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So much artistic talent

I saw this excellent art show the other day, and it reminded me how much artistic talent is out there. I really have no idea whassup with those all-black canvases and the other stuff you see at modern art museums, given that there’s so much interesting new stuff being created every year. I see a big difference between art made by people who feel they have something they want to say, compared to art being made by people who feel they are supposed to make art because they’re artists. And there’s also the internal logic of art responding to other art, as Tom Wolfe discussed in The Painted Word.



  1. Relevant discussion of modern art here.

  2. Do you really feel that you see so much of that constructivist black-and-white stuff around? I have the feeling that it was mostly a 60es/70es thing.

    • Andrew says:

      Those blank or nearly-blank canvases seem to take up a lot of space in modern art museums. As for the postmodernist stuff that came after, a lot of it seems to me more cute than artistic. Again, it often seems that the artists don’t have anything in particular to say; they’re just trying to establish their brands as artists.

      • Rahul says:

        The other sad part of this phenomenon is that people feel pressured into admiring work that they don’t really appreciate. Lest they be thought of as philistines.

        The Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome.

        • Christian Hennig says:

          Very interesting. My impression is that people having a go at modern art, particularly the minimalist stuff, are the vast majority.
          I certainly don’t like all of it but quite a bit, and I’m rather annoyed that people who don’t get it try to tell me all the time that they think that nobody really likes it and whoever says they do are just pressured into it.

          Why can’t you just like what you like without bashing artists who do something else and people who have a different taste? (This goes to Andrew, too.)

      • Fernando says:


        That is an interesting empirical claim and I think you just hit on a new -metric discipline: Artmetrics.

        Bibliometrics already takes a statistical approach to literature, so I can’t see why we cannot do the same for art.

        For example, one could scrap images from Google Art Project and then run cluster analysis, classification, and analyses of color composition, etc. through time and space, using the art work’s meta data (e.g. artist, date, locations, etc.).

        • Fernando says:


          I wonder if we could train Watson to come up with color palettes, styles, or “paintings” that maximize an artist’s chances of his art ending in a museum, or commanding a high price.

          In this computer assisted art, can we train Watson to come up with something truly original? Not just random, but original in the sense of developing a durable stylistic narrative that attracts museums, galleries, and collectors.

        • Rahul says:

          “For example, one could scrap images from Google Art Project”

          That was deliciously ironic. Wonderful typo.

          • Fernando says:

            Actually was meant as in web scrapping though not sure if it can be used as a verve. If not, it’s time to break the barrier. English language is forever evolving.

            • Corey says:

              I’m guessing you’re not a native speaker of English: you’ve mixed up “scrap” and “scrape”. The inadvertent humor in your original statement, “one could scrap images from Google Art Project,” is that used in this way, “scrap” means “discard as useless”.

              • Fernando says:

                I see, that’s funny. And I got it wrong twice!

                Oh well, lesson learned: scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, …

  3. George says:

    Relevant to the blog is the painting from the exhibit F.E.A.R., False Evidence Appearing Real, by Dara Ket.

  4. Chris G says:

    Clement Greenberg –
    Hilton Kramer –
    Donald Kuspit –
    (Also Helmut Friedel – pretty sure that’s the name – who wrote prefaces to several books of Gerhard Richter’s work.)

    There’s a profound difference between postmodernists – “people who feel they are supposed to make art because they’re artists” – and modernists who build upon hundreds of years of artistic tradition. It’s been at least twenty years since I’ve read Kramer or Greenberg, but I think the critics above do/did an excellent job of putting modernism in context and articulating what it contributes to our culture.

    (FWIW, this post inspired by the thought, “Tom Wolfe is a nitwit.”)

  5. Steve Sailer says:

    The joke in Banksy’s put-on documentary about a talentless promoter who tries to become a famous conceptual artist is that it’s quite clear in the scenes of the masked Banksy creating art is that Banksy himself has excellent old-fashioned hands-on art-making skills. Rubens would have hired Bansky as an apprentice.

    • A lot of great Modernist artists are actually very skilled in the craft; Picasso was a master painter in traditional styles before embracing Cubism. To take a more contemporary example, Christian Lemmerz – who got famous in the Nordic and German art world for sculptures made of out of margarine (of all things) – is a master sculpter in marble, as was seen in his recent display Ghosts.