Art Vent Letting the Fresh Air In
I wonder how many more generations I will have to watch discover conceptual art, each time becoming more sterilized, more schooled.
The funniest is art that tries to shock. Sorry, but now things are reversed; it’s the younger generation that’s been coddled and the older one that has done more, seen more, and put more substances up their collective noses than the young ‘uns can imagine. Ours is the generation that produced Robert Mapplethorpe, for chrissake, who saw Nancy Spungen’s body carried out of the Chelsea Hotel, and needing to pee at Danceteria, found people fucking in the stalls--not to speak of having friends dying left and right from AIDS. So I’m going to quake inside when I see a (clothed) black man laying on top of a (clothed) white woman on the floor of the Guggenheim?
Roberta Smith, however, says it better, in “Post-Minimal to the Max” in Friday’s Times:
The current exhibition of Gabriel Orozco at the Museum of Modern Art along with the recent ones of Roni Horn at the Whitney Museum and of Urs Fischer at the New Museum have generated a lot of comment pro and con. So has the Tino Sehgal performance exhibition now on view in an otherwise emptied-out Guggenheim rotunda. But regardless of what you think about these artists individually, their shows share a visual austerity and coolness of temperature that are dispiritingly one-note. After encountering so many bare walls and open spaces, after examining so many amalgams of photography, altered objects, seductive materials and Conceptual puzzles awaiting deciphering, I started to feel as if it were all part of a big-box chain featuring only one brand. More…
The artists Smith would choose to feature are not necessarily those that populate my curatorial fantasies (for instance I’d start with Terry Winters, whose last New York museum exhibition was in 1992) but not to quibble. Smith sums it up when she says, “What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand.”
Certain readers will take this as meaning that Smith is angling for a return to AbEx or somesuch, but I’ll interpret it my way. Readers of this blog know that I admire the work of Olafur Eliasson, who works with a team of collaborators and rarely executes anything himself, yet the aura of “intense personal necessity” surrounds everything he produces. It is also very highly developed. On the other hand, given how much art one sees that seems only half-realized, it’s important to recognize that process itself—the struggle to execute—can be an important path to new ideas. The stubborn development of technique (and by this I mean not facility, but the ideal vehicle for the concept) can provide the time required to take the art where it needs to go.
Also to say that while I find Tino Sehgal's work mannered and superficial, I'm inspired by that of Marina Abramovic (actually this is a prime example of the watering down process I was speaking of, where one generation adopts the look, but not the substance, of the previous one), and will expound on this in later posts.
Terry Winters, Luminance, 2002, oil on linen, 94 1/2" x 133 3/4" (courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery).
If, after the Orozco show, you want to indulge your senses in a retrograde manner, hop on over to the same place we first saw those Dannon lids, the Marian Goodman Gallery, and wallow in Gerhard Richter’s gorgeous scraped abstractions, up through January 9th.
What I wrote below sounded so negative, I wanted to amend it. I don’t want to discount Orozco because, while I find his much of his “conceptual” work tedious, I’m completely inspired by his drawings, small paintings, and collages. It’s just that these are regarded as ephemera rather than the real deal, when I think they are the real deal. Again, this isn’t an argument for painting and drawing over conceptual art, but for Orozco’s painting and drawing over his conceptual art, much of which, for me, falls into a genre Jerry Saltz has written about and Roberta Smith has aptly coined “Curator's Art” (whether or not they’d include Orozco, I don’t know). Asked about the Urs Fischer survey in the comments to the post below, while I find some of his work intriguing, Fischer lost my respect with the hole in the wall that, when you get too close, sticks a tongue out at you. In my book, not only is it just too easy, it sends the same message as Orozco’s shoebox: that museum visitors are idiots and deserve to be treated as such.
To show how undervalued (I'm not talking money here) Orozco’s graphic work is, I can’t even find examples on the Web of the pieces I love best. The overused image above will have to do.