Friday, March 12, 2010

JOHN CUNEO: AIMING FOR AN INVISIBLE TARGET

Compare Saul Steinberg's observation on the obstacles to creation...



...with John Cuneo's treatment of the same theme:



Cuneo's hapless artist suffers from very different constraints. You'll rarely find a theme-- or a line-- in Cuneo's offbeat world as straight as Steinberg's leash.

Cuneo's artist is bedeviled by his diminutive artistic size, by the huge, languid planet of muliebrity between him and his art, by that rump distracting him from his artistic mission, by that wobbly little easel perched on top of his subject... here is a valiant artist clearly outmatched by his subject matter, whose vast limbs drape beyond his field of vision. Like much of Cuneo's work, this picture is laced with subtle visual touches; without the impassive face on the woman, this picture wouldn't be nearly as smart. The woman is utterly indifferent to the artist's presence, both artistically and amatorily.

I find Cuneo to be one of the most psychologically insightful illustrators working today, and his observations about the artistic process and about life in general make me laugh out loud. Check out Cuneo's drawing for the Society of Illustrators:



I've never seen a more hilarious or pointed rendition of what artists secretly hope to achieve by their work, contrasted with the actual response of their audience.

Ever since the days of Robert Blechman, it is not uncommon for illustrators to draw with stray, wispy lines, blobby colors and lopsided, distorted figures. On this blog, I have criticized artists who try to mimic children's drawings in superficial ways, or who are willfully sloppy but fail to achieve the raw, disturbing potential of that kind of art. I find that sometimes artists who adopt a childlike approach are merely milking the contradiction between a naive drawing style and a mature subject matter.

But Cuneo's pictures use this approach to achieve piercing, authentic results. For me, they are achingly genuine and psychologically astute, not to mention rich and funny and weird. But that leaves the question, if Cuneo is able to hit the target better than most of his peers, exactly what target is he hitting? This week I would like to explore what makes such drawing successful (or not).

Picasso put it arrogantly (of course), but accurately:
In the old days, pictures went forward toward completion by stages.... A picture used to be the sum of additions. In my case, a picture is the sum of destructions.
When art was subject to the formal rules of a powerful Academy, artists used agreed-upon techniques to progress toward agreed-upon goals. Viewers were able to ask, "Is that hand drawn correctly? Is that flower accurate? Does the artist know how to mix color? Does that pose seem stiff and awkward?" Later, when Picasso and his successors obliterated such standards, abstraction and conceptual art operated under their own criteria for success.

Today the criteria for a successful picture seem pretty clear at either extreme on the spectrum, but artists working in Cuneo's genre seem to occupy a kind of purgatory in between. Their work is representational, but deliberately "off" or "wrong." If an artist aspires to ungainly and awkward pictures, how do you distinguish between "good" awkward and "bad" awkward? What makes this type of distortion effective in some cases and ineffective in others? In other words, what the hell is the target?

Look at Cuneo's choices in the following drawing. You can tell from his treatment of the man's hands or the swivel of his hips that Cuneo knows how to draw in the traditional sense. Yet, look at the weird way he distorts the girl's arms and legs, or how her head is too small for her own body, let alone in comparison to the man's oversized cranium.



When you know how to draw, you have to unlearn what you know to draw this way. You have to conquer muscle memory and uproot hardened patterns of perception. When you start making wrong lines, your muscles rebel. Alarms in the synapses between your hand and eye start to shriek: "Stop! Too far! Out of proportion! Go back!"



The artist has to resist the urge, described by Picasso, to complete the picture by going back and fixing the apparent flaws. The eye and the hand battle with the brain for control, and it is a contest that must be fought inch by inch.

Despite the deliberate crudeness of Cuneo's lines, they come together for some highly sophisticated results. The expressions on the people in many of Cuneo's pictures-- wan, jaded, dissolute, indulgent-- aren't the basic expressions you'd typically learn in art school.


Note the glee of the drunk urinating on a street person.


More subtle touches-- the surgeon who throws his hands in the air like a magician proud of his newest miracle. This hilarious picture, which seems to be drawn so casually, was the product of intense labor.

Here is a detail from Cuneo's treatment of Adam and Eve. I find this picture of Eve quite beautiful and erotic.


If you want to see the full drawing you'll have to hunt it down in Cuneo's book, nEuROTIC. If I posted the full version here, some reader would turn me in to the blogger police.

Cuneo's drawings are tiny-- never more than a few inches tall.


I love the way Cuneo uses just a few gentle skritches around the perimeter of a circle to suggest this face



Once we've jettisoned the relatively objective criteria that accompanied representational art, it's difficult to articulate a coherent standard for when "awkward" and "wrong" will turn out to be "honest" and "beautiful." How much distortion is enough? With each picture Cuneo has to decide where to pitch his tent on the road between all and nothing at all. The quality of his pictures are proof that the target, even if invisible, is not an illusion.

96 Comments:

Anonymous MORAN said...

Cuneo is brilliant, the best of his bunch. He always makes me laugh. I always thought it was because he draws like a genuine pervert, rather than a poseur. That's very hard to do.

3/12/2010 5:10 PM  
Blogger Bruce Docker said...

I am struggling with the fuzzy line between illustration and fine art, this seems to throw in even more confusion by adding caricature or cartooning. Is the distortion in these drawings different from caricature?

3/12/2010 6:11 PM  
Blogger doug rogers said...

Yes.

Bruce, as a caricaturist, yes, somehow, yes, the distortion is different.

3/12/2010 9:07 PM  
Blogger António Araújo said...

> You can tell from his treatment >of the man's hands or the swivel >of his hips that Cuneo knows how >to draw in the traditional sense

This is a recurrent thesis with you, David. It might be stated thus:

Before you can draw badly properly you have to draw properly properly.

I don't know if it is always true, but I do know that if people in art schools took it to be true I wouldn't have to look at so many crappy drawings in modern art Mausoleums.

3/12/2010 9:11 PM  
Blogger Kagan M. said...

I'm consistently amazed how you can put stuff like this into words. It's easy to see what's good about a Cuneo drawing but it's fun to read about it too!

3/12/2010 11:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the introduction to another great artist. There's a ton of great work on Cuneo's web site but I didn't see any close ups like you have here. He is very, very funny, especially the sex drawings. How did I miss him?

JSL

3/12/2010 11:32 PM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

if there is a 'target' i would imagine it's to keep amusing and surprising himself with form, proportion and line.


sometimes he reminds me of Heinrich Kley and T S Sullivant.

3/13/2010 6:31 AM  
Blogger Tom Lyle said...

Antonio-
Your line:
Before you can draw badly properly you have to draw properly properly.

It's perfectly put.

I have so many students doing illustration that don't feel the need to know how to really draw.

"It's just not my thing" or some other crap excuse is tossed at me frequently.

I'm still trying to learn to draw and I've been doing it professionally for 26 years.

I hope I figure some more out before I die.

Cuneo's work is disturbing, but interesting. Very disturbing. Too raw for me. However, it's like a car wreck - you have to look.

Thanks, David.

Tom

3/13/2010 9:00 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Moran, I certainly agree with you that Cuneo is brilliant. As for drawing like a pervert-- well, I understand what you mean. I think one of his key strengths is that he is willing to use his brilliance to visit the dark place where people keep their spiders and snakes hidden. His candor wouldn't be nearly so effective if the "non-perverts" in the crowd didn't recognize the themes and motivations he describes.

Bruce and Doug-- if you check out Cuneo's web site you will see a section on caricatures. There you will find some overlap (for example, Cuneo uses the traditional caricaturist device of making the head oversized to play up the features that establish a likeness). But I agree with Doug, this distortion is different from what we normally consider caricature. (When hollywood executives kept pressing to find the right category to classify one of Terry Gilliam's upcoming movies, he said in exasperation, "they keep trying to define the damn thing and I keep trying to make it undefinable.")

3/13/2010 9:06 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Antonio-- I agree with you 100%. Very well said.

Kagan M-- thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous/JSL-- I think Cuneo's subject matter (he regularly illustrates the sex column for Esquire) has a limited audience and keeps him from becoming as widely known as he otherwise might be, but at the same time I think his strongest drawings are the one with mature themes.

Laurence John-- I am a big fan of both Kley and Sullivant, and I understand what you mean about the similarity. All three have a playfulness to their work. Kley's line is close to Cuneo's and Kley certainly had a little bit of the devil in him (although never as dark as Cuneo-- perhaps it's just the times).

3/13/2010 9:26 AM  
Blogger LuisNCT said...

I didn't knew Cuneo's work until now. It remembers Bill Plympton

3/13/2010 9:41 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Tom Lyle said: Cuneo's work is disturbing, but interesting. Very disturbing. Too raw for me."

Tom, one of the best things about blogging for me is that these comments invariably raise interesting tangents which cross fertilize the discussion.

Like you, I don't spend time with work that I find too raw or disturbing. For example, I won't devote any more time to looking at the work of certain underground comic artists such as S. Clay Wilson. But for me, the analysis about who is worthwhile has two steps: 1.) how raw is the image, and 2.) what are the benefits from viewing it? I think Wilson's explicit images are accompanied by a juvenile, simple minded message. I can feel myself simultaneously coarsening and losing IQ points while I look at his work, so it becomes easy to avert my eyes. But Cuneo is a totally different experience for me. His explicit images sometimes make me wince, but the nutritional content of a drawing can make any image worthwhile. With Cuneo I think we tend to wince more at his honesty and his willingness to say things we all secretly know, than we wince at his sexual or scatological images. I like the ways he is so much smarter than I am, and the ways he processes the world that would never occur to me. That kind of quality redeems any "shocking" images for me.

3/13/2010 10:08 AM  
Blogger squidmonk3j said...

You really should look into getting a collection of these fantastic art essays published. Ever insightful, inspiring and great fun to read!

3/13/2010 1:55 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

In this, one of the many inevitable eras of bloodless artistic mediocrity, Cuneo stands out from the lumpen proles for exhibiting genuine passion...as do you, mine host, with this essay. It does, however sadden me that in order to discuss the obvious validity of Cuneo's art (and it most assuredly is Art) you are compelled to play to the folks in the cheap seats by pointing out that Cuneo has mastered the basics of his craft.

That leaning on the obviously measureable is, as you and Picasso before you noted, clearly what the rubes use as a measure of artistic worth. They apply their stolid workaday values of diligence and labor to the one area in which it clearly does not fit...Art. Thank you for bringing up the obvious to those who demand the obvious.

Also, thank you for dusting off muliebrity, a verbal gem if there ever was one. More pearls cast before the Protestant Work Ethic!

3/14/2010 1:48 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Rob, what's wrong with championing good drawing ability that has taken a lot of time and hard work to develop ?

3/14/2010 8:05 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>what's wrong with championing good drawing ability that has taken a lot of time and hard work to develop ?<<<

Because there's nothing to champion. It is a BASIC skill. Every artist should be, at very least, be able to draw anything placed before them...that is, to COPY from nature. That is as fundamental as a chef knowing to use a sharp knife or a plumber how to sweat a joint. All chefs use sharp knives and all plumbers can sweat a joint...all, that is, except gross incompetents who take on the title of chef or plumber without knowing those very fundamental basics.

Learning to handle a knife, a blowtorch or a pencil properly does take time and work. Big deal. Did you expect basic skills to drop from the sky? Should we applaud the chef because he has put in the time to learn to use his knives, or do we applaud him for the meal he has prepared?

Work is what humans do. You dig in the garden, you haul trash out, you change a tire, you study...it's all work. Big deal. Work is the most common thing among living creatures. Worms work hard for their meal, as do the robins who catch them. Radishes and flowers actually work (in the physical sense) in order to grow.

But somehow, the work involved in learning to draw takes on mythical qualities out of all proportion to what is involved.

While I might not be able to teach a monkey to draw, I damned sure can teach any able-bodied human how to make a good representation of what the see. Drawing from memory is another task, but that much admired (not by me) Xerox approach taught in the ateliers is successful for the same reason that an infinite number of monkeys and typewriters with eventually produce every word in the Library of Congress. Of course they won't be strung together in a coherent, let alone artful way.

Is that meaningful in making art?

Not really. As we have seen with the ateliers, they produce a very high percentage of skilled but unimaginative graduates. The question is, were they unimaginative before they were trained or did the drudgery of that silly method manage to beat out any artistic sensibilities?

Please, Laurance, do not confuse labor with anything SPECIFIC to art. There's a lot pf physical labor involved in many aspects of making art (picking up heavy sacks of plaster to make casts, stretching huge canvases and priming them, making sketches, corrections, the increasing rare paint sketch...all are work, labor).

Wonderment at someone who has put in the few weeks needed to draw with reasonable accuracy (and it is fast if you are reasonably intelligent and have a no-nonsense teacher...it should take no more than six months...TOPS!) is an indicator of the sort of lazy flesh failures who are drawn to the field of Art because they know they'd fail at obviously difficult subjects and believe that art is easy to master...and you can wear black clothing splattered with paint.

Like many of my classmates, I went into the Boston Museum School to learn a trade...a skill that I'd enjoy doing to MAKE A LIVING. Of all of those who shared that attitude, all are making a living in art...ALL! Of those who were there for some vague and ephemeral reason having to do with feelings and expressing themselves, few are working and of those, most have to teach to make a living (guess what they teach?).

It's not the amount of work, it's all about the attitude one holds and stripping the study of Art of that mystical wrapping that gets in the way. It's really easy as long as you don't think that it's spiritual. That can come later but for now, learn to put the pipes together so they don't leak.

3/14/2010 10:31 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Rob, point taken... but In Cuneo's case i don't think it hurts to highlight the fact that he can basically draw well before going on to look at the way he DOES draw (which breaks many 'correct' rules).

in a way the fact that he can draw well EXPLAINS a lot of the off-kilter choices he makes, and gets away with.

3/14/2010 1:37 PM  
Blogger theory_of_me said...

Rob said: "you are compelled to play to the folks in the cheap seats by pointing out that Cuneo has mastered the basics of his craft."

I think a lot of the blame for that falls on Cuneo himself. He still draws in a way that more than vaguely resembles a traditional style. When I look at the Steinberg drawing, I can't tell if he can secretly draw like a "classical realist" or not and I don't care. Cuneo still needs to remind us in everything he does that he's a competent artist in the traditional sense despite all his scratchy, wiggly lines and distorted proportions . He hasn't really unlearned anything, he's just aping a more naive style, probably because there's a market for it.

Look at Picasso, for instance. There are many well-known examples of the technical competence he achieved at what seems like an unusually young age, yet there are still many people who refuse to accept his more mature work as Art. There are even some who subscribe to the theory that his father must have done all those academic studies for him. There is definitely something about Steinberg and Picasso that is more extreme than Cuneo.

3/14/2010 4:11 PM  
Anonymous john cuneo said...

It's hard to resist pointing out the passages in these drawings that I believe sorely fail to live up to the qualities attributed to them here, but I will , because it would sound churlish and ungracious, and probably typical of me to do otherwise.
But such heady praise. I feel like the guy who stumbled into his surprise birthday party and really ought to thank the host and the guests before he gets too drunk : Thank you for the kind words- and
and other opinions as well . It takes a village...
In addition to his insightful comment, Luarence John mentioned Kley and TS Sullivant.
I remember seeing some originals years ago. The Kley's were two unfinished drawings- both of them almost exactly the same, and though perfect and sublime to my eyes , both abandoned about half way through (according to the penciled underdrawing). Who knows what fault Kley found in those beautiful sketches?
The Sullivant's all had a savagely scraped, almost topographic surface where many densely hatched lines had been put down and razor bladed out and sometimes drawn over again, but also leaving lot's of shallow empty craters pockmarking the heavy paper. Of course the eventual reproduction would show none of that tortured editing , but it was heartening, and kind of empowering, to see that even the Masters struggle sometimes to hit their own mysterious targets . It gives one hope.

3/14/2010 5:55 PM  
Blogger Joss said...

"When you know how to draw, you have to unlearn what you know to draw this way. You have to conquer muscle memory and uproot hardened patterns of perception. When you start making wrong lines, your muscles rebel. Alarms in the synapses between your hand and eye start to shriek: "Stop! Too far! Out of proportion! Go back!"

John Cuneo,
Before you posted I found myself wishing you could offer your perspective on the above lines from David's delightful essay.

3/14/2010 8:14 PM  
Blogger Matthew Adams said...

Rob, as a proddy boy myself, I will stick up for what the protestant work ethic was meant to be... that everyone, if they were peasant labourer, priest or king was doing work that could be done to the glory of God, as opposed to the view that some people had that the only worthwhile work was in the church.

Unfortunately that has translated today into a salvation by works, which is one of the things the protestant reformation was against. And it isn't salvation by good works such as charity, it is salvation by holding down a 9-5.

I agree with the rest of your comment though. I get a bit frustrated when people say to me "I wish I could draw", as if I was some lucky bastard who was born with an amazing ability while they had to slog through life (not that I think my drawing abilities are amazing, in fact they're quite lacking). If they had wanted to draw they could easily learn, but just like I don't wish to study medicine as some of them have, they don't really want draw.

John Cuneo's work is art not because he can draw (which he can), but because he can show us something with his drawings we don't already know, or if we do know, haven't been able to express.

3/14/2010 8:37 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I'm really enjoying all the Marshall McLuhan-just-happens-to-be-right-here moments that have been happening lately on this blog.

Speaking of which, (convenient segue) Cuneo's stuff has a similarly wince-inducing, yet hilarious, accuracy as Woody Allen's best work. Or Richard Pryor or Albert Brooks... never just funny for its own sake. Too true to just be funny.

The linework is actually really interesting... straddling the line between perceptiveness and lunacy. I guess it all shares a kind of warped-ness. The downside of any intense ability to perceive reality is, I think, an equally intense need to have a drink, or to explain to people in excruciatingly painful detail just exactly how warped it all is. Lucky for us, some of those people are artists.

Similar artists... I think you've gone through a few already. But one you haven't mentioned, Mark Marek, now has a website. He used to do the Hercules strips in National Lampoon, which were pure comic gold (and not one of which I can find online.)

(And, just to take things full circle, Marek has his own definition of the difference between Art and Illustration on his mostly animation-oriented website.)

Thanks for the intro to Cuneo, btw.

3/14/2010 10:39 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Mr.Cuneo, if I knew you were reading this blog I would not have written that you draw like a pervert. I hope you understand that I meant it as a compliment. We would be very interested in anything you can tell us about how you approach a picture.

Do your art directors ever reject your work for going too far or do they pretty much know what they are going to get when they choose you?

3/14/2010 10:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Lyle said...

David-
I appreciate your comments in regards to my "too raw" comment. I've totally enjoyed a lot of the type of humor in Cuneo's work in the past -- Rodriquez' Frankenstein in National Lampoon in the 70's comes to mind -- and I can very much appreciate John's artistic skills.
I certainly want you (and, apparently John Cuneo - that's neat that he's read these posts) to know that I don't mean that I will avoid John's work.
It's just a matter of taste for me.
I'd defend Cuneo to the death to keep doing his brilliant humor, but I won't go out of my way to read it because -- maybe I'm a wuss, but I don't want to know other people's inner demons that closely. I've seen enough in my own family already.
A bit personal, but I appreciate the opportunity to mention that life experiences can affect what we look at and how we see it.
Keep blogging, David.
Keep drawing, John Cuneo.

3/15/2010 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Carnifex said...

well,that sure was funny;to see the artist himself comment. oh,the vast seas of the internet.
regardless,thank you for showing his work,i hadn't known him before. as i've often said,it's always a pleasure to read through your thoughts on this blog,and they're almost always spot on.
in particular,from these pieces,i love the "drinking" comic(?),because it hits right home.
thank you john cuneo for working the way you do too.

3/15/2010 3:42 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

squidmonk3j-- bless you! I am deeply flattered.

Rob Howard said,"in order to discuss the obvious validity of Cuneo's art (and it most assuredly is Art) you are compelled to play to the folks in the cheap seats by pointing out that Cuneo has mastered the basics of his craft."

Rob, I admit I am not insensitive to the fact that an ability to draw is a ticket to legitimacy for many people. If the artist in question is drawing this way out of deliberate choice, rather than because he can't do any better, it tends to shift the burden of proof. At the same time, when-- as here-- I apply my meager cognitive abilities to understanding what I am seeing, it doesn't hurt to run through the range of potentially relevant considerations, the way Francis Bacon (the original one) instructed us to do when he taught us about the scientific method. (Just think of it as the equivalent of moving my lips when I read.)

3/15/2010 8:19 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>(Just think of it as the equivalent of moving my lips when I read.)<<<

Some people move their lips when they read, others move their finger beneath each printed word. I do a combination of the two; I move my fingers across my lips ... a rudimentary form of lip reading.

3/16/2010 1:18 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Man I love that Cuneo's work made it onto this site - Oscar Grillo has some similarity and perhaps just as sexy - but there's a particular 'thrill of creation' I sense when looking at John's work - like his tongue is stuck out at an angle while drawing as he makes sound effects.

I'm well pleased to be reminded of T.S Sullivant (like the Steadman version of Tenniel?) and be introduced to Kley.
So much beautiful stuff to look at, so despairingly little time.

I await your printed essay collection, David, as per squidmonk.

3/16/2010 3:11 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>I await your printed essay collection, David, as per squidmonk.<<<

That's an excellent suggestion, Jason. There's enough history for David to be able to pick and choose from his archives.

3/16/2010 8:58 PM  
Anonymous Patty said...

I love these cartoons! Your breakdown of everything really helps me understand and appreciate them, thanks for posting!

3/17/2010 7:44 PM  
Anonymous JSL said...

Is john Cuneo still reading these? I wish I knew more about his background training that led him to this style. What did his early work look like out of art school? You're right, his work has a different quality than most. It's hard to say.

JSL

3/18/2010 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

i can see how Cuneo fits into this vulgar trashy era,but I'm surprised that most everybody here is falling over each other to laud this work.I'm sure he's mastered some drawing ability but to these eyes its put to the service of 'ugliness' as fashion and not iconoclastic like Grosz for example.

3/19/2010 1:36 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joe Keefers-- George Grosz is an excellent parallel, and a fruitful artist for comparison (one that didn't occur to me). Grosz lived in an era that was at least as vulgar and trashy as ours and his work reflected it. If you have only seen Ecce Homo and his savage drawings of social corruption and depravity, check out his more sexually explicit work (http://www.all-art.org/er_in_art/22.html) which makes Cuneo look like a prude.

Grosz may seem more "iconoclastic" because he got angry on a broader social scale; Cuneo on the other hand seems strongest when he gets intimate and personal.

Weighing the two, when Cuneo is at his best I personally prefer him to Grosz. I think Cuneo offers more insight into the human condition. I think that Cuneo at his best is more honest than Grosz (sometimes unbearably so).

I recommend George Grosz's great autobiography, "A Little Yes and a Big NO" to all. But I don't think you'd consider Cuneo a "Big NO" kind of artist. He's smaller and subtler than that, more like a "No, But..." kind of artist. He's also more slippery and elusive, and ultimately-- in my view-- smarter than Grosz. Perhaps that's because Cuneo speaks to my modern sensibilities, and I am a product of my era. Perhaps Cuneo could not be free to be Cuneo if Grosz hadn't paved the way. But I know which one I would prefer to hang on my wall today.

3/19/2010 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

each to their own.To me its what some mid-western college kid would perceive as 'kinda cool'.An illustration style informed by middle class underground comix art like Richard Sala- ugliness as fashion,Sonic Youth album cover territory.Totally obvious really.And not even new.

Then there's Grosz, ugliness used to delineate truly ugly times,the era of Kollwitz.A drawing style like a blunt instrument,savage work for a savage purpose.The Nazis not fucking MTV,man,get real.
Dont even compare then to now!
How detached from real human feeling would you have to be to say Cuneo is preferable to Grosz because youre in on the joke?

OK.so because you dont have Nazis kicking down your door you can opt for coffee-table outrage.
Sheesh.
Too much freedom spoils a man.

3/19/2010 8:20 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joe Keefers-- an evil oppressor has to be pretty low on the list of factors that lead to quality in art. Surely you aren't suggesting that artists who are mistreated by Nazis make better art than artists who are taunted by classmates? You'll have a hard time finding much empirical support for that theory (especially if you're trying to use Grosz as an example, as most of his biting work was done as a communist opposed to the decadence of liberal democracy-- the Wiemar Republic. Grosz left Germany before the Nazis even came to power, and lived a long life in America doing conventional landscapes and nudes. He disavowed the earlier work that you seem to like so much).

3/20/2010 4:07 AM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

Not only is your moral compass faulty,but so is your knowledge of German history.
The Communists were continually streetfighting with right wing factions including the Nazi Party through the 1920s and Hitler became nationally prominent after the Munich Putsch in 1923.So please dont dissemble the facts to support your point.Grosz left Germany as a devout anti-Nazi.
I don't need empirical evidence to see the power that iconoclstic events confer on art.Just compare Searle's drawings of prison camp life to his later cartoon work.A critic should be able to FEEL this difference not rely on an 'empirical test' to determine the difference between coffee table iconoclasm for the chattering classes or the real thing as created by Grosz or Heartfield.
Man have you lost the plot.

3/20/2010 10:59 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Surely you aren't suggesting that artists who are mistreated by Nazis make better art than artists who are taunted by classmates?<<<

Of course he is, David.

Judging art is so damned difficult. It requires years of rigorous study to develop and cultivate taste and judgment, so what quicker way than to abandon any study of aesthetics and immediately haul well-roasted chestnuts out of the fire of schoolboy social studies laced with a bit of psychobabble?

Here we use the word "Nazi" as the embodiment of evil and social depravity (never mind that our ballooning national socialism bears increasing resemblance to the national socialist movements of the 20's and 30's). Nazis are bad, bad, bad people (hence our never-ending excitement about watching the Hitler…err, I mean The History Channel and movies about Nazi Germany -- a mainstay in the cinema). It’s easy to make a judgment about Nazis…bad, bad, bad.

Anything associated with the bad, bad, bad Nazis is bad, bad, bad. Thus, what the art the Nazi leaders, with their petit bourgeois taste liked must be bad. The fact that that art resembles most officially approved art made after Luther nailed his thesis onto the door at Wittenberg, not withstanding

Now here’s the false syllogism that escapes most; if the bad, bad, bad Nazis disliked any art, it must be good, good, good.

Grosz is okay, but just a few of those social commentaries make one feel as if they were subjected to a Thomas Nast retrospective…excuse me while I belch. I agree with you that Cuneo aims at a smaller and, at the same time, more universal set of shared experience. Grosz’s subjects were very narrowly focused in time and came away as petulant and bitchy.

Not so with Cuneo’s work. His pictures relate to thoughts and feelings, however fleeting, we all entertain. Long after today’s version of Nazi thugs pass into embarrassed history, the subjects Cuneo addresses will still be as salient as they are now.

Hanging one’s judgment of social relevance -- being despised by bad, bad, bad people or even whether one adheres to the anti-aesthetic principals and methods of the world’s dullest art movement…the French Academy… are all methods used by the scantly educated to form opinions about the merit of art.

3/20/2010 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

And that profound insight came courtesy of America's leading commemorative plate artist.A man whose pesonality and intellect is evident in every 'limited edition collectible' that springs from his canvas.
You would really know about art with serious emotional content given that there's not a trace of it in your own work.

3/20/2010 11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's right, Joe, stick it to these nazi fools!

By the way, where can I see your own work?

Joe's Biggest Fan

3/20/2010 1:34 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joe Keefers said: "Not only is your moral compass faulty,but so is your knowledge of German history.
The Communists were continually streetfighting with right wing factions including the Nazi Party through the 1920s and Hitler became nationally prominent after the Munich Putsch in 1923. So please dont dissemble the facts to support your point."

Joe, I don't see anything you've added that is inconsistent with my point. It should not surprise anyone that communists were opposed to both Nazis and Wiemar democrats, but Grosz's drawings and his time line were both as I described them. (If you have not read Grosz's autobiography, I again recommend it to you.)

>>"I don't need empirical evidence..."

You weren't by any chance working in the Bush White House on the WMD program, were you?

3/20/2010 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

"as most of his biting work was done as a communist opposed to the decadence of liberal democracy-- the Wiemar Republic. Grosz left Germany before the Nazis even came to power"
By the way it's spelt Weimar.
So, in his painting 'the Pillars of Society' 1926, the guy wearing a swastika in the foreground is not a Nazi and the militarist in the background couldn't be a Nazi or a right wing militia thug.And you dont think the timing of his leaving Germany was influenced by his fear/loathing of the Nazis?

"I don't see anything you've added that is inconsistent with what I wrote (which was completely accurate). If you have not read Grosz's autobiography, I again recommend it to you."

I took you for a reasonably intelligent man,but I now see you as a prevaricating fool.

And not being American -thank God- would probably have prevented me from working for that bunch of neo-con lunatics you folks voted in.Although I do think your particular skillset might have been of use to them.

Orson Welles was making a similar point to mine in the Third Man when he says:

"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed - but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

3/20/2010 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Nobody expects the grammar inquisition said...

>By the way it's spelt Weimar.

Oh my God! You are a "grammer" nazi!!! (maybe our host just happened to hit they keys in the wrong order, have you considered that? Not all of us are as good typists as you, do show some pity)

By the way, I think in the Americas spelt is usually spelled "spelled", and although you can spell it "spelt", that it is quite irregular. (I just had to comment on that because of the way it sounded)

Oh, and people don't usually vote "in", they vote "for".

Finally, thank you for your erudition, I think none of us had ever before been made aware (not this week, at least) of the cuckoo clock quote. That and the spelling lesson on the esoteric word "Weimar" really floored us all.

3/20/2010 6:40 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/20/2010 7:16 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>By the way it's spelt Weimar.<<<

What a weiner! (or is it wiener?).

Calling peeple to accunt 4 splleing errers points to a paucity of rhetorical skills.

You appear to be bucking for a job as a spellchecker and a Google search looker-upper. That cut-and-paste spewing of facts is not the same as original thinking and, aside from your oh-so-teddibly-clever use of a. ad hominem it appears you haven't got two orignal thoughts to rub together to light up that darkness.

Please honor us with another amusing Google-canned history factoid lesson and, please, more spellchecks. It's always amusing to witness your type flail about when you realise you're mouth hit the flush button.

BTW you might want to practice your punctation.

3/20/2010 7:18 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joe Keefers said, "By the way it's spelt Weimar."

You are absolutely correct, thank you. I should have remembered. And if you are ever correct about a second point, I will thank you for that just as gladly.

May I inquire as to why you are so agitated about all this? From your very first comment you have been flinging around a lot of hyperbole about "vulgar" people and "prevaricating fools" who have become "detached from human feeling" and "lost the plot" due to their "faulty moral compass." It's becoming difficult to find a subject or a verb in your contributions that isn't flecked with bile or saliva. You haven't by any chance invested your mortgage money in a disappointing George Grosz franchise?

If you have any interest in returning to the subject at hand (which I took to be a rather clever comparison of the work of Cuneo and Grosz) I will be happy to engage. But you'll have to give me more to go with than, "The Nazis not fucking MTV,man,get real. Dont even compare then to now!" We compare "then to now" and "here to there" all the time on this blog. It's just what we do.

3/20/2010 8:12 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

I notice that Mr. Keefers and etc, etc seemed to have swapped troll position.

Speaking of Grosz distortions, it was Orson Welles who wrote that line from 3rd Man, and got an earful from the Swiss after it became a hit movie and that line became a classic. It wasn't the first or last time that Orson was reprimanded for speaking authoritatively about history without actually knowing it. (Which would be a perfect segue into another futile attempt to adbust the 47,000th rebroadcasting of the "evil neocon anti-semitic kabuki show.")

But dammit, this is an illustration blog!

3/20/2010 9:01 PM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

I feel like I've been savaged by a flock of dead sheep.

It would seem the advantage of a non-American education is I can recall these very basic facts of German History without having to Google them.Evidently Mr Howard uses the same 'cut and paste' technique for his unfailingly verbose, ill-informed observations and his portraiture.While we're on that subject why not just send your clients the reference photos instead of the painting-there's no appreciable difference?

The idiocy demonstrated by you fools lies in your inability to see a difference in importance.
We don't spell Grosz wrong.
We don't spell Cuneo wrong.
We don't spell comemmorative plate wrong.
We don't spell 'Nobody expects the grammar inquisition' wrong.Even if he is a fucking idiot.
"Did you vote IN the last election?". "No' I voted FOR the last election." Hmm,I don't think so.Or " I feel guilty for helping to vote in those neo-con morons". So I make you wrong on that one.

And we don't spell Weimar wrong.
Because these are the important words.

I thought the famous Welles quote would remind you that momentous times bring forth truly impassioned art.Unfortunately the prevailing mood on this forum is a kind of aesthetic relativism that would equate schoolyard bullying with the brutality of the Nazis.I find this so off-beam it's amazing.

As regards this statement:

"Anything associated with the bad, bad, bad Nazis is bad, bad, bad. Thus, what the art the Nazi leaders, with their petit bourgeois taste liked must be bad."

I think many film buffs would acknowledge Riefenstahl was a brilliant but misguided filmmaker.And Arno Breker was an incredible figure sculptor.(There were brilliant talents supporting communism like Eisenstein and Rodchenko.)

There was also a lot of very average to ugly art labelled as Entartete Kunst.

So,Howard just shut the fuck up.You're a moron posing as an intellect.
My 'bile and saliva' comes from a genuine sense of outrage that supposedly intelligent men could spout such drivel.

And you know what,actually Cuneo isnt so bad.Very reminiscent of Plympton,as stated earlier.But I think I prefer Cyrus and Terence.

3/20/2010 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Why so angry? said...

We love you. we do.
We would all love to vote in you.
On you. For you? Oh, I can't tell, it is all so complex!

God, who could help me with this? Maybe David?

>I took you for a reasonably >intelligent man,but I now see you as >a prevaricating fool.

Oh dear Lord! Even David is a prevaricating fool, like all those other nazis who kept prevaricating against you at school. On school. Oh Lord, how to tell? I am prevaricating too! my mind is going. Could you possible help me, I wouldn't want to mangle any important words.

Please, if only I could see a sample of your sensitive Art that looks nothing like a photographic reference!....

3/20/2010 10:26 PM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

Another dead sheep.
Boring.

3/20/2010 10:34 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joe Keefers-- it's pretty apparent that I won't be coaxing a discussion about Grosz and Cuneo out of you today. But if there is anyone else out there who is interested (and emotionally stable) I would be happy to engage because I think there truly is an interesting issue here.

Grosz and Cuneo have some obvious overlaps: Both work with an unpolished line, taking liberties and distorting the figure. Both focus on some pretty dark places. Perhaps most obviously, both are fearless about treating subjects that many artists would blush to address publicly, at least as long as their mothers or spouses were alive. There is a special type of of truth telling (or is it just audacity) occupied by very few artists and I would put both Grosz and Cuneo firmly in that category.

They have some clear differences too. In terms of subject matter, Grosz is obviously more political--you get a lot of social commentary about the depravity of post WWI Germany, a lot of class warfare material. Cuneo on the other hand tends to focus on the personal and the intimate, (or "thoughts and feelings" as some commenters have said.) Grosz is yelling through a megaphone, "attention must be paid!" while Cuneo is making a confession on a psychiatrist's couch.

But the difference that most interests me here is the way that Cuneo makes much greater use of humor than Grosz (no matter how agonizing and cringe-inducing his subject matter). Does that somehow reduce the stature of Cuneo's drawing, compared to artists who treat such dark subjects seriously? That is certainly a danger, as when Cuneo sometimes uses snarky humor. But mostly, I think Cuneo's humor is more complex, interesting and profound than Grosz's humorous or serious work. To truncate what might otherwise turn out to be a long winded explanation, I offer you two relevant quotes from Nietzsche and Auden to suggest that humor may not cheapen great art:

"He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.”

"the funniest
mortals and the kindest are those who are most aware
of the baffle of being, don't kid themselves our care
is consolable, but believe a laugh is less
heartless than tears."

3/20/2010 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

David Apatoff.

In your first response to me you used these words to suggest that Grosz never skewered the Nazis with his work:

"especially if you're trying to use Grosz as an example, as most of his biting work was done as a communist opposed to the decadence of liberal democracy-- the Wiemar Republic. Grosz left Germany before the Nazis even came to power,"

I pointed out the Pillars of Society as an example to refute that and you responded with:

" I don't see anything you've added that is inconsistent with my point."

So you were clearly factually wrong and then your coterie of worshippers jumped in with a battery of irrelevancies that took us away from the original point.

Which you have just laid out in the tedious fashion of a long-winded missing the the important difference style of a critic in love with his own erudition.

And your whole point about humor,I had already alluded to when I mentioned John Heartfield earlier.

In the Apatoff lexicon the definition of 'emotionally stable' would be a cold, emotionally detatched individual.All well and good, but that is a personality more suited to accountancy and inventory than art.
Emotion is the lifeblood of art.
If you don't have it you'll never understand it.

3/21/2010 5:04 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joe Keefer-- if you read your most recent comment carefully, you will see exactly where you went off track. You claim I suggested that Grosz "never" skewered the Nazis, but your sole evidence for this is a quote in which I said "most of the time" he skewered others.

See? That's why your example of a single picture with a swastika in it is "not inconsistent" with my point.

Finally, in the interests of elevating the level of debate around here, even if I had made the mistake you imagined, it would be a mighty slim reed for introducing language such as "prevaricating fool" or "fucking idiot."

But I am truly sorry for misspelling "Weimar."

3/21/2010 8:36 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

Joe, your initial point...

"...put to the service of 'ugliness' as fashion and not iconoclastic like Grosz for example"

...wasn't convincing. i could make a long list of artists who are deliberately 'ugly' because they think it's cool/trendy but John Cuneo wouldn't be on there. you wouldn't even be able to persuade me that his work WAS ugly.


"An illustration style informed by middle class underground comix art like Richard Sala- ugliness as fashion,Sonic Youth album cover territory."

nor does John's work look anything like Richard Sala's, or like the kind of thing you'd see on a Sonic Youth album cover. that was Raymond Pettibon most famously, another school entirely to Cuneo.


"And you know what,actually Cuneo isnt so bad..."


oh, so you've changed your mind anyway ? i bet that's a load off for John.

3/21/2010 9:00 AM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

Ok.This is from ArtJournal. Regarding the Hirshorn Gallery's Grosz exhibit:

"This is likely the most important single gallery of art on view anywhere in America. It features only Groszes: a couple paintings and many works on paper, most made between the two World Wars. In nearly every image Grosz condemns the horrors of the Great War, warns of the emergent Nazi menace, or eviscerates the quiet complicity of Germans who were shopping, dining or whoring while the war machine whirred and while the Nazis grew more powerful. You may not have committed any atrocities yourself, Grosz says, but if you had been a greater citizen, you might have stopped what happened in the teens. You didn't. You can still stop the men in brown shirts if you care to. But do you? Remember, you are responsible for what your leaders do in your name and what they do will forever be a part of your history..."

Your stubborness to cling to the slightest piece of floating wreckage of an argument is embarassing.

'prevaricating fool' still stands.
'Emotionally constipated' is another that seemed appropriate.

The fact you misspelt 'Weimar' and keep coming back to it only demonstrates your inner pettiness and the myopia of this forum.
I realise your legal training teaches you to look for loopholes,slight imprecisions in language as a way out but realistically how many examples would I have to supply to refute your point.
Anyway, the above quote may be enough or perhaps you'll try to weedle out of that.
I have the measure of you meine freund.
And it's Keefers.I don't know if that was intentional or another typing error.But names are important as previously stated.

3/21/2010 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

RE: Laurence John

More myopic gainsaying from an Apatoff catamite.Pathetic.

3/21/2010 9:25 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joe Keefers--

since we don't seem to be communicating well on topic A (a comparison of Cuneo and Grosz) or topic B (the minimal amount of restraint and perspective necessary for civilized discourse) perhaps you can enlighten me on topic C: why is it that the people who claim to have the big picture, focusing on "momentous times" and "truly impassioned art," usually turn out to be the ones most obsessed with spelling and punctuation?

3/21/2010 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

Distraction as a tactic.
My,we are a slippery one.
No refernce to the Hirshorn, I see.

The topic became the content of Grosz's work need I remind you.

3/21/2010 10:12 AM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

David, do you really think this debate is about Grosz and Cuneo?

No, no, no... it's about one singularly unhappy and disappointed man. Which means its a Kobayashi Maru scenario. Don't waste your time.

3/21/2010 10:21 AM  
Blogger Laurence John said...

the 'stalker who can't decide on a name'.

3/21/2010 10:40 AM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"I notice that Mr. Keefers and etc, etc seemed to have swapped troll position."

Don't worry about me, Kev. I've well learned my lesson on crashing the fanboy party.

3/21/2010 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

Apart from the usual gaggle of mouth-breathers,Mr Apatoff is very silent.
Desperately trying to find some shred of an argument I suppose.Anything but admit he got it wrong.
So much for intellectual honesty.

3/21/2010 1:52 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Fanboy party?

Withering.

Upon your judgement, let all enjoyable discussion upon matters of illustration cease immediately!

Mouth breathers?

Oh, jolly witty! (Your Euro Education is finally paying dividends.)

There seems to be a pattern developing here among a certain type of patron...

If they don't like something and other people do, they declare those others fanboys or fanatics, with poor taste, manners, or morals. If they do like it and nobody else does, they announce themselves as aficionados or connoisseurs, with a more refined palette.

If they don't like the use of exaggeration, they call it hyperbole. If they do like it, they say it is poetic license or a work of design or done for emphasis or it is a matter of style.

If the argument helps them or feeds their ego, it is persuasive and convincing, if it hurts them or asserts that they are to blame for their own failings, it is rhetoric and misleading.

Foolish Knaves (the bitter and angry news-text consumers) use words as political tools all the time in an effort to make their opinions seem more like law... unimpeachable, unquestionable... knowing in their heart of hearts that no rationale exists for their assertions. (Thus their violent reaction to any questioning that might probe at that reality.)

The narcissist DEMANDS that his words hold value... that his labors at belabored text seem less like bitterness and idleness and more like productive effort.

The narcissist DEMANDS that his tastes be understood as standards, that his cultural preferences not be judged mere opinion.

The fragile ego cannot imagine it is just another drop in the ocean.

In summation, words are only effective as Trojan Horses against those who can't recognize the hollowness of the gift.

Sorry fellas, ride your hobby horses to a different kingdom. We're all free thinkers here and have enough real steeds to fill the castle.

3/21/2010 3:15 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

"The narcissist DEMANDS that his words hold value... that his labors at belabored text...."

"In summation, words are only effective as Trojan Horses against those who can't recognize the hollowness of the gift.

Sorry fellas, ride your hobby horses to a different kingdom. We're all free thinkers here and have enough real steeds to fill the castle."

I had no idea a comment could be so ironic and corny at the same time. Illuminating.

3/21/2010 4:22 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

It isn't ironic.

It doesn't resemble corny.

You aren't illuminated.

If someone disagrees with me, I try to make my case. I'm not the one doing the name-calling and spilling the bile.

Reality. Try some.

3/21/2010 8:52 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Actually, the quote from UK Labour's Dennis Healey on being criticized by the mild mannered Tory minister Geoffrey Howe in the House of Commons was "like being savaged by a dead sheep," not a flock. But in deference to your incapacity with cogent thought, we'll let it pass. I mean, what the flock! Why not?

3/21/2010 10:57 PM  
Blogger Rob Fiore said...

I love John Cuneo's work. I own one of his books and have followed his work for years. He is a drawing master--up there with Holland and the very best. He can teach us all a thing or two about line, form, and the joy of drawing. Keep up the great work John.

-Rob

3/21/2010 11:18 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Joe, you spelled 'embarrassing' incorrectly.

It's early, so forgive my warbling:

As for as Grosz/Cuneo - we've had a pretty violent history in this country (South Africa, not near Texas) - and the artists of the time all had something to say. The illustration/political cartooning of the time was pretty intense, most of it long before Grosz.
William Schroder was an artist employed by The Lantern, a paper that existed in the tumultuous Boer vs British era, 40 years leading up to the Boer War (1899). He commented on the death penalty (imposed on natives as a necessity), Rhodes' forays into the north, the constant tension between Kruger and the British, the 'peril' of black labour. All pretty hard core, all well worth having a look at.
The list continues, artists using their talents to comment and highlight the political unease and protracted micro-genocide that was very much a part of our history, and continues to this day.
D.C Boonzaaier, (active 1900s) drew incredibly biting cartoons (Jan Smuts signed the Treaty of Versailles, the nation left as a baboon at a stake, ie a perceived freedom). Naturally, the apartheid era, documented, ridiculed, attacked by the likes of
Ivanhoff, Eric Thamm, Bob Connolly, the amazing John Jackson, Jock Leyden - all famous in their time - 40s to the 70s, after which the new guard of political cartoonists were emerging: Dov Fedler, Fred Mouton, Dave Gaskill, the incredible Derek Bauer.

And so it goes - these days we have Zapiro, a man who is famous for tackling the apartheid regime (he was arrested by the security forces after publishing some cartoons attacking govt policies, went into exile etc - echoing Daumier's arrest and imprisonment, 1830s - 100 years before Grosz), and who is now letting rip on our current government. I don't really like his drawing style, but the messages do hit home.

I suppose all this is by way of saying there are a lot more conflicts and demons in the world than the Nazis of 60 years ago.

To keep bleating about how bad they were, and then drawing stark contracts between artists of the day who were 'good' for hating on the baddies and how shit current artists are for not drawing about Nazis, shows nothing more than an appallingly narrow sense of history. Do you consider wholesale slaughter of women and children during several campaigns conducted by your own government as any different to what the SS did? The only difference is that the Nazis are no longer around. Dead sheep indeed.

I love Cuneo's work - and we are all richer for having a talent like this among us. Nonsense arguments and uppity, gleeful little grammar policing adds nothing to this discussion. Nor detracts in any way from the talent showcased here for our enjoyment.

3/22/2010 4:22 AM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

Jason,

"To keep bleating about how bad they were, and then drawing stark contracts between artists"

"stark contracts"?

Did you mean to spell "contrasts"? or were you using an arcane legal metaphor?
I only draw your attention to this as you were trying to be such a smartass...and then fell flat on your face.
And being South African the home of 'pretty violent' (that's the underststement of the year) Nazi apartheid, I'd question your right to be judgemental about any other country.
You are also a poor reader as I never said Cuneo or contemporary artists were 'shit', in fact I said:

"And you know what,actually Cuneo isnt so bad."

Which he isn't.And I suspect even he doesn't believe he's better than Geoge Grosz as you idiots are trying to suggest.We'll see if he has museums devoted to his work in the future. I find that unlikely.But then very few artists acheive that distinction.

Seriously, you guys need to take a reality check because at the moment I feel like I'm being gang -raped by eunuchs.(Do you like that one RH?, why don't you run that on Google?)

And Mr Apatoff (I know you're reading this) may I remind you of these words:

" And if you are ever correct about a second point, I will thank you for that just as gladly."

Well, I'm still waiting for you to stand by your word.Or was that just empty 'critic talk', because we shouldn't say these things if we don't mean them, should we?

3/22/2010 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Just askin' said...

GO AWAY TROLL --

YOU'RE EITHER CRAZY OR A PRICK!

DON'T YOU HAVE SOMETHING BETTER TO DO WITH YOUR PRECIOUS TIME?

3/22/2010 11:45 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Joe Keefers said:

"And Mr Apatoff (I know you're reading this) may I remind you of these words:

" And if you are ever correct about a second point, I will thank you for that just as gladly."

Well, I'm still waiting for you to stand by your word. Or was that just empty 'critic talk', because we shouldn't say these things if we don't mean them, should we?"

Mr. Keefers, I am quite content to let you have the last word; anyone who is still following this nutty exchange (if there is in fact anyone left) is welcome to read our respective positions and draw their own independent conclusions.

(Even you, once you have calmed down a little, might revisit this exchange and feel a pang of remorse.)

3/22/2010 12:11 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Joe, I invite you to contact me directly - my personal blog and contact details are but a click away.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

3/22/2010 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Luminous Anonymity said...

David, once again a great read. Thank you!

Joe, won't you be so kind as to publish your details on here? A blog, or online portfolio. A thesis you've had published elsewhere? Or even just a real name.

A person's opinions tend to have more weight when they are underlined by said person's experiences and achievements.
I suspect you have very little of either - the only reasonable explanation for such witless, anonymous vitriol.

3/22/2010 12:55 PM  
Anonymous Joe Keefers said...

So, in conclusion, Apatoff reneges on his promise.
The others think John Cuneo deserves his own museum.
All the buttinskis have been swatted like flies.
And I'm the witless one?
Well, by the crazy logic of this forum I suppose I would be.

And I can't believe the moron-in- chief would use the most hackneyed tactic of all time to try to find some cheap point to score.
To coin a phrase,you're boring me witless.

3/22/2010 1:17 PM  
Anonymous Carmicheal said...

I really like the close-ups of the watercolours - there's a pure intention there to layer delicate colour upon delicate colour. It's so intense!

The brush tip quivering millimetres from the page!

Augh! Please tell me you actually own the original.

3/22/2010 3:04 PM  
Anonymous JSL said...

Hey Joe, when you wrote "No refernce to the Hirshorn, I see" you misspelled not only reference but Hirshhorn too.

3/22/2010 5:10 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

Hey, who's gonna pay to clean Joe's foam flecks from the front of my trousers? Will it be covered by Obamacare? I hopes that Joe's confinement and treatment will be covered by it.

Oh Joe, as we say over in ArtistLand...show me your pictures or STFU. I suspect you might be able to draw a breath but there ends your artistry. No, Big Mouth, no rejoinders. Put me down and tell everyone to stuff it by pointing us to some of your breathtaking artwork.

Yeah, I thought so.

3/22/2010 5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that, when Joe devalued Rob's comments based on his opinion of Rob's art, Joe made his own artistic accomplishments (or lack thereof) fair game.
So...c'mon....let's see.

3/22/2010 8:22 PM  
Anonymous A General Reader said...

I would like to point out that nobody has to like Rob Howard, John Cuneo, or anybody else's work.

I would also like to point out that whenever somebody disagrees with somebody else, the First Amendment doesn't state that there will be a "portfolio shootout" at high noon to determine who is right or wrong.

I'm just a general reader who likes this blog. I'm pretty shocked at the level of immature behavior and posturing that goes on here regularly. It's pretty pathetic. You would think that visual artists all have the most paper-thin egos imaginable, as well as an inability to recognize a larger world that exists beyond the drawing board.

Do any of you understand the idea of a general audience for artwork of any kind? You know, the people who go to art shows, museums, concerts, etc, and who have some other job? I'll let you in on a little secret--the guy who runs this blog is just such a person! I guess the next step will be to demand his art portfolio to save somebody's bloated ego the horror of having to deal with an opposing opinion.

You people really know how to ruin a good conversation. I bet you're all real fun at parties! Now wonder you all stalk this blog trying to be the last man standing.

How amazingly pathetic.

3/23/2010 1:45 AM  
Blogger Joss said...

And yet.... a blog about illustration, art, aesthetics, that gets people so stirred up, that is the opposite of pathetic.

I love to see an artist loosen up, while retaining a high level of emotional intensity and character. Cuneo's work manages to be both dark and gleeful at once. I find the awkwardness to be expressive, a trait I appreciate in Grosz also. For me drawing "properly" only entails emotional intensity and character. I do think that requires hard work and dedication, but I am amazed at many artists who convey it without the skill of realistic drawing. I personally love realistic drawing, but people should only do it if they are interested in that effect to express what they want, or to get a job that requires it.

3/23/2010 3:13 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>I would like to point out that nobody has to like Rob Howard, John Cuneo, or anybody else's work.<<<

Even I don't defend Rob Howard's work. I just do it and get paid for every finished piece I do. After that, it's out there on it's own and I don't really worry what happens to it or what anyone thinks of it (just as long as I get more opportunities to work and be paid).

Ego involvement is something we should leave to wannabes and hobbyists, and all of the cloying false morality that gets attached to artwork is inappropriate to what it really is.

Just as that priapic passion at the beginning of a marriage is seldom there in equal measure at the golden anniversary, the inflamed (one might even say, engorged) passion of the amateur and beginning artist looks at their artwork unrealistically -- as having much more social, moral and spiritual weight than it does.

For the most part, 95% of all of the PROFESSIONAL artwork produced is merely decorative effects applied to another medium (books, architecture, etc.) and even higher percentage of hobbyist's work doesn't even get to be applied to even the most homely of projects. Faced with a situation in which their art has no applicable use, those marginal artists are driven to inflate its worth with all sorts of intangible ascriptions of honor. From that never ending supply of self-aggrandizing bullshit arise the all-to-common bullshit artist who, like "Joe" is willing to discuss this ephemeral and lofty bar yet is also unwilling to ever show any of their own work for fear that it is in that 99% of artwork soon to be discarded or burned.

There is a great freedom to be had by releasing those ridiculous ideas that somehow, somewhere, your artwork has lasting and profound meaning (go over to Lulu and see the self-published titles and their descriptions to see that the vast majority of "writers" are mere typists). Psychologists could view having ego attachments to your scribblings or paintings as a form of derangement.

Standing on a soapbox as "Joe" does is clearly such a sign. He's clearly distressed by some demons he carries inside and cannot expunge. For him, I can only point him to the sayings of the great modern philosopher, McFerrin, when he said..."don't worry. Be Happy." It's just that simple. Adopt that simple approach and your bowels and spleen will thank you. So will the people you have been battering.

3/23/2010 7:19 AM  
Anonymous Chris T. said...

I guess I thought this was a forum for anyone interested in art and ideas.I didnt realise the only opinions that really counted or had any value were those of practising artists.
And what's with all this constant bickering and sniping?

3/23/2010 9:33 AM  
Anonymous A General Reader said...

Rob Howard,

Joe Keefers never talked about his own work. He was talking exclusively about other people's work. Which, if the idea of a general audience were allowed by the fragile egos around here, would be just fine. But somehow it isn't.

Second, your point about the "false idealism" of young or hobby artists is again beside the point. That's your pet peeve, and it has nothing to do with allowing the opinions of a general audience into the discussion. In fact, its a huge narrowing of the people allowed to comment to only those who are long-time illustrators or easel painters. I think that's absurd! Especially since you yourself rated your professional output as mediocre jobbing.

Where do these criteria for commenting leave the owner of the blog, since he is neither a commerical artist and he thinks that illustration is not merely decoration, but rises to fine art?

Maybe you should start your own blog where you could limit all commentors to those whose "portfolios" you approve of, and who have no aim higher than illustration jobbing.

Its a great suggestion, but somehow I suspect that any commentary that doesn't agree with your own would be dismissed by other subjective, non-applicable criteria. Because it's not about excluding the uninformed idealist, but anybody who disagrees with your opinion.

Luckily, the owner of this blog doesn't limit the discussion to only those who have a "portfolio". And further still, he doesn't limit the commentators to only Rob Howard. For that reason alone, he is to be regarded as highly intelligent.

3/23/2010 11:25 AM  
Anonymous A General Reader said...

And last, John Cuneo and illustrators are illustrating for a general audience. If the whole point is to reach out and appeal to a general audience, then why should the discussion be limited to illustrators alone? It makes no sense at all, unless it's to exclude anybody who disagrees with you.

3/23/2010 11:47 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/23/2010 12:20 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>Maybe you should start your own blog where you could limit all commentors to those whose "portfolios" you approve of, and who have no aim higher than illustration jobbing<<<

If you really and truly are interested in more than blustering fools like "Joe" or the passive-aggressive Miss Manners types who correct what is foreign to their parochial understanding of the art world, you are more than welcome to join an impressive line-up of working painters and highly skilled amateurs at http://tiny.cc/cennini

There is absolutely no foam-flecked invective at that website because, you have to subscribe and pay money for the information contained therein. Serious artists find the information and guidance well worth the money, as they have found with my books. For those who wish to get a taste of what's in the main forum, there is a section open to visitors at http://tiny.cc/cennino . It's moderated so there are no trolls hurling verbal turds. No troll is so dedicated that they'd ever spend a farthing to spew their bile. Trolls are cheapskates. In truth, most of the people on the Web are the anthesis of art lovers -- cheapskates or bargain hunters. Their mall mentality is painfully obvious. Ask them whether their art budget approaches what they spend on McDonalds and you'll get silence.

Another site you might want to see is http://tiny.cc/robswork which has a bit about who you are talking to and a few examples. For a random batch of different projects and even a glimpse of how this other half lives, click on http://tiny.cc/slidesho for a slideshow of all sorts of stuff.

Now, as we used to say when we were kids playing doctor...I've shown you mine. Now you show me yours.

3/23/2010 12:22 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>then why should the discussion be limited to illustrators alone?<<<

Uhh, for the same reason that entrance to the Men's Room is limited to men. Nothing sexist about it.

The same with a blog tatled Illustration Art. Illustration is not fine art and does not neccessarily hold with the same criteria. Thus, bring your mindset from fine arts to viewing illstration is bound to give you the warped view you have been demonstrating in your labored posts.

As for agreeing with me, I'd find nothing more disagreeable than to have you or Joe ever agree with me.

3/23/2010 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Chris T said...

I agree with A General Reader.
As an occasional observer, it seems to me that Mr howard seeks to define the terms of discourse on the forums he organises as well as this one.
I've also noted this 'foam flecked' phrase crop up several times in reference to others but have the sense that the consistently fanatical/hysterical/swivel-eyed tone of his own comments suggests it could be self-referential.
Psychiatric assistance may be required for this form of Tourettes.

3/23/2010 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did Joe Keefers go?

Can we have another blog post please David. Withdrawal symptoms...

3/24/2010 1:38 AM  
Blogger liebesreime said...

Re: Also, thank you for dusting off muliebrity, a verbal gem if there ever was one. More pearls cast before the Protestant Work Ethic!

Despite my question in a previous post described at the level of being a "Twinkie", I remain fond of Rob H. tho I still think with his 'virile' and rich & talented verbosity, he should change his profile image.
Out comes my Webster's New International Dictionary:
muliebrity- L(atin) muliebritas- belonging to a woman 1. state of being a woman or of possessing full womanly powers; womanhood;--correlative of virility

lovely post, fabulous writing as usual, neat topic, all is well,
your liebesreime

3/24/2010 1:47 PM  
Blogger liebesreime said...

RE: Joe, I don't see anything you've added that is inconsistent with my point. It should not surprise anyone that communists were opposed to both Nazis and Wiemar democrats,

"Weimar"
To Mr. Cuneo, welcome to D's blog.
L

3/24/2010 2:26 PM  
Anonymous A General Reader said...

Rob Howard,

Uhh, for the same reason that entrance to the Men's Room is limited to men. Nothing sexist about it.

Yeah, both you and your work belong in the toilet. Here's hoping that God pulls the chain.

Serious artists find the information and guidance well worth the money, as they have found with my books. For those who wish to get a taste of what's in the main forum, there is a section open to visitors at http://tiny.cc/cennino

Looks like this little forum cleared out a LONG time ago. From other websites that reference your obnoxious behavior, It's easy to see why. There can't be more than a couple of hundred susbscribers at the most, and that's probably way too generous an estimate.

I also noticed that the active user counter oversetimates the number of people currently on the site by a factor of 2.

I also noticed that you are responsible for the vast majority of posts and responses. Must be lonely at the bottom.

It's moderated so there are no trolls hurling verbal turds. No troll is so dedicated that they'd ever spend a farthing to spew their bile. Trolls are cheapskates.

You are a turd.

Why should people pay to be abused by a turd?

If you really and truly are interested in more than blustering fools like "Joe" or the passive-aggressive Miss Manners types who correct what is foreign to their parochial understanding of the art world

You mean like you?

What art world do you belong to, Mr. Illustration Jobber? You state the illustration isn't art, call yourself an illustrator, and then claim to be an artist and a member of the art world!

Clown.

Another site you might want to see is http://tiny.cc/robswork which has a bit about who you are talking to and a few examples.

I see that you copy photos. Why not just sell yourself as a photographer? Oh, because the word "artist" carries more weight--like your midsection.

What a ridiculous nutcase you are. Also, being fat and a moron, you make an easy target.

3/24/2010 2:38 PM  
Anonymous LOL! said...

LOL!

3/24/2010 4:11 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Liebesreime wrote: "Weimar"

Et tu, Leibesreime?

A general reader wrote: "I would like to point out that nobody has to like Rob Howard, John Cuneo, or anybody else's work....
I'm just a general reader who likes this blog.... Do any of you understand the idea of a general audience for artwork of any kind? ....I'll let you in on a little secret--the guy who runs this blog is just such a person!"

Exactly! I personally think that some of the most illuminating comments have been made by scientists, mathematicians, unrepentant lechers, spoiled children and experts on Indian gods. I love the cross fertilization that takes place here, just as I think art has historically benefitted more from a robust cross fertilization than from a rareified exchange between PhDs in art history.

Joss wrote: "And yet.... a blog about illustration, art, aesthetics, that gets people so stirred up, that is the opposite of pathetic."

Joss, I have to agree with you there (although I suspect that it is more the art displayed than the blog that stirs people up-- what do you expect when you show pictures by a guy who "draws like a pervert"?) I am not fond of the gratuitous personal trashing, but I don't mind one bit when people put on brass knuckles to discuss aesthetics.

Rob Howard wrote: "Illustration is not fine art"

Rob, do you intend that as a compliment to illustration? I might just go along with you on that....

3/24/2010 8:00 PM  
Blogger Oscar Grillo said...

Cuneo is one of my great heroes.

3/25/2010 4:11 AM  
OpenID maantas said...

That was so funny, i loved it. and illustrations are so to the point:)
good work keeping up this blog.

4/15/2010 6:19 AM  
Blogger Thomas Fluharty said...

Cuneo's Brilliant!
An amazing draftsman who lets his pencil roam under the mighty control of his imagination.
He makes drawing look so easy. Its almost as if he's not really trying. THATS HOW GOOD he is.... He's.. "not really trying to draw" drawing.
NOt many illustrators can do this! Awesome~T

4/30/2010 10:33 AM  

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