Monday, September 6, 2010

Realist Revolution and Critical Relevance: The Most Memorable Panel Discussion at PSOA

After enormously intense and exciting Spring of our fantastic PSOA adventure in DC and the “Hottest Summer” on record with three concurrent shows and quite a bit of painting it's great to come back and to reflect on most fascinating intellectual exchange and sharing of ideas we had at the Realist Revolution panel. Good times are timeless and not soon-forgotten! Here are my thoughts, notes and comments on it in three parts.

Part I

These were my thoughts going into that most memorable panel:

We live in a corrupt world that in so many ways has lost its way, regardless of good intentions it might’ve had at the beginning of its most recent dead end. It happened many times before: oppressed rebels taking reins of absolute power, indulge in it, becoming corrupt oppressors themselves and running the whole thing in their hands to a ground. Human nature is ever the same. Yet, this is exactly at those junctions when the new turns happen. We are the lucky generation at such a turn.

This is the only reason we are all at the point we find ourselves today. There are many words to describe what we all experience, yet the most crucial thing that makes it all possible I think and gives meaning to any words is the very simple and exciting fact – we have a critical mass of highly developed talent hitting their prime while united under very similar views and practices. Just look at events like PSOA, Masters, our Classical Underground, rooms where these greatest talents share their views in panel discussions or show what they can do in demos and lectures are packed with truly youthful vibrancy and excitement. In any classic definition – it is a movement!

There is definitely much to reflect upon for everyone and that is what I think about it.

One important thing to understand – we are not a “preseravationist society” or certainly not any more, we are contemporary artists and an inseparable part of the overall multi-dimensional and diverse “Greater Art World”. There is in a sense no more of what used to be called “Art World” as very narrowly defined and much in-bread closed circuit. We are a community and we are part of a greater community.

Insuring the knowledge transfer is the great duty of anyone I think who takes his or her participation within an unbroken chain of tradition seriously. It is in a way our sacred duty and those who did it before us in a darkest hour with greatest of commitment and sacrifice have a permanent place in history. We and everyone after us - are and will be forever grateful to them.

Yet, the noble tradition that we for whatever combination of determination and fortune have managed to acquire is just a tool at our disposal – we have to use it accepting all responsibility for a remarkable time in history we are so fortunate to be part of.

It is the extent to which we will manage to apply this noble tradition which we represent that will secure its place in the Future – the Future that we can all be part of shaping now and the place that will be much different from what it was throughout last century, particularly its second half.

Art that we love is a Force, we have to master it through understanding of Great Tradition and not to simply ensure that knowledge transfer, but to use this Force to answer the deeply personal calls of our times… times of our own and of our viewers.

Through the knowledge transfer we are given the power of our artistic ancestors. Through us their Force lives on in our time, speaking to hearts of our people.

Soldiers use the “Lethal Force to Kill” on a battlefield - We, the artists, are in a possession of a “Vital Force to Heal”… to recreate Life itself.

We have to be conscious of this power to wield it. And wield it we shall. One brush stroke at a time. The Spirits of Great Ones before us are smiling upon us today. We are the first genuine movement of the 21st century.

We better be worthy of the honor… and damn the torpedoes!!!


Part II

On Friday April 23rd, 2010 my comrade-in-brush, a truly great artist Jeremy Lipking and myself put together a panel discussion at the PSOA conference in Washington DC titled

Contemporary Art:
Realist Revolution
Critical Relevance

Is mainstream media missing an important cultural trend?

Firmly moderated by Jeremy the panel’s distinguished members were:

Jacob Collins

One of the most accomplished realist painters of our time, founder of influential and in my view the closest to the ideals of Academic educational tradition Grand Central Academy in New York

Vern G. Swanson, Ph.D

Director of Springville Museum of Art in Sprinville, Utah, an authority on the Academic Art of the 19th century with major books on Alma Tadema and John William Godward among many others as well as on Russian Realist School of the Soviet Period. I had a privilege contributing to his authoritative “Soviet Impressionism” book that recently went through its second edition.

James Panero

Writer and Managing Editor of intellectually formidable The New Criterion, one of the sharpest pens and minds around, who is still willing and able to thrust both with fencing precision


what was I doing in this esteemed company?

So here is the program of the panel starting with that great Alfred Barr quote Jeremy dug out:

An actual “battle of styles,” as for instance between realism and abstraction, is desirable only to those who thrive on a feeling of partisanship. Both directions are valid and useful—and freedom to produce them and enjoy them should be protected as an essential liberty. There are, however, serious reasons for taking sides when one kind of art or another is dogmatically asserted to be the only funicular up Parnassus or, worse, when it is maliciously attacked by the ignorant, the frightened, the priggish, the opportunistic, the bigoted, the backward, the vulgar or the venal. Then those who love art or spiritual freedom cannot remain neutral.
—Alfred Barr, 1949 first director of MOMA


Along with its own topic the panel is intending to continue on some fascinating themes and topics raised by a recent important panel “Future of Art Criticism” held at MOCA on Thursday, March 25, 2010 and organized by Annenberg School of Communication at USC;

Our aim is to encourage the much needed dialog within the greater Art community.

The extensive report on the panel could be found at

Questions to panel participants:

Q. Should same journalistic standards be applied to art criticism?

Q. How appropriate is the use of a term “contemporary” to describe just an “officially” sanctioned by establishment singular part of cultural process?

Q. What aspects of newly emerging Realist movement are the most fascinating to you?

Q. What are the limitations to the currently ultimate power of critic to ignore and how do you see the future of Art Criticism?

Q. Do you believe that institutions claiming to be representative of contemporary process in Art shall be reflecting existing aesthetic diversity on the ground?

Q. At the MOCA panel Bennett Simpson stated: “It is not Art Criticism’s Job to move Art Forward, it’s Art’s Job to move Art Forward. It used to be in the past – not any more.” For all that it means coming from such representative of the establishment, what kind of Art do you think will move the Art forward?

And here the fun began…
gotta tell you, outside of a few particular moments in life including some most memorable painting sessions, this was the most exhilarating experience:

See for yourself in this finally edited thanks to tireless Tom Bunning version with much more audible sound than it was on a live-stream

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Video 5

Video 6

Video 7

Video 8

Here the links to what James wrote on the panel


Part III

In addition to the program and videos I am also posting the notes to my own answers as well. Sorry, they are as raw as toro ever gets

    Q. Should same journalistic standards be applied to art criticism?

    I believe as moderator on that MOCA panel put it that “ anybody writing anything commits an act of journalism,” essentially I believe that anybody associating with institutional voice has a responsibility and shall adhere to principles of impartial observation of reality.

    I do not believe that “journalism” is just a form of a “classified” or a “calendar of events” - it is silly to reduce journalism to recitation of “what, who and where”, so the personal choice, call and opinion are inherent to journalism. Yet journalism does stand for a credibility of an impartial description of reality particularly as a voice of institutional authority to a wider public.

    Much of establishment criticism was for a long time and still remains anything but “intelligent impartial observer” it implies to be, it largely became an integral part of an essentially a special interest group.

    As it is now most of official art criticism in media lost any of its credibility as an intelligent, competent, unattached observer. As it stands now, art criticism is primarily involved in a business of propaganda and advertisement, pushing very expensive goods for special vested interest. Blowing air into a Koons/Hirst bubble is a very sad example.

    Koons and Hirst are a sub-prime of the Art world - an un-substantiated by any underlying value artificial asset, hyper-inflated through blatant push on the levers of power.

    Q. How appropriate is the use of a term “contemporary” to describe just an “officially” sanctioned by establishment singular part of cultural process?

    Contemporary” as defined in Wiki dictionary is “someone or something from the same period” any other limitations on its use shall be considered an act of naked privatization by special vested interest of an ultimately public and shared asset – our common language.

    It is an action of the same kind as putting penalties on using rain water in one of Latin American countries by a multinational corp. or privatization of industrial giants built by slave labor of Gulag prisoners in the Soviet Union by the descendants of those who sent those prisoners there in the first place.

    This very simple and logical realization shall have massive implications as either the content or the name of every collection claiming being “contemporary” would have to be dramatically altered to maintain any legitimacy.

    Q. What aspects of newly emerging Realist movement are the most fascinating to you?

    Realism has perhaps 30 to 35 000 year old history, it is enormously diverse and it obviously went through many periods of drastic transformations. Yet our stage in realism’s development is I think enormously exciting and unique, particularly because of modernist and deconstructionist experience of the last century.

    It is the first time in at least few centuries that the widening appreciation of Realism happens not as a matter of habit but as a matter of a clear choice. Personally I am grateful to modernism for that. It is a deeply “re-constructionist” movement today. Positive, forward looking and bringing hope to the world in crisis. It starts from afresh and it is enormously exciting.

    I believe that American Realism is the most current form of American Non-Conformism

    Q. What are the limitations to the currently ultimate power of critic to ignore and how do you see the future of Art Criticism?

    Power to ignore is a formidable beast, yet it only works when you have the total control on the information flow either through exclusive grip on media channels or exclusive grip on credibility. Modern criticism has lost both. Blogs took away the medium while Koons/Hirst -credibility.

    In this precarious situation ignoring real and exciting trends on the ground dooms any “official arbiter” to irrelevance. They are simply missing the train, as the train of ART does not wait for anyone.

    I do believe in the Future of Art criticism much as I believe in the Future of ART itself. We do need critics’ perspective unbiased by anything except of their knowledge, competence, and brilliance. Criticism shall have various voices reflecting the richness in true ART diversity of our time and as same event in ART could be viewed from multiple viewpoints. They just have to be represented equally and no single point of view shall be in a position of an “officially sanctioned” opinions. This outlived mode simply cannot sustain any longer, as it is not reflecting a true scope of contemporary reality.

    Art criticism of the future I believe is in a unique combination of artist’s passion and journalistic integrity coming through brilliant writing. This criticism will always have a future as long as there is the last Artist and the last Viewer in the world. Critic is an ultimate and passionate viewer who just knows what he or she is looking at.

    Q. Do you believe that institutions claiming to be representative of contemporary process in Art shall be reflecting existing aesthetic diversity on the ground?

    Absolutely, without it they don’t have a moral or intellectual right to exist. The entire content of every contemporary art collection shall be dramatically reexamined to reflect the actual diversity on the ground. It is an enormously exciting process of rethinking of the basics. Yet how else the true modern Art can ever expect functioning?

    This realization came to me after I conducted what I came to call a “Utah Experiment." In a process of judging an annual show at the Springville Museum of Art instead of following the usual safe way of picking middle-of-the-road works, at my suggestion the jury went on to picking the most extreme examples in the entire range of works submitted. The result was unexpectedly fabulous. The best of realist paintings looked surprisingly good next to best abstract, conceptual and extreme alternative works, everything looked fresh and strong next to each other, the routine of same old was broken.

    I believe that this historically inevitable rethinking will actually give a new life and purpose to the institutions in deep crisis, extending their lease on life - more new projects, new comparative exhibitions, new catalogs, new conversations, new debate and primarily and mainly – a new connection to contemporary audiences.

    Q. At the MOCA panel Bennett Simpson stated and it’s a quote: “It is not Art Criticism’s Job to move Art Forward, it’s Art’s Job to move Art Forward. It used to be in the past – not any more.” For all that it means coming from such representative of the establishment, what kind of Art do you think will move the Art forward?

    I believe in a Great Art, in a pinnacle of achievement whichever form it will take, in every individual case. Just averagely good won’t be enough. If history of ART is a case study and it certainly is to me, the whole spectrum of extraordinary - from Vermeer’s direction of a profoundly close look at the ordinary and intimate to Michelangelo’s epically all-encompassing look at heroically human… There are no limitations to greatness.

    Yet from my perspective, and again, if we take history as a case study, I believe in a rise of real multi-figure composition as an inevitable next step of deeper fascination with a figure. Composition and big symphonic visual form is what is missing in our ART life. Composition gives visual purpose, as we shall not fall pray to infinite “etudism” as we called it in Russia. The purpose of etude or study is just that – study for a complete work and a process of making yourself better as an artist to accomplish it. At some point you got to use all that.

    in ART we trust!

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    “The Future of Art Criticism” and the most symptomatic panel @ MOCA on Thursday, March 25, 2010 Critiquing the Critiques – RIDE the coming wave!!

    A big disclaimer in order first – all of my personal prejudices/”editorial positions” not withstanding, this is the most thorough and honest description of what I was enormously fortunate to witness that I can master picking on what I found to be most fascinating to me personally. If you’d been there, you’d have your own take, if you in fact were there – you have. Also, it is long - sorry.

    funeral of Art criticism


    Anybody who ever wondered just how bad things really are in the formerly mercurial Arts Valhalla of fate of the art and artists weighing in their divinely guided hands demigods - just had to attend that panel.

    Curious and excited about the forward looking premises of the panel, a really top-notch level of participants and primarily the uniqueness of the fact that the panel was sponsored and initiated by the venerable Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism of USC, no less, Jeremy and I just decided, yeah…we gotta see that and just jumped into our cars to dive into the pain of LA’s rush hour. What wouldn’t you do for a freebie. What we came to experience was nothing short of shock…well nothing less could be expected from MOCA after all…yet likely not in a way participants intended.

    Instead of a welcoming party for the new, it turned out to be a funeral for the old.

    On the other hand, don’t get me wrong(unless you really want to and that’s fine too) it is precisely the sky-high level of participants that made the totality of this experience possible….like the never scoring soccer match of equals, don’t expect goal after goal – that’s mostly for light-weights, but enjoy the swift and unnoticeable subtlety of moves.

    To say that the mood was far from joyous excitement of welcoming that strange “new”, is to say nothing. In fact it was so heavy, you could cut it into bricks and it had the feel of a press conference of a short-lived August Putsch at the end of a Gorbachev era that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union or as we say in Russia “the flies were dying”…yet below this apparent dullness of dead water, I felt a tectonic shift of plates in the ocean floor of ART. Nothing less. Exciting – you bet, at some point, I wanted to jump up from my seat screaming “yeah!” Almost did. Cannot really believe some were leaving half way through.

    First the panelists:

    Andrew Berardini - a cool very young dude, wearing black, of course in super-cool glasses

    Sharon Mizota – a sharp as a tack, calm and concise heroine of Tarantino movies

    Bennett Simpson – now…that was a surprise…but that later…solid, polished, refined corner stone of the establishment…he really did carry the panel in so many ways.

    And, the best for last, moderated or rather “inquired” by an enormously intelligent

    Sasha Anawalt of Annenberg – booooooy what a lady…. gotta love democracy and its so very few remaining despite all journalists.

    And here IT began.

    After a short introduction by Richard Hendrikson of Annenberg who somehow off-hand reminded us of the “high standards of ethical behavior in journalism” to which Annenberg is solely dedicated, Sasha went right in to setting the premises of looking at past, present and future of “art journalism.”

    Every word and thought, uttered, blurred or avoided from that point on – had its weight in gold--big league indeed.

    Sasha’s Intro

    Describing the self-identification of the audience to “art” and to “journalism” done at the request of Mr. Hendrikson at the beginning, she noted “there’s part of a cross-over...there are some that probably merged quite a bit.” This sparked my self-reflection right off the bat as it was something I never thought of before that very moment.

    Proposing a quick overview of past and present, Sasha asked us to keep ours and the panelists’ minds on the future.

    “If we look backwards at criticism, at journalism really honestly, things were not that great in criticism somewhere until 1965 to 1970s. Around that period of time when the alternative press got going…this is when the incredible chime of voices from critics in all forms of ART came and people began to stand up to authority and begin to push back and make their own way and to create their own alternative press” (that alone was worth the traffic pain!!! The parallel to what we have going on now is obvious…Sasha, you got me onboard right there!!!!!!!)

    “I wanted to frame this idea of how good journalism has been up until now and what we are looking at as we go ahead… because there is a tendency to say that it was all so faaaaabulous in the past and there are things that are happening in the future and things that are happening now that are kind of interesting and exciting” (well if you choose to see them or ignore them in order to push the same old, same old, sos, AS)

    “As we move into the Future, I look at this time right now as if we were a post-shock generation” (what a perfectly huge statement for all it means to all of us coming from the place we were in - was arguing the official time in the “coroner report” for Death of Shock being the Habacuc dog, AS)

    When Sasha turned to the panelists – this is where things started to get really juicy:

    Art Writing and Journalism

    That was really a key topic of discussion and… here the fumbling began…these are not people normally known for fumbling, or lack of words, or lack of informed opinion, yet here it was… you are not gonna believe this… as little as the panelists agreed with each other on lots of the topics, apparently none of them believed that “art writing” (they also often tried to avoid the term “criticism”, interesting, ah?) is “journalism” !!!!!

    I really gasped for air when I realized this and all its implications. I turned to Jeremy whose response was, “yeah that’s one thing they agree on”

    It is perhaps after realizing this too and after thinking a split-second that Sasha seemed to reduce this big question in her mind to absolute self-evidential simplicity:

    “I am a journalist – are you?”


    Andrew: “funny term…don’t like hyphenated titles… “independent critic” - I am not independent of anything, I am a writer, someone who simply writes …I will unlikely be hired by a newspaper, …critic writing in a paper needs a definition in terms of what is journalism…(what “is” is defense, A.S.)

    “I have many friends…they all write for papers and they are not journalists… “

    “there are no publish ethics on art”(!!!!!)

    “…internet is a strange beast eating everything on its way – general consensus among journalists that it eats everything on its path”

    “journalism has its history and tradition – I’m not part of that tradition” he was even sliding back at being called a “critic” – (come on man, what’s that fumbling all about with glasses that cool, you are bound to stand for something)

    Darn that very smart guy mumbles a lot…and its not that its Andrew’s inherent inability to form his thought, it is a complete lack of any desire to stand by it, that struck me…strange for a guy his age…I wanted to tell him, dude…shake it up…you are too young for this shit, don’t dangle both sides of the argument at the ends of a mumbling string, strategic ambiguity may be good for the Taiwan issue, certainly not for Art writing!!! Make a stand, damn the torpedoes – you’ll do good…like your glasses.

    Andrew’s chronic fumbling, quite pathetic at times, was contrasted by solid unstoppable thinking process by Bennett…agree or disagree, you cannot not respect the guy


    “why should we identify as journalists?” of critics in the past “they never were journalists..”

    “the most visible part of art writing is not in papers, but catalogs, blogs increasingly…”

    “it is easy in a way to write on art – you don’t even need to write very well”

    “no offense to journalists, but there’s a lot of unreliable opinion in arts journalism too...there is a lot of unreliable opinion in the curatorial class”

    and here’s another great one from Bennett

    “ in the Art World everyone legitimizes everyone”

    Yet Bennett was the only one on the panel who pointed out:

    “There is a severe lack of understanding about facts, about deep reporting – we could take a bit from journalistic protocol…like no conflict of interest”

    Sharon: – “I am a part time journalist” (being a full time newspaper writer it is…what’s the other part Sharon?)

    Sasha – “You are younger my dear…what do you care about, what does it matter to the thought is that those youngsters don’t care about the facts and integrity…and even the fact that you don’t want to be called a journalist, as it is almost a dirty word”(!!!!!!!)

    “anybody who writes anything about anything is committing an act of journalism” (obviously covered by the rules of journalism, AS…) “Journalism does stand for credibility and pursuing the truth” (oh, that strange for the world of power word…power always needs to cover it with a mud of ambiguity…its easier to “do business” in dirty waters, AS)

    It was big. It was astonishing to me – yes, by virtue of writing these words, I am myself bound by all high standards of journalism. If in any way I fail them, please forgive me…I’m green at that.

    My Take: Why are they so afraid of this noble name…is it because not much nobility is left in a corrupt world of institutionalized Art Power…or willing defenders of any entrenched Power cannot really be called “journalists”? There are different words for that “Propaganda” or “Advertisement.”

    Is “journalism” really just a recitation of “what”, “when” and “where” given as “facts” as some panelists seem to imply to put their distance from it?! Come on, you can’t seriously believe that in a country of Fourth Estate, eroded as it is.

    Was there ever a really investigative journalistic looks at all those connections? Was there ever an attempt to prove or disprove the rumors of certain big time New York galleries with their contractually guaranteed buy back practices shut down by the SEC, for essentially fixing the markets by guaranteed buy backs...who cares about the quality of the object changing hands if the money will be paid back with fixed interest? How many of “those artists” were spun over by “king makers”?

    Are the widely quoted by media “analysts” so instrumental in blowing air into the tech and sub-prime bubbles covered by the higher ethics of journalism? Wouldn’t they be reluctant in calling themselves that which would imply adherence to “High Bar”? Weren’t so many “official” art critics not more than such “analysts” blowing air into financial bubbles of Koons and Hirst for essentially hedge funds? Were they willing or unwilling participants of that Anderson – Enron style “model”?

    In a way one might argue this “model” was first tested on a modern art market and than the tech bubble, sub-prime and such were just span out as “modern art”…unsubstantiated by any inherent quality assets with a subjectively perceived value created and inflated by all mighty class of a middle man usurping all levers of power. Now we all are victims of it. The disease killing its host.

    Oh, Sasha, I doubt that “journalism” will ever be cheered there. The only consolation here is this: that the corruption of power leads to its demise, which we are “there enough” to witness. The revived ethos of journalism though might be that lifeline. We shall now preserve the very existence of those institutions. It will otherwise remain an aloof, self-gratifying, proper etiquette adhering gathering in the grand ballroom of the Titanic.

    Art, Criticism and propaganda

    It was not an extensively covered topic, but this fascinating theme surfaced a few times and in the most interesting connotations

    Andrew: “propaganda” as image or text used for a political purpose…part of ideological trickery of wanting to convince somebody to join a cause is a derogatory term”


    “in some sense there is no neutral position, you come from position”

    In the course of discussion she brought up a view of one “multi-hyphenated” Italian curator who wanted to call everyone, journalists, artists, curators, whatever – “media workers” (shit, that sounds outright Orwellian-scary, AS) who than went on to say that “advertisement is a form of journalism”(oh yeaaaaaaaah, Sharon, lots of Wall Street guys would loooooove to see that happening)

    “….so, the newspaper industry needs to get out of this traditional idea that you can be objective or that you can be a most well informed or authoritative voice and try to acknowledge the inherent biases and subjectivity of whatever it is they are covering…” (wooooooooooow who would’ve thought of that depth of institutional crises…with stakes that high for any remains of a free society still out there…that argument could go either way – as evidence of loss of institutional power and also as main stream media becoming a much softened target for corporate interest take over… oh yeah, we can learn a lot from this woman)


    “art writing is a realm of persuasion” (well I’d agree with that!)

    and another great one

    “opinion is a nicer word for agenda” (hopefully my “agenda” is crystal clear, what about theirs?)

    “reviews are inherently about making judgments, they are meant to be persuasive”

    My Take: If the “journalism” aspect of art writing has such vehement opposition and the defenders of the existing power are by default engaged in “Propaganda” and “Advertisement”, this shall give tremendous insight into the true nature of the establishment’s Art Writing of yester-years still carried on today meaning they are pushing goods. We are talking about a multi-billion dollar businesses here and of its “special interest”. I am not aware of any other such group, yet given a so thoroughly unchecked voice under the cover of institutional credibility and “high press”. Is this what’s coming?

    The weapon of last resort

    and limitations of power to ignore

    Gotta say something about Sharon. That hyper-intelligent woman is never lacking a substantive opinion on anything and has a capacity to mint these opinions into firmly solid formulas, yet that night she was as tight-lipped as an eternally smiling Giza Sphinx with all her mental might attempting to say as little as possible in so many words. As always, she succeeded. But why, really?!

    Because if she says something – its something better to pay attention to:

    Sharon: “If we don’t like it, we just don’t write” (!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    Essentially they are knowingly and self-admittedly wielding the formerly ultimate and unchallenged power to ignore till death…thank you, Sharon, I am grateful for your dosed candidness, it is not the first time I heard you say that and it had a huge impact on me…after all critics do matter.

    Now, here comes the rub though and the ring begins to destroy its bearer – ignoring relevant trends on the ground based on personal “dislikes” wherever the source of the “opinion” might be coming from all while losing the exclusive grip on channels of information will inevitably doom that foolish “clinger-to-the-old” to… irrelevance.

    This is a classic asymmetric warfare of cultural insurgency – institutional power becomes an insurmountable liability. There is certainly nothing new here, it is always been that way on the big intersections of history and that is why the future of culture has always been decided by undergrounds. The new reality only accommodates it even greater than ever.

    This is a democratization of a cultural plane.

    Rise of blogs, amateur criticism

    and the Loss of the position of a singular power

    In a sense hugely looming in a room were…blogs


    “We know we are in the age of the internet and we know that it has spelled certain things to various large main stream organizations and certainly affected a lot of journalists who lost their jobs...”

    Then she gave an interesting quote from one of her colleagues, a well known journalism scholar: “Even if there had been no recession, no craigslist, no overleveraging - newspapers would still be letting go of many, many writers- the reason is the internet”

    “We are all becoming visually more literate…we get an idea of who is a good writer…

    there is the blurring of lines between amateur and professional journalism…there is a new journalism”

    “its all about writing, more people are doing it – museums are paying attention…”

    And again Bennett’s quote in blog connotation:

    “the most visible part of art writing is not in papers, but catalogs, blogs increasingly” (our firm POV, as best as we can master, our standing ground to the best standards that ever were – does mater now, AS)

    My Take: This is not a point of gloating now...there’s nothing to gloat about…but poor, poor “fitter-inners” – those who desperately try to fit into a system that no longer exists.

    WE TOOK THEIR POWER – revolution as a radical change in distribution of power is raging in the land….Thank GOOOOOOOOOOGLE!!!!!!

    Issue of income and making a living by writing

    Aaaaaaa the eternal question...the pay check is disappearing and so is the power and the perception of it….follow the money…and as new sources of money apparently emerge, there is an issue of conflict raised by one keenly sharp member of the audience with whom I had the privilege of a lovely chat afterwards.

    Andrew: in 60s critics writing for important publications would not be paid, which actually was disproved by Bennet who pointed out that those critics were indeed paid…

    Sharon: likes her paycheck …it is a substantial part in her considerations for writing

    Sasha: “journalists make less money that they did…it was never that much and it is much less now”

    “No one knows the new business model”…

    Insightful Audience Member: “…you can only write a critical review if your editorial layer protects you from retaliation. If they partly pay your salary directly, you do not have that insulating layer….

    My Take: so no one knows where money is going to come from the next time around, but some “creative solutions” it seems are already starting to be tested…universities could start paying for critics…it would be really funny if soon critics would be paid by the art departments of certain schools that push their “products” through the rusted pipes…power will do everything to remain just that, even if its suicidal, that’s how all revolutions happen…so Sasha’s suggestion to look at the human rights watch as a model for hiring art journalists might have a serious point… the ”journalist” part of this equation is crucial, I think in bringing to criticism any institutional credibility ever again…the Koons/Hirst over-leveraging effect is way too severe.

    Who charts the course of art

    Here comes Bennett full height…gotta tell you…anyone who knows my views on the establishment shall chuckle, contrary to all my expectations, this man totally gained my trust not through what he thinks, but through the way he thinks, don’t even know or care whether he himself realizes the massive implications of his clarity in thinking on the planes of ART…at the end of the day, we were at MOCA.

    So here it came. It came in the course of answering a question by poor newly minted “product” of the official modernist art education system. That “young and bright” essentially appealed to Art critics’ power “to promote artists”(meaning the “right kind” of artists) and was begging to enact some kind of art critical censorship on blogs…that hiding space of those villains obviously not educated enough to know “what was already done from what never was done… and who just (foolishly obviously) describe what they like”(kid you not, guys…so the critics for him are kinda patent bureau, where you suppose to register you next “innovation” in order to get a proper officially stamped “certificate” of it being “art”…everything that was happening, that is happening and will happen in the world of establishment's “official art”, are in this self-revealing question of the unsuspecting youngster)…To the panel’s great credit, that plea of desperation for divine interference by the authority of a critic-centralized and all-mighty was flatly denied by all.

    But the real BIG ONE came again from Bennett:

    “It is not criticism’s job to move Art forward, it’s Art’s job to move Art Forward…It used to be in the past – not any more.” (!!!!!!! That Bennett Simpson quote will be carved on the walls of my studio)

    Don’t anybody tell me “it was always like that”, it was not. Yes you could do whatever you wanted…permanently doomed to the Judecca of obscurity by the critic’s formerly indisputable power to ignore. Not any more.

    Andrew described the basis of this “old power” quite firmly at another point (again, for a guy so young to be so keenly aware of THIS aspect….):

    “Art has a very difficult time attaining Art status unless it’s written about…”

    so, no one shall think its an easy road forward, and still, here it is:


    “We as journalists are looking at artists to moving things forward”

    Is this also why critics are so leery of being asked to be “journalists”?

    They would have to observe and describe, not choose and prescribe.

    Critical distance and intimacy of view

    Throughout the discussion, the issue was raised a few times.

    How far or close could and shall the critic be from his or her subject? Does this really matter?

    The bigger question here would be is there a system that could be imposed on the writing individual to prevent corrupting indulgence of power?

    In my post panel conversation with Bennet, he seemed to be of an opinion that there is really not….and I would agree with that - if a person is a crook no “distance” between him and a subject will ever help…if a person is honest, no closeness will prevent from his/her truthful observation, its something I came to call “clarity of intent” and that is where true journalism can get handy – if it is there, the truth is served, if it is not – it will be raped.

    Without that clarity of intent, how could anyone presume to connect to his or her viewer, listener, reader? Once it’s lost, why shall anyone wonder seeing their world shrunk? Something else or something new will always come in its place, as this is the rule of vitality and of natural selection.

    Future of Art Criticism…that was lost in words

    As for the exciting title of the event, The Future of Art Criticism and Sasha’s initial request to keep our minds on that future – as hard as the moderator was pushing in that direction - it did not even register by the panel and was not covered by it…its simply not part of their thinking…guess they are just stuck in the past…engaged in its protection and hopelessly afraid it seems of the wave that is coming…instead of a celebration party welcoming the new – it really was a funeral for the “good’ol ways”….that much for self-described "modernism"…

    As in a very narrowly defined exhibition shown upstairs – they were stuck somewhere, like in the immortal Eagles tune, in “ ninnteeen sixty naaaaaain…”

    They did not answer Sasha’s call…they never got to the future…the panelists didn’t have a single word about the future and the gloom of their responses was their answer….they simply didn’t see it…I was awe-struck…people I grew up not to like very much suddenly showing their humanely fallible side…they do think of themselves as doomed, Valhalla indeed…oddly, right on the spot and the more I think about it now – they are wrong yet again.

    They were wrong to usurp that power, wrong to indulge on their power, they are wrong to presume it’s the end just because it’s the end of their power…they just too much identify what they do with the comfortable position of power they no longer possess. They do have the place in the process that will shape the future, it’s just not the place of power.

    Or rather the power, as a life force is always there and the new power lies not within an institution whose official stance they came to get used to representing, but with the power of their own brilliance, knowledge and conviction checked only by their own standards of conduct and clarity of intent that they cannot not apply to themselves. The reader, just like the listener or the viewer will relate to it and know the difference.

    This is the Power of ART, which is the ultimate power.

    And then Sasha threw in a truly heart wrenching question…

    “In a discussion with various art organizations…we asked what you would do if papers went away…what would you do? Do you care as artists that people are writing about you?”

    Shit, guys…this is a question to us!!!!!!! I’m sorry…I care…I care enough to spend, what, already five days of my life writing this…and it is not my job…I care so much.

    I WANT TO KEEP READING PAPERS if for nothing else than to have something to bitch about…but its gotta be interesting…and constantly recirculating highly politicized crap of how really faaaaaaaaab Jeff Koons or Demian Hirst or whatever the next pushed on us product of their “approved” machine might be - is not!!!

    Where was a discussion on Habacuc’s dog, I am asking you?! Just don’t back-peddle like it never happened – it did. Cover-ups never work. It raised profound issues for the future of ART and culture questioning very premises upon which current system is built and for all it implies, it was an Art Hiroshima like event, that yes might’ve been hard to swallow for some. Yet, by avoiding topics like that you marginalize your cultural relevance. You don’t want to go down with the house.

    The Elephant in the Room

    The Elephant in the room was actually not in the room, but the menacing figure of the formidable dean of LA’s art criticism was still looming large. Chris Knight, too mercurial or too smart to be pinned in a crossfire of any panel was popping his insistent shadow time and time again, his coverage of MOCA and Getty troubles as well as his dual status of reporting on facts and giving his opinion duly noted by everyone.

    Sasha: “you will have to wait till Chris Knight dies before even thinking of doing something…not any more”(interesting observation)

    The Liberation of CritiCism

    Somewhere in the middle Sasha gave a question that also fell on deaf ears with the panel and was never elaborated upon, maybe because it’s so much connected to the issue of the future:


    “so is that a form of freedom that the age of the internet has allowed/art writers/?”

    and yet again:

    “I’d like to know, what we’ve gained in freedom at the moment?”

    That fell on deaf ears.

    Yet the question is great.

    Speaking of Chris and of the future of Art Writing.

    Lets take a look at the disastrous Chris Knight review of the unprecedented showing of Leonardo’s drawings at the Italian Cultural Institute.…when he trashed, the incredible for so many reasons “Angel In A Flesh”. He called it “one ugly drawing.” THAT late Leonardo…He farther praised Queen Victoria for getting rid of it from the British Royal collection. ” Maybe Vickie was just acting on an opinion of aesthetic dismay” he said. He did it for one simple reason – a complete lack of any comprehension of the life in a studio of a figurative artist, of which this drawing is a product of and for which it stands as its most fascinating evidence…according to me, it is.

    Ok, if you didn’t see it - it’s the most magnificent rendering of a head and shoulders in Leonardo’s late full sfumato power, a highly developed study for incredible St. John The Baptist in the Louvre…there is an unsettled issue of a foreshortened right arm only started with a thin outline and that as it is now, feels short slightly, but I’m quite certain, had he developed it further – he would have proved that it works…various degrees of development and settling specific visual problems is always one of the most fascinating aspects of a drawing and the source of an endless excitement of looking at it.

    So, the head is the point of pure marvel, the right arm is an example of most engaging and satisfying mental exercise…and now comes the total fun…at some point and for whatever reason things heat up for the old man – he suddenly adds an enormously excited manhood to his drawing! The paper’s too short, it never meant to be a full figure, Leonardo was…ehhhhh, sort of ok with proportions…so to connect IT, he shortened the torso - I just physically hear the roaring laughter of whomever to whose delight he did it.

    It was a joke, for Gods of all no good’s sake. It was a studio prank!!! Who doesn’t have a stack of those?! This is just Leonardo’s prank…calling that a “one ugly drawing” is just as much of a plain dumb pompous buffoon act as to de-assess this jewel from the Windsor collection in the first place for, oh…”suuuuuch impropriety”.

    That said….I think that was one of the most effective reviews ever…Chris wrote what he thought. Given the fact that Leonardo’s standing will hardly suffer from any “highest disapproval” weather its HM Granny of Europe or HM grandpa of LA’s art critics – its funny, its interesting…gives me something to read and chuckle over, to disagree with and to write about…

    It’s not worth not saying what’s on your mind, guys. If a big enough of a carrot can always and will always be used as a stick – yours just shrunk – shoot away! We’ll love it, we’ll read it!

    This is what the future of Art Criticism is I think at the end – the dia-tria-quadro-log of interesting voices in all informational mediums…with no pretense to finality, as such does not exist. Wasn’t THAT called “dialogue” once upon a time? At the age of the “founders” and before the arrival of “profiteers”? No more monologues to, as in the famous ending to Pushkin’s Godunov, “the people are silent.” Its just one of the opinions, it had better be an interesting one to be regarded…and yes, I do want to read it, physically in a paper.

    So, don’t worry too much over your future guys…just make it!


    So what is that strange mix that makes art writing and how does journalism fit into it?

    Yes, I’d agree with Bennett, art writing undoubtedly has its distinction from journalism features, and that, yes, Andrew, makes it close to literature and poetry…yet, the ever-menacing role of unchecked arbiter in a very real, special interest laden micro-world – screams of a need for higher journalistic standards. You are artists at heart and journalists by social function as your word has massive institutionalized implications.

    That is what makes true Art Writing of the future so distinctly special – It Shall have the passion of ART and credibility of Journalism…high bar indeed, yet how can anything less be expected if the future of 21st century culture is at stake?!

    So, what about the future?! The Future is great in my it always is!!!

    Artists liberated from the burden of fate-sealing critics…

    Critics liberated from the prison cell of their own former much misplaced power

    ART thrusting on its eternal course, unconstrained by institutional weight

    Down with the old thoroughly totalitarian, system of Arts establishment – it does not reflect the world of a newly democratized cultural plane, it cannot see new realities around it as it thinks they are beneath it, it’s incapable of transforming its function into a newly multi-polar aesthetically world. Down with it. Let the river of ART flow.

    We received two enormously important gifts:

    Sasha gave us a blank check as journalists, so we have to hold ourselves to higher journalistic standards, basically saying exactly what we think, observing events around us and of which we are part of to the best of our positive, forward looking intent and to the fullest of our ability.

    Bennett gave us a blank check as artists (don’t try to pin me saying we don’t need anyone’s permission, i certainly don’t) yet understanding of an Artist as a driving force of the Art world…no, it was not like that in the “official” art world…just as NYT of last Feb put it – its back to Artists now to define ART – not to critics as much as they liked this position and not even to curators…and that’s exactly what Bennett said and that’s exactly what it means…it is ALL back to us now…not to gloat, but to work…

    That is what future Art is all about and as long as Andrew is right in thinking of himself as just a writer who writes, there will be writers, who will write on what they fall in love with, on what is going on in the real ART world around them …because they cannot do otherwise…as long as we as artists paint our hearts out!!!!

    There is no more “structure” to tell us that what we do is “wrong” – ITS ALL UP TO US NOW.

    The BRUSH has the final word.

    VIVA NOVO!!!!!!!!

    Big Quotes:

    “we are a post-shock generation” Sasha Anawalt

    “criticism shall be a part of literature” Andrew Berardini

    “if we don’t like it, we don’t write” Sharon Mizota

    and the quote of the night:

    “It is not criticism’s job to move Art forward, it’s Art’s job to move Arts Forward…It used to be in the past – not any more.” Bennett Simpson