Archive for the ‘Review: ‘Loophole’ Article’ Category

JezequelLet’s avoid this crap.

Art for Art’s Sake.

The above phrase taken as is sounds like someone saying: “A house for a house’s sake”, whereas we all know that a house is for people, as in “Home sweet home”.

Back when they coined the expression « art for art’s sake » artists had, up till that time, been trying to satisfy the overly protective strictures of art that were officially administered in society, whose themes were commonly based on acceptable politics and religious themes. Even the style of the themes were largely restricted by what was considered acceptable or not. Wanting to get away from these burdensome precepts was understandable. It was all the more understandable when, at this time, people were beginning to question their traditional views on religion, politics, and society in general. « Art for art’s sake » naturally expressed this change, and the artwork which was the result of this evolution promised to offer more for the world of art and culture.

It is only natural that such a grand idea leaves one wondering : has it lived up to its promise ? When we reflect on it—this fundamental tenet art-for-art’s-sake and examine its consequences—it is evident that the answer is less than certain. The major consequence (the one that all issues seem to revolve around) is the unique style or concept that an artist must be able to claim for himself if he is to be considered an important artist. To take one major example, let’s refer to Jackson Pollock: it seemed that his only guideline was that his work be different—to the point that, after doing this or that ‘experiment’ he would ask those around him for their verdict: « Is this art? Is that art? ».

Art for Our Sake, not Art for Art’s Sake

Although we all understand that the originality part is important, it should be secondary. The human element comes first: art not for art’s sake, per say, but rather for people’s sake—in the same way that a house is not for a house’s sake but rather for the sake of those who are to make it a home. So did Pollock fail his most fundamental responsibility as an artist? According to the great interest we generally show for him, the answer is no. To the extent that Pollock’s work is ‘human’ and moves us as such, it is successful, but it certainly isn’t considered successful because someone is saying: « Look! He discovered that no one thought of paint drippings as fine art before! What a genious! What a step forward for humanity!

Early work by Jackson Pollock—not original enough:

Dripping paint, however, was deemed original enough and it ‘worked’. Why such a seemingly ridiculous endeavor worked for Pollock is a story in itself, yet it is a story with aspects that are similar to so many other well known artists. These aspects, as we implied above revolve around the condition whereby the artist’s primary, if not only, concern is to find something different—to do. I’m sure everyone has his own pet peeve-example where this has gotten out of control: from the artist whose difference, or originality, was allowing pigeons to crap on a canvas to the artist who’s into self-mutilation—so I won’t add any others to our list—I will only mention a few of the main categories that this blinding quest for originality comes under: 1) doing something that hasn’t already been done though the reason that it hasn’t already been done is because common sense has always told one in the past that it wasn’t worth doing. 2) doing nothing (the work looks like nothing) in which case no one did it before for the obvious reason that it is nothing. 3) making believe that something that has always commonly existed in society, such as cartoon work, doodling, strewn rubbish, or whatever, is now to be considered a style of ‘fine art’ and taking credit for it as being original now that you have introduced it into the realm of fine art. 4) the manufactured or monumental look, whereby the only redeeming quality of the work is that it has a ‘slick’ manufactured look and/or that it is monumental in size. 5) Etcetera.

Like a loophole in the laws

Today, as a result of this forced march for originality, a lot has been done. In fact, everything seems to have, as they say, been done. But this doesn’t stop artists from trying to be original and of course they shouldn’t stop trying. However, beware of abuses. For many artists (and the art merchants that represent them), finding something original in respect to what has already been done in the arts is like a lawyer looking for a loophole in the laws. The textual justification they come up with to support their case is illicit and the visual result of their work often unpardonable.

Soulages’ spurious research

This guy claims that his « beyond black » (though they are nothing more than black) paintings « bring to life » light, and « in the most vehement way. » It goes without saying that this is bullshit (a bit more deference should be given to the Maxwell equations or the brain power of Einstein on this subject), and since « going without saying » means what it means, we won’t say anymore. Examples of his « beyond black » paintings are shown below:


And it is most unfortunate that the bullshit has gotten so much attention because it distracts one from the good work that he is able to do.

In the following example, we have an interesting image, and it may even give a certain credence to his otherwise ridiculous claims mentioned above—but only by radically abandoning the terrible imagery (that being the all-black canvas) he is famous for:

The manufactured or monumental look

With certain art, the manufacturing and/or monumental quality that is visible to the viewer is the only ‘good’ thing about the art piece. This is typically the case for the world’s two most expensive artists: Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. Jeff Koons who has amusement park balloons, candy, or whatever, made in giant shiny aluminum metal. Or Damien Hirst who makes an exact 20 foot replica of the Anatomy Man toy (only to be sued by the manufacturer one might add). In fact, much sculpture or art objects today look like nothing more than brightly colored nick nacks fresh out of the molds of the chinese mass-crap consumerism factories. And the worst part is that it is not the so-called artwork that is demonstrating any intelligence, any intelligent research in the way of form, design, or any other art trait. In effect, any admirable creativity and/or research that is to be found is found instead in the original objects—the nick nacks, toys, what have you—that the artwork is copied from !

On a final note, perhaps the most important thing to remember about such artists, whose work is displayed in such noble places as Versailles and whose galleries may use doormen requesting a mandatory invitation to get in, is: the bigger the lie, the more believable it is.

The case of the honorable artist with the horrible dialectic

Bernard Piffaretti: The numerous pages of text, even mathematical formulas, that he uses to ‘defend’ his work could all be done away with by a more human and accurate analysis, to wit : dividing the canvas in two with a stripe as he does and repeating on the second side of the canvas what he paints on the first expresses a certain futility, which may make one think of life, which seems to be like this sometimes. And Piffaretti’s images are fascinating in and of themselves :

Why bad art comes across as being more than what it is

To have a better appreciation for art one naturally has to have a better understanding of it—what’s good and bad and why. Simple rules for good art are outlined in the section : Review Criteria. As for bad art, identifying it is often just seeing the antithesis to what is good. But in the face of so much bad art, it is important to understand why so much of this bad stuff comes across as being more than what it is. So with the risk of dredging up the pathetic, the following is a short list of oft-spoken explanations:

  • Because the artist is famous. And where bad art is concerned, remember that bad publicity is better than no publicity. In fact, it is considered good for those who are into bad.
  • Everyone’s looking for something—as the song goes. For some of us unfortunately, this ryhmes with deprivation.
  • It is seen in a prestigious gallery or museum, which can take on the air of a temple. With the work gone public as such, we see the work in a world/way much greater than ours as a lonely/lowly individual. Consequently, a work which is without any real substance, may trigger in the mind of an impressionable viewer ideas of fame, glory, what have you, but it is not the actual work that is doing this, it is the context or environment that it is set in.
  • Would be artists or other such dreamers are often predisposed to overlooking the lack of technical and/or intellectual skill behind certain artwork because they would like to think they could do these things themselves–like to imagine for themselves the glamorous lives of those creating this ‘art’.
  • When your common sense tells you that it’s nothing, you may sense the chance to convince yourself that you’re smarter than this—and anyone else that may take odds with it.
  • From the artist’s standpoint, by doing nothing he makes no mistakes, (if not for offering the viewer nothing to appreciate).
  • And anyway, if he were to give the people the impression he was trying—by doing something real and substantial—they would think he hadn’t ‘arrived’, as the French say, which is an innocent way of saying that he is no one. Consequently, better the artist do nothing, in which case he is sure he won’t make any mistakes and that the viewer will think he is really somebody (in order to be able to get away with it).
  • Not understanding it is, in fact, a positive sign for many a viewer–that he is witnessing something ‘beyond,’ read greater than, himself.
  • Some people might like to approach art with a critical eye but they are poorly informed. The only intellectual criteria they have at their disposition is the hype. They wind up fawning over it as any other member of the herd.
  • Some people just want to provoke others in society and crappy art is a middleman for them to do so. And everyone will go see it–not necessarily because he thinks it’s good, but because he wants to see what all the fuss is about.
  • There’s money to be made. Artists and their art dealers have to make a living. To note: Coming up with interesting, original ideas that have equally interesting visual impact is extremely difficult, even painful for an artist. What follows naturally is that an artist tries to find something he can mass produce, a style which can be easily repeted. Even a cute idea with no style or visual interest often convinces him that he has found a solution to his problem. This facility to produce on the part of the artist is the art merchant’s facility to sell in sufficient quantity. And both benefit from the added advantage (the illusion) that this repitition offers: that the artist has found that “one special thing”.
  • The public is not necessarily naive, they just don’t see how they can do anything about it. There are no checks and balances holding decision makers, namely the curators, responsible.
  • As a single individual, you may sense that there is nothing you can do about it one way or another. Might as well check out an exhibition and see what all the hype or fuss is about.
  • And why not the following reason:
    People just do
    n’t care period. They don’t care to think about this feckin’ art for “loft dwellers and other air heads”. They might care however, if they were to consider that their tax dollars are paying for the crap that winds up in their museums.

End note:

As with any important question in life, the answer is made up of a combination of things. The fact that it is a combination of things, makes it often difficult to put your finger on it. And even when you can, you still have the problem of communicating it in society, which is a combination in and of itself, and to which an individual invariably belongs. But I digress a bit; good art is usually a question of respecting the combination of criteria brought out in the Review Criteria section. This combination is worth more than a radically unique concept or style, which is lacking otherwise.