Sunday, February 28, 2010

Art Questions

Installation view of #class, at Winkleman Gallery

Sculptor and performance artist Dominique Mazeaud recently proposed on her blog a "second round of 'Les Magiciens de la Terre,' an exhibition held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1989, that asked one hundred artists to define art along with showing their work." Mazeaud, however, throws a curve ball: "I would simply change the question and ask artists to offer a definition of 'what is the spiritual in art.'"

Defining the spiritual in art is no mean task. The curators of Mazeaud's proposed show would likely receive as many different responses to the question as there were artists participating. Contemporary spirituality, after all, is understood to be an individual quality or experience. But a diverse field of responses doesn't make the question any less interesting, and I agree with Mazeaud that such an exhibition would be exciting and insightful, especially in light of recently reinvigorated conversations about the role of art, artists, and the art market.

Presently, at the Winkleman Gallery, artists Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida offer a platform for this conversation. They've created a temporary "think tank" for "guest artists, critics, academics, dealers, collectors, and anyone else who would like to participate to examine the way art is made and seen in our culture and to identify and propose alternatives and/or reforms to the current market system." I readily admit that I'm more interested in talking philosophy and "ultimate meaning" than I am in discussing practical approaches to the contemporary art market, and I believe that my charitable sales model implicitly announces my ambivalence about (and proposes a viable alternative to) our day's dominant system. That said, only naive artists truly believe that contemporary art can exist completely disconnected from the market (while still finding an audience).

Unfortunately, I arrived late to James Leonard's performance piece on Thursday night (thanks to the snowfall some news sensationalists dubbed "the snowicane"), and I had a conflict that kept me from attending the presentation by Barry Hoggard and James Wagner last night, but I hope to make at least a few more of the sessions that Dalton and Powhida have lined up. You can view the calendar at the exhibition/think tank blog, Hashtagclass."

Image credit: ripped from the Winkleman Gallery website


Donald Frazell said...

The problem with Winkie and his ilk, is that his answers are all in words, and all about the artist and his tender sensibilities. The show of the world behind them just a stage for exhbitionism, and self "expression".

No true answers will be found there, as there are none, especially considering the "questions' asked. Asking good questions, the center of philosophy since Socrates, key to art. Sophistry, twisting the world to ones own desires, and adolescent smartassness, trying to appear clever, the twin poles of foolishness. The third way being lost, in journalism as well as art. Certainly politics and economics as well.

Losing oneself through mastering ones craft is creative art, exploring the world, not living in small inbred villages of fellow dunces, validating ones lifestyle by hanging with like minded jesters, entertaining the wealthy patrons who desire absurdity, as they are bored with life. This stuff certainly is boring to those of us whose life is full.

Irrelevant self entertainment, trying to APPEAR to be intelligent, rather than focusing on learning and most importantly for a creative artist, FEELING the world around oneself. And translating it into line/melody, color/harmony, and structure, rhythm. Poetry and music our brothers, not prosaic illustration of academic and lifeless ideas.

Nothing could be more cute and clever than a Winkie event, or more useless to humanity. Hope he has better than two buck Chuck and stinky cheese to entertain. Do you have Trader Joe's back there? you are missing West Coast genius, along with In-n-Out burgers and farmers markets everywhere if you dont.

Still contemplating challenging Bobby Flay to a throw down, For a southwestern food guy, i never see cilantro, avocados, or the key to delciousness, tomatillos. I'll kick his butt just from my garden, which I am putting in this weekend. And my wife can make the main course, woman can cook. But I got Cuban restauranteers shaking my hand from my refried beans and guacamole alone. A dfimagery/soluv challenge, listening Bobby?(we only challenge the worthy)

art collegia delenda est

Donald Frazell said...

By the way, this "new age" "spiritualism" is all about self. My wife works at a major one, being a graphic designer and believe me, its all about feeding selfish eogs. There is no sacrifice, and therefore, no love.

This woman above is all about "I", the only pronoun she uses, never we, us, or how to lose oneself into the all, finding balance, all true relgions main themes. Peace is found by losing ones material self worth, while understanding that mind, body and soul are all connected. Focusing on any one alone loses balance, and as Cezanne said, a puny body makes for a weak soul.

Life is a constant striving to maintain that balance, and so, finding peace. And love is never about oneself, it is about bringing life forth, and contributing to all. thereby one gains meaning, and purpose, not by focusing on ones development seperate from others. Thats enteratinment, not art, and most of this new age stuff is just therapy, not being at one with god.

art e trendy pseudo phiosophy delenda est

Hungry Hyaena said...


While I don't always agree with Edward Winkleman's take, it's not fair to dismiss his questions or answers (even when I don't agree with him). In my experience, he is a thoughtful member of the art community, and he's provided me with good advice or food for thought on more than one occasion. And, although I critique (sometimes harshly) aspects of the contemporary art world, I don't believe that it's legitimate to reduce the community (and it is a community, whatever one thinks of it) to, as you put it, an "inbred villages of fellow dunces" and "like minded jesters." There are many wonderful people involved in the art world, and the group, as a whole, should not be reduced to cardboard caricatures. Moreover, my life is rather "full," overflowing, in fact, with wonder, love, pleasure, and all sorts of exciting things to learn about; yet I am part of the art world.

In sum, the exhibition at Winkleman Gallery is not "useless to humanity." Quite to the contrary, it seems to be a group of people coming together to hash out ideas that affect the art world at large. Certainly, it's but a sliver of the big picture, but every earnest discussion matters, no matter the size.

We do have Trader Joe's here. We do not have In-and-Out Burger.

Donald Frazell said...

Respectfully, because your site does, I ahve NEVEr seen anything on Winkies that even approaches reality, of teh earth, soul, or body. The test is quite simple. While art is about the highest COMMON denominator, it will only be reached by about the top 20% of humanity, the middle 60 will feel it to various degres, but not really get it fully. the bottom 20, well, they re those too into themselves to care about anything else, many of them in contempt art. .

So in the US alone, though creative art can be understood in all reaches of our species, that means a good 65 million should be able to react and feel creative art in a positive way, the 6o%-almost 200 million, usually just going with entertainment, the lowest common denominator.

where are these hordes when it comes to art now/ And who has been in control of it for 50 years? Back then art meant something, it was on the covers of magazines, it made daily topics in newspapers and fledgling TV and radio. where are those people now? Sports, sciences, nature and history channels, and books, I certainly am.

Art is no longer in ANY churches, except in tacky ways, as the Catholic Church expressed at its convocation of arts in November. It no longer is in public sites except as silly installations, usually hated by those who work there. forced on them by the academic/museo/gallery complex, art is now commerce, Warhol won.

People shrurg their shoulders when asked about art now, they don't get mad, except when some sensationalist artistes and some ratings seeking journalists gt ahold of absurdities, like Piss Christ, More irritation than anything valid as a search for truth. It has become irrelevant,a plaything for the soft and spoiled. Why? Because it has lost purpose. It is about the millions of artistes and their tender sensibilities, not humanity. Toughness is a prerequisite in art. Wimpiness is not excusable. Manliness, and femininity, are key, being who we are, not some twisted decadent thing, metrosexual and self absorbed, not caring about the future, or learning the past because it is all bout the artiste.

And Winkie and his little band of absurdities epbody that perfectly. As long as they are the types who run the dens of mediocrity known as WeHo, SoHo, and Chelsea, this will continue. It is time art meant something again, and if that takes a war of words, as exixted a century ago, so be it,. The denial of meaning and definition in art coffer the lack of sacrifice, commitment, and therefore love, of anything beyond oneself.

i have given one possible definition repeatedly, does anyone come up with another, and combat me? No,. that would demand commitment, and that takes hard word, and yes, again, sacrifice. Responsibility is key, there is no freedom without it. And as my wife combats the forces of Fashion that destroy our young women at her new magazine,, so I do in the creative art world.

People respond to it, everyone I know who I tell of such things are repulsed by the arts now, except those of proven worth from decades ago. Nothing new has happened, its not shock of the new, its annoyance at depraved self indulgence. The lack of commitment to anything simply shows arrogance and weakness, which leads to fear and of course hate. The artiste is always quick to point a finger, yet never commits to a cause, except to the one of the month, thats fashion, Not long term hard work to something outside of oneself.

No, Winkie is pretty much useless, the Age of Meism and Excess is over. The world and humanity are going through a long term of extreme change, tits time art got back to work, and not play. It has been a long time since art has been needed, it is called upon again, Battle lines ARE being drawn, as selfishness is not longer an option. This aint no Age of Aquarius. Its the time of adapt or die. We must go back to the best of humanity, not the excess of it.

art collegia delenda est

Hungry Hyaena said...


I don't ignore ideologues. There is value in ideology and, as a regular reader of this blog, you know that I'm a minor league moralist. In other words, I appreciate your strident criticism.

Still, it's not fair to critique without providing alternatives. Your calls for the end of "the Age of Meism and Excess," and for our going "back to the best of humanity" are sweeping, and your condemnations of the "academic/museo/gallery complex" are raw and angry....but such proclamations mean little unless you also point to a viable alternative to the system or the -ism you decry. I understand that you will identify your artmaking and ideology as an alternative, but that's one individual's practice.

That's not to say that one voice is impotent. To the contrary, every voice is vital and important. But those voices need to engage in dialogue (and acknowledge their part in community) if we're to figure out the next best step forward.

And, on a very particular front, I have a bone to pick with your regular insistence the we need to "go back." While I share some of your disdain for aspects of the contemporary art world, isn't it true that we must go forward (or spiral!) "to the best of humanity"? We can't go back, and that desire is most often linked with reactionary nationalism or religious fundamentalism....both -isms I shrink from.

Finally, I know I've driven the point home before, but contemporary art is not all bad. Not hardly! There is a lot of work being made that even you would celebrate. You might deny it, but I'm absolutely sure that it's true.

Donald Frazell said...

Sorry for the shrillness of my criticism, but it is more than valid. I dont say go back in how we approach the world, the true basis of all art. But in fundamentals. in our language. The last Venice Biennale had absolutely NO paintings, and no color. No harmony which is passion. Snake oil salesmen like Winkie are anti spiritual, all about the individual and his 'greatness" and cleverness.

Go back to Kandinsky for Art and Spirituality, though he was also the beginning of it being codified and intellectualized, Klee much better. This is far from a new topic, go back and read the great artists of the past, rather than hacks of today. Humans dont change in passions, only in how we expres it, and our understanding of the world around us. New Age stuff is strictly about the individual, the opposite of religions that are based on being at One with the rold, each other and god. Its therapy for weak and wounded souls. Who will never get better if they dont exercise and grow their minds, bodis and souls. That takes work, not self exhibitionism.

Color has been abandoned, and line also. It is strictly materialism, as my buddy William Wray over at culturemonster calls it, find and paste stuff. And he is an illustrator who is now into creative art, successful at Mad Magazine and cartoons, but can draw, and his small paintings are excellent. Urban Impressionism he calls it.

There are artists out there, jsut not in art colonies. no artist lives in such places. Perfromers of it, and entertainers, yes. Artist are always loners, workers, interested in life, not Hollywood version false fronts of SoHo and such places, thats fantasy. I dare yo to name a single creative artist who ever lived in such places beyond youth, when looking for cheap digs. Artistes now pay exorbitant amounts for self deluding and therapeutic artscenes, which are fashion, NOT art.

Donald Frazell said...

I have seen some good stuff, nothing great since Anselm Kiefer. i guy i know up in the Bay area dos excellent nature work, imbibed with spirituality. Bob Nugent. A Puerto Rican guy who had a show here at MoLAA not long ago was very good, though his big stuff, and it is huge, gets carried away. Arnaldo Roche, though the site shows his more spectacular stuff, not his best medium sized works. Its not really representative as he had many and saw another at Bergamot Station a little while ago.

Latin America is the most likely place of future art, China played out already. It's peaked economically and vacuous culturally, someday it will come back, too influenced by the West and lost its soul. The US far too caught up in selfishness, too worried about appearances rather than seeking truth. I have never limited HOWS art is created, but Purpose never changes. Its the denial of this rather broad passion, after all, what could be more so than Mankind, nature and god? It is the subminiamalism of cacademic art, of aimless selfishness and exhibitionism to promote mediocrity and feeding the complexs voracious appetite.

But artists are workers, and must have skills first, not weak and self absorbed concepts. I see no workers mentality in artistes now, all tender senisibilties of the bourgeousie. We need a war of words, there is no dissent in the art world. its a fantasy, a plaything, nothing good can come frorm it. For it is false, always has been. As Matisse making fun of the Pre Raphaelite "Master" because he said Matise didnt look like an artist so couldnt be one. So what? Jackalopes. Mythical tiny creatures with dreams of grandeur, that the art world now.

"Looking' like an artist simply means you are a charlatan, an actor, a front, without substance. Not a worker, we make things. Lets get to it. As Obama said, it is time to put aside childish things. And nothing is more childish that the arts "community".

it is time for a break, for dissent, for passion in art, not looking after ones interests first. There needs to be a war of words, and see what arises from the wordless, from art itself. It is vancant now, neutered, its juevos cut off. Castrated and so impotent. As Picasso said, throw out all you have learned, and start with life, from the beginning. Veritas, follow and adapt TO truth, stop twisiting it to ones own desires.

art collegia delenda est
Save the Watts Towers, tear down the Ivories.

Donald Frazell said...

Let me put this visually, as that what we are talking about, not some wannabe gallerist in trendy isolated Chelsea.

Art that has lasted is of seveal categories, decoration for personal ease and gratification, fine arts. Applied, tables, architecutre, arms, and vehicles. And creative art, that which lasts, and we put into museums, where they formerly were in other places we are supposed to congragate in communion, churches, temples and mosques. Sacred or creative art. This is what artscenes aspouse to, or they are in design showrooms like the Pacific Design Center, not art galleries.

What is its purpose? Simple, to create a bonding of humanity, creating common ground, a mythology, a finding of common purpose. ALL art that has lasted does this, uslook and apply this very broad scenario. All over the world, from all times. There is no new art, anymore than a new economy. It grows, but one must know ones roots first, as with history, we must know who we are before we can begin the attempt to define.

And artists, vs artistes, are all about work, creating, nurturing, growing, being a part of humanity, not apart from in in art scenes, which is the fashion of a subsect of humans, of a certain temperament that is NOT of humanity, an aberration. A slice of humanity, but not one with a common strong base, it is a seperate offshoot branch unto itself.

Almost all artists have children, look it up. Except for a Michelangelo here and there, whose intense spirituality kept him in the fold of humanity, they ALL have had kids, had that drive to procreate, even if often bad parents, which makes then all too human. We want to leave the world a better place than we came into it. Not a comfy lifestyle about aking, using, consuming. Those who can do, those who cant teach, or feather their nests only for themselves, not creating kids, or work that makes life better for all.

And that takes unifying humanity into common purpose, visualizing it, helping us to reach out to one another, not reside in artistic ghettos. None live with other of their trade, as Michelangelo himself got is nose broken talking shit to a fellow student. All live in nature when possible, away from others, to not be influenced by fads, which is all there is now. Marketing being the prime directive, what gets the blood flowing, not making things others can feel. And be inspired by, whether of the sciences, farming, business, or waste disposal.

Only jazz has done this in this country, looked down upon by academics, who dont get it, feel it, live it. It crosses all boundaries, academic art creates them, in Ivory towers, assuming they are superior, smug, and truly ignorant. Constantly looking for ways to seperate themsevles from the rif raf, therapy for the self absorbed.

Art reaches out, and takes in. Not looking for hooks, which is all Winkie and his ilk do. All PC , yet so completely irrelevant. We attempt to create a bonding mythology of humanity, nature and god, not capture it and present it for consumption. It must be of mind, body and soul. philosophy, science, and theology. Recombined, not seperated as man does for ease of study, But for understanding, and FEELING truth, the guide to our future actions. A developed instinct, one we must share to be creative as a society, and grow. Or, we decay, and that is where we stand now. Time to make that choice. This is, that most dreaded of hackneyed pop sayings, a tipping point.

It is time to put aside childish things. Art is called upon again, it has not been needed for 50 years, and showed it. And there is no freedom wihtou responsiblity, and that means mastering ones craft, as well as knowing our world. Times are changing, be of it, or ones own ego. Time to choose.

Hungry Hyaena said...


Well, we'll have to agree to disagree about many of the particulars. Specifically, I don't think that Edward Winkleman is a snake-oil salesman or that he is "anti-spiritual." He is a businessman, but all art dealers are businessman (or women). And, as far as businessman go, Winkleman and many other art dealers do not resemble the "bottom line" predator both you and I so apparently dislike. That is to say, I believe that Winkleman strives to balance his budget with a deep dedication to contemporary art. You may not like the same artwork that he does, but that doesn't make him a huckster or a mere marketer of "cleverness."

I also don't understand some of your complaints about contemporary art. For example, I see lots of color in contemporary galleries. In fact, there's been a rainbow explosion of riotous color in the art world! It's everywhere! One can choose to see that trend as cynical pop, I suppose, and some of it is just that...but it's clear to me that much of it is celebratory and earnest.

I also disagree that artists don't live in colonies. Artists are a diverse bunch. Some are at the misanthropic or monkish extreme; others are hyper-social. Most of us are somewhere between the poles. It takes all kinds, and art history offers examples of each. (The biography of Paul Klee, an artist that both us admire, suggests that he was not a "loner.")

I agree with you that New Age spirituality is generally selfish. A prominent American rabbi made the point recently, during a lecture, that contemporary sociological studies demonstrate that Americans who self-identify as "spiritual" tend to give very little money to charities and other non-profit organizations, and they volunteer hardly at all. By contrast, people who self-identify as "religious" tend to give much more money and to volunteer regularly. (Obviously, this survey and others like it are measuring generalities; there are wonderfully giving people in the world who would never describe themselves as "religious.") There are many explanations for the discrepancy, but it does point to a disappointing trend (i.e., contemporary "spirituality," as it is commonly understood, is generally a self-oriented practice concerned with "feeling good"). There are good reasons to start fixing the world by getting yourself in a good place, but that's only the beginning of one's committed contribution.

And, as for "looking like an artist," I may have written here before about my being told six years ago, by a now prominent curator, that I "don't dress like an artist." The same man also insisted that I looked "more like a baseball player." I laughed at the assertions, mistakingly thinking that he was half-serious. But, no, he assured me that it was an observation that I should heed. "You have to look like an artist," he told me, "to make it as one." I'm not quite sure how he explains, then, the wide range of successful artist "looks," but, in any case, the man's curation suggests he's identifying artists on their clothing alone!

Hungry Hyaena said...


Given the prominence of homosexuals in art history, I don't agree that "almost all artists have children."

Donald Frazell said...

Few have been any good. Outside of Michelangelo and Rauschenberg, and perhaps few i dont know of, most have been second rate at best. Being a part of humanity means having a stake in it, sacrificing, responsiblity, and commitment, something children require. A partner or lover doesnt, they are replacable, except for the few that truly do cleve as one, and that unfortnately IS a rarity. With kids there is no choice, they are apart of you, yet apart from you.

Your blog DOES include all three components of creative art, and why i like it. VERY few do. It has been drilled out of them by the art academies, who specialize in sales, not art. And little place for true art now, it is ridiculed, and controlled and defanged, its not allowed as a threat to the status quo. Adn why the general populace is so uninvolved, and couldnt give a crap, about art anymore. really, its ture, its a joke outside of the artscene. And why sports and enterainment, of which it really is but a sliver of, have taken over, and so we have become more and more about surface, the fetish of pristinise a disease, no real life, which is messy.

Art is needed again, people crave it, those i speak with would like it, but have nowhere to turn. We are tired of consumerism, we need true spirituality, of oneness, not selfishness. That is holloow, anddn led to where we are now., A turning point. Go or it. We only have one life, use it.