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May 9, 2005


Among the great virtues of weblog discussions is the way that, in their more or less accessible and persistent presence on the internet, they can render something that might normally be hashed out over coffee or beer (ending there) available to the online world at large and, thus, often to the very person or persons being discussed.

One would imagine that more than a few interested eyes at UCLA worked their way through abLA's Chris Burden thread (not to mention others' contributions here and there) back at the height of that brouhaha. (Indeed, I received an email at the time regarding my own post on the matter that seemed to suggest as much.)

More to the point, a January comment thread at Modern Kicks found JL (aka, Miguel) and Bunny Smedley mulling over a perplexing detail from De Kooning: An American Master only to end with a clarifying comment and personal mea culpa from one of the (now Pulitzer Prize-winning) book's authors.

And I myself could lay claim to a similar, albeit less falutin, comments appearance last fall by the subject of one of my posts (assuming, that is, that this commenter was truly who she claimed to be).

But all this is to belabor my shameless point...

Last night (while purging a fresh glut of comment spam) I happened to notice, in the midst of a slew of friendly notes from regular readers "catherine bell breasts" and "lesbian sisters kiss," a lone comment from the much less sexily-named "yve-alain bois."

So it seems, by magic of internets, we have a bit of feedback from one of the ensconced subjects of our recent discussion.

Apart from apparently not caring too much for my tongue-in-cheek "Gang of Four" appellation, Mssr. Bois (or, I suppose, some cunning internet impostor) appears, rather unsurprisingly, none too impressed by Frank Whitford's incredibly lazy Sunday Times and LA Times broadsides from a month back:

Having been called a formalist all my scholarly life, I'd say it was a bit odd to read I was not looking at the objects—that is, it was odd to read this in the UK press, as it's common in the US from the right-wing likes of Hilton Kramer, the genius connoisseur who said (for example) in 1970 that a couple years from now (that is, from then), Pollock would be entitely forgotten. I have always been very attentive to the object and I even wrote the introduction to my 1990 collection of essays (at MIT Press)* as a warning against the effect of undigested theory.

He goes on to defend Krauss and Buchloh in particular against similar slurs and attends to the burning question as to the state of the joy in his soul (suggesting a response in the affirmative as far as its presence is concerned).

All good points, as well as decent reminders that the "prophylactic barrier of preconceptions" (to cop Franklin Einspruch's excellent phraseology) can run both ways, so do take a gander.

* I can't be sure, but I suspect Bois may be refering to his Painting as Model, whose back cover offers the following:

Informed by both structuralism and poststructuralism, these essays by art critic and historian Yve-Alain Bois seek to redefine the status of theory in modernist critical discourse. Warning against the uncritical adoption of theoretical fashions and equally against the a priori rejection of all theory, Bois argues that theory is best employed in response to the specific demands of a critical problem. The essays lucidly demonstrate the uses of various theoretical approaches in conjunction with close reading of both paintings and texts.

That all sounds pretty fair to me.

Update: further discussion over at Artblog.net

Posted by Dan at 07:08 PM


No cunning internet impostor, I'm happy to report. In any case I wanted to thank you for circulating my note. Yve-Alain Bois

Posted by: yve-alain bois on May 12, 2005 at 12:33 PM

Trace that IP address!

Well, pretty cool, really. Makes me think: one of the good ideas (aside from all of the not-necessarily-so-good-ones) over at The Valve has been to suggest that it might serve as a sort of "comments thread" for academic publications in literary studies - with full right of reply for the authors under examination and some level of rigor involved. If this area of the bloggin' life continues to develop, it might be possible to do something along the same lines for art books.

And of course Bois gets called a formalist - it's one of those things, like phenomenology, that you never really get over, only work through. I say that as a student of the late Kermit Champa, and one who smarts every time he thinks of Bois' review of Mondrian Studies.

Posted by: JL on May 12, 2005 at 07:07 PM

I wonder if James Elkins was ever aware of his art blog currency circa summer–fall 2004.

And hey, maybe we can coax Dr. Kuspit into the mix.

Posted by: Dan on May 12, 2005 at 09:26 PM

Referenced in this post:

2005 Pulitzer Prizes-Biography, Citation
Art.Blogging.LA: Speaking of irony...
Artblog.net: iconoduel shoots, scores
De Kooning: An American Master—Mark Stevens, Annalyn Swan
Editor's Life Unedited: I Get Emails...
Editor's Life Unedited: that UCLA incident
Forward Retreat: January 12, 2005
Grammar.police: Goose, Gander, and Guns/Do the Right Thing!
Iconoduel: I get my arts news from variety show hacks—Comment 3
Iconoduel: Lemon Harangue
Iconoduel: Lemon Harangue—Comment 15
Iconoduel: Lemon Harangue—Comment 5
Iconoduel: Lemon Harangue—Comment 9
Iconoduel: The Face of the Enemy?—Comment 16
Iconoduel: This and That—An Institutional Burden
Modern Kicks: the mastah—Comments
Painting as Model—Yve-Alain Bois