Still Stinks

Back when I was in college and still Pre-med, I got burned out fairly regularly. One afternoon, I ducked into a museum to unwind. Room after room left me with disgust. None of the paintings inspired anything that great art often evokes in viewers. Feelings of humility (Sistine Chapel), curiosity (Mona Lisa), humanity (Norman Rockwell), peace (Monet, anything flowery), wonderment, bemusement, spirituality. . . You get the idea.

I remember rounding the corner and seeing a particularly poor piece of art. Like what a near-sighted 5th grader would paint. Except it was hanging in a museum. And the artist, Clyfford Still, had his own little stretch of crap up. Don’t believe me, check these paintings out.

For $31,442,500, this coulda been yours:

Clyfford Still, 1947-Y-No. 2, 1947


Clyfford Still, 1949-A-No. 1, 1949

Sotheby’s rounded out New York’s major fall auctions Wednesday (early last November) by selling a quartet of Clyfford Still paintings for $114 million, nearly twice their combined asking price.


Clyfford Still, PH-1033, 1976

Clyff, brother. You a straight-up hustler. You convinced people that your junk’s something. Don’t tell me you did not go to sleep at night knowing what a fraud you are. Probably made you chuckle. What a sweet scam you had!

That said, readers, I would still not resort to what one deranged woman did to Clyfford, the Big Red Dog’s painting (NSFW-parts highlighted) :

Carmen Tisch, Not a Modern Art Lover

A 36-year-old woman was accused of causing $10,000 worth of damage to a painting by the late abstract expressionist artist Clyfford Still, a work valued at more than $30 million, authorities said on Wednesday.

A police report said Carmen Tisch punched and scratched the painting, an oil-on-canvas called “1957-J no.2”, at the recently opened Clyfford Still museum in Denver and pulled her pants down to slide her buttocks against it.

Tisch was charged with felony criminal mischief on Wednesday and has been held on a $20,000 bond since the incident in late December, said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney’s Office.

Damaged Clyfford Still, Before the, um, stuff

Kimbrough said Tisch urinated after she rubbed up against the canvas, but whether urine got on the painting was still under investigation, she said.

How about a mélange à quatre of Crazy Clyff’s best quotes?

“I never wanted color to be color. I never wanted texture to be texture, or images to become shapes. I wanted them all to fuse together into a living spirit.”

“It’s intolerable to be stopped by a frame’s edge.”

“I am not interested in illustrating my time. A man’s “time” limits him, it does not truly liberate him. . .

Clyfford Still, Fraud

. . .Our age – it is one of science, of mechanism, of power and death. I see no point in adding to its mechanism of power and death. I see no point in adding to its mammoth arrogance the compliment of a graphic homage.”

“How can we live and die and never know the difference?”

Drugs. We’ve lost beauty in our art. Because of drugs. And the degradation of morals. I searched through some of Clyff’s other “works” looking for anything resembling talent. These come close, maybe:

Clyfford Still SAAMearly, 1932

And this vaguely John Steinbeckian piece.
Clyff had to hide his lack of talent behind
amorphous shapes and blurry faces:

Clyfford Still PH77, 1937

100 bucks at a garage sale. Not for me, but someone would pay.

Arty snoots, please don’t tell me I don’t understand art either. I know nonsense when I see it. These well-educated hucksters were all part of the scam:

  • “Still makes the rest of us look academic.” -Jackson Pollock
  • “His show at (Peggy Guggenheim’s The Art of This Century Gallery in 1946), of all those early shows [Pollock, Rothko, Motherwell], was the most original. A bolt out of the blue. Most of us were still working through images . . . Still had none.” -Robert Motherwell
  • “When I first saw a 1948 painting of Still’s . . . I was impressed as never before by how estranging and upsetting genuine originality in art can be.” -Clement Greenberg, art critic; American-Type Painting’, Partisan Review, 1955, p.58
  • “A remarkable and ultimately highly influential maverick . . . an independent genius.” -Sam Hunter, modern art historian
Clyfford Still 1957-D1, 1957
  • “It was in the mid-1940s that Still asserted himself as one of the most formally inventive artists of his generation.” -John Golding, art historian; Paths to the Absolute, 2000, Princeton University Press
  • “With their crude palette-knifed and troweled surfaces, their immense space, their strong color, their relentless vertical and horizontal expansiveness, Still’s abstract works project a forcefulness perhaps unequaled in Abstract Expressionist painting.” -Stephen Polcari, art historian; Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience, 1991, Cambridge University Press
  • “A singular talent whose dimension will not be fully known in his own lifetime.” -Robert Hughes, former Time magazine art critic; Time Magazine, Prairie Coriolanus, Feb 9, 1976

What clowns! Do they think we believe that Clyff’s “art” is wonderful because they proclaim it so? Well, they fooled someone to the tune of $114 Million. I would much drather go for a walk in a forrest or a field somewhere:

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

6 thoughts on “Still Stinks”

  1. Yeah, I’ve got to agree with you, not much there to call ‘art’… But he did scam a bunch of snooty folks out of $$, so he did pretty well…

  2. The most accomplished scam artist of all is one who can fool both the art critics and himself…funny and slightly ironic …did he achieve this sort of fame before he passed on? Guess you’re not a fan of the abstract…I don’t know anything about art at all..I would say reality based art is more recognizable and therefore more appreciated..although I have to admit, I certainly don’t consider the crucified Christ languishing in urine a work of art…I wonder if Clyfford would? I guess since he isn’t around to ask, the question remains a moot point…

  3. Old NFO: He did scam ’em, but he thought he was some great artist. And in reality, he was a hack.
    Kris: I guess I don’t like the abstract. Probably because it sucks.

  4. It’s the emperor has no clothes. Everyone knows it is not art, but they are not willing to say so for fear of being uncool.

  5. My 9 year-old nephew does better work than this and all he has are Crayola Crayons. Go figure.

  6. Like Kristen, I prefer reality-based art; some of my favorites are works by the Wyeth family ………………………………

    Semper Fi’

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