May 2010

ART TALK HAS BECOME SO BLOATED with self-consciousness that it hardly counts as conversation any more. Certainly not as the Goncourt brothers understood the word. Not even as it is practiced over a Sam Adams Light at McFadden’s Tap. These days, art talk is known as discourse, a gray, unsmiling thing with the smell of the podium about it. If only Ernest Gellner were still here to do for artspeech what he did for the analyst’s couch in The Psychoanalytic Movement (1985). Continue Reading
Hodgkin, Pieper and Artwriting

The lecture goes back a few years but reminders of it keep arriving. In November, 2003, while he was here for his exhibit at Gagosian, Howard Hodgkin gave a talk at the Frick. The subject was one of those airy things that weigh a ton: an artist’s perspective on the relationship between painting and its audience. The topic presupposes a certain consciousness on the part of painting itself, that it might reach out, as they say, to hold up its part in relationship with you and me. Continue Reading
Hector McDonnell, Ulster Artist

This how the House of Lords ends—in the arts. Hector McDonnell is an established painter, etcher and illustrator born and raised in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Raised in Glenarm Castle to be exact. McDonnell is the younger son of the 13th Earl of Antrim, Ulster’s only aristocratic Catholic titleholder. Hector’s older brother—an architect—is the 14th Earl, still living in the family castle. Glenarm, like so many of England’s great houses, helps pay the heating bills by opening itself to the public at certain times of the year, as well as for weddings and corporate events. Continue Reading
Dorothea Rockburne's Astronomy Drawings

A distinguished abstract painter, Dorothea Rockburne’s public profile is surprisingly modest in relation to her achievement. The names of her painting instructors at Black Mountain College in the 1950s—Franz Kline, Philip Guston and Jack Tworkov—are more widely recognized among the general public than her own. Nevertheless, her worldwide exhibition record is as enviable as her many prestigious fresco commissions. “Astronomy Drawings,” now on the final leg of a national tour that began one year ago at Wheaton College, is a testament to a long and laudable career. Continue Reading
Early Stage Zoophilia?

The Savannah College of Art is known for its no-nonsense commitment to hands-on studio practice. So their most recent broadcast, announcing an open studio night on May 8th, contained a surprise. There were the expected offerings: wheel throwing demos from the ceramics department; an exhibit of new work from the painting faculty; a print making demonstration.  Slipped in was “Animal Logic,” a student exhibit devoted to “investigating human desire to construct relationships with animals.” The show goes on to explore the use of animals as “a paradoxical metaphor” for humans in contemporary art. Continue Reading