Was recently listening to a couple of art historians talking about Matisse and Picasso. Some good moments go by, but then one can’t help but think how profoundly irrelevant it all is. No matter how astute the insight, insights don’t help an artist to make work as great as it can be. By definition what needs to be made is outside of the existing insights, which are always retrospective. But still, on Picasso, and Matisse for that matter, T.J.Clark seems to get it. What artists know in their common experience but art historians are rarely able to see, and say—but there is relatively little merit in saying it.
My many recent thoughts about Picasso make me wonder—is it time to give up abstraction? What’s so good about it anyway? If my own work didn’t feel right I guess I would, but ideas, understandings and insights are not the origin of art. If all we have left of modernism is a crazy belief in the future, which, absent utopia, simply means that the work will arrive at its place one day, then maybe abstraction is a last decadent period, a kind of naive failure. But naiveté matters. Real art always has it. The odd thing today is that one can know that as well—one can be consciously naive. In fact, one has to be as conscious as possible, without losing one’s naiveté, meaning capacity for direct action. Not to be confused with being too smart for one’s own good.