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Sandler, on the other hand, has never been interested in pushing art one way or another. He claims his role is "participant" and "witness." Actually, he's not so much the art world's Boswell as its Walt Whitman—a calm observer in the moiling thick of things, embracing every aspect of his subject with equanimity. Sandler says he approaches a work of art with the simple question, "Why would anyone want to do that?"via vz
Back in the Abstract Expressionists' day, Sandler says, everyone partook in polemics: They vigorously took sides, debating which art was most significant, which artists were good, which were mediocre, which the best, which philosophical positions—"action painting," "non-objective art," "formalism," "purity," etc.—were the most valid. The artists believed deeply in their art and, in spite of their separation from mainstream culture, that it mattered, that seeing it and comprehending it could make a difference in people's lives. That contrasts starkly with today's artists, who generally tolerate all kinds of art ("pluralism" is the ism that, over the last couple of artistic generations, has buried all other isms) and remain politely indifferent to it if they think that it's bad. Today's art conversations lack the philosophical heat of conversations back then, and are less concerned with who's aesthetically right and who's wrong than with who's hot in the market and who's passé.
Sandler believes the decline in polemics—angry and bitter though they frequently were—translates into a lack of conviction in today's art. Having observed art for more than 60 years, he's convinced that without some kind of impassioned talk about art—even if it's full of delusion—there's nothing to spur on deep artistic visions. The Club, formed in 1949, had been the major forum for the polemics of the Abstract Expressionists. Moving from place to place—often the studios of downtown artists—the Club was what Sandler likens to a "floating crap game." It was where New York School artists hung out, talked about art, and held their passionate panel discussions.