{ 1 comment }

strunken white December 30, 2014 at 12:39 am

Someone was recently talking to me about the “zombie formalism” that Walter Robinson and Jerry Saltz wrote about earlier this year, so that may be why I’m thinking about it and it may not be a precisely appropriate label (“when you have a hammer in your hand, everything looks like a nail”, as they say), but Teresita Fernández’s work seems to work pretty much like that.

It employs a kind of anonymous bland formalism reminiscent of much older artists (a toothless, more synthetic reiteration of post-minimalism) with coy stories attached to prop it up or animate it. But there really isn’t anything particular about it. Its reputation propels it further and further, independent of its quality and un-hindered by specificity.

The anecdote about being “the crate and barrel girl” in grad school is cringe-worthy, as if she’d found her way out of making the most generic art imaginable. Her extremely dull current show at Mass MoCA relates its sub-soho-window-display installations and gold wall pieces to stars without going into why or how very deeply… they’re mostly just shiny materials chosen and placed in an arbitrary, vaguely tasteful manner.

She could really say anything at all about art and life making it: there just isn’t enough substance in her mediocre work to put up much of an argument. It’s like teflon. The sad thing about how front-loaded the article is with mentions of her receiving the MacArthur grant (and specifically being a “MacArthur Genius”) is that art like hers more deflates the honor of the award than redeems the work by citing that award’s connection with it. Its empty, generic inoffensiveness makes the grant committee look very conservative; afraid to court controversy by enabling someone who might say something at a commencement speech more complex than a version of “Chicken Soup for the MFA Soul” best read while high. And of course someone who was suddenly given 500k would believe in the truth and beauty of hard work and merit. Lucien and Oscar would probably agree.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: