February 2011

NOTES & COMMENTS

EXHIBITION: A Feast of Drawings
The Essential Line: Drawings from the Dahesh Museum of Art, Palitz Gallery, Lubin House, 11 East 61st Street, New York City, through March 24. Though we have not yet seen this exhibition, from what we know of the Dahesh collection, as well as from the information available online, it is more than likely to reward the visitor. (See also our review of On Becoming an Artist: The Academy in 19th-Century France, the most recent exhibition of work from the Dahesh collection at the Palitz Gallery.)

EXHIBITION: At the Erie
Hidden in Plain Sight: Art Treasures from Regional Collections, Erie [Pa.]Art Museum, through April 3, 2011. If you are within driving distance, you might want to visit this exhibition of work borrowed from institutions in the region. We learned of it, and of the Museum itself, in Judith Dobrzynski's year-end post on Real Clear Arts. Among the artists in the show are Benjamin West [bio], Gilbert Stuart [bio], and Jasper Francis Cropsey [bio].

Gershwin, Grieg, Wagner, and Brahms in Iraq?
Of course! Thanks to the courage and persistence of Karim Wasfi, director and chief conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, classical music from the standard repertory (including compositions by at least one American composer) is making its mark in this war-torn country, demonstrating yet again its universal appeal. Our June 2008 Notes & Comments reported similarly inspiring news, in an item titled "Kids, Ballet, and Music . . . in Baghdad."

Laura Woodward (1834-1926): Intrepid Landscape Painter
In Laura Woodward: The Artist Behind the Innovator Who Developed Palm Beach [more] Deborah Pollack introduces readers to the inspiring life and work of this accomplished but little-known American painter. A member of the Hudson River and White Mountain schools of painting, Woodward later "braved [Florida's] alligator, panther and bear-infused jungles" to depict the natural beauty of the yet-undeveloped state in the late nineteenth century. What can be gleaned of the book online suggests that it should be of interest to anyone who loves landscape painting and cares about its history in nineteenth-century America. (Two paintings by Woodward: St. Augustine Skyline [Fla.] and Gloucester Harbor [Mass.].)

Aristos in the Commentsphere
Our ongoing WebCommentary feature provides annotated links to comments by Louis Torres offering an informed contrarian perspective in response to select articles on the websites of periodicals here and abroad and to posts on arts weblogs.

Arts professionals and ordinary readers alike are taking note. In April 2009, avant-garde art critic and ArtsJournal weblogger Regina Hacket responded to a two-word comment with a headline that read "Aristos: Delighted to Disappoint You, Mr. Torres," followed by a mini-screed quoting from our introduction to the Aristos Awards and ending with a gratuitous swipe at Ayn Rand as "the high priestess of unregulated capitalism, the celebrant of selfishness, the enemy of community."

In a different spirit, late last year, the deputy editor of the influential London-based Art Newspaper, wrote to Torres regarding a critical remark he had made on the paper's website about an exhibition of work by Takashi Murakami at Versailles and asked him to submit a letter on the subject for publication in the paper's print edition. "It is always great to have lively, well-written correspondence," he noted.

More recently, Tobi Tobias, a leading dance critic who is cited frequently in What Art Is and is familiar with Aristos, asked Torres to elaborate on comments he had made regarding her weblog post on a "dance-theater" piece--which he argued did not qualify as dance.

Responding to an article in the Wall Street Journal in December, Torres censured the shameless avant-garde activity at Chesterwood--the summer home of Daniel Chester French, the sculptor of the seated Lincoln in Washington, D.C. His remarks drew a sympathetic comment from one reader, and a brief remark from another, to which he responded, offering suggestions on the best time to visit Chesterwood and avoid the postmodernist incursions.

Last month, an inspiring Wall Street Journal article entitled "A Great Bronze Tarnished by Neglect" lauded the relatively unknown Ulysses S. Grant Memorial in the nation's capital, evoking high praise from Torres and other readers. A subsequent "Ideas Market" column ("From Our Readers," culling WSJ.com comments on articles from the Review section) in the paper's print edition of January 15-16 included an excerpt from Torres's comment.

The "commentsphere," as anyone who reads articles online and weblog posts knows, is a mixed bag. Loosely moderated and often anonymous, its quality varies widely, but as the WebCommentary examples cited above demonstrate, it can offer readers a rich forum for the open exchange of ideas and information.

Norman Rockwell on Jackson Pollock
"[Rockwell's] Connoisseur pinpoints the puzzlements of newfangled modern art, even inventing a plausible Jackson Pollock, whose drip techniques Rockwell apparently enjoyed imitating, even in his sixty-eighth year." Robert Rosenbaum, "Reintroducing Norman Rockwell," in Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People.

Can Art Be Defined?
Take On It quotes New Criterion co-editor Roger Kimball's take on this question from his review of What Art Is. Louis Torres responds.

Tracking the Artworld
New Forms of Art. Will the invention of new forms of "art" by the avant-garde ever end? Not anytime soon. Why do we bother to document the phenomenon? In part, to put in perspective the enormity of the task we face in championing the traditional genres that have endured for millennia. They are a fewer than a dozen, if one counts just the broad categories: dance, music, painting, drawing, sculpture, drama, poetry, and fiction (storytelling). In What Art Is we cited about a hundred alleged new forms of art.

Our online compilation of new art forms adds to that list a hundred or so examples (many with links) that have come to our attention since the publication of What Art Is in 2000. The number will no doubt keep growing, aided by technology and the limitless human imagination--not to mention the antipathy of contemporary scholars and critics toward a Logic 101 definition of art (on which see "The Definition of Art" and Louis Torres's critique of the late philosopher Denis Dutton's purported definition). Among the new forms cited this month are victim art and flarf.

Buzzwords. Our list of contemporary artworld buzzwords--invariably used to characterize avant-garde work--is ever-growing. We add two new terms to the list and cite new instances of six other buzzwords, including two of the most ubiquitous--"blur" and "challenge." Blur (as in "blur the boundaries between art and life") exists in seemingly endless variations, from push or ignore boundaries to tear down walls or barriers.

"The Arts" at the New York Times. Though we haven't updated this collection of Times transgressions in more than a year, the paper still prominently features articles having nothing to do with the arts on the front page of its section called . . . "The Arts"--thereby blurring the boundary between art and non-art.

A New Low for the U. S. in Venice
Thanks to a glowing review by Roberta Smith in the New York Times and an accompanying video, you can sample a "performance-sculpture-recital-dance piece" (!) for "prepared piano" (shades of John Cage) by the "artist team" of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla--our nation's representatives for the upcoming Venice Biennale. In an Allora-Calzadilla piece described by Smith as "trenchant" and "compelling," a performer at New York's Museum of Modern Art not long ago stood in a hole cut into the middle of a grand piano, and played the Fourth Movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on the mutilated instrument, while propelling the piano on wheels around the gallery space. Need we comment further?

Letters to the Editors
We invite readers to comment on items published in this or past issues (see the Aristos archives for examples). Letters may be edited for clarity or length, but the writer will always be consulted prior to publication.

Privacy Notice
Your e-mail address will never be made available to a third party without your express permission. If ever you wish to be removed from our list, just say the word! -- The Editors