Posted inArt

Some Thoughts on Clement Greenberg and His Legacy

In his introductory essay to Vitamin P, a survey of contemporary painting first published by Phaidon in 2002, the poet and critic Barry Schwabsky takes pains to point out the variety of stylistic positions available to a contemporary painter. In doing so, Schwabsky suggests that there is no single identifying characteristic that would disqualify a contemporary painting from critical consideration today. This state of openness was not always the case. In my opinion, however, the receptivity that Schwabsky claims for painting is not actually an accurate characterization of the current situation, where success is generally judged by an artist’s standing in the marketplace.

Posted inArt

America’s Grand Gestures Reign Supreme Again in Basel

BASEL, Switzerland — Fifty-five years ago, the exhibition The New American Painting arrived at the Kunsthalle Basel. It was the first stop on a yearlong tour that touted the work of seventeen Abstract Expressionists before eight European countries — the first comprehensive exhibition to be sent to Europe showing the advanced tendencies in American painting. All but five of the original artists from the show had work on view at last weekend’s Art Basel, where postwar American painting and sculpture dominated the halls.

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Nobuo Sekine and Charles Ray and Their Sculptures Filled with Liquid

Lee Ufan’s letter to Stella underscores his ongoing critique of Western aesthetics, which began with the specific objects we associate with Minimalism. Whereas Minimalism, at least as Stella codified it, emphasizes the material presence of an object isolated from the passage of time, the artists associated with Mono-ha were interested in what happened between things, in the dynamics of their relationship as well as in change. Thus, for all the visual affinities between a Western-made object and those made by the Mono-ha artists, these connections have to do with appearance — they are morphological and, at best, superficial.

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Cosmic Comic: Frank Stella’s Fine Disregard

The first thing I noticed about Frank Stella’s classic “pinstripe” paintings from the late 1950s-early 1960s — gathered from hither and yon for the splendid exhibition, Frank Stella: Black, Aluminum and Copper Paintings — is how at home they looked in L&M Arts’ stately Upper East Side townhouse. The second thing I noticed is how funny they are.

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The Plastic Bag as Artistic Muse

In Patrick Griffin’s recent exhibition at The Journal Gallery in Williamsburg, Common Courtesy, he focused on an unusual subject matter: the plastic bag. If you live in a major city then you are more than familiar with these little guys; they accumulate under your sink, get stuck in that storm drain you always walk by on your way to work and blow urban tumbleweeds across the street at all hours of the day and night. Though the artist’s focus is playful and somewhat off kilter, his approach to this body of work seems almost scientific. Griffin collected, catalogued and scanned an army of plastic bags into the computer. Using this databank as his starting point, the artist made paintings directly from the two dimensional planes of these photographs.

Posted inNews

Gallery Hangings Gone Wrong at Boston MFA’s New Wing

At the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ new Wing of the Americas, the story of American art is told over the course of four floors, ranging from colonial and indigenous art through modernism. Stopping before contemporary, the third floor above ground level is the home of American modernism. The opening gallery of the floor tells a story that’s neither comprehensive nor diverse, instead presenting a kind of multifaceted, unfocused face to greet the public. How does this hanging impact the works on view in the gallery, and museum-goers’ experience of the art?

Posted inOpinion

Steve Martin, Stella, Fairey & Serrano on Colbert Report

I can’t remember the last time so many bold faced art names were on mainstream television. Last night, Stephen Colbert tried to convince well-known art collector Steve Martin to buy his René Magritte-like portrait but it wasn’t an easy sell. Colbert soon marched on some major artists to make it more enticing. As he said, Stella declared it art, Fairey recontextualized it, Serrano added controversy, and Colbert even added Martin’s image but still no sale. The segment is a funny and clever way to introduce some artists to a mass audience that may not be familiar with their work. For that, Colbert gets an A++. Click thru to watch the segment.