Allover the Same

Jerry Saltz says some amusing things. Here’s an example:

“Nowadays we see endless arrays of decorous, medium-size, handsome, harmless painting. It’s rendered mainly in black, white, gray, or, more recently, violet or blue. Much of it entails transfer techniques, silkscreening, stenciling, assemblage, collage, a little spray painting or scraping and the like. There might be some smooshy blocks of color or stripes or other obvious open-form abstraction or geometric motif. A few painters are doing the same thing but with brighter colors, larger areas of paint, hints of gesture, or even drips. All this work has readymade references to preapproved, mostly male painters like Albert Oehlen, Christopher Wool, Michael Krebber, Wade Guyton, Laura Owens, and Sergej Jensen, or to the Minimalism or Pop movements, and of course it all calls up Warhol, Richter, Kippenberger, or Prince.”

So much for the vogue for abstraction—there ain’t much that matters. The allover work has become the allover art world. Most critics and blogs are tolerant of mediocrity, and that’s a shame. Personally I couldn’t live as an also ran or an epigone of anyone. Why not put the energy into being yourself? But there is a larger problem, which Saltz also touches on:

“If art comes from everywhere and everyone thinks differently, why does so much of what we see these days look the same? Reams of artists influenced by and using the same art-history, artists, styles, and stuff.”

As in every area of the economy, art suffers from over production. There are so many artists, maybe too many. And the global system tends toward integration. But as Saltz implicitly points out, there is still a shortage of the real thing. The post-modern critique of originality can’t stand up to the tsunami of art—the more art there is the more originality becomes the only important measure. It took me years to find what I wanted to do, and I’m happy I did. It may take time and one might have to dig deep, but in the end it’s a lot more natural than making “art” like all the rest. The only problem with originality as a standard is that it comes in variable amounts. Everyone is original to some degree, so the question is how much? To quote a famous phrase, what counts is the difference that makes a difference. If one is going to give one’s life to art, might as well try for that. And along the way realize that to be oneself means to be measured against everyone else, so the personal vision is not so personal, and subjective taste not so subjective.


Robert Linsley, Pink Oval 2004, Congregation Shoals 2000, Evening Channels 2007

It’s an objective fact that my pictures have a distinctive identity, no matter how they might vary in appearance. They also do things I’ve haven’t seen yet in current abstraction. Undoubtedly will one day though. I’ve been making an experiment with selling work on-line, and a small watercolor will be up for auction today here. If any reader of this blog picks it up, please let me know and I’ll send you a token of appreciation.

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2 Responses to Allover the Same

  1. john says:

    “Albert Oehlen, Christopher Wool, Michael Krebber, Wade Guyton, Laura Owens, and Sergej Jensen, or to the Minimalism or Pop movements, and of course it all calls up Warhol, Richter, Kippenberger, or Prince.”…”

    actually a good number of the artists listed here are very much from a tight and highly controlled “ecosystem” of the art market…

  2. Haydee Yordan says:

    Hello ,
    As a fine art photographer, abstraction has always been present in my artwork. I would love to know if you have articles on abstraction and photography, or if you can refer me to some recent bibliography.
    Would love to send low res images of my work, but was unable.

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