From: Judy Seigel (email@example.com)
Date: 04/11/02-01:54:29 AM Z
On Wed, 10 Apr 2002, shannon stoney wrote:
> Here is the critical passage I think: "The fundamentally unanalyzed
> fact of Richter's career is his slavish dependency on photographic
This is nonsense, only partly because what Perl calls "slavish" someone
else would call fascinated-fascinating -- not to mention that Richter has
painted in various styles, often having nothing to do with "photographic
images." Perl, besides being a tin-eyed know-nothing ideologue, is it
seems a liar.
> ....Basically, Richter and Close have ceded the act of creation
> to the camera.
Even if that were possible, so what? What if I do the "act of creation"
from a ouija board, or going into a trance, or automatism, or a dream, or
absinthe, or an African sculpture, or, as Picasso boasted, "stealing"?
(As I recall he's the one who said that genius steals.) Who is Perl to lay
down the law about acceptable routes to "the act"?
> ....Yet there is always a deadness to this
> work: the deadness of their dependency on the photograph, of their
> inability to make anything on their own. They want us to believe
> that deadness is a form of hipness.
This "deadness" is in the eye of the beholder.
> Richter and Close are far from being the only contemporary
> artists who are hardpressed to respond to nature if they do not have
> a camera to do the looking for them.
Perl has this idee fixe about art, or is that you? Art is NOT responding
to nature. It is transformation of .... whatever, including previous art.
> What I think he's talking about is something I've observed as an art
> student: there is very little emphasis in art education any more on
> drawing from the real world. I was in a drawing class where we were
> made to copy a photograph by gridding it and copying each square of the
> grid laboriously. This was depressing and boring, and the resulting
> drawings looked like bad photographs. It may be that
Shannon, when I was in art class age 10 we were "made to" copy
plaster casts -- we began with "block head," then graduated to "muscle
man," etc. If you would have preferred drawing from plaster cast as first
intro exercise, I would have preferred the photograph. The resulting
drawings weren't supposed to be works of art, as yours weren't either, but
training in eye-hand coordination... The theory was that you start very
simple (the grid, blockhead) and go on to greater complexity. That may
not be the best way to learn to draw, but it's a defensible theory -- like
phonics. Its proves NOTHING about Richter's artwork. !!
> contemporary artists are forced to work from mass media photographs
> because they can't draw from life. It may not be that much of a
> choice. Also, there's an obsession in contemporary art with mass
As long as we valorize drawing, in case you didn't notice, we go along
with Perl's notion that "drawing/painting" is a higher form of "art"
than photography. Do you buy that ?
Ability to "draw from life" is about as important to a contemporary artist
as ability to carry a tune. Did you know that Claus Oldenberg is a
WONDERFUL drawer -- a lovely "hand," as they say. So what does that have
to do with his art? Andy Warhol also could draw up a storm, but invented
a method of drawing as a commercial artist (blotted lines) that disguised
that. In art school, to get a "primitive" or awkward looking line, we
used to draw with our left hand, or even without looking. And some of the
west's most inspired artists couldn't as they say "draw a straight line
with a ruler."
Sure "drawing from life" is a fine skill, like carrying a tune, but -- Wm
Talbot invented photography because he COULDN'T draw from life. What Perl
is saying, his *real* agenda, is his belief that the hack who can draw a
"likeness" is a greater artist than a photographer. What *art* is about
is the vision thing -- the tools can be a camera, or something else.
I'll add by the way that I'm not sure "drawing" can be taught, tho it can
be practiced. As a child, before I ever had an "art" lesson, I could copy
a drawing out of a book to look traced (probably better than I could
today). So what?
> ...There is a difference between experiencing
the world directly, and > experiencing it mediated through, well, media.
This is again a frozen, tired, shop worn and narrow idea of "art." If most
of our world is "media," as it is, why is it forbidden to address it in
art? "Media," which surround us, are a much more relevant topic than, say,
> ... (Do photo realist paintings look
Not to me... but even if so, where is it written that "flat" is wrong? Is
the point of art to simulate 3 dimensions on a 2-dimensional surface?
That's like being able to wiggle your ears -- mindless, useless, although
> ... my
> clumsier paintings done from life seem more alive to me than my tight
> paintings I've done from photographs.
This is highly subjective to say the least, and since we haven't seen
those paintings, we must content ourselves with commenting on the ones we
have seen, such as the Richters. They are truly wonderful & if Perl can't
appreciate them, he really should shut up about it.
> Also I think nineteenth century artists, who had a long training in
> drawing from life, were much more able to avoid the flatness risk
> when painting from photographs than contemporary artists are, who
> rarely have this long, rigorous academic training in drawing the
> human figure and the landscape for example. That's why Degas'
> paintings from photographs don't look flat. He could also paint from
"The flatness risk"??? Oi !! You may just call art you don't like "flat"??
> I don't mind flatness in some painting that is intentionally flat,
> like Manet's "Olympia" or "Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe," or in abstract
Oh lordy Shannon, some of the most charming art in our culture is the
drawing of children before they've "learned" to be realistic, after which
they show absolutely no talent at all. To respond to art we have to relate
to it directly, not through a web of rules. That's what should be direct
-- the response -- not the "drawing directly from nature."
> ... Flatness is sort of a move toward abstraction. If
> that's intentional, fine. But sometimes I think it's an unfortunate
> accident that doesn't really fit the subject matter.
I think it's unwise to (a) judge art by whether an effect was
"intentional," and (b) think you get to judge what style fits "the subject
matter." The frisson of art can be in using a style heretofore not applied
to that particular "subject matter."
> >Mondrian, Matisse and Picasso are for the purposes of this discussion
> >hardly "contemporary," but old masters.
> But they are usually considered to be modern, right?
They were in their day... but whether or no, we are "post-modern."
> I guess that means I should stop writing about art. I am a bit
> amused by some warhol things and I understand his contribution to
> 20th century art conceptually, but as my teacher DAvid Brauer says,
> "Pop art had a short shelf life."
You've been complaining about your teachers, with, it seems some
justification. Anyway, tell Mr. Brauer that the concepts and techniques of
pop art permeate both the culture at large & many facets of "art" today.
Also that Warhol goes well beyond "pop."
> What do you mean? That most art in most epochs was empty and
> nihilistic? I would agree that probably most art was mediocre if you
> took the whole sum of the art of any one year in human history. But
> these days we seem to adore empty gestures of nihilism, statements
Your "empty gesture" is another person's grand point or piercing insight.
You and/or Perl can't, even I can't, commit final judgement on art of our
time. In fact did you ever change your mind, grow to like something you'd
dismissed -- or do you know instantly what's "OK" ?
> about the futility of art, and we enshrine them in museums. I think
> that's what worries Perl, and me. I would rather see a lot of bad
> landscapes, or bad madonnas and childs, than a lot of bad paintings
> about how stupid it is to paint or make a photograph.
And I would rather see a FAILED attempt to do something new, a risk taken,
than same old same old "safe" landscapes and madonnas.
But all of this doesn't change the fact that not only is Richter's baby
Max NOT "lifeless," he is a perfect dumpling, and there's something
seriously, I mean SERIOUSLY, wrong with Perl that he can't see that.
Equally annoying, Perl's style as art critic is like Russ Limbaugh as news
commentator. He doesn't explicate, he fulminates. There is intelligent
insightful art criticism written, an amazing variety of "styles" can be
seen and illuminated. Perl doesn't illuminate; he rides his own nutsoid
hangups around in (vicious) circles.
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