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Friday, May 17, 2013

This shit's gotta stop

If mine is a one-man crusade, so be it. But someone has to stand up against Fraudism -- against the debauchery running rampant in the art world.

A mediocre painting of Bea Arthur naked sold $1.9 million at a Christie's auction. The artist is a hack named John Currin.

The painting has no value as a painting. The hair is terrible. She looks like she's wearing a helmet, and there's no shade on the shadow side. The eyes are flat, two-dimensional; they don't look like spheres resting in a socket. Where are the highlights? The skin seems chalky, lacking in vitality.

Remember when you mom told you "Don't criticize unless you can do better yourself?" Well, I can. I could paint better than that before I took art classes. I'm not saying that I'm particularly gifted; I'm saying that Currin isn't. The best that can be said for him is that he's more professional than George W. Bush, although Dubya is catching up quick.

Why did a bad painting fetch such a high price? Frankly, this work is a gimmick -- a one-liner, a laugh-inducer. Some well-heeled fool paid nearly two million bucks for the novelty value, not for the talent on display.

The art world could not be more foppish, decadent and disgusting. The garbage values which rule that world impoverish all of us. Imagine how lush and gorgeous our world would be if our society rewarded painters who can paint. We could be living in a new Renaissance if we encouraged young artists to develop skills instead of gimmicks. As matters stand, neither our art schools nor our critical infrastructure place any value on talent, dexterity, brushwork, composition, color theory or anything else that used to matter to painters.

Nowadays, painting is discussed purely in terms of rhetoric. Insultingly, art history professors talk about how to "read" a painting.

This shit's gotta stop. Let me repeat:


If you talk about painting in terms of subject matter, you advertise your idiocy. A Cezanne still life is not more or less valuable because he painted grapes instead of radishes. An atheist can still find Michelangelo's tondo of the Holy Family breathtaking.

If you have an idea to express, do not paint, do not draw, do not sculpt. Do what I do every day: Write an essay.

Ideas are for literature.


Nothing else. Skill is not part of art; skill is art. I put that equal sign in there for a reason.

If you are about to interject: "Well, I agree that skill should be part of the equation, but..." NO. FUCK YOU. I know where you're going, and I refuse to follow. You are the enemy. You must be destroyed.

In order to establish the new Renaissance of which I speak, we must chop down the tree of decadent values. It's not enough to reduce that tree to a stump; we need to uproot it completely.

In other words, I have no problem if a nude picture of Bea Arthur fetches nearly two million dollars -- but the painting must be done superbly.

By the way: If you are the kind of dolt who presumes that I'm dredging up ancient arguments about the value of non-representational art, read my words again. And again and again, until the truth of the matter sinks into your teensy little brain-ette.

That picture of Bea Arthur is representational. I myself enjoy doing abstracts, and I learned a great deal about color theory from an excellent abstract artist. I wish abstracts would regain their former popularity, since those works resist discussion in literary terms.

Unfortunately, most people -- even most art critics -- have no idea as to what constitutes a good abstract. Or a good painting of any sort.
A fine rant. For some reason I'm reminded of Thomas Hart Benton's rant when he left NYC for Missouri.

So, Jackson Pollock..?

Sorry Joe.

The tree must be removed entirely, including the roots, Ben.

That said, I like Pollock. I think what he did took skill. His was the opposite of "idea" art. His paintings existed as paintings. They didn't require literary explanations, as the alleged artworks of Hirst and Koons do.

Duchamp's "Readymades" are NOT art. This whole idea that "Anything can be art" must GO.

Yes, I really AM going for the roots!

Incidentally, my late semi-stepfather claimed that he roomed with Pollock, back before fame set in. He also roomed with Brando.

One of these days I'll have to tell that story.
Your semi-stepfather must have tolerated huge egos, Joseph.

BTW; my son is finishing a book on his version of 'Casino' and his main character's name is a Russian Mafioso whose name is Joseph (Yoseph).

He didn't get that from me, it's a coinky-dink.

Andy Warhol is significant not as an artist, but as an important signpost of the triumph of media marketing over content.

There are clear signs that late Anglo-American capitalism is entering a decadent stage: the glorification of violence, the rise of primitive religion, the slow collapse of civic institutions, and increasing control of society by a small aristocracy. This mirrors not only the slow collapse of the Roman empire, but the Spanish and Dutch empires as well.

The decadence of fine art is reflects the larger state of society: the exclusion of genuine talent in favor of politically connected grifters, and the excesses of the aristocracy. There is plenty of talent bubbling up underneath, but it's not going to be allowed entry into the art world of New York and London.
Ben, I wish I had inspired that name! A Russian mafioso, eh...?

My semi-stepfather had an ego like you wouldn't believe. He used to go all over the world with Buddy Rich. Buddy liked his company because my semi-stepfather made Buddy seem, by comparison, like a really nice guy.

I may have given a clue as to his identity just now.
Two documentaries you might enjoy:

'Who the Fuck is Jackson Pollock?' and 'Exit Through the Gift Shop'
Dont blame the conman, blame the mark.

I'd seen a couple of Pollocks and been inclined to think they were no more high-concept thought-experiments; that somebody had joked that his dropcloth was more interesting than his paintings, and Pollock decided to give the notion a whirl, and when you'd seen one of his splatterpieces you'd seen them all.

Then I went to see an all Pollock show, and when I saw a whole room full of his works and they were all different I saw that he had invented a new language.
I still think the Barnett Newman painting selling for 43.8 million is more egregious but it is a much better painting in my book. This crap doesn't really matter to me much though because as a consumer I've been priced out of legitimate art for a long, long time.

That said, a discerning person with a significant bank account could amass a really neat collection of well done art from a wide range of genre's and periods. Unfortunately, every time some rich yahoo buys a worthless painting for an exorbitant sum it drives up the prices that much more.

Last week my wife and I went to the local art fair which has morphed into the local Chinese and Mexican made garden junk fair but that is another story altogether. We went and looked at the art from the local schools and found that the junior high and the high school kids were much better than the college kids. Why? It looked like the college kids were being taught "content" rather than technique. I do think that content does matter some if you have the prerequisite skill to pull it off. Teaching content without first teaching skill seems to be malpractice. A great painting of flowers, buildings, whatever can be quite exquisite and interesting if they display skill, talent and craftsmanship while a "statement" painting usually is just crap and crap is most definitely uninteresting.
I think a lot of the abstractionists got heir start with more traditional art which seemed to satisfy critics who like to see they could pay their dues by showing artistic ability.

Picasso had some early work that was more traditional,as did Pollock.

Have you seen Hans Burkhardt's work? Prolific producer. I interviewed him for a college newspaper a million years ago, Joseph. Hell of a nice guy. He gave me three LE lino-cuts just because he could.

The boundary between 'what' (and I understand that you are not talking about representative and abstract) and 'how' isn't always clear. Where would you draw it in relation to work based on optical illusions or skilfully conceived patterns that don't require much skill to execute? I don't know whether you would call any of Akiyoshi Kitaoka's efforts 'art', but their conception certainly involves a lot of skill without them being 'idea' or 'concept' crap of the kind done by those terrible cynical advertising phonies Hirst and Emin. Is it what Kitaoka does, or how he does it, that takes the skill? Bit of an academic question, really. Some of Bridget Riley's works required little skill to paint - she sometimes used household emulsion - but they weren't 'idea' crap either.

That said, commenting on the fuzziness of the boundary isn't intended to refute the huge importance of the distinction.
"I'm not saying that I'm particularly gifted; I'm saying that Currin isn't."

Half of that statement is absurd.
it is not the painting is the object. Try to see there a war good with not so good, eg. good chunk of FR notes going to offset BDS
Here's a question, Which is art? A real fence constructed and painted by a skilled carpenter and painter. Or a painting of the fence that looks like a well made photo.

Both can be evaluated on skill of the creator.

Can a poor working class carpenter/painter ever be accepted as a "real" artist by the "elite"?
Tough question, Anon. But I can say this: I wish the truly gifted fence-makers were paid better, and I wish the Fraudists in the art world had a harder time making a living.
The merit of this George Condo-esque work and the sanity of the art collection (or any other) market aside, skill = craft, not art. Is Triumph of the Will art? The Iraq War sales job?
Anon: Film is a narrative art, so literary values obtain. Even so, I would say that the skill that went into that film was overrated. The parade footage goes on way too long.

The Iraq sales job was true art. But you always knew that the devil is an artist...didn't you?
I remember a guy in one of my poetry classes in college, who always made his poems look like an object that the poem was focused on. A poem about driving had the words arranged to look like a road, for instance....incredibly annoying to read. The poems themselves were total crap, but I guess he was taking the class as a required elective or something. Anyway, he taught me the lesson you present here.......novelty is not art, unless it is carried out with skill (I realize poetry is a literary art......but as my poetry professor for that very class used to stress, poetry is painting with words.....skill is very much crucial in writing good poetry that doesn't sound like a Hallmark greeting card).
Can I guess who your semi-stepfather was? I am about 90% sure that I have it.

Rob, my private email address is at the top of the page. Left-hand side. In the olde-tyme scroll.
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