I didn’t get a Harumph outta that guy…

Paul Corio takes up the conversation about the Art Press on his blog-azine No Hassle at the Castle. The Cindy Sherman exhibition at MOMA has been a real eye opener. Not necessarily because of the exhibition itself but because of the uniformity of the discussion about the exhibition. I’m not just talking about whether the show was liked or not liked by the press, but the uniformity in the REASONING behind that like or dislike. Nearly every review about the show said exactly the same things, keying on the very same issues. In all seriousness, you could cut and paste, mix and match from any of the reviews and make one of your own. No one would see any difference whatsoever. Yes, the algorithm about how one was to write about the show was firmly and openly in place. It reminded me of the way political discussion is run in this country. Usually an army of “interviewable” personalities connected to the (whatever) current administration is sent out in waves to the political talk shows loaded with specific talking points about a certain issue. The media replicates and distributes this message OVER AND OVER again in the news cycles and news discussion shows until those “talking points” become something like a truth. We begin to believe whatever the message says because it comes from many authoritative voices, all saying the very same things, broadcasted across many media outlets. It resembles confirmation – one show confirms the precepts given on another show. I guess we’ve learned the same lesson here in our little world. I kept thinking, “…couldn’t someone say something, anything different than the 5 or 6 phrases that have come to define the way we communicate about this particular show.” It’s part of the reason I placed all those quotes in the original post.

This conformity in thinking struck a nerve with Paul as well, and he gives an extremely cogent discussion about “the discussion,” how it’s rooted in the Postmodern imperatives that we’ve come to accept as wisdom. He also delineates the reasons that these particular talking points, this particular conformity, has come to define the Art Press.

“Sherman’s work illustrates a whole constellation of ideas that form much of the basis from which these critics think about, look at, and review art: gender, identity, high vs. low culture and the ensuing debate about quality and criteria, value, originality and authorship, the centrality of painting and the disruption of a specific kind of historical teleology. An enthusiastic reception to Sherman’s show would represent more to these writers than the canonization of a particular artist – it would further cement the institutional validation of a whole set of ideas which their careers, sensibilities and credibility is connected to.”

Basically it all adds up to this:

There’s a lot at stake for a lot of people. And who can argue with that…?

One of the things that I truly admire about Paul is that he has a lot of positive energy about Art, about his feelings about the power of Art. In our sometimes high-keyed discussions he will always defend the power of art and artists to make visual magic. It’s at those times that I am grateful to have Paul as a friend even if I disagree with what he is saying. Could there be a better teacher, a better example of an engaged and thoughtful artist for the next generation? I don’t think so. That kind of energy and enthusiasm even in the midst of struggle, any struggle, is hard to come by. And you can see it for yourself. His post ends thoughtfully on a high note looking forward to a change, to a new idea, a new way of visually engaging. I highly recommend you check out the link at the top of this post! And COMMENT, please, either here or on Paul’s Blog-azine! We’d like to hear your voices on this issue! What do you think of the art critics, conformity in the press, talking points, and protection of one’s phony baloney jobs?

Did I Read That Right…?

Ok. It took this long for someone to actually say some unfortunate TRUTH about the suck up Art Press. And it comes from Adam Lindemann – the almost but not quite self-hating collector of equestrian class art. As Henri pointed out in a recent post on the Cindy Sherman Show all the critics were hyperventilating in order to inflate the value of one of their own darlings…

“I will never cease to be amazed by how much consensus I find among New York’s leading art critics as they all hail and salute the same things, or for that matter, as they all gang up and bash the same things…The unanimity bothers me; I wish someone would offer some counterpoint to the prevailing view, bring some fresh air into the dialogue. What’s the point of everyone saying the same thing? Do they really all like the same things or are they afraid to step out and say something different, even provocative? If I were an artist, I think I’d get suspicious if everyone in town chimed in about how wonderful I was.” Adam Lindemann All Hail Sherman!

Well there’s a lot riding on these kinds of things. Money, reputation, money, notoriety, money, invitations to previews and after parties, money, interviews with the star, money, sex, and then there’s the money. And who can blame the critics. They complain they don’t get paid a lot. They complain that they aren’t taken seriously. They complain that they aren’t feted. But they do seem to line up in celestial configurations to congratulate the very kind of art they bemoan the rest of the time. How often have we read a critic go on about how things have to change, that styles remain the same, that art is being made for the one percent, only to have them glorify those very institutionally approved artists and their work once they have a Power-Retro at one of the POMO Country Clubs here in town.

But to have a major COLLECTOR point this out to US stings just a bit. Adam also describes the unfortunate “apple polishing” that was going on at Jerry’s Facebook page over the one “bad” review of Cindy Sherman’s show. To me this particular thread smacked of the bad faith and the fear and loathing that takes place among the art world cognoscenti towards any divergent opinions. I have seen it many times in my years. I’ve seen it shut down some really good artists and critics. Look, most of us are not doing our jobs in the studio anyway. We just want to make a living, get all bougie, go along to get along. We don’t even consider the larger cultural issues or what’s at stake for art and artists. We don’t see that the divergent opinion may actually HAVE a valid point to make no matter where it comes from. All I’m saying is that when the collectors can see that we’re slacking off, that our expectations for professional advancement overrides our passion for Art and real dissent, then things are way out of whack. So I say thanks Mr. Lindemann! We’ll get right on it.

However, Mr. Lindemann, you have to find something else to collect. It’s time to move ahead and be a bit bolder. I don’t know what you’re collecting these days, but going on about Koons and Prince doesn’t bode well for the future. You have the cash and the time to really make a difference and influence the direction of the art world. No one listens to artists or critics, but they will listen to you, because for other collectors, other people that have real influence in the real world, you have “skin in the game.” Most of those folks don’t see that we, the artists, have our actual lives in this mix, that we work very hard and have to live very hard. Quite frankly, why should they? We chose this. But they do see that you (someone they know and have to dinner) really loves Art and that it can have real meaning in one’s life. Why not stretch a bit, collect outside the institutions, the known quantities? What could it hurt? I’ll tell you the truth, it would be VERY cheap in comparison to Gagosian’s. You might make it an underground thing, something daring that gets the pulse racing, something like the Steins in the early Modernist years, something REAL at a time when the unreal and the hyper-real blanket all of our lives. And who knows, one or two of the artists you find may go on to do great things. I don’t know you, that’s for sure, and you may be doing something like this right now. If so, I give you massive props, and I’d love to hear about it. But if you aren’t doing this, then it’s time to step up!

The other great read that I came across was by Charlie Finch – “Why Art Is Like Sports.” Charlie unleashes on the elite collectors of which Adam Lindemann is one. And he explains the system and how it works in such a way that one can not argue with his conclusions. I especially liked this coming on the heals of Art Fair Week…

“But without the support of the suckers in the public who remain the engine of the spectacle, the whole upper tier quickly collapses, so the public essentially settles for a watered down product to fulfill its nebulous fantasies at higher and higher prices.”

Charlie is at his best when he takes it to artists in this way. He understands that money corrupts, it leads, it shapes the way we look at the world, especially for the ambitious professional. Charlie’s prodding us, making us itch, trying to get us to do our fucking jobs and think! I would C&P another quote but the whole thing is great. Just go and read it if you haven’t already.

For me what this adds up to is consensus. When artists arrive fully blown parroting the party line why do we fall in with it? Why are we not looking for the divergent idea? Why do we continually settle for what we know rather than look for something we don’t? I’m not talking about social/political provocation. I’m talking about another way of approaching what we do, another way of seeing and making art. And I think being brave enough to struggle with the unknown, find original solutions to age old problems, is what these two articles are demanding of us.

Art Fair Strut

This Saturday March 10 the Invisible Dog will be having an open studio/group show. Friend of Henri Giles Lyon will be a part of the experience, and we highly recommend that you catch the G train to Bergen and have a look see! Giles combines Color Field, AbEx and a really beautiful style of drawing to create amazing, trippy abstractions. I’ll have more to say about Giles’ work in the near future, but for now you can check out his website here.

If you haven’t had a chance to see Paul Corio’s show of abstract paintings make sure to stop by Pratt Institute’s Grad CommD Gallery on the 7th Floor 144 West 14th Street. Color everywhere!

Friend of Henri Mark Wiener will be part of the Highline Open Studios this weekend @ 551 West 21st Street. He’s also got work in Scope Art Fair at the Dorian Grey Gallery!

Painter and Impresario Jackie Saccoccio has recent work featured at Eleven Rivington’s booth in the Armory Show.

There’s so much Art in town at the moment that you CAN NOT begin to believe the diversity and ubiquity of it all! It makes one realize (yet again) that Art is no longer just a passion but an economy, a very huge economy. I hope all you artists make money and connections this weekend – Good Luck and Enjoy yourselves!