24 Apr

ArtBTheatreTitleMore dramatic readings of the worst artist statements, gallery press releases and art criticism every week, except when I don’t do them every week. This time: a flurry of neologisms that aren’t helping, and a lengthy explanation of the internal layout in a building over 99% of us will never see. Art criticism in a nutshell, basically. The exhibition was in Milan.

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The traits of manifold colours which the artist creates by spreading acrylic colour with a brush, no longer using aerosol sprays as he did with the works produced in previous years, emerge from their grounds following vertical and horizontal directrixes and extend beyond their own physical limit in order to break the closed and defined limit of the canvas.

Artist is so magic! He creates “manifold colours” (there are lots of colours) and he spreads “acrylic colour with a brush” (a miracle never before conceived of or enacted by human mind or hand). These colours “emerge from their grounds” (we can see them… I don’t think it means they’ve been hiding in the garden of their mansion), they follow “vertical and horizontal directrixes” (they go in different directions) and they “break the closed and defined limit of the canvas” (he colours over the edges). Oh, and look out everyone! We’re in the presence of yet another artist who is breaking the physical laws of matter and the universe because his art is so powerful. Contemporary art is getting to be a serious international safety concern. The UN needs to immediately send some inspectors and get a grip on the growing threat of artistic attacks on basic physical principles, otherwise sooner or later one of these reality-shattering quantum-artist-gods is going to rip a catastrophic hole in the spacetime continuum just by doing a painting of some lines or meaningfully piling up a bunch of old crap they got from a charity shop.

2013-10-04-BathroomImageI must now address the elephant in the room: “directrixes”. The text is written in reasonably good English, at least grammatically speaking. The content is utterly redundant, pretentious and stupid, but one’s sense that the writer has an understanding of the language in which they are writing is relatively OK. “Directrixes” is not OK unless you’re talking about mathematics. A directrix is a line, perpendicular to the axis of symmetry, used in the definition of a parabola. A parabola is the locus of points such that the distance to the focus equals the distance to the directrix (i.e. a line not through the focus.) You may well find this explanation as baffling as any art text, in which case the following will suffice: writing “directrixes” when you mean “lines on a painting” is total bullshit.

As Paolo Bolpagni has written, this is ‘a process of great intensity and concentration that explains the auratic significance of Sonego’s sign which is evidenced as a vector, a pure directionality, a demiurgic force, a trajectory not of matter but of energy where sign and colour are identified in a sole unity […]; in the same way in which the Horizontal and the Vertical – absolute categories by now incarnated within the ‘body’ of the painting – are inextricably fused in a new entity: that of the ‘Orizzontaleverticale’.

It seems we’re supposed to know who Paolo Bolpagni is, judging by the reverence of this quote. One can only hope his writing makes more sense in Italian and he’s fallen victim to bad translation, because it’s pretty bad in English. “A demiurgic force”? Sod off. Whatever merits this gentleman may have, he isn’t one of that select group whose work, reputation and contribution to our cultural lives are identifiable from reference to their name alone. Freud or Shakespeare, yes. Van Gogh, Turner or Da Vinci, yes. Even Prince, perhaps, for his unique efforts in the one-man field of being a small, bad tempered, funky sex pest from Minneapolis. Bolpagni… no.

I omitted a dreary paragraph which does explain that Bolpagni wrote something for the exhibition catalogue, which is presumably the source of the quote. Simply by putting something like “As Paolo Bolpagni writes in the exhibition catalogue…” they could have (a) minimised the pompous implication that we should know who he is, and (b) eliminated the entire final housekeeping paragraph that talks about there being an exhibition catalogue and who wrote it. Skip the parts that nobody reads anyway, as crime writer Elmore Leonard has wisely advised. See what I did there? He’s quite famous, but I don’t automatically expect readers of this blog to know who he is. Although if we followed through on eliminating things that needn’t be said from the text under discussion, there would be scant material left. Possibly none at all. This is a major problem with a lot of current art; there’s really nothing constructive to say about it. There may be nothing to say because the work only makes sense as a personal, real world, real time experience, with all secondary interpretation or verbal amplification therefore being redundant. You need to be there. Alternatively, there may be nothing to say because there’s nothing cogent or interesting in the work or in the artist’s ideas at all. In neither case are certain art writers or curators discouraged from discussing the nonexistent depths of the work anyway.

If you still want to get into the crazy Bolpagni fandom that all TEH YOOT are raving about, he does have a fairly unenlightening Wikipedia page and a YouTube channel about art. It’s all in Foreign, though.

Exhibited in the first room of the first floor are small works in which the signs of colour are delineated on the white ground support. Following a ‘path’ made up of analogous and contrasting passages with the larger works, also characterized by lines of various colours spread on a white ground, these works hold a dialogue with these larger works found in the gallery’s lower room and with the work presented in the second room of the first floor in which the white traces of acrylic are transcribed by Sonego on a black ground.

You know when you ask somebody for directions to somewhere and about five minutes into their explanation you start wishing you hadn’t ever asked? That applies here. We can’t see the frigging building and we probably never will, so why are you wasting an entire paragraph and your reader’s time by telling him or her what’s on the first floor and what’s on the second floor? We’d only care if we were physically present, and if we were physically present there would be no need to describe the layout. So don’t.


  1. Alistair 12/05/2014 at 11:25 PM #

    Reblogged this on Alistair Gentry.

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