Friday, July 26, 2013


William Anastasi, I Want Walls, 1995

Swindle –

1. To cheat or defraud of money or property
2. To obtain by fraudulent means

Yesterday a student posted on my facebook wall a link to an article, “The Art of the Swindle”. The article is a “review” of the exhibition “Wall Ceiling Floor: An Exhibition of Works by Anastasi, Judd and Sandback”, curated by Michael Straus.

The posting of this link was a continuation of a conversation – the kind of earnest conversation I value so much in teaching. It represents the kind of conversations that some might avoid because of their directness and honesty but I find embedded in them at least some of the “real stuff” that we think about in art. I see the post as a request for a response from me to this article.

We cannot judge the sincerity or authenticity of an-other’s works, doings, statements – not truly, not absolutely. We cannot know another’s internal thoughts and motives. We can only know with certainty our own thoughts and feelings. We can only be sure of our own authenticity. We can only be certain that a work of literature or art is of value – is valid – if it offers something to us. To fear being “taken in” – “scammed” by a work of art is to doubt our own senses, to distrust ourselves, to fear being made fools of – of being made to look stupid. I know if a work speaks to me. The insights and musings of others can expand my understanding but they do not replace my own. Whether or not a work has something of value for me I know.

I am distrustful of reviews that seek to condemn work and which ridicule those who find something valid within a given piece of work. Why would I need to be warned against my own honest responses? Why do I need you to protect me against my own thinking?

I find the following “review” provocative. It gives voice to what I think many feel when “confronted” by challenging work. Like so many other examples of rhetoric it truthfully does nothing to persuade of any particular point of view – it merely reaffirms entrenchment – widens the divide between those of differing points of view.

As for me I find great poetry in many Minimalist and Conceptual works. They are often stark and elegant in their simplicity – and I think frankly courageous in their willingness to rely on less in the hopes of achieving more.

The Art of the Swindle

Art of the Swindle Readers' Responses

Judd Foundation

William Anastasi

Fred Sandback

Link to Exhibition Catalog on Amazon

Not in this show but ...

John Baldessari on Art21

Mini-documentary on John Baldessari

Joseph Kosuth at MOMA

Joseph Kosuth

Short Paragraph on Conceptual Art - MOMA

Thematic Essay on Conceptual Art - The Met