Thursday, September 29, 2011

A friends commentary

My friend who is working in my studio on his remarkable stuff wrote this to me this past week regarding things in general and my work. Very pertinent and would like to share.

I hate to turn this into another generational conflict, but it's true. The competition encouraged by the boomers at every level has irreparably damaged the culture. This is the outcome of the kind of single-minded individualism exemplified by an entire generation. It’s like a sick parody of the historical concept of the bourgeoisie, with property and status taking on utterly grotesque, metastatic dimensions.

This article is interesting, if flawed:

Someone at some point has to publicly address the fact that infinite growth, at least in material terms, is simply no longer possible. The planet, as an organism, cannot support it, yet the picture this guy paints of Europe as the harbinger of small, local, rational networks of popular cooperation that are still based on consumption is a fantasy. As I've said a million times, the US has guaranteed the security of the European union in one form or another since 1948. This may have dissolved around the turn of the century, but the premise that Europe pursued the peaceful implementation of a new technical infrastructure while the US ignored its own in unilateral pursuit of empire is only half true; the Bush vs Gore decision sealed the fate of shared economic progress in this country by tacitly reinstating the concept of scarcity as the basis of its ideological mindset. These people were, in one way or another, all tied to the global energy industry, and they seized the opportunity to control resources and consolidate wealth at what they saw as the strategic level at the end of the age of oil, which was the fuel of the second industrial revolution that had begun with the great war. It’s obvious, and it should be clear given these circumstances, that the events of 9/11 were not the result of planning by a simple cell of jihadis, anymore than the Second World War was caused by a regiment of 'poles' attacking a radio station on the German frontier. In each instance there are lies, provocations, and aggression engineered by elites as the means for the gain of larger common ends.

The premise that ideas could actually become currency, and in turn empower people at every level of society, was absolutely intolerable to the transnational global elites that have seized power seemingly everywhere since 2000. This is what the promise of networks actually imply, that cooperation for the good of all, valued as such, could potentially abolish the fallacies of wealth, genius, status, character, position, property, etc. This vicious retrenchment of the recent past is terrifying, but it's not without weakness; it’s a facade built on a foundation of flawed assumptions, and as such is very shaky. The rich are scared shitless. Sooner or later something is going to happen that might wake people up here in the US, but what we're actually witnessing isn't just a generational conflict. The great wheel of history is turning in a way that happens once maybe every two hundred or five hundred years. One of the reasons painting (or art) doesn't work any longer is because we've no idea who we are, either as subject or as species. The medium doesn't or can't reflect anything recognizable at the moment. Actually, that's not entirely accurate-- it reflects, or rather reiterates, only what people want to see, which is an idealization of the image of themselves. Look at the review Jerry Saltz wrote of the De Kooning survey:

This is the most sickening and disingenuous piece of writing I may have ever encountered as a description of real, honest-to-god work. It’s a gross misrepresentation of the skepticism, anxiety, and dread De Kooning's best work conveys. Painting is really incapable of this kind of expression at the current moment, since it's only ever seen as the product of one man and one age. Saltz alludes to this, but doesn't make it clear: the project of which De Kooning was emblematic has utterly failed.

I think this is the spot you find yourself in with your work. It’s not enough to make 'failed paintings'. The paintings must exemplify exactly what you feel has failed. I believe this project is bigger than any one man or woman, but since this is a significant part of the myth we've inherited, it's difficult to shake. The question of appropriation is interesting to me as it 'authorizes' in perverse ways the manipulation of cultural material beyond whatever is perceived as an original intent. The strategy has wandered into a cul-de-sac, and is probably academic at this point, at least as conceived by the first two or three generations of its best practitioners. It’s a clichĂ© that 'information wants to be free', but form (and content) should be able to communicate beyond desire of who ostensibly controls it. This is the promise of digital media, as the means of production pass from the hands of the few to the many.


After weeks of avoidance, I had to make my way to the studio to pick something up. I dreaded seeing the summers work. Enter, turn lights on, grab what I need and then force myself to look. To my surprise, the work didn’t look too bad, in fact I felt good about it and was even ‘impressed’ if I might say so. Like “I did that?!” went through my head. Didn’t linger, still more areas to push on but at least I didn’t feel like I was sinking and that was something.

Tomorrow I'll venture to the De Kooning retrospective.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The art of disappearance

It would appear that I vanished but economic necessity and hardship made concentrating on anything art related nearly impossible. Somehow I managed to make four new paintings, each that I “liked” so to speak but then the feelings of doubt and failure swept in and pretty much erased any sense of accomplishment I felt.

One out of the four stands up fairly well but with the summers political bullshit and the further collapse of the economy, did we really ever leave the recession? Really? No one that I ask feels that we did and at the end of the day trying to put food on the table and keep ones roof overhead becomes a priority and the ability to make art becomes, at least for me very daunting and leaves me responding to the one good work, so what.

Over twenty years, nearly thirty years of art practice seems to be for naught. Not that I expected any great prize but survival trumps the other. I don’t think it is romantic to be starving in a garret and that model of art practice is a false one. I wonder in the face of it whether art has any importance other than as an entertainment for the economic elites.

I don’t just make art for myself but to communicate ideas that are vital but the feeling of being a tree falling in the forest and not making a sound is too isolating. I’ve come to a point that maybe I am irrelevant and the work is in the same boat, one that is sinking. Weep, weep. I don’t mean to be a sad sack or ask indulgence.

Maybe I am in a point of transition, one that will make the work tougher and stronger, one that may lead me to a new point. Any artist who doesn’t question themselves isn’t very serious in my opinion. I have a close friend working in my studio who has done just that, made a profound leap and his work is tight, on the money and breathtaking.

But even seeing that doesn’t stir me and I fear seeing the De Kooning retrospective will have the same effect. Instead of bracing myself and getting to work I might just want to fold and deal myself out. Time will tell.

Living in poverty at 50 sucks.