Sunday, May 4, 2008

rock stars and art stars

So many new artists “challenging” the boundaries of paint and sculpture. My friend doesn’t trust it one iota. The challenge seems academic to her, especially when the challengers are teachers yet the pose is rock star.

This made me think about the art system and the difference between a rock star and an art star. While rock and roll is in a twilight similar to where jazz was in the 1970s, it still has a chance to be made by just about anyone. Meaning rock stars do not generally posses MFAs or come to the game with heavy theory. In fact quite a few are still art school, college and even high school dropouts. Rejection of institutions is part of the process in claiming authenticity.

But art stars embrace all of that. They’re inside and outside at once, not only earning grades but dishing them out, often on the theory and supposed practice of subversion. A good friend of mine in this particular wave once cut me off by stating: “It’s great that one wants to keep going to school. It’s great to get as much education as you can.”

Well, I agree, I’ve had fun in school. It’s good for the student and it’s good for the teacher. I am not so convinced that it’s been good for art though. And as to the viewer, they can take the “challenges” for sure. But some are really hollow in their pitch and punch.


harold hollingsworth said...

From a very interesting New Yorker article by Jerry Saltz...

Each on his own is good at this mannered nonstyle. But their show, while roguish, is merely occupying a well-defined position. A heat-seeking art world, mindlessly drawn to the familiar, has deemed that current art should look this way, so more art does. That’s part of the bad thing.

Like so many recent exhibitions (numbing swaths of the Whitney Biennial, portions of the New Museum’s “Unmonumental”) the Colen-Lowman outing resembles a disheveled rec room. The palette du jour in these shows is black-and-white, black-and-silver, monochrome, Day-Glo, or printer’s colors like magenta and cyan applied mechanically or in intentionally messy ways. Posters, gaffer’s tape, magazine pages, and found objects are placed about. Images are usually derived from newspapers, ads, or porn. Text and jokes often appear (à la Richard Prince); holes are often bashed in walls; Sheetrock and plywood are broken up and spray painted. Noland’s ideas about sculpture and Prince’s about appropriation are so prevalent that those artists ought to be drawing royalties.

Much of this work takes visual cues from the photographs that appeared in art magazines of the sixties and seventies, translating that smudgy halftone quality to three dimensions. These artists seem to want to crawl into the skins of Gordon Matta-Clark and Robert Smithson, whose work did intrusive things to the large and familiar, and a preapproved roster from the so-called “greatest generation.” It’s a cool school based on an older cool school, and it gains attention the way a child of a celebrity does. Many artists of this stripe went to art school and have apparently internalized the beliefs of their teachers, using strategies common when those instructors were young. They’re making art in ways that their teachers thought art should be made. This is an Oedipal-aesthetic feedback loop, a death wish. Some of this art is good. Most of it already looks very dated, or will soon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this bit from Jerry, Harold. Very smart and right on the money. Eva