I missed the blogpix (March 5 through March 28, 2009) opening but managed to make it to Denise Bibro the very next day so I could be greeted by Olympia Lambert saying, "You're twelve hours late or twenty-four hours early!" It seems I not only missed the opening, I also was going to miss the Blogger Panel Discussion the next day. Such a shame, too, because really there's nothing more fun than a panel discussion, especially involving people whose job description involves zero contact with other humans. Oly mentioned that, among others, Bill Gusky was going to be there, and I'll admit missing Bill is a shame, because he's a funny, interesting, all-around good guy. I mean, I don't know him that well, for all I know he kicks puppies and drowns kittens for fun, but he's a good guy to hang out with for a few minutes and his Facebook posts are entertaining. And, really, what else matters?

Oly then happily took me through blogpix. I could discuss the work openly with her because she's not the curator for the show; Oly is more of the meta-curator for the show. As she explained, she chose the art bloggers who'd be the curators, and she gave them a mission statement: Choose artists who don't have gallery representation, or don't have much presence in Chelsea, anyway, or who you feel are underappreciated or overlooked in some way. Oly chose Roberta Fallon & Libby Rosof, the pair behind Artblog; veritable force of nature Joanne Mattera; and Hrag Vartanian, who I honestly had never heard of. (I should mention at this point that I've shown work with Roberta & Libby and Joanne, met them, and talked with them. Hrag -- no idea who he is.)

Christopher Davison, Black and White Sculpture, 2006

Christopher Davison, Black and White Sculpture, 2006

Entering the space Denise calls Platform -- a somewhat separate room from her main gallery -- we were immediately met by an ugly hanging critter by Fallon & Rosof's entry Christopher Davison. Its provocative, evocative title is Black and White Sculpture and it is unpleasant and dopey, a half-houndstooth half poorly sewed figure hanging from the ceiling like a morose monkey. I made immediate noises of distaste and Oly chided me saying, "We love our sad little monkey" or something to that effect. It is hideous and badly made. It is not deserving of her love.

Neither are the other Davison works in the show, all of which are not so much disturbing as they make me worry about the artist. He looks like he could use a little therapy, maybe a nice pet. Certainly not any more time with his pencils and gouache, through which he clearly wishes to infect us with unhappiness. His flat, unmercifully unskilled drawings are unrelieved by any bright spots of skill or compositional interest.

Julie Karabenick, Composition 71, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 28x28 inches

Julie Karabenick, Composition 71, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 28x28 inches

Almost directly across from those, though, are a couple of good-sized jazzy paintings by one of Joanne's picks, Julie Karabenick. Julie's working in a variation on Mondrian, expanding his strict vocabulary to include criss-crossing squares and angular loops, while also extending his palette beyond the primaries and secondaries. Julie's work is certainly energetic and Oly and I batted around some ideas of what they reminded us of before concluding that she was channeling a kind of Atari 2600 aesthetic. Her colors definitely come right off of early game cartridges and the big blocky pixels feel just like Adventure. I'd like her work better, I think, if it had more texture -- Mondrian's paintings are never wholly flat, but Julie's taped hers obsessively and painted so smoothly between the edges that the faintest extra thickness where the paint laps up against the tape shows up in sharp relief.

Steven Alexander, The Primrose Path, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 48x36 inches

Steven Alexander, The Primrose Path, 2007, acrylic on canvas, 48x36 inches

From there it's easy to turn right and see the rough-hewn paintings of Steven Alexander. Oly said she thought at first they were encaustic, and indeed they have that dull waxy sheen you get from that medium, that feeling that you're seeing the pigments through some translucent glaze. But they're acrylics. I suggested that maybe Steven mixes his own acrylic paint using gel medium and raw pigments; he could use less pigment to get that encaustic-like texture. His surface is roughly prepared and very uneven; the result is to take what might be unexciting hard-edged abstraction and give it an earthy, flawed quality, like Stephen Westfall's work left out in the rain for a few months. Which would honestly improve it.

Ben La Rocco, Constellation, 2009

Ben La Rocco, Constellation, 2009

Next to Steven we found Ben La Rocco, Hrag's entrant in the show. I found Ben's work simply too crude. The paintings feel like studies of studies, like someone barely even made an effort at applying paint; almost no sense of color, almost no sense of style, but just enough of each to avoid being anti-color or -style. I felt immediately that Ben's work was just too clunky for me. Very uninspired in every category involved in arranging paint on a surface.

Sharon Butler, Siding 1, 2008, oil on wood panel, 12x9.75 inches

Sharon Butler, Siding 1, 2008, oil on wood panel, 12x9.75 inches

On the other side of Steven is Sharon Butler of -- as Oly and I said over each other as she introdcued me to the work -- Two Coats of Paint. Hers is probably the most professional, serious, best work in the show. Somehow Sharon has painted a few small works here -- there are two on the Website and I think there were four, maybe five, in the gallery -- which look as if they were painted in the heyday of geometric abstraction in the 1940s. Her color scheme is almost the same as Morandi's, maybe a little more colorful in some cases. I found the effect kind of neat, but at the same time I had to wonder: Are these homage or pastiche? Are they sincere or ironic? Does Sharon come naturally to this style, or is she deliberately copying? As I looked at the paintings I found this cognitive dissonance eroding my faith in my appreciation of them.

I made a motion towards one of the panels, which looked as if a chunk had been taken out of it with a circular saw. "Don't touch that," Oly warned me, "it's alarmed."

Reese Inman, Projection III, 2008, acrylic on wood panel, 30x30 inches

Reese Inman, Projection III, 2008, acrylic on wood panel, 30x30 inches

On the way out -- or on the way in, if you turned right at the ugly monkey -- are the last (or first) two works in the show, two pieces by Reese Inman; like Sharon, she was chosen by Joanne. From viewing distance Reese's works appear to be made up of dots of different size and color glued to a flat surface. The resulting grid is clearly reminiscent of a computer graphic. Move closer and you see, not dots glued to the surface, but what look like raised spots that may have been left after the surrounding surface was removed, as if by a router. The dots themselves have a certain color shift on top that looks more like layers that were sanded through than colors layered additively. The result is much less than the sum of its parts, though: For how much visual interest her labor-intensive techniques add, she might as well be gluing plastic dots down. Visually the two works are mildly interesting, with that added "How does she do that?" fillip; but ultimately interest flags due to the narrow color range and staid pattern. Go to Reese's site and you'll get a lovely explanation of how these relate to computer algorithms and musical experiments and so forth, all of which I'm sure is very exciting if you have Asperger's and are up past your bedtime, but which wrap up into extremely dull paintings.


I have Asperger's and stay up past my bedtime but I would not find the pretentious babble found on artist's websites interesting. Just thought I would present a counter claim. Chris you obviously have a schedule that allows you to go see a lot of art and then come home and write about it. Sometimes you give a half hearted thumbs up, usually a thumbs down. Why do you do it? Why not stay home and make art? Even when you like something I always get the feeling that you would have prefered to do something else with your afternoon.

I had a short conversation with Franklin about this recently. He told me he'd asked himself, what if he'd used all that time he'd spent arguing with idiots online and instead devoted it to his art? I noted that I've asked myself that question, and my answer is that time isn't fungible (that's his word); meaning I don't think I could readily take time of one kind (gallery-going time) and convert it into time of another (art-making time).Part of the problem is that I run out of materials really quickly when I'm making art. That's just a recent problem, actually. Before I had the studio, when I was painting in my bedroom, I tended to make art only sporadically. Even though my studio is farther away than my bedroom, I find I spend more time making art there, and so I keep running out of things to paint on and with.In a way, your question -- why not stay home and make art? -- is like asking, why do you sleep? Sleeping seems like a waste of time until you realize that sleep time is one of the things that makes all the other time possible for you. Seeing other people's art, seeing what's possible, what artists are doing, what colors they're using, how they put paintings together, what other kinds of art there are out there -- all the kinds of sculpture, printmaking, painting -- all of that is valuable to my own art.And as much as it's so often awful, sometimes the art is really, really good. Larry Poons was worth the trip. I'll be writing soon about Julie Evans, whose show was really wonderful. Every so often there's a Nancy Baker or Madeline von Foerster or Anna Druzcz who makes gallery-hopping good.

I do think time is fungible or however you want to put it. If I don't watch TV on any given day I get a helluva a lot of reading done. It is nice that you would consider seeing and writing about art as essential to your existence as sleep is. If you would lose interest in making art if you stopped trolling the galleries then it makes perfect sense that you would continue doing it. I guess I don't feel that way. As you know, the qualifications for becoming an art critic are pretty meager. I am not talking about really good art writing, just plain old, mediocre, run of the mill, art criticism. There are so many online art critics nowadays that I personally feel less of a pressing need to write art criticism. Plus, I don't want to feel like a PR guy. And it is difficult for me to see art criticism, especially the breed of it that is weak intellectually, as anything but an extended press release for an artist. The negative review serves its purpose, but I think it can only have the opposite effect that the writer intends it to have. All press is good press. Granted if someone with influence and a large readership thoroughly pans a spanking brand new emerging artist it might hurt his or her career. But that almost never happens. Most art critics write about artists who already have a selling base and the negative review gets added to the artist’s burgeoning press kit and everyone moves on. I guess as an historical record the negative review has some value, but does it ever put a stop to the artist's career or make a specific viewership turn tail and run away? No. And the more press or text that an artist’s work generates the more likely their career will maintain a lasting presence before the public. I am thinking about writing about Internet art, or art that is made for the Internet, to be experienced online on a computer monitor, because this type of work, and there is plenty of it out there, gets almost no attention. I know that artists who get no press attention appreciate it when they do. So of course online art criticism does have value in those instances. Art Critics With Aspergers (ACWA)

EAG sez:It is nice that you would consider seeing and writing about art as essential to your existence as sleep is.Let's not get carried away. It was a metaphor. Seeing and writing about art is inessential.I've written before about the main reason why I do this. You asked about the main reason not to do this. The reason this is how I spend my time, and not reading or playing video games or writing about TV (which I used to do) is that writing about the art I see a) makes me go see it (without the "deadline" of a blog hanging over my head I might just stay home) and b) makes me think about it. That thinking about it helps me steer myself when I think about my own art.In short, looking at art improves me eye, even if a lot of the art is bad.Your criticisms of art criticism -- that there are a lot of us writing out here, that it's PR, that it has no effect -- are sort of beside the point for me. All true, but not related to why I keep doing it.As far as Internet art goes, I haven't seen any that compares even to the weakest doodle on paper, so I have no interest in it. Well, that's hyperbole. I've seen some stuff that's kind of neat. I remember The Urban Diary really fondly.Let us know if you find anything really good.

"In short, looking at art improves me eye..."All this talk about the me eye. What about the you eye? (Just kidding) My visits to the MET and the old MoMA, sketchbook in hand, were always learning experiences, so I know where you are coming from.

Good lord I really typed "me eye". Argh, matey, lookin at art improves me eye, me hearties!

I hate these things but here it goes...LOL!

I'll tell you, though, I do feel somewhat dispirited when, for example, Sharon Butler Twitters this post calling me a "cranky blogger". I mean, I am a cranky blogger, it's true, but her implication here, it seems to me, is that I "slammed" the show because I'm cranky. Which is demonstrably untrue: My review of Lisa Dinhofer's show, which I saw at almost exactly the same time -- blogpix and Lisa's show aren't even separated by a hallway -- was, to my mind, extremely positive. And later that day I saw Julie Evan's show, which I haven't written up yet but which I also liked a lot; and I saw some really good stuff at Bridge, too, which I'll also get to eventually.But of course I "slammed" blogpix -- I don't even think this is a slam, but okay -- I slammed blogpix because I'm cranky, not because the show is mediocre or not to my taste.I get dispirited. But then I know there are people out there who understand me.

"Julie's work is certainly energetic""what might be unexciting hard-edged abstraction and give it an earthy, flawed quality""Hers is probably the most professional, serious, best work in the show."These are somewhat positive comments. I guess the problem was that you didn't gush about the show. Less genuflecting and more ambivalence I say! Face it Chris, you will always be the enemy because they will pin the sour and 'cranky' grapes label on you. Unless of course you rave about some show and it gets read by the artist and he or she decides to send you a thank you note. That has probably happened in the past and it is the best you can hope for. Artists who have never been written about are very appreciative when it does happen.

One of the more gratifying things that's happened is when I find a link to one of my reviews on the artist's Website. Even less glowing reviews. When no one wrote to let me know, no one thanked me, no word at all -- just a link off somewhere that says, yes, they read it, and think other people might want to read it too.Of course it could just be resume padding.A couple of times I've had artists write to me to tell me they agreed with my criticisms of their show, and they explained what went wrong, or whatever. I appreciate that, too.Mostly I just don't hear anything.

I think this is a universal condition for art critics. Years ago I sent an email to Arthur Danto at his email address at Columbia and he actually responded! He said that it was good to hear from someone because he has no idea what people think of his art criticism. Saltz also responded to the very first email I ever sent him. For the most part, art critics, even the ones who appear in newspapers and magazines on a consistent basis, work in a vacuum. So another words, get used to it pal. I have also had links to my reviews appear on websites without ever hearing a word from the gallery or artist. I have received several nice notes from artists through the years though. The reviews were positive and the artists would say things like, "Yeah you understood what I was doing. Thanks." I wrote at least three reviews of exhibitions at the John Davis Gallery, when it was back in NYC for a brief period a few years back, and each artist actually gave me a work of art, a big drawing, a small sculpture, and a small oil painting, after they read the review. I know I know. It was very unethical of me to accept these gifts.

Funny you should say that. I was just reading Roger Ebert today:"I think Dwayne Johnson has a likable screen presence and is a good choice for an innocuous family entertainment like this, and also he once sent me some Hawaiian Macadamia Nut Brickle. I would have mailed it back because film critics are not supposed to accept gifts from movie stars, but I accidentally ate it first."

No offense taken, Chris, but truthfully your writing style has an extremely negative connotation that most all of us pick up upon almost immediately, to say your in-person demeanro as well.The sheer fact you consider the Dinhofer review to be "positive" belies that fact.Either way, I thank you for your two cents.Dinhofer herself was certainly a bit taken aback by the language you used as well-- she's not used to it, nor should she be.I do want you to know that I have yet to ever read a review written by you that would ever be construed as positive.Perhaps you should look into the personal takes and the words "I" throughout.Either way, I'm glad you wrote about the show, though I disagree with about 99% of what you said.Cheers.Olympia LambertBoston University Journalism grad

Thanks for quoting your bonafides, there, Oly. Did BU teach you to misuse words like "belies"?But I'm just reflecting back your tone. I really do think my Dinhofer review is positive and don't see how it could be construed otherwise. I like her work. I said so.As for personal takes and my use of the word "I": News flash! I'm not a journalist! This isn't objective reporting! I use the pronoun to make it clear that I'm describing my own limited and flawed opinions, not stating facts. Should I adopt some kind of generic reportorial style as if this is the New York Times? Why would that make sense?I think it's wonderful, by the way, how you can be nice and pleasant to me face to face, but wait until I say something less than positive about your show, then sandbag me through the marvelous distancing of blog comments.

Blogging IS journalism, Chris.If you would have come to the panel discussion you would note it as such.I am giving your tone back to you.The fact is you really need to take a look at how you're perceived by others-- and start to work on it.I'm kind in person and I'm a battle axe online just like you.If you can't take the heat, you know what they say.And trust me, the artist and the gallery does not take your Dinhofer review as positive, by any means.The fact you think it as such means you really should start examining your style a bit more.I still wish you well and wouldn't mind a girl scout cookie.:)I just highly disagree with your take on both shows.

Just to brush up on your reading comprehension: I didn't say anything about blogging not being journalism. Of course it can be. What I wrote was that I am not a journalist. This is not journalism here in my blog. Bloggers can be journalists but they don't have to be, and I'm not. Never wanted to be. The closest I got to journalism in the newspaper was the weekly comic I drew for my college paper.Now, as for my reading comprehension, let's see if I've got this right: You wrote, "...truthfully your writing style has an extremely negative say your in-person demeanro as well." And then you wrote, "I'm kind in person and I'm a battle axe online just like you." Here I thought you were saying that I'm a battle axe both online and in person. No?I don't honestly care that much about how I'm perceived by others. No, wait, that's not true. It can bother me when I'm misunderstood. I do get upset when people fail to read what I write, and also when they fail to apply the same standards to themselves as they apparently wish to apply to me.But as long as I'm being open and honest about my opinions, and as long as I feel I'm not trying to be deliberately mean, I don't think there's anything I can do about it.As far as taking the heat, I'm not the one being defensive here. I'm confident in what I wrote. If neither the artist nor the gallery considers my Dinhofer review positive, well, that's a shame. If you were confident in your show you'd have ignored me instead of showing up here waving your BA (as if that has any chance of impressing me) trying to take me down a peg.You're free to disagree with me. And you're also free to get in your order for Girl Scout cookies, but you'd better make it soon because a) they're going quickly and b) I'm rapidly reaching the point where I won't want to see you in person so I don't offend you.

Someone who majored in journalism wrote"If you would have come to the panel discussion you would note it as such."??

It's just comments on a blog, not real journalism. No editor, no careful re-reading before publication. Mistakes are made. It's not a complete invalidation of someone.

If someone compared the art I make to Chopin's compositions I wouldn't hate them.

I thought it was a favorable comparison, but maybe she doesn't like Chopin.

Just keep at it if you want to Chris and don't be discouraged.

I'm discouraged, maybe, but not dissuaded. It is what it is.I still have to write up the Bridge Fair and some other shows I saw the same day.

I just read this entire thread.First thing, kind of funny, about the Lisa review positive / negative question - I thought you were both referring to the Lisa Yuskavage review.It kind of made me think that Chris was much more out of touch than I could ever have imagined, as there is no way that was a positive review.It was kind of a jarring experience.But I'll weigh in and say that if Lisa D is truly upset with that review, I think she is expecting far too much from people.I mean, Chris is who he is, he took the time to go to her show, thought about it, and wrote what he did (which I thought was friendly - certainly not destructive) and then there is a completely democratic comment section right below the review where she could respond.Why wouldn't she simply respond, and inform us about her work from her own perspective? As an artist, I'd be all over that kind of opportunity were it my show - especially if I felt that the criticism was wrong.That said, I really have no idea how or where Chris stacks up in the world of art criticism, blogger or otherwise, as I've hardly ever read any of it. The amount of art criticism that I have read in my entire life wouldn't fill a short novel.Chris' blog is the first blog I have ever visited.I'm a full time artist who hardly ever travels outside the realm of my own inspirations and who/whatever shows up.Chris showed up, as I noticed that my website was getting traffic via his blog, so I went there, and was surprised to see a link to my site - so I started reading. He says we had email conversation a while back, but I have no recollection, which is true of anyone who doesn't keep showing up. I either have a lot on my mind or have an incredibly bad memory.But I must say, I really like Chris. I like everything about him. I like his somewhat grouchy attitude, maybe because I can sense a warm heart underneath.In any case, in this time and place, I simply don't think anyone can be so critical of a show in one of those Palace Galleries in Chelsea, that can in any way measurably counter the positive spin (in the mind of the average viewer)of simply seeing the work displayed in that multi-million dollar presentation.Like shooting a bean at a battleship.It never occurred to me that his reviews are unfair. Not that "Chris Is My Brain" when it comes to these artists and shows - but then most of the artists I don't know - nor will I have the opportunity to see their shows - so I guess I see Chris as being rather generous in sharing his impressions with us, and posting such professional images as examples.Seems like a free gift to me.And then the fact that Chris is always rather critical of himself (he flat out says that he is usually wrong - I mean - what do you want?)geeze....I just find the guy to be incredibly charming and endearing.Tim Folzenlogen

I've come to believe that I'm the subject of Tim's latest conceptual art piece in which he flatters and says nothing but nice things to the subject to see how they'll react.

You just haven't dissed my work yet.

Missed you, Chris! We'll do it another time, Brotha - time to kick me some puppies - :) - B

hi chris,

i'm a bit behind, but i just caught up on your blogs. i don't understand how anyone could see your review on lisa d as negative. it does have a bad boy critic attitude in a way of dave hickey, but like hickey, you also reveal the tenderness of an impressionable boy and hopeless desire to be swept off your feet. comparison to chopin may be too much but the analogy of coin funnel is brilliant. it made me look twice this artist whom otherwise i would have merely glanced over. isn't that what a positive art review is supposed to do?

did you quit fb? what happened?

i'll register in stacking blocks next time.

Hey there, Keiko. Nice to hear from you! I did quit Facebook. It's too complicated to go into here, but basically I realized, after I was unfriended by four people in a row, and then egregiously insulted by one of my best friends, that Facebook somehow focused my assholishness and I'd better quit before I alienated everyone I know.

I do have a hopeless desire to be swept off my feet. I suppose Mark Cameron Boyd was right when he said I was a romantic.

I don't know Dave Hickey but I'll take that as a compliment.

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