The other day I was having a conversation about the state of the art world. The person I was talking with suggested I should be a little less impassioned about the state of things – “Mark, you need to relax.” The problem is whenever someone tells me to relax, I know they aren’t concerned about my rising blood pressure – they just want me to shut up and take it. OK, art is just art, but it does have some meaning in my life. Art can and does become less of a concern when faced with “reality,” and unfortunately, relaxing is just not an option at the moment. Suddenly the “reality” of life, not art, has made itself known, and I’ve had to find ways of dealing with it – as we all must!
This week the Fairs have come to town, the NuMu has begun the “press” placement for Koons’ curating in the NY Times, and the WhitBi has opened. I’ve decided NOT to participate this year – not that I’ll be missed. Somehow running business as usual while business is anything but usual makes my head spin a bit. No, I’m not trying to be a kill joy for the thousands who will participate. I’m especially not being a crank. I’m just trying to remain consistent. Back in the early 50s American artists actually struck against Museum policies that they felt were arbitrary and unfair to aesthetic advancement. The ABEX artists became famous for the picture of the “Club” members. We’ve all seen that picture. In the 80s there was even a media-friendly POMO reenactment by the EV artists – which you may have seen as well (Christ, even a New New Irascibles in 2000 and a “Next Irascibles” in 2009). But unlike these recent media driven appropriations, the “reason” behind the original group photo was that these artists felt they were being excluded from participating in the larger issues of culture and they were determined to do SOMETHING about it. They were putting a face to the ferment.
“As detailed in the article, the open letter to Roland L. Redmond, the president of the Metropolitan protested that the jurors selected for the December exhibition were “notoriously hostile to advanced art” and the choice of jurors “does not warrant any hope that a just proportion of advanced art will be included.” The letter proclaimed “The undersigned artists reject the monster national exhibition to be held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art next December, and will not submit work to its jury,” adding “We draw to the attention of those gentlemen the historical fact that, for roughly a hundred years, only advanced art has made any consequential contribution to civilization.” The group also picketed the museum.”
Picketed the Museum! Wowser! I haven’t seen many artists picketing the art fairs of late – have you? As for the concept of advanced art – well, who can say – there really isn’t much of an avant garde – just blue chippers or emergers. Aesthetic issues, theoretical issues really don’t play into the discussion. Right now in NYC there is the #class exploration going on and I’m sure there are many interesting ideas on tap. It seems to be a real attempt at discussing economic and political issues in the art world in some informed fashion. But when I read things like – “an open table discussion about how artists’ identities and backgrounds influence the perception, reception and display of their work. How do factors like perceived race, gender, age, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation affect our experience of the art world?” I fear that we are once again not dealing with the nagging and underlying issues of aesthetics, theoretics and vision. Once again the focus seems to be more on acceptance than on change. Politics/economics is all well and good, but real change goes deeper – real change, especially for artists, starts with vision!
So I will leave you all with this from Dave Hickey from his Revision 4:
“If you look at artworks as I do, against a field of all the artworks you’ve ever seen, this intricate flutter of precedents makes for a bigger and more memorable experience. Lately, I’ve been missing that resonant thickness. Contemporary art, having lost its utopian future, now seems to be losing its usable past. The fashionable opacity of too much new art seems comfortably ensconced at the level of enigmatic decor. The ruthless difficulty to which artists once aspire is now held in abeyance because they dare not be snobs anymore. The art world has lowered its entrance requirements and raised its cover charge so radically that a couple of million bucks and casual acquaintance with Spiderman now gain one entree into the most refined salon. As a result, the contemporary artist’s field of play, once defined by the collective knowledge and experience of cognoscenti, has gone to seed.”
Art should be more than a job, about earning a living, relaxing. What Dave is talking about is something worth protesting about – Vision.