Saturday, June 30, 2012

the high of encomium

charles le dray, men suits, (2006-2010)

one stops reading, one rubs one's eyes in disbelief. 

just kidding. this isn't really shocking. it merely reflects summer writing-fatigue. it had to be a local: carlos suarez de jesus, someone i know personally. he's in the art-trenches doing an ok job for the new times. at the end of his 6/28/12 piece, carlos throws the towel and sets his automatic pilot on "superlative." when carlos does it he does it! as his compliments turn from commendatory to adulatory to palaver, de jesus' degree of encomium dwarfs even roman poet horace at his most eulogistic:
The miniature thrift shops go to the extreme to create a realistic vibe, including shoe-scuffed linoleum flooring and dingy, dust-covered drop ceilings with weak fluorescent lighting. Every garment and fixture is impeccably crafted. As one is forced to bend at the waist or kneel to take in the incredible details of LeDray's remarkable craftsmanship, it's impossible not to marvel at the complexity.
indeed impeccably impossible for le dray (even if he wished) to ever use this shower of adjectivals as part of his vita. how much is enough? the critic wishes to convey his feeling of wonder and awe and believes he owes it to his readers. but once he lets the gennie out the bottle encomium plays a dirty trick on the booster and morphs into exaggeration, which pushes a cranking-up. predictably, the reader expects more, and the critic pushes emphases to its apogee. what now? a cartoon made to stand for the whole face.

in closing, de jesus concocts a supped-up sequence worthy of a lazy summer day @ the beach under the shade, when one utters fixedly, after a puff of bomb-ass shit cannabis with pressure drop by toots and the maytals blasting in the background:
... one also realizes the rare gift ______ possesses to awaken the senses to a new awareness of our existence in the world.
don't you wish you had some of that? 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

how professional critics write about "green things"

norman rockwell, the art critic, 1955


i'd like to comment james panero's article "criticism after art," published in the new criterion, vol. 24, issue 4, 2005. panero opens in a friendly informal tone:
The business of art criticism is a great deal more practical than you might imagine. This is one of its great appeals for me. Art criticism is less Immanuel Kant and more should I bring an umbrella.
point taken, theory shouldn't be overbearing, though it's pretty naive to think that "umbrella," as idea, exists outside of conceptual frameworks. but let's not get fussy.
A world of difference separates those who criticize art from those who seek to know about how art criticism is done, because art criticism is done by doing it. To ask after the details beyond the most practical ones is already a step in the wrong direction. Art critics who make the "criticism of art criticism" their business do not stay in the business of art criticism for long.
indeed, anything is done by doing & the sentence in blue walks like a crab. is panero afraid of scrutiny? the question remains "why do you write about this and not about this?" "why are you so happily clueless about the ideas that inform your writing?"

panero is stuck. he's not addressing the serious issues: the art market rules, criticism is a mouth piece of the system and he still wants to argue from a professional perspective. so, he goes back to the moment of professional spaltung. once upon a time in the new york of the 1950's there were just modern critics. suddenly, the 1960's brought up an invasion of alien critics with a post-structuralist mission. see how panero plays the detached conspiracy commenter:
In need of a power base, not to mention a livelihood, Krauss's generation also took to the universities--Krauss herself to the City University of New York, then to Columbia University--where it set about seeding and gaining control of an entire network of art history departments. Krauss became famous for her letters of negative recommendation against dissident thinkers. Her severe legacy is still felt in the universities, even if much of the art being produced today has departed from the minimalist and conceptualist formulations with which she and others once held sway, writing for Art forum those many years ago.
raise the art-terror level on krauss to orange!
 critic & art historian rosalind krauss (circa 1970's)

how can one individual (and a woman at that in the late 1960's!) exert such amazing power in the -for the most part phallocentric- land of academic freedom?
An academic-based, anti-modern ideology now repudiates and replaces the high-modernist judgment of Clement Greenberg. October describes its editorial mission as "examining relationships between the arts and their critical and social contexts" Put in simplest terms, Greenberg judged art, for which he was praised by one generation and vilified by the next. Krauss judges the judgment of art. In an article for Art in America in 1974 called "Changing the Work of David Smith" Krauss even charged Greenberg with over-stepping his bounds of judgment in his maintenance of the David Smith estate--the critic's judgment was put in judgment by a former disciple.
aw! woman-critic dares to challenge man-critic?
clement greenberg (circa 1960's)

panero throws the most disparate angst-ingredients in one big pot and hopes for spontaneous alchemy. what is history if not change? october can be explained as a generational struggle for power, but also as an intellectual paradigm shift within american intelligentsia. greenberg was the best american critic of his generation and he also had serious conflicts of interest between his critic and curator profiles (regarding david smith's state -as it was pointed by krauss). modern-ism fell out of favor & postmodern-ism had its moment through the 1980's and 1990s'.

when greenberg "judged art" he was also judging art practices. if a powerful critical voice defends X style, she is addressing X's objects as well as X ways-of-doing things. greenberg did not shun theory. he was a known trotskyist in the 1940's (at the helm of greenberg's penmanship for partisan review). 1940's greenbergian criticism is trivially a different practice than in the 1960's during krauss' generation. panero should know all this, but he's projecting his own insecurities: the quintessential tension between academic and non-academic.

so non-academics get an empty defense. en passant we get a confession:
The New Criterion is a modernist magazine. I, too, consider myself a modernist art critic. In New York, when I think of the "relationships between the arts and their critical and social contexts" to take a cue from October, rare is the case that the legacy of modernism and the New York School does not serve as the foundation for the art I see. 
what's all the fuss about? panero (the non-academic) gets invited to a panel talk at the art institute of chicago by (the academic) critic and art historian james elkins. the former quotes the latter: 
[Art criticism's] voice has become very weak, and it is dissolving into the background clutter of ephemeral cultural criticism. But the decay is not the ordinary last faint push of a practice that has run its course, because at the very same time, art criticism is also healthier than ever.... [A]rt criticism is flourishing, but invisibly, out of sight of contemporary intellectual debates. So it's dying, but it's everywhere. It's ignored, and yet it has the market behind it.
he swiftly moves to dave hickey, another panel member who articulates the difference between panero's academic vs. non-academic, now reframed as "criticism" vs. "metacriticism" (panero will re-reframe it later as "modern" vs. "post-modern"):
(...) I am a professional writer. I have written about Ed Ruscha for forty years, and then Benjamin Buchloh does the big piece about the Venice Biennale. I'm envious of the assignments, but that's about all. We write about art. Most of the people in October write about criticism; it is a meta-critical project, and they are interested in controlling the forms and shapes of criticism, and the manner of address, and the rhetorical mode --I don't talk about criticism. I talk about things that are green.
the discussion takes again a "professional" turn which panero enjoys (and i spare you the details). these are known paid-per-assignment writers, they do this and that). one feels something crucial is missing in this chin-wag. the conundrum is right back at panero and hickey's blind-critical-spot. is academic vs. non academic equivalent to criticism vs. metacriticism? only if you are afraid of critical bacteria.

i disagree with hickey's (and panero's) antiseptic view of criticism, which takes for granted that writing about "things that are green" is a done deal. that is to say, reality is transparent to the critic's eye, the critic is impervious to personal interests, ideologies, aesthetic inclinations, the art market, etc. if one raises an objection to these platitudes, one is labeled, what, a radical post-structuralist? boloney!

coming back to panero, what did he get out of his vis-a-vis?
I recognized how modernism has, perhaps, reached an ebb. Among academics like Elkins, the battles of modernism are now two wars past. As for Hickey, the glossy mirror-image of Elkins, the critical moment is not found in modernism or anti-modernism but in what I call premodernism. Like Tom Wolfe in The Painted Word, Hickey finds succor in the style of Beaux-Arts. He argues for the same eclecticism in the galleries that Elkins wants to a bring to the university. When asked to name his influences, Hickey responded to our panel: "I have an eccentric practice that goes back to Baudelaire, Wilde, Shaw, Hazlitt, and De Quincey." Take out Communism and you have it: Hickey's twenty-first century picks up where the nineteenth century leaves off. 
panero-as-hickey sounds as one-dimensional as a flat-line. why? zeitgeist contagion, since a transmission of post-modern-to-modern becomes a possibility, get rid of both. we're critics, aren't we? we can throw the baby with the bathwater, even if the whole 20th century is left out of the game!

there are no different criticisms for different realities. there is only one reality. let's puts it in hickeyian:  green things are green for reasons that aren't green.

advice to panero: don't be afraid & open the round table to all relevant matters: green things, greenology and/or both.

Monday, June 25, 2012

aggression, tears, future, men

In the future, in a world where emotions of sorrow are valued high, tears are coveted for their use as means of pacification. The demand for copious quantities of emotional tears has pushed scientists to recreate human tears within the context of a laboratory. Although the ability to manufacture tears has allowed manipulation to the compound to heighten its potency, it is not to say authentic tears are seen as any less special.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

cannibalism as the mirror image of our consumption


the distinction between original and copy is not new to art. copies are instantiation possibilities (of originals) waiting to happen. fair enough. but there's something about originals that tell them apart from existential cacophony: they come first. problem is, does it matter?

with appropriation in art, "firstness," as category, lost its aura. so, we're faced with a riddle: above is the photo of allie mae burroughs, a walker evans original (1930's).

this one is a sherrie levin appropriation of evans (2001):

this one, a michael mandiberg's appropriation of evans (2010). 

it doesn't have to stop here.

according to walter benjamin "aura" only gets weaker with any subsequent repetition.  without firstness the very idea of appropriation becomes meaningless. of course, that would not deter artists from making a living (which makes this whole discussion, how to put it?) ancillary.

the issue of firstness brings us to this show, organized by Lauren van Haaften-Schick and reviewed by zachary sachs for art forum.
Richard Prince v. Patrick Cariou, a fair-use case currently in appeals, threatens to set a dangerous precedent for the legality of appropriation. The initial ruling against Prince in 2011 included—in a surprisingly draconian injunction—an order that the works be destroyed or never displayed publicly. Cases like this can make an artwork seem considerably less interesting than the machinery of art and institutions that revolve around it.
sachs conflates "legality" with "draconian," as if the system followed a consistent policy regarding intellectual property. with every new form of market culture deriving from the technologies of replication "legality" keeps mutating in order to keep up with market's stability. the institutions and discourses that collectively construct the art-object are in fact allied with the marketplace. does sachs really believe that when it comes to appropriation people really care for normative values? could a big mac be "considerably less" than anything?

lost amidst the fog of late-modernity art-appropriation was supposed to be a subversive act to bring forth the rapacious quality of our culture. prince's best work attests to that:

richard prince, figure 3, untitled cowboy, 1989

not anymore. prince's appropriation of cariou's "rasta" is lame not because it is (in any way) different than figure 3. it's us that have changed, prince and all of us in the same predicament. we just want more (and are just clueless as to why).

at a symbolic level, consumption under capitalism's present paradigm has become as crucial (and potentially self-destructive) as human flesh was at the apex of the aztec empire.*

let's seriously consider the possibility of cannibalism as the mirror image of our consumption.
* see deborah root's cannibal culture: art appropiation and the commodification of difference (wetview press, 1996).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

logorrhea at artforum to the point of grasping "intense proximity"

view of "intense proximity", photo: andré morin

alFreDo tRifF

continuing our discussion on arthoodication, how about alexandra perloff-gilles's review of "intense proximity" @ the palais de tokyo for artforum?
Intense Proximity, the 2012 triennial at the newly renovated Palais de Tokyo, is a testament to the complexity of global networks and the increasingly globalized nature of the contemporary art world.
allow me a premature comment on gratuitous circularity: "increasingly globalized" & "contemporary art world" are family: "increasing," i.e., more and more in-the-now. "contemporary," as we speak. then we have "globalized," i.e., worldwide in scope, of which "art world" is a part of. doesn't it keep ringing over and over?

the story goes: curator okwui enwezor sits down with his 4-curator team to "interrogate" (...) the mission of the previous triennials, launched by the Ministry of Culture in 2006 as a response to a perceived lack of recognition of French artists on the international scene."

what's "interrogation?"
For Enwezor, the ever-accelerating pace of globalization—that “intense proximity” to which the exhibition’s title refers—renders such displays of nationalism unthinkable. In the wake of recent French debates surrounding immigration and integration, what does it mean, Enwezor asks, to organize an exhibition designed to affirm cultural identity? 
first, the exhibition's title: "intense proximity," as foggy as a turner painting. second, "nationalism" & "cultural identity" are not synonymous, but again, family. why "unthinkable?" because you are a diasporic superstar curator who interrogates globalization from the nomadic side? (living like attila is not a tenable proposition for the common joe in an overpopulated world). besides, feeling proud of being french or moroccan is not divorced from accepting peoples from other places. nationalism (defined as being close to one's nation) doesn't preclude jingoism.

 view of "intense proximity", photo: andré morin

what does "cultural identity" mean? al-fresco paintings of aix-en-provence? piaf? beef bourguignon? let's complicate it a bit: cubism? deconstruction? neither picasso or derrida were born in france, but they're as french as brie. the identity part of "cultural identity" is as opaque as "intense proximity."

perloff-gilles' conclusion is a blast: 
In their attempt to revisit ethnographic practice and open up a postidentitarian discourse, the curators have deliberately done away with classification schemes in favor of a transnational panorama of contemporary creation. The absence of geographic, thematic, and formal divisions has its merits in sometimes intriguing juxtapositions between works. The sheer quantity of works on display, however, leaves the viewer grasping in vain for a sort of logic to structure the viewing experience, as one wanders through the labyrinthine concrete crypts of the expanded Palais de Tokyo. When you evacuate all hierarchies and taxonomies, as the curators have here, the center doesn’t hold. Which is, indeed, the point.
why "post-identitarian?" we haven't got to "cultural identity" yet. have we? isn't it odd that the curators favor a "transnational panorama" as they were trying -often one hopes in vain- to interrogate "cultural identity" in the first place?*

why bother? grasping in vain is precisely the point!

*this is an excerpt of the exhibit's press release
The Triennale explores a space where art and ethnography converge to a renewed fascination for the unknown and distant. The idea of the project is to go beyond the notion of national space in favor of a space whose morphology is constantly changing and whose definition goes beyond the usual categories of local, national, transnational, geopolitics, the de-nationalization of purity, of miscegenation, etc.
"intense proximity" begins to look like a super-redundant arthoodication cipher in-between post-identitarian and globalization (both categories of identity construction!) see how they overlap: the globalization theorist points to blurred boundaries, virtual reality & free markets over national borders. The post-identitarian expert points to ongoing colonialist practices that blur boundaries & past histories converge with current post-colonial conditions that transcend, well, national borders.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

how can you access inaccessibility?

i'm reading alain badiou's logic of worlds and having fun with it. badiou loves to declare in axiomatic terms most of what he says. i stop at a ponderous title on page 306:


how can you access inaccessibility? 

keep you posted. ;)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

britto-whining will not make you britto

 britto's azul, @ time warner center until october 2012


writer natalie o'neill has an interesting piece in the miami new times, on miami artist romero britto. on the surface the well researched article seems to offer an unbiased account, yet from the start, one can sense a rhetorical undercurrent that betrays o'neill neutrality:
The artist pulls out a black magic marker and quickly scribbles the cartoonish face of a girl. Then he dunks a paintbrush in red and makes a single dot on her mouth. The mark will signal to his assistants — who do the painting for him — the intended color of her lips.The whole creative process takes him two and a half minutes. When the painting is completed by his low-wage workers, it will sell for about $30,000.
detail-loading & rhetorical innuendo (in color above) aside, o'neill should know that "creative process" cannot be measured in "real time," not since duchamp, not after kosuth. low-wage workers? the norm these days (the art market is, well, a market). the description above fits best (none other than) start-artist jeff koons. do you really believe he made this glossy cutesy himself?

 jef koons, elephant, 2003

koons has dozen of assistants & subcontractors. why not britto?

britto, teddy bear, 2005

start-artists like demian hirst, jean-michel otoniel, kris martin, pae white, etc, simply have other craftspeople execute their work for them. jorge pardo has openly declared: "i don't think that art gets made with your hand." as a matter of fact, there is a name for this trend: nonmaking art. what's going on? as maximization of production shrinks real time, time by default becomes much more valuable than labor itself, which is why labor has to be outsourced (a consequence of the industrial revolution, only more acute as a phenomenon under financial capitalism's grip on profit's maximization). in other words, koons and britto will soon be the rule.

back to o'neill. she is dealing with a slippery thesis. by the capitalist book, britto is an enviable financial success* (let's call this the hard fact). now, is he a good artist? o'neill takes an easy normative route: "good" or "bad" will be determined by artworld's consensus. she has no clue that such consensus is dependent on the art market. let's put it differently: do you expect "art experts" (who are a part of the artmarket) to arthoodicate art outside the system? o'neill's dutifully follows the lead. her title: "charm trumps talent," speaks for itself. but there is a stubborn problem: with so many people attracted to his work, how do you convincingly explain "charm"? unless one beefsup "charm" with "luck?"
Nycander sent the company's distributor, Michel Roux, to Miami to meet Britto and offer him a job: Design a pop art-inspired bottle of vodka for the mammoth corporation. The ad, which featured a large red heart, ran in 60 publications worldwide and made him an overnight celebrity. The value of his paintings — which had sold for $5,000 to $20,000 — would double in just a year. So would his sales.
o'neill concludes: "Britto, it seemed, was simply at the right place at the right time. And soon luck would knock again."

 britto's own mao, 2009

what does "right place at the right time" mean? in retrospect, any body's success can be attributed to being at the right place and the right time. c'mon, 99% of americans are not "in the right place at the right time" while the 1% is. we're all in the same gunk! what kind of eduction is this?

the search for the magic bullet can make you look elsewhere. let's give a shot at "culture" (that sociological cipher):
In Miami, a place that's still grasping for a cultural identity, Britto patterns have spread like a Skittles-colored virus. They can be found in virtually every crevice of Miami-Dade: at Sun Life Stadium, the Shops at Midtown, Miami Children's Museum, and Dadeland Station. You can see them from causeways and expressways. Car dealerships sell Britto-designed Mini Coopers. Workers at Miami International Airport wear Britto uniforms. Tourists on Lincoln Road shop for Britto luggage, dishes, high heels — even yarmulkes.
wait a second: the people who purchase and install brittos are not your average poor &/or unemployed, migrants or exiles. they're developers! people who buy brittos at his lincoln rd. boutique are well off, which automatically excludes a good percentage of miami from "culture." that britto's designs have spread may have much -and little- to do with "cultural identity" (whatever that means). worse yet, how can o'neill define "cultural identity" in a multicultural place? grasping miami's cultural identity is as banal a task as grasping miami humidity.

let me suggest the unthinkable: perhaps britto's work has a real appeal? (more of this later). 

then, o'neill moves into the quick sands of expert authority: she cites critic ricardo pau-llosa, who calls britto's work "phony baloney and hideous crap," a trivial opinion in perfect synch with "just about every respected artist, museum curator, and art professor in the country." so? (i doubt that o'neill can literally pull this bit of empirical datum).
Not one art publication has critiqued Britto's work. Nor has a respected museum purchased his art. Pulitzer Prize-nominated art critic and New York Magazine columnist Jerry Saltz has an almost physical reaction to Britto's work. "Oh my God is he unoriginal," Saltz says. "It's sentimental, obvious, and empty. Let me put it this way: No one in the art world would say this is good."
(jerry saltz is such a friend of big & empty gestures). let's bite the bullet: how many (good) artists are not mentioned in publications or purchased by museums? we agree with übercritic saltz that britto's designs are "obvious," but so is the state of pop culture in general, i.e., popular music, hollywood movies, tv, politics, and lots of critic-ok'd "contemporary art." even art criticism has become "obvious"!*

o'neill's list of complaints against britto now take a different turn. gallerist anthony spinello protests: 
(britto's work) It makes me cringe (...) at some point, it just becomes grotesque... I don't think it represents contemporary art in Miami at all"
"contemporary art," as used here by spinello, is a redundant platitude. no one has an argument that doesn't beg the question to exclude britto from "contemporary."
 let's see:  

^^if contemporary means current, britto is -trivially- contemporary.
^^if contemporary means arthoodication, then britto is contemporary (since his arthoodication works via publicity, powerful celebrities, foundations, collectors, etc).
^^why can there not be "bad" contemporary art? i see plenty of it all year round in reputed national and international art fairs.

how does "dislike" turn into "phobia"? britto is not only mediocre. he's ruining other artists' prospects of success(?). photographer john gynell bemoans: "There are so many good artists out there (...) why does this guy have a monopoly over our public art space?"

gynell is hallucinating: miami art in public places has a long list of artists and projects (britto is not listed). with all the chases, jpmorgans, atts & fpls of america, i'll pass on this one. 

 carmen, 1991

finally it's time for a personality test: what if britto's fame could be attributed to "charisma"? 
Britto is a marketing wizard, says art consultant Alan Bamberger. "People have confused the artist with his charisma," he says. "They are buying his personality. And for somebody like Romero Britto, that's very convenient."
i'm not so sure. american banks are, by definition, the market's wizards' wizards and people don't like them much these days, which makes bamberger's hasty inference as strong as our banks' genuine interest in the general public. how can you definitively tell that people from all over come to purchase britto's designs because of his charisma?

capitalism 101: britto is a brand name, that's what people want. 

o'neill now moves to the hard fact: britto is loved by the masses. what does that say? masses love a lot of crap. possibly, but that misses the point. when it comes to consumption, we're the masses! could it be that the experts just don't get it? britto is not a fine artist. you've used the wrong glasses to judge him. he is just a good designer. what makes a good design? style, originality & selling power.

 britto, landshark stadium, miami, 2008

britto's designs are everywhere because they sell.** his paintings are sought worldwide (i've seen brittos in sao paulo & LA & new york airports, and in different upscale miami apartments). he makes 12 million a year? that's selling power. britto has a visible mark, which is already imitated and appropriated! (i know of pseudoartists in miami that make a living imitating britto's style). originality? you don't have to be a pollock to be original.** aren't taco bell and pollo tropical original? well, britto is a recognizable brandname. why not give him all that?

britto is not the monster. brittophobia and other forms of britto-whining ad hominems only reflect & reinforce our own post-capitalist neurosis. britto is an apt designer that has made miami his home. i commend that he stayed in the city way before the miami explosion and found a niche. let go. miami is not any uglier because of britto. it's ugly because of poor design: no tree-shade, few parks, cookie-cutter developments, un-pedestrian streets, poor infrastructure, social ghettoization, homelessness, etc, etc.

what all these art whiners should do is find ways to succeed doing what they do best. show resilience. you'd be surprised. even whiners can make it. 

*the definition for "success" is circular, i.e., you know it as long as it sells, though britto's goods have passed the replicability-effectiveness-cost test. **no matter how seemingly complicated, any successful style (way of doing things) will always be reproduced. want a BIG example? china.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

postmodern nonsurfing & nonacting

at artlog. magazine blurbs for the artsy are rich nuggets of blather:
First Point presents a postmodern take on the surf film genre through an abstract framework of imagery in which the actress engages in cinema performance tropes inspired by contemporary film noir.
you mean this lame 1:37 min. video* by richard phillips, featuring lindsay lohan (nonsurfing & nonacting) opening at art basel?

* blurb legend:
"abstract framework of imagery" = stay motionless,
"postmodern" =  as we speak,
"engages" = let the camera roll as if,
"performance trope" =  lohan face closeup shot, cut, lohan narcissistically  reaches to a blown-up projection of her face at the end, cut, etc,
"film noir" = hollow trope for "cool,"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

bigger is better!

Obesity affects the whole nation, cutting across every group and income level. Some racial or ethnic groups, however, are disproportionately obese and need greater attention. It is especially important, some experts say, to start early and reduce obesity among children and adolescents. (...) The causes of obesity are everywhere. Societal factors play a big role: the lack of safe places to play, walk or bike; sedentary jobs; less time devoted to cooking and more eating out; bigger portion sizes in packaged and prepared food; and incessant marketing of junk foods that are high in calories. Sugar-sweetened drinks accounted for at least 20 percent of the increases in weight in the United States between 1977 and 2007, according to one study cited by the institute. 
blah, blah. they just don't get it. obesity is directly proportional with our consumption habits and defense spending.

we are a superpower, 
being a superpower is bigger than just being a power,
being a superpower is better than just being a power,
bigger is better!

Friday, June 8, 2012

we want to make you comfortable

henrietta harris, via juxtapoz

we know you visit miamibourbaki,
but generally you don't comment,
reading is OK,
granted, you don't receive information from our eyes continuously,
you don't see everything that is in front of our eyes,
you don't see anything that is in front of our eyes immediately,
as reader, you identify meaning without, or ahead of, the identification of certain words,
reading is fast,
reading is selective,
you're in command,
you could have a wealth of visual information before your open eyes 
and still not be able to read it,
comments take time,
comments are vague,
comments are speculative,
that's enough,
no problem,
should we leave the comment box open?
we really want to make you comfortable,
keep visiting,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

on artists leaving miami. surprise!


artists leaving miami? in the Miami New Times:
Borkson says fellow local A-list artists Jen Stark, Alvaro Ilizarbe, Pres Rodriguez, and Raul Sanchez will also relocate to Los Angeles this summer. L.A. promises better access to collectors and more room to grow than Miami, he says.
reasons, straight-up:
"We love Miami, but collectors here just don't support our work," Borkson says. "The truth is that most collectors who purchase our work are located elsewhere."
or nuanced,
 "I think Miami does have some good support structure for some artists and [I] still love it here, but Los Angeles has a lot of opportunities to offer, and that's why we decided to move there.
let's put it bluntly: 

miami = sun + beach + sex + unemployment + un-sympathetic collector$ + wynwood

LA = sun + beach + mountains + sex + unemployment + sympathetic collector$ + hollywood

is this not a kind of miami with more traffic lanes?

now you know miami: if your collector$ don't support young local talent, it tends to migrate, thus depleting the city's artfuture. unless collector$ don't really care about miami's artfuture (where "care" is defined as collecting young local talent's work they don't support for whatever reasons).* 

not so fast.

this whole focus on physical miami as center, region, is passé, pre-post-modern. don't we live in virtual pangea? hasn't physical distance been virtually bridged? haven't geographies turned immanent?

if so, miami can be seen as a kind of smaller LA and viceversa. in other words, wynwood is a smaller, noisier, hollywwod and visceversa. sex is, well, sex the same. as per miami's mountains, they'll be coming soon with the next bubble. what's left? collector$ that support local talent. this is a minor problem. but since glocal is the new local, the move to the physical LA becomes as pointless as (for that matter) staying in miami.

can you really tell the difference between points "A" and "B" in the map above?

dear artist, you got it wrong. your $upport is geographically immanent.   

but we don't want to appear as dissuading your expectations. we're all so close together.

bon voyage. we sincerely wish you all the success in the world!

* nothing is left to chance. in general collector$ collect what is approved by the market.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

art criticism or coll(art)eral damage?

gabriel von max, monkeys as judges of art, 1889


i dig wikipedia and, against the grain, recommend it to my students (better to get lost in wikipedia/clustering than idly watching bad tv, right?).

but there are entries, like this, that deserve a second look:
Art critics usually criticize art in the context of aesthetics or the theory of beauty. One of criticism's goals is the pursuit of a rational basis for art appreciation.
i prefer "evaluate" over "criticize" (nothing wrong with "criticize") which doesn't necessarily exclude finding merit. my problem is with "in the context of."  what is that suppose to mean? if aesthetics deals with certain conceptual limits (as it does), then it already presupposes a context, right? dealing with the context (of a context) seems at best redundant, at worst bunkum.

next, not everyone that engages in criticism is doing aesthetics. for example, dominique bouhours' the art of criticism is not a book about aesthetics per se (as this or this, which are more generalized transcendental efforts).

when in his salons, denis diderot picks apart the art of fragonard or boucher, he is enthusing a new audience with what can be called proto-journalistic art criticism: a sort of intuitive enterprise discussing art issues. which? the obscure origin of the discipline points to a very stubborn pre-modern and post-modern problem: thinking vs. feeling.

and both extremes can paradoxically coexist in the same individual. in the 1750's diderot sides with feeling:
Sensibility, not judgment or reflection, is the quality absolutely essential for stirring, moving productions; judgment itself requires a close connection and dependence on feeling.*
chardin, (1699-1799) a painter defended by diderot

in later salons (1761, 1763) he develops a more nuanced position: (...) "the artist's sensibility is not by itself sufficient for producing great art." In Paradoxe sur le comédien of 1773 he states:
Sensibility is the quality of second-rate people, immature fools who are ever at the mercies of their emotions and who are consequently unable to attain self-control, judgment, greatness. Sensibility is the extreme mobility of certain fibres of the nervous system; instead of the mind dominating, it is the diaphragm that rules. The great artist may experience feeling, but his productions are not the direct result of it.**
so, which one? the answer is not that simple & diderot is aware of it, which is why he resorts to his idea of "paradoxe." not unlike bouhours' "je ne sais quoi," paradoxe is a kind of modification of the "ardor of the passions" when the head is calm & the emotions  controlled.

enough detour. let's come back to the wikipedia entry:
The variety of artistic movements has resulted in a division of art criticism into different disciplines, each using vastly different criteria for their judgements. The most common division in the field of criticism is between historical criticism and evaluation, a form of art history, and contemporary criticism of work by living artists.
true, one should not evaluate cubism and 19th century french realism with the same glasses. but that misrepresents the fact that the point of the evaluation is independent of style. whether realism, cubism or conceptual art, the critic looks for similar properties: skill, quality, novelty, fruitfulness, etc. the variety of movements does not require a different "kind" of evaluation. "bad" can apply to realist painting, conceptual art or performance art. as per historical criticism, our current paradigm is perversely historic through and through, which reveals a deeper & more basic contradiction, i.e., that contemporary art has no future. we're stuck in real tv, a recurring present projected for our own enjoyment. as the present gets endlessly repeated, we lost sight of history, which turns into a low-noise, static a-temporal blob.

now the article moves to the critic/artist tension.
Artists have often had an uneasy relationship with their critics. Artists usually need positive opinions from critics for their work to be viewed and purchased; unfortunately for the artists, only later generations may understand it.
did i say that i proudly see myself in the company of my fellow monkeys in von max's painting above? the critic is supposed to find fault! i say this in 2012, an epoch when the market turned art into cultural entertainment.

artists usually need positive opinions? and so do non-artists. what's the point of "positive"?  this is certainly false today. institutions don't need "positive opinions" from critics because they have a publicity machine in place, courtesy of the market. critics are extinct species!

look at facebook and its distinctive thumbs-up operation, the paradigm of contemporary euphoric anomie. folks, the truth is simple:

adulation sells

which brings me to the following three points:

1- "aesthetics" is a dead proposition. now it means art-related, coll(art)eral. it's time to send "aesthetics" to the cleaners (with no claim receipt).

2- feeling isn't (wasn't ever) divorced from thinking. that's a rationalist myth which caused a romantic backlash which brought up our post-modern impasse.   

3- art criticism has been defunct for more than a decade. if art is a passtime, there is no place for art criticism. besides, who cares?

art criticism is coll-art-eral damage

* Diderot & Sterne, Alice Green Freedman, Columbia University Press, 1955) p. 26

Monday, June 4, 2012

Paula Harper, professor, critic, RIP

 ad reinhardt, black painting, (1960-66)


i have sad news. paula harper, professor of art history @ the university of miami passed away yesterday after fighting a long battle with cancer.

paula was a great teacher, a keen critic and a loyal friend. she was honest, smart, and had a wonderful personality. art was her passion. through the years, she worked hard to build an audience receptive to critical discourse. the fact that she could see behind fads and art-static was appreciated by many artists and art lovers who followed her reviews for the miami news & art in america. dr. harper specialized in feminist art,* and was an expert in daumier. her article on christo's intervention in miami beach was widely read and discussed.  

paula had a gift for conversation. five minutes with her and you felt an irresistible need to adopt this old -at times cranky- lady. of all the things i can remember, it's her laughter that first comes to my mind. her laughter exhibited a rabelaisian mix of wit & straightforwardness, a youthful laughter that dissolved every day banality and self-indulgence into risible un-resentment.

paula harper will be missed, but not really. she is here with us.
* particularly judy chicago. see womanhouse.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

how "vibrations" stabilized kant's sublime

Hannes Bend, “Reef,” 2012. Photo courtesy of Charest-Weinberg.


reading through the first issue of the miami rail, i find this review of hannes bend's ECLIPSE, a solo show @ charest weinberg, by alpesh patel. let's start with this: 
His installation is less an allegory of the perils of man's encroachment on nature, though, than an embodied depiction of man as always already part of a sublime, or simultaneously terrific and terrifying, nature. The show is not unlike the landscape paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, who incidentally found inspiration in the area along the Baltic Sea and around Neustadt in the Holstein region of Germany, where Bend grew up.
i wished patel would have explained why he finds caspar friedrich's romantic landscape paintings akin to bend's installation (after all this is an important claim for his review). am i to assume that growing up in the same place where friedrich "incidentally found inspiration" is enough? is it that they're both german? is it geography?

it seems so. check patel's next analogy: "Friedrich’s contemporary Immanuel Kant writes..." um, both contemporary and german (one begins to sense of heimat).

this is real galimatias:
Friedrich’s contemporary Immanuel Kant writes the sublime “may be compared with vibration, i.e., with a rapidly alternating repulsion and attraction by one and the same object.” Three of the gallery’s walls feature projections that collectively engender this kind of vibratory sublime affect.
kant's "sublime" is literally reduced to a "vibration" (?) to buttress bend's projections on charest-weinberg's gallery walls, (which counts for patel's third analogy thus far. what's this obsession with "sublime" these days?)

even kant's notorious phlegm would melt with patel's vibratory analogies, as in: ["this kind of vibratory sublime affect"]. what the hell?

pure arthoodication! 

by now you realize that patel is no friend of subtle thinking. the next statement takes analogizing* to new levels: 
Kant’s theorization of the sublime is ultimately resolved by the stabilization of the aforementioned “vibration” as “restful contemplation;” and ultimately the dominance of reason (the “supersensible”) over the “sensible.”
"ultimately resolved"? indeed. once and for all, the difficult hurdles of kantian sublime are put to rest (& under 500 words!)

care for one last double dutch?
Kant refers to the supersensible as disembodied rationality, whereas sensibility is often conflated with affect and tantamount to irrationality. Bend’s work is deeply synaesthetic and thereby attempts to keep the subject in the world rather than coolly against it.
* analogy is a cognitive process relating two or more things. but as such, it's kind of problematic, since one can always relate any "a" with just any "b." as the greatest kantian comedian, groucho marx, used to say: "anything resembles anything else." serious question: what does obama's left hand has in common with the eiffel tower?

miami's miami rail

via hunter braithwaite,
The Miami Rail seeks to showcase voices to constitute a critical dialogue which oscillates between the profound lamentation of history with its natural tendency to repeat itself (as Edward Young once stated, “We were all born originals. Why is it that so many die copies?”), and the renewed optimism of Apollinaire’s avant-gardesque attitude, where “even if nothing is new under the sun the new spirit does not refrain from discovering new profundities in all this that is not new under the sun.”
i sincerely wish the magazine good luck!