Ed Ruscha!

Kevin Barrett Kane Continue reading

Lawrence Argent

Having Lawrence Argent speak at the Logan Lectures at the DAM had a nice circularity about it for me.  Growing up in Colorado, he was one of the only artists that I knew of before coming to Denver, mainly because of his Blue Bear, but also because there was a large controversy surrounding the choosing of his work for the “Solaris Project” in Vail, which is very near my hometown.  Also, my dad is a pilot, and though I have never been to the Sacremento Airport since the opening of “Leap,” my dad often mentioned the piece as a cue into a never-ending argument about the hilarity and inaccessibility of “modern art.”  Following his visit, I was able to visit some of the pieces that I was not formerly aware of, and also to revisit those that I already knew existed.  

The thing I found most interesting and problematic about Argent’s work, and find to be problematic with most public art in general, was its tendency to malfunction (not only technologically, but purposefully as well).  To elaborate on this notion, I offer the pieces “Whispers” at the University of Denver, and “Confluence” in Ft. Collins as examples.  I visited both pieces for the first time this weekend, and my experience there was not a very profound one, though I’m not sure that I expected it to be.  On Friday, at DU, I found the piece “Whispers” to meet the disappointing expectations that Argent had himself placed on the piece, and I quote: “I don’t think the voices are even working at this point.”  I do not disrespect Argent as an artist–in fact, I find him to be quite inspirational.  It is this tendency for public art to fall out of order, in a way, that I find to be a problem.  Furthermore, I am hypercritical in general of art that is placed in a place where it will go unnoticed or under appreciated.  I find it to be self-insulting for the artist him/herself and demeaning to the art world as a whole.  “Confluence” had a similar effect on me.  Despite the artists claims that water would spew from rock to rock, in visiting the piece and talking to locals, it has been a while since the piece has performed such a feat.  The notion of under appreciation is amplified in Ft. Collins, since the rocks are often seen as jungle-gyms rather than art works.  Such notions of misuse and misappropriation should be considered by the artist before undertaking such tasks.


In his speech, I especially liked Argent’s reference to semiotics, and the study of symbols and signage.  As an English student, it was nice to see some literary theory surrounding an artwork.  Argent’s discussion of what I would label [S]objectivity in his pieces–“through my placing them, they take on a new meaning”–was extremely interesting.  Of the work done by Argent, I found the pieces that were either not public works or rather “outside of Colorado” to be the most interesting, perhaps because I have never seen them in person.  I especially enjoyed his piece entitled “Cojones” which re-appropriated two street-sweeping brushes into hanging seminal objects.  It was not the piece itself that interested me as much as the theory surrounding it.  Argent’s claim that “there is a fine line between amusement and art” was a nice circular address of my former constraints in regards to Public Art.  I appreciate, at least, that Argent is in tune with the problems surrounding what his artwork is and the space that it holds, and in that way, I respect and admire his artistic talent.  

I recently finished a paper discussing Subjectivity, Objectivity, and [S]objectivity in Carrie Mae Weems’s piece, From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried.  I don’t know if such a paper is viable for extra credit, but I figure I’d post it here since few people in my Ethnic Studies class will fully understand it, including, I fear, my professor, and it would be nice to know that someone might be able to access it with a certain know-how of art.  The essay is here: [Subjected]tivity and [Objected]tivity


Over spring break, I had the pleasure of visiting the Mediterranean city of Málaga, on the southern coast of Spain.  The bustling Spanish port hosts a large variety of contemporary art, mostly public art pieces, but also has a small number of contemporary art museums.  Among these is the Museo Picasso Málaga, established by the relatives of Picasso in honor of his birth in the city.  The museum and the city of Málaga go to some effort in disguising the fact that Picasso spent very little of his life in Málaga, instead exaggerating his presence in the city with sculptures and paintings throughout the city, as well as demarkations as to his birth place, residence, and other important landmarks of his early childhood.  Though the collection at the Museo Picasso is not very strong in terms of well-known works by the painter, it does represent a great deal of Picasso’s early paintings and sketches, which allow some insight into the development of the artist.

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Janine Antoni Guest Lecture

Janine Antoni at the Visual Arts Center, University of Colorado at Boulder


I was struck by Janine Antoni’s presentation, not only in the artworks she presented therein, which were all very powerful, but also by her articulation of the stories and ideas that led to the creation of these works.  Antoni is an artist who is as much interested in the discourse surrounding her body of work as she is with her body of work itself.  This was apparent in the way she described her pieces, and also in the theories that she indicated as working within them.  As she stated in her lecture, “I am an artist obsessed with communication.”  As a poet, and a student of creative writing at CU, I appreciate this connection with language above everything else.  In the way that Antoni “surrenders [herself] to the object,” those of us interested in language surrender ourselves to the various connotations and denotations of words and letters in their incalculable ways of meaning.  Continue reading

Robert Hughes “The Shock of the New”

Anyone looking for more materials on many of the art movements we’ve been discussing in class should check out this 8-part documentary by Robert Hughes, “The Shock of the New.”  In “The View From the Edge” (ep. 6), Hughes presents the abstract expressionist movement as influenced by Van Gogh and others, and later moves on to discuss the works of Pollock and Motherwell.  I highly recommend the documentary, despite its seeming datedness.   Find it here.

Dick Cheney… careless shot or performance artist?

Poststructuralism and Derrida

Deconstruction is a delicate art, even for the grandfather of poststructuralism himself.  If there is one thing that I’ve learned in my time spent studying Literary Theory and specifically the movement in the late 1960’s in Paris, it is that the entire system works as a conversation.  Though many of these theorists acknowledge real-world ramifications to their theories and works, it is important to remember, and this fact is often overlooked by the American literary consensus, that Derrida and his predecessors and followers (Lacan, Foucault, Saussure, Cixous, etc) were as interested in conversation as they were in theories.  Theories stem from reaction, and reaction stems from inspiration, which again stems from inspiration, etc.  So, the literary theorists who are so often discredited by students and teachers alike as being “too complicated for their own good” and equally credited by the art and literary classicists like Greenberg as the final downfall to art in the 20th century, they were really just theorizing.  Not to assume that Derrida would assume that deconstruction has no real ramifications in the real-world, but rather to imply that deconstruction serves first and foremost as an idea.  This is an important thing to consider, especially when we are viewing deconstructive and poststructuralist art.

As Derrida writes in On Grammatology:

“Since we take nourishment from the fecundity of structuralism, it is too soon to dispel our dream.  We must muse upon what it might signify from within it.  In the future it will be interpreted, perhaps, as a relaxation, if not a lapse, of the attention given to force, which is the tension of force itself.  Form fascinates when one no longer has the force to understand force from within itself.  That is, to create.”



Kevin Kane Intellectual Profile

1. Give some basic information about your studies and fields of interest.

I am a third year English/Creative Writing major specifying in poetry.  The focus of my studies have been predominantly contemporary poetry, minimalism, and the New York School.  I am taking Contemporary Art because the University has forbade me from taking any more classes within the English Department, which I consider extremely nonsensical.  I understand, however, the university’s drive to graduate a body of students who are multi-capable.  The prospect of taking only non-English classes from now on logically led me to the Art History and Studio Arts Departments, in which Continue reading


Terry Smith defines contemporary art as an institution–one that is self-interested, self-motivated and self-perpetuating.  Though it is seemingly all dynamic, Smith argues that it is made up of both definitive structures of stasis and similarly definitive structures of change, so change and not-change are specific to compartmentalized sections of a larger whole that is contemporary art.  However, Smith notes that contemporary art itself can not be compartmentalized in the way that former “movements” and “isms” have been.  In somewhat of a Nietzsche-esque tone, Smith defines contemporary art as the death of said categorization.  She writes, “‘Contemporary,’ therefore, could well come to mean periodlessness, being perpetually out of time, or at least not subject to historical unfolding.”  In such, Smith claims that contemporary art appears to defy its own title, in that our judgment of it, our critique of it, and our analysis of it, creates a paradox.  Now, we can view contemporary art retrospectively (or seemingly so), despite its being constantly created and redefined.


To quote Yona Friedman, “order is a kind of disorder disguised and disorder is a kind of order disguised.”  This notion certainly applies to Smith’s argument that, despite the seeming order of past periodization, to limit the current movements of art would be an unpresidented disservice to the nature of the art culture itself.  What Smith calls a “socius,” refers to the “scene” in which the art culture works, buys, and judges art.  This is all contained within the larger locus of Contemporary Art as we understand it, or rather fail to understand it, today.

Given this subjectivity, which is arguably a result of its fluidity of definition, Contemporary Art has forever been full of contradictions.  It is both accessible and not accessible, both for the every-man and for the intellectual elite.  Despite this seeming conflict, however, I would argue that these qualities of Contemporary Art is as open to movement in and out of the socius as it needs to be.  Its semi-permeable barrier allows for the easy movement of individuals in and out of the locus of information.  In such a way, once an individual enters this locus, he or she has the open ability of interpretation, creation, appreciation, or other actions without the threat of either complete exclusion or complete inclusion, which are both equally threatening.  Art critics such as Terry Smith will continue to worry and argue over the future and current definitions of this art period, but I personally am happy to enjoy the fluidity and expansion that I see everyday as a result of Contemporary Art’s continuing infusion into everyday life.