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March 14, 2005


Half Brother Clovis

From shmoogie.com:

"SHMOOGIES® is a registered trademark of Marketnet, Inc.

What's a SHMOOGIE®, you ask? It's a highly effective promotional product from Marketnet, the only place on the planet that sells SHMOOGIES®!"

I still wonder, what's a SHMOOGIE®? Probably doesn't smell.

Miguel Sánchez

Or if it does, it smells like a sweet little soft furry animal! Aw! What a great link.


"...as if he were Van Eyck with formaldehyde." Best line I've heard in awhile.

Bunny Smedley

Anthropologists of the future (if such things exist) may be surprised to learn that the all-too-mentionable odour of death seems such a big deal to people like us - it must be a bit of an historical and indeed geographical peculiarity for people to find putrefaction so remarkable, surely? And would our great-grandparents really have seen any point in a lamb in a vitrine - other than lamenting the waste of a perfectly edible lamb?

I haven't seen the MFA presentation of Hirst's work, but have seen some of it in London in earlier incarnations (different meat, different flies etc). I think he was brilliant at expressing what it was like to be in London c. 1995-97 (Blair, Diana, Brit Pop, that sort of thing). Is this a very interesting thing to express, though? Well, perhaps that's the problem. Van Eyck transcended his time, place and immediate preoccupations. Somehow I suspect Hirst won't.

Still, speaking again from this tiresomely London-centric vantage point, it was incredibly interesting to read your responses, and those of other US critics, to Hirst's work.


I think he was brilliant at expressing what it was like to be in London c. 1995-97 (Blair, Diana, Brit Pop, that sort of thing).

I was thinking something a little similar when I wrote the above, but it was too hard to express, so I settled for a list of quick points. The title of the post was meant as an obscure reference to the Walker Art Center's 1995 show, "Brilliant! New Art from London", which was the American (museum, at least) debut of Hirst and all the gang. I saw it when visiting that Thanksgiving (and let me say that November in Minnesota is a bracing experience indeed.) Obviously reflected a slightly earlier moment, but I think the point holds.

The Walker's presentation was tabloid-inspired, self-consciously lurid and sensationalizing (while I didn't see it, I've often thought the infamous later Brooklyn Museum/Saatchi show was deliberately trying to one-up the Walker.) While in terms of style it was a bit out of step with some of the work, it captured some of the energy and brutality, the design flair and cheap effects of a lot of it.

Hirst is now riding very high in the market, but it's hard for me not to see him in historical terms as a second or third generation example of certain styles. Whether critique of modernism, installation, use of materials, we've seen it before. He adds a particular view of the medical world - one that has the potential to be more interesting and valuable that what he does with it, but nevermind - and some grottiness, and there it is. And I hate to say it, but there's also the little matter of doing it in Britain. One could view this favorably and say that Hirst and the others raised British art to a foremost position in the contemporary world. Or one could say that, as so often in the past, British art has been a local version of trends developed elsewhere. Hirst as the Kneller of today? Perhaps. I'll just close my eyes and think of Gainsborough.

Bunny Smedley

Hirst as the Kneller of today:

Perfect. No, just stop right there. The joy of this identification is that it might be a bit dismissive - but then again, it might not. Double-edged? Slightly ironic? Perfect! I shall quote it shamelessly, probably often without due attribution ...

Meanwhile you can keep Gainsborough, with his dodgy pigment - can I have Constable, Thornhill or Stubbs, not necessarily in that order? (Good luck trying to think of a contemporary parallel for any of them, though - we live in diminished times.)

Miguel Sánchez

Thornhill you can have, but Constable and Stubbs? Leaving me with what, Turner? Years ago I would have happily traded Constable for Turner, but not anymore. I suppose there's always good old Hogarth.

Stubbs has been a favorite of mine for years, though I hardly ever have seen anything by him in person. As for Gainsborough, dodgy pigment may be forgiven in the creator of one of the most utterly charming paintings of all time.

Bunny Smedley

Well, okay, if that's the Gainsborough you're choosing, who on earth can argue with you? I give up!

[Of course you know, don't you, the sad story following on from the painting? All of which makes the butterflies all the more poignant, along with the unfinished nature of the thing. But yes, obviously, the charm of that painting is above argument.]

Meanwhile you are also right about the effect of age on Constable versus Turner. What you don't perhaps yet realise is the effect of age on Thornhill versus Constable versus Turner. Thornhill is just stupidly underrated, unless you have a very good reason for not wanting a significant British painter for the early years of the 18th century. If the Painted Hall in Greenwich were in, say, Padua, people would make the most enormous fuss over it. As it's in Greenwich, on the other hand, who cares?

Stubbs, at least, has his turn coming up for prime-time exposition in the horrid dank cellars of the National Gallery.

Why did no one even mention poor Reynolds?

Miguel Sánchez

Of course you know, don't you, the sad story following on from the painting?

Not in all of the details, but the general outline, yes. A Massachusetts museum has one of his later portaits of the two together. You're right in how the poignancy of this (already pretty poignant) painting is heightened, though.

You may be right about Thornhill, I can't really judge. What education I had in British art presented him as only the fainest glimmer of hope on the long slog between Van Dyke and Hogarth (I exaggerate only slightly), and I've little way of correcting that from here.

I was a big fan of Reynolds back in the day, and still like a number of his. I most enjoy the portrait of Garrick, but there are others. And of course the art historians love him for all of the juicy eighteenth century theory.

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