Friday, April 28, 2006

Dinner Downtown

In his book The Naked Artist: Art and Biology, the late British Marxist art critic Peter Fuller described how, in the early eighties he, together with a range of other Marxists, such as Sebastiano Timparo and Raymond Williams, had come to realize that where it concerned fundamental rhythms, shapes, and colors, there can be "no reduction to simple [sic] social and historical circumstances" and that "the material processes of the making of art involve biological processes which can be, and often are, the most powerful elements of the work."[42] excerpt
I participated in a forum with Peter Fuller in the Rivoli bar (Toronto) while he was promoting his incredible book, The Naked Artist years ago. It was a turning point in my youth to adult as an artist. One that a public forum on art be held outside academia and in a bar, a trendy hip urban bar (at the time) and two, his work embraced art as not only natural but intrinisc to being an animal was exhiliarating. He combined the early childhood transitional object (the move from breast to teddy bear, thumb, or blankie study of Winnicott) to art and poetry. He rejected french art theory and philosophy (which was poisoning my university) , his own forays into Marxism, and believed that art was linked to neotony. He was a breath of fresh air from stale dogmas "new philosophy" , and a voice outting the feudal mafia nicknamed "the art world". I've rarely read any art criticism that has even come close to his passion, deduction and insight. He also wrote an strange essay on the concern of America to win a cultural world war after their victory in military dominance. Fuller suggested that the short violent lives and death of most of the Abstract Expressionists was because they knew in their hearts they were being used by the rich elite to claim cultural stature as well as military and financial domination, rather than their art being of value on its own merits. (of course I am paraphrasing, and if an art lover should be reading this I wish you luck at tracing down this book, but it will be worth your while to read almost anything by Fuller)

I love being outside. My dream home is a tepee, which scares the hell out Stagg. So I love to pack food to eat while hanging outside. Made balsamic vinegrette on greens and salmon. I find if I just constantly feed Stagg and he'll hang outside with me. Look at the gallery. Great Warhol show but what is wrong with humans and why can't we make a gallery? We go through all these phases of design, and then reject them and curators and collectors have low self-esteem so they always worry about being historically correct and feel they have to spend millions on renovations. I wonder if this Chicago Museum will do the same. I say, why not have a lottery and draw 50 names of entries and those winners will make art work to hang out side the gallery for one year. Then do it every year. Who cares if they are "historically correct" artists or famous. Or, even more fun, get public volunteers to enter a lottery to pick out 100 entires and judge which ones will decorate the outside of an ugly art gallery building. For that matter why not have a lottery for the public to choose public art. I say, take art history out of the hands of the rich. Lets grow some art consummers. Old galleries had big windows that let fresh air inside. If we can't have fresh air then why not save money to buy more art and forget about renovations, lets let the people decorate the outside of these monoliths with art.

I am always hoping to turn some art lover onto art citic Peter Fuller. I don't think it's easy to find his work, likely out of print. But friends of the late critic maintain a newsletter, Blunt Edge, which seems to emulate his unique approaches to art loving. Here is the introduction to the first issue, 2000.
Blunt Edge is an offspring of the newsletter which has been sent every year to Friends of the Peter Fuller Memorial Foundation. It aims to provide a place for discussion about the visual arts free from the prejudice of current fashion and curatorial justification. The views given here are independent of, and might even be antagonistic to, views held by all or any of the memorial’s trustees.

Any opinion expressed in opposition to the cutting edge inevitably runs the risk of being branded reactionary. Consequently, however uncomfortable, most commentators prefer sitting on the edge to offering serious criticism about it. Writing about the last decade of art in London, Adrian Searle says, ‘We are all probably too close to all of it, and no one wants to be wrong-footed by making definitive judgements.’ Peter Fuller was certainly never slow to make them. Risk is the natural accompaniment to the exercise of discrimination. And as Nicholas Serota has reminded us we took Peter Fuller seriously in spite of his not having ‘an unerring eye.’ But eccentric – occasionally even ridiculous, though they may have been, were Peter’s enthusiasms any less absurd than much of what is offered by Nicholas Serota himself? Most of the conceptual tricks and games played out by today’s favoured artists are second or third hand routines and frequently very heavy-handed ones at that. The sad fact is that most of the new art is not only not new but it is extremely boring. Supposedly challenging and offered with the full authority of adolescent recalcitrance it usually results in bathos. What, for example could be more tedious than a video trip round the inside of Mona Hatoum? For audacity and imagination as well as social comment I would prefer any day to see an episode of South Park.

The best of modernism died with Matisse. And certainly there is no way of putting the clock back. Last year’s words belong to last year’s language… Can the traditional forms of painting and sculpture still extend that tradition? There are few signs that today’s circumstances make that even remotely possible except in occasional isolated cases. If the alternatives to the tradition of ‘art objects’ look pretty threadbare – so unfortunately does the tradition itself. It is time for something really radical and there is no sign of it yet.

From the introduction to Blunt Edge issue#4, 2004.
So what of Elkins’ suggestion that it would be beneficial for historians and critics to do some drawing and painting in order to heal the separation between theory and practice? It has to be asked if there is a disjunction in the first place? Critics and theoreticians are comfortably embedded in ‘the discourse’ – they are integrally part of it. And currently preoccupied as they are with post- Duchampian conceptual approaches to art – even in painting and drawing, it is unlikely that practice would do any more than reinforce the status quo. Matthew Collings is one prominent critic who does make a point of telling us that he has a studio, and that he paints. And coincidence or not, he offers the sharpest instance of critical instability. As Channel 4’s presenter of the annual Turner Prize ceremony he has been closely involved with the BritArt phenomenon. But now, in his disarming way, he lets it be known that in fact he thinks that ‘the whole art scene is made up of a bunch of idiots.’ Through the confusion of his contradictions, Collings is aware that he speaks as the art scene’s Fool, “The mandarin people in charge of the Turner Prize, and the media people at Channel 4, and middle class people who run the art columns on the broadsheets, all assume ordinary people must have this stuff explained to them – but the motivations for doing that are completely bullshit. It’s for commercial reasons, to get the ratings up.” .

Collings anticipates a blight of pseudo art lasting years and years, with the only hope for genuine expression coming from “some sort of cultural underground.” Perhaps that’s all the Fool is destined to do: tell the emperor that he is naked. He need not have solutions but he has to stay on at the court otherwise he loses his role as the royal conscience. It will be interesting to see how often Collings is able to prise himself away from his celebrity connections for some subversive underground work.

The ‘underground’ idea is appealing. It would form outside ‘the discourse’ and would have to avoid art history’s labels – not just “immediately” but altogether. It could pay homage to Schiller and think of itself as ‘The Aesthetic Education of Man’.


Anonymous said...

nice piccys candy i wont even pretend 2 understand alla tha writing tho :o)

Chris said...

Hey Minx,
Thanks for the nice comment. No, I don't watch Survivor, but I'll be sure to keep a piece of driftwood handy.
Thanks for the link to the Jesus IM thing...I'm actually thinking about turning it into a short book if I can motivate myself enough.

Marxism: I actually did my senior paper in my college Rhetoric class on a Marxist interpretation of Iago from Othello, so the subject interests me.

Anyway, thanks for reading.


mister anchovy said...

When you talk about traditional forms of painting and sculpture, are you talking about materials or are you talking about content? Words like modernism block us from really seeing our recent past (I mean recent like the last couple two three hundred years). I think you have to put aside those ideas for a while to see what was really afoot. I know so many artists who need to believe that they are re-inventing the world - formal invention is really pretty rare. the desire for it is driven by a system that makes it really difficult for artists to survive without holding a straight gig of some sort. Bloore used to talk about Byzantine art to us - he's say that they worked on the same forms for something like 900 years, trying to get it right, trying to evoke the kingdom of, nothing is still for 20 minutes. It has to be the next thing now. We want to bow at the feet of the next big thing, even if the next big thing is really just the last big thing repackaged and marketed out to us.

Sorry, I'm rambling. Off to Montreal in the morning...back Sunday night.

Candy Minx said...

HI Mr A.

Um, well it is unlikely I used the idea of traditional forms of painting and sculprute...the phrase was from a quote to into to Blunt Edge magazine...but I think I understand what the writer is getting at.

The writer sugessts that even if we were to JUST examine modernism....its last great was Matisse(I don't feel that way, but can travel along this argument for fun)

The writer can be broken into several points here

1)new are is not only not new, it is boring
2)last good new art was Matisse
3)most techniques in art today is a conceptual trick
4)taking a stand with ones opion means taking a risk(to reject "new art"
5)the conceptual tricks in art right now are lame, obvious,"heavy handed" and second or third hand routines
6)writer would rather watch trendy sophomoric cartoon than a camera inside a trendy artists body
7)todays art is labeled "challenging" and approved by authority(or the experts?) but is not challenging it is anti-climatic with meaning
8) we can't turn the clock back to Matisse

Now we might want to ask, what are traditional forms of painting and sculpture, the obvious forms are paint ,mapped off area for images, 3D materials, circles, squares, triangles, eyes, bodies, landscapes, figures, food, animals everyday objects, patterns repeated...

heh heh (among a few other traditional forms)

Well, then the writer asks, are the traditional forms of painting and sculpture able/equiped to extend the modern attempt of todays art to keep using these conceptual tricks over and over to say something with trite moral and emotional content?

The writer then suggests that the alternatives to traditional forms in paiunting and sculpture being used to repeat conceptual tricks is a threadbare offering to us the viewers.

The writer suggests that repeating weak conceptual tricks is a threadbare practice.

MY impression from that excerpt is that the writer was saying all along that:

The situation in art and galleries is stalemated and in a rut by a combination of artwork repeating tricks and content of modernism, content is enclosed in weak conceptual tricks, the meanings within todays artwork is not challenging (it is adolecent at best) the language is old and best left behind us.

The writer seems to think something radical must be done.

And Mr A you and I have spoken of these events many times and this situation...and we both know the only radical change that would happen within art practice is by the artists themselves.

I just happened to enjoy some of the essays in this online magazine thought some of them were even exciting.

Thanks for reading these kinds of posts though because I know they are wordy.


I'm with you. Loved Groucho n Harpo n Chico n.....hang on....I've missed somethin' 'ere....

Candy Minx said...

No you haven't mssed anything I'm just thinking about unimportant shit 4Dins.

Thanks for stopping by.

a from l said...

Candy, thanks for leaving a comment on my recent blog entry - and I like your blog a lot!

Regards, Andrew

me said...

owning up part 1; not read this blog
owning up part 2; been trying to remember your blogsites name for a while now! wanted to check if you had replied to my post, but my pc has had problems (see the blog) and my memory is crap!
will make up for number 1 as soon as i finish this, number 2.....put a link to you from mine ta for your visit, and as arnie said "i will be back"
till then

me said...

ooh, so deep for a sunday evening!
not sure what it is you are saying. who was it that said "i don't agree with what you are saying, but by god i will fight for your right to say it!"?
not that i don't agree with you, just don't understand it.
one more question, and then i will leave you alone again, why is it that the people who critique art are the ones totally incapable of producing it themselves?
a matter of "those who cannot do, teach?"
hum hey.
later candy, stay you!
the world is running out of individuals!

Anonymous said...

Candy this reminds me of a book I got at Quimby's called why most art sucks after I read it I shipped it over to Mr. Anchovie and the Tuff Princess.


Candy Minx said...

Oh thanks fatfiz for reading this post but more important, thanks for stopping by and saying hi. Glad we found each other again! (Hi Stagg!)

You know, you, 4Dins and d34dpuppy make the most important points....that it is really hard to understand what the articles are talking about...and suggesting does it matter?

I enjoy reading these kinds of things, for me it's like "shop talk" but I can not help but feel...who cares anyways.

There are vibrant artists who live off their artmaking. They work for Disney, South Park, game productions and fashion houses.

As for the "tradition" of art from the er ah..."past" who cares? People don't generally go to art shopping or look at art or care if they have something handmade in their house.

I think artists have missed the boat on this one. There are galleries and museums that keep a few artists "famous" and show old art. But most of the people don't see it as something that gives them passion or excitement in their lives.

At this point 99% of artists are hobbiests. I'm not saying that is a badthing, its okay to work and have passion for other things than ones job obviously. Its the idea that artmight be something for the popular audience.

I think a lot of artists believe that or wish it, and its not for money, its for communication. Artists are storytellers without an audience. Does it matter?

I don't know...?

mister anchovy said...

Some days I think I'm a revisionist painter, because when I'm painting, I feel very close to the first painter, whoever that might have been....I keep going back there over and over and over again like a "fiend for his dope, a drunkard his wine" (Merle Travis)....I used to think that the difference is that I have more the internet, books, histories and so on, but then I considered that the first painter likely knew more about his or her community than I do about mine. I wonder how much has really changed? I'm still makin marks in the sand, telling my little stories....

We saw the Kiefer show in Montreal yesterday....I'll write about it later on mister anchovy. Fantastic - it just about knocked me off my feet. Many new paintings, from 2005 - huge impossible paintings that made me want to laugh and cry and contemplate and argue....charged us right up, it did.

A-List said...

Living in a teepee...that's interesting...wouldn't work for me, I hate bugs, I can't stand extreme temps (cold or hot), and i'm just too spoiled with things like TV and the net.

You really have a great eye for photography :)

Come on, there is no way a whales tongue weighs more than an elephant!!Tell me you're joking!
Wow samba dancing, how hot is that! You have such an active lifestyle, i'm envious!! Do you know how many calories you must have lost lol. How many blocks did you end up walking to find a bus? Thank God you found one, imagine you had to walk all the way home (unless you would have called a cab...but i'm brown [cheap] so that's not an option for me haha). Glad you had a great weekend!!!