Friday, February 25, 2011

Moving Image : The Final Press Release

Blogging will be sporadic, if it happens at all, next week, as we're now full steam ahead on producing Moving Image. It's nothing short of miraculous how well it's turned out given we only really launched it less than 2 months ago. Our gratitude goes out to our amazing Curatorial Advisory Committee.

If you're coming to town for the art fairs, but still haven't booked your hotel, do consider staying with one of our two sponsor hotels. I've been to both and they're fabulous:
Want to stay in Soho? Try the new James Hotel (discounted rates for Moving Image attendees here). Prefer Midtown? Then Le Parker Merdien is for you (discounted rates for Moving Image attendees here).

I truly hope you'll stop in and see Moving Image if you're in town, everyone has been busting their a**es getting it ready, and, well, we think it's going to rock! See you there! (or on the flip side):

Moving Image

March 3-6, 2011
Waterfront New York Tunnel
269 11th Avenue
(between 27th and 28th Streets)

New York, NY 10001

T: (1) 212.643.3152


Thursday - Saturday, March 3-5, 2011: 11 am - 8 pm
Sunday, March 6, 2011: 11 am - 3 pm

Moving Image is very pleased to announce the list of participating artists and galleries for its inaugural exhibition, including 35 artists represented by 30 galleries from the US and Europe. Presenting 29 single-channel videos and 6 larger scale video sculpture/installations, Moving Image has been conceived to offer a unique viewing experience, providing a rich program of time-based work from around the globe by today's most important and exciting new artists.

Highlights of the program include historical works by David Wojnarowicz (1954 –1992) and by Hannah Wilke (1940 - 1993). Presented by New York's PPOW Gallery, Wojnarowicz's 1981 silent work Heroin (still at right) is one of the few films the artist completed. Transferred to video from its original 16mm format, it depicts the adverse use of heroin in New York City in the early 1980's. Ronald Feldman Fine Arts is presenting Wilke's 1978 video Intercourse with..., which has been described as "a haunting performance" in which the viewer "'eavesdrops" on a on a series of phone messages intended for Wilke, recorded from her answering machine." Also presented is an earlier video by Hiraki Sawa (who currently has an exhibition at James Cohan Gallery's New York location). Sawa's highly acclaimed video Dwelling (2002) was filmed entirely in his London apartment and yet seems to follow the chaotic flight patterns of jets and planes (shot with miniatures); the work has been described as "closer to masterful cinema than to experimental video."

New work debuting at Moving Image includes
Blood Sacrifice (2011; still at left), a video by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge presented by New York's Invisible-Exports. Blood Sacrifice is a valentine to a love both lost and enduring. The video, of two Chanel No. 5 perfume bottles filled with blood, is presented in three views. One bottle slowly crumbles and leaks its contents onto the bandage-like muslin below. The liquid slowly spreads, eventually reaching over and encircling the intact bottle. The blood in each bottle is real. The intact bottle contains that of Lady Jaye Breyer, the first gift given to Genesis P-Orridge as their courtship began. The second bottle contains Genesis’ blood from her breast implant, given to Lady Jaye a few years later. Also making its debut is Alex Mirutziu's Runway spills #2 (2011), presented by Cluj-Napoca, Romania's SABOT Gallery. In Mirutziu's video of fashion models, there is a diffusion of focus away from the garment and onto a situation that disrupts a specific convention (falling on the catwalk).

Among the installations presented will be
Exploded View (2010) by Jim Campbell. Presented by New York's Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, Campbell's installation is a grid made up of approximately 1152 LEDs. Campbell takes a traditional two-dimensional surface and pulls it apart into a three-dimensional grid. Exploded View physically takes an image display apart, forcing the viewer to rely on perception and memory as a means to understand its logic. The Pace Gallery presents two installations, including TV Man (2010; still at right) by Corban Walker who will represent Ireland at the 2011 Venice Biennale. Walker has described TV Man as "me watching you watching you watching me watching you watching you watching." Also presented by The Pace Gallery is Michal Rovner's June (2004) in which "calligraphy” images comprised of dozens of figures moving are projected from the top of a vitrine onto a notebook. Finally, Participant Inc, and Callicoon Fine Arts present Glen Fogel's monumental five-chanel video installation, With Me...You (at right). Each of the five videos features a spectacular giant close-up of Fogel's family heirloom jewelry, creating an experience The New York Times called "at once cool and intensely personal."

We are very pleased to announce the full list of participating artists and galleries, as
well as the schedule of events, for Moving Image 2011:

/ Participating Galleries
Said Atabekov
/ Impronte Contemporary Art (Milan, Italy)
Sophie Lisa Beresford
/ Workplace Gallery (Gateshead, UK)
Janet Biggs
/ Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge
/ Invisible-Exports (New York, NY)
Melanie Bonajo
/ PPOW Gallery (New York, NY)
Jim Campbell
/ Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery (New York, NY)
Martin Soto Climent
/ Karma International (Zurich, Switzerland)
Stefan Constantinescu
/ lokal_30 (Warsaw, Poland)
Yves Coussement
/ Galerie Tatjana Pieters (Ghent, Belgium)
Oskar Dawicki
/ Postmasters (New York, NY)
Jakup Ferri
/ Weingrüll, (Karlsruhe, Germany)
Glen Fogel
/ Callicoon Fine Arts (Callicoon, NY) / Participant, Inc. (New York, NY)
Maider Fortune
/ Galerie Martine Aboucaya (Paris, France)
Simon Gush
/ West (Den Haag, the Netherlands)
Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev
/ Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Martin Kohout
/ The Future Gallery (Berlin, Germany)
Andres Laracuente
/ Galerie Yukiko Kawase (Paris, France)
Miranda Lichtenstein
/ Elizabeth Dee Gallery (New York, NY)
Alex Mirutziu
/ SABOT Gallery (Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Adrien Missika
/ Rotwand Gallery (Zurich, Switzerland)
Shana Moulton
/ Galerie Gregor Staiger (Zurich, Switzerland)
Miguel Angel Rios
/ AKINCI (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
/ Krowswork (Oakland, CA)
Michal Rovner
/ The Pace Gallery (New York, NY / Beijing, China)
Amparo Sard
/ N2 Galería (Barcelona, Spain)
Hiraki Sawa
/ James Cohan Gallery (New York, NY / Shanghai, China)
Carolee Schneemann
/ PPOW Gallery (New York, NY)
Paul Mpagi Sepuya
/ Envoy Enterprises (New York)
Cecilia Stenbom
/ Workplace Gallery (Gateshead, UK)
Leslie Thornton
/ Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY) J
ohanna Unzueta
/ Christinger De Mayo (Zurich, Switzerland)
Corban Walker
/ The Pace Gallery (New York, NY / Beijing, China)
Jeff Whetstone / Julie Saul Gallery (New York, NY)
Hannah Wilke
/ Ronald Feldman Fine Arts (New York)
David Wojnarowicz
/ PPOW Gallery (New York, NY)

Schedule of Events
Thursday, March 3, 2011
11:00 AM- 8:00 PM : Admission Is Free
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM : Opening Reception

Friday, March 4, 2011
11:00 AM- 8:00 PM : Admission Is Free
Private tours available for groups. Email us at to

Saturday, March 5, 2011
11:00 AM- 8:00 PM : Admission Is Free
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Spotlight Panel: Current Takes on Video
Moderated by Kevin McGarry (Director and Programmer of New York's Migrating Forms festival held at Anthology Film Archives) the Moving Image Spotlight Panel will include artists Leslie Thornton and Lucy Raven and curators Chrissie Iles (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), Barbara London (Museum of Modern Art, New York), and Glenn Phillips (Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles). The discussion will focus on the state of moving image-based work, with an emphasis on how its recognition by institutions has evolved over time. There will be a Q&A with the panelists as part of the discussion.

Private tours available for groups. Email us at to

Sunday, March 6, 2011
11:00 AM- 3:00 PM : Admission Is Free
For updates on programming information, please visit our website or contact Ed Winkleman at 212.643.3152 or

Moving Image's Curatorial Advisory Committee

• Zoe Butt, Co-Director and Curator of SanArt, (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

• John Connelly, Director, The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation (New York,
• Elizabeth Dee, Principal, Elizabeth Dee Gallery (New York, USA)

• Raphael Gygax, Curator / Art Historian, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst
(Zurich, Switzerland)
• Kevin McGarry, Director and Programmer, Migrating Forms (Los Angeles, USA)

Moving Image
was conceived by Edward Winkleman and Murat Orozobekov of New York's Winkleman Gallery and co-organized with Penny Pilkington and Wendy Olsoff of New York's P·P·O·W gallery.

Moving Image
gratefully acknowledges the support of our Media Partners and Sponsors:
* Art in America

* The Art Newspaper

* Culture Pundits
* Artlog

* Art Review
* Flash Art International

* NY Art Beat

* The James Hotel, New York

* Le Parker Meridien, New York

* La Colombe Torrefaction

* Rosaura Segura, Encanto Vineyards

* NY Lounge Decor

* Dazian Creative Fabric Environments

* Liana Rae Catering
* Amax Printing, Inc.

* Safini Art Services

* VideoArtWorld

Moving Image

March 3-6, 2011

Waterfront New York Tunnel

269 11th Avenue
(between 27th and 28th Streets)

New York, NY 10001

Images above:

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, “Blood Sacrifice” (video still), 2011, Single channel hi-definition video. Courtesy the artist and Invisible-Exports, New York.

David Wojnarowicz, "Heroin" (video still), 1981, b/w silent film. Courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and PPOW Gallery, New York.

Corban Walker, “TV Man,” 2010, LCD monitor 65", computer and video file. Courtesy of the artist and The Pace Gallery, New York / Beijing.

Glen Fogel, "With Me...You," 2011, five-channel video installation. Courtesy of the artist.

Labels: Moving Image

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

One Person's Freedom Fighter is Another Person's Wingnut

As I've mentioned before, the time I spent furiously debating on political blogs taught me two important lessons: 1) neither side of any argument generally has a stranglehold on the truth, and so it's important to understand that what you're arguing is simply your opinion, but that's's good to have strong opinions and I firmly believe in defending mine passionately, but 2) since it is only just your opinion and not a universal truth, the people who disagree with you, simply disagree. They are not, simply because of that disagreement, evil or crazy or necessarily someone you wouldn't enjoy sharing a beer with in any other context.

That's not always easy to remember in the heat of debate, but the political firestorms brewing in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio (my home state) have provided another illustration of that. As is usual when the media are too busy stoking the flames for ratings to provide accurate assessments of the situations, for the sane analysis, we turn to Jon Stewart (his piece turns to my point at about the 5:00 mark):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in Dairyland - Revenge of the Curds
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

As Stewart brilliantly illustrates, whether the Tea Party or the Wisconsin protesters are "thugs" or "hard-working Americans" depends on which channel you watch.

Now I happen to agree with The New York Times on what is truly going on here:
Like a wind-whipped brush fire, the mass union protests that began in Madison, Wis., last week have spread to the capitals of Ohio and Indiana where Republican lawmakers also are trying to cripple the bargaining power of unions — and ultimately realize a cherished partisan dream of eradicating them. In each case, Republican talk of balancing budgets is cover for the real purpose of gutting the political force of middle-class state workers, who are steady supporters of Democrats and pose a threat to a growing conservative agenda.
Indeed, it is extremely hard to believe that three Republican governors independently and unmotivated by politics decided at the same time that the magic fix to their states' financial woes would be to permanently end the ability of state employees to collectively bargain for better wages. It takes a huge dose of blind faith and more than a little idiocy, in my opinion, to accept (as Wisconsin governor Walker claims) that these decisions are not about busting the public-sector unions.

Now I think it's fair to argue that public-sector unions shouldn't exist (I disagree strongly, but that's just my opinion), but to do so under cover of saying you're trying to fix the budget deficit (which Walker could more easily do if he wasn't also handing out more tax cuts for businesses that analysts suggest are merely symbolic and will not attract new businesses) is patently dishonest. Perhaps state workers need to make sacrifices, like everyone else, but the truth is, they're willing to do so. In the face of that willingness, Walker's insistence that their collective bargaining rights must end, is clearly an anti-union initiative.

Again, if that's his position, fine. People can debate whether he's right about unions in the next election cycle. He should really own up to it, though. Or simply admit that he's a fully transparent tool of the Koch brothers, and not torture the good people of Wisconsin with his mangled logic and lies.

Of course, that's just my opinion on the matter. Those who disagree with me are welcome to comment below (we'll have a few beers at some later date):

UPDATE: Nathaniel provide a link to this video by Rachel Maddow that, while just her opinion, of course, makes a very strong argument that Walker is simply lying his a** off saying that this isn't a union-busting effort:

Labels: politics

Monday, February 21, 2011

Moving Image Panel Discussion, March 5, 2:00 PM

Moving Image is shaping up quite nicely indeed, with a great list of artists from around the globe and galleries from the US and Europe. When I stop to think Murat, Wendy, Penny, Jamie, and I only started this project a few months back, I'm actually amazed at the depth of the programming and quality of the participants. Even at this late date, there are a few galleries we're hoping will join, but as of today, the list includes:

Said Atabekov / Impronte Contemporary Art (Milan, Italy)
Sophie Lisa Beresford / Workplace Gallery (Gateshead, UK)
Janet Biggs / Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge / Invisible-Exports (New York, NY)
Melanie Bonajo / PPOW Gallery (New York, NY)
Jim Campbell / Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery (New York, NY)
Martin Soto Climent / Karma International (Zurich, Switzerland)
Stefan Constantinescu / lokal_30 (Warsaw, Poland)
Yves Coussement / Galerie Tatjana Pieters (Ghent, Belgium)
Oskar Dawicki / Postmasters (New York, NY)
Jakup Ferri / Weingrüll, (Karlsruhe, Germany)
Glen Fogel / Callicoon Fine Arts (Callicoon, NY)
Participant, Inc (New York, NY)
Maider Fortune / Galerie Martine Aboucaya (Paris, France)
Simon Gush / West (Den Haag, the Netherlands)
Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev / Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Martin Kohout / The Future Gallery (Berlin, Germany)
Andres Laracuente / Galerie Yukiko Kawase (Paris, France)
Miranda Lichtenstein / Elizabeth Dee Gallery (New York, NY)
Alex Mirutziu / SABOT Gallery (Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
Adrien Missika / Rotwand Gallery (Zurich, Switzerland)
Shana Moulton / Galerie Gregor Staiger (Zurich, Switzerland)
Miguel Angel Rios / AKINCI (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
RKDB / Krowswork (Oakland, CA)
Michal Rovner / The Pace Gallery (New York, NY / Beijing, China)
Carolee Schneemann / PPOW Gallery (New York, NY)
Paul Mpagi Sepuya / Envoy Enterprises (New York)
Cecilia Stenbom / Workplace Gallery (Gateshead, UK)
Leslie Thornton / Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Johanna Unzueta / Christinger De Mayo (Zurich, Switzerland)
Corban Walker / The Pace Gallery (New York, NY / Beijing, China)
Jeff Whetstone / Julie Saul Gallery (New York, NY)
Hannah Wilke / Ronald Feldman Fine Arts (New York)
David Wojnarowicz / PPOW Gallery (New York, NY)

I'm also delighted by the line-up of participants for our panel discussion on the state of video art (with a particular focus on the role museums have played in supporting artists who work in video over the years). The panel discussion will be Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 2:00 pm (in a side room at the 12th Avenue end of the tunnel) and will include what is nothing less than a dream-team of speakers, IMHO:
  • Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
  • Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Glenn R. Phillips, Principal Project Specialist and Consulting Curator, Department of Architecture and Contemporary Art, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
  • Lucy Raven, artist/filmmaker, San Francisco, CA
  • Leslie Thornton, artist/filmmaker, New York
  • Moderated by Kevin McGarry, Director and Programmer, Migrating Forms (Los Angeles, USA)
Admission is free, so don't miss it!

Labels: Moving Image, panel discussion

Friday, February 18, 2011

Holland Cotter Reviews Janet Biggs' "The Arctic Trilogy" in Today's New York Times

Holland Cotter pens a subtly gorgeous response, exquisitely mirroring the tempo and experience of the show (IMHO) in his reading. And it's 65 degrees out today! It rarely gets much better than this:

Art in Review
JANET BIGGS: ‘The Arctic Trilogy’

Published: February 17, 2011

Winkleman Gallery
621 West 27th Street
Through March 12

The three short, related videos that make up Janet Biggs’s debut show at Winkleman were filmed on glacial islands between the top of Norway and the North Pole. Playing on separate screens and in overlapping sequence, the pieces can be viewed in any order, though a gallery news release, which I assume represents the artist’s intentions, suggests starting with “Fade to White,” which was filmed mostly outdoors and serves as an atmospheric scene-setter.

It opens with a shot of an antique schooner. On its deck a man suits up against the cold and launches a kayak. For most of the rest of the video we travel with him through ice-floe-clogged waters, catching glimpses of bears and other wildlife that make up the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem. As if to emphasize fragility, these scenes alternate with studio shots of the performance artist John Kelly, dressed in white and singing a mournful Baroque madrigal. The video moves back and forth between the singer and the seaman, until the kayak heads toward the horizon and the screen goes white.

Most of a second video, “In the Cold Edge,” is a space-distorting tour of an ice-cave interior, its fantastic forms illuminated only by the lights of mining helmets. The third piece, “Brightness All Around,” takes us deep down into the earth where a solitary coal miner and machine operator named Linda Norberg oversees a thunderous array of drills and extractors. As a counterpart to their unearthly clamor, Ms. Biggs has folded in shots of another performer, Bill Coleman, dressed in black leather, and delivering a demonic, death-tinged chant.

As I said, the viewing sequence is optional. I watched “In the Cold Edge” last and was glad I did. It concludes on a stirringly ambiguous note. After we emerge from the ice cave to a terrain as bleakly beautiful as a moonscape, a woman — Ms. Biggs — shoots a flare into the sky. The sudden flash of color, heat and energy comes as a relief in a frozen world. At the same time it implies a condition of emergency, which takes us back to Mr. Kelly’s rendition of a love song that sounds like a lament.
It's looks to be a lovely weekend to get out and gallery hop. Please stop in and see Janet's show if you do.

Labels: gallery artists' exhibitions, press

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time : The New Frontier || Open Thread

I've noted several times here that I believe "life" is everything (this is my core belief that informs my entire worldview and makes politics relatively silly and religions [and I include in that category "art"] relatively irrelevant). But if life is truly everything, then time is a very close second.

People say it's "money," but catch them at the right moment (on their death bed, on their way back to war, on their way back home from holiday), and they'll admit that what they really want "more" of is time. More time in the studio. More time to close a deal. More time before their children grow up. Even just more time to sleep in.

A few years back, sitting around a pool in a fancy South Beach hotel during ABMB, I listened intently as a group of very smart art historians and writers noted how "time" was the obvious new frontier for artists to tackle. The "fourth" dimension that they would need to lead the way to make sense of for the rest of us. It isn't (and never has been) enough for science to explain phenomena to us. We rely on artists to go past the explanation and really make sense of them.

And so, since then, I have been keeping an eye out for how artists are expressing the fourth dimension (and that explains in part, I suspect, why we show as much video art as we do). I have not been disappointed. In fact, I am delighted to see the depth and sheer sublimity with which artists (including ours) are now beginning to show us about what time "means." I'll focus on two artists (neither of whom we work with) to hopefully explain why I'm so excited about this area of exploration.

First, there is what is sure to be the exhibition of the year in Chelsea: Christian Marclay's "The Clock," up at Paula Cooper Gallery until this Saturday. People came back from England last year raving about this film, and no one is being even remotely shy about calling a it "masterpiece." As the New York Times explains, it's drawing the kind of crowds rarely seen for even major motion pictures:
And as the exhibition approaches its final weekend (it closes on Saturday), the crowds have continued to build. By the gallery’s rough count, more than 780 people passed through on Tuesday alone — some spending only a few minutes, some spending hours — and almost 7,000 people have watched the piece since gallery workers began to keep track on Feb. 4.
I keep thinking I'll find the, er, time to get over there, but tales of hour-long lines just to get in and our currently hectic schedule probably mean I'll wait until some local museum buys it and installs it (hint, hint) so that I'll get a chance after our current chaos ends.

But I've heard enough first-hand accounts to know that Marclay has pulled off what doubting Thomas's around here for a while have claimed contemporary art (and in particular conceptual art) cannot do: engaged the wider public in a highly enthusiastic way...

Mary Ellen Whelehan, a former bank officer, was returning on Wednesday morning for a second viewing, in her motorized wheelchair, and said that she could recall seeing only one or two Chelsea exhibitions before. “It takes me two buses to get here,” she said, waiting in line inside the gallery. “So if I’m coming back it has to be good.”
Accounts of people spending 3-4 hours watching this clearly addictive work tell me that contemporary art is most definitely still capable of igniting passion and sparking the imagination of the contemporary public.

We did make it down in person to see Ellie Ga's solo exhibition "This Was Later On" at the LES's Bureau gallery. It ends this Sunday, so get there quickly. Ga is another artist dealing with time in a way that has surprised and delighted me. Her take on it can be somewhat darker than what I'm reading about "The Clock," though.

Having spent months trapped on a boat drifting through an ice pack in the constant night of an Arctic winter, so far north that she and her 9 shipmates were not technically in any given time zone, Ga began to connect the dots on things time-related that only that degree of placelessness and timelessness could make apparent. I won't say too much more on that, in case you get to see the show (go on Sunday so you can participate in the readings).

I will note, though, that we made it to Ga's hour-long performance at The Kitchen last night and I was entirely engrossed. There was plenty of brooding food for thought in her piece about the harsh conditions they endured in the Arctic, but also some optimistic observations, particularly when she explained how (with little else to do or occupy her thoughts with) she one day realized that almost all the clocks or watches in the old magazines they had on board the ship were photographed with the same graphic pattern on their faces (either 10:10 or ten to two [see for yourself]). When she returned to Oslo after their ship was freed from the ice, Ga asked a watch seller about this practice and he said it was indeed very common, so that the clock or watch had a "happy face" rather than a "sad face."

As Bureau's owner Gabrielle Giattino explained, any other setting on a photo of a clock will forever look wrong to you, once you know this trick of the trade. And she's right. Every clockface I see now without that 10:10 graphic setting looks broken (and even sad) somehow. So odd. Ga has changed how I view something so simple. That, in and of itself, is marvelous.

Consider this an open thread on the exploration of time in artwork.

Labels: open thread, time

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Poem for Bambino

Saw this on Facebook and it reminded me to remind my love what he means to me (we'll extend Saint Valentine's Day just a bit this year):


You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.

by Billy Collins

Labels: poetry

What is the Optimal Museum Viewing Experience? | Open Thread

Of course it depends on the type of work being exhibited, but Charlie Finch's recent response to news that the Metropolitan Museum of Art was launching a "Visitor Engagement" campaign got me to thinking. The New York Times describes "visitor engagement" as ": a social science aimed at trying to reach every patron, from the first-timer to the seasoned scholar. " Here's a snippet of Charlie's response:
Metropolitan Museum director Tom "Wet Dream" Campbell (so-called because he just announced in the New York Times that the Met's new show of guitars is "a teenager's wet dream") told the Times' Randy Kennedy that not only is the venerable museum about to become Wi-Fied, but that he is going to trap, fold and mutilate every poor soul who arrives with something called "Visitor Engagement."
You can read the rest of Charlie over on artnet, but here I wanted to open up a discussion about the basic concept of an art museum experience.

Through most of my life, walking through a museum was an experience of mostly silent awe and the occasional whispered veneration. Museums were like libraries. Even when the work itself celebrated fiery passion or depicted murder or rampage, the appropriate response was not (as permitted in a cinema) to loudly gasp or applaud or squeal. No, silence or hushed tones were the expected behavior.

Now I'm no more a fan of information overload in an art viewing context than Charlie is, but I do wonder if this "hall of sacred wonders" motif most museums have been built as isn't also a bit too far the other direction. Yes, we need space and context for serious scholarly study, and yes, I prefer to not have running and screaming around me while I'm trying to view most works of art (my fantasy would be to be locked in the Met by myself overnight), but I stop to think about the boisterous/interactive work certain artists are making today, and the notion of people silently observing it seems silly. Some contemporary art still asks for silent reflection, obviously, but not all of it....just like not everything at the Met can be truly understood in static silence. (I've always wanted to see those marvelous suits of armor activated, for did people move in them or look moving in them?)

Personally, I think museums can experiment with new experience motifs, but they should do so in ways that don't obligate anyone to view the exhibitions in a way that's not right for them. Flexibility seems the answer. Consider this an open thread on what makes for the optimal museum viewing experience.

Labels: art museums, art viewing

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Be the first of your friends to like this || Happy Valentine's Day

One of the things that came up again and again during the great CAA panel discussion on "Artists making a living with or without a gallery" (see a review by our own Joy Garnett here) was the notion that artists are best served by taking matters into their own hands...carving out their own opportunities and not waiting for the system (or the market) to come to them. Even if only temporarily (because, let's face it, you'd rather be in your studio), getting involved in making things happen (as a writer/curator/gallerist/collector/etc.) is only about a billion times more productive toward your ultimate goals than simply sitting around wishing things would change.

One our dearest friends in the world, the artist Amanda Church, had a few career challenges crop up during the recession, like many other artists. Her primary New York gallery closed, as had a few of the out-of-town galleries she had worked with, but one of the reasons we adore her so is that Amanda has an indefatigable optimism. In the midst of the Great Recession, when other people were panicking about their careers, Amanda launched a small fashion business based on her art practice.

You may have seen her new line of limited edition board shorts and t-shirts based on her luscious, sexy paintings (she calls them Mandy Pants [see the Facebook page here]) at the Bass Museum gift shop in Miami during Art Basel, or you may have encountered them in the trendier surf shops out in the Hamptons, but now you can get them for yourself (or someone you love) down in the Lower East Side.

And just in time for Valentine's Day, she's debuting the sizzling hot Mandy Panties:

You can get your Mandy Panties (or boy shorts, board shorts, and tees -- all limited edition) at the very cool, recently relocated boutique TG-170, 77 Ludlow Street (corner of Broome) in time for your Valentine's Day rendezvous. There's also a party this evening at the store, Monday, February 14th, 6-8.

Come on down. You know hot pink panties make the perfect V-Day gift!

Labels: artists careers

Friday, February 11, 2011

Opening Tonight! Janet Biggs, "The Arctic Trilogy," Feb 11 - Mar 12, 2011

Winkleman Gallery is very pleased to present The Arctic Trilogy, our first solo exhibition by New York artist Janet Biggs. Over the past two years, Biggs has traveled to Svalbard, a group of islands between the top of Europe and the North Pole. Filming in extreme conditions in one of the most remote and least-forgiving places in the world, Biggs has created three stunning videos that explore longing, mortality, and our futile fight against nature.

The first of the videos, Fade to White, deals with the unachievable desire of discovery on an already exploited planet. Traveling aboard a 100-year-old, two-masted schooner in the Arctic, Biggs filmed a member of the crew as he navigated the sailing ship through iceberg filled seas and paddled a kayak past glacier walls and polar bears. Testing her own will and endurance in this harsh environment, she captured a landscape of uncompromising imagery. Loss and change are implicit in the work’s title, Fade to White, which can refer to an editing technique used to evoke death or transcendence. Biggs integrated her Arctic imagery with video of countertenor John Kelly, whose age, androgyny, and mournful operatic voice parallel the vanishing Arctic landscape and signal the waning of male dominance.

In the second work, In the Cold Edge, Biggs delves more deeply into the issues of isolation and vulnerability. In filming this piece, Biggs followed the video’s subject deep into a beautiful yet terrifying ice cave. The viewer can feel the massive weight of the ice above in the dangerous and claustrophobic tunnels. Shimmering stalactites and gravity-defying ice formations, lit only by the explorers’ headlamps, generate a dual sense of awe and intimidation. The relief felt by the viewer as the explorer emerges into the open Arctic space is quickly quelled, though, as the reality of the landscape’s vast emptiness begins to seep in. In the Cold Edge ends with Biggs herself shooting a flare into the vast Arctic sky, both an act of aggressive assertion and a cry for help with absolutely no one to hear it.

In the last work of the trilogy, Brightness All Around, Biggs brings the viewer back to an inspiring determination to define and defend one’s identity in perhaps the Earth’s most extreme environment. The video focuses on Linda Norberg, a woman coal miner working in a very inaccessible and dangerous place. Norberg begins each day by descending miles into the darkness beneath the frozen Arctic. Surrounded by deafening machinery, relying on her small headlamp for light, she is seen drilling and bolting the newly excavated cave ceiling in freezing temperatures and relentless darkness. Serving as a counterpoint to the terror of the underground is a vocal performance by New York music guru Bill Coleman. As an isolated performer, Coleman is sexual, seductive, and a bit threatening. Using lyrics taken from near death experiences, Coleman becomes a witness to the struggle to maintain a sense of self.

Janet Biggs received her undergraduate degree from Moore College of Art, and pursued graduate studies at Rhode Island School of Design. Her work has been exhibited, among other institutions, at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; Gibbes Museum of Art, South Carolina; Rhode Island School of Design Museum; Vantaa Art Museum, Finland; Linkopings Konsthall, Passagen, Sweden; the Oberosterreichisches Landesmuseum, Austria; and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Australia. Reviews of her work have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, ArtForum, ARTNews, Art in America, Flash Art,, and many others.

And don't miss the great's Critics Picks review of Janet's current solo show at the Mint Museum!

Labels: gallery artists' exhibitions

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Taste | Open Thread

From Franklin's comment on the thread on Monday's post on arts funding (he begins with a quote by another reader):
Where is the critical discrimination that is necessary to weed out the bad, boring, or otherwise stupid work?

I asked myself this very question upon seeing MoMA's Gabriel Orozco exhibition, a pile of insipid junk if I ever saw one, and made possible by a lapse of taste that some people think is the exclusive province of the market. Needless to say there is some variation of opinion about that matter.
Let's suppose for a moment that there truly is such a thing as universal good or bad in art, in terms of quality that is (not morality). Let's suppose that even if Person X sincerely likes Artwork Z (say it gives them true joy or changes their life for the better), the contemporary cultural custodians can still dismiss that passion for Artwork Z as irrelevant to the larger mission that they have accepted: identifying and then preserving the best art we have--the best representations of who we are--for posterity. And even though Person X might have included Artwork Z if the decision were theirs alone, we can't preserve everything. There's not enough money or space in our museums. We must make choices and the most logical way to make them is via the measure of what is most universally good.

I have a few doubts about this notion, though. First and foremost is how it seems to apply something rather cold (logic) to what should at the very least take inflamed passion into consideration.

Yes, I can imagine the well-trained curator (the one with "taste") having their heart swell upon seeing some fantastic new work and becoming an impassioned advocate for it before a museum committee, bolstered by the praise of an equally well-trained critic and support of the best dealers and most discerning collectors, but by the time the decision is finally made by the committee, who has limited funding and multiple choices, some of all that passion gives way to other personal, even silly considerations. Does trustee A have a personal dislike for the subject matter or palette? Does trustee C have a personal dislike for trustee D and always vote against anything he/she champions? And so in that way, the notion that the application of good taste is in any way pure enough to guarantee we're preserving the best for posterity is false. Good taste can't always win out against bad politics.

So we have this imperfect, arguably somewhat cold process that makes a bit of a mockery of the importance of "taste." But there are other, more personal reasons to assert its significance. Even should all those around you champion Person X's inferior Artwork Z, you can take solace in the fact that you know it sucks. You can take more solace in your ability to recognize the true quality in Artwork Y over there. You can also find joy in Artwork Y. In addition, you can strive tirelessly to educate and win over other people to see the superiority of Artwork Y.

This has happened in parallel to the celebration of works like Artwork Z throughout most of modern art history (i.e., since the Renaissance). Certain artists who saw fame and glory in times past would make us cringe today, and some who were overlooked then are now recognized as visionary. Other works ignored in their time, however, remain ignored. Even though they may have had their champions, a large enough consensus was never reached to raise them above the fray and so into the dumpster or cold storage they went.

Mind you, all of this still only assumes there is such a thing as universal good or bad in art.

But the other thought that occurs to me is how in contemporary art today, more so than ever before, things are changing so rapidly all the time. I can point to four or five major shifts in what was "hot" over the past 10 years alone. Truly, it's like the "important" ideas or practices shift dramatically every two years. It's a frightfully fickle arena. (Or maybe it's just my wish to keep up with as many developments as I can and the growing impossibility of that.)

We're still installing in the gallery (more on the show tomorrow, but it's gonna rock!), and I have the pleasure of being on a great panel discussion later today (see here), so I'm hardly going to solve the question of "taste" in one blog post. But I"ll open it up to see what I might learn from y' guys...yins (as we say where I come from) :

Labels: open thread, taste

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Moving Image Participant List

OK, so this is actually still in formation (simply one of the realities of the first time you attempt something like this, so I'm told), but we're so delighted with the amazing international list of great artists and terrific galleries confirmed for Moving Image thus far that we're releasing the list as it currently stands:

Moving Image
An Art Fair of Contemporary Video Art
New York, NY | March 3-6, 2011

Moving Image is pleased to announce the preliminary line-up of participating artists and galleries, including

Artists / Presented by participating galleries and non-profit institutions:
(List in formation)

Said Atabekov / Impronte Contemporary Art (Milan, Italy)
Sophie Lisa Beresford / Workplace Gallery (Gateshead, UK)
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge / Invisible-Exports (New York, NY)
Melanie Bonajo / PPOW Gallery (New York, NY)
Jim Campbell / Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery (New York, NY)
Martin Soto Climent / Karma International (Zurich, Switzerland)
Stefan Constantinescu / lokal_30 (Warsaw, Poland)
Oskar Dawicki / Postmasters (New York, NY)
Jakup Ferri / Weingrüll, (Karlsruhe, Germany)
Glen Fogel / Callicoon Fine Arts (Callicoon, NY)
Participant, Inc (New York, NY)
Maider Fortune / Galerie Martine Aboucaya (Paris, France)
Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev / Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Martin Kohout / The Future Gallery (Berlin, Germany)
Andres Laracuente / Galerie Yukiko Kawase (Paris, France)
Miranda Lichtenstein / Elizabeth Dee Gallery (New York, NY)
Alex Mirutziu / SABOT Gallery (Cluj-Napoca,Romania)
Adrien Missika / Rotwand Gallery (Zurich, Switzerland)
Shana Moulton / Galerie Gregor Staiger (Zurich, Switzerland)
Cecilia Stenbom / Workplace Gallery (Gateshead, UK)
Leslie Thornton / Winkleman Gallery (New York, NY)
Johanna Unzueta / Christinger De Mayo (Zurich, Switzerland)
Jeff Whetstone / Julie Saul Gallery (New York, NY)
David Wojnarowicz / PPOW Gallery (New York, NY)

We are also grateful for the generosity of our media partners and sponsors, including:
  • Art in America
  • The Art Newspaper
  • Culture Pundits
  • Flash Art International
  • Art Review
  • Artlog
  • The James Hotel, New York
  • Le Parker Meridien, New York
  • La Colombe Torrefaction
  • Rosaura Segura, Encanto Vineyards
  • NY Lounge Decor
We've got more exciting developments to share in the weeks leading up to the fair. Let it suffice to say that Moving Image is taking on a fabulous life of its own, and Murat and I are so grateful to our partners Wendy and Penny and Jamie and Aaron at PPOW, our amazing Curatorial Advisory Committee (Zoe Butt, John Connelly, Elizabeth Dee, Raphael Gygax, and Kevin McGarry), and all the other folks supporting this inaugural presentation. More soon...!

P.S. Stephanie Cash posts a great contextualizing article of the fair on Art in America.

Labels: Moving Image

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year! - Break

Full day of installing, meeting, errand running.

So I'll simply wish you and yours a Happy Chinese New Year!

It's the year of the Rabbit (my sign*)!!!

Among the most charming from Andy Riley's The Book of Bunny Suicides.

*I'll hire the meanest, most sex-deprived, most constipated gypsy I can find to put a curse on anyone who does the math. :-p

Labels: break

Monday, February 07, 2011

Not Much Art "For the People"? Perhaps It Depends on How You Measure It

There were several great comments on last week's thread about arts funding, but one by an anonymous commenter haunted me all weekend:
The great successful few and the outspoken agenda pushers have all but destroyed public interest in supporting the arts. In eyes of the public artists are already elitist, detached and entitled, so why back them up with hard to come by resources.

This is an incredibly sad situation, but this is what happens when so many artists have pursued their individual ideals and fancies and failed to consider what relevance their work has to the broader swath of human existence.

I'm personally frustrated by the whole situation, because most people have missed the point. The WPA worked because the art directly addressed public and social engagement, and right now too many artists want their own personal projects to be subsidized regardless of the social necessity of their work. For people to support the arts, it has to matter to them and somehow artists have failed to make art matter to a large percentage of the population.
I have to admit to struggling with this issue. On one hand, I think we expect far too much of our art with regards to how many people should know and/or celebrate it. Go back a century and ask your average American to name five famous works of art and you'd find precious few contemporary works in their answer. I suspect the main reason why is that there was no way for the average American to view the art of their day even if they wished to. The works they would have known would have been ones that either had made it into the books they saw at school, the museums they had visited, or, perhaps most commonly, the works that made it into the newspapers (usually because of scandal or other non-aesthetics-based notoriety).

There were a few contemporary works that caused a widespread stir because of their artistic accomplishments, but very few. So even if your average American could name three high-profile works of contemporary art, if you asked 1000 Americans, you would have probably seen an overwhelming number of them choose the same three works (again, usually infamous or ones tainted with scandal). Those three works then, would be the most famous contemporary works of their day and the public would support or condemn them according to their preferences. But they would receive the lion's share of discourse. Not necessarily because they "spoke to the people" any more than other work, but more by default (i.e., having been selected by the authorities in the field and press to be talked about in the very few channels in which art was discussed). The People simply didn't know about much other contemporary work. Information about it simply wasn't that accessible. This, in my opinion, created a concentrated, but by today's measures false, sense of enthusiasm for a select group of works, making it look like Americans cared more about the art of their day because they all used the same examples whenever the subject came up.

Today, though, with the Internet connecting us all instantaneously, your average American who cares might be able, from the comfort of their home, to look up what is the latest work to grace the Turbine at the Tate Modern, or see images of the work by the artists rumored to be in the running for the upcoming Venice Biennial's Silver Lion Prize, or check out who their favorite blogger cited as the artwork of the week. I think perhaps it's this plethora of choices that only suggests an ambivalence about contemporary art. I suspect it's precisely because you can so much more easily find work that specifically appeals to you today that there is no longer the sort of forced, concentrated consensus that fewer choices created. This lack of concentrated interest doesn't necessarily translate into less interest over all, though.

I also think that because there are more artists seeking attention than ever before, this also contributes to a sense that not enough people care (because a larger number of people would need to care to meet the desire by the larger number of artists seeking to be celebrated).

But I've drifted a bit from the point the commenter was making. It was directly discussing governmental funding and a resistance to that. I don't think that interest in chopping away at the arts is as widespread as the GOP's current plans might suggest. The argument seems to be that the People elected them over the Democrats, therefore the people must endorse these cuts. But the fact of the matter is the GOP refused to identify where they would propose cuts during the campaign. So one can conclude from the election results only that Americans supported trimming the fat only in the abstract. Notoriously, once specific programs are proposed for cuts, the public's enthusiasm wanes considerably.

Labels: art appreciation, art viewing

Friday, February 04, 2011

Get Your Intelligent Art Conversations Here

While NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman is urging the nation's arts organizations to dumb it down if they want to survive... seriously, that's his solution to budget problems (take it away Mr. Finch)...
Rocco thinks that struggling nonprofits should emulate superkitsch platforms like Glee and Dancing With the Stars, tinseltown factories whose main purpose is to recycle old, corporate-owned songs and corporate-controlled washed-up celebrities (and their agents, hangers on, etc.), to make money flow again into an entertainment industry decimated by the popular use of the internet and other technological means by which local culture is shared globally. reports that CAA is about to take Manhattan by storm, and ask those of us in the art world to exercise our brains a bit:
Thousands of art historians and artists from around the country descend on the event for a series of intellectual panel discussions the likes of which the world has hardly seen .... And it’s not cheap: tickets to the whole megilla are $400, though entry to a single session (which may boast a half-dozen panels) is $45.

For those who can’t afford the freight, the conference also offers some free sessions, including one titled "Against Acknowledgement: Sexuality and the Instrumentalization of Knowledge," led by Jonathan Katz (SUNY Buffalo), co-curator of the groundbreaking, controversial "Hide/Seek" exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Another of the free discussions will include yours truly. Hosted by the single-most enthusiastic advocate of artists taking control of their careers that I can think of, Sharon Louden, the discussion takes place this coming Thursday, February 10. Here are the details:

Title of the Panel: "Making a Living as An Artist: With our Without a Gallery"
When: Thursday, February 10, 2011, 12:30-2:00pm.
Where: New York Hilton Hotel, New York, NY, in the Murray Hill Suites, Second Floor of the New York Hilton Hotel

Presentations/Panels for ARTspace are happening in the MURRAY HILL SUITES on the SECOND FLOOR at the NEW YORK HILTON HOTEL which is located at 1335 6th Avenue, between 52nd and 53rd Streets in Midtown. ARTspace is FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC so you do not need a pass or registration to enter into the hotel and come to the Murray Hill Suites on the 2nd floor of the NY Hilton Hotel.

Confirmed panelists:

  • Chair: Sharon Louden, Louden Studio
  • Sharon Butler, Eastern Connecticut State University
  • William Carroll, The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts
  • Peter Drake, New York Academy of Art
  • Ed Winkleman, Winkleman Gallery
OK, so I can't guarantee how intelligent my contributions to the conversation will turn out (it may all depend on how strong the Hilton's coffee is), but this is a great line-up of super smart and artist-centric people and a topic that I don't think you can ever get too many alternative points of view on. I hope you can join us!

Labels: panel discussion, selling art

Die With Dignity Or Fight With All You've Got Til the Bitter End?

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO HOO, What a Ride!" ---Fake Chinese Doctor.
OK, so one of the largest, most successful, and most celebrated responses to the Great Depression in the US was the creation of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), which had employed millions of Americans for 8 years. Disbanded when WWII ushered in a new era of high employment, the legacy of the WPA is still there for all Americans to enjoy in the form of parks and roads, as well as some truly fantastic art. The spirit of the WPA is well captured in this description of the artworks from this era that have survived until today:
They stand as a reminder of a time in our country’s history when dreams were not allowed to be destroyed by economic disaster. [emphasis mine]
Flash forward to the Great Recession and what is the visionary response to ensure dreams are not destroyed by the current economic disaster? It's summarized in this headline from
New National Arts Index's Advice to Struggling Nonprofits? "Die With Dignity"
Compare the values that led to the creation of the WPA...
The administration's decision to replace relief with the WPA reflected the values of Franklin D. Roosevelt and his relief administrator, Harry Hopkins. Both believed that relief demoralized the unemployed and produced a condition of dependency. [emphasis mine] those used to conclude that non-profits who are struggling should "die with dignity":
In one of the toughest budgetary climates in modern history, and amid renewed threats from Congressional Republicans to eliminate government art support, the advocacy group Americans for the Arts rolled out its National Arts Index on Monday. Essentially, the measure aims to speak for the arts in a language that even complete philistines might understand, offering a method to track the health of the creative economy in a way that's similar to how Gross Domestic Product tracks the growth of the global economy in general. [emphasis mine]
The Americans for the Arts report's executive summary focuses a great deal on the "demand-side and supply-side solutions to be considered."

But not just the language is different now than it was in 1935, the landscape obviously is too. Even Rocco Landesman, the new head of the National Endowment for the Arts, the one person in government you would expect to advocate for more support for nonprofit arts organizations, is suggesting we have too much of it:
The Republican Study Committee is gunning for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, having announced a plan last month that would eradicate the 45-year-old organization. But possible extinction isn't the only thing the NEA has to worry about these days. The arts agency's chairman Rocco Landesman has been shocking and enraging people from the right and the left, proposing that the demand for arts organizations (specifically struggling theaters) no longer matches the supply — in effect, that a surplus of arts groups that lack audiences could and should be pruned.
Landesman's argument, like that of Americans for the Arts, stems from some cold, hard number crunching:
"There are 5.7 million arts workers in this country and two million artists. Do we need three administrators for every artist?" he asks. "Resident theaters in this country began as collectives of artists. They have become collectives of arts administrators. Do we need to consider becoming more lightly institutionalized in order to get more creativity to more audiences more often?"
Landesman's proposal seem to boil down to the suggestion that already poorly paid arts administrators of the country should be fired and that artists should take over those jobs and (presumably) work for free (in addition to the other jobs they already have to keep to continue their practice, that is). Again, compare the rationales and values of these two economic hardship responses. FDR was concerned about the "demoralization of the unemployed." Landesman and Americans for the Arts are concerned about improving efficiencies. Their proposals would result in more even people joining the unemployed at a time when jobs are still very hard to come by. Different values for different times, I guess.

Personally, the suggestion that the arts organizations slated for euthanasia (by whom and by what criteria remains to be seen, but if how the Smithsonian capitulated to the GOP is any indication, we're all screwed) should go quietly...with dignity...reflects a total misunderstanding of what drives artists, what drives those who pour their sweat and hopes into creating an arts organization, and what drives those of us who champion them. None of what they do has ever been accomplished taking the easy route. This is not a crowd you'll easily get to march sheeplike to slaughter. If they're gonna pull the plug, I say go out with a bang! You've got nothing to lose at this point. End with the productions or exhibitions you always wanted to do, but were always afraid would upset your government funders.

Remember, dignity isn't something others can bestow on you. It's something you have to claim for yourself.

Labels: arts funding, politics

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Agenda | Open Thread

Believing as I do that what we talk about when we talk about art is ultimately ourselves, I was fully in agreement with Jonathan Jones' post in the Guardian that "For critics, it's better to be interesting than right." Jones extrapolates on this point with a comparison between an artist championed by 18th Century French philosopher/art critic Denis Diderot and an artist he wasn't so keen on, but who clearly won out in the history contest:

Diderot raises a question: is a good critic one who is right, or one who makes an interesting case, however wrong-headed? He loathed the sensuous, sophisticated, courtly and erotic painter François Boucher. In his eyes, Boucher's paintings were heartless, decadent, trivial, and morally worthless.

In place of Boucher he preferred another contemporary, Jean-Baptiste Greuze. For Diderot, this painter of grief-stricken families and sincere young people was a truly serious and worthwhile artist – the antithesis of Boucher.

A good place to compare these two artists is the Wallace Collection in London, which has works by both in abundance. Boucher's erotic mythological fantasies are floating concoctions of silk and skin, ethereal and flimsy and ... hugely pleasurable. He is defiantly unserious and delightfully ambitious in the scale and proliferation of his visual frolics. As for Greuze – what visitor to the Wallace Collection spends much time on this sentimental, morbid, palpably dishonest artist's clogged and nauseating daubs?

I would fully agree with Jones that a critic is more helpful to me as a reader if they have a strong and interesting point of view. I don't need them to be "right," because if I disagree with them I'm just stubborn enough to cling to my current opinion anyway (it changes at a glacial pace). What I want to take away from reading them is not confirmation of that opinion (I'm just arrogant enough to be fine without such confirmation), but rather an interesting challenge to look at the work I think I know in a way I hadn't thought of. Hence, the more interesting the critic's point of view is, the better.

And I would leave the discussion at that. If it were up to me.

But Jones takes it somewhere I'm not so sure of:
There were compelling reasons for Diderot to see so much more in Greuze that meets our eyes. He was setting out a theory of art, searching for a definition of value that was truly serious, moral, even political. His readers were searching too, which was why they too loved Greuze.

What does all that have to with art and criticism today? Everything. The job of a critic is not to be "right" – that would make them into jumped-up authority figures, high-court judges of art. What pompous nonsense. The memorable critics – including the greatest of all, John Ruskin – were often wrong, even absurd, but they made arguments that will always bear thinking about. Ruskin could pursue a train of thought over hundreds of pages and his richness of intellect and language makes the journey worthwhile, even if you find his opinions insane or offensive.

Critics are not parasitical on art. They practice an art of their own. History shows that being right has very little to do with it.

I think Jones is arguing against himself through that passage. It was indeed the very thought that occurred to me that he seemed to anticipate and try to (weakly) cut off in the first sentence of that last paragraph.

Let's say he's right. Let's say Diderot was using his art criticism as part of his goal of "searching for a definition of value that was truly serious, moral, even political." That would mean he had a very specific agenda.

Specific agendas in arts writing are certainly not unheard of. Greenberg clearly had one, and(later in his career, at least) it led him to also champion a few artists that history hasn't fully agreed with him about. In my opinion, it was Clement's agenda and not any failing in the new work itself that led him to miss/dismiss some of the most important developments happening right under his exquisite eye.

But where I'm not so sure Jones isn't wrong is in that last paragraph. If a critic is pursuing an agenda, then how is that practice not parasitical? The definition of a parasite is "An organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host." If we take "art" in general as the host (what critics make their living off of), is not a critic who focuses their audience's attention on a particular movement or artist to the exclusion of others and more because doing so advances some specific agenda rather than because they don't see its value, ignoring what's best for the host?

Consider this an open thread on what it means to have an agenda and pursue it through one's art writing.

Image above:
A detail from François Boucher, Workshop of François Boucher,The Arts and Sciences: Poetry and Music, The Frick Collection.

Labels: art criticism