POMO is the New Black

I don’t know if Ben Davis has been reading Henri, but what the hell, I’ll say it – it sure reads like he does. WELCOME Ben – c’mon in – the POMO’s fine! Or more to the point – the Demise of POMO is totally Bitchin’ Dude! Ben winds out the recent history of POMO in a discussion about whether or not it still exists for art and artists. He takes the economic route to understanding in the end, finding the cultural and theoretical ones crammed with traffic and going nowhere…
It’s a wonderful, thoughtful piece about our current theoretical dilemma, and it comes to the conclusion of many other art writers – we’re in a transition:

“As of this writing at least, what we have looks like a minor inflection in the dominant ideology, not any full-blown change of direction. Glance again at the factors Lyotard lists above as providing the correlate for “postmodernism,” and ask yourself, how many of these things have actually been reversed? None. If anything, for the moment, there seems to be a radicalization with regard to all of them — the instability brought on by “vigorous” economic competition, the erosion of U.S. hegemony, the lack of a political alternative that anyone can believe in, etc. So, where, finally, are we at? On the level of theory, you have the waning of something, but an inability to articulate anything that actually sounds like an alternative.”

I take issue with that last statement. We’ve been discussing these problems for quite a while. And we’ve offered a few new ideas about where we might find fertile ground to make new painting. Oh well, I guess you just can’t make that horse drink the water – even if your hosing it down. These days it seems the discussion of the “end of Postmodernism” really is – the new black.

Cracks

Yesterday was a day of nudging reminders and grudging to-do lists. The upshot of all this mundane ephemera has been a new focus in the studio. As a good friend of mine said yesterday – it’s time to get out and about mate. So let’s see where that will lead and I’ll keep you updated as I go.

The wonderous Michael Zahn forwarded on to me a couple of articles discussing the end of Postmodernism, and I thought I’d share them with you as well. The first is by Duncan Alexander on Fan Culture. The premise is that with more individuals participating in specific (online) fan groups dedicated to specific types of cultural activities new forms of art will emerge out of the plurality. “As the transition from a standardized popular culture to a fandom culture has occurred, fine art has wavered between supporting one or the other. Because of Postmodern art’s current obsession with its endgame, it loses its ability to examine culture because it becomes its own fandom.”

In the Endgame of Postmodernism Matthew Nash sees an exhausted Postmodernism feeding on itself. “Words, as ideas spoken, can have their power inverted through the subversion of reflection, distorted into new meaning by a change of tone or context. Art of the Postmodern era has increasingly relied on this strategy, and here the telling signs of the endgame of Postmodernism begin to betray themselves.”

What we are beginning to see in the artistic community is a sustained critique and outcry against the Postmodern monolith. What will come next, what can we do? Exciting things to consider!

Click!

I had begun this post as something else – which is how it usually happens when I write. I kind of circle in on an idea until it gels – then I have to start again. I paint in the same way unfortunately. Nothing ever arrives full blown like Athena did from Zeus’ forehead. I had been to Gavin Brown’s gallery to see a show of paintings and it started me wondering about the state of the gallery scene at this moment. There are a lot of shows that one can just blow into and out of in quick succession. What I’ve been seeing is a current popular aesthetic for painting coming from Oehlen, Wool and Prince based exclusively on Warhol’s legacy – Raphael Rubenstein described these ideas in Provisional Painting – and many of the galleries are stuffed with this kind of work. It seems that a kind of group-think has taken hold and the galleries have decided that this is what’s in style – and who can blame them – they’re looking for a payoff of some kind. Now for a lot of NYers this “IN and OUT” is par for the course while gallery hopping – NYers don’t like to waste their time. But the physical manifestation of “clicking through the product” has been particularly execrable lately. You can blame our short attention spans on a lot factors. The art fairs have definitely changed the way we experience art. The promotion of sameness by the galleries themselves, and the high end retailing of art as fashionable merchandise. The auction houses have created a market economy for the entire history of art. But the biggest factor for me is the way we make and interact with Art online. It has forever changed our experience of it.

What we seem to be experiencing is the “youtubing” of studio practice. An example of this idea is Saatchi’s online art gallery where any artist from nearly anywhere can upload and document their work for free. Additionally one can look at and experience any other’s art for free in this centralized database. The specific works collected and shown by Saatchi’s enterprise are presented in exactly the same fashion as those who are not collected (the program is the same for one and all) so any distinctions between work that is collected and work that is uploaded are completely erased. The collectability of certain art is determined when the bricks and mortar gallery actually features certain artists already presented on the online index. These physical shows are then digitized and uploaded online as a kind of thematic showcase setting them apart from the thousands of non-collected other artists. This creates a kind of desirability and hierarchy for certain works and type of work within the database itself. Now this isn’t much different than historic practices in the real world, but what is different is the speed and violence inherent in the program. The entire online enterprise facilitates the “click factor” when approaching an art work. There isn’t time to study the work, to contemplate it, to see how it’s made, to parse through any ideas that may be there – there is only the psychology of the click, that moment when the image “clicks” in the mind of the viewer.

Our attention spans when coming into contact with a physical work of art these days has become almost infinitesimal. And because of this “click factor” a lot of art is being made to be experienced in that flash. The prevailing optical logic is sex. Bare (beautiful) flesh will immediately make a clicker hesitate. If that flesh is moving there will be a further hesitation. If that flesh is doing something vaguely sexual the click may take a bit longer. That seems to work wonders in the lens-based world, but abstractionists have to attempt a similar feat through the way they make their work. Six strokes, a puddle and a few drips on a big surface and the point is made, the work is fully blown in the click. There isn’t a lot to get, there aren’t interesting ideas – only a reenactment of the same old stuff done at a speedier pace – the paintings have to be seen and understood just as we would a stop sign or an exit light. Meaning has to be found in the larger critical context that has come to fit over every single work of art. The works in themselves can not be seen as a singularity, they can not be seen individually – they are small parts of the much larger market context.

The horror (OK that’s OTT) of this marketing moment can be found in the return to normalcy promised in the criticism offered up by Roberta of two recent shows of high end corporate abstraction. The first show at GoGo’s on West 23rd is so slick that it makes a Murakami in the next gallery look like a heartfelt, hand made work of tenderness. The other at Green Naftali amps up the idea of corporate art with a group of artists that actually name themselves as a corporation while slicking up 70’s style documentary Conceptual art with for-hire commercial photography and fashion models. Apparently they’ve discovered that the table presentations containing the printed poetry can now be seen as the art object itself and they are sold separately. Roberta sums it up by trying to find something deeper in the poetry, something a little more personal in the photos of the models, but she concludes that she isn’t quite sure about even that. Here the click factor has reached the point where we may be clicking into our own psyches hoping that we might come across something deeper and more alluring. If not, well, we can click to the next link…

…among the borrowed and the second-hand…

The new season has started here in New York. The galleries are promoting their openings like crazy – mass emailings, twitters, facebooks, a few greased palms, publicity in all forms, nudity when appropriate, and especially, when inappropriate, the promise of exchange-value sex, the ramping up of desire for both art and the things of art – all of it designed to create the NBT – which will hopefully lead to cash, cash and more cash. These are the same old market mechanisms being applied in our new economic environment. It’s kind of like the way the economic media keeps touting a jobless recovery – which basically means that those without means will remain without and those with means will find that they have opportunities to become even more… meaningful. Roberta Smith summed it up in her recent column in the Times – “Despite reports from the auction world that a recovery is under way, Manhattan’s gallery scene feels all pins and needles as it heads into fall. Things aren’t as bad as many expected them to be, but they could get worse.” You might call this an artless recovery – secondary market, back room sales and the same old Postmodern loss leader stuff installed in the showroom. Maybe the market will be able to squeeze yet another bubble from the froth and furtive stirrings of this new white-knuckle season.

The intrepid videographer of the NY Artscene James Kalm has once again provided us with a quick, wonderful rundown of the opening night on the LES. I dont’ know how James does it. I have a really difficult time at these openings – the rooms are packed, hot, pungent and airless. I last about ten seconds before I scramble for the door. Hey, how you doin’, congratulations and out into the cool night air to catch my breath and gather my wits for the next plunge into the maw of art world civility. One overheard conversation at an opening – “Could this work look any more derivative?” – three minutes later, same guy to the artist – “The show looks amazing. I love it.” Fear and Loathing in the art world my friends. To my shame I have practiced such creep inducing childish behavior in the past, but I stopped cold-turkey a few years ago when I began to feel that too many douche inducing moments makes one, simply, a douche bag. So what should one say, how should one behave at these functions? One mustn’t rely on one’s own standards. Real world etiquette has no relation whatsoever to art world etiquette. And so a whole new industry of articles about art world etiquette has sprung up which you may find useful. Always understand that the evil lurking beneath the passive-aggressive-green-with-envy opening night bonhomie will take one into the dark territories of one’s own psyche. For one’s own sake render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar’s and get on with one’s own life. Why be a douche bag at an opening when one can simply get roaring drunk and piss in a fireplace? Grand magnanimous gestures make all the difference.

SO with that said we want to wish EVERYONE a wonderfully successful and financially fulfilling season. However, we reserve the right to disagree with the art and practices of the academy, institutions, Modernists, Postmodernists, conservatives, reactionaries, installationists and Methodists.

Rough Trade – Vision: Color, Light & Space

Freed from the necessity of having to make narrow choices (as painters did) about what images were worth contemplating, because of the rapidity with which cameras recorded anything, photographers made seeing into a new kind of project: as if seeing itself, pursued with sufficient avidity and single-mindedness, could indeed reconcile the claims of truth and the need to find the world beautiful. Once an object of wonder because of its capacity to render reality faithfully as well as despised at first for its base accuracy, the camera has ended by effecting a tremendous promotion of the value of appearances. Appearances as the camera records them. Photographs do not simply render reality – realistically. It is reality which is scrutinized, and evaluated, for its fidelity to photographs. “In my view,” the foremost ideologue of literary realism, Zola, declared in 1901 after fifteen years of amateur picture-taking, “you cannot claim to have really seen something until you have photographed it.” Instead of just recording reality, photographs have become the norm for the way things appear to us, thereby changing the very idea of reality, and of realism.
Susan Sontag The Heroism of Vision

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In our 21st Century Postmodern world EVERYTHING is seen and understood through lenses. This experience has narrowed our visual focus so that we find truth and reality in those things and only those things that pass through that electronic shutter and appear on those electronic extensions. News, information, entertainment, scholarship, you name it, we all have to show up in the same place in order to obtain it, to “see it,” to participate in it. Never has so much “reality” been concentrated in one “center” in the history of mankind, and participation in any of the social, economic and cultural industries must be based on our access to that center. But there is another more subtle experience to this online electronic world. Participation in it requires that we exist in a different, inhuman, kind of way. Lens based programming is not physical, it is designed to remake fleshy memory into something else, something infinitely malleable. We can not grasp it, understand it or participate in it without extending our consciousness, without turning our insides out as McLuhan used to say. The nature of our participation and understanding of this reality has taken on a kind of religiousity, a kind of communion with an invisible, omnipresent Kingdom of Heaven, and like seers, priests, astrologers and clairvoyants, we sift through this electronic ether looking for answers. From all walks of life we can experience a sort of hyperactivated Neo-Medievalism as our populace is constantly communing with the unseen, unheard and untouched. Our extensions – cell phones, computers, Blackberrys, and iphones – allow us to communicate with this invisible world, receive answers and perceive solutions from an omnipresent source, a contrived reality. As we have come to exist in this world we locate more and more of our lives online. We replicate – uploading photos, videos, music, recordings, diaries, thoughts and feelings – we make copies of ourselves. We dematerialize our physical lives, we capture and immortalize our past with the lens and the program, and we seek to live forever in this immaterial world, just as we once did for the Book of Life. This electronic world is our new religion, and it is has brought with it a new age of supplication and transformative experience. It has become the greatest and most powerful religion ever. In another time we would have called ourselves Ecstatics, but in this electronic age we think of ourselves in a more grandiose way, we are more god-like, we are Avatars.

“We thought we saw the 20th Century on the news, film, and elsewhere, better than any previous century, although we could say we didn’t see it all – the camera did.” David Hockney Secret Knowledge

IN this Rough Trade – Vision post we will be discussing a different type of Light, Color & Space and how it adds to the solutions we’ve discussed in Form & Structure. Again I will say that these are my solutions to the Postmodern conundrum, and they may not resonate with you. When I first began I was looking for a different process in my work, a different way to paint, one that would allow me to make something of my own, something outside of Postmodern practice. Understand that I am not saying that my solutions are the only solutions. But I do not think we painters have done enough. We have not been thinking heretically, and if anything, I am hoping that these works and these posts may start to crack the Postmodern edifice. Let’s begin…

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A Brief History

From Impressionism through to Abstract Expressionism Color was systematically unfettered, unmoored, and ultimately, freed from the visual concepts of Form and Structure. And as color became more central to Modernist theoretics, the thought about what color could do, the type of experience it could relate, sort of splintered into two camps. The Southern School saw color as a vehicle of emotional expression. (“The chief function of color should be to serve expression.” Henri Matisse) The Northern School saw color as a spiritual encounter. (“Color provokes a psychic vibration. Color hides a power still unknown but real, which acts on every part of the human body.” Wassily Kandinsky) These dual theoretical applications carried on until color itself, the materiality of it, fused with the surface of Modernist physicality giving us the Monochrome, the Shaped Canvas, and the finality, the “thingness,” of an object installed on a wall. (Think of Stella’s extra hefty stretchers, Marden’s waxy surfaces or Judd’s wall-mounted Boxes.) Modernism at that moment had taken the history of Western Visual Culture to an endpoint. (“My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. It really is an object… What you see is what you see.” Frank Stella.)

Postmodernism, beginning in 19 Sixty, used color in a different way. Color for the Postmodernist is neither emotional, spiritual, or even a thing in itself. Its value is found in its application. It is a decorative and descriptive type of color. But that’s not quite the whole story either. Postmodern color is used as the electronic media uses color, to entice, to create a desire FOR something. It is neither emotional nor spiritual in the Modernist sense. It isn’t used to create an experience of life within a viewer. Color is most often used as a sign rather than as a vehicle, as a way to elicit a type of behavior rather than as a means of expression. In Modernism color is designed to elicit meaning – in Postmodernism the application is designed to elicit a response. Color is simply part of the larger context, a way to extend the field, an optical inference – think of the way Steven Speilberg’s DOP Janusz Kaminski faded color out of many of the movies they worked on, or the way Jeff Koons saturates his collages of magazine photos, or the way marketers package and present consumer goods in advertisements. The program always sets up contexts outside of the thing in itself designed to elicit a kind of nostalgia, a type of insatiability, or an unconscious thematic desire for something more. You might think of the differences in this way – Modernist color is personal, idiosyncratic, intuitive. POMO color is public, psychological, manipulative. Modernism’s color is interior, expressive. POMO is exterior, surreptitious. You get the idea…

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Light & Space

I often ask myself – why are artists still bandying about outdated concepts like light and space, especially at this time, in this electronic age of projected light and electric hue? Light and Space are anachronisms of another time, of vision and painting – they no longer EXIST as a concern, they no longer define meaning as they once did for our culture. We’ll talk about this more in moment, but let’s backtrack a bit to the mid 19th Century when light and space did matter to painters, especially to the early Modernists. One might say that Light & Space were the first and only concern of early Modernism starting with the Impressionists’ zeal for the “effect” of light on color inplein air painting. By the turn of the century light & space had been supplanted by other concerns when flatness and surface turned Modernism away from visual perception. This path concluded with the repudiation of the visual when painters achieved physical flatness and a type of purity found in optical color. Part of the early liberation of painting in this fashion was technological – squeezable tubes of paint became available for the first time allowing painters to travel, to work in the light. The other part was theoretical – photography, suddenly, changed the nature of the game for painters. Color, Light & Space took on a new importance, seemingly overnight, for a group of experimental painters obsessed with those effects. And in describing this new light & space the idea of process took on a new importance as well. How one painted, how one defined the light & space in the illusion took on a greater importance. This idea of process along with flatness soon took the imaginations of artists into new directions. Volumetric illusion, atmospheric inference, the stuff of light and space in determining color modulations slowly diminished in their practice. Flatness became preeminent when light and space were completely excised from vision, from painting and especially from color itself. The flatter the surface became the more optical the color. It “pushed and pulled” instead of forming and structuring, it was definitive rather than defining. But even as Painters struggled to the surface they retained the old speech. The old school shop-talk of the transformative nature of light and space still hung in the air while Modernists proclaimed the new realities of flatness and purity on their canvases. I believe that this more than any other thing was the start of bad faith in Modernist painting.

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Postmodernism’s break from and reworking of the Modernists’ elimination of Light & Space starts with its relationship to media, to the lens. The collaged billboard doesn’t define space nor does it define light either – this is the endpoint of Modernist color. In Postmodern practice space and light are determined FOR the reproduction, the image – this sets it apart from the history of visual painting and puts us into the reality of the lens. In the replication we are meant to look at a thing, a product, a hyper-realized ideal of some banal reality. We look at it as we would a flat ground. We gather information as we would from a photograph, a movie or TV program. We see it as a product of a mediated reality, a thing on a flat surface. The images of light and space are constantly submerged by the ground, the screen, the lens. They are not meant to convey an experience of reality, they ARE the reality, the media IS the reality and the reality is the flatness, the SuperFlat world, the constant ground. Postmodern light and space are not linked to a representation of something, they do not absorb our vision – they are clones of a mediated event. To make this a bit clearer – Greenberg used to talk of paintings being pictures – and by that he meant pictures of experience, physical documents of higher, altered artistic involvement. Today there are no pictures – there are images, one after another, that rise to the surface of the ground and then fall away again. They are not seen, the do not illuminate, their meaning is connected to the ground itself. Light and space do not define the visual experience – they are used to replicate a kind of optical patterning. There are overlaid images, photos, drawings and colors – photoshopped, cropped, cut and pasted. Space and Light are never used to define this type of interaction, they are used to construct optical references, points of entry, or like a GPS, they map where you are. (Think of Warhol’s Portraits and how those images are patterned over abstracted color grounds or the way television news replicates an event endlessly through a broadcast cycle.) Color, Light and Space do not define what is seen, the program “lights up” what should be confirmed – you don’t see anything.

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“So far abstraction has struggled to get by without the associative spatial dynamics of figuration. It has been hardpressed to give us anything resembling what Picasso did in the Bather with a Beach Ball. But abstraction has not been without resources; it has gone so far as to give us painting whose pictorial drama is provided by what is not there. Malevich has given us two shades of white for figure and ground, and Mondrian has stretched landscape so taut across the painting surface that only pigmented traces of its structure remain. But brilliant as these manueverings have been, we feel that there is something lacking; flatness and materiality (that is, pigmentation for its own sake) still close up pictorial space. Volume and mass – things that seem so real, and things, not so incidentally, that seem so natural to sculpture, need to be rediscovered, reinvented or perhaps even reborn for abstract figuration. This is what Picasso said when he became a Post-Cubist painter.” Frank Stella Picasso – Working Space

To move away from the Cunundrum posed at the beginning of this century it is imperative to react and redefine what Light, Space and Color can do for abstraction. This has been a part of the difficult and complex issues that I was facing in my studio and the Masters of the late 20th Century were asking painters to understand. As time has gone on I have experienced a deep dissatisfaction with the way Postmodernism enveloped Modernism, with the way abstraction was reformatted as a critique rather than as a primary experience. I have come to see this Postmodern failure as an opportunity for painting. How one sees, how one experiences vision and color, light & space is an extremely personal thing. When confronted with the Postmodern I always felt that this connection to personal experience was not visible, at least not in the work or the things that I was encountering. Color always looked as if one were choosing, as one chooses things in a store or on a menu or on a program – the best examples of this sort of consumerist color are Richter’s giant abstract paintings that always wind up looking tasteful and beautiful in very nondescript and uninvolved ways – they are designed, deliberate and empty. I wanted color to be something a bit deeper, thicker and more personal. I am not a spiritual person and the Northern School of the Modernists never captured my imagination, but the Southern School with its emphasis on emotion has always been closer to my temperament. But in my affinity for the Southern School I also realized that it would be impossible to “go back” and reuse Modernism in their way, that my idea of color had to be mine, had to be connected to vision, to form & structure, and ultimately, to something personal and experienced. But here is the rub, I live, breathe and exist in the Postmodern color saturated world – a place so rich in optical color that none of it approaches being personal, none of it is mine and all of it is designed to constantly rev my engines and stoke my desire. Color in other words is not about passion which demands a physical involvement, but it is about context which demands only my passing interest. The best example of this kind techno-immersive opticality is to stand in Times Square and watch the screens and reflections of pure electrically enhanced hue being pumped into the atmosphere. This hyperactivated color, rich as it is in optical pleasure and economic desire, does not, can not speak with real personal emotion. It NEVER speaks for my interests, never for my small world. Ultimately this sort of color plays the Postmodern endgame of “push and pull” – flashing planes of desire, overlays of interest, immersing one in the thin electronic sheets of commercial optical surfaces. WE are seduced but never loved, teased but never satisfied and always left wanting something more, something real, something thicker.

A Solution

Now I don’t know how to do this any other way so I will write about my color in the way that I’ve relayed it to my friends. You may find this tedious, but it is the only true way I can discuss it. SO consider that you’ve been warned…

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When I understood that color was no longer mine, no longer a part of a kind of truth or singular experience, I began looking to create a different way, a different involvement in color. Here in the US we get smatterings of Western painting, usually second or third string paintings sold to rich collectors in back rooms. We don’t get the full experience of what History painting does or means because so many of the masterworks we’ve learned about do not leave the churches and museums where they are hung. We learn of these things through bad reproductions in slides, books, magazines and now through jpegs and video. In 1995 I was lucky enough to find myself in Venice for the first time – no money, really cheap hotel with a bathroom down the hall and 7 days to wander the alleyways and plazas as I saw fit. I sought out the Venetians with purpose in order to see color in a new light, so to speak. For years I had been reading about the Venetians and their color and this was my first real experience of it. Michelangelo lamented their drawing abilities while he praised their color to the heavens. Titian and Giorgioni were lauded for their subtle hues and values that made their visual world feel real and alive. Veronese and Tintoretto used color to transform the banal everyday gatherings of Venetians into grand soliloquies of powerful expression and rich association. Their color has a vibrancy and thickness modulated by the eye and enhanced by their history, their memory. It is everyday color seen and experienced in the flesh, so to speak, and it is rich with the heat of life. It is a color of memory, of touch and of pure passion transforming painting into something visually real and physically palpable.

What I was unprepared for was the space and the light. White and black, complimentary, secondary and tertiary colors are mixed into the hue modulating the tones with value. Space, particularly the tight interior space of figuration, is electrified when it is warmed or cooled and then molded by light. In fact the depiction of light effects plays an important role in how color is used to define form and structure in Venetian painting. It sets the scene, it opens the door for our entry into a real visual encounter. As I sat in the Scuola di San Rocco I began to understand the power of earthy color, light & space in a new way. Particularly in the way Tintoretto played with this idea in his compositions and figurations. In one painting he could move you in close, pull you back out, wrap you in light and swamp you in flesh. It is visually astounding. I felt that if I could combine this sort of Venetian visual richness of modulated, volumetric color with the expressive possibilities inherent in 20th Century color I might be able to enliven painted abstraction in a different way – in a way that Postmodernism’s color does not, can not do. It seems simple, but it isn’t, because as you know, the lens has changed HOW we see and UNDERSTAND these things. Everything is mediated through that goddamned lens, and as a painter, I had to come to terms with this idea and this reality. Simply put, ONE CAN NOT GO BACK – though one might be able to steal something and find a new use for it. And that’s where I thought I’d start.

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For me it boiled down to the Venetian primaries – yellow, red & blue. These are the colors that begin nearly every statement of fact in Venetian painting, but in today’s world they are also the colors of commerce, these are the simple tools of any marketing promotion. How one modulates them, how one “values” (and I mean this in both ways) color is how one hones them into a personal vision. Whenever I began with bright secondaries – greens, purples and oranges – suddenly I found myself in a Richter situation or worse a Paschke situation. Unmodulated tertiaries followed, and at one point I was using fluorescent backgrounds and high keyed complimentaries to create an optical jump in figure and ground. The Postmodern was extremely hard to push back against while trying to remain pictorially viable. The problem was always the space and the light, the modulated form and the volumetric spaces. Flatness, physicality, materiality and opticality have been the norm for so long we have forgotten that we might be able to SEE in a different way. Abstraction, my abstraction, would have to be thicker, more real in its way, and mostly, it would have to risk being misunderstood. And that misunderstanding is connected to HOW we see and the power that the lens has on our vision. With the lens we push in close and tight, we tend to feel our vision rather than see it. When we push in close without the lens we change our relationship to color, we make it physical. By using this idea and engaging the color, feeling the light and space we change the POMO game. We feel our spaces, we no longer have the distance of the Renaissance window or the interior depth of the camera obscura – we are in the scene, we are a part of the painting. At a distance, through the lens it remains flat, it remains on the surface and out of our reach. We can not participate in the visual, we can not involve our eyes in what we are feeling. It boils down to the fact that with a program driven lens based culture we know before we see, and we confirm what we know with our eyes. We are no longer visual individuals, but part of a larger optical collective. The ground rather than the rising subject is our focus. But when we refocus on our own experience, on our own color, light & space in the optical world we can find difference, we make a difference. We can develop a different sort of visual experience.

Which brings us to this last point about abstraction. So many painters equate space and the depiction of that space with landscape painting. This may be so, but the simple truth for me is I am not a landscape painter – I don’t have a feel for it, it’s not an interest. I prefer the spaces of human involvement – the interstitial spaces of touch. When I go into a museum I admire the color or the light in landscape paintings and I move on – quickly – to the history painting, the portraits and the mythologies. Modernism and Postmodernism seemed in one way or another to have embraced the idea of landscape for its spatial experimentation – things in a field, things on a field, or finally, the field (ground) itself. Picasso and Matisse were the last figurative experimenters, but their most influential work on the 20th Century was through their still lifes and their landscapes. In the history of Western Painting there was a strong visual involvement with the individual, the human encounter and the life before us. Figuration, the rising subject, the portrait – all that had been waylaid or set aside or had remained the province of the photographic, the reactionary or the rear guard. When I examine this idea of landscape I can understand the visual confrontation with Nature, the encounter with the sublime, but as an artist I value the relationship, the look of the other, the physical human encounter – I find those things just as sublime and just as powerful. I felt that this history had become an ignored practice of painters, especially abstract painters. And Stella’s Working Space raised this very specter of human visual involvement when I was beginning to question painting. This was my start, this is what led me to color, light & space. These things have guided my fascination and formulation for a different kind of abstraction. I’ve raised a lot of points in these two posts about the basics of abstraction after Postmodernism. I believe there are many painters who are equally unsatisfied with the direction and aims of current abstract painting. So it’s up to us to change it, to make ourselves known and to challenge the academy at every turn. Live, Think, Paint!

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Run Down

You can hear the air sucking out of the Art World at the end of August. It’s the calm before the storm. But I wanted to point out a couple of things. It seems that more and more artists are starting to question the Postmodern art world. Yesterday a friend sent me this link to Bruce High Quality’s polemic on the intersections and connections between the academies and the art world retail sector. It’s a really fun read, and apparently, it was connected to a tongue-in-cheek performance and slide show adding visual irony to the piece. I wish I had seen it. Maybe they’ll put together a video…?

There have been a few other things of interest as well:

This one from the times discusses yet another wave of 80s nostalgia in the fashion industry. The piece is excellent in laying out the toadying and capitulation that is Postmodernism, but what is disturbing is the nostalgic myth that the 80s were in some way a decade full of one-offs. Folks on the cutting edge willing to be different. The truth is the 80s were racked with 40s and 50s nostalgia collaged into a kind of chic multiculturalism – thus ridiculous shoulder pads and Aladdin pants. Punks went the way of hippies and had been replaced by white guys with dreads, Sting in a silk suit singing patois and stealing Bob Marley riffs, Madonna in her first incarnation as a LES Alt Chick, and Neo-Expressionists pretending to be real artists. Sure there were really good artists from all stripes, but innovation was hardly the trend. We were at the height of Postmodern excess, and we were collaging like crazy.

“Anyone who has been in the fashion business for longer than five years,” Amy M. Spindler, the late Times fashion critic, once wrote, “might be feeling like a drowning man whose life is flashing before his eyes.” Ms. Spindler was referring to the disturbingly rapid-fire way fashion had of recycling the recent past.
That was in long-ago 1996, when fashion archaeology was still necessarily conducted in musty used-clothes stores, in Goodwill bins and in caves like the one the vintage-magazine dealer Michael Gallagher ran in the East Village and where designers like Marc Jacobs unearthed some of their better ideas from the back pages of Vogue.

My other new favorite blog is this one by Fluff Chance called The Emperor’s Old Clothes. Fluff tells it like it is in the Fashion Industry which I find fascinating because it has become the new model for the Art Industry. If our institutions had their way (and they do) this would be the way all Art business gets done, and we’re very close to that now. Fluff is the real deal having his own business and seeing things from the arena floor so to speak. Additionally, he is a purveyor and connoissuer of Style something we spent a bit of time discussing and deconstructing not long ago!

It was a dark view of the business being told through The Emperor’s Old Clothes, one that wasn’t being shown on reality shows or in the usually fawning online coverage of Fashion Week — and certainly not one put forth by Mr. Gaskins when he bumped into other designers at industry parties. In recent months, as Fluff Chance began to write about the emotional impact of ending his collection, the blog became a bird’s-eye view of the psychological impact of the recession on a small designer’s business.

And finally I found my teeth grinding into paste when I saw this. A couple of weeks ago there was a cattle call for yet another TV art reality series, and auditions were held at White Columns. James Kalm made a wonderful and ballsy video document of the hopefuls waiting in line for their close ups. I can not condone this sort of behavior by artists (or anyone for that matter,) but in the words of Sponge Bob Square Pants, “Well…Good Luck With That!”

Between the Lines

I was astounded the other day when I read this article in the Times about Ghost Writing in the medical community. It seems that Postmodernism is everywhere. I know I sound like a paranoid freak, but wasn’t there a time when one was expected to author one’s own work? Weren’t we encouraged to come up with our own ideas, do our own research and come to our own conclusions? Instead there are now companies hired by corporations to write “drafts” that are then shown to experts who offer notes and approval. Once approved they are “authored” by the expert and shopped to various industry journals. A better example of outsourcing and appropriation I don’t think you’ll ever find.

“The court documents provide a detailed paper trail showing how Wyeth contracted with a medical communications company to outline articles, draft them and then solicit top physicians to sign their names, even though many of the doctors contributed little or no writing. The documents suggest the practice went well beyond the case of Wyeth and hormone therapy, involving numerous drugs from other pharmaceutical companies.”

It seems that when there’s money to be made and reputations to build a team effort is the best way to go about it, especially if the team involves a global corporate entity. These practices are alive and well in every industry that involves academic study and research. We have a similar culture in the art world as well, though it is quite a bit sillier. We’re not potentially endangering anyone’s lives, at least I hope not anyway. Though sometimes when looking at art it feels like a crime is being perpetrated.

Speaking of art world crimes, Hans Heiner Buhr recently commented on our post about Michael Kimmelman’s piece detailing how people look at art in museums, in this case the Louvre. Hans was there at about the same time, and took some pictures of himself and his wonderful family from behind the velvet ropes (well maybe not velvet) trying to get a gander at the Mona Lisa. It seems there’s a space about the size of a football pitch (OK I’m exaggerating) between the viewers and the painting itself, which remains behind glass and installed (great pretentious art word that) into a wall. Now I’ve read a few of the storied accounts of the history of this painting and its relative worth to the auction markets, but really, is it THAT much of a sacred cow? Hans suggested the best way the rank and file could see this painting is online and I think he’s right. In order to “see” the work we must see it as a dematerialized, uploaded program. So much for painting…

Finally, I have to say that the Rough Trade posts are proving just that – a rough trade. I am currently working through the final edit with the help of Henri and we’ll have one up shortly. This has been a difficult process all around and I ask your patience for a bit longer. Stay Tuned….

Summering, Dog Days & Endings

The Art World has gone to sleep as it does over most Summers. I’ve often wondered why this is so. The main reason seems to be that our world follows the gatherings and goings of rich collectors and most of them seem to take the summers off. The concept of “summering” has become part of the art world mystique and those artist who summer, well they’re in a different game than the rest of us. A lot of working artists that I knew would use the summers to prepare for their upcoming shows in the fall, some of the luckier artists would head out to the summering stalls and hook up with the in-crowds to make a few connections, and some who weren’t selling and not showing would get their pink slips and wonder what the next step would be. It’s all part of the summer art game as it’s come to be played.

But through the years there have been some great summering artists. Marcel Duchamp was a master of summering. The Surrealists summered. The AbExers were the ones that discovered the concept in the Hamptons. They put Long Island on the summering map. But of all the summering summerers ever in the art world the greatest summerer has to be Eric Fischl. He is such a summering summerer that he has made a career of documenting the summering experience over and over again in his work. One can only look on in awe at the summering that is forever issuing from the summery studio of his art life. His paintings document the whole experience from hanging out with Hollywood icons to fabulously naked Euro beaches, and finally, to his own art crowd. He mixes the summering experience with a touch of upper middle class surrealism and guilt, and BOOM, he whips out the perfect angst-y Postmodern painting for the summering classes. I absolutely love his web site and I enjoy even more his unctuous interviewing style. This one on Artnet was amazing for its solipsism. Fischl is still smarting about his bronze figure of the tumbling woman being taken out of the Rockefeller Center after a few of days of viewing.

“The thing around 9/11 is that it was this horrific event killed 3,000 people but there were no bodies. If you remember all the passion was centered on architecture to replace the Towers. To secure the footprints of the Towers. It had nothing to do with human tragedy because it was too painful. So I think that the Tumbling Woman reminded people that it was a human tragedy.”

Now when I looked at the piece I didn’t make the connection to 9/11. I looked at the piece, how it works, if it’s made well, what feelings might arise from seeing a figure in this position. I ask does the thing work, is it doing what it’s supposed to do? I can make my own associations to outside events and personal recollections. The piece shows a formidable female figure falling over herself. She tumbles while we stand. Is she falling or landing? The style of its making reminds me of Michelangelo’s twisted unfinished Mannerist figures, and especially, Rodin’s tortured figures from the Gates of Hell. Unfortunately it has that lumpy “hewn” and “heavy” quality reminiscent of the 19th Century. Fischl has not titled the piece to directly reference the event of 9/11, nor would one necessarily see the piece in that light without the context supplied by the media through his interviews and articles about the work. It is not a portrait, it’s not specific, nor are their visual clues within the work to relate it to this event. The piece is a theatrically stylized academic figure study, and quite frankly, any media context will do. But it was the media back story to 9/11 that put a distasteful spin on the sculpture and that is what caused all the ruckus.

However, this “controversy” shows the problem that faces most all Postmodern art. It isn’t the work or how it’s made that creates a problem. It is the appropriation and the context that the work exists in that causes a problem for the viewer. For instance when Picasso painted the prostitutes for his Demoisselles it was the WAY in which he painted the work that caused the most offence, never mind that it was a painting of prostitutes. Or Matisse’s picture of his wife with the green stripe down her face. It wasn’t the subject matter that mattered it was the green stripe and what that might mean. The meaning of the work for both of these artists was tied up in the way the work was made, in the style they created. And because the WAY they made the work was a personal experience, the piece worked at a deeper level of visual experience. For Fischl’s sculpture this is not the case. The work is a rehash of an academic style and we accept his customization without question. The controversy surrounding the work is in its detailed media interpretation – the text on the wall, the interview on the internet. In other words, there isn’t anything aesthetically NEW or advanced going on here. He is not experimenting with a new vision or personal style. He is adding theater and providing a context for a narrative. The story about the piece and the back story surrounding the piece are what are important to understanding what the work might mean. Meaning is generated OUTSIDE of the work and the work becomes a document for the larger commentary. In this way we can apply meaning to anything and make anything into art. Is Fischl’s sculpture astonishing, ground breaking, interesting, pleasing or amazing – does the work succeed or fail as a work or art? None of that matters. Only the controversy around the sculpture attests to its effectiveness as art. At the end of the avant garde, historical progress and metanarratives we find that only the sliding commentaries actually matter.

So what has all of this to do with Summering, Dog Days & Endings? Well for me it means that Postmodernism is withering under the heat of its own bloated post-history. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of Eric Fischl’s work, as I do many POMOs’ work. I don’t happen to find Fischl’s sculptural work interesting, but I am a painter and that is my focus. However if we look at the larger effect of these Dog Days in the art world we can see that Postmodernism looks extremely dated and dry. Postmodernism, secure in the academy for so long, is the thing to push against. And PUSH WE MUST! POMO is forever trapped within the contexts of the histories that it has manipulated. It has become irrelevant and its irrelevance is stunning. The only way that the POMOs will be able to move forward is if they have a great late phase to their art. But the problem for POMOs is that Postmodernism doesn’t age well. It can not disavow its own parasitic nature or its needy relationship to history. It must remain forever in stasis, forever youthful in that Posthuman steroidal kind of way, caught by the contexts and concoctions of its own making. In the end Postmodernism can not generate any reality from itself. As we have said in other posts – POMO grows old without maturing. So as we summer along to the inevitable fall there may just be a glimmer of hope that change is on the way, that the end is near.

Rough Trade – Vision

“I know what I was told a long time ago. The rainbow is the bridge between heaven and earth. It will shatter at the end of the world, once the devil has crossed it on horseback.” The Club Dumas Arturo Perez-Reverte

The problem is with thought. How we think. The problem begins in 19 Sixty and continues right up until now. Postmodernism started as critique, as a way to poke holes into the dark black edifice of Modernist thought. But by the mid-seventies something about the way this critique was formed had hardened rendering this type of rhetoric brittle and predictable. Maybe it was the cultural fallout after May 1968, maybe it was the Vietnam war and the total collapse of the United States’ government in Nixon’s years, or maybe it was the final economic triumph of corporatist power over democratic institutions. But a new type of power took hold and has been hard at work ever since. Postmodernism, once the locus of theoretical discontent and a tool to affect change, became the comfortable language of power – political, economic and cultural power. We saw this most prominently in the US conservative party’s embrace and promotion of Fukuyama’s POMO rhetorical tract “The End of History.” This love letter to “liberal democratic” society shows how deeply ingrained Postmodernist thought had become in our “new” media culture. It’s still quite a stunning piece of theoretical reversal, contextual argument and revisionist thought – an argument directed from the top down – a tract that maintains and legitimizes the global corporate institution as the true manifestation and final flowering of liberal democratic freedom.

“…I believe that both economics and politics presuppose an autonomous prior state of consciousness that makes them possible. But that state of consciousness that permits the growth of liberalism seems to stabilize in the way one would expect at the end of history if it is underwritten by the abundance of a modern free market economy. We might summarize the content of the universal homogenous state as liberal democracy in the political sphere combined with easy access to VCRs and stereos in the economic.”

This sort of contextual solipsistic thinking inhabits our little world of art as well, and it has been used as a stick to keep us in line. It has shaped how Art is made, how it is discussed and how it is sold. Art and markets go hand in hand – indistinguishable from one another. If it sells it is good and right, and in many cases “advanced,” if not, well, it can hardly be worthwhile. We have had years and years of it – through my entire art life. I’ve watched art become an entertainment industry. We’ve discussed it at length in other posts and other critiques if you care to look. But for now I begin a general discussion of vision and in the 2 upcoming Rough Trade posts I will be very specific.

Let’s start with Jerry Saltz’s recent admissions in his post about the Venice Biennale. I am using Jerry’s work once again because he was/is the preeminent critical voice extolling the virtues of this type of endgame Postmodern art. – “The show… looks pretty much the way these sorts of big international group shows and cattle calls now look; it includes the artists that these sorts of shows now include. It’s full of the reflexive conceptualism that artists everywhere now produce because other artists everywhere produce it (and because curators curate it). Almost all of this art comments on art, institutions, or modernism. Basically, curators seem to love video, text, explanations, things that are “about” something, art that references Warhol or Prince, or that makes sense; they seem to hate painting, things that don’t make sense, or that involve overt materiality, physicality, color, or strangeness… Any critic who says this, of course, is accused of conservatism, of wishing for a return to painting… (That said, it’s hard to imagine anything more conservative today than an institutional critique. That sort of work is the establishment.) It’s just another aesthetically familiar feedback cycle: impersonal, administratively adept, highly professionalized, formally generic, mildly gregarious, aesthetically familiar, totally knowing, cookie-cutter. It is time we broke out of that enervated loop.”

These are all same critiques we at Henri have been making for a long time. I cut and pasted these segments from his review to make 2 points. One in agreement with Jerry – that if one questions the status quo one is derided as a “conservative” or worse a reactionary. The critique of the critique is not allowed. For the cogniscenti it is their means of maintaining the false assumption that those who are popular with curators, galleries and art fairs are indeed the “avant garde.” It is a way to maintain control while diffusing the question – one never has to reflect if one deflects. On the contrary when we critique the “critique” what we are looking for is a way forward, beyond Postmodernism and Postmodernism’s continuous need to create a Modernist bogeyman. (I think this is a kind of “Cold War” strategy used by the POMOs.) When we question the viability of Postmodernism we are not positing a “return” to anything. We simply want to move forward and out of this visual cul de sac. Postmodernism is moribund, reactionary, a now failed “ism” like any other “ism” of the 20th Century.

The second point I am adamant about is that painting, based on new visual ideas, is the way forward. Jerry’s right – it never did go away, but it hasn’t advanced very far over the last 40 or 50 years either. As we have shown in other posts so-called advanced painting remains in thrall to visual precepts developed in 19 Sixty, generally to Pop and specifically to Warhol – From A to B and Back Again. Painting can not keep repeating itself if it expects to survive. We must first understand that Postmodernism is not going away. Media Culture is not going away. The changes to the way we see and think are not going away. McLuhan and Baudrillard were both correct. What we have to do, must do, is find a way to incorporate an older and deeper way of thinking into the tools we’ve inherited. We must use Pop and Warhol in ways they have not been used. We can not ignore them or skip over them, they are far too powerful. We must find a way to paint that demands visual thinking, critical visual thinking not tied exclusively to reproduction or mediated sensibilities. Painting must be in the first person. What we must attack is the way painters put their works together. The way they compose their works. The way they use materials. The way they use color. The way they remain tied to materialism and physicality. The way they demand nothing of the viewer aside from complicity. We must find links to older, masterful visual work, but we must use that only as a guide and inspiration for what we do now. We must guard against the reactionary. And finally, we must demand that our art, our painting be bigger than the lens based programming world. That our painting be as insistent and engaging as the electronic world.

I realize that this is a tall order. In the next 2 posts I will discuss in detail what I’ve been doing in my studio. I want to show how these goals should be the persistent part of a critique, and a way to liberate one from too many of the doctrines of Postmodern practice.
The devil has crossed and the rainbow shattered.

Stay Tuned…

Camp – 19 SIXTY

In the 1950s the Abstract Expressionists were known for their machismo. There was a feeling that an artist, especially an American one, had to take on the world, had to fight the good fight. When the ABEXers weren’t busy telling you to fuck off as they junk punched you in your man-business, they were busy trying to find a drink, a dame or a drama.

“He [Pollock] had this way of sizing up new people very quickly. We’d be sitting at a table and some young fellow would come in. Pollock wouldn’t even look at him, he’d just nod his head-like a cowboy-as if to say, “fuck-off.” That was his favorite expression-“Fuck-off.” It was really funny, he wouldn’t even look at him. He had that cowboy style. It’s an American quality with artists and writers. They feel that they have to be very manly.” Bill DeKooning – Collected Writings

IN the Wild Wild West Art was not for sissies or fools. In fact any kind of foolishness, if practiced at all, was rarely bald-faced, never out, so to speak, in the ABEX community. A light touch was immediately held suspect. Rothko made statements that great art was about tragedy, Pollock was claiming to be nature while bare-knuckle fighting in alleyways, DeKooning was swept up in a Freudian battle of wills with the eternal female, and Newman’s big red painting was named Vir Heroicus Sublimis which translates to “Man, heroic and sublime.” Johns would take the mickey out of this bunch a little later – “Painting with 2 Balls” indeed. Art in ABEX America was made by two fisted, hairy chested painters, and they had something to prove. However, the art world, no matter what country it’s in, isn’t only about balls and balkanization. A different approach to art was beginning to take hold in the swinging sixties, and it emerged from ABEX’s closet with a flourish.

In Tyler Green’s Modern Art Notes post about Robert Rauschenberg’s passing he notes: “I also think it’s important to place Rauschenberg within the context of one of the great under-examined migrations in American history: That of gays and lesbians from rural America to cities in the decade after World War II, and the immense changes in American culture that migration helped kick off. Furthermore: While many obits mentioned that John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Johns, and Rauschenberg partnered to re-create whole disciplines, few mentioned that all four were gay, and how that commonality informed and enabled their practices and their friendship.” Tyler is absolutely correct. The rising American culture class that was forming in New York and other cities across the US was attracting an eager and ambitious group of artists from out of the hinterlands. And with this new class of creatives came a different take on what American culture might become.

A sensibility (as distinct from an idea) is one of the hardest things to talk about; but there are special reasons why Camp, in particular, has never been discussed. It is not a natural mode of sensibility, if there be any such. Indeed the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. And Camp is esoteric — something of a private code, a badge of identity even, among small urban cliques.” Susan Sontag – Notes on Camp

In American Pop Culture Camp is a familiar experience. What was once an underground happening cultivated for a select group is now mainstream entertainment. Why? Recent studies show that Americans spend most of their formative childhood years watching TV, and let’s face it, just about EVERYTHING we see on TV is infused with Camp. We can track an historical line that stretches from Milton Berle in drag all the way to Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction, and right up to last night’s “reality” programming – Camp has been and remains a huge component of our media experience. It is the steady critical undercurrent electrifying our Postmodern era. And because of its pervasiveness it drives our hyperaesthetic sensibilities and artistic expectations in every cultural discipline practiced today. Television as a delivery system, and Camp as critique, are made for one another – both are purveyors of artifice, incongruity and stylization – and when combined they form a kind of OTT electronic Mannerism. We are immersed in campy programming at least 151 hours on average every month – and that my friends, equates to about 5 hours of TV watching a day. Which means that our sensibilities have been forged in the waters of Camp, and we, like millions of tiny Achilles, have been dunked headfirst into its aesthetic pools.

SEX and the City

“The Pop [culture] very, very much intersects, I think, with being a fag. Pop culture, historically, has been an arena through which I could actually more easily negotiate as an artist as opposed to negotiating through the history of Modernism – which tends to exclude my type of investigation. That was clear with Andy Warhol, anyway, that Pop Culture was a place where he could navigate more freely than [through] the history of Modernism, and I think, navigate more freely as a fag, quite honestly. It’s that type of voice, that type of over the top, gorgeously annoying, a lot of those, maybe, Rococo sensibilities [that] do still have a problem playing themselves out in Puritan Culture.” Lari Pittman “Art City A Ruling Passion”

Art has always had it’s Campy adherents and very strong artists. Italian Art in the 16th Century, late Baroque art, Rococo, Neo-Classical art, the Pre-Raphaelites and the Surrealists are some of the many Campy art forms. But today Camp is an institution of the highest order. From Andy Warhol’s Marilyns to Murakami’s latte rope skipping booby queen, from Jeff Koons’ Cicciolina photo/sculpture/paintings to Richard Prince’s customized auto Camp rules the Pop Culture critique. It also rules abstraction as well – from Gene Davis’s stripes (thanks to Michael Zahn for his email leading me to a wonderful essay on Davis’ work) to Ross Bleckner’s Stripes, from Andy Warhol’s shadows to Christopher Wool’s graffitti. It is the special relationship with Pop Culture that has allowed Camp to flourish in the Postmodern world. It is a quick and easy way to subvert expectations, to challenge hierarchies and norms and it is an indirect way of establishing new contextual relationships between Art and Pop Culture itself. Lari Pittman is correct – there is MORE freedom to move, to engage, to critique outside of Modernism. For Postmodernism Pop Culture is Camp sensibility in drag.

Pan-Aesthetic Sensuality

“I suppose Davis’s taste for the color was really not so very odd — some of the most interesting straight men of the postwar period put butchness to the test by dressing it in pastels. Like Frank Sinatra in a peppermint cardigan, like Kojak sucking on a lollipop, Gene Davis found candy colors delicious, and he had the guts to use them. Davis did delight in the contrast, however, and would sometimes comment upon his visual confections with a wink and a tongue slightly in cheek. Talking about his canvas Moondog of 1966, for example, Davis once startled a critic by bragging about his “boudoir painting of candy-box pretty colors.”…I like to think that Davis’s cute, cliche colors were part of a similar mission to camp up abstraction with connotations of the popular. I shouldn’t exaggerate, of course. Despite the phobia of pink from which some artists suffered, there was a substantial modernist tradition for that color from which Davis could draw.” Sarah K. Rich “Gene Davis: 1960s Stripe Paintings

The campy quality of Gene Davis’ stripes contrasts with Ross Bleckner’s knowing use of those stripes. Both artists discuss the optical, Davis plays it straight to create Camp, Bleckner Camps it up to play it straight. It is the difference between sensibility and critique. Either way Camp plays a major role in how we view these works – Davis for the structure of color, the optical play of the stripes and the absence of idea in the abstraction itself and Bleckner for the idea of contrived illusion, painting techniques and the critique of a failed “ism.” This “reversal” of approach to Camp has been a feature of the last 40 years. Camp is built into the work rather than an after effect of the work. Even though there is so much passive aggressive machismo in the history of abstraction – especially in today’s “Ecole de Gran Pastiche – Blanc et Noir” – the work still comes across like a Jean Genet tough guy – pugilism before assignation. But we remain at a theoretical crossroads here in the early 21st Century. Must we continue to pretend that Postmodernism is not the dominant institutional philosophy, that Modernism is the evil dictator of aesthetic values? Must we continue to fight Modernism in these same ways when Modernism as a discipline no longer exists? Artists have been camping it up in endless permutations of Postmodern Mannerism since 19 Sixty, but why have artists not engaged with the pervasiveness of Camp in Postmodern Art? Why has this POMO critique not been turned on itself? Why have we not questioned the validity and viability of our recent cultural theoretics in this new century?

PS I just saw this on Ed’s blog! Fantastic!