My last post precipitated several comments about Walter Robinson’s term “Zombie Formalism” and about the type of work discussed, as well as some offline discussion about labeling art movements in general. In an age supposedly marked by an inclusive, anything-goes pluralism, the arguments sparked by recent approaches to painting reveal that our “pluralistic” era isn’t without acrimony.
[Image above: Andy Boot, Untitled (blue), 2012, Rhythmic gymnastic ribbon, wax, frame, 100 x 70 cm.]
On the blog, Laurie Fendrich complained that:
Whatever it’s called–“Casualism,” the “New Casualism,” “Zombie Formalism” (I like Walter’s label)–there’s no doubt that the “painting” style of the day is marked by a lick and a promise, some sagging canvas and an exposed stretcher bar. Whatever the style is, it’s now filtered down to the undergraduate level–and not merely at art schools. I see it in the art department of the liberal arts college where I teach.
And dharmabum suggested that:
As deK said, by the time you see the bandwagon it’s already too late. R.I.P.
Anonymous, a reader from the UK (I think, because of the punctuation), wrote in defense of Andy Boot:
Andy Boot isn’t New Casualist or Zombie Casualist or any of the other tired terms that constantly pop up on this site. Andy Boot is a young, smart conceptual artist that uses painting as a vehicle or mode for other ideas.
His painterly, abstract gymnastic ribbon pieces in wax from 2012 are genius. His sparse watercolors on linen look like loose fibers clinging to a new sweater, or slinking organisms in a petri dish.
If you “don’t know much about him”, then why dedicate a post to him, and then try to categorize his work as something that should be speculated on and flipped?
A Facebook Friend felt strongly that labeling perceived movements is a bad idea in general:
What about a term for coming up with terms that define and thereby embarrass a movement: Terminalogy. Or Terminalism.
One of the reasons I post the things I do is to start a conversation, and this has been a good one. Rather than taking offense when critics suggest a name for a particular way of working, artists need to embrace it, the way Obama did
with “Obamacare.” When the Republicans began calling the Affordable Care Act “Obamacare,” he distanced himself from it. But eventually the President changed his mind. “Well, I am Obama,” he said. “And, yes, I do care.” Perhaps something valuable rings true in the term “Zombie Formalism” when we look at it from a different angle?
Walter Robinson may be using the term “Zombie Formalism” derisively, but that doesn’t mean artists should take offense. If they are making the work they need to be making, regardless of the art market, who cares what Walter Robinson or Laurie Fendrich say?
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