Saturday, April 17, 2010


Last week we enjoyed the work of glitzy art superstar Jeff Koons, who employs a factory of artists to create his supersized art. Koons is famous not for his personal hand or eye, but for his "enigmatic otherness" which conceives wry social statements (which others then execute in the form of giant balloon animals).

This week, for a change of pace, we leave Koons and look instead at a talented artist.

This lovely drawing is by the illustrator William Oberhardt.

Oberhardt did not specialize in wry social statements. He did not write the specifications for teams of workers to produce huge ironic paintings. Instead, he specialized in taking a single piece of charcoal in his own hand and drawing portraits which combined sensitivity with boldness and vitality.

After my last post about Oberhardt, I was fortunate to be contacted by his family. Today's images are from their personal collection.

To get a sense for the strength of this drawing, take a closer look at some of the details:

You can't achieve this kind of power if you stop to draw the eyelashes.
In the next picture, note how Oberhardt's hand floated above the picture, alighting from time to time apply darks for emphasis. These strange jottings are the language of visual abstraction:

It's a language I like.

So much of contemporary art is dependent on concepts and ideas for its validity. Armies of critics, pedants and grad students armed with thesauruses compete to explain the meaning of such art (and thereby demonstrate their own sensitivity). If you linger too long in front of their carnival booth, they will trap you into endless discussions of why an object is different, or more complex, or better than it looks.

I confess I like some of that art, and have even written some of that pedantic persiflage myself. But when I step back, no matter how immense or shiny or expensive it is, art that must be propped up with words seems etiolated in comparison to what an artist can achieve with just a hand, an eye and a piece of charcoal.

The great Walt Whitman put verbal rationalizations in perspective:
I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words,
All merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings of the earth,
Toward him who sings the songs of the body and of the truths of the earth.


Will said...

=) ah i agree, are the art universities/coleges to blame for making us write such silly things? therefore creating a world where artists write essays and occasionaly draw somthing, ending in a decline of aesthetics

Kagan M. said...

Loved it, again!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for yet another artist I was not familiar with . In terms of a hand eye and charcoal , you might like a book , The Language Of Drawing by Sherrie McGraw ,best drawing book i've seen , unique viewpoint . I know it doesn't relate to this entry , but Morgan Kane might make a future topic - very nice site , interesting life , president of hypnotist club etc.
Al McLuckie

Don Cox said...

"So much of contemporary art is dependent on concepts and ideas for its validity."

That would be OK if the concepts and ideas were new, fresh and interesting; but the ideas behind almost all current conceptual art are stale, banal and dreary.

Canuck said...

Ah charcoal drawings - probably the next thing invented after the invention of fire - so the oldest form of art there is.

francisvallejo said...

Thank you for writing these last two posts especially. I share very similar feelings towards modern art culture, but have been unable to effectively articulate them. Great writing with great art!!

Thanks for the blog comment as well!!

David Apatoff said...

Willem Wynand and Don Cox-- I think you have both put your finger on the key issue here: if the concepts being conveyed were brilliant or innovative or profound, none of the other issues would matter-- the fact that the art is created by proxies, the fact that the artists are well paid, the fact that traditional skills may be lacking would be irrelevant. Older art forms are not entitled to any preference simply because they are older, and they should be swept away without sentiment when they cease to add value. I have no problem with unconventional methods or materials. But for me, the "concept" that is supposed to redeem so much of the art we are discussing is often banal and childish. It could never be mistaken for profound in any but shallow, self-indulgent cultures with too much money and no appreciation for intellectual history.

I find it comical when people swoon over the great sense of "irony" of Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst. Their sense of irony is no greater than Dick DeBartolo's, and is clumsy and trivial in relation to that of true artists, such as Mark Twain.

David Apatoff said...

Al McLuckie-- thanks for the link to Morgan Kane. Trading the work and web sites of talented artists is never "off subject" here-- in fact, it is the ONLY subject here.

Canuck-- yup, old and yet still fruitful.

Francis-- thanks for writing. I have enjoyed watching your work unfold.

Kagan M.-- Many thanx for coming back.

Rob Howard said...

In looking at those drawings, I am reminded of a comment Daniel Greene made when looking at one of my pastels..."facile, very facile." Sounded like he was describing a combination of skill and vapidity.

With that in mind, I look at these drawing with admiration for the hand skills, just as I look at the Koons work with admiration for the mental and managerial skills.

This artist seemed to be quite content with the physical aspect of the craft. Rubens and Rodin had studios full of such skilled people, as I'm sure, does Koons. The solid and stolid yeoman's work in the studio is useful to the directors. t the end of the day, those skilled yeomen finish work on time, clean up, go home and kick back with a brewski and watch the game, just like evey other working stiff.

Somehow, many people fail to understand how the studio system works because they've never, ever seen a working art studio (except for one run by a single artist). When you work in a big shop with a dozen or so artists with different skill sets, you soon realize the difference between the profession and the romantic semi-hobby.

Looking at this artist's work from that standpoint, he's a top quality bullpen artist and would have been an asset to any working studio. But please, spare me the hagiography. His work starts and ends right there...competent, stylish and skilled and, as they used to say in reference to a big magazine or newspaper spread...tomorrow they'll be wrapping fish in it.

I recognize another fish-wrap artist when I see one. Good but disposable. And as with most of us, judged fairly by society.

David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard said: " I look at these drawing with admiration for the hand skills, just as I look at the Koons work with admiration for the mental and managerial skills."

Rob, this sounds like a continuation of the discussion from the last post, which is fine with me. Let's put aside the admiration for managerial skills, because I share your admiration for Koons' managerial skills.

I disagree with you about his mental skills-- I think the "insights" in Koons' art border on laughable and I can't believe that you don't think so as well. You have obviously read a few books in your day and recognize the shallowness of so many of today's intellectual celebrities, so I'm not sure why we have such a difference here.

But put that aside as well. I think that Whitman's important point is that sometimes the skills of the hand eclipse the skills of the mind-- or at least the intellectual rationalizations which are removed from the primacy of the hand and eye.

I don't think that mind and hand are in totally different categories, I think there is overlap. For example, Koons tries to be big and bold and bad by exhibiting explicit photographs of himself having sex. I understand that he is not being a mere pornographer, that there is a mental subtext to these works. But for me, the mental fruits of Koons' exercise are not nearly as big and bold and bad as a decisive, powerful brush stroke which "sings the truths of the earth" in Whitman's words. I look at Koons' photographs of his puny little erection and they remind me of a little boy enjoying the effects of showing off his pet toad. Perhaps some people who are easily scandalized find some kind of mental revelation in these images, but I am far more impressed with the virility and power in a decisive and meaningful charcoal line.

kenmeyerjr said...

"This week, for a change of pace, we leave Koons and look instead at a talented artist."

Man, I almost laughed out loud (in agreement) with this line.

Oh, and the subject matter was great, too!

Anonymous said...

I think you are contradicting yourself when you write: "discussions of why an object is different from, or more complex, or better than what it appears to be". An object is precisely what itappears to be.


JDCanales said...

Great post! (as usual)
These amazing portraits has strongly remember me the charcoal ones from Ramon Casas...another great artist

Rob Howard said...

>>>Rob, this sounds like a continuation of the discussion from the last post, <<<
>>>Man, I almost laughed out loud (in agreement) with this line.<<<

Ken, it's obvious that laughing at the wrong time made you miss the thrust of what you unknowingly agreed with.
David, you seem to have overlooked your own writing on this matter.

· Oberhardt did not specialize in wry social statements. He did not write the specifications for others to make huge ironic paintings.
Hmm, let me try to divine what the bulldozer-like subtlety of that disconnected remark may have been in reference to. Oh, I wonder if he's talking (sneering) about Koons and the entire of 20th century art (with the exception of state sponsored Soviet and Nazi art).
This should bring laughter and a big high five from Ken.

..· So much of contemporary art is dependent on concepts and ideas for its validity. Armies of critics, pedants and grad students armed with thesauruses compete to explain the meaning of such art (and thereby demonstrate their own sensitivity).
Hey David, you were the one who made this part and parcel of this thread. I have a habit of letting sleeping threads lie and never comment on them. What I am commenting on is the reference to the previous thread and, by default that makes it fair game to discuss in this thread as the reference is indeed a major part of this thread.
If you dissect what you wrote, about 25% percent refers to The Faker, Jeff Koons and the previous thread. 20% could be torn from the Soviet and Nazi art appreciation playbook of a type of art all of the people can and must appreciate.
Niet...Nein! There won't be any of that Suprematism junk from fakers like Malevich and none of that Blau Reiter crap either. Just good, solid demonstrations of skill that can tour the back country and elevate even the lowliest peasant as he looks up from his labors. Yes, Tovarich, deep down inside every honest, sweating, strong-backed worker beats an inborn understanding and appreciation of real art...and it's all based on hand skills (much as hand-decorated china plates are demonstrations of skill with a brush).
Whoops! I almost overlooked the two other elements of this essay...the hagiography and the obligatory argumentum ad vericundiam (appeal to authority) that every bibliography-dragging sophomore throws up. What Whitman has to say is of no consequence except to non-sequential thinkers.
If I were to dissect the backbone of this thread, I'd break open the book on logical fallacies the Jesuits gave us when we were ten years-old and, pick though trying to find the fallacies and then build my own logical constructs. Let's see...these pop out immediately...the entire basis of this trip back to the good old days is called an argumentum ad antiquitatem (if it's old, it must be good), the calumnies heaped on The Great Faker, Koons, are repeated examples of argumentum ad hominem (attacking the man, his wealth, etc.), a. ad nauseam is to repeat it over and over again until it acts as an abrasive and wears away critical thinking. But the truly glowing link between this and the Koons thread is the often misunderstood Petitio principii, or begging the question. Such a pure example is rare in that one must have two completely separated thoughts, commentaries or essays for which to create the fallacy. Rather than inspiring a question, the question is begged only when the question has been asked before in the same venue, and then a conclusion is reached on a related matter without the question having been answered.
Sorry about that, David, but I can't help myself when this many fallacies are presented, those early lessons kick in. Rather than beat about the bush, most people would be unassailable if the said..."I don't know much about art, but I know what I like," and leave it at that rather than try to justify a rather narrow and parochial taste through reductio ad ridiculum.

Gawd, I just love Latin!

Kristin Forbes-Mullane said...

great post! I completely agree with you... all this wordy crap, lets just enjoy the art! (besides, I think all the words can sometimes just ruin things for the viewer).

David Apatoff said...

Rebecka said, "An object is precisely what it appears to be."

Rebecka, if that's the case then Koons' art is nothing more than big doofy balloon animals and floating basketballs. Even I am not that uncharitable. As the great Gilbert & Sullivan wrote, "Things are seldom what they seem. Skim milk masquerades as cream."

David Apatoff said...

JD Canales-- Thanks! I was generally aware of Casas but on your recommendation went back to look at his work on line-- another rich, rewarding experience.

David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard-- I was totally sincere when I wrote that it was fine with me to continue the discussion from the last post. The only reason I flagged it was to help orient people who might visit this post and not understand the larger context.

I disagree with you about Koons, of course. As far as I can tell, the last thing he did of any merit was the three floating basketballs (again, I am being totally sincere-- I do like that piece). Still, I think your response is a worthy pushback. There are only two places where I think you are flat out wrong.

First, I think your slander of Walt Whitman is wrong ("What Whitman has to say is of no consequence except to non-sequential thinkers.") Whitman was not a linear thinker any more than Shakespeare was a linear thinker. If you want a linear thinker, talk to a lawyer or a mechanical engineer. (Whitman himself penned one of my favorite lines on this subject: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.") I would not turn to either Whitman or Shakespeare to write legislation to regulate financial institutions, but that doesn't mean that what they have to say is of no consequence to sequential thinkers.

Second, I think you are wrong when you say I am "talking (sneering) about Koons and the entire of 20th century art (with the exception of state sponsored Soviet and Nazi art)." I like plenty of 20th century art and from my perspective, sneering at Koons is one way of identifying and protecting the worthwhile things about 20th century art. I am even a fan of those 20th century artists who were verbosely self conscious about the art process. Catch me on Kandinsky or Duchamp or Klee or even Motherwell sometime-- they are all favorites. I agree with, and have quoted on this blog, this point from Motherwell: "The emergence of abstract art is a sign that there are still men of feeling in the world .... Nothing as drastic as abstract art could have come into existence save as the consequence of a most profound, relentless, unquenchable need. The need is for felt experience -- intense, immediate direct, subtle, unified, warm, vivid, rhythmic." I say bravo to all this. My gripe is that over time, the words came to dominate the images, and with a vocabulary no longer of pioneers but of opportunists and narcissists. The images became increasingly thin, anemic and derivative. The art became (in my opinion) more and more inbred and decadent. It lost (for me) the excitement and promise that Motherwell accurately described.

Today I think a great deal of contemporary art is a withered limb on the evolutionary tree of art (always recognizing that the first people to see cubism probably had the same reaction).

When I try to separate the wheat from the chaff in an era of "the de-definition of art," I have found a guideline from Clement Greenberg (as you know, one of the earliest supporters of abstract art) very helpful. He wrote, "The nonrepresentational or abstract, if it is to have aesthetic validity, cannot be arbitrary and accidental, but must stem from obedience to some worthy constraint." I would say that the absence of some worthy, internally consistent constraint-- some kind of organically sensible and hopefully even beautiful standard-- opened the door to Bob Flanagan, whose art involved nailing his penis to a wooden plank, or Keith Broadwee whose art involved squirting paint from his anus, and yes, even to Jeff Koons. If we can agree that there are items of long term value amongst the toxic waste, I would be interested in your standard for picking and choosing among them (again, I am totally sincere-- this is hard stuff). But I flat out disagree that a vote against Koons is a vote against all of 20th century art and a vote in favor of socialist realism.

Nathan Fowkes said...

Yep, these are fantastic, thanks for putting them up.

MORAN said...

Oberhardt was one of the greats. He did great portraits for years and then a long time ago just disappeared. What happened to him?

Serge K. Akwei said...

I wrote a short blog post about the commercial art of cloth dyers in Mali. I echo your sentiments about the immediacy that craftsman or draftsmanship confers to a work of art. There's something beautiful and genuine about the work of a skillful artist who isn't out to prove their cleverness but pursue their own self expression to its fullest conclusion. Again, fine work here sir.

Anonymous said...

Look at the very artsy artists, boys and girls. One looks so very, very spontaneous, and the other looks so very, very reflective. See their clothing? Remember you must always look the part, boys and girls.

Tom said...

Great drawings David, I have like his work since I read about him in E. Watson 40 illustrators, the essay is great because Oberhardt describes his portrait process. I still don't understand the artist who has skills and the conceptual artist argument. Some of the best realist artists have shown great conceptual power, that’s what makes their hand skills possible and so powerful. What is the German proverb, "the best carpenters make the fewest chips."

Rebecka said, "An object is precisely what it appears to be." Until you try to make a picture of it. That is one of the amazing things about making art, it reveals to the artist how wrong common sense is.

Anonymous said...

Koons is a con artist. This guy is a real artist... Full stop.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness you finally updated your blog again. Checking your blog and being unable to avoid looking at that Koons Michael Jackson piece made me nauseous day after day.

Mark Allen said...

These are nice well executed drawings.A display of skill.Not much more than that.No great psychological insights like Sutherland's portraits.That's what elevates Sutherland over an artisan like Oberhardt, so keep your enthusiasm under control.

Re Koons.Forget his words.He makes items that reflect aspects of the outside world.So does Hirst.This is a whole different dynamic and so many of your readers just do not get it.If it's not a fancy display of skill or making some obvious itellectual or social statement their first reaction is scorn.Its just a very closed way of viewing the world.If you dont like it or understand it, attack it.
And that is why much of your readership will never be real artists.
Of course I'll now be attacked for this,but that just underlines their failings.

David Apatoff said...

Mark Allen-- I think you have stopped a little short of making a point. You say the crucial thing about Koons is that "He makes items that reflect aspects of the outside world." Surely you did not mean to end it there? Does he manufacture mirrors? Can you guide us to any value or quality or point (verbal or nonverbal) to the "aspects of the outside world" that he selects, or the way he reflects them? Otherwise I am afraid you're right, I don't understand it and I will never be a real artist.

I tried to get a clue to your intent by figuring out which "Sutherland" artist you like, but there are about half a dozen out there. If you mean Graham Sutherland, friend of the great Robert Fawcett, I have written about him but I would not have considered him primarily a portraitist.

Mark Allen said...

Absolutely.Graham Sutherland.From his time at Goldsmih's the acuity of his draftsmanship was amazing.Then he got drawn -no pun intended- into the world of modernism and abstraction, I would argue slightly sub-Bacon territory, and later came back to realism with his exploation of portraiture and the iconic images of Maughm and Churchill for example .Both pictures provide a psychological insight which was truly rare in the form at the time.
I'm no expert on Koons but clearly he is commenting on the world of celebrity, the function and relevance of 'fine art' and the process of making art.These are all valid areas of investigation for artists and have been so since Warhol and others in modern times.

If art is always going to be restricted to something that can be put on canvas or paper or hewn from stone then it becomes a sclerotic irreverence.

The instinctively knee-jerk reactions that greet modern art on this page echo those that rang out over Impressionism, Fauvism, Dada etc.And there wouldnt be much of interest in Modern Art over the last 150 years if the naysayers had had their way.
Hopefully I have made my points clearer now.

Rob Howard said...

David, I stated my objection clearly. That is to your invocation of a greater power (argumentum ad vericundiam). You were so quick to defend Whitman (he needs no defense) that you failed to notice that you agreed with me... he is of consequence to the non-seguential thinker. That's what you said too.

I object to all uses of argumentum ad vericundiam, including thick bibliographies clotting up the end of each chapter, as if the reader is going to suddenly put the book down and go check every reference to see if the author was a good little quote poster. All that does is try to strengthen what may be a weak argument with a celebrity endorsement.

It's a horrid habit that any writer should have abandoned early on in college or before. The Whitman quote was a bit gratuitous and tended to derail the original writing you had started. It also changed the pace...a very, very bad thing to do in an essay.

>>>sneering at Koons is one way of identifying and protecting the worthwhile things about 20th century art.<<<

By the same measure, burning books is a great way of building a library. C'mon, David, you can't believe that holding work up to ridicule is a form of protective behavior. I know that there are parents who do that, but that's usually before a state agency steps in and takes the kids.

As I said (and this is from the perspective of an artist who worked in busy studios with lots of other skilled artists...Oberhardt was a solid yeoman of the sort one saw in hundreds of studios. The reps would go out and get the work and we guys in the bullpen cranked it out fast, good and on time. Oberhardt was one of those guys you could always count on to do a similar thing. The client always knew they were getting a solid and competent drawing.

But the fluttering around here...declaring him to be one of the greats. I can't see how anyone (except a close relative) would put his work in the same class as a Coll or Vierge or N.C.Wyeth or most of that army of superb illustrators that came from Pyle's brow. Compare him to a Fuchs or a Peak or in the realm of celebrity portraits Rene Boucher or Antonio.

No contest. Also, I doubt that Boucher or Antonio's work will ever find its way here.

David Apatoff said...

Mark Allen-- yes, you have made your points clearer, thank you for following up.

I agree we need to be on guard against being closed minded about new art, just as we have to be on guard against the bias that "new" is necessarily better. I think it is romantic but a little out-of-date to worry that avant garde art might be squelched by a narrow minded, uncomprehending establishment committed to representational art. (If I ev er thought that was a risk, I would be touting Joseph Beuys instead of illustrators-- I have one of his Zeichen aus dem Braunraum series on the wall at my office, and it is terrific.)

But it seems to me that the burden of proof shifted completely in the last century. Art that exhibits what you call a "fancy display of skill" now occupies one of the less desirable corners in the ghetto of art, while Koons and his infrastructure reign over the main corridors of power. Today it is easier for critics to accept Bob Flanagan as an artist than Norman Rockwell.

So when you express concern about "instinctively knee-jerk reactions" against contemporary art, I think the far greater danger is of knee-jerk reactions against commercial art and illustration (which is confirmed by economics, by museum / gallery space, by press coverage, prestige, or any other test you might want to name). That overwhelming bias is one of the main reasons for spending time here trying to tease out whether there are elements of genuine value in commercial / illustration art. In doing so, I don't mind occasionally making a point by contrasting illustration with art that is currently approved by the grandees of culture (who are, in my judgment, far more judgmental).

But I don't delude myself that they notice my thumb in their eye.

Joss said...

One of the commenters on this blog a ways back said something like, "It is rare, but every once in a while art achieves the integrity of manual labor."

Many of the "Never to be real artists" frequenting this blog share Dave's specific appreciation for the primacy of the integrity and power of the image, along with his desire to honor this in a culture where it is undervalued. So whether it's dripping with sentimentality or loaded with silliness, I find a core of dignity in Dave's choices.

You can see the spark of life in Oberhardt's subjects. There is an honesty, and clarity, that are powerfully expressed, easily transcending the basics of craft and personal style. I would agree that I have seen similar work, I don't find it exceptionally original in its psychology or execution, but originality is overrated. There is no reason not to appreciate a rose though you have seen a few before. It enriches my life. I think I've seen Oberhardt before, though not these pieces and I would happily see more.

अर्जुन said...

It is strange that so few portraits of no-names ever provide rare psychological insight.

"I doubt that Boucher(sic)… work will ever find its way here."~ The Lucy fan has that covered.

Bouché's Jack Benny has long been a personal favorite, did Bouché ever draw Phil Harris?


Anonymous said...

David, thank you for another great post. Since both of us share affinity towards decisive and meaningful lines, perhaps you might be interested in seeing these drawings:

Rob Howard said...

>>>"I doubt that Boucher(sic)… work will ever find its way here."~ The Lucy fan has that covered.

Bouché's Jack Benny has long been a personal favorite, did Bouché ever draw Phil Harris?<<<

Thank you for volunteering that correction. I sit corrected. If I might run everything past you before posting it, that would be of inestimable service as somehow my spellchecker has gone missing.

chuck pyle said...

Such an underappreciated artist. I have been a huge fan of his incisive, brilliant draftsmanship. Society of Illustrators has a fabulous, and seriously degraded tape with him doing a demo, mostly silent. Shows him putting a shadowbox like backdrop for light control, followed by lighting and then just nailing the sketch. There needs to be a monograph! Time magazine has some on their site.
Thank you, David, and thanks to the family.

Mark Allen said...

IF the role of modern art is to reflect upon or comment about the world as it is today, it is difficult to see how an exercise in hand eye coordiation on grey paper is going to achieve that end.
And this kind of work -Oberhardt- is just that.On those limited terms it is fine.
But we live in a much more complicated world, we always did, and to try to make sense of the bigger picture these days requires a much greater range of approaches.Some work is 'successful',some not.

Bob Flanagan is not for me but what he was saying about our times has much greater relevance than Norman Rockwell; who was only ever concerned with a mythic flag-waving storybook view of the U.S. His work was at odds with the world of art, even then.Insular and largely dishonest, like a comfort blanket.
The work of John Sloan and Everett Shinn are much truer representations of those times and deserve a place in any gallery.

I think some illustration does have greater artistic merit, I'm drawn to Saul Tepper for example.But I'm flummoxed as to why anyone would consider the anodyne Rockwell significant.

David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard-- I think we both did a dandy job of "stating our objections clearly." Whatever our other major deficiencies and personality disorders, imprecision doesn't seem to be among them.

Yes, I agree with you that Whitman "is of consequence to the non-sequential thinker" but I disagreed with you when I wrote, "that doesn't mean that what they [Whitman and Shakespeare] have to say is of no consequence to sequential thinkers." I think they are a wonderful, perspective restoring force for sequential thinkers. While we're on the subject, I would certainly consider what Koons does "non-sequential" (that's not an insult) and I assume you think he is fine for sequential thinkers.

I am most surprised that you write, "C'mon, David, you can't believe that holding work up to ridicule is a form of protective behavior." I would've thought that line would be a real crowd pleaser around your house. After all, it was your friend Mencken who viewed his role as "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comforted." You can't get a whole lot more comforted than being the most commercially successful artist in the country, the subject of numerous fawning reviews from curators and gallery owners (and apparently, from you). Heck, I ridicule artists and critics around here all the time, but I never thought I could keep up with you at doing it.

As for the other artists you mention, Oberhardt was singled out for praise by the top illustrators of his day, and was good enough to be included in the "40 Illustrators" book. I have gone on record here as revering Coll and Wyeth, so I put very few illustrators in their league. You probably won't see Bouche here, although I think he is terrific, because everyone has already seen his slender oeuvre, and it is hard to see how I could add value. I try to write about illustrators where I can get access to originals, or to good scans of rarely seen published material. If I'm just recycling fuzzy pictures of the same old stuff, what's the point?

David Apatoff said...

Mark Allen wrote, "IF the role of modern art is to reflect upon or comment about the world as it is today, it is difficult to see how an exercise in hand eye coordiation on grey paper is going to achieve that end."

Mark, I appreciate your putting the word "IF" at the beginning of your point; I suppose part of this post is intended to question that assumption. "IF" (to borrow your qualifier) shallow, puerile times call for shallow, puerile art, does that mean it is wrong to look elsewhere?

I disagree that an exercise in hand eye coordination is out of date or irrelevant even though it is not as topical as art made with modern materials in response to today's headlines. The scrape of a line on a surface was ancient long before our oldest gods were born, but I find it can still have great relevance to something at the core in us. For me, Koons' art does not help me "make sense of the bigger picture these days." I find his art and its message minor. I don't place the same value on his topicality or his response to modern society as others seem to do. Perhaps you are right, perhaps it is because I don't understand him as well as I should, although I hope it is not because I lack an open mind.

Mark Allen said...

Really, whether you or I 'like' Koons is beside the point.He is just one of a great number of artists working in this field.I find the work of the Chapman brothers interesting, but you might not.All that doesn't matter, this is art of our time,are you going to say it's all bad?
So bad you would need to find refuge in 'pretty pictures' of a bygone era or the emollient images of commercial art from that period.
Is that the appropriate response?
It seems to me so much of what we now call 'great' modern art,villified by fascists and communists, was at the time of its creation derided as 'shallow' and 'puerile' by bourgeois polite society. Now the very same art is reproduced in lavish coffee table volumes for the same demographic.

Anonymous said...

Mark Allen said...
"this is art of our time,are you going to say it's all bad? So bad you would need to find refuge in 'pretty pictures' of a bygone era"

If one receives no aesthetic stimulation from the former but does from the latter, what's the problem? If people revere contemporary art only because you said so, doesn't that defeat the real purpose of art?

David Apatoff said...

Mark Allen, I don't think there's much space between our two positions.

I do tend to question the conventional wisdom about contemporary art because, having listened carefully to its proponents, I am not persuaded their taste or judgment is any better (or any more progressive)than mine, even putting aside their huge honking commercial conflict of interest.

But this does not result in a categorical rejection of all current "fine" art (the way for example that sniffy advocates of high art categorically reject all current "low" art). It only means that I make my choices on a case by case basis. Each art object (or art concept, if there's no object) has to justify itself. Nobody gets a presumption of validity simply because some investment banker is willing to pay a high price for a piece, or because some grad student has her PhD thesis tied up in it.

If you want examples of artists who pass my test, I would say that Anish Kapoor has ten times the integrity, talent and depth of Jeff Koons. (I link them because they have both worked with refflective surfaces.) I like Christo (I've heard him lecture and he convinced me he was the real McCoy). John Chamberlain. Beuys. Basquiat. Early Hockney and Dine, before they ran out of steam. I've previously named a batch of abstract expressionists (although I suppose they count as ancient history now).

If my criticism was motivated by seeking "refuge in 'pretty pictures'" then I wouldn't have trashed Currin recently (another darling of the contemporary art community but one who makes highly skilled paintings of pretty girls).

Finally, I go back to my suggestion that in some ways you seem to be arguing with a romantic stereotype about contemporary art that is no more with us today than the city of Carthage after the Romans plowed it under. If you think we still live in a world where beleaguered innovative artists struggle in poverty and are ultimately vindicated with "lavish coffee table volumes," go to Amazon and you will find 100 such books about the fabulously wealthy Mr. Koons (rhymnes with "jejeune.") And while you're on Amazon, for another data point look up the deluxe boxed set of the work of Gary Panter. These are not the artists you were invoking who were villified by the Nazis and Communists for their art and fought to persevere; these are artists who hire publicity consultants right out of art school. Perhaps you are the one of us who needs to update his thinking to get with the changing times!

Tim Reeves said...

I totally agree with you Mark, we don't have the right to critise art from that period as I think it is absolutly MARVELLOUS!

kev ferrara said...

If you can't see the truth of what Rockwell portrayed, I feel sorry for you. You might want to move to a more rural area and get a taste of real life, rather than the canned life of the city.

The idea that we must consume "the art of our time" is merely an assertion. There is no "must" or "should" about the appreciation of art.

Even assuming that Koons is "the art of our time" is ludicrous. Why isn't Kanevsky, Mark Shields, or Dan Adel the art of our time? Heck, why isn't some stupid sitcom on television starring Charlie Sheen the "art of our time."

Praying at the altar of now is just being fashionable for fashion's sake. Its the province of bauble-addled bimbos and media consuming sheep. No thanks. Quality is timeless, and I'll take it where I can find it. I don't need to eat dreck just because that's what your Chi-chi Restaurant is currently serving. I'll go to a less fashionable restaurant in another part of town if its all the same to you.

A lot of your other points are similarly lacking. Such thought patterns as you exhibit seem very familiar to we regular readers of this blog. ;)

Mark Allen said...

So much unthinking aggression and intolerance here.

Modern art is more about ideas and perception than 'skill'.And this seems to be the main stumbling block for your readers.
If you are the kind of person that wishes to gaze at a pretty picture and admire the craftsmanship that's fine,I have no problem with that.I love looking at the California School watercolors.

But 'modern art' is something else.It's idea-based.If you don't want to look at anything that would make you THINK about the world then forget it.It's not for you.But the most pathetic response is to scorn and deride it because you can't or won't try to understand it.That is the first action of the narrow-minded and bigotted.I'm not saying all modern art is good, but it all has something to say -however objectionable or tasteless- about the times we live in.
And in this regard, some 'low-art' has an equal relevance and value.
And who said Charlie Sheen is not art of our time.Not me.

Only history will judge the value of Koons and Panter.And if they are making the equivalent of coffee table books in 100 years time and there is still interest in Koons and Panter as there is in Braque or Duchamp , then I guess history will have passed judgement on the significance of their work.

But ,seriously, Norman Rockwell? 'Nice' painter but how relevant? Anyone who presented Rockwell as a serious commentator on American life -the reality, not the dewy-eyed Saturday Evening Post version- needs to get their brain re-calibrated.Maybe start by looking at the famous dust bowl photos by Dorothea Lange, or was there no poverty outside of the "canned life of the city". I'm not aware of Rockwell addressing racial segregation issues either.

Really, Mr Ferrara is so full of blind vituperation that he is unable to follow the argument.

" The idea that we must consume "the art of our time" is merely an assertion. There is no "must" or "should" about the appreciation of art."

Well you 'must' and you 'should' at least look at it if you want to pass judgement.But I suspect you like so many others here only want to look at a display of skill; that you get a hard-on from Frazetta, or cream your jeans over Alex Ross.That's fine, you are obviously happy with this kind of intellectually undemanding conjuring tricks, but forgive me for wishing to swim in the wide open sea and not the shallows.

kev ferrara said...

Dear insulting and temperamental troll,

If you want journalism, watch the news. Stare at it hourly like every other drama addict whiling away their idlehood in doe-eyed attentiveness (under the false impression that they are being socially active by sitting there consuming news product on a sofa.)

Real deep.

News flash: Social comment ain't worth toast.

It spools out from all corners of the earth like endless rolls of toilet tissue every day, all day, ad nauseum. There is nothing special or interesting about social comment. Any sane person would be sick of it by now because it gets nothing done. It saves nobody. And it is usually as shallow and repetitive as the agitprop from yesterday's newspaper. And as middling as the average college poli-sci exam.

Demanding that artists be activists is a typically "noble" demand of your ilk. I've got an idea, why don't YOU go be an activist. Get up, get out of your chair and do something about something. And stop waiting for shallow but properly obnoxious social commentary from pandering editorialists like Koons to make you feel important and engaged.

If you don't want to help, leave it to the activists, crusaders, do-gooders, volunteers, government agencies, and philanthropists.

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy the profound observations of deeper artists who find the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ordinary in the extraordinary, have the insight to recognize what is true and timeless in life, and have the will and talent to symbolize it all for us, whether it be an observation of subtlest lilt of a brow of a shy girl under the shade of a tree, or the slashing blow of a barbarian crashing against his enemies.

Btw, is there a third version of you trolling around under another name? Come on, fess up. Who are you, really? Let's see that web page, let's see that C.V.

Anonymous said...

Joss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Allen said...

Entirely as predicted.Negativity, hatred and closed-mindedness.
Woe betide anyone acting like a grown-up, with special needs cases like 'Kev' around you can be sure we'll never move beyond the level of banal.
You really seem to have some very deep-seated issues.These are probably feelings of inferiority due to self-hatred for being of the artisan class and resenting the greater success of fine artists who you consider unworthy.

Unless you can let the anger go you will always be consumed by your own feelings of jealousy and vitriol.Try to move beyond your instinctive prejudice because you are becoming a very small person indeed.

Joss said...

Mark Allen said:
"IF the role of modern art is to reflect upon or comment about the world as it is today, it is difficult to see how an exercise in hand eye coordination on grey paper is going to achieve that end."

An exercize in hand eye coordination with physical materials presents to me a very poignant commentary about the world as it is today, but that is left to MY mind to interpret, which is why in a conceptual art culture the high value is placed on the art critic and the art object gets left behind suffering from inattention.

It is very limiting to say the primary role of art is to comment on your perspective of the world. That may be what you find pertinent to you at the moment. Art may or may not do that intentionally but it has a lot more universals in the mix giving it value. The conceptual aspect is just one piece, the crown even, but it is what this crown is placed on that gives it any validity.

Mark Allen said:
"whether you or I 'like' Koons is beside the point"

Actually, I think that is the point. We must all start with, "I like this, I don't like that," then look at why, and reassess later. Though history is one way to assess, I don't think it necessarily saves the best, besides we're not gonna be around, the "good" art may not either. If we are brave enough to make distinctions of relative value and merit, we'll have to make them now.

Norman Rockwell may be a comfort blanket, which wouldn't be too useful in many situations (a war, a storm) but there's nothing wrong or dishonest about a comfort blanket, in the right situation it's a wonderful thing.

The value of the art of craft is being neglected. Rob Howard has compared basic art skills to plumbing skills, which is fine but i'd take the comparison a step further. If you have a refined appreciation for plumbing you can enjoy the fine art in that too. If the pipes don't leak right away you'll get paid, but if your interested in more than money you'll enter the field of art.

Rob Howard said...

>>>Anyone who presented Rockwell as a serious commentator on American life -the reality, not the dewy-eyed Saturday Evening Post version- needs to get their brain re-calibrated.<<<

I can see where a very limited familiarity with Rockwell's work would lead you to that conclusion. Therein lies one of the greatest comforts in a lack of solid scholarship, the ability to make monolithic opinions that bulldoze their way through those annoying subtleties.

When I had returned from the military and was working as an illustrator in New York during the late 60's, I happened upon a Madison Avenue gallery that was displaying the original paintings of Norman Rockwell. This was a period in which Rockwell was at the nadir of his popularity, especially among those of us who were enjoying and living in that period of yeasty artistic excitement.

There were many familiar "dewy-eyed" magazine paintings but also included were the incredibly powerful, limited palette painting he did for LOOK magazine, which depicted the struggle for civil rights we were going through. They were painted with what looked like complete abandon and sheer balls.

The one that got to me was a horizontal painting with a startling composition. There were four figures. The two top and bottom were cut off but the two in the middle, a young black soldier lying next to a young white soldier took center stage. What was showing was a charnal list that was implied to be endless. There was no blood, no wounds and the young soldiers appeared at peace.

That one got me right where I lived, and still does. Maybe I'm just another dewy-eyed vet who goes for cornball, but that composition...the use of it to make a powerful staement and yet imply something stretching endlessly, was something I have never seen before. It was the work of a master of his craft...that of painting pictures that communicate.

I returned to the gallery every day to learn what, in that smug arrogance I shared with you, I have clearly overlooked. As far as I understand, this was the only real gallery show that Rockwell ever had (yes, now there is the Rockwell museum).

Sadly, very little of those special insights into the real artist are made public, leaving the hoi polloi with the truncated and narrow view you have of that very special artist.

Rob Howard said...

>>>If the pipes don't leak right away you'll get paid, but if your interested in more than money you'll enter the field of art.<<<

The professional artist will seldom ever have the purity of spirit that the amateur has. The vicissitudes of working in the profession make that sort of romantic attachment difficult to maintain. Don't misunderstand me, I still love the smells of the studio and the actual application of my tool to whatever surface I am working on...that includes the #2 Mongol pencil or ballpoint on a yellow striped note pad.

Still, there is absolutely no way that I can recapture the passion...blind passion, I had for art when I was beginning. It's still the most fun you can have with your clothes on, but the problems and challenges i see now are vastly different than those I saw then. These solutions can only be arrived at through careful application of skills and principles that were unknown to me then.

It appears that you did not understand my reference to plumbing. I tried to say that the average plumber or electrician knows his tools and his field much, much better than the average graduate of an art school or masters degree program. Generally, artists are the least skill in the field they have chosen of any profession I can think of. Even their teachers don't know very much about what they are teaching. If they did, more than 10% of the graduates would go on to become full-time professionals.

The thought that anyone would study plumbing, law or medicine as something that would be a hobby, is absurd. But the thought that art students will never make it in the field (except to teach what little they know) is perfectly acceptable.

Do you see anything wrong with that badly painted picture?

Anonymous said...

"I'm not aware of Rockwell addressing racial segregation issues either."


I can think of one from 1935 that could be considered relevant.

I prescribe more books for you, less memorised dogma.


Anonymous said...

Gah, 1965, stupid tiny netbook keys, my bad.

Mark Allen said...

Just to clarify,when I refer to 'modern art' or 'fine art' I am referring to that strain of work that moved away from conventional realistic picture-making toward the end of the 19th century and became defined by conceptual ideas.The conceptual nature of it requires critics and theorists to attempt to explain the meaning behind the work and assess it's relevance-even value.So the critic fits into the scheme as a sort of translator.Far more so than with conventional pictorial art.

"Actually, I think that is the point. Don't we all start with "I like this, I don't like that" then look at why, and reassess later."

I can't agree.I dont have to 'like' something to find it interesting.I don't particularly 'like' Rothko or Leichtenstein, but the artists were expressing themselves in valid ways and history is telling us there was something important about their work.That's clear.

I accept that there is another kind of art, what I called 'pretty pictures'.Generally speaking these appeal to mass taste and are the kind of thing found in mainstream media.These images are seldom designed to challenge the intellect. I see it as the difference between JK Rowling and JD Salinger in substance.I know which one I find more satisfying.

But thanks for engaging in a civil exchange of views.

Joss said...

"Do you see anything wrong with that badly painted picture?"

Gosh Rob, I'm just a little taken aback by your friendly manner.

Thanks for the plumber clarification. I absolutely agree with your art school/professional % assessment. Having graduated in 98' from Pratt in Brooklyn for Illustration, I was very disappointed in the lack of foundational skills taught. My best education came from an intensive 10-day painting course at the NYstudioschool with Graham Nickson.

I am still that romantic amateur, as I was unwilling to compromise my "blind" passion, a compromise which seemed necessary for me to work professionally. I am awed by those who manage to do art professionally and even more by those who seem to maintain passion. I don't think they are better quality people or that I don't have a unique and valuable creative gift, but my life goes in a different mysterious direction, and I still love art. I'm glad to hear you do too!

Anonymous said...

The main problem with contemporary art is that it is far from contemporary.

Some galleries only show abstract works, because your average corporate collector with a big budget still thinks that gay wall paper patterns mean... modern art.

Well it is, if by modern art, you mean...

saying nothing that will offend anybody, especially some rich client who uses your board room and is easily offended by art that actually says something he doesn’t like.

Abstract paintings were being produced when bright young things bobbed their hair and showed their knees for the first time in the mid 1920s. My mum was still a kid then, her son... is now 62.

So much for abstract art being contemporary, pushing buttons and making people sit up and think.

The sad fact is...Abstract art is a bore, it was a bore when it first arrived at the beginning of the last century and it is even more of a bore now... Paintings of nothing that say bugger all about anything, are well past their use by date. at least 90 years past.

Then we have some lazy 1920s chess playing painter with a sense of humour but very little talent. He decided to exhibit hat stands and other crap and call it art. I’m sure nobody was more surprised than him when a few like minded people took the hook and started calling it fine art too... Since then, the lazy artist con has got bigger and more organised, with lazy dealers and suppliers and agents and... Well, you know the rest.

Then we come to an American con artist, who opens an art factory and knocks up hundreds of crudely daubed Marylyn Monroe magazine photos...

And hay-presto, he’s an awesome genius folks. A real modern artist of the first rank...

Sorry...Not in my book. I find him and his art lame, boring and unutterably pretentious.

Now we have smooth Mr Koons selling vacuum cleaners and souvenir shop tat for millions.

But this is not the 1920s. Women’s dresses have been up and down like a jo-jo since the jazz age, abstract and ready made tat should be just another word for, ‘Academic, or old hat.’ Hat stands and vacuum cleaners should be growing white hair and whiskers by now...

But try telling that to cashed up corporate collectors who think it was all invented last week, for their ultra modern, ultra trendy board room.

Modern art was invented when women sported bobbed hair, wore silk bloomers and drove model T Fords. Great grandma’s generation.

So please, no dialogue about reflecting modern times with dime store crap for the masses... that suddenly becomes high art when some tosser pays a million bucks for it, rather than a few dollars... The base item’s actual worth.

Some guys in this blog speak contemptuously about blue collar tradesmen illustrators when they refer to anyone who actually draws and paints for a living. Then they get all pseudo arty farty when a wealthy con man bullshit artists like Koons shows up.

Who do they think they are kidding, not me or people like me... Maybe they’re trying to kid themselves.

Sorry all you key board art experts, but dime store shit is not art. Never was, even in the roaring 20s when Dada crap attempted to replace real art...

You know? real art that requires real talent and years of relentless hard work, 99.9% of this blog has examples of real art... Then we have the joker in the pack... Koons.

You always get some bullshitting bafoon, even in the best art blogs.

Joss said...

I find most of Kev's points valid (as they relate to the discussion), but I agree they are compromised by their quality of personal attack. Then again you were doing some of that too i.e.("get your brain recalibrated")

I have equally fallen for a Franz Kline as for many realists, and enjoy both the visual and conceptual aspects of Cubism, Dadaists, Duchamp, Warhol etc. its just that I am disappointed by the trend of much conceptual art, toward engendering a lack of attention and care for and humanity in the forms themselves.

Looking at a Leyendecker or especially Frazetta, yes there is a flashy display of skill and yes there is an adolescence of mind, but there is something else there too. A something for which too many seem blind. The combination of a passion for their forms and a deep dedication to the craft of creating them. That is where it would seem our current art culture is in a terrible drought. Hence we look back on this blog to where that is elevated even if it's in the abscence of other values like a topically intellectual challenge.
With great realism, If you look into the forms themselves you will find the abtsract/real dichotomy throbbing within a single work (i.e. Corot's simple italian landscapes).

Is a rose intellectually challenging? That depends upon your depth of perception. The rose has an infinite nature. I personally find this quality alive today in some comic art, the development of animated movies to some degree, but the finished product is not a stand alone object or image created by one hand and so we are left with a cultural hole in my opinion.

I am satisfied in this respect as much by a Franz Kline as by a Wyeth.

kev ferrara said...

Mr. Allen,

You seem to think interpretation of pictures by critics started with modernism.

Which means, I guess, that you think symbolism was invented by Modernists.

A quick search through Google books will disabuse you of these ideas.

You also seem to think what critics said about what the modern artists were trying to do was coherent. Even though the critics were all amateurs guessing for a half-cent a word.

Maybe you nod in assent at Clive Bell's observation that aesthetic emotion arises from significant form, which he defines as form which causes an aesthetic emotion.

Or maybe you swoon to Benedetto Croce's assertion that art is only emotion, and therefore all art is is significant form, whether it causes an emotion or not. Which means the definition of art is the presentation of any form at all, significant or not. And there you have the rationale for every boring piece of crap graphic design on canvas made since.

You also seem to think what Modern artists had to say about themselves was sensible.

Possibly you agree with Kandinsky when he says that all acute angles must be yellow.

Maybe Warhol's diary entry "Today I wrapped a Rolls Royce in cellophane. I hope somebody finds meaning in this," is evidence of great artistic integrity.

And now I'm sure you will find it highly insulting that I have pointed out that you may not be the most perceptive and learned cat in the room when it comes to art.

Mark Allen said...

As I said in my first entry:

"Of course I'll now be attacked for this,but that just underlines their failings"

And I was right.Ferrara immediately and predictably goes on the attack because he feels his craft is sleighted.
I'm describing the world as it is and why illustration is viewed as a craft-skill like basket-weaving and not 'high art'.
Ferrara tries to shoot the messenger with his blunderbuss because he resents this situation.

Joss, you've argued your point in the intelligent way I had hoped others would in this forum, but so often the (juvenile) response is aggression and silly nit-picking.

To Anonymous:
Abstract art is merely one strand of modern art, so to slag off modern art because you don't like abstraction is clearly a nonsense. Also, don't you like any of Picasso,Malevich,Ben Nicholson,Pollck,Rothko and hundreds more abstractionists? That would indicate an incredibly blinkered outlook.So reassess your position there because it seems very narrow from here.
"You always get some bullshitting bafoon, even in the best art blogs."
Yes, and you are Him.
Modern art started way before the 20s.Have you ever heard of the Impressionists, or don't you have time to actually study art between wathching sports and and drinking beer with your blue-collar buddies at the nearest Hooters.

And so to Ferrara.
A fact that will fill you with anger was that Andy Warhol was the highest paid ILLUSTRATOR in New York late 50s early 60s.He was a brilliant talent.But like other super talented people he outgrew the game.So he moved into modern art and brilliantly changed the game there.His combination of artistic understanding and enigmatic discourse turned the 60s art world upside down.
Do you think those are the achievements of a idiot or a very clever man?

Laurence John said...

"So much unthinking aggression and intolerance here"

you've obviously skipped David's posts which have responded clearly and intelligently (and very patiently) to every point you've made.

your first comment had a distinct air of provocation about it..

"so keep your enthusiasm under control" there's no need to act mock-bewildered when you get the angry responses you were obviously looking for in the first place.

you're right, modern art IS all about ideas and very little to do with hand and eye skill. there are very few modern artists to look to for people who appreciate good drawing.
i actually like the fact that a drawing is just a drawing if it wants to be and doesn't need a concept to justify it's existence. you (and others) seem to think that good drawing needs to come with an apology for not being cutting edge and socially relevant enough. but you're the one who has come onto a blog that celebrates good drawing from the past and decided to tell everyone that they are narrow minded... sounds like it is you who has the problem accepting more than one criteria for art Mark.

Anonymous said...

I get the feeling this illustrates Mark's feelings here:

kev ferrara said...


If you're going to give heat, expect to get it too. Don't go crying to mommy when that happens. Because there is no mommy here. And nobody is fooled by your resulting whining and complaining.

It might be helpful if you just learned to accept and appreciate new information instead of taking it personally.

kev ferrara said...

Oh, and your story about Warhol is not only greatly exaggerated but irrelevant as well. And of course, hilarious.

I particularly like when you make clueless assumptions about how mad I'll get and for what reason.

I bet this post will absolutely infuriate you beyond all reasoning because you think Caravaggio worked for Al Capp. And HE DIDN'T!

Mark Allen said...

Laurence, your critique might be true were it not for the fact that I love great draftsmanship.To list just a few;
Graham Sutherland (as mentioned)
Muirhead Bone
Frank Brangwyn
Robert Fawcett
Dean Cornwell
Robert Weaver
Bernard Fuchs
Mort Drucker
Hans Holbein
and I'm only scratching the surface here Breccia,Toppi.Too many to list.
So your assumption that a visitor with the temerity to suggest that Oberhardt's drawings are a competent display of hand eye skill, must hate eveything this blog stands for and be opposed to good drawing is foolish in the extreme.
And this is what I mean about aggression usurping reasoned debate.
In other words stop acting like petulant children when your sacred cows are challenged.

Mark Allen said...

"Maybe Warhol's diary entry "Today I wrapped a Rolls Royce in cellophane. I hope somebody finds meaning in this," is evidence of great artistic integrity."

'Success Is A Job In New York'
by Kenneth Goldsmith

"Throughout the 1950s, Warhol accepted assignments from all the major fashion magazines, including Madamemoiselle,Glamour,Harper's Bizarre and Vogue, as well as such stores as Tiffany & Co, Lord & Taylor,and Bergdorff Goodman.His illustration knew no bounds: he designed album covers, book-jackets and newspaper ads,and even illustrated the raindrops,suns and clouds used in early-morning television weather reports.His largest client, however, was I.Miller, a shoe company that brought him industry-wide recognition and several awards from the Art-Directors Club.
Warhol's production was ceaseless. Throughout the decade, he created a number of artist's books - as well as countless drawings- that employed his ground-breaking commercial art techniques...
In the midstof his commercial success however,Warhol always had ambitions of placing his work in a fine art context."

So, which part of what I said about Warhol was inaccurate? Do tell.

And so far I have certainly felt no 'heat' emmanating from your luke-warm observations.
Even if you can't accept Warhol's success as a fine artist,his success as an illustrator hilariously blows apart your suggestion that he was a fool or a no-talent.
Now just accept that you've been made to look an oaf and get back inside your box.

Laurence John said...

ok Mark so you're not opposed to good drawing.

but you're ready for a challenge with any knee-jerk (as you call them) reactions to the likes of Warhol or Koons, and in fact you think anyone is narrow minded if they don't understand what modern art is trying to achieve. David has already told you that he doesn't dismiss any art categorically, modern or not (and i feel the same way) but you don't seem satisfied with that response. you sure do a good impression of a person with a chip on their shoulder about something.

p.s. what if i told you that this blog didn't represent my 'sacred cows' at all and that my favourite painter is Neo Rauch. would that change YOUR assumption of me ?

Tom said...

Just asking, how is good drawing just eye and hand skill? If it is just eye and hand skill are we not saying drawing is copying, (kind of the David Hockney view of drawing) or tracing? All drawing is some sort of conceptualization about reality. Maybe if our concept of realistic drawing is copying, that might explain modern art’s extreme rejection of realism and it’s swing in the opposite direction.

Joss said...

Mark, Perhaps this is just more pissing into the wind, but isn't there some dissonannce between these two statements:

"And this is what I mean about aggression usurping reasoned debate."

immediately followed by a post containing this

"just accept that you've been made to look an oaf and get back inside your box."

Were you intentionally speaking of yourself in the first statement?
I am I wrong to feel you both have important points to make but you can't help rolling them in mud and hurling them. To get a response without aggression would require an openness greater than what your offering.

I'd enjoy your arguments getting past the attacks so that the cogent points might have cogent responses. If you both have all the answers, and nothing to learn from each other, is there really any value in responding to each other at all?.
Well, besides giving me the chance to feel superior.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mark Allen

There now follows a cautionary tale of a well established artist who tryed to say something with his art... and had his arse roasted for it. Aunty political correctness just hates naughty boys who try to be real artists in a phoney, say nothing art word.

Once upon a time there was an exhibition of photographs by the Australian photographer, Bill Henson. Because this artist likes to depict coming of age fantasies and chooses to utilise nude boys and girls to do this...

Cops raided the gallery where he showed his work. Law makers threatened to charge Henson and the gallery owner with child pornography, even though it was clear to all but a puritanical moron that the work was not, in any way shape or form... pornographic.

The media had a field day, whipping up hysterical self riotous headlines, pasting big black masks over non existent naughty bits, presumably to protect Joe public from a dangerous nude, that may, at any moment, turn into a pumpkin should Joe public see said rude bits.

Another puritanical witch hunt had started and everybody had something derogatory to say about a man who did not consider child nudity either dangerous or scary. Even our prime minster, Keven Rudd had his ten cents worth, saying child nudes were... Quote; ‘discussing!’

After all the hysterical media headlines and calls for artists who use child nudes to be burned at the stake... Bill Henson’s work was deemed to be perfectly acceptable by the ‘Department Of Film And Literature.’ The official censorship body in Australia.

Henson and the gallery owner both lived happy ever after.
Just do some bland, boring abstracts next time Bill. You can call it art, nobody will know the difference... well almost nobody.

I may well be a bullshitting bafoon as you suggest, Mark Allen. But unlike Koons and his buddies, nobody has paid me millions for my particular brand of shit. Should I put it in cans and offer it for sale in an up market gallery?

Because if some prestigious gallery shows anybody's shit, sure as hell... some wealthy wanker is gonna shell out millions for it. It’s what wealthy wankers do, cause they want to impress other wealthy wankers.


don't you like any of Picasso,Malevich,Ben Nicholson,Pollck,Rothko and hundreds more abstractionists? That would indicate an incredibly blinkered outlook.

End quote.

Sure I like Picasso, Ben Nicholson and some of the others. Not sure about Rothko’s depressing purple and red splurges or even the word ‘Abstract.’ Picasso hated the word too, because it meant nothing to a realist artist like him.

Ben Nicholson’s work all sprang from reality too, reality simplified and stylised. But isn’t that what most good artists do, stylise, simplify and utilise their imagination. I am not against any art style. I’m just fed up with so called art that leaves me cold, because it says nothing. To me anyway. Others may see things differently. No two people are the same, thank god.

And talking about individual preferences...

I dislike beer, blue collars and drinking with none existent buddies. However, I do like hooters, as long as they are small, juicy and nice to look at and fondle.

Most elitist remarks are made by people who are not actually part of the elite, but would like to be. You do not know me and I do not know you, Lets keep our posts academic and avoid pointless put downs. I have a go at Koons, because that’s what he’s there for. Koons’s millions make him impervious to my slings and arrows... Bless his cute cotton socks.

Alan Lawrence

kev ferrara said...

Yeah, Mark, there's this thing called epistemology. It helps us to realize that the extent of our knowledge is limited at all times and about all times. A continuing education makes one realize more and more just how many unknowns and unknowables there are.

A biography gives the illusion of complete understanding. It is just an illusion, however.

I was stunned, for example, in reading the recent N.C. Wyeth biography just how much error there was, and how often Pyle's words about composition and art were misinterpreted as personal comments in order to make the author's dramatic points seem true.

In reciting that warhol description, you fail to consider the circumstances unspoken. That warhol was simply doing what a great many trained commercial illustrators were doing at the time, which is aping the greats to make a good buck (Ben Shahn is the name that keeps popping up). I seriously doubt warhol was the highest paid illustrator in New York, given the competition and the fact that he was aping his betters. (Thus, I assume if you cannot prove that warhol was the highest paid illustrator in new york, you will agree that you were exaggerating. I won't hold my breath.)

And of course, there's always the unspoken defensiveness of the modern art hagiographer wherein we get variations on the "Picasso was a great realist before he ever did abstraction" line. This is repeated like a mantra so the meme spreads and carriers like you repeat it unconsciously.

As I've said before regarding this point, Picasso was an extremely competent and very boring realist compared to actually great realists of his era, like his fellow countryman Juaquin Sorolla y Bastida. (Which is also by way of explaining, it isn't simply craftsmanship I admire, so you can stop running that choo choo over and over.)

Anyhow, warhol's bio is probably written by a writer who isn't as aware as he might be of just what that era in commercial art was like and how much money was floating around for a talented kid willing to pound the pavement.

And another fallacious meme you repeat is that "because he could draw, when he stopped drawing and became famous it was obviously because his new work must be better." Well, no. It isn't obviously so. His work clearly struck a chord with the times and excited people who were tired of abstract expressionism and sick of over eager advertising culture. And it was very colorful and graphic. But that doesn't mean it was better or deeper.

Heck, what he was doing before probably wasn't all that deep either, professionally crafted or not. (Shoe illos, etc.)

Personally, I like the look of the Cambell's soup can and I think he did an excellent job of blowing it up to wall size as a graphic. I just don't think it's very interesting art and the "comment" it makes on society takes about .2 seconds to absorb.

Nor is it so that because warhol could draw and paint, this fact legitimizes the integrity of the work he makes when he stops drawing and painting. Work either legitimizes itself or it does not. I don't believe in apologetics or excuses or rating one performance highly because a previous one rated highly.

It is very easy to be misinformed if you don't have context. Thus the famous aphorism, "beware a man of one book."

Finally, your emotional trolling is beyond tiresome. I think everyone's clear about who's the reactive mind here. If you can stop trying to insult me, please do so.

Joss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joss said...

My sacred cow is inspiration, that is why I keep returning here. The problem I have living far from art culture is that I am dependent on forums like this for exposure to great art, new and old, as well as for intellectually stimulating dialogue not limited to the confines of my head.

So, thanks Lawrence for introducing me to Neo Rauch, his work brings to mind Di Chirico, Mark Tansey, Frans Hals, Odd Nerdrum.

Tom: Very nicely expressed point about drawing. What is Hockney's take? I find his drawings often an expressive, sensitive extension of his unique voice.
I can see why he might call it copying, but I geuss even copying when don by a real hand leaves so much of the artists personality, especially when it's done honestly, that is without an attempt to hide the "copiers," hand.

Mark Allen said...

"I seriously doubt warhol was the highest paid illustrator in New York, given the competition and the fact that he was aping his betters. (Thus, I assume if you cannot prove that warhol was the highest paid illustrator in new york, you will agree that you were exaggerating. I won't hold my breath.)"

When you're in a hole stop digging,man. This is from "Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol" another source:

"'The town house bought by shoe ads,' Andy's friend Emile de Antonio called it, and it was true: everything Andy owned was paid for with a ceaseless flow of hundred-dollar drawings of shoes, hats, scarves, perfumes, handbags, and other ladies accessories... In 1960, Andy would gross $70,000, his best year yet, and when 1342 Lexington had come up for sale he was easily able to put down $30,000, almost half of the building's price..."
"Among the possessions they moved was Andy's art collection which included, according to Scherman and Dalton, "lithographs by Toulouse-Lautrec and Jasper Johns; a Klee reproduction; paintings by Tchelitchew, Matta and Paul Cadmus; drawings by Larry Rivers and David Stone Martin; a collage by Ray Johnson, a strange, antic man Andy had met at New Directions Press, for whom both illustrated book jackets; and two canvases by Jane Wilson, a portrait of Andy and a double portrait of his friend Ted Carey and Carey's lover John Mann."

I suspect this inventory gives a very clear idea of Warhol's income from his illustration.In a word phenomenal.So all the maybe's and suppositions in your latest post,plus the made up quotes from me just make your argument look more and more ridiculous.

Tom, what you say is true if you are looking at a Schiele drawing where the artist is freely interpreting and modifying the forms in front of him.But that is not Oberhardt's m.o.

" some wealthy wanker is gonna shell out millions for it. It’s what wealthy wankers do, cause they want to impress other wealthy wankers."
And it was always so,patrons commisioning art to show off to other wealthy people, that's the business of art.I don't know if Koons is going to prove to be significant in the history of art or whether he'll be forgotten in 10years. The critics will try to judge that, that's what they get paid for.

"I’m just fed up with so called art that leaves me cold, because it says nothing."
Very true, but equally applicable to abstract,conceptual AND realistic art.Art with content- not just pretty pictures, pointless self-abuse or banal sloganeering.Agreed.

kev ferrara said...


Andy Warhol was the highest paid ILLUSTRATOR in New York late 50s early 60s.


Dumb ass troll.

Joss said...

" what you say is true if you are looking at a Schiele drawing where the artist is freely interpreting and modifying the forms in front of him.But that is not Oberhardt's m.o."

Just because Shiele is going 150% further than Oberhardt in expressive interpretation doesn't invalidate Oberhardt's more "dignified" manner in doing the same thing.

You obviously appreciate the value of a reserved approach since you mentioned Ingres and Holbein. It is a completely different expression. I would take many Sheile drawings over Oberhardt's, but I can value both. I see a very different kind of beauty in Oberhardt. More akin to say Sargent but perhaps you'd dismiss Sargent too. I suppose I would also put Oberhardt's value behind all those you list as favorite draughtsmen, but I still think he's worthy of the attention and praise being paid him here.

I love Mondrian's flowers while his abstractions though interesting are much less so to me. My point being that history's or "the critic's" popular judgments are by no means conclusive for me and many others. The simple act of recording observation if done with depth and sensetivity can bypass a person's concepts which often handicap their creativity.

Rob Howard said...

BMW just held its annual contest for artists to design the paint for a BMW. This year, they chose one of their race cars and the winner is...the Prince of Darkness himself, Jeff Koons.

go toKoons' BMW and see the design. I think it's quite inventive. Also read the blatant sexual innuendo the writer ascribes to cars... with "dipstick" "drive shaft" and "cruising." The writer sees coupling genitalia in the balloon dogs. Oy vey!

Rob Howard said...

>>>Gah, 1965, stupid tiny netbook keys, my bad.<<< Nope, not the famous picture of the little girl being marched to class with the federal marshals and the splattered tomato on the wall. Do some REAL research into the series in LOOK magazine. The work is monochromatic with slashed strokes and a spatter of red.

So few of the very intelligent folks who write with great authority know that Rockwell was not an Aww Shucks hick but rather a New York cosmopolitan, all-around party guy, well-traveled and with a real depth of understanding of the masters. But smoke a pipe and have an Adam's apple and you're immediately relgated to the ranks of the 4H Club.

Rob Howard said...

>>>Gosh Rob, I'm just a little taken aback by your friendly manner. <<<

I have, on more than one occasion, been described as a mirror. I simply reflect what is being shown. In my daily life I am quite pleasant to be around...very civil, except to people for whom incivility is in their nature. At that point I can reflect exactly who they are back at them, making me a sonofabitch for revealing what they thought they had hidden (most poorly turned-out people are completely unaware that they are rude and crude).

It is sad that you were not able to get what you wanted (and deserved to get) from Pratt. The saddest part is your plaint is far from unusual.

Fortunately you've been able to maintain that good attitude toward making art. That can sustain you.

As for being a are correct in that those who can stay in the field for long (average length of life in the field ranges from three to seven years) seem to be specially adapted. Frankly, I think that we are often missing a piece normal people have.

David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard said: "I have, on more than one occasion, been described as a mirror. I simply reflect what is being shown."

Rob, I don't know about these other jamokes but personally I have always seen you as an incredibly handsome, charming, witty guy.

Rob Howard said...

A number of us were doing better than that. Until very recently (when the Mac turned Everyman into artists), according to the US Department of Labor, the highest paid profession was not doctor or lawyer, but illustrator. That fact allowed this young illustrator to visit Luigi Chinetti to get his first Ferrari.

Those were halcyon days (soon to be interrupted by military service) for illustration, and the field stayed hot until the Mac came along. That single tool changed everything by allowing people with incomplete training to generate the superb finish it used to require a skilled illustrator to produce. It democratized commercial art and brought the plumber's taste for smooth finish and familiar subjects in to dominate the field.

Prices plummeted as Mac opperators competed on the basis of price alone. Fortunately, I saw the writing on the wall. Still, it's sad because I realy loved the field. On to pastures green and postures new.

Anonymous said...

"Nope, not the famous picture of the little girl being marched to class with the federal marshals and the splattered tomato on the wall. Do some REAL research into the series in LOOK magazine. The work is monochromatic with slashed strokes and a spatter of red."

I shall investigate, thanks.


Anonymous said...

Well at least the Warhol sidebar helped me discover my favorite work of his ouvre:

Anonymous said...

Mark, all those prints and paintings you mention weren't all that valuable at that time. Many of those artists were barely known and prices hadn't skyrocketed yet.

Twenty years before Warhol, top illustrators could make 6 figures. I doubt very much 60,000 was the top salary in 1960.

You really should back it down a notch.

Mark Allen said...

So I provide evidence of Warhol's income and the great wealth he has accrued by 1960 from his illustration career and Ferrara in his truly pathetic style says:

"Andy Warhol was the highest paid ILLUSTRATOR in New York late 50s early 60s.


Dumb ass troll."

Well I argue I HAVE proved it unless you can show me a New York illustrator who was earning more in 1960,Dickwad.

And, as a matter of interest,Bob Peak is quoted as being on about $40,000 per year towards the end of the 50s.That will give you an idea of Warhol's success.

Anonymous said...

Rob, wasn't responding to you , my comment was aimed at Marks assertion that Rockwell didn't address issues like race when it kinda was obvious that he did.

I'd love to see the exhibit you're on about if you have links or titles to start from.

So far, my "Google-Fu" is not throwing out much..

kev ferrara said...


Hurling epithets around as you do is a sad sight to witness and doesn't make for very good conversation.

As someone already said, clearly there's a huge chip on your shoulder. Brush it off and let's just talk some sense.


If you won't prove what you said, that's fine. I don't expect you to.

However, if your sense of logic assumes that statements are true until they are disproven, what would you make of the assertion that you are writing your posts from an insane asylum?

See the problem with your logic?


Rather than belabor the obvious failings of your argumentation, I will try to defend my simple point instead.

Given that I don't have salaries of 50s illustrators at my fingertips, and neither do you, common sense is our only hope.

So, for instance, I can not take your word for it that Bob Peak, (one of probably a hundred illustrators MORE prominent than Warhol during that era), made less than 70 grand IN THE PARTICULAR YEAR that the Warhol bio claims he made 70 grand. Is that particular year listed?

A one to one comparison like that would be the only way to test.

The ultimate test would be to compare all the salaries of all the illustrators better known than Warhol one to one during the entire period you are referring to (from the late 50s to the early 60s).

I doubt anybody would conclude sight unseen that Warhol comes out on top for every year from 1958 to 1962. I think most would doubt he comes out on top in ANY year during that period. Again, that’s just common sense.

All told, however, I think the strongest common sense clue that you are in error is the fact that, in the bio you quote from, it DOES NOT SAY that warhol was the top paid illustrator.

I seriously doubt such a fact would go unsaid in such a biography.

Therefore any sane person would have to conclude that your claim that warhol was the top paid illustrator in that particular year that he made 70 grand, is most likely an exaggeration.

And an exaggeration that was designed to make a point that wasn't even relevant anyhow.

Now wipe off the foam from your chin and type some more insanely hateful invective. Personally, I love reading a true poet at work. ;)


David Apatoff said...

One objective way to assess the impact of Andy Warhol as an illustrator is to look at the contemporaneous journals of record, the annuals of the Art Directors Club and the Society of Illustrators.

What you will find is that every year or two, Warhol had an illustration in the annuals. In 1953 he had two (as compared to the most popular illustrators of the day who regularly had four or five illustrations included).

Of far greater interest to me is that when you look at Warhol's work reproduced in those annuals it did not seem very impressive, or even distinctive. You would not have picked him out as winner. The examples in the annuals are mostly competent line drawings that seem to be a combination of Al Parker and Ben Shahn.

Of all the various exchanges in this dialogue about Warhol, his salary and his art collection, I am most intrigued by lines from one of अर्जुन's youtube songs. (Thank you, अर्जुन, I love those songs-- keep them coming!) He introduced me to "Songs for Drella," an album of songs that Lou Reed and John Cale wrote for Warhol.

Here (courtesy of my son who thinks his Dad is a hopeless square) is Reed's wonderful description of his exchange with Warhol. Nothing I have ever seen by Warhol or read about Warhol impressed me as much as these words:

No matter what I did it never seemed enough
He said I was lazy, I said I was young
He said, "How many songs did you write?"
I'd written zero, I'd lied and said, "Ten."

"You won't be young forever
You should have written fifteen."
It's work.

"You ought to make things big
People like it that way
And the songs with the dirty words
Make sure you record them that way."

Andy liked to stir up trouble
He was funny that way
He said, "It's just work.

Andy sat down to talk one day
He said decide what you want
Do you want to expand your parameters
Or play museums like some dilettante


Andy said a lot of things
I stored them all away in my head
Sometimes when I can't decide what I should do
I think what would Andy have said

He'd probably say "You think too much
That's 'cause there's work that you don't want to do."
It's work, the most important thing is work
It's work, the most important thing is work

kev ferrara said...

Nice, David.

I was going to bring up the point that given what Warhol was doing in commercial art, his switch to pop art really wasn't that much of jump. He hardly can be accused of "selling out" given what he had already been doing for "the man" for the prior decade. Rather his pop art was probably a very real expression of his feelings about his life.

StimmeDesHerzens said...

How unexpected! You have compared a 'talented' artist to Koons, and....this person is...a portrait artist! Lets hope that quality portraiture can one day emerge out of the less desirable corners in the ghetto of art...but I'm not hopeful. When an intellect like Rob thinks...Oberhardt's work is good for wrapping fish in! Shame! You just don't like portraits, whether its a darling Victorian valentine or a quality charcoal!

re: sicher sein
sei sicher. Und so schoen, ist dein Schreiberi. wie immer.


very nice ........


good site......

अर्जुन said...

"…you think Caravaggio worked for Al Capp. And HE DIDN'T!"

Of course not, Piazzetta did.

Mark Allen said...

There's no huge chip on my shoulder, I just don't appreciate being personally abused and my comments dismissed by a someone who constantly switches the goalposts and avoids the substance of the question.

Your first mistake was in trying to show Warhol was a fool by taking one of his elliptical statements and suggesting he was an idiot.No my friend that is you, because you do not see that he was a strangely brilliant individual.His success in both field shows that.
By way of demonstrating this point I made reference to one book, then another, that give compelling evidence of the level of his income and personal wealth, including the assertion that he was NY's most successful illustrator.
Like an adolescent desperate to win an argument you immediatelly jump to the narrow point, how can I prove he was #1 in 1960? Well, you chose to take the debate to this area, now it's YOUR turn to put up or shut up.Figures please.

For me,even if he was New York's third or fifth highest earner,it would still show he was a massive success because that was an unbelievable talent pool.

So no more dodges or delays or smokescreens, just engage with the question that YOU chose to focus on.

That comment about Peak's income came from Dan Zimmer's magazine.

Scott Allen said...

Sorry to interupt but,

Wow, what a ride these past two posts offer! So many relevant points and colorful diction, my brain and moleskin thank you!

Ok, I'll sit down now, please go on.

kev ferrara said...

Dear Mark,

I’m glad you’ve finally admitted you were exaggerating.

I would consider this progress, but your inability to keep an even tone is still disturbing.

Frankly I doubt any frustrated outburst from your fingers will give you the catharsis about your life that you seem to be after. Rather, you just seem to be indulging your worst self again and again. Obviously your issues with rage have very little to do with anything written on this blog by me or anybody else.

As for moving the goalposts, I think the problem lies with your emotionalism, which seems to disable your ability to comprehend what you are reading.

Just so you understand how off your thinking is:

1. I never said Warhol wasn’t a successful illustrator. So all your effort to prove this to me has been a waste of time.

2. I have already mentioned that I have no access to salaries. There have been enough common sense approaches to the question of warhol’s dominance of the illustration field to satisfy me that he was not the dominant figure you allege. And since you have already admitted your exaggeration, I think the point is over.

3. I don’t equate commercial success with artistic depth. If you do, fine. Whether Warhol was number 5 or number 25, therefore, is immaterial to me. That goalpost is your own.

4. If I consider Warhol shallow, what do you care? That I agree that he is strangely brilliant in some way does not change my low opinion of his depth of thought, or his work, which I find dull. I also find Koons strangely brilliant in some way that I neither enjoy nor find satisfying artistically.

If we can disengage now, that would suit me fine.

Good luck,

David Apatoff said...

Nathan Fowkes and Chuck Pyle-- thanks for weighing in; always an honor to see your learned opinions expressed here.

KFM Gallery, Tom, and anonymous-- Thanks!

Serge Akwei-- I know what you mean. I am often struck by the potency of the design in the craft work from sub-saharan Africa and Mali is no exception. Thanks for the link.

Joss-- that quote about art and manual labor is from Oscar Wilde and yes, it is a favorite around here.

David Apatoff said...

Leibesreime-- Now it is my turn to ask you about a word. I am having trouble with "Schreiberi."

Mark Allen-- thanks for the reference to Muirhead Bone. I was not previously familiar with his work (although I know and like many other "war artists" from WW I).

अर्जुन, I hope you caught my tip of the hat to your great song contributions (buried in one of my wordier exchanges above). The Lou Reed links were great, but the Phil Harris clip was the perfect "non-sequential" rejoinder to much of this discussion in keeping with the theme of this post (as were the Cowsills and the Pastor John Rydgren.)

David Apatoff said...

ArtistAmudhan-- Thanks!

Rob Howard wrote-- "The writer sees coupling genitalia in the balloon dogs. Oy vey!

I think that with many artists whose work I have criticized here (Ware, Panter, Currin, Kinkade, Koons) I have less of a problem with the artist than with the overheated rhetoric of their fan base. It is no insult to talented, lesser known artists that celebrity artists have found ways to make lots of money. Good for them. But when the selling machine of critics and gallery owners starts churning out rhetoric about the deeper symbolism of balloon dogs and how these celebrity artists are uniquely gifted and insightful, I do construe that as an insult to the more talented, hard working artists and I feel it is my social duty to let some of the hot air out of the balloon.

StimmeDesHerzens said...

Re: I am having trouble with "Schreiberi."
Sorry D, a slight mispelling, the word should be 'Schreiberei' --- (I figured you would call me out on this)
Es ist so ein type redensart, adding 'ei' makes a word into a noun while simultaneously making the word less formal (more playful). One of those lovely flexibilities of the German language. One would not use this type of formulation in an essay.
Sauerei :-(
Küsserei :-)
Liebelei !! -- Liebesaffaire, Liebesgeschichte, Liebschaft, Techtelmechtel, Verhältnis
usw. gL

StimmeDesHerzens said...

Re: celebrity artists producing questionable artwork and the marketing by critics and gallery owners of this stuff

I suggest such transactions at this level have less to do with art (appreciation and admiration) & more to do business. It is not art here, it is business.

Koons is laughing all the way to the bank. As for the buyers, its much better to pretend to be buying great art, than admit that one is spending a fortune on balloons with the actual hope of creating an even more monstrous pile of dough down the road.

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that Oberhardt marries technical accuracy with such expressive strokes puts him in a category that few artist can be considered for. There are a lot of great technical artists out there and there are a lot of beautiful expressive artists out there, but they always tend to lean more one way or the other.
As far as the conceptual modern art argument goes, I've always enjoyed social commentary and art that is important with a message. But I think a statement through art tends to lose its importance when it gets twisted and turned into a visual puzzle thats only meant for the art world to get.
Before I get attacked, note that I'm not saying art shouldn't have a message, I just think that if the message is important enough to the artist, He should execute it with a clarity that is equal to its cleverness. Otherwise it seems like the message isn't that important if value is so easy to distort and abstract to the point that only a select few get it. What's wrong with trying to make art so maybe Joe Shmo stands a chance of appreciating it. But that kind of art would require a lot of work and thought, and that's not very easy. Is it?
You want examples? Damn it!
Every time someone uses examples here they get boxed in a corner.
But here it goes, Jacob Lawrence is good, though more narrative than conceptual, his message is important to him.
I think when Warhol had something to say, his messages didn't get lost either.
Maybe if there is anyone out there who agrees with me they can help me instead of forcing me to prove my worth. Which I will be the first to admit my ignorance when it comes to art. This post is really my opinion is all.
Koons does not do it for me


Mark Allen said...

Ok, so I gave you plenty of time to come up with the goods.
No success.

"I’m glad you’ve finally admitted you were exaggerating.

I would consider this progress, but your inability to keep an even tone is still disturbing."

Pathetic.It took me 5 minutes to get the Peak figure by looking in Illustration magazine.5 minutes on the web to find Warhol's income.

I made an assertion, I supported it with facts .You dispute the assertion but have no facts to support that other than a guess.
That's not very scientific.

The burden of proof is on you because you can see the vast disparity between the very successful Peak and Warhol.So my claim is clearly NOT any kind of an exaggeration but rooted in reality and cold hard figures.

I'm pretty sure Dorne Parker and Fawcett weren't in the same bracket at this time, so I would be fascinated to know who was.
This is not an intellectual exercise it's a very real look at how trends were changing in the illustration industry at the start of the 60s.

So please desist with the snide comments and underhand point scoring and enlighten me with some facts.
Is that asking too much?

David Apatoff said...

Mark Allen, Kev Ferrara and others-- perhaps I am partially to blame for this emphasis on the compensation of various illustrators because I started making rude remarks about how much Koons receives for a painting. I promise, my original intent was to address issues such as the deep pockets and shallow motives of many patrons of the fine arts today, or how much our society values conceptual irony as opposed to an object with aesthetic beauty. But if it's my fault, mea culpa.

I have never focused much on issues of pay, but I have seen enough to know that Rob Howard was right, excellent illustrators were fabulously well paid. Those who care about this stuff will have to check me on this, but I'm pretty sure that Charles Dana Gibson was making more than Warhol's $70,000 in 1905, fifty years before Warhol hit it big. I believe Rockwell was making several times that amount in the 50's, as was Dorne (who became a corporate mogul). I don't think Peak made a lot of money until he hit his stride in the 1960s, but when he did he had a penthouse in Manhattan, a rolls royce and a number of sports cars. Peter Max is another '60s illustrator who made far more than Warhol. Those are names I would start with for anyone who cares enough to look into such stuff.

For me, I think the key point is that between lots of money and the legitimate excuse to look at nekkid ladies, illustration was once the best darn job in the world. I think people still go into the field today because of the echo from that big bang.

Corey-- welcome to the monkey house!

Leibesreime-- you are going to keep me on my toes.

Anonymous said...

Rob , Al McLuckie here with a question . Maybe I should save it for the Cennini Forum which I will be signing up for very soon . Greene found your work facile ? At a museum in Ft.Wayne IN. I saw a nice portrait sketch by Greene which I liked more than his larger works which seem rather tight to me.

I was wondering what you thought of guys like Richard Schmid , David Leffel and Jeremy Lipking .

For what it's worth , I see nothing "facile" in your work in the sense that Greene suggested .

अर्जुन said...

Songs For Drella is an album about growth, fear, joy, success, love, doubt, friendship, regret, loss. I highly recommend it.

Most know them, but for those that don't, the 2 finest Cale and Reed solo recordings are Lou Reed's Berlin and John Cale's Paris 1919.

Intro the Alec Guinness vehicle Our Man In Havana written by Graham Greene (hit the blue button 'neath it to play).

About a man involved in espionage, who passes off drawings of vacuum cleaners as secret installations.

Which brings us back to Koon's "The New" series, New Hoover Celebrity III's. Many have telephones or clocks as object d'art, why not vacuums?

Speaking of clocks, have you seen The Third Man?


Steven K said...

Thanks to you and the Oberhardt family for these, David. I've had a difficult time finding more examples of Oberhardt's terrific work, and welcome any opportunity to see his charcoal head studies. It would be great if someone would work with the family to publish a collection of Oberhardt's work - he deserves wider recognition.

Mark Allen said...

There is not much thai I would disagree with in your piece David.
I'm well aware of the fabulous sums Leyendecker and Rockwell were earning in their heyday.And I believe Parker and Dorne were the next generation of very well-paid illustrators.
But my understanding is that by 1960 with the advent of TV etc, the industry was undergoing major changes ie that Parker was earning a lot less doing less prestigious work for Boy's Life.
Which was why, when I read that Warhol at that stage was top man in NY ,the very epicentre, I was very intrigued.And then to transition into another field with no guaranteed chance of success,I felt that some of the easy prejudices I had developed about him were due for reconsideration.

So I present this information on your forum and Ferrara immediately
goes on the attack in the most juvenile name- calling totally poisonous way possible.

I thought you were supposed to be moderating an educated enlightened forum, not a bear-pit
Now I've tried to present real tangible evidence to shed more light on this aspect of AW's career, because he was working in fashion-based illustration rather than story art,slightly off the beaten track and evidently some can't or won't deal with the facts as presented.

By 1964,I would imagine Peak's film poster work could have taken him over $70,000 pa, but I'm not talking about 1905, 1935 or 1965,the year in question is 1960.

Peter Max and Glaser, I'm pretty sure, were a later 60s success, by which time Warhol was a world wide phenomenon probably earning more than any practising artist.But that's a guess.

And finally I have this quote from an online article for Google news:

"When he graduated in 1949, Andy went to New York City. He became an illustrator for magazines such as Harpar's Bazaar and Vogue. In time, he became the most sought after commercial illustrator in New York City."

kev ferrara said...

Mark, you should really go back and read your comments and how this whole rumble got started. You're a real panic.

And your last quote on warhol... many similar quotes appear online without the "most sought after" tag.

It is fairly clear upon even a modest search effort through google that you went through any number of these variations until you found the one or two you were looking for that said what you wanted. This is bad scholarship. Again, epistemology should guide you, not cherry picking.

The exact quote you chose, as far as I can see, comes from the highly reputable "the freaking"

You need to just back it down and stop treating this like an inquisition. Its just art. Love it, hate it. Argue about it. But don't take it personally. Its just a blog, man.



Anonymous said...

Mark, the year in question is not 1960.

You said Warhol was the "top illustrator" from the late 50s to the early 60s.

That means 1958,1959,1960,1961,1962.

David Apatoff said...

अर्जुन-- I posted a link to that great cuckoo clock speech from the Third Man some time ago, but Youtube took it down as a result of pressure from some damn lawyer. If you know where I can get a fresh version, I would love to re-establish the link.

I am enjoying Songs for Drella very much. This dialogue has caused me to reassess my opinion of Warhol.

Steve K-- it is my hope that an article about Oberhardt (with the full cooperation of his family) will appear in Illustration Magazine in the future.

kchatt said...

Hi I Am Keshab From India. I like pencil sketch, cartoon design . I show your work that is splendid.

keep it up