February 6, 2018

Review Panel

The Review Panel Returned for its Third Annual Season at Brooklyn Public Library at 1 Grand Army Plaza. Publisher/Editor David Cohen moderated a panel including Ken Johnson, Svetlana Alpers and Alex Bacon. It was a night of sharp yet friendly elbows, very interesting. The shows reviewed included:
Jamian Juliano-Villani, "Ten Pound Hand" at JTT Gallery in the Lower East Side.
Byron Kim, "Sunday Paintings, 1/7/01 to 2/11/18" at James Cohan Gallery, Chelsea.
Anthony McCall, "Solid Light Works" at Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Catherine Murphy, Recent Works at Peter Freeman in the Lower East Side.

What stood out to me was the mildly contested claim (David Cohen's) that the avant-garde does not exist in this historical moment. That this article of faith was questioned at all -however tentatively- is a significant development. Cohen even stepped on his line by questioning the validity (vitality?) of the academic conceptualism of Byron Kim's show ("... [Byron Kim is} not exactly cutting edge, a bit retro , comfortable zone to be in..."). I'm not suggesting here that we champion a resurrected classical avant-garde. I'm saying that the End of History narrative hoisted at the fall of the Berlin Wall had neutralized the will of the art world to write subsequent chapters of art history. All that would be countenanced is that artists and critics could only write the bibliography and end notes. When painting was taken up in earnest in the aftermath of this historical moment in the 90's, the overwhelming majority of artists and critics whistled past the graveyard of painting, making art en passant. What should have happened was an avalanche of articles and demonstrations in art works that questioned the postmodernism that characterized the end of the 20th century -then, ten years early- and an earnest anticipation of the dawning 21st century. What resulted is our current impasse where only the moniker "Zombie Art" (see Mugar, Saltz and Robinson) has left the critical playing field completely to be defined by the high end (auction) market.

I must also emphasize that what I am advocating here is not the grandiose aspect of an avant-garde, but simply the mindset that I think all artists that have been celebrated in history had possessed: the imperative to question the legacy that they had inherited, to reject aspects that are no longer relevant to their time, to formulate a position that both reclaims legacy aspects of merit and postulate new aspects that pertain to a developing immediate future. That evening at the Review Panel, I sensed small signals of discomfort that I found encouraging: a jaundiced view of academic conceptualism of Byron Kim, a heated debate as to what seemed redeemable in both the enduring tradition of conventional representational painting of Catherine Murphy and the "edgy" Post-Pop sampling of Jamian Juliano-Villani, and the difficulty the panel encountered defining Anthony McCall as either retro or cutting edge.

Sparks to tinder.

I took notes:




Posted by Dennis at February 6, 2018 7:01 AM

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