December 22, 2003

Ad Reinhardt

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I wish I was in New York nowadays to see this show at the Daniel Silverstein Gallery in Chelsea, "How to Look at Ad Reinhardt". I found this article in the NYTimes last weekend.

His visual and verbal assaults took their most lasting form in a series of cartoons and satires, done mainly for the liberal New York newspaper PM in the late 1940's and for ArtNews in the early 1950's...

In "How to Look at Looking," he compares "picture artists" and "abstract painters" with a pair of chickens. The former is a hen that lays eggs of "Ignorance" while the latter produces "Intelligence" and "Progress," a result so laughably crude one can only assume that Reinhardt is razzing the idealism of his employer. It's not surprising that PM soon fired him; as Hess pointed out, it's laudable that they turned him loose in the first place. The art criticism in New York newspapers of the day was stunningly obtuse about contemporary art.

By the 50's, Reinhardt's colleagues were better established, and so he trained his guns on outposts that supported them, including the Museum of Modern Art. In his "Museum Racing Form," a 12-panel work that he did in 1951 for the short-lived magazine "Trans/formation," he handicaps the artists for the coming season and pairs them with their advocates. Clement Greenberg, James Johnson Sweeney and Alfred Barr pick Jackson Pollock, while Hess has his money on Willem de Kooning. He fills a final panel, "From the Horse's Mouth," with a series of dialogue balloons.

"My painting paints me," says one bubble. "I'm a primitive," says another. "I don't know what I'm doing. Please buy my masterpieces anyway."

As examples of the kind of blather that can still be overheard in cafes and galleries and art schools, Reinhardt's cartoons are still timely as satire.

Posted by Dennis at December 22, 2003 12:13 PM

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