Monday, July 29, 2013

Painting is Virtual

I recently read an interesting essay regarding painting and its referencing (indexicality) to its author as its supposed link to authenticity.  Based in pragmatics, the idea comes from Charles Sanders Pierce, the great logician who is famous for his trichotomy: icon, index and symbol.  This also has connections to structuralist ideas of Signifier and Signified, something that has been dealt with in different ways by the post-structuralists who came after.  

However, the idea that painting is a simple reference to the painter and that somehow is what legitimizes its presence is difficult for me to understand.  The reason has to do with the philosophical concepts of multiplicity and virtuality.  Henri Bergson expressed the effects of multiplicity and suggested intuition as a means for understanding creative works.  As I have stated before, the multiple, discursive universe of the contemporary visual art field, marks perhaps many things, but one thing is for sure, it marks its movement towards perhaps greater unknowns in its creative flow.  There is no conceptual ground on which to stand and beyond personalities and excessively rendered labels of identification, it appears meaningless.  In fact, the only thing I can see is a baroque nature to all of this and that perhaps this is its aesthetic substantiation.

Therefore, this brings up the question regarding arts legitimacy.  The problem lies in the fact that if there is no progressive logic to something, then its history is undetermined.  However, I personally do not see this as a problem per se, but recognize its superficial dilemma.  In fact, that might be a liberating actualization of the end production of years of institutional hegemony and conceptual schizophrenia.  

Multiplicity and virtuality, which were examined so well by Gilles Deleuze, are aspects of anything and its relation to what made it.  The problem with painting is that there is no direct reference in reality to its author and this is certainly true even in the personal effects left on its surface as a result of mark making or whatever in its production.  The reason is that once a painting is completed, whatever has been left is a virtual representation in an objective form.  The traces left also cannot necessarily be directly determined to belong to an individual, etc.  A good example would be Tibetan Sand Painting, where the identity of an individual is actually avoided with intention.  So many things are affecting the artist upon creation, that there is no consistent evidence to the contrary.  Hence, in my opinion, this is the reason for the repetitive, complacent style making of so many artists today.  The idea seems to be get a style and become recognized for it, because lets face it, it is about marketing and selling (standing out from the morass of ideas, personalities and images).  

A painting is not much different than looking at an image on a computer.  Its actuality does depend on an objective interaction, but its reality is there it lives in a virtual realm.  Increasingly, the flow of information is becoming self-referential and the author is becoming anonymous in time and space.  All of this is a result of the virtuality of our existence in cyberspace and this is having a direct impact on the nature of painting and its relationship to culture at large.  Perhaps there is a feedback loop between the techonology and its effects on the nature of visual art in general?  These are complex issues and questions.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Conversations with Dan Asher

Lately I've been thinking about an old friend Dan Asher.  He was someone a lot of art world people knew, but did not like to admit it.  I met him at the Russian Baths in the East Village and he became a sort of avuncular figure to me.  Quickly I picked up on the fact that people like Jerry Saltz avoided him as he passed on Chelsea streets.  Dan's admitted frustrations with the art world were rooted in the fact that he witnessed things like the avaricious nature of a major gallerist's vampiric consumption of Basquiat (a story about selling his jazz records without telling him) and still harbored emotions about it, since Jean Michel was his friend.   This was countered by the fact that any artist in NYC faces, the need for money.  This all too often makes selling out to individuals that one would not normally deal with.  Watching Dan do his daily dance of selling his work to people on the margins of the art world and/or borrow money from friends to pay a phone bill was somewhat amusing, but equally distressing.

I think what impressed me about Dan, outside of his high level of intelligence, honesty and intense nature that felt like a pressure cooker waiting at any moment to blow, was the passion he clearly had for his work.  Integrity was something deeply important to him.

Before I  had to leave NYC myself, Dan gave me a bunch of small original photos.  I wanted to return them, but he wouldn't answer those attempts.  I think he must have wanted me to have them.  I am proud of those pictures and even though my art collection is much smaller than I would like, having those makes up for that ten fold.

I was disappointed to find out when I did that he had passed.  I had been living outside the country and there was no way to go to the city.  Either way...RIP to a real artist who actually gave a FCUK beyond some bull$hit complacency of towing the line all the way to the corporate art market.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Starving Artist

Joshua Abelow, Self Portrait, 2007

A year or two ago I came across this painter in my internet travels.  I am not physically present in the art world these days, so I limit my access to what I can dig up in the virtual.

Out of the majority of the art I have seen that is contemporary, this guy stuck out at me.  In general, he does the tongue in cheek thing like saying, "Ha, Ha, I have turned art over on its head and it will sell"!  Sort of like an internet troll, who purposefully throws out erroneous information to start a reaction.  I would compare him to Brian Belott, whom I know from past days at CANADA exhibitions.  

I would say that like in this image, Joshua Abelow is turning Picasso over, particularly late, "bad" Picasso.  In general, the "bad" in painting has become a sort of timestamp for the culture.  Perhaps because we have become so inundated with images, we react in such a way as to take what was normally ignored as bad taste and re-contextualize it?  You be the judge.