On Pipe Cleaners and Popped Balloons


I'd like to give you a glimpse of my life: I am a troll. I sit in my darkened room, my bloated, hairy form hunched over the keyboard, stabbing out nasty little missives expressing the only emotions I can truly feel: spite, envy, greed, schadenfreude, anger. The closest I get to happiness -- the nearest my clenched little heart comes to brightening -- is when I'm pouring filth and bile on the good, happy, light-hearted people of the world. I am full to bursting with the wine made from sour grapes; I know nothing of pleasantry. I exist only to make others as miserable as myself. I am the barber's cat. I am the wet blanket. I am the Party Pooper.

With that in mind, then, let me discuss today's topic.

Several art blogs announced with smiles that Super Art Couple James Wagner and Barry Hoggard had secured a domain name under which to display their own fantastic collection of art. This is truly wonderful, because now you can see for yourself that James and Barry -- who have set themselves up as art writers and collectors, people you should presumably listen to -- in fact have no taste in art at all.

Actually, their taste isn't bad; it's worse than bad, it's boring. Judging by what's up there now -- they're still adding pieces -- nothing in their collection gives off even a single erg of joy, happiness, inspiration, excitement, fun, creativity, sublimity, or anything else. The work on display runs the gamut from lame through feeble all the way to incompetent, every one with the same gray sheen of a dead toad. Even when there's color -- which there usually isn't -- it's sickly or diseased. This is the collection for people who order egg whites on flatbread for breakfast, people whose lives have become a meaningless slog of going through the motions.

There are a scant few bright spots, however. As of this writing if you go to the listing of artists in the collection you'll see the name of each artist along with the number of works of theirs in the collection; there you can see that Man Bartlett is listed as having 0 works. Curiously, that's precisely how many works by Man Bartlett I'd want to own. But why list him like that? The obvious answer is that his work was deaccessioned but James and Barry brag very specifically that they've "never sold a work of art from their collection and they do not intend to do so". What a relief! My guess is that it's a database hiccup while they're populating their data -- maybe there's a row for Man Bartlett in the ARTIST table but they haven't gotten around to adding his rows in the ARTWORKS table -- but I'd really rather think that, since Man is a performance artist, when he gave a piece to James and Barry, there was no physical item for them to list. On the other hand, maybe they're just going to list every artist from whom they have zero works of art:

Rembrandt van Rijn 0
Andy Warhol 0
Frank Sinatra 0
Hans Holbein the Younger 0
Gilbert & George 0

And so on.

What makes the debut of the Hoggard Wagner Collection so sad and yet so hilarious to sooty-souled creatures of mirthlessness like myself is that it coincides so closely with their presentation on Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 6pm, presumably at Winkleman, titled -- please don't laugh -- "Collecting with Your Eye, Not Your Ears". Which should have a note added that you might be better off buying with your ears if your eye is only as good as that of a 14-year-old diabetic chihuahua.

It's okay, though, since it's pretty much in line with everything else going on in the #class show -- give me a moment here to mock even the name of the show. Because you can tell the organizers were thinking, hey, we need to prove we're hip, we're contemporary, we're in touch with the zeitgeist and down on the street, we're young and fast and zing! So we need to put in some of that tech stuff, and everyone's on Twitter now, so, like, hey Facebook MySpace bit.ly blog dot com and shit! Everything's changing so fast, man, we can't even put in whole words any more! @winkleman dude, wht a grt nme 4 ur show #class! And Ed was all like @dimwits U RAWK LETS DO IT and


Ahem. So Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida, under the aegis of Ed the Visionary, have thrown together a massive collection of self-congratulatory, masturbatory silliness so large I'm guessing they're hoping no one will notice the complete lack of ideas, imagination or quality on display. As Audrey Flack once suggested, if you can't make it good, make it big, and this month-long celebration of inadequate cerebration is certainly that.

In fact the only remotely positive thing about the whole shebang is El Celso's Art Shred, which is just as unimaginative (not to say stupid and pointless) as the rest of the shenanigans but at least, as with Michael Landy's Art Bin, allows me to observe that it's a damned shame we can't run Art Shred (and the rest of #class) through itself.

But no, really, go and have your fun. I'm sure the only reason it all looks so stupid and ugly and pointless is because I'm a cranky troll. Please enjoy your pipe cleaner sculptures and popped balloons. Don't mind me.


Since I haven't seen the digital images of their collection and I do not plan on seeing them I will stick to commenting on the online discourse. You never ever intimate that you hate anyone. So their accusations are at best a way of avoiding all specific criticisms. The thing is, you provide enough specific criticism for them to address directly, but they refuse to do that. They also choose another weak line of argument, by attacking your art instead of your arguments, as if your arguments are invalid because you make a certain kind of art. Ridiculous and very weak.

Chris, the "hater" defense is simply too convenient (not to mention trendy) to resist for people who have no intention and/or ability to refute criticism otherwise. Same goes for the "sour grapes" defense. What would have been surprising is for these people to have responded differently. Besides, they're "in" and they know it, and as long as other in-types "validate" them, they're bound to feel entirely above having to defend or explain anything, even if it's total BS.

But Chris, it brings in Greek mythology, and archetypal narrative, and conflates it with the postal service and the crushing weight of federal bureaucracy, and then there's the tattered envelope, which signifies the inexorable decay and transience of humanity, and...really, what more could you possibly want? Face it: you're a peasant.


this is an article by Roberta Smith about the optimism metrocard.

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