Saturday, December 20, 2014

Week Six: Art Now (November 25-27)

One of the challenges of understanding contemporary art is that a lot of it deals with questions like: is this art? It challenges the viewers notion and expectations of what art can be. This has led to a wide variety of practices and hence the art world has become vastly inclusive. In many ways, this is a positive thing. One example is that no one is excluded from making art based on the type of work and practice that they engage with.
A negative effect of this inclusiveness, is that, to the outsider, it seems that anything can be art. One could say that this is true, but it would be harder to convince someone that art is anything. Duchamp used this notion to challenge the art world during the early Modernist era. Artists like Rauschenberg, Warhol, Prince, and Koons have developed this idea further, bringing this method of artmaking (especially in Koons's case) into the realm of manufacturing consumer goods. Now, I'm not sure it is Koons's intention to create his work merely to make money, but it has set a precedent that other artist may pick up on and take even further. I think that art is in danger of losing its soul if it is created with the sole purpose of being treated like a commodity.
The often heard remark "my kid could do that" which applied to early Modernist painting has perhaps changed to "I could do that," when it comes to art that deals with appropriation.  The connotation here is that art is easy. Which is why it disturbs me when celebrities like Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus announce to the world that they are now Artists because they make objects that look like art using the tools of appropriation and Koons's practice as a model. Cyrus using ready made objects and Jay-Z appropriating strategies of performance artists like Abramovic.
The reason I react strongly to this is because these public figures are using appropriation not to critique or question the traditions of art, but to make consumer objects that are touted as high art and thus fetch auction prices. They are exploiting the cultural prestige that is normally reserved for art for their own self-promotional ends. I think this has changed the way art is perceived by the general public and how genuine artists create their practices.
Now what does this mean to me? I'm stubbornly devout to painting. I'm stubbornly devout to figuration in painting. How do I make an art that is relevant in the contemporary art world, but that also keeps its authenticity and its soul? I know that I want to make images that act in a way opposite to pop culture imagery; images that the viewer has to spend time with to unravel, that they cannot scan quickly and then move on, images that do not rely on shock or instant grabbiness. Does this mean I make an anti-art painting? Or a painting that strongly adheres to its tradition? So many questions, so little time!

I blame you, Marcel.
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain

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