“Toot Toot Tutu Toodle-oo.”

New words encountered! Courtesy of Roberta Smith, “Painting: An (Incomplete) Survey of the State of the Art,” NYTimes.

“Dahlias and Birch Trees,” from 2004, is one of Lois Dodd_s 10 small oil studies of nature in the survey.CreditLois Dodd Greene Naftali Gallery and Matthew Marks Gallery

“Dahlias and Birch Trees,” from 2004, is one of Lois Dodd’s 10 small oil studies of nature in the survey.Credit Lois Dodd Greene/Naftali Gallery and Matthew Marks Gallery

“gamin” — Ms. Hearne was a gamin performance artist turned art dealer with an audacious eye…
[I knew this word from French but checked my recall of what it means in an abundance of caution: “urchin, ragamuffin, waif, stray, guttersnipe.” Funny, I had a notion that it was something a little more cute in French usage. Indeed, checking further I find the feminine form “gamine” translated as “a girl with mischievous or boyish charm.” There’s the cuteness that I remembered. Should Ms. Smith have written Ms. Hearne was a *gamine* performance artist….? News to me is the pronunciation of “gamin” in English to sound like “gammon.” I’ve never heard it used.]

Robert Bechtle painted himself as a kind of mystic in North Adams Studio, from 2008. CreditRobert Bechtle Gladstone Gallery

Robert Bechtle painted himself as a kind of mystic in “North Adams Studio,” from 2008. Credit Robert Bechtle/ Gladstone Gallery

“norm-core” (or “normcore”) — In the Matthew Marks space on West 24th Street, a 2008 self-portrait by the Photo Realist Robert Bechtle presents him as a kind of norm-core mystic, standing at the center of his darkened studio, like Munch, in a subtly hazy pointillist atmosphere.
[Interesting, rather opaque word unknown to me: “a style of dressing that involves the deliberate choice of unremarkable or unfashionable casual clothes.” Ms. Smith’s use of the word is apt. The Bechtle painting is scary realistic. There’s a longish article about normcore by Alex Williams in the NYTimes, April 2, 2014. I can’t pursue it now. So much to know about hipster fashion fads, so little time. I can’t even keep up with the Kardashians.]

An installation view of Karl Wirsum_s colorful toy-robot-figures at the Matthew Marks space. Credit Sean Logue

An installation view of Karl Wirsum’s colorful toy-robot-figures at the Matthew Marks space. Credit Sean Logue.

And here are two picture titles by Karl Wirsum that make my day: “Sputter in the Niche of Time” (left) and “Toot Toot Tutu Toodle-oo” (right).

Ms. Smith concludes: For me, the resurrection of images in “Painting” is both a development out of and a rebuke to Conceptual Art. It indicates a renewed faith in the ability of painting to communicate holistically by fusing form, style, process and narrative. The problem is that too many of the younger painters in this exhibition don’t seem very interested in inventing their own process or form, which results in images that, while they may be briefly refreshing, are too often painted in familiar, unexciting ways.

Those would be deadeye, gut-smacking words if I were a professional painter striving to be sustainedly refreshing for the likes of Roberta Smith. I savored an exchange in “The Crown” between the Queen and her tutor. She needs to know something personal about President Eisenhower to prepare for making small talk at a state dinner. Casting about, the tutor says, “I believe,  ma’am, that he paints.” The Queen replies distractedly, “Don’t they all?”

Yep, I’m a tyro in that herd, painting in a familiar, unexciting way, blissfully unremarked and unrebuked. Obscurity has its uses.

[Copyright (c) 2018 James Mansfield Nichols. All rights reserved.]

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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