Walasse Ting: Photo by Nico Delaive

During the many hours that Debra Burchett-Lere, Excutive Director of the Sam Francis Foundation, has spent studying the Sam Francis Papers she has made some discoveries. Among them is the trove of letters that artist Walasse Ting (1929–2010) sent to Sam during their long friendship. Realizing that this correspondence was special, Debra suggested to me in 2016 that I should spend some time at the Getty Research Institute looking them over. …


A review of Nathan Oliveira: Muse at Pamela Walsh Gallery in Palo Alto, California.

Nathan Oliveira, “Imi #3,” 1989, watercolor, 19 x 23 inches

“We had a joke at Yaddo,” recalls artist Imi Hwangbo, “that you don’t want to go to studio and find a note from the muse: I was here. Where were you?” Hwangbo, now a professor at the Lamar Dodd School of Art in Athens, Georgia, knows from personal experience how crucial the presence of a muse in an artist’s studio can be. In 1989, while a graduate student in sculpture at Stanford University, Hwangbo served as model and muse for Nathan Oliveira (1928–2010) a versatile artist…


The headstone of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
The headstone of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
The grave of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

June 26, 2020

Dear Jean-Michel,

Sorry to disturb your rest. Although your work offers instructions on how to repel ghosts, I am seeking yours out to provide some news and updates.

Since you left this world in 1988 there have been some developments that I think you would want to know about. I’m not sure if you are in Heaven or Hell—your life had its transgressions—but in either event I hope this reaches you wherever you are in eternity.

First, the good news. Earlier this year one of your paintings sold for more than $100 million dollars in a private…


Nuances in Abstract Painting at the Stanek Gallery, Philadelphia

“The Connoisseur” by Norman Rockwell: cover of the January 13, 1962 Saturday Evening Post

Can you remember the days when abstract art was widely misunderstood, ridiculed, and even feared by most Americans? I can.

While visiting a museum in college I once watched an irate mother drag her kids away from a Robert Motherwell painting, shrieking: “Get away from that piece of garbage!” And who hasn’t attended a gallery opening at which some self-proclaimed expert stationed himself/herself in front of a brushy abstraction, drink in hand, declaring: “My kid could do that!”

Yes, for decades after Life Magazine called Jackson Pollock “Jack the Dripper,” abstract…


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“All my life, my heart has sought a thing I cannot name.”

- Hunter S. Thompson

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If you want to freak out painter Scott Jones, here is what you need to do. Just wait for Scott in front of one of his canvases at an opening — sipping chardonnay or craft beer or whatever — and when heads your way just ask him: “Can you tell me more about this piece of yours?” You may find yourself waiting through an inordinately long pause and a noticeable bit of fidgeting with the label on his beer. What he’s doing…


After “Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe” (The Luncheon on the Grass) by Manet

Brenda Goodman, “Unfinished Memory,” 40" x 48" oil on wood, 2019
Brenda Goodman, “Unfinished Memory,” 40" x 48" oil on wood, 2019
Brenda Goodman, “Unfinished Memory,” 40" x 48" oil on wood, 2019

Brenda Goodman’s new show in Los Angeles is really two shows. The central space of The Landing Gallery—where the artist, her partner Linda Dunne and art dealer Gerard O’Brien chatted at a table left from opening night while I viewed Goodman’s paintings—holds the core of the exhibition. There is a selection of large oil on wood abstractions from 2019 interspersed with some recent small and medium-sized pieces. If I had seen only the fresh and ambitious works presented in this vaulted space, I would have left the gallery moved and impressed.


Trump/banana meme
Trump/banana meme
Digital meme based on Jon McNaughton’s 2019 “The Masterpiece” combined with Maurizio Cattellan’s Banana

You likely already know the full story of the Art Basel banana by now. Kudos is sadly due to trickster Maurizio Cattelan for creating an attention getting Instagrammable metaphor/meme that raked in a nice pile of cash. Good job telling us that everything is a sham while still profiting from the rigged system Maurizio!

Cattelan’s $120k banana reinforces an honest art student’s worst fear; that the market and social millieu that he/she wants to enter is too rotten to even make muffins with. Then again, only the idealistic ones see it that way. …


Tidying Up at the Museum (satire)

The following is not a transcript of a recent staff meeting held at the Major Museum of Art in New York City, led by Director Robert Caucasian and attended by Board President Helena Van Rightwing.

Robert: I hope everyone will welcome a visitor that I have invited to today’s meeting. She is Marie Studio-Apartment, a highly regarded consultant who assists museums with de-cluttering.

(polite applause)

Marie: (blushing) I’m just so happy to be here! I love museums, especially ones that are de-accessioning!

To get started, let me explain the process for museums. My Vasari…


To be successful as an artist in this day and age it is crucial that you justify your work as being contemporary. To be “contemporary” your work needs to be explained and justified in the language of postmodern theory. As works of art have evolved to require less skill in their making, artists have been become increasingly reliant on intellectual pedigrees substantiated by theory. Five hundred years ago, this wasn’t a concern.

In fact, it strikes me that without the right kind of theoretical writing to validate their work many of the great artists of the past would be in…

John Seed

John Seed is the author of “Disrupted Realism.” He has written for the HuffingtonPost, Hyperallergic, Arts of Asia & other fine publications. johnseed@gmail.com

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