The Emperor Has No Clothes!

I don’t get Stanley Whitney’s painting. Does the emperor have no clothes? I see nothing in this work….not even a good bed sheet or table placemat for your summer cottage in the Hamptons.

So if you reference your painting to a song, a person, or some societal event or disaster then it can be a weak painting as long as you reference something else to it. This is an editorial illustration at best….not a painting.

The gallery circuit seems to be driven by curators and collectors with somewhat questionable abilities to reference the complex history and genre of picture-making. If a curator has some clout and wants to promote an artist then that artist will get noticed even though what they produce lacks basic pictorial constructs, skill, craft, historical reference, or depth of visual acumen.

If art has no intrinsic value except what museums, curators, and collectors assign to it, then let’s put our coffee grounds under glass and let the art world come up with why it has value. What about basic pictorial elements: surface, depth, line, weight, atmosphere, ambiguity, tension, suggestion, nuance, form, shape, hard, soft, etc., etc. The varied and sometimes contradictory elements of any story are what keep the audience intrigued. This is certainly applicable to the visual story intrinsic to painting.

Any object of physical value and presence will take significant time and effort to construct and execute. The “New Thing in Painting” is propaganda in the art world.  When approaching a canvas any reasonably experienced artist can not ignore the history of painting, the methodologies, the formal or pictorial constraints, and a multitude of visual variables at their disposal. Do musicians get up on stage without being able to play an instrument or understand an arrangement?

But this takes work, creativity, invention, and discipline. The Emperor has no clothes.

— Toby Rosser

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