Archive for the ‘BLATHER & DRIVEL’ Category

What I Said / What I Meant to Say

Art Ltd magazine published a “Spotlight on Santa Barbara” feature this month to tell the story of various developments in the art scene of Santa Barbara. I recommend reading it if you want a good sense of what’s cooking up here.

It also seems worth taking a moment to correct myself.

Here’s what I (apparently) said, “[the gallery is not interested in deciding what’s good or bad based on whether the work is representational or abstract.” I (apparently) went on, “This rejection of the idea that the narrative of art in American inevitably leads to the triumph of abstraction dates to a very specific moment, which is when Alfred Barr acquired Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World for the Museum of Modern Art in 1948. Art historically speaking, that decision is our point of departure, so naturally, this Andrew Wyeth show is important to us, because it represents what we are all about.” For the record, the painting was purchased in 1949. While we’re correcting misunderstandings, I am not, in fact, the curator, though I am quite proud of the show.

What I meant to say is that the gallery does not stake out a particular position between abstraction and representation. We believe that rich results can be had from either approach. In some sense, the Andrew Wyeth exhibition embodies the idea, since it was Alfred Barr’s private acquisition of Christina’s World that upended the midcentury thought that representational art was on its way out. That’s what I should have said.

A big thank you to Art Ltd and to the writer, Charles Donelan, for their efforts to focus a little attention on the 805.


The West Coast Underground

Sweet siren Google,
Alert me to the allusions of asymptomatic articles!
Sing to me of Smith and Bontecou, too…

This morning, I received an e-mail alerting me to a new article in the NY Times about a series of monographs on “obscure” abstract artists of the mid-twentieth century.  Among these, Hassel Smith, who is described as, “…once mentioned along with abstract masters like de Kooning, Kline and Motherwell, then devolved to “West Coast underground legend,” then (kind of) vanished.”

Here is the slideshow:

Ah, the West Coast Underground… my old stomping grounds.  I was more of a imaginary figment than a legend there, but I find great comfort in knowing that great minds and spirits like Hassel preceded me.  Having curated two exhibitions from his estate, I find it somehow fitting to hear him described as “underground.”


Jeremy Tessmer, California scholar

The New York Public Library blog cited me as a “California scholar” today. I was called much worse yesterday.

Check out this post on Dabo.


The Original Rudeboy / LA ART SHOW

caravaggioMichelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio - truncated to a Madonna or Cher-like “Caravaggio” for modern attention-deficit prone audiences is enjoying his last days in Los Angeles at LACMA’s Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy exhibition on now through February 10th.

It is a MUST SEE.  Why?  Because of this painting at left.  St. John the Baptist painted c. 1604 is quite simply a daring work of genius.  Compositionally, it’s very nearly perfect. Following linearly across the major forms one zooms endlessly back around the center of the canvas in a masterfully hidden bit of Mannerist trickery.  There are echoes of triangles in the left arm, the right thigh, and his cloth.  The shadows over his eye and the turned bamboo cross, meanwhile, add pathos to the spiritual quality of the painting by suggesting that his divine calling was something of a heavy burden.  St. John the Baptist, here, literally looks away from the divine light as though it were blinding. His look, meanwhile, hints at either skepticism or even weariness.

Most daring, however, is the fact that this figure appears to be a classically informed Kouros - an idealized young  man who hovers between the innocence of boyhood and the erotic potential of manhood. (Thanks Camille Paglia.)  How Caravaggio avoided charges of heresy for this work, I’ll never know. BUT, it is a masterwork and well worth the trip.

THE LA ART SHOW… is full of old friends who are trying valiantly to keep a large and now long-standing fair in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, I was underwhelmed. The contemporary side was full of empty populist stuff and the historic dealers seemed resigned to an audience of lesser means and education.  Am I projecting?  Maybe.  Tune in next time: I will check in with my spies and offer a final report.


(Art / Miami) + (New York x Art) = Fall Season

newyorkfall2012Holland and I made it back to New York from Monday, November 26th to Friday, November 30th. What did we do? What did we see? The George Bellows and Trick Photography (Before and After Photoshop) exhibitions at the Metropolitan, the Picasso Black & White and Gabriel Orozco Asterisms exhibitions at the Guggenheim, the Frick Museum’s permanent collection, the American Art Fair, the Just Off Madison open house event, and a number of the better galleries in Chelsea.

We also ate some food and did some shopping and saw some collectors and scholars.  New York was a wonder… as always.


1. Bellows could be very good, but he was very, very uneven. I was underwhelmed and surprised by that reaction.

2. The Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop was an unexpected delight. The “After Photoshop” portion was a HUGE disappointment.

3. Picasso… in black and white. There were some excellent things. Of course there were. In the main, though, I need a LONG break from Picasso.

4. Gabriel Orozco’s Asterisms was full of both wonder and delight. Dessicated toilet paper rolls, patinaed hard hats, old oars, sea glass and opaqued light bubs arranged by typology sounds like a description for another art world yawner. It wasn’t. It was terrrific.

5. I had never seen the Frick. What a building. What a collection. You could go for the Van Gogh self-portrait or the Rembrandt self-portrait. You could go for the Turners or the Titians, the Gainsboroughs or the El Grecos. Do you like Chinese porcelain or German? I dunno. I will always remember the Fragonard room, though. “Joseph! This is Henry. Send over a room of Fragonards.”

6. Pace Gallery’s installation of the Ozymandias Parade by Ed Kienholz was jaw dropping.

7. The new fad in Chelsea for issuing exhibition lists WITH and WITHOUT prices is probably going to stay, which will add one more level of minor irritation to the lives of all of us who live in this crazy place called the art world.

8. American Modernism and Nineteenth Century American painting seem to be hot. American Impressionism seems to be a bit softer.

As an art viewing trip, it was a solidly positive experience. Look over the pictures from Miami… Pictures 1 & Pictures 2 See what you think. The chatter from the pundit class has been decidedly negative. The images looked … like what I am used to seeing at art fairs these days: populist art’ntainment, modernist talismans, conceptual geegaws, shock & droll, and an assortment of passable to admirable - if largely ignored - other works by artists who have yet to plug in to the 1.21 Gigawatt Cash & Conversation Generator known as the CONTEMPORARY ART MARKET.