Archive for the ‘Reviewed Work’ Category

Jonas Burgert

Posted: February 14, 2010 in Reviewed Work

This is a painting by Jonas Burgert recently acquired by the Denver Art Museum. There is nothing revolutionary here. However, it certainly qualifies as a ‘work of art’, as defined in the section: Review Criteria. In short, this young artist is doing an honest day’s work.

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Flower pot by Jean-Pierre Raynaud. One example in a long line of art whose credo is « anything is art », all you have to do is present it in the context of art. The artist himself sums up his art, and other art like it, as follows : « Art is the sublime lie. » Now, if by this statement he was trying to unmask so much of the meaningless nonsense masquerading as great art, he should be considered one of the more important artists today, unfortunately however, that’s not where he’s coming from—in perfect contradiction to himself, he really wants to be recognized for elevating this stuff to the rank of fine art. And regardless of the conceptual confusion, there is a more fundamental, practical problem: the art medium he has chosen to express his idea is visual, and his work, such as this flower pot—all too simply—contributes absolutely nothing new visually.

To take just one example of meaningless nonesense masquerading as great art we can refer to the black paintings by Pierre Soulages:

Trying to understand why buyers of such art let themselves be abused like this is to participate in this abuse. So don’t bother trying.

Stéphane Bordarier

Posted: February 14, 2010 in Reviewed Work

What these forms are supposed to represent is not paramount. What is (because it is visual art) is that they have visual interest. This having been said, I will tell you in passing what the artist told me years ago: that they were fundamental elements in nature, boulders. Knowing this guy’s work over the last two decades I can tell you he has come a long way. Personally I really like the work you see here with the two forms in juxtaposition. IT WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE THIS! Imagine canvases that are two meters by two meters filling up a gallery and each one of them having a big, bland, sepia-colored ‘shapeless’ form filling up the canvas. I can understand being a purist but there just wasn’t anything there to like. Today, almost two decades later, he still insists on doing these seemingly banal forms but now they are used in juxtaposition–with two, three, or four of them together in a row so that a truly interesting image is created overall, and this, due as much to the finite blank space that is left on each canvas as to the painted forms themselves.  With this, we also have the additional quality that the color brings, regardless of whether or not this color can be ‘defended’ according to purely intellectual terms. It does finally work. Talk about perseverence!

Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons

Posted: February 13, 2010 in Reviewed Work

From the superhuman efforts of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci to the super sub-human effortlessness of Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, everything has, as they say, been done. When you have everything, decadence naturally sets in—to the point that today, for those afflicted by our bling bling culture, serious work—requiring work—is perceived as being the enterprise of a sucker. In this case better the ‘artist’ give the afflicted art fan something that requires no effort like a diamond covered skull, as in the case of Damien Hirst shown here or an inflatable copy of the Hulk, as in the case of Jeff Koons, shown below.

Left: Another ‘painstaking’ contribution to the fine arts by Jeff Koons.

Hantai is an internationally reknowned artist; a “master,” but you don’t earn such acclaim by doing something along the lines of the following, which isn’t nearly original enough.

An early work:

Hantai became ‘important,’ if we are to believe his promoters, by coming up with a new way of painting, called “pliage”, which is the French word for “folding” (Hantai worked in Paris, France). An example of his “pliage” follows:

Le pliage:

Now we can understand why he became important: nobody had ever seen anything like this before in an important fine arts gallery–and then afterwords, in museums. Unfortunately this painting, and the others that belong to his ‘innovative’, ‘important’ oeuvre, are worthless to look at. But just how bad is it? Perhaps it wouldn’t be that bad if it were meant to be wall paper–up to you to decide. As “fine art” however, it is nothing less than crude,  and an insult to one’s intelligence–for ‘folding’ isn’t even original–ask anyone who has realized as much in his kindergarten kraftwerk.

To conclude, we must ask ourselves: “So why’s this stuff so prominently placed in the public’s eye?” For the answer, one would have to turn to lessons in psychology, sociology, and of course art marketing. For one reference which may help in our understanding, see the section: Review: ‘Loophole’ Article.

BoschelFigurative artwork represents something in real life and may benefit from this fact when the subject naturally appeals to the viewer. On the other hand, abstract work, which is not constrained by the representational directive, can be particularly effective when a fiery dynamism expresses great heart and soul on the part of the artist. Abstract art may, however, be accused of being a style whereby the artist simply moves the paint around seemingly aimlessly until there is a satisfiable harmony, at which point, he or she self approvingly declares the work to be well done and complete.

With this in mind many people prefer figurative work for the simple reason mentioned above. But for those viewers who are not simple, another type of art, neither figurative nor abstract, may be preferred: highly structured conceptual work where one has the impression that something fundamental to nature, our nature (elements, forms and/or processes) are being discovered. This may be likened to the great scientific discoveries that help remove the veil of Mother Nature as it were.

And, when both these qualities are achieved in artwork—the heart and soul that is expressed in a fiery dynamism and a sense of strong structural discovery as in certain highly calculated works—you seem to have it all. What’s more, you have before you a work that demonstrates the technical mastery of bringing the two radically different styles together into one.

The work of Geneviève Boschel, a relatively unknown Parisian artist (at the time of this writing) does this. And it is pure pleasure to find yourself in the presence of one of her works.

Jay One

Posted: February 9, 2010 in Reviewed Work

Freedom or BustI saw a very surprising exhibition the other day, an exhibition of Jay One Ramier, “Jay One” for those who have been following him since his years as a famous street graffiti artist.
The first thing that was surprising is that the exhibition was excellent, certainly not something you see everyday in a gallery world where everyone is just trying to sell what seems to be the popular style of the moment. Another thing, one that hooked me immediately, was the quantity, and they are all good. In this current exhibition there is a large number—two floors of at least forty paintings—of an accomplished style of art that wasn’t quite yet the case in his previous exhibition. The fact that they are so numerous and of such high quality demonstrates a definite mastery of his art.
As with any excellent art work, his art demonstrates a certain originality, and this originality is justified. To begin with, and most importantly, it is human, the base of any art hoping to be considered “fine art”. Along with this, Jay One takes advantage of and builds upon his long history as an accomplished and highly appreciated street artist. The graphic nature and inviting colors of his previous street work is put to the service of the portraits we see today, portraits being, by nature human. But the primary subject of his portraits, a reduced image of a black man’s visage—his exagerated colorful red lips juxtaposed with a surrounding portion of his chocolate brown face—go beyond this natural interest. These reduced images (picture Al Jolson) may be viewed as veritable icons in a black history, of which, Jay One naturally belongs: he is black of Guadalupian origin. If we are to refer to the example of Al Jolson in the long history that has helped to make this icon of Jay One so identifiable, one is reminded of Jolson’s blackface and singing style that were used as metaphors for Jewish and black suffering throughout history. Indeed, Jay One’s work is human. Furthermore, as much as this “trademark”, or icon, is being used by Jay One in his present work, it is not being used in gratuitous fashion, that is to say, strictly for marketing identification purposes. In the case of his paintings, that which they express, this trademark effect is simply effective. On the more technical side to this story, we are impressed by a fusion of painting styles: a structured style, with the graphical parts of the human face and other pictorial elements, fused together with a highly dynamic, abstract style. This fusion not only demonstrates a technical mastery of his art, painting, but is, again, naturally pleasing to the viewer.
JayOnePoolIntertubeNow for the real surprise. As I pointed out above, I was impressed by the quantity of the accomplished work in the exhibition, as well as its coherency, which demonstrated a definite self assurance of style and technique—what all artists strive for. But then, as I moved forward in the gallery, I discovered what I will now refer to as the partner exhibit. I was amazed to see that there was a second line and style of work by Jay One—of the opposing side to the spectrum as it were, one that complements the previous work that I have been speaking about above. In fact, the two styles reinforce one another. This partner work, figurative in style, is not original in and of itself but the reason for it being there in the exhibition is most original. But first, before unveiling the surprising originality in question, a word on what this second line of work looks like. It is a highly purified figurativism, which, by the way, retains a certain graphic quality, a graphic quality being a common denominator in Jay One’s work. The people, when featured in the paintings, represent, inasmuch as they are black, another similarity to the previous paintings, a continuity in terms of subject if you will. The colors as well, a striking palette of pastels in the typical Caribean spirit, share a resemblance—remain highly inviting. But these human figures and these human settings—their purified, stark figurativism—are now, in this line of work, of a most conservative nature. This is the world of the well-to-do black man, of luxury and leisure.
Now the surprise: The images described at the outset of this article express, and effectively so, the more modest world that many a man live in, particularly—I guess we must admit—the black man. Here the paintings are rougher, more rebellious in style, with more heart and soul—certainly so, by way of the particular iconic black visage that is portrayed. The second, or partner work, is beautiful as well, but now in a classic, or more vulgar sense—as you prefer.
The great surprise that I’ve been meaning to get to is this: how two highly different styles were used in the same exhibition, with such effectiveness, and with such purpose.
It effect, it is likely to bring a smile to your face, as I well noticed on others present at the exhibition. One person even cracked a laugh and shared with me the fact that only truly great work brings such wonderful feelings out in him.
I of course, spoke at length with Jay One, before and during the exhibition. There is nothing adolescently political in these works, nothing over emotionally militant here, nothing mean going on in the mind of Jay One. And it shows, beautifully so. A little hardship. A little dreaming. That’s life, according to Jay One.