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« Erotica Policies | Main | Older Than Mrs. Robinson »

June 22, 2005

Fischl on Art-World Changes

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Eric Fischl was my fave of the American artists who made a splash in the '80s. His images of decadent suburbia cast a sinister-sexy spell, and the way he projected these sleazy/mundane moments in heroic-epic terms struck me as both amusing and artistically plausible. Fischl also showed some daring (and talent) in the way he was attracted to both edgy material and traditional figurative easel painting. No surprise that he eventually associated himself with the New York Academy of Art, the prissiest and most reactionary -- in a good way, if you know what I mean -- of the East Coast art schools.


Eric Fischl: Bad Boy (1981)

I ran across an informative interview with Fischl in, believe it or not, Hampton Jitney magazine. In it, Fischl muses about how the artworld has changed since the '80s. The piece isn't online, so I'll retype one passage here:

What has changed over these last decades is the gallery system. Galleries are in transition now because of the art fairs, auction houses, and the internet. Primary dealers are becoming obsolete. Younger artists understand this implicitly and so don't tie themselves down to one dealer. They are generally more entrepreneurial than my generation was.

Also, collectors are driving the art world more now than in the past. They are able to find young artists before daelers and curators find them. In fact, dealers and curators look to collectors to see who they should be paying attention to. That has been a big change.

The downside is that the new collectors don't seem to know or care that much about the history of art and so approach art in much the same manner as they do their business. They look for trends. They try and corner markets. They buy low and sell high. They treat art as a commodity. It is what they know and what they best. Good for business, bad for art.

Reminds me of many things we discuss here at the blog. Set a medium free from its traditional technologies and gatekeepers, and what you wind up with often seems to be both an explosion of art availability, and a de-sacralizing of the art itself. Funny how that works.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at June 22, 2005




Comments

A similar thing has happened in music with the availability of high-quality computer-based recording and easy CD duplication and web distribution. When I first got involved in music in the 80s these things were on the horizon and seemed to be an unalloyed good. Now that it's here there's so much music available it's trivialized it. A new good CD or LP used to be a real event in my circle of music fanatics. Now hardly anyone can be bothered.

Posted by: Todd Fletcher on June 22, 2005 06:40 PM



What do you think of Vince Desiderio? He lectures at NY Academy of Art. Went to Haverford (class of '77, married a Bryn Mawrtyr). How predictable! But he has a big vogue going.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on June 23, 2005 12:46 AM



I like Fischl as well as the next guy, but I have a hard time seeing the 1980s (with its frenzied art-star-ism) as a more 'solid' period than today. I have no idea what it must be like to be a contestant in today's art jungle/lottery, but I get the strong impression of a savage Darwinian struggle to get noticed 'by any means necessary' to be remarkably offputting. I can hardly stand to walk into contemporary art galleries because the odor of careerism and hustle is a bit too intense for my taste.

However, kudos to Fischl for his association with the NYAA. Check out the school's website; I was particularly astounded by the atmospheric effects the students managed to get out of their ball point pen drawings. (I guess it's the modern equivalent of silverpoint.) Some of those kids are wicked draftsmen.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on June 23, 2005 03:57 AM



Yeah, the NYAA is a pretty great institution, devoted to 19th-century style art training, and quite organized and methodical about it. I've got a modernist-artist friend who hates the art that NYAA grads turn out but still thinks it's the best place around to get the fundamentals. Why not learn your scales and theory, eh? I've taken a couple of continuing-ed classes there myself and enjoyed 'em. Now, if I only had some talent ...

A big question that I'd like to see get a little discussed is this (more or less): given that the structure of culture is going po-mo and electronic (is turning into a floating basket of intervweaving databases, basically), will things ever become re-sacralized? In many ways, the release from traditional hierarchies and techniques is a liberation. But, as somoene once said, is it a liberation to be desired, if what it liberates us from is the sacred? It's great to be able to window-shop till we drop, I guess. But what if as a consequence of this huge reorganization none of it moves us? What if art and culture seem flattened-out and meaningless?

Interesting that as "the book" has been liberated from its all-linear-text model, interest in reading (and in fact books sales themselves) have gone down. As movies have incorporated more and more digital technology, movie-theater attendance declines, and young people think movies are a trashy hoot, and not even potentially an art form.

I actually like a lot of the new changes. Digital photography certainly makes the whole photography thing a lot more fun and accessible for the likes of me, for instance. On the other hand, the world does seem awash in imagery, and the whole "art of photography" thing seems to have gotten swept aside in the rush.

Maybe this is just a necessary stage. Maybe once the big ol' church comes down, and the digital river sweeps through the old town, maybe it's inevitable that there'll be some flattening-out and desolation in the aftermath. And maybe not to worry: some new way of connecting with something that isn't merely shopping-and-surfing-and- getting-my-buttons-pushed will emerge. I wonder though. It's all held aloft on commerce and electronics -- the more transparent things become, the more that strictly-commercial interests seem to shine through. But maybe I'm being an old fart...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on June 23, 2005 11:00 AM



"Interesting that as "the book" has been liberated from its all-linear-text model, interest in reading (and in fact books sales themselves) have gone down."

I think this is incorrect. Had you said, "...interest in reading books has gone down", I'd not dispute your point. I think that interest in reading has gone way up, but mostly interest in reading more ephemeral media (blogs and e-mail, for example). I don't know whether this will be good or bad for reading more permanent material in the long run.

FWIW, I'm not especially worried, and I say that as one who would answer, "How many books do you own?" in units of 'hundreds of running feet of shelf space'.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on June 23, 2005 02:55 PM



Here is an interesting passage from the brochure which went with "Sacred Wild: Opening to Shakti"--a show downtown at Apex Art in Tribeca:
"According to the critic Arthur C Danto in his 2003 book THE ABUSE OF BEAUTY, beauty rarely came up in art periodicals from the 1960s on 'without a deconstructive snicker.' He asks provocatively, 'How can beauty, since Renaissance times assumed to be the point and purpose of the visual arts, have become artistically contraindicated to the point of phobia in our own era?' Danto attributes the origins of this phobic response to the Dadaists in Zurich, who in 1922 pronounced beauty dead as a moral protest against the ugliness of war. In noisy defiance of the horrors unfolding on the world scene, Dadaists refused to make beautiful objects for the gratification of those they held responsible for the Great War. Creating beauty was considered tantamount to sleeping with the enemy."

Posted by: winifer skattebol on June 24, 2005 12:52 AM



Must get that book.

"Danto attributes the origins of this phobic response to the Dadaists in Zurich, who in 1922 pronounced beauty dead as a moral protest against the ugliness of war. In noisy defiance of the horrors unfolding on the world scene, Dadaists refused to make beautiful objects for the gratification of those they held responsible for the Great War. Creating beauty was considered tantamount to sleeping with the enemy."

How sad. In attempting to protest "the ugliness of war", they decided to eradicate the only real opponent "ugliness" has, and that's "beauty". Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. You'd think they'd realize the existence of beautiful things is in truth a reprimand to the existence of ugliness. They tried to protest ugliness by making the world ugly. Cretins.

Thank god pop culture came along and they didn't take their beliefs to their logical ends by bombing the Louvre or smashing sculpture. Although they did succeed in eradicating some wonderful architecture and supplanting it with horrid shite.

"In many ways, the release from traditional hierarchies and techniques is a liberation. But, as somoene once said, is it a liberation to be desired, if what it liberates us from is the sacred? It's great to be able to window-shop till we drop, I guess. But what if as a consequence of this huge reorganization none of it moves us? What if art and culture seem flattened-out and meaningless?"

I can see more regular people will take up the role of producing art and culture as mass media becomes more hollow and trite as well as more widespread and democratic. The entrance difficultures are becoming lower and lower with cheaper technology. That is, if they're not too exhausted from working every week. Every vacuum will be filled eventually. Religion is filling the void already for a great many people.

This "liberation" is more like a "rupture" which will eventually be healed, like a gaping wound in the body politic. Eventually the hernia will get fixed. I think eventually experiences and objects that are difficult to mass produce will enjoy greater stature. Perhaps painting and sculpture will make a comeback?

As for the sacred, I can't be the only one who feels that the last 30-40 years have seen attempts to turn what was once sacred into what is now profane and vice versa: the ban on religious expression in public, ministers in Sweden who go to jail for quoting the Bible, more free speech protection for pornography than political speech, etc. People are now finally fighting back but it took them a long time to get back up.

Posted by: lindenen on June 24, 2005 01:17 AM



Fischl's comments are a bit ironic considering that the '80s were renowned for their hype and money; perhaps he means that collectors themselves are now more important than galleries in driving more of the same.

The New York Academy of Art has had several very good teachers and is rather solid in training students in fundamentals long considered superflous by "conceptual" art. That much of its students' work can be so awful may be due to the facts that 1) these better trained artists are still part of this day and age and may think of art itself in some of the same terms as the mainstream, and 2) like many in the mainstream, they're stuck in outmoded quasi-modern schools of thought like "realism" that burned out long ago, and simply haven't redefined a new representational art that works on the same level as innovative movements of the past such as those started by Giotto/Signorelli, Caravaggio/Rubens, Matisse/Picasso, et al, or likewise 3) are relatedly stuck in the outmoded thinking of reactionary Romanticism of the type that latter-day Dada-Surrealism refuse to forget. Eric Fischl may be somewhere between all of these tendencies, and his art is still as awful as ever, except to art historically ignorant university students.

Posted by: Raphael on June 25, 2005 05:18 AM



"simply haven't redefined a new representational art that works on the same level as innovative movements of the past such as those started by Giotto/Signorelli, Caravaggio/Rubens, Matisse/Picasso"

I should think this would be a challenge for anyone in any art form, since the governing principle of today's "art" seems to be nihilism.
Brooklyn Museum is a case in point. Now it is devoting a show to Basquiat. If I want to see drug addicts and graffiti, I can ride the subway, or walk through the Bowery counting SROs.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on June 25, 2005 07:08 AM






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