Types of Artists

This list applies to all creative people but is especially geared to visual artists. I wish critics and art historians paid more heed to these distinctions.

1. Only one good piece in them. This type stumbles onto a work of genius despite general artistic inactivity. Provides valid material for shows such as Jim Shaw's "Thrift Store Paintings," as well as Google Images.

2. Comes charging out of school and then disappears. Probably the majority of artists are in this category.

3. Works privately entire life. For example, Henry Darger, a posthumous sensation.

4. Works publicly entire life--badly. Probably the second largest category. It includes: art professors who need a show every year to maintain credibility or academic standing, artists from category 2 who are canonized before they would otherwise disappear, human steamrollers whose egos will not let them be anything less than financially successful, or some combination of the above.

5. Works publicly entire life--well. Probably the smallest category, the self motivated artist who keeps it fresh through good times and bad, gallery and no gallery, and also engages other artists as well as the surrounding culture.

Most artists who read this will say they are in Category 5. This list is aimed not at you so much as the professional trainspotters who never seem to take these differences into account, resulting in bad survey shows and meaningless constructions of art history.

- tom moody 11-13-2006 3:52 am


well I hope I can make it into catagory 1. It might be to early to tell.
- Robert Huffmann (guest) 11-13-2006 8:04 am

"I'm the oldest child prodigy alive!"
(VB posted via sm)
- sally mckay 11-13-2006 8:27 am

sign me up for the first part of 2, the "shows every year" part of 4, the serenity of 3 and as I'm on my deathbed a big chunk of 1 (so I won't live to regret it).
you 5's are a bunch of posers anyways.

- joester 11-13-2006 8:54 am

I'm going with category 6 so that I can continue to make shit up.
- L.M. 11-13-2006 9:52 am

hear, hear, (here, here?) duly noted. but what about "okay" art? Art that is modest and good but not genius? I see a lot of that too -- 4.5ers perhaps.

However, I think curators and historical surveys should indeed contain failed art, but they need to note it as such, which they seldom do. You can't really understand an art moment unless you know the bad stuff too.

The only problem is that, to paraphrase Disraeli, critics are historians in a hurry.
- ed (guest) 11-13-2006 6:44 pm

two categories: radical and co-opted.

- bill 11-13-2006 7:14 pm

I thought that was one category. Or mabye I've been reading too much Stallabrass.
- sally mckay 11-13-2006 8:34 pm

ok, i just placed an order for a used copy on amazon on your suggestion. in the mean time (and at the risk of me looking like a complete ijit) pls explain how radicalism and co-option are not mutually exclusive when a critical component of radicality is the rejection of totalization.
- bill 11-13-2006 10:54 pm

I was being devil's advocate. I'm not completely sold on the paradigm, but Stallabrass argues that so-called radical art feeds into the capitalist agenda. The book provides a very nicely articulated (and contemporary) Marxist analysis, and I do highly recomend it, but its a bit too pat for me. On the other hand, I don't live in England, where the whole "wowee, we're radical" shock art thing has certainly become quite tedious.
- sally mckay 11-14-2006 12:04 am

joester's "you 5s" meets John Carpenter's The Thing:

"I know I'm human. And if you were all these 5s, then you'd just attack me right now, so some of you are still human. This 5 doesn't want to show itself, it wants to hide inside an imitation. It'll fight if it has to, but it's vulnerable out in the open. If it takes us over, then it has no more enemies, nobody left to kill it. And then it's won.

"So we're going to find out who's who. We're going to find out who's a 5. See, watching Norris in there gave me the idea that every part of him was a whole, every piece was an individual animal with a built in desire to protect its own life. See when a man bleeds, it's just tissue. But blood from one of you 5s won't obey when it's attacked, it'll try and survive. It'll crawl away from a hot needle, say."
There might be some Stallabrassian metaphor in there, too.
- tom moody 11-14-2006 3:04 am

The kind of stupid categorizations that that bloggers in category 4 specialize in.
- anonymous (guest) 11-16-2006 12:51 am

that was intelligent.
- ennoyingmous (guest) 12-16-2006 2:14 am