Willful Optimism

Right now there are a number of art publicists trying to cheerlead the art world out of the current market collapse. Jerry Saltz is the number one cheerleader asking us why we aren’t enjoying ourselves while he’s having so much fun.

“All of this is to say that the demise of the art world has been greatly exaggerated, including by me. It’s as if a bunch of spotlights went out when the market crashed last October, and now, as they flicker back on, we’re able to see new green shoots busting out of the establishment’s cracks. The plug was pulled, but life went on—invigorating life. There might not be a new movement, per se, but there are radically adjusted mind-sets. Fear of form, color, and physicality are diminishing. Previously forbidden methodologies are reemerging: pours, patterns, laminations, complex (even mystical) counting systems, obsessive mark-making and surface manipulation, suggestions of still life, digital motifs, even trompe l’oeil. Artists are—hallelujah!—finally tiring of recycling Warhol and Richter and are instead investigating the handmade, and how irony and sincerity can coexist.”

The problem remains with Jerry’s list of methodologies because these turn out to be nothing but a run down of academic Postmodern studio practices. These are the kinds of things that formed his critique and his aesthetic in the first place. Yes, WE ARE TIRED of Warhol and Richter. Some of us are also tired of Nauman, the 70s, the 80s, Jeff Koons, network television, anything with an “i” in front of it, hipster vampires and legions of other alt-culture, post punk experiences. It’s like we have to remember to forget, or maybe, forget to remember in order to play along. Crickey, most of us barely remember the Bush presidency – let alone the 1990s (sadly this is not because of sex, drugs and rock & roll, but because our brains disconnected in front of our flatscreens) Our Posthistorical memory synapses overload if taxed to produce a real memory of anything that happened even 5 years ago. And  you can forget all about Dave Hickey’s recent invocation of Rauschenberg’s 40 year rule.  Oops, we probably already did… As for the coexistence of irony and sincerity – I saw a guy at the gym the other day bench pressing 250 pounds while wearing a Care Bears t-shirt. Dropping a puddle in the middle of unprimed Belgian linen can hardly compete.

(What is interesting in the above quote is this sentence – “Fear of form, color, and physicality are diminishing.” And we here at Henri have been leading this charge for a while now. We have no fear of form, we definitely use color and we are mad for physicality. Check our recent Rough Trade posts if you’re so inclined.)

Also there has been a heated discussion by the pundits (oh irony – this bit too is punditry!) of the New Museum’s upcoming collaboration with the mega-collector Dakis Joannou. Jeff Koons will curate the exhibition for his benefactor and collector. Many of us are still amazed that the New Museum has now openly declared that it is open for business in such a bald faced way. But really, what did we expect? That new building and expansive staff required a lot of mortgage backed securities and private investment funds. Someone’s got to get paid and admissions and memberships can’t raise anywhere near that sort of TARP fund capital.  Just go to the source and drink deep the cool clear waters of  the HCP – Huge Capital Patronage. And if the museum has to whip up a bit of froth for its venti lotta money – who cares? It’s a win-win for institutional corporate art. Just remember to wear your ironic t-shirt.

Finally, I wanted to comment that I’ve come across a lot of dissatisfaction on the web and in print with the current Postmodern world. I believe this is a fantastic development for advancing beyond the academic universe we find ourselves in, but I must say that we have to guard against the reactionary. What we need are new ideas. Now these new ideas may have the flavor of older ones, but they MUST be formed for this new time. They must also UNDERSTAND  the recent history that developed our current situation. And dare I say it – they must break with Modernism altogether – both the original versions and the post ones as well. Nay-saying  and positing worn out thought or dustbin concepts won’t bring us anywhere. We can not just customize or re-do – we must innovate. The 40 year rule is not enough – we’ve been redoing the last 40 years for the last 30 of them.  We’ve just made them bigger and more expensive. That’s not innovation, that’s commerce. Art must become Art once again – even if it’s for an extremely small number of very sharp individuals willing to risk their “careers.”  The rest will have to catch up.

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