Jerry Saltz I Vulture
Art as new zombieism was one of my favorite art dialogues of 2014.
The topic is up at ArtNews with Christian Viveros-Fauné challenging readers that Art Basel in Miami Beach is now an annual apocalypse that specializes in a "cheery brand of content-free stuff that actively caters to the tastes of the global collecting class." The headline suggests Zombie Abstraction is the bait for those who purchase paintings with no content.
And once bitten by art futures collectors are cursed to roam galleries and art fairs with the rest of the walking and buying dead.
The tag gained life in “Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same?,” a June article by Jerry Saltz that laments how art movements that once advanced, evolved, then reached a “fade out" due to artistic invention and now “gone terribly awry.” Today’s art, he wrote, is “driven by the market, and specifically by not very sophisticated speculator-collectors who prey on their wealthy friends and their friends’ wealthy friends, getting them to buy the same look-alike art.” Saltz continues:
Zombie Formalism, which gave rise to Zombie Abstraction, as a response to art content shaped to attract investment was coined by Walter Robinson. In "Flipping and the Rise of Zombie Formalism" Walter Robinson wrote:
In the comments of the post by Saltz, artist/educator/blogger Martin Mugar makes a case he sent a warning flare in December 2013 about New York art that "look like paintings, act like painting but on closer inspection are as bloodless and lifeless as zombies."
Scholar and curator Alex Bacon wasn't one to pack provisions and seek sanctuary, but instead stated contemporary abstract painting isn't trapped by the new trend of market speculation."It is important to separate the formal and intellectual activity of abstract work from the economic activity of a particular segment of the art market, even if we may debate the level to which both are presently imbricated," said Bacon at SFAQ.
If there is an infestation of zombie artists and buyers, invasion isn't limited to market driven art fairs or New York galleries. Street art and graffiti have grown into Zombitti decoration for music festivals making art a tool to brand a concert as a broader culture experience. In May colleague G. James Daichendt, a.k.a. Professor Street Art, was recovering from Coachella Valley Music Festival's barrage of limited edition prints. He wrote at KCET.
There is much to chew on with this talk of aesthetic being driven by market and it may explain, in part, how muralism moved away from voicing people and place when it resides in public space. When large-scale street art as a contemporary form of community mural shares traits of Zombie Abstraction, public art needs a survival kit to save the storytelling species.
Top Graphic: "Six Different Artists Made These Paintings" for "Zombies on the Walls: Why Does So Much New Abstraction Look the Same?" by Jerry Saltz with (top row from left) "All You Hear Is Beads Rattling" (2012), by Leo Gabin; "Untitled #0904" (2009), by John Bauer; "Untitled (JS06198)" (2006), by Josh Smith. Bottom row: "ST-AA (Transfer Series)" (2013), by Angel Otero; "Big Squid Ink" (2014), by Jamie Sneider; "I" (2011), by Rosy Keyser. Photo: Courtesy of Peres Projects, Berlin (Gabin); Courtesy of the Artist and Patricia Low Gallery (Bauer); Courtesy of Phillips Auctioneers LLC (Smith); Courtesy of Artist and Kavi Gupta Chicago, Berlin (Otero); Courtesy of Thierry Goldberg Gallery, New York (Sneider); Courtesy of the Artist and Maccarone, New York (Keyser).
Bottom Graphic: G. James Daichendt digital of a D*Face print, used in the original post since the street artist is about pop art dancing with the undead in his Lichtenstein crosses Zombie motif.
Above: Stephen Hendee created sculpture for the celebration of 30 years of public art programming in the City of Las Vegas.