Re: And how sharp I am was/Re: Temperaprint & Gum

From: Judy Seigel ^lt;[email protected]>
Date: 01/31/04-02:40:47 AM Z
Message-id: <>

On Fri, 30 Jan 2004, Sandy King wrote:

> > I make an analogy to the
> >obsession over archivality that you DO NOT FIND, and NEVER HAVE FOUND
> >among painters or persons who draw. That's because they're confident
> >about what they're doing, don't feel worried that it's not REAL art, so
> >they try to prove a point with archivality.
> I think this may be more opinion than fact. It is true that many
> contemporary artists do not appear concerned with archival issues but
> I think a very good case could be made that most artists of past
> centuries were highly knowledgeable of their materials and selected
> them carefully for permanence.

I doubt many serious artists are ignorant of these issues, but other
values often take precedence over utter absolute "permanence." You're
declaring an either/or that I think is off the mark. Whatever is not total
A is not by necessity all B.

> Perhaps you are familiar with the Parnassian school of poetry of 19th
> century France? I recall a specific poem in which the poet, who was
> also a sculpture, praised the qualities of more permanent materials
> such as bronze and marble over the more fugitive materials.

Well if he was also a *sculpture,* I'd say anything he said was
remarkable, but I hardly think 19th century France is the only locus of
loving grand (grandiose?) materials. (For sure that "Grecian Urn" was made
of clay and breakable.) Equally to the point, I think calling the
alternatives "fugitive" is tendentious. Certainly works on paper and
fabric have survived very handily and less likely to have their noses and
arms lopped off by earthquakes or rumbling of subway trains underneath.
Some of our most precious relics are carved of wood (exquisitely
ornamented by worm holes) or wax, even fragile glass.

More to the point, today our most dazzling art is hardly in bronze and
marble; we have art povera, art surreal, art conceptual, art in wax,
process art, elephant dung, frozen blood, gun powder, piss on silver
nitrate, bottle caps, chewing gum, tar, celotex,and a hundred things I
don't think of now, plus infinite permutations thereof.

> >When this field is REALLY confident, we'll hear that about 5 times less
> >than formerly.

> I can state with confidence that our entire knowledge of the past is
> based on things that have survived.

In the first place, that's a truism, but hardly defines which media
survived. We have enough work on papyrus from thousands of years ago to
tell about Egyptian life, and actually tell us more than the stone
pyramids. I also suggest that you consider that our most treasured
"antiques" are hardly "archival" in the sense that they do NOT resemble
the originals. After all, much (all?) classic sculpture was polychromed.
Now consider, say, the Venus de Milo, painted bright colors. To us that
would be *so* Hollywood !

In the second place, that line you quote (clearly) referred to my comment
about the fetish for sharpness... had nothing to do with archival
materials. I'll add, and here's something I've thought about often --
when something starts to show its age, say in 100 years or so, it doesn't
disappear in a flash.. Odds are a photograph only gets a little faded.
I have albums of the 19th century with some prints pale, but most fine and
dandy. I'd say that if a future world cares about the work, they'll
"preserve" it --- making jobs for curators. In the same way that now a
whole industry "preserves" the drooping paint of the abstract
expressionists, or the famous ones, while the others ooze and slump in a
barn somewhere.

And I also think of John Dugdale's remark that he loved the look of yellow
faded albumen, and wondered if there was a way to instant age it. I
myself also like the aestheticizing look of age... brand new can be kind
of, um, new looking.

I don't demand that you roll your prints in the mud... but make the point
that many artists have other values... And IMO there's more concern with
archival and sharp in photography than warranted, due, again IMO, to

Received on Sat Jan 31 02:41:02 2004

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