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the short of the long

June 8, 2009

[Guardian] Not since Jackson Pollock strutted at the borders of his canvases, throwing paint at them with all the violence of a street fighter, have our male critics felt so stirred by the thought of an artist’s corporeal presence: his bones, his blood, his muscle, his slow-pumping heart. How strong he is, and how heroic!

This is a ridiculous, of course. In 1967, when he was still an art student, Long went into a field and walked up and down until he had marked out a faint path, of which he then took a photograph. A Line Made by Walking was a charming and original idea, and as art it has retained its moderately spectral power down the years. But did it, as the Tate’s director, Nicholas Serota, has asserted, change our notion of sculpture, or indeed “give new meaning to an activity [walking] as old as man himself”? No, it did not.

The trouble is, though, that Long obviously agrees with this inflated idea of his early work – or perhaps he merely clings to it – for it is a furrow that he has ploughed (almost literally, in some cases) ever since. A more blandly repetitive artist it is hard to imagine, and, while his fans regard this as evidence of his probity and dedication, there is another view: that he is all out of ideas; that his work is decorative, but dull. (read)

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