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Although painted, not in any sense a painting!

Not a week after the end of the presidential campaign, I'd have imagined myself pretty well inured to bullshit. Our first visit to Dia:Beacon, though, made me realize that no such thing was the case. As Claire and I walked around, considering the work of artists who, for the most part, lack perceptible skill, wit, or imagination, but who are absolutely bloated with audacity and pretentiousness, we found ourselves marveling ever more slack-jawedly at the laminated pages of curator commentary provided for the visitor's enlightenment. Behold this, about Blinky Palermo's fantastically expressive (he said sarcastically) rectangles in primary colors:

"Palermo applied the paint evenly by hand, eliminating any sense of gestural activity and allowing the brush to leave only slight striations or irregularities. Rather than betraying an authoral presence, this barely perceptible facture serves to attest to the manual and notional activity of handling paint in and of itself."

Word! But around the corner, it gets even better. Writing about the work of Robert Ryman, most of whose stuff might not have had titles like Unstarted (1973) and Blank Canvas (1982), but should have, our unnamed hero or heroine explains:

"Seemingly provisionally installed on small foam blocks, it is nonetheless a wall of sorts, and so creates a dialectic with the gallery wall on which it is braced, a wall that, although painted, is not in any sense a painting. By resolutely insisting on the distinction between the thematic aspect of painting and its physical materiality identity, these works fully express the idea that the relationship of paint to support, though born of material practicality, is ultimately grounded in [the] painting's capacity to explore theoretically its own activity."

It will henceforth be impossible for me to glance admiringly at the metal Schweppes sign Claire gave me for my birthday a few years ago, a sign depicting a leggy blonde with early-'60s hair of the sort that I love so much, without savoring its dialectic with the wall to which I have affixed it. For that, and for my future resolute insistence on the distinction between wall and sign, I have Dia:Beacon to thank.

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Comment by Chuck Pompeii on November 10, 2008 at 9:37am
The Hub? The Frog? Where are these wondrous places? Not, mind you, that I would want anyone to buy me the defiantly insipid beer-flavored soda pop that is Bud. If silly bourgeois intellectuals signal their commonality by admiring mirrors in sand piles, American men of a certain caste, brainwashed by TV, signal their own by guzzling Bud.
Comment by Chuck Pompeii on November 10, 2008 at 8:31am
"To appreciate it," writes La Vesuvius, "takes a great curiosity of intellect and spirit. I can only recommend taking a curatorial tour one day with a staff member." On the first count, The Great Curiosity of Intellect and Spirit required is precisely that necessary to marvel at the stylishness of the emperor's new clothes. Pretending to like this stuff is how a certain kind of intellectual signals to others that he or she is of the same caste. As for curatorial tours, can you say sophistry? The moment the tour leader began trying to thoodwink and bully me with notions like an essentially blank cavnvas having "a dialectic [no mere dialogue, mind you!] with the gallery wall on which it is braced," I would find a way to make myself fart quite resonantly.

As for the idea that this stuff must be good, since it's greatly valued by the art world both aesthetically and monetarily... In the first instance, I acknowledge that the Certain Kind of Silly Bourgeois Intellectual I posited above gets off in a big way on pretending to see great profundity in a mirror jammed into a sandpile, but her doing so doesn't make the mirror in the sandpile profound. As for it's being valued monetarily, well, Danielle Steele and John Grisham being highly valued in the world of letters doesn't mean they're not horrid writers.
Comment by Tom Church on November 10, 2008 at 7:32am
I would have to say the Sol LeWitt Exibit was the only one I really liked last time I was there...although the car parts where pretty cool as well. As a drafter I really enjoyed the LeWitt exibit though.
Comment by Chuck Pompeii on November 9, 2008 at 6:50pm
I like the building. I find the vast majority of the art displayed within the building pretentious nonsense. The emperor is wearing no clothes, folks. He's digging an enormous hole, calling it Negative Sculpture, and snickering at silly bourgeois intellectuals from behind a two-way mirror for taking it seriously. There isn't a sign painter in Dutchess County whose work doesn't eat Blinky fucking Palermo's lunch.

The f-word is colorful, and emphatic, but must be used, as here, with exquisite discretion.
Comment by Chuck Pompeii on November 9, 2008 at 4:10pm
All right. I've relented. But I am no more comfortable with your wanton misuse of the subjunctive in "were deleted from the headline."
Comment by Chuck Pompeii on November 9, 2008 at 4:03pm
Then I shall have to live without the pleasure of your comment, madam. I shall not be stymied; hurrah! Let freedom, you know, ring!

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