Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Some Comments on the Claims Pro and Against Painting"

Painting as the most conspicuous of the "canonical forms": check.  But I don't agree with the assertion, made here and elsewhere, that the canonical forms are canonical because of the quality that inheres in them ("burdened by their own notions of quality...") as opposed to intermedia.  I've seen lots of bad painting, photography and sculpture over the years, and lots of bad intermedia too.  The "depictive arts" have a several hundred year head start on intermedia; the criteria that enable us to differentiate between depictive works of art, essentially saying, "This one is not as good as/is better than that one," have been auto-evolving for a long time.  Intermedia's criteria had a late start (I disagree that they are "suspended," or nonexistent) but are no less rigorous.  The works ask to be judged as something other than "canonical forms."  Example: Felix Gonzalez-Torres' offprints, lightbulb strings, and candy piles.  If I judge the offprints as "photographs," or the strings and piles as "sculptures" I reduce them through the application of these terms; their assimilation to the "canonical forms" elides those aspects of their presence which I might, if pressed, call "conceptual" and thus unique to them.  I cannot point to this precisely, as specific aspects of their form, but I intuitively sense that it is there, and that it is this quality that distinguishes Gonzalez-Torres' work from that of other sculptors like Judd or Tony Smith.

(Images: Edwin Dickinson, The Gas Tank, 1937; untitled Felix Gonzalez-Torres lightbulb string)

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