Monday, June 23, 2008

I'd like to be a gallery/ Put you all inside my show

To steal a joke from the Dead Kennedys (and why not?), most gallery shows I go see end up being like a bad laxative: they just don't move me. The contemporary art that gets shown seems to win out because it fetches a high price, and to fetch a high price because it gets shown. And then you have conceptual kitsch, like the stuff Jeff Koons does, which reminds me of those singing fish that college kids buy, put on their wall, and then say, "Man, can you believe that there are people who seriously like these stupid things?!" I've been to a number of shows where the artist seemed to be pulling an elaborate joke on someone, but everyone in the crowd was in on it. Duchamp's fountain has been the most influential piece of art in the last hundred years, but after 90, the joke's wearing a bit thin.

But, just like when I rent bad movies, I find it hard to get too upset by bad art. It doesn't work or fail to work- it just sort of sits there and exists. In this article from the New Republic, Jed Perl describes it more elegantly than I can:

"I am well aware that these artists know how to produce work that is sporadically elegant, ingenious, and charming. They are not stupid men, not by a long shot. Some of them might be accurately described as dandies and aesthetes, and these are perfectly reasonable things for an artist to be. Nobody can deny that Warhol put a personal stamp on his movie stars and supermarket products. David Salle will tell you that his juxtapositions are no more anti-aesthetic than those of an Old Master such as Caravaggio. Nevertheless, all these artists, in one way or another, are at war with the idea that a work of art establishes a freestanding universe. While their lines of attack are more or less subtle, the result is ultimately the same: they replace the there that constitutes a work of art with a nowhere."
I would really only add, "meh".

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