Tuesday, April 17, 2007

OFischly Disappointed

(please forgive the title)

I had the interesting experience of seeing Eric Fischl lecture at KCAI last week, followed the next morning by a critique, of sorts.

Having been a long-time admirer of Fischl’s paintings, namely the wonderful oil on glassine pieces that are pinned on top of one another in various configurations, I was sadly let down when he made a long-winded backstroke through his past as a painter.

I suppose I can forgive him for catering to the unusually perfumed, hyper-dressed crowd who came to fawn after him in our lecture hall that night.

Joking that his own Richter (painted into the back wall of one of his oils, next to a Warhol and a Nauman) was better than Gerhard’s Richter, the crowd seemed to say in all their excitement, “Oh Eric…you’re SO silly!”

The dangly earringed woman next to me actually lifted her ass a few inches from the seat clapping wildly and hysterically exclaimed “It IS better! It IS!!”

I threw up a little bit in my mouth.

However, Fischl did have some interesting things to say regarding the figure and how the body is dealt with in contemporary art. He talked about the extraction of his 9-11 response sculpture Tumbling Woman in which he says the woman was meant to be seen as a kind of tumbleweed, almost floating. Unfortunately some saw it (a writer at the New York Post) as a moment of bloody impact.

As far as the critique went, I won’t mention too much detail. After a tedious hour-long speech about how we need to make our work stand out in a crowd of other work, one of our teachers had to subtly direct Fischl into actually talking about the work around us. He did so reluctantly after a few more, less subtle hints. Thankfully, he was not kind or buttery with his responses. He did however, seem to lack an essential insight. Those that did get a crit that morning (due to his speech, there wasn’t time for everyone) seemed to get picked apart, for better or for worse.

I realize Eric has been at it for a while now and I pretty much respect his opinion as a painter. Perhaps though, my expectations were a little too high to begin with.


jessi said...

haha @ title

Anonymous said...

Ryan, this disappointment you feel -- I hope you will consider that it is highly merited and that you will use this experience to propel you further into making insightful work that really contributes to the current narrative, regardless of fashion.

I remember seeing one of Fischl's first shows in the '80s and thinking, "Eh." I was just never very taken with it.

The whole Freudian thing -- auto-erotic boy, Oedipal boy, etc -- we covered it in Ab Ex, to greater effect in my opinion because deKooning and Pollock didn't make images that essentially look like poor quality magazine or book illustrations blown up to overcompensation-for-personal-insecurity scale.

Consequently I never thought for a minute that Fischl had any unique insights to offer.

It's been retread since the beginning, right down to the out-Warholing of Warhol and out-Richtering of Richter, which incidentally and much to his shame I think that Fischl actually believes.

I've read the same trype from Currin, who in my opinion is of the same overrated school.

My only respect for Fischl is that he found an easy and relatively undemanding market, which, as you get older, is nice to dream about, along with the big Architectural Digest-quality studio in the Hamptons.

Keep in mind context: Fischl scored in the 1980's, a time for renewal of interest in objective painting. You had Basquiat, Chia, Cucchi, Clemente, Schnabel, Baselitz, Keifer, Hockney, Fischl of course, and a few others.

Well, if you're an American collector and you're rolling in the pre-savings-and-loan-debacle bucks, you're likely not to 'get' the Europeans, Hockney might have been still too abstract for you and there was some chance that you found Basquiat too messy.

But when you stepped into a gallery filled with big Fischl paintings, you subconsciously recognized the book/magazine illustration style and you consciously recognized the imagery from your suburban upbringing. You (the 80's collector) likely said, "See, this is work I understand. And check out that Freudian reference. Hey, that's deep. I remember Freud from college."

Sorry this is long but I think your conclusions are highly justified and I don't think for one second that you should feel compelled to respect anything about Fischl or any artist, regardless of whether or not they scored in the market.

rock on -- B

Steven LaRose said...

It sounds like Fischl should be teaching gym if he can't paint or teach.

I'm with yah Bill. I never liked his gaudy colors and ham-fisted marks. Heck, I'd buy a Salle instead.

Buuut my slack-cutter is out when I think of what a great job it would be to make paintings in my big Architectural Digest-quality studio in the Hamptons and then I could make art on the side, or read a book or something.