Sunday, February 14, 2010

Post-Minimal to the Max

As a young artist, I thought for sure when I got older that new, unfamiliar art would come along to challenge my assumptions and beliefs. I even looked forward to it. But now that I’m old enough to be a fogey, I see stuff like Tino Sehgal at the Guggenheim and instead I’m thinking, “OMG, this again? I have SO seen this, done that.”
I wonder how many more generations I will have to watch discover conceptual art, each time becoming more sterilized, more schooled.

The funniest is art that tries to shock. Sorry, but now things are reversed; it’s the younger generation that’s been coddled and the older one that has done more, seen more, and put more substances up their collective noses than the young ‘uns can imagine. Ours is the generation that produced Robert Mapplethorpe, for chrissake, who saw Nancy Spungen’s body carried out of the Chelsea Hotel, and needing to pee at Danceteria, found people fucking in the stalls--not to speak of having friends dying left and right from AIDS. So I’m going to quake inside when I see a (clothed) black man laying on top of a (clothed) white woman on the floor of the Guggenheim?

Roberta Smith, however, says it better, in “Post-Minimal to the Max” in Friday’s Times:

The current exhibition of Gabriel Orozco at the Museum of Modern Art along with the recent ones of Roni Horn at the Whitney Museum and of Urs Fischer at the New Museum have generated a lot of comment pro and con. So has the Tino Sehgal performance exhibition now on view in an otherwise emptied-out Guggenheim rotunda. But regardless of what you think about these artists individually, their shows share a visual austerity and coolness of temperature that are dispiritingly one-note. After encountering so many bare walls and open spaces, after examining so many amalgams of photography, altered objects, seductive materials and Conceptual puzzles awaiting deciphering, I started to feel as if it were all part of a big-box chain featuring only one brand. More…

The artists Smith would choose to feature are not necessarily those that populate my curatorial fantasies (for instance I’d start with Terry Winters, whose last New York museum exhibition was in 1992) but not to quibble. Smith sums it up when she says, “What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand.”

Certain readers will take this as meaning that Smith is angling for a return to AbEx or somesuch, but I’ll interpret it my way. Readers of this blog know that I admire the work of Olafur Eliasson, who works with a team of collaborators and rarely executes anything himself, yet the aura of “intense personal necessity” surrounds everything he produces. It is also very highly developed. On the other hand, given how much art one sees that seems only half-realized, it’s important to recognize that process itself—the struggle to execute—can be an important path to new ideas. The stubborn development of technique (and by this I mean not facility, but the ideal vehicle for the concept) can provide the time required to take the art where it needs to go.

Also to say that while I find Tino Sehgal's work mannered and superficial, I'm inspired by that of Marina Abramovic (actually this is a prime example of the watering down process I was speaking of, where one generation adopts the look, but not the substance, of the previous one), and will expound on this in later posts.
Terry Winters, Luminance, 2002, oil on linen, 94 1/2" x 133 3/4" (courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery).

11 comments:

jane rosen said...

very well put. thank you

Lady Xoc said...

I feel sorry for the the younger generation. Was it something in the water, or all that Sesame Street? So much of what they do is anemic, there is no urgency. A lot of hyperbole, but pretty flabby at the core. Everyday experience is loaded with "devastation" and "terror". And woe-betide if you aren't "passionate" about something or other. It's all advertising and I'm sick of it.

Is the Guggenheim's imprimatur enough to get me to slog my way up there in the cold to see a big fat boring nothing? Not for this fogey. I'm just being pragmatic and with age, time becomes more fleeting and valuable; effort more carefully parceled out. Plus, I've heard way too much academic antler-bashing about whether Tino Seghal's photography ban preserves the integrity of the performance. For a bunch of forward-thinking progressives, they can be very stuck in the mud.

Thank you Carol, I was beginning to feel like a curmudgeon (worse than a fogey).

Jim said...

Completely agree about Terry Winters.

lauriemcleod said...

Thank God for you saying these things out loud and in print. We can't be reminded enough. Phew!

Art Trip said...

It seems that painting has been declared dead for so long that the musuems are in their own death spiral to prove the point.

Martha Miller said...

LOVE Terry Winters. Saw a great show of his prints at Colby College in '05 - had no idea and am so surprised he has not had a museum show in NYC!

Lady Xoc said...

Am I nuts, or did I not see a Terry Winters show at the Whitney once upon a time? I can remember walking through several rooms of his work, but perhaps it wasn't a solo show. Sometime in the late '80s/early'90s.

Kathy Hodge said...

Exactly. I don't want to be forced to interact with anyone for their own "social experiment". That's why I don't like clowns, interactive theater, or fundamentalist churches. If I want to be part of a play, I'll join a theater group. So, when I go into a museum, just leave me alone to look at the paintings thank you. What, no paintings?

I also just posted the article by Roberta Smith in my blog. It's a good one.

Carol Diehl said...

I agree with you. To be expected to interact with "actors" for the artist's end is, to me, invasive and annoying and--in the case of Tino Seghal--leaves me feeling "used."

However I make a big distiction between Seghal, whose work I find tedious, and Marina Abramovic, who for me is totally compelling, not the least because she invests so much of herself in what she does. This is a perfect example of the second generation skimming the surface of the first. I'll write more about this in another post--or maybe lots of other posts!

slowmuse said...

I am completely in synch with your view, about Roberta Smith's piece and about Terry Winters. Mind meld. Thanks so much.

Pretty Lady said...

Yep.

I can't tell you how tired I am of being accused of being 'resistant and closed-minded' when it comes to the lame, fatuous tripe that is being foisted onto the public in the name of 'art.' It's not *just* that I've seen variations of every 'radical' piece currently on view in major museums, done with more deliberation and richness by sophomore art students--it's that what these morons are trying to do has already been done, and done much better, IN SEVERAL OTHER GENRES.

Apparently, the new curatorial generation does not have enough interest in culture as a whole to have a clue about what has happened in poetry, literature, theater, music, or film during the last 50-100 years. As I told Ed once, in reference to some imaginary conceptual art piece he was raving about, 'go to all the shoe shops in Amsterdam' could be one fairly decent line in one poem by a competent poet.

Of which there are thousands.