Visual Arts Commentary: The Grob

Harvey BlumeThere’s a chess opening called the Grob, fully as distasteful as the name might suggest. When white plays the Grob he’s showing disrespect, not only to his opponent but to the game. The Grob does nothing to advance white’s position on the board. That, in fact, is its strength, the one and only thing the Grob has going for it. The move, short on brains, is long on insult — a taunt, meant to mock and confuse an opponent.

To understand why the Grob is so totally irrelevant to any goal white might conceivably have with regard to a first move, you’d have to know chess. But there’s no pressing need. Analogs abound. The Grob is like your dinner partner staring right at ya while picking his nose; like a visitor taking off muddy boots and putting them on your couch.

When you come across a Grob, in whatever context, you’ll need your broom, your mop, your vacuum cleaner. In every case, there’s clean-up to be done.

Richard Prince, Untitled (Upstate), 1995-99
Ektacolor photograph, 40 x 60 inches

I came across an art Grob today at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The show devoted to Richard Prince is the worst I’ve ever seen in the house that Frank Lloyd Wright built, and is a certifiable, 100 percent Grob. To say any more about the exhibit would be to fall for the Grob, just as whoever curated the show did, and wants to bully you, with indigestible curatorial commentary, into doing.

But there’s no call for confusion: Richard Prince at the Goog is a Goog Grob.

Rather than worrying about the art Grob particulars that pertain here you’d be better off learning chess.


  1. Anonymous on November 7, 2007 at 11:50 am

    so who exactly is white?

  2. ArtsFuse on November 12, 2007 at 10:41 am

    > so who exactly is white?

    white, in chess, is the other one than black. white goes first.

    Harvey Blume

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