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Deborah Fisher

Labor Creates All Wealth

Updated: 2017-07-31T13:58:25.289-04:00


This Is Now An Archive


The new and improved Blog is up! Click Here if you want new content, and be sure to update your links!

If you are looking for an archive of 2006 and 2007's posts, you have come to the right place. Fully searchable and browsable for all you trippers down memory lane.



Changes on the Horizon


First, I want you to know that I am going uptown, baby.

I just got me a typepad account, and if what they promise is true, I will be unveiling a fresh look for this blog and some not-blog pages like an online gallery in the upcoming weeks. Tres Chic!

My initial response: typepad's interface is not as easy-stupid as blogger. This might take awhile.

I am also thinking about starting another blog, one that's not all about me. Kind of like a professional advice aggregator for artists, kind of like a brainstorming hub for specific problems artists face--an artist-to-artist network.

I was talking to Lisa Mordhorst at a New Year's party, and we were lamenting the relative powerlessness of the individual artist, and thinking about things artists could do together. Invest money, create a real estate trust, work to keep artists in the city. There are obvious administrative barriers to any of these ideas, but is that any reason to stop thinking about artists helping eachother? I think not.

Let me know if you have ideas or questions, or if there are specific things you would want to read about. What's interesting to me is how much career advice is already out there, and how hard it is to follow or actualize. I am definitely interested in exploring that disconnect, or figuring out whether we are stupid or the advice is stupid.



Deborah Fisher, Lift, 2007, carpet, cardboard and drywall screws stressing auto-body armatureHappy New Year, Beautiful People!This blog is almost three years old. If Tyler Green linked to me, I would be a regular internet institution!And you very well know, it's the time of year to prognosticate. Or write a Best Of. Or a Top Ten. Or summarily decide that art is currently not worthy of such accoladishness. This blog is most successful, I think, when it's a more personal vehicle than all that. So the best, most appropriately thankful thing to do is write about my own orientation in 2008.Mini-Epiphany for 2008: Art Is BusinessYou can hold the back of your hand against your forehead and wistfully wish that it weren't so, but why? If the Times is going to rail against it and Charlie Finch is whining about it, and everyone on Winkleman's blog is waiting patiently for another post that self-helps it, then it must be legitimately so. When I got my MFA, I did not get a book of Food Vouchers or otherwise leave the existing economy. To take care of myself is to take care of the world of people I talk to with my art. Duh!!!! This moment of understanding, of course, takes only a second. The yearlong trick, I think, will be understanding what accepting the money end of art means. I am just like you, just like every other artist I respect. I want everything to be free. I hate money. I suck at paperwork. The only reason I have achieved any success whatsoever is because I have an amazing ability to suspend disbelief, live in a state of denial, eschew new pants and medical care, and still feel that I am so fucking lucky and so fucking prosperous that I cannot believe it. There is beauty in looking at the world this expansively that I cannot deny and refuse to let go of. And, at the same time, I can admit that this is a good mindset for getting taken for a ride. I intend to explore this paradox all year long, if nowhere else, then in my own mind. I hope to wind up with a more subtle understanding of this crazy art economy that helps me actually take care of myself without forgetting that I am fundamentally a servant to something larger than Me. I might post about this in more detail later. It seems useful to the larger community. I don't know anyone who doesn't openly struggle with this set of problems... and I know artists who are freaking millionaires. First Professional Goal in 2008: Organize2007 was a discombobulating year for me. I bought a house, moved into a construction zone, had a fistful of shows and made a huge sculpture. Everything bad happened. I accidentally deleted the folder I keep every piece of paper in my press packet handy while trying to back it up. My laptop died. I ruined my new computer's keyboard by typing all over it with my grubby fingers. I killed three cellphones, two ipods and a jigsaw. I never know anyone's number anymore. This disorientation is exactly what prompted me to get so brass-tacks in the first place--all I can do is embrace it. I need to rebuild what I lost (instant press packet) and buttress what was built (bring in more public art commissions). And, um... I can't do anything of the sort if I am still rummaging through cardboard boxes every time I want to draw something. The Habit I Will Break In 2008: Apply, Apply, Apply!I know, this is counterintuitive to the whole business-and-personal-responsibilty angle. But I am prompted to write about this because of the panel discussion at Dieu Donne, which devolved quickly into a discussion about power. The nonprofits represented (SmackMellon, LES Printshop, Dieu Donne and Socrates) have it. They gave some to the artists like the ones sitting on the panel. You, artist sitting in the audience, don't have any. Nonprofits want lots of applications for two reasons. They want choices, and the number of applications looks great on their grant applications--it justifies increased operating expenses. So every nonprofit will tell you to Apply, apply apply! to their open calls, and[...]

New York Times To Chelsea: You've Dropped Dead


The first step to improvement is admitting you have a problem.

The New York Times has summed up all of 2007's visual arts activity in three scant articles. At the back of the paper. Each one of them more of an indictment than a summation.

Holland Cotter played the straight man and attempted a legitimate trip down memory lane, but could only attack such an exercise after deploying a disclaimer, making the gist of his article go something like this:

Art is merely businessy slick marketing. These were the few things that escaped this glossy existential vacuum. Some of them were kind of dumb. But at least I remembered them.

Roberta Smith opted for more of a two-bird salute. Instead of traipsing through the year that was, she wrote a stiff memo condemning us all for sanitizing and professionalizing a business that is best left to dirty unprofessionals who don't quite know what they are doing. She did this by focusing on three words we all use when we talk about art, and yes. This is an effective strategy for dispatching lots of serious problems in a thousand words. Words like reference or imbricate do point directly at (more than) a year of gobbledygook posturing as actual intellectualism. The word practice is an efficient vehicle for unpacking the problem of the MFA; the professionalism it creates; and how that professionalism devastates the artist's ability to make no sense and solve no problem.

Carol Vogel's little back-page ditty on, basically, stuntsmanship as lame visual art, rounded out this trifecta nicely. Consider the gauntlet thrown! Finally, instead of just not covering arts very much, the paper of record has very clearly explained why visual arts receives so little coverage. From the sound of three of its arts journalists, it sounds like there is little happening that is legitimately "fit to print."

There is nowhere to go but up!



I was dragging my eyes through comments, in which readers alternately praised Stanley Fish for pointing out the naked king and discredited him as a philistine, and this jumped out at me:

I don’t like art that shows me stuff I’ve seen (as in the New Museum). I like art that shows me stuff I’ve never seen (e.g., Jackson Pollock). And best of all I like art that shows me stuff I mistakenly thought I’d seen (Cezanne).
— Posted by Anthony D'Amato

Perfect! This comment wastes no time on what is or is not art, and wastes no time on charges of philistinism or fakery, and I like that. It simply stakes out some ground for deciding what one should value in art.

Of course, the whole point about contemporary art, the thing to "get," is that anything goes. But does it really? And should it? What point, other than fealty to Duchamp, does this en masse expression of gullibility prove?

There is no magic in art if it is already right, if anything really does go. And this absence of common critical ground winds up disrespecting artists, whose work must be engaged either in terms of bobble-headed approval or retarded strawman arguments about what is or is not art.

There's no good reason for art to be this kind of sucker's game.

The State Of The Residency: Tomorrow At Dieu Donne


I'm participating in this panel discussion tomorrow night at Dieu Donne:

Dieu Donne
315 West 36th Street
New York, NY

Artists & Admin:
New York Workspace Residencies
Friday, December 21, 2007 – 6:30 pm
Moderated by Patricia C. Phillips

We will be discussing "the current state of New York City's workspace residency programs." I don't know what that means...yet! But if you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that ignorance has never before stopped me from having an opinion.

Seriously, I don't know what the real questions will be, but I go into this discussion noticing that spaces like Socrates, Dieu Donne and the Lower East Side Printshop are keeping traditions alive as much as they are offering artists commodities like space. And that the "post studio" situation (movement? condition?) creates interesting challenges and prompts adaptations from these nonprofits, who are defining themselves against specific kinds of studio practice.

It should be fun. I'll be rockin' the house not just with moderator Patricia C. Phillips, but with these fine artists and arts administrators: Sonya Blesofsky, Noah Loesberg, and Jean Shin Jeanne Gerrity, Felicity Hogan and Dona Warner.

Hope to see you there!

I'm Adding Stanley Fish To My Harem Of Old Men


Stanley Fish tippy-tapped his thoughts about the New Museum, sounding kind of like Charlie Finch's older, nicer brother. Or Eric Larsen's merely wistful, less histrionic colleague.

(EL, I know you hate Stanley Fish. I am making a point here)

And once again, it is important to respect one's elders! To actually read and love the Old Man Argument, and see the value in it without collapsing into that backward-looking, all younger people are stupider than older people and all the good galleries are closed and this old art is so superior to this new art gobbeldygook.

These are intellectual traps.

Stanley Fish. It's not about the inadequacy of the New Museum's cafe, or the cracks in its unpretentious-pretentious floor, or the fact that the stacked-box effect made you fussy.

It's not even about the superiority of permanence. You wrote, wistfully, that art once aspired to permanence, and that is about the most irrelevant thing art could aspire to right now. Look around you, man! The ice caps are melting and we, ourselves, are drowning in a sea of our own detritus, our own shopping bags and complex financial products and USB cables and wireless radiation. Everything is changing, and it had better! We are ripping apart the Middle East; becoming more economically similar to Mexico than any other developing country; out-Tancredoing Tancredo; refusing to admit that waterboarding is torture; buttfucking habeas corpus.

The last thing we need is to think of is permanence, because we are in trouble!

What you mean, perhaps, is that we can find meaning in all this ephemera, and the need for change, and the deep knowledge of transience without succumbing to mere crapulence. Transience, the fact that everything changes and is changing, is not an inferior idea to permanence. It's just that western culture is treating it that way right now. You are right about that.

Top Ten List of Fears (art-related)



Deborah Fisher, Break (detail), 2007, carpet, cardboard and drywall screws stressing a wood armature

I am afraid to make something:

1. that isn't relevant in a specific reality-based conceptual (Kaprow, Burden, La Va) way.
2. decorative
3. too "Sculpture Magazine"
4. formal
5. crafty
6. that merely illustrates an idea
7. that doesn't illustrate an idea
8. clever
9. that's "just sculpture"
10. stupid

Trust Fall for 2008:

The ideas are in the making of the thing. Fearing the actual making of the thing and privileging my mind can only dilute the actual ideas. I trust the feedback formalism and craft are giving me--I trust their generative power. Fuck ideas from me, fuck Alan Kaprow, fuck Chris Burden and Barry LaVa too!

I am going to just make the stupidest, prettiest sculptures that I possibly can. I am going to trust that I actually have something to say, and that it will come out if I let it.



I got into a discussion with someone about elitism recently. It all started because he thought skiing was the most elitist sport ever. You have to go far away from where you live, he said. Pay for a hotel room, plane fare, all your meals. And all the expensive gear! You need to buy skis and the appropriate clothes. He said he was opposed to snow sports on principle. The only reason he concluded anyone would do it is to show off how much money they have. And I countered that this is a matter of location. You don't live near good skiing. But if you lived in, say, Hailey Idaho, you'd go skiing three times a week even if you were buying your groceries with WIC's help, because in Hailey Idaho, skiing is less expensive than going to the movies or any other form of entertainment around and everyone inherits a pair of hand-me-down skis. This got me thinking about the nature of elitism in general. I have never liked the word because it is used as such a blunt tool. Everything can be labeled elitist if you can't have it or don't see the value in it. And that self-oriented use of the word totally eclipses the idea that it might actually be valuable to preserve an elite tier of things. You wind up with serious intellectual problems that are structural in nature. You substitute injokes and cliquishness for hard and interesting work. You toe the line of popular culture instead of actually being avant garde. It's funny, the way the word elitist cuts two ways. And I wonder how these two spheres of elitism, the actual value of something that is legitimately better and the in-crowd effect, work together.There are known problems with this idea that anyone can agree that some things are simply better than others. We all went to college. We all know that in order to rank stuff, someone has to be the ranker. And we all know that while the Bush Administration is brimming with folks who are willing to step in and make these choices......liberal, thinking people tend to avoid assigning hierarchical value like the plague. It's potentially a stupid thing to do. You might leave something out, or otherwise expose yourself as a philistine. It was so easy to be an elitist when we believed in objectivity. But in a world without objectivity, it seems smarter to be an assigner of qualities who can see the value in anything. It's best to avoid elitism. Like a sampler of world cuisine, the art appreciator is supposed to have a broad palate. And I'm no Hilton Kramer. I don't have any bones to pick with this broadness per se. Art should be a place where you can see things that might blow your mind, but may not be entertaining. Art should be a place where you might have to stretch yourself in order to get what you see. The thing that I am curious about is how this very openness becomes its own elitist dogma. I see this at the park all the time--people look at the art in the park according to their real-world rules, in which they assign a certain amount of value as a matter of practicality, so that they can navigate and understand the world and their place in it. When confronted with something that makes no sense, like a piece of art, located in a public park, that is made of a material children find irresistable, on the ground, in unstable condition so that children can pick it up and play with it......they make a judgement. They say to themselves that it's obviously OK that their children are jumping up and down and pulling at this thing until it breaks. If it wasn't okay, then the sculpture would be out of the way of the children, or made out of a different material. And the fact that it's not withstanding the treatment their children are dishing out is not proof that it should not be touched. It's proof that the sculpture wasn't executed well. They don't have any problem seeing that this sculpture failed in this[...]

New Review On ArtCal Zine: Liz Craft at Marianne Boesky


Liz Craft is a hero of mine. The review I wrote of her latest untitled effort can be found here.

And while you're at the Zine, you can also read a great review of 3 Modifications by fellow UCSD alum and appreciator of the City Reliquary Brody Condon.



This is not touchy-feely. I am being serious.

The converse of risk is trust. I love the physical sensation of taking a risk, but I hate that sensation of trust that necessarily accompanies each risk. I am not a trusting person.

An example: my husband is an excellent driver who has never been in an accident. And every single time he drives, my knuckles are white and the imaginary brake pedal is going crazy.

And yet the best things that have ever happened to me happened only because I figured out how to stop doing that kind of reacting and trust them.

This is what I mean.

I don't think I am going to look at risk from the yang side anymore. It plays into my weaknesses. I'm going to think about trust for a week and see what happens.

You trust? Is it harder than risk for you, too? What is the one thing you should trust but can't?

Risk and The Idea of Risk


Deborah Fisher, Twist (detail), 2007, carpet, cardboard and drywall screws deforming an autobody armature

So I wrote a review of Liz Craft's untitled effort at Boesky for the Zine that will be published eventually, and it centered on the idea of risk--what exactly Craft is risking. And it got me wondering what I risk.

I tend to say that I risk failure, but that's like cooking pots and pans for supper, isn't it? Besides, failure is an idea, and I think that sculpture is beautiful because it is flesh. It's not ideas made flesh. It's flesh that you can derive ideas from. So I woke up this morning wondering where the flesh is.

I have no answers to that. I like the idea of risk so much that my practice is clotted with instances where the idea is more important than the flesh. I invest heavily in ideas like structural failure and make a bunch of things that are breaking and eating themselves. This is a fun sthick and I've gotten a lot out of it. And it may be a sauce that smothers the meat.

Not saying that I'm bad. It's more like when it gets dark at 4pm, it's a fine time for introspection.

Anyone else find that what they think they are doing gets in the way of what they are doing? Is it advisable to even try to know what you are doing? I'd love to hear what you all think.

New Orleans Elegy Extended All Winter



Take advantage of global warming, get yourself on an N or a W train, and visit Socrates Sculpture Park this winter!

New Orleans Elegy--a steel and bronze monument based on a map of New Orleans that is destroying itself a little bit more every day--has been invited to stick around until spring. And if I do say so myself it's a particularly appropriate context, with the big cement ruin it sits on serving as a perfect perch from which to watch boats on the East river, and an unusually strong Emerging Artists Fellowship show rocking the rest of the park.

Sculpture Is About Imbuing Things With Some Sort Of Meaning: Charles Ray v. Martin Puryear


Charles Ray and Martin Puryear have very little in common. But they are both working consistently with a specific sculptural trope:How do I take this thing and turn it into another thing that is an idea. That is not a representation of this thing, but is more about why I can't stop looking at it in the first place?What is the existential significance of looking at something, of holding it in your hand? What does that interaction prove? And how does that meaning transmit to a larger culture of people who, like sculptors, look at and hold things?Puryear is really lyrical and dreamy about this questioning. He moves from wheelbarrow, or head, or tool, to African sculpture, to the material itself (usually wood) to structural concerns like a volume's inside and outside......he's doing two things. He's staying pretty well within the ideas you find while making the thing--he's using sculpture to talk about sculpture. And his thinking is in no way rigid. He's no conceptualist--he's not out there to make sense. He's in it for the music.Charles Ray is a conceptual sculptor. He endeavors to make a very specific, even narrow, kind of sense, and is harnessing the language of sculpture to the world of seeing that we all share. His work is much easier to pick apart in terms of how it imbues a thing with meaning. Unpainted Sculpture is an almost exact replica of a car that someone died in. Every single piece was taken out of the car, catalogued, re-created in clay, cast, and then the car was rebuilt, in an effort to understand the mystery of the death car. What you get, of course, is a car that is not quite right because every piece has been translated by a carver, and this imbues the car, which once had this mystical allure of death, with a new, literal uncanniness of strange fit. Hinoki began as a real fallen tree that struck Ray with its Platonic power. It felt like The Fallen Tree to him, not just any old tree, but the original from which that idea of "fallen tree" is stamped in your mind. So he took it out of some guy's field and brought it to his studio, made an extremely intricate mold of it, cast it in a material that would travel well (fiberglass?) and sent that new representation of the tree--the one that would not fall apart--to Japan. Where it was reproduced by expert carvers in wood. Specifically, hinoki. The best Japanese wood. The kind of wood that you make a casket or a temple out of in Japan. A Charles Ray sculpture is, generally, about the story of its making. And it contains questions about how it is that we make a thing or perceptual moment meaningful. Is it in the act of looking, like the moment of driving past this tree and seeing its iconic power? Or is this power to create meaning about effort on our part? Is it that effort to imbue an object with meaning that Ray is striving to reproduce as he creates iterations upon his iterations?I like Charles Ray's work because I like its fastidiousness, its total commitment to the idea that the logic of sculpture can explain these unexplainables, like how it is that the car itself is rendered creepy once someone dies in it, or where, exactly, the platonic ideal of the fallen tree was located. In its shape? In its woodenness? Inside of Ray as he drove by, or in the tree itself, now thrown away and replaced with a much more perfect replica? Ray seems to define sculpture as the physical evidence of a set of specific spatial questions. It's about relationships: you and the thing. The thing and its meaning. And so on. Puryear is older and is working with a different paradigm, so he does not need to go to this questioning place. Like a good modernist should, he takes it as a given that he imbues things[...]

Sculpture As Intellectual Burden, and Liz Craft as Deliverer and Victim of Said Burden


So, I have been thinking a lot about that Liz Craft show at Boesky... trying to figure out what exactly to say about it because it's a real departure for Craft, and it's a departure that makes me feel kind of sad and deflated. If you've been to art school, you already know this. Sculpture has a lot of baggage as a medium. Even more than printmaking. There's the Guy Thing (also known as the Romancing The Blueness Of My Collar Thing), the Monumentality Thing, the Bronze Thing, the Craft Thing, the Effort Thing, the Plaza Thing......and once you've cleared that brush, you still have to wrestle with the actual intellectual meat of this godforsaken enterprise. What is a sculpture anyway? Why is it that nobody can tell you what it is, but you know when you've made a bad sculpture because someone suggests that you put a light in it? Bad sculpture winds up wishing that it was a lamp or an ashtray, and there is such specific logic to this, but the worst, loosest arrangement of words. Keep taking sculpture classes and you will wind up with packets upon xeroxed packets of obtuse gobbeldygook that attempts to explain this problem. Donald Judd will tell you, in too many words, that the only way to make something that isn't a lamp or an ashtray is to make a thing that refuses anything but thingness. Michael Fried will tell you that Judd is full of shit, that a thing that resists its longing to be useful actually manages to refuse its very thingness. Pretty soon you are sitting in a dark room, listening to Charles Ray talk for hours about this tiny shape beneath the feet of an ancient greek sculpture at the Met that looks like a lima bean and represents space in this incredibly meaningful way. And even though your gut was screaming YES! the whole time you were listening to him talk, you will not be able to make sense of it even a week later, and this will discourage you. And half the time you make anything you are still winding up with either a lamp or an ashtray. You start dabbling in video and performance art.The bottom line is that sculpture is deeply nonverbal and deeply intellectual at the same time, and that paradox is its most profound baggage. It's doomed to be as misunderstood and mispracticed as dance. Sculptors, even good ones, are always killing sculpture in an effort to keep it alive, and I include myself and this blog in this assesment. I literally cannot stop myself from blithering about the nature of what I do, even though every time I say something about what I am doing in my studio it winds up being untrue, winds up hindering actual understanding. My mouth is always coming up with systems, and the world is always smacking these systems out of my hand. And all I can say is that when I am good, I remember that my mouth is not very smart and I let the system go. When I am being a bad clingy intellectual, I work very hard to let the words and ideas win.I don't know how else to put it. Sculpture is about this very basic set of existential problems. It asks where we are--in our minds or in our bodies. And it wants to know how much of this spatial world we live in is of our own making and how much just sits out there apart from us. Is space empty or is it a sensation of interconnectedness? And is it made out there, or in here? Inside me, outside me? Is space the sensation of my perception of the world (my insides) colliding with what is outside me?This is an intellectual burden that sculptors either avoid or wallow in... sometimes both. Richard Serra, Charles Ray and Jennifer Pastor all wallow, often deliciously. Matthew Barney is a weird hybrid sculptor who avoids the issue of sculpture by making film, but uses film as[...]

New On ArtCal Zine: Javier Pinon


Hey Turkey-lurkeys. I wrote up something nice about Javier Pinon's new effort at Ziehersmith for ArtCal Zine. Go read it!

Upcoming this week: A review of Liz Craft at Boesky for the Zine, and a couple of posts about sculpture in general that are probably going to be too nerdy for wider publication.

Bonus Round: I have also been working on a transcript of the Middlebury college talk last month.

So stick around!




Liz Craft and Charles Ray are in Chelsea, Martin Puryear is at the MoMA, and this can only mean one thing:

It is time for extended exegesis on the manifold meanings and glories of sculpture!

If you don't want to hear about the relationship between the inside and the outside; about what the word structure means; the drawbacks of fetishizing materials and the ballsiness of reclaiming a commonly fetishized material; homogeneity versus armaturefulness; the Charles Ray Payoff (or The Need For An Explanation) Problem and Why He Is Still a Small God Anyway; and how one makes a sculpture work in time just by walking around it, then go to a different blog! I mean it! I am fucking stoked! It's sculpture season!


Javier Pinon: Don Quixote and Other Stories



This image of Javier Pinon's work has been shamelessly lifted from ZieherSmith's website

I really liked this show, in part because all that cowboy stuff is where I am from, and partly because I am a sucker for collage. But I also liked it because it was all about references, but it didn't quite make sense.

Surrealism is like science fiction in that there is a terrible temptation for the author to get caught up in explaining this alternate reality that should really just emerge. It's great that Pinon resisted the urge to actually connect Don Quixote and specific cowboy movies to alligators and St. Sebastian and medusa and the rodeo and the southwestern landscape and all the rest.

Old Man Finch Could Do So Much More Than Scare Kids Off His Lawn


Don't believe anything I have ever told you before. I make sculpture because I identify with crotchety old men. They're always saying what needs to be said, but usually from the lamest perspective.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have written extensively on a few versions of the Old Man Argument, which is, in a nutshell, that everything used to be so great and now everything is a shitty, hollow simulacra of that former greatness.

There are problems with the Old Man Argument that we can all easily point out. It's really easy to romanticize one's own youth, for instance. And about the only thing that's easier is to assume that what you grew up with or worked to create is "right" and that everything that comes after is therefore "wrong." The Old Man Argument is full of expectations, and when you expect anything you are cruising for a letdown.

Just about the only sane old man response to that inevitable passage from actor to spectator comes from Dave Hickey. At least he admits that he wouldn't know the next hot thing if it came and bit him on the nose.

But even with those disclaimers out for everyone to see...I kind of liked Charlie Finch's latest effort. It is classic Old Man, and therefore has this basic backward-looking dismissiveness that is not particularly helpful. And it is classic Finch, so look out for lazy rhetoric that depends on whores and namecalling to get any intellectual work done.

But his point is worth a little time. He is talking about the difference between real openness and the illusion of openness that is actually a playground for exclusivity. It is rhetorically lame that the only way he can talk about that is by talking about the past. Instead of calling the taste of Rirkrit's curries "foul," he could talk about exactly how boring and calculating the dinner-party-as-art phenomenon is, and exactly how the curry show divides up viewers into the haves who eat dinner and the have-nots, who are treated to the janitor's-eye-view.

This clubhousey art, which hopefully jumped the shark at Deitch this summer, is weak and cynical. It is merely about power. Finch misses an opportunity when he shrouds criticism of this current highschool scene in a wistful rememberance of galleries past. Not only is it possible to talk about that cynicism in the present tense, it's important to do so.

Last Chance: New Orleans Elegy at Socrates Sculpture Park


If you have not already hauled your butt over to Socrates to see this self-destructing map of New Orleans*, beautifully installed alongside Takashi Horisaki's Social Dress New Orleans, then you should stop procrastinating. This is the last weekend before Takashi and I fold up our wares!

*The streets of NOLA have been represented with steel. Bronze was then laid over this steel map armature. The bronze and steel chemically react to one another, causing the steel to corrode. Every day, there is more corrosion and less steel. Eentually, the steel will vanish completely, leaving only a depression, or memory, of its former existence.

Amen, Brother Hickey!


Dave Hickey is offering the simplest gospel. All he is saying is that judgement is power.

To have a reasoned and insightful judgement that another person can actually hang their hat on is to create real value. In fact, right now, it is to create more than value. It is to create a unique opportunity for another person to watch you and not someone else. To quote:

“If you want to be an icon of virtue, this is the moment because you’ll stand out”

This is not "Deathwatch Cheerleading." This is straightforward positivism. He is talking about the power of individual action and individual virtue when the zeitgeist screams You, individual human, are powerless! You can do nothing! This is about vast sums of money and power that you don't possess!

I know that the last line of this article is about thousands of Icari plummeting or plunging into the surf or whatever, but I think Edward is taking it too literally. Hickey is talking about gathering power in the face of a market that has the potential to render dealers (as well as critics, curators and artists) powerless. Gathering that power is fundamentally about cultivating judgement. It's not about believing in your artists, as Winkleman argues already happens. It's about "not being wrong" in Leo Castelli terms, or to cultivate and offer one's judgement. To offer that kind of rigor or structure, Hickey is offering, is to promote change.

Let me put it this way. You can take a crap on a gallery floor and plant an American Flag on it and call it art. You can go buy a bag of Doritos and put them on a pedestal or tack them to the wall and if you have called them art, art they will be.

Gallerists, therefore, do not legitimize art. But when they cultivate and offer sound judgement about artists that others can use, they cut through the bullshit that is inherent to art, and to do that is to cultivate power. Gallerists, as well as curators, critics and other artists, generally sidestep this power for two reasons. First, they learned in college that it is better to deconstruct other people's power than it is to have your own. And besides, they don't want to be seen as bumpkins who don't understand the basic premise above--that everything is art. And what Hickey is saying is that this act of stepping aside, of simply saying that art is good, or that my artists are good, represents a missed opportunity.

This is why the Top Ten List delights Tyler Green, and more and more I agree, even though it's a suspiciously easy idea. This is why I write criticism, and it's why I keep a blog. I don't have time to spend answering all the Plagens questions via Grammer.Police, but if I did, every answer to every question would invoke this idea, that judgement is power.

Raymond Pettibon Review Hits Your Inbox


This just in from the Shameless Self-Promotion desk:

Fuck You, Ray, Here's YOUR Irony Back made the "headlines" on this week's Artkrush.

As Promised: Images of A Specific Piece of Public Art and More Questions About Public Art In General


Solid State Change, 2007, discarded tires and electrical insulation over cement, 9'x24'x11', commissioned by Middlebury College's Committee for Art in Public Places

Look forward to more musing on the nature of public art later in the week. In order to do its job (that is, actually be art), public art must produce conflict--if everyone liked it and it made no one uncomfortable, it would be bad art. Generally, this creates a lot of lame art in public, and a lot of artists afraid to leave the safety of the gallery. But need this be so?

I was talking to Rachel Owens about going to Middlebury, and she provided an interesting insight. She compared what happened--a spirited debate about interesting ideas and problems--to the unanimous lovefest that generally characterizes the Artist's Lecture, and wondered why artists can't give and get feedback like this from one another.

Interesting question, and relevant to the content on this blog. There will be as much palavering as time permits in the upcoming days. You all know what I think. Debate is good, the art world has too little of it, and public art could perhaps help overcome this artworld aversion to critical opinion.


ON A RELATED NOTE: Tyler Green's Dave Hickey Top Ten Challenge is asking for similar walls (of constant bobble-headed approval) to be torn down... and new walls (of discernment) to be erected instead. I have, as a good blogger should, linked to this article instantly and reflexively--without actually thinking about whether a top-ten list makes sense. All I am saying at this point is that I am going to the dentist. And while they scrub and scrape my pearly whites, I'll be staring at acoustic tile and trying to come up with a reason why I shouldn't agree that Dave Hickey "kicks serious ass."

Environmentalism and A Possible Aesthetic of Understanding Vastness


New images of SSC, installed, with grass, are forthcoming... as soon as I figure out how to get Photoshop to see a raw camera file. In the meantime, here's an ancient detail from April 2007, and the "fresh install" shot, circa mid-August!I spoke about Solid State Change at Middlebury College on Thursday, and it turned into a spirited discussion about, of all things, the appropriateness of tires as a material in a setting like rural Vermont. The fact that Vermont dairy farmers love to use tires to hold down tarps aside, this points to a larger question about defining and using the aesthetics of environmentalism. Elsewhere on the Middlebury campus, environmentalism has dictated an attachment to "local materials," meaning local stone from local quarries, local wood from local forests, harvested in smallish amounts, and so on. This focus on local material has yielded a campus full of uniquely beautiful buildings that solve problems of scale or overuse in creative ways. And this looking to local materials and food is sheer common sense, as transportation equals carbon. But is the intellectual work done when a building's carefully-crafted paneling has been gently taken from the surrounding forests, or has it merely begun?When does local become shorthand for a larger statement of what one values in one's environment? And what effect does this valuation of some materials or things over others have on one's ability to see what is actually there?I certainly cling to the fact that finding stuff in the immediate environment is better on a practical level than shipping stuff all over the world without thinking about where it comes from or how it grows. But I wonder when exactly that practical decision transforms into an aesthetic, or worldview, that has the potential to exact its own harm--its own acts of not-seeing. Like not seeing the tires for the forest. Whether or not my art is liked by others is irrelevant to me. What is important is that it provokes thought--that it spurs the intellectual work of thoroughly understanding the relationship between the self and the world, between what we build and what we build it upon. So I am thoroughly pleased to have touched an aesthetic nerve at Middlebury College, and hope that Solid State Change continues to spark debate. Environmentalists are facing such vast and terrifying problems, and this sense of threat creates the potential for mind-expanding revolutionary thinking on a heretofore unimaginable scale. To face the vastness of the whole changing world with your little frail body, and understand both the great potential and the inevitable limits of your own actions is to truly fucking see something!But that same sensation of threat will spur just as much reactionary easy answermaking as actual revolutionary hard work. I hope more than anything that Solid State Change keeps refusing to yield an easy answer, and keeps the eyes of Middlebury from resting on any soothing notion that anyone there may have of that which looks "environmental," "local" or "beautiful."[...]