Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Cork Flooring

Rodchenko: Cork Flooring

In my spam filter today an email enticingly headed: Are you Interested in Cork Flooring? Unless this is a very subtle sex-ad or an Irish travel agency, I assume it means what it says. And the shameful but honest answer would have to be No. And yet one could get interested, in much the same way as, say Ms Baroque is interested in Barnett Newman or, say, Aleksandr Rodchenko...

Universal Tile Co: Blue Tile

How would one develop an interest in cork flooring starting from zero? Or, for that matter, in Aleksandr Rodchenko? Is it a similar process?

Rodchenko did a great deal more than paint three monochrome canvases. He was a revolutionary Constructivist whose best work I find quite exhilarating. But, starting from zero, one wouldn't necessarily begin by working one's way through his artist's statements. Such as this one, quoted by M Baroque,

I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: it’s all over. Basic colors. Every plane is a plane and there is to be no representation.

Most art statements are mostly sound and fury signifying only a desire to create sound and fury, and that is pretty well the case with the Constructivist ones as well. The lecture Ms Baroque quotes from...

"From here, Constructivism proceeds to the negation of all art in its entirety, and calls into question the necessity of a specific activity of art as creator of a universal aesthetic.” - Varvara Stepanova: Lecture on Constructivism, 22 December 1921.

...is a case in point. You might well end up with cork flooring from there. Or nothing at all.

As to blue canvases, or black canvases, or red canvases, or white canvases, or bare unprimed canvases, and abstract painting in general my friend the novelist and, now, memoirist, Mr Foster, has a short series here, and here, and here. The first is by Mr Philip Guston, who is not fully committed to abstraction, the second by Mr Barnett Newman, who is, and the third is by Mr Gottlieb, who also is, albeit in a different way. If you don't like abstract art the man to write to is Clement Greenberg but he being dead you should not expect a reply.

Historically, there seems to have been less interest in cork flooring than in abstract art. I can see the attraction, of course. Soft tread, looks neat, suggestion of a workshop atmosphere combined with high-living. But it is undoubtedly the case that if I were approached at a party and asked: Are you interested in cork flooring? by a fellow guest, I might think him or her a little dull.

I see what I have done. I started out wanting to talk about the possibility of developing an interest in cork flooring and have been talking about abstract art instead. It seems cork flooring isn't holding my interest quite as it should.


There was an earlier error in captioning the pictures that I now put right.


Anonymous said...

Are we talking about self-adhesive cork flooring or the plain tiled variety?

George S said...

I didn't get that far in my enquiries, James. My interest flagged all too soon.

JRSM said...

This reminds me of 'DPM: Disruptive Pattern Material----An Encyclopedia of Camouflage in Nature, Warfare', a huge 1000-page book showing all the types of camouflage patterns that have been produced, for some vast sum of money.

By the way, just read 'The Rebels', and loved it, and (having also really loved 'A Journey Round My Skull' recently) turned to my Oxford guide to Literature in Translation to find me some more Hungarian goodness, and I see you wrote that bit of the book!

Thanks for bringing great stuff into English.

Gwil W said...

It's a bit like a dried out teabag in which one might see the face of a god.

George S said...

The great Cork God!

Jonathan Wonham said...

But you didn't say how the e-mail went on. Did it say: "Are you interested in cork flooring? Could you get other people interested in cork flooring? In which case, do we have a job for you!" (Director of Tate Modern).

George S said...

I think that is a question we might put to that well known art critic, Richard Cork, Jonathan.

It may also be that I lost interest after the first word of the second sentence. I must go back and check. When I say 'must' I mean it in the loosest sense of the word,

Anonymous said...

George, I thought I saw a face in that cork flooring tile. It was like the face of God, or a Mel Calman cartoon.

I never did my second post on the Constructivism exhibition. Much of the blame for the reaction I had lies, I think, with the curators, who gave us only these terribly banal words, written on the walls, and ignored the elephant int he room. I also find the graphics and photography exhilarating, and can remember a very different mood attaching to the whole thing than the one I felt the other day.
And I've been completely overtaken lately.

George S said...

I myself have a deep distrust of the curators, and have written about that before in writing about Fischli and Weiss - a good while ago now - and will probably write again some time.

My beef is about the way value is determined in art through a blissful marriage of markets and institutions. Curators are part of the food chain in which the director of the gallery dines on cash with the critic, the head of the art school and the potential investor/collector. This is all in the cause of deeply revolutionary, avant-garde, cutting-edge, genuine art. You need to be properly initiated to see that. That's because they're sophisticated and we're thick. The labels and captions and catalogues and earphone commentaries are education, so you can see things their way. Which is, after all, the only way.

Curators talk the right kind of shop talk. They subsitute what you should be seeing for what you might actually see.

Lecturers, lispers, loblolly men, louts, as Larkin put it. The fact that they often believe the talk is not necessarily a testament to their intelligence. Or even their integrity.

Not all curators of course and not all the time, but most likely those dealing with Modernism and beyond.