Steve Mumford


Painter said...

Steve Mumford @
459 West 19th Street (at 10th Avenue) New York, NY 10011

painterdog said...

not sure what to make of his work.
he's a good painter, but the Iraq work while it was a risky thing to do, it seems so detached from the subject in some way. I remember seeing a the British painter Peter Howson's work from Bosnia and its really dealing with an emotional responce to events, Mumford seems more like a just the facts war artist.

This painting seems to break away from that somewhat.

exu said...

I don't have a problem with detatchment,if that is what is going on here-we can bring our own stuff to this subject-and its good someone took it on-but some of the works one can see online are too grey-white,not interestingly composed,and a little sketchy to warrant the size,maybe-it is a very dun colored landscape,of course-not visually thrilling

SisterRye said...

It seems to overly romanticize the war, or the men of war. I think it tries to make the accused(?) look like a sexy Jesus with his shirt ripped, and the soldier on the right looks too clean, like his shirt just came out of a drycleaning bag. This might hang in a veteran’s memorial office beurocratic building. I'm not sure if that's his intent: jcrew models play at war. I prefer something like the emotive Kathe Kollwitz response to suffering.

no-where-man said...

holly closeted homoerotic republican porn!

operation enduring artist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
operation enduring artist said...

i feel he presents even less of a comment on the war than most photo journalists. he offers no strong subjective viewpoint on the situation...he also offers nothing that we dont already know, nothing to stimulate our thoughts about or our questions of the war. with painting he has the oportunity to comment on the war, to BE subjective and instigate some form of conversation or debate. he hasnt yet. everyone just praises him for going to the source...ok, but what was it like, not what did you see...we can see this in any given magazine.

poppy said...

porn that leaves me dangling

Cooky Blaha said...

dude looks like david blaine and shit

heidilolatheayatollah said...

I'm with operation enduring artist although I feel bad because he went to Iraq and I feel I should add SOMETHING constructive...... Goya's disaster of war stuff was effective, as was Kollowitz, but still--I think painting images of sex or war are 2 tough category for painters as they tend to fail running up against the photographic image.

operation enduring artist said...

sure, when attempting to 'depict' something a photo is much more efficient. however, paintings strength is in conveying the feeling or emothion or impact of an event. goya wasnt trying to paint what happened or what it looked like, he was painting the emotional essence, making visable the feeling. this is what i think mumford is failing to do.

epilepticadam said...

goya 'made up'/invented the images;...brilliant, he didn't have to see bodies hanging from a tree to depict it convincingly...

operation enduring artist said...


Decay Image said...

Why does everyone have such stereotyped ideas of what "war art" should look like? As if the main requirement should be to show innocent people suffering. I think it is more profitable to look at how his approach to the subject matter is different from other artists, not how it doesn't measure up to some pre-existing ideal.

These paintings are a different matter from the drawings he did in Iraq. The construction of a particular fiction is what is interesting here. Sisterye's jesus reference is intriguing because I think there is a real attempt to link the structure of this picture with art historical referents like the Piero baptism of Christ. NWman's closeted homoerotic comment, while belittling, does point to the fact that these paintings are all about men, but really not in an erotic way. Just because a man deals with male relationships does not make it homoerotic. C'mon, how high school! For a good reference look up Manet's "Taunting of Christ" (at Chicago Art institute), also an all male painting, and not about religion, though that is the ostensible subject matter.

These paintings should be seen because Mumford's painting has vastly improved, though perhaps the show would have benefited with fewer works. I just think that so far people are approaching this work way too simplisticly, and precisely because he does not fit neatly into any of the boxes everyone is trying to put him.

no-where-man said...

and i hear the same lame flag wagging chest beating where if you don't approve of his work it MUST have to do with your liberal stance... thats just BS this work leaves me dry.

closeuup said...

No painting or documentary photographer can compete with the photos taken by the soldiers themselves--that's whats new about war in 2006. Technology=DIY. I cant remember that link I posted some months back. A guy posting pphotos from US participants in Iraq. Anybody know where that is?

closeuup said...


Thousand Points of Light said...


His drawings @ the PS 1 show in 2005 made a lot more sense. Journalistic and sketchy, they were appropriate to that moment, or at least our mediated understanding of that moment and place.

As the Iraq project verges on the precipiece of complete chaos, the monumentalizing of his earlier efforts into very composed paintings is really at odds with reality as we understand it.

I wonder who in the world pushed him down the path from those drawings to these paintings.

no-where-man said...

decay image, - sorry if that came off as "belittling" being bi and spending 99% of my time around homosexuals i would not have thought it that way - your comment does point to something somewhat sad.

Decay Image said...

As hard as it may seem to be, again I must ask, why does this work have to be about politics? I don't at all think Mumford is trying to monumentalize his drawings. His drawings were trying to construct a depiction of daily life in an urban war zone. These are trying to understand how the presence of an armed foreign power in urban life is a fiction that we can try to understand based on our cultural understanding of painting and also of other war depictions. I think they are supposed to "leave you dry." Otherwise it would be war porn.

Something else that I would like to address, is that one of the peculiar things about this "war" that politicians are so intent on labeling as "winning" or "losing" is that much of it is being fought in urban areas in a formerly fairly westernized culture. The disruption or actually reconstitution of daily life by our military presence presents a different picture of war than what we are used to thinking about. At this point I can't figure out what winning or losing even means. I also think the major war that is being waged in this country and around the world is the war against Modernity. The battle to replace progressive ideologies with fundamentalism either of the Christian or Muslim is a world-wide struggle which effects even ideas that we have come to think of as post-modern, like a return to traditional "sustainable" ecological or organic farming methods.

Thousand Points of Light said...

What I took away from first seeing his drawings in a long hallway @ the ps 1 show in 2005 was a series of sketchy drawings that looked very much like war journalism, seemingly from the perspective of a journalist, not someone who lives there. To boot, they had fine art aspirations which set them off from images in, say, Time magazine.

I remember reading snipets about his work, his intent; it was then completely bound to the notion of war journalism, 'embedded journalists', ect., and playing with notions of what that was.

That seems to me his entry point into this body of work, and I read these paintings as a direct extension of the intent I saw on hand @ PS 1. And I think they went in an uncomplicated, uncompromised, unoriginal direction, even as they seem accomplished.

zipthwung said...


"Just because a man deals with male relationships does not make it homoerotic."

Cant help staring at the centered nipple. I hope thats not just me.

This reminds me of the stuff grad students paint - the kind that idolize velasquez or Norman ROckwell or whoever.

Like when you go to a bar and some souless green bottle, members only, preppie is playing pool with their own stick. What is that?

Arrested development? Closure for closures sake?
TV for TV people?

THis painting is destined to move to suburbia and have kids. It will be the quirky house with the semper fi flag out front and a statue of the thinker out back.

The kids will play war games and the dad will go drink with his embedded buddies.

I do like the photographic official portrait feel though - I find it alienating in the same way as Alex Katz, only less WASP and more museum of infantry. WASIP.

zipthwung said...

shoulda coulda woulda

drone tone

zipthwung said...

mama sang base. Daddy sang fiddle. Bobby drank the mug and the beer bob mama.

George said...

Mumford’s paintings appear to be painted well enough, so I won’t quibble over the question other than to say the paintings don’t transcend the subject.

The subject is the problem, war and its participants. In paintings history, there are paintings touching on the glories of war, the disasters of war and those which are just another day at the office.

I am sorry but for me, Mumford’s paintings come across as "just another day at the office," another phrase for propaganda. I suggest that they glorify war by making it seem ‘normal’ when in fact it is an aberration of humankind. There is something uncharacteristically benign in these paintings, as if terror has been distilled away. Duel has the kill action, but it it’s defanged down to a video capture or comic book illustrative moment.
Brabbins, "Submarine Torpedo bay", 1945 The link is a painting made during WWII by a British painter, it’s coming up for sale at Christie’s. One might argue that Mumford’s paintings are technically ‘better’ but that’s not the point. Both paintings, and some others in the auction, depict war as a ‘normalized’ palliative for the home audience. If one pokes around in this auction catalogue, the psychic disturbance felt in England is clearly evident in the other works. WWII was and this is, not just another day at the office

They are about denial.

zipthwung said...

You could gass on about Guy Debord or Carnivalesque but thats pretty thin. Everybody should post their favorite big war paintings to compare.

I was just looking at one where this guy is turning green as some shrapnell is removed from his head. Its in a trench. Nicely painted in an illustrative way, like a Robert Louis Stevenson Novel.

Decay Image said...

George, I just don't think you are looking at the ambiguity of this particular image. Look at this and compare:

Here's what I see and interpret: two american soldiers, one in the foreground, one to the left, staring at the central figure who seems to be Iraqi, or at least foreign (we are assuming these are all Iraqi war), who seems to be vulnerable, because of his clothing, accused of something (possibly, or just under suspicion?) and at the mercy of the soldiers, he looks as if he has been a little roughed up and he is staring at the viewer. In the background is another older, bearded, more fully clothed Iraqi, who seems to be pointing out the central figure while staring at him, almost casually, as if he doesn't want to be seen as overtly accusing him. He is talking to another soldier type, who's clothing, which is not regulation military wear, which in addition to his mustache, & foreign(ish?) features seems to indicate that he may be an interpreter(but this is certainly ambiguous). Is the central figure guilty, or is he being framed. Do we see him as enemy or victim? Does he look guilty or resentful? Does his white-bearded accuser seem sinister, helpful, or neither. Is he pointing out the central figure or does his finger just happen to be pointing in that direction?

I maintain that this complex ambiguity is not grad student work. It is not war as just another day at the office, but speaks directly to our complex position there. I am not at all sure where our sympathies are supposed to lie, unlike most of the posts. Even in the less complex "Duel" where the viewer's point of view is placed with the soldiers that are facing certain death from the approaching grenade, I don't think we are supposed to see the insurgent as the enemy, especially given everyone's politicized point of view. This all sounds like a bunch of old-style feminists critcizing Currin for not being politically correct, when the real politics of these vignettes are much more ambiguous. I don't know where you get this work is about denial. This isn't WWII, it's not even Vietnam, or Bosnia. It is it's own totally fucked up situation.

operation enduring artist said...

david milne's war watercolors go beyond just depicting an event. he also uses photography as a source and his images are also somwhat quiet. i think his works are much more compelling.

heidilolatheayatollah said...

Old style feminists critcizing Currin is where it's at Decay Image!

heidilolatheayatollah said...

"where it's at" meaning good stuff

George said...


I read the painting the same as you. I didn’t imply that Mumford’s paintings were ‘grad student work’ (I don’t teach so I don’t even know) I did say they were reasonably well painted and I have no doubt that Mumford paintings are a sincere expression of an experience most readers here don’t have.

I disagree that there is any difference between this ‘war’ and past wars other than it is more technology driven and media mediated. Whoever said ‘war is hell’ got it right. War is about killing someone else, before he kills you, all because political leaders couldn’t find another way to resolve the problem. War is inherently ambiguous, chaos. I am reasonably sure that since Mumford was there in Iraq, he is aware of these points and that they might have been on his mind as he made these paintings. I haven’t been to see the show yet, I’ll try tomorrow. Never the less, from what I’ve seen so far the paintings don’t transcend the image, I feel like I’m looking at a mediated image, as if there is a screen between me and what is depicted.

Decay Image said...

George, the grad student remark was directed at zip. Anyway, can't argue with your feelings that the paintings don't transcend the image, but aren't all images mediated? Unless you mean seeing it through a photographic source, which, while I think he has photographic references, I believe these are constructed from a lot of different sources, and not merely copied.

I do think this war is different in that there wasn't a clear plan in going in there, and that we have created a mess that will have no winners or losers, just a bloody deadly crazy mess, that seems impossible to extract ourselves from. We have neighbors trying to kill neighbors, as the NYTimes showed, the military believes Iraq is a few clicks away from total chaos.

Heidi, while the terms of the discussion have certainly changed in the last ten years, the original feminist critiques of Currin (that he was making anti-feminist depictions of women and their bodies, or stereotyped depictions) were unsophisticated, because those criticisms were embodied and acknowledged in the work itself. It was satirizing political correctness, which had become stultifyingly predictable. It is like criticizing Borat for being anti-semitic. Maybe now there is a different set of parameters, but I think Currin is far more misanthropic than misogynistic.

Decay Image said...

OEA, are you refering to this stuff?
Milne watercolor
you can't be serious. Are you from canada or something?

painterdog said...

Look at Howson's paintings from Bosnia:
or http://www.peterhowson.net

click on Peter Howson, I know some of his work is kind corny but the Bosnia work is very good, he was sent by the British War museum, and they hated the work he produced. He went twice, the first time caused a nervous breakdown.

Der Krieg, by Otto Dix.

By the way Goya did see some of the horrors he depicted in his tome Desastre de la Guerra.

Mumford in my view missed a great opportunity to do some real compeling work. It was a once in life time thing and he fucking missed by miles.

heidilolatheayatollah said...

I don't know man, Milnes paintings look a lot like if Darger was walking across the street and was hit by an oncoming vehicle at 100mph and went back to painting the very next day. Not so good.

Thousand Points of Light said...

George said:

"I feel like I’m looking at a mediated image, as if there is a screen between me and what is depicted."

If only he would play up this fact more!

He could push these paintings so much harder. There's hints here and there, just as in his drawings. But for some reason he went the other direction and ended up with stilted work.

Great thread, thanks all for the interesting pov.

operation enduring artist said...

right artist but wrong work. look at his battlefield paintings. i dont know what i was talking about when i said that he uses photographic sources.?. anyway, i was refering to the battlefield scenes. they contain a silence and a horor. i was also thinking of your comment:

"Why does everyone have such stereotyped ideas of what "war art" should look like? As if the main requirement should be to show innocent people suffering."

the battlefield works speak to war with out literalizing it, yes the occasional 'dead' tank, but other than that they have this haunting quality.

as for where to see these images...? i have the book but cant seem to find these images online. just take my word. or dont. but they are worth looking at. they have the same painted quality as the image decay posted. however i feel it seems a bit out of place in that image where as in the battlefield works the urgent marks seem to translate into an feeling of urgency or an anxiety that i would imagine couples war.

George said...


Your characterization of war is taken from a strategic or political perspective and in that sense, this war is different. In the sense that ‘war is hell,’ chaos, and a depraved condition of humanity, they are all the same. For those who lived in NYC on 9/11, who can forget the confusion in the first few hours, the toxic smell and the hold in the sky? These memories, brief in time and to a much smaller small degree, are the daily condition in a war zone and life goes on until it doesn’t.

What I meant by ‘mediated’ has something to do with the photograph. Not the use of a photograph as an initial source, I think it’s a fairly common and expedient solution to a problem. I think the photograph has changed how we see the painted image. The photograph’s mechanical correspondence to the world outside has become a model for the veracity of an image. In spite of its distortions, the photograph and it’s spawn have caused a change in how we see a painting. By this I mean that, after the invention of photography, a painting can ‘look’ like a photograph which becomes a form of distancing. It creates a conceptual framework where the image could have a relationship to a photograph rather than the subject. The painting can becomes a picture of a picture rather than a painting of a subject (picture). In Mumford’s case, I can see how he is wrestling with the problem but I am still left with the feeling I have seen the ‘image’ somewhere else. It is this distancing or defection which I find problematic, slightly voyeuristic, like looking through a peephole in time.

zipthwung said...

"I maintain that this complex ambiguity is not grad student work. It is not war as just another day at the office"

Baudrillard said the war never happened. By which I guess he meant the mediation is the message and the image and the event itself, even. Iraq: Welcome to the desert of the irrelevant.

But arent we all just people, cant we all just get along? No. We cant. Not even in grad school.

Oh yes, evil can be as banal as a filing cabinet, or a photograph. Or a watercolor. Or an oil painting.

Anyone want to go and get their free sports watch at the army recruiter? they are offering a 20,000 dollar signing bonus! Think of how much oil paint you could buy with that!

Anyone want my diploma?

cathy said...

War art politics la de da.

I agree on what George said.

I think this would have been more compelling as a photograph rather than a painting.

Painted with emotion, the painting would be powerful.

Just an image

zipthwung said...

DO you think the easter islanders knew they were doomed or do you think they had an artist who, like a shaman, painted tree stumps?

Woah dude, im just a stone head maker, but you, you tell the truth!

No man, you cut stone, Im just a painter, brah.

Got anything to eat?

Me neither.

I thought art was supposed to be the lie that sells the truth? Or is it the truth is out there?

"Do I cringe when I see the Discovery Channel and I see Idaho State University, Jeff Meldrum? Yes, I do," Hackworth said. "He believes he's taken up the cause of people who have been shut out by the scientific community. He's lionized there. He's worshipped. He walks on water. It's embarrassing."


soilent green - dreams do come true.

George said...


I’m not sure if it was a photograph it would necessarily be better, just a different can of worms. Also, I am not sure if the paint handling is quite the issue either. Generally speaking, this is a matter of personal taste, some artists render the picture tightly, others are more expressive in the paint handling, and while we may personally prefer one over the other, I would be hard pressed to say one was better.
It may be how the paintings are setup, they resemble a photographic view, intentional or not. The way the image is painted adheres to this point of view and the photographic reference distances the viewer.
I am sure Mumford’s experience in Iraq must have been emotionally powerful and that it is not something he will forget. Somehow, it doesn’t come across in these paintings, something feels repressed or thwarted in the attempt to make what he saw ‘art.’ I don’t think this is a terminal situation, he may just need more time to investigate the subject and to strip it down to its core essence.

epilepticadam said...


i have come across several sources including the huge show he had in nyc many years ago that it is undeniably questionable as to what he actually witnessed versus the idea of 'witness':

the point being: he used his imagination and invented perhaps what he may have seen (if he did/ he certainly knew what was going on) and depicted it beyond literalness... that is one reason why they are so brilliant alongside his mastery in drawing...

painterofpainters said...

this is worse than screenshots of good computer game. no feeling of presence, no actual involvement but this sheety 'painting' of damn postcards. that a jerk wanted to make a n$ice on something he has never seen and felt.

no-where-man said...

silly fags

harold hollingsworth said...

oh brother...

painterdog said...


I agree with you 100%. I'm not into Mumfords work at all, I think he has skill and like I said I think he missed an opportunity of a life time.

Howson did it better.

But how can we compair a master such as Goya to Mumford?

Dix's work is by far the most intense war art I have seen. He did 3 tours in WW1, what a nut case, and he used photos as well of war wounded, but Der Krieg is an amazing set of prints on the dawn of modern warfare base on what he witnessed.

Cooky Blaha said...

"I had to experience how someone beside me suddenly falls over and is dead and the bullet has hit him squarely. I had to experience that quite directly. I wanted it. I'm therefore not a pacifist at all - or am I? "
--Otto Dix

zipthwung said...

Aw c'mon, these are as good as Edvard Munch only less expressive. I, for one am tired of all this wartime angst. Before that it was the cold war and before that it was Jimmy Carters stagflationary economics. I shook his hand in Chicago. It was totally OPEC! I saw a secret service agent. THe agents were the ones dressed fashionably, had hats and wore those transistor radio ear pieces. I couldnt hear what they were saying because it was secret!

speaking of peak experiences:


Youll note that the WOA award logo is fucking amateur because they didnt even select the grey in the letters and the jaggies are frightening.
If youre going to run a scam, make it look like you tried to get a good designer like the one that does all the chelsea galleries. THey are top shelf.

Also, here
i'd be telling these dudes to get my museum off their web page. It looks like they are affiliated in some way doesnt it?

Oh yeah, I know Jimmy Carter. See, heres me and Jimmy at the fundraiser.


Love Jimmie Pop.

zipthwung said...

oh and Goya is war porn. DIsasters of war is like fangoria magazine.

Im so desensitized I can eben feth my ung.


epilepticadam said...

i love porn and donuts...

zipthwung said...

Holland cotter said gunfire was the dominant music of the time of Matisse, and I know for a FACT that it was some sort of classical music like Baroque or Romantic or something.

WHats black and white and red all over?

A newspaper!

zipthwung said...

free picture of jimmy and a killer rabbit. Scroll Down. Have a billy beer. Eat a donut.

http://www.narsil.org/politics/carter/killer_rabbit.htmlWell, I talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about, Talk about
Talk about movin

Gotta move on
Gotta move on
Gotta move on

Won't you take me to
Won't you take me to
Won't you take me to
Won't you take me to

painterdog said...

Ok I have been thinking about this to much, but here goes, its been bothering me all day, what Mumfords paintings remind me of. German WW2 propoganda painting.


painterdog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
painterdog said...


painterdog said...


cha said...

Painting or photo... doesn't matter which. It's who's doing what and who's in control...

kalm james said...

Excuse me, but I think that Mumford is playing a brilliant game here. People are seeing what they expect to see, (big bad American soldiers hurting little brown folks for big oil) or some other such sympathetic interpretation, but not actually “seeing” the painting. Take a second look, there are no weapons, no guns, no knives no bombs. No one is arrested, because there are no handcuffs. A guy’s shirt is torn but what does that mean?

Imagine text bubbles with the following comments floating over the character’s heads.

Guy in camo on left: “Damb, that taboolie sauce always gives me heartburn!”

Guy in center with torn shirt, (in a thought bubble): “Crap these guys are such lousy tippers, I had to ride my bike way the hell over here to deliver lunch, and that wacky chick in the park even tried to rip off my shirt.”

Old dude with turban: “Hey, what do you expect from me, I told him not to put too much sauce on those falafels, the kid’s new.”

Civilian contractor cat: “What do you mean I can’t get beef in my falafel, I’m sick of this veggie stuff. I say we go for pizza next time.”

Helmeted soldier in lower right corner: “Where’s my ice tea? Did this order come with cina-buns too?”

Not so sinister now huh, or maybe so.

zipthwung said...


Or we can go with deleuze:

In the time-image, rational or measurable temporal links between shots, the staple of the movement-image, gives way to "incommensurable," non-rational links. Because of these non-rational links between shots, vacant and disconnected spaces begin to appear ("any-space-whatevers"). As a consequence, the journey becomes a privileged narrative form, with characters in a more passive role, and themes centered on inner mental imagery, flights of fancy, and emotional and psychic breakdown. The result of this pure optical and sound image is, according to Deleuze, a direct image of time (a time-image or crystal-image).


closeuup said...

so whats that on the left shoulder of the guy with the headscarf--is that blond hair?

zipthwung said...

By foregrounding the nipple, mumford defamiliarizes it, bringing about a detournement in our regular interpretive process.

Note the old man throwing signs.

I dunno, I got a hooker propositioning me. Baby its cold outside, but not that cold.

zipthwung said...

I dont know if thats blond hair but the plaid shirt looks like Wal Mart.

painterdog said...

read what you will, there is to much history and baggage in this kind of painting, socialist realism etc.

The work is infused with this, its reeking of it.

cathy said...

It bothers me because I feel its not painted emotionally, perhaps.

I think it would be interesting if they were all naked.

George said...

did anybody see the Botero show at Marlborough?

Decay Image said...

There is not a painting on this blog that is not infused with history and baggage. That's the whole point of postmodern painting—where do you go with your baggage? How do you re-interpret a moribund genre?

And what constitutes something painted emotionally? A lot of drips and brushstrokes? Do only histrionic emotions count, or can a Mondrian be emotional? Is Sargeant (no pun intended) emotional because he has a lot of juicy brushwork, or is he just being a stylist?

KJ, your reading was amusing. I hope you were not being entirely disingenuous when you wrote that people were seeing what they expect to see, because there seem to be a lot of failure to meet expectations when it comes to criticism of this work, which seems to be pretty markedly different from a lot of paintings that have been posted here. That used to be a positive quality.

However,like the war itself, I think I'm fighting a losing battle here.

kalm james said...

This is a good example of why most political art usually ends up badly. People can’t see around their own political agendas. They have huge blind spots.

P’dog says: “read what you will, there is too much history and baggage in this kind of painting, socialist realism etc.

The work is infused with this, its reeking of it. “

Which proves my point about the failure to really “see.” I think we have a responsibility to throw off the baggage, scrape off the scales of history from our eyes and see past our expectations (or perhaps use these means to prove our points about “blindness”).

If I have a caveat it would be the sense of Mumford being a kind of Hemingwayesque battle field illustrator. Why should these paintings be more noteworthy than say the illustrations of Apollo 14’s landing on the moon (perfectly great illustrations but still not really entering the realm of “fine art”)? Is there, as dk implies, a kind of Po-Mo irony, a re-assessment of social-realist kitsch?

painterdog said...

Ok so you say I can't see beyond the baggage of social-realist kitsch.

I am not calling his work that, but I do think Mumford is coming very close to it.

People can’t see around their own political agendas. They have huge blind spots.

Well the Iraq conflict is all about politics, is it not?

How can one just through off the baggage of history from 50 years ago or what has happened in the last 2 weeks.
It's very different from looking at Brice Marden's work, which has it's own history of influences, these are in context of painting from the 60's onward.

In Mumfords work we are facing a war zone that is also being documented by a host of photograpers and video news crews and solders themselves. I find the videos that solders have made in the field so much more compeling and these things are real raw.

I hate to say this but what Mr. Mumford is trying to do seems very much steeped in a kind of 19th century tradition in concept and execution, and this is coming from someone who is very into 19 century painting.

I find it difficult and I am not sure its relevent, at least in the way he's approaching it.

By the way there are artist who are as good and better who are doing very simular work who are military artist, so how does this play into this?

Kalm, you mentioned Mumford as a Hemingwayesque battle field illustrator, I had followed his Iraq journal on Artnet for months and I have to say the writen material was far more interesting that his drawings and paintings.

If you look at the postmasters web site there are a few paintings I think are good(the inside of the tank is interesting), but some of it just like some action comic book art in composition and looks very much like social-realist kitsch as well.

rentboy said...

these paintings technically do not appear strong and IN PERSON even less so. two current emerging painters he might consider to put some grittiness into these works (which would also intensify his subject matter) are ellen alfest and amer kobaslija (or not-so-emerging lucien freud). they both use the studio and observation as starting points but really allow for messy paint possibilities. if mumford's paint approach some of alfest or kobaslija, these works might be more relevant and enduring.

tomas said...

"Messy paint possiblilities" make work "more relevant and enduring?"

Decay Image said...

oh jeez, maybe he should consider painting like Van Gogh, I believe he also started from observation and he definitely allowed for some messy paint possibilities and nobody denies they are gritty. Plus, the colors would be a lot prettier, though he might have to wait till he were dead to sell them. These painters have absolutely nothing in common with Mumford. Tell the truth, did you just graduate from the studio school?

George said...

"the inside of the tank is interesting"

I had the same thought, mostly because there is some sense of foreboding or fear in the faces of the figures. Still these are genera paintings not unlike what one might find behind the desk of a CO in a unit HQ.

It seems to me that the real question here is not whether or not Mumford’s paintings are technically accomplished, this could be debated endlessly based upon personal taste. I think the main issue is his choice of subject and how it is handled. When I said ‘they were about denial’ I wasn’t speaking about Mumford personally, as I said I am sure his experiences were intense. What I meant to infer is that the paintings deny the deeper reality of this experience by reducing the image down to the ‘it’s a slice of life on the front’ and elevating it by making a painting.

While this may be the case as one slice of life, it fails to take into account the true ravages of war. Over the paintings lifetime, we are to be left with the idea, ‘it wasn’t all so bad’ when in fact war’s purpose is to destroy the soldiers, population, property and mental state of the ‘enemy’ to an such an extreme extent they are forced to capitulate. In the process horrible unspeakable acts are committed by both sides in the struggle.

I will admit that in Mumford’s choice of subjects there is a hidden ambiguity, the inference of the horrible potential in the following instant. It is Mumford’s psychic distancing, maybe a pretext to be dispassionate observer of events, which interferes with his paintings ability to transcend the subject. Who is in the sights of the sniper on the roof? This isn’t a Doig canoe, it’s a soldier hiding with a malevolent purpose. Or is it just another toy soldier pose? This is what you get to do sonny, you’ll be nice and safe hidden on a roof if you can split the hairs of a squirrel at 900 meters.

The most frightening thing about war is that I know I could look the man in the eyes, and pull the trigger.

closeuup said...

Contrary to the wishful thinking of KJ & DK, there is nothing new in this war or this painting.

zipthwung said...

"By the way there are artist who are as good and better who are doing very simular work who are military artist, so how does this play into this?"

Well Mumford is part of the new york art scene and those soldiers aren't.

I dont know what my blind spot is, but I wish it was the nipple part.

Rome records only what Rome wants to save .


Anonymous said...

I think painting speech bubbles in would ruin this.
Interesting, also, many posts here want the paint to be messy.
I can almost hear the artist saying why would I want dirty leftover crap to be left all over the place. I mean, is this a painting about chance?
Get messy and he'd be called a post-war artist, and 'strangely' they only come knocking once.

Altogether a good strong military painting that reminds us of war!

Busy day, got to go paint a triangle!!

... notice an appropriate add to PNYCP;)

zipthwung said...

I think theres a sort of theorizing putch to "make it so" but I dont think you can say that artists are narcissists anymore than you can say all art is mental masturbation. Unless you go with a broad definition so as to make the definition useless=meaningless.

Its almost ex-mass, apparently. Does that mean we feel jollier allready?

Seasons greetings motherfuckers!

WHat if Haunuka was twelve months long? WOuld that be awesomely special?

Of course it would.

But I think theres some amazingly awesome low grade gallery cold war going on. As an outsider its hard to pin point, but it appears to center around a cynical outlook - one that says fuck the a-rabs on the one hand (noe cons), and the one that laughs at protesters as youthfull idealists. THe third category - the ones seriously into "protest" are nowhere near the SELF STYLED "New York art world".
Too pretentious. Too callow. To mild. To conservative. Too fucking lame.

Youth being a moral rather than time based continuum.

When did galleries become theaters instead of incubators? Stores instead of petri dishes?
When money took over? WHen MFAS became the rule rather than the exception?
When buraucrats institutionalized "freedom"?
When art became life?

When artists quit being artists and grew up?
When will universities and other institutions of higher learning grow up and stop the madness?
QUit the negative feedback loop of complete horse shit?

Is it real or is it memorex. That sort of thing. But beyond photocollaged history, or restaged reality, theres something better to think about.

THe other day I was pouring a beer and I realized the beer was god, and not only that, but the glass was god. I was god. I was god pouring a tall bubbling god into a god.

People have been recycling that idea - its the Royal Tannenbaum fantasy that springs from the New Yorker's Holden Caulfield (you know the genre). The Laughing man. The smoking gun. The CIA. The truth is out there. Children of the corn, playing tag with the lord of the flies. Beelzebub, I think, has his own talk show.

But mumford is more hemingway meets F Scott Fitzgerald. Its the bright lights big city nostalgia. Michael J Fox as jay gatsby gets a heart by tracing right into the the danger zone. The danger zone.

It also gives Mumford some subject matter beyond the magical surrealism that most painters default to.
Me included. Im sick of drawing monsters. Better to be an adult failure than an adolescent prodigy.

Or maybe not. I mean everyone paints monsters. THe truth is, all art is totemic, monstrous, and futile.

Read Mumfords artists statement and then ask yourself: DId steven king's remake of the Shining hold a fucking feather to Kubrik's ORIGINAL?

Artist Statement:
For many years my painting has used the car as its basic subject matter - the politics of the internal combustion engine as well as its aesthetic pleasures; the anthropomorphic qualities of the car, as mask, or second skin; the intrinsic landscape of the automobile, literally reflected in its sheet metal folds. YUGO, 1998, depicted that maligned little import struggling heroically up a ridge, enveloped by a vast landscape cribbed from Thomas Cole. The explicit narrative presented in that painting has led me to more narratives, this time with an emphasis on the car's interaction with the natural world. The car is clearly a stand-in for the human id and ego, sometimes vain and prancing, sometimes cringing, as if near death. Landrover, 1999, features a late-model British 4 x 4 sinking through murky green ocean depths, surrounded by sparkling jellyfish. I wish to catch the viewer's attention with these narratives, to make the stories both inexplicable and compelling. I want their artificiality to suggest metaphor, and their realism to induce reverie. I want an emphasis on "special effects" in my paintings: the tricks of realism which add drama, so popular among the Hudson River painters, like hugely massing clouds, glowing sunsets, deep shadows, buttery highlights. This kind of painting, often dubbed "illustrational" and profoundly out of vogue since the 1930s, was generally evoked ironically in the 1980s, (with a few interesting exceptions including the work of Richard Bosman and Robert Yarber) but seems to creeping back into the vocabularies of many younger artists. I'd like my paintings to reemphasize the idea of painting as window into deep space, and as story-telling device.

zipthwung said...

"It was actually fascinating," he said. "We did everything from stopping bank robberies that were in progress to checking on other battalions strewn around Baghdad. I didn't know what I was going to find when I got to Iraq, but I certainly found a lot of subject matter that I think I am going to be chewing over for years to come."


Baron von Rashke said...


zipthwung said...

I can’t remember anything
Can’t tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel the scream
This terrible silence stops with me

Now that the war is through with me
I’m waking up I can not see
That there's not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please god,wake me

Back in the war it’s much too real
In pumps life that I must kill
But can’t look forward to reveal
Look to the time when I lived

Fed through the tube that sticks in me
Just like a wartime novelty
Tied to machines that make me be
Cut this life out from me

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please god,wake me

Now the world is gone I’m just one
Oh god,help me hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God help me

Darkness imprisoning me
All I see
Absolute horror
I cannot live
I cannot die
Trapped in myself
Body my holding cell

Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell

NNCGT said...

I left this show thinking, "This show is offensive at so many levels!" ... and I'm (morally)partial to technical painitng --> the problem is that this is NOT technical enough to do what it wants!! BTW, yes, of course there is an overt Christing of the figure but there are other sources too -- try, for example, Jean-Leon Gerome's "Slave Market" Mumford's clunky surface leaves the paintings a far cry from the cool licked surface which would be necessary to make this work mimic the mass-mediated aparatuses that deliver this sort of visual inforamtion. Why else is this painting offensive? (among other reasons), its alibi of critique. I can't even think about this guy anynmore. GONG!!!!!!!!!

zipthwung said...

Nonsense nncgt. This stuff is about as offensive and contoversial as a hooker bobbing for applesauce. And has about as much bite.

Do you think its going to get Wal Mart to stop selling Napalm?

Mumford paints better in oils than Inka, apparently (less white, more contrast for one).
But both of them seem to suffer a derth of bonifide subject matter.

But is it product differentiated? I believe it is. What else do you need?

I dont know about you, but That slave painting is swell or something. People should paint stuff like that.

Ill fall on my sword to make a deal!

painterdog said...

people do here

Anonymous said...

Steve..move to Philly. Eakins is smiling...Velazquez is laughing.

NNCGT said...

zip - i think you missed my point a bit -- maybe i wasn't clear -- it's more offensive precisely because it's bland, and yet covers very charged ground. You get me -- it is more offensive than the actually horrific photo-diptych of (presumably) Iraq that just opened at the 4-person show at elizabeth dee. mumford is quite obviously not offensive like goya, or to cite contemporary art, chapman bros. or matelli or any number of actually offensive artists -- mumford is offensive because this work just doesn't get it, yet it is presented in a contemporary context -- it offends the terms of our discourse -- It offends by interpolating me (in the gallery) as someone looking at his dumb dumb work. And yes, you're right, Gerome rules! These Mumford paintings are a pale-ass shadow of Gerome and the other Orientalist painters who also followed the troops with sketchbooks -- just citing a source. I'd love to see more Gerome-esque painting. I've got my hand in that pot now, and would be happy to share it with those who know what they're doing! Gerome was making great paintings when Monet couldn't paint stright line. Those paintings are still fairly unknown to many because the the battle was lost...

painterdog said...

Steve..move to Philly. Eakins is smiling...Velazquez is laughing.

Please Eakins is smiling? At what?

There are plenty of better realist painters in Philly.

zipthwung said...

I think Frank Frazetta is more subversive - im sure its more offensive than fischl because tis deadpan (or just pan).

That phot dyptych looks like photocollage where this is painting...yeah photos are better. Dee is such a prententious gallery, I hate the smell. I dug the cell phone dude though. And the watermelon.

zipthwung said...

oh and i got the offensive thing. But being vanilla isnt offensive. Just boring.

zipthwung said...

this eakins is a lot like muybridge. Weird.

NNCGT said...

i see your point. i regard the situation a bit differently --vanilla, in my view, is offensive because it trivializes the subject, but nonetheless, your point is well taken.

zipthwung said...

Im nothing if not trivial.
IF this was cool the soldiers would have more bling.

Every once in a while you get some twenty something with a gucci machine gun or something - I mean it goes in cycles. Condoleeza Rice Shopping in NY while Rome burns.

I go to bars and they pass out these lighters and free cig cupons.

No child left behind. Smoke em if ya got em.

zipthwung said...

Not that I think shopping is a bad strategy. Im not totally naive.

cathy said...

I'm just not attracted to paintings that look like bad book covers.

Anonymous said...

I've never wished Eakins to smile at me or anyone I hold dear. Philly Figuration...pure reactionary shite. Why be sophisticated...when you can be so...close to New York and yet so far.

painterdog said...


Oh so you think NY is the center of the art universe and you hate figurative painting, Eakins, and Philly.

are you also pure reactionary shite...

Anonymous said...

New York is the center of the painting universe. Figurative painting...Manet...get your Manet book out...get your Eakins catalogue out...put them near to each other...you will see how uptight and provincial Eakins looks...I like good painting...Eakins has a moment every now and then... and that's fine... but for Philadelphia to build a cottage industry on Eakins' sturdy academia is embarrassing at best.

painterdog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
painterdog said...

how do you come to this conclusion?
Philadelphia has some good schools, Tyler, University of Pennsylvania,
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

While Eakins does have his moment as you say, Philly also produced David Linch.
John Coltrane, some great soul music.

I'm not from Philly, I just don't buy the New York as center of the painting universe thing anymore, as so many other cities and countries have become places that a lot of painting is done and while the artist may want to show in NYC a lot stay put.

Anonymous said...

I think New York is the center for no other reason than the ridiculous deep pockets...people are willing to pay for art. Philadelphians hate painting...hate art...themselves. That Quaker stinginess still courses through the veins of all true Philadelphians...they embraced Eakins because he's dry, quasi-scientific(useful)...ugh. I'll take Robert Henri any day of the week.

painterdog said...

Henri, Bellows, 2 of my favorite painters fomr this period, and yes I agree Manet is a much better painter than Eakins.

I never had that impression that Philadelphians hate painting, but it sounds very much like the a Bostonion mind set.

closeuup said...

alive in baghdad

artsygrrl said...

I guess my comment is a little delayed but I just saw the Steve Mumford exhibit today and blogged briefly about it. I agree that he is a good painter, and while I'm not really a political person, its a nice reminder and use of reportage giving a humanity to the soldiers, in the form of an oil paint.

painterdog said...


Ok artsygrrl I think its time to get political.

zipthwung said...

artsygirrl are you a plant or something? I mean like, not really a plant but like, are you real? Because I dont know, you should meet charlie finch.

zipthwung said...

Turn the dove over and look at the ants.

camron said...

nobody cares about Iraq anymore its so taboo

artsygrrl said...

I"m not a plant....political in the sense that I have many political issues I believe in and disagree in, yet would never run for office.

Power to the birds.

painterdog said...

not asking you to run for office.
just curious how you came up with the opinions.

hwo old are you? 15?

Anonymous said...

i think this painting is ace

Anonymous said...

There is a 24 year old Iraq War veteran showing in Chicago doing much more interesting work.


Anonymous said...

I think this is crap.

Wow, wupdeedoo, someone copied a photograph.


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