18 September 2007

Thomas Lendvai at Winkleman, Or Why Jewelry

Thomas Lendvai started a discussion on this blog about what I said about his current effort at Winkleman. I said that it was about jewelry. He wanted an explanation, and I figured you all might as well. Enjoy!

Thomas Lendvai's Between Boredom and Pain is a specific relationship between some lumber and a room. The room "looks" pierced, but it very obviously isn't. But it isn't lazily accomplished, so that it looks like I am supposed to finish the idea for the artist in my mind. It is painstakingly, lovingly done, and that changes the gesture for me.

To me it feels almost "clasped", but from the inside. My date that evening agrees that the overwhelming gesture is one of "fit."

All this care made the relationship between the room and the wood surprisingly delicate, but organized to look violent. This feels like a jeweler's gesture to both of us. Refined, polite, playing at drama.

The jewelry metaphor seems like the most appropriate way to find meaning in this work for us. The wood is obviously the gold, and the room is obviously the stone, and it's obviously a huge pendant or ring setting. But the ordinary jewlery relationship is inverted in a nice way.

It's not groundbreaking, but it's really nice work. It is not uninteresting to make a huge piece of inside-out jewelry out of rough-hewn lumber. There is something about the piece that speaks directly about how precious and mundane much art is.


Blogger Pretty Lady said...

That's interesting, Deborah--my initial response to the description of the piece, before I'd seen it, was to ask if it were like those Modern Primitive 'faker' earrings, the ones that look like you stuck a thickish spike through your earlobe, when you didn't really. Then when I saw it, it was all about groundhogs and giggling, and I became so engrossed in that experience that your 'jewelry' remark baffled me. Whoopsy daisy.

Very poetic of you.

18 September, 2007 18:44  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Art is subjective, woo hoo!

Groundhogs? How poetic of you!

19 September, 2007 11:12  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aww, very nice words, thanks! You obviously know the male ego is one of the most fragile things in the universe. I think you're backtracking though. Gotta go, I'll elaborate when I get another chance.


19 September, 2007 17:46  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Oh, BTW, Deborah, I just noticed that you responded to a comment I left on your blog over a year ago, about 'craft' and the non-teaching thereof. Although yours was an excellent post, I believe you misunderstood what I meant.

I do not, in any way, believe that canonic 'craft' is the be-all and end-all of art. I don't even believe that well-crafted 'art' is art at all, if it doesn't in some way extend the capacities of the human mind.

However, I DO believe that some sort of understanding of materials and how to manipulate them is the BEGINNING of the exploration which we call 'art.' I am not a fan of the blueprint theory of artmaking--that you come up with a Concept, and mechanically illustrate this Concept in the physical world, without getting your hands dirty, figuratively speaking.

My beef with the art programs I attended is that they superciliously refused to provide students with this starting point. We received so little materials instruction that we did not know what questions to ask.

I am the sort of artist who cannot bring myself to rigidly adhere to a traditional technique for more than a single trial piece before I begin elaborating, eliminating, pushing and doing jazz with it--but I believe it is ESSENTIAL to have a passing familiarity with what that classical techique IS.

Otherwise you're just making sand castles.

19 September, 2007 21:04  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I love your interpretation (maybe more than the piece).

Pretty Lady,

Amen. I love your position on "craft". I have not had the skill to balance Deb's anti craft talk - but you said it perfectly. I am going to start using it. Thanks.

19 September, 2007 23:16  
Blogger fisher6000 said...


Accusing someone of backpedaling is rude, especially when you came here with a chip on your shoulder, assuming that I have a specific negative opinion about your work that I have never voiced; complaining about the technical difficulty of your own artistic task (gag!) and calling me a nitpicker of technical stuff, which PL knows I certainly am not.

Besides, since when are words like "nice" and "not uninteresting" used to connote unbridled positivity?

I wrote about what I saw. You are reading a lot into what I say. Male ego, indeed! If you want it all gloves-off so that you can understand what I am saying, without thinking that I am either hurting you or stroking your ego, then here:

Your show was nice. It looked good. It wasn't doing what you wanted it to do. It's doing something much more polite than that. It is a fiction that relies for its meaning (in my head, anyway) on a specific craft, jewelry.

This seems to work for you, so you should continue to do it. I, frankly, am done talking about it.

20 September, 2007 15:04  
Blogger fisher6000 said...


I see what you are saying about craft and agree. I think that all college students should learn how to do things like weld and use the table saw and mix paints appropriately (or whatever it is they teach you in a painting class... ; )

And I think that this is true because unless you learn how to do things, you can never learn how to move past what you've learned. You can't find your own voice if you've never learned how to talk. You can't reject nothing.

Besides, the post-studio model for art education does nothing but give students the (wrong) idea that illustrating concepts makes them artists, and that makes for lame art. Art should do more than illustrate an idea. It should be this self-evident thing that becomes more than the sum of its parts or ideas.

But the thing is that knowing how to weld, or using a miter saw well or whatever is not art. And that can be as much of a trap as not knowing anything at all. That's what I am writing about. It's not about learning how to weld or whatever. It's about learning how to look at a skill as if to take it over or fuck it up or make it into something else.

20 September, 2007 15:16  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh lets not get into the "who started it" thing. You are rude. You are the one who chose to write a couple of negative,trivial and not very insightful comments about my work. My piece is being displayed in a contemporary art gallery and you called it "jewelry" and "not even sculpture". Hello, its in an art gallery and its 3-D! Hmm, I wonder why I would have a chip on my shoulder. Someone once told me the opposite of love isn't hate, its indifference. You're not indifferent to my work. You don't hate it, but you certainly dislike it. I would argue that you knew ahead of time you wouldn't like it because you have an agenda. Lets take a look at your work as an example to prove my point. The images on your blog seem to be abstract forms. Sure you use different materials, but its still the same path regardless of how you spin the meaning or inspiration. They're kinda like rocks, beautiful abstract forms. So what makes the thing that you do sculpture? Intent, right? So you're asking an individual like me to take it on faith? See how easy it is to rail against something? You're the one with the chip! I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, its sculpture. Too bad you can't extend that courtesy to my piece. So in the future try to show your fellow sculptors a little love... or maybe just some indifference.


21 September, 2007 10:26  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Deborah, we are in complete, utter and total agreement regarding the role of 'craft,' or materials knowledge, in artmaking.

As it happens, I trained as a classical ballet dancer for twelve years; after all of that, the action of simply moving my arm naturally while dancing carried the force of exploding that rigid paradigm, and was thus, to me, infinitely more meaningful than if I had never had any dance training at all. That same metaphor carries over into the artmaking process.

If you have the inclination, I wrote about a bit of my frustration with the Blueprint Theory of Artmaking here. It is a funny story.

I have utterly no idea why you and Tom are suddenly at loggerheads, however. It strikes me that this conversation is a gross misunderstanding based on the lack of vocal tones and facial cues in the blogosphere. To my cyber-ear, neither one of you wrote anything for the other one to get riled up about.

21 September, 2007 19:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all seriousness PL, thanks for trying to be the mediator. I'm totally fine with criticism. Shit I went to art school, I've heard it all, including critiques similar to Deb's. I'm just disappointed by the fact she debased my piece by saying it wasn't even sculpture. Could you imagine someone starting a critique of your work by saying something like that PL? Before we get into the linguistic intricacies of what sculpture is, we can at least say my piece is sculptural, right? Its funny I even have to make this assertion.



21 September, 2007 22:34  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

Tom, I ask you in all seriousness--why is it a 'debasement' for Deborah to casually, perhaps even whimsically, say that a piece isn't sculpture? Aside from the fact that your piece is so obviously sculpture that such a comment could only be taken as a poetic conceit on Deb's part, is there actually a concrete hierarchy of value in creative endeavors, with 'sculpture' residing at the pinnacle? Or is this merely an egoistic fiat with which we artists try to convince ourselves that we are somehow superior to jewelers, cartoonists, illustrators, or carpenters? And is your endeavor truly so fragile that it can be 'debased' by a mere postulate?

Really, if someone looked at a painting of mine and declared, 'Hmph! That's not even a painting!' my response would be along the lines of 'All righty then! Moving right along...'

23 September, 2007 20:36  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Here is what I said:

Thomas Lendvai at Winkleman was more about jewelry than concept, or even sculpture.

I never said that anyone's work isn't sculpture.

I don't think this piece is about sculpture for the same reason I don't think any installation-based work is about sculpture. A thing that's "about sculpture" focuses on a different set of spatial questions than an installation or an architectural intervention does. The piece is about a structural, technical and visual relationship between a material (wood), and a room.

I think that sculpture, as a field of intellectual inquiry, is geared toward all the things you'd think about discrete volumes, like their interior and exterior, the relationship between material and form, or how it's standing up.

"Thingness" v. "roomness." I am still searching for the value judgement lurking within that distinction.

But even if there was, so what? I agree that it's worth asking whether TL's endeavor is so fragile that I can "debase" it with one quip.

That's quite a bit of responsibility to hand over to one person you've never even met, TL. I have no reason to continue this conversation if you are going to keep taking what I am saying in a manner that is so wildly different than the spirit in which it was intended.

24 September, 2007 21:10  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, yes, your work is indeed sculpture and no one seems to be saying it isn't.

But I saw your show back when Plus Ultra was in Williamsburg a couple of years ago and c'mon - this work is almost EXACTLY the same piece.

Maybe you should stop nursing your fragile ego and spend some more time taking some chances with your work. You can't control how the viewer will interpret your work, and would you really want to anyway?

27 September, 2007 02:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I realize blogging is not for me. Good luck in the future and congrats on your writeup in Sculpture!


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