Sunday, July 30, 2006

still reading kuspit.

I am probably sitting on about a half-dozen posts that remain un-solidified. Oh well. Have been reading these Donald Kuspit chapters, trying to keep up with them anyway. Here is a little sample of what I thought was fun.

Conceptual art also signals the crisis of representation that was responsible for avant-garde art from the beginning. The "impossibility" of art is tied to this crisis, that is, the recognition of the difficulty of making a representation adequate to modern life led to the realization that it was impossible to make art, which is at bottom what Conceptual art is about.
I still wonder sometimes why the NYC art scene so hates Kuspit. I think it is pretty telling that someone NOT writing in pretensia meets such a wall of silence. For you non-artist readers, print these chapters out (I know you all have office jobs). They're pretty indispensable and cut through a lot of the nonsense. The latest one on Kiefer is a bunch of good fun and remember this stuff is all like 25 and 30 years ago.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

quoting bateson

Whoever creates an image of an object does so in depth, using various cues for that creation[...] But most people are not aware that they do this, and as you become aware that you are doing it, you become in a curious way much closer to the world around you. The word "objective" becomes, of course, quite quietly obsolete; and at the same time the word "subjective," which normally confines "you" within your skin, disappears as well. It is, I think, the debunking of the objective that is the important change. The world is no longer "out there" in quite the same way that it used to seem to be.

Without being fully conscious or thinking about it all the time, I still know all the time that my images—especially the visual, but also auditory, gustatory, pain, and fatigue—I know the images are "mine" and that I am responsible for these images in a quite peculiar way. It is as if they are all in some degree hallucinated, as indeed they partly are. The shower of impulses coming in over the optic nerve surely contains no picture. The picture is to be developed, to be created, by the intertwining of all these neural messages. And the brain that can do this must be pretty smart. It's my brain. But everybody's brain-any mammalian brain—can do it, I guess.

I have the use of the information that that which I see, the images, or that which I feel as pain, the prick of a pin, or the ache of a tired muscle—for these, too, are images created in their respective modes—that all this is neither objective truth nor is it all hallucination. There is a combining or marriage between an objectivity that is passive to the outside world and a creative subjectivity, neither pure solipsism nor its opposite.

Consider for a moment the phrase, the opposite of solipsism. In solipsism, you are ultimately isolated and alone, isolated by the premise "I make it all up." But at the other extreme, the opposite of solipsism, you would cease to exist, becoming nothing but a metaphoric feather blown by the winds of external "reality." (But in that region there are no metaphors!) Somewhere between these two is a region where you are partly blown by the winds of reality and partly an artist creating a composite out of the inner and outer events.

Quoted from Image from the Michael of Rhodes manuscript via Bibliodyssey.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

cera de abejas

I am going to buy beeswax from these people. I am going to mix it with a healthy amount of turpentine and some linseed oil and body up some projects for which 2 dimensions are insufficient.

It never really dries.

sunrise from my roof

This is one of those feel good posts about my rooftop at sunrise.

Here is my lovely building with the terrible fluorescent lights still on.
And here is the building next door. Most of it got knocked down in 1985. So it has grown up with trees.

But wait, look a little closer. One of the charms of living in the hemisphere's biggest megalopolis is being woken by country farm animals such as my neighbor there.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"yes yes"

I've finally got around to reading
Tyler Green answering these few questions as linked to by HL&B in part of his discussion of disintegration. (actually i just finally got this little Q/A to download.) Anyway the thing that leapt out at me was this:

What’s the best way for an artist to gain the attention of a critic?
I’m sure this sounds trite, but: Make good work and show it as widely as you can. A website helps. A blog isn’t a bad idea – I’m surprised more artists don’t have blogs.
Funny. I have ranted and raged against artist's websites for ages now. I really hate them. That hasn't changed. And sometimes when things are quiet here it is because, like an artist's studio, a blog might be plagued with self-doubt and self-conciousness.

I think there are loads of snide, cynical reasons why there are not more artists' blogs. Those prima-donnas can hardly think as it is, not to mention the PR expert's caution against saying anything for fear of looking like some kind of Tom Cruise. But these are not the interesting reasons.

The real reason it seems to me is that, if one is part of a school of thought, one has to be able to defend it when the doors are flung open and the masses come in. And it is just damned easier to pretend to be (or to really be) part of the whole art-as-entertainment industry. Now nothing I think or write here is likely to make that school of thought go away. I am not sure it is a school of thought.

But I am convinced it is one of the most devastating trains of thought for culture to follow in the western world. Reading the very positive Charles Simic review of the MOMA Dada show today, I was struck, again by the following:
Dada's genius was that it refused to define itself and become an art movement in an era of proliferating avant-gardes. All that its artists had in common were a few ideas about going beyond pictorial conventions, freeing art of its history in order to discover it elsewhere, as well as a sense of humor.
And while we have no limit on the number of cliched attempts to imitate this, we also have seemingly very little success. Dada refused to define itself in an era of proliferating avante-gardes. What was lost when Dada refused to define itself was the ability of artists and intellectuals to get together, even temporarily, around a common understanding and push it further. They've done so a few times. Abstract expressionism, the other movements since then. But that now seems like it was all so much modernism.
The real problem with blogging now is doing it in an atmosphere of state sanctioned and industry sacralized Dada. Dada hopelessness all the time. Outside of the Ivy-Leagues it is Dada nihilism as far as the eye can see.

Playing at imagery, making it, reveling in it is damned satisfying work. I've illustrated this post and my whole other blog and a good part of the rest of this blog with the ridiculous, the unfinished, the unfinishable. Things that fascinate me for their incompleteness and their readiness to be engaged with a ready world that is bleak and falling apart. I'm wholly against art on the internet just as I am wholly against incomplete and half-assed blog posting - though I do that too sometimes.

So perhaps I will sound like some kind of fanatic when I say that museums and galleries should not be competing with amusement parks and cinemas for entertainment dollars. I don't go to those places to get engaged. I do read blogs to get engaged. I go to Six-Flags to forget. Usually I watch movies to forget (there are exceptions). I am happy with both kinds of movies. The real competition for museums should be churches, for that is where art has always been most prescient and yes, useful.

las distribuciones (y las confusiones)

I thought about translating Pepe's post here, because the "anomalies" in the distribution is worthy of the Washington Post pulling out the stops in their latest slantfest:

Felipe Calderon, who won the July 2 vote by a hair's breadth, refused Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's plea that he also press for a recount.

Lopez Obrador, a fiery left-winger, claims vote tallies were rigged in the July 2 election to help the ruling party's candidate.

Funny, the forgot to refer to Calderon as the Right Wing International Banking Against Working People candidate.

Kos interview

...]to me, it's really interesting that the media for so long has let the right bully it into moving — in skewing its coverage to the right — is now apoplectic over the fact that we're demanding that they do their job properly. We're not saying lie, we're not saying follow, you know, listen to the Democratic talking points. We're just saying, don't, like, don't fall for these lies, look for the truth. There is a truth out there. This is not a subjective world. Look for truth when we can find it.
In a way I'm a leader, but the way I lead is by following those who are inspired by — who I consider are true leaders.
two nice quotes from this quite long interview with Markos Moulitsas over at DisneyLand. Actually I think the whole interview is quite good, yeah yeah, everyone always says that. Finally a nice foto of Markos from Bart Nagel Photography.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


hardly a big nazi fan here, so why do I find it so easy to call this poster "art" ? I would even go so far as to say I find it moving. Not exactly in a nostaligic way... well done, executed ? (oy!) design principles in order ?

I seriously doubt it. Some kind of truth it corresponds to ? What kind ?

In a way I think I just wanted to see if I could find it on the internet and gaze at it. Sontag's Fabulous Fascism ? We can see now that it doesn't require this kind of art to mobilize the ugly hatred and pathology of our own 23%. 6 years ago I didn't know that. People jump onto hatred with barely a push. I think this poster must have been intended for more subtle, educated minds.

I found this one at

outside a kindergarten, 2 from today

freakish retards take power in Poland

This is the kind of news you miss when president retardo gets loose in Europe and gobbles the airwaves and the headlines:

Lech is married with a daughter, but his brother lives with their mother in a house full of cats.
Both of them however are equally retarded. And if you read to the end of the article you get more in their own words:

“In Poland there are many people who behave as if they are independent academics or journalists but they are in fact on the German payroll”

“The opposition front has been put together by the German security services”
Jaroslaw Kaczynski

“I am for tolerance but against propagating homosexuality”

“We will see the full disintegration of the Russian Empire and distance ourselves from the Russian threat”

“History doesn’t show a relationship between physical stature and political skill”
Lech Kaczynski (who is 5ft 5in)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

cartoon time 2

Bill Gusky has a very excellent discussion going on about drawing and to said discussion may I contribute the following:

rare opportunity

to actually see a senator act like a senator. and this guy, well... (via C&L).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

irony of ironies

Thanks to Sit Down Man, You're a Bloody Tragedy for leading me to this excellent Lissitzky resource whence we read of Lissitzky's work with Kurt Schwitters on the April-July 1924 issue of the Dada journal Merz:

The text, consisting of a foreword and captions for a series of paired images, calls upon artists to set aside the machine in favor of "natural" forms such as crystals and plants, and argues that art follow principles of organic growth, economy, and balance. [emphasis mine]
That I think very nicely illustrates the mis-reading of Modernism that has tainted Modernist studies ever since. Crystal and plants ? And here I thought modernism was about freedom, you know ? Just do whatever you want, dude.

on compulsion, 3

Monoprints, ink on paper, 30 x 42 cms.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

on compulsion, 2

This post is a response to Steven LaRose's perfectly valid questions in the comments section:

How is "compulsion" related to by (studio) life? Should I change or focus some behavior? Even with my blog? Was I comfortable with my heaps and rows? I eventually looked up an antonym for "compulsion" because I couldn't think of one myself. I was startled for some reason to find these words: "free will, freedom, independence, liberty, license"
I found one definition somewhere of "compulsion" that described it as the lawful use of violence, as by the state or whatever. But I started my previous post as a lament that my blog is just not as compelling as some the blogs I read everyday. Though I am undoubtedly motivated by what I consider "the politics of what other people think" in reading Hullaballoo(at least Digby's posts), Glenn Greenwald and Firedoglake, it is now much less to see what they are finding in the mainstream media, than it is to see what they, the bloggers are actually saying. I first got really obsessed with blogs back when I think the whole country was being staggered everyday by stolen elections and a mainstream media that would not, no matter what, call a crime a crime. But over time, I've grown more interested in seeing the blogosphere grow into a substantial part of the arena where left politics happen. And while I admit that that compulsion to see change happen is a part of it, I am also deeply interested in seeing the truth written in words on a screen sometimes and knowing that other people read them also and share my idea of truth.

That said, I go from those blogs through a whole slew of art blogs trying to find similar intelligence and motivation to get to the real crux of what doing art is about. I would like to see it but I am not sure the two things, art and blogging, painting and blogging, sculpture and blogging necessarily lend themselves so readily to one anothers' forms.

By compulsion as it relates to art I am quite sure that one can understand compulsion when one stands in front of any half-way decent Van Gogh painting. One isn't exactly being forced, but I think one is compelled to follow with one's eyes the lines and textures and bumps and grooves of color. I am pretty sure that even non-painters understand what that is all about, if not in substance then certainly in affect.

But rather than sound like some advocate of Van Gogh, urging everyone to understand and sympathize with the idiosyncracies of his life (how pointless is that ?) I am questioning whether there can be similarity between the compulsion of staring at one of those paintings, reading certain blogs everyday, and working in a studio everyday.

The rather witless drawing I posted up there to illustrate this post can perhaps
be used also to illustrate the kinds of truth I in fact find compelling and which I have by no measure fulley turned over, nor understood nor made into a comprehensive and marketable art product. I suppose the clients of the dealers I talk to aren't compelled by the posture of a given angle, nor to how many things it can easily refer to, again, my heaps and piles and series.

As I am merely speculating, I think I can suggest that some simple form like this may reverberate both inward toward some personal meaning that's been forgotten, but also outward toward some external meaning or multitude of meanings that are perhaps compelling to someone else. I would even be willing to go onto a bit of a limb and say that I believe that better painting or drawing has some kernel of this inward looking and compellingly felt experience. Even if the expression of that experience is not understood as the point or purpose of the thing having been made, then at least, and again in better paintings or drawings, it remains as an element fundamental to those objects' execution and is understood, even if unspoken, unspeakable and perhaps merely felt by those who later witness it.

Describing what are obviously un-felt objects, paintings, drawings is of course some good measure of what I think we react against when we get annoyed by the cloud of normal public relations style language that is tossed around in the blog-o-sphere and the art world. The pretensia and the "ooh-ooh, notice me!" are attempts to get the same, rather ordinary compulsive feeling that we might get from some clothes and debris that have happened onto a storm drain. And this is done in embarrasment or with shame towards the things that actually have always compelled us. Some odd feeling of fear and elation during childhood, some mystery being revealed over something banal. Usually these things happen to us before we are 7, or before we learn to read. And we spend our lives wondering what they meant. Even a fraction of the memory of such an early event gives your work a charge. Many cultures believe this is because children under 6 are still swimming in memory of other lives or a spiritual completion they've just departed.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

nice Ähnlichkeits

Mindsprinter quoting Coomeraswamy:

The supreme achievement of the individual consciousness is to lose or find (both words mean the same) itself in what is both its first beginning and its last end: "Whoever would save his psyche, let him lose it."
Alan Watts at Seeker after Truth:
[...] if a person has so-called ’strange’ experiences, and endeavors to communicate these experiences–because naturally one talks about what one feels–and endeavors to communicate these experiences to other people, he is looked at in a very odd way and asked ‘are you feeling all right?’
Here I think we can get close to the heart of the controversy over the role of artists. I hope I have argued effectively, though obviously not exhaustively, that there is no society. Still there is a need, I think, amongst us for people who are honest of their experiences. One cannot expect an administrative assistant (or whoever) who is un-cannily shocked by the corner of the stairs outside her apartment building to take two weeks off and exhaustively explore the nature of elevation, the sacred geometry of corners, the breathing of wood versus the temporary calamity of concrete. We can hope that she tries. We can encourage the accounting clerk typist to sign up for those poetry classes. But to answer Watts' question above, I think it important to have people, no matter how strange and befuddled and mystified we are, willing to say, "Yes, just fine, thanks."

Iraq to become 2nd most profitable war

Yes, this London Times article makes out like it is just money being spent, money being paid out. Not like Republicans are actually earning any of this money. It must get paid to, oh, like um, the employees of the missile companies and maybe the soldiers, like for their hospital bills? After that it just disappears. According to somebody in the article:

“Fighting a War on Terror and defending the homeland imposes great costs, and those costs have helped create budget deficits.”
Well i guess you could call them deficits. But folks at the pentagon and their stockbrokers call it PARTYTIME !!!
Update: More grizzly details here.

Friday, July 14, 2006

let's all rage and rage

Lenny at Washington DC Art News linked up to this lovely debate that at least gives everyone the opportunity to foam at the mouth and go nuts.

Speaking of which, can I state publically how much I despise Acrobat Reader and it's interface with Firefox and how it thinks a crappy .PDF reader needs to be "updated" every goddamn five days ?

Image is Karl Free, French Explorers and Indians, 1937

on compulsion

i am always writing that i want my blog to be compelling like a political blog. Focussed, every day with an important issue, driven like the work. But like the work it has to be open, letting a lot of other imformation pass through, be filtered and turned over and examined from a lot of angles.

Part of the reason that a lot of my work ended up looking the way it did was because I was seldom willing to drop a single issue from it and i've ended up with amalgamations of every single thing i thought in a single day, or over some period of days. Sometimes it is piled into a heap and sometimes ordered in rows. But it is never directly symbolic, or rather, as directly symbolic as every line ends up, the reference is never exclusive. Just thoughts.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I think one of the most common and devastating phrases that cross an artist's mind is the notion that: "I'm not that kind of artist." Normally we probably think of it in terms of style; I don't paint that way. But it applies generally to how we relate to the world and the work and provides a huge limitation on what we can do. Sadly, I think the phrase is equally applied to countries. The United States now constantly murmuring to itself "We're not that kind of country."

I've wanted to write a massive kind of cross-cultural comparison post for a couple of days, just watching what my blogger friends are doing. HiLowBetween's post last night beat me to it with a lot of excellent points, as did the much talked about post from Deborah Fisher of a few days ago.

One of the things I keep learning about Americans is that it is going to be very difficult for us to accept and understand that ours is a second-rate nation like any other. The fight must still be fought, for all the things we truly believe in, but fighting to somehow return to building a virtuos city on a hill is, I think more than ever merely a conservative fallacy. Like all conservativism, it is based on a fictional history and is not worth despairing over.

I say this with respect to the feelings and thoughts and words of everyone I read around here, I understand how I was conditioned to want more, to expect more, and to believe more of my country. And that conditioning does not crack easily. But with not a hint of despair, we need to see that America is only one among many. I think Larsen is right to praise Fischer, for picking apart his book carefully and with attention and concern, but the unspoken premise I see more and more now is that America should be different, that we should be better, and that we are not fills us with the same rage and despair that blinds conservatives. I simply know too many people from other countries whose feelings are mixed and confused and embarassed to believe again that we were any sort of chosen people. Modesty is a very attractive feature in a country.

I remember very well how stupendous and Earth-shattering it was to watch the Soviet Union collapse into nothingness. By then I'd been studying it's history and culture and foreign relations for 4 or 5 years. And then again, I remember that in fact it felt like nothing at all. I don't mean to suggest that America will go away, that it will collapse, but I do mean to suggest that it will not likely change. The same thing every Mexican feels about their country, the country of which some huge majority are warmly, deeply proud - is that it will
never change. No fan of cynicism, I respect the wisdom of their placing hope in all the places they look, to Europe and - now - to Asia, to tradition and culture, and even to the north and to their abilities and industry, but not so much to the wisdom of their politics and their police forces.

I've thought a lot about Geoff's very interesting post of a few days ago, quoting Nelson Mandela, ""in order for the oppressed to become free, the oppressor must also be liberated." Perhaps I just need a number to wrap my head around it, I've been thinking 30%. John Dean says in this disturbing interview with Olberman, that the number is 23%. 23% of Americans will follow Dick Cheney, or whoever he is manipulating, over a cliff. They will do whatever they can to please their leader including follow him into oblivion.

Thinking about that 23% I can't imagine what to feel. I feel compassion but I don't see any reason to believe they will be liberated in time to do us any good. I don't have hope for America or its art scene. I have hope for second rate countries, and their second rate people, their second rate artists, and so in a sense I have hope for the second-rate Americans. But anything more than that is based on a false reading of history, that somehow we were once pure, we were once great. We weren't and in the elevated terms that we expect of ourselves, we won't ever be. America is a country of lost provinces, of deep pervasive terror and with a blindness that stretches now like the dark shroud from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. I say this not to cause you further despair, but in hopes that if you realize now how low it has sunk, you might appreciate its wooden architecture, its quaint nearly obliterated cities, that even ugliness has a place in every character. It takes a twist to appreciate these lost kinds of places. And then hopefully if you can make it only an aesthetic of compassion and beauty, you can divorce those same aesthetics from the horror that results from beautifying -aestheticizing- history and politics. That I think, is the
intellectual idyl, mentioned by Trilling, of William Kristol and Rumsfeld and Cheney and their loyal 23%.

I don't assume that any artist falls into that 23% but then I am wrong often enough. As Highlowbetween asks:

Who is the moral personality behind the work? Do I have the ability to be virtuous in the face an ideology of debasement or what Larsen calls simplification? Can I understand beauty and justice?
The point of course is to understand beauty and justice independent of the ideology of debasement and simplification. The moral personality must fight to be independent of all ideology, for it is ideology that insists on the first-rate caliber of its adherents and their great mythology. Our caliber is not first rate, not for 23% of us especially. And I believe living with that 23% is like learning to understand what prevents you from being whatever kind of artists we want to be, so that we are never saying "I'm just not that kind of artist."

Image is courtesy of Non-prohet Photo.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Monday, July 10, 2006

mexican elections update

I think blogger two-way at Daily Discharge has pretty accurately summed up my feelings on the "stolen-elections." Saves me from having to write anything more about it.

And by the way, I was rooting for Italy, but I still felt like France played a far better game. Anyway, Viva Italia. Also, interesting piece on what the Brits can learn from the Italians in the Telegraph from a few days ago.

community and mind

Couple of really good themes coming up from the comments below:

springsandwells said... It's interesting that a few of the commenters seem so sure that they can get all the insight and inspriration on their own... and seem to feel that there is little or no value to be gained from a community. [s&w is talking about the commenters in the previously linked blog entry here.]

Steven LaRose said... Ok, here is my question: Rejuvenating the human spirit is essential, but is that art? I'm asking myself this now. What is the difference between therapy and art? I feel like I know.
I feel a little bad about singling out old Hyacinthe when far worse examples of spoken and written pretensia are abundant in the art-world, though happily they are not so much in the blogosphere. I get the feeling that a lot of art-bloggers are working on blogs as much in reaction against written pretensia as they are against the main-stream media.

I also get the feeling that pretensia developed out of the lack of community, that springsandwells mentions and that I think the mainstream art shriekers insist is a pro-forma requirement for art atmosphere. Just as an example, you can't really imagine an MFA faculty that is united by a common philosophy of art-teaching or art-making, can you? How about a cooperative that is united in a single vision, and an under-riding platform ? I think this is why certain cooperatives of political artists and printmakers have a bit more success, at least at pulling off shows, even if everyone frequently knows what to expect from them, and knows more or less what they are going to look like.

The MFA faculty though, dis-united as it is and in lieu of a unified philosophy, defualts to a lot of assumptions that are at best badly expressed through pretensia, their lingua franca. I wrote a little about manifesto writing in reference to Mikhail Epstein's Towards the Techno-Humanities: A Manifesto, back in April when that article came out. As I quoted Epstein before, let me cut to the meatey part: "Manifestos are neither factual nor fictional--they are formative." Lacking a formative vision of what the hell they are doing, that is lacking any idea to actually make manifest, a whole lot of pretensia is necessary to shore it up. And lacking any critical apparatus to describe it, a whole lot more pretensia is assumed to prevent it from collapsing violently into a heap of nothing.

Taking up what Steven LaRose says above there are components of a philosophy of art-making and art-teaching that we can be explicit about, even if we can't necessarily spell-out a manifesto in it's entirety. One of these components is certainly that healthy psychologies produce healthy art and unhealthy psychologies affect the art (and everything else) that we perceive. An unhealthy psychology insists upon the conservative condemnation of community because individual artistry or expression is muddled in socialist idealism. This psychology is atomistic and refuses to acknowledge "mind" as part of the orchestration device we've inherited and that we use to organize that part of ourselves that is not confined within the hermetically (and deceptively) sealed part of us that the conservative considers "Mind."

All of that said, it is not the goal of art to "rejuvenate the human spirit," but to rejuvenate "mind," including environment, community, making things, womankind, psychological development, economic equality, whatever... Therapy is an atomistic attempt to modify "Mind." Art is just something that does what it is designed to do, and does it well. I think an open healthy participant in integrated mind will see that poor Hyacinth's family workshop awareness things are not that far off the mark. If we can just convince her not to borrow language from the Right maybe we can all go and experience ?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

weekend off

in the meantime, I thought this post from Jonathan Scanlan at Blogcritics was particularly insightful.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Can you speak "Pretensia" ?

Pretensia is a word someone I know once invented for the language of artist-statements. Actually, it might have been me. Usually, if you read the word imbue, you can be sure you're reading something written in Pretensia. Take a look at this blog-entry/promo-piece for some sort of workshops in Wonder Valley, California. Yes, Wonder Valley, truly a valley of wonder.

Then read the comments. Some angry folks think this blog entry was too much of an advertisement and didn't go heavily enough into rejuvenating the artist spirit. What do you think ?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

the politics of what other people think, 4

"Clearly the best path forward is a public relations one,
systematically changing perceptions."
I don't know when this became an answer to anything. Artists and women and people who become beholden to the public relations mind-frame are stripped of their opinions and able to speak only in irrefutable sound bites. I can't imagine anything less in the interest of art.

Art remains always, at some very basic levels, a feminist project. That is, art allows an atmosphere in which dialogues and understandings are allowed to emerge. The problem we seem to face as artists is that standing up and making a statement remains a masculine attribute, one that women are frequently dissuaded from undertaking. And "male" artists and their champions fail to notice or decide not to discuss that perception and the ability to be open and to try to understand others are all female attributes. Those are not attributes of people but of stances. Public relations is the corporatization of speech and statement making. It is an attempt to manipulate opinion through an incessant and thus nearly invisible onslaught of contrary opinions. It is an authoritarian stance with a smile.

I make no apologies for having studied primarily with women, for being influenced primarily by women, for standing in awe at work that women have done around me. I am reminded if of anything, in the debate about the Guerrila Girls and womens place in the "canon," of Bob Marley's disappointment that African-Americans didn't take more readily to what he was offering, a third-world, and world-wide movement. It turned out that African Americans wanted, instead, their piece of the pie. Likewise this mindframe would like to guarantee women artists a piece, an equal piece, of a rather rotten pie. We're not talking about getting the spirit of reggae, the dignity and beauty into schools and homes nor the streets. We're talking about women in business suits behaving like the worst of either sex.

Public Relations as a solution to getting more women involved in a corrupt and deceitful gallery system doesn't seem so much a step forward as a slap in the face. I'd say we need less Matthew Barney, much less women dressed up in Matthew Barney's attitude, and more knowledge. And that is what artists do. We provide and explore knowledge. We are already public relators. Public relations proper is allowed where art has failed and a culture over-ridden with corporations and non-think is flourishing.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

the politics of what other people think, 3

I went to sleep with this quote from the Serra interview ringing in my head:

I think the great thing about Warhol was his cynical, critical banality of conversing with the media. Warhol’s provocation is lost now and has been replaced by a superficial simulation of banality; that is banality for banality’s sake where everybody’s in on the meta-joke. Only the meta-joke of art about art can become tiresome real quick. Cynicism has been replaced with sentimentality. The problem with a lot of work today is its predictability. Its only allusion is to something we already know; it reframes, or re-references the known over and over again. It can’t possibly give us the same kind of inventive diversity and fulfillment and complex evolution of the formal language of art that invention can provide. I find it interesting that there’s no post-modernism that doesn’t deal with re-representation.
I'm sure that everyone is not in on the Meta-Joke. Warhol built a somber cathedral in the middle of the emptiness and banality of american culture. As long as what the Times actually prints is not negative, there is no concern whatsoever for the quality of the actual criticism. It is merely a public relations vehicle and that is something for which everyone of these artists we're always complaining about is longing. As Warhol said, publicity is like popcorn.

They reject criticism like they reject art. Not something Serra does at all. Certainly not something Warhol did, though he may have only ever discussed it with his mother or his closest companion. As Mindsprinter says, of Serra, in the comments below:
He's really done his homework in terms of thinking about his concept in terms of his materials and how that fits into the greater dialogue of art (and his own personal narrative), which is all about seeing through the fashion-fickle market machine of any given timeframe and beelining to the steadfast, eternal conditions/principles.
I don't see that anywhere else in the "white-hot market" and it does make me wonder that no one else is studying art. Does it really really piss off these MFA instructors that the cocktale party advice and tips on "who to know" really accounts for very little? The point maybe I am trying to make is that even a hint toward some sort of principle is usually enough to make good art. Public relations, scandal, trend, all of those things that fit under the empty umbrella of the fake media world are things that artists should avoid. There is nothing realistic about seeking publicity for a fraudulent product, about performing for a media circus that is against reality. Principles? What should yours be ?

oh yeah

and i forgot to mention that holiday, so, yeah, here's this:

another day, another promise

And today I promise you that nothing, NOTHING, in this ridiculous

money quote

or at least a favorite of mine from the Brooklyn Rail interview with Richard Serra, it is all really good. I think one forgets what we are going to lose when these old cats are gone:

I was aware of the Viennese Actionists in the early 1960s, but their ritualistic, cultural psychoanalytic approach and the ecstasy that was involved with the making of the work, which I’m sure were undeniably real for them, didn’t quite sustain my interest. Whereas with Giotto, Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, Pollock, Newman, Johns, Warhol or Nauman, I can go back to their work time after time to either reconfirm something that I already know or to be startled by something that I thought I knew but didn’t. Their work becomes a reliable resource for me and the source of a continual dialogue.
One of the best things about this interview is hearing an artist who actually knows history a little bit longer than that since the 1980s and no mention of the market.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Good story here from the Washington Post on one of US's invisible cities, in this case it's actually an airport with a city somewhere, lost in the "development." A good hopeful story though...

more cartoons

I took this cartoon from this ridiculous Hayek Road to Serfdom over here at where-ever. Altered only slightly, it amazes me that the freaks still rallying behind this kind of ludicrous pastiche, are also the ones who have been shrieking for the "strong man" since Nixon pulled his rat's tail into the helicopter. I was led to the Hayek piece by the folks at Liberty and Power: Group Blog.

I wish to thank Steven LaRose over at Fish or Cut Bait for the careful consideration of the cartoons I published a couple of days ago. I think he is quite right to question the use of the phrase Radical Subjectivism, and I will explain my first experience of the term which is, sloppily of course, from art school. I have heard the phrase applied to people who take the position that "everything is, can and should be art, therefore: (a) it is pointless to try to teach anything other than a sort of mushy thinking about art and (b) any criticism you make of any art is reflective primarily on you, the critic." On researching a (very) little, I would suggest my use of "Radical Subjectivism is closer to what is expressed in this wikipedia entry under Metaphysical Subjectivism. Though I have also always thought there is a strong hint of Solipsismin such a position also.

Because what we're doing is playing a game, seeing if we can stretch our understanding and learn something, I very much applaud Steven's bringing in the Buchanan & Vanberg paper. The quote Steven pulls, "[Socialism failed] because it allowed little scope for the exercise of creative choice on the part of the participants in the economic process" reminds me quite easily of another such choice economic text that posited that socialism had failed because it was unable to communicate such creative choices back to the planners. Preseumably capitalism or socialism will understand this failed communication as a warehouse full of unsold goods. Capitalism is better at communicating these exercises of creative choice by the sale or rejection of said good or services. Now I don't know that any of us who are against capitalism are arguing for a planned economy in Hayek's rather childish sense, but my thinking has been about an economy of language.

Lately of course I have been hosting and encouraging a discussion of the Art Renewal Center with some very thoughtful and insightful posts and problems posed. And I keep trying to bring the discussion back to just what is it that is so much more useful to me as an artist about 19th century art rather than 20th century art. I think, after the cartoons, which were rather useful for me to conceptualize and which are of course still open to editing , improvement and discussion I can conclude that what is useful to artists, though not to the ARC itself, is that 19th century art simply contains more "linguistic elements" than 20th century art.

Stated simply, all painting is necessarily self-referential.
That is to say of course, that if I make a painting it is by default a reference to all other paintings and to "painting" as an idealistic concept. That is why I say that abstraction is impossible. At best an abstract painting can only hint at what previous abstract painters intended to achieve. This notion of linguistic elements is of course problematic and draws on the need for artists to trundle their ways through a bit more Wittgenstein than I can go into here. Painting such as we find predominantly in the 19th century and prior is better able to transcend its own self-referentialism and actually communicate something beyond the "meta-communication" of being about art, and thus is able to actually communicate.

The "white-hot contemporary art market" though, self-referential as it is, primarily works with reference to language developed in the last 20 years. Bad paintings now refer to paintings from the 80s, abstract paintings refer roughly to "painting" between the 40s and 60s. All of them refer to the "Famous for 15 minutes," though not to the exclusivity crushing "Everyone will be." I suppose a rather cartoonish statement in and of itself. I am going to speak about this and Public Relations in a subsequent post.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

palast interviews chavez

I think this is worth a close read.

Quest for Renewal (2)

This is fifth in a series of posts on the Art Renewal Center. Today, I'm reprinting words by Brian Shapiro from the comments section here. I think it is understood that myself and Highlowbetween as well as members of our immediate blog family are painters and artists and therefore these thoughts from Brian, a philosophy student, are most welcome.

I regularly talk with Fred Ross and others who are involved in the Art Renewal Center, through the GoodArt discussion group list, and, because I often am studying art history on my own, send them collections of images to upload. I've always felt that the rhetoric of the organization was too militant, sometimes too simple, and sometimes shrill, and on the discussion group have often argued in defense of modernism. In fact there are many people on that discussion group who do that much more strongly than I do, but, for reasons that are obvious, its not uploaded onto the site archive. I also don't like almost all of the realistic art being produced as 'classical realism' and supported by the Art Renewal Center.

But, even though the arguments can be too militant or too simple, I think the basic ideas that are being argued aren't so misled. I've read the past three posts on this blog about the Art Renewal Center, and there seems to be a need to cast the people behind it as like 'conservatives', in one instance compared to evangelicals, to David Horowitz. From my perspective, most people who continue to argue against academic art or any type of traditional art end up being just as shrill and just as militant. (--and, as a coincidence, most people who end up politically opposing evangelicals end up being shrill and militant) Saying that there has been a 'conspiracy' to supress traditional painting is puffed up; but it is true that over time academic artists had been intentionally removed from history books and removed from museums, excused by the revolutionary agenda of modernism, and that traditional art has in academic papers often linked to everything bad---in short, the imperialist, racist, patriarchal [phallologocentric] Western society. There is a great amount of writing to this end. Sometimes couched in intellectual dialogue, sometimes emotional and shrill, but always reductive and militant.

If it has been political, and there is real value behind academic art; then its fair to argue about a political agenda in academia and museums that has supressed it. If there have been political reasons why our civic dialogue is biased a certain way, its also fair to target the media as being biased. This doesn't equate to paranoia... any more than tying Victorian beliefs to the bourgeois class structure is paranoia. I think there is a lot of erudition and intelligence among people in academics, but there is also politics--not necessarily what you'd say is left-right politics, though often it is, but in every field there is a favored ideology about the subject and its harder to get ahead if you have more than superficial dissent. That is to say--it is no different from academia in the 19th century, where the term 'academic' became perjorative. The 'bourgeoisie' to the avant-garde was not necessarily just an economic class, but the class of intellectual middle-men, it was the people who led academia and the 19th century intellectual discourse. People talk as if this applied to the 19th century but not the 21st.

I agree that a lot of people involved in the Art Renewal Center don't completely understand the 19th century, but I've found most professors in academia, whether in literature, art history, or philosophy departments, don't either. The 20th century was, by intellectuals and political movements, framed as an attack on the Victorian era, which was seen to be full every type of ill, and has been painted almost in ludicrous terms. Victorian thought for a long time, was the enemy--the 19th century was the enemy ... even fascism and naziism were framed as an attack on the 19th century, viewing modernism as a continuation of 19th century thought (The 19th century was to them, the century of the left, of liberal democracy, and abandonment of tradition)--even though you'll see postmodern intellectuals today try to argue that fascism and naziism were a product of the 19th century and its continuation.

To intellectuals, Victorians were prudes, dishonest, bigots, exploitative, uncreative,... rarely were they described in good terms, or their beliefs, their philosophy, or art given a second thought. And, apparently, to many, Victorians were this way, because they believed in things like truth and beauty and morality. I believe that our intellectual culture has been so much framed as an attack on the Victorian that we are estranged to a point where most people don't understand it--including most academics, who still believe in caricatures that were created a hundred years ago. But including conservatives, who by oposing intellectually popular ideas make themselves aligned with Victorians, but don't quite understand the depth behind Victorian beliefs.

Its not a bad thing to be conservative, and even if you're unable to present your argument in an way thats approachable to intellectuals, it doesn't mean you're wrong. I even think the beliefs of evangelicals have some truth to them that need to be recognized or acknowledged by intellectuals who are aloof to them.

There are points made in these blog entries to the effect that we need to make art thats new and different or relevant, or that academic art was the culmination of what started in the Renaissance. These are political 'talking points' of modernism. One of the points of the Art Renewal Center is to say that the goal of art isn't to try to be new and different and being so attatched to this idea can just as well lead to art that isn't new or interesting and the supression of anything that doesn't appear new even if it might be. I'm sure you realize that this is a flawed way of viewing art, and as its said "everything is contemporary." I understand modern art theorists and understand that they too knew the problem with this and would have believed that is a simplistic reading of what they were saying. But along with every intellectual argument, there is a politics that can't be escaped. You have had to repeat the same politics, responding to a call for returning to tradition with a demand that there be newness and relevance.

Academic art is still seen as not offering anything new or interesting, even though it did. People treat Victorians as if they were Puritans, which they weren't, as if their morality meant a complete repression of the body--which is brought up here, in faulting the restriction of a teacher encouraging life drawing to Victorian ideas.

Obviously, Victorians did not oppose life drawing---but its not an ironic exception to Victorian beilefs. Wherever you find an exception, I've found--its because something isn't fully understood. Victorians, framed in a certain way, seem less like prudes than modern people. Even sexless nudity is censored from television (while non-nude sexual situations are everywhere); while it was not nudity, not even depictions of sex, that was attacked by Victorians--but debased or valueless sexuality, inappropriate sexuality, prostitution, orgies, etc. When nudes were depicted in Victorian art they were shown sensually. Modern critics are divided by whether this means they were prurient, or whether it makes them cold and sexless--which just shows a lack of understanding. Victorians thought of sex differently than people today, and modeling them in terms of today's extreme conservatives will be a mistake. In the Victorian era, many governments, including France's, licensed prostitutes and checked for diseases. Manet's Olympia was not disliked because it was modern and sexual, but because it was felt there was no artistic merit in crudely and flatly depicting a prostitute. (to the avant-garde depicting this was what was meant by modern and sexual). To make nude women talk with suited men in Dejeuner seemed ridiculous and an assault on the values of propriety the audience had. The real problem with Victorians was not a thick-headed conservativism or hatred of the sex or the body, but a cultural dependence on stifling social conventions.

You could argue that the Victorian beliefs about sex and race, even if they had complications, were too easily reduced to prudery and bigotry--which has been argued. But that is a political result, and no different in this way than a modernist belief in constant change and revolution according to the times. Modernism has often been labeled a form of decadence, but more than an attack---many early modernist thinkers looked at decadence as a positive thing, and if broken down syntactically decadence is de-cadence, a loss of cadence, being dissonant--one of the foundations of early modern aesthetic theory. Sometimes people are too caught up in seeing the word as a political attack.

Victorians are blamed for women and minorities as being second class, but they were the first to try to bring them equalities. A story you'll find anyone at ARC knows is that Bouguereau was the person that opened the French academy to women, and many in the avant-garde remained chauvinistic. This is not to put things in equally black and white terms, but show the complications in condemning Victorians. People really haven't understood them.

As a result, now we have Victorian Studies departments in universities. Recent studies have also shown many ways in which the art world in the 19th century had many complexities and wasn't divided into a war between the bad academics and the good avant-garde.

But a lot of 19th century art history is still not understood, just because it isn't well recorded as a history. I've spent a long time on my own researching art in the 19th century and have found almost no text from histories to help me; I've had to piece together bits of information from different sources. Not only was there an intellectual basis behind academic art, but one that was original and different from Neo-classicism, something almost all art history professors don't understand. Albert Boime was the first to recognize this in his research on Thomas Couture, but didn't really place it in a developed view of 19th century history. The 19th century was vital with experimentation and different art movements before the Impressionists or even Pre-Raphaelites arrived.

There is a very interesting, relevant, and complex history to be told about 19th century art. Instead, for years we've been taught in basic, that Neo-classicism-> Romanticism-> Realism-> Impressionism. Now at least there is more of an acknowledgement that Academic art existed. People don't realize that for a while Neo-classcism wasn't even taught in art history. Ingres and David were believed to be at the root of the rotten tree that bore Bouguereau--hence the term, Pompier.

The same reason that Bouguereau is the center of the Art Renewal Center, is the same reason that Bouguereau was the center of attack for modernists. It was no accident that he played the role of the chief villain, and the reason is no more apolitical than when the Victorian era is considered in black terms.

The truth is, despite all of the bad rhetoric you might find in the Art Renewal Center, most people who are involved became involved because they discovered Bouguereau. This includes Fred Ross, who had been been an admirer or Renoir, and visiting a gallery with a Renoir he was taken aback and stricken by a painting by Bouguereau, only then to find, at that time, Bouguereau was worth pennies on the market--becoming a collector--and now its hard to buy a Bouguereau without millions. The belief that Bouguereau was a genius as an artist is a sincere belief, and not a 'strategy'. You'll find some people on the GoodArt discussion group who half-heartedly believed in modern art and professed a like for it until they saw artists like Bouguereau. I guess this does sound like evangelicals, in being born-again. But the power of art should be recognized as the power of art.

There is much to be appreciated in Bouguereau's paintings, and even though I don't fully agree with and support the ARC as a movement, as you don't, I think its necessary for a re-appreciation. Whether or not you want to place Bouguereau in some pantheon or canon is besides the point to realizing he was an important and great artist. But I'm not opposed to having him in the canon---I realize his art as being more than just cherubs or pretty girls. Rembrandt's art wasn't perfect either, I can find a lot of mediocre Rembrandts--and as an artist he was obscured for 200 years after his death until he was rediscovered in the 19th century. Something Fred Ross is fond of saying is that while Rembrandt is the master of depicting old age, Bouguereau is the master of depicting youth.

Innocence is one of Bouguereau's themes, and its often in simple terms mistaken for over-sentimentality. Innocence was a popular subject among academic artists. Innocence was one of Tchaikovsky's themes, he used fairy tales. For years after his death, Tchaikovsky's compositions were considered sentimental kitsch, he was considered the arch-conservative of the music world, like Bouguereau was considered the arch-conservative of the painting world. If music theory had the same discourse as art theory, Tchaikovsky would be called academic and not romantic. In Austria, the academic painter Hans Makart was friends with Richard Wagner, and both explored their mediums in similar ways. Doubly unfortunate for Makart, aside from being an academic, he was Hitler's favorite artist.

The importance of Rembrandt is also not just that he chose to depict a subject that you find meaningful--surviving suffering--but that he ws able to express it by developing new ideas and techniques in art that separated him from the Renaissance, including his increased naturalism and use of impasto. Something similar can be said about Bouguereau.

In every field representatives of Victorian culture were first demonized, then obscured. In philosophy, this was Victor Cousin, who is just recently being re-examined. Victor Cousin had inspiration from an 18th century philosopher, Thomas Reid. Most people haven't heard of him either; but he was well known for over a century, and was David Hume's rival. Of course, David Hume is liked because he deprecated metaphysics, and Descartes, two things that became popular to deprecate post-19th century.

Modern intellectuals, of course, the wisdom goes, are not bourgeoise and will not be overturned and forgotten by a new movement, they are just built on.

I'm not someone who wants to attack and bury 20th century intellectuals, I don't think they were all dumb. But I also don't think 19th century intellectuals were all dumb--and acknowledging that requires questioning the basis of 20th century philosophy, questioning the attack framed on Victorian culture, Western culture; not playing around it. It means to put 19th century ideas and 20th century ideas on par. And liberalism and conservativism, in general terms, on par. The idea of absolute objective truth and relative subjective truth, on par.

If there's a "angry white male" mentality that everyone else is stupid, there's a mentality that angry white males are stupid. While people attack the bigotry of Western culture in placing itself above others---too often is Western culture attacked and named as the source of all of our problems. For some reason you shouldn't judge cultures in places that are foreign to us, but its okay to judge and condemn the culture of a period in history 100 years ago.

I would guess the reason there is the need to talk about the people in the Art Renewal Center being like conservatives--and politically, they all aren't--is that you don't see how much political agendas are involved in academia. I don't consider myself among conservatives either, but I don't consider myself among liberals.

Lindsay Hall (1859-1935), Nude Reading at Studio Fire, Oil on canvas, 1928, 19 3/4 x 27 inches (50.29 x 68.58 cm), from the ARC museum.