Useless shower of gits…

Last night a few friends and I hung out and talked about painting, subject matter, objects, the art world, finance, beauty, the ephemeral lives of friends and artists, a couple of shows in Chelsea, Bruno Latour, the inconsequence of painting in our contemporary world, nostalgic revery, the unending money torrents flowing through the art world, the coming boondoggle awaiting the insurance industry, what we will be doing over the holiday, the two Marcels of the European avant garde, the bitter failure of Occupy Wall Street and Suzanne Pleshette – among other things. That’s right, we were ruling the world over beer and hamburgers. Needless to say, nothing got solved, but we had a bit of silly fun.

How ineffective, how insubstantial, how absolutely ridiculous we painters all seem. The recent debate over Wade Guyton’s professionally made banal abstractions puts it all into perspective, really. These are handsome paintings, but not at all visually exciting or ground breaking. The controversy that followed the show was over the fact that he had used a printer and a program to make the work. Seriously, this tempest in a teapot reminds me of the same retro-tinged arguments about Joe Bradley’s paintings a few years ago. Do we really have so little forethought and so little understanding of our own recent history that this kind of argument is still being waged? What a freakin’ shame! Guyton’s show is an app, a retro tinged, thickly Postmodern romp through the past. It is tasteful to the extreme, effective like a pair of Converse sneakers, a successful re-boot like the new Star Trek movies or the recent Batman series. Highly familiar, pleasing to look at, easily digested and immanently sellable.

All around us the world is collapsing further and further into abstraction. Human flesh, once the focus of commodity culture, is now superfluous to that culture and that program. And by “program” I mean our way of existence; economic, political and artistic. We live, more and more, in a closed system, ever advancing abstractions of abstractions. Most of us are merely statistics within that program, future liabilities that must be minimized, programs that no longer upgrade to work within the system itself. The “real” world, the hyper-real world, exists without us. Every part of culture is untethering itself from actual things, from beings, from flesh. Soon this will become really apparent in the US when Obamacare kicks in during 2014. The good thing, the thing we all focused on, is the fact that human beings, our citizens will for the first time in our history have access to health care. The thing we overlooked is the fact that we privatized the thing from the start in order to make it palatable to “business” and the power business wields in our everyday existences. In other words, the Insurance Industry will become an economic power like we have never seen in this country, both with money and access. Immediately billions of dollars will begin pumping into the balance sheets of the Insurance Companies. They will wield immense power over a number of other industries that support health care infrastructures. Quite soon after they will beef up their already sizable lobbying presence in Washington, and begin to really change the laws in their favor. Among the first things they’ll do is attack the antitrust laws and regulations to make it possible for them to merge with other Financial Institutions. Soon we’ll realize that not only will these Corporations have access to our pocketbooks, but also deep information on our most intimate existences. Your credit rating, your ability to obtain services, your employment among a lot of other things will all be micro managed by a health/investment program. Eventually, this will create a caste system in this country of which only the Corporate classes could have dreamed as they drowned the government in the bathtub. The devil is always in the details…

Ok, my dystopian rant is done for now, but what painters that we see in the galleries, fairs or museums are discussing things like this in their work? What painters are willing to advance the implications of abstractions of abstractions? The truth is you won’t see it. Maybe we don’t have the visual language yet, or maybe it’s there and we don’t “speak” it yet. In either case printing out retro-abstract paintings will not address these issues, nor will it illuminate our lives for future generations. Abstraction appeared just as the world fell into war, classes struggled to get more money and power, and our societies began to dematerialize into the electric. It is that point in our history that we need to revisit and learn, to be able to rethink the questions that face us now, and to make and create other alternative ideas about the path of Modernism and our future as painters in the 21st Century. Postmodern thought and practice doesn’t address the now, it revives and lives in the past. Our current arguments about painting, living and existence should pose different questions in order to understand that what’s on offer is not there for our benefit. It is unconscionable that we remain comfortable with being a Useless Shower of ¬†Gits.

We’ll have more to say soon…