19 July 2013

The Past is a Deleted Postal Code

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Misc. notes:

1.   Had somehow missed that Ed Ruscha guest curated an exhibit for the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna late last year. Love the irony of the title, which he apparently lifted from Mark Twain.
2.  Re, Kathleen Gilje: The idea of an art restorer turned artist, doing so in a way that riffs off the canon, appeals to me. In theory, at least. That being the case, props to the techical execution (though in this instance I suppose that's to be expected). But winking inside art-historical jokes are the best way to insure the smallest audience. There's a good reason almost nobody remembers Mark Tansey.
3.   How to account for Basquiat? Of course h'e sbeen a mainstream fixture for nearly 2 decades, now. Weird, having watched him take a posthumous flailing, back in the early 90s when critics were busy burying the art scene of the previous decade, trashing it as a hype-filled bubble (which it mostly was) from which produced nothing of significant merit. Robert Hughes was one of those heading the audit, and he went out of his way to assail Basquiat at length. His main allegation being that Basquiat had been a beneficiary of tokenism, nothing more. Given much of what had been written about Basquiat's work up to that point, one could almost draw the same conclusion -- lots of fawning appraisals that were wildly off the mark, reeking of overly-compensatory bullshit assertions, a frequent one being comparing him to De Kooning. De Kooning? Nah, not al all. No mention (that I ever recall) of Larry Rivers, whose early work is the obvious major influence (that patchy approach to composition, primarily). But I've never read or heard anyone make that connection.
4.   The only thing De Kooning and Basquait had in common back then was: If you were a painting instructor, and you saw one of your students working in a manner that was clearly indebted to either artist, then you'd have to tell tell them to knock it off and do something else or else you'd take the down two full letter grades. Because neither artist worked in a style that was very much an end in itself -- couldn't be taken any further by other hands, at least not without the results being pathetically, toothlessly derivative.
5.   If you're going to riff off something from recent history, best to do it from something almost everyone's forgotten about. And it was easy to forget about Rivers, even if it had only been two decades since he'd been hot. A wildly uneven career. Saw the Rivers retrospective at the Corcoran about 11 years ago, which was held just months before the artist himself passed away. Some good work here and there, but mostly I remember whole rooms of really, really awful stuff. Taken from neglected periods of his later career, which had obviously been neglected for fair reason. In some ways, Rivers always made me think of Hockney -- not just the some vague stylistic similarities to their work in the early years, but also the fact that the early work was so strong and then., well...what the fuck happened, dude? One explanation I'd heard at one point attributed it to him having done a lot of speed after the mid '60s. Have no idea if that's true; but if so, it'd explain a lot.

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