April 21, 2018

We are... secrets.

We are... secrets."
48" x 36"
Oil on Canvas over Wood Panel


Posted by Dennis at 9:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2018

Rewriting Painting

Yesterday, the Cooper Union hosted a symposium and book signing for the recent publication of the Lund Humphries Series, featuring Philip Taaffe. As the audience assembled in the Great Hall auditorium, a friend remarked darkly that if a bomb went off that evening, painting in NYC would be over. On the stage: painters Philip Taaffe, Lois Dodd and Tom Nozkowski... paired with writers Barry Schwabsky, Faye Hirsh and John Yau; all present for the purpose of comparing writing and painting, the rub of which resulted that night in a few sparks... but not enough to start a fire.

What follows is a critique of the panel discussion. I respect, am inspired and I admire all artists and writers involved. Giants, all. But the night was a bit too soft and fluffy -some people were bailing out early, I had noticed- it could have been more interesting. I'll be sharpening an edge in a search for ways that such a discussion could have had one of its own too.

Schwabsky started off auspiciously with quotes dropping Horace and Lessing in order to talk about oblique approaches (...name dropping Process Art along the way, strange). Unfortunately, the rest of the talk was infected with a crab-like avoidance of anything... spicy. Such is the way of the oblique. However small the nut was within the husk of platitudes, it amounted to this: how the writer must summon the power of poetry to resonate with the sister art of painting. A tasty nut, but a solitary one makes not a meal. More nuts, please.

Most times the healthy meal is bland as well. But spices are the prime ingredients for the appetizing repast, the adjective usually being the overlooked yet important factor in nutritious fare. And what would be in stock on the spice rack? Rummaging through, I find this sampling:

- Only writers who are artists in command of of their own medium are qualified to write about the visual arts (yes, a more picante version of the theme named above). Boring writers writing about great art insults the subject.

- What are the limits of writers approaching the visual arts? What can they never "get"? For writers, sensible, tactile reality will always remain an idea. Artists -painters and sculptors especially- know intimately the feel of material resistance. Even Melville lacked sense memory to convey vividly the sinking of the Pequod.

(Muy, muy picante, I know. Tal vez, demaciado.)

- Killing puppies. With the current population ranks of artists of a swollen art world, it seems that the number of the authentically talented has remained the same as it was before the 60's. The coupling of burgeoning art school graduations with a longstanding postmodern theory that levels distinctions creates the miasma that everything means everything and nothing counts has resulted in a massive population making mediocre art. Piercing through this with a sharp critical knife would be as brutal and as necessary as setting a broken bone.

As the power and influence of criticism has declined, mediocrity passes as insight, further diminishing the impact of criticism, a dynamic cycle of self destruction. Has the time come to cull the herd? The thought is distasteful, indeed... but so is the sacrifice required to eat a hamburger.

The final comments (not included in my notes since they didn't fill a page) revealed some reticence towards this idea. Schwabsky hailed David Salle justly as a heralded artist who writes well and that the most interesting things written about art are written by artists. "...vividness, immediacy, to artists who write, please write!" Philip Taaffe chimed in the final words of the night: "But don't say anything too mean!"

Beware the doctor who withholds the fatal diagnosis, the psychotherapist who shies from hurting your feelings.


Postscript (more spice):
- On the other hand... all critique is self critique. That is, we usually (or always?) see the faults in others that we recognize -either consciously or unconsciously- in ourselves. Perhaps this all that we are capable of. And it is in the critique that we get the opportunity to view into the window opened by our critic and gaze even if for only a moment, into the landscape of their mind.

We go to school to assemble a jury within our heads, exemplars from the history of art, heroes stern and demanding enough to keep us on our course. They whip us on in the studio. The pain is adequate only short of the unbearable.

But for most of us, it's tempting to whip not ourselves but others around us. Sadistic pleasure finds a fine disguise as the moralist prescribing the cure for your own good. Cleverly, the self flagellation of the wee hours in the studio can be easily avoided with a righteous lashing at peers who could be great if only... if only...


I took notes:


Posted by Dennis at 7:46 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2018

second order revelation

second order revelation
38" x 15" x 10"
Oil on Canvas over Wire+Wood


Posted by Dennis at 7:30 PM | Comments (0)

dazzling treasures

dazzling treasures
Oil on Canvas over Wire+Wood


Posted by Dennis at 7:25 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2018

Website, Finally.

The past few weeks have been consumed with the spring art fairs, friends visiting NYC with concomitant gallery tours, all fabulous but also with little time to document and reflect all of this in the blog. During this time, I was persuaded by a friend, who happens to own a gallery in LA, to build a website. She asked to see my recent work, and I flipped open my blog and photo library and scrolled for images. She became irritated by the time lapse and asked why I didn't have a website. Well... I never liked the canned nature of standard artist websites... standardization should be repugnant to artists... I wanted people to dive into the blog archive to glean the context of ideas and experience in my art work... I plugged a sort of archive of paintings into the colophon of the blog, anyway (but the most recent work would have a year's delay, naturally)...

"Cut the shit, Dennis.", she said. "Build a website. I want to see your work as fast as possible, I don't have the time to go through all that." She had a point. While I might have had reason ten or fifteen years ago, now I need to strap on a website in order to remove any impediment to seeing who I am as an artist. Grease the entry.

So for the past two weeks, I researched the best services, assembled my archives and learned Squarespace's build engine. It has been a slog, at times fascinating, at times nostalgic, most times necessitating the capacity for endurance, focus and determination.

I've lived an artists' life mostly in the future tense, the horizon properly set on the the posthumous. Now that my years as a productive artist have clocked 27, 39 if you clock a formal education, 44 as an adult set firmly upon a fixed objective... the past tense can get quite vivid once the archive has been sorted out. Now, my rear view mirror has grown in size in relation to the windshield, and any driver knows that one should only check the traffic behind you with furtive glances.

But oh, what a scene!

The mechanics of this activity crumbled a bit at the switchover from analog to digital. Back in 2003, I bought a proper digital camera once my wife and I began to travel out of LA and into Texas (for a year), Spain and later NYC; as access to professional photography became difficult. For the period between 1991 (grad school graduation) and 2003, much of my work exists in slides and transparencies, much of this awaiting digitation. And then there's the learning curve of digital archives: how to shoot a proper image, how to process them in Photoshop, how to arrange filing systems and preserve them. The deeper I got into the past, the trickier it was to manage the thicket. Often I found myself mired in iPhoto, cross referencing my files, the archives of the weblog, scrolling endlessly; discovering crappy photos, corrupted files and metadata along the way.

The website is ready for public viewing, with some tweaking and modifications to come. I plan to include links to image galleries to previous exhibitions, shots of all my studios that I've had, various but not too many elaborations, to shake the gimbal of the off-the-shelf standard cookie cutter artist website that I've always avoided.

Cue the Sinatra "My Way".


Posted by Dennis at 10:37 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2018

Review Panel

Last Tuesday, ArtCritical hosted a Review Panel at the Brooklyn Public Library. Editor publisher David Cohen moderated the discussion with guest critics Jessica Bell Brown, Jarrett Earnest and David Salle. Two exhibitions were the focus, each sprawling with artists: the 2018 Triennial: Songs for Sabotage at the New Museum and
the 2018 Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts at the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City. It was interesting to witness opinions sift the differences between the two exhibitions, one curated with a heavy hand, the other not... one featuring younger artists, the other older with deep experience... one starkly political -yet unconvincing- and the other seemingly unpolitical -yet the audience seemed altogether deeply impressed by an emergent socio-political/cultural content.

I took notes...




Posted by Dennis at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)