NEVER FORGET WHEN.
NEVER FORGET WHERE.
NEVER FORGET WHAT.
NEVER FORGET HOW.
NEVER FORGET WHO.
NEVER FORGET WHY.
FREEDOM IS EVERYTHING.
by Jerome du Bois
After examining the artworks on display at Holga's, monOrchid, Modified Arts, 515, and eye lounge, and ruminating on them, and who made them, I must unfairly but helplessly conclude by paraphrasing Zed in Men in Black:
"Congratulations -- you're everything we've come to expect from years of American education."
by Jerome du Bois
Art writing in the blogosphere is desultory, poor, nitpicky, pulish and short -- on ideas. I’ll start with the last.
In the three months since our debut, as we made the rounds of the dozen or so most popular art writing blogs, probing archives, monitoring the conversations, the big bounces have been about Modigliani, Morandi, Frank Lloyd Wright, Clement Greenberg, and Terry Teachout’s variation of the desert island stash cliché. Mr. Teachout also started a mini-flurry about recognizing masterpieces when one sees them, with art bloggers huffing and puffing as if there really was a valid argument from authority.
I saw people pounce at the drop of a tired dichotomy -- say, art versus artifact -- and staunchly defend their positions as if the stakes were even smaller than those in academia. As if both was not an answer. As if one could not use a stack of fifty-two definitions of art, each with its cautionary clauses and delimitations, fanned out for one’s consideration. Why not? Every definition -- like every actual object -- has a cloudy constellation of histories attached to it -- some closer, some farther away, some fading at the edges like the questionable ends of a bell curve -- and people are becoming more comfortable with that. Not many things in this world can withstand the focused human gaze, much less the questioning mind. We figure things out.
Life is complicated, this is the 21st Century, and most smart people, when conscious, routinely navigate life’s juke’n’jive using a wide range of tools, physical, emotional, psychological, speculative, and imaginative. Why should they put them down in the presence of art? Why shouldn’t artists try to make art as big and serious as life? And why haven’t I run across this question in the art blogosphere before?
Most art bloggers are not asking big questions or advancing new notions. They pick nits. They have gotten excited about the spatial tension in Morandi’s still lives, charmed by Modigliani’s tilted necks, all studious about what ol’ Clem really meant, and angry about leaky roofs in the houses of that odious misogynist, Frank Lloyd Wright. Oh, and your five fave art works to take to a desert island, just to polish your one-upmanship.
On August 24th, Catherine King posted an essay on our blog about painter Beverly McIver. Everything she wrote came from her reflections about the images on the canvases, and Ms. McIver’s own words and actions. Ms. King covered racial dishonesty, psychological cruelty, institutional insipidity, artistic ineptitude, and disingenuous grant-mongering. (It appeared in Carnival of the Vanities #49.)
Nobody said nothing. They’re still saying nothing. But on August 28th Mr. Green posted on his blog the following:
Bored at the end of the summer? You can take a class in Theory and Method in the Study of Architecture and Art via MIT's website. It's free -- but you get no course credit. And of course you have to sift through a lot of theoretical mumbo-jumbo.
(Thanks for the heads-up.)
In an earlier essay, on the Arizona Biennial, Ms. King deployed three clearly defined aesthetic criteria, one of them modified from the curator’s own, to assess the works there. She found them wanting. She made a lot of pungent judgments and asked a lot of pointed questions.
Nobody answered, except some whiners in the comments section.
Finally, in one of our first postings, Ms. King watched and listened as her expectations of Tucson artist Mark Rubin-Toles, one of whose artworks she admired, broke apart one by one, revealing a sociopathic snuff-freak. She wondered how a man like that could make such a sensitive work of art.
Nobody cared enough to help her with her wonder.
I wrote about the vile Santiago Sierra without mercy, with a lot of anger, with chapter and verse, and even with a list of questions. I got an unhelpful, private email from one art blogger (who should be called the third blowhard), but nothing else. (Though Aaron Haspel had a kind word.)
I wrote that Life Always Trumps Art, that artists must take the measure of life and act accordingly. I wrote:
But I see very little art out there, from sea to shining sea, and definitely here in desert metro/Phoenix, that is so profoundly eccentric as to establish a new center -- or that brings a mature challenge to our expectations -- or that helps anyone into the future -- or that repudiates empty trances -- or that fosters clearer reflection -- or that thrives beyond cultural clichés and other dead horses -- or that takes a strong stand against our common oblivion.
I'll now extend that observation to the art writing I've encountered so far.
Read Catherine King's Crowd of Witnesses for the background to this persistent phenomenon.
(This was a point-and-click snapshot, with a Canon PowerShot A70, toward the southeast at twilight on a calm, clear, hot August day.)
(If the link doesn't work, and it doesn't right now, just scroll down the Recent Entries on the right for Crowd of Witnesses.)