View current page
...more recent posts
Still more thoughts on Infinite Fill. The so-called Bedroom shows Roberta Smith talks about in her review--she mentions Dearraindrop but Scott Hug's and Daniel Reich's shows also come to mind1--are mainly of sociological interest (collectives arise to challenge the hegemony of the individual genius, only to eventually be beaten down by the art world's need to market solo work--my cynical prediction), and backward-looking to the extent that they stand for some "rejuvenation of painting" discourse. The Providence collectives didn't invent the "colorful room full of manic cartoon imagery"--arguably that was Kenny Scharf's contribution to art...20 years ago. Whereas there is something larger at stake in IF, which is the merger of so-called new media art with traditional gallery exhibition practice. If art is to avoid shriveling into some finicky "cult of the hand," it's going to have to reconcile itself to technology, and eventually something interesting will emerge from what they used to call the "dialectic" between the two arenas. In Infinite Fill, the monochrome grid is the level playing field where the two opposed forces meet, intuitively connecting Sol LeWitt, needlepoint, and video games in an easy to read, "anyone can play" matrix. Also, as Sally McKay suggests in the comments to a previous post, "Infinite Fill" is a pun--it's about a computer filling up space and artists filling up a room with work. So far, none of the Bedroom Gang has come up with anything that elegant or concise, theory-wise.
1. I would exclude Paper Rad here, since their Foxy Production show was fairly tightly organized, with different walls devoted to different themes. I missed the Dearraindrop extravaganza at Deitch but friends said it wasn't so good--too much wall space to fill with manic creative activity. I did see their previous floor to ceiling effort at John Connelly, and like most people thought Billy Grant's video was the best part. You don't need a Soho barn for that, though--just a TV!
Cody Trepte, Why Are Numbers So Comfortable? (detail), cross stitch binary, 2004, from "The Infinite Fill Show".
Belatedly noticed that this image should be rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise. I don't know if it's the installation or my photo that got it wrong.
You're probably thinking "Those folks at preReview have packed it in. They had their little joke of reviewing movies they hadn't seen and getting written up in Time Out and being cool site of the day and now I'll bet they're dormant." Well, if that's what you're thinking, you are very wrong. The urge to preReview is a deep, abiding and very human hunger that never really goes away--just ask an agnostic what he or she thinks of Mel Gibson's Jesus movie, Rush Limbaugh what he thinks of Fahrenheit 9/11, or George Bush what he thinks of the Taguba report. Anyway, check out the new "point/counterpoint" on Breakfast at Tiffany's, which neither Joe McKay nor I have ever seen, and while you're there, peruse the cogent, uninfomed thoughts on Collateral ("Tom Cruise can no longer move the bottom half of his face"), King Kong ("The big secret of Peter Jackson's upcoming Kong remake is that he's gone 'high concept.' Instead of the CGI spectacular we're all dreading it's going to be a shot-for-shot remake of the 1933 original, a la Gus Van Sant's Psycho"), and The Village ("I had to watch the director's interview on the [Sixth Sense] bonus dvd. What a pretentious bastard. He's like, 'I used red to symbolize death...' and says this like he's Godard or something.")
Before MacPaint incorporated black & white, so-called infinite fill patterns into home computer graphics, most already existed and were used by design firms, newspaper paste-up departments, and cartoonists for shading camera-ready art. Manufactured as adhesive sheets, they were (and still are by some) cut out with X-acto knives and mounted on illustration board. Zipatone was the company cartoonists swore by; it's now defunct but Letraset has a mind-boggling array of fill patterns viewable (and/or downloadable) online.
Transfer Graphics - Letratone (physical media - comes printed on sheets of adhesive film) Textures & Tones - Single Downloads
Excerpt from today's Daily Howler:
YOU’LL SEE IT [IN THE HOWLER] AND NOWHERE ELSE: “By any measure of his votes,” [Tucker] Carlson said [on CNN], Kerry is “the most liberal member of the Senate.” When GOP hacks say that Kerry and Edwards are first and fourth most liberal senators, they are citing a survey from National Journal. But on March 6, that very same Journal—explicitly responding to this misleading claim—published its list of current senators with the most liberal lifetime voting records. Here it is—the Journal’s Top Ten. Guess whose names aren’t on it?
National Journal: Most liberal senators, lifetime voting
1. Mark Dayton, D-Minn.
2. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md.
3. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
4. Jon Corzine, D-N.J.
5. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
6. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
7. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
8. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
9. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.
10. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt
In case anyone quotes you this absurd RNC spin point, here's some ammo. --ed.
UPDATE: Obviously Kerry's not a liberal, now he's saying he would have invaded Iraq even without WMDs. What a putz; anything to get elected, I guess.
Coalition and Iraqi civilian casualty links added to column at left. (Who's tracking insurgent deaths? Aren't the "civilian" numbers increasingly fluid as more and more Iraqis take up arms?) Number of US soldiers killed in Iraq to date: 929. Number of coalition soldiers killed: 1052. Number of US soldiers killed since August 1, 2004: 17. Iraqi civilians killed: 11429 - 13398. All thanks to George W. Bush, who fails in everything he does, and is now taking innocents along with him.
There's been quite a bit of ruminating on various artblogs about "the role of criticism" recently, but the topic remains frustratingly vague since specific examples are avoided. As a case study--surprise, surprise--let's look at the critical reasoning behind the "Infinite Fill Show" (which we've been discussing here lately), as articulated in the exhibition materials and the New York Times review of the show.
Press release/call for entries theory: "The only rule is that [work submitted] has to somehow use black and white repeating patterns" (from the call for entries). "The curatorial concept was inspired by [MacPaint], the 1984 software application with varied 16-bit monochrome patterning that could be picked and dropped into areas of the screen to denote color and depth. For Cory and Jamie Arcangel, this rudimentary precursor to Photoshop's draw and paint functions provides a creative tool to explore multiple perspectives within a unifying aesthetic." (from the press release)
The "nostalgia factor" associated with old programs I addressed in an earlier post. Still worth considering are (a) how did pattern substitute for color and depth in MacPaint, exactly? are "bricks" a color? who came up with those patterns? how well did/do they work in actual practice? to what extent were artistic prerogatives usurped by engineering prerogatives? (b) MacPaint is a precursor to Photoshop, which is pixel-based, but how does it relate to vector programs such as Illustrator, which use defined curves rather than rectangular blocks? If the show is a form of ancestor-worship, whose family is being feted? are pixel-based programs more "important" because they've been subsumed into html and web design? (c) to what extent was MacPaint old news, incorporating pre-1984 print conventions such as Ben Day dot patterns (also frequently alluded to in "Infinite Fill"), zipatone, or letratone?
New York Times theory (i.e., everything but the purely descriptive parts of the review): (1) "How many different ways can a work of art combine black, white and repetition? An answer is essayed by 'The Infinite Fill Group Show...'" (2) "The show is intended as a homage to [MacPaint], an early computer application (released in 1984) that enabled the user to click and drag a range of black-and-white patterns into images of any kind." (3) "[T]he show resembles a photo-negative of the floor-to-ceiling, color-saturated conventions of the so-called 'bedroom shows,' those showcases for collaboratively minded young artists that reached an apotheosis of sorts in Dearraindrop's extravaganza at Deitch Projects in SoHo..."
The "youth culture" and "psychedelia/color saturation" issues were raised here earlier. Perhaps "Infinite Fill" was also a "photo-negative" (inversion) of the teenager's bedroom shows because if included artists of all ages? What was the kid-to-geezer ratio? Does it matter? Item (1) slightly restates the show's premise (as a way of saying how diverse it is): but did each work in the show in fact use B&W and repetition? (No.) Black & white schemes are sometimes used by curators (not naming any names) to unify group shows of quite disparate work but disguise the lack of a thesis. Is that the case here? (No!--but why?) Does the fact that MacPaint was monochrome and used fill patterns justify the inclusion of works such as needlepoints, enlarged newsprint images, and zebra rugs? How is the political work in the show justified by a formal premise? Is the premise "merely formal"? The Times doesn't answer these questions with specitic examples (and neither have I in this short post); unless or until someone does so, a gap between theory and description remains unfilled.
Returning to the point raised in my first sentence, I submit that the "role of the critic" is to answer questions and plug gaps such as the above. (Not holding my breath, though.) As long as there is work to be done you don't sit around bemoaning what you're supposed to do.
UPDATE: This post has been reworked a bit to take into account the wording of the Arcangels' call for entries. I also added the links about historic fill patterns (zipatone, letratone).
The "Infinite Fill Show" gets the lead review in the New York Times today (page E32 of the print edition). Critic Roberta Smith says the exhibit, with its all-black and white color scheme, resembles a "photo-negative of the so-called 'bedroom shows,' those [floor-to-ceiling, color saturated] showcases for collaboratively minded young artists that reached an apotheosis of sorts in Dearraindrop's extravaganza at Deitch Projects..." After that, the review is pretty descriptive; she concludes by noting the show is an homage to "Mac Paint (sic)." It's a glowing write-up (for this non-effusive critic), and congratulations all around, but Smith really ought to read blogs more. If she did, she'd know that Jamie Arcangel is female. Pretty funny--she describes "Infinite Fill"'s organizers as "the artists and brothers Cory and Jamie Arcangel."