March 5, 2007

Talking about Rectangles


The avant-garde isn't what it used to be. In the 20th century, artists thought incessantly about the future, but so far the 21st century seems more invested in the relatively recent past. Emerging artists are described as the love child of so-and-so and so-and-so, and everybody gets called "neo" this or "neo" that. So modernism's major movements are reborn -- as neo-expressionism, neo-Dada, neo-minimalism -- but what that tricky prefix actually refers to is a lack of innovation. Not that we need a new "ism" exactly. It's just that looking back has gotten old.

The artists themselves, in the meantime, have gotten young. They are being sold so young that they have to come with papers to establish their lineage. Legions of culture workers produce wall paragraphs, catalogues, and magazine blurbs to confirm young debutantes. Collectors are thus invited to speculate on promising futures, but the art objects themselves look remarkably retro.

It seems clear to a lot of us that there is a problem, but the various accounts of our condition that I have read strike me as either hysterically reactionary or irresponsibly giddy. People decide that art is either dead or immortal, but no one wants to admit that it might be a little sick.

I found problems here and there amidst very sharp and insightful paragraphs. His concluding device announcing a "practical avant-garde" goes clunk for me but I'm keen to see more of Dushko Petrovich's work in the future.

P.S. The most piercing paragraph of all:

...there were simple rules all along. You were given a white room in a Big Art City for a month. You had to do something in that room to generate attention beyond that month. You had to be written about, bought, or at least widely discussed. Then you would get to have the white room again for another month, and so on. If you did this enough, you had what was called a career. This generated what is perhaps this century's biggest art movement: careerism.

Posted by Dennis at March 5, 2007 12:28 AM

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