Desperate Lack of Irony

Brice Marden Star (for Patti Smith) 1972-74

“The dimensions of each of the vertical panels are the height and shoulder width of Smith. The colours are also hers: blue-black hair, pale skin tone, and as Marden explained, ‘a third “spirit diviner” colour to keep the work open, playful and non-didactic’ – a buttery yellow that has to do with Smith’s quality of ‘flash’. The surface of each painted panel is as smooth as skin. Like some of Zurbarán’s portraits, Star (for Patti Smith) has a coolness about it, yet it is a passionate painting. In a statement about the work, Marden reflected on his attempt to ‘make a portrait, not a picture of a person. I hoped to embody a spirit.’” [Brice Marden Portraits]

“Modern history is a process of forgetting that provokes an effect of anguish and that forces people to desperately hold onto some kind of memory. But memory has faded, together with the dissolution of the past, such that people have to invent a new set of memories. Like the character Rachel in the 1982 neo-noir sci-fi film Blade Runner, people create their own memories, putting together pieces of old texts, of faded images, of words whose meaning is lost….”
“… heroism disappeared towards the end of modernity, when the complexity and speed of human events overwhelmed the force of the will. When chaos prevailed, epic heroism was replaced by gigantic machines of simulation. The space of the epic discourse was occupied by semiocorporations, apparatuses for the emanation of widely shared illusions. These games of simulation often took the shape of identities, as with popular subcultures like rock, punk, cyberculture and so on. Here lies the origin of the late-modern form of tragedy: at the threshold where illusion is mistaken for reality, and identities are perceived as authentic forms of belonging. It is often accompanied by a desperate lack of irony, as humans respond to today’s state of permanent deterritorialization by enacting their craving for belonging through a chain of acts of murder, suicide, fanaticism, aggression, war. I believe that it is only through irony and through a conscious understanding of the simulation at the heart of the heroic game, that the simulated hero of subculture still has a chance to save itself.” [Franco “Bifo” Berardi Heroes]

Christopher Wool Untitled 1988

Renunciation benefitted Wool. He did not use color, or expressive gesture; their meanings could not be controlled. Nor did he indulge, as his friends Robert Gober, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons did, in the easy ironies of adopting themes and images from mass culture. (Koons wrote the press release for Wool’s solo show, in 1986, at the short-lived Cable Gallery; he keenly observed that “Wool’s work contains continual internal/external debate within itself.”) Wool liked the éclat of Pop-influenced art, but not its borrowed subject matter. Around the time of his delivery-truck eureka, he hit on a witty means of grounding high art in the everyday: the incised paint rollers once commonly used by slumlords to give tenement halls and stairwells the appearance of having been wallpapered. The tall paintings that resulted—floral or grille-like patterns, with skips and smears suggesting haste—have just about everything you could want of an all-over abstraction, plus the humor of their absurd efficiency. Can painting be so simple? It can for an artist who has despaired of every alternative. The expedient of the rollers, like that of the words that Wool proceeded to paint, suggests the ledges to which a rock climber clings by his fingernails.” [Peter Schjeldhal on Christopher Wool]

Josh Smith Untitled 2015

“A lot of people who became painters, who now are painters and call themselves painters, and if you ask what they do say ‘painter,’ are sculptors at the very best. More likely they just like art. So now, in this show that’s coming up next week, I’m gonna call it ‘Sculpture’ because I figure, well, if you’re making paintings then I must be a sculptor…
The idea that all these artists are making these colorful, sort of expressionistic abstract paintings, it’s hard to believe it’s going on right now, but it is, so I’m hoping that my white, like, sickly, falling-apart paintings will degrade the perfection that people have discovered…
It’s like in a pool game, when all the balls are in one mass, and you just sacrifice your shot, just to break it up so the game’s more fun. So I’m going to show something here that’s, you know, it doesn’t have the sheen and gloss of an art-fair booth type of thing where its unequivocally like a sublime object. I hope to present something here that clearly has some problems and some issues.” [Josh Smith on painting]

One Comment

  • anon


    the all-over patterning of those Wool paintings are generally overlooked in favor of the big words

    they’re the works that quite early on demonstrated his ambition in the most aggressive manner

    great post

Henri values your comments!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.