Rule: Amaze Yourself & Your Readers with Gross Exaggeration!
E.g: This bit-o-PR yakking about Marc Quinn’s lovely conch shell sculptures:
” With these sculptures, the artist is able to collaborate with creatures from the beginning of time, and the beginning of art, and therefore somehow making the shells a part of the space-time continuum.”
MARY BOONE GALLERY
All the Time in the World
May 4–June 29, 2013
With long time champion of the most boring cerebral — art in the world, the Dia Foundation, finalizing plans to move back to Chelsea, it’s time to put on our thinking caps and learn how to talk about conceptual art. Don’t be caught with your pants down in front of some inexplicable wall full of squiggles: not only will you get arrested , but you’ll look like a schmuck.
How 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.
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.
Phillips dePury has topped past unintentionally funny catalog copy with a new gem describing Lot 30 in it’s upcoming Contemporary Art Auction. Lauding Richard Prince’s “Untitled Joke Painting,” dePury opens with this dubious gusher:
“Richard Prince’s Joke Paintings have remained a constant high point within the artist’s output for over two decades.”
Mm-hmm: Yes. Yes they have remained the high point. Sadly.
Then, having prepped us with the bad news, dePury goes on to do the WORST thing you can ever do to a comic: they EXPLAIN his joke!
“The work is technically lush, utilizing both acrylic and collage. The centered block letters read, in nine rows, “I never had a penny to my name, so I changed my name. Again, I never had a penn.” Prince’s obvious joke is corroborated by letters cut in half, and even missing with respect to final “y” in penny. One must assume that he did not have enough to his name even to get the text set correctly.”
Yeah. Heh heh. That must be it.
Oh, but there’s a leetle bit more: in case you missed that other funny…
“Interestingly, the joke Prince prints across the present lot is entirely unrelated to the subject of nurses, and thus the viewer might be left wondering what the connection is between the subject and its background. …If what he has collected also amounts to the oeuvre he has amassed, perhaps it’s simply natural for one piece to pratfall over another.”
Thank you. We might otherwise have assumed that Richard Prince just had a few nurses to get rid of.
“Street Art” is Just a Word for “Emerging Designer”
We’ve all seen it. Shep, Damien, Banksy… they started out hanging from the eves with a spray can, and ended up hawking t-shirts and limited edition art objects online. Yet even the advent of “Mr. Brainwash” didn’t really force us to just come out and SAY it.
But hell, now it’s time: The streets are just a starter kit for emerging artists with “urban” flavor: the goal is a corporate brand like OBEY or Objective Criteria.
“Today, somebody does a tag in Russia, China, Japan, or Africa, a friend photographs it and within a few hours it’ll be viewed on websites all over the world,” says Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, which recently opened a major show on the subject. “I think you can make a good case that street art is now the most influential art movement of the past 30 years. The penetration of urban culture is huge, and it’s influencing everything from skateboard design to high fashion. Some of these guys have even been hired to design Louis Vuitton handbags.”
The thing about the Luxembourg and Dayan gallery is that it’s small. It’s small and the walls are close. And the thing about Jeff Koons’ Made in Heaven series, is that the paintings are huge. They are huge and very intimate. The situation makes for an interesting immersive experience.
What grabs you, when you step into this exhibit, is how it lends new meaning to “in your face.”
As I distracted myself with the paint jet dithering, I tried to think about Fragonard. But Ilona’s pale spotted bum, really sat heavily on my I.Q. The people standing nearby carried on a did-you-know patter about the print process, and “eternal virgins” and the Violet Ice (Kama Sutra) glass piece —but honestly, on an intellectual level, it’s mostly “been there, done that” isn’t it?
What I mean to say is, since these works were unveiled at the 1990 Venice Biennale, we’ve had 20 years to talk it over. But I recall none of that here, back to back with strangers and surrounded by more crack than an alphabet dweller in the late 80s. I”m all eyes for the long nails — really? There? — and the bad shave: sorry, that looks raspy.
Now, believe me, I KNOW I’m being childish. I am quite clear on that by now. It’s all supposed to be about the talking points: you make sure to have your Ecstasy of St. Theresa and you discuss Fragonard and you wink at the old dutch with their personal cabinets of pretty portraits, and then you give Koons the big nod of history. That’s how you are supposed to do it.
But I can’t. I know what I’m going to say and it’s not about art history.
MoMA is pioneering the latest art establishment encroahment on anti-establishment art: the purchasing of intangibles.
Spearheading their efforts in the field of performance art is Chief curator at large, Klaus Biesenback, a colorful character whose famously spare apartment was recently featured in W magazine.
In June 2008, under Biesenback’s guidance, MoMA purchased Tino Sehgal’s “Kiss” , a performance piece of subtle intricacy that was, until this purchase, only passed on by word of mouth and hands on (as it were) demonstration: from dancer to dancer.
Question: So how did they “buy” it?
Answer: by spoken contract.
Tino Sehgal described the piece to a MoMA curator; the MoMA curator passed it on. Along with the purchase of the spoken legacy, the MoMA also purchased reproduction rights. Save for the contracts, MoMA has succeded in purchasing something utterly intangible.
So far two other museums have purchased “The Kiss,” and The Tate, in London, and the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, are also grappling with new ways to save and sustain ephemeral and intangible arts.
“Online comments at MoMA’s site were fast and curious, ranging from “neat” and “cool” to “intellectual garbage,” “I’m mystified,” “pretentious nonsense,” and suspicions that the announcement was an early April Fools’ joke. Some of those in the “neat” and “cool” camp even proposed acquiring “e” and “ñ,” while the art blog Hyperallergic reported that the Chinese government had taken possession of the rest of the keyboard.”
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.
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…
Heraclitus was right. When the waters are everflowing, you can never step into the same river twice.
It is therefore, always safe to claim that some work of art, some event, some person, is a “first” — nothing will be the same after so and so, after thus and such, after this.
The controversial Damien Hirst sale at Sotheby’s in 2008 was a first: the contemporary art market would never be the same afterward.
Go ahead and say that, Google it: you won’t lack for support. The press was, after all, in a frenzy, mounting stories about the show, Beautiful in My Mind Forever, and the subsequent two day sale, onto the background blitz of financial failures and the Lehman Brothers collapse.
With all the Banksy, Fairey hubub this year, all the Darger-loving last year, and the current, frequent calls by curators for art that’s made from a sense of “urgency,” I’m taking away the message that art’s new direction lies in a reaction against (<– always a good jumping off point for a convo about art) academic, heavily conceptual art on the one hand, and factory style, assistant/money-driven art on the other hand.
So, out with the Gregg Crewdson budget, the Jeff Koons assembly line, the Damien Hirst branding, and in with the heartfelt scrawls and scribbles, or hard-won wheatpaste murals.