Friday, March 4, 2011

Contemporary Art

It seems to me that so much contemporary art these days is very curator and critic driven. There are so many gallery and museum shows as well as juried exhibitions out there with ready-made themes that it's hard sometimes to find an opportunity to exhibit. This seems very new to me. It used to be that it was the artists who took the initiative. Sometimes curators chose the work of many different artists around a particular theme, but most of the time, they did not. They mostly chose the work of artists that they liked or that shared a common vision or technique. Maybe a theme would emerge out of that, and maybe it wouldn't.

These days, I sometimes feel like a low level employee whose job is to flesh out the ideas of theorists.
There are times when I think art has come full circle. In a distant past, artists were the anonymous illustrators of church doctrine and the ideas of clerics. Now I sometimes think artists are returning to something like that former status, employees illustrating the ideas of academics.

Contemporary art and theory spent the last 50 years demolishing the Romantic idea of the artist as a kind of inspired visionary with a unique vocation. Perhaps this is the harvest of that long effort. Now it seems that every artist is just another commercial decorator, just like in the mural biz. Maybe artists should start signing union cards.

And when did collectors get to be such acclaimed geniuses? Anyone remember the much hyped career of Penthouse magazine mogul Bob Guccione as a "serious" collector of contemporary art?
The Saatchi brothers collect provocative art because they are advertising geniuses and they know what gets public and press attention. Does that really mean that they have any particular insight into the meanings of contemporary experience? Are they even interested in such a question? I wonder.

I think the whole idea of art working hand in hand with commerce is just so much crap. Of course one funds the other and makes the art possible, but are they really compatible enterprises? Commerce is about reducing meaning to exchange value so it can move product and make a profit. Art is about expanding meaning, even at the expense of profit. Of course those two are going to clash, as they always have (and still do despite the desperate declarations of reconciliation with the Chamber of Commerce by arts organizations that are always short of funds).

Or, maybe I'm just being a middle-aged crank.


June Butler said...

Or, maybe I'm just being a middle-aged crank.

Or maybe you're an artist, who's voice we should hear about what's not right in the art world today.

Leonard said...

Last year the most prestigious gallery around this part of the hemisphere invited me to have a one-man show. As much as the possible $$$ was tempting I decided I simply can´t ¨do¨ that anymore--some of my reasons are very commerically driven (I don´t want to be held up by anyone who changes the terms of the agreement--especially when the recourse would mean years of pursuit with little settlement--I´ve been financially screwed several times before)-- I can´t do that, I don´t have unlimited funding in my retirement and I find myself thinking more ¨rightsized¨ about myself, my talent and my circumstances in general--I´m far less the ¨merchant¨ than I once was (I was very successful in the Fashion Accessory business for years--speaking of commercial volume--no matter the sense of ¨style/creative¨ it was exhausting)...I´m a humble artist now who somehow able to pay his bills--seems to fall in line with the great tradition of ¨poor starving artists¨ to me...however we eat very well around here and I keep several people eating as well with the proceeds of my non-NGO community stimulus program.

Chin up! Onward we go (good thing we are Gay and filled with tenacity)

Best to you in all that you do,

Unknown said...

Modern art is all theory in my opinion. It often misses the feelings, or is totally ONLY feelings. It seldom has the depth that I long to see in art. Great for architecture, but not for some piece of art to hang on the wall.

kishnevi said...

1) People have been telling other people what they're supposed to think and feel about art since Aristotle. Probably before him, but he's the first one we can actually read.
2)Perhaps this is a case where living in New York is a disadvantage. Do you have events similar to what we have down here, the Las Olas Art Fair (which is going on this weekend) and the Coconut Grove Arts Festival--which is "curated" on the principal of "as long as there's space for your booth and as long as you can pay the exhibitor's fee, you're in".
(Google them if you want more specific information.) It's true we also have Art Basel now every year, but then, I don't know anyone who's gone to an Art Basel event, but almost everyone I know has gone at least once to the Las Olas or Coconut Grove events.
3) There's also small venues and events. When I go to pay the water bill at City Hall every month, I get to see a new exhibition every month--the city maintains City Hall lobby as an exhibition space for local (or at least in-state, like this month's exhibit) artists. This month, we have a bunch of paintings by the Florida Highwaymen--genre Florida landscape paintings (see here:
but very good genre paintins.