Category Archives: Abstraction and Society

Kojève

Recently read a great article by Boris Groys on Kojève. Never read Kojève myself but I know that he taught Hegel to the surrealists, and I learned a lot about that from a very good book about surrealist objects by … Continue reading

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Outside the Border Fence

Following from the previous post, I think it helps a lot to travel, and not just to Miami or Basel. I talk about this in my book. But though you can take your body to different places, it’s hard to … Continue reading

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Berger’s Choices

A recent article by Ben Davis about the death of John Berger demanded a reply—sadly comments were not possible. Davis made the point that some of the artists Berger admired were obscure, non-canonical. My answer would be why does Ben … Continue reading

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Time and Change

Many of the things I say on this blog are widely recognized. They are not always expressed the same way. Actually, I don’t know if “widely recognized” is the right phrase—it might be more like conventional wisdom of the past. … Continue reading

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Art for the Age of Trump

Thinking about constructivist collage—in other words, art of a revolutionary period—makes one wonder what kind of art is right for today. Does my Collage #10 really measure up, or is to too much Kutesy-Klee and Kandinsky-Kute? Are the animal/organic and … Continue reading

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Collage at the Beginning

Years ago, in her book on abstraction, Briony Fer suggested that collage was at the origin of the practice. I didn’t know what importance to attach to that idea, but I liked it. Her examples were collages by the Russian … Continue reading

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Two of a Kind

From Wodehouse’s Joy in the Morning: ‘By an unfortunate coincidence, his lordship will in a few moments from now be proceeding to the potting shed to confer with Mr. Chichester Clam.’ ‘Chichester Clam?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ I shook the head. ‘I … Continue reading

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Another Russian Philosopher

I’m always grateful to Boris Groys, who has opened so many horizons with his wit and penetration. He has also brought attention to lesser known Russian thinkers, and there are a lot of them worth looking into. One that attracted … Continue reading

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Progressive Critique

The following comes from a piece by McKenzie Wark: “Contemporary art…loves three strategies that portray nothing so much as the forms of accumulation its current or emerging patrons enjoy. Firstly, there is outsourcing, where the art is made by somebody … Continue reading

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Size and Importance

Further on from the previous post—if Stella was part of a larger, more general response to abstract expressionism, I think the generally accepted understanding of that response has been too limited. We usually hear that it was a reaction against the … Continue reading

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Wooster’s Version

I hope my readers will excuse this long quote from one of the Jeeves and Wooster books: The effect the apparition had on me was to make me start violently, and we all know what happens when you start violently … Continue reading

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Forms of Realism

The best part of Facebook, in fact the only good part, is some of the people one can meet. Recently I connected with a young writer called Joobin Bekhrad, of Iranian extraction but living in Toronto, who loves to post … Continue reading

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Once Again New

It’s been pointed out, most cogently by Nietzsche, that what stirs us most in what we read is what we already know. He means philosophy or any kind of wisdom writing, not political screeds on the internet. But we still … Continue reading

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The Artwork in Our Time

Miklos Legrady, an artist in Toronto who has a penchant for polemic, has just published on e-flux conversations what he thinks of as a rebuttal to Benjamin’s famous artwork essay. It takes the form of a close reading with commentary. … Continue reading

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Realist Masquerade

When the post about Ian Wallace’s Poverty went up on Facebook, there were comments from Ydessa Hendeles. She is a very interesting artist and has been an important figure in Toronto for many years. She remembers when the Poverty series … Continue reading

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Abstraction from Life

This blog is about abstract art, and I think it offers some interesting and novel ideas. It also has some unconventional ideas, and makes no apology for that. The recent post on Ian Wallace’s work is, for me, a bit … Continue reading

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An Opportunity, or A Christmas Message

Stella teaches something every artist should know, or does know but normally forgets—that art is not a problem, it’s an opportunity, an invitation, a promise. What it is for society I have no idea, but that’s what it is for … Continue reading

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Aristocrat of the Spirit

You have to know that you are right. But if no one else agrees then you’re a poor sap anyway. Indifference to shame helps. The shame of poverty, for example. Baudelaire turned poverty into “poverty.” Shamelessness fosters conviction.

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Wallace’s Poverty

Ian Wallace’s Poverty is a fiction. Can someone who is really poor take an interest in that? You’d have to be indifferent to wealth to begin with to appreciate both rich and poor as roles, to take them as art. For … Continue reading

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Illusions of Identity

A couple of months ago I read about the American writer Lionel Shriver and the scandal she caused at a writer’s festival in Brisbane. At the time I was sympathetic but passed on. Recently a follow up article showed that the whole … Continue reading

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A Heap of Scrap Metal

On a train passing a scrap yard the piles of twisted shiny metal pieces remind me of Stella’s sculpture in Chicago. You might call the pile a piece of abstract art, in the “all over” mode, but Stella’s work is … Continue reading

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The Day Is Long

More from the mind of Bertie Wooster: “If there’s one thing I like it’s a quiet life. I’m not one of those fellows who get all restless and depressed if things aren’t happening to them all the time. You can’t … Continue reading

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Shame

I’ve been thinking a lot about Anton Ehrenzweig’s idea that artists are shameless, that art is a kind of self exposure that demonstrates a courageous defiance of social norms—of guilt in fact. I’ve discussed it before on this blog. But … Continue reading

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Wooster and the Reality Principle

Wodehouse’s books are light, and lightness is one of the qualities I esteem in any art. But they are not any less concerned with reality as it is lived. Here is Bertie Wooster’s favourite aunt, regaling him with some affectionate … Continue reading

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The Mystery of Jeeves

The genius of P.G.Wodehouse has been well recognized. And so it should be. His books are so funny and give so much pleasure that they make life more bearable. But he was also a very intelligent and sophisticated artist, the … Continue reading

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Invention and Labour

I read recently about Alfons Mucha’s Slav Epic, an allegorical/historical cycle of gigantic paintings, some actually as much as 20 feet high. I’d like to see them, but even before doing so I’m getting tired. Too much work! Mucha is … Continue reading

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This World or Another

At the time of writing, a couple of weeks before publication, the Trump election is everyone’s topic of discussion, and the content of that discussion can get pretty intense—intensely apocalyptic in some cases. I’ve been putting in my own opinion … Continue reading

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Modern Labor

Kafka has this to say about the entrepreneurial culture: “The animal wrests the whip from its master and whips itself in order to become master, not knowing that this is only a fantasy produced by a new knot in the … Continue reading

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While Waiting

The topic of waiting is not to be confused with procrastination. From an art point of view the biggest problem is the need to be busy, because the true religion of the modern world, in every culture, is work. The … Continue reading

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Those Who Wait

The theme of waiting deserves a few posts. I originally thought I could make one, or even two, but it’s too rich of a topic. What is Fontana waiting for? His slashes are titled “Attesa,” which I would translate as … Continue reading

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