Category: Rant

Help the L.A. Times comes up with a new name for their arts blog.

Culture Monster Sucks
Here’s a story you’ll never see on C-Monster. And thank god.

If you’ve been reading C-Mon for the last 24 hours, you know that the L.A. Times just debuted a brand spankin’ new arts and architecture blog called Culture Monster, which needless to say, smarts. In thinking about the whole ridiculous situation this morning, I realised that either one of two things happened:

  1. The L.A. Times is trying to achieve some measure of blog credibility by coming up with a name that echoes my ridiculous online enterprise. If they were really smart, however, they woulda ripped off the names of blogs who have been doing this way longer and way better than me: AFC, Looking Around, MAN, Art to GoWinkleman, to name but a few…
  2. The L.A. Times didn’t know that existed when they decided it would be a good idea to have an arts blog. Which leads me to believe that finances are so bad at the Times that their reporters don’t have access to the Internet.
In the interest of helping the Times fix this terrible oversight, which I’m sure they will remedy very soon (as in any minute), I’m hoping that everyone can pitch in and help them come up with a new name for their blog. Rome correspondent San Suzie has already come up with a couple of suggestions:
  • LALApalooza
  • Culture Impostor
My two cents: anything that doesn’t involve the letter “C” closely followed by the word “Monster.”
Post your ideas in the comments section below. I’ll make sure that my colleagues at the Times hear all about ‘em.
xox, C.

Dear L.A. Times: WTF????

Culture Monster
Culture Monster, the L.A. Times’s new blog.

Proving that there’s no such thing as an original idea, the L.A. Times recently debuted an arts and architecture blog called, ahem, Culture Monster. It’s been around for approximately five minutes.

I mean, really, people. I know you’re just hoping to ride C-Monster’s coattails out of dead-tree obscurity, but did you have to be such flagrant biters? I’ve been toiling for more than a year now. I’ve even covered stuff in your home turf. So, don’t even try to tell me that you didn’t know didn’t exist. Besides, my Statcounter tells me that there’s someone over there at the Times who Googles “C-Monster” on a semi-regular basis and then reads the blog. And I’m sure it’s not the mail guy, because if you’re anything like the rest of print media, corporate has already fired them all.

All I know is that if this isn’t remedied somehow, I’m gonna go all Sarah Palin on your asses. And you guys are gonna be the moose.

xox, C.

Unfortunate discovery made via Modern Art Notes.

The annals of television: Morning show edition.

television garbage
Wishful, by Kevin Steele. From a set called tv garbage.

Last week, in a not terribly outdated issue of the New Yorker, I happened to read a remarkable essay by Charles Van Doren about his role in the 1950s quiz show scandals. While learning about Van Doren’s personal history was fascinating, more fascinating was this bit I found mid-way through the piece. In it, he talks about being a contributor to NBC’s Today Show in the late ’50s:

. . . before long Dave [Garroway, the first host of the show] gave me a daily five-minute spot at the top of the hour in which to report on cultural and literary events; I read a great poem or two every Friday morning and talked about its author.

Flash forward half a century. Here is the type of cultural and literary coverage the Today Show is doing these days. And thank goodness. Because nothing will prepare Americans for their new place in the world like being able to say “beach volleyball” in Chinese.

Posted by C-Monster.

The first ever Douchebag Award goes to…

Wouldn’t it be cool if Jeff Koons made a giganto version of this? The mind reels…

On to the business at hand: The staff here at is of the general belief that galleries and museums that don’t let you photograph the art are, how to say it…douche-y. For one, us barbarian blogger types, when we’re not sleeping in our cages or tossing our shit around, have a tendency to share stuff we like with other people. Sometimes this includes images by artists that we respect and admire. And because we operate on a negative budget, this usually includes photos we take ourselves.

Many galleries and museums, however, have strict no-photo policies. (Unless you’re a member of the rapidly-decaying mainstream press, in which case, you can take all the pictures you want.) One New York gallery has been known to take the no-photo thing to a bit of an extreme. Now they’re kickin’ it up a notch: the gallery has reportedly e-mailed a webhead who posted photographs of paintings by one of their artists and asked them to remove the offending photos. The gallery’s e-mail states that this is because the gallery owns “the copyright to the work and all public display of images.” Never mind that the pictures were taken during a public display of the work at the Armory Fair where there were a bajillion photographers. And never mind that the artist is also represented by another gallery.

In this day and age, in which information is shared and disseminated virally, this is the kind of legal B.S. that does an artist, the press and those who enjoy art a real disservice. Does the gallery really think it can control how and when people see an artist’s work? Even the business-end of this equation doesn’t make sense: Why would a gallery want to limit its audience? Or, more importantly, the artist’s audience?

At a time when fine art plays an ever smaller role in our civic lives, this type of action is not only knuckle-headed, it’s seriously self-defeating. For this reason, the first ever C-Monster Douchebag Award (refreshes as it cleans) goes to…

Gallery 303.

Posted C-Monster.

The week in coma-inducing artspeak.

Blah Blah blah by Skewville
Blah blah blah by Skewville. (Photo by C-M.)

There’s been an interesting debate picking up on online about one of my favorite subjects (in addition to Star Wars and burritos): coma-inducing artspeak. It started on March 28th, with a post by Carol Diehl at ArtVent, who quoted, at random, from the publicity materials from the Whitney Biennial. It’s an absolutely delicious paean to impenetrable art prose, including eye-crossing delights such as:

…It is the problematizing of expectations and formalisms through destruction and transformations that is the heart of the continuing project…


…Bove’s “settings” draw on the style, and substance, of certain time-specific materials to resuscitate their referential possibilities, to pull them out of historical stasis and return them to active symbolic duty…

A number of bloggers have since picked up on the post. Tyler Green at Modern Notes asked if there isn’t someone at art museums who occasionally wonders, “Is this the best we can do in communicating with our audience?” Richard Lacayo at Looking Around put together a thoughtful essay that examined why all of this turgid prose exists in the first place:

…the industrial strength rhetoric of so much museum writing is also, I suspect, a defense against anxiety by curators and catalogue essay writers afraid simply to say aloud and in plain English what they suppose the work might be getting at. What if they get it wrong? Better to fall back on clichés that stand in for thought without furthering it.

He also, in what was clearly a humorous riposte, suggested banning words such as “problematize” and “transgressive” from the art writer’s arsenal.

Now, art critic Catherine Spaeth has weighed in on the phenomenon, admitting that she, too, sometimes falls into the jargon trap:

I try to convey in ordinary language thoughts that are difficult to express, and know that I’m guilty of falling into a shorthand academicism or two. I can usually feel this as it happens – poorly used academicisms can snag thought and suspend it from a hook, leaving it to hang there without any opportunity to be in its own mobility. If I feel such a snag I reach for words that arise from the ignorance and generosity of description. What appear are no longer academicisms but opportunisms – repetitions and resonances that emerge from description and course through an essay with their own force. I am wary of these as well, but as opportunisms they are already sticking much more closely to the object at hand.

(Glad that’s been cleared up…) She also writes that she was infuriated by Lacayo’s “call for censorship.” And that “blogger culture lends itself to an anti-intellectualism that has a way of raising its heads in a gang, and that such a self-congratulating posse is not a good thing for arts writing.” Art writing, she posits, is part of an intellectual school of thought that isn’t always supposed to be a quick and easy read.

I can’t speak for any other bloggers here, only myself. But I think that Spaeth misunderstands “blogger culture.” No one I know wants to read dumb writing, nor are they trying to destroy intellectual complexity as we know it. I’m certainly not afraid to head to the dictionary when the occasion warrants it. And the great big Internets makes it easier than ever to inquire about obscure art historical references.

What all of these “bloggers,” including myself, are calling for, is smart writing that is precise and unmuddled. Making it enjoyable to read wouldn’t hurt – especially when it’s geared at the public. As for humor (a.k.a. Lacayo’s call for “censorship”): it’s desperately needed in the fine art genre. We’re not covering Baghdad. It’s paint on canvas. Let’s lighten up.

P.S. No Digest today. I’m on the road.

Posted by C-Monster.


Photos: El Anatsui at the Met.

El Anatsui
Between Heaven and Earth (2006) by El Anatsui. Photos by C-M.

Someone please explain: On Sunday, I paid a visit to the Met’s first major piece of contemporary African art: Between Heaven and Earth by El Anatsui. This sculpture kicks serious ass. So why would the museum hide it in an under-construction corner of the African galleries amid totemic 19th century wood carvings? Why hasn’t this piece been awarded some nice piece of real estate in the contemporary wing, where it belongs? Can someone please tell me why we can’t seem to move beyond this geographic provincialism?

You can find a podcast Q&A with El Anatsui here and his website here. Plus: sweet photos of some of his other pieces.

Detail shots after the jump.

Continue reading

Rant: Museum no-photo policies.

Self: camera oscura
Self: Camera Oscura. Photo by Jasmic.

There’s an interesting discussion about musum no-photo policies over at Art Fag City that’s worth checking out.

My two cents: Any museum that accepts even one cent of public money should allow photography (without a flash, of course). A museum is a public space—and if my taxes are gonna help pay for that space and its maintenance, I should be able to take a damn picture. And, no, there shouldn’t be any exclusion of pieces that are part of rotating exhibits. I don’t care if the works are privately owned. (If you want them to be that private, don’t loan them to a museum. Duh.) The fact is an artist—and more importantly, their dealer—benefits tremendously from having work included in a tax-payer-funded museum. That museum prestige rubs right off on them. And then they turn around and cash in on that at some privately-owned Chelsea gallery. My picture is not going to prevent them from making a buck. And if anything, it’s what I get in exchange for supporting, with my taxes and my attendance, these municipal show palaces.

Certainly, there’s other stuff going on here, too: It’s about highly-corporate institutions trying to tightly control how works are viewed. (But that’s the kind of abstract intellectualism that would require way more deep introspection than I’m currently capable of.) The short of it is that museums are public places purportedly designed to showcase important works to the public. They are spaces, in essence, that belong to all of us. And policies or no policies, I’m going to continue to take pictures. After all, it’s just art.

Posted by C-Monster.

Things from ’07 that I don’t want to deal with in ’08.

Bush one of the worst disasters
Starting with this clown. Photo by jasonmontague.

  1. The Celebrity Industrial Complex.
  2. Any art that utilizes images of Mickey Mouse or Marilyn Monroe. It’s been done. To death. Please stop.
  3. Douchebags.
  4. The use of the term “eco” as a ploy to sell people more shit.
  5. Starchitects.
  6. Visual art that requires an essay-length text on methodology to make the piece on display seem interesting.
  7. The phrase “design-conscious,” especially when referring to children. (They shit their pants. Does anyone think they really care about mid-century Modern?)
  8. Classist museum policies that allow women with Samsonite-sized handbags to breeze in, but force me to stand in Soviet-era lines to check in a backpack.
  9. The notion that Rudy Giuliani is a viable presidential candidate.
  10. The Art Bubble.  
Posted by C-Monster.