Recently Roberta Smith wrote of two shows she saw back to back. She observed that both the artists owed just a little too much to Gerhard Richter. Two Coats of Paint made note of it here, where some comments insisted that there was plenty of room to work in paintings which look like blurry black and white photography; plenty of originality to go around.
But I was actually a little happy to see her call them on it. Because I think it’s the kind of thing that many artists are called on if somehow the work is not of the moment or of the trend. Or if you need to poke holes because the artist is not in your comfort zone.
I had a recent excursion into “You’re not really original here” land - but guess what was on the walls while the curator is telling me this? Paintings that owed a shitload to Gerhard Richter. In this case they were color and the artist was from behind the Iron Curtain and he even claimed in his glossy catalogue that if indeed there was any artist he could relate to, it was Richter.
Well hell yes. And it was celebrated, a fact to enjoy, not a thing to dismiss into the Land of You’re Not Original.
The curator looked over my Targets and Women photomontages. You could you tell he was interested because the ten minutes he said he would give me turned into almost an hour, but he hemmed and hawed because well, Laurie Simmons (see above) does work like this.
Laurie Simmons? We are both women. And we’ve used images of women in pop culture in our work. Beginning and end of the story. Oh, but he would have to “defend,” he said and “explain” this work. I almost turned to the work on the walls and said “So how to do you defend that?” but I didn’t.
He produced a color postcard from when he showed Laurie Simmons. A color photograph of two ceramic female legs spread, coming out of a ceramic globe. Cool photograph but can you tell me how she has done it all already?
What is weird about this is when I shared the story with another woman who makes photomontages with women, she said that the same thing was said to her! “Your work looks like Laurie Simmons.” She then told me that she didn’t really think about it at the time because, well, she doesn’t think about Simmons one way or another. Actually neither do I.