SORTING THINGS OUT

by Paul Henrickson, Ph.D.

tm 2012-07-01.

The subject of this document has been referenced in earlier documents. That statement is not at all an apology, but and indication that, as in other complex matters, some questions emerge by degrees into awareness, and even then, one can’t be sure that there will not be aspects of any question which beg elaboration....so, here we go again My biased position is that the real issue in the determination of value in works of art is the observer’s sensitive perceptual abilities, first to identify it, process the identification into meaningfully communicable word symbols concomitant with the observer’s ability to impart it to a receiver whose system is tuned to receive and to comprehend the data. This process, as one can readily see, is a highly complex one and involves numberless opportunities for mistransmission. In addition, even as he composes his transmission the critic may be continually arguing with his conclusions. This, has been for me, a perpetual challenge and while I do sense I have been incrementally improving this needed ability it never seems to be

quite enough. However, in this regard, it is sometimes salvatory to realise that there are two ends to the communication log...at one there is the speaker, at the other, the listener and while the speaker, hopefully, knows what he is talking about the speaker is relatively uncertain as to the mindset of the listener. It is, almost always, a tight rope.

My bringing in Congo, the chimpanzee, at this point is not a tasteless joke. the crass equivalent of “my three-year-old could do better than this!”....but a serious attempt to

illustrate a point

Congo, painting

The efforts of Paul Jenkins (below) to renew the connections with some more basic phenominal aesthetic data might be compared with a scientist researching atoms for the potential hidden in nano particals. It can be seen as one way of asking oneself..”what more might be discovered.

Paul Jenkins

Gerhardt Richter It is clear from the Jenkins and Rickter images above that the focus for the artist has shifted from an interest in the objected being depicted to an interest in the object emerging onto the canvas. Richter’s work is ,also, demonstrative of the two-fold (sometimes) nature of creativity. In the legends of Thor, the Norse God of creativity, he first takes a thunderbolt and destroys what there is before, (as in the sequential growth and renewel of forests), new growth appears. Richter has taken photographs, of whatever, and painted over them...not a new and different subject from the photograph, but simply a purposeful act of destroying what there is. The action might be attributed to a conceptual behavior, such as a street riot and, perhaps, in the long run they may be seen as some sort of theatre piece. However, at this moment, I tend to see his social acceptance as a form of apotheosis of a childish temper.

Donald Fabricant

It is just such a shift in the focus from “the object out there” to “the object right here”,that is, once again, the difference betwen making an image of something and making something, which I find so compelling in the work of Donald Fabricant who in middle age seemingly took himself to task for being so loyal to autoritative teaching and by so doing limited on his understanding of his instructive experiences that he r e v o l t e d , turned himself and his imagry inside out, faced what he had thought he wasn’t....and died at 60. It may appear that the above remark is rooted in an awareness of the parapsychological. While that is not what I intend, I am obliged to acceed to the probability that that is what it is. Even our vocabularly “para” shows that we acknowledge that there is something we have not been able to name. but it us associated with something we do have a name for.

It is another subject entirely, probably, that is, the world of “reality” and measureareable fact, as we apprehend it, and that other more vague, nebulous and apprehensive world of the intuitive from which we draw inspirational material which we then form... and then reform. When one looks at Fabricant’s work before the “conversion” and fully appreciates the dedication to discpline and goals of taught sensibilities one gets the image of an individual who measured his personal worth in terms of an attachment to a recent authoritative past, one that was, perhaps, limited to, at most, two geneations. Anything older than that would have presented its own collection of distrubing aesthetic questions. Fabricant had been wearing bliders for most of his life.

It must have been a day of great revelation when he finally saw, and believed, that the dimensions of reality were not truly as threatening as he had once thought, and that facing them could only dignify his independence and that that could be joyful.

Donald Fabricant

Congo

Arnal

Kline

The three images above, one by Congo, the photo by Eugenio Arnal, the last by Franz Kline do not, I think, represent an aesthetic causal connection but their relationship has its origin ONLY in the mind of he

observer. However, there may be similarities in the neural patterns set up in the observer’s system and it is this neural pattern which may be similar in Congo, Arnal and Kline.

We might include Robert Motherwell here at some point,

Sigmare Polke, on the other hand, plays a joke on the pubescent level when he assumes the observer will make a connection (as he makes damn sure the observer does) with the famous Albrecht

Durer “Hare”.

Albrecht Durer

Where, in point of fact, the Polke has more aesthetically in common with Chuzo Tamotzu.

Chuzo Tamotsu

The similarity between the Tamotsu and the Polke can be seen in the reduction of the subject’s form to line and away from the representation of texture.

One of the more perplexing and, perhaps, interesting questions concerns the origins of the impulse to spread a spectrum of pigment upon a surface. Perhaps it was Freud who indicated that the fascination first makes its apperance in the behavior of an infant who plays with the excrment his body has surorisngly produced. This observation might well fit into the mindset of those whose jusfgments of works of art, or certain types of works of art, whose highly prejudiced evaluations if aesethetic objects may be summarized in the observation “Man!! ... Boy is that sh..t ? or what?”

Paul Jenkins

Congo, painting

It could well be that in the course of developing this document I may use metaphores, vicabulary or examples that may offend some readers in some way or another. I doubt it will do much good for me to assure these readers that my aim is not to be offensive, or crude, but simply to make a point as clearly and as unambiguously as possible. I came across the following passage which, as often happens, triggers a whole sequence of thoughts:
Art world goes wild for chimpanzee's paintings as Warhol work flops
Hirst will not be the first to "renew" a work of art. The eight upside-down Marcel Duchamp urinals labeled Fountain displayed in galleries around the world are all replicas made in the 1960s. The godfather of conceptualism changed art history when he exhibited the original in New York in 1917.

Mr Gayford said that conservators had also faced problems with Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The reds he used in his paintings had faded badly because he had used substandard red paint. Pictures by Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock also suffered because of paint quality. Mr Gayford said: "If Hirst is going to change the shark, the important thing is that he has got to do more than go along with it. He's got to supervise it and sign if off. "We are entering unknown territory with some of the materials that artists are using today and the big question is what happens when Hirst is no longer among us." Publishers wishing to reproduce photographs on this page should phone 44 (0) 207 538 7505 or e-mail syndication@telegraph.co.uk
Nick Reynolds, art correspondent “The Telegraph”

What I find objectionable about what is probably intended to pass as a sophisticated observation is that Nick Reynolds leads the reader to suppose that Andy Warhol is the measure, the proper measure, of anything.....unless, of course, we define what that might be. The approach Reynolds takes, on the other hand, tends to reduce differences (in whatever) to a matter, simply, of fashion. It were as though there were no evidences anywhere of pertinence, appropriateness, expertness or inherent value, in the Platonic sense, no approach to a divine concept. Fashion, in the sense of how I mean it would place Warhol, Madonna and Lady Gaga in the same sack which does not mean we cannot learn something from them...which doesn’t mean they are aware of what they teach.

Lady Gaga

Madonna

Another egregious source of contempt is the elaborate and out of proportion statement following here “The godfather of conceptualism changed art history when he exhibited the original in New York in 1917.” While Duchamp’s urinal may have been a shocking display of bad manners and, additionally, may have been the source for some

philosophical rethinking, it cannot be a truthful statement that it “changed art history” despite there being many instances of “bad manners” since then. Additionally, the attribution to Duchamp of “the godfather” is a cheap shot gathering mental energy from half-baked thought processes of the partially aware...a typical performance of the daily news reporter and headline composer....an unfortunate characteristic and a perpetual expression of the medium. Bad boy behaviour was certainly on exhibition when the urinal was displayed as a work of art...except where the possibility of the excellence of its form was the focus, but bad boy behaviour is certainly the focus of erotic display in the functioning public urinal where, ostensibly, “straight” men find an outlet for their occult homosexuality. Even had Duchamp paid a couple of actors to appear only on schedule of course, since there is a limit to physical endurance, to act out and to re-enact felatio its exhibition might have passed as a performance piece. but I doubt it would have been found to have had more significance (socially or aesthetically) than a publicized Hillary Clinton fart. The hoi polloi are thrilled by bodily malfunctions.

Paul Henrickson

My comments are now centered on what I consider to be a sort of mystery, that is, why should Reynolds call forth a Damien Hirst, a Marcel Duchamp, or an Andy Warhol as exemplars, one might with considerable justification, label them hoaxers and this type over the last century have proliferated and no one, that I am aware of, has intelligently called their bluff...although there have been some remarkably outspoken criticisms they all have appeared to have been rooted mainly in established biases and NOT on measured and analyzed observation. In short, criticising a work of art for its having failed to measure up to some established behavioural protocol is insufficient, although a critic should, ideally, be aware of what the artist’s protocol might be. Since a work of art is generated from the consciousness of the artist, even if he is an anonymous petroglyphic craftsman, these origins cannot be overlooked except at the expense of missing the point.

Criticisms of the three bad boys mentioned above on that basis are of no consequence whatever, except, of course, in short, for the considerable damage they inflict on the young, the gullible and the unaware. Playing games with deep pockets and intimidating them into a purchase overlooks the real value of a work...even a petroglyph. Anything short of a serious investigation is nothing more than an interlude of pocket pool with a stranger in a dark corner

Petroglyph near Santa Fe, New Mexico

Roy Lichtenstein

Lichtenstein “Brush”

Lichtensetin has consistently exhibited what might pass for anti-establishment humor firmly founded on pubescence and his efforts combined with those of a segment of the art world functionaries have made his life work an auction house game bringing in many millions..all of which has failed to enlarge upon the world’s understanding of what an aesthetic response really might be.

I think all one might need to do to establish the point is to balance on the one hand the value of Lichtenstein’s labored painting of a brush stroke and on the other the fact that Rembrandt had Jewish friends...The question then more clearly emerges: what have these rather anecdotal reports to do with the degree of excellence in performance? Having Jewish friends may have influenced Rembrandt’s outlook on a number of social concerns and painting a cartoon of a impasto brush stroke may have been found amusing by a puerile and intellectually lazy audience, but as an artefact it can be little more than a silly icon for a vain social comment.

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