Personal and Critical Crisis


I'm having something of a personal crisis here. Just like last year, this crisis rather unfortunately coincides with the high point of the New York art scene, so when I should be out at openings as often as possible, and writing up a storm, instead I find I have a stack -- a stack, I tell you! -- of cards from shows I've been to but haven't written about, a blank calendar for all of April -- I haven't been to a show in months -- and an empty blog.

I'm not really part of the art world, except maybe as the most peripheral of spectators, but I do have one thing in common with most of the people in the art world: I have a day job. A lot of them don't talk about it because talking about it makes them look less successful -- if you can afford your Chelsea rent because you're, I don't know, a network technician or a real estate broker or something, and not because you're actually selling any art, then potential customers are going to take you a lot less seriously. I assume. So you simply don't let anyone know you've got a day job and you pretend you're staying in business because you're savvy and tenacious. This is called "keeping up appearances."

But I'll admit it to you because we're such good friends: I have a day job. Technically I retired from being a computer programmer two and a half years ago, but here I'm using "retired" in a very specific way: Two and a half years ago I officially told my wife and any business acquaintances who happened to be within earshot that I was no longer actively looking for work. However, I left myself the loophole: If work came looking for me, I wouldn't necessarily turn it away. I figured it was a safe bet, since who would actually want me working for them?

Well, for some reason, work did find me and has continued to find me. Not a lot of work, mind you -- I'm still making less than I was before I retired -- but enough work to keep me occupied here and there and prevent me from having nothing to do. Enough work to seriously cut into my art time, anyway. I'd turn it down if I could, but I'm incapable of saying no to anyone, and at one point work arrived when we had precisely 81 cents in the bank, so there you go.

It's not all about the work, though. There's something bothering me, something nagging at me. I'm filled with doubts. I can't tell if my art's any good, I can't tell if it's worth pursuing, I feel terrible about everything. Life sucks.

Recently Eric Gelber, commenting on a post on Ed's blog quoted Harold Rosenberg, one of the most influential art critics of the 20th century, and I realized I'd read nothing this guy wrote. I haven't read any Clement Greenberg, either. They're on my list. Something about the quotes struck me, though, so I ran right out to the library and took out Art on the Edge and The De-Definition of Art and started reading. I finished the former and am about halfway through the latter; what's blown me away about these books is good old Harry is writing things I could've written myself. In fact at one point he even does write something I wrote myself (although I'd be hard pressed to tell you where). Only these essays are from one entire lifetime ago -- mine. Most of these were published before my third birthday.

What bothers me most about this is it tells me the art world is standing still. Dead still. It hasn't changed in forty years. It's still playing out the same dumbshow from the late 1960s. Rosenberg writes about all the problems and they're in full flower then: The collapse of visual art into word-based philosophy; the collusions of the dealer-collector-curator complex; the ridiculous auctions and their distortion of the art world; the phony posing of the avant-garde; the shift towards art degrees and a professional class of artists playing out the old clichés. It's all in place already before my life even begins.

This isn't a crisis. It's so far beyond crisis I don't even know what to call it.


Chris, as usual you are thinking too much. Don't worry about what was said 40 years ago, some things never change and some things do and that is just how it goes. Don't worry about your place in history; none of us really matter in the scheme of things and life will go on when each of us die.Believe it or not my intent is to give you a pep talk here:) Enjoy your lovely family, do some productive work to make a living and pursue the things that you enjoy, like art. Don't worry if it is "worth pursuing" just do it because you enjoy it. Be a good citizen, do some volunteer work once in awhile and help your son with his crazy NJ garden. Those are the things that are good.Oh and just go to one show, don't worry about hitting all of them. Work your way back into all of it, if that's what you want to do. We all go through these times so just in case you think you are special, you are not:)

It is ironic that I am a label attached to your blog entry about your personal and critical CRISIS!It is really hard to make worthwhile art when you are married and have kids. You have two kids right? That is why most scholars and artists that I know don't have kids. Hey at least you don't have to work full-time. I work as a teacher in a public school so at least I have summers off and a relatively short work day. It doesn't feel short believe me. The point is it is a struggle to stay creative when you have all these other responsibities. You play FPS video games? I do. They are the only video games I like. I have an xbox360 and tons of FPS games. I don't play online though. This steals away time. By the time we get the kids to sleep I am usually pretty fried. I try to keep up with my reading, writing, and drawing, but it is hard. Will I ever get gallery representation? Probably not. Does it still matter to me? Should I keep making stuff even though I will never become a successful artist in terms of gallery representation, financial success, attention from the art world and art press? That is the question you need to ask yourself. You should not trouble yourself about what kind of art you make. You wouldn't be more successful if you started to make avant-garde conceptual art, the stuff you hate, because you are over the hill (in terms of art world measurements of age), you don't look like a model, and you have no family connections to powerful people in the art world. Make stuff, keep blogging, keep going to see art, only if you really enjoy it. You are at a point in life where you don't have to bullshit yourself any longer. If it disappoints you when a lot of time passes by and you have not made any drawings or paintings, force yourself to set aside some time to make stuff every week. If art has become nothing but an albatross, something that only generates negative feelings, step away from it for a while, without feeling any regret. It won't be the end of the fucking world. You owe it to your family and yourself to try and have some fun.

Chris I apologize if my last comment was unsolicited advice. I just felt bad that I somehow contributed to your crisis.

You should read up on the Ruskin Whistler trial. Ruskin was a nearly critic and it's interesting to see what he says about ol' James McNeil who was at the time considered one the most avant-garde painters.Some of is small landscapes are very abstract paintings.I agree with everything Tracy says.Live your life, it's sounds like a cliche but it's a good one.I teach as an adjunct and for the most part I don't have representation. I am going to work on that, but I love to paint and draw so that's what I do.As far as the art scene goes every time I go to Painter NYC my eyes start to hurt. So much work is so bad that it hurts my eyes.This past week I saw a show here in Boston of Antonio Lopez Garcia, and all I have to say is this guy is an amazing artist. If you can see this show you should. He has some large pencil drawings one of which is over 6 feet and took him 5 or 6 years to do. He has a panoramic view of Madrid that he spent two decades on. This mans work is not only inspirational but hes such a master at transcending the mediums he works in that you find your self looking at these works and wondering, how did he do that?How does he make pencil look like ink or the light of a bulb?Seeing this show as been for me a real great experience, this is what art is about.

Chris. Holy shit! Thank you so much for sending me an ilegal download of the GIF animaor. I really appreciate it. It was a total surprise. I am lucky that I got it because it was sent to my old address. I want to send you a drawing this summer. Please send me your address. Thanks again. Really.

I'm glad the CD arrived. Remember, it's only illegal if you don't pay for it, and of course, if it works on your system and you find it useful, you will pay for it.I'll e-mail you my address, although it's easy enough to find. But you don't need to send me anything -- no thanks necessary.

Holy shit, Jeff agrees with me! Wow!I checked back thinking that this comment I left was awful, since I didn't hear from you Chris,but in rereading it, I stand by it. Sorry. But I hope you are feeling better. Maybe I'll come down to the city soon and fill your life with light and happiness. Heh.

Everyone should try to see the Lopez Garcia show in Boston if they can.It's the largest show of his work every to be assembled in this country.He is a very original artist, the giant baby heads alone are worth the trip...

Hey, CHris, I understand and I agree with Eric. The only solution for your problem is what I did. I took my wife and kids and locked them in the outhouse....and then I blasted and blasted till I heard no more sounds from inside. Now art comes really easy. I am amazed how easy it is now.....and my conscience cleared up as soon as I started to work.Danonymous

They escaped the outhouse through an underground tunnel you didn't know about. You better keep a gun by your side at all times because one day, when you are asleep...

Ohh-oh---- Eric.....I think you are right. Karma?????? Poor Sharon stone, it came back to bite her too??? I am in big doo-doo now.But I have to say...I am glad they all escaped through a tunnel from the outhouse. Now each of them has their own place with its own outhouse......and each can easily see why Pangloss mused that "it is the best of all possible worlds. . ." "and one must cultivate one's own garden" (Voltaire). (Notice the MLA style and literary pretensions? And now my family has enough fertilizer to use in their own garden.Bythe way Chris..."feeling bad" and "not doing art" and anyting else you come up with are.....afterall.....a part of doing art and a part of the art process that we all have to go through to get from HERE to THERE. Good luck. Less than 50 years to go.By the way....just got my notice that I was accepted to nursing school. That was a result of putting art on the backburner for about 8 months now. Still working some but mostly "cute" and I have to live with it for now.Danny

"By the way....just got my notice that I was accepted to nursing school."I hope that I never come under your care 'Danny'.

Eric, Thank you. I assume that I will be in high demand as being very able to cause rapid turnover due to multiple patient deaths. I think they refer to it euphemistacally as "a specialty".danny

By the way....I have always been a fan of Youth in Asia.danny

Danny/anonymous you are stupid cunt.

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