My first great art teacher was a tall black man named Bernard Harmon who ran the art program at Central H.S. in Philadelphia, an all boys public magnet school. 40 years later I still remember him saying, “Artists love to talk. Musicians practice, actors rehearse, writers write and artists talk.” I think I’ve taken a studio work ethic with me all these years since then, and yet today I’m thinking about the benefits of talk. For one thing, it was talking that got me excited about beginning this ongoing writing project, when, last week I had lunch with Alexi Worth after returning a painting to him. We talked about shows we had seen and our individual take on artists such as Terry Winters and Kerry James Marshall and also about writing and in particular about writing negative reviews. I have so far avoided writing negative reviews preferring to put my energy into art I can really get behind. It occurs to me thought that this format may be more conducive to taking a look at art problems.
Alexi Worth, PuzzlePiece 2016, mixed media on mesh, 22×33″
While we were talking I brought up about a review I began of the Whitney Biennial in 2012, that I never completed. My thesis was that the curators and many of the artists were motivated by art world embarrassment. That we don’t want to admit in these times of anti-1%er that the art world lives largely in service to and support by the 1% and so in the long tradition of insulting the bourgeoisie, almost all the work exhibited was shabby and scruffy, doing its best to look anything other than rich. Alexi immediately coined the phrase Shabbyism to describe this phenomena. What a great thing! This was the result of fluid and ranging conversation about art, an in the moment co-creation. Being an introvert and a painter means spending huge amounts of time alone with my own thoughts and ideas, but at some point they just keep turning on themselves. Much like the studio visit from Michael Berryhill a few days ago I was able, through conversation, to see more clearly what I’m doing, seeing and saying.