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Category: 80s

David Salle: How To See

“In my view, intentionality is not just overrated; it puts the cart so far out in front that the horse, sensing futility, gives up and lies down in the street. Nobody ever loved a painting for its ideas.”

David Salle has a new book out about painting.

Frankly I’m not going to go out and buy it. Right now, it’s not a good fit for me, that does not mean that I’m not interested in some of the things he has to say. The above quote is front and center.

Recently I’ve had a couple of friends go to graduate school – decent schools as well and both have had the same story. Both programs so valued the artist statement (written in the first month of the program) that it was used as an actual roadmap of what the artist would be able to do (or not able to do as the case may be). I for one was a little bit surprised by this because I’ve always thought that time in the studio was meant for exploring and idea generation as well as making finished work.

Needless to say all formal critiques in both programs started with the artist statement and it was used as a literal guide to what was discussed and what was not. Or should I say what was allowed to be discussed.

Although both were lucky they were able to paint at all in their programs, as both were told that painting was still dead and evidently has been since the early 1970’s.

David Salles new book is called How To See and is available from places that sell books.

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The Downtown Decade: NYC 1975-1985


Curator Lauren Miller has put together an interesting show of art, photographs and club ephemera from 1975 through 1985 – what is now looked back as “The Downtown Decade”. I’m sure you know that downtown of the seventies/eighties was far from the upscale shopping paradise it has now become. New York was broke and downtown had no police presence to really speak of. This translated into low rents and left the residents free to create and to amuse themselves as they wished.

This “poverty” (both real and municipal) led to an artist creative class that stretched across multiple practices and brought oblique influences into new ideas that would end up creating new art forms. A few years later – the “Reagan Eighties” would start and the money would pour into downtown. Helping put an end to a decade of unprecedented creativity in lower Manhattan.

Rare at Glen Horowitz Bookseller
17 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019

Exhibition Dates: Thursday, September 10–Saturday, October 10, 2015


“Notes to myself on beginning a painting” by Richard Diebenkorn

1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.

3. DO search.

4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5. Don’t “discover” a subject – of any kind.

6. Somehow don’t be bored but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.

8. Keep thinking about Pollyanna.

9. Tolerate chaos.

10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

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The Curious Case of Chuck Connelly

One of the current shows at Mana Contemporary this fall is; Francesco Clemente, George Condo, Chuck Connelly, Julio Galán, and Daniel Lezama in the Pellizzi Family Collections. That’s quite a long title – but it is honest and descriptive. The show covers three floors of the recently opened art space, an art space that seems that it has the ability to grow and continue to do so until northern New Jersey is one large arts outpost.

Francesco Clemente and George Condo are artists that almost everyone knows and understands the work, Clemente is routinely shown at Mary Boone and Condo, whose Mental States at the New Museum was very well received. While Lezama and Galan are solid paintings, I was most intrigued by the inclusion of Chuck Connelly in the show.

Connelly was an ascending art star in the early eighties – showing at Annina Nosei Gallery alongside Jean Michel Basquait, Barbara Kruger among a host of others. While Mary Boone has “won” the narrative as the hot gallery of the eighties – it is clear that Annina Nosei was priming a number of artists for great success. Chuck Connelly had three solo shows in the space of four years at Nosei between 1984 and 1987. As well as a number of high profile commissions, and his artwork played major part in a hollywood movie (New York Stories – “Life Lessons” directed by Martin Scorsese) So what happened?

A place to start with that is the unfortunately titled HBO documentary Chuck Connelly “The Art of Failure”. According to the documentary as well as word of mouth, Connelly fell into depression that along with his particular temperament and possibly alcoholism sent him into a trajectory that eventually cost him collectors, galleries, and eventually his wife.

Connelly’s work (of the 1980’s) speaks volumes about painting during the run up to the art boom of the eighties, it’s thick and physical, it shows a resonance with Soutine and Beckman. Neither of which I’m sure Connelly would call inspirational. None the less it is that physicality of image that continues to resonate strongest in his work from that period.

Chuck Connelly, Roller Coaster, 1984, Oil on Canvas (above)
Chuck Connelly, Breakfast, 1985, Oil on Canvas (Below)


Mana Contemporary: Francesco Clemente, George Condo, Chuck Connelly, Julio Galán, and Daniel Lezama in the Pellizzi Family Collections.
Chuck Connelly exhibition catalog (1985) at Annina Nosei


Banality as Your Saviour, Jeff Koons at the Whitney

There are people who love and people who hate the artwork of Jeff Koons, oddly enough I’ve always been on both sides of that equation. I’m less enthused about his place in the canon of the collectors market, but that is a completely different beast. So let’s do something that is tough to do when we talk about Koons, let’s ignore (for the moment) the money and collectors market.

To me the artwork that was made while Koons was ascending to the higher reaches of the art market are still interesting to me. I’m referring to the vacuums in vitrines, the basketballs, and the bronze inflatable’s. To many the inflatable’s is the location where Koons starts to get lost a bit. Unlike other sculptures Koons was making at the time these are not directly out of consumer culture (as a ready-made). These bronzes stay away from the presentation of the real thing – effectively these bronzes would kill the user who, for instance used a bronze life raft as a life saving device. Any of the basketballs or vacuums could easily be used in any other setting.

Staying on the subject of both the Basketballs and the Vaccums, these works have an oddity that takes them from something in a box (of sorts) to something else entirely. This small-scale industrial nature seems to me to echo Donald Judd – his kind of small scale and quirkiness of production. Similar to Judd, his use of color is specific and careful; it is this nature that will eventually be discarded as Koons’ work turns a corner to become focused on spectacle and monumentality. In making this move – away from the quirky, small production feel, Koons finds new territory that is more akin to what Hollywood would make as art.

By the time of the “Made in Heaven” photographs Koons seemed to have lost his way completely (some would also say found his way – as the works that would Koons would make, would be the works that the mega-collectors would start to find most interesting).

An Ending.
The fact is that Koons is loved by the collectors and the few dealers that sell his work. However that love seems to end there (for the most part). Ask most artists and critics and after they stop bitching about the money aspect of the work, and very little gets said about the artwork.

I’m reminded of this last quote from the movie “Patton” when it comes to the bravura around Koons, I think it’s a rather telling quote.

For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph – a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.

This show at the Whitney is the conquerors slave holding that crown.

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