Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Not So Mad Men

Jacob Baal-Teshuva

Review by Rory A.A. Hinton


The following quote from Rothko is worth the price of the book. It indicates just how divided the Abstract Expressionists were over the notion of worth. When it comes to the dividing line between creativity and commerce, you are either a Mark Rothko or a Barnett Newman. Rothko ended up on the right side of art history. His healthy bourgeois existence made the message of Pop Art possible: American capitalism is an artistic achievement. His art is as commercial as it is fine.

"After Rothko's art was declared to be a good investment by no less a financial authority than Forbes magazine, the relationship between Rothko and his uncompromising colleagues Still and Newman only worsened further in the mid-1950s. They accused Rothko of harboring an unhealthy yearning for a bourgeois existence, and finally stamped him as a traitor." 

Not So Mad Men

Jacob Baal-Teshuva. Rothko. Taschen. 2003. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Chart Recognition

By Rory A.A. Hinton

Art is ...

Gekko's Nod To Warhol

My years as a fine art dealer led to my career as a futures trader. The art of the deal convinced me that the money I made meant more to me than the fine art did. This made me love art more, and for the right reason. Warhol's claim that art is what you can get away with helped me understand that by trading dealing for hedging as a way to make my living, I was merely moving from one artistic market to another. I was not leaving art behind, I was just doing art differently. Art dealing and futures trading are nothing but related ways to get away with sum things. Gekko knows.
     My father knew too. He traded stocks. After he died my mother told me that he ran a stock trading club for his fellow employees at IBM where he worked as a mechanical engineer. This made retrospective sense since as a kid I remember him taking notes while reading stock market reports after dinner. He was preparing for something, obviously. I once asked him what the market was about. With an omniscient grin on his face he replied that it was "all about psychology." He was exaggerating, but he made it easier for my young eyes to see the charts he examined as the patterned psychological product of supply and demand decisions between buyers and sellers (guided by fear, greed, and ignorance). To recognize a chart is to recognize the patterns it presents.
     Japanese-Canadian abstract artist Kazuo Nakamura (1926-2002) made the remarkable claim that the artist and the scientist do the same thing but in different ways: they recognize patterns in nature. A universal pattern that symmetrically exists in nature makes it possible for string painters and string theorists alike to equally contribute toward our collective understanding of the universe (Nakamura's string paintings predate string theory by at least fifty years). This leads Nakamura to conclude that art is nothing but "the total activity of man." This totality includes trading. 

Nakamura Meets The Nasdaq

     Traders who analyse market charts for a living are doing the same thing as physicists, painters, and even psychiatrists (since the market is "psychological" by definition). Chart analysis is nothing but the activity of recognizing patterns in nature. In this economic case they are supply and demand patterns created by individuals without and within financial institutions. What made me see my work in aesthetic terms was the realization that charting is part of Nakamura's total activity of the human species. This too is art.
     My trading platform has drawing tools. Each morning before the market opens, I draw. I bring up the chart for the asset class I trade and draw lines and shapes on it (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, circular and rectangular). I draw lines indicating the Globex highs and lows from the previous evening of trading, lines showing the trading highs and lows of the previous day, lines pointing to the price at which my asset class closed the day before, and the present day opening price when the market opens. This graphical information helps me recognize the supply and demand zones I use to make trades (whether short or long depending on market trends). Here is a minimalist sample from the S&P 500 (my almost empty canvas, as it were, before I mess it up):

Abstract Chart



     I can't draw, not really. But I can trace. The tracings I create for a living contribute toward the total activity of the human species. They also chart capitalist patterns of human consumption in a way that must be understood in artistic terms. Of course, the art dealer in me thinks I should cash in on the art of chart recognition by creating a new abstract chart market (chart art). And the artist in me agrees. I am an abstract chartist.

Andy Warhol. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2001.
Ihor Holubizky. Kazuo Nakamura: The Method Of Nature. The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, 2001.
Oliver Stone. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. 20th Century Fox. 2010. 
Richard William Hill. Kazuo Nakamura: A Human Measure. Art Gallery Of Ontario, 2004.