I hope everyone (in this hemisphere) is having a great Summer despite and we have 3 major pieces in the works for you (two interviews and an extensive thinkpiece). Till then here are some of the best things I’ve read over the past few months.
Jerry Saltz half forgives MoMA, but he really doesnt give a stamp of approval. He’s seen that The Museum is becoming more of a transit hub trying desperately to cope with its success, yet inherently incapable of fixing its real problem… an identity crisis that gets to its core competency, The Collection. The building is an issue sure, but its mostly exacerbated by the institution not wanting to use its influence and empower curatorial penache. Simply put they require a curatorial revolution and the directors who have slowly usurped curatorial competency over the past 2 decades simply wont allow it. Instead, the discussion is centered safely around the building’s program but what I see is a certain curatorial temerity because rewriting the narrative of MoMA’s collection too quickly would effect the assets… ahem “Art” that it is a custodian of and a benchmark for. This isnt news… the more powerful an institution is the less freedom it has in challenging its base and lore. The Met is going through similar things but at least its identity crisis seems to be questioning why its collection and curatorial voices have had diminishing impact over the past few years. Then there is the more radical approach LACMA is taking, only curatorial/intellectual penache will keep it from becoming a study in modes of cultural fashion. Overall, the crisis for museums is the question is one of egality. Is the crowd the chief tenant of a museum building or is the Art? Most museum directors will try to deflect that or say its both… but it cannot be. The core competency of an art institution has to be the art and all the content and or baggage it brings with it. Perhaps the proble with with major museums is related to the reason both major political parties are in tailspins? Has the art of patronage stalled as a form of critiquing civilization in a healthy way?
Should the ICA pull a show over a Painting that isn’t there? Obviously not, PORT has interviewed Dana Schutz in the past and by protesting a painting that isnt even on display the whole drama just becomes a lynch mob (so much sad irony). I posit that Schutz was hung out to dry by a Whitney Biennial curators who didnt bother to contextualize her work in any way (that’s their job though… instead they minimized their own exposure). Overall Dana’s subject matter has often dealt with corpses on display and this lack context and scale of response says something about where we are as a culture now. Technically, “outrage” isnt a critique and all serious artists deserve a fair shake in the court of critique… vocal outrage is an important thing but without scope and targeting it falls on its own sword.
Kenny Schachter gives his LA art scene travelogue. Very similar to what I experienced there a few months ago but of course his is definitely from a New York angle, griping about cars, movies and ignoring the best institutions that LA has to offer lest New York Museums seem lesser. (Portland is a place, which is being overrun by those fleeing LA, SF and NYC… so we are kinda the Switzerland in the NYC vs LA contest… we just want to protect our quality of life). More interesting is the way Schachter see’s the private museums as potentially stifiling and less than the sum of their parts… a kind of vainglorious enterprise too based on art advisors rather than what is truly culture catalyzing. I’ve got to say one thing Portland doesnt tolerate is the kind of vanity you find in NYC and LA… but its the LA version that is most hated here.
A lot is being made of another wave of modernism… which really isnt legit. Partially thats because Modernism itself was never really a single thing but one strain of it certainly had an obsession with the occult. For those that dont know their deep art history it should be a fascinating read. Basically, in the cultural threshing the industrial revolution set in motion the popular obsession with the occult found its way into “Modern” Art. Some of it was batshit crazy, some of it seems like your average day in Portland today. The point is the world was being turned upside down and the occult offered sysyems by which to explain and understand the worrld.
Speaking of understanding the world… the CIA had a thing for French postmodernist theory… so much for all those 80’s and 90’s academics who felt smug when they leaned the CIA was involved in Abstract Expressionism being shown aroud the world during the Cold War. Looks like the CIA found postmodern theorists to be a handy way of organizing dissent thinkers into less dangerous and less potentially enlightened intellectual paths. Guy Debord is not a radical thinker and so much of it is a toothless resurgence of the academy (for artists cloaked in terrible art speak). A true intellectual is drawn to unresolvable crisis… just like good art is.
Enough French apologist theories… better to read this fine interview with Seattle’s Robert Yoder (one of the most impressive artists Ive worked with as a curator).