Tag Archives: backstory

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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A Story

In Moby-Dick the chapter is called “The Town-Ho’s Story,” and the story is of an encounter with the white whale. In Stella’s piece the ship is heeling over, and from the side it looks like it’s taken a hit. Jammed … Continue reading

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Abstraction in Iran

My facebook friend from Vancouver, Mohammad Salemy, has written a piece about the modernist art collection in Tehran. It’s worth a read. The collection is very rich, but right now I’m interested in the abstraction. Stella spent time there in … Continue reading

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A Literary Art

Back at the start of this blog, in 2011 I think it was, I wrote several posts on R.H.Quaytman. She’s still one of my favourite artists, and features prominently in my book. Another artist with a very creative relationship to … Continue reading

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Criticism versus Publicity

Alfredo Triff is an interesting guy who lives in Miami, teaches at a local college and writes about art on his blog miami bourbaki. I don’t know exactly what he teaches—somewhere in the realm of philosophy/history/political economy—but I like his … Continue reading

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Globalism and Provinciality

Over the next few weeks I’m going to post images from my book. Here’s one of my favourite comparisons, aboriginal artist Doug Cranmer and the well known Parisian modernist Bram van Velde. Though van Velde had a great interest in … Continue reading

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Authority Again

Thinking more about authority—I’ll bet that many, including artists, maybe especially artists, think it means ordering people about. It may well be that in daily life, but in art it’s more to do with a kind of truth, a truth … Continue reading

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Power and Authority

I think that power and authority have to be sharply distinguished. Power is what individuals seek to compensate for whatever lack they feel. Or just for the sheer pleasure of controlling someone else, if that’s what gives them pleasure. Authority … Continue reading

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Procrastination

I found a thoughtful but also very amusing article in the NYT, by Anna Della Subin. The topic is procrastination, and she begins with the story of St. Expeditus: According to legend, when the Roman centurion [Expeditus] decided to convert … Continue reading

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The View from Inside

In an old issue of the NYRB I find the following from Vladimir Ashkenazy, on his fellow pianist Sviatoslav Richter: “The strongest element in his magnetic appeal to audiences is his conviction that what he does is absolutely right at … Continue reading

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Anxiety

A couple of months ago I visited a well known Toronto gallery (well known in Toronto), which had just moved to a new space. As it happened, the gallerist was alone when I arrived, and the whole encounter gave me … Continue reading

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Enlightenment

Lately I’ve been enjoying Andrea Fraser’s writings, and I’m not sure that blog readers who follow me to Stella, Barré, Motherwell or Riley will also come along that way. The fact is that I am a believer in modern art … Continue reading

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A Real Change

Recently I’m rediscovering the absolute genius of Walter Benjamin, including reading some texts I had a hard time with years ago. In “The Task of the Translator” he confirms remarks made in an earlier post about how artworks change over … Continue reading

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Consensus

Today the avant-garde – which wanted to release all the creative energies bound up in specialized art and let them loose into everyday life – is a huge institution, with prizes for young artists, awards, museum shows everywhere, catalogs, books … Continue reading

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Ordinary Conceptualism

Back in the day, conceptual art had the cachet of difficulty, abstruseness and extreme refinement. That the works were regarded as unsaleable was supposed to guarantee their seriousness and integrity. These qualities were operative even if the work was silly; … Continue reading

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The Human Base?

In a neighbouring grass hut a husband was talking to his wife. He wanted them to have a child: maybe a child would start right now. But the wife answered: “No, there’s nothing inside us – only weakness. Ten years … Continue reading

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Unity

Unity or wholeness in art will always appear as the conservative choice. Take the politics out of it and it’s still bad because in my experience at least, reinforced every day in the studio, it is much much harder to … Continue reading

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Inwardness

In the Brooklyn Rail conversation mentioned earlier, Robert Hullot-Kentor offers the following observation: “…academics included, the U.S. verges on homogeneity in its denial of psychological reality. Hardly anyone wants to know what goes on inside themselves. There is strikingly little … Continue reading

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Real history

Robert Motherwell, in his Elegy series, alluded to a history that had some meaning to his viewers, even if few had had direct contact with it. They might remember their own experiences of WWII, and reflect that the subversion of … Continue reading

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Tacit Criticism

As pointed out on this blog, the role of criticism is to make the implicit explicit, to explain what doesn’t need to be explained, because the implicit—or call it the tacit—contains the social content that must be questioned. I don’t … Continue reading

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Abstraction is so over

Bruce Hainley is a critic I have a lot of time for. Oddly, many of my friends don’t understand why. I get where he is coming from, and it’s the right place. If I was in a down mood his … Continue reading

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In Memoriam

The series Polar Coordinates for Ronnie Peterson was another tough one for me to learn to like, but now I love them. Somehow, the two layer structure, combined with the busyness of the “ground” layer, has some relevance to the … Continue reading

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Unknown

Recently I published a little squib on the British web site Abstract Critical, and Peter Stott, who has contributed to this blog, offered the following comment: “The one thing that can be said about abstract art is that it is … Continue reading

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Conceptual Antagonist

The following remarks by Clement Greenberg, from 1971, give the most astute definition of conceptualism, or at least of the kind of conceptualism worth paying attention to: “…art, put to the strictest test of experience, proves to mean not skillful … Continue reading

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Secret meaning

Another theme of Kitaj’s Jewish commentarism is the esoteric. Behind the flat surface lies a depth of meaning—but meaning is not the right word. It’s easy to see how this can work in figurative art, but in abstraction less so. … Continue reading

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Commentary

R.B.Kitaj’s Second Diasporist Manifesto gives a lot of pleasure. He describes himself as kind of Talmudic commentator—of his own painting. Proposition #236 reads: “As a Jew, I am FOR INTERPRETATION…As a post-20th century painter, the very idea of NO COMMMENTARY … Continue reading

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No Progress Made

I thought I’d better amplify something I said in the preceding post, about art as an agent of enlightenment—the latter meaning freedom from myth. When art definitively became a secular religion, just before the turn of the twentieth century, it … Continue reading

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Getting things done

It is not the clear-sighted who lead the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm mental fog… Conrad

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An Explanation

Readers of the earlier post on captions and backstory might have had some difficulty in understanding the choice of illustration. Actually, it makes a lot of sense—what wouldn’t make sense is an explanation, even though this is not a story. … Continue reading

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Captions and Backstories

Scott Lyall and I have been having some discussions about the concept of “backstory,” which appeared on this blog about nine months ago. Recently he brought up the topic of captions, which allows an important distinction to be made. A … Continue reading

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