Wednesday, December 7, 2011


(see here about this photograph)

I’m on the brain bandwagon, reading about consciousness and the brain, vision and the brain, the brain that changes itself. It’s a tremendous subject and I’m just at the very, very beginning.

What is consciousness, our sense of self, is something I’ve been interested in since I started studying Buddhism a bit some 10 years ago. For Buddhists, there is no self; and for many brain people, there is no self. There are experiences, we exist, but there’s no thing that you can point to and say, that is moi.

Once Robert Thurman recounted a story about a guy who attended a retreat about no self. At some point this guy didn’t know which person he was in the room. That freaks me out totally.

The more and more I read about it, we are just bits here, there. Seems like the brain makes the continuity, a narrative; it creates a self and what it goes through. I suppose we need that story in order to be able to function. I’m not sure why we need to function. Maybe there's stuff we simply have to go through; because of karma or agita, or something.

I don’t know why there has to be people who get bombed and people who don’t get bombed.

This is all interesting philosophically, but I’m wondering if it’s perhaps a way to approach art. I’m not sure how it could be. I haven’t figured that out because I’m in the middle of it. But I’ve made work that is responding to these philosophies and sciences somehow.

So far I have: legs in motion, legs in space, legs as form (that would be the three streams that make up how we see). I don’t know why legs, except they are limbs that carry us and that you sometimes feel and sometimes don’t. I spent many years not really feeling them. The problem with legs is that Guston painted legs. I’m concerned about the derivative-ness as usual. Then I have guardians/bodyguards (they would be my protectors, maybe my survival instinct). I also have some mirroring, which is how people connect. I love mirroring. I think I need more of that. We’ll see what comes out next.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Guy who had a weird dream

I’ve been tapping various sources to try to learn why – aside from its formal attributes - ancient art is so enticing.

The least interesting vein of information has been my high school art history textbook. There, writers make up a narrative to fit their own idea about what art is. And it seems that for them, art is about the artist and his supreme will. For example, with regard to a figurine from 2100 BC (like this one above), it reads, “The sculptor [worked the hard stone] with consummate skill, making an opportunity out of difficulty.” But the concept of skill and of opportunity, and also of sculptor, is entirely modern. These were societies that didn’t make images consciously, as an esthetic or cultural exercise, but because they were powerful, because they served a purpose.

And I’m not really interested in what that purpose was; who the king was, what he wanted, what was happening around him. I’m not interested in specifics. I like generalities. That’s why I find Joseph Campbell’s conversations with Bill Moyers about myth more interesting. For the former, myths are the ground of humanness throughout the ages. Because, when you boil it down, when you generalize, there aren’t that many themes to develop. So, ancient art might be interesting to me in part because I see a humanness boiled down. Guy praying for direction. Guy walking with animals. Guy who had a weird dream.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Billy Childish

It’s so hard to know if what you’re making is a piece of crap. Worse, if it’s bullshit. I think you know deep down when you’re fooling yourself, when it’s just pretension. I hope so. Anyhoo.

The Billy Childish opening at Lehman Maupin LES was vitalizing. He talked, read a few poems and also sang a few songs. Lots of anger in the writing, but it’s so much his own that’s it’s not a turn-off. It seems that his anger is directly linked to the high personal standards he has for himself and the world around him. It’s probably fair to say he’s an idealist. Aren’t all artists?

The paintings aren’t angry. They’re bucolic, energetic, loose. I almost liked most, but really loved this volcano here. I feel good in its palette, its image, and also its freedom.

As he related, he was able to let loose in painting once his personal life was no longer in such turmoil. I can understand that entirely. I can’t really think of an example where personal mess and artistic burgeoning co-exist, despite the myth that torment is the stuff of meaningful art. I think you are stable and free.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Blogging in tongues

I’m still wondering what’s really relevant about ancient art, aside from its esthetic economy, which parallels a contemporary sense of chic spareness. I think there’s a directness in ancient art that we today read as meaning. No wobbling and ruffles. They’re SYMBOLS, we say. Symbols make us feel profound. I suppose symbols are in fact profound. But I’m not sure those symbols are apt for our times. Unless those symbols are something we need now. That’s what I wonder.

The Ancients didn’t think they were making art. Artness is a value that was imposed much later. I don’t really know what they thought, but from what I gather, visual representation was a tool for them. It showed something. It served as something. I think artists today hope their work will do the same, but it can’t really in the same way, because we have a category called art. So we can’t really go back to art as use. Although art can speak like symbols.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


(Still from a Ryan Trecartin video)

The Occupy Wall Street protesters are teaching me a lot about horizontal. There have been accusations, critics, worries that the movement has no leaders, no demands. But what I’m seeing is that it is precisely this widening of the field that is allowing for the movement to embrace other groups and complaints and to grow. This horizontal can also be called non-hierarchical. I’ve heard Ryan Trecartin’s videos being described as non-hierarchical. I suppose they could also be called horizontal.

But frankly I’m more attracted to vertical for it’s concentrated energy and strength. In terms of social movements, there is of course the word “uprising.” That surge is vertical. In terms of art, I see columns, standing figures, even seated figures, back straight.

The problem with vertical is that it is narrowing. It’s a funnel, and in terms of art, I personally need to let it spill out so as not to be constrained. But really, I guess you need both directions. The base of the horizontal, the thrust of the vertical.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Going beyond

What I’m trying to figure out is why mankind’s first images have such a contemporary feel. Is that work relevant to – even significant to - our times other than formally, esthetically?

Formally, esthetically speaking, the work lives on today because it lives: high-contrast patterns are energetic and bold lines are vectors. Furthermore, when images are schematic, they go beyond a specific time. Why is there no respect for the schematic? Is it because it’s not observed, because it’s not what we see with our eyes? Some schematic images can look like generalizations, but others are metaphors, they point to something bigger.

Schema: A pattern imposed on complex reality or experience to assist in explaining it, mediate perception, or guide response.

But why is it relevant to our times? I’m not really sure.

This art is pre-self. There is no turning inward, no me-reflection, no depiction of subtle emotion (brains then just didn’t do that yet). The images these cultures made served as consciousness. They were used as consciousness. Art today can expand our consciousness. So the connection must have to do with consciousness. With letting go of the self. With making a leap outside of ourselves and into understanding.

Monday, October 17, 2011


(Georges Braque, Lying Nude (The Bather IX), 1932)

I’ve been thinking about hallucinations. Generally we associate the word with acid and mushrooms. That doesn’t interest me so much mainly because I’ve never tripped and I never want to. I don’t need it, I’m scared enough as it is. I suppose it has be powerful. New York Times art critic Ken Johnson just published a whole book on the influence tripping has had on modern art.

Georges Braque also used the word “hallucination” to describe the process of artmaking. Miro did too. In a statement in Minotaure, December 1933, the latter said:
It is difficult for me to talk about my painting, since it is always born in a state of hallucination, brought on by some jolt or other – whether objective or subjective – which I am not the least responsible for.

From what I gather, these artists were both using the word to describe what we might now call a process of “making the unconscious conscious.” I doubt many would use the word “hallucination” anymore in this way in our times, because we’ve become so familiar with psychoanalysis, dream interpretation and representation, etc. It doesn’t really qualify as halluncination, in my mind, because it’s familiar (now). We can explain it, whether it’s accurate or not. I think a hallucination must be something that feels outside the self.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


(Thomas Hirschhorn, Tool Family, 2007)

I don’t see my drawings before I make them. I don’t have a vision or a continuous voice that dictates what’s next. I just do and work with what comes out. If I have a preliminary idea, it never works. So what is it that moves the work? Because they are moving as a body, the drawings keep coming out, and they change. I must therefore have some kind of inner direction. I just don’t know what that direction is.

I suppose I have a position: that art is best when it’s personal. It doesn’t have to be about you – and please, spare me - but I like it when it’s your verve, stripped of pretension. For example, I like Thomas Hirschhorn, despite what I used to think. His work isn’t about him, but it is deeply personal. And it is deeply visual. Yes, I also think art at its best is visual, that it’s its own language, not dependent on explanation.

One definition of consciousness is that it is generated by language. Language describes and then we have what it describes as part of our awareness, as part of how we conceive of the world. There was a time in history when language wasn't as developed, when a mind couldn’t reflect on itself, couldn’t describe itself, guide itself. This mind, a pre-conscious, two-part mind called the bicameral mind (Julian Jaynes), hallucinated voices and figures as guides. Sculptures and effigies were made not as a reflection of these voices but in order to aid these voices.

This is all related, I just don’t know how.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

La Pointe Courte

Agnes Varda’s first film “La Pointe Courte” from 1955 combines staged narrative with reportage. As such, she has been named the grandmother of the French New Wave. The film itself follows the existential discussions of a couple as they stroll through a poor fishing community – the husband’s native village - in the south of France. Or maybe we’re following the town and their residents, which include this couple. Both elements have equal weight. The film can be somewhat tedious – especially the staged narrative – but it sticks with you nonetheless. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Varda was a photographer before she turned to film, so many shots look like well-composed stills with movement. It’s precisely this movement - not precious – that makes what you’re watching so alive. And cats. So many cats doing their thing, making life bearable. See the one in the background here?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy art labor day

(Peter Bruegel, The Harvesters, 1565)

I’m translating the writings of a well-known international artist (TBA). This artist has nothing to do with Peter Bruegel.

What I’m noticing about his language is his assurance. I want X, I will do XX, it will be XXX. It is, to say the least, confident and assertive. I don’t see how any of his readers could suspect doubt. And if there is any, he’s assertive about it.

This is in fact the artist’s strategy; partly how he communicates his intention and partly how he convinces hesitant dealers. The actual and painful doubt of the creative process is kept to himself because it’s not part of the piece as he sees it. Actual doubt is personal; this art is about ideals.

When one of his pieces is ready for viewing, it has to stand on its own, and separate from the viewer. The viewer looks at something that is outside herself. It may become part of her, or resonate with her, but at first, it’s always outside. Sometimes the artist helps the viewer into the piece. I suppose writing can help do that.

Of course, this artist - and artists in general - can’t and don't have full control of what the viewer sees and what all kinds of viewers see. The piece, once outside the artist and once outside the viewer, has a life of its own.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Commercial Perks

I completed one of my first commercial job last week through Artstep: a 35 foot restaurant mural made to look like old advertising on the side of a building. I was part of a two-person team who rendered the design and execution.

A few things I noticed. First, a large swath of people complimented me on what I was doing, and that’s recognition, whether it’s the kind I had in mind or not. One construction worker on the site asked me if he understood what he was looking at. He did. Seeing it on top of “getting it” seemed to be a perk to his day. To mine too.

Of course, there’s the puritanical artist's panic that doing commercial work is unpure, and that real artists should be focusing on more profound concerns in the studio. Do I want my name associated with this? Does it mean a gallery won’t take me seriously? Will this work effect my “real work”? Who the F cares. I like what we made and I actually have enough money this week to buy some sneakers.

And in any case, back in the studio last night, I noticed a playfulness, a willingness to expand my visual vocabulary. Maybe the mural made me – briefly – less sanctimonious.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Courtiers R Us

(Francisco Goya, Portrait of the Marqués de Sofraga, ca. 1795)

If I want to use the word “metaphor” in a sentence, can I say “The courtier is a metaphor for our times,” or does a metaphor have to be a thing? Perhaps it would have to be the “court of France” is a metaphor for our times. Or maybe I have to use the word “figure” instead: “the courtier is a figure for our times.” In any case, it is.

Among the words associated with “courtier,” is “favorite;” people close to a ruler who are ambitious and climb the social and political ladder because of his or her connection to power.

“Courts” are worlds of hierarchy, intrigue, rules and backstabbing. Courtiers are sycophants with little regard for others. They can also be frustrated servants or middlemen. In historical painting, donned in fashionable clothing, they look as if they were caught in their times. As such and posing stiffly, they are often endearing, ever human.

Can’t we recognize ourselves playing the roles we find ourselves playing?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Creative facial hair

(Master of St. Giles, active 1490-1510. French)

This is the head of Saint Giles, who took the arrow aimed at a hind. What peaks my interest is the asymmetry of his beard: it’s attached to his lip and mustache on the left of the face, but not on the right.

The rest of the painting presents realistic perspectives and details. I’d have to think the unusual facial hair is true to some fact the artist learned. But maybe not. Maybe it’s a visual reflection of the artist’s own experience of looking – a “mistake” he let slip, but that gives the work a vitality that the rest of the image doesn’t quite possess, being as it is, stiff with reality.

The stripes of the hunter's shirt lend some pizazz too, no?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The mind's eye

(Mycenaen woman, 1300 BC)

I’m very much enjoying Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciouness in the Breadkdown of the Bicameral Mind. It’s not at all impenetrable, despite its title and austere cover. In its pages, the author engrossingly traces the development of consciousness, defining it along the way. It is a total trip.

How about this:
… the early Greek art of the Mycenae and its period shows man as an assembly of strangely articulated limbs, the joints underdrawn, and the torso almost separated from the hips. It is graphically what we find again and again in Homer, who speaks of hands, lower arms, upper arms, feet, calves and thighs as being fleet, sinewy, in speedy motion, etc., with no mention of the body as a whole.
The idea here being that words and pictures reflect what is in a mind, a mentality. When there’s no word for body, it means we don’t have it as an image, we don’t have the mindspace for such a concept or thing.

Even though I have a whole body in my mind, for almost a year now I’ve been drawing unattached heads and detached limbs. I think it’s experiential in that I feel my own body only in parts, sometimes physically unable to feel others.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Unfreedom opens in Ulm

I'm happy to announce that Unfreedom opened today in Ulm.

Here's our press release (which I wrote).


Molly Stevens, Carin Riley, Jean Hannon Douglas

July 21 - September 24

Smudajescheck Galerie, Rabegasse 16, 89073, Ulm, Germany

Entrenched is the habit of looking at art through dualistic categories: abstract or figurative, pencil or paint, light or dark. These can certainly be helpful as conceptual tools for approaching visual language. But they also can be arbitrary, simplistic and at times even tyrannical. As they pile up, a work’s immediate, nameless punch is crushed. The art is unfree. Free your mind and the art will follow.

Now consider these words uttered in a 1974 lecture by artist Philip Guston:
When you begin painting you’re too free. That’s why it’s always so painful to start a new picture, or to start the process again, because you have to go through the whole thing again and again. To get rid of the freedom, you might say. I think what is happening is that you’re getting to a state of unfreedom. […] And paradoxically, when you can only do this and not that […] you’re more free in some mysterious, metaphysical way.
Unfree your mind and the art will follow.

Unfreedom is an exhibit about this contradiction inherent in art-viewing and art-making. And also about the vibrancy of contradiction itself.

Carin Riley’s dry pastel and paint drawings communicate like a visual koan, a paradox admitting no logical solution, but demanding intuitive understanding. In the narrative here involving a bird, a dress and a tree, her lines are lithe but solid, fluid but unwavering. The work obeys the dictates of form and movement, which are in a delicate balance.

In Jean Hannon Douglas’s plants, the leaves are uncertain, erratic, quirky, and as such, represent the impermanent individuality of the repeated subject. At the same time, what you’re looking at is elemental brush and ink, its strokes, bleeds and varying densities of black. We are in between representation and material properties, illusion and marks on a page.

Molly Stevens’s heads in oil stick are meaty, simplified forms rendered with vigor. Although bound to the Ancients and even pre-history, they are decisively contemporary. Their saturated color and sturdy linework are bold yet unexpected, simultaneously familiar and out of whack.

These three Americans have come together not in the name of freedom but to defend unfreedom, a deferment to conflict.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Home Sweet Home

(James Castle, Untitled (blue house) 20th c.)

I’m just back home after 10 days of subletting. My apartment feels foreign. A friend suggested I pee in the corner to reclaim my territory.

I’ve spent the past hour positing things around the house in a faux-haphazard way in an effort to re-create my home. It’s fiction, really. Maybe home is a place we make up.

Businesses do it all the time: they create an environment to remind you of somewhere that has made you feel comfortable. Or maybe it’s an environment you fantasize about. Really, it’s all Epcott center mini-worlds.

And I’m thinking art does the same. It’s a place we make or see that feels right, but it’s all made up. Narratives and portraits, but also abstract images. Whatever our intention, it’s an order, a metaphor, a gesture we approve of, whether bleak or dreamy. Either way, it’s entirely personal, and comes off, from an objective standpoint, as arbitrary.

Monday, July 18, 2011


(Matt Jones, 2011)

Ok, fine. Maybe I’ll start blogging again.

I’ve joined the IDP Art Group, which meets every other week. We meditate a bit then talk about art (that I know about) in a way that makes sense to me.

I’m noticing two divides, neither unconquerable, neither surprising, but then yes, surprising, because they are so obvious. One is age, the other is gender. Today just a bit about the former.

I’m somewhere in the middle in terms of age (I’m 39), but I’m clearly not among the youngest. (One girl said to me (in a discussion about Cory Archangel), “For MY generation, Mario Brothers was part of how we grew up. She apparently thinks of me as her mom). The youngest seem to want art to push the envelope and break away from art history. Sure, I can see the appeal, although I don’t think newness is really that new, or that interesting as a focus. What I want to feel is a spirit in what I see. It’s hard to describe what I mean by that word, often an eye-roller. One member (on the older side of our spectrum) explained feeling wowed by the release of a Christopher Wool spray painted arch. I get it. Release is a good word to qualify spirit. In my mind, medium, technology, even subject, are vehicles.

One dude, younger, but not the youngest, has made drawings of his iPhone weather page. He finds pleasure in waking up to sixty-nine (degrees). Sure. I do like this drawing, but I find more long-lasting pleasure in the marker marks, the color, the touch, which are the difference between a drawing and the impersonality of the weather screen. So in this case, the spirit, is the person’s twist.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Light but Heavy

(Wendy White, Easy Rant, 2009)

Casual, ambivalent, unfinished are words that have been tossed around to describe current painting practices and artmaking: everything from Richard Tuttle, to slapdash abstract painting good and bad, to the Unmonumental show at the New Museum a few years back, to thin paint and “bad painting.” This article calls it “provisional.”

I think the gist is accurate: I do see a lot of under-wrought work around. I’m attracted to it because it doesn’t necessarily follow the rules and also you can see a human spirit at play. I look for vitality and rawness in art and I usually find it in the handmade.

But I’m not such a fan of many of these words, because I take myself seriously as an artist, and words like “casual” don’t sound very substantial. And yet, many writers have suggested that you can be serious and casual at the same time. Maybe. Personally, I’m never casual, even though I’d like to be. The drive behind my own immediate, quick spurts tends to be restlessness, often anxiety.

These words have been pitched as the opposite of program and agenda. And a dichotomy has also been established between everyday and ideal, ideal being a thing of the past, apparently.

I have ideals and I think art can be powerful. I also can feel disillusioned, helpless and that there’s nothing we can do about the way the world or the artworld or art is going. I can be in between an optimist and a cynic, but I’m not indifferent.

All this said, do words help you see?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On Oehlen

(Albert Oehlen, FM 17, 2008)

In Jordan Kantor’s article about Albert Oehlen’s “Finger Paintings” (summer Artforum) he uses the word “campaign” to describe bouts or surges of a certain something happening in a painting. For example:
Following [Oehlen’s] previous body of work – in which collaged, printed elements jostled with campaigns of virtuoso brushwork in visual mash-ups – this series constitutes a new chapter in Oeheln’s sustained investigation into gesture and how it might signify in the context of contemporary painting.
I like the idea that an artist attacks a painting, that there is waging. I can relate to the approach. You look at the paper and then you go, you go for it, and you don’t really know what’s going to happen.

Investigation is also a key word, as it implies a searching, an inquisitiveness. Kantor argues that Oehlen leaves questions open, that he doesn’t argue a specific point. “Points” and “Positions” and “Intentions” are very important in art school and also for curatorial packaging and gallery marketing. But they bring art to a semantic level, and lessen the primacy of the visual and the visual experience.

So here I am talking about words used to describe an artist whose work isn’t best understood by thoughts and concepts, but through visual marks and scrawls and their possible significance – if any.

Kantor says:
So while they still operate within the aesthetic sphere of painting, these fingered marks speak to some primary moment of abstraction, when the first artists had an idea that mark-making on a flat picture plane might stand in equivalence to other lived experiences.
What makes Oehlen contemporary, is the way he doesn’t assert meaning like many AbEx Iers might have. Marks are no longer considered transcendental – although they might be – but are acknowledged as personal and contingent and also minor.

In short, conflicting impulses and contradiction make for challenging artwork that opens new doors.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Take Two

(Heidi Pollard, Heart, 2011, oil on canvas, 51" x 40")

On Monday I was a very good student, a very good girl, and wrote a mostly serious summary of Amy Sillman’s article in the summer issue of Artforum. It took forever. But in actuality it’s not very accurate: the spirit is missing.

Today, I’m just going to toss out a list of words that can release AbExII (and I). These words are all from Sillman’s article and could become rhetoric, but let’s hope not.

Praxis of doubt
Throw shit down
Mess shit up
Dialectical interrogations
If you want the body to lead the mind
Fat paintbrushes
Reversal of fortune
Double-edged challenge
Orchid-lavender paint
Discarded materialist excess
Repellent aggression
Risk of actual delight
Formalist rap
Like a big old straight guy who had gone gay

Monday, June 13, 2011

AbEx and Disco Balls

(Amy Sillman, Nose, 2010)

The summer issue of Artforum has accessible articles about the legacy of Abstract Expressionism. There are a lot of ideas in there that feel relevant to and for me, so I want to (attempt to) recap some here, probably over the next few posts.

Artist Amy Sillman writes funny. In her “AbEx and Disco Balls: In Defense of Abstract Expressionism II,” she notes that the original “school” has been an object of genuine loathing starting with Warhol (and even some AbExers), seen as overly expressive, outmoded or bourgeois. The original period has been boiled down to clichés and specifically gender clichés. For men, the practice is macho (the spurt of the paint), for women, it’s intuitive stroke making. This is obviously simplistic. The actual movement is filled with vagaries and conflicts that go beyond the mythic identity and rhetoric.

But being pushed aside has meant it has become open territory for artists on the margins. Sillman makes many references to Susan Sontag “Notes on Camp.” These are mostly over my head.

AbEx has become appealing to contemporary artists as “an active embrace of the aesthetics of awkwardness, struggle, nonsense, contingency.” You’ll hear talk about “de-skilled” art, but contemporary AbEx artists aren’t focusing on disregarding technique. Rather we’re interested in the terrain of the gestural, messy and physical. And these gestures, this mess, this tactile-ness are also a “technique of the body.” And the body is political: the woman’s body, the transgendered body. AbEx has in this way been reclaimed, and is a way to be promiscuous or anything an artist so chooses. Form and content become one.

The political body talk reminded me a bit of college, but Silman’s essay is quite a bit more nuanced, because (she argues) the body in the AbEx legacy is a body in conversation. It’s not so black and white.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A talk about Enso with Matt Jones

Matt Jones is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. His most recent show at Freight + Volume was entitled Multiverse.

This interview was conducted for the Artstep Facebook page, where I'm spending few weeks looking at line in art.

Molly Stevens: Can you describe what it's like to watch an Enso being made?

Matt Jones: The only Ensos I've ever seen made have been by the artist I work for, Max Gimblett. Here’s how it usually goes with him: a piece of his favorite paper (Thai Garden Smooth) is set on a drawing board, usually a piece of cardboard. He then either places his hand on the paper - I usually think this is him absorbing its power or making friends with it - or he doesn't. He stands up very straight, breathes in very deeply, and exhales audibly. He always dips his brush (usually a large Japanese or Chinese brush) in and out of a quart container filled with sumi ink; up and down, letting the brush absorb the ink, so maybe the brush is as fluid as the ink. One more quick but deep breath in and then (most of the time) a loud guttural shout as he puts brush to paper. The result is an Enso.

MS: Wow, it’s really a ritual or practice. In the art world, we'd call it a performance. And is the result a circle or a line?

MJ: The result is a circle, though one could obviously argue that a circle is a line that connects to itself. And yes, it's very performative.

MS: And does the result matter?

MJ: For Max, yes. Sometimes there are good ones and sometimes bad ones. Bad ones get ripped up. It’s based on his rules and taste about what a good Enso is versus a bad one.

MS: Do these Ensos serve anyone else? Do they have value for the viewer?

MJ: Yes, I think, in two very specific ways. First: anyone can make an Enso. There is no mystery about it technically; it's a circle on paper. Max talks about this in regards to his workshops. He often says "every participant leaves with one or two masterpieces they've made and it really makes them feel great." That's so important.

MS: I dig that. It really un-geniuses the masterwork.

MJ: And second: Ensos signify many things. The cyclical nature of life. A single moment in time. The relationship between that Enso's moment in time and the next Enso's moment in time. All mind, no mind. Beauty. Clarity. Removal of suffering (confusion), etc. The viewer can do a lot of work with these ideas. The Enso is a marker and catalyst for the viewer to access these things.

MS: Do you think you can see those concepts visually in the line, in the Enso.

MJ: Are you asking if there's an "essence" to an Enso that allows access to that information regardless of context?

MS: Yes.

MJ: No, there’s nothing in an Enso that tells you any of the things I mentioned before outside of the context. There’s no "essence" of an Enso as there is no "essence" of any thing. Context is king when it comes to relaying information and its usefulness.

MS: In twitter form, what is "all mind, no mind.”

MJ: Max would say, I think, that one approaches the paper with every experience of one's life (maybe even all lives of that person and/or all lives of all sentient beings ever, the creative unconscious) and when the action of "painting" is made, it's all emptied out, all of it, and that moment is recorded on the paper. No concepts, only the mark. I think that's what the noise is. The shout. Breathing in everything, breathing out emptiness. Pretty literal metaphors.

MS: I pulled this quote from one of Chogyam Trungpa's essays: “Obviously, the sense of being can’t be one solid thing. It moves constantly. It projects out and in, and is very fickle. Nevertheless, there should be some attempt to relate to the overall situation, to a sense of the whole.”

MJ: A good quotation! But what’s the "overall situation"? What’s the "whole"? The work of art itself? The materials it’s made of? The studio it's produced in, the gallery or museum it's shown in? The city the studio, museum, or gallery it’s in? The state? The country? The continent? The planet? The solar system?

MS: Well, all the artist has is the moment of making. A moment of being on paper.

MJ: And then what if you have 100s of Ensos, as Max does.

MS: Then I think you have 100s of moments of being. And all of them are the big picture.

MJ: And what do you do with those? What is the "whole" there? I think they all add up to objects about a certain attitude relating to a specific moment in time. And one can look back at the 100s of them and see a life. It’s literally Max's life in Enso form.

Monday, June 6, 2011


(Picasso's Guernica)

In Dore Ashton’s A Critical Study of Philip Guston, she sets up two opposite directions for art: the lyrical and the grotesque. The former, consisting primarily of abstract forms, allows the artist to step away – and sometimes step above – the horror of the world. The latter takes the horror on.

I’m not such a fan of the word “grotesque,” because it implies all ugly with no hope of redemption. George Condo, for example, is grotesque. But Ashton seems to use the word “caricature” interchangeably with the word grotesque, and that makes me understand her term a bit better. Picasso’s Guernica is cited as an example of the grotesque.

She says some artist lines tend towards caricature. (I think mine do.) Nowadays that kind of line is often called cartoony, but I think caricature is a fuller word meaning both essence and distortion at the same time. The opposite of caricature might be “visually realistic.”

With postmodernism in the 80s and 90s, terms aren’t so established anymore and therefore the lyrical-grotesque division isn’t so neat. You can really be in between terms, or be both, or mean different things by either. Over at Two Coats of Paint, Sharon Butler proposes that concepts like “incompleteness” or even “failure” are more accurate ways to talk about what drives contemporary abstract painting forward to completion.

I think the more words the merrier. Just pick on purpose.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A bit on dopamine

In a my-kind-of-talk interview on Monday, Dr. Gabor Maté talked to Amy Goodman about stress diseases and how they stem from broken parent-child relationships, not from genetic abnormalities.

Humans are driven to be close to one another. In terms of the brain, when intimacy is shunned, dopamine levels go down. Dopamine is an essential life chemical that provides the brain with incentive and motivation. So, no love, no dopamine. No dopamine, no function.

If a child is showing signs of agitation or loss of concentration, doctors now dope up the kid on stimulant medications. The idea is that if dopamine levels are elevated, focus and attention are intensified. Yet, while these drugs can certainly be helpful, this knee-jerk prescription solution ignores the environmental causes of these symptoms, namely lack of connection and nurturing in the nuclear family or community.

As I understand it, dopamine is also associated with reward-linked behaviors like addiction. Do something, release dopamine, feel better. Do, get, do, get. Apparently the ding of an incoming Facebook alert or email releases dopamine. Hence social media as a stand-in for substantial emotional connection does the trick, scratches the itch. No needles.

It also seems that because dopamine increases goal-centered behavior and decreases inhibition, it releases the urge to be creative. Do we create as a means to be rewarded, or do we create because we have healthy connections?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Thumbs up for thumbs down

Let it be known how much I want to stop writing posts for this blog. I'd rather escape into snippets of passing thoughts – the kind you get on Facebook – because it makes life seem easier. I’d surely enjoy cocaine. Instead I get high on social media.

But the crash is inevitable. Because I don’t get any real sustenance from “likes.” I can’t say I get it from this blog either, but at least it forces me to think about things just a wee bit more. And while the process is mostly hell these days, I like the feeling of having gotten somewhere else afterward.

But why do it when what it really means is confronting feelings of anger, disgust and loneliness? I can’t be sure, but this op-ed piece Jonathan Franzen wrote in the Times hints at an answer:
To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self […] If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. You may find yourself becoming depressed, or alcoholic, or, if you’re Donald Trump, running for president (and then quitting).
In sum, through commitment, you get to love and despair, which makes you who you really are, which is alive. Like or dislike?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sans Claustrophobia

I think it’s worth the sixteen bucks to see the new Herzog movie, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, in 3D. Even if you don’t have enough money to pay your apartment electric bill. Really.

What’s great about Herzog is that he gets away with being über earnest, without sounding stupid in the least. He can say things like, “let us now listen to the heartbeat of the cave,” and all you can do is answer a chipper “ok!” I think it’s because his primary and keen interest is fully seeing his subjects. He defers to them. Righteousness comes along when an artist’s interest is paired with a desire to teach it, or make a point about it. That makes viewers feel like they’re in school.

Part of what makes art generous (if it is) is the space it leaves its viewers. The space to draw different conclusions, to make one’s own connections, to move about freely through the artist’s proposition.

Art is generous when it feels like a break from your electric bill.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Give it up

(Francis Alÿs, still from Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing), 1997)

Nothing but pans in the press for the Francis Alÿs retrospective at MoMa. The drumbeat is satisfying, because, as the basis for good art, ideas are losing support. Especially when these ideas are samey and pat. It seems prominent New York critics want something to look at, not think about. Me too.

I’ve always felt strongly that artists should be responsible, even when provocative. If an artist is going to put something out into the public realm, she should know the concepts behind it. That being said, more and more what I want from art viewing is pleasure – not entertainment, but pleasure. And for me pleasure in art usually means seeing. Seeing makes me feel good. Even seeing difficult things can feel good.

This brings me to the idea of generosity. What is art giving us? In Christian Viveros-Fauné’s review of the Alÿs show, he uses the word generosity twice. First as way to distinguish between conceptual art actions (masturbating in a gallery vs. founding a political party); second, to describe what and how much is given to the viewer.

This doesn’t mean we artists have to reveal everything. But artists, let’s not show how smart we are, let’s be generous.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Some studio visit do's and don'ts

(Francis Bacon's studio)

Yesterday I visited a studio (not Francis Bacon's). Speaking from the other side, here are some tips for artists.

1. Shut up already. Artists spend loads of time with their work, but visitors need time to soak it up. Give some silence.
2. Don’t defer. If the visitor asks, “Which drawing do you prefer,” don’t say, “well, you would know better.” Really?
3. Don’t make statements about your guest like, “Oh, you’re just so busy,” as the guise for saying “God, I feel so bad that I made you schlep over here.”
4. Say what you see. It’s helpful to hear, “I like the way these blacks got so dark. That’s why I like this paper because it allows for it.”
5. Don’t show everything and the kitchen sink.

And here are some tips for visitors:

1. Say something already! Just say what you see. It’s the artist’s job not to make you feel stupid.
2. Don’t act smart.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Taking Sides

(Christopher Wool, 2005)

Whether it’s fear or reality, I’m concerned that working as an art consultant will negatively impact my drawing and efforts to exhibit as an artist.

People who like artists are artists, one-time artists or wanna-be-artists. The rest think we’re a bit volatile or that we want something from them. Maybe we’re going to invite them to our studio (where they’ll be forced to say something about stuff they don’t like or understand) or ask them to buy or show what we make. Then what? So even though an “artist’s eye” is a selling point, better not tell clients I’m an artist too. But if I don’t mention it, does it mean I still am?

Let’s say it does. If I am in fact an artist, why am I consulting? Why am I trying to move other people’s art? Shouldn’t I be in the studio working or planning my own exhibition? I’d be more devoted if I were starving. On the other hand, this may be my only shot to get my work in the mix.

I can do both I think. I always have. But my brain can’t hold too many ideas about a person – or myself - at once. Even though that’s precisely why I like Kippenberger. He’s so diverse: sculpture, paintings, books, kinetic contraptions, lithographs, posters, all on vast subjects made through diverse approaches. Yet it all comes from a same, palpable personality.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

As neat as the pantry

(Nicole Eisenman, Death and Maiden, 2009, oil on canvas, 14.25 x 18 in.)

What about the free American woman? In movieland, what are our prospects?

After the age of 40 you can be Maude as in Harold and, with a wonderfully uplifting spirit, but you’ll commit suicide so as not to face old age – and also, you’ve just had enough. Or you can grab your friends Thelma and Louise and drive off a cliff. If you’re upper middle, it’s probably better to be a ball-busting shark or plain old good mom.

And what about the free American woman as artist?

If you want to compete with the guys, you’ll have to be as butch as possible – at the very least, an outspoken feminist. Otherwise, you’ll have to be quirky, lyrical or psychological and preferably the wife of another artist. The monumental is off-limits. But don’t worry: once you die, you can be marketed for the ages.

I'll stop being flip.

Art by women is different than art by men. I don’t see that as the problem. Let’s just broaden the categories and expand the notions of destiny.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jeune et Belle

(Natalie Baye in "A French Gigolo")

I have a soft spot for mainstream French movies, the kind that aren’t really trying to be film, but that just tell a story and let you spend ninety minutes in the French mindset and in Paris if you’re lucky. It’s as refreshing as some time away, and you don’t have to take a plane.

This past weekend's selections from Netflix instant watch were about love, the true kind versus the kind that you pay for, for convenience sake. These were upper middle class scenarios, so no down and dirty prostitution and tales of societal misery. Just good clothes and the struggle between personal freedom and intimacy.

In “I do: How to Get Married and Stay Single,” a perfume nose hires Charlotte Ginsburg to be the perfect fiancée so his family will leave him alone. “Priceless” is the tale of two young beauts – a man and a woman - who hunt down older partners in order to mooch off of their well-heeled life along the Riviera. The best though, was “A French Gigolo,” which endearingly tells the story of being the older woman asking for such services (yes, let's acknowledge that that perspective would likely not be considered on this side of the "pond").

France is a country that prides itself on its sensuality, on breeding the femme fatale, on coining the term “ménage à trois,” and accepting the open marriage (how many times have you been reminded that both Mitterand’s wife and mistress were at his funeral). But all that is facade. The French are the most tradition-minded, family-oriented people I know. And every single one of these movies reaffirms it. In the chilling voiceover that ends “A French Gigolo,” the woman “of a certain age” declares, “I am a free woman.” That she is, but lest anyone think otherwise, the free French woman is lonely and will live to regret it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Miserable Authenticity

(Kirk Hayes, Stairs (For Kelson), 2006)

(Philip Guston, Untitled, 1980)

I was immediately attracted to this piece by Kirk Hayes in Gumption, a group show now on view at ZieherSmith. But is it the particular work that I like or the appeal of the association I make? That’s certainly reminiscent of a Guston pink and the roughhewn foot is part of Guston’s vocabulary (anyone who has been reading here a while knows, I like my Philip Guston.) Hayes’s other oil on panel in the exhibition rings more true to me. The line between influence and imitation is fine indeed.

With my own drawing, it’s so hard to tell when something is enough my own. If the question pops into my head, I probably have my answer: I’m too close. If I’m wracked with insecurity because I’ve never really seen anything like it, then I’m probably in the right zone of authenticity, miserable authenticity. Only with time does the sting wear away into a “maybe that works.”

All this said, with an almost-Guston my wall, I could be a happier person.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lazy Monday

Today, more photographs, less words.

What is that painting behind Obama?

Wouldn’t this make a great drawing in oil stick? I’ll lose the Blonde in my version.

I still like them.
(Demonstration for the release of Ai Wei Wei yesterday in front of the Chinese Embassy).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


This is the most memorable work I saw today at the American Folk Art Museum. It's by a well-known self-taught artist named Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery and started drawing in his 80s. I still find it awkward to have work by "marginals" in a museum that institutionalizes "the marginal" (marginal to me).

As museum goers and art lovers, we tend to only learn about an artist's background if the artist is black, a woman or poor beyond can't-pay-back-my-loans. Sure, personal history is interesting and certainly does add dimension to seeing work. But we tend to chose what personal history matters. For some reason, we don't think the fact that Julian Schnabel has a new model girlfriend "matters." Nor does it "matter" that Molly Stevens found the deductions necessary to reduce her taxes to $4400, down from $10,400.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another money riddle

(Carroll Dunham, Square Mule, 2007)

Today I learned that we underestimated what we owed in taxes for 2010 by seven thousand dollars.

I haven’t drawn this well in months.

Monday, March 28, 2011


(Julia Roberts chilling in Bali on the path to happiness)

How can you become a better person? In recent years, Hollywood has given us two options, both entirely apolitical. To qualify, you just have to be loaded.

You can go the way of The Blind Side and take in an abandoned inner-city youth with athletic potential. This movie is based on a true story, and as such, is pretty incredible. But when you watch the real family being interviewed by Mike Huckabee on Fox News, you know other intentions are at work: namely to promote a vision of what happens when you rely (not on government but) on the good Christian will of individuals. Everyone will live happily ever after. Just make sure your new family member is docile. But even if he’s not, you’re a member of the NRA, so everything should turn out ok anyway.

Or you could go the route of Eat, Pray, Love and indulge in travel to Italy, India and Bali. In Italy, you might have to buy size 2 jeans, which is a bummer since you used to be a size 1. You’ll lose the pounds in India though, but not your attachments. Guess that would take even more meditating. It takes so long! Never mind, in Bali, you’ll fall in love with Javier Bardem. He’ll make you feel better. And somewhere along the way, you can email your friends who will send over $17,000 for a local to buy a house.

I certainly don’t mean to downplay individual lives and amazing experiences. Sometimes one person at a time is the best you can do. But on the level of popular culture, these tales become parables and also mirrors of the reigning ideologies of our times.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The snob's phone

(Philip Guston, Hooded, Charcoal on Paper, 1968)

I can’t really post today because I got my first iphone. I feel that my status has been upped, that I’m part of a club and that club says something about me. It says I’m savvy, on the go, a multi-tasker, a liberal, too good to be true. I’m coordinated, busy, up to date, pretty damn well off. The iphone is the snob’s phone, for sure. I love it already.

But I still like my art plain and simple. Charcoal on paper please. Do you realize this drawing must have taken all of two minutes, if that - after years of build up to get to this point of course.

And the sound of charcoal on paper. You can't beat it. I think there's app that'll record it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


(Percy Heath and Jimmy Heath)

Like I was saying on Monday, if you have a democratic spirit in art, you focus little on your personal position. What matters is the well-being of the whole, animated by diverse parts. I confess again, I have a hard time letting my individualistic urges go. Therefore, not only am I an art capitalist, but I’m an art snob.

Virginia Woolf, in her hilarious essay “Am I a Snob?” (thanks Ixv) provides a definition:
The essence of snobbery is that you wish to impress the other. The snob is a flutter-brained, hare-brained creature so little satisfied with his or her own standing that in order to consolidate it he or she is always flourishing a title or an honor in other people’s faces so that they may believe, and help him to believe what he does not really believe – that he or she is somehow a person of importance.
Really what has to be highlighted here is that a snob doesn’t actually believe she’s superior. She therefore sets things up around her in order to feel better about herself: she’s comforted by certain friends that complement an image she’d like to project of herself as independent and edgy; she fills her head with lofty thoughts about the potential of art (I think therefore I am). This is snob psychology, and it explains why one such person would prefer to be surrounded by like-minded artists in a gallery. Because, braving difference on her own is too damn scary.

I can think of three art snob antidotes off the top of my head:

1. Find your inner-aristocrat whereby you don’t need to care about other people. My friend, I’ll call her Shields, was a good example. She had no censor mechanism and would tell dirty jokes at every dinner party possible.

2. Find your inner-Heath Brother. To quote Percy Heath, “The reward for playing jazz is that you get to play jazz… It’s something to live for.”

3. Genuine, if only temporary, feeling.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Drawing as performance

Why draw in public? I have no idea.

I'll be drawing from 3-4pm and then will be at the kids station after.

Monster Drawing Rally benefiting the Dumbo Arts Center.
This Sunday.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What's Up in Teen Pop Culture

It’s all about Rihanna. Not with Eminem. That was months ago. I mean the new Rihanna video called S & M. A fascinating subject indeed, although here it’s rendered for primetime TV. But let me tell you, when a twelve year old asks you if she can eat the dinner sausage like Rihanna does a banana, you know something is still working in pop culture.

Then there’s a guy (a band? a brand?) called Neo-con. Oh, wait, I mean Madcon. What’s amazing about a song like Beggin’ is its instant familiarity, a jingly – yes, catchy - blend of 60s and 70s for the 00s. It sounds like a spoof, but in fact it’s a cover. Of course I prefer the Frankie Valli version because I still believe in authenticity. So kill me.

One more mention: Willow Smith. She’s Will Smith’s daughter (get it?) and she’s ten. Back in the day when she was nine, she recorded a song, “I whip my hair back and forth,” and well... At one point, she walks out whipping her hair back and forth, wearing a t-shirt that reads “I love me.”

Can you practice along with me? "I love me, I love me, I love me.”

Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday's faux koan

(Drawing of ancient Chinese comet observations)

What I want to say today is that I don’t have time to write anything.

So two questions instead: is it better to have a handful of art friends that you like only some of the time, or 0 art friends that you like all of the time.

And on the flip side:

Is it better to be liked by a handful of art friends some of the time, or by 0 art friends all of the time?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


(Top: Freddie Brice, Untitled, c. 1987-1990 ; Bottom: Molly Stevens, Untitled, 2011)

So much of what is called “outsider” art is appealing to me for the bold visions that show little if no respect of institutional culture; you get fearless combinations of text, figuration and patterning; gutsy colors; un-precious supports and materials. To be a true “outsider,” you apparently have to not only have no affiliations with a school or official art culture, but you have to not even know that either exits. Sometimes this means the work’s bold visions are visionary; sometimes it means that it isn’t institutional but rather institutionalized. In fact Dubuffet’s term “art brut” – which I think started it all - was meant specifically to describe work by asylum inmates. The line is fine for me. I don’t want to admire work by the unhealthy or the unaware. Not only would that be exploitative, but it would be unhealthy and unaware on my part.

A lot of outsider art is scary. In James Kalm’s video report of this year’s Outsider Art Fair , we see a standing sculpture from Haiti that is said to contain a human skull; another piece is made of dirty rags and looks like a face. I don’t want to know what it can do. Keep the needles away.

I’m not scared of the word primitive if it means early. And I don’t mind the word tribal if it means part of community’s culture. I do wince at the word naïve (according to whom?). And I’m wary of the jumble that outsider-primitive-tribal-naive art has come to encompass. In a way, it’s all a manner of saying “not the white dude who teaches at Yale with a show up at Zwirner” – with condescending irony, for sure.

Often it’s best not to think too much about terms. A piece is good if it’s good, no matter what it is or where it comes from. You jut have to call it art.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


A friend of mine who actually has a functioning career as an artist thrives on freedom. It’s her M.O and at times also her schtick. Fuck ‘em, break free and be free. It’s appealing, I can’t deny it. I admire her style, but by nature, I tend to wade in the struggle.

On my team is Philip Guston. In an exciting collection of his writings, lectures and conversations, he says:
When you begin painting you’re too free. That’s why it’s always so painful to start a new picture, or to start the process again, because you have to go through the whole thing again and again. To get rid of the freedom, you might say. I think what is happening is that you’re getting to a state of unfreedom. […] And paradoxically, when you can only do this and not that […] you’re more free in some mysterious metaphysical way.

A few weeks back, I wondered about the psychological freedom that might bond artists as visually different as Amy Silman, Brice Marden and Pierre Bonnard. Perhaps a more precise investigation would involve questioning how each, through unfreedom, came into the work’s truth.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The art-event bandwagon

(Installation view of Christian Marclay's video, The Clock)

I feel silly writing about “The Clock” when every critic on this island has already done so, giving it a standing ovation. Christian Marclay’s video is a 24-hour montage that’s an actual clock that you sit and watch. It is composed of thousands of movie clips in which time is displayed or discussed minute by minute, practically second by second. There are scenes, splices of scenes; moments build, moments stand still; time is scary, funny, suspenseful, bloody. And all the while there are timepieces bookmarking it all.

I was there specifically from 3:37 to 4:32. This stuff is great if you have even only an ounce of ADD because time flies. I could have easily stayed longer. The theater was packed and I hear on weekends there are lines to get in. On Fridays, the gallery stays open 24 hours.

What this piece does so well is give the sense of the world’s breadth and momentum. Or that’s at least what it presents and it feels real. Time is a construct that we use to organize it all. It’s way of framing constant movement and change. It's a metaphor too that we believe in. For example, we're convinced time moves “forward."

But blah blah. This is enjoyable art. I tried to think of something more insightful to say, but couldn’t. They’ll be plenty of that anyway. Someone will bring up Douglas Gordon’s 24-hour Psycho, right?

From Jerry Saltz's Facebook discussion. This is a comment by the New York Time's Ken Johnson:
ok, i took the jerry challenge. went back and watched for 90 minutes and came away with a split decision. i can think of as many reasons why it is good, if not great, as i can for why it is not so great. i got a better sense of just how canny the editing is but also a sense of how the mood keeps canceling itself as scenes change. i thought of baldessari's photographic montages, which, unlike surrealist montages are more semiotic than surrealistic/psychoanalytic. marclay's wit and cleverness are immense, and the execution is unimpeachably polished. philosophically there is plenty to talk about: real time vs. fictive time; time as a construct; modern, bureaucratically regimented, machine time and human freedom. the possibility of escaping time. time vs. eternity. but i have the feelng that the mandate to fill out 24 hours of clock time -- however impressively fulfilled -- produced something kind of impersonal. is it a work of soul stirring art, the product of a prophetic visionary? or an amazing stunt? i came away divided. so, i guess, it's a draw and we went dutch. all of which, i imagine, i'd have to rethink if i sat through all 24 hours. or not.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Internet Art

(George Condo, Homeless Harlequins, 2004)

It’s certainly a good feeling to be able to identify the works and artists George Condo refers to when viewing his retrospective at the New Museum. It made me feel smart, in the know. “Ah, that’s Ingres.” But the next thought is inevitably, “Boy, is that ugly.” Grotesque is more precise. Outsized boobs, popping eyeballs, elongated hairy limbs. There’s no respite from it. There’s no beauty, save for the amazing paint handling and confident drawing.

Does this make Condo’s work powerful social critique? Not immediately. On site, I didn’t feel offended, I didn’t feel a rousing sense of agreement. And this might be because, in numbers, critique is overwhelming. But in hindsight – and in looking at individual images online - it has whammy power.

Does this mean Condo’s work is actually more suited for reproduction and speed? Are the paintings each a quick, slick stab? I’ll go back with that in mind.