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February 12, 2024 By Alex Vlasov
AM Radio

Photo by Alex Vlasov

This story begins when I got sober, packed my bags, and left New York. I almost knew nothing about art history or painting upon entering art school. I reveled in the bravura moments of stretching canvas and mixing paint. My education in Painting was paramount. I belonged to something for the first time in my life. Nothing was more exciting than talking about color, form, mark, space, noise, Abstraction. We read Kosuth, Sillman, Plato, Schjeldahl, Graw, Sontag, Danto, Barthes, hooks, Derrida. We went to coffee shops and talked about morphologies, centripetal and centrifugal grids, plane images, atemporality, varnishes, rabbit skin glue, and GAC 200. 


Me and my peers began showing our work everywhere in town around junior year. But no one outside of our art bubble really cared. Let’s be brutally honest - if you are not in New York, no one will write critically about your work, whether you are a student or not. The relationship of critics who write to art itself is flimsy. The problem is that most critics are more fluent in writing than art. And how can you write about arithmetic if you don’t know how to count? In writings on art, there is no dictionary. There is only knowledge of the game. 


All this flutter, however, starts a couple of blocks away from an art school. Start asking people if they happen to know who Gerhard Richter is.​​ The best answer would be, “It sounds very German.” After that, you don’t have to ask if they know about anybody else. Then it occurred to me, how would they know if they don’t? Nobody talks or writes about art anymore. Even if they do write, most likely, they have no fucking idea what they are talking about. They do not know what “PTG” means. They have no clue about the sides of a painting or Rosalind Krauss and Grids. And how would they know? They are outsiders.     


Eventually, many of my friends and colleagues stopped caring. But this is no joke. There is a lot of good art outside of New York. Yet if nobody writes about it, nobody knows. There is no discourse. Art, even if it is good, becomes like AM Radio. It is there, but no one listens to it. 


I wanted to chat with Rothko as I stood before his works on paper in the National Gallery two months ago. “Mark,” I wanted to say, “about the artworld, art critics, and the thing when you guys had nothing to lose. I know you were sick, like I am now, from all those bureaucrats who entered our world to make money or their name. Is there still a chance that we can be free, do what we love, and people can know?” Standing in front of one of his paintings, at that moment, I knew Rothko would look at me and say, “Silence is so accurate.”

Any meaningful change in the artworld must begin with artists. It is our fault if people who cover arithmetic write without knowing how to count. And for a change of my romantic monotony in Michigan, I have decided to take a shot at them now. 

Alex Vlasov

February 2024

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