Detail of the 1863 painting Olympia by Victorine Meurent and Edouard Manet

Painting is Bullshit!

VB Rant Week

7 Bitchy Posts in 7 Angry Days
• iRez / rants

Rant the third: Painting is Bullshit!

Yes it’s true, there are some great old dude painters.
Yes it’s true, there are some amazing emerging women painters.
And yes, it’s even true that friends of mine are painters.

But with apologies to all… I’m just gonna say it…

Painting is bullshit!

I’m not saying “painting is dead,” oh no, nobody could ever be stupid enough to say that again! That’s been said so many times, and every time someone pronounces painting dead, it comes back with a new life, new vitality, new power in the artworld… oh no… I get it… artists will probably forever enjoy mushing pigment around on wood and canvas… collectors will probably forever enjoy dropping big checks on hipster gallerists to decorate their living rooms…

Painting will never die.


Painting is bullshit!

Olympia by Victorine Meurent and Edouard Manet

Back when our ancestors were decorating the walls of caves like Lascaux or Chauvet, back when artists like Victorine Meurent were creating paintings like Olympia or Luncheon, painting way rocked. But that was the 19th century. Or like, you know, 20-30 thousand years ago.


Come on!

Can’t we move on??

SO over it.

Yes painting can still speak in our world, but there are better ways to speak about, to critique, and to consider the culture of our time, the culture of the 21st century.

Visionary Pranksters like Eva & Franco Mattes

Intuitive Installation Artists like Maurizio Cattelan

Hacktivists like Heath Bunting

Performance Artists like Nancy Popp

Young art history students love the stories of Impressionism’s rejection by and eventual triumph over Academic painting… but what exactly is it that they love? That the “pretty” to a 21st century eye, Impressionist works prevailed? Or that the truly disruptive to a 19th century eye, Impressionist works raped, pillaged, plundered, and remade the art world in their own vision?

Photography was initially rejected as “not art.” Early photographers went to great pains to “prove” that photography could achieve “painterly effects” in a futile hope of achieving legitimacy. But it wasn’t until peeps like Ed Weston & Ansel Adams said “f-that, painting is bullshit! We don’t even want photography to be painting, we want photography to be photography!” that photography found it’s legitimacy.

Later digital art was rejected as “not art” only to slowly battle to earn it’s space alongside painting in galleries and museums.

The thing is, Modern Painting, Photography, Digital Art… they were all rejected… yet they all eventually were not only accepted, but bought and sold and became part of art as institutional commodity.

And then there’s these fucking Net.Artists & Hacktivists: can they ever be co-opted? Can they be DCMA’d out of existence the way Free Speech Online is currently being obliterated and then become good, commodified, art institutional citizens? Or will they continue to resist?

Hey, speaking of resist, there actually is a species of painter that resists all of it. She’s called a Writer, or Graffiti Writer, or Street Artist. Marina Abramovic has said that “the studio is the worst place for an artist,” that we need to be in the world to make work about the world, to make work about art, life, culture. The street artist does exactly this.

Here’s São Paulo Writer Nina Pandolfo:

Here’s NYC Writer Lady Pink

Here’s some more NYC Writers:

Here’s some LA Writers:

The job of the artist is to ask questions.

Art is too important to our culture, our lives, and our future to let it become a decorating service for the affluent.

Resistance is never futile.

Painting is bullshit!

As a virtual public artist my work invites avatar communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

2 thoughts on “Painting is Bullshit!

  1. It depends what you think the job of an artist is. ‘ to ask questions’ just sounds pompous and self important, which of course is exactly what some people hate about artists. students ask questions reporters ask questions the intelligence services ask questions, why should it be artist who have to do this is well? Paint is just another medium, as bullshit as the rest of the bullshit when you consider its function and the artist more important than they really are. The only real bullshit here what art is for. The Agilent are the only ones quilling to waste there money, on bullshit while the poor laugh and admire what great art is all about, beauty.

    1. Thanks for your feedback Luke. Of course I love painting! But it was rant week, so I did my best to be obnoxious! 🙂

      For sure there are many definitions of art, and I’m pretty much fine with all of them. Although for me, if by “beauty” you mean “pretty,” I’d have to say I don’t find that too interesting. When Hamlet, observing his uncle the usurper-king, said “one may smile and be a villain” I think he was suggesting that beauty lies. Or that it can be a subterfuge leading us away from truth or higher orders of experience.

      As for the asking questions thing, I do think that people like artists and scientists are uniquely in that position. I don’t really see students or journalists or the others you mention asking this type of fundamental question. I see what they do in more documentary terms. The inform and even reveal, but I think people like artists and scientists can sometimes ask more fundamental, more all bets are off, more pull the rug out from under your assumptions, types of questions.

      I’m not claiming all artists do that all the time. I’m not claiming to have ever achieved that. But I do strive for it, and for me, it’s what engages me in the work of the most compelling artists.

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