What you said about what we said last week
Again at the end of the week we find ourselves thinking, God bless our comments section. Where else can readers weigh in on arcane questions of art theory, then actually get a response from the author? Reader Ryan McCourt took issue with the use of the term “zombie formalism” in a quote in Kriston Capps ’ cover story on D.C. artist Sam Gilliam. In you case you skimmed over that part, art critic Walter Robinson said he coined that phrase to describe the bringing back to life of the discarded aesthetics of Clement Greenberg . “Every time I see this nonsense repeated, it looks more ridiculous than the last,” wrote McCourt. “Greenberg’s ‘aesthetics’ were never in need of resuscitation, and have never been ‘discarded’ by any serious person in the art world. All of the artists he championed are still revered, still ‘blue-chip’... people who never understood Greenberg cannot be said to have discarded something they never grasped in the fist place.”
This quibble over terminology would have probably passed without response or comment on most other sites, but this is Washington City Paper you’re reading. We’re not most sites. Capps chimed in, and it started to look like we had a real gentleman’s quarrel on our hands: “This is a silly comment.” [ Editor’s note : This is the art-writing equivalent of a roundhouse kick to the face.] “Whether or not you agree with Walter Robinson’s assessment of Clem Greenberg’s has absolutely no bearing on how I should use the quote. The notion of ‘zombie formalism’ came up as an important concern in discussing Sam Gilliam’s work. I would not refuse to discuss an idea because I disagreed with some part of it. Your complaint is with Walter Robinson and the many people who consider his coinage useful and influential. Not with me.”
Let’s move on to those readers who remembered Gilliam’s influence on a more personal level. targetaldaniels reminisced: “My friends were artists who rented space in Mr. Gilliam’s building in 1991. We were a wild bunch of kids, but we knew enough of his reputation to kind of shut up as we walked by his front door: who knew what genius was happening behind that door....he had a mystique and we were reverent. Honestly, though, I never really knew anything about him...just that he was supposed to be important. Thank you, WCP , for this article and for shedding some light.” Leroy Payton wrote to share fond memories of being a student of Gilliam’s while at McKinley Technology Education Campus in Eckington: “It was so full of energy, vibrant, motivation and creativity. I will always be proud to have known and briefly studied under Mr. Gilliam.”
One person who read last week’s Loose Lips column was convinced that the District’s mayor and members of its Council are up to no good in their handling of a controversial D.C. Jail health-care contract. Why? Because local politicians are themselves convinced they’ll end up behind bars and want to make it a comfortable destination. In response to a commenter’s question about Mayor Muriel Bowser’s motivation to advance the contract, the aptly-pseudonymed Dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock wrote, “Council’s motivation is clear, considering how many of them wind up at the Greybar Hotel. They want the best digs possible should they end up indoors for an extended stay.” This theory falls apart, however, when one considers that the main objection to the contract centers around Corizon’s alleged mistreatment of inmates. Better luck next time.
Department of Corrections
Last week’s LL column contained a math error. There are currently 11 D.C. councilmembers and one mayor, which is a total of 12, not 13, people.