In my studio (Photo by Martine Bisagni)


The difference between being a complainer (who wants that reputation?) and being a precise observer can sometimes be a fine line. I may be grazing close to the edge of grousing by sharing excerpts from two articles by art critic Karen Wright of The Independent. But they are worthy of note, and of discussion.

The first is from Wright’s reivew of the PST mega show in LA last fall (which I wrote about extensively here last November):

The artist John Baldessari is grumpy, or perhaps just tired. He has been dealing with the press, having received massive attention recently as the most included artist (in 11 shows) in the multi-show extravaganza known as Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA, 1945-1980…

When I asked his opinion of the show he said it was “BM” – “before money” – and that, in fact, all art in LA in Pacific Standard Time, and particularly at MoCA, could be defined this way. “BM” – that is, before artists had money. I entered the cavernous space with his words ringing in my ears. The last time I was here I saw a Takashi Murakami show, and the contrasts between Murakami’s work and Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981 could not be more apparent.

Murakami’s mirror-like surfaces speak of money and of the factory. The shimmering surfaces are carefully polished, to remove any trace of the artist or indeed his many assistants’ hands. Tonight, these have given way to the simple objects and hand-worked surfaces of a group of artists, many of whom were deeply engaged with political or gender themes. We are talking about the height of feminism and race issues and the end of the Vietnam War, after all.

The second is from Wright’s short account of her studio visit with the painter Jock McFadyen:

Jock McFadyen’s East End studio is infused with the heady perfume of paint and turps. Painting, now seemingly the least fashionable of arts, is literally getting up my nose here. When I ask McFadyen if he minds practising the art form seemingly not at the forefront of chic curating, his defence is instantaneous and robust: “The great thing about painting is that it’s not fashionable.”

I ask if he always wanted to be an artist, and his response illuminates the current divide in art. “I don’t want to be an artist. I want to be a painter. The man in the street might think you make art out of dirt and string. It is embarrassing to be an artist.”

I’m with you Jock.

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