An Example of Artspeak

Meyer Schapiro comments on CÚzanne's Bather

FebArtspeak1.JPG (24261 bytes)The volume of Artspeak out there is astronomical. Libraries are filled with masses of books which can be opened at random to reveal floods of  Artspeak couched in a supposed logic which shouldn't fool an eight year old. One could bore a reader to death with written reams if one were to quote and attack even a tiny fraction of  this mass. After pondering the matter I came up with the following solution.

One way to attack  Artspeak it is to point out some key Artspeak characteristics with a few quotes by some of our Artspeak Superstars. Any readers who wish can then go to the source and seek further evidence for criticism on their own.

In the coming months I'll dissect some classical Artspeak. Later on I'll tackle some of the newer bone-crunching stuff. The best examples are found in "Art Forum" magazine.

Schapiro's provides one of the best examples of blowbag academic padded prose. The following quote is comparatively tame for this master. Utterly uninformative, it boringly expresses the kind of mindless blind ecstasy found in rambling religious babble. I think the paragraph below is plain silly and says almost nothing. Schapiro's intellectual obesity was caused by an excessive intake and output of scholarly pathological grease.

As to the painting itself, it is the usual incompetent Cezanne figure fare. He is much better off when painting landscapes and still life because one can schmier out formless trees or apples, using bright colors and most always get an innocuous result that is relatively inoffensive. But try this with figures and the result is an abomination. This painting like all of his figure confections shows off Cezanne's most fashionable inabilities some of which I have illustrated in his "Bathers". Perhaps I'll analyze this masterpiece at another time.


RED These comments are explained in the article on Artspeak


My comments
GREEN Schapiro's unexpected words used to pad his prose

"IT IS A STATUE IN A LANDSCAPE; (For the blind) not of a bather but a man in thought. Completely absorbed in himself,he is welded (soldered perhaps) to his surroundings: the color of his flesh is like the ground, (very dirty) and the shadow tones of blue, violet, and green, the rosy and lightened high lights, are like the water and sky.(For the blind) His great vertical form rests on a world of horizontal bands; verticals and horizontals belong together (obscurant). The bent arms resemble the sloping rock profile at the right. (obscurant) The opening of the legs is like the fingers of water laid out on a contrasting ground. Besides the symmetry of the rock edge and the bent arm, there is the symmetrical pattern of the segments of sky between the body and the arms and the related belt - a tight construction of upright and horizontal forms. (flatulence) On the belt, the banded lines are seen together with the fingers above them, but also with the banding of the earth at the left - the reddish prongs of the ground which alternate with blue inlets of water. (flatulence) (For the blind)

"It is a strange landscape, imagined in the studio, yet natural for the naked figure, his only possible milieu - empty, mostly barren, and delicate like reverie. (obscurant) (profound theory) Figure and landscape echo each other and bear the same brushwork, the same substance of color(obscurant), equally free, spotted, and changing. The main lines of the landscape coincide with divisions of the figure. The upper body is in the sky, the lower is on the earth. Where the knee advances, marked with red, begins a green band of the earth. (pedantic) The bent arms call out luminosities and turbulence in the adjoining sky, (For the blind) like the angels fluttering about a holy figure in old art. (flatulence)

     "The drawing is an effect of naive searching, (naive is the correct term) an empirical tracing and fitting of the forms, a little awkward (a little?!!) yet rhythmical and strong, and finally right; some touches, as in the well-articulated legs, exploit a past study; other parts are more arbitrary and fresh. This drawing, so earnest and free, was a revelation to young artists about 1906 and helped to liberate them. The body is not stylized nor reduced, but reconstructed scrupulously according to an ideal of harmony and strength.(profound theory) It is a drawing without banality or formula, even a new formula.

     "But is it essentially a "pure form," an "abstract" construction? I do not think so. There is in this monumental bather a complex quality of feeling, (psychobabble) not easy to describe. Rigorously tied to the landscape, the figure is nevertheless detached, unaware of the world around him. But the meditativeness is only half the story. The upper body is immobilized by its posture; it looks inward and closes itself. (profound theory) The man walks, yet holds his sides. (For the blind) This upper body is ascetic, angular, strictly symmetrical, and relatively flat, the lower body is more powerful, athletic, fleshy, modeled, and in motion - an open asymmetrical form. (flatulence) Two opposed themes are joined in one body, and this opposition appears also in the character of the sky and earth, one vaporous, the other more stable and solid. The drama of the self, the antagonism of the passions and the contemplative mind, of activity and the isolated passive self, are projected here. (psychobabble) The contemplative dominates in the end, but the body remains warm in color, powerfully set, while the world - an enveloping void - is distant and cool."


Some of My Work
Advice for Students
No Skill No Art
An Example of Artspeak
Raising Prices
Behind the behind
Parody and Laughter as Criticism
Critique by Comparison
Good and Evil
Modern Artists I Like
Any Comments?

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Before the advent of the Internet this kind of criticism was impossible.

Copyright 1997-2002 Mani de Li
Modern Art, Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Pollock, de Kooning, Johns, Rothko, Miro, Warhol, Cezanne, Kline, Chagall, Dali, Greenberg, Bauhaus, Barnet Newman, Calder, Castelli, Dubuffet, Duchamp, Gorkey, Guston, Kandinsky, Hans Hofmann, Clement Greenberg, Paul Klee, Motherwell