Contrarian and Heretical

RICHARD PHILLIPS: I’ll use multiple techniques within single paintings, because the paintings can be quite different, even in the course of a single show. The imagery can be quite diverse.  I would say it is a combination of pretty standard Venetian painting techniques.
BECKER: In what sense is it Venetian? You mean your use of grisaille? 
PHILLIPS: It’s Venetian in the sense that I use a restrained palette, working fat over lean. I only embellish the monochromatic under structure or grisaille layer toward the end of the painting. Brighter colors, and especially flesh tones, allow for that sense of realism to come from the feeling of the material itself, and not from the imitative quality of photorealism. I’ve been called a photo realist and a super realist but I don’t use those techniques at all. It’s just that the end result tends to visually refer to those methods, but they’re structurally built up like architecture of color and form and not really about the imitation of photographic effects. [Richard Phillips in conversation with Noah Becker]

“I’m interested in visual vocabulary, like Warhol was interested in that vocabulary of advertisements and television and pop culture. I do a great deal of tropes. This past decade has seen a new term, “meme,” which is exactly what I’m studying. In one picture or a few words, something can reference cultural stuff but at the same time exactly hit the button with a small cultural reference that is exactly what you wanted to say or understand. It’s a stepping point to continue the conversation. Why are there buttons that are so easy to push?” [Damian Loeb in conversation with Rachel Small]

Photographic realism was something no one really expected. Photorealist painting in the 60s was all about the process of making “real” – an exploration of the banal – images without narrative. But in the 90s things began to change. Painters began to learn from artists like Gerhard Richter, Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman who were using photographic images to examine the structures of narrative – particularly those kinds of images related to Hollywood, advertising and media sources. We hadn’t seen or experienced these kinds of pictures in paint, not for a very long time.

So much in these images remind me of movies. The camera pulls in to the subject – it moves in close to create a more tactile kind vision – the kind of vision that’s physically engaged. These images use cinema’s noir past and a light not unknown to Baroque painting.But instead of telling religious stories they move into our contemporary world, and we are lead to narrative structures through the richness of painted detail.

“OC: I find hyperrealist painting involves a critical dilemma: imagery is either read literally as formal content or viewed allegorically as a symbolic free-for-all. Where do you locate your work in this spectrum between empirical stock and interpretive association?
WC: There’s a lot of painting that would fit into that category (hyperrealist) for which the similarity to photography seems to be the whole point. In other words the way in which the painting is executed is more important than whatever imagery might be depicted. I see painting as story telling so for me the content is of primary importance and is served by the manner of execution. Over the last ten years I’ve moved more and more toward a very exact rendering of surface because the subject matter is better explained through that type of description. If for example I’m painting a landscape of glazed doughnuts that doesn’t look absolutely shiny, sticky, sweet, translucent, and vast, I haven’t told the story as completely as I could have. Of course once a painting leaves the studio it’s fair game for anyone to interpret as they will.” [Will Cotton in conversation with Otino Corsano]

Not only does Photoshop create an unreal yet apparently believable standard of beauty, it has ratcheted up the tension between artifice and nature to the extent that people are driven to reconstruct their own physical appearance to match its altered depictions by any means necessary, including liposuction, breast and butt implants, silicone-injected lips, and all manner of “cosmetic” surgical intervention, not to mention tyrannical fitness regimes, extreme diets, and regular depilation. We are now Photoshopping ourselves.
But where fashion photographers use Photoshop as an instrument for idealization, Minter uses it as a compositional tool, and her notion of beauty is contrarian and heretical. The exhibition’s title, “Pretty/Dirty,” is the only clue we need. Instead of cleaning up her women as fashion magazines do, or constructing a supermodel force field of unapproachability, Minter makes dirty pictures that invite joyous, rollicking intimacy. She embraces flaws and emphasizes them, glorying in indiscretions and the rushed chaos born of excitement. She finds earthy allure in the stubble of a shaved armpit, or a pimple among the freckles that have otherwise been banished from the canon of beauty. She revels in sidewalk grime soiling perfectly pedicured toes. Glitter, sweat, and smeared cosmetics conjure up honky-tonk women and Mardi Gras queens. In Minter’s tableaux, we are confronted with the history of sexuality, particularly American sexuality and its spectacular contradictions. Here are the ghosts of the stripteases and peep shows that haunt our imagination. Here is the troubling reality that some like it hot and some like it dirty. [Glenn O’Brien on Marilyn Minter]

… trifling, of no importance.

Michael Zahn sent along some thoughts, images of wonderful new work, and Susan Sontag’s article on the Aesthetics of Silence. A quick chat and a deep read later and feeling more human. SO in the hopes that you’re all well and at ease in your quarantine – here’s a quote from the article, and it’s recommended you go and read Susan’s thoughts a bit longer, a bit slower, and with a bit of circumspection – link here or below.

Rimbaud has gone to Abyssinia to make his fortune in the slave trade. Wittgenstein, after a period as a village school-teacher, has chosen menial work as a hospital orderly. Duchamp has turned to chess. Accompanying these exemplary renunciations of a vocation, each man has declared that he regards his previous achievements in poetry, philosophy, or art as trifling, of no importance

But the choice of permanent silence doesn’t negate their work. On the contrary, it imparts retroactively an added power and authority to what was broken off — disavowal of the work becoming a new source of its validity, a certificate of unchallengeable seriousness. That seriousness consists in not regarding art (or philosophy practiced as an art form: Wittgenstein) as something whose seriousness lasts forever, an “end,” a permanent vehicle for spiritual ambition. The truly serious attitude is one that regards art as a “means” to something that can perhaps be achieved only by abandoning art; judged more impatiently, art is a false way or (the word of the Dada artist Jacques Vaché) a stupidity. 

Though no longer a confession, art is more than ever a deliverance, an exercise in asceticism. Through it, the artist becomes purified — of himself and, eventually, of his art. The artist (if not art itself) is still engaged in a progress toward “the good.” But whereas formerly the artist’s good was mastery of and fulfillment in his art, now the highest good for the artist is to reach the point where those goals of excellence become insignificant to him, emotionally and ethically, and he is more satisfied by being silent than by finding a voice in art. Silence in this sense, as termination, proposes a mood of ultimacy antithetical to the mood informing the self-conscious artist’s traditional serious use of silence (beautifully described by Valéry and Rilke): as a zone of meditation, preparation for spiritual ripening, an ordeal that ends in gaining the right to speak. [Susan Sontag The Aesthetics of Silence]


Perhaps you’re underestimating the positive effect that your career transition can have on your children.
The positive effect? I make about 90 grand a year now. Unemployment is what – 250 bucks a week? Is that one of your positive effects? We’ll get to be cosier cause I’m not gonna be able to pay my mortgage on my house. So maybe we can move into a nice fucking one-bedroom apartment somewhere. And I guess without benefits, I’ll be able to hold my daughter as she, you know, suffers from her asthma that I won’t be able to afford the medication for.
Well… tests have shown that children under moderate trauma have a tendency to apply themselves academically… as a method of coping.
Go Fuck Yourself. [Up in the Air]

More than 80% of the benefits of a tax change tucked into the coronavirus relief package Congress passed last month will go to those who earn more than $1 million annually, according to a report by a nonpartisan congressional body expected to be released Tuesday.
The provision, inserted into the legislation by Senate Republicans, temporarily suspends a limitation on how much owners of businesses formed as “pass-through” entities can deduct against their nonbusiness income, such as capital gains, to reduce their tax liability. The limitation was created as part of the 2017 Republican tax law to offset other tax cuts to firms in that legislation….
The analysis included the impact of another tax change in the coronavirus relief legislation that allows firms to write off 100% rather than 80% of their losses, reversing another change in the 2017 tax law…
It also included more than $500 billion in tax cuts, including a payroll tax holiday for employers and tax incentives for employers who keep workers on the payroll. Republicans used the must-pass legislation to make tax code changes they had sought for years, including returning to policies from the 2017 tax law. All Senate Democrats also voted for the legislation.” [Jeff Stein Washington Post]

How have you been spending your time in self-isolation?
It depends how much you count the time you spend sulking. Let me put it this way: when they compile a list of the heroes of this era, I will not be on it. Mostly I’ve been reading. Also, taking phone calls from people who for the last ten years have told me they hate to talk on the phone. And I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to think about this, because it is a very startling thing to be my age—I’m sixty-nine—and to have something happen that doesn’t remind you of anything else…
How do you see New York City being transformed on the other side of this? You mentioned restaurants, but there’s also the arts: galleries, theatre companies.
It depends what you mean. These big New York art galleries, they’re so rich. I’m not worried that they’re going to close, and, if they did, so what? There will be art galleries. There aren’t very many small ones anymore, and that was caused by contagious unfettered capitalism, not a virus.
New York City is pretty much unrecognizable from when I was young. I don’t expect it to be more unrecognizable at the end of this. It’ll be different… [Fran Leibowitz in conversation with Michael Schulman]

During the record-stretch of low unemployment and solid economic growth before the coronavirus spread, it was easy to look past the savings shortage. But after at least 17 million people lost their jobs in recent weeks, many of those without much financial cushion will struggle to make ends meet, even with the expanded unemployment benefits and other forms of government assistance included in the $2 trillion legislative package enacted last month.
Many are lining up at food pantries. And many will fall behind in their rent, loan payments and other bills, amplifying the economic damage. [David Harrison on our economic contingencies]

Town’s in Tatters

“10 West Nile Virus I wish people would stay indoors all winter, too.” [Glenn O’Brien’s Top 10 List December 2000]

In Jerry’s requiem for the Neo-Liberal Art World he lets us know – “…while my memories of the 1970s make me sure artists will survive, even thrive, under any circumstances, there is one big thing about the world in which they operate that does worry me. Over the last decade or so, the art world in peril has seemed to lose the ability to adapt. Or, rather, it now seems able to adapt only in one way, no matter the circumstances: by growing larger and busier. Expansion and more were the answers to everything.” [Jerry Saltz The Last Days of the Art World]

But I think Jerry’s tribute to Glenn O’Brien may have as much if not more meaning for us at this moment. In that piece Jerry touched on something ineffable and overlooked about New York’s “High Times Hard Times” of the 70s. “As I watched all this at Campbell, a melancholy thought took hold of me. I’m not even sure what it means — only that it’s been going through my head ever since. I thought, “This is the avant-garde that lost.” Before you get all angry with me, let me say, yes, I understand that the avant-garde flame has seemed to go out at least once in every generation since the term was first used to describe artistic radicals in the 19th century; and that especially since the end of punk, there has been a sort of endless drumbeat of complaining that radical culture is no longer possible (given, you know, late global capitalism). But for a couple of hundred years, fire-eating generation after fire-eating generation of vanguard, underground, combative artistic movements arrived on the outskirts of contemporary culture and made their mark before dissipating; the generations I saw gathered at Glenn O’Brien’s memorial arrived, made their mark perhaps closest to the center of that contemporary culture, and yet no clear successors followed them.” [Jerry on Glenn 2017]

In the West Village across the way from the AIDs Memorial is the Lenox Hill Health Emergency Room. And on that street between that small memorial park and the medical facility is a refrigerated semi truck trailer. The sound of that running refrigerator motor has been unforgettable. Jerry wants to offer us hope for some future that’s unknown and unseen by us. He’s seen hard times, sad times in the past. He’s saying that we should embrace the moment and find our way through. And for most of us, well, we are more than willing to believe that change is now inevitable. But in order to make that change it’s important that we understand and recognize that not everyone survives. And no matter how smart or strong or capable or clever someone might be – not everyone is lucky. The motor keeps running.

The Village has seen its share of triumph and tragedy over the last 30 years. Sadly, this place is no longer what it was – filled as it is with the extremely wealthy and the false antiseptic world that global wealth creates. Today it’s been remade as a museum – you have to look hard to find bits and pieces of its more louche and generous artistic past. The social and cultural history of New York is buried here – many of our great writers, playwrights, musicians, poets and artists spent time walking these streets, living the la vie bohème and making art that changed the culture.
But it’s difficult to think clearly these days. The time allowed outside to do the Tiergarten walk during quarantine is short and purposeful. There are only furtive trips to the grocers, masked and gloved walks through the neighborhood to stretch computer legs, watching the light move through my small studio, and unconnected thoughts about the past and the future. And the biggest questions that come up again and again are which past, which history do we use as a foundation for Jerry’s promised “future” – which history can we build on? How far and how deep dare we go? What will it cost? What has it cost?

Big obvious question: the Walt Whitman poem is a beautiful one with many possible readings, what made you choose it? 
‘Song’ has love, and lovely words overflowing, and represents ardent unashamed people abounding, people of all sorts, and that is how and what the memorial must be. My friend, the poet Henri Cole, made the welcome suggestion of ‘Song of Myself’. Another friend, Nick Morgan, and I cut the poem slightly to fit the site, the times and the purpose. 
Finally, can you share one personal memory from the time? 
Various friends, associates, and I waited to learn if we would die. Some died, and the rest of us were changed and do not forget. [Jenny Holzer in Conversation Mat Smith about the AIDs Memorial ]

“Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.” [Walt]

Body II

In 1993 it was bleak in NYC. I mean economically dark. Galleries were closing. Careers had dried up, artists, good ones, were leaving the city. And painting was the last thing that anyone wanted to look at – particularly abstract painting. That year the Whitney presented a different kind of art – art that didn’t look like or act like the art that had been presented over the last 15 years. It was art about worldly issues – angry art – overlooked art – and art about life – the hard parts of life that are ignored when working in rigorous color combinations, second generation conceptual abstraction and expressionistic narcissism. And it broadened our ideas of what art might do.
Sue Williams’ work was hard, real and personal in ways that art hadn’t been during the money hunger 80s. She wasn’t interested in presenting the meaning of a brush stroke or the pentimenti of a worked surface. It was confession and complicity that interested Ms. WIlliams. These paintings spoke harshly and bluntly about difficult and consequential problems. Her paintings looked like drawings torn from a diary. Her imagery elided the personal and the political. And they were a real thumb in the eye when encountered for the first time. These images made us bring our vision back to earth in a visceral way. This wasn’t expressionism – not in the way we had seen it. Rather these images were hard, harsh and truthful – something painting, particularly abstract painting, was not doing, and maybe had no business doing. And if that was the case – then we had to rethink the meaning of painting – what it should do and what it could do.

“Clinging relentlessly to the role of bearer of bad news, for example, she calls to mind Cady Noland, another diehard pessimist. Like Noland, Williams treats the spectrum of interactive behavior today as symptomatic of a broad-based conspiracy of violence. But where Noland places herself in a position of unquestionable moral superiority over her subjects, Williams charges her work with the guilt of long codependency. Williams’ work also picks up where the stream-of-consciousness blue-collar anarchy of Mike Kelley’s rambling, conspiratorial texts left off a few years ago. And she helps herself to generous dollops of the idea of collective victimization explored in Barbara Kruger’s all-purpose use of the term “we.” Unlike Kruger, however, whose work always suggests some sort of authorial distance, Williams never strays far from what she herself has tasted and touched; and compared to Kelley, she is relatively little interested in class rage. Rather, she is committed to subject matter that most artists reared in a male-dominated society still refuse to go near: the ritualistic need experienced by many of us, both male and female, to build ourselves up by tearing women down. Such violence is not ancillary or saved for special occasions, but is part of the social contract. This strikes Williams as so unspeakably sad she just can’t seem to stop laughing.” [Dan Cameron on Sue Williams]

Nancy Spero: All women carry this inherent knowledge, that we can be raped, that we are in danger. We’re both figurative artists and very personal, although my work comes from an entirely different impetus. I have wanted always to override the personal, to step into a more public arena. But it was also this reluctance to turn attention to myself.
Sue Williams: I didn’t want people to know my personal victim history. But this show was explicitly about violence. And I got such a reaction. I started talking to women. I was so surprised to find out how many people have had to deal with incest, have been molested or raped. I couldn’t believe it. People almost take it in stride. And that’s the way it is, it’s always been this way. This is a horrible thing that I went through. I had no awareness of my rights as a person, I did the classic thing. It’s so humiliating. People would ask me, “He beat the hell out of you and you went back to him?” I thought that this person loved me and that this was my home. I didn’t like it, but I was used to it.

“Sue Williams has taken doodling to remarkable places, the grimmest areas a mind and body can go, or rather the doodle has taken her and her audience there. Tidbits of her autobiography—that she was physically abused by slimes—are by now well-known. In her paintings trauma is viewed with both objectivity and a dark mirth. Part of their power, why they have worked, is in their presentation of a type of comedy no one had really seen before—what Americans are now afraid to call black humor—especially from a woman, and in what medium? Painting? The bluntest approach to picturemaking in a long time.
The particular settings of Williams’ aesthetic violence continue to be freefloaty surfaces: the canvas as bedroom/ notepad/brain, with no furniture. Figures masturbate and horse around in cruelty. Her new paintings—even without Williams’ familiar writing—still have the fresh informality of her older works. But if they seem to have gone mute, the images alone, in flat constellation, show and tell each other their sex parts: lots of leg, haunch, and butthole. The figures are displayed in precarious repose, in weird outfits, psycho tops, testicles drooping below the hemlines of faceless figures in ultragirly dresses. A horse’s narrow head atop a bloated body, a vagina resting high on the crotch with pubic hair like parentheses. I’d like to say they look like the distracted sketches of an evil fashion designer.” [Benjamin Wiessman on Sue Williams]

Body I

Another artist that’s been in my mind lately is Matthew Barney. When he came on the scene his work changed the game and expanded the conversation. Any thoughtful artist had to take this work as a real challenge. And this work was so strong that for a while it pushed painting off the walls. In the 1993 Biennial Matthew’s work exploded in the imaginations of our downtown culture. The AIDs crisis, the economy in the tank, stasis in the cultural scene, the New World Order, the end of the Cold War – this confluence of events was the launching pad for Matthew’s wild and byzantine work.

“In 1991, the body as a subject was a smoking battleground, not an arena for sport, as Barney was conceiving of it. (One of the first works on view in the exhibition is a drawing titled Stadium, in which the artist entwines architecture and innards, his field emblems dancing alongside a phallus.) The AIDS crisis and the subsequent homophobic backlash meant that the body was under attack, not only by the virus, but also by the self-appointed virtuous. The year before, the grant monies of the “NEA Four” had been vetoed, the artists’ works called out and cast aside for their unabashed sexuality. Politically and culturally — then as now — there were very clear lines drawn between the bodies that mattered and those that didn’t…
Barney’s body was shamelessly that of the winner, of the all-American male. He was exceptionally handsome and fit. He went to Yale, played football, and modeled to make ends meet. By all accounting, his was a body that mattered, so what could or should it articulate at this moment in time? For Barney, it seems the answer in part was to dive into the myths of masculinity, to pry open the male psyche (inherited as well as imposed), to rewrite its fantasies, to rewire and reimagine its systems, and to create his own worlds at the end of an empire. As artist/creator, Barney both lionized and broke down the male body, rescaling it, placing it in a constant, looping state of becoming and unbecoming itself.” [Jennifer Krasinski on Matthew Barney]

BLVR: The body—your body, specifically—is a huge part of your work. Have you ever thought about what happens when you get older and are perhaps unable to exert yourself as much as you do now and have in the past? Will you adapt the work? OK, hopefully this won’t be for a while. [Laughs]
MB: I think it’s probably not that far off. [Laughs] I feel like that’s already in the work, but it doesn’t tend to be expressed through the characters I play. Often the characters I play are connecting spaces through some sort of movement under resistance. I think the larger form often confesses to some sort of entropy, though that could just as easily be expressed by my own decay. [Laughs] This past summer, I performed a piece in San Francisco that I was more worried about than any of the other endurance actions. It’s called Drawing Restraint 14 and was a climb up and under the skywalk in SFMOMA, which is five floors high over the lobby floor, ending with a wall drawing under the oculus. I used a straightforward hand-over-hand technique; I trained on the sprinkler pipes here in the studio, but the pipes under the skywalk at the museum were significantly fatter. This required more hand strength, and made the climb much more difficult. So with this one, I felt the limits of my strength. It might be a pretty feeble-looking drawing. [Matthew Barney in conversation with Brandon Stosuy]

LUCAS: I’ve noticed, visiting your house, that you’re not very concerned with the trappings of the art world: having a nice house or a well-displayed art collection or any chi-chi stuff that people reward themselves with and pump themselves up with. Your parties, when you have them, tend to have the spirit of a bunch of cowboys ’round a campfire.
BARNEY: That’s funny. I’m always hoping that something will happen in a social situation; maybe the mosh pit days destroyed my ability to sit passively and enjoy something. I like that kind of community purging. When we have parties in the studio, there usually ends up being a physical event at the center of it. We made a huge slide out of all the plastic offcuts for a Christmas party one year. You were at the one more recently where we made a bucking bull from a miscast part of a sculpture, suspended from some rope. In a situation like that, it’s true that people tend to stand in a circle around the object. It’s maybe more of a ritual than a party, but it’s fun. The way you throw eggs at the wall at some of your exhibitions feels that way to me—that it might be a collective purging as much as it is an art-making decision. [Sarah Lucas in Conversation with Matthew Barney]

Been having an email conversation with the wonderful artist George Hofmann. My thinking of late has been bleak – don’t like how we’ve tied our social and political lives to the outcomes of our economy, nor do I care for the fact that governments have been passing edicts and laws that might never be taken back. We’ve turned over so many of our freedoms – in order to be “safe” – to men and women who may not have our best interests at heart. Been feeling like this may be the first real defining moment of the 21st Century, and it will create a new kind of societal / political existence. Basically, it’s complicated, and there’s no point in boring you – after all Siri and Alexa are listening… George has been fairly adamant that things may be tough, but we’ll get through this. And he sent these quotes from a conversation that we had online here on Henri regarding the future of painting.

The Irish poet Seamus Heaney said:
“Imaginative arts are practically useless, but they verify our singularity, they strike and stake out the core of self which lies at the base of every individuated life.”
In commenting on this, the linguist Helen Vendler wrote:
“Singularity and individuated life are those qualities indispensable (but not sufficient) for indentifiable style.  There have been singular and individuated selves who never created. But without a singular and individuated moral self there has never been a singular and individuated style. 
The creative self does not have to be virtuous in the ordinary sense of the word, but it does have to be extraordinarily virtuous in its aesthetic moves. It must refuse – against the claims of fatigue, charm, popularity, money and so on – the received idea, the imprecise, the tired rhythm, the replication of past effects, the uninvestigated passage.
It is this heroic virtue in the realm of aesthetic behavior that courses in the Arts exist to teach. Human testimony is not uninteresting in itself, but it does not convey the morality of the imaginative effort toward aesthetic embodiment. That morality is almost unimaginably exhausting.”  

Make It Rain

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like… tears in rain. Time to die.” [Blade Runner]

Image result for roy batty rain gif

Weighing economic costs against human lives will inevitably seem crass. But societies also value things like jobs, food and money to pay the bills — as well as the ability to deal with other needs and prevent unrelated misfortunes…
“Making people poorer has health consequences as well,” said Kip Viscusi, an economist at Vanderbilt University who has spent his career using economic techniques to assess the costs and benefits of government regulations.
Jobless people sometimes commit suicide. The poor are likelier to die if they get sick. Mr. Viscusi estimates that across the population, every loss of income of $100 million in the economy causes one additional death.
Government agencies calculate these trade-offs regularly. The Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, has established a cost of about $9.5 million per life saved as a benchmark for determining whether to clean up a toxic waste site.” [Eduardo Porter and Jim Tankersley on the Economic Cost of Saving Lives]

Walter Robinson Fifties 2016

“One of Trump’s proposals should not cost taxpayers a dime, but may be his most frightening ask: a federal guarantee for the $2.6 trillion money market fund industry. Treasury did this on its own during the 2008 financial crisis after one fund collapsed, and it instantly reassured panicked depositors who were pulling their cash out of other funds, as well as panicked companies that relied on the funds to buy “corporate paper” to finance their operations. But after the backlash against bailouts, Congress stripped Treasury’s power to do it again. So Trump would need a vote to do it this time.
It makes sense to reassure the markets that money market funds will be safe, although it does raise the question of whether the funds should pay the government for insurance if they’re going to get backstopped whenever times get tough. It also feels a bit like a backdoor bank bailout, since one effect will be to reassure skittish companies that have been drawing down lines of credit from banks that they can rely on corporate paper instead.
But the most pressing question it raises is: Are these funds in more trouble than we realize? The last time Treasury did this was at the height of the worst panic since the Depression. Slipping this financial provision into an economic stimulus bill may be a far-sighted move to give Treasury the tools it would need to deal with a potential banking panic, but it could also send a message that Treasury is worried about a banking panic, and those kinds of messages can panic bankers.” [Michael Grunwald on the Bailout]

Image result for jared leto blade runner gif

“Every leap of civilization was built off the back of a disposable work force. We lost our stomach for slaves, unless engineered. But I can only make so many.” [Blade Runner 2049]

Tintoretto Miracle of the Manna 1577

“No one knows what the economic damages will be, or how totally the art world will be remade. This is a complex infrastructure made up of people at every economic level, all but a cadre of them living precarious lives in the best of times — dependent on the patronage of the very wealthy, but not themselves secure at all. Things could return to quasi normal when galleries open again — indeed, the art world soared after the market collapse of 2008 and 2009, as inequality accelerated and money sought refuge in the so-called safer vessels of art (art, safe?!?). Prices skyrocketed at the top, megagalleries mushroomed, and all the rest. But it’s also possible that, this time, numerous non-megagalleries won’t make it through to whatever the other side of this storm will look like.” [Jerry Saltz on the viral crisis]

Stripper Cash

Walter Robinson Stripper Cash 2018

My favorite works of the moment are Walter Robinson’s pulp fiction book cover style paintings…. They seem to hit the right note about this wrong economic time – superficial, desperate-for-cash, hanging on to the golden years at any price… [Walter Robinson with Phong Bui – interesting and entertaining interview]

500 Billion!!! – “Answering the first question, Trump suggested that an extended economic shutdown would result in more “death” than the spread of a virus that in best-case estimates would kill tens of thousands of Americans. Answering the question of who would provide accountability for the unrestricted distribution of half-a-trillion dollars, Trump’s response was even less promising: “I’ll be the oversight. I’ll be the oversight.”” [Matt Stieb on the 500 Billion Slush Fund]

U.S. Lawmakers Reach $2 Trillion Aid Deal – The White House and Congress struck a deal in the predawn hours to deliver $2 trillion in government relief to a nation increasingly under lockdown, watching nervously as the twin threats of disease and economic ruin grow more dire.
[NY Times This Morning]

“The deal was announced several hours—and into the wee hours of the next day—after a stock market rally for the ages. The Dow Jones Industrial Average posted its largest single-day gain since 1933 on news Tuesday that a deal was coming together. Signs of a major injection of cash into the economy appeared to give investors some solace as the U.S. reported an uptick in confirmed Covid-19 cases and braced for unemployment claims, which are reported this week, that are expected to have soared.” [WSJ ByJoshua Jamerson and Andrew Duehren]

Walter Robinson Keep It Coming 2018

Abstraction 😫😳😖😳

Sherrie Levine Untitled (Mr. Austridge- 2) 1989

“The world is filled to suffocating. Man has placed his token on every stone. Every word, every image, is leased and mortgaged. And we note that the picture is but a space in which a variety of images, not of them original, blend and clash. A picture is a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centers of culture. Similar to those eternal copyists Bouvard and Pechuchet, we indicate the profound ridiculousness that is precisely the truth of painting. We can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. Succeeding the painter, plagiarist no longer bears within him passions, humors, feelings, impressions, but rather this immense encyclopedia from which he draws. The viewer is the tablet on which all quotations that make a painting are inscribed without any of them being lost. A painting’s meaning lies not in its origin, but in its destination. The birth of the viewer must be at the cost of the painter.” [Sherry Levine First Statement]

“Unusually egalitarian in the distribution of its favors, the show includes more women than ever before (more than one-third) and a high number of artists who have worked for years without substantial recognition. It seems less indebted to the dictates of a few powerful galleries than in years past. It doesn’t skimp on its enthusiasm for what might be called the Neo-Minimalist revival, and is loaded with work that the general public might find accessible only after consulting wall labels or the catalogue…
In this regard, and in others, the new works of Sherrie Levine, ensconced high on a prominent wall on the Whitney’s fourth floor, are pertinent. They aren’t her best paintings, but their identical image, taken from George Hermann’s ”Krazy Kat,” gains force in this context. It depicts an ostrich with his head characteristically out of sight, stuck not in sand but in a bucket on wheels, guaranteeing a permanent yet mobile state of oblivion – a fitting symbol for the entire exhibition.” [Roberta Smith on the 1989 Biennial]

Elsewhere in the biennial the aura of the handmade object shone as brightly as ever. The sculpture of Saint Clair Cemin draws historically from Art Nouveau and biographically from a Brazilian childhood in surroundings that were both Victorian and rustic.” I work with the notions of grotesque and beautiful, and see how you can articulate those notions into one unity. I think the understanding of the origins and understanding of the the historical background of the work gives a certain sense of complicity between the viewer and the artist. But I think this sense of complicity and proximity to the work is as good as a sense of estrangement and alienation from the work. It’s not necessarily the best thing. It’s just one possibility. I’ll give an example. I saw a show recently and there was a whole explanation about the show. And the explanation made it more poor, actually. The show was much more interesting when I was trying to figure it out myself.” [Saint Clair Cemin 1988 Whitney Biennial]

Martha Diamond Red Light 1988

In the early ’70s there were a number of people who were putting art work on the ceiling, around the room, growing from the floor up, working from the top down, using materials directly. That was an influence. And I began to go to museums more. And the Bykert Gallery, which was so hot... I remember Julian Schnabel, whose work I saw way early on, before he had a gallery. I was sort of shocked, but I never forgot the experience of seeing those works. They were huge, very tall. Slowly, I began to understand what he was doing, just in terms of scale and energy. And Joel Shapiro, whose work I always paid attention to, once gave me great advice, “Don’t edit in advance.”
Paula Cooper Gallery was the place to look at new art. I began to appreciate Alex Katz’s paintings, when I went back to using a brush. And the Italians came, and the Germans came, and a there was a lot more kinds of content, from all over the place, all over the world, ranging from Clemente to Keifer. A lot of people began to paint again, when painting was supposed to be dead. The amount of energy in the ’80s was a big deal. [Martha Diamond in conversation with Ilka Scobie]

Mary Heilmann, Matisse, 1989

Labor intensity of the most ostentatious kind or byzantine technical wizardry now stoke an indiscriminate marketplace with a wealth of seductive, sometimes beautiful, sometimes merely fussy works of art whose surfaces are more fetishized, more lavished with special effects that anything seen since the days of Gustave Moreau. Today’s art buyers are hardly adverse to the material signifiers of virtuosity, or anyway of “hard work.” And as the curators of this Biennial cautioned, the marketplace has the power to influence artistic output. All of which makes me wonder all over again why they chose this path of least resistance.
The marketplace these curators love and hate also regularly induces artists to exhibit works that under different economic circumstances might never have left their studios. In this society, you take what you’re given. And that, I suppose, is the key to another contradiction in this year’s Biennial. As emphatic as its organizers claimed to be about searching for significant new art, this survey contained so much that was familiar and/or indifferent; even, in some cases, by artists who had done better work during the previous two years. Is it enough to say that institutions like the Whitney are now as abject in their relationships to certain contemporary dealers as your average art-buying millionaire? Somehow I don’t think so.” [David Deitcher on the 1989 Biennial]

Bottoms Up

1989 Whitney Biennial Catalog

“Friday is shaping up as potentially one of the most volatile trading days in years, as scheduled changes in futures, options and other derivatives markets threaten to add to a frenzied trading month that has already had some of the biggest daily stock-index swings ever.
The S&P 500 has risen or fallen at least 4% in eight straight sessions, the longest streak in history, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The Cboe Volatility Index, the Wall Street fear gauge known as the VIX, hit its highest level in history this week.” [WSJ Thursday March 19, 2020]

The Coronavirus and the panic and hysteria it has unleashed in the stock market have revealed many of the economic fictions underlying NeoLiberal capitalism. Every aspect of our society, every transaction, every debt and payment, every international treaty, every contract, every business, is now under intense scrutiny and stress. With the market in extreme downfall our economic lives have been trashed in just under a week. There’s nothing to be done I’m afraid. So, I am asking you to be smart. Take care of yourselves. If you have a job hang on to it if you can. Protect your family and your future – because nothing is going to be as it was. Be ready to see the galleries dry up, the fairs stop and the buyers to disappear. The truth is it’s a perfect time to take your art life, your studio, underground. Be rigorous and stringent and honest about your work. Take criticism as an opportunity to rid yourself of old and/or bad ideas, eliminate the recent past and find your true self somewhere in the mix. Reach out only to those few others who are also doing this kind of self evaluation, because these are the kinds of artists that will be ready to be honest with you, to value your honesty, and ultimately, to lead with you. Change, real life changes, are upon us. Use it.