Reply to PeteDriessen and Jim Grafsgaard : LUSENET : Visual Artists Focus Group : One Thread

A special thanks to Jim Grafsgaard and Pete Driessen for starting this dialogue.

What brought me to my political work was a realization that art had already been radically politicized and second that there was no opposition. Kathy Halbreich said in a lecture to the young and eager artists at MCAD, 12-12-96, "question, question, question." She also described the WAC, in an interview with Barbaralee Diamonstein, as a, "safe place for unsafe ideas." If they could be grouped into a recognizable milieu, what questions and ideas are these that Kathy regularly references and what would they appear to represent?

About eight seconds later I realized that there were no paintings by Jerry Falwell in the museum, and Norman Podhoretz had been banned from, "the afternoon with Allen Ginzberg." Was WAC really a safe place for unsafe thinking? It seemed that it was a safe place for "safe" thinking. The kind of thinking that will be tolerated and accepted; not the thinking that makes us squirm in our black clothes.Not the kind of thinking that common people do around their supper tables.

The real questions, the unsafe ideas, began tumbling out of my head, not because I had an angle, but because no one had bothered to do the obvious. A little air needed to be let out of the sails of the good ship "I Like It Like That". An artist must be observant and cautious when around people who instruct common culture as to what is important and what must be questioned. An artist must observe the people in positions of power to see what is picked and how it affects the corporate position of their business. I am referring to the business of art and the power therein to shape culture. The power, for whatever subjective reason, to say yes to this object and no to that object and make the choices. Just what is it about the Walker that is so god damned interesting? Irving Sandler says in, ART OF THE POSTMODERN ERA 60's -90's, "Few recog- nized artists on the political right introduced concerns into art." I would say more accurately, none! There is no response to the considerable attacks in the deconstructed art world. David Gelernter in, DRAWING LIFE, SURVIVING THE UNABOMBER, said, "No cultural sphere is more thoroughly intellectualizedthan art." And to finish the linkage, which will be instantly denied, Rosalind Krauss in, OCTOBER, THE SECOND DECADE, 86-96, admits to, "the massive retreat of the American Left into the Academy." Let me think... the left retreats into the Academy, art becomes intellectualized; there is no opposition to the left in the arts...politically the museum becomes a stage for the left. This is not my idea. Others have come to this conclusion. I find it a bit odd that painting in resistance could be so easy and avoided for so long. Anyone could have done what I am doing.

My premise is simply that someone has to resist. Someone has to be the counter-revolutionary, someone has to do the dirty work. The great social, sexual and cultural, revolution has become nothing more than a transparent collection of ridiculous clichis. Too often art is the revolutionary lap dog. When art is not busy wondering where it is, or what sex it is, or if the world is going to end in a Malthusian or environmental catastrophe, then it retreats into aesthetic chin rubbing, arcane theory and looking at really talented work by young and "soon to be famous" artists. [e.g. WACTAC]

Art can be lots of fun. Maybe next we can discuss the absence of aesthetics, the making of objects, the selling of art and making careers. Let's have an art professor rip this page apart, come and explain Lacan and Derrida and the true meaning of deconstruction; tell us how Leon Golub has more to say than Jennifer Flowers. Tell us how modern formal criticism is important to the understanding of beauty. Show us how to place our index fingers under our eyes to better view significant art. Let's rotate some pictures and talk about the inordinate emphasis on art for apparently being able to solve social ills. And what about the unstoppable march of youngsters off to art school? What's that all about? Finally, I am not picking on the WAC. The WAC is our national and international link with the art world. It is exactly what needs to be looked at, compared with, analyzed and criticized. Every exhibit should be scrutinized and every proclamation dissected to see if unsafe ideas are present. To ignore the Walker is to ignore the the choices they make. Those choices are indicators to artists. WAC likes criticism. They thrive on the public stumbling over themselves trying to unscramble complicated multi-level WACky art exhibits. We like WAC, WAC likes us.

[Post script: Edith Metzger, a friend of Ruth Kligman, was killed by Jackson Pollock. As Pollock careened down an old dirt and blacktop road at 90 mph, he lost control and with maniacal laughter spun the car around backwards and managed to flip it going backwards onto its topless top. Edith was crushed in the back seat, Ruth was ejected onto the road and lived, and Jackson finally acheived escape velocity as he pranged a small tree with his head. Ruth was Jackson's girlfiend. Lee Krasner was in Paris with friends trying to figure out what to do about herself and Jackson. This is to the best of my memory taken from: To A Violent Grave, by Jeffrey Potter, and Jackson Pollock, An American Saga, S. Naifeh & Gregory White Smith.]

[Post script 2: To the best of my memory, The New Left is a term given to the old American Communist Party after the Khrushchev Papers telling of the Stalinist atrocities were released in 1956. The true believers wished to disassociate them- selves from the stimatized old hard liners on the left. So it was communually de- cided by the next generation [Horowitz, Gitlin, Hayden, and whoever] that the movement should have a new fresh name. The cause was never abandoned and the culture war rages on still today. The only difference is that it begins now in our kindergartens with deep ecology and radical multiculturalism. Source: Radial Son, D. Horowitz.]

Bob Schulz 6-2-99

-- Anonymous, June 11, 1999

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