Sunday, June 10, 2007

Far From The Maddening Crowd

The poet and art critic for New Yorker magazine, Peter Schjeldahl, once wrote something to the effect that the best way to make it as an artist was to move to New York, meet some other like-minded artists, form a gang, and then promote yourselves together as not just an up-and-coming movement but a whole damn zeitgeist. He was only partly joking. Since the Renaissance, most successful artists have not only hung-out, worked and exhibited together, but also shared houses, studios, galleries, models, vices, lovers, hangers-on and patrons. Those that didn't found it a lot harder to claim a reputation, although a few – Caravaggio in the 16th century, Warhol in the 20th – ended up creating their own, non-art milieux that caused different kinds of stirs.
Of course, there have always been art's outsiders – the socially inept, the mentally disabled or the emotionally withdrawn – who have found recognition late in life or after their deaths, usually because of the arcane enthusiasm of a single collector or curator. What the critic, Roger Cardinal, defined in the '70s as 'outsider art' spans a pretty broad and unrelated output that, even in recent years, includes the works of L.A.'s Robert Williams and Brooklyn's Joe Coleman today and of the late Henry Darger and Joseph Cornell.
I don't have a gang, neither one I belong to nor one I 've formed around myself. I don't really think of myself as an outsider – I make too much money and too many people know me for that. Still, curators and gallerists have a blind spot when it comes to the individual intent on going it alone. Artists like me don't fit into a neat category. Labels are difficult to apply to us.
I don't know if this will this prove to be a loss in the long-term. Right now, I'm relieved not having to deal with a crowd. I do my work. I sell it. As for the rest, I don't worry about it. Only time will tell.

1 comment:

Sunil said...

Very telling post...