Friday, November 15, 2013
BORING THEN. BORING NOW
For some reason former Work of Art celebrity panelist Jerry Saltz seems to be obsessed with my disinterest in Christopher Wool's paintings -- last week, his New York Magazine review of Wool's Guggenheim retrospective hinged on a fairly unanimous LA critical dismissal of a similar exhibit 15 years ago at MOCA, plus a later dig from yours truly in an unrelated review.
Normally I'm flattered when people quote me, but this is a rehash and further garbling of a 2004 Village Voice article, where Saltz made the assumption that my lack of enthusiasm for Wool was a matter of jumping on some kind of Dave Hickey/Christopher Knight bandwagon. In truth, I arrived at my assessment of the Wool MOCA show completely independently of Dave and Chris, and probably wrote my review first - Art issues just had a slower turnaround. Not that I didn't pretty much agree with their respective perspectives.
In Saltz's recent revival of this teapot-tempest that never was, the rehashed quotes are summarized as indicating that "these guys don’t like that Wool’s art isn’t “beautiful” in traditional painterly ways and isn’t dryly conceptual or pop." WTF? Wool's work is nothing if not exactly that - dryly, derivatively conceptual, palely pop-inflected decorator crap for one-percenters who like to imagine they would have been on the barricades in May 1968, if only they hadn't been on probation already at boarding school.
In case anyone wants a less distorted and less soundbite-sized understanding of my take on Wool, you can read my original review of the MOCA show here, and the review of The Undiscovered Country painting survey show at the Hammer here. The Undiscovered Country didn't include Wool's work, but the review refers to him with the bon mot "schtick-crippled" (which Saltz seems to find particularly inflammatory), and contains a more general rant about lousy painters which you might enjoy.
If I was writing now, I'd probably be less mean, but I haven't changed my opinion about Wool. He certainly hasn't done anything different enough in the subsequent decade and a half to warrant reconsideration. This is honestly the most thought I've given to the guy since 1998. There's nothing rewarding there to look at or think about, and there never was. There's no West Coast rivalry or "anti-intellectual" conspiracy here -- I guess it's just easier to make out the emperor's new clothes from a distance.