Monday, April 07, 2003

I got as far as I could in the Kimmelman piece. He writes as if unaware of what the word 'decadence' means. That's not a cheap shot at the art, mind you, I love much of the work he discusses. In one way or another, I grew up with it. But with a few exceptions its reach will be seen to have exceeded its grasp. Judd's work is becoming somewhat brittle with age. Serra, who is still one of the best 'makers of things' alive, indulges a bluntness which is his work's only limitation. And recently he's become a bit of a mannerist. Simply calling them 'the greatest generation' is no different than calling Scorsese and Coppola the best directors in the history of Hollywood. But in a sense the artists had an advantage. Serra and Judd were the first artists who wanted to be called auteurs. They were the first artists not to just refuse to ignore film, or even to comment on it, but to compete with it: with the narrative and spectacle. That did not make them necessarily 'great', whatever that designation means [relative to what?] but made them artists whom we recognize as kin, as people with tastes otherwise like our own regardless of the strangeness of their work. They were the first generation of American artists who recognized that our cultural roots are narrative and literary, not architectonic, and who chose to make use of that understranding rather then fight it. The result is that the spectacular nature of some of the largest work, which nonetheless still seeks to impose an ideal, often without irony, on messy substance, reminds you that the position of the visual artist in a literary culture is always a little shaky. Warhol is still the only one who succeeded in describing both sides, the idealism and it's failure, on equal terms.

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