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.

Will Round Two of Cariou v Prince Change Art Law Forever?


You're going to see a lot of this guy -from Patrick Cariou's Yes Rasta

Go ahead, expect more of these sweaty headlines with question marks in them. Because, with the now rather infamous Cariou v Prince case up for appeal sometime this year, we are facing another deluge of half-informed, and angrily contentious, punditry which will wash over the raw, dry, factual sands of more professional reports like a tsunami of histrionics.

Drowning in the madness will be all those bleeding hearts who root for the little guy, and the sundry art world know-it-alls who root for controversy, along with the fastidious fence straddlers like myself who can’t do right by anyone — and, let us not forget, the stalwart naifs who insist on seeing appropriation as flat out theft.

In the background, lawyers toil away, building sand castles of the driest, rawest, facts they can muster.

It is no wonder that the case has captured the attention of so many. It involves a lot of money, after all, and it pits an underdog, Patrick Cariou, against an art star, Richard Prince, and his giant posse of star-makers and lawyers. It also comes after artists had become cocky, with most copyright infringement cases settling without trial, and often to the mutual benefit of defendants and plaintiffs.

At base the issue is this: Richard Prince’s team must prove that district court judge Deborah A. Batts ruled in error when she decided against Prince’s fair use claim. Patrick Cariou’s lawyer, Dan Brooks, must argue that the ruling did, in fact, use the correct legal standard.

Brooks will file his opening brief by January 25th. Faced with the formidable 135 page appeal filed on Oct. 26, 2011 by big guns Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and a nearly 50 page amicus brief filed on behalf of Richard Prince by the Andy Warhol foundation, plus similar briefs from Google and a consortium of museums (including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and The Art Institute of Chicago), Brooks will have to answer five newly refined points of contention.

  1. That contrary to the first circuit court’s decision, the Canal Zone works that use Cariou’s photos are indeed transformative in every sense established by art history and accepted artistic practice and constitute a fair use of those images.
  2. That Prince’s “intentions” do not factor into the meaning that his work may or may not have since it is the viewer and the context of a work that give it its meaning.
  3. That contrary to testimony, Cariou did not lose any marketing opportunities due to Prince’s use of his images; indeed, his lawyers argue, his book prices soared after the initial bout of litigation.
  4. That the first circuit decision, if upheld, will create a “chilling effect” on future creative work, and thereby will override the very purpose of the fair use exception which is intended to protect free speech and works of social value.
  5. That, in the Batts decision to protect the copyright holder, Patrick Cariou, the rights of the appropriation artist, Richard Prince were unduly impeded, as her ruling overreached in lumping all of the thirty paintings under one ruling.

In Part One of this Three Part series, I set up a virtual dialogue between Dan Brooks (Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP.), Patrick Cariou’s lawyer and Anthony Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School.

In Part Two, I will discuss the five points above in greater detail. In Part 3, I will part the waters.

Read the rest and look forward to Parts TWO and THREE on Hyperallergic

OPINION: Conflicts of Interest Add Color & Texture

K Haring's Andy Mouse:

On Faso’s Brushbuzz, a kind of Reddit for the art market, I discovered a seedling of bothersome art theory: one bsherwrin contemplates whether or not “ad sales play a role in shaping art history in the sense that art publications– both online and in print — tend to end up reviewing exhibits at galleries that also happen to pay for ads in the publication?” Leaping from the question to an assumed ethical issue, the  post asks us to discuss the question:  “Should art magazines– and art blogs that feature an art-focused ad network for that matter– avoid a conflict of interest by not reviewing exhibits at galleries that also purchase ad space in the publication?”

Now people, we LIVE in a well-documented network of “conflicts of interest.” Conflicts of interest are de rigeur in every field. And conflicts of interest have been a part of the playing field in the arts for decades now, and are more and more the norm.

We have artists who are curators, advisors, arts writers and bloggers (just check out the bios on Facebook!). We have museums who have collectors who are artists who are guest curators who place their own works in the show. We have curators and art consultants who collect art themselves (a quickie browse through Linked In should show many of these). We have museum directors who are ex-gallery owners who have a vested art historical interest in the artists they supported in their earlier career. Hell, we’ve even had large corporations put up a pop-up gallery on public property in order to display artists who’s work echoed and celebrated the company’s designs — artwork that the company then had contracted to hold first rights to purchase.

Reading an article about a show at a museum? Well, I suggest grain of salt, my friends. No one’s even trying to be “objective” any more and, honestly, it’s time to move on.

The Law of Maximized Irony

I have a metaphysical theory that I call The Law of Maximized Irony:

In a nutshell, any set of initial circumstances will resolve to the state of greatest irony.

Case in point:

With increasing frequency we see incredulous stories about artists who’ve made careers out of cribbing other people’s work suing artists who have copied them. Is it flat out hypocrisy, or good business strategy — or both? Whatever is behind it, the story makes for a lot of really good laughs.

Check out my latest in Hyperallergic:

Is a Cease and Desist About Irony, Hypocrisy or Legal Strategy?

 

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.”

Go Deep: Jeff Koons’ Made in Heaven at Luxembourg and Dayan

 

Jeff Koons, Ponies, 1991 Oil inks silkscreened on canvas228.6 x 152.4 cm (90 x 60 inches)
Jeff Koons, Ponies, 1991 Oil inks silkscreened on canvas 228.6 x 152.4 cm via Spreadart Culture

 

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 KoonsMade 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.

Um: I like Ponies.

ESSAY: How to Say Hirst Was First

Who's on first?

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.

But what kind of “first” was it?

Continue reading “ESSAY: How to Say Hirst Was First”

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.

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