Friday, January 25, 2008

God bless Jerry Saltz, for noticing the mid-career folks. In his recent New York Magazine piece, "Emerging, After All These Years" he reviews work by several Mid-Career Emerging Artists, a phrase I am beginning to hear with comforting frequency these days.

I remember sitting at a dinner party 4-5 years ago, at the height of the art world's youth obsession, with a curator/critic who was asked to define the term "emerging artist". His initial definition prompted further inquiry about the age range inherent in the term, to which he replied, "Well, they're almost all under 40, and a few rare ones are under 50". The host, a longtime collector of my work, shot me a compassionate glance.

Back to the article, Mr. Saltz calls attention to the work of John Miller, perceptively noting,

"Miller’s gaudy gold-leaf bas-reliefs look simultaneously like Schnabel plate paintings, the ocean floor, ersatz architectural artifacts, kitschy bling, and modern-day Dutch still lifes touched by Midas. They play a snarky, Quasimodo-like American cousin to Damien Hirst’s $100 million death’s-head bauble. But where Hirst goes with diamonds and death, Miller gives us soda cans, sunglasses, belts, and bras, in effect putting a clown nose on Hirst’s skull.

It’s not just nice that the market is allowing dealers to take a flyer on artists who haven’t had enough chances. Artists like Miller and Pensato are gaining relevance, as the art world consciously looks for ways to not attack the market as evil but try to comment on the system from within, without playing directly into the hands of commerce. (He doesn’t need to sell designer objets, for example, the way Takashi Murakami does.) Miller’s gewgaws can be seen as modern equivalents to Warhol’s dollar-sign paintings and Daniel Buren’s stripes—fetishes that have no inherent value in themselves but that externalize unconsciousness, destabilize our relationship to art, and are vivid symbols for their own status as placeholders for the rich. These paintings could easily be labeled stylish crap. Still, they’re ornery and raffish and show an artist being served by the market’s excess, our uneasy awareness of it, and artists grown tired of greatest-generationalism."


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