Name Your Reference

by Art Fag City on September 26, 2008 · 2 comments Events

Fred Sandback, Untitled, 1979, Two color reversal-lithos in grey-green on Japanese paper
Sheet Size: 14 1/8 x 14 1/8 Via: Susan Sheehan Gallery

Dominic Eichler asks what art references are good, necessary or relevant in this month’s issue of Frieze and kind of, sort of, gets around to the answer, references have their place, here’s a few dos, don’ts and ruminations. Needless to say, the piece is a bit disappointing, particularly given the fact that by the time the author finally cites an actual artist, it’s revealed the essay was an exercise in writing an article on references without referencing. Had Eichler not bogged down the piece with meandering mediation, it might have been clever.

Coincidently, one humorously absurd reference offered up by Eichler — paintings of spaghetti titled after Judy Chicago and Fred Sandback — mentions the only artist I have cited on this blog as universally looked down upon by contemporary artists as a source of inspiration. And yet, even Judy Chicago, a woman known for her hippy ceramic vaginas and feminist ideology can be countered by irony. While sarcasm in art is a waning trend, the question of whether there is any off limits visual material persists.

Ultimately of course, it’s not what people can or can’t use that’s important but what they do with it. It takes four paragraphs to get there, but Eichler makes this point beautifully;

Ideally, there should be something truly, discursively at stake in making a reference. For example, when it involves a rediscovery or positioning of something misunderstood or neglected, when it conveys a longer and more complex sense of historical development than is generally accepted, or when it doesn't entrench the status quo of art ideas or fulfill commonplace expectations.

And this is why it’s so hard to make good art, to write strong prose, to compose compelling music. No art is without reference and we’re lucky to achieve what Eichler outlines once much less repeatedly. But the point is try. Eichler may not have hit a home run with Quote UnQuote, but that small quote above makes it worth while.


After Donald September 26, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Always Before Ann

After Donald September 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Always Before Ann

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