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 Hyperallergic.com. 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.

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BITS: Prince’s Jokes (Explained) & $treet Art

It’s Not Funny if You Have to Explain It

RICHARD PRINCE Untitled Joke Painting, 2009 Collage and acrylic on canvas. 48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm.) Signed and dated “R. Prince 2009” on the reverse. ESTIMATE $350,000-450,000 PROVENANCE Gagosian Gallery, New York Photo via Phillips dePury & Company

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.

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“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.

Still, The Guardian sought out, Jeffrey Deitch, for the final word on street art as “big business.”

“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.”

How to Talk About Art: Always throw in a ringer.

Hermes bearing the good person by Praxiteles. Parian marble, H. 2.15 m (7 ft. ½ in.). Archaeological museum of ancient Olympia, Greece. From the German excavations of the Heraion at Olympia, 1877.

Jeff Koons, at the 2010 Whitney Gala and Studio Party, listing the “influences” for his latest oil paintings and marble works : “Dali, Manet, Velazquez, Titian, you know… DaVinci, Praxiteles.”

Art Market Predictions

In the face of China’s rise to third-largest art market (slipping in ahead of an aggrieved France), Clare McAndrew, head of the Dublin-based consulting firm, Arts Economics, is “ looking at resale rights in Europe. There are real

Clare McAndrew, Photo for ARTINFO by Kip Carroll
Clare McAndrew, Photo for ARTINFO by Kip Carroll

worries in Europe. New markets like China emerging is very good for the market overall but difficult for countries, like the U.K. and France, that have been hampered by regulations and taxes. They have to compete not only against the U.S., which has fewer regulations, but also against countries, like China, that don’t have resale royalties.” (Via ARTINFO)

She also says that, as art becomes viewed more and more as a long term investment, speculators have been “shaken out.”

Continue reading “Art Market Predictions”

TREND: Street Art, Outsider Art, and URGENCY

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.

REVIEW: Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop

“Is this the line for the mooovie?” I heard a mystified woman ask as she applied herself to the back end of a line that had advanced from the basement to the top of the stairs.

The line at Sunshine Theater
Snaking Through the entire downstairs, the Banksy crowd

We were at the Sunshine theater to see Banksy’s Exit Throught the Gift Shop, a documentary, by label, about street art and an unlikely new star, Mr. Brainwash.

Something like this could have been expected in the UK, where folks care about art and are intimately familiar with Banksy’s beginnings as street vandal in Bristol. But here? Even in New York’s lower east side, we hadn’t expected to see a crowd like this.

It turns out the movie was worth our wait. I think it was even GEEENYUS, or something like that.

Continue reading “REVIEW: Banksy’s Exit Through the Gift Shop”

How to Talk About ART: Say “URGENT”

Just got an e-mail from White Columns re: “An Unmissable New York Reading” it opens with a quote from one of the artists on the roster for the event:

“Passion in writing or art—or in a lover—can make you overlook a lot of flaws. Passion is underrated. I think we should all produce work with the urgency of outsider artists, panting and jerking off to our kinky private obsessions. Sophistication is conformist, deadening. Let’s get rid of it.”

~Dodie Bellamy, from ‘Barf Manifesto’

“Urgency” is the latest hue and cry among the avant garde of a yet unnamed movement in the arworld that is pushing a resurgence in subjectivism — drive driven art, passion and necessity as virtue.

Let’s work hard to coin a new term for this so we can amend the text books. I’m putting in my vote for: URGENT art. Too obvious? Duh!

Like the Depends of the creative community, our galleries and pundits, collectors, and even artists, are hoping we can absorb the urgent flow of uncontrolled effluvia that should be drilling into us in the upcoming months. We can only pray for a few Dargers.

Well, we needed SOMETHING to replace “gesture” — and “interventions” just don’t sell as easily as the all blood sweat and tears you can blarf onto a canvas. More for your money: why collect pictures of re-enactments when you can pick up a pack of whimsy at the art fair?

Thing is, I’m rooting for more visuals in my visual art. I think I’d really dig some really poignant, really voyeuristically appealing canvasses. I think I’d prefer them to all the ugly, visually dull, eggheaded, artist-statement-dependent stuff I’ve been forced to look at.

If I can’t have my conceptual art and see it too, then maybe I’ll settle for the inside of somebody’s closet.

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