Art in the Mainstream

Barry Schwabsky’s recent review of the Christopher Wool retrospective strikes several chords with this blog. Right off he asks whether the value of art can be equated with price, exactly the right question, and of course he gives the right answer, which is no. But more interestingly, he observes in passing that the left has a tendency to share this particular confusion with the art speculators. Very true. Of course Schwabsky can’t define value because it can’t even be recognized, never mind defined, apart from a particular work, so he doesn’t start to talk about the transcendent or spiritual dimension of art, but in his comments on Wool he again asks the right question. He points out that Wool works with the conventions of gestural painting in which marks are assumed to be traces of the artist’s subjectivity, and builds in distance with stencils, silkscreens, erasure, and other techniques. But then Schwabsky hits the target when he says that he would like to see something other than a fully realized intention. The point is that no matter that a conventional “doubt” may be present, work that is so much in the mainstream of modernist abstraction cannot escape the limitations of the subject. Here I might go farther, because I find Wool’s markers of doubt to be just mannerisms. I’ve seen it all before, and lack either the time or energy to rehearse these “critical” tropes yet again. Interesting is that though it would be easy to place Wool’s text pieces under the heading of conceptual art, Schwabsky is not fooled. He quotes the artist: “The tools have changed and the ways of exploring visual things have expanded,” he asserts, “but it’s not a paradigm shift, it’s the same old paradigm.” Applies well to critical conceptualism.

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Recent works by Joanna Pousette-Dart

Further on, Schwabsky mentions another artist that I also have just discovered, only the other day in fact, Joanna Pousette-Dart. Her works have a resemblance to Northwest Coast aboriginal art. In my forthcoming book I will talk about the tribe in the global system, so find her work intriguing.

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5 Responses to Art in the Mainstream

  1. john says:

    I would love to see a show of Wool beside Gerald Ferguson’s work, an artist who also produced a lot of doubtful painting.
    but c’mon, why play out the old dreary story of conceptual art always being against painting??

  2. Joanna Pousette-Dart says:

    Robert,
    Enjoyed both your and Schwabsky’s thoughts on Chris Wool.
    I’m also pleased you discovered my paintings but wanted to comment on your statement that they’re “obviously rooted in North West Coast aboriginal art”. The more associations the merrier and you’re not the first to make this one. But while I can imagine I might share with Northwest Coast Indians a desire to make something visceral and transformative, my work doesn’t spring from this as a source nor does it set out to achieve a particular “look”.
    American Indian art of various types has always moved me but so has Medieavel and Romanesque Art, Etruscan, Islamic, Tantric, Celtic, Chinese, Mexican,and Cave Painting, Sassetta, Pierrot, Vermeer, Miro, Leger, countless other artists old and new, all sorts of music and cinema and landscapes etc,etc. I draw on all of it but I’m interested in continuity not nostalgia. The shapes in my work, and the drawing within them, have developed intuitively over a long period of time. I’ve invented them as a way of creating a certain kind of space – animating certain remembered light/space situations and freezing them, while simultaneously allowing them to remain in flux. Someone once told me my paintings looked like something you’d see in your rear view mirror..…a comment which delighted me.
    Anyway, fascinating subject, the North West Coast Indian. I’ll look forward to reading your book when it’s done.
    Joanna Pousette-Dart

  3. Kim says:

    I would really like it if reviewers, journalists and art critics/art writers could focus on the actual work instead of a forced discourse on how they believe the work relates to other work. I find this work, rather unappealing visually, as well as conceptually boring (is this artist lazy? does this artist just hire people to create work with no standards?) and considering the “style” of work, I feel one should start there and work their way out, with the work ITSELF. Not once do you actually take on the work itself. So this is like reading about a conversation you overheard from two windbags who think they can turn uninteresting art interesting by simply fluffing up the conversation they are having. This is as close as you come to actually talking about the work itself: I’ve seen it all before, and lack either the time or energy to rehearse these “critical” tropes yet again. And yet nary a direct comment on the actual work.

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