The artist thrives in the unique state of being able to see things beyond surface appearance, and presents to the rest of us such a translation in an equally unique vision.
Art is both verb and noun. It is an act of thinking and receiving. It is a sinking-in of information which prompts us to consider our place in the much larger world. Art prompts us to recognize meaning in an artist’s object, a playwright’s dialogue, an actor’s performance, a novelist’s writing, a poet’s verse.
Art is not something which one can visit without having some sort of thought-process, some act of thinking immediately following. This is where the art happens; with the thought—the thinking-about – usually in response to [the] contradictory nature of what is observed. A contrast in size, shape, material within an environment prompts us to think in symbolic terms, and, here, we begin to venture into the realm of Art.
All of this makes me consider Melville’s description of art in his poem of the same name, for he posits just this with his lines: “A wind to melt, a flame to freeze, sad patience, joyous energies – such unlike things must meet and mate” and, also, Wilde’s “Art can make an almond tree blossom in winter, or make snow fall upon the ripe cornfield”; …. or Blake’s “Joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine” or, in Berger’s sharper prose “the wooden bird is wafted by the warm air rising from the stove in the kitchen while the real birds are outside freezing to death!”
These are all effective definitions of what art is – for they all contain within them an engagement of opposites, an irony, a new angle in the way things are seen. This is art. Art jolts us out of our accepted narrative, and makes us consider the veracity of that narrative, and, then, has us question our nominal acceptance before we came to our newest point of questioning.
This is why we need the art, artists = to keep us from slipping into a world where there is no contrast, no quest, no questioning, no new view presented to us, no way to really see our world and our place within it.
Whether through Alice’s Looking-Glass prompting us to look at the society of Victorian England or Don Quixote’s Chivalric-Lens in realizing Spain’s place in the advancing modern world, both of these works, (especially) and, all works of literary fiction, works of successful art lead us to a significant and greatly-appreciated truth.
the teaching of art in today’s art schools and its necessary adopting of the computer/Internet as communication as a means of creating not only relevant work, (commenting upon this technology and its impact on social change) but work which simultaneously commands an almost green existence by its primarily ? electronic existence. The immediacy of a social media post far outweighs in successful communication the making of an arcane art object to struggle on a wall or gallery floor – trying to say something. The material waste runoff and using of new resources to create objects for social commentary is also, part of the debate.
Also, at its heart, is the issue of relevance and with regard to real-life issues, that of economic diversity. I would like to think that the barriers between the real world out there and the artist’s “secret-language” studio have lessened, become weakened by mass accessibility and familiarity with the art world through the digital age conveyor belt of images, and, the artist’s very own participation in it, and, that art instruction at higher levels of academic learning are addressing this phenomenon. If our entire political debate structure has discovered the power of the Internet and its immediacy, the power of the ability to tap into the very-present and utilize the medium to its advantage and, by doing so, connect with people on a much broader level, why not have our teaching venues (galleries/undergraduate art classes) teach visual art (the making of images, objects) through the lens of media influence and its relevance?
The idea that the one area in a visual artist’s life which can be completely controlled, [that is, in one’s very own art-making] lies in contrast with that of the graphic designer, or, maker of images for commercial use. In order to succeed in the commercial field, one must follow conventions and, in order to succeed, compromise in order to remain a vital player.
Does the artist working quietly in his studio trump the designer who must exist within convention and forgo that sanctioned state of true freedom, complete control? If so, what is the result of this arrangement? How effective is the designer’s art in constituting societal enrichment (making us see something) and change as opposed to the studio artist?
It is here, ironically, in the design world (and, not in the artist’s studio) where the artist needs to be in control. The visual artist needs to take control somehow, here, where it matters. The world of design and fashion and style is where the cultural images [we] create affect how our society operates. Advertising imagery gives us our template of cultural prescription. The images created for mass media advertising are those which have brought us to where we are now; one of embracing corporate enterprise, making conspicuous consumption a virtue, and promoting wastefulness as a staple of our supposed spiritual-societal needs with the resulting influence leaving us a consumer-based spirit whose only lasting ritual is that of commodity-gathering to feed-the-family status. Community, truth, change are not marketable products for a successful capitalism.
We artists, those in our studios closed out and in complete control of things end up commenting upon this in our art…..maybe? We make these tangible works of art to show the very same society how out-of-control it truly is. But to what effect? Implement for change? Not really. The system’s too closed-looped. Economic and social diversity end at the high-priced art-showing door.
In order to really effect change, comment upon society, make our art objects matter, one must seemingly have to work from within. Break the paradigm. Push the studio clock to “present” and consider where the past decades have left us.
This is the one role we artists should assume, in attempting to work from within. And, the only way to do this with any success is to have the artist, [the thinker, the seer, the one who does not play by the rules of conformity and allegiance] apply them to the real world teaching available to us out there, maybe in the direct field of graphic design, advertising, the opening up of the contemporary gallery space for real-life discussion and debate, or, in newly-formed academic study.
[We] should be the ones sacrificing our freedom (in the quiet calm of our cozy well-lit studios) for the chance to upend the entire structure.
Regarding the static painted visual art piece on a wall, or, the static sculpted object on a pedestal, what are we to read beyond the object’s own “art-object-ness” in a recycled environment of reference and quotation? Can the object we now make be successful at translating our meaning given its expected reception in a now seemingly all-too familiar field? Is the gallery context itself somehow inhibiting as it moves from exclusive space visited by students of art and other artists to the David Byrne familiar with Eric Fischl painting art’s own art-going morphology?
Is it like the phenomenon of digital accessibility —- with too much equaling too ordinary and expected for us to even blink an eye no matter the possible strength of the work residing? Can the static art object give us the reading it means to in its current context of “being art in a gallery”? or, have we become too savvy an audience, too familiar with how the system works for the art object itself to move beyond the space it relies upon for its translation?
Is Visual Art stuck in its own necessary replication, unable to move beyond the “look” of what we know art on a wall to be, to move beyond the entrenched orthodoxy of this look, this paradigm? Does the gallery space by default, due to our familiarity with it – create for the artist a space impossible for understanding the actual work? Is our awareness of “looking at art” getting in the way? Has our method of looking overwhelmed the actual art (if there is any) to be found?
Not unlike a Kafka character caught in dilemma, the balance for both lies between the method used (gallery space = traveling circus ) and, the very awareness of the method by both the artist (when placing work in such a prescribed space) and the viewer (upon experiencing that space). Both require an isolation without self-awareness, and given our method of viewing art which includes taking along our image-conscious selves, neither of these seems possible.
Maybe the art on the walls in galleries should be distanced and removed from the real world in terms of its delivery, discussion, and deal with large open swaths of generalized concepts like spirit, balance, harmony and nature, allowing for the connections to be made by sense and feeling rather than study and cultural relevance —- for that is how we may have come to define art anyway.
Artists were once our sole image-makers. Their work, (whether political cartoon, lampoon, editorial illustration, architectural design, photograph, painting, sculpture, carving on clay) assumed a role of communication via a select few. Artists of guilds, patron-hired painters of renown and reputation, professional orators and writers, critics and draftspersons were the ones who gave to our mass audience its cultural signifiers, its innovations within disciplines, and the communication of thoughts, information, and ideas. The circle of influence was small and exclusive; its contributors, for better or worse, employed by patronage, power and privilege.
Today, with our media platforms allowing us a far wider range of respective contributors, we have universal image-making running alongside the artist’s. In addition, we have Visual Art’s seemingly tenuous relationship to its once-inseparable theory; (Greenberg’s Modernist Theory which both promoted painting as it simultaneously, and, accordingly, penned its eulogy); the artist working well within an established discipline pushing tenable Modernist’s boundaries.
Today’s Visual Art seemingly floats without a discipline, and its Modernist Theory, in retrospect, [a discipline criticized itself for its elitism and reduced scope during its time] seems now a welcomed breath of intellectual discourse sorely missed.
A language without a discipline in which to speak it (advance it) is where we seem to find ourselves: wanting our cake (the mooring of Visual Art to a valid language no longer found in theory and scholarship but by virtue of the exhibiting and marketing of the art itself) and, eating it, too – asserting that anything found in these spaces is art, regardless of its challenge to the form, its historical progression, (technical development or any advancement in form) made within the language itself.
(blog post update: wanting our cake and eating it too = Art Basel Miami Beach_
So, we have a language that needs to be understood in order for the art to exist, and, the space for that language to exist needs to be open-ended and understood. If either of these fail in communicating, what do we have?
For the most part, the contemporary art gallery exists in its own subset of isolationism by insisting that the language used here in this space is a mystery, is supposed to be one not quite understood, arcane, and, at its furthest, incommunicable. It is a place to go to be inspired, awed, moved by the art objects we see before us. We are there to look at and experience (almost meditatively) objects before us that are presented as art, no matter the success in translation of the language being used.
It is noted that Elizabethan audiences understood the language of pun and aside, nuanced allusion, political and religious satire. They understood the role of theater, the language of the stage. I’m not sure we can carry this over to today’s gallery-going experience. The deck is stacked against the innocent viewer wanting to get something out of the work displayed. In the open-armedness of the inclusive-minded 21st century society – we have an improved increased interest in Visual Art – but many of the museum-like cordons [prompting us to maintain an awed silence] remain firmly in place.
With Visual Art today- the language is not only arcane but, gratuitous and random. It seems to consist of an ‘anything goes’ — as long as it “looks like art”; the kind of art that we’ve come to know and trust. The Copernicuses of art-making have had to become Geo-centrists by market-success default. Revolutions are for flipping paradigms on their heads, and the market-controlled Gallery-to-Gala-to-Big Art Fair wants nothing to do with this.
So, to look at this whole established system — to look at “looking at art”with some sort of silver-lining – maybe where today’s art is to be found is in the gallery space — but in the gallery-goer’s own sentient experience of ‘going to a gallery and looking at art‘. Maybe it is the activity that is the important thing, the social interaction and the community participation and not the “getting anything” from the art, or, what the artist has tried to say with the art object. Maybe it is the diversion itself; the contemporary gallery space really well-designed in successfully generating the collective sigh, gasp, or reflex and, maybe this is what we truly need.
(blog update: contemporary art gallery as an experience, an event – cite Amanda Hess – “American Dream” shopping malls for the experience_
Maybe our art today is to be found in the ‘experiencing of ‘ it — in all of its intangible, abstract and ineffable nuanced state.
I would love to begin my blog discussing the latest Star Wars movie and tie this in with [a] recent Guerrilla Girls appearance on The Stephen Colbert Show, along with the SNL ‘Undercover Boss’ sketch with Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, and, how these entertainment incidentals (the grist of our Postmodernist mill) tie in with where we are in our society with regard to Art and Culture.
But… I think I need to first identify my angle of approach in Getting Art : Now = where I simply want to discuss contemporary art in a way so that we all can try and understand it (why are Warhol’s soup cans so important?) and participate in the discussion no matter our level or background in art. How I will do this will be by looking at contemporary art shows at galleries and writing about the work shown. The art on the walls tells us a lot about where we are, and, who we are.
If the culture of a people is reflected in the art of a people, what is the 21st century artist reflecting with the visual works it comes up with?
The piece of pottery we look at in a museum of collected artifact – [with its ornamental bands painted in circular pattern] gives to us a glimpse of the culture that created it. The ornamental bands read perhaps as elements mimicking an aquatic nature; a people surrounded by the always-moving bands of water that surround them. The art object reflects the culture that creates it.
“And then I was thinking, what would the worker murals of today be like? They say we are a service economy now – that there are more people selling us hamburgers then making us steel and things. So would the huge wall murals of today be of the people sitting at computer terminals and the people at Burger King handing you your fries? Is there any way to make that look heroic? “Andy Warhol’s “America”; 1985
How is the world of Contemporary Visual Art adding or subtracting anything from the social fabric and does Visual Art have a role, responsibility, or play even a small part in making successful connections with the very same society that sponsors it?
Are those sporadically surfacing visual presentations of the contemporary gallery space doing anything to make us more aware of our current society, or, even better — is that what the assignment is for art? ———has it been? has it always?
Has art and its making become a therapeutic necessity for both artist and viewer; the isolated studio bubble for the artist’s inner peace, and, the contemporary gallery shows and exhibition spaces fulfilling the spiritual-community need like a coffee shop with Wi-Fi or a Y membership?
My approach to Contemporary Visual Art would like to be one of discussing the work, the actual work on the wall, each piece individually, or, an artist’s direction granted to us by the whole. In doing this, maybe we can find some answers to some of the questions the art object raises.
The fact that so much is familiar to us about art and its making, and, the distance between artist and viewer lessening considerably over the past fifty years [with increased access to the whole idea of artists and making art], there’s a need for the Contemporary Art world to somehow blur the line between arcane language and elitist reading with that of a very savvy digitally-connected here-and-very-now society. This is our context.
With Modernism, we had the approach to painting (making a painting on a canvas in full regard to its tradition and history as a painting) tied to theoretical and practical advancement made within its own well-defined field. With Postmodernism, we no longer have the luxury of such a limited and tidy system of evolution. (Noted, BTW, only in retrospect.) We are no longer reducing painting until we reach the actual canvas material that’s painted on, in order to ‘end painting’, or, at least, to have tried to -Postmodernism -far more unmanageable in its scope. There’s so much here – and, we are swimming in it — our engagement now, (in Post-Postmodernism, Meta-Modernism or whatever term we are asked to apply) something that we have to use as our context for looking at any art object we now make.
The facet of contemporary art’s own tribal chanting of an Anti-Aestheticism attached to the visual art world’s response to Postmodernism makes for an interesting parallel with our conservative movement in our politics. This is what happens, socially, culturally, I guess. The larger we get (our virtually boundary-less Google-search space) the more tribal we seemingly become; the more protective of our past only in response to an unmanageable present.
The new Star Wars movie (the one everyone is complaining didn’t give us anything new) gives us a glimpse of the culture that created it. [The piece of pottery we look at in a museum of collected artifact – with its ornamental bands painted in circular pattern gives to us a glimpse of the culture that created it.]
The question we should be asking ourselves of Episode VII is not “why is it simply a remake of Episode IV?”- but, ……………what does remaking Episode IV actually say about us?
If all we did was add technological advancement to the original, is this not our art? Doesn’t this say a lot about our current culture? The fact that there is no new story-line, the fact that we are so eager to be reminded of the first Star Wars movie, to return to the mythical (we are all anxious to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher 40 years older) gives us a good indication of where we are culturally, and, where our next Star Wars installment might lead us.