Monday, June 19, 2006

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Once again, I find myself ignoring Hungry Hyaena in favor of painting and drawing. To be fair, "ignore" isn't really the appropriate word. I miss the regular writing terribly and, even when happily ensconced in the studio, I find myself fretting about the difficulty of achieving equipoise. Is it possible to fully satisfy two creative motivations? The writing complements the painting, to be sure, but both require a great deal of time (and hand-wringing) and are, therefore, competitive with one another. Occasionally, I'm able to steal a few minutes from the day job - as I'm doing presently - but I prefer to spend hours turning over a piece of writing and these cursory, apologetic posts are totally unsatisfying...even frustrating.

In the blogosphere, a few of these "I'm still alive!" proclamations in a row typically suggests flagging interest on the part of the writer. I assure you this isn't the case. I just need one of those handy, magic remote controls, like the one featured in the new Adam Sandler comedy, "Click" (which looks truly awful). Wouldn't it be nice to press the "Pause" button, bang out a dozen paintings and thirty essays while everything else is frozen, and then hit "Play." Oh, to be that prolific without sacrificing care!

At any rate, with several shows coming up in the fall, I need to make more art work, stat. Although I already have plenty of work on hand, I'm spread a little thin due to the overlapping exhibition timeline. So, until the fall arrives, I fear posts will remain infrequent.

Further troubling on the writing front is the unsettled situation at Scrawled. v1n5 (the June issue) has yet to appear online and, at the moment, I'm not sure it ever will. I'm in the process of trying to find another art magazine - online or otherwise - to publish with on a semi-regular basis. Whatever the case, I'll definitely let HH readers know when and where the piece on artist Deborah Simon will appear...when it does. Also on the horizon is a feature on the work of Sarah Trigg.

Alright, a few random things I thought I'd mention.

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1) On Friday afternoon, I learned that the human male brain matures at 30 years of age. (By contrast, the female brain is mature at 22.) I can't stress enough how relieved I was upon hearing this. I cheered the year-and-a-half of my remaining, relative adolescence. Party on, Wayne! But then I wondered: should I despair that there will, after maturity, be no physical expansion or further connectivity? Oh, well. Sure, I'll have to make do with a lot of fine-tuning, but - let's be honest - it will be wonderful to sort out the mess.

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"untitled"
c. 1970
Mixed media
7 x 3 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches


2) On Saturday, while taking a much needed break from painting, I read the most recent issue of ArtForum (Summer 2006). The closing lines of Jenifer P. Borum's review of the Philadelphia Wireman at Matthew Marks rankled me.

Borum writes, "...the question remains: Can or should the Wireman's appropriation of pop-cultural castoffs, produced without any apparent ironic or other critical intent, ever be assigned the same art-historical significance as the work of more canon-savvy practitioners?"

Because Borum focuses on "art-historical significance," I almost forgave the question, but her description of "canon-savvy practitioners" stinks of Art World pretension. Is thoughtful art produced only by a trained, privileged caste? For that matter, need art be thoughtful - as in intellectually stimulating - to be valuable to the maker? I, too, question what, if anything, distinguishes the Philadelphia Wireman's assemblages from the objects produced by innumerable other unrecognized - or under recognized - artists working outside the Art World proper, but Borum's query is more general and divisive. In essence, she asks if any of these "outsiders" is significant.

In response, I ask Borum. What real world significance is assigned to the ironic and critical work of canon-savvy practitioners? For the Philadelphia Wireman and many thousands of other working artists - whether or not they make a living at their craft - the making is definitive. The Philadelphia Wireman probably harbored no illusions of gallery exhibitions or critical bibliographies; for him, the bending and the stuffing and the tying was a curious way to pass - maybe even measure - time. Nothing more, but what more is there? Bollocks to art-historical significance. It will all be redefined (and then erased) in any event.

3) Lastly, on Sunday morning a friend emailed me a video featuring the amazing visual acuity of Steven Wiltshire. (More info here.) Wiltshire suffers from autistic spectrum disorder. He was mute until the age of 9, and his primary mode of communication during the early years was drawing. Although he does talk now, drawing remains central to his life. His architectural renderings are accomplished and he produces them very quickly, with little or no editing. Most remarkable, however, is his ability to observe a scene and then draw it, from memory, almost perfectly. This sounds hard to believe, but I encourage anyone interested in neuroscience or art to check out the video. I was flabbergasted.

Photo credits: ripped remote image from Amazon.com; ripped brain image from www.mabot.com; Philadelphia Wireman image courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

4 comments:

Michael said...

I share your irritation with Ms. Borum's quote. Call me a rube, but I have always had a firm belief that Art was a deep impulse in our species, not the brothel which has usurped its title. Indeed, the very canon of which she speaks seems to validate this outlook. Unless, that is, it is viewed by a myopic eye, which can hardly see past the last century or beyond the confines of the gallery.

Anonymous said...

you both completely misunderstood the jist of the quote in question, and the entire review.

i was wondering out loud if this blue chip recontextualization of the wireman would facilitate his registering on mainstream art historical radar.

you both assume that i accept mainstream criteria as a valid way to measure value. i do not. nor do i suggest that the wireman would be well served by inclusion within the mainstream.

i find it absolutely hilarious that you assume that i'm an apologist for contemporary art with an intellectual bent.

before you projected your agenda onto my writing and misrepresented me to your blog audience you might have done a little homework to contextualize my project, maybe looked at some of my published articles, most cached on google.

you would have discovered that you and share the very same disgust with the reception of self-taught artists in the mainstream art world.

the only difference between you and i is that i've devoted over a decade to challenging this phenomenon in print and all you've done is spit out one bitchy little blog.

jenifer p borum

Hungry Hyaena said...

Ms. Borum,

On several occasions a writer cited in a HH post has followed-up with a comment, and I always appreciate their response. Usually, the writer is compelled to leave a note only if they feel I have misinterpreted the article, essay or review in question or if they feel my ideas are completely wrong-headed. Your comment is no exception. I will reply line by line.

you both completely misunderstood the jist of the quote in question, and the entire review.

If this is the case - and it might be - I would ask why, then, did the few people I spoke with about the review all understand it in the same way? If all of us were "bitchy" outsiders, I would write off our anti-mainstream reaction as frustration - to our being on the outside looking in - but two of the people I consulted are established, successful artists who very much embrace "mainstream criteria." A small sample, surely, but a varied one nonetheless. Perhaps the review comes across differently than you feel?

you both assume that i accept mainstream criteria as a valid way to measure value. i do not.

Yes, I did. I apologize if this is not the case, but the assumption seems a fair one given the review's venue. ArtFORUM is a magazine I enjoy very much, but it is nothing if not mainstream Art World fare.

nor do i suggest that the wireman would be well served by inclusion within the mainstream.

You did not; I agree. Nor did I suggest you did. ;)

i find it absolutely hilarious that you assume that i'm an apologist for contemporary art with an intellectual bent.

This, I fear, is a problem with my communicated intent. After reading the review, I didn't think of you as an apologist for intellectual art. Frankly, I enjoy some heavily conceptual work, as loath as I am to admit it. I didn't mean to slander such work, or attack you via association. I was merely asking what, if anything, intellectual content has to do with art-historical significance. I should have been more clear, but I was writing with little editing time.

before you projected your agenda onto my writing and misrepresented me to your blog audience you might have done a little homework to contextualize my project, maybe looked at some of my published articles, most cached on google.

Absolutely. Trouble is, I started this blog to satisfy graphomania, and between painting and the day job, I don't always have time to research a post as much as I would like. Besides, isn't every critic's job to interpret and project, yours included? I don't consider myself an art critic, but I'm opinionated and vocal. What more can I say?

In any event, I wouldn't worry too much about being misrepresented to my blog audience. Even if all five readers think you a fool, your career won't suffer for it. What's more, I like to think that most people who land here at HH and make it through more than a paragraph are intelligent and able to think for themselves. I wouldn't sweat it.

you would have discovered that you and share the very same disgust with the reception of self-taught artists in the mainstream art world.

Happy to hear it.

the only difference between you and i is that i've devoted over a decade to challenging this phenomenon in print and all you've done is spit out one bitchy little blog.

Wow...that's a little nasty, isn't it? All I've done? Well, this "bitchy little blog" appreciates all the readers it can get, so even your cruel characterization is welcome enough.

That said, if you're barking up the Professional Writer versus Masturbatory Blogger tree, I'm with you 100%. I don't take self-satisfied bloggers very seriously, but it is an interesting phenomenon and, for those of us who feel compelled to write (even at the hobby level), it can be satisfying and instructive. I'm a painter who writes because I must. As with painting and drawing, I get moody and angry if I don't do a certain amount of writing. Had you done your research, you might have learned that I am also a published writer, though I do not have ten years of experience under my belt and I don't consider myself a professional.

In any event, I hope you continue to stop by from time to time.

Anonymous said...

it's been years since we had this exchange. It's me, the Professional Writer. I owe you an apology for my defensive tone. I could have clarified my position in a kinder and more effective way. The funny thing is that you and I agree, as you know, and I could have just said that. Thanks for inviting me back, and I came back to say this. I think your blog is important, not "bitchy" or "little" and any blog dedicated to exploring meaningful art is important and good. Thanks!