PRINT May 1985


Gemini G.E.L.

What was noticed (what the book made me think about):

That every artist has a kind of goad in the form of another artist who represents what they don’t like about being an artist. These goads/other artists are not so much inventories of what to avoid as an artist as they are an embodiment of what other people, nonartists that is should not think artists are. This could be either their relationship to and manner of carrying around their celebrity (who is watching); or their overprofessionalism, which puts a rationalized face on a near-random thing—work patterns of relative arbitrariness (habits) can, with unembarrassed beefing up of hindsight, be entered into canon as internally logical progressions or developments; or their relationship to approval which puts a strain on the authenticity of these developments; or the nice-guy face put on their egomania; or their snide/cool/puritan/effete/rage; or their unswerving self-confidence in their ideas which are believed/presented to be askew or subversive but are variants of passive authoritarianisms; or it could be something which makes all of these things subgenres of an oily complicity with alI the institutions of “noticing” that provide the format for the convention of nonconformity. Thinking about this gives minutia-queasiness, like trying to pick up shards of glass with a bad hangover in bright sunlight. Or it could be their industriousness; their workmanlike habits, their relentless productivity; their punching the esthetic timeclock; their emblematic tidiness or their emblematic messiness in their studio; in short a connection to and unconscious love for the adjectives that describe them and in short their belief that these indignities become something else when transformed in a near-alchemical way by their work. This is about problems in representation, and the complicit agreements that create them.

The unintended feeling-tone of the Gemini catalogue has surprising parallels with the subject of T.J. Clark’s new book, The Painting of Modern Life.

This was the essential task of the courtisane, or the joueuse, the lionne, the impure, the amazone, the fille de marbre, the mangeuse d’hommes, the demi-mondaine, or the horizontale—her names were legion, but they all meant much the same thing. The courtisane was a category, that is my argument: one which depended not just on a distinct ion made between courtisane and femme honnête—though this was the dominant theme of the myth—but also on one between courtisane and prostitute proper. The category courtisane was what could be represented of prostitution, and for this to take place at all, she had to be extracted from the swarm of mere sexual commodities that could be seen making use of the streets. These humbler tradespeople were shuffled off stage, and the world of sex was divided in two: on the one hand, the dark interior of the maison close, where the body escaped outright from the social order, and on the other the glittering, half-public palaces of the grandes cocottes on the Champs-Elysées. Money and sex were thus allowed to meet in two places: either apart from imagery altogether, in the private realm, in the brothers illicit state of nature; or in the open space of the spectacle, the space of representation itself, where both could appear as images pure and simple.

The Gemini book is mostly about the packaging (pseudo-extending) of the ’60s into the 70s. The twist to the Gemini program is what was done to deflect the perception that the growth of the print industry represents the institutionalization of the spectacle of creativity that made ’60s headlines. This was accomplished through skillful representations of the idea of the liberating (for creativity) potential of technology.

One artist in the book sticks out. The pitfalls and venalities I started out listing can be embodied by any artist—the embodying artist is less the point than that artists have a horror of the way that the artist is represented and this is simply more visible in others. There is no particular relationship between these problems of representation and the value of an artist’s work. Most of the artists in the Gemini book are very good artists. The goad artist could theoretically be any artist, good or bad, yet I suspect that for many artists, the artist who, for his unctuousness, irrelevant contrariness, and tepidness, the artist who energetically comes to represent many things degrading about being an artist, is David Hockney.

The story of Gemini G.E.L. is about its development from traditional print shop to light industry. This isn’t necessarily pejorative; the shift took place within the particular Los Angeles honeymoon spirit of the Art and Technology project, but it does invite you to walk into the potentially cavernous emptiness behind the idea of editioning an ice bag. The strange thing about making things bigger is that it reminds you of making them smaller, of miniaturization.

The book is part catalogue raisonné and part theatrical program/scrap book/souvenir from a spectacle in which Modern artists take on the modern print shop. The author’s methodical factuality is supposed to obviate doubt as to the seriousness of the enterprise but in fact the book is more a chronicle than history—there are few ideas in it. The message is fairly simple: these artists are important (although some more important than others, according to the size of their photographs), they made prints, and now their prints are important. The text and photos stress the idea that prints are made by skilled printers working in collaboration with artists, but this seems to be the case in widely varying degrees. There are some amusing photographs of artists and co-collaborators on the job and relaxing at the job site, including one marvelous picture of Roy Lichtenstein painting brushstrokes. The dust jacket has a Robert Rauschenberg on the front cover and a Jasper Johns on the back.

David Salle


Ruth E. Fine, Gemini G.E.L. (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, and New York: Abbeville Press, 1984), 280 pages, 190 black and white illustrations, 124 color plates.