I can't resist sharing my admiration and ambivalence for Chuck Close, with a few excerpts from a review of his retrospective a few years back, since I think it's one of the best reviews I've done. If I may, I'd like also to commend you to a defense of Richter and to a discussion of another blurry portrait, by Rembrandt centuries before.
It also gets at several issues that you guys are just going to have to stop wishing away. Ok, so some theorists dismissed art's authenticity after photography, in our "age of mechanical reproduction." And your response: shout down the artists who work through it to new creative directions. No wonder the art can be dismissed "on philosophical grounds." It might question the cozy little realm of academic painting we're trying to salvage.
Above the fold, I'll just offer my review's epigraph:
But modern portraits by English painters, what of them? Surely they are like the people they pretend to represent.
Quite so. They are so like them that a hundred years from now no one will believe in them.
— Oscar Wilde
230 West Superior Street
Chicago, IL 60610
In another thread, started by Mark, Shark defends two serious assaults on the very viability of art after Modernism—or, to put more accurately, to art after a particularly conservative view of Modernism. This one sees formalism as estheticism. Thirty years ago, Hilton Kramer found that embodied not in Pollock or de Kooning, whom he despised, but in Marsden Hartley. It amounted to the politicization of contemporary art as a mirror of the culture wars that conservatives keep fighting, long after most culture no longer cares. Shark singles out for praise two recent rear-guard fighters, Jed Perl and Roger Kimball. The first has the advantage of actually knowing something about and liking art, as well as keeping his own views on politics largely to himself.
Books from conservatives on how ideology (presumably not their ideology) have led to the decline and fall of civilization extend well beyond the arts, but I usually feel compelled to review the ones that do fall in my field. It is like one of those video games or Bop a Mole, where you kill them but they keep popping back.
"The whole art world is a fraud." One can always count on that theme to sell a few books or magazines.
It appeals to a public unease with art since Modernism, even while people pack the modern museum. It appeals to qualms about soaring prices, even as auctions only add to a work's aura and the public's reverence. It appeals to a phony right-wing populism that still plays politically, directed perversely at artists, scholars, and others on the outside of real wealth and power. No wonder it appeals, too, to The New York Times.
November 14, 2006
Goya Painting Stolen on Way to Guggenheim
By FELICIA R. LEE
A painting by Goya was stolen on its way from the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio to a major exhibition that opens on Friday at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the two institutions announced yesterday.
The museums said in a statement that the 1778 painting, “Children With a Cart,” was stolen in the vicinity of Scranton, Pa., while in the care of a professional art transporter. They said the theft was discovered last week but refused to provide additional details on the crime. Officials at both museums said the F.B.I. was investigating the case and had warned them that releasing additional information might jeopardize the inquiry.