Sunday, January 15, 2017

comes around -- karma’s tool box

Hey progressives, does it seem ironic to you that the tinhorn mercenary values you abhor in Donald Trump are the exact same qualities you celebrated in Andy Warhol just a generation back? Up on Olympus they noticed. Let’s give them a dose of the real thing, greedy, shallow, and dumb, and see how much they like living it. Was it the russians, was it the FBI, who primed the pump to produce this fiasco -- it was you.

As a person Warhol was a translucent newt-boy, so unwholesome and genderless, so inarticulate and evasive, so morbidly shallow and celebrity sodden one wondered if sunlight would reduce him to a wisp straight away, but it’s the art that’s been corrosive. If you can believe a blow up of a soup can is art, not just art but worth tens of thousands, and no one knowing how many there are, you sorta deserve your Trump. So sad.

Meanwhile high above the clouds the minor god of contemporary art has run amok, offending the immortals with tinny imitation, mindless repetition, and relaxed moral judgement leaking out into business, scholarship, and yes, even politics. There are forces at play here larger than the candidates, more powerful than puny policies, and we act it out down here on earth. How do you like fake news?  

Solutions are simple if you still believe the the old gods -- change the art. Seek out the qualities you admire, integrity and accomplishment, commitment and originality, and buy some, hang it where you see it everyday. Not right away, but in time see it all begin to change into a world where human dignity, dedication, and honesty mean more than they do these days.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

gimme some truth -- faking the news

Seems somebody sabotaged our truth meter, abused their exalted positions as experts and sold a line of crap so corrupt the whole enterprise is being called into question. It’s getting to the point any person of dubious intent can make up the news, and if enough people believe it might as well call it truth.

Where is the festering source of this herd-like delusion regarding what’s actually going on? It isn’t in the history books, slanted perhaps, but largely accurate when it comes to facts, and it doesn’t come from science, intimately engaged with reality and aware of actual consequences. Could it be art, which has insisted for decades that repetitious signage was worth obscene amounts of money, touting an aesthetic system patently at odds with common sensibilities? It’s more than possible, and the tax code rides shotgun. For all its glamour and prestige, contemporary art is a confidence game carried out in plain sight, a robbery during business hours, and the culture pays the price when no one believes anyone, anymore. So sad.

‘Who are you gonna believe’ is the question of the moment, the lying art magazines, the compensated critics, the safe and warm academics, or your own eyes? Unless you happen to be an impeccably sophisticated urbanite high above street level, you can’t do both. Everyday people like pictures, but the art industry doesn’t. Actual inherent worth in a work of art gets in the way of their spiel, confuses their issues, defeats their bluebook assessments. Take a charming little painting from above the mantle to a certified appraiser who might glance out of vague curiosity, then looks in a book. Can’t find the name, signature indistinct, according to them, worthless. You didn’t want to sell it anyway.

In the face of dire conditions can we expect an upgrade in the discernment of a free and self-reliant people, one day soon responding to an art more truly reflective of the interests and aspirations of their region, their generation, and the individual’s place in the world? If it happened the resulting grounding of owning art would ripple out, inform the day, and insist on a personal verification for stuff believed.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

price sells art -- car lot logic

In the market, the price of art represents what ‘someone else is willing to pay for it’ -- a dealer explains it this way, and it’s not much of a test. There’s lots of folks with more disposable loot than you, ready to spend you under the table any direction, just a given. When making a major purchase of any kind we usually need more information, like does it work, will it last, does it improve my life enough to justify the sacrifice I’m making to own it? Can’t do that with art, the only specs you’ll receive are in the resume, a history of prior sales.

With the point of view engendered when ‘working on commission’ beneath it all, art has wandered into regions so self-referential and inverted, attained counter points of idiocy so refined it’s beginning to give excessive wealth a bad name. That’s not all. Practical folks who in some degree rub up against cold reality every day don’t have time for the snotty obtuseness, the industrial ugliness, with the most hideous mockeries rising to the top -- google ‘Koons, Hirst’. Art’s a mess when greed drives the bus.

An individual work of art should have presence on its own, and the artist decides how to get there, there are no rules. You, yes you, get to judge the degree to which they’ve been successful, not by glancing sideways to gage the reactions of persons standing next to you, but by internally feeling something -- a sudden loosening of knots, an instantaneous awareness of surroundings, something wholly personal, you’ll know. Not surprisingly, this experience is totally unrelated to what someone would be willing to pay for it. We don’t have to be like them, the trophy gathering ninnies, to look at art, to admire and understand art, to own and live with art in our homes.

Monday, January 2, 2017

new year -- old fashioned support

The new president and our governor just like him think business solves everything, and then there’s me. I also agree that the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers, governs best that governs least, and that welfare is detrimental to incentive and innovation, but I’ll stay out of politics. I’m only talking about art.

Artistic ferment we’ve got, a university town becomes a lens for it in a less than progressive state, but there’s a change of mood all over. Tenuous and arbitrary, ready to dart right of left, no one knows what’s going to be happening six months from now in the broadest sense, and we’re all a bit on edge. While the window is open for creativity and artistic expression, it might be wise to prop it up, establish a sustainability and independence that survives sudden policy changes from above.

In this moment we have the artists, multifaceted ultra-supportive media, outdoor murals and youthful enthusiasm -- what’s missing is business, the public buying art. A seed in gravel, to borrow an expression, springs up quickly but establishes no root, withering when support dries up as it does when government changes priorities. Art has to penetrate the community to actually become viable, go up in houses, be seen in public settings, become familiar and meaningful to those who’ve been showing little interest up until now. It’s a good thing art is being produced in studios popping up all around, and that’s a first step, but artists need real income and more importantly, there has to be more opportunity for average citizens to experience and own original art.

The crux is this -- life is too stupid if individual identity and expression are limited to a make of car and brand of whiskey, like they’ll try to tell you on TV. Art is the curry that makes all this manufactured sameness palatable, and it’s been missing for most folks, ironically prone to turn rancid when hoarded by a few. Its ‘function’ in this modern life is to humanize the house, to elevate the workplace, to provide a touchstone of uniqueness that endures. 

Civic entities with strong central control put up lots of public monuments, fountains, commissioned art, just saying, but democratic ideals lead to solar on the roof and art up in the house. The business of art -- individual studios producing artwork to be purchased and hung in homes and offices seems particularly feasible in the current climate. In the new year, if art becomes more accessible, more open to comparison and appraisal, a curious public may notice and begin to support art and artists the old fashioned way.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

money envy -- art blindness

Do You Have to Be Rich to Make It as an Artist?’ artnet news -- jan 14
An article surveys the background of several fully emerged artists concerning privilege and wealth, something about both opportunities and points of view I think, just scanned it, who cares? It’s the audience who are actually required to be privileged and wealthy, blue-chip art like banknotes up on their walls. What are the aesthetic parameters of well-upholstered living, what insight gained from having things taken care of, little to do in life but compete against other wealthy wankers with your stuff? I’d have no idea, but I can see the art they like. The ‘artnet news’ is devoted to it.

I wouldn’t romanticize being poor, but overly-easy has drawbacks as well, and wealth’s notorious lack of empathy, while certainly understandable, becomes a distinct liability when it comes to appreciating art. Those with everything already instinctively want to buy the thing with the biggest price tag, a tendency recognized and long cherished within the industry. People who have acquired more of life’s skills through diligence and effort have a greater inclination to admire accomplishment, and with just a bit of exposure they can learn to recognize and appreciate it in art, whatever the subject, whatever the price. A taste in art -- a favorite artist, or style, or subject is strictly individual, and we all get to like what we like, but just being super expensive is an unreliable standard for art, a joke, a perversion.

On the ‘artnet news’ it’s all they ever talk about, really. It isn’t actually news, it’s just about money, the racing form with glam gossip tossed in. There are rumored compensatory considerations for favorable reviews, like buying a big fat ad, and this implicit corruption is simply known as ‘the way we do business.’ I suppose if I wanted to be like them I’d try to like their art too, but I don’t. What I do know is that if ten painters of relative proficiency were to paint the same familiar object, the result would not be ten identical copies of something, but ten individual images, each revealing something about the artist who painted it. That’s a place to start, actually a place to start over.

Friday, December 23, 2016

not enough looking -- too much talk

What does it mean to be visual, as in ‘visual art’? Means almost anything these days, no, more than that. Visual art can be anything you want it to be, and doesn’t have to look like much. About a hundred years ago give or take, the newly defined mission of the artist became simply to shock the middle class, violate accepted norms, and ride that wave of controversy to the top. The urban chic love putting artificial distance between themselves and the workaday types who contribute to their swell lifestyles, and any affront to their sensibility makes the grade, cheap, tawdry, easy, and dumb they like special. This is said with confidence, evidence abounds.

Back in the seventies Tom Wolfe asserted that the real change in art was from a visual form to a literary one, and as a fact Clement Greenberg, titan theorist of abstract expressionism, came to art after having tried literary criticism. With bunches of words you can weave some scintillating tapestries, but they’re just going to lay there on the page in rows, sucked up in linear sequence to be reconstructed by you -- pure abstraction. Visual art isn’t like that. It’s so much more ‘real.’ Looking at a picture happens all over all at once, but it enters the brain slowly, sinking in like water in a flower pot. Verifying this assertion will require the participation of the reader willing to stand in one place in the museum long enough for a painting to have its say. Walk away with your windows defogged a little.

What we have here is a traffic jam of words about art, and the road doesn’t go through, anyway. Visual art occupies a territory past the jurisdiction of words, and it can be talked about but not captured by anything said. Using visual art to illustrate a relevant, timely, important social cause is really just another form of advertising, while the art has merit, if any, solely in visual terms. This is the gauntlet -- have something interesting to say visually, or call it something else. Conceptualists, homestead new ground, blow minds and call into question over on your own lot, and leave visual artists to paint their pictures, to sing their songs in the mind’s eye.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

the invisible bridge - art and life

In an article about abstract art in salon magazine, 12-18, the author suggests -- ‘And yet the general public, at least, finds abstraction and minimalism intimidating, quick to dismiss it with “oh, I could do that” or “that’s not art.”’
This is not, in a highly technical sense, what we usually think of as ‘intimidation,’ and represents a slight misreading of public sentiment due to a seriously bent point of view, make that self-serving delusion raised to an art form. They don’t want in, the six-packs, and might actually resent you and your snooty posturings, sipping pretend tea from plastic cups while the planet smolders, adoring that abstract art.

Another article quotes Trump, from his book ‘Art of the Deal,’ how on visiting an artist friend, ‘a highly successful and very well known painter,’ the artist asks Trump -- ‘how would you like to see me make twenty five thousand dollars?’ He pours out five buckets of paint, takes maybe two minutes, and says ‘I just earned twenty five thousand, let’s go to lunch.’ Instead of gasping at what an affront such sheer larceny would be to almost everyone else on the planet, the art critics amuse themselves wondering who the artist could be, a truth squad with squirting roses in their lapels.

Shame on all the arts professionals of whatever stripe who perpetrate this mythology that abstract art represents a great deal more than elaborate trademarks, bought and sold and traded around like monopoly tokens. As a business, it's seen by many as much closer to the sham Trump said it was, and he speaks for oh so many people, you wouldn't believe. Pretending they don’t exist, these little people, or don’t count, pisses them off, and sooner or later they express themselves. The mega-irony of it all is that art matters, and shallow, stupid, mercenary art leaks out into ‘real life’ in unfortunate, unfunny ways. 

Trump was not offended by the mindlessness of the artist’s non-art, he admired it in his twisted way, the way the establishment does, all about money, fame, the secular side only. Consequences be hard, but lessons are there just waiting, laying on the ground. If the art of the eighties, celebrated for being dumb and dollar-driven, in any way contributed to the real life dilemma we’re facing these days, then let’s turn the ship around and start respecting the art in front of us. Art could turn out to be the only handle we can find on a morphing group consciousness, digital x’s and o’s sucking at our toes like sand in the tide.