October 15, 2007

LOLART, Green and Saltz too.

im in ur hedspace.jpg

Tyler Green in his Modern Art Notes took Jerry Saltz to task in the first piece Saltz wrote for New York Magazine:

In near GawkerForum-style, Saltz builds up clubby NYC-centric anecdote after anecdote to present an image of a community awash in cash. Ironically, for at least a week Saltz joined the crowd he professes to dislike: He became one of those writers more interested in the scene than in art.

Here's why I don't like it: One of the important roles of a critic is to step outside the immediate present, to resist fads, to exert judgment when popularity dominates. By so doing a critic should place art in what s/he thinks is the right context, s/he should say what's important now and s/he should consider what could matter in 50 years, in 100 years -- and not what will matter at the next Bottino Boesky bash.

It was a good critique as far as I could tell, Green's call to redirect attention to art in the midst of the current bloom in our art world is spot on. I wouldn't normally need much prompting to seek out Saltz's writing, but after Green's reality slap, I clicked over to Saltz's Has Money Ruined Art? more avidly than usual. What I found was that indeed Saltz did dwell on the money-money-money problem..but then again , after a 20 paragraph drill down into the article, Saltz did in fact bring our attention back to an art that might matter more than filthy lucre:
This is not just a case of a rising tide that lifts all boats, however. Aside from the occasional Greeting Card?like debacle, young artists are working in new ways that are specifically driven by this overwrought moment. They aren?t making giant, expensive, space-eating installations. They?re not thinking small or becoming unambitious, but?adept at culling, sorting, reshaping, and plotting information?many are reacting to the scene, innately comfortable with the idea that while there may not be anything entirely new, there is an infinite variety of ways to create unique thought-structures and complex specificities. They?re employing a strategy of maximum diversity in minimum or multiple spaces, rather than the maximum diversity in maximum space of their immediate forebears. They?re attempting to merge seriousness, process, irony, intuition, language, materials, belief, and thought with lived reality, not just with pop culture. It?s the way an artist like Peter Coffin has pieced scores of color photos of rainbows together to make a giant Nauman-esque spiral; this shape connects to a real-life phenomenon, re-creates a familiar shape from recent art history, and remakes something out of things that already existed. Or the way that artist Karl Haendel makes velvety charcoal renditions of photographs of his father, George Bush, old political posters, and personal notes; Haendel weaves together his inner life, moments in time, and collective history in mysteriously alarming installations. Or the way that Klara Liden has walked in circles around a bicycle in an empty room before going at it with a crowbar; somehow you get the absurdity, anger, and the frustration of this urban self-attack. At first, these artists, like so many others, make you react with Henry Hill?s line in GoodFellas: ? ? the fuck is that?? Then they make you think, Holy fuck.

Against expectations, all this money turns out to be useful?not just as a lubricant but as a smokescreen. Interesting growth is already occurring within the chaos. Small galleries can open, and while they may not be visible to large numbers of people for years, they are visible to just enough people with money so they can survive without having to toe any line. (This means there?ll be more bad art, too, but even bad art feeds the chaos.) Already, pockets of galleries have sprung up outside Chelsea. The Lower East Side has a handful of good galleries, more are on their way, and the New Museum opens there in December. Not all of these galleries are great, but many are trying to be alternatives to the big market. They operate out of storefronts; some are run by artists. Obviously, they are as dependent on sales as any other gallery. But their attitude feels more relaxed. At the same time, another cluster of galleries has appeared on the far West Side between Vandam and Bank Streets, not far from the vigorously revived alternative space White Columns.

In the next paragraph he conjured the juxtaposition of ?Beneath the Underdog,? with the Murakami show at Gagosian last spring. And he continues in this mode for five more paragraphs as well.

So, what to make of it all? Both writers are completely justified, each in their own way. Green is calling for us to ignore the elephant in the room, primarily because we have already had made a fuss over it and it isn't going away any time soon. Saltz was right on when he focused on the fact that the room itself is becoming elephantine- an inflation of scale of our artworld not just in dollars or egos but in the numbers of galleries and fairs and the gargantuan exhibition spaces in all venues. I've had passing thoughts that not only are there many artworlds but some of them are floating away and becoming other worlds entirely... resembling a 21st century circus of sorts, less art and more the stufff of mass spectacle, amusement and wonder: Wild Bill's travelling show, gladiators in the coliseum, more bang and rattle in a noise filled information epoch, something that fills a human need. You can still call it art (and who cares about a label called art when you serve curiosity in any form? Ah, that's the sticky part isn't it... just what is art when you boil off the sensational, spectacular parts?), the term is pretty elastic after all... but as a categorical class, it doesn't mean that what is called art would neccessarily be good art... or great art for that matter.

Posted by Dennis at October 15, 2007 5:23 PM

Leave a comment