Friday, October 04, 2013

A few pre-caffeinated thoughts on the next big thing | Open Thread

Had a great conversation with one of my favorite NY critics last night about the state of the global art world (not market, mind you, but world). We rhetorically solved all that ails the art world in the way one can seemingly only do over drinks. We took slightly different views on what the most interesting/meaningful development in current trends was. He leaned toward the burgeoning relational/activist practices making real differences in people's lives, whereas I confessed to being more intrigued with the more apocalyptic reflections of what it feels like to be alive now, as it seems more forward looking, even if obviously much more cynical than the real-world good that activism can bring about (see here for my former thoughts on the delineation of activism and art-making that makes most sense to me). Ultimately, though, I agreed that activism art is as valid a practice as any other (I know, big of me, eh?). It's simply not intriguing me as much as other practices at the moment.

But we both were stumped when we pondered where to look for what's "next" in the art world.

The art world has shrunk so much in our lifetimes that it doesn't make sense to me to think of what's "next" in terms of geography. How many times over the past five decades has the LA scene, for example, been heralded as having "arrived" only to quiet down again and "arrive" again a few years later? Yes, there's contagious energy in some quadrants at the moment, particularly those where the economy is cranking, but far too many of the reports I've read of those scenes seem to confuse energy for quality. Not that I don't value's a critical component of what the art world is all about to me. But I have been to more parties and events than I can count, and I can tell you it's the quiet encounters and epiphanies that stick with you over the years, not the hoopla.

So if we're not looking for the next city or country to show us what's next, where are we to look? 

Well, there's chatter about the fervor for "post-internet art" (in Berlin, at least), and I have to confess to finding much among the ideas there very interesting, even as I find too many of the visuals somewhat meh. "Glitch art" is equally fascinating from a theoretical point of view and equally ignorable from a visual point of view far more often than not. And perhaps that's the case with any development ever in the history of art: early efforts are explorations and not every one of them can be expected to be a masterpiece. So I'll keep watching those.

There's also a popular interest in juxtaposing strong, but overlooked older artists with younger artists in a "dialog" (mostly for fairs, but in some galleries as well). I've seen a wide range of approaches to this, and it can be exhilarating, but quickly feels somewhat forced as a long-term strategy. How many good pairings can there really be that haven't been made? Besides, that's not actually an advance, even as I very much appreciate how it helps viewers slow down and, you know, actually look for a while.

There's also apparently no limits where spectacle is concerned, and yet, paradoxically, the larger the installations or individual pieces seem to get or the more star-studded the performances get lately, the more ignorable they become on one level. OK, so on many levels. With just a little more effort, perhaps they can become ignorable on every level.

The death of authorship seems to be all the rage again as well, but even as clever as it seems as a publicity stunt, I can name more collectives working that way than I can works of art they've produced that made an impression on me. I'm willing to be patient on this front, though. It seems to have some energy behind it as well. It's certainly a welcome respite from spectacle art.

And so I scratch my head...and wait. There's no shortage of individual artists making work that delights and/or thrills me, but no one direction I see that looks to define the "next."  And maybe that's OK. Maybe what's "next" is better for selling art publications than it is for art.

Or am I missing something? What's the next big thing in your opinion?


Blogger George said...

The 'next big thing' is a 20th century idea which I do not think will carry over into the 21st century. The idea implies the existence of a hegemonic style or just a few predominant styles. For demographic reasons, this is condition which is no longer possible for any extended period.

I think we can expect clusters of stylistic or fashion trends existing within the various mediums available to visual artists. The most important will be because they have attracted the strongest artists.

In the last century of art making there have been no successful or important artists whose body of work did not have identity. Authorship trumps appropriation, the 'death of authorship' supporters have nothing to say or don't know how to say it if they do.

The internet is going to have a huge affect on future art making, but not in the most obvious ways, not as a novelty item, but as an adjunct to the working process which allows the artist to find new depths of association for their work. More about the information, less about the hardware.

10/04/2013 10:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Small Robust Paintings and Sculptures. Have you ever held a old silver dollar in your hand?

10/04/2013 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The critics have missed out on a lot of significant 'little things' because they often ignore galleries and artists outside of the city limits. In my opinion, there is a lot of catching up to do. The powers that be in the art world need to stop viewing art with geographic boundaries. There is so much more going on within the US art scene as a whole. Take a look. Search. People need to not be so fearful of taking a chance outside of the gate.

The fact that most museum exhibits featuring work by living artists focus on artists with NY or LA connections is very telling. Museums have dropped the ball. Placing the market before a true search for what is going on.

10/04/2013 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

That's all well and good, Anonymous, but how about pointing us to some of those significant things?

10/04/2013 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

While there is a lot of art being made everywhere, limiting ones view to just the US is a mistake, fresh, interesting and important art is being made in Europe as well. I also think if an artist lives and works in a major art center they are making a statement about their ambition for their work. There are exceptions but it's generally the case, and seen that way by others.

10/04/2013 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Kianga Ellis said...

The first thing to grasp is that the artists and art movements of the 20th century achieved many of their goals in terms of breaking down and opening up what art is. I believe that the artists who history will reveal as among the most significant working today are TOTALLY FREE of the baggage artists have been reacting to for 100 years.

These artists of the "new" are using all of it in the work: abstraction, concepts, figuration, social activity, objects in real space, inventions in digital space, performance... All of this goes on in the same practice--in one artist's studio. These artists reflect on the art movements of the past which then become ingredients in their own pie. Historical links in this case are not used to boost the importance and value of otherwise dead work by associating it with the famous of the past.

Here's my litmus test... When I look at the work, does it strike me that this work could not have been made a decade ago, or even five years ago (perhaps even 2 years ago). Not because of the technology involved, but because something clearly speaks of a person struggling and absorbing the world and being in the world as it is today. In 2013.

This means that what is "new" today is a different type of "new" than 50 years ago. I think of it as the difference between three dimensions and five dimensions. Both represent a kind of architecture of space, but the complexity of the latter brings the same space, and our understanding of it, into a new realm.

There are many artists working in this way. If you want to know who some of them are and what the work looks like, I know a little project space you should visit. :)

10/04/2013 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

@ Kianga Ellis — Good comment.

10/04/2013 01:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Ward AKA GrumpyVisualArtist said...

oh dear, we need a new big thing? i'll volunteer my concept of modular, viewer-interchangable art-panels [ see: ].

visitor wants to invert a painting or rearrange a hanging? i say: go ahead. take 2 of this series and 5 of that series and remix them? i love the idea.

there, done.
the next big thing.

ya's make it into a big huge deal please. we can get together in a few years to pick the next next big thing.

10/04/2013 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

The activist artists are scraping the bottom of the barrel of conceptualism. Now that the possibilities of dematerialization and deskilling have been used up and people don't really take Theory seriously anymore, there's nothing left for them except to act on Theory's essentially leftist politics. I don't see them leaving a mark because from what I can tell they don't care very much whether what they're doing is art. Art-the-category requires little but that much may be necessary.

What's next is worldbuilding. The art audience is so full of readers at this point that it's going to have to compete for notice with every other narrative medium available, from novels to videogames. The juice of such things is immersion, which requires worldbuilding. This is why the realists never go away, and why lowbrow caught on big five years ago and hasn't lost much ground since. The astonishing tenacity of Olitski can be viewed in this light as well. His paintings have a sense of place and event that is notable among his contemporaries.

Worldbuilders give you the sense that you're entering their conception of reality by looking at their work, by dint of craft, consistency, and vision. At the moment I'm looking at Raul Gonzalez in lowbrow, Carrie Moyer in abstraction, David Bates and Kyle Staver in modernist figuration, my friend Warren Craghead in comics, my friend Damon Lehrer in traditional figuration, Janet Echelman in new media, and my friend Elisabeth Condon as an all-around wonder.

10/05/2013 06:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the youth culture art-star obsession and the novelty paint approach continues - Lucien Smith, Jacob Kassay, Trudy Benson etc

10/05/2013 10:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuckin A Franklin , "Worldbuilders give you the sense that you're entering their conception of reality by looking at their work, by dint of craft."

That's what I do , thanks for telling me what I do . I know what I am doing ,,,it is difficult to explain.

10/05/2013 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another one: The over-theorized object/image and conceptual/curatorial abstraction - Rachel Harrison, Walead Beshty, Wade Guyton, Kelley Walker, Rashid Johnson...etc

10/05/2013 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

triangulism is the next movement.

10/05/2013 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Laura Wrede said...

Right now art is in the midst of a chaotic free-for-all of changing rules and the unraveling of tightly woven threads of past "big things."

We are in a time where all things seem uncertain to some degree. Art is one of those things.

The next big thing? Chaos?

Unfortunately for artists trying to get on board. Chaos can't be controlled.

10/07/2013 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Zachary Adam Cohen said...

good thoughts here George. Especially the part about the internet's effect on new art making being less about the internet and what you can do with it, but about how far wide AND deep it can take them into their identified zone, whatever that might be. Could definitely see art clusters as opposed to hegemonic styles or moments too.

10/09/2013 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Zachary Adam Cohen said...

also, ed, obviously im the next big soon as i start making some picking my moment tho, stay tuned. Gonna erase Powhida first.

10/09/2013 09:44:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home