Humpty Dumpty Falling Down

death brTwo pieces that should be read back to back. First the Kimball piece, where the pomposity and irrelevance of today’s “avant-garde” is shredded in a quite funny comic satire (unless you’re a big fan of contempo avant-garde that is). I should say that I don’t subscribe at all to Kimball’s New Criterion conservative/reactionary notions of what art is.

The piece below follows on from Kimball’s speculation (made in 2007), which is obviously correct that “sooner or later, even the Leon Botsteins and Marieluise Hessels of the world will realize that the character in Bruce Nauman’s “Good Boy, Bad Boy” was right: “this is boring.”

As we can see in this 2012 Daily Mail piece on Damien Hirst’s collapsing prices which we can assume have only gotten worse, as what has Damien Hirst done since 2012 of any note? Not following the art world, I have no idea but perhaps somebody knowledgeable can enlighten me.


Christies sales of Postwar and Contempo Art are down 41% from the same period in 2015, which could be considered a bit strange as the stock market is booming. So clearly the investments are going to other places than into blue chip contempo/postwar.

Of course, people mired in this delusional belief system that Modern Art is all triumphant over the entirety of the past history of art, I imagine will be totally baffled by all of this. Even with all the forgeries, the CIA funding of Ab Ex and the incredibly financial manipulations, auction rigging, and so on, their belief in the profound achievements of Urinal Man and Bronze Beer Can man are unaffected. Art exists in a place totally disconnected from known reality. A pure place where pure spirits make pure art…

Right on! Power to the People! Let them vote on the best art, just like they’ve given us the best President and Congress and right down the line to the best Art, Literature and Music never ever before seen in all it’s awesome proliferation covering the earth in peace, love, and beauty along with lots of sex and violence!


I hate to say it but I find myself completely put off by both camps. The Beauty School of ennobled art as Kimball describes art as “mastery of craft in order to make objects to gratify and ennoble those who see them.” This has to be one of the most moronic definitions of art I’ve ever seen written. Yes, the Renaissance, Baroque, Belle Epoque were all about making objects to gratify and ennoble those who saw them. I can hear Michelangelo and Leonardo conversing now…. Won’t the people feel gratified and ennobled once they view our latest fresco works.

On the other hand I find Kimball’s disgust and disdain for the intellectual vacuity and sex thrill crud that the “Wrestling” artists represent.

How I’ve found myself being the lone dissenter in an art world that I view as having gone totally insane as well as totally commercial is a mystery. Apparently everyone else thinks that we live int he best possible of all worlds. Maybe I just haven’t found the right medication yet to really get with the current program.

This George Orwell passage bears looking at for me:

“The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word “Art” and everything is OK. Rotting corpses with snails crawling over them are OK; kicking little girls in the head is OK; even a film like L’Age d’Or (which shows among other things detailed shots of a woman defecating) is OK.”

Herein lies the problem (and my copy of L”Age d’Or has no detailed shots of a woman defecating, though I do note them in Odd Nerdrum paintings). I don’t see anything whatsoever problematic with showing grotesque subject matter within a moral system that encompasses Dante’s hell or Buddhist hells, Japanese demons, Kubrick films and so on. (See Brueghel detail above).

I do see a serious, as well as fatal, problem when sexual decadence being shown purely gratuitously, with no context whatsoever other than to please the prurient tastes of the Las Vegas minded viewers  who thrill at it all.  And I think the morality of those inside this questionable system who are not raising their voices in protest against it to be a bit questionable themselves.

The “See No Evil. Hear No Evil. Speak No Evil.” doesn’t strike me as at all tenable in the sense of Burke’s admonition that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women]  to do nothing.

Plus there’s this more recent Feb 2016 note on Hirst along with pity for the credulous saps who invested in him. And I imagine that would extend to the much of the rest if not all of the YBAs. I’m putting Ruth Dudley Edward’s Killing the Emperors into my Amazon queue. Sounds like an even more fun read than the Kimball piece.


About trueoutsider

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6 Responses to Humpty Dumpty Falling Down

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    “this delusional belief system that Modern Art is all triumphant over the entirety of the past history of art”. Right, this is the fallacy that the purpose of art is to advance the game of art, and each successive wave of art-making invalidates the former and all that went before. Uuuuh, not really doing self promo, but you MIGHT find my most recent article about the problem of valuing art for, and only for, being “radical” interesting:

    As for the gratuitous sex in art, I’ll merely add, why bother? I’ve noticed that art with boobs in them gets attention from online publications (who as of yet have rejected my work) even if the quality just isn’t there. Anything passably good that is NSFW (Not Safe For Work) can gain visibility, and the artist can presumably make some sort of living. I made ironic work of grotesque monsters with nice boobs to prank this trend, but, alas, they were probably too sophisticated. Anyway, why bother with explicit sex in art when people can get all they want, in film fom, from porn. Nobody needs art for gratuitous sex. This doesn’t mean art cant’ be erotic, merely that goint to art for sex is unnecessary, the equivalent to looking through art books to identify kinds of trees, when you can just Google it.

  2. trueoutsider says:

    Thanks for the link, Eric. I enjoyed it.

    For my two cents worth, I don’t consider any of the tautological objects echoing Duchamp’s readymades to be any more radical than crocheted cat mittens. Come to think of it, isn’t that pretty much what Mike Kelley’s “signature work” amounts to?

    And Duchamp himself is hardly radical in the sense that it’s purely destructive nihilism. In other words he’s not presenting an alternative aesthetic model, as Cézanne is for an example. Putting up one’s middle finger, as far as I’m concerned isn’t a radical gesture. It’s a gesture of total impotence. And artistically speaking, Duchamp’s entire body of work is about as impotent as it gets. On top of that he was a liar and charlatan. I find very little about Duchamp or his work that is likable. And I don’t now, nor have I ever found any of his so-called “ideas” to be provocative of anything more than a yawn. Just as his seemingly infinite number of descendants provoke the same response. Duchamp was clearly bored with his own work as he stopped making it entirely, other than to have his dopey “secret” project that is less interesting visually than a diorama at the Natural History Museum in NYC.

    Somehow we’ve reached this point where people actually believe that whatever is said or written about an art work will have a significant influence on how that artwork is viewed in 50 years time. It obviously won’t, any more than people appreciate Rembrandt or Delacroix because of what their contemporaries had to write or think about their work. Artists like Meissonier and Sir Edwin Landsdale who were held in the highest esteem by their society in the late 19th century, barely even register today, if at all in the contemporary art world. I’d bet money that both of them will be held in greater esteem 50 years from now as even at the moment (read Kimball, for example) there is a large faction of oncoming artists that are reviving the reputation of the French Academy, while completely reviling Contemporary Art.

    I imagine that the current dissent will only grow in strength as Liberalism is so far gone in lies and charlatanism on all fronts. That the Liberal Class thinks it has some kind of Godlike claim to being forever dominant and in control of defining art, without bothering to try to understand that their triumph is entirely the product of Wall Street monetizing a lot of half-baked nonsense, is the sign to me that the end is nigh. The signs of that have been increasing as I’ve been tracking this for a long time.

    For example, only a few years ago when I was writing about the CIA funding the Abstract Expressionists there was hardly an abundance of hits googling “CIA abstract expressionism”. Those have mushroomed extensively when I do the same search today.

    When I was writing a few years ago about Duchamp stealing his Urinal from another artist there was next to nothing on the internet. That truth has also proliferated dramatically.

    Both of these facts are absolutely fatal to the integrity of American Art. MoMA (as well as the other museums who all take their lead from the top) has steadfastly refused to recognize the Duchamp research proving he stole the urinal from Elsa Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven. Most artists are hardly even interested in it as they implicitly believe the entire sham they’re taught at art school. Brainwashing is an easy matter as long as the entire hierarchy is parroting an ironclad ideology. This is why it’s imperative that the art world not recognize that Duchamp as himself a fake artist. I imagine Duchamp see this up himself as his lies have been so easily uncovered.

    The same with the CIA funding of Abstract Expressionism and Wall Street’s construction of this vast Ponzi scheme. If artists want to sign up for all the excitement of the current carnivals at the current art fairs and be part of the “dialogue”, the pointless nature of which Kimball points out, then more power to them. I’m just pointing out things that I’ve witnessed and conclusions I’ve come to over some 50 years of observation.

    Here’s a perfect example of the Orwell newspeak used by academics: Kristen Windmuller, Yale BA History of art when answering a question about the meaning of R Mutt on Duchamp’s Fountain:

    “Like much of what Duchamp did and said the meaning of R. Mutt and other pseudonyms such as Rrose Selavy is up for debate; Duchamp was famous for his use of intentional misdirection in interviews…”

    Intentional misdirection. Nice choice of words and the kind of horse manure that academics regularly use in their Herculean efforts to rob language of any meaning whatsoever when talking about art. Another word for “intentional misdirection” which would be to the point is “lying.” American Post-War art was built on the quicksand footing of CIA/MoMA/Media (Luce,ArtNews etc) collusion along with “intentional misdirection” of a thoroughly ignorant public who had no interest whatsoever in any kind of art other than that on Saturday Evening Post covers. And they still don’t. I’ve directly witnessed that for 30 years drawing “in situ.” The only way to really get their attention is to put things up in a museum with lots of advertising and marketing and clown acts and Barnum and Bailey regalia, plus fun activities for the kids and their parents all while learning valuable lessons about political correctness and that we should all love and respect each other.

    I’d say the future of this kind of simplistic fairy-tale nonsense, along with it’s mirror-image nihilism (talk about the internal contradictions of capitalism) is pretty bleak. The entirety of Post-War American art is a lot of self-serving mythmaking that is clearly unsupported by the actual work itself. The standards of what is or isn’t significant art have been set over the centuries and they haven’t been repealed simply because the 1 percent have put billions or perhaps trillions of dollars in the service of making Duchampian rubbish collecting valid, just as the critic/curatorial/dealer/collector/artist class that have all bleated along in unison have no effect whatsoever on the judgements that only time will make once this sad excuse for a culture finally disintegrates.

    • Eric Wayne says:

      Yeah, I think we are fairly in agreement on that. I try to be less dismissive of conceptual art, as I believe it’s easily possible to make something of interest through non traditional means. However, when it comes to the sleight of hand cynical gestures, such as Martin Creed’s crumpled piece of paper, and of course Duchamp’s ready-mades (same shit), I don’t have much good to say about them other than that they are conversation pieces. Uuuuh, well, another post you might enjoy is my dissection of Duchamp.

      It’s got some good sarcasm. Also the links at the bottom to a few of my other Duchamp articles are pretty good. I’m not a fan of the urinal. I mean, it’s alright as a footnote in art history, but as the grand achievement of 20th century art, hell no!

      Also, I read that article by Kimball and was really impressed. Then I read another about “tenured radicals” which described the problems with my art education, or at least grad school, rather precisely.

      But then I looked him up on Twitter and all his recent tweets are pro-Trump snippets. That’s not such a good sign, I don’t think, which isn’t to say that the alternative candidate is anything to not vomit over.

  3. trueoutsider says:

    I’ll check out the Duchamp post. As I noted in my piece, I “don’t subscribe to Kimball’s New Criterion conservative reactionary notions of what art is.” I could also have added that I find his politics odious if I’d read any pro-Trump tweets. It’s a sad situation when the only place that any serious or biting criticism of the con art hoax is with right-wing nutcases like Kimball. We have these two warring, and equally mindless (combined with pretentious) camps. It’s perfectly played out in our Presidential race every four years where the mindlessness and ignorance are on full display. Yet we somehow imagine that behind all this pure idiocy is some truly great art of real substance.

    On the left it’s buttplugs and moronic banksy/hirst/haring/warhol drivel all perfectly suited to the lowest IQ in the classroom. On the right it’s tedious neo-academic family values art. In the “pop” field it’s whatever kind of low level terror slasher shoot em ups mesmerize the masses.

    And artists themselves are so fantastically gutless and cowardly that they won’t make a peep about any of it lest they alienate their masters… the dealers, critics, collectors or whomever they are stroking in one way or another to fulfill everyone’s fantasies that we’re living in a New Renaissance of one sort or another.

    The Renaissance of an empty white space of Irwin Malevich. Or the Renaissance of a perfectly painted photo-realistic likeness of a face. Or the Renaissance of Bruce Nauman sucking his thumb while wearing diapers.

    Also, it’s perfectly OK with me if you or anyone else thinks there’s merit in conceptual/photo realism or whatever. I’m not a jihadist, despite what so many people reading seem to think. It’s just my own opinion and useful as far as my being able to continue working at all. I far from consider myself the leading authority on what is or isn’t art.

  4. Eric Wayne says:

    “On the left it’s buttplugs and moronic banksy/hirst/haring/warhol drivel all perfectly suited to the lowest IQ in the classroom. On the right it’s tedious neo-academic family values art. In the “pop” field it’s whatever kind of low level terror slasher shoot em ups mesmerize the masses.”

    Good one. I see a lot of this myself. There’s also the identity politics variety of art, in which the art is valuable because of the presumed importance of the political message.

    “Also, it’s perfectly OK with me if you or anyone else thinks there’s merit in conceptual/photo realism or whatever.”

    I think there’s SOME merit in most art, and I prefer to live in a world where some people do conceptual art and photo-realist art. It’s not my favorite, and I’m not doing that kind of art (though I think it was useful to have to do it in college, if it didn’t mean NOT being able to do what I really wanted to do). By me, Chuck Close is good, very good, even. So is Pollock. But both of their styles are too confined for my tastes. I don’t put them in the same class as Bacon, or Van Gogh, or Max Beckmann.

    I’m starting to re-evaluate Pollock. His paintings are something anyone could do with enough practice, and they don’t use traditional painting skills. If you have a good eye, you can do them. He produced some good results, with sometimes fascinating effects, but his range of content and aesthetics was severely limited. I may have given him too much credit in the past. As I get older I’m more amazed that he continued to crank out the same style paintings, than I am impressed by them. I always preferred de Kooning, because he used a wider range of skills, such as having compositions besides “all over” compositions, and at least a potential full range of color.

    So, I’m cool with all that art, I just think it’s overrated, and that overrating has prevented artists from making original imagery.

    An aside. I’ve been thinking in the last couple days that the opposite of “radical’ in in art is not “traditional” or “conservative”, it’s “original”. The most “radical” art is the kind that appropriates, and does this out of conviction that “originality” or “authenticity” are no longer possible. That seems to be the battle, originality versus radicality (even faux radicality). I’m on the side of originality. Either our species is capable of originality, or we are not. I’d say our museums, and even the rock music of the late 60’s and early 70’s prove that we are perennially capable of originality.

  5. trueoutsider says:

    sorry for long delayed reply. been traveling… shutting off computer. haven’t written for a long while so this will be long, and it reflects where my own thinking has gone in the interim… which is to an even more radical place than it was previously. incidentally, i have no wish for anyone to follow me or even to read me at this point so you or anyone else are perfectly free to go on with whatever it is that you’re pursuing. i’m not trying to deter or impede anyone at this point.

    so…. i don’t agree that we’re perennially capable of originality. that’s the “myth of progress” . everything does not keep ascending and moving forward to a better and better world. That’s self evident. Look around. Look at the icecaps melting. Look at the masses of people in the third world. Look at the mechanistic, formulaic and empty of any deep content “art” in galleries. The myth of progress is the primary belief system of capitalism and it’s absolute hogwash. If we survive the century it will be a miracle. Any thinking person knows what deep trouble the human race is in. It would be nice if artists could join with other thinking people, but i’m not holding my breath.

    Dan Flavin and James Turrell prove we’re perennially capable of originality? Anish Kapoor piles of pigment and Tracy Emin stuffing cash up her snatch prove we’re capable of originality? Really?

    Maybe you could be more specific, because I’ve seen nothing whatsoever of any originality in a contemporary art museum in decades. And what I found in the 60s and 70s as original, I have little to no respect for and little to no interest in either, at this point. It’s suited to the fashions of the times and I can get a nostalgia buzz. But I am not ever going to view a Jasper Johns retrospective. I already saw one and the effect it had on me was the same kind of effect I get visiting a mausoleum. Not an experience I want to repeat…. Of course, that’s because all Johns has done for 50 years or so is repeat the same thing. Isn’t that obvious? Are people viewing that stuff really so enthralled with gray sludge and slapped on paint over flat objects? Those encaustic paintings look like pure hell.

    I simply don’t see how anybody who appreciates a de Kooning, who yes, has very great skill with a paintbrush and paint, can turn around and say that they find Johns marvelous. And I read this with critics all the time (one reason I consider them either lame brains or completely full of shit.) De Kooning’s paintings are lush and beautiful (if that’s your thing), whereas Johns are dead boring and repetitive and look like complete sludge. The man had the dumbest and most insensitive paint handling outside of Susan Rothenberg and Julian Schnabel. But everyone seemingly wants to insist, with no visual evidence that it’s all great painting as long as the price tag is up in the stratosphere.

    You’re going to have to do a bit more explaining if I’m to understand what you’re really saying. Do you think Johns is great as well as de Kooning? And Rothenberg/Schnabel/Basquiat/Haring… all of who I find on exactly the same level… artists who cannot draw cannot paint! Ingres says this. Any artist would say this. And it’s as abundantly clear as it can possibly be just how lame the foursome (and many, many others alongside) really are. My son in animation school and all his comrades know this. How much more obvious can it be?

    Except to artists, of course, who let critics tell them what art is so that they know what to paint and how to paint or to make giant buttplugs, etc.

    Cezanne said: Art is nature viewed through a temperament.

    Buttplugs and urinals don’t qualify.. not even minimally. If we overturn Cezanne (and all other artists through the centuries along with him, mind you) then how do we imagine we’re making art? That’s the myth of progress, a crackpot theory if there ever was one.

    Also, as far as I’m concerned, Chuck Close. Warhol or any photorealist has no temperament. There is no evidence of temperament or vision or feeling or emotional response whatsoever. Why do we look at a Goya or a Durer or a Rembrandt if not to see nature through the temperament of the artist. We see nature through Van Gogh’s eyes. Without a temperament. Without a vision. Without a point of view. Without any human feeling what we are left with is a dead object. We can think it pretty, or not so pretty, or become ecstatic over it. Lots of people burst into tears at a Rothko, from what I hear. Just like they do when Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh hits them with the voodoo. I’ve never heard of reports of people breaking into tears in front of a Turner. In my experience of looking at Turners, I’ve rarely (almost never) seen anyone looking at one of them for more than 5 minutes. Most people don’t even stop.

    So we’ve created this kind of pseudo-religion where the mystical Rothko or Barnett or Willem or Jackson are the existential warriors on the deep cosmic level. Nonsense. Baloney. People on the deep cosmic level don’t drink themselves in stupors, run their cars into trees, slit their wrists in the bathtub, run for Mayor of New York (Go Barney! Go Bernie!).

    It’s hogwash. But if folks want to get all mystical and have their spiritual experiences looking at some orange blobs or zips or splatter marks, more power to them.

    As I’ve looked at an artist like Rembrandt his paintings have deepened as my own awareness has evolved. Photo realist work is static. That’s the whole point, isn’t it. That’s the whole Greenberg schtick. Paring art down to the pure essence. The eternal timlessness of a Jules Olitski spray painting or a Ken Noland target. Who believes this stuff? Are they joking?

    Forget the Sistine Chapel and the Night Watch. That’s stuff’s old hat. Satori arrives staring at an Agnes Martin grid. Moderns have lost their fucking minds. (You can quote me on that).

    Art is not a concept it’s a reality. If it isn’t connected to a deep reality, then it isn’t art. Or if we want to call it art, we can say it’s about as superficial as art can get, which is that it’s a form of decoration for one’s residence. And that’s where we’re at. And that’s Capitalist society saying it, not me, incidentally. I don’t believe in it. I believe in the old fashioned stuff.
    One is either present to life and reality or one goes off into cloud cuckoo land.

    George Grosz wrote, “Dadaism was no ideological movement but an organic production against the cloud-cuckoo-land tendencies of so-called sacred art.”

    Unfortunately, the dadaists threw the baby out with the bathwater. Grosz himself became aware of this as he denounced dadaism as reflected in the work he made after parting ways with them.

    But precious few other artists realized this, and artists went on to join one or another pluralistic and sterile ideology, rooted in and rotting in theories invariably stemming from Duchamp or Greenbergian theories.. … Art as idea… art as politically correct sermonette…Art as flatness,… art as neon tube light sculptures…art as painted photographs… op art.. photo collage…

    The one thing they all have in common is that nobody has to learn how to draw or to practice drawing rigorously, which is emphatically NOT about copying nature. It’s nature viewed through a temperament. One reason all this realism we see looks the same is that there is nothing happing inside the heads of the painters other than to try to follow whatever pre-formed notion they have of painting is… neo-Corot, neo-Cezanne, neo-van Gogh, neo-academic how to paint landscapes books.

    One radical act might be for a painter to go off by himself (like Cezanne) into the mountains and paint directly what he sees without recourse to notions of what is or isn’t art. Perhaps it’s being done. I hope so.

    Conceptual Art was dead from its inception. Art is not a concept or an idea. Pick up an art history book and find some conceptual art in it. Find some abstract art in it. But we Moderns have trumped all those other human beings going back endless centuries. We geniuses have understood that shapes, forms, lines, colors all without any anchoring in the real world are the height of civilized advancement.

    So art marches off into cloud-cuckoo-land cul-de-sac merrily trumpeting away about its brilliance and glory and triumph over all those other centuries of boring paintings and drawings and sculpture. ….before artists could stand big slabs of lead up in a public square.

    As you say, anybody can make a Pollock painting. It’s a technique. A work of art is emphatically not a new technique. The Renaissance wasn’t about artists suddenly finding new techniques such as oil paint and egg tempera. It wasn’t the techniques, it was what was made from the materials and techniques developed to employ those materials. And it was all anchored to a deep human and spiritual vision. Without any deep human/spiritual vision or believe what do we get? “Original imagery”? Connected to what? Whatever turns people on? Whatever is vibrant and exciting? Whatever’s going to pack them into the gallery/artspace/museum? Well, that’s been going on for half a century and you note yourself that one has to look back to the 60s 70s to find something that was indeed new when it first arrived. From Hendrix to Bowie to Nirvana to what? Lady Gaga? Bruno Mars? Katy Perry? Buckethead? Perhaps you see this as an upward trend? Perhaps I’m just too old and out of it to be able to hear the new Miles Davis or the new Duke Ellington. But the only new jazz I like hearing is that made by the guys who are still around playing and were playing back in the 60s and 70s and before that.

    And I’m not complaining or putting down the new stuff. Just saying I have very little response to it. Most of the time I can’t distinguish one group from another as it all sounds pretty much the same. So originality? I don’t hear it. And I certainly don’t see any art that would be original, other than running into very offbeat stuff that isn’t in gallery settings. And it’s also stuff by older artists, just like the jazz I like now. You know. I’m content to be a throwback, just doing my thing. I’m not trying to be original. Not trying to be the next thing. .. the next step into the bright future. I’m fine with it collapsing and I just do my drawings… once in a while do a bit of painting, although I find I’m not so happy with the results from painting.

    Pollock’s statement: “New needs demand new technics” is about as wrongheaded a notion about what art is as can be imagined. Duchamp, with his sterile provocations of a urinal, a cross-dressing photo of himself, mustached mona lisa, and sickening and vulgar peep show open legged corpse of a woman are as low as art can fall. Endless repetitions go no lower. We’re at the bottom. The only way I see there being any chance of climbing out from the bottom is to recognize where we are, to reject it all absolutely and unconditionally, and to move on.

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