World Upside Down

The last few weeks have been OUT OF CONTROL. Henri has been scrunched, bunched, stretched and wrung out. We keep finding bits and pieces of the older articles and we’ll repost shortly. In my own studio I’ve had to deal with some unforseen headaches, problems and logistics that have taken a lot of time, energy and worry. This has all happened as my day job has become unmanagably busy in the face of the economic problems that are taking root. I’m very worried for many of my friends whose livelihood depends on a thriving art market. And even though I’ve hated the corporatization and institutionalization of the art world I’ve been very proud of my friends who’ve tried to take advantage of the good times – and some have done very well. The problem is that when you follow the herd usually you wind up going over the cliff with all the rest.

We’ve all been reading about the Frieze Art Fair, and the diminished expectations and sales. I won’t link because you all have already been to the various sites to read I’m sure. What has become apparent is that the market for new art has gotten very slim and stiff in the past few months. There have been a lot of warnings coming down the pipe, and we here at Henri have encouraged you all to save your money and hedge your bets. Artists who have been a part of this recent surge will have an extremely hard future. After the fallout of the late 80s nearly all the art that was popular and the artists that made that art simply fell off the planet, and if they were lucky, got tenure – which is part of the reason the art world looks as it does today. In the movie “The Big Picture,” Nick’s agent tells him that he won’t be able to find any work after his producer gets fired and his deal is scrapped – “they (the studios) just want to distance themselves from the stench….” Survival in the arts is the name of the game. Let’s face it – if Koons hadn’t planted that puppy in Germany back in ’92 – he’d be trading bonds.

Nevertheless, not only are we having an economic shake out, we are having an aesthetic one as well. The shows I’ve seen are disappointing at best. “Disappointment” is the main thing I’ve been hearing from the artists I know – regardless of how much everyone seems to want to like Elizabeth Peyton’s work. The problem for me is that I believe artistic ambition is in a wierd place at the moment. Those that have it seem to play at being institutional drones reworking Pop Surrealism for the umpteenth time, or they continue to repeat the endless list of outworn aesthetic ideas from the last 40 years. So what catches us, stabilizes us in this floating world is charm. Peyton’s work is packed with it. It’s like looking at the sketchbook of a 14 year old girl who has crushes on all the heart throbs of the day. It doesn’t have to be great, or moving, or wonderful, it just has to be filled with sincerity. In a world of blowhards and bombast – charm and sincerity always work.

I’m having a hard time collecting my thoughts about High and Low for the upcoming post on Popular Culture. I’m discovering that making distinctions between high or low is extremely difficult, mainly because so many artists are aiming for the middle, in fact, it’s nearly all middle. It goes across the whole spectrum of our culutre. Sarah Palin’s appearance on SNL is a prime example – politics and showbiz fused in a way it never has before – especially during the “rap number.” The familiar televisual mechanisms of fame morphed into a new form of navy blue noteriety right before my eyes. She became a pure programmable avatar of a politician. It was apparent that anyone could inhabit this illusion in order to enter any program – SNL, CNN, The White House, Housewives of Beverly Hills – any program whatsoever – it was like a character from the Simms came to TV life. The stunning part was that there was nothing apparent but pure surface, like looking at Koons’ dog or Kapoor’s shiny doughnut. The form it took didn’t matter at all – only the shine. What was reflected was our own imbecility. One thing is clear – these are extremely difficult times for real ideas, because it means that one must confront the omnipresent Postmodern electronic world in a real way, a physical way with a messy uneveness. One can not be in the middle and expect to understand the edges – because the action is always on the edges.

Stay tuned…

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