Meaning vs. Making

reagan

The “All Connected” show features Hans Haacke’s “Oil Painting: Homage to Marcel Broodthaers,” 1982, with a portrait of Ronald Reagan. Credit Hans Haacke/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Vincent Tullo for The New York Times.

I do wish [the show’s curators] had enforced a bit more critical distance. Mr. Haacke, as each gallery proudly proclaims, has written every single wall label himself — which offers helpful context, but turns the show into an uncomfortable act of self-justification. The words put too much emphasis on what Mr. Haacke meant, and not what he actually made.

(Jason Farago, “Hans Haacke, at the New Museum, Takes No Prisoners “ NYTimes, 10-31-19)

Farago’s comment supports a bias of mine that an artist’s work may breathe more the less he verbalizes about it.

On a language note, this article acquaints me with the word “exudation,” a derivative from “exude,” meaning to ooze, as from a pore or wound.

… A giant flat-screen television displays the president’s most recent Twitter exudations….

(c) 2019 JMN

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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3 Responses to Meaning vs. Making

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    “The words put too much emphasis on what Mr. Haacke meant, and not what he actually made.” Does what he made convey something different — in which case, as I often argue, conceptual art is not so good at communicating the all important ideas that it is supposed to be about — or does the critic just not see the work in the same way as the artist?

    I”m guessing the meaning is something along the lines of “Reagan bad!”.

    • JMN says:

      I’m not sure. I wish Farago had included an example of Haacke’s labeling to illustrate his comment. Farago was dismissive of the Reagan portrait itself — called it “pallid.” I was struck by how the presentation of the picture relegated it to the distance and foregrounded the red carpet. I tend to give performance art less attention than it needs. I don’t think I did the article justice with my excerpt. Farago evinced mixed feelings about Haacke’s work (which was unknown to me). Here’s another of his remarks: “The show cannot disguise that Mr. Haacke has often been a better activist than artist. Much of his later work is flat-footed and polemical, when compared to his initial accomplishments in institutional critique.” My favorite illustration was of a giant blue tarp suspended above an oscillating fan. It pulsed and undulated like a sea creature — one of the few works I could look at for several minutes, and made me smile.

      • Eric Wayne says:

        I’m familiar with Haacke. My graduate art education was 100% poitical conceptual art, so I’ve doubtlessly give conceptual and performance art thousands of hours more time than I should have.

        “The show cannot disguise that Mr. Haacke has often been a better activist than artist. Much of his later work is flat-footed and polemical, when compared to his initial accomplishments in institutional critique.” And THAT sounds quite accurate. When the point is for the art to be a visual aid for a political argument or talking point, if the art succeeds, it doesn’t succeed for some other reason.

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