Sunday, December 5, 2010

Turner Prize Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the big day! They will be announcing the winner of the 2010 Turner Prize.
I'm rooting for Angela de la Cruz, as I have been from the beginning. Good luck to her and all the nominees.

Click here for more information:

To see a video of de la Cruz's work, as well as the others, (all great artists) visit:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rob Pruitt Art Award Nominees

Lots of big names involved in this - Martin Creed, Marina Abramovic... Ceremony is Dec. 8, two days after the much-anticipated Turner Prize awards!

Good luck to all the nominees!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Magazine Interview with critic Matthew Collings

You can check it out here

Matthew Collings is the reason I started exploring more and more modern and contemporary art. Ever since my high school AP Art History class, where I alone (and the professor) defended Abstract Expressionism and Dada while everyone else was cheering on the Renaissance, I knew that I was, for whatever reason, attracted to the conceptual. Because of Matthew Collings's 'This is Modern Art' video series, I took the leap and learned more. If it wasn't for him, I don't think I'd be exposed to AT LEAST half of the artists I know and love now.

I hope to meet him someday to say thanks in person. :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Damien Hirst: Plagiarist or Poet?

Artist Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckist art movement, which promotes figurative painting and rejects conceptual art, recently, published a list of grievances against artist Damien Hirst for alleged acts of plagiarism. The news of these claims, some resurfaced, and some new, was brought to light in the UK’s The Guardian newspaper on Sept. 2. This article is an attempt to dismiss some of those claims.

(Note: The captioned comparison images seen here are from and presumably put together by Thomson himself.)

Science Catalog

Thomson, at length, recalls artist John LeKay’s stories of Hirst, including his visits to his studio and his giving Hirst a copy of the Carolina Biological Supply Company ‘Science’ catalog, which LeKay had been using for inspiration. LeKay had apparently advised Hirst to stay away from the skeletons, skulls, mannequins and resuscitation dolls in the catalog, which he had claimed for himself.

Thomson writes, “In 1993, LeKay made paintings based on images of cancer cells from the Carolina Science catalogue. Hirst saw them. In 2007, in Beyond Belief at the White Cube gallery in London, Hirst exhibited paintings based on images of cancer cells from the Science Photo Library.”

He curiously doesn’t include a photo of LeKay’s cancer cell painting. This one in particular is probably the most ridiculous of all the accusations. “He painted cancer cells.” Is there a patent on the way cancer cells look? What about painting any part of the body, is that not okay because it’s somehow a copyright infringement? What if two nudes look very similar? As you can see, it’s fairly easy to debunk this and many of Thomson’s claims using reduction ad absurdum.

Hirst is most known for his work with vitrines.

At its core, the complaint is that the sawn in half animals in the works look similar. Well, yes they do – they’re the same animal. One might say, “Well, why can one artist saw an animal and half, but when another saws an animal in half and puts it in a vitrine, it sells for millions of dollars?”

The art market is a curious animal and a difficult debate to get into, so I won’t attempt to broach it in this article, nor do I feel I have the expertise to comment on it. Speaking from a pragmatic standpoint – is Hirst’s art worth what people have paid for it? Yes, because people have paid that much for it. It is difficult to get into moralistic discussions of “worth.” What is a piece of art “worth”? It’s hard to say – you wouldn’t want to judge the worth based on the cost of the paint and the canvas, just as you wouldn’t want to judge the worth of the novel based on the cost of paper and printing.


Here we have two different drug shelves. They look nothing alike, except for the fact that both contain items in jars on a series of shelves.

I saw this piece last December at MOCA in North Miami Beach:

It’s called ‘Breedlove (Mason)’ by Xaviera Simmons, made in 2009. I guess someone didn’t give her the memo that jars and shelves were somehow off limits?


These look nothing alike. According to Thomson, LeKay used soap and Swarovski crystals. Hirst did a platinum cast of a human skull, inserted human teeth and encrusted it with 8,601 flawless diamonds. While the titles of the pieces may seem similar (Spiritus Callidus is a name for the devil) Hirst’s title actually came from a statement his mother made about his artwork, “For the love of God, what are you going to do next?” As for “copying” LeKay – skulls have been encrusted with gems for a long time. The Aztecs did it. It’s not a good mark of plagiarism.

Spin Paintings

Thomson recalls the similarity between Walter Robinson’s spin paintings and those of Damien Hirst.

Yes, some of the colors look somewhat similar, but the pieces aren’t identical copies of one another. For one thing, the idea that you can quasi-patent an art technique is ludicrous. Jackson Pollock wasn’t the first to experiment with the drip painting technique, but he wouldn’t be called a plagiarist. One of the goals in art seems to me to take materials and a concept, implement one or more techniques and make them work together. If the outcome is DOA, then the idea is a failure, if it looks good, so be it.

Would the man who designed the urinal be taken seriously if he accused Marcel Duchamp of plagiarism? Granted that may not be an exact example, but the idea is clear. Hirst’s is a postmodern aesthetic.

Dot Paintings

All the pieces are fundamentally colored dots. If Hirst is a plagiarist, wouldn’t the artists who came before him be guilty of ripping off Georges Seurat and pointillism?

Balls Suspended in Air

Another piece of evidence Thomson points to is the similarities between Hirst’s floating ball in ‘Loving in a World of Desire’ (1995), and Hans Haacke’s ‘Floating Sphere’ in 1964.

What I fail to understand, is that, at their essence, both works are a ball suspended in air, so why doesn’t Thomson have anything to say about Jeff Koon’s three floating basketballs from 1987. If Hirst is a plagiarist in Thomson’s eyes, why isn’t Koons? Hirst is just an easy target.

Jeff Koons , Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank, 1985

Work Titles

Hirst’s biggest strength has always been his titles. He titled his dot paintings after drugs, ‘Valium’ or ‘Cocaine Hydrochloride.’ The title becomes just as important as the work. Looking at the colored dots in ‘Valium’, you can think of them as multicolored pills. Looking at those in ‘Cocaine Hydrochloride’ you can imagine it as kaleidoscopic and exuberant journey, a journey which one might take under the influence of the drug.

Two good examples of his grace with titles are ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ his title for the infamous shark vitrine, and ‘The Acquired Inability to Escape’ – a vitrine with a desk, a chair, an ashtray, cigarettes and a lighter. The vitrine acts as a snapshot – capturing a moment, in this case a moment of either loneliness, or a longing for escape. The desk represents being trapped or repressed in ones work, perhaps a socio-political comment. There are many ways to read it, the title adds to the layers of meaning. This is part of what makes Hirst so great.


Germaine Greer, writing for The Guardian, said of Hirst, "Damien Hirst is a brand, because the art form of the 21st century is marketing. To develop so strong a brand on so conspicuously threadbare a rationale is hugely creative - revolutionary even.”

It appears that Thomson’s claims have come out of jealousy or resentment for Hirst and his fame. This kind of mudslinging is a distraction. If you look hard enough, many, many things have been “done” before – whether the similarities between Hirst’s work and that of other artists is a coincidence or not is not exactly the issue. Homages or pastiches are found in art, as are nods to other works in literature. I myself have found a nod to T.S Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in Franz Kafka’s ‘The Trial.’ Is every similarity necessarily an act of plagiarism? To say that it is puts the contention on a very slippery slope.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Artist Profile: Martin Kippenberger

Born: February 25, 1953 in Dortmund.
Died: March 7, 1997 in Vienna (cause of death – liver cancer)

I like Kippenberger partly because he always puts a smile on my face. Even though he was a pretty major alcoholic, he didn’t have the “tortured artist” persona that some of my other favorites have. His work is playful, particularly his song, ‘Yuppi Du’, which you can hear on YouTube here:

His poem, ‘No Problem’, co-written with Albert Oehlen has numerous thought provoking stanzas and could hold its own against the average Beat or Imagist poem any day.

The poem hints at various problems – the mind-body/free will problem, the problem of commodity fetishism, the problem of narrow-mindedness, among others.

Some of my favorite lines are:
“This sentence has problems”
(Multi-layered self-reference at its finest. The neo counterpart to Magritte’s infamous ‘Treachery of Images’ piece.)

“We don’t have problems with streets because they are surrounded by houses.”
(No reason to fear that which you don’t have to face unless you want to. To quote a Banksy piece: “Let them eat crack.”)

Two shining others which need not annotation:
“You are not the problem – it’s the problem maker in your head.”
“We don’t have problems w people who look exactly like us because they get our pain.”

Kippenberger’s work is distinctive because it stands alone in terms of the use of unusual forms of collaboration – his massive installation, ‘The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s “Amerika”’ (1994), was an attempt to finish the unfinished work.

One writer described Kippenberger as having “embraced failure as generative strategy.”

His work isn’t kitschy and not overtly satirical. It’s about having fun but never forgetting you’re an adult – who can drink all day and be ironic if you felt like it. It’s that of poised and humorous underground musings w/ a layer of pop culture shellac.

An interesting work, which I unfortunately couldn’t find a picture of online, is a shelving unit readymade piece that Kippenberger painted gray and named ‘Wittgenstein’, after the philosopher. Matthew Collings writes, in ‘This is Modern Art’, “…Wittgenstein was a favorite author among Minimal and Conceptual artists of the 1960s…it seems appropriate because grey was the favorite colour of both those movements.”

Like many great artists before and after him, Kippenberger provides a lot of questions on what is necessary in art, and challenges our conception of what can work in art. His canon is like a stew made from not-too-old leftovers: It’s got a little bit of everything, but is packed with heartiness.

Here’s a great video on MoMA’s ‘The Problem Perspective’ exhibition, which mentions Kippenberger’s hodgepodge, but calculated subject matter.

As is typical, the Stuckists hate on Hirst

So, I read today, here:

that Charles Thompson, the rather unremarkable co-founder of the Stuckist movement, is accusing Hirst of stealing some of his ideas. (For perspective, one of the other founders is Billy Childish, former beau of Tracey Emin - looks like we know who got the rough end of the deal there.)

After reading the article, I have to address the elephant in the room: The fact that this allegation is coming from a Stuckist is incredibly ironic. The Stuckist movement is rooted in anti-conceptualism and anti-cleverness.

From their website:
"Against conceptualism, hedonism and the cult of the ego-artist."

(Nevermind, of course, that the act of accusing one of England's most talented and beloved living artists of being a fraud is an intense act of the ego.)

So, why would one of the founders of a movement that was founded on attacks to neo-conceptualists like Hirst and Emin, A. Supposedly develop conceptual works like those of Hirst, and/or B. Admit to this degree of ideologically hypocritical creativity.
It doesn't seem to make sense. I'd give a simple, though not polished answer, that Thompson may just be jealous.

I'm not saying Hirst is infallible, but it is hard to take the claims seriously. However, even if there is some validity to the claims, the situation brings up an old statement, "There's no such thing as a cliche."
If one digs deep enough, similarities will abound between the primary chosen work and works that preceded it. This is understood. To say that it is all cliched or acts of plagiarism is a reductio ad absurdum that only distracts unnecessarily from the act of appreciating the work for what it is, its zeitgeist, and who it came from, not putting it up against a canon of all works ever created.

The writer makes a good point about this here:
"Less interesting is the claim that Hirst's famous 1991 piece "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" was inspired by a stuffed shark that hung on the wall of an electrical supply store. Last we checked, there was no law against locating one’s muse in a stuffed fishing trophy."

and here:

Many of their pieces do bear an uncanny resemblance, such as LeKay’s 1993 skulls covered in crystals (titled "Spiritus Callidus," one moniker for the devil) and Hirst’s 2007 "For the Love of God," a skull covered in diamonds. (Though, of course, embellishing skulls with precious materials is an ancient practice predating both men by centuries.)

I'll be revisiting this story some more.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Robert Motherwell

Robert Motherwell
January 24, 1915 – July 16, 1991
AbEx movement
Coined the name for the 'New York School' group of artists, writers and thinkers in the 50s and 60s.

I've always loved Abstract Expressionism. When I was younger, I was heavy into surrealism, and I still love it, but more and more I've been moving in the direction of the AbExers. I associate them with the Beats, but more materialistic. They dealt with the subconscious the way the surrealists did, but in a more hard, conceptual way. It's not literal, which is good, because the existential angst that produced the work isn't literal either, except to say, perhaps, that its a universal. And I resonate with them in all their steamy, brilliant, bawdiness.

Because Motherwell is so closely linked to the AbEx clique, my first inclination is to size him up against the other three big wigs: Pollock, Rothko and De Kooning.
If I had to create some completely arbitrary binary opposing categories to put these men in, I'd put Rothko and Motherwell together.

The main reason for this is Motherwell's pieces, particularly his famous Elegy to the Spanish Republic series, don't have the rhythm that I feel from Pollock and De Kooning's work.

Motherwell was a student of philosophy, so there's certainly a world-weariness about his ink blots. His elegy pieces look like Rorschach test specimens, which actually fits in perfectly with the kind of subconscious angst that the AbEx artists handled so beautifully. The blots work like suspended orbs.

This Motherwell piece caught my eye immediately:

'Red and the Black #14' (1987)

Firstly, I'm a sucker for collage. Always have been, always will be.
The use of musical scales in the collage adds a kind of rhythm to this piece that his others lack, but the rectangles recall the arrhythmic but still gorgeously intellectual Bauhaus school. The non-descriptive shapes appear as if they're all facing the written music, like an audience watching a symphony. Only, this isn't a classical symphony; the time period, energy, abstraction, color choice and minimalism of the painting fits the mold of Palais Schaumburg, not Beethoven.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Three Bob Dylan paintings

I just saw this posted on ArtInfo's website. It's from Bob Dylan's recent 'Favela Villa Broncos' exhibition. Below are three of his Brazilian-inspired paintings.

First off, I'd like to say that I'm a big fan of Bob Dylan's music and have been for years, but I'm not too crazy about these paintings. They do recall Matisse and maybe a little Gauguin, but they read pretty dull and uninspired, like they'd best be fit for a wall in a hotel lobby, a cafe, or a doctor's waiting room. I've never been to Brazil myself, I'm sure it's beautiful, but Dylan's representation of the countryside looks like an afterthought.


The faces of the men and women in the vineyard are done in an almost Fauvist abstraction, but they don't really read as anything. They don't look weary, or menacing, or even tired. As a whole, the vineyard workers look curious as to why the painter was there in the first place. The Joe Pesci line from Goodfellas, "Hey, what do you want from me" in reference to his mother's dog painting comes to mind here. The colors are also pretty drab, it's hard to tell that the grapes are grapes, because he didn't channel the color saturation that the fauvists nailed.


With this piece, too many things blend in and are difficult to access. The tree in the center looks awkwardly shaped because the branches and leaves are blending in with the shrubbery in the background. Powerlines seem to go in all different directions, the clothesline looks like it's hooked on to a metal pipe and strung in between two poles, and what are the white bars on the bottom right?
Overall, it's a mess.


This last one is the only one I can say I kind of like of the three. I like the juxtaposition of showing an abandoned, urban street with parked cars in the background and a car in the foreground, presumably there to pick up the streetwalker on the left. The fact that no one is on the street except for a streetwalker and two working class street sweepers (one of which looks like a farmer, for some reason) gives the painting a socio-political slant and I'm normally a sucker for those.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Paul McCarthy - intro and 'Painter' analysis

Paul McCarthy is one of those artists who I love for reasons that are overall a mystery to me.
Do I like him like I secretly like the obnoxious indie kid in a class who wears revolutionary t-shirts but shows up with Starbucks? Or do I like him as I do the mad scientist who challenges convention and comes up with something brilliant after others deemed him insane?

I’ve seen a few of his works in person, but I’ve only watched his performances via the glory of the internet.
To date, I’ve seen ‘Painter’, ‘Sauce’, ‘Class Fool’, ‘Family Tyranny’ and ‘Cultural Soup’, in that order.

McCarthy represents his video subject in a childish but still controlled way. It’s the duality that makes it so difficult to ignore his work and so easy to like it. The fact that he is based in Los Angeles, a city known for surgically-enhanced perfection and superficiality, adds an extra layer of satire to his work. He discusses themes like child abuse (Family Tyranny) and the consumerist art world (Painter), in a way that is ruthlessly absurd and campy, but brilliant.

He very often uses ketchup, mayonnaise and chocolate in his works. Using edible and accessible materials in place of the bodily fluids (blood, semen, and feces) they stand for also lends a slightly kitschy accessibility to his work. It’s light/non-threatening and serious at the same time.

There is so much more to say about his pieces, I’ll really have to go into a few one by one to give a full scope. He’s a cool cat, so I’ll definitely be revisiting him.

For now, I’ll comment on ‘Painter.' This probably won't be a complete review, just the start of one, there are many, many layers to it and I'd like to give them all justice.
Here’s a link to the video:
Yes, it’s about an hour long, but if you can dedicate the time to it, please do. It really is a fantastic piece of work.

Among the things McCarthy, donning a curly blonde wig, prosthetic nose, and large, fake hands does in the video:
- Spins in a circle while chanting ‘De Kooning’ over and over.
- Sings “Pop Goes the Weasel” while attempting to move a canvas.
- Chops off one of his giant fingers with a machete and mixes in his blood with the paint.
- Rants and raves about the money he is owed.
- Sit in on a TV broadcast featuring an interview with two posh European collectors of well-known contemporary artists like Martin Kippenberger.
- Attempts to teach his audience about painting, diving into lessons about brush techniques and then ranting “I’m fucking painting, I’m fucking painting, I’m fucking painting.”
- Gets his ass sniffed by a critic at the end of the video. The critic approves, and the video ends.

One review online referred to the prosthetic as a “bulbous drinker’s nose”, if this is so, is it a nod to the AbEx artists affinity for getting drunk and rowdy?
Everyone in the video has the same fake nose, are they all just under disguise because they live within a marginal, niche reality? Or is McCarthy just trying to imply that they’re all liars?
At one point in the video, McCarthy also urinates in a potted plant, a learned nod at an infamous incident where a drunken Jackson Pollock urinated in Peggy Guggenheim’s fireplace.

I first watched this video in December, probably on Christmas Eve, if I recall. I had only recently become aware of McCarthy, so I hadn’t become all that familiar with his work, but I was very taken by this video. It moved me initially because I saw it as an exploration of artistic struggles to produce while still staying true to their work and not going insane over dealing with elitist collectors and gallerists. Now that I know more and am still learning more about him, AbEx artists, conceptual artists and the Viennese Actionism that inspired his work, the meaning I find in it changes. The more I learn the more brilliant I think it is.

The film can be seen in a variety of ways – a parody of the Abstract Expressionists, an exploration of the struggles of an artist, a scathing critique of an art world concerned only with dollar signs. I don’t have the answer, but as usual, the work speaks for itself.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Paintings about Painting

From the left: 'Untitled 1957' - Robert Ryman
Casein and graphite on primed and sized unstretched cotton canvas on manila paper folder on glass on plywood. 9 5/8 x 8 3/8 inches.

'What is Painting' - John Baldessari (1966-1968)
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas 67 3/4 x 56 3/4 inches.

These are paintings about painting which make no solid outside references. They reference themselves,one in form and technique, the other in form and technique.
Different mediums, but the same medium.
Painted lettering upon a canvas; painted canvas.
Strikingly different, but holistically similar.
Both ruggedly modern, wearily self-aware, and a bit posh.

Office irony

Ryman's piece partially uses what we would consider office supplies, pencils and a manila folder.His materials barely hint, he deliberately didn’t title his pieces or, if he did, he would title them a brand of paint or pencil.No outside cues here, what you see is what you get.
Baldessari's is just words, like an office Rolodex, but quotable words like the sign-off at the end of an email.The message is delivered to you, like a phone call or an email, but beyond that, it slinks with it's back against the wall - snarling at its cheekiness and winking at passerby when they aren’t looking.
At least, that’s what I’d be doing.

More about 'What is Painting'

'What is Painting' – is written in all in caps like cue cards, presumably read by the artist, or the critic that comes after.

The words are self-explanatory.In fact, Baldessari was trying to give the public what they already know. It's just words, but they are painted on a canvas. Is it a painting? Of course it is.
The canvas itself was not stretched or primed by Baldessari, the words were painted by a professional sign painter, not the artist, and the text wasn't original - it was found.
The message the painting gives seems like common knowledge, but ironically so, because undoubtedly people will question whether the work is a painting and thus, whether it is art.
They questioned it when it was created and they'll still question it, even though it hangs in MoMa, one of the most well-known art museums in the world.
Baldessari said he always marveled at the audacity and/or ignorance of people who claim to say what a painting is.


Both paintings want to make the public scream - what is this about?
But they already have the answer. The answer is: you’re looking at it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Simon Evans, 'Dear Diary' (2008)

If this piece were a person, I'd probably make awkward sexual advances at it and eventually muster up the courage to ask it out for coffee.

This is just another example of art I wish I had made, or a poem I wish I had written.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

YouTube video: Pablo Picasso's Guernica

Here's a link a friend sent me earlier this week, the video is very well done.
Although it refers mainly to Guernica, the makers of the video paid homage to Van Gogh, Dali, and MC Escher. Using a Duran Duran song ('The Chauffeur', in this case)is an easy way to sell me on something but luckily the content is as smart as the music choice.

Walking through the video, our cubist hero wakes up in Van Gogh's 'Bedroom in Arles', proceeds to the desert in Dali's 'The Persistence of Memory' and winds up in an Escher endless staircase. I can see a small Duchamp nod in this scene as well, referring to his 'Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2' work.

I may come back to this and elaborate on Guernica, but for now - check out the video.

'Why so Panicky?' - Sean Landers (2004)

Here's an intriguing piece by Sean Landers, one of my favorite (and in my humble opinion, one of the best) contemporary American artists.

If ever I thought I might suffer from Stendhal Syndrome, I definitely feel it when looking at this painting. This seems fitting, given the title and the subject matter.

It doesn't take itself seriously, this is a good thing. Words are overlapped and repeated, but particular color choices keep it from being literal - "Trust" is done in yellow, a color of cowardice, "Money" is represented as black and blue - melancholy colors reminiscent of bruising. You can follow along and create your own sentences out of the words, "Respect, support immortality" or "Recognition changed excellence" - the meaning changes depending on where you look. It's constantly evolving, never boring, this is what makes it great art. It's self-generating genius.
Landers talks to his audience as a comedian like Jim Gaffigan talks to his audience - in jokey asides. Note the "Art making is narcissism... yes, that's what my videos were about," in the far right portion of the painting.
He may be deliberately making fun of the viewing public, or people like me who ironically dissect his work, but that's neither here nor there.

Samuel Beckett said, "Words are all we have."


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Artist Profile: Mark Rothko

"The exhilarated tragic experience is for me the only source of art." - Mark Rothko

This is the first in my series of artist profiles. My intention isn't to provide a regurgitated biography, but I will include relevant biographical information if it punctuates a point.
Born: Marcus Rothkowitz on September 25, 1903 in the former Russian empire. Today,
Daugavpils, Latvia.
Died: February 25, 1970 in Manhattan, New York. (Suicide)
Ethnicity/Religion: Jewish
Movement: Abstract Expressionism/Color Field Painting

I approached Rothko's work, already knowing his ultimate fate and history of emotional turmoil. After doing some research, I learned that after he was diagnosed with a heart condition, he continued to drink and smoke and eat poorly, but he did heed his doctor's advice to avoid painting any pictures larger than a yard in height.

He committed suicide in February 1970 by overdosing on barbiturates and slicing his arms with a razor blade. He cut his left arm first, then the right - the cut on the right was so deep it almost severed his brachial artery. He was found in a 6 ft by 8 ft pool of blood with his arms outstretched - his body a shocking, final masterpiece. His arms outstretched like a Christ figure, overlapping the deep red often used in his pieces, the same grand scale; sticking it to the face of his own destiny. A friend at the scene wanted to take a photo, but was ultimately persuaded not to, surely had the photo surfaced there would be no escaping the transfixing of his lifeless body on every canvas. Thank goodness this is not the case. Rothko had once told his assistant, "If I choose to commit suicide, everyone will be sure of it. There will be no doubts."

My Reaction:

There’s a deep, haunting nature about a Rothko.

Looking at his canon of multiforms, the color schemes he used were mostly in the same family, or complimentary opposites on the color wheel. Picking one at random and looking at it up close, it almost looks like they were painted on a piece of paper that was later burned. The smears in the painting are rapt with sorrow.

The fact that his paintings were so large is slightly ironic. There is a simplicity to them, but the simplicity is complicated by the size, and complicated further the more you look into it.

Rothko once said, "Silence is so accurate." There is an element of spiritual transcendence in a Rothko. The works have a quiet, tragic beauty. They aren't as jarring or visually "complex" as a Jackson Pollock piece, but it probably has just as many layers.

A Pollock dances around you and pulls you in. The Rothko doesn't dance, it marches to a solemn dirge, but it pulls you in. It doesn't sing like a Pollock sings, it moans, but its a transcendent moan. Like a Buddhist 'om'.

There is something particular about the way the paint is layered and scraped on the canvas. The one I attached at the top of this post (Untitled, 1960) almost looks like someone pressed some berries or other natural media against a sheet of paper. Looking at it up close, it's self-correcting because of the way the paint is smeared. You can look within the smears and find the layers: red with yellow, blue with pink that looks sprayed around it almost like an afterthought, but paradoxically looks like the foundation for the blue, the layer which supports the one after it, like a matriarch to a son.

The rectangular forms aren't centered - that's part of the point. They help you find your own center, your own mythology. The sublime in the subliminal. They're perfect in their imperfection.

Philosophy behind the Technique

"Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all." - André Breton (1928)

I will be starting a series of artist/work profiles. My descriptions of the work are based on my own perceptions - I don't approach art in the cold, calculating way you would approach a math problem or a balance sheet. To do so would be wrongheaded.
My descriptions are my immediate reactions, I record them on a tape recorder, because I find that works for me.
My general philosophy in approaching/dissecting these works is similar to the technique used in the Horace Miner essay, 'Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.' I read this essay for the first time in tenth grade and it clicked for me pretty quickly, but I won't spoil it for those of you who want to read it and figure it out for yourselves. It's an eyeopener. It flips your beliefs about the culture upside down, in a way, but that is all I will say about that essay. Read it for yourself if you wish. Here is a link:

In terms of visual analysis, there is a difference between looking stroke by stroke at a canvas in order to find something past it, and glaring with clenched teeth at a canvas and superficially dismissing it as something lacking in "skill" because it looks so simple or maybe even uninspired, prima facie.
To put it simply, things don't have to look like what they look like. How do you represent an idea, an abstraction? How do you capture an emotion? You can't put it into words, or can you? Words can be art. The emotion/image does not have to be concrete. There are no rules and art doesn't have to be "pretty" in the pseudo-universal obvious sense. I think art should incite, it should be evocative. If it is purely a "treat for the eye" - it's craftsmanship, not art. I've always upheld the idea more than the technique or the style.
Duchamp was said to have stated that art could be anything, so long as an artist said it was art. As of now, I'm not sure I can fully embrace this definition, but it's not too far off base. The artist only has to stay true to his or herself. The responsibility for the artist lies not in the perception of the audience, but in the handling of the idea. The failure or success of the final piece in the eyes of an outside party is mainly subjective. It would be wrong to initially approach something with the idea that it ought be best to "play it cool" because children might be present in the gallery.
No, art doesn't have to make sense. You can make your own sense of it, just like the world. You won't find your "definition" of art in any holy book or stone tablet. But you don't have to find a sense, you can always find it senseless.
When do we ever get the full picture, the full explanation of something? If you wouldn't strap your lover to a chair and force a life's worth of confessions and explanations out of him or her, why would you do that to a piece of art?
No amount of water torture on a painting or installation or performance or sculpture will give you the meaning you want. So make your own and stop whining that it's rubbish and you could do better just because it doesn't provide you with answers and it might even offend your intelligence. Just look and reflect. If you hate it, that is fine too, feel free to tell me how much you disagree.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kathy's The Hip One Hundred

My attempt at channeling Peter Davies, off the canvas. He sometimes summed the artists in his The Hip One Hundred (seen above) or The Hot One Hundred, by one particular work - for example, "Paul McCarthy - Bossie Burger.' I didn't necessarily want to do that, or at least not as straight forward. Plus, I'm a fan of McCarthy. :) This list is in no particular order and by no means are all these artists my personal favorites. A lot are, but some are not. It's reflexive, self-referential and if you know about any of these artists or even like them my categorizing will either offend you or give you an 'A-ha!' moment, I would hope.

Here it is, in all it's glory, or lack thereof.

1. Jean-Michel Basquiat – Adonis, ghetto prophet
2. Paul McCarthy - ketchup and prosthetic noses
3. John Baldessari – how to form a pithy quote:
4. Sean Landers – ha,haha
5. Salvador Dali- the biblical story on mescaline
6. Jackson Pollock – the noble savage
7. Tracey Emin- here's my bed, here's my “list”, now, piss off.
8. Edward Hopper – Mad Men, after-hours.
9. Tamara de Lempicka – champagne and oysters Rockefeller at a Gatsby party
10. Gilbert and George – repressed gay duplicated version of Willy Loman
11. Marcel Duchamp – the pseudoephedrine of the art world
12. Rene Magritte- this is not a statement
13. Martin Kippenberger – “no problem”
14. Pepon Osorio – the crime of culture
15. Amedeo Modigliani – long pointy faces
16. Richard Prince –cig ads, no butts about it
17. Romero Britto- poor man’s Warhol+Koons, minus the talent.
18. Roy Lictenstein – comic book despairs
19. Takashi Murakami – cartoony mushrooms and masturbating cowboys
20. Edvard Munch – ambivalent gothic nightmares
21. Robert Motherwell – An AbEx Rorschach test
22. Loren Munk – hipster Stuart Davis
23. Elizabeth Peyton – pretty boys
24. Andres Serrano – degenerates and bodily fluids
25. Andy Warhol – plastic idols
26. Christo – auto-erotic envirosphixiation
27. Marina Abramovic – pain is beauty/beauty is art
28. Stuart Davis – The lovechild of Braque and Miles.
29. The Chapman brothers – hell is other people
30. Joseph Kosuth – this is a referential reference.
31. Chris Ofili – modern mystic folk art
32. Georgia O’keefe – flowers from a bee's POV
33. Frida Kahlo – emotionally detached narcissism
34. Sarah Lucas – Feminist iconography
35. Gustav Klimt – gold lame mannerist Mona Lisas
36. Man Ray – lachrymose sexual dream states in black and white
37. Sol de Witt – the striped cube
38. Pablo Picasso – the dynamics of decadence
39. Willem De Kooning – flesh colored monster venus
40. Mark Rothko – personal apocalypse
41. Jasper Johns – flag off-mast
42. Barbara Kruger – Obey! In red/black/white
43. Robert Mapplethorpe – gay photos that piss off senate wives and preachers
44. Robert Ryman – white on white on wall
45. Chuck Close – up close and personal (har, har)
46. Frank Stella – prismatic geometry
47. Kazimir Malevich – the circle and the square
48. Piet Mondrian – primary composition
49. Michael Craig-Martin – I have taken a sentence, made it a mountain.
50. Hieronymus Bosch – earth, heaven and hell. And hell.
51. Damien Hirst – timeless memento mori
52. Marcus Harvey – morbid myra
53. Otto Dix – uglified, chain smoking sexually ambiguous Germans
54. Max Beckmann – stylized psychological torture
55. Claus Oldenberg – big hokey everyday objects
56. Joseph Beuys – talking to your food
57. Cy Twombly – expanding the practice easel
58. Nam June Paik – Feed the idiot box
59. Sadie Bennings –girl power
60. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec – coffee house wall art
61. Andrew Wyeth – helpless cripple in a field of amber grain
62. Yves Tanguy – cogs in a dream machine
63. Giorgio de Chirico – creepy, empty streets with towering shadows
64. Jeff Koons – basketballs, puppy balloons and joyous kitsch
65. Francisco Goya – romanticized Spanish revolution
66. Robert Rauschenberg – all white/all black
67. Bansky – sociopolitical but widely admired street art
68. Marc Quinn – blood busts and contortionist sculpture
69. Chris Burden – shoot and nail
70. Henri Matisse – green line down his wifes face
71. Piero Manzoni – commodity scat fetish
72. Norman Rockwell – sleepy nostalgic americana
73. Meret Oppenheim – messy breakfast
74. George Bellows – bowery life and pugilism
75. Francis Bacon – ghoulish meat packing hell
76. Carey Young – personal wealth inventory
77. David Lachapelle – fashionable subversion
78. Thomas Eakins – voyeuristic clinic scene
79. Paul Gaughin – topless native women
80. Jean Arp – distorted egg shapes
81. Max Ernst – dystopian heroic epic storybook
82. George Grosz – slightly bloated bald men slumped in their chairs
83. Lyubov Popova – soft Soviet cubism
84. Carlo Carra – psychological collage
85. Bruce Nauman –neon self representation
86. Yves Klein – The new blue period
87. Charlie Thomson – menopausal greeting cards
88. Louise Bourgeois – Human spiders
89. Dark Vomit – skulls, baby animals and clowns at the supper table
90. Art and Language – The medium is the message.
91. Billy Childish – masturbatory post- post impressionism.
92. Giacomo Balla –trace paper repetition
93. Constantin Brancusi – Aerodynamic gold
94. David Bomberg – the vorticist handbook
95. Kathe Kollowitz – vampire novel sketches
96. Anetta Mona Chisa and Lucia Tkacova – footnotes in blue ink
97. Richard Serra – giant pencil shaving sculpture
98. Charles Demuth – art deco colored numbers
99. Louis Lorowick – art deco landscape
100. Peter Davies – Who?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

First Post

I decided, after a period of posting videos and rants on my Facebook account, random articles on my personal blog, and taking notes on artists featured on episodes of Art:21 at 3 in the morning, that it was time to put all my obsessive thoughts on the subject in one place.

The title for this blog is derived from the name of Damien Hirst's 'For the Love of Art' diamond encrusted memento mori. The "Oh" is added to express the "shock value" some of this art can give people. My ultimate goal is to express that shocks aren't bad, in fact, they are almost always necessary.

This blog will be somewhat frantic, somewhat learned, but always unapologetic. Expect videos, links to interviews, reviews/critiques, rants... you know, the usual. Except, not. :)

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I love to read about linguistics, behavioral economics, theory and philosophy. I listen to music some might call outdated, write satirical and high testosterone plays, consume too much caffeine and ruthlessly defend modern and contemporary art.