Art Lies, Volume 47, Summer 2005 Page: 57
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M arfa by James Bae
Before he died, I was going to ask my friend Julian if he wanted to meet
in New York for Wilhelm Sasnal's opening and then come visit me in
West Texas. The answer certainly would've been, "I'm barely moving
these days. I can't leave my house." He was old. He was always sick.
During one brief aperture in his health last summer, he planed to visit
me in Marfa and see the cloud formations I'd described for him. For
some reason, I really thought he'd make it.
Julian was a friend of Richard Wollheim, who famously (if dismis-
sively) coined the "minimalist" term for Judd, Flavin, et al. I never
asked Wollheim if he'd ever visited Marfa, though I'm sure he had. And
I'm sure he would've enjoyed it but not talked about it to anyone.
Perhaps Julian agreed with Wollheim in the philosopher's assess-
ment of Minimalism's paradox, singular in its strength and fatal error--
the object of art supplied only the minimal conditions of it being art.
Undoubtedly, both were put off by the undue "common language" pos-
turing of Judd's writings, which they dismissed as foppishly preten-
tious graduate student drivel, steeped in the Austen-Wittgensteinian
deep grammar so heavy in the fifties. At the time, Judd was at Columbia
studying philosophy. ("Do art historians really read this atelic babble
for a living? This shit is beyond endurance," Julian once said.) Both he
and Wollheim believed that a work of art-a symbol upon its own-is
a speech act. There truly is something quite funny about an artist talk-
ing about himself.
But I imagine Julian would have liked Sasnal's show, with its com-
plete disinterest in heroic rhetoric. The work is liminal but to the point
and fluid in the precision of gesture-a rudiment of practice so anathe-
matic to Minimalism as to be considered a horror vacui. In Sasnal, who
was a resident artist at Chinati this year, there are signs that humanism
is returning to the arts. Monumentality is trumped through momen-
tary allusion. It's a conscientious idea that art can't create subterfuge
time into totemics, making the working principle that informed Judd's
and the other minimalists' work seem utterly outdated. It's too bad
Julian missed the show. We would've had much to talk about on the
way to Texas.
The assumption most friends make about why I came to Marfa cen-
ters on a theory of my being a secret adherent to the minimalist temple,
which couldn't be farther from the case. While Julian liked Minimalism
for its cleanliness, he was ultimately turned off by its bloated, preen-
ing self-indulgence. My own interpretation is that Minimalism, like
Wollheim's reading of it, is mostly silly froth, which attracts a certain
audience, like foreign movie fans who believe they're getting an instant
critical upgrade by maintaining consciousness in face of it. Honestly,
is there an art form that cultivates more arrogant, "refined" sensibili-
ties at art openings than a minimalist show? (The type of people that,
when it comes down to it, use words like "classy" in conjunction with
"steak restaurants.") The answer, I conclude, is no.
ARTL!ES Summer 2005 57
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Bryant, John & Gupta, Anjali. Art Lies, Volume 47, Summer 2005, periodical, 2005; Houston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228012/m1/59/: accessed June 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .