Week In Weak Out

There are times in the studio when nothing, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, goes well. Colors turn to mud, compositions fall to pieces and one’s focus gets scattered to the four winds. As one’s brush lies limp in one’s hand (ok punks – pun intended) the unsteady failures of nerve begin to unfold like a slow motion avalanche from an extreme sports video. These moments of accordian metaphysics are always followed by a spectacular and inevitable blow out. What looked great in the drawing looks like crap on the canvas. What seemed possible in the moment of inspiration has become impossible in the realities of the studio. One might look to the masters for some small comfort or insight, for a way through, but that doesn’t always pan out. Caravaggio choked and scraped his first pass at St. Matthew. Michelangelo chipped off his first ceiling attempts. Matisse used to have his lover wipe down his overworked canvases at the end of the day. Picasso would paint right over a nasty unyielding fucker clotting the old paint with new ideas until he worked it out. Sometimes the painting gets turned to the wall like a petulent child on a time out which can last for weeks, months or years. Before one knows it one’s studio starts to resemble a parking lot at the local 7-11 – half assed paintings hanging out to all hours doing nothing and going nowhere. Life’s a bitch…

In the meantime many of my artist friends are still struggling to make ends meet. The so-called recovery refuses to create work for those that want it. Galleries also refuse to open up to new work and new ideas – they just retread the expected, the sellable. This is gumming up the works, making change nearly impossible. In the larger world the stock markets are choking on the continuing news that nothing has changed in the economy since the crash in 2008. Gas prices remain at elevated levels because of uncertain supply concerns AND the gaming being done in the commodities markets by financial institutions and hedge funds. Americans’ house prices are still falling with one quarter of homeowners underwater owing more for their houses than they are actually worth. And again this is a reminder that many of these underwater mortgages were the same ones packaged into the derivatives that caused the 2008 economic pancake. The news goes far deeper in the red as well with many of the EU countries tottering along, the end of QE2 here in the US, and trillions in derivatives still sitting like nuclear waste ignored and hidden off the books of our Too Big Too Fail financial institutions. IS there any doubt as to why the entire art world continues its same old ways? It’s just following the money. The economic dominos are stacked up once again – waiting for change…

These are the passing news reports coming into the studio confirming both my desolate mood, my fears and my simmering anger. There simply isn’t enough for everyone no matter what people tell you. In our world the Postmoderns continue to work without challenge, with impunity. They serve us taco soup while selling inflated work at inflated prices to inflated collectors. After all the controversy at the New Museum – what was that…a year ago? – Why are you artists still going there? Why would you support an artist that was featured in their shows? Why would you uphold the aesthetic of institutional power that serves you taco soup? Now I’m sure the soup was tasty, I’m sure you had a fun time at the gallery with your friends, and I know the artist is a nice person, but aren’t there OTHER ISSUES about art that you should be concerning yourselves with? AS a painter I have other concerns, I want other kinds of painting, I want different visual ideas, different discussions about what Art and Painting can be.

I walked through the Chelsea galleries the other day and found myself looking at more of the same – some of it professionally done, most of it predictably similar, but none of it offering a change. None of the work I saw had any of the visual generosity or grandiosity of the masters – lush, emotive, engaging and thoughtful. It was just professional. Later I was having a discussion with a friend when I blurted out the thought that maybe something that’s considered unique is not necessarily the same thing as something that’s truly different. Now at first this seemed a bit strange to me, and I have to say, it confused my friend to no end. It felt like I might be trying to be clever, going on a rhetorical rant – in other words engaging in douche baggery. But as I explained, “unique” usually means that something is “one of a kind”, meaning that the “unique” may very well be the exemplary thing that arises out of many similar things – ie. “One of a KIND”. To be different means (as they used to explain on sesame street) the thing is not like the others. It may not be exemplary in the sense of the unique, it may not be “One of a Kind”, but it will be dissimilar, unfamiliar maybe. And for the moment I want to see and experience what isn’t if that makes any sense to any of you.

And even now with all of this “Uniqueness” swamping the art world the Whitney begins to build yet another institutional douche fest down by the High Line. There is a piece by Charlie Finch on the Whit’s plans with some photoshop visions of what it might look like. The proposed view of the interior gallery is nothing but a huge open rectangle of a room with art running down the length of the walls. Once again the star-chitects give us excessive amounts of wasted square footage without providing any real viewing wall space. This speaks well for objects and installations but what about painting? Shouldn’t painting, especially great painting (the Whitney does have a few), be something more than wall paper? This kind of interior space is all about having open footage for people to move about at parties and gatherings rather than the development of intimate spaces to actually SEE art, especially painting. Destination museums are about place and power, not about Art. What’s being built is yet another corporate gathering place designed for the interests of the board donors. Look, I understand that the art world has always depended on the kindness of strangers, but the strangers are now running the whole shebang. Do we really need another corporate country club disguised as a museum? The building will be unique, the artists will be unique and the experience will be unique, and it’s all guaranteed to be “one of a KIND” experience for one and all. It just won’t be different.

Week in Weak out and another week done. We’ll have more on Romanticism soon.

5 thoughts on “Week In Weak Out

  1. No. I was going for the element of time in the first instance and the reaction to the passing of that time in the second instance. Ahh well, so much for being clever…

  2. Reading should be like shaving – close, sharp and smooth! As for posting comments there are no preferences. All are welcome!

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