A few weeks back I wrote about Matthias Bitzer at Marianne Boesky. Bitzer is building something as a contemporary artist, but is it something that may be too greatly influenced by the current look of contemporary art? I see this with Kadar Brock, Jacob Kassay, Alex Israel, David Ostrowski and many others. These artists have garnered praise early and are building solid careers but could certainly end up being forgotten and possibly irrelevant. When do these artists get to find their own way? With a demand to produce work for shows around the globe and art fair material, when can they work it out? Most artists get time to work, edit and refine. This idea of artists lacking the proper time to develop has been expressed plenty.
The reason I bring up the concern (and I hope that by sharing it with you I can more clearly elaborate this concern) is that the contemporary art scene seems to accept all comers, but praises certain styles or looks. Niches are carved out but work that looks a certain way gets the seal of approval either at auction or from critics. I like using the term look, because it talks less about the history or style and more about the final appearance of the object that is created. Recently Walter Robinson coined the phrase Zombie Formalism (Flipping and the Art of Zombie Formalism was the full title) to discuss a certain look of clean process-based art. Young artists embraced early are making work without any time to edit or out and out fail.
The look issue worries me as I see the cyclical nature of the market. The decade that I have been involved in the art market has been turbulent, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. I think the poster boy for this, the one that we all know is Julian Schnabel. His studied sloppiness is back now, but for 25 years its been pretty sad out there for the collectors that had to have a Schnabel in the 1980’s. Now, with a show at the Brant Foundation and Gagosian, that kitschy architect and accomplished filmmaker is an art world hero again. All is forgiven when the market demands it should be. Maybe this rant is off topic, but Schnabel’s look allowed many others to trample that same ground just like the clean, formal, processed work will spawn followers.
Edward Winkleman, writing this week about long term value in art, stated his theory on the subject concisely articulated. “My long-standing theory has been that what makes any artwork truly “important” is the influence it has on other artists. If other artists look to it for its ideas, aesthetic achievement, or innovation–in short, if it opens up opportunities for other artists in solving problems within their own practice–then on the most fundamental level it’s “historically important” to my mind.” Winkleman’s Theory requires time for artists and critics to respond to work, which our current system does not allow for. It allows for a look to become a movement or a school and if we follow this theory, the ones that made a mark will remain valuable due to their relevance to other artists.