Reply to J.D.




taylor nouveau


This reply takes off from John Dockus’s comment at the bottom of the Gage Taylor post. Rather than have it buried there I’m continuing below.:

Hi John,

I’m fine with psychologizing about art. Just not going into the TMZ stuff, i.e. stuff like Norman Rockwell’s homosexuality as speculated on by Deborah Solomon. In other words, I don’t want to get into speculating about an artist’s private life or psychological motivations. I know you weren’t doing this. I’m just clarifying that I don’t disapprove of all psychological interpretation of artwork.

I believe that in all great art the aesthetic considerations are at the lowest level of artistic concerns. They’re a byproduct of the spiritual/emotional concerns. I doubt very seriously that Michelangelo or Rembrandt were that concerned about how pretty the blue was they were going to color a robe with. Greenberg’s art for art’s sake has led to a lot of hoakum.  I’m just attempting to clean it up. Painting today is little more than an arm of the fashion/entertainment complex. What content is there to painting today other than aesthetic content? I hope you’re not going to maintain that John Currin’s and Eric Fischl paintings are saying something other than we live in a decadent culture. Is there anybody not aware of this? I expect art to make us aware of something that isn’t perfectly obvious. And to do that it needs to have human, or psychological, content. There isn’t anything of John Currin or Eric Fischl in their paintings, unless the pair of them are totally vacuous. The total lack of feeling or empathy in that kind of work verges on the psychopathic. This is characteristic of a majority of contemporary art, and why see it as a pure reflection of the corporate elite who support and demand this kind of art work?

The Greenberg art picks strikes me as similarly dehumanized.

Greenberg wrote: “As it is, psychopathy has become endemic among artists and writers, in whose company the moral idiot is tolerated as perhaps nowhere else in society.”

Greenberg is describing himself. He was decrying the lack of morality in artists at a time Ezra Pound was being awarded the Bollingen Prize in Literature. He wasn’t quarreling with the aesthetic judgement of the panel. He was writing a jeremiad about them condoning any moral or intellectual failing on the artist’s part as long as he is or seems a successful artist.

Greenberg was making spurious spiritual claims for the artists he was about to propose as achieving the heights of artistic achievement. He was well aware, being a charlatan, that one needed that kind of pitch for an American audience tuned into religious charlatans.

I don’t think Agnes Martin/Mark Rothko were profound painters by a long stretch. No doubt this will stoke the rage of the Agnes and Rothko devotees but what can I do about it? How dare another artist say something against sainted figures? They’re nice enough paintings, but raising them to the perch on which they rest now? Totally absurd. They seem more like religious nuts to me than anything else. Clyfford Still and his Manicheanism. Mondrian and his Theosophy. But Americans believe in all kinds of other religious fantasies and so the fac that these artists have some seemingly deep “spiritual” beliefs makes their art appear profound. On the contrary, as far as I’m concerned. Still is totally unconvincing to me precisely because he was a Manichean nutjob. I don’t believe that Jimmy Swaggart has access to profound truths. Why would I believe Clyfford Still did? And if he didn’t what’s so interesting about large masses of palette-knife applied earth colors?

One can’t stain a canvas with some pleasant colors like Helen Frankenthaler/Paul Jenkins/Morris Louis and 30,000 other painters imitating them and end up with anything other than a pleasant wall decoration (at best). What else is changing these colored pours into art other than a pseudo-religious belief system called “art”? And that this art is some mystical and sublime phenomenon that only the deeply spiritual/intellectual elite armed with Clement Greenberg’s Art and Culture Bible are privy to.

Morris Berman in “Why America Failed” chronicles this ability of Americans to fall for whatever cheap hustle comes by tracing it back to the creation of the country. Religious fanaticism is the air we breath and the American ART belief is just one among many pseudo-religious beliefs. Maybe one of these religions is right for all I know. But I’d say the ART religion is one of the more unlike prospects. The American Art Bubble is no different from real estate/stock swindles of the past and present. Bronze Beer Cans as the pinnacle of Western Culture. Hey. I give us credit. It’s no small achievement to have pulled that off. But everyone is in a panic to keep the illusion going. Wizard of Oz America. If Jasper Johns isn’t an artistic genius then the entire world of the art lover crumbles to dust. Right? Sure one can let the odd Keith Haring or Marcel Dzama go… but the very pillars of American Genius like Rauschenberg, Warhol Johns? Heresy!!!! Doubters must be burned (symbolically) at the stake. We’re a country of religious fanatics and that doesn’t just pertain to the right wing Christian fundamentalists. The  Art Fundamentalist liberals are equally unquestioning and dogmatic about their beliefs as are the right wing conservatives.

And we all live in a cultural wasteland as a result.

This isn’t the case today? Am I imagining it? The French Independent artists had the vitality to knock Cabanel and Meissonier off their high horses… But American artists/art lovers? Cast an aspersion on Jasper Johns or Warhol and they go into hysterics.

Have you the seen the WSJ today? Total idiocy. “It is not quite design; it is not quite art,” said Ruse co-founder Fernando Cwilich Gil. “It’s invisible, conceptual, kinetic. An algorithm is unique.” So is my ass. But that doesn’t make it art.

I brought up Fragonard in connection to what you say about Taylor and eye candy. Eye candy is when there’s no depth of emotion. Vermeer is flawlessly and beautifully seductive. But there’s a quality present in his work that isn’t present in a and flawlessly painted still life. It’s why the hierarchy of genres was instituted and we’ve torn that to shreds.

I’m not a materialist.  Post-War American Art became completely materialistic because the capitalist structure that instituted and maintains it is completely materialistic. If a work of art isn’t conveying spirit, I don’t recognize it as a work of art. It’s just a material object. Duchamp/Greenberg explicitly or implicitly assert this. Greenberg was a complete gasbag, like the critics who followed in his destructive wake. It’s all enshrined now as Gospel. But I prefer the Old Time Religion. And it’s more than good enough for me. Today’s fare is as thin a gruel as I can imagine. Like Duchamp, Greenberg he was a charlatan and a liar. There is ample record of this if one looks at them at all closely. I don’t write this out of anger or hatred. They’re simply facts. The historical research shows it. I’m not a big fan of liars and charlatans.

And I don’t share the definition of art that America has passed on to the world, which is essentially written by Duchamp/Greenberg.

I think some readers might try looking at the Gage Taylor and Clyfford Still paintings above in comparison to one another. Strip away all the critical bilge lavished on Still and see what their actual opinion is. Post War American Art theory managed to upend and reverse all the values that pertained to the painting preceding it. Stripping out all the qualities that made oil painting such a rich and profound visual experience, leaving it emptied of anything but a lot of material applied more or less crudely,,, with palette knife, dripped from a stick, poured from a can, thrown from above…

If art is going to return to having any significance or meaning it’s going to have to re-establish the values that we aimlessly destroyed.

Stay well,

Sir Bart

PS… no need to follow up on my own personal obsession with the total corruption of all things good in art. I don’t mind just sticking to aesthetics if that’s your primary interest/concern.

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11 Responses to Reply to J.D.

  1. johndockus says:

    Greetings, Bart. (Or Sir Bart – that made me laugh.) I’m gladdened and grateful that you’ve seen fit to pick up the thread of our conversation and to continue it here. Thank you.

    You know, I’m capable of getting into the meat of what’s wrong with art today, separating the con artists and charlatans from those who are more genuine and true, but you definitely appear to have more strength and vigor, more of an active hatred and anger, than I do. I feel a need to conserve my energy, and so find myself more trying to understand those artists I personally feel moved and inspired by, than getting too involved in Sturm und Drang and fire & brimstone sessions. Again, I see the points you’re making, and I don’t disagree. Just as art has been thinned out and debased, an unnecessary and pretentious jargon insinuating itself into it like a worm eating the apple from within and turning it to brown mush, psychology itself in its potent and original sense has perhaps followed a likewise trajectory and has suffered similar abuse.

    I think psychology, used properly, is an implicit and organic part of art, and of the better kind of art criticism and appreciation, like the flower and all its parts giving rise to the fragrance. I myself don’t use psychology in the sense of taking apart the flower, and killing it, to understand it. You could say I seek correspondences, to move in a living relation to another artist and the spirit of his or her work. I find it thrilling to do so. I also feel extremely humbled by practicing psychology, not merely for its own sake, but as an intrinsic part of this kind of poetic-philosophic writing which explores in honesty of heart and with an instinct and desire for truth.

    Ultimately, in writing about Turner, you are appealing to his very spirit as if he was sitting in the room with you as a silent witness, watching attentively while you try your best to understand him and do justice to his spirit as it has manifested and communicated to us through his body of work. Undoubtedly there are things one might write about him and his work upon which he would frown severely.

    This brings me to the question: Who are some or even just a couple of the critics you respect and love the most, and who among writers about art are your favorites? I think the highest forms of criticism, planted in soil and then blossoming, become an art too, providing this inward musical accompaniment which has a sonorous echo and moves us into contemplative celebration.

    A hearty good day to you!


  2. trueoutsider says:

    Sir John,

    What you’re reading as hatred and anger or (sturm und drang) isn’t that at all. And there’s where the psychologizing presents problems. For anything to rise to level of hatred for me it would need to be that I’m under serious attack that really threatens me and so I felt I needed to act to ward it off or even take action. While the corruption is indeed destroying the art institutions that I love I don’t feel threatened by it. If I thought I could change it I might also be angry (Hatred isn’t an emotion I’ve felt for years–even with much worse malefactors than anybody in the art world could be). So I think what I’m writing is getting exaggerated in your mind as you’ve created a certain picture of me that’s false.

    I’m 62 years old, with a wonderful wife, son and bad back (remember to sit up straight while drawing or do stretches!)

    I have a lot of writing on Turner on my blog going back to the beginning where I was writing about him extensively. But it’s primarily biographical, historical and investigations of materials he used. I don’t feel qualified to “interpret” artwork because I don’t “read” paintings in the say you seem to do. I think it perfectly ok to do, if I understand correctly that this is what you’re doing. And I know people who do and I’m interested in what they’re seeing. Take a painting like Hopper’s Nighthawks at the Diner. As Hopper has stated there are no psychological meanings in his work but his only concern is light. Perhaps what any landscape painter would say. One could make up a narrative in one’s mind and locate it in that particular time period as we’re given enough period details. But I personally find that the more specific I would get in conjectures about the painting telling any particular story, e.g., why one character is wearing this or that outfit and what the placing of the figures indicates, takes me further away from the experience of the actual painting. It’s a distancing mechanism and I prefer to enter into paintings on a mystical level (for lack of a better word)… The communication in a painting that is meaningful for me is non-verbal and communicates on the level of the non verbal, just as music does. If I listen to Bach I avoid my mind running through stories and analysis of the music, if that analogy perhaps explains it better.

    But for this blog, since I’m not looking at painting, just reproductions of them there’s no problem presented. While everyone else seemingly has made the general acceptance that they’re looking at the actual work when seeing digital images I haven’t by a long shot. I’m not sure why this is the case. I was on the NP painting forum where all the artists there were engaging in the delusional activity of trying to identify the particular pigment in a Rubens detail one of them had put up.

    How fantastically deluded could these artists be I had to wonder…That’s what gets me in trouble more than anything else. I try to point out that these people are not looking at the Rubens painting but God only knows how many distortions of the color and value through translations in different media… (Perhaps a scan from a book reproduction then played with by whoever scanned it then put up on the internet then the vagaries of individual computer monitors)…

    It was total madness but instead of sheepishly admitting what they were doing was absurd I was the one being a “troublemaker.” Perhaps they thought I was angry and filled with hate? I’m certainly filled with frustration that so many artists don’t bother to engage their brains and that there’s simply no way of pointing this out if one isn’t an authority holding a PhD, all of whom most artists seemingly worship as the voice of total authority. I think what you’re reading as anger is more like my speaking as stentoriously as possible to see if anything I say will register. In today’s world, people like myself who speak quietly and humbly are simply stomped on or ignored. So I have to mimic the blowhards to try to get across. It doesn’t do much good either, I’m afraid, but at least I can express my frustration.

    I love the Wizard of Oz where the scarecrow only needs his diploma to have a brain.

    It matters to me far more what has happened to artists being turned into trained lemmings than the financial corruption of the art world –but the two go hand in hand.

    I’ll have to think about your question regarding art critics/historians I like. Why don’t you tell me some you have in mind. I don’t pick up art magazines so I wouldn’t know who was writing in them. Isn’t it all just sales talk? Is there anything that could be deemed actual criticism? I had an adviser in grad school who wrote for Art Forum. She told me that Ed Paaschke painted like Ingres. She was serious. I rolled my eyes and she came down off it a bit. But that’s what art writers are trained to do, hyperbolize the accomplishments of artists to the point they make no sense whatsoever. I’d like to know how you see and who you think worth reading if you are reading art magazine criticism.

    My friend Margaret Krug used to write for American Artist prior to it’s demise. I like John Alexander Parks who wrote for the magazine as well. I also like both their paintings so that helps, of course.


    • johndockus says:

      Hi Bart:

      I don’t want to get too hung up on psychology as if this is all I do. It’s just inherent in a living and breathing use of language. If one denies it, one can only become contradictory and even hypocritical. There is no such thing as Pure Objectivity, or there is only as an illusion after a radical negation and denial of self; and even then, all traces couldn’t be eradicated, just as there is no such thing as Absolute Silence. We don’t write as corpses but as human beings. – Neither of us are like the work of Donald Judd in our writing. Dig up the roots of any objective presentation of art, and you’ll find something far more complex in any writer about art, which includes a particular subjectivity and experience of the world. You yourself have your biases and prejudices, your loves and hates, a beating heart and a thinking brain and a particular experience of life and art. You’re an extremely subjective writer, actually making very little attempt to scale back and tone down for easier listening and acceptance by others of what you express. I bet you have many followers, who love the artists and the art you post, but they seriously hesitate or simply don’t leave any comments for fear of being caught on your bad side. You’re a very strong and knowledgeable individual, Bart, with a roar like a lion or a bear, and many artists are more like birds. To get them to come, you must be still and calm while holding the bird-seed out in the palm of your hand. Some of what you write is akin to a shouting at and then a shouting down, not so much a talking out let alone a singing. It’s a rough and tumble writing, which I suppose has its virtue. You’re clearly passionate and no-nonsense, and don’t edit or censor yourself. You candy-coat nothing and don’t hide what you really think, what you love, and what you — (call it what you will, punctuating it by swinging a clenched fist into the air, and exclaiming, “That is a fact!”).

      Maybe it’s different for someone else encountering your writing, but I do personally experience – not all – but certain areas of it as angry and hateful, and now that you mention it – and I’m very glad you did – frustration. Maybe I’m slightly off, or not getting in a more fine-tuned way where you’re coming from, but that’s what I’ve generally experienced. Our first encounter led you to react by deleting my comments. It was a violent reaction, a practicing of censorship in fact (always ironic to me among artists), not a calm and considered response. How am I to interpret that? If not angry, if you don’t like that term, let’s just say you were very unhappy with me. Maybe I should go get my own head examined. You followed by putting down what I had written as psychobabble, then deleted all comments, including your own, in a sense cleansing the space with fire. Then after a cooling down period you came around and reposted my one comment, adding your own, I took the olive branch, extended it back to you which you took in peace, and we found a mutually satisfying connection, and now we are in a back and forth, sorting things out, and can very well end up being good friends. I have a sense there is no in-between with you. One is either a friend with you… or an enemy. You have taken upon yourself a kind of “I against the whole world” mentality.

      I think of Atlas, or of Hercules, or of Sisyphus. Sisyphus would be the worst. That’s epic frustration, condemned to push a boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down to the bottom, having to start all over, and doing this for all eternity.

      Maybe the first responsibility of a good critic is honestly acknowledging one’s own emotions, not denying them while still coming with a full head of steam.
      That reminds me a little of my own Dad, when he pounds the table and shouts, “Damn it! I’m not upset!” Then goes on being really upset. It’s really an impossible situation, an absolute conversation killer. Everyone ends up walking away and avoiding him, feeling like they’re walking on eggshells.

      When I look at certain satirical drawings by George Grosz or by James Ensor, a suffering hatred is palpable to me in how figures are mockingly or grotesquely depicted, a seething and searing contempt, definite targets in mind for a kind of bile they had in them, a release of venom which was a pressing need, a desire to wound if not completely eradicate an oppressor if they had their heart’s desire, which may have been accompanied by mad laughter while being drawn, but am I to interpret this as anything else? It’s hard for me to look at those drawings and not see this suffering hatred and ridicule, which – I must add – is exactly why those drawings are so effective.

      If I saw a child crying on a street corner, I couldn’t be objective about it, only talking about the clothes the child is wearing, whether the color combination is tasteful, the tailor who made the clothes satisfactory, knowing his quality fabrics and where to cut and stitch, and whether the boy’s haircut is well-done, and objecting if it was done using an electric razor. I experience the emotion of the boy first and foremost, not what he is wearing or his mere style, being emotionally attuned and empathetically connected as a fellow human being. You may be shocked to learn that I extend this emotional attunement and empathy to Jasper Johns, Agnes Martin, Marcel Duchamp, and any number of other individuals for whom you have your own names. The ad hominem attack is the weakest form of argument even though it gets the quickest and most immediate results. Politicians use it all the time. I see humanity first and foremost, and from here, from this felt humanity, I then move into talking about the particular work a person did, and what kind of value it has or lacks.

      Maybe this is something we could both agree on, and use as a guide for our interaction, the keystone or foundation stone, the gauge for determining value: A great work of art has a beating heart and appeals to universal emotion.

      My fingers are crossed that you take this reply in a good way, for I certainly mean it in a good way, with warmth, as a contribution for the strengthening our relationship. Like you, I’d like to turn my attention more to writing about and celebrating great artists and their art. I haven’t yet explored at length your blog. Which posts are you proudest of and suggest I should start out with?



      P.S. I tried to find more info about Gage Taylor on-line, because I really love this artist and his work. I thank you so much for introducing his work at your blog. I found a couple photos of him, and this wonderful and moving tribute and love letter to him just before he died written by his wife Uriel Dana.

  3. trueoutsider says:

    John, you were talking psychobabble and you’re continuing to do so. I give you and inch and you take a mile. You might have some burning need to get into psychological issues, … your dad pounding the table and saying he’s not angry when he is angry you transfer to me saying I’m not angry but that I really am angry.

    I’m not angry. If you’re going to persist with your nonsense and yes, psychobabble, this conversation is going to terminate and I’m going to just yes, censor, everything written by you.

    Why? I don’t want somebody coming onto my blog and mischaracterizing me as angry and filled with vitriolic and that I’m making ad hominem attacks.

    I am not making ad hominem attacks. Duchamp and Greenberg were charlatans and liars. To call Ivan Boesky or Michael Milken charlatans and liars is not an ad hominem attack. It’s at the root of a description of what has happened to the art world. And something you seem either blissfully unaware of or totally indifferent to. This means you have no interest whatsoever in the truth, but want to simply pontificate about how something does or doesn’t move you. That’s art for art’s sake. If you are going to engage in it, you could at least have the good manners to not to make ad hominem attacks on yours truly.

    You’ve never met me. You have no idea whether I’m angry or hate-filled or any of the other nonsense you persist in dropping on my head, totally ignoring what I’ve told you two or three times already.

    In effect, you’re either calling me a liar or a faker.

    It’s a little rude, to say the least. You go on to say what great friends you want to be… This is what you did the first outing and why I censored the entire thing. I don’t host on my blog people who attack what I write for no legitimate reason, all the while saying how direct and blunt it is. It’s my style. Live with it or fuck off. I take it you don’t read Celine, Bukowski, Hunter Thompson or Grosz or any other writers who express a sense of moral outrage in their writing? And my work hardly rises to that level.

    You might look at the objects of Grosz’s satire and vitriol. Adolf Hitler and company? What would your solution have been in Grosz’s situation? Portrait painting of the virtuous Aryan Brotherhood? Stay away from negativity and be positive about life, lest you upset your fans and collector base?

    I’m having a hard time making sense of anything you’re writing. Sorry.

    If you want to try to, first of all, apologize for calling me a liar, and then try to explain why you would find Grosz’s quite accurate depictions of political corruption and the menace of fascism in Weimar Germany as not heroic behavior as opposed to mean-spirited anger and rage directed at the human race in general as you describe it I’d like to hear it. Perhaps you can start with that.


  4. trueoutsider says:

    PS. … I’m not angry at you, John… I write quickly and to the point as ideas and questions enter my head. Do a search on Turner and read the Turner stuff… There won’t be any of the “vitriolic” art world commentary that you seemingly are so offended by due to having such delicate sensibilities. I can’t temper what I’m writing for people who want to live in aestheticized bubbles entirely ignoring real world realities. They have tens of thousands of other art sites to get that kind of writing. They’re better off there. I’m not trying to build a readership at all. Wether I have 10 readers or 10 thousand readers isn’t a concern. I’m not arguing and so I’m making no ad hominem arguments. I’m trying to research and report on the truth.

    If you’re going to be a hindrance to that instead of a help, I’m afraid I don’t have to time for your insisting on arguing with me.


    • johndockus says:

      Thanks, Bart. I don’t live in an aestheticized bubble at all. I’m quite real, down to earth, and am no pushover. If I’m attacked, I’ll attack back. As you do, I also call it like I see it. You see, you can report on “truth” of others, but what if this same sensibility you practice on others, relentlessly, is directed back at you? For me “To thine own self be true”, but also “know thyself.” Going back to what I wrote before, in writing of others and their art, I do try to be faithful to the spirit of that artist, as if that artist was sitting here next to me as a silent witness. This keeps me honest – and fair, and keeps conversation open, a space which allows others to enter and voice their own point of view. I mean, who has a claim on “truth” anyway? It’s tremendously arrogant to assume that one has the whole truth, owning it like a possession. I think truth manifests more as something we get glimpses of, and everyone participates in. It’s a matter of opening one’s eyes and really looking. I think in this we’re in total agreement: we live in such a speeded up world these days, that many individuals don’t have the time or don’t stop and really look. The art of Looking and Listening is being lost in this world of soundbites and internet surfing and such.

      Again, Bart, just to be sure, honestly, I really like you and totally relate to your point of view. I think we have much that we agree on. We’re just working stuff out here, and getting familiar with each other. I think you have much to teach and much of value to say about art. I really do. I’m not just flattering you.

      Of course we haven’t met each other in person, which makes things more difficult for us. The first phases of getting to know someone new, especially over subject matter both are passionate about, are always messy and sloppy and contain certain assumptions and inaccuracies, things a little off, or even wildly off. I realize this, Bart. For this I apologize to you and appeal to your tolerance. Thank you for cutting me some slack. I’ll do the same for you, for not everything you’ve written in reply to me exactly hits the mark either.

      Well, I have some things to do. I’ll definitely visit your Turner posts when I have the time. I want to keep this back and forth line of communication open with you, and will try not to trouble or annoy you in the future. I appreciate you taking the time in replying to me, and for keeping my comments posted.

      I made a mistake in my “P.S.” – that was Gage Taylor’s ex-wife who wrote that. Apparently Gage Taylor got remarried, but still remained accessible and kept a friendship with his ex, which speaks to the kind of character he had, how he existed in his relationships. Still a very moving and generous and heartfelt letter from her to him just before he died. I was glad to stumble upon that.

      Have a good evening, and best in return –

      Sir John bows and doffs his feathered hat, looking quite ridiculous in his harlequin leotard with cod piece and satin cape on, but not really giving a damn what anyone thinks, or rather knowing what is probably thought, and finding the juxtaposition funny, smiling while keeping his chin up and walking away with his hands on his hips.

  5. trueoutsider says:

    I’m not claiming absolute truth. Obviously. Do me a favor. When you want to make an attack on what I say, please do it directly and take a pull quote. I’m one comment by you away from deleting all of this. Not because I’m angry. But because it’s a lot of nonsense. And I don’t want it on the blog. I indulged in this kind of nonsensical banter of people talking past each other when it was amusing years ago. It isn’t anymore. No offense. No attack.

    If you want to answer what I asked we’ll continue. Otherwise I’m removing all of this. I don’t have time for it. I have work to do. The question again:

    Explain why you would find Grosz’s quite accurate depictions of political corruption and the menace of fascism in Weimar Germany as not heroic behavior as opposed to mean-spirited anger and rage directed at the human race in general as you describe it I’d like to hear it. Perhaps you can start with that.

    • johndockus says:

      I’m short on time, Bart, I must leave here shortly. So pardon the brevity. In regards to Grosz, I don’t think what I wrote is incommensurate or in contradiction with what you’ve written here at all. I was pointing out the emotional state for such work to be created, the condition for authentic satire which has teeth in it. Of course it was heroic, Grosz’s depictions, absolutely. He didn’t disappear into painting pretty pictures, but used his gift and skill to express atrocities and moral ugliness and degradation. Goya’s Disasters of War could be brought into the discussion. Related, we could also talk about the poetry of Paul Celan, an incredible poet, very important, who had family members killed by the Nazis in concentration camps and himself survived the ordeal. Since language is organic and alive, he was intensely conflicted, being a poet whose material is words, writing in german which was so raped and pillaged by the Nazis and all their propaganda. His entire poetic endeavor is very moving and powerful. He wrote as a matter of life and death, a struggle and fight to keep the flame of the human spirit burning in the midst of all the carnage and wreckage, the german language in which he wrote included, found in the rubble. In his later poems we find fragments of this wreckage pulled into an inner sacred space, even word-coinages, unusual rhythms, a remembrance and testament in his broken voice which still sang, an attempt to transcend into fresher air which he and his fellow countrymen and women and even universal humanity could breathe together at last.

      Hey, Bart, it’s your blog. I’m not a stupid man, though I see you’re tempted to sweep me into a category, a garbage-bin labeled psychobabble. I know my worth and you can do whatever you like. Pull off the leaves, and they’ll grow back elsewhere. I extend my branches into more than one place, my arms opening to the sky. On some branches fruit has grown. Maybe one day I’ll give the teacher an apple, if he allows me the opportunity to grow one for him.

  6. trueoutsider says:


    First you wrote:

    “When I look at certain satirical drawings by George Grosz or by James Ensor, a suffering hatred is palpable to me in how figures are mockingly or grotesquely depicted, a seething and searing contempt, definite targets in mind for a kind of bile they had in them, a release of venom which was a pressing need, a desire to wound if not completely eradicate an oppressor if they had their heart’s desire, which may have been accompanied by mad laughter while being drawn, but am I to interpret this as anything else?”

    Then you write above: “[Grosz] used his gift and skill to express atrocities and moral ugliness and degradation.”

    Then you introduce Goya and Celan before you manage to bring up the Nazis, who are the objects of Grosz’s grotesque mockery. You ask “Am I to interpret this as anything else?” I have no idea why you’d ask that question if you knew the object of Grosz’s anger. You brought this up right after you were talking about your dad’s anger, which you were connecting to my being angry (which I am not).

    In your next paragraph you’re talking about defending little children and the you go on to say you’re empathetic to Martin, Johns, Duchamp and other individuals who you find me to be attacking ad hominem.

    Do you see just how totally irrational your comments are at this point? I was not attacking Johns or Martin or Duchamp in any way remotely ad hominem. In fact your reaction proved the point that I made which was, and i quote from my blog post: “Cast an aspersion on Jasper Johns or Warhol and they go into hysterics.” What you wrote above is so senseless as to be a kind of hysterical ad hominem attack on me personally. Are you able to comprehend what I’m writing? You clearly didn’t comprehend what I wrote in my blog post. All I said about Johns, and again there is nothing ad hominem about the attack, is that I don’t consider his Bronze Beer Cans the pinnacle of Western Culture.

    What I said about Martin was that I didn’t consider her or Rothko to be profound painters by a long stretch. Followed by “no doubt this will stoke the rage of the Agnes and Rothko devotees”… Upon which your angry comments toward me follow.

    I say: “They’re nice enough paintings, but raising them to the perch on which they rest now? Totally absurd.”

    Does this read to you like an attack of some sort, much less an ad hominem attack? Can you read and understand simple English declarative sentences without projecting into them some kind of harmful intent?

    If not, you’re going to have to go attack somebody else because I’m not in the mood for it. I suggest you read what I’ve written carefully and address the substance of what I’ve said, not fly off the handle into all kinds of fantastic notions which you then use to make nonsensical claims about my own mental state. You’re the one who is obviously both angry and arrogant. Strutting around like a peacock.

    If you want to keep your comments brief and confine them to what I’ve written I’ll post and comment on them. But anymore popping off at the mouth all over the place with false accusations and inane fantasies and I’m throwing it in the trash.


    • johndockus says:

      Hi Bart:

      Attack is a very strong word. I don’t feel that I attacked you, but I apologize if you feel I did and took it that way. Nor was I getting into hysterics by appealing to individual humanity, for the recognition of that first, before moving into consideration of artworks, which are derived from this humanity. Even anti-art is derived from this humanity, has a reason behind it. I apply the same principle to any human expression, even outside of art. Individuals have reasons for doing what they do. Maybe you’re more interested in art, more strictly speaking and in an orthodox sense, rooted indeed in older, more established values, stronger and more sound, and I’m interested in this too, but I’m also intrigued by human behavior, and kinds of human behavior. I’m interested as well in the art of the so-called insane, and find the unusual systems created by such individuals incredibly fascinating. – “Strutting around like a peacock” ha ha. That actually made me snicker. If you say so. I haven’t flown off the handle either. I’m quite sober and present in mind.

      I think we might wipe the slate clean and start over. I apologize again, especially for the ad hominem line – I could’ve been more careful in my wording, and I still hope we might find some common ground. What I really look forward to is your next post. All this has kind of gotten away from us, when it began in mutual appreciation of Gage Taylor’s work. I really wish we stayed with that. I tried to keep it there, to go back to it, and all this other stuff tumbled in. Your own post of Taylor’s work isn’t strictly about his work, and an analysis of it which highlights and praises it strengths. Tongue-in-cheek is there, sarcasm, more about how you feel about certain other artists who you consider his inferior or to be out and out frauds. I think Gage’s work deserves better treatment than mixing him up in all that. He deserves his own clean space for presentation. But each of us has his reasons. Some things you assert, I don’t completely get either, but I give you the benefit of the doubt. I do believe you are coming from a deep and true place. I do not question that at all. I admit that I do leap sometimes from one subject to another, drawing an association which spontaneously occurs to me. There are connections between Grosz, Goya, to Celan, and others too come to my mind, but I see that you like to confine matters more to immediate observation, following straighter lines of logic, which is fine. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with either of our approaches toward trying to illuminate matter, to reach an understanding. You and I don’t always speak the same language, or maybe we don’t at all. You can call me irrational if you like, and that’s fine. I actually don’t take it personally. I agree with you that I can be quite an unusual fellow!

      I’ll take a look at your Turner posts in the near future. Turner is another artist who really excites and fascinates me, indeed a genius painter. I’m not sure now you’d be interested in my own personal – quirky and odd – idiosyncratic – perceptions and expressions of experience of his work, which again is just fine. I don’t take it personally. Thank you for this very interesting encounter!


  7. trueoutsider says:


    No worries. Hopefully you take my point and understand why I want to avoid the personal psychology and stick to the art in question. At least until we have a better ability to communicate. I don’t have time now, but I’ll look into editing out the exchanges where the discussion goes off the rails from the main subject.

    I admit to my own tendency to try to explore too many avenues at once. I’ll try to curtail that and so in future let’s try to keep our comments to only a couple paragraphs. This should help it not going in too many different directions,

    I do think you have a lot to say that’s interesting and of merit. But it’s getting buried under a lot of excess back and forth that obscures the points that are worthwhile and worth investigating further.

    You have to keep in mind that it’s my blog and so I’m the one setting the agenda. I only want to talk about matters that concern me. It takes a lot of work and energy to write and maintain this thing. So time spent in arguing over semantic issues (what’s an attack, what’s ad hominem, etc.) is ill spent. Let’s keep away from these totally unrelated philosophical issues.

    To be clear, I don’t mind bringing in related subjects to Grosz, if we’re talking about Grosz, like Celan, Goya, Ensor, etc. It’s when you go off into the defending Johns or Duchamp without saying what it is that you disagree with and simply make unjust and false characterizations of what I’ve written that this will just shut down entirely. I had to go back and read over what I’d written to see that I’d never made any attack on Johns or Martin themselves. And what I said about their work wasn’t remotely vitriolic. That takes time I don’t have to waste.

    So for now lets’ try to leave out descriptions/speculations on who I am and how I write. If you disagree with my characterization of Johns or Duchamp or Martin say so and say why you disagree. That takes all the personal stuff out of it. There’s no reason whatsoever any of this should be personal unless you keep choosing to make it so.

    All the best,

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