Michael Zahn called me a slacker for not having a rundown of ’09. Slacker! OK, I admit, I was gonna skip it this year. EVERYONE with a neck has a year end list, and I don’t really have anything uplifting to add while summing up the past few months. 2009 started hard and ended a little less hard. Many of my friends lost work, put their careers on hold and tried to make the best of life changing circumstances both personally and professionally. In the grand scheme of things this may not be an earth shattering event, but I don’t like to see people hurt or bullied in any form. In our little end of the universe the art world continued to ply its outdated theoretics and its failed economic policies (thought I’d try out that bit of media political jargon to see how it fit – still sounds like bullshit.) And Henri? Well, we tried to give you a few things to think about. We questioned some basic assumptions about art and painting that have been taken for granted in this decade. Mostly, we tried, both in the studio and here online, to make something unique. But a Slacker…really? Well alright, I’ll own it. So, we now proudly present for your enjoyment and consideration the Henri Art Magazine Top Five Moments of 2009….
Number Five – The High Line Development. (C’mon Mark, you might be saying, what the f..k?) I include this because it is the last gasp of Bloomberg’s Monopoly Game real estate shuffle and its increasing effect on how the high end retail gallery showrooms create their programs. (Don’t be naive about money’s effects on art world business practices – try making 10 to 15 grand a month in rent and another 3 to 5 grand in overhead EVERY month. Getting back to zero ain’t so easy.) The Whitney has been making noise that they will build a bigger, better, huge-er, more expensive building as a designer bookend to La Route des Herbes. The problem for the Whitney (aside from the dithering, political intrigue and fund raising) is the Standard Hotel (a building that looks as if it were ripped unchanged from an airport hospitality center circa 1958) majestically straddling the meat packing end. Not in any physical sense, but in chicness. Apparently, there have been live sex shows performed in the floor-to-ceiling windows for the crowds milling along the upscale weed beds. I wonder how this aesthetic challenge to the artistic community will be interpreted by the POMO installation jockeys preferred by Whitney selection committes? We may be in for a whole new experience of window dressing and a more user-friendly performance art!
Number Four – The Controversy That Wasn’t. Really. Was anyone surprised to learn that the NuNuMu was being dominated by the interests of donor/collectors? What makes this controversy so 21st Century is that the Museum itself makes no bones about where it’s bones are buried. In fact, they’ll proudly show you the freaking gravesite or closet or wherever they’ve stashed their skeletons. It’s that great late postmodern way of being forthright about one’s unforthrightness. It goes like this – If I screw you while I’m telling you that I’m screwing you, and I tell you how beneficial the way I’m screwing you is going to be for all concerned, well then, we all accept that I’m screwing you with your permission and you may as well enjoy it. I guess the art world has become so used to its blatant and ubiquitous need for huge amounts of capital that ANY douchebag behavior is tolerated, as long as everyone involved gets serviced. However, in this year of less is less, a few artists woke up with surprised looks on their faces and began bitching about the inequities tolerated and encouraged by the art world. My thought was – where were all you art bitches when the money was flowing? I didn’t hear much griping about insiders, influence peddling, and money while you posers were honing your tans and stuffing your pockets in Miami back in ’05 and ’06. The only good that came out of all this blather was a publicity push for William Powhida who expressed artists’ collective outrage through his art – he has done so consistently through the double naughts and may be one of the few “real deal” critics around. Still, nothing has changed – the show in question is going forward, the museum is continuing its monetary associations, and everyone with at least 2 faces will show up for a photo op at the grand opening. In the words of Amy Winehouse (sort of…) I won’t go to NuMu…No, No, No! And if any of you suddenly grow a backbone or strap on a couple you won’t either. (Ok, That last bit was a touch rough, yes?)
Number Three – Geezer Throwdown. This was my one of my absolute favorites of the year. I still take heart when I think of it. Two critics that I admire and respect got into it – sort of. Dave Hickey made a killer speech entitled “The God Ennui” at SVA in September. This was videoed (is that a word?) by James Kalm (who received a letter from SVA to take down his recording – which he didn’t – kudos to James.) The speech went viral because it sliced and diced the institutional art world right in the maw of an institution. Fantastic! But then, Charlie Finch blistered Dave in his artnet column, hurling insults and putdowns left and right. The vitriol was tremendous, and there was enough tree-bending and back-fur flying to qualify for an episode on Animal Planet. It seems there’s some bad blood between the two, at least on Charlie’s side. I have no idea what started the feud, but it’s a real East Coast/West Coast beef. It really doesn’t matter. Everyone connected to this art media fracas got their boot in at some point. Absolutely tremendous!
Number Two – The “Legitimate” Art Media What a feckless, useless, fawning bunch this has been all through 2009! Critics were avoiding the issue of aesthetics. The so-called art news outlets became cheerleading teams for various auction houses and art fairs. Art Bloggers, for the most part, decided to tweet and link rather than see and think. And the few theoretical art blogs that I’ve come across continue to champion Postmodern theoretics and institutional academic practices spawned originally in the 1960s. The good news is that we’ve happened onto a few original ideas that may be of help. Alan Kirby’s Digimodernism throws some wonderful new thought into the mix. David Shield’s Reality Hunger takes us further into our own hearts and shatters our cultural expectations. We are in for a little bit of a shake up or shake down in 2010, and Henri will continue to prime the pump.
Number One – Pablo Picasso – Contemporary Painter Gagosian did the right thing using his power, wealth and connections to present the best show of 2009. Picasso took the POMOs by the throat and cleaned their clocks! It was a joy to behold. Ignored and unsung in the 60s until his death in the early 70s, Picasso was painting just for us, here, in the early 21st Century. Unlike so many self satisfied geezers, Picasso ramped up his ideas and poured his heart out in these paintings – showing all of us what can be done if one lets it all loose – unbelievably great! I’ve been obsessed with this work for a long time now because it gives us doorways, windows and openings to create something truly visually GRAND for painting after all these years of POMO’s failings. These works are all about vision, looking with the bare eye and transforming those images into a painterly statement beyond the limitations of the lens, collage and the end of Modernism. This was a show that marked a turning point in a few minds and a few studios!
And with that Henri Art Magazine wishes each and every one of you a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous and Wonderful New Year!