Andre Wallace

Monday, October 28, 2013

Philip Hook on art language - an alternative reference list

Apposite article in this weeks Sunday Times about art-bollocks by Philip Hook. Reading very heavy Tome called Art since 1900 by Rosalind Krauss, Benjamin Buchloch and other solid pillars of visual culture and found stuff. Anything as plain daft as this description, would be hard to find anywhere but it makes a point; that art language is carefully designed to make the outsider feel stupid or ignorant, when the truth is that anything actually meaningful or intelligent about the artwork is being obscured by garbage.

Describing Duchamp's "Etant Donnes" came upon this gem: "The spectacle behind the door is, meanwhile, fashioned to articulate this "carnalization" of the viewer. Exactly replicating the model of Renaissance perspective, the mis-en-scene presents its nude behind the jagged opening of a brick wall in parody of Alberti's notion that the plane through which we look in a perspective construction is like that of a window. Further, orchestrating perspective's geometries through which the cone of vision (coming to a point in the viewers eye - the viewing point) is the exact mirror of the pyramid of projection. (coming to a point in infinity - the vanishing point), Duchamps peepholes set the viewing point as mirrored twin to the hole directly opposite to them, namely the point between the nudes legs, spread-eagled on her bed of twigs. Writing about Duchamps transformational systems, the french philosopher Jean-francois Lyotard captured this bipolar collapse of viewing and vanishing point into twinned bodily orifices in the pun "Con celui qui voit" ". (you translate using google) It's probably a solid truth that Duchamp has been the major source of most of this sort of baloney, particularly when conceptual art is being discussed.

Now this isn't just glorious art-bollocks it's use of renaissance perspective is not even vaguely truthful. There is nothing in the image that Duchamp constructed to describe a location for the main vanishing point (no perspective cues) or the point at which the viewers cone of vision starts, which can be located anywhere in the plane of vision. The concept makes the viewer a peeping tom, forced to peer through a peephole, all the verbiage support is to conflate Duchamp's skill limitations - he was, unlike say Dali, quite incapable of any accurate perspective drawing.
So here, culled from many sources, is a handy guide for use when reading gallery art-speak; please bear in mind that art-speak always degrades in translation

Abject Art - truly pitiful stuff
Accessible Art - any village idiot can understand it
Anticipate - suggest, usually unsuccessfully
Aphoristic - a downright intentional lie
Appropriation - culling from or copying other artists - e.g. chinese contemporary art
Canon - a banksters collection of minor significance
Capital deployment - Investing ill gotten gains in art
Challenging - objectionable, always a good reason for censorship
Charming - dismissed as horrible, often beautiful
Chromatic - same idea repeated ad nauseam in differing colours
Collaboration - forcing some poor sod to do the legwork
Consumerism - art object obtained from the supermarket checkout
Commodification - same as previous but applied to selling groups of the same objects
Conceptual - mental, usually literally
Contextual - someone else's idea
Convention - rules for conforming to someone else's idea
Corpus - words describing a corpse
Critique - assess, usage; usually a pecuniary pursuit
Curator - a person who feeds off artist's objects
Cutting edge -  Newly made in the past month
Deconstruct - attempt to explain the inexplicable
Decorative - a pejorative or a dismissive
Defensive - repeatedly attacked as pathetic
Deterritorialized - indefensible on any grounds
Discourse - art-bollocks, to talk it up!
Diaspora - a rash or it's global ethnic spread
Dichotomous - the same as something else, only a just little different
Difficult - sick, tasteless or tacky, possible lawsuit
Discrete - difficult to comprehend
Eclectic - stolen ideas and images
Engagement - to look at with feigned disinterest
Estrangement - divorced from reality or totally lost as in outsider art
Ethnicity - not one of ours, see diaspora
Evidence - any hint of, in usage an imaginary quality
Feminist - gay art curation
Figurative - any attempt to depict something or someone, often a failed attempt
Formal - conventional, tedious or boring
Funky - a bad smell
Gallerist - a posh galleria
Gem - a small gesture of approval
Gestural - touched in both senses
Globalisation - approved of, in Iran, Beijing, Saudi Arabia or Ulan Bator
Gnostic - unbelievable
Hermeneutic - philosophically unbelievable
Honest - simple minded, the work of an amateur often accessible
Hosting - enduring, tolerating or parasitising
Iconic - hide bound by convention and form
Identity - that which it certainly is not
Image making - the work or hard graft, or someone else's problem
Infantile - adult theme, see abject art
Important - of little or no artistic value
Inimitable - much copied
Intention - any artist's failed plan of action
Interdisciplinary - idea stolen from another academic discipline
Interesting - cash exchange for an artwork
Interrogation - torture, can be sadistic or masochistic
Installation - On a galleria floor
Institution - definitely certified
Italicisation - words posing as images
Interlocuter - big mouthpiece
Journey - process, or long walk as in Richard Long
Kitsch - sentiment, disguised as irony or bathos
Landmark - object best kept at a great distance
Legacy - ideas still ripe for copying or eclecticism
Manifesto - the declarations of an interlocutor
Mapping - trying to get somewhere without any directions
Market - cash in on successful commodification
Masterpiece - object that was made by any artist
Matrix - the festering pond bottom where bad creativity festers and rots
Mature - due for payment now
Mediary - neither fish nor fowl
Metonym - not what it says it is
Mimesis - mimicry as with a talking parrot
Monumental - Anything totally trivial on a plinth i.e. the fourth plinth
Narrative - usually a tissue of lies or fictitious memories
Nominalist -  doesn't exist - even in the imagination
Numinous - an imaginary belief or faith
Outmoded - more than a week old
Objet trouve - stolen from a skip or dump
Phallogocentrism - Sarah Lucas's sculpture
Phenomenological - any old artist's belief system
Place - where it's been put
Plagiarism - Stealing ideas and images - worse theft than eclectic
Polysemy - abject art confusion
Possibility - the worst that can happen, and it will
Post-colonial - made after liberation or republic
Post-modernist - made after modernism passed away
Post-structural - written by Julia Kristeva Derrida or Lacan
Praxis - handicraft, dirty hands
Primitive - pre-renaissance as distinct from ethnic
Procedural - long approved traditional way of making e.g.oil paint or casting
Promiscuity - dirty ideas in all senses
Quasi-ethnographic - pretentiously ethnic
Radicalise - conform to a dead idea
Rationale - a reason to conform to
Referent - a reason why it conforms to
Readymade - Found in a recycling depot
Schema - lack of any plans
Seminal - idea that led somewhere
Semiotic - road signs or instructions
Signature work - artist unable to sign his/her name
Signifier - a metal road sign
Socialisation - Artist in rehab
Statement - a word pretending to be an image
Synecdoche - confused marks that could mean something
Syntagm - groups of marks that should mean something
Syntax - any marks that may mean something
Simulacrum - maquette or very tiny person
Specific - you cannot ever mention it
Source - where a stolen idea came from
Space - anything that is currently free i.e. air or nothing
Subcultural - literally beneath contempt
Subvert - make something beneath contempt
Synthesis - pick and mix takeaway
Taxonomy - In a class of its very own navel gazing
Telos - an artist's death
Thematisation - use linked big sentences
Trajectory - usually from the studio to the dump
Transgressive - Meriting a jail sentence
Transitive - part of a sequence of works or ideas that have legs and will travel
Trope - a repeated image much like a burp
Unique - a single image much like a hiccup
Unmediated - a surprising image or loud belch
Verticality - upright, as in, is bigger than yours
Viewing experience - usually 10-20 seconds
Watershed - the point at which an artists career begins to go off the rails through problems with chemicals or dealers
Zeitgeist - Moody or sulky, also means anything produced in during the sixties or seventies

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Money and Art

This is a post about art and green folding stuff in response to the Art Review power 100 list - which makes for interesting reading. The publication of this list has provoked the critic Sarah Kent into a fit of the  fine art values. She is complaining about the inverted snobbery of the art world moneyed socialites and their lack of engagement with the art. She says that Anthony Gromley's fourth plinth highlighted the fact that "no-one has the faintest idea any more what public monuments and public art are for. What or who is worth commemorating? " Very true - public art has become a particularly dim witted area of fake and pseudo art.

The five richest artists in the world are not all those that you would expect. Two of them you have probably never even heard of although the usual suspect leads the pack with his industry. The link between cash and art is broken, A Willem de Kooning which the artist sold for the princely sum of $33,000 in 1957 recently exchanged hands for £63,000,000. The big money seems to be in pursuit of an objective form of illusion. There is no way that any painting is worth that sum but so divorced from reality are collectors now, the fiscal competition is all that the art serves, the quality of the art is totally irrelevant.

This interesting post from Mark Vallen has cropped up concerning the inherent elitism of fine art, as a response to a truly inane article in New Republic concerning the suggested replacement of bankrupt Detroit's art collection with fakes after the originals have been sold off by Christies. They are reportedly hovering over the corpse of Detroit's exceptional municipal art collection.

Mike Kelly R.I.P. is back in the news again with a show at MOMA psi.  His artworld sainthood continues to progress speedily onwards. Whether his installations are art or entertainment is for you yourself to decide?

Meanwhile investment in art continues, a Sotheby's sale yesterday realised $290 million. A middling Giacometti realised $50million.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Turner Prize annual

It's time once again for the annual State Art merry-go-round the Turner prize.  
This years list is a usual roll call of Tate - State academy approved faux-artists. More and more political similarities are emphasized between the Salon in French 19th century art and Tate - State art conformity of the decadent UK contemporary art scene. As testing the bounds of defined art form is de rigeur, it's more observable that the confusion concerning the form the work takes with the lack of visual content is the main problem. 

They are all the kinds of "non-visual artists" we have got so used to in recent times, apart from Lynette Yiadom-Boakye whose intellectually undemanding paintings betray little more than lack of technical and visual competence thrown up as a distinct virtue.  

David Shrigley - comedic cartoonist is asking us questions about what good and bad drawing is? - which is a great effort from an artist who doesn't actually draw in any meaningful sense of the word. Shrigley is an illustrator first and humourous cartoonist second. A lightweight who can be charged with the criticism that the faux life room exhibit lacks any kind of in deep engagement or inspiration.

Laure Prouvost is French, which is remarkable, so when did anyone last hear of any contemporary french artist of any significance? Her work is predictable and dull navel gazing of family affairs.

Lastly, the right-on current darling of state art, the one and only Tino Sehgal whose amateur dramatic performances have nothing whatsoever to do with visual art. The notion that what he does is testing the boundaries of contemporary art is specious and deluded cod-psychology.  His talk work belongs in the theatre and not an art-gallery, to argue otherwise is cognitive dissonance and deluded. Which goes to prove that current State art values are so perverse he is the most likely performer to win the prize.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Frieze art fair 2013

This years Frieze art fair opens this week in Regents Park so the media is full of hype for this trendy marketplace. All species of galleries are here - wonder how many of them will be around in 5 years time let alone the proverbial 100?
The Modern Institute
Frith Street
Hauser and Wirth
Timothy Taylor

Be that as it may, there is this article about the usual suspect's prices which are of due concern for many "investors". A company called ArtTactic has produced a report to support of the notion that he will be around in a hundred years time even if he is going to mentor the young. Cannot help agreeing with Jones on this one. How cynical is that oft repeated sore, will ArtTactic be around in a hundred years time?
ArtTactic state; "It appears that the low activity in the auction market in the last 5 years does not accurately reflect the state of the overall Hirst market. White Cube Gallery has confirmed that gallery sales of Damien Hirst were in excess of $110 million in 2012, which is more than five times higher than the equivalent sales achieved at auction." 
Hope they do not rue these words; "With the amount of negative news and media coverage in recent years, we believe the market has built up a certain immunity to the criticism directed at Damien Hirst and his market, and it is difficult to see Hirst market sentiment going any lower." Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac thinking that got us all in the poor house, sooner or later the astronomic prices of contemporary art will just have to adjust to sanity. As art is treated more and more like shares it may take a while.

This weekend 13th Oct Waldemar Januszczak is concerned about all the women in contemporary art, which leads us back to Sarah Lucas, he is quite keen on her working class laddishness. He writes; "People like Lucas don't usually become artists, they become barmaids or checkout girls. How marvellous that such a voice has made itself heard in contemporary art." Someone out there ought to do a PHd on the subtly differing value systems in the work of Tracy and Sarah, could be an interesting bit of paper? How many lads could get away with what she does, let alone be feted by Waldemar, even Alan Jones has had a very hard time of it? Such are the duplicitous double standards of the contemporary art scene and it's effete and ephemeral illusory lack of values. Lucas has one thing going for her but it's not the content of the work.

Laura Cumming is concerned with the Vienna portrait exhibition at the National Gallery. She argues that the strongest section of the show is that devoted to death which was the secession obsession. She also assesses the show as a failure, in both the hanging and in the quality of the bourgeois old master pastiches that have been included. This argument is one with the entirety of the history of art and not with the National gallery.

To be seen out and about;
Banksy is making waves in New York - then he does it again with sly wit
Paul Klee - THE genuine giant of modernism at Tate Modern
The kind of art that gets beauty a bad name - crude A Level stuff 
Grayson Perry - his superbly entertaining Reith Lectures
More Henry Moore bronze theft - seems to be a growing enterprise?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Links of general critical interest.

Due to time pressure this weeks research in short form - will resume normal critical commentary next week. Please make your own value judgements about the nature and scope of the critical content of these current links.  Grayson Perry does Reith Lectures

Chris Burden Extreme measures

Raymond Pettibon yet again

Banksy in New York

Banksy in New York 2

RA Australia 1

RA Australia 2

RA Australia Sookes comment

RA Australia Rachel Cooke comment

RA Australia Brian Sewell comment

RA Australia Blog comment

OTT Artistic video from Roberta and Bob Smith

Martin Gayfords Blog

Love and death in Vienna

The Armoury Show

Elmgreen & Dragset

Respected Artist attacks Frieze marketplace -a Preview

Crop circle sting? is it actually Viral marketing?

New Crystal Palace?

Stephen Bayley our foremost cultural design critic has taken umbrage at attempted Chinese cultural appropriation - that they should presume to re-build our Crystal Palace.
He makes a good point when he argues; "Copying the Crystal Palace is a shaming refutation of everything its prototype stood for: originality, pride, enterprise, ingenuity and a refusal to compromise. The legacy of 1851 was Albertopolis, the extraordinary collection of colleges and museums that make South Kensington one of the great intellectual centres of the world.   The new Crystal Palace will not be edifying. It will be a monument to a heartless global parasitic culture that, having no inspiration of its own, finds it in badly translated history. It is a bad-taste insult to the intelligence. If it gets built, it will only remind us of what we have lost." 
He could also have said that the finest legacy of Prince Albert's perspicuity was the building of the network of art and design schools for every town in the country to provide the designers needed by UK manufacturers, both of which; industry and art schools, have been destroyed in the past fifty years and handed on to the Chinese, all very, very sad and unnecessary.  Building this fake would be adding insult to injury.

Continuing the theme of destruction at Tate Britain the Art under attack exhibition is receiving consistent reviews. Both Laura Cumming in the Observer, Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard, The New York Times and Waldemar Januszczak in the Sunday Times cover the exhibition in the 8th Oct editions.
Brian Sewell is particularly annoyed at the contemporary section of the show; "I have some sympathy with the New Yorker so offended that he smeared white paint over Chris Ofili’s Virgin Mary, and with the women who threw acid over the obscene Chair of Allen Jones; I am, indeed, inclined to offer my support to any who, on well-founded aesthetic grounds, are willing to fell much, if not most, public sculpture erected in Britain in the past decade or so." But this isn't about iconoclasm, as he argues, the show loses it's theme when it arrives at contemporary art. 

Laura Cumming is very even handed and says that the last section, the attempt to include contemporary art is unnecessary and irrelevant.  "The attacker acts upon these feelings, inexcusably, but he or she is reacting to something that many people (and indeed many museums) ignore, namely the power of art to affect us."

Waldemar Januszczak argues that any history of UK art must be misleading because of Henry VIII and he also says the show comes adrift when it deals with contemporary art. He attacks the attempt to include the Suffragettes as iconoclasts. There are no plausible links between the Chapman Bros mind games and the smashing of medieval stained glass windows in Canterbury cathedral in 1643. The Chapman's he says, are merely self regarding and narcissistic in defacing Goya masterpieces.  One could add hubristic, adolescent and irresponsible.

The New York Times does make this distinction;
"Defacing art to make new art raises unsettling questions. Some might argue that the Chapmans’ act is equivalent to that of the young man who scrawled his name on the Rothko last October and is now serving two years in prison as a result. One major distinction is a legal one, however: the Chapmans buy the art before they deface it." So that's all right then, possession is everything in legal terms, but is it right or excusable in cultural terms? Have they not some adult responsibility and a duty towards the future?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

ILEA art collection

Came across this post recently which gave a pause for thought, as remembered coming across three Michael Rothenstein prints in an ILEA school art department cupboard in 1970s and remarking to the art staff - bet none of you knows what these are worth. Now we know what happened to some of the other works in the ILEA collection - it seems that they were stolen - As this september 16th conversation about the fate of the Inner London Education Authority’s art collection reveals and no-one blinks an eye lid. Meanwhile in Oldbury they are using Monet's for show and tell a very very good thing!

Frank Auerbach is now the UK's most senior painter - he was a pupil of David Bomberg's Borough road polytechnic teaching. Bomberg was marginalised by the 1940's UK art establishment despite being one of our very best painters, but his work is now greatly valued by the few who know what he achieved as an artist and a teacher. Both are artists whose work will be around in 100 years time.

Jack Vetriano has emerged from the woodwork this week having been honoured with a twenty year retrospective at Glasgow's Kelvingrove, apparently he earns £500,000 a year from royalties from his Singing Butler prints alone. Nice!  He is undoubtedly very popular but is he any good or is his painting kitsch? That is for you to decide?

David Shrigley pens more self revelatory pseudo tripe as he is one of the four artists battling over the plinth. Shrigley's effort is a crude and undemanding gesture - anyone who would think the thumb idea sophisticated, needs to get out more, the idea is simply a large scale clay willy gesture beloved by 12 year old schools boys and on the same intellectual level.

Richard Dorment has been getting all in a lather over the latest Iconoclasm offering at Tate Britain, but his piece contains this non-value judgement;"Plenty of artists including John Stezaker and Dinos and Jake Chapman alter inferior art works to create greater ones. But this isn't iconoclasm." So Jake and Dinos are permitted to destroy Goya prints because they are actually improving them! Where did that sophomoric garbage come from - the stupid art market?
Jonathon Jones who has it seems, seen the light, in the Guardian; "The Chapmans' disfiguring of portraits could only happen in a cynical moneyed art world that has no soul. They have the cash to buy oil paintings in order to trash them. Their clients find that kind of thing amusing.  -  I go back to the Dead Christ: a passionate work of art made to help ordinary people contemplate the biggest realities of life and death. The contrast damns the Chapmans to hell." In the end values are all.

The spanish artist Francisco de Pajaro makes trash into art, and quite endearingly quaint efforts they are too, they don't cost him too much though - they are sourced by skip surfing.

This week the usual suspect tells us that he has felt the power of art from an early age - So he's now just had to produce an alphabet  book for young children who aren't doing art because it's too expensive. The educational value of exposing toddlers to sheep in formaldehyde is specious, tedious and pretentious crap art marketing for over-achieving bores of parents. It will probably put the little dears right off visual culture.  The whole project smacks of a guilt trip - kind of thing.
Speaking of which Sarah Lucas has been causing a big fuss again at the Whitechapel with another truly "outrageous" and "challenging" show. How those two abused words - grind the teeth. Adrian Searle in the Guardian waxes with the usual sad trendy enthusiasm for all the bits (literally) and he writes;"she familiarises us with things we know, things we regard as beneath our attention. Dealing in the repressed, Lucas is irrepressible." Sure but some things are sacred for a good reason and are best left that way, there is way more than sufficient visual garbage around to ruin the male populations brains permanently. Not an intellectually demanding exhibition this, largely because  anything that Alastair Sooke recommends as "really really good" cannot be other than state art. He writes; "they (her sculptures) also manage to pack a hefty punch not only formally, in that Lucas knows how to work effectively with compositional elements such as colour, mass and space, (unlike our Sooke does with words) but also tonally, in that her art can turn on a sixpence from comedy to despair.   -   That takes serious talent. The exhibition at the Whitechapel confirms that Lucas is the most important of the YBAs, whose work stands the best chance of still feeling relevant in 100 years."
How does the use of the word 'tonally' in this sculptural context have anything to do with expressive attributes such as comedy or despair? How does a tone express comedy or despair in a sculpture where it relates only to the colour of a surface finish and texture. What is a despairing texture or finish? Why does Sooke need to add yet again the boring old 100 years legitimisation tag? Yet another perfect example of artbollocks!

Beg to differ - the YBA that will be still around in 100 years time will probably be Michael Landy, he at least is dealing with our sad and illusory cultural values and the boy can draw.