Sunday, July 16, 2006

josh smith at hilberry

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First here is some background on josh smith:
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It's no surprise that the art world is about connections. Art school teachers are like overprotective parents who shield their children from sex: they tend to forget to point out the fact that sometimes art is not about talent at all but about one's social skills and personal story. I believe it is for the best though because if they did then artists would go to communication school instead. Let's face it, some artists are not cut out for this world and this means that unless the remote chance a curator or collector steps into their studio, they tend to be overlooked. Attending graduate school was an instant ticket to gaining art success but like other graduate programs, it is about more about gaining the holy Rolodex of contacts.
That said, I believe Josh Smith is doing something right, even if it seems that his connections stand stronger than his work.
Smith makes paintings of his name. The muddy abstractions contain the letters of his name in different compositions. I got the chance to listen to Smith talk to a small group of art students at the opening. A macomb teacher asked him to explain his paintings because the students did not understand them. I was glad to listen in because even with all the shows I go to, I was unclear why Josh Smith is a great success. Smith explained that he "just loves to paint" and that he sometimes has a hard time coming up with subject matter so he uses his name. He said, "I have a simple name" it is interesting to use the letters to make a painting. He also brought up his palette paintings that are actually palettes that he uses for the larger paintings. He said that he got tired of throwing out the palettes so he started saving those abstractions and hanging them as finished works. Now at this point, I don't care who you are but a part of me thought about if I went into critique and said, "oh, I just didn't want to waste this..." and I can guess all the criticism I would have gotten! Smith was pretty calm and casual when discussing his works. He chatted about the countries that he has shown in as if to say, yes I am an artist.
This was a hard show to separate the buzz in my ear of "why has this guy made it?" I noticed one person point out the thin stretcher bars of a slightly warped painting while another murmured to themselves, "I should have never given up painting" in a sarcastic tone. Now I hate those people who say, "oh, my child could have done this" which is such an uneducated art opinion and I am not jumping on that bandwagon with his works. I liked the brushstrokes and I enjoyed the debate that took place the opening night. If I had the choice of owning one of his works or a piece from the Lemberg opening (which I will post next), I would still choose a Josh Smith.  With the recent negative criticism of detroit artist john azoni's works being "immature" I wonder why so much of art is about the person and not the actual art. Would you consider this art "mature" because it comes from ny?
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large paintings $15,000 (three sold by opening)
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palette paintings $3,000 (one sold)
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smith is in the striped shirt
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

the very first show i did someone wrote on my exhibition poster: my kid sister could do better!

that doesn't make this a good show and smith a very good artist. neither does the fact that he's shown in other countries, or even in nyc. my criticism isn't about smith as a bad artist gone lucky, a tennessee idiot-savant, but just what ann has noted ... that makes him a noteworthy artist: that he's shown in foreign lands and nyc and saatchi has bought his work. a slam dunk.

if any detroit gallery tried to show similar caliber work by a detroit artist, they would be laughed off. in fact, no detroit gallery would even exhibit this quality of work.

which proves ann's and nolan simon's point: it's good because it's bad, and because the rest of the world has given it some sort of pedigree that can't be granted within our city limits alone.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the 80's at college I had a friend who went to Yale art school. His dream was to paint the worst painting ever. "I want it to be so bad, people will turn away with disgust."

He graduated, but succeeded at his lost aesthetic dream -- and never sold a single painting or found a gallery.

For a happy ending, I'd say that my friend's name was Josh Smith. But it wasn't. He was twenty years off the mark. And maybe today his bad paintings hanging next to Smith's would look good. Which would make them bad. So maybe also better by being worse at what they want to be. Or maybe being better would make them better and so just not good.

it's a confusing art world, ain't it.

12:48 PM  
Blogger Jef Bourgeau said...

i spoke with josh for a bit and asked him about his stretchers, having noticed the warped one (how could you not, the first entering the gallery). i was interested because the price was $15000. he buys cheap pre-stretched canvases, in bulk and all in one size so as to ship more easily. so they're going to warp most likely. but then its the collector's problem.

12:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the very first show i did someone wrote on my exhibition poster: my kid sister could do better!

...oh yeah that doesn't mean i'm a better artist for it either. or maybe i'd have more shows.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

after seeing smith's show i remembered another, but not until the next day, consisting only of artist signatures: at mona ten years ago. it was their first show ever i think and the gallery was filled with framed signatures in various sizes. i remember gerhardt knoedel was there too, responding well to it all. i was a little less enthused.

i guess the concept was that you no longer needed the artwork, just the signature. something about branding. "oh, i have a jasper johns. or i have a guston."

i even dug up the card/i keep files of everything (the show was entitled: art until now (meaning the worst i guess: until now)). i remember when jeff handed me the invitation at another opening a few weeks before, remember looking at the list of participating artists and asking if all these big shot artists would actually be at mona. and straight-faced and truthfully he responded that all the names on the card would be in the show.

about a year later mona did the last picasso (found that card and handouts too), the idea being that a "colorized" guernica had been discovered in one of picasso's villas (stored away). but then the museum/mona couldn't wrangle its loan, so simply put up all the appropriate wall labels (strategically: where the screaming horse, etc would've normally have been located on the wall). the idea being that wall labels have become more important to the understanding of the artwork than the artwork itself -- so who needs the actual art.

anyway i only stumbled back on these shows cause i was trying to find info on that dutch or german artist who has been doing his self-portraits for about 20 years, always in a different master's style though. anyone know who I'm talking about? i thought it was ackermann -- but not franz.

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is an interesting essay by esquire writer chuck klosterman regarding the "snakes on a plane" problem. I think you'll see how it applies.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Emperor New Cloths??? Sorry folks the Emperor is not wearing any. Tired of double standards from the locals. Bad is still bad!!!! No real critical analysis.Don't step on anyone's Shoes! might not get a show. So what! That’s what I love about this town!

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with all of what ann had to say and matt also had a nice point about if this work came from detroit it would be shunned. for me although i have only see smiths work from the pitures ann posted i personaly think the work is week. someone said he works on pree streeched canvasas common i would be embarased to even show a painting that i streached my self on those small flimmsy fredrix streacher bars let alone on a store bough canvas. and another thing his comment on why he paints his name becouse he cant come up with any other subject matter to paint thats the weekest. i one canot come up with any thing better to paint than his name then that person has a serious problem with creativity. even if you are going to use your name come up with something better than this smith you suck.

2:23 PM  
Blogger John Azoni said...

I'm going to have to agree with one of the posters and say that bad art is bad art. If he's going for bad art than he achieved it. But that doesnt' make it good. It still makes it crap.

But I don't think that anyone can really achieve this "purposefully ugly painting" because that blue one with the jagged edge I actually almost like. There's a market for a lot of crap out there. I mean...middle aged women love Thomas Kinkade. case in point. Just because kinkade sells a lot of crap doesn't make him a noteworthy artist.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This piece below from a review of Purcell's opera KING ARTHUR in modern dress (read sweats and wife-beaters) caught my eye and may apply, or not.

From The Guardian:
In our intermission, two elderly ladies discussed the Purcell opera. "What do you think of it?" one asked. "Interesting," said the other, screwing up her nose. Perhaps, in her heart, she meant "bollocks", but didn't dare say.
When will the world stop pretending that most of this pretentious crapola is worthwhile? Come on everybody. Own up. You know you don't really like it or understand it. It's just rubbish presented with confidence at the proper venue.

Remember the emperor's new clothes? Well here we go again. And again and again ...

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And this may apply from the NY Times:

Josh Smith arouses in the viewer a mildly irate bemusement.
Nominally a painter, Mr. Smith roughly paints his own name in large, blocky letters over store-bought canvases. These works are totally uninteresting visually, so the point -- a stunningly sophomoric one -- is presumably to mock the bourgeois overvaluation of the big-name artist's signature.

4:27 PM  
Blogger craigpaulnowak said...

Huh? How many times have I asked myself whether a work of art was good or bad, or whether the artist was just testing the art community in order to see how much he/she could get away with. Answer: More than I can count. However, at some point I had to step back and take the work for what it was; good, bad, indifferent; work is work.

Does it matter? Yes! But as artists, we've opened up the flood gates, and now everyone (and I do mean everyone) with an idea can feasibly be an artist. Art is not about quality of concept or product now-a-days. More and more, I'm beginning to feel as though art can only be judged by the amount of discussion that it raises. That is the true test. Are people talking about the work or did they ignore it.

What is also noteworthy here, is how much value we place on the opinions of prominent galleries, their owners, and the critics who review their exhibits. Now I'm not saying that I dislike Susanne or her gallery. I love what she does. But more and more, I'm becoming increasingly interested in what the lesser-knowns have to say.

Work is work, it's how and where it is displayed that makes it worth viewing. Put "bad art" in Susanne Hillberry's Gallery... I love it.

Anything to make us think-

5:07 PM  
Blogger craigpaulnowak said...

PS. I'm not saying that the work is good.

5:10 PM  
Blogger craigpaulnowak said...

You said it yourself: "Art is subjective." To each his own, as the saying goes. Maybe a bad painting reminds someone of their childhood, or maybe it represents a stand against authority, or any number of political reasons.

I'm curious when everyone is going to begin embracing this open-mindedness that artists have fought for since before modernism became modernism.

The fact is that you can appreiate what you appreciate for whatever reason that you choose, and Susanne (for instance) can appreciate what she appreciates for whatever reason she chooses.


Which is synonomous with "It's good" and "It's bad"

Art is about context.

5:19 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

I think that craig has a good point. People argue to death "is this art" and "is it good or bad" but come is all up to the viewer. There is never a direct answer in art, that's why we love it so much! Smith's show is what it is.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I am an art history professor at Eastern Michigan University. I am currently organizing an retrospective of the work of Detroit artist Charles McGee. McGee has been working Detroit since the late 1940s and is still working. He has not, however, kept good records of his sales. I'm interested in locating collectors who own works by McGee. If you own a work by McGee or if you know someone who owns a work by McGee, could you please contact me at

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Josh's "work" is endorsed by Saatchi. It doesn't matter if it's bad or good because he's been given the key to the vault. Cha-ching! I doubt if people buying his paintings do it because the pictures resonate with them as much as because they've been told he's hot.

John's reference to Thomas Kincade above struck a note with me. Kincade took the bullshit pretensions of fine art marketing, specifically the "limited edition" print, and he ran with it. As unarguably crappy as his art is, I have to admire him for beating the establishment at their own phony game.

I recall one day long ago at school. The professor asked if, when you go through the labor of matting and framing a print for display and then discover a piece of dust or a hair under the glass, should you take it apart and remove the debris? The answer then was yes. Today, if you present a painting on a canvas that's obviously warped, it's good enough. Somebody will buy it.

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

blah blah blah everyone is politicly correct. you know it sucks i know it sucks and unfortunitly the poop people who bough the three paintings are out some money. the only good to come out of these paintings is the money that the gallery will take in.

store bought canvasas need i say more

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Bad" and "Good" in an art critical context are so obsolete it's embarrassing. I can imagine a good number of the people on the forum laying back in their rocking chairs, shaking their canes telling the rest of us to remember the good old days when judgement of work was easy. But it has to be admitted that this kind of response, as emotionally satisfying as it tends to be, is an incredibly lazy way to respond to someone's work. Their is no universal good-bad system for the contextualizing of art. I challenge anyone to present to me a clear guideline for such a judgement.

There is art that is bought to be hung in homes and there is art that is bought as a sort of interaction with a creative person one is interested in. The other day I was discussing this was my wife and Ed Brown and discovered that if it was revealed that Thomas Kinkade was secretly a good friend of Jeff Koons' I would fall madly in love with him. The perceived Kinkade is an entirely uninteresting persona but were he to be fooling the public and making a shit load of cash, he would become very interesting.

I'm interested in Josh Smith's work. I'm interested in the causal approach of buying bulk stretched canvas and painting on it whether it 's in good shape or not. His name is a great subject matter as well. It could turn out his just an ignorant irritating and lucky bastard, but that would be kind of interesting too.

In the end aggression is fun but makes for boring critiques.

10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the show was about power and money. smith was a nice guy who fell into it. saatchi is probably the most important power-broker in art. he bought several of smith's works. the lemming law then goes into effect. the value of his work increases hand over fist and he's offered shows and in a provincial gallery like hilberry to connect with the power of a saatchi. bad art thus becomes good. and the art world becomes more elitist because the general public actually can and does recognize bad art (there is such an elementary cognition) but the art culture supports this stuff in deference to Saatchi. And the local community bows to Hilberry. When in truth it is a play at intimidation, where people like ann and critics here are shy to say anything definitive -- because the art system has validated smith somehow, and they can't rage against that machine and still hope to operate within it.

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real problem here is that we do not have a systematic way of evaluating art.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i paint on store bought canvas?

all of you do - whether it's assembled or not.

what about all you artists painting on old wood or refuse?

you decided to forgo the archival standard canvas for a reason?

you think he didn't?

sloppy fearful commenting as usual - you bore me!


i am so stoked to watch/listen to you change and grow. the last 5-10 posts you have left are well thought out and free of the over abundant sloppy/simplistic thinking so prevelant in this world.

move move

11:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


a bit pretentous, i defended your vacume cleaner and acualy think some of your work is good. but i also think most of your work is bad. exspesaly after seeing your senior show at ccs sorry for my unintiletual critice of you but thats life. i am so sick of here bad art that makes people think and respond. in this case i stand behind my comment that josh smiths work sucks. now that you are going to "yale" you sound like an eleatist or something same with crag who the only subject matter he can come up with is paintings of himself a bit pretentous too i think.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's been a silly rule in modern art since Duchamp, that if you are against it then it must be good. Forget any arguments about esthetics or just being good in some way. You can't argue that the Hilberry show was bad, because that automatically makes it good.

And so by attacking the work, it gains strength.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is pretty ridiculous. Why the ad hominem attacks against Josh, Craig and Mike? "You suck, I'm taking my toys and walking home." If you don't enjoy the game, don't play. Despite what Matt would have you believe, I don't think this is a case of pedigree given by the art highers-up. You may be able to argue that "it's good because it's bad" but not in the sense that it's being said here. I'm glad that there is a collective lamenting of the loss of a definitive art gauge; put your piece on the scale, sorry, doesn't quite measure up...better luck next time. Art's not that easy and it never was. You've never experienced it that way. The "doors" were blown open before your parents, or grandparents in my case, were born.

So, to drop my two cents. I'd like the palette paintings whether they came from NYC or CCS. Josh's work and the Reena Spaulings project deserve a real critical look. Whether you "like" it or not, it's a fascinating project worth everyone's attention and Josh's work, as a part of that project and on it's own, deserves better than what it's being given here.

Oh, and by the way, if the last anonymous writer who took a jab at Mike Smith is the alternative, does anyone really still feel bad being called "pretentious" or "eleatist?" [sic]

11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous gabber

nolan you are right, i dont want to be part of any art world that has debates about what is or is not art. i want to be in a world were talent speaks for itself. granted if he wants to work on store canvasas fine, ill give him that but it still sucks. or is week there is that better. it is like almost all portrait painters or representational painters, they almost never get shown. it is alway the avant gard blah blah expressionists that get all the hype. now i am not saying that that is bad there are many expresionist who do great work but, there is also alot of crap. more crap than good it think. even if one is trying to be compleatly consepual they one still needs to be creative or hold himself to a much higher standard than this. is he wants to use his name fine but do something more than this there are many artist out there who do.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Jef Bourgeau said...

It isn't about good or bad. As Nolan and others have already pointed out - there are no more gauges for such things (although I disagree in the end).

But at the same time decisions are being made. The art world hasn't collapsed in confusion. And it seems (to quote someone else here) "power-brokers" have taken over that decision making: specifically what is and what isn't art? What does and what doesn't go into galleries and contemporary museums.

It seems Saatchi is that key player at the moment (more so since Schnabel days).

And Josh Smith and Stella Vine would never be considered for gallery nor museum if there weren't that Saatchi connection.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bothers me is that these paintings feel like the product of boredom instead of a creative paroxysm.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you cant polish a turd"

i do not like anyone who says that i cant hat these paintings and if i do then i am not thinking about them or i dont understand something. the work is poor bad week suck anthing you want. i am all for open discussion on art or the question of is it good or bad but if i think something is week or sucks then i will say it i am unable to find anything or credit with this work sorry like i said before " you cant polish a turd"

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to completely change the subject here, but is basic English competency a requirement at CCS or other art colleges these days? Just wondering, that's all.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think these paintings are shit,

i think most art is shitty,
my belief is that art's purpose much like the purpose of religion and life, existence
is to
-this one object or event or word
that can be
viewed, or smelled, or heard or felt
or said
without the need for understanding
the need for reflection
"shit", merely means that i think this artist's work are unsuccessful in that sence
but, that artist is on ,
right on with the pallette paintings, damn him(ill sell the ones ive been working on for 15 dollars anyone who is interested, contact me)thunder gone
as far as my as far as the defined subject of this show goes, the physical paintings, as paintings alone,
i think that i would need to talk to the artist in a room
to really understand them
or, i could use my brain
and my eyes, unreliant upon these other factors that are the basis of most of the critques upon this board
and understand for myself that he has a nice sence of completeness to the works, the name repetitiously
is all he

-signed(defined author)thunder gone

3:11 PM  
Blogger DABNOSE said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to point out the triangulating you have all done (yet again and again and again) tearing apart each other's opinions instead of discussing the subject matter at hand. Like with the "discussion" of Mike Smith's vacuum photo, and Jef Bourgeau's pseudonyms: Art seems to be a casualty of Art School, and critical thought seems to be a casualty of Art School Critiques.

While no one would deny the incestuous nature of art in the past, historically there was more to it than that, and the incestuous goings on was the periphery: now it seems that this incestuous, double-backing business has risen to replace any actual content, as exemplified by this show and this discussion thread. Where is the meaning, the purpose? Is all art going to become meta-art because our young artists spend more time in school than experiencing the real world? There is an audience here that no one ever seems to consider: the not-artists, the not-collectors, the not-gallery owners… I would say that fine art is quickly going the way of poetry, and I’ve read quite a few articles recently that insist poetry (as an expressive form) is dead because it fails to reach anyone but other poets. Josh Smith's "I lacked content" was a disturbing statement, if taken literally (and not as a satire illustrating the above point).

PS, not chuck: the Snakes on a Plane "problem" ? I wouldn't be quoting this Esquire article: the author seems to have seriously missed the point (and the catalyst) of the SoaP "movement". Which goes to support this topic and illustrate that the writing world is just as much about who you know than how well you write (or how well you research what you write).

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with m, and i am shaken and stirred. i had friends/artists who said they would refuse to take their non-artist friends to smith's show. that it would turn them off new art for decades and send them into the arms of thomas kinkade.

i agree poetry is dead as a real force. i remember the 60's when it had power to spare. those days are gone. it feels artificial now.

i feel saatchi is playing artgames with his midas touch, putting art backwards for the public. and into a place that only "artists" can defend this work or even enjoy it.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anybody read Dave Hickey's Frivolity and Unction? It really touches on the pretentiousness of the art world. The problem with casting neg/pos criticism on this work is that it doesn't really matter at all. I mean, really, who cares. Smith is making his money and his work. The value of said work has passed through the appropriate cultural institutions and therefore achieved cultural worth. Who cares if it is good or bad. It is, and we are playing right into the social critique which further validates the worth. The only way to combat work of such nature is to ignore it and it will go away.

The irritating thing about some of the comments here seems to revolve around this idea of art having some intrinsic worth as an instigator of "good". Art is supposed to be silly and frivolous. Noone could expect a painting to heal the worlds suffering or change the fact that the middle east is becoming increasingly destabilized. It's all entertainment, although art seems to be enveloped in a self-reflexive paradox which alienates anyone outside of the loop from becoming further interested. Let's make some silly shite and misbehave. Let's process noise and offend people until they wake up and realize that they are alive. If nothing else, hopefully artworks could enliven the spirit of critique, debate, and those qualities that can point to the fact that our minds are free to reign supreme.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you ever wonder if Saatchi is laughing at all of this? "Look--I just bought this mediocre stuff, now watch all the pseudo-art-mavens fall all over it. Ha ha ha ha ha...." all to deflect attention while he quietly and anonymously buys up some good stuff...

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Let's make some silly shite and misbehave."

Well put, microbe. I will toast to that.

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

microbe - nice

who are you?

how often do we consider the devide?

yes, most people are perplexed if not completely unaware of the motives/moves of our workings as "artists" today. (from the looks of this blog many artists are too)

is it not the same with most everything.

we are increasingly specific and seperate and this is nothing too new - (bergson maybe?/art in the age of mechanical reproduction?)

i work for a small chosen audience and my experiences/contributions to society validates/justifies my seclusion.(i am a friend/son/brother/employee etc..)

we as humans may have a responibilty to do "good"/be "good" but there is no special moral destinction for artists in my mind.

i am for a focused, specific, highly personal product/experience. i refuse the dilution/simplification required to "reach the public". i participate every day, if the "public" wants to get down they can come hang out.

i am allways happy and contented in effort and commitment and this is the gift i bare - the invitation to become involved.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

after the apocalypse we can resume our position as priests and priestesses, offering belief and hope to the villagers - chant hymns/ build alters/ inspire orgies (both sexual/mental/spiritual)

untill then i agree with the best series of comments posted here to date!!!

"Let's make some silly shite and misbehave. Let's process noise and offend people until they wake up and realize that they are alive"


7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

James, I didn’t mean to say poetry was really dead—now I feel like I owe poetry a drink or a warm bed or something. There’s some brilliant work out there right now, namely Sage Francis, Saul Williams, Sherman Alexie (my favorite), Silko, etc. But, yeah, for the most part “people” feel that they can’t understand poetry and so they cease to try, cease to read it, it ceases to make an audience think or react about anything, it becomes ineffectual and effectively "dead". Probably a product of the Beat generation who made (surprise, surprise) meta-poetry and were known to exclude non-poets from their “brilliance”. I’m sure with statements like Mike’s Smiths : “i refuse the dilution/simplification required to "reach the public". i participate every day, if the "public" wants to get down they can come hang out.”

I don’t think that “reaching the public” requires dumbing down, and I’d say that is precisely the assumption that is the problem. But maybe I have high expectations, searching for Jesus-Art, Paintings-That-Can-Walk-On-Water, Sculpture-That-Is-Faster-Than-A-Speeding-Bullet, Able-To-Stop-Me-In-My-Tracks… (that's all metaphor, I don't think art should strive to heal the world, I completely agree with Microbes statement : "It's all entertainment, although art seems to be enveloped in a self-reflexive paradox which alienates anyone outside of the loop from becoming further interested." Maybe it’s the responsibility of the Arts Managers to point out that if you make art for artists only, meta-art, art for arts sake alone, you will become increasingly incestuous, find your shrinking resources over-tapped and eventually dried up. There’s only so much of eachothers’ art you can afford to buy on a regular basis.

I think we’re already experiencing a culture where “people” feel they aren’t included in art, where kids have never stepped into art galleries because they feel it’s “not for them” either racially or financially. The long-term affects on the art community are already being felt in diminished status, grants, etc. And statements like “if the "public" wants to get down they can come hang out.” certainly don’t make it any better.

If not a moral obligation, there’s certainly something to be said for shrinking feasibility and job security, even in the arts.

7:55 PM  
Blogger craigpaulnowak said...

Where can one stand with this diverse array of comments. It is as is with life or the art world in general: you just can't win.

So, in that respect, I reject any attempt to be right and choose to merely express my opinion.

What makes art worthwhile (in my opinion) is our ability to be able to choose what it is that we want to do as artists. Where it is flawed is when those artists choose to just "make shite and misbehave."

Josh chose to write his name. He chose to paint on warped canvas (which is the one part that doesn't add up for me). He chose to paint using muddied colors, etc. The point is that these were his choices. Was he succesful in painting his name and whatever else it is that he was attempting to do with his art. Based on what I've read and seen, Yes. Smiths work was a success in some regards, but maybe that's just because he didn't aspire to do much more than paint his name and for one of the worst reasons that I've ever heard.

Now, the final question I ask is, "Why should I care?"

And the answer is that I don't. I don't care for this work and I don't care about what he has to say with this work. I greee that what he said and his choices to paint his name seem frivolous. It's a personal requirement (at least in viewing and understanding or making art) for me as an artist to have a worthwhile reason to make art.

But in regards to M's comment, what I do care about is what this show means. If this forum were only for critique then this post would have three comments and be forgoten. Hilberry's choice to show Smith is what interests me. The acceptance and non-acceptance of his work is what interests me. The direction of art and the individuals whom art follows for whatever reason, is what interests me.

Do we abandon Hilberry for making a seemingly pretentious decission (that is, if the only reason that she is showing Smith's work, is because Saatchi bought it). I think not, on both accounts. First, I doubt that Hilberry is showing Smith because he is in the collection of Saatchi, and second, I don't believe that we should abandon Hilberry for making a seemingly pretentious decision.

I remember asking Susanne what I had to do in order to show at her gallery, and she informed me that she had to get to know my work.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i never said dumb down - (diluted/simplification is very different if you consider the tone caried)

i think you may have misunderstood. i don't feel anyone is incapable of getting us/me.

i only expressed my personal desire for a more intimate experience for both me and my audience.

also M..

could you please respond to the influence or over-riding issue of the division of labor (ie my reference to *benjamin - art in the age of mechanical reproduction).
could it be that we are all more disconnected/isolated? not just the arts

as far as a culture that feels it isn't included in "art" i disagree to the point where it may not be that they feel they don't belong - they just may be to dulled or distracted to care. kids still draw and write and paint and say fuck you to thier moms and dads - allways will. and in the paraphrased words of Theodore Adorno - art must rebel against it's own conception (or say fuck you to it's parents)

i am so tired of people looking to the arts for its "soul food". feed your selves and whats left share with a friend.

thats how the arts survive - thats what it is - not a notion or a system - not an organization that should be concerned with and willing to play nice for some grant money. if your looking for job security then join the army. if your looking for beauty then go to the woods.

im ranting now sorry.

on a lighter more positive note, this thread has totally turned around. enjoyed most all the recent comments and found interest in most. seems some are feeding themselves and sharing with friends.

*donating to a local charity or a schools art fund is another good way to contribute and eleviate the residual guilt planted by our freshman year art teachers and certain bloggers.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just to clarify and avoid an unnnecccesssary backlash:

1. i believe in beauty and love when i find it in art

2. i respect and love art teachers

9:12 PM  
Blogger craigpaulnowak said...

In this art world, all you can do to get by, is what you as an artist believe in. Mike's statament may have seemed elitist, but I'd be more willing to say that it was defensive.

You can only do so much to please your audience. In my opinion, Mike's statement merely proves that he accepts his audience, the people that he makes art for. Some people make art for the average person outside of the art world (Thomas Kinkade for example). Others make art for themselves, art that is important to them and what they want to say. I believe that Mike fits into the latter.

The audience has been one of the least understood entities for artists, or at least that's what I've observed.

We have such a difficult time getting people to accept our work that we become defensive saying in the end, in order to be honest with ourselves, that we have to say "if the "public" wants to get down then they can come hang out." Am I wrong.

I mean, I'm currently curating a show of hip hop inspired art, of which a majority of the included artists are graffiti artists. I'd ask, but I already know that the art world doesn't generally accept graf art, but would you expect them to change just because someone outside of their community said that they didn't like it? So who is their audience, and are they considering them in making their art?

I once had a discussion with Chris Benfield where he compared art to critical theory. The idea was that the only readers of critical theory were critical theorists, and that academic art was becoming similar. Hence, the only viewers of contemporary art are contemporary artists.

On another note, Sage Francis and Saul Williams are hip hop artists. Are they poets? Yes. Is hip hop poetry? Abolutely not.

Barry McGee and Bask or Banksy for that matter, are graffiti artists. Are they fine artist. Absolutely. Is graffiti art fine art. Answer: not often. This is why I say that context is important.

There are a lot more art worlds out there, mainstream and underground that this blog, or should I say, this community doesn't account for. Who do we accept, and who do we ignore?

And are we their desired audience?

9:21 PM  
Blogger cmcgraw said...

stack all the books in your house in one big stack, and then balance everything else you own on that stack, get under it before it falls, and when your hand comes through, screaming out from inside the pile-

you then have Josh Smith's work, in my opinion

his name, his identity are what he is embracing, creating
without the restrictions of good and bad, right and wrong

like this board, we are all are embracing ourselves, our thoughts,
thinking, without the restrictions

voicing our thoughts

stack your books
cause thats how they will know who you were, and when all our stacks come crashing down to a battered floor of poetry, will the man in the bunker drop his reading glasses

having a vast knowledge of nothingness at his fingertips

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to cpn on his grafitti remarks(daze, crash, kaws and pink lady have shown at mona):

Grafitti Strikes Back in New York Art Exhibition

NEW YORK, July, 2006 — Graffiti, the subject of a decades-long war between "taggers" and city authorities, is to get its own exhibition in New York.

Through September 3, the Brooklyn Museum is organizing a retrospective called "Graffiti," featuring 22 giant works painted on everything from fabrics to subway doors, all submitted over the past decade by collector Sidney Janis.

The exhibition will also feature two blank walls for visitors to experiment with their own graffiti designs.

"Graffiti has become a legitimate art form, appearing in galleries and private collections. Witness the transformations," the museum, created in 1897, announces in a statement greeting visitors.

Underscoring the new legitimacy of the genre, graffiti artists who hid behind aliases present their works here under real names: Sandra Fabara (Pink Lady), Michael Tracy (Tracy 168), John Matos (Crash Landing), Chris Ellis (Daze), Melvin Samuels Jr. ("NOC 167"), and others.

For the Brooklyn Museum, this exhibition also marks an attempt to reach out to a broader audience that might otherwise be put off by the idea of hanging art.

"It's part of the museum's mission, to reach out to all of our audience, not just the traditional museum audience, but to reach out to a new audience that might not necessarily think of coming to the museum," said spokeswoman Sally Williams.

The Brooklyn Museum is trying "to serve the underserved audience," she said.

Booming in New York since the 1960s, graffiti became much less visible in the course of the 1990s and has all but vanished from the subway system after the city introduced a new spray-paint resistant coatings to its cars.

But graffiti has made a small resurrection in the past couple of years after taggers resorted to making their markings with acid —prompting city hall to pass a measure banning the sale of acid to anyone under 21.

10:07 PM  
Blogger craigpaulnowak said...

Hi Liz, I'm not sure what your intent was with this article. In the end, Detroit rarely embraces graffiti art, despite the over-the-top talent that Detroit breeds within it's borders

My main objective with the above comparison was to compare the non-acceptance/acceptance... actually, I was somewhat confused about my statement as well. By that, I don't mean to say that I don't believe it, I mean to say that I may have gone off on a tangent.

This whole show has gotten me thinking about artists who recieve little or no press in the Detroit art scene. Maybe it was the comment about Josh Smith getting no play if Hilberry or Saatchi didn't have anything to do with it. I apologize if I were off topic, but thak you for the article.

As a curator I try to push the lesser known and certainly in some cases, more deserving artists. It's no surprise to me that those artists have shown in MONA.

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I havent seen the Hilberry show yet, so I cant comment on the paintings especially since I wasnt familiar with the artist.....

but I will now speak out of the other side of my mouth and say that the idea of Smith using his name as subject matter is intriguing. Kind of reminds me of Glenn Ligon's early work, or to a lesser extent, Christopher Wool.

Craig's curatorial focus is of interest to me. When I curated a Detroit show at Cranbrook Museum in 1995 eight artists were chosen who at that time had not had much or any exposure. These artists were and are fabulous artists, and I thought they would benefit from seeing their work within the context of the Cranbrook community. They also happened to be good friends of mine, but that of course wasnt the defining criterion.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" you cant polish a turd"

I like that! what a mental picture i got

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear cpn,
i was just responding to your remark about the art world not responding to grafitti work. even in ny the headline was "grafitti gets own exhibit."
and that it's interesting that the artists to "make it" into this exhibition have had to relenquish their tags.
and i suppose this all fits into the notions discussed here that the artist is often manipulated by the powers that be. and most likely for marketing reasons.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ohmygod, is this a joke?!!?

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

craig (Just wanted to be clear that I don't necessarily feel hip hop artists are poets. The intent is important, and both Francis and Williams have put themselves up as poets who've turned to hip hop.)

Mike Smith - you're right, I did misunderstand your statement and assumed "dumbing down", I apologize. This discussion has gotten so long that I may have failed to read every word carefully. But your statement about the "people can come and hang out" just rubbed me the wrong way, which is always the risk of digital communication, we don't always know the tone and texture behind a statement. I heard it (as I have heard it from so many people) with an elitist voice (I think that your statement of "i work for a small chosen audience and my experiences/contributions to society validates/justifies my seclusion." helped lead me to this assumption). I like the way you say you meant it much better: that you make art for yourself primarily and attract to you those on the same wavelength, instead of going out and impressing your wavelength on the unsuspecting.

As to your question about "art in the age of mechanical reproduction" I have not read the text so I feel uncomfortable commenting, but I would agree that it could be that we are all more disconnected/isolated, not just the arts: but I don't see that as a reason for complacency. I don't know if you've heard of the program InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit schools? It's an attempt to bring kids back to writing after the public schools turn them off by cramming Shakespeare down their throats. That is where I witnessed the opinion that poetry, and art were "not for them". Is this a racial, economic, or due to mechanical reproduction"? The more I explore this idea (beyond schoolkids, beyond detroit) the more I find there is an underlying desire to be connected in this way, but our potential audiences are disenfranchised and believe that they don't have the capabilities, because the "art world" has implied they don't have the capabilities to "understand" (and they're smart enough to pick up on that). Same with Ballet, Opera, all the arguably "dying" art forms.

I see terminal illnesses within the art community that I think are coming to a head. But I don’t seclude myself in a studio and make art, because I don't have the skill. Instead, as an arts manager, I am an advocate. I try to foster an appreciation of art with every project I helm, and applaud artists who take the time (as Ann reported that Josh Smith did) to meet with the "people" and help to draw them into the work.

But this is off the subject (does anyone know what the subject is anymore?) and I'll be quite now. :-)

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

begs the age old question:why does hillberry have to go to ny to get her misguided art?! or moca-d?

houston shows their own:
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston presents recent work by Houston-based artists Michael Bise, Darryl Lauster, Janaki Lennie, and Soody Sharifi, all in their first museum exhibition.

Four Artists Four Stories draws connections between themes in the artists’ work despite their diverse subject matter and use of different media. Bise’s drawings of domestic settings, Lauster’s sculptural recreations of historical decorative arts, Lennie’s painted city horizons, and Sharifi’s photographs of neighborhoods and communities all focus on contemporary psychological anxieties and cultural paradoxes.

The exhibition will be on view through September 10, 2006.

“These four artists are emblematic of the exciting and thought-provoking ideas found throughout the Houston art community,” said Contemporary Arts Museum Houston Director Marti Mayo. “As a forum for the new and innovative, we’re proud to continue our mission to bring Houston’s artists and audiences to the center of the art world.”

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since someone brought up MOCAD, I'll update the situation with Chris Ofili and the Tate museum (in relation to lack of ethics on the part of MOCAD and its paid curator Mitch Cope):

NEWS: Tate Museum broke the law with trustee Ofili's work

Critical report highlights conflict of interest by museum board and the artist.

Extraordinarily, at no point was the Tate's breach of ethics picked up by any present or former Tate director or trustee. It went unnoticed by current members with an expertise in regulatory affairs including Sir Howard Davies, former chair of the Financial Services Authority, and Paul Myners, chair of Marks & Spencer.

The issue came to light for the first time last year after a campaign by the Stuckists, a circle of figurative painters who position themselves against conceptual art, the Turner prize and the prevailing policies of the Tate. "This shows that the Tate has been functioning in an unacceptable way, as if it were a private fiefdom rather than accountable to ethics or integrity," said Charles Thomson, co-founder of the group.

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

matt d. said...

begs the age old question:why does hillberry have to go to ny to get her misguided art?! or moca-d?

because hilberry is a private gallery and personal business and she can do whatever she wants to do. Hilberry has always shown artists from "elsewhere" such as Katz, Goodwin, Krasner, Hoffman and a multitude of others,AND local artists such as Newton,Egner,Lewis,Mitchnick,Kadaj, etc etc. Summer Pack from last year. Lots of other examples over her many years of maintaining a space.

You cant compare a private business with a city museum that may have federal or state money in support, and has a responsibility to show artists of the area.

Hilberrys history speaks for itself.

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am surprised so many artists commenting on this thread are so critical of Josh White's work. First I saw the work on the blog and was intrigued and now after seeing the work in person I am very inspired by the show. High price tags like that catch me off guard still but I did get a strong sense of what was happening. There was something happening. Just go and spend some time looking at the real thing and getting other people's ideas / judgements out of the head.

I was also suprised about the attention paid to "warped canvases"
which in reality were barely warped. Someone said this show "would not happen in detroit if it were'nt for Saatchi" and that is off the mark as well. This is good work worth considering. Jacque Liu I have seen and look forward to being at the show in person.

11:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"begs the age old question:why does hillberry have to go to ny to get her misguided art?! or moca-d?"

You're damned if you do and damned if you don't, huh? I've seen complaints on here about galleries showing too much local art, and others bitching about too much art from outside the area. Seems like the galleries as a whole are representing both in just the right measure, judging by the fact that the bitching negates itself.

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike Smith - Looked up that author and that title and all I found was "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" by Walter Benjamin which I don't think is what you meant to reference. It was a long dialectic with a few good points, namely "Its [mankind's] self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art." So, along lines of this thinking, perhaps Josh Smiths show was really an homage to the death of painting and the aura of art as a whole, and perhaps he is more clever than we have given him credit for being on this thread.

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


correct/ i looked it up - i meant to refernce Friedrich Schiller

Schiller on modern life:

"... That zoophyte character of the Greek states, where every individual enjoyed an independent life and, when need arose, could become a whole in himself, now gave place to an ingenious piece of machinery, in which out of the botching together of a vast number of lifeless parts a collective mechanical life results. State and Church, law and customs, were now torn asunder; enjoyment was seperated from labor, means from ends, effort from reward. Eternally chained to only one single little fragment of the whole Man himself grew to be only a frament; with the monotonous noise of the wheel he drives everlasting in his ears, he never developes the harmony of his being, and instead of imprinting humanity upon his nature he becomes merely the imprint of his occupation, of his science."

so glad you read benjamin though - good shit aye. still some relevance there as you pointed out.

arua may still be alive as well as painting - certain zombie asthetics and vampire paintings, eternal in their failed and failing glory!!!

whats that play by Arthur Miller? "Death of an artist" was that it?

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To address the issue of Fine Art potentcy as a force of good in the world situation.. I would say that if you have that intention you will hit many walls ironically first in the art world and then second in the world.

There are those whom still think that revealing beauty and mystery is the greatest good we can achieve in this sense which I do partly agree with.

My own frustrations with the ineffectiveness of the artist world in general as a hammer or even a mirror has often made me wonder whether I should be doing something else. The former comment by mike jones "after the apocalypse we can revert to our previous functions..." was appreciated and reassuring.

As a creative worker and concerned person I have kept on this natural path of wanting to bring art out of the tight circle. That art objects are medicine of some sort and the art community an island of true experimental freedom. Nothing else that I am aware of has this quality in the human world.

At times I think about primitive peoples whom put so much time into working with their hands and creating immensely beautiful objects. All of the energy invested. Then they often would take their art to an island or other particular place and bury the work! Probably never see it again. But seeing it was not really the intention all along anyway.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

pacopez - good points and good for you for trying to bring art out of the tight circle again. There was a time afterall, when we claimed that art would be for everyone, not just the rich. It seems as if we've changed reasons with the same result: at one point in time only the rich could afford to surround themselves with art, there were no public galleries. Now we have public galleries that only the educated (and often wealthy attend) because the "masses" feel they can't "get" fine art. Sad! Keep up the good fight. ;-) There are so many "creative workers" who seem to be in the field to be art groupies, heightened by association, and very few who genuinly try to repair and advance the field.

PS, you might enjoy the Benjamin read above!

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Now we have public galleries that only the educated (and often wealthy) attend because the 'masses' feel they can't 'get' fine art."

It is the responsibility of the culture at large, its institutions and education system, to encourage an understanding of Fine Art (and all other cultural production for that matter). After all, we understand our heritage all too well and we know that what we're doing is completely valid. But, given that that type of broad redefinition of priorities is unlikely, many no longer look to the public for an audience.

I say that, and then think this thread may prove otherwise...some people need to get schooled.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps read some of Robert Irwin's writings on the subject..

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have sent this out to artists and students over and over again..

Nolan, this a great link to check out on Irwin's ideas.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the general public doesn't need re-schooling. contemporary art can and often does speak their language too. i've seen it happen over and over with people off the street. i've seen them connect. it's just with such pretentious jibber-jabber such as this that everyone comes up short.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ificDid Saatchi actually purchase some of Josh Smith's work? Is that real or rumor??? His work is up on Saatchi's free website with every one else who posted.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Jef Bourgeau said...

he's in saatchi's own gallery section -- not at the free site.

he'll also be in saatchi's usa today show in october.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know if any of you have actually seen the work. Those paintings are amazing. That anybody could even begin to talk about them as 'so bad they are good' is sort of ridiculous. And bullshit whining about warped stretchers? Are you architects or artists?

The work is spot on. Every time some wannabe paints a 'new and original idea' he's just painting his name as large as he or she can. Josh Smith's work is just a bit more up front.

As to 'idiot savant', you definitely have not heard him talk either. He knows more about art, artists, and history than most complete faculties.

For what it is worth, he did his best not to allow Saatchi to buy any of his work because of his reputation to turn and burn an artist. Saatchi only got his work because of an unscrupulous dealer.

The work is Zen folks. I may not ever find out what one hand clapping sounds like, but I sure know what it looks like. Aside from that, it's pure liquid joy and sharp as the proverbial nail. Good luck catching up. I know I'm running.

10:19 PM  
Blogger alex bienstock said...

anyone who doesn't love these paintings is the pretentious moron that you accuse josh smith of being.

10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are certain things that had to happen in order to further the discourse of art. This is not one of them. As much as I love Duchmamp, I feel like he opened up the floodgates for all these meemoms posing as "artists". Yes it is a game. Yes you see the crooked system. AND yes you fucked with it. Bravo, now please GTFO.

Seriously. If you're going to take a shit on art, please consider a different medium. Painting is through. It's nostalgic at best and anything you are trying to say is lost within the warped to shit stretchers, sophomore at best handling of the paint and the delusional, uninspired and pretty much EPIC fail subject matter.

Please leave painting to those who can at least carry on the lineage of codes and the tradition of caliber and sophistication. We are through seeing shit on canvas. If you want to keep regurgitating the same old effing pastiches at least make it cool

1:45 AM  

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