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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Jerry Saltz still doesn't like Marlene Dumas

I noticed that in his latest Artnet article Jerry Saltz refers to "the second-rate Marlene Dumas" - so I guess he hasn't changed his mind much since saying about her work in 1994 that "the flat-footed ways they're painted leave me completely cold".

None of the Artnet guys seem to like Dumas. Richard Polsky is always slamming her and in this article Charlie Finch calles her a "mediocre artist". Tyler Green smells blood so you can always count on him to give a little kick once it's safe.

Some critics do have good things to say about Dumas; Adrian Searle writes positively here, Richard Vine called her handling of paint "direct, notational, and extremely deft, as though Dumas were recording her dreams in their raw immediacy", and Nicole Davis writes "Dumas’s painterly quality is so sensuous that it furthers the hunger for her images" (scroll down to read more and see some images).

But really, who cares what the critics are paid to think, I'm interested in other artist's opinions. Commenter George had good things to say, Nicole Eisenmann seems to be a fan, Joy Garnett is interested. I'm definitely a fan.

Saltz going ga-ga over artists like Justin Faunce, Daniel Lefcourt, and Laurel Nakadate and dissing Dumas just doesn't make sense to me. Not that I think the above artists are bad, but their work can't hold a candle to Dumas' stuff. Maybe it's easier to over-praise stuff made by bright young locals who can fawn over you?

I'd like to hear what other artists have to say about Marlene Dumas. Please leave a comment.

UPDATE: Okay, it's 6:55pm Wednesday and 215 unique users have visited the blog so far today but only one has left a comment on Marlene Dumas. Give it up!

16 comments:

George said...

Since I commented earlier, I had a chance to see more of Dumas' paintings and drawings at Zwirner and Wirth Gallery here in NYC.

Of the paintings, "The Blindfolded" and "Couples" were the two which were the most interesting to me along with "Untitled" the red, baby picture.. The drawings upstairs were a surprise, mostly just black and white but, all in all, quite nice. I'm a generous viewer, I usually avoid reading reviews before visiting an exhibition. I can understand why Saltz doesn't like Dumas work. She works in a very sketchy style, when she's on, the paintings have an edginess that's engaging. Not all the works hit the sweet spot but frankly I think the viewing public, is so poorly educated, they wouldn't know the difference.

If you are a young artist, enamoured with Marlene Dumas work, they it would behoove you to make a point to see them in person. Pixels are not paint, and I'm afraid there are a lot of people who are just absorbing the "look". If you're a painter, this won't do, you have to actually view the works. Make a trip to the galleries, museum, whatever venue you have available, to see ART IN THE FLESH.

I have great respect for any artist who can continue working into middle age and beyond. There are a lot of drop outs along the way. Marlene was born in 1953, that makes her 50 something and means she has been painting for something like 15-20 years. I respect that. I respect that she has made a decision on how to mark an image on a canvas. I believe these decisions are an extension of her personal history over a considerable number of years. One may not like her paintings, her subject matter, whatever, she is still painting, still trying to say something with an image wrought from paint in spite of all the obstacles one faces. So to me, there is a big difference between the course of decisions made by a young artist and one who has been painting for more than a couple of years. So I'm assuming Marlene Dumas is making paintings true to herself what else could one want? You have to really look and time will be the judge.

Martin said...

George - Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If she's fifty-two she's most probably been working for thirty years - I've been working seriously since getting my BFA in 1990 and that has already been fifteen years.

I think she's been in The Netherlands since 1976.

Paul Goode said...

Dumas' work falls flat to me. There are some things about the pathetic, disjointed paint anonymous figures that could draw me in... but at pixel level, I don't decidedly care.

Along with being at pixel level, I am also casually viewing. I like marks. I like paint. So, I am not doing anyone a service by dropping my two cents in.

Yet, since we are here... discussing... she looks like a nice person, but her path is not something that I would seek out: as a collector, gallery, or pair of eyeballs.

Dumas instantly reminds of Luc Tuymans, whose work drags me in by tooth and nail... challenging me and engaging me, at pixel depth.

I am not closed off from being enamoured by her work, but there is no love connection triggering on this end.

Cynthia said...

We have one here at the Art Institute of Chicago that always gives me chills when I see it, it's so good. The paint layer is like a cloud, and the eyes of the face look out like pieces of pure carbon.

Franklin said...

Dumas can do some touching things with watercolor but has no business using oil paint, which she doesn't seem to be able to feel. The naivete, when it hits oil, just comes off as weak painting.

Anonymous said...

Face the facts, for most art critics the only role for women in art is a sexual one. A female artist must either be sexually provacative in her art or in her life to obtain critical acclaim. Male art critics simply cannot get around the gender thing - which is why there need to be more female art critics.

Martin said...

Anonymous - Her work is often sexually provocative. It is interesting that the 5 anti-Dumas-ers are men (Saltz, Polsky, Finch, Green, Powlagua) and of the 8 more positive towards Dumas 4 are women (Searle, Vine, Davis, George, Eisenmann, Garnett, King, Schwabsky).

Powlagua - I don't understand how you can say that her work falls flat for you but also say it instantly reminds you of Tuymans, who challenges and engages you. Is it her subject matter that puts you off?

Anonymous said...

While Dumas' work often shows women naked or masterbating, the work is NOT overterly trying to appeal to male erotic urges. The women seem quite complete without men. They aren't cloying or flirting or dominating in a way designed to raise the interest of the man. The paintings are more a statement of women doing something. That's why male critics can't relate. Her women are sexual and commplete and they exist in a space that isn't inviting the viewer to get all hot and bothered about it and join in.

Sexual content, yes. Sexually provacative (trying to provoke an erection) I don't think so.

George said...

All that sexual mumbo jumbo is nonsense.
I won't deny gender bias may be present with some of the critics, however there are a number of people who just dislike the paintings for valid formal reasons. Usually they just cannot accept Dumas' cursory painting style and write the works off regardless of the subject matter.

Anonymous said...

Dumas was 15 years ago a hype in Europe and especially in the Benelux. It is very true, one has to see the originals. The sexual content is just abstract, not a primary part in the images. She is a pretty expressionist.
For Tuymans, I hate that stuff, and would always prefer a good Dumas.

Paul Goode said...

Tuymans' work is fairly disjointed... at least the survey that I have seen. From work to work, things seem unexpected.

Dumas' work seems a little predictable. OF COURSE my masculinity has something to do with how I judge/perceive her work. I do not need her to be any more sexual than she is... cringe/barf. Also, I can be put off by the female figure. Especially painted with blank inks... there is something that confronts me in the color choices. Rather than pink/red/gooey porno figures, I get living volcanic ash figures that recede into the paper... outlined... dying... dead... malformed... captured... alive.

Again, what makes this reaction and convo LAME on my part, is that I have NOT sat with any of the work. Sit, stand, resonate, wait... and that's is what these paintings by Dumas may be calling for. I doubt that flinging blog comment missiles at the work does it justice.

These works interest me: http://www.depont.nl/images/md/md02.jpg

I guess this is the raunchy stuff: http://www.anthonymeierfinearts.com/inventory/images/dumas.jpg

Is this more interesting than the painting?
http://www.nrc.nl/images/watou,0.jpg

Seems like this could/should be appropriated into street art / new art: http://hugo-sb.way-nifty.com/hugo_sb/images/marlene-dumas.jpg

The stuff just falls flat most often for me... but she will do well to keep digging from the same well: http://www.vgallery.co.za/2004article18/30.jpg

Since, in the long run, a recognizable artist (recognizable thru the work) is a sellable artist. At some point, every museum will need to own a few Dumas' works.

seth said...

I have seen Dumas in person: her four season babies and these were good. But if I recall, this was an important early work, one partially responsible for her ascendancy. Her work is weak in the end. I am male. But its not a gender issue. Vital female painters today include: Inka Essenhigh, Nina Bovasso, Julie Mehretu, Joanne Greenbaum, Shazia Sikander, Fiona Rae, Cecily Brown (a good comparison), Amy Sillman, and Ati Maier. A common thread running through here is info overload and pictorial complexity (also linking them to Justin Faunce and Benjamin Edwards.) Dumas's work is outdated, slack, and boring.

Anonymous said...

It is a gender issue!
If not simply because all female artists are identified as such, and the fact that we are talking about it here.

I do not know Dumas's work, but I know she apparently doesn't deserve her current success. I wonder if the same would be said if she were a man, or if male critics would be as enraged by a male artists success?

Do any of your "vital female painters" make the "vital painters" list?

Anonymous said...

Dumas and Clemente are both artists of similiar cloth for me. Both are intuitive and direct in their technique and both either hit me over the head with their brilliant successes or make me cringe with the awkward work that results from this combination of qualities. I either love their work or hate it and can say the same thing about other artists whose work I've followed for a lifetime. Dylan? Picasso? Some artists just don't know when to throw something in the fire. Leonardo did.

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