Frustration and anxiety have given way to techno-covetousness, meaning that I’ve used the excuse of desktop problems to purchase a new laptop. And so this is written on a new jujitsu lifebook, , ni the air over Michigan on an jet blue flight. I’m heading to san Francisco to speak on a panel. The topic is the tenth anniversary of the Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens. I’m supposed to provide the perspective of how the center fits into the art world as a whole. Usually the way I deal with these things is to wing it, that is I think about the topic an great deal, perhaps jot a couple of notes and then speak off the cuff. I can’t say I’m so sunny at the prospects of the center in any event. It’s difficult to paint much of a rosy picture of the art world in general these days, at least for me, and I’ve been thinking about the advisability of constructing “centers” in a time where every thing seems to be de-centering. Yerba Buena seems to be the result of a collision between two forces: the postwar drive to develop south of market San Francisco, a plan that originally included a sweeping demolition all the way out to the south bay and huge rebuilding, with the rise of the artists’ space movment, the flowering of artist run organizations that got its start in the seventies. So commercial and non commercial interests collided., And the result reveals the striations in SF’s art world, the contesting communities that co-exist uneasily in the bay area. Has the center actually meant a place for these groups to come together? Often it’s been regarded as the poor relation of the SFMOMA, at times by the board of the center itself.
And in the visual art world as a whole? In the 80’s and 90’s it became more and more characterized by travel, the moving around of people and objects from city to city, ultimately with the effect of killing off regionalism. Museums embraced the notion of a “world class” which meant that in effect all museums inb the world should have the same collection. The year now abounds with art fairs, biennials, art festivals and prizes, that constitute the circuit parties for this new jet set. People go around the world to see the same narrow set of compatriots and works, and of course each other. This is an internationalism divorced from any political thought, it is the market that whips everyone and everything along, hither and yon . Travel feels like experience, but it is not, and the work of art is not something lived with, but something primarily glimpsed in a booth on the way to another exhausted meeting. We have not yet seen the final fallout of this, but I glimpse it’s effects in the shell shocked way that my students turn this way and that in search of a reason to make anything.
Hmm, perhaps an essay called “How the idea of a Modern Art market stole New York”
Last night one of my students told me that she had been advised to stop painted the way she did because “abstract expressionist painting had failed” by one of my fellow faculty. I was and remain flummoxed. Failed to do what? She does have problems with her work, but honestly, not because she is working in some ‘Failed” manner. I wish I could summon the certainty to say something so silly. Assertions like that seem to me do be enormous denials of responsibility, the instructor being lazy in their response to the work and turning it around on the student . Plenty of times I walk into a graduate students studio and find myself at a loss or profoundly unsympathetic to what they’re doing. But it isn’t my job to stop them.