Thursday, December 15, 2005

''Why is this art?

A post written a while back but I guess I never hit the submit button

A lively debate about the purity of photography at edward_ winkleman with 70 high flying posts about truth and trust - makes me want ask - why would any one trust an "artist" about anything?

Fast forward to the NY Sun's review of MOMA's Pixar show:

But in many ways "Pixar" is both too specialized and too pedestrian. On the one hand, it wants to establish that the computer animation that made the company famous is only part of the story - many of their artists use traditional media. The exhibition also wants to make clear that the computer, like the pencil or brush, is merely a tool - that it is only as good as the illustrator who uses it.

All of this is true enough, but animators are the only ones who really care about the distinction. There is more to "drawing, painting, and sculpture" than illustrative rendering or modelmaking; art is composed of metaphors. The show mistakenly attempts to elevate creative, inventive, and technically adept illustrations and maquettes - cartoon characters rendered for the screen - to that of great drawing and sculpture. What it all amounts to is a purposeful leveling of the playing field: Art is dumbed down and illustration is dumbed up.

Increasingly, artists want to have their tools and eat them, too. MoMA and Pixar want us to believe that the studio's computer-generated illustrations should be considered as art. Yet they feel compelled to remind us that their illustrators work with paint and pastel. It seems to me a bit of overly defensive posturing: Enjoying "Toy Story" doesn't make you a philistine; putting it on a par with Picasso is another story.

And then back track to the NY Times' State of the Art which ends with a flourish:

MANY New Yorkers dismissed ''The Gates,'' or did not take pleasure in it. Some even refused to experience it. Their objections were not to the quality of the work, to the color of the sheets, for instance, or to their height or placement. Technique was never the problem, and few complained that Central Park was being desecrated. Most of the objections went much deeper, reaching in fact to the philosophical issue at the heart of modern art. ''Why is this art?'' the skeptics asked. It's easy to imagine art snobs smirking at what they would consider the cultural naïveté behind such doubts. But the question, a fair and very serious one, has always deserved an answer.

I skipped the Gates and remain dismissive of them. How about you?


Anonymous Tim Connor said...

I looked forward to seeing the Gates for months. I had seen the Running Fence in Sonoma & thought it one of the most beautiful, even transformative things I had ever encountered. It wasn't what I thought art was supposed to be -- it had involved a huge legal/political effort, massive funding, vast logistical resources & it was huge (20 miles long? something like that). But it was somehow light, whimsical, witty, fun -- & just astonishingly graceful. You wanted to look at it forever. So I went with high hopes. I had been annoyed by the blitzkrieg of hype & all ready-to-go rave reviews, but I never expected that it would be boring. It was. Crushingly. It seemed to be little more than a cheesy backdrop against which people could take photos to prove they'd been there. I confess I hate that color orange, for starters. I think it may have been an attempt to give a democratic nod to industrial colors, the colors of traffic cones, sidewalk barriers etc., but it was truly ugly. And then the fabric was the nubby stuff you might expect on a couch in low-rent lobby. Why? Actually, there was nothing attractive about any of it. Was this supposed to be the point? Prefab ready made art for the masses? Then why was the art establishment going mad with its numbered editions of plans, prints etc? Why were people talking about the avant garde? I thought it was safe, square. No surprises, no laughs, no grandeur, nothing interesting about the interplay between natural & artifical, art & the everyday. Just empty. A big corporate exercise. Was it art? Not if looking at art feels like a complete waste of time. I mean it was so boring I couldn't even figure out how to make satirical photographs of it. I took a few pix of people taking pix & went home.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Chris Bonney said...

I happened to be in the city the weekend Gates opened, so I saw it before the fabric was unfurled and after. In the "before" stage, despite the rigid posts and their blocky footings, some of the gates provided an interesting echo to the park's paths.

They did well on broad runs and not to well on short steps. Once unfurled, there was warmth and whimsy and emotional uplift along some of the paths. The orange was undeniably striking against the dull winter palette.

But I also recall thinking that the whole thing looked like something dropped in from outer space and not at all of Central Park. Unlike Sonoma or even the Reichstag installation, Gates didn't so much as flow from or complement the topography of Central Park so much as it semed to rebuke it, inflicting an artificial formality on Olsmtead's sinuous design. In some places the dimensions of Gates worked. Here:

you can almost imagine them as giant orange skaters. But in others,

the dimensions came across as low, oppressive, claustrophobic and awkward. I didn't see people lingering under these folds so much as hurry to get out from underneath them.

In the end, I decided that Gates was best seen from afar and that it didn't need anyone's permission to qualify as art.

What was interesting to me about the hype surrounding Gates was that almost everything I heard about Gates was about just that, the hype--the cost, the miles of fabric, the army of installers, the challenge of getting the whole thing done, etc.--rather than about the artistic statement Christo presumably intended. Like good public art, it got people talking. But the people I listened to in the park that weekend, too, seemed to be talking more about the production than the net impression.

But having said that, I couldn't agree with so-called art experts who complained that Gates wasn't figurative or premanant enough to be "art." I also couldn't buy into the hysteria surrounding the greatness of Gates, either. The installation's biggest fans, it seemed, wanted to BE PART OF THE HYPE, part of the supposed rebellion, rather than be part of, or moved by, the work itself. It was as if the whole thing was being seen through the eyes of People Magazine.

2:01 PM  
Blogger john smith said...

ut of the more than 100,000 negatives I have in the collection.

6:53 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home