How To Talk About Art: Now a Column on Hyperallergic

Koons-TrainHow to Talk about Art (H2TaA ) has been The Art Machine’s slowly growing manual for those who wish to master artspeak as practiced by art critics, art educators, galleries, dealers, copywriters, and journalists.

Now, H2TaA has moved from The Art Machine’s umbrella and into the arms of You can read the first installment at: How To Talk About Art (#h2taa): Jeff Koons Edition by Cat Weaver on April 30, 2012

About the Column:

Originating with the need to validate and describe artwork which was no longer narrative and which relied more and more heavily on inside jokes and academic references, artspeak has grown into its own with a lexicon that is comprised, not only of tropes and catch phrases, but of technical, scientific, and otherwise borrowed terms which have been adapted to its own needs. “Virtual space”, “gesture” ,”intervention”, “appropriation”: these are all words which used to be safely housed in the worlds of aesthetics, dance, psychology, and legal documents and are now used to create press releases for anything from sculpture to performance to collage.

It is my opinion, that many people who feel they can’t talk about art, much less speak TO it, are actually lacking a background in artspeak. H2TaA seeks to span that educational gap.

I also believe that by studying artspeak, one can pull the mask off artspeak-agents and reveal the mechanizations behind the catalogs and pamphlets, bringing to light an artist’s laziness of imagination, or a curator’s dependance on slang and technique, or the general trade tendency to make excuses for work that is overly subjective (or too academic) to be enjoyable. In brief, an interpretation of wall cards can shed light on all of the unnecessary posturing that has led to the elitist view that contemporary art is somehow beyond the ken of the public when it is, actually, beyond the ken of EVERYONE.

Learning H2TaA is just another way to bring art out of the academic tool box and into the light.

High on the Richter Scale

Gerhardt at Work
A still from the movie, Gerhardt Richter Painting, by Corinna Belz, A Kino Lorber Release (Photo courtesy of Kino Lorber)

This year, as painter Gerhardt Richter turns 80, we will be treated to a film that allows us to watch the man at work, frustrating the canvas and his voyeurs. On March 14 Kino Lorber will release Corinna Belz’s Gerhardt Richter Painting to the public.

The Filmmaker, Corinna Belz

A student of philosophy, art history, and media sciences, Corinna Belz is no slouch when it comes to fluffing the brand with some very fine artspeak:

“It became clear to me that a film about a painter must focus on painting. It was the actual work in the artist’s studio that interested me most: the authentic and immediate process of putting paint to canvas, and the instruments, gestures, and movements involved, emotionally as well as physically.”

And Kino Lorber’s official GRP site is full of the hot winds of tribute and mysticism to come:

“From our fly-on-the-wall perspective, we watch the 79-year-old create a series of large-scale abstract canvasses, using fat brushes and a massive squeegee to apply (and then scrape off) layer after layer of brightly colored paint. This mesmerizing footage, of a highly charged process of creation and destruction, turns Belz’s portrait of an artist into a work of art itself.”

But despite the hagiographic PR, and the posty- post- postPOST  bandwagon which is sure to follow, I find this film on my absolutely-must-see list.

I’ve always loved Richter for his virtuosity. Before he was making vast gooey abstracts, he went through many techniques (some simultaneously developing), all of them deeply experimental and all of them well executed.

Google Gerhardt Richter to see a vast array of well executed visual experiments.

From his ghostly grey early photographic works, to his super real portraits, to his mixed media installations, and finally to his varied experiments with abstraction, he has shown a level of skill and imagination, and even wit, that is rare and, I must say, beautiful.

That said…

I wonder, though, at the recent glut of what I call ‘richterisms’ in the abstract art arena: are these new paintings that use dragging and blotting and other forms of paint distress simply about trying to find a way to ground abstract art in method again?

I hope not: because that can’t be done by implementing a bag of tricks. And, face it, composition, color, and texture aren’t conceptual any more so most abstract painting will just come off as decorative (and I mean that in the worst way).

Delish as these super frosted cakes can be, they often come off as clones and dramatic accidents.

Best of the Richterites: Jerry Saltz Macs on Jackie Saccoccio;s Lush Mica at the Eleven Rivington Booth at the Armory Show. The paintins is Portrait(Hermetic), 2012 oil and mica on linen. Photo courtesy of Jackie Saccoccio.
Best of the Richterites: Visiting Eleven Rivington's booth at the Armory Show, Jerry Saltz macs on Jackie Saccoccio's lush mica. Portrait(Hermetic), 2012 oil and mica on linen. This photo courtesy of Jackie Saccoccio.

But don’t take this as an out and out judgement on all paintings that use these techniques: some, like Jackie Saccoccio, have added their own virtuosity with luminouse clouds of color and more deliberate compostion.

Let me put it this way, any artists who are inspired by Richter should explore virtuosity: and that means, not simply mastering Richter’s techniques, but finding and mastering your own.

REVIEW: Rob Pruitt: Pattern and Degradation- Gavin Brown’s Enterprise & Maccarone Gallery 9/11-10/23

Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York Photography: Thomas Mueller and Adam Reich
Images courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York Photography: Thomas Mueller and Adam Reich

Nowadays, you’re supposed to like Rob Pruitt very much. After all, he made up long ago for being a bit too ironic for his time and then, having learned to stay on the WHITE side of the fence, he gave the art world Cocaine Buffet, which, though politically correct, was pretty brave, kind of witty, and awfully cool. Continue reading “REVIEW: Rob Pruitt: Pattern and Degradation- Gavin Brown’s Enterprise & Maccarone Gallery 9/11-10/23”

ARTrocities: Timeline of the Bad and the Ugly

1961 Piero Manzoni: The Artist’s Shit: the artist sells, essentially, his “shit” in limited edition cans. We all have our favorites: this one’s a favorite of mine.

Of the many things I love about this piece, the most important is that it is the baldest, most hideously obscene insult that has ever been delivered by a piece of art.  It falls within a great tradition of biting the hand that feeds, and the subset of that, insulting the audience.

pieromanzoni_merda d'artista
Mr. Manzoni's Doodies, Apparently

1971 Chris Burden Shoot: A documented performance wherein the artist has his friend shoot him in the arm. You know you love it.

1972 Vito Acconci: Seedbed: A performance / installation wherein Mr. Acconci whispers not-so-sweet somethings while jerking off under the floorboards at the Sonnabend Gallery. How do we know he was really pulling it? Well, there are some pix…

Vito Not Barry White

Continue reading “ARTrocities: Timeline of the Bad and the Ugly”

Website Powered by

Up ↑