The Alternative To Tyler Green’s Art Tourney

by Paddy Johnson on March 24, 2011 · 12 comments Opinion

C. M. Coolidge, Dogs Playing Poker, 1950?

This week the blogosphere is aghast over ArtInfo blogger Tyler Green‘s tourney style quest to find the best Post War Art Work. Five distinguished guests seed the competition with picks, and you decide who’s tops. Problem is out of 64 art works chosen only three are made by women.

This is shitty for a number of reasons most of which have already been discussed either over twitter or on blogs. c-monster lays out the detailed response on her blog saying,

Green has defended his decisions on Twitter, stating that he wasn’t going to tell his invited curators which names to submit and that the list represents the “most-settled” artists in the 1945-60 canon. (Again, here.) To Green’s first point: I’d argue that the story a writer tells is colored by the sources he or she chooses to consult. Perhaps a more diverse group of experts would have yielded a more diverse result. To the second, I’d say: if the time-frame here is “since World War II” as originally stated (instead of 1945-60 as later implied on Twitter), then the canon ain’t even close to being settled.

The Post War and Contemporary Department at Christie’s defines the Post War art period as 1945-1970, and is the time frame most commonly attributed with the term. I’m not sure this matters greatly — clearly there was a lack of clarity about what constitutes Post War art amongst the seeders and that’s not going to be fixed after the fact — but Christie’s is an apt source, as all the artists named also perform well at auctions. The seeding suggests the market has a greater influence on how we perceive value than we likely recognize, but given the small sample group obviously this is a speculative comment.

Meanwhile, the defined dates would be especially bad news for the women in Green’s tournament had he specified them. Our three representatives — Marina Abramovic, Cindy Sherman and Maya Lin — each contributed works made post 1970, which knocks them off the list along with ten other dudes. The brings thePost War female representation down to zero. Sharon Butler and few other invites at Two Coats of Paint have come up with alternate lists.

My hope is that Green includes the criticism he’s received to the post, and that next year he does something different. Past the problematic results, the blog couldn’t be asking a less interesting question. The answers all lead to artists and art works we already know. For that reason, I asked AFC’s in house sports expert Will Brand to come up with a few games that might draw more interesting results. Here’s what what he suggested:

Collect, Review, Burn:  Name three shows. Pick which one you would prefer to do each of those things to.

“This will provide a greater opportunity to launch explanations than brackets” he told me today. Guess what we launch next week?

  • http://www.halosheaven.com Mat Gleason

    C’MON Ty-Ty’s blog is acronymed as MAN what more do you need, the misogyny inherent in his alpha-male metrosexual persona has never been exactly latent.

  • http://twitter.com/rwetzler Rachel Wetzler

    Disappointed by Green’s defensive/dismissive tone. Instead of actually engaging with the criticism and acknowledging the legitimacy of the issues raised by Jen Dalton, Sharon Butler, Carolina Miranda, Brian Dupont, William Powhida, etc. his justification was basically “men are more famous!/my panelists are smart!/it’s just a game!/I don’t feel like responding to this so I’m going to pretend what you said doesn’t make sense!”

  • Lrubin

    it’s important to recall that it’s not only women who are virtually excluded–it’s artists who are not white, as well.

    • http://twitter.com/cmonstah Carolina A. Miranda

      i made that point, too…

    • http://www.facebook.com/marshallastor Marshall Astor

      It’s also artists working outside of New York or London. As an Angeleno, my understanding of the important trends during and since the Postwar period is fundamentally different than anything that Tyler’s list represents (yes I understand that Tyler didn’t generate the list, but he’s ultimately responsible for it).

  • Lrubin

    I also think more attention should be paid to Tyler Green’s assertion that the list was intended to be a selection of “masterpieces,” the implication being that there are fewer “masterpieces” produced by people who aren’t white and male.

    To be blunt, that is just ignorant. In the last few decades, the idea that terms like “masterpiece” and “genius” are themselves problematically gendered and racially biased has become mainstream (in the art world at least) and people tend to think carefully about context before using these words or espousing the concepts they designate. Even if they reject the idea that there’s anything problematic about the terms, they know that they are likely to get a certain kind of reaction when they use them.

    The fact that Green would use the word “masterpiece” in the process of defending his virtually female-free and color-free list suggests that he is pretty much unaware of this history. As a contemporary art critic, you can’t simply ignore the changes that the art and criticism of recent decades have wrought on our ideas of what a canon is, whether we need it, who it should include, what a masterpiece is, etc. You can define yourself against these changes (i.e., be retrograde and proud of it, if that’s your bag), but if you fail to so much as acknowledge them, you seriously undercut your own credibility.

    Actually, not only the use of the word masterpiece, but the very fact that he could post the list without a note to cover his own and his nominators’ behinds–that is, something to the effect of “Well, you’ll notice something striking about this list and some of you won’t be happy… Let’s use this as an opportunity to open up a conversation”–is pretty mind-boggling. In other words, it seems not to have occurred to him that it would be in his own best interests to acknowledge his awareness of the problematic nature of the list.

    He didn’t do so–which suggests that the thought never even occurred to him. He saw that list of 64 names and didn’t even register its most glaringly obvious quality.

    That’s pretty telling.

    • http://twitter.com/hereisafantasy here is a fantasy

      I’m so annoyed. Is Linda Nochlin’s “Why Are There No Great Women Artists?” no longer required reading? She shreds apart Vasari, the notion of genius, and the autonomous masterpiece.

      Based on my experiences, I blame a large part of the selection on the current state of Art History education in the States and howNew York-specific it still remains, neglecting the International aspects of Post-War art. The International students who I attended grad school with in the States were shocked that many of the students in my classes couldn’t name a single artist who was involved with Art Informel. Although Serge Guilbault’s “How New York Stole The Idea of Modern Art” is sometimes required reading, it’s not the norm for a discipline that still focuses on Pollock’s cock and balls.

      I took a course called “Pollock and After”. I’m not an old lady, either. I’m just saying, PWA is still about a drunk womanizer.

    • http://twitter.com/hereisafantasy here is a fantasy

      I’m so annoyed. Is Linda Nochlin’s “Why Are There No Great Women Artists?” no longer required reading? She shreds apart Vasari, the notion of genius, and the autonomous masterpiece.

      Based on my experiences, I blame a large part of the selection on the current state of Art History education in the States and howNew York-specific it still remains, neglecting the International aspects of Post-War art. The International students who I attended grad school with in the States were shocked that many of the students in my classes couldn’t name a single artist who was involved with Art Informel. Although Serge Guilbault’s “How New York Stole The Idea of Modern Art” is sometimes required reading, it’s not the norm for a discipline that still focuses on Pollock’s cock and balls.

      I took a course called “Pollock and After”. I’m not an old lady, either. I’m just saying, PWA is still about a drunk womanizer.

  • http://www.adamzucker.com Adam Zucker

    Why are there so many De Koonings and no Hartigan, Krasner, Mitchell, Frankenthaler, and Mary Frank!?!? This was the same reason I felt the MoMA show did no justice to Ab Ex…It degraded it the way this list degrades American art and its artists. What happened to Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Benny Andrews (he borders on the 1960 cutoff but is an essential “post-war” painter) and Bob Thompson? There are too many rich white men on that list, just like in most of the pages to the “Art History” textbooks one reads in college.

    This is a huge misguided project….

  • rrobert

    where’s the NCAAW version and the NIT version????? compartments people, come on!!

  • http://twitter.com/cmonstah Carolina A. Miranda

    On a totally different note, I never get tired of Dogs Playing Poker.

  • Anonymous

    This would be much more interesting if each artist only had one piece and the pool of artists was wider, say 128 total. At the very least that might be a little more humorous (but probably more predictable). It’s stupid and pointless that there are 3 Johns flag works but not a single Baldessari, or Louise Bourgeois, or… etc etc etc like everyone else has said.

    Mostly this is just a dumb way to get press and attention—which everyone is giving it. So, mission accomplished.

    To play a bit of devil’s advocate: the list *is* called “America’s Favorite Post-War Artwork,” and while that’s a bit misleading since there were only 6 people making selections, it is accurate insofar as the artworks chosen are absolutely some of the most popular American artworks from that period. We can all argue for months and years about how many women ‘should’ be on that list, but many of us arguing are likely art historians, or artists, or at the very least people with some education in the arts, all of which lends itself to being more knowledgeable about lesser-known artists, many of whom, from that period, are female. So, it’s kind of unfair, and a waste of time, to yell and scoff at this kind of ‘tournament.’ It’s like knocking the Oscars for only (or mostly) awarding big-budget Hollywood movies. Well, duh.

    Also, two of the judges are female, and even thought they’re outnumbered 2:1, their votes didn’t count for nothing. They could have voted in more female artists too.

    And where’s the love for photographers? There are just 3 of them on the list too.

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