Last night I read the conversation between Rodney Graham and Dan Graham in a recent catalog. The early parts were great because they took me back to the good old days when one could have a few interesting ideas and become a somebody for that, but toward the end it became too much name dropping, especially names from pop culture. But Graham (Dan) is right to be scornful of critics at Artforum and October, for example, for literalizing everything and taking art too seriously, for professionalizing and formalizing what is really just the artist’s natural life, for turning their interests into art history, so all the blabbing about rock bands served a purpose – to turn the curators and professionals involved into what Dave Hickey calls “lookey-loos,” peering in at the “scene.” It makes me think of the Beats, and how the history of that so-called movement is nothing but lists of names and bogus connections. Rodney and I once laughed about that – how an artist’s biography will be full of statements like “1963…met so and so.” And now this morning I come across the words of Bridget Riley: “I think abstract art should try to be as resourceful and expressive as the great figurative art of the past.” Avant-gardists are right to take a distance on this sort of thing, though I admit to being fallible myself. Too serious, too earnest, too willing to accept the whole apparatus of high culture, including its acolytes and devotees, the kind of people one went into art to escape. But then, having said that I guess I have to admit that we can’t escape art as a matter of social distinction, of coteries and self identified communities. The overriding background condition and problem is overpopulation, of the whole world but also of art. Art has become an endless war of perspectives, and there are so many different perspectives on the field that distinctions between them flatten out into strategy.

Rodney Graham, City Self, Country Self

Rodney Graham, City Self, Country Self

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