Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All Out of Words

it happens...

What you got?

Labels: open thread


OpenID delsel said...

Good Morning Ed-

This is actually a very appropriate topic. We live in a very conflicted and gridlocked age (Healthcare reform) so the issue of knowing where to go next is always relevant.

With regard to artistic practice, I think that this state of mind is very prevalent within the creative process. In fact, I would say that no great art gets made without engaging in the confrontation of barriers.

Just a few opening thoughts

3/16/2010 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Artists, please comment:
do you expect a sale when a collector visits your studio?
my situation/scenario: i emailed an artist expressing interest in his work. consequently, i was invisted to the studio for a look. the work was nice but not nice enough, but not enough to buy. i left without buying anything. subsequently, i received an email from said artist expressing dismay and that i had wasted his time (which was true).
Question: as a collector, how should i proceed next time prior to a studio visit so that the artist is not left with these feelings?

3/16/2010 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger beebe said...

Never expect to sell anything. Ever. The artist should've thanked the collector for his/her time, said they were open to any further discussions and visits and left it at that. Maybe follow up in three or four months when there is new work to show.

3/16/2010 10:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@anonymous: no. studio visits help build a relationship, give the visitor an opportunity to look into ur process and ask questions and get to know u and ur art. it's a stepping stone.

3/16/2010 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

Welcome to the club, Ed :)

It happens to me a lot... a lot more than to you, probably, I'm not a verbal person.

For that reason, I chose a non-verbal way to express myself, through visual art, and before through music. Sometimes I write words, but writing is difficult to me. I'm struggling with it, like now.

So that leads me to the question: why is verbalization so important today in the art world? It seems in art schools there's an emphasis on the written or spoken word. An installation, or exhibit, comes with a long explanation which is necessary in order to understand or connect to the work. I am not dismissing this, or marking it unimportant, but I'm only asking: why is it so often necessary? Art can have depth and meaning that are transferred without the use of words, where words can be even redundant, or distracting. It's like instrumental music. There is no need for lyrics, and there's also no need for explaining, what is it about this music. If you are a professional musician, you may be interested to know what scales, what rhythm patterns were used, but this can sometimes spoil your enjoyment of the piece, actually, because the piece speaks to your mind (or your heart, or both) directly, without the 'translation' or interpretation of words.

I'm curious about that.

3/16/2010 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

Anonymous, I would think if someone wants to come to my studio they are serious enough about purchasing, yes, and basically, if they already saw the art in a picture, know the size and the price, they are only coming to confirm it really looks as good in person, or to pick up a specific piece, and not to decide if the art is 'good' or 'nice enough to buy'. Unless the art looked very different in person than it did in pictures and you were very disappointed, the artist probably expected you to buy. The artist probably felt very disappointed. If you introduce yourself as a collector, or buyer, that's the expectation. Otherwise, in the future, you should just introduce yourself as someone who is curious to see the art in person but have no intention of buying anything, this way, there is no promises made, no false pretense, no disappointment. The artist may refuse your visit, but that's only fair.

3/16/2010 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

desel, this also has to do with my other comment, about the need to be verbal in art these days. The meditative, non-verbal state you talk about is the cradle of creation, but so much art today is being produced from the mind, and by the mind. I think I, personally, really miss the visceral expression in non verbal forms of art.

3/16/2010 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger Jen Dalton said...


That artist is wrong, you did not waste his time. Every studio visit is an opportunity to learn something, that is what both parties should focus on. It was not courteous or smart for him to send you that email. Now will you recommend his work to any curators, dealers or collectors you think might like it? Probably not.

In order to manage expectations, you could tell future artists before the studio visit that you are not necessarily planning to buy any art right this moment, but you are interested in seeing more of their work for future reference.... or something like that.

3/16/2010 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger kalm james said...

Socialist Ed,
A subject that I think might be apropos to the previous thread, but over the last several years I keep bouncing off is: "Outsider Art" and its implications for "insider" artists. Many respondents both here and at #class lamented their lack of support or funding, but if one were to look at some of the stories of the great "Outsider" artists, you'd see repeated cases of "artists" creating fantastic art under conditions of the most extreme deprivation.

I laughed at the Urs Fischer press conference when I heard Massimilliano Gioni say "It's not about the money". Lets face it, with out current state of technical and manufacturing expertise, anything can be produced and exhibited, if you have the cash. Koons, Fischer, Hirst, and others exist more as directors of teams, or heads of corporations than as hands on "artists".

Maybe it's time for a different paradigm, simple art made by the hands of simple artists. An art that relies more on ideas and passion than high cost production values. A more human centered and pathetic art.

3/16/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If, in expressing interest in the artists work you didn't specifically say you were going to make a purchase upon visiting (and frankly even if you did), I don't think you are in the wrong. A studio visit is not a guarantee of a sale.

I'd simply say, "I appreciated their time, but didn't see what I was looking for. Please keep me informed as new work becomes available and I'll arrange to visit again.

3/16/2010 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for your blog.

3/16/2010 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

I stand corrected, the artist shouldn't have expected anything, but in any case, this also really depends on how you have introduced yourself, and it's also understandable that the struggling artist may have had his or her hopes up. you may next time want to specifically make it clear to the artist that you only want to 'visit', not buy, and if you do decide to buy after all, it will come as a pleasant surprise.

3/16/2010 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

Beautiful weather today. (at least in NYC). Those who can, Go outside and enjoy the spring air.
Yay! Weeeee!

3/16/2010 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Brent said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/16/2010 11:34:00 AM  
Anonymous Pam said...

I am annoyed by the shouting 9 stories below me.

3/16/2010 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Sowa Mai's dog said...

If you haven't had a chance to contribute your voice to the project we open simultaneously in six countries: Italy, France, Holland, Germany, Brazil, and the USA this April 7th. Students seem to be the most creative at this point and we have an overwhelming majority from the US with Australia a close second. Is your country represented? I made a new video showing a tease of what the visitors experience is withholding a few surprises for the opening. I contacted William Powhida about adding the project to his #class extravaganza. If your in NYC and went to the Whitney instead of this, shame on you. Here's a chance to make your voice heard in new media art throughout the world.

3/16/2010 12:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

I don't think the artist should assume the studio visit represents a commitment to buy, any more than a visit to a gallery does. There is no sale until an exchange of money takes place. And if a sale falls through, it may not necessarily reflect on the art. The buyer may have other financial priorities, or the budget may require a buyer to narrow down from among several desirable alternatives. As a buyer, I may visit 10 galleries or studios, and I may like work from half of them. I really wish I could acquire all the works I've liked! But there have been many times that financial prudence has forced me to pass up pieces I would have liked to acquire. When I'm really ready to buy, the artist or the dealer will know it.

3/16/2010 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the first Anon on the last thread here....

a couple of follow up thoughts.

Good art (that which stands the test of time) is no more a market commodity than health care.

I don't think anyone here would suggest that the state should be the sole determinant of what is worthy in the cultural arena.

But Ed's post struck me as a libertarian "let them eat cake" argument that if you haven't been let into the club you just aren't working hard enough. A little bit surprising considering that most (all?) of Ed's own artists (some of whom i know personally and admire as people and as artists) have day jobs, teach, etc. This is by no means a knock on Ed's gallery...it's more the rule than the exception even among Chelsea galleries. You could count on all your fingers and toes those galleries which actually provide their artists a living.

I myself have had one foot "inside" the system, having been given a fair bit of critical validation and having made it into a few very nice collections...The website "Artfacts" had me listed in the top 1% of living artists. but I still have no chance of covering my expenses with my art. Ever. I have always, and will continue, to make my living doing unrelated technical work which pays well but has nothing to do with making art.

I say this not because anyone should care who I am and what my career and work is like, but because I am a pretty good test case for what one can expect if they show a fair amount and structure their life around their work...which up until recently I have. And people need to know this. They need to know that they will be asked to donate their work to nonprofit orgs., but that they themselves are "nonprofits" who don't get to hold a benefit auction. They need to know that wealthy collectors will demand discounts just because it's a game, when that extra $500 in your pocket means a lot to you but nothing to them. They need to know that they can get reviewed in the New York Times, in Artforum, Art in America, etc and that these reviews, plus a metrocard, will get you on the subway. The system IS exploitative, it exploits the passion and determination and lack of business sense of most artists. Yes, as Ed points out, most of the curators, gallery staff, art handlers (many of whom are just artists with day jobs anyway) are (barely) making middle class wages. But they are getting paid. The artists (with a very, very few high profile exceptions) by and large, are not. Even when they sell some work, or get a grant, it's never enough to pay living expenses for very long. And a few (blue chip dealers, real estate investors, auction houses, a token handful of art stars) are getting rich. And many more get to bathe in the feel-good cultural glow of contemporary art while it's the artists who are effectively subsidizing the whole entire system.

3/16/2010 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

Maybe it's time for a different paradigm, simple art made by the hands of simple artists. An art that relies more on ideas and passion than high cost production values. A more human centered and pathetic art.

But that paradigm does exist. Why cant these things simply co-exist? Perhaps feed off each other.

I have been watching "In Treatment" on DVD lately, a wondeful HBO show about analysis, psychology, and other things. Its coloring in my mind many things I encounter (my students, my art, this blog, etc)I am always fascinated by how psychology plays into our individual and collective stances on art, our personal aesthetic choices, and how we "see" the entire landscape of art (the artworld). As a teacher, psychology is a palpable entity in the classroom. It really is the whole thing. I should flesh this out anecdotally, but my time is limited. But, any thought out there?

3/16/2010 01:38:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

my God but you're persistent.

How can a system that must generate demand for a product that no one needs and (even then) only a few people want possibly provide enough money to as many people in this country who call themselves an artist for them to not be "exploited" in your opinion? What exactly are you calling for?

And before you entirely canonize yourself: If you think visual artists have it so bad, ask a poet or dancer what they're dealing with. You're comparatively well off.

3/16/2010 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

@Anon 1:28,
You are far ahead of many others. If you are represented then you have a seat at the table too, granted all the gravy passes you by. Thank you for sharing. I, and am I sure 1,000's of others would like to be where you are all the same. The money may not be there, but at least your work is being seen.

3/16/2010 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Larry said...

I myself have had one foot "inside" the system, having been given a fair bit of critical validation and having made it into a few very nice collections...The website "Artfacts" had me listed in the top 1% of living artists. but I still have no chance of covering my expenses with my art. Ever. I have always, and will continue, to make my living doing unrelated technical work which pays well but has nothing to do with making art.

So what's your beef? You are apparently making a good living, and no one owes you a living from your art. I assume you've heard of Charles Ives and Wallace Stevens? One of America's greatest composers and one of her greatest poets, by all reckonings. Both made lucrative livings from - what, their art? - no, from selling insurance.

And by the way, as a buyer of modest means, I assure you that $500 means a lot to me.

3/16/2010 02:10:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Anonymous @01:28:00 PM The system IS exploitative, it exploits the passion and determination and lack of business sense of most artists.

Well, let's see. We [artists] slave away in our studios making some object which we then try to sell to the 'mark' for a good sum of money. Now the marks might not even understand what they are buying but they sucked up the rap and decided to take a flyer and buy something which they don't need, does nothing useful but which might possess some other ineffable cultural value in the future.

If purchasers are lucky, some day they might be able to resell this "artwork" for more than they paid for it (not including storage, insurance, pleasure (a plus), etc). But the actual fact is that most artworks won't retain their value on an inflation adjusted basis.

However, suppose the purchaser made an astute purchase and was later able to resell the artwork for five times its original price. Who is being exploited here?

The artist? Well not quite since he/she has the use of the original sale proceeds while the purchaser held the artwork.

The original purchaser? This person took the original risk by buying the artwork in the first place and makes a profit on its sale, whoopie! However, it's also likely that he/she bought a number of other artworks which didn't appreciate in price, making the five bagger on the one purchase a bit less grand.

The secondary market purchaser? Since we don't know what his resale profit might be it's hard to say much other than his/her purchase has raised the bar price-wise, reducing the risk of future purchasers of the same artists work.

In the end everyone benefits. The artist, exploited or not, sees his prices increase. The collectors reduce their overall risk and raise new capital to purchase some other artwork.

Now the early stages of exploitation are really a circle jerk, the artists are all puffed up over their importance, with the purchasers feeling smug over the astuteness of their aesthetic prowess, all greased by copious amounts of rhetoric.

In the end fashions change, possibly drifting away from the artists personal metier, personalities become a bigger factor and an annoying artist is avoided.

Or something like that!

3/16/2010 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Brent said...

[I]Maybe it's time for a different paradigm, simple art made by the hands of simple artists. An art that relies more on ideas and passion than high cost production values. A more human centered and pathetic art.[/I]

This sounds a lot like a modern version of the "Arts and Crafts" ideals as promulgated by William Morris in the UK (And later Gustav Stickley in the US) in the late Victorian Era - a brilliant era for design and a rejection of industrialization, and over-ornamentation.

3/16/2010 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record - the anonymous 1:28 above (today) is not the same as Anon. 1:10 (+ several added comments) from yesterday's 2 balls post, which is me. I wanted to make that clear, as Ed said "my god you're persistent..." and I didn't want him to think i was still at it.

I made my point about the shut up blog and now its time to move on. I hope you did see that in fairness to you Ed, I commented on the many good things you do, etc. in one of the last comments I made. Yeah, I know. Big deal. But hey, I sympathize with you - I remember Deborah Fisher shut down her SELLOUT blog due to the insensitivities of a large number of artists who couldn't seem to understand that she too was just one person who started out with good intentions and hit with a tidal wave of bitching, moaning and begging.

Hang in there ED.

3/16/2010 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Stefano Pasquini said...

I sold work for $500. I could do that again, some time.

I think today's post is quite apt for our times.

3/16/2010 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

I have one for you:

I have been named "Angry Hillbilly of the Week" by Ico Gallery, a pay-to-show gallery whose overtures I have not only rebuffed but written about.

It made my Hillbilly week. Ya gotta read it. All links here: www.joannemattera.blogspot.com. (Just look for the pic of Ellie Mad, Jethro, Jed and Granny. That's where the info is.)

3/16/2010 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger tskross said...

RE your first post about the importance of the verbal procedure in a field that is dominated by the visual practice...(which seemed apt given the post title)
I was lucky enough to see a lecture recently by Judy Pfaff (a fantastic and entertaining speaker by the way) Where she lamented this problem and spoke of being on grant review/residency committees, reading artists statement's and not comprehending the disconnect between the artists writing and the work. She also made a few comments about not understanding some work (although still loving it, IE Robert Gober) and resenting 'having to read some french philosopher' to get a piece. She also talked about the role of language in the art world, the verbal language of critique or artspeak and wondered out loud if it was simply its own form of language, related but separate to visual art. But still necessary in its own way. Some people commented that they thought she was being anti-intellectual but she wasn't, she was simply stating her opinion from her point of view (as in her words 'a severe dyslexic'), and wishing that more artists worried less about what they thought they were doing and would just get on with the doing, spending more time developing a language in materials, understanding them how they can use them, how they can innovate with them, how they can break them and rebuild them...

I wonder about this, I wonder if it would be possible for a young artist to do this today, and be taken seriously in the art world. Perhaps this is something that artists should be reacting against (this over reliance on words)? A recent study said that a majority of museum (fine arts museums) visitors are annoyed with wall texts and explanations 'and would rather just look at the work' Imagine that!!

Is this already happening out there? Can anyone think of examples of artists who blatantly disregard the verbal in favor of the visual?

3/16/2010 04:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George, that was a great description. Seriously.

3/16/2010 04:48:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

I don't know how did the conversation get to this, actually I'm not even sure what the conversation is about, but here's my two cents:

We, artists, are first and foremost lucky to be doing the thing that we love doing, our art, whether we profit or not. Whether we do it as a way to live our joy or a as way of coping with our depression is another matter, but in any case, it is our choice, and doing it brings us some satisfaction or we wouldn't have done it at all.

Nobody 'owes' us anything, but society, as a whole, if it is cultured, benefits from art and therefore 'should' support it in one way or the other. Usually, art is the last thing on anyone's list of priorities, except for the artists themselves, therefore we should be grateful for any person who is taking the time to cultivate the art market, be it an art-loving philanthropist, a gallery owner, a dealer, a politician, an art critic, a museum curator, etc...

Sure, some dealers will exploit and manipulate the market, and at times the market may be totally corrupted, but that is true regarding any market, where there's profit to be made.

At least, we should be grateful that *some* art is being appreciated, that *some* respect is being given to artists. But the bottom line is: we *should* work hard at it, or 'slave' at it as some would say, for the one reason we are into this from the beginning: we love it, we enjoy doing it, it is our passion, and we wouldn't trade it for any other convenient, profitable job.
This should be the bottom line for us.

At the same time, all that doesn't mean we are not allowed to rant and complain and feel sorry for ourselves when we want to... and we do that freely, we earn that right too...

We could blame the art dealers, who inflated the prices to an extent that only few can buy art and support artists, therefore only few artists can profit from it. Most of the public has been educated to accept art as being either for museums or for the very wealthy.

We can blame the public who would much more gladly buy a big screen tv rather then support a struggling artist and purchase an inexpensive piece from an unknown artist.

We can blame the government for not enough funds.

We can go on ranting.

Or we can just continue doing what we love, hoping for things to sort themselves out with time, the way they should, and be grateful for it, and for anyone who is interested in promoting our causes. Thank you.

And that doesn't mean I think nothing should change, yes, things should change indeed, but we are the force of change, because it relates to us more than to anyone else. The change has already started happening, with the internet, with this conversation we are having here. We will only know in another 20-30 years maybe, where this change is going, but it is here, and it's happening now, for sure.

3/16/2010 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 1:45 here.

I'm not calling for anything.

Certainly not for every artist to be supported. That is a complete misreading of what I am saying.
But yes, it would be nice if artists who have paid some serious dues and demonstrated a high level of sustained accomplishment could possibly make a modest living via their art.

I don't have the answers but I do think the fact that it almost never happens, for nearly anyone, means that there is something wrong with the system.

3/16/2010 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

Although, personally, I would not call it 'slave', unless you mean it in a good way, such as 'slave of love'... :)

3/16/2010 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Bernard Klevickas said...

William Morris was not so homey as he is made out to be. He had a factory printing his designs. A good book I recommend is "The language of things" by Deyan Sudjic. He is the Director of the London Design Museum. Writes about the rise of industrial design and art, past to contemporary.

3/16/2010 05:08:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...


hear hear... love those words... love Judy Pfaff!

I think the art world will take seriously artists who take themselves seriously. As long as 'serious' is defined by using a lot of verbiage, it is what will be taken seriously. When artists decide to change it, the art world will change. When you are respecting yourself and your work, and take it seriously, you will be respected and taken seriously. If you're not taken seriously, as an artist, then you need to take respect into your hands. It is your art, you are creating it.

I don't know if this is happening already, but I believe many good artists are able to 'communicate' their message without using any words at all.

3/16/2010 06:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Art is leisure. It's a form of entertainment. It's sadly the first thing that will go in an economically struggling society.
So, if you're whining that you are a poor artist, do something else. Study to become a nurse. Poverty is not a problem that the artists own. Voila. It's everywhere. It's too large a problem to be claimed by artists. Stop it.

Cedric C

3/16/2010 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

@tskross & @iris ...examples of artists who blatantly disregard the verbal in favor of the visual?

This is the wrong question to be asking. Just do what you do and let everything else sort itself out by itself. I honestly think you are worrying about something which in less of an issue than you think it is.

3/16/2010 06:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes we're all out of words because we've said all we need to say. I sometimes wonder what the difference is between artists who think like this, say write the one beautiful novel (Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano comes to mind) and artists that keep on churning the stuff out. I like the idea of saying or expressing your piece and then keeping quiet but I can't do it.


3/16/2010 06:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Friona said...

I'm looking for a 36" x 48" painting to hang over the sofa. Nothing too wild, bright or abstract. Can pay about $150. Only serious artists please.

3/16/2010 07:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Ced said...

++When you are respecting yourself ++and your work, and take it ++seriously, you will be respected ++and taken seriously.

Why so serious?


3/16/2010 10:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Poverty is not a problem that the artists own. Voila. It's everywhere. It's too large a problem to be claimed by artists. Stop it."

for the 100th time, my point was NOT that artists are poor, or that it's too hard to break into the system. It's that those who have managed to do so at great opportunity cost, who exhibit, make art noteworthy enough to get reviewed etc. create a great deal of wealth and by and large don't get paid for it.

3/16/2010 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

Cedric, I was referring to tskross' comment at 4:31:

"I wonder if it would be possible for a young artist to do this today, and be taken seriously in the art world. "

Otherwise I wouldn't be so serious in my reply ;-)

3/17/2010 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

...makes me wonder if the vows of poverty that some religious folk take, are taken so that they can get on with what is important to them, and not so much so that their intent is pure ..

need to balance my budget like most

3/17/2010 06:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Marco said...

Indulgence... thats what art making is. If you want to make things, make. Just find what makes you buoyant in your life. And try this... for one day try not to whinge or complain. Thats a good one...

3/17/2010 06:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Gam said...

art is a vocation ... guess I'll play advocate for art ...

I really don't see art as leisure, entertainment nor indulgent. Although it might involve those emotions. Art for me really has a social counter balance role to fulfill. Not creating change in society, but allowing us to see the paradigms of society that might be changed or strengthened.

I'd even argue this is a human evolutionary advantage. Allowing society's members the ability to see their society from the outside and gain insights into what it might be. Much like letting the fish become aware of the water, now the water that is warm, now the water that is salty, now the water that flowing southwest, now the water that is shared with sharks ...
allowing art's beholders the possibility of seeing their proper paradigms. Not art as creating change, but art as revealing the changes we hadn't noticed that have already occurred.

If there is indulgence, it likely is in the ownership of anything. Yet many are willing to accept that responsibility and I'm glad for it.

Art is as important as play. And play is the foundation for learning in mammals. It is significant for development and learning without permanent risks.
Art might be fun, but it really does benefits society's development and ironically its stability.

3/17/2010 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

Iris says, I think the art world will take seriously artists who take themselves seriously. As long as 'serious' is defined by using a lot of verbiage, it is what will be taken seriously

Not specifically directed at Iris who is just the messenger. There are two issues being questioned simultaneously. First, what is meant by being "taken seriously?" The other is addressing what might be required to have this happen.

Being "taken seriously" is a code phrase for achieving some kind of success within the art world. Different artists will have different concepts or goals for what "success," that is, being "taken seriously" means.

What does it mean? How about just putting a price tag on it? Gross you say? But isn't this what most are speaking about? How can I be taken "seriously enough" so that I can live off the sale of my artwork? Pick a number any number, then consider what you have to do to achieve this price point AND volume of sales.

That's not what you meant by being taken seriously? You meant seriously, seriously, like the cover of ArtForum, and a spot in the Venice Biennale (whatever), you want a spot in the history books eh?

This is where it gets cruel because probably luck plays a big factor along with sacrifice, are you willing to move to Prague? Worse, regardless of how "talented' an artist may be, and here we even will disagree on what talent means, even many talented artists do not understand what's ultimately required to be taken seriously seriously.

Which leads us to the verbiage issue. Where do artists get the idea that they must supply the "critical theory" that goes along with the work. Sometimes this is the case, most often not. Even Johns is reticent to over-define his positions.

"My idea has always been that in painting the way ideas are conveyed is through the way it looks and I see no way to avoid that, and I don't think Duchamp can either" [Jasper Johns, 1964] - duh?

"Words no longer prescribe, as story or doctrine, what images should be. They make themselves images so as to shift the figures of the painting, to construct this surface of conversion, this surface of forms-signs which in the real medium of painting - a medium that is not identified with the property of any support or material." [Jacques Rancière, The Future of the Image] - huh?

Rancière is a philosopher, I find his writing interesting because he is dealing with the nature of the image. However his analysis is made after the fact, how Chardin relates to the Impressionists through philosophical criticism, is quite different than the way the Impressionism happened empirically.

How an artist utilizes language is different from how the philosophical or critical community will use language and that is how it should be. If an artists work relies on making linguistic distinctions then it may play a greater role, but frequently the more insistent the artist's language becomes, the more it defines the art work, the less interesting the artwork is.

3/17/2010 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Gam. It's not quite food or sex but art is still a necessary pleasure. And to add,it's important for healing. The elegiac sculptures on the grounds of Mauthausen drove that point home for me.


3/17/2010 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Mikeross said...

My initial reaction was against anon 1:45 for the same reasons that everyone is expressing: the world does not owe an artist anything for making art. So stop whining that you cannot make a living doing exactly what you want.

But I was able to see his/her point of view through analogy. If you imagine people from other professions saying this, it does not seem as whiney. Imagine a longshoreman who spent his life working on the docks. When the new cranes came in (in the 70s??), they allowed ports to operate with far fewer workers. The union negotiated that those on "the inside" who would keep their jobs as longshoremen and be trained to operate the cranes got very nice upper-middle class (if not upper class) salaries. The vast majority were left in the ouside.

The "union" here is like the art world -- somewhat more nebulous -- but equivalent in determining who gets "inside" and who stays out.

Do you tell the longshoreman who spent his life working on the docks, paying his dues, that he should just buck up and realize the world does not want his skills? I think he has a right to feel angry that the system just bypassed him, and didn't let him "inside" after all those years, even if no one really needs him. Especially if its somewhat arbitrary, and you cant really identify a huge difference in quality between those on the inside and the outside. Yes, life is unfair. Yes, there is no economic need for so many longshoremen. But that doesn't mean he is wrong to be angry about it. Anger is probably unproductive. But its not exactly unjustified when someone is left high and dry after pouring years of their life into something. And calling the complainers "whiners" does have a bit of that let-them-eat-cake connotation.

3/17/2010 01:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Does the art market exist to make wealthy people wealthier or does it exist to enhance culture, to help the greater artists promote a life more edificating and

I think an artist need to question the audience they attract. If you keep attracking people who are trying to bargain you about the price of your art, how did you get there?

There must be circumstances when an artist can earn a living without being abused. Just learn about the waters in which you are swimming, no one is forcing anyone to knock at the gates of hell.

Cedric C

3/17/2010 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...


There is good and bad entertainment. Art is the leisure of philosophy, including aesthetics. For all the great it can do (including understanding ourselves and healing), it's still "conveyed through the way it looks" (thanks, George), and because looking at art is not a necessity, not like looking at road signs on an highway, art is foremost about the pleasure of attraction, its power to gain our attention and make us marvel or reflect about visual attributes or
a wide range of different topics.

I guess you agree since you compared visual arts to play. Playing is leisure and entertainment.

Cedric C

3/17/2010 08:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Gam said...

Play and art both are founded on our ability to suspend reality for another. Play permits one to learn - that's the evolutionary advantage of both play and art. (you just learn different things.) I don't consider play as frivolous, so if you consider leisure and entertainment as having serious and significant ramifications - as I do play, then maybe we are closer to agreement then it appears.

Play is all about what you learn in it (social skills) but bring back to reality to use. That's why it is still around after many evolutionary changes, it brings something very significant in terms of survival advantage to its practitioners. (dry runs for the real world if you will)

Its likely I am just carrying lots of baggage for the words leisure amd entertainment. Took me a while to figure play as it is!

3/18/2010 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...


It's a good question: what does being 'taken seriously' mean. I'm not sure I know the answer. But no, it's not equivalent to a price tag. Although I do have respect for an artist who manages to tap into the market, whether the art itself is deserving this value doesn't really matter. What is popular at a certain time in history is not necessarily a force of change, innovation, only time will tell what goes into history books. Getting recognition in the present time, either by selling or being featured in art magazines, biennials, etc, those are forms of being taken seriously, yes. But not the only forms, and not the absolute *necessary* ways for being 'taken seriously', in my opinion.
This kind of recognition only comes at a later stage of the art's development, if at all, if the kind of art the artist makes fits into main stream.

We all wish we wouldn't be snubbed or ignored by art dealers, critics, the public, other artists, but we accept it as our lot in this vocation. However, if we continue making our art, take it seriously in the same way we take our own life seriously, we can ignore back those who are ignoring us, and find some place where we are being taken seriously (hopefully not the grave!).

Some people are more social than others, but many artists are loners so you know, we have to persevere and hope our message will go through, because ultimately, that's all we want. We want to communicate. So maybe that's what being 'taken seriously' means, feeling we are actually communicating, through our art.

3/18/2010 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

George says:

How an artist utilizes language is different from how the philosophical or critical community will use language and that is how it should be. If an artists work relies on making linguistic distinctions then it may play a greater role, but frequently the more insistent the artist's language becomes, the more it defines the art work, the less interesting the artwork is.

I agree with you. I respect art which uses language, but I find some if the immediacy that is inherent in visual art, can be lacking, unless the art also has a visual component that is powerful enough to also stand on it's own, to convey a message or invoke a reaction without needing to process it first through the language center of the brain, or else, that the immediacy of processing it is as fast as that of the visual.

Does that make any sense?

3/18/2010 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

Cedric says:

Does the art market exist to make wealthy people wealthier or does it exist to enhance culture, to help the greater artists promote a life more edificating and

Of course art exists for the benefit of culture and humanity, but artists have no control of the art market. Artists are servants, the givers of service. We have control of our own lives, but not of the art market. And yes, we shouldn't allow ourselves to be abused, not anywhere.

3/18/2010 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Iris said...

I really like the use of the word 'play' in the English language (and some other languages) as meaning also playing a musical instrument. We know playing an instrument well can be a complicated skill, hard work requiring arduous practice and concentration. Yet the word 'play' is used for mastering it, which I think is perfect, fits perfectly imo into art being also a form of 'play'.

3/18/2010 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

@Iris Does that make any sense?

It's a position along the spectrum between the emotional and the intellectual, between the visceral visual and visual language. This isn't about finding or defining a 'better' polarity, just the recognition that they are different. How do the 'words" (actually letters, in a Christopher Wool differ from rectangular areas of an abstraction (if you're a Chinaman say...)

If one paints a bowl of fruit are we concerned with exact mimesis, precise resemblance? I think not, a painting is not a bowl of fruit and seeks some form of transcendence through its medium. The problem with much language based conceptual art, is that it can fail to transcend its own language but hide behind a smokescreen of 'being smart.' Bad conceptual art smells just like bad painting smells.

Regardless, one takes a position, adopts some viewpoint towards what they personally feel is important for their art and one proceeds from there. I think it is probably less important where this process starts than how it proceeds.

3/18/2010 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Does the art market exist to make wealthy people wealthier or does it exist to enhance culture, to help the greater artists promote a life more edificating and humanist?

The art market, is just a market, it's not privileged over any other type of market. Prices vary in an attempt to establish true value at the time of transaction. Over time prices for art tend to converge towards a point which is relative to how the culture values the artist and the work. (i.e. Picasso's prices went up)

The art market provides liquidity and injects capital into the art making process. Initially this allows the art to get made but in the secondary market it also provides a way for price determination, and change of ownership.

3/18/2010 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Iris said...

It's a position along the spectrum between the emotional and the intellectual

I think it's a position taken after abstraction, when the object was deserted, only form in it's purity was left. The next idea, the next step was to abandon form, be left with only the concept. A novel idea, indeed, but what is the next step forward? it seems like, in a way, the baby was thrown away with the bath water as far as 'visual' is concerned. Although 'vision' is there, the importance of *seeing* is not, therefore, when visual art is no longer 'visual' a vacuum is created. There is nowhere left to go.

Again, I like the music comparison: in 1952 John Cage composed 4′33″, which is four minutes and thirty three seconds of quiet. Although Cage was part of the Avant-Garde movement, not a whole lot of music of that sort was created after his innovative piece. Point was made. Now, back to sound. Music deals with the element of sound affecting the brain, or the psyche. Even in that piece, the sounds of the environment during that silence are part of the piece, are meant to be listened to, experienced. The sound of the music you are listening to can stimulate your emotions or only your brain, but it's through the element of sound that it's making it's impact. When the same affect can be achieved by reading about a piece and by listening to it (or seeing it), it has lost it's essence as part of that element - of vision, or sound.

Yes, there is music that breaks all barriers, the untrained ear will find it difficult to endure, but it's all sound. You must experience the sound in order to know if you like it or not. And experience it means - dive into it, listen with open ears. You may love it, or hate it, or stay indifferent to it, but either way, you have sensed it.
In visual art, yes, you need to be educated to appreciate it, you need to have knowledge and experience in order to get the full meaning, but you should also be able to have a visceral/brainy response when you *see* it, as a response to the pure visual element.

3/18/2010 04:16:00 PM  

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