homes in question generally belong to poor people with dark skin, so nobody with any power cares."

Any daily newspaper will have regular stories about these incidents. There are many TV shows and movies, both documentary and "inspired by a true story" fiction--the TV series "Cops" has been around for many years and is quite well known. A Google search for "SWAT team" turns up over a million hits.

1/04/2010 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

uh...I thought it was understood that I meant without a warrant for illegal activity, such as happens regularly in some other countries, but...OK.

1/04/2010 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Will said...

"Wisdom, it seems, is the burden of age. Optimism ... is the burden of youth and the young at heart."

Beautifully said.

1/08/2010 01:10:00 PM  

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