Writings / Essay: Miklos Legrady

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Adorno, Deleuze and Guattari: The Gods that Failed

This past year repeated complaints of boring art exhibitions have appeared in print and that should raise an alarm. Can we suggest these complaints come from disingenuous curatorial decisions and so are but a short blip on the radar of art history? Or hint that the art world has been delusional for decades and has finally run off the rails?? No, of course we can’t! A friendly curator pointed out that everyone wants love and reassurance therefore when someone disagrees with us it is obvious they are not worth our time; by disagreeing they have crossed a line.  This includes a haughty at those with a different view or the wrong accent, and a snub at street talk. We react with cynicism at other’s criticism; we raise our eyebrow at the socially awkward, we brush off the over-zealous and insecure. There is an understanding within the art world of what is allowed, of who is heard and who is silenced, we communicate in tribal language and gang signs… In a nutshell, we may see ourselves along with Hamlet as kings or queens of semiotic space… were it not that we have bad dreams.

Lane Relyea recently blogged that visual art fails when compared to literature. This because art objects are now ‘universal’; the work looks similar on every continent creating exhibitions where the art is glanced at for a minute, if only… meanwhile Sealan Twerdy points out that a good book can hold one’s interest for weeks on end. We are told that the exciting aspect of art was in the social connectivity that buzzed around it, exposing a previously unnoticed migration of value from art to the social network.

Are we facing a reality check, a cold shower? Have Relyea and Twerdy unleashed the hounds of hell? They seem to agree that art is boring, superficial, an excuse to party and network, nothing but a hustle. Then William Derensowitz joins in with “The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur”. Derensowitz writes that “10,000 hours is less important now than 10,000 contacts” but for Malcolm Gladwell in The Outliers ten thousand hours was the time it took to achieve mastery; ten thousand contacts say you’re a master at the art of sales, not the art of art. At least Twerdy recognizes creativity but Lane and William seem to believe that being a salespeep is the highest value an artist can aspire to. Their assertions are mistaken when they simply approve the status quo while ignoring the pachyderm in the room. That very elephant, if asked, could tell us of a movement to strip the art object of magic, a dastardly plot to say that art was never that great nor worth the effort…. but if you’re ok with art being boring should you be an art critic? Perhaps writers say that literature trumps visual art because, you know, writers.

An intelligent approach to art has been so successful that it reached an enantiodromia; when things get to their extreme they turn into their opposite. It might seem logical to think along with Levi-Strauss that the artist decides what to paint, learns the techniques and then does it, but it’s not that simple. Perhaps intellectuals see art as a factual process without creativity or any hint of spiritual elements. If so their explanation fails to describe what they cannot. It is also possible that literature conquered the visual and reduced it to a description of itself, the visual now captive of the verbal, as Walter Klepac wrote. Literature is queen of the arts; it is through words we communicate most effectively and most often. In business it was always management that controlled workers; in academia it is intellectuals who control the definition of art, much to its detriment since if you only hum that one tune people will eventually complain.

The Whitney Museum announced this year that they are cancelling their Biennial, giving temporary curatorial control to the commercial galleries they are involved with. Another review notes that 1/3rd of all museum exhibitions show artists belonging to only five galleries. Homogeneity prevails when Relyea writes about the universality of contemporary art… I myself saw this on a European tour visiting galleries and seeing different artists exhibiting almost exactly the same objects and installations in Madrid, Barcelona, Budapest, Vienna, Paris and London. Is imitation the sincerest form of conformity or is assimilation the consequence of conforming to theory?

While second-rate minds are confused our finest writers praise the worst mistakes instead of sweeping them out with a fresh broom. Instead of bowing to the gods of “been there, done that” writers could rebel and protest. Of course I’m being naive; critics are raised and bred in schools that sandpaper, varnish, and polish the status quo; it would not do to oppose your professor or your diploma. Later on those writers will review shows at galleries who advertise in the magazines that pay the writers, it’s an ouroboros [worm that eats its own tail], a closed system that pretends to criticism but won’t consider any. This very article was politely rejected by every art journal as unsuitable for their readers, sniff, sniff, and had to masquerade as literature in order to get published.

Let us pin the reason for art boredom on editors, (you know who you are) writers, professors, galerists and curators who throttled the muse, poor thing. They’ve limited participation to those sharing the same outlook and language, restricting the game to believers (beliebers) in a common ideology, in effect creating a tautology… yet Susan Sontag, Robert Morgan, Rob Storr, and more, they rang that bell, they warned us back in 1994. Academics gamed the system since artists could not think that well; tenure track stifled the arts till the poor thing is nearly dead. Will art perish? Can we finally dispense with the art object and be just… you know… smart?

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3 Responses to “Writings / Essay: Miklos Legrady”

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  1. Jesse Alling says:

    Well, here I go again, this is the second comment I have entered and lost, because I did not push the submit button d’oh. Anyhew, I thought that you (Miklos) wrote a very critical essay on the state of visual arts today. You pulled out those subjects, of where art should come from and not “the Starving Artists Sales” , in hotel rooms and cruises. You placed “true” on its own pedestal and told challengers “bring it”, when it came to your personal observations and you challenged all to refute them. this is a truly heart-felt and soul full essay, well written and concise. Bravo.
    P.S. I am flattered to know such an insightful and honest “true artist…” I enjoyed your comparison to “Culinary Artistry” and hopefully I am not that arrogant, when it comes to my skills…
    Thank you, once again…x0x0x0x0

  2. I sent Jerry Saltz a link 4 days ago and today he wrote; “In the art world… generations of critics… the subjectivity and original opinion scared out of them… refrain from writing clearly, with voice, judgment, something personal. That’s changing. Fast now. I see a whole new generation of younger critics unafraid of all those things. A homegrown, unafraid criticism is springing up in the wreckage…” could be just luck but nice to think it’s fitting.

  3. KateBrown says:

    As there is no art market per se in this country, we, as artists have nothing to lose by being confident in our intelligence and brave enough to create whatever it is that engages us. We do not have to be bound by the constrictions of verbose pundits who have nothing on the line, so to speak. The first rule of making art is that it must exist.

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