Been two months since I wrote, not that the thoughts stopped but ones day to day life takes its toll. I had thought about the development of modernism via the French, about the era after 1830 when French art had its own 'pluralism' not unlike our own. How the Academy became more important in the creation of 'culture', how art became more like what we know it to be as culture commodity.
I think time and I don't mean this in a literal sense is like a spiral and not circular. I find this in my own studio practice now going into its third decade, themes long forgotten mysteriously find their way back into works, themes that aren't formal but about what it means to make art.
Formal, I've been thinking about the Germans of late, post Beuys and beyond Capitalist Realism. Their art was about things beyond formal motifs to paint, it was a dialogue with culture and what it meant, it had an ethical character and was addressing artistic identity within culture. From Richter and his addressing what it means to make a picture, I find his arguments with Buchloh to be very enlightening and his personal writing also; Polke with his sense of humor, tongue in cheek but yet somewhat serious mystical leanings; and finally Kippenberger who savaged German bourgeoisie cultural conservatism. American artists at times seem to take the formal elements and use them for their own needs but miss the heart of the matter, I am thinking specifically in this case of Schnabel and Salle.
Of late the recent talk of Relational Aesthetics has also occupied some reading time. John Perreault's essay on Rirkrit Tiravanija leading to Nicolas Bourriaud's From Relational Aesthetics and finally to Clair Bishop's "Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics". I personally find Relational Aesthetics to be mostly soft and too much in bed with the culture machine. In general its feel good optimism is lacking in more serious ethical necessity, Bishop's essay really hits the nail. I played with Relational Aesthetics some years ago, lets just say I was a sideline bit player (and hence the pseudonym I take). The most interesting thing about Relational Aesthetics is the critique of it, the critique of in my opinion; its total careerism, its ass kissing 'I like you, would you like me too', its need to take place in the gallery and museum because it wants to be a player in the game. Relational Aesthetics has few enemies in the halls of culture.
Yet this is the point to me, I don't want to be or care to be an enemy of culture. I am deeply concerned about it or I wouldn't make art. But I find the so called gate keepers of our "hallowed institutions" to be hypocritical self serving buffoons who are no different than the gate keepers of old, I guess it goes with the territory.
The avant-garde tropes of Relational Aesthetics or the Institutional Critique game are nothing more than poses and posturing, they are today’s academic art and were from the very start. Art Schools mill out ambitious social climbers whose only stake is to be part of the game with nary a care to the hypocrisy and indifference to culture, life, art, what have you.
And in case you, the one or two readers who might stumble on this who do not know my real identity and think I might make conservative figurative art and am just moaning, I make large ugly abstract paintings. I played my part in the Institutional Critique game, showed in Europe a fair amount, have some work in a few major museums and then came to the conclusion that it was a shallow lifeless game.
No matter what one does the machine will eat it. If it all becomes fodder for it, then what better way to hide and be free than to work in a manner that no one would care about and at the time of the nascent Relational/Institutional game I decided just that, to make paintings, ugly abstracts that made me question my taste, my aesthetics, my values, my purpose and my life.
Because for me, art is life and questions what life means in a profound way.