Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Art Speak

Having recently returned from New York City, and touring MOMA and the Guggenheim while there, I was innundated by art-speak, the language that is now used to discuss art that ceases to be composed of objects and is more and more composed of ideas. Now I'll be the last to admit that ideas are uninteresting or useless, but I think in the hands of many artists and critics they can lead to idiocy. My friend Jeff turned me on to a review in the Wall Street Journal (which is probably the most fitting place for art reviews these days considering their commodity fetish) by Eric Gibson. The review is entitled "The Lost Art of Writing about Art," and basically traces a lineage back to Duchamp when art became less dependent on the actual materials and construction, assemblage, or atisan nature of the work, and more involved with the ideas behind it. This lead to the wonderful piece I saw at MOMA where John Baldessari is on video moving his hands into various positions while stating "I am making art." What this boils down to is a definition of art that is nothing more than anything an "artist" does that he/she wants to call art. It reminds me of when the poet Ron Padgett was asked "What is poetry?" he answered that it was anything written by anyone crazy enough to want to be a poet (paraphrased). Add to this the new definition of the open museum conceptualized by Cai Guo-Qiang at the Guggenheim, and we have extended the metaphor into places to store these ideas called art, which are also ideas. It will not be long until some self-proclaimed Nietzsche comes along and pronounces "Art is dead," although my Google search for that phrase produced around 50,000 hits so it's already passe.
But art is not dead, and some of the works I witnessed where by their very nature and integrity magnificent, terrifying, awe-inspiring, idea-evoking, overwhelming, and down-right beautiful -- everything that great art should and can be. One of the most powerful series of works were by Sigalit Landau, "Barbed Hula" and "DeadSee," works of extraordinary visceral power. And the top floor Design and The Elastic Mind was a heady combination of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and art, some as practical as a Sigg design, others involving genetic and cellular manipulation of the body as art.
And I love the what are now almost ordinary works of artists like Klee and Marsden Hartley and Odilon Redon, and the explosions and almost gratuitous indulgence of color in the Machine for Living Color.
I always find myself intoxicated after visits like this, and inspired as well. Art is one of the things we do best as humans, it is where a spirit of play and childhood and imagination and theory and history and culture all co-exist. And without it we would be much paler folks.


borneman said...

I read the other day about an investment firm--can't remember who--was offering a Warhol portrait of Mao for 120 mil.


Oh, right, it was in that art mag The Wall Street Journal.

When did art become a division of Total Global Capitalism?

These ridiculous prices aren't even funny any more. Who could be embarrassed by this nonsense? The artists? The dealers? The CEO's of Idiocy?

I agree with your comments, though. I still like art. Dead art, live art--I don't care.

It's all just so weird and stupid!

Like Bush's war.

And why, in the end, was his name WARhol, if it wasn't prophetic of the insane machine of modern total world blackwater capitalismos?

Sorry. I'm raving. Keep speaking up about art, Paul.

pcsolotto said...

I agree with you about these. Well someday Ill create a blog to compete you! lolz.

piper said...

Bill -

Good thoughts. I think the name WARHOLE says it all. The man was empty, a shell, a black hole, a vacuum. None-the-less, it's somewhat logical this day & age that a portrait of a fanatic who murdered thousands of the best minds of his generation, painted by a factory, sells to some moron for 120mil.