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.
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.