Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cleveland Trip

I recently flew to Cleveland and got to see some great American paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art. 

I wrote about Edward Hopper's Night Windows (1928) in my grad school thesis paper. As I looked at it, I remembered that my thesis advisor told me she learned to paint by looking. And it's really true. If you spend enough time with a painting you really can suss out how it was put together, using which colors and in what order. 

I also saw this great still life, Spring Interior (1927) by Charles Scheeler. I always see the same few Sheeler paintings in books and at the Art Institute of Chicago. I was never crazy about his work, but when I saw this painting, it felt totally fresh and different to me. Each branch is just exactly where it needs to be. It is the kind of painting that I would point to as an example of how sometimes composition can feel like perfection. I can't say why, but when it's good you just know it. I get so excited when an artist I thought I knew (and didn't really care about) does something that surprises me and I love it and then it all makes sense. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How the Art World's Lingo of Exclusivity Took Root, Branched Out, And Then Rotted From Within

A great article about art speak from artinfo: 

The hypnotizing argot of the art world is familiar to anyone who has ever tried to decipher a gallery press release or encountered a nebulous artist statement. It’s a vocabulary of modified adjectives and abstract nouns, of concepts that get deconstructed and ideas that get interrogated, distributed practices and embraced ambiguity. In a recent article for the innovative web publication Triple Canopy, Alix Rule and David Levine coin the term “International Art English” (shorthanded “IAE,” roughly equivalent to the popular nickname “artspeak”) to describe this language, tracing its history and divining its murky rules. IAE “always recommends using more rather than fewer words,” the authors write; it “sounds like inexpertly translated French;” is marked by an “uncanny stillness;” and has a heavy “dependence on lists” (guilty as charged).
Rule and Levine have arrived at their findings by sorting through the past 13 years of press releases from e-flux, an online art project and distribution platform founded by artists Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda, Adriana Arenas, Josh Welber, and Terence Gower in 1999 that sends out paid-for announcements to its 90,000-plus-member email list. Rule and Levine loaded the collected press releases into Sketch Engine, a piece of software that analyzes linguistic behavior and trends from bodies of text. The tendencies that they discovered are obvious in retrospect — an overreliance on adverbs, repetition of adjectives, and a preponderance of subordinate clauses — but more striking is their outlining of the past and possible future of IAE....
Within the art world, International Art English is everywhere at once; it’s the air we breathe, a medium for communication rather than the content of communication. What was once elite is devalued, a process that has coincided with the growth and gradual mainstreaming of contemporary art that continues in the 21st century. Similarly, but in a broader sense, the action of curating is now devalued to the point of meaninglessness, where to curate simply means to exist, or to select, as any competitive animal has always done, one thing above another, slightly worse thing. The curator is dead, victim to omnipresence. Long live the curator.
Read the rest here: