March 27, 2020

Pandemic Times

Readers of this weblog might have noticed that I tend to steer clear of topical news events. It's about the art, my standard formulation. Now the world is engulfed in contagion, life as we knew it has been derailed. Suspended animation. Our new normal awaits in the wings. Loomings.

"Life is short and art is long." Curious, how we have inverted the meaning of Hippocrates' aphorism. His original intention was to emphasize how much there is to learn given how short life is: "Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile." / 'life is short, the art (craft/skill) long, opportunity fleeting, experiment treacherous, judgement difficult'. Somewhere along the way, art detached itself from craft/skill. A strange idea, that. Art always is an embodied expression.

Will life, this pandemic life, show its' influence in art? The history of pandemics says no, life rebounds and pain finds a weak purchase in memory. No doubt that what we call social distancing had presented itself with every rampant disease, but people eventually drew together close again, hugging and kissing, the souls of eyes to eyes filling visual fields.

Am I hoping against hope that the ambient death wish inherent in 20th Century art will evaporate in a countervailing 21st century paradigm? Time will tell. I hope so, even so. The fundamental operating idea in my work has sprung from pushing against the "death of painting" narrative -the underlying death wish-, using the internal physics of corporeal impasto paint as the prime actor in my project. Even when I extended what I call the "Robert Ryman protocol" focused in my works of last year -engaging all elements of a painting in expressive terms, including the fullness of the support-, I made sure to invert the deconstruction of the Supports/Surface project. I'm asserting that in our time, the narrative of things coming together is more important than things falling apart.

Springing back is an evolution in time. Social distancing will impress itself on our art world at least in the short term. A new normal for our art world New York will mean more than no handshakes at openings. I predict the end of the standard art opening set at 6-8pm. Ditto, will the major museums -The Met, Whitney, MoMA, Guggenheim- time admittance of visitors into restricted populated volumes like the grocery chains such as Trader Joe's has? What will the impact be for that institutional revenue stream? In the art world at least, art is sold via the perception of prestige. How will prestige now be measured outside of a crowded gallery?

Will architecture and city planning be influenced by the pandemic? Mega cities like NYC are set in concrete in more ways than one. You can only do so much in terms to depressurize social distance in subways and urban gathering places as they are configured today. Maybe automatic door openers will become standard, images of the antique TV series Star Trek float to mind. But no much more than that can be done in terms of mitigation. Will there be an accelerated migration to other cities, decentralizing/distributing power and vitality like it once was long ago? Interestingly, Rem Koolhaas has a topical exhibition up in the Guggenheim Museum now, Countryside, theFuture. Once again, Koolhaas romantically rhapsodizes manifestoes about urban patterns, spinning out cryptic aesthetics. Ahead of the curve, he is, again.

And of global societal architecture? The early promise of the Information Age's clarity and transparency has been throughly befooled. We are awash in narratives and counter-narratives, fake news, propaganda, trolls... In this shell game of information, money is siphoned into elites and masses struggle precariously, with an ever greater velocity than ever in history. Has the vision of a borderless, single societal world been sunk? Could it be replaced, if not saved, by a compartmentalized idea of globalism, much like the idea of water tight ship integrity?

And what of China? Either scenario is damning: 1) an accidental interspecies viral transmission within Wet Markets (the sorry euphemism for barbaric wholesale warehousing of wild species) or 2) the accidental(?) mishandling of weaponized viruses (even stolen or bought via espionage from the West) The question is beginning to... loom... of whether China can successfully integrate into the global community with the current CCP party and it's governmental architecture. Certainly, the example of Taiwan proves that the culture as a whole can make this journey.

The pandemic entices authoritarian rule, calls for it have sprung from all political directions. The Libertarian dream is farther away than ever. America's Patriot Act is still in place despite the exhausted state of that diffused war, twenty years later... with no sign of evaporation. Now, expect to encounter new layers encrusting security screening at airports, legacy measures firmly in place requiring at least another hour in line. Authoritarians like war, either real or metaphorical. The destruction of masses of people are only a finger's twitch away. What chance is there these days of ratcheting down to oblivion, weapons of mass destruction such as bioweapons? Can we disambiguiate (thank you, Wikipedia for that term) frivolous or perverse science from weapons research? What does it mean if it is considered naive to have this desire?

Will the vacation cruise industry survive the asteroidal impact of the pandemic? Personally, I find cruise ships odious, but the demise of industries will probably be a coming news narrative. Hidden within the pandemic is the erosion of the economy. First, companies are shedding employees with faint promises of a rehire once the catastrophe is over. Will we have to engage a hybrid strategy of simultaneous quarantine for those who have compromised immune systems and healthy workers back to their jobs? How many will simply be able to jump back into the saddle? Have we already crossed the point of cascading necrotic destruction from feeble to strong businesses? Will there be saddles then? Or will there be a ghastly game of economic musical chairs? If so, at what point will the knock on domino effect subside? Will we be able, in the meantime, stomach the collateral damage to those with weak immune systems? Balance against this, if you can, the immiseration at mortal hazard of a potential depression if we don't re-engage the worldwide economy again successfully. People's lives depend on this, too. Life is short and art is long, but let's not make life too short.

A dark blog post, this one.

Let's end with two quotes from Werner Herzog:
"A poet must not avert his eyes."
"Civilization is like a thin layer of ice upon a deep ocean of chaos and darkness."

Posted by Dennis at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2020

Prado, Post Prado... succinctly

Prado, Post Prado

Painting to the third power:
1. Painting, the sheer idea of it.
2. Painting, Greenberg's 2D idea of it.
3. Painting in the fullness of its' form.
Posted by Dennis at 10:30 PM | Comments (0)

P,PP Installation Photos

We have here installation photographs of "Prado, Post Prado" at Galerie Richard, 121 Orchard Street, LES NYC, 10002. The exhibition has been extended to April 15th.



Posted by Dennis at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2020

Review Panel

Last week, ArtCritical's Review Panel convened at the Brooklyn Library Dweck Auditorium. Publisher, Editor and Review Panel host David Cohen invited critics Laurie Frendrich, Barbara MacAdam and Terence Trouillot to reflect on the following exhibitions:

Curtis Talwst Santiago: "Can't I Alter" at The Drawing Center.

Willa Nasatir at Chapter NY.

Gelah Penn: Uneasy Terms at Undercurrent.

Joanna Pousette-Dart at Lisson Gallery.

To sum up the conversation, Santiago and Nasatir got respect but both exhibitions were held critically at arm's length. David Cohn's comment "There's something hermetic about both shows" seems to sum this up. In Santiago's installation, the implicit demand for too much referentiality taxed the panel. In Nasatir's painting, the intentional ambiguity between representation and abstraction seemed to be too arcane for the critics to bother to resolve. The collaged literary-based abstraction of Penn won many accolades, with Cohen again best capturing an essence of her work by saying "She's obviously a magpie..." Pousette-Dart made them all swoon, perhaps too much. Terence Trouillot nailed it when he said that her paintings were "...hard to talk about since the show was too pleasing..."

No sand, no pearl.

I took notes...




Posted by Dennis at 2:39 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2020

Prado, Post Prado... transparently so

X-ray vision of my solo exhibition of "Prado, Post Prado" at Galerie Richard, 121 Orchard Street, LES NYC, 10002. February 26th to April 15th, 2020.

Posted by Dennis at 7:28 PM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2020

about being transported

The New York Studio School has a great program of lectures this year. This evening, I attended Katherine Bradford's talk, "answering the most often asked questions about her work". A packed house, it's always great to visit the old school and smell the paint.

Bradford is a local favorite, her openings are packed with full strata East coast art world cognoscenti. I wanted to get to know more about her oeuvre from her testament, tonight was a great opportunity. It was nice to hear her cite my old friend Henry Taylor as one of her influences. I thought of that classic Picasso documentary of him painting on glass, particularly how an artist starts off with one motif and eventually transforms it into another. It seems that Bradford likes to arc like Pablo did. Also, I thought of Kasimir Malevich's pre and post abstract paintings, his Ukranian folk roots, especially as they were transformed/energized by Suprematism.

I took notes.



Posted by Dennis at 9:53 PM | Comments (0)

March 2, 2020


How it feels when I have an exhibition up in town.

Posted by Dennis at 10:26 PM | Comments (0)