Skip to content

Tag: Criticism

A show of art was planned and announced to the general public. People will get upset and then forget about it.

Now that Roberta Smith has had her moment kicking the New Museum / Koons / Joannou fuckfest can we finally put it to bed. The same should go for everyone who is up in arms over this whole fiasco, because lets face it, in a few months when some bright and shiny show opens and the world starts to talk about it, you will be there. Kissing its ass and air kissing the people you’ve been calling out for the last few months.

So lets just put this behind us and realize that it’s just more of the same. From both the museum and us.

I’m really sorry that Ms. Smith chose this week to comment on the New Museum show, it must have been a really slow news week as far as the art world is concerned. I understand there were only over 100 other once a year events happening within a 20 block radius of the New Museum.

Leave a Comment

In Artforum no less…

Sarah K. Rich made my day yesterday when I sat down to read a bit of the recent Artforum. Unfortunately it sometimes takes someone’s death to trigger a critical response about recent trends and ideas that seem to be on the way towards canonization. In her obituary for Kenneth Noland, Ms. Rich starts with an assumption that she finds (happily) to be false about the preciousness of an art object once Mr. Noland has finished, as well as the energetic physical engagement towards his finished art object.

Let me cut to the chase here; The part of this article that impresses me – and gives me hope for future critics and curators is this:

“Now that we are several decades down the hill of popular culture, and we’ve all gotten a better idea of how frenzied and mind-numbing kitsch can be, the formalist advocacy of work that might give the viewing subject a place for the exercise of sustained and quiet attention doesn’t seem like a bad idea.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Leave a Comment

The smiley face is the American version of the swastika

Recently I was reading the comic form review of the new movie Died Young Stayed Pretty in the Vilage Voice and that quote struck me as interesting and perhaps in it’s absurdity absolutely correct.

I quietly filed that great quote in the back of my head and just went about my day for a few days and suddenly I was seeing the smiley everywhere I really didn’t want to. The first was one of those Wal-Mart ads with the “rollback” slashing prices as the corporate behemoth swallows local culture whole with it’s army of pensioners greeting you at the door – a future they never envisioned in retirement. The next one was more unexpected – the movieThe Watchmen – which has used a smiley face as an icon for the graphic novel for years – a comic book I really enjoyed when I read it back in the eighties (that along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight were probably the most impact full titles of the eighties) and I guess I just got used to seeing the cover enough – but was shocked by how well used it was in the current movie adaptation – funny enough it’s use mostly does symbolize an approach to humanity that at time is questionable in it’s relationship with the culture around it.

After these two, examples the image just kept coming at me like a bad dream – never really being used for anything better than a cynical symbol of a desire towards consumer culture or worse as a an icon used by a sales culture that is at best dominating and at worst the future employer and cultural access point of the future poor and struggling middle class.

Have a nice day.

Leave a Comment

Morris Louis at the Hirshhorn

Morris Louis produced a startling amount of work in the short span of time that was his life. Between 1954 – 1962 Louis produced more than 600 artworks in what was for it’s time a stunning new direction. This direction has become known as “Color-Field Painting”.

The theory is that Color-Field Painting is based on two general components; color and field. There are a few lesser ideas as well, one of which is working away from any kind of figure-ground relationship, and it is heavily weighted on the shoulders of Clement Greenberg. Greenberg’s raise was the championing of the Abstract Expressionists and Color-Field Painting was his second act.

In the past few years, Greenberg has fallen from critical favor and the group of artists that are pulled down with him are the Color-Field artists. It has become clear to me that Color-Field Painting needs to be looked at through a different lens if it is going to regain any footing in the history of art as a whole (I’m talking group of artists not individuals). The fact is, that Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis have created some amazing paintings (as have Olitski, Gilliam, Noland, and Davis to name a few) however what struck me about Louis’s painting in this show was the incredible amount of process that is right at the surface of these artworks, combine the obvious links between Color-Field Painting and what would become known as minimalism and you have a serious mix of artworks to be looked at through a very different lens than that of “Greenbergian” doctrine. I think this is the reason these paintings stay at the forefront of art, while the “movement” as a whole is kind of a sinking ship. At the end of the day, color-field or other reductive strategies are still being used to make artworks. Hence the serious need to develop a new way of looking and thinking about these artists.

Which brings me back to the Morris Louis show, Two works in particular stood out to me, Dalet Tet, 1959, an amazing amount of work in creating this canvas – with so many pours developing into a rich velvet like black with color pours dancing underneath. This was the first piece that I saw of Louis’s that made me think and visually explore more about the process of his artwork. The second piece Beth Chet, 1958, with it’s array of browns and umbers, this image stands out for me as much for it’s difference to the other works, as well as it’s use of semi-architectural elements. (sorry, no images were available)

This is the first museum show of Louis’s work in 20 years. The show, although a little on the short side is still a very strong show if for no other reason than it is time to start critically reassessing a pivotal time in abstract image making. Highly Recommended.

Morris Louis Now
An American Master Revisited at the Hirshhorn Sept 20 – January 6

Image at top: Morris Louis, Number 99, 1959-1960
Acrylic resin (Magna) on canvas, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Contemporary Collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968.110. Copyright 1960 Morris Louis.


This business of digital work being the real thing.

Elisabetta Povoledo writes for The New York Times on saturday, about the digitization of Veronese’s The Wedding at Cana being installed on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore a few weeks ago. The article goes into great depth about the painstaking work of how this masterpiece was scanned, scrutinized, and eventually printed, and touched up to become very close to the real thing or at least a photo of the real thing – or something that resembles the original as it now exists.

The group Factum Arte has digitally recreated, in what I understand is in amazing detail and has hung it in the same place it was removed from almost 210 years ago.

Here’s a bit of the backstory
Napoleon’s forces removed the painting from the refectory of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore as war booty – cutting the painting into pieces and reassembling it back home. It currently hangs at the Louvre (Paris) directly across from the Mona Lisa and is claimed to be viewed by 9 million visitors a year by the French authorities. (sidebar: do you remember any of the other paintings in that room? – I don’t)

Venice has always wanted this painting back – they still occasionally have mock trials of Napoleon and every few years someone wants to sue the Louvre or the French Government for it’s return. That return is not going to happen since it was resolved (diplomatically) in 1815.

Back to the story
So what we have is a very serious digital reproduction sitting in place of what is now somewhere else. Do understand that I believe that this digital copy – which took 18 months to do – is probably one hell of an object. However it is not an art object. It carries no authenticity as art. The thing is, I believe in art, the real thing – not copies, duplicates or substitutions. I want to experience, the presence of something, it may be ancient or temporary – but I want to experience that thing. I want to see the same paint, rock or whatever the artist did when he or she made it. This is as close to religion as I have, and I care for it deeply. This “new” The Wedding at Cana bothers me, I feel like it’s starting a bit of a trend where this will become an acceptable way to view art in the future. This is the crux of why I’m even bothering to write about this.

A couple of years ago I wrote about a Caravaggio exhibit that exhibited all of his paintings in one place as digital reproductions. People would say “It’s just as good” or some such thing – but the truth is the show had the stink of not being real – and the public agreed – the show quietly went away.

I will give credit to Factum Arte who has insisted that the digital work is “not a clone but a deep and detailed study”. I just hope that the public understands this when they see a artwork that looks like the real thing in the place where it was always meant to be, and is now for lack of a better word, home.

A Footnote Richard Hell, speaking about his first band, Television, stated; “All we did was cut our hair and played in street clothes, and people, so hungry for the real thing, worshipped us like gods”.

Leave a Comment