Saturday, March 16, 2013

An Interview With Jeff Wall on Patrick Faigenbaum

"At the Vancouver Art Gallery I am presenting the work of artists who make images in a more or less conventional way – painting, photography and so on – they aren’t doing moving images or any kind of ‘live’ art involving motion. Essentially the depictive arts as they’ve been known for centuries. Not young artists, but ones who have been around for a while and who have some substantial body of work by now. And of course artists who haven’t been seen here before. Patrick’s show is the fourth in this series, which started with Kai Althoff, and this summer we’ll present sculpture by the German artist Martin Honert. I think there are now two basic kinds of contemporary art – the newer forms based on the idea of the readymade – and the older ones like painting and sculpture. You could also think of these newer forms as ‘post-conceptual’ whereas the depictive arts don’t depend on conceptual art. I don’t think there’s a conflict between the two kinds of art but there is a distinction to be made there. So it seemed to me that people in Vancouver ought to be able to see depictive art done by very distinguished artists from different places, all of whom are akin in their devotion to the image, or the picture, or the sculpture. Artists we may have heard about but haven’t actually had a chance to see. There is no substitute for seeing the work itself. Part of what we are trying to achieve is to create circumstances where the audience here can satisfy its desire for images, and through that develop a taste for depiction and develop its own taste in terms of encountering, appreciating, and judging works of serious quality."

This is a good interview, and makes a strong case for Anthony Hernandez and Martin Honert, whose works I know and admire, and maybe for Patrick Faigenbaum, who I've been less interested in, at least so far.  Maybe Jeff's exhibition will change that.  Maybe that's why we go to exhibitions, in hope of being changed.  Maybe that's a side effect of the process of "encountering, appreciating and judging works of serious quality."

I'm curious about the distinction Jeff draws between the depictive arts and conceptual art.  This distinction, the subject of his 2006 Hermes lecture, "Depiction, Object, Event," is not quite real to me.  The short version of his argument, as I understand it, is that intermedia and/or conceptual art is less good, less aesthetically successful, than the depictive arts, because the depictive arts are subject to, and in fact invite, judgments of quality, whereas intermedia and/or conceptual art are not and do not:

Burdened by their own notions of quality, the depictive arts have been able to question their own validity only in order to affirm it. To practice these arts is to affirm them or fail at them, even though that affirmation may be more dialectical than most negations. The emergence in the past 30 to 50 years, of a contemporary art that is not a depictive art has revealed the depictive arts as restricted to this negative dialectic of affirmation.

This is the price paid for autonomy.

Contemporary art, then, has bifurcated into two distinct versions. One is based in principle on the suspension of aesthetic criteria, the other is absolutely subject to them. One is likewise utterly subject to the principle of the autonomy of art, the other is possible only in a condition of pseudo-heteronomy....

Jeff stresses this point repeatedly in recent interviews, pointing, like the late Greenberg of the Bennington Seminars, to how his philosophical extrapolations are rooted in personal aesthetic judgments; his "honest" sense, for example, that Walker Evans and Atget are better, more aesthetically successful, photographers than, say, Robert Smithson or Ed Ruscha.  That's probably true.  But because I, like Jeff, enjoy "encountering, appreciating and judging works of serious quality," that process then impels me to ask a further question: are Walker Evans and Atget better artists than Smithson or Ruscha?  If so, why?

Here the depictive art v. conceptual & intermedia art dichotomy breaks down.  Judgments of aesthetic quality can't be rooted in the specificity of particular media any more than they can in genres, or subject-matter.  Case in point: Marcel Duchamp, who was an adequate painter, at least to my eye, but a great artist.  I suppose you could make the strained and somewhat goofy argument that Duchamp's urinal is actually a sculpture, responding to sculptural precedents and the "aesthetic criteria" of sculpture, but that sounds too much like Greenberg on "flatness": too dry, too chalkboard-and-seminar-room, and, ultimately, reductive of the complexity, beauty, and humor of Duchamp's best work.

I think that conceptual and intermedia works are subject to judgments of quality, just like depictive works of art.  Any useful theory of aesthetic judgement needs to be able to account for comparisons between these two great streams of contemporary art, the kind of comparisons that everyone already makes in practice, thereby producing judgments of great subtlety and complexity. 

There is already a flexible and useful theory that can account for these problems, outlined by a friend of mine and currently hidden behind a JSTOR paywall.  Anyone with a little ingenuity should be able to find it.

Piano: Jim Beard
Organ, vox: Donald Fagen
Rhodes: Ted Baker
Guitar, guitar solo: Jon Herington
Guitar: Walter Becker
Bass: Freddie Washington, Jr.
Drums: Keith Carlock

Tour rehearsal, 2008.  I Idolize You originally written and performed by Ike Turner (w/ Tina, natch!)
Friday, March 15, 2013

Some kind stranger just sent me a high-quality version of this set out of the blue. On the night in question, I was sitting six rows back from Walter on his stool, but never had a recording -- let alone knew a good one existed -- until now.  Thanks!
Thursday, March 14, 2013
"If the new paradigm is, in time, to pay no money to anyone who will write something for you, your field of applicants will grow and shrink."  (Jack Womack)
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"I had to create a ceiling that was covered by lamps, but not just covered, had to have shapes and flows in it, so that there’s a whole galaxy going on the ceiling. Some are lit, some aren’t. They all worked, but over the time of working I realised it wasn’t as interesting working with all of the lights on. Plus it was unbearably hot. I doubt the man underneath would have been able to keep them on for more than 10 minutes in his place, he would have roasted! But he did use those lights for making toast, and making melted cheese sandwiches. He could fry an egg up there! There’s a little divide hanging from the ceiling, and you c[an] see bits of cheese hanging down from it, where he toasted his cheese under the bunch of very hot lights."
Monday, March 11, 2013

Edward Wicklander, 5 Kittens, 2012.  Carved and painted walnut.
Salmon, Sorrel, Tomato Fennel Salad

The ingredients aren't anything special, but the combination's mine.

Tomatoes x 2.  X w/ knife in end, boiling water.  30 sec.  Ice water.  Skins off, deseeded, chopped, reserved.

Fennel bulb.  Fine dice.  Reserve fronds, also diced.

Shallot.  Fine dice.  Chardonnay + shallot + hot pan.  2 min.  Cream, big handful chopped sorrel, juice from 1/4 lemon, salt, 1/2 tomato dice.  Boil.

Butter in pan #2.  Foamy.  Salmon fillets x 2.

2-3 minutes, flip.

Toss fennel w/ remaining tomato.  Lemon, salt.

Warmed plates. Sauce, salmon fillet on top, tomato/fennel salad at 3 o'clock.  Garnish fish w/ fennel fronds.

("Cats like salmon," sez the Kato Cat, leaping up onto the dining-room table.  "And cream.")
Sunday, March 10, 2013


ACTs (Aesthetically Claimed Things)
: Canadarm and Dragon spacecraft

(Photograph by @Cmdr_Hadfield)

ART (Aesthetically Rejected Thing): Alexis C. Madrigal, Angry and Just !Refusing! to Take It Any More

More self-righteous blather from the The Atlantic, not realizing that the correct response to deliberately putting one's foot in a nest of pissed-off journalists is to run away fast, not to eagerly shove the other foot, both hands, and face in after.

"These are my people. These are my colors. This is my institution, my connection to a legacy and a lineage. And if you come after one of us, if you come after it, I am not going to take it lying down."

TRANSLATION:  "I like being paid to do work that I solicit other people to do for free."

Love the ungainly mash-up of raging Chuck Palahniuk-meets-Hunter short staccato sentences and dollops of New Media Economy blather ("You want to become a node. And to become a node, you need to do things that inculcate trust from your readers, and you need to keep doing that over and over. In the digital world, we build the distribution networks day by day...")

Also, question, how does politely asking to be paid for original work suddenly constitute "coming after" anyone?  Strange how The Atlantic's inexplicably whiny paid staff have spun a writer saying, in public, "Thanks, but I'd prefer not to work for free, and am actually kind of offended that you asked," into a fantasy of disrespecting the legacies of John Muir, Ida Tarball, & etc.

Best case scenario: The blows up (because it is obviously of no use to anyone in the real world, the protestations of its paid staff notwithstanding) and Alexis goes back to blogging about football or his old hedge fund job, and we never hear from him, ever again.

(Above, Mr. Madrigal.  A real-life Louis Green!)

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