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Author Topic: Am I one of the unwashed masses?  (Read 4803 times)
marvpelkey
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« on: October 29, 2012, 11:29:50 PM »
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Whilst in San Francisco recently, I happened to view a couple Jeff Wall images. Coincidently, I also watched a recent program on Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham and Ian Wallace and their art activities during the 70's in Vancouver, Canada where they were "investigating" some new techniques. One of which was pouring a barrel (50 gallon?) of orange glue down a hillside while photographing same. One of the discussed images was of a purposely "trashed" bedroom, including a ripped/sliced mattress. The image was shown to a museum curator (the Met, I think but not completely sure) who immediately purchased it for $5000, and the estimated value in todays dollars is in the millions.

I must say, I just don't get it. I realize art is different to each person and has it's own value based on a number of factors. However, I wonder if ten (or a hundred) average people who looked at the same image, without knowing the maker, would even give it a second glance? Are we to the point where "art" is only that which some expert says it is. while the rest of us/me are/is left shaking our/my head(s)?
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Fips
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« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2012, 03:40:00 AM »
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Are we to the point where "art" is only that which some expert says it is. while the rest of us/me are/is left shaking our/my head(s)?

No, there is no such point in time. It has almost always been like this.
Regarding the curator: Choosing which piece of art to purchase is simply part of his job. So yes, in a sense he is (supposed to be) an expert who decides what is art and what not. Usually in the exhibition catalog you will then at some point find a reasoning why this piece of art is highly valued by the museum. However, everyone is free to disagree with this.

Imagine a world where curators just try to please as many people as possible. We'd probably end up with museums full of Peter Liks. Or Ikea decoration departments could be declared museums.

By the way, even if you dislike the particular choice of Met curator from an artistic point of view, you must admit that he has done a terrific job economically speaking.  Wink
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RSL
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« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2012, 09:49:21 AM »
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Marv, What you're seeing isn't art, it's commerce pretending to be art. The shock value of displays like this always attracts a horde of TV-headed people to the museum. It's better than a "reality" show.

But regarding the title, depends on whether or not you bathe regularly.
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marvpelkey
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« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2012, 10:38:40 PM »
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Fips,

Some valid comments. Re the mention of Lik and IKEA, in comparison to some of Wall's images, or others, I wonder how many would prefer a Lik? Can the masses be that wrong? (Funny enough, I am actually rather ambivalent about Lik's work). I also find it amusing that the masses loved Robert Bateman during a period of time when he was not at all accepted by the art critics, if he even is now.

Although I would not expect curators to just please as many people as possible, I only question the weight they place on certain artists. It's almost as if they make a choice based on shock value or similar, as suggested by RSL. I once attended a highly touted exhibition in which one whole room consisted of about ten X ten rows of 100 pieces of pottery (tubular objects about two feet high and 6 - 8 inches across at their bases) standing on the floor, with the last three or four in one row toppled over and broken with shards laying about. That's it. Obviously way above my head.

RSL,

I haven't bathed in about 40 years, however I do shower daily.....

Marv
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Fips
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« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2012, 03:56:53 AM »
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I agree that when a curator picks pieces of art only on the basis of a potential shock value as you say, then he is clearly doing a bad job. However, from time to time some controversial exhibition or purchase might be useful for the sake of public attention. After there's an abundance of museums and just like everywhere else, hype equals $$$.

Regarding the taste of the masses (if such a thing should exist), what does it actually mean? Can the masses be wrong? IMHO this is not a valid question to ask in the context of art. It falsely assumes that art, e.g., photography can be ranked in a certain way with which "the masses" agree. Another form of art clearly shows that this might not be a good concept: Music. In music it is common to have rankings. The Billboard charts for example. One could argue that this kind of music is not even art and I would agree. But hit charts also exist for Jazz for example and you'll find music which, at least in my opinion, clearly qualifies as art. Still I fail to see the value of such lists.

Regarding Russ' comment, I doubt that the "TV-headed people" would be drawn to a museum by a Jeff Wall photography. An art-adverse person wouldn't be shocked by it in the first place.

Philipp
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nemo295
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« Reply #5 on: October 31, 2012, 01:52:58 PM »
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Great art always shocks at first sight. Great art is always controversial. If artists didn't continually push the creative envelope, we'd be drowning in a sea of paintings of dogs playing poker and third rate William Turner imitators.
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RSL
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« Reply #6 on: October 31, 2012, 02:36:24 PM »
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That's true, Doug, but you'd have to be a lunatic to believe that orange glue flowing down a hillside or a trashed bedroom is "great art." Orange glue wouldn't move you unless you got caught in the flow.
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nemo295
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« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2012, 03:10:21 PM »
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That's true, Doug, but you'd have to be a lunatic to believe that orange glue flowing down a hillside or a trashed bedroom is "great art." Orange glue wouldn't move you unless you got caught in the flow.

I can agree that the description of the work doesn't move me. On the other hand, one could describe Mark Rothko's paintings as pictures of broad horizontal stripes and that wouldn't move me either. Neither description says tells me anything about what it's like to be in the presence of the work. As I haven't seen the glue photo in question, I can't comment on it. However I can say that I regard Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham and Ian Wallace as serious artists. I would be inclined to give any of them the benefit of the doubt for an unseen work if all I had to go on was someone's superficial description of it.
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RSL
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« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2012, 03:24:51 PM »
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"Serious" isn't the same as "good," or "effective." I agree that you have to be in the presence of a work to determine whether or not it moves you. But I don't think you have to be in the presence of a work to determine what doesn't move you. Orange glue flowing down a hillside would be near, if not at, the top of my list of non-moving sights, and a trashed bedroom would be right there beside it. I have four sons, and when they were in their teens I saw enough trashed bedrooms to be able definitively to rule them out as art objects.
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nemo295
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« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2012, 03:38:30 PM »
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"Serious" isn't the same as "good," or "effective." I agree that you have to be in the presence of a work to determine whether or not it moves you. But I don't think you have to be in the presence of a work to determine what doesn't move you. Orange glue flowing down a hillside would be near, if not at, the top of my list of non-moving sights, and a trashed bedroom would be right there beside it. I have four sons, and when they were in their teens I saw enough trashed bedrooms to be able definitively to rule them out as art objects.

Art is all about opinions. "Good" and "effective" are opinions. I'm familiar with the "trashed bedroom" picture you're referring to. It's titled "The Destroyed Room". It's not a photograph of a real room. It's a study of form and color and it either works for you or it doesn't. I happen to think it works brilliantly. Other peoples' opinions will no doubt vary. But enough people who know a lot more about art than you or me liked it well enough to put it on MOMA's wall in NY.
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RSL
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« Reply #10 on: October 31, 2012, 04:19:39 PM »
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"You to your fancy and me to my Nancy," as the old lady said when she kissed the cow. Who are these people who "know so much about art" that they were bamboozled into hanging  a picture of a trashed bedroom? I'd have to wonder if instead of art critics they might actually be salesmen masquerading as art critics. But if a trashed bedroom turns you on, check the first sentence again and go with it. "Art," as defined by those people who claim to know so much about art, has degenerated into sensationalism, and there are a bunch of Barnums out there taking full advantage of the Barnum principle. Whether or not Barnum really said, "There's a sucker born every minute," the saying is true on the face of it, especially if you spend enough time in museums to understand its effect.
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pomgonewalkabout
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« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2012, 05:04:18 PM »
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When it comes to art I am always reminded of that fable "The Emperor has no Clothes"

I took some rubbish to my dump the other day and noticed a whole pile of old mattresses and no one was bothering to buy them.

I don't really know what Art is, I can appreciate some of it but what I do know is that until someone starts talking in a arty way ripped mattresses are just that ripped mattresses.
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nemo295
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« Reply #12 on: October 31, 2012, 05:58:15 PM »
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It's easy to dismiss any work of art if you're unaware of the millieu it comes from. If Monet's Haystacks had suddenly appeared on a wall in Florence in the 14th century it would have been pulled down and burned immediately. As it was, in the late 19th century, it was controversial enough for the time. Similarly, it's easy to dismiss art critics, museum curators and art collectors as frauds and imbeciles if you don't share their awareness of its cultural and historical context and can think about the work from that perspective. Certainly that doesn't mean you have to agree with them. But I prefer trying to understand the work of a major artist rather than dismissing it out of hand.
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marvpelkey
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« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2012, 06:29:15 PM »
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Not sure I agree that "great art always shocks at first sight" or that it necessarily needs to be controversial. A number of Michelangelo's works are neither and are thought to be great. Perhaps that's one of the problems with defining great art these days. It's almost as if it now has to be either or both for the critics to recognize it. Although I wholeheartedly agree with pushing boundaries so as not to remain forever stale.

I just watched an interview (couple years old now I think) with Arne Glimcher (of Pace Gallery fame) in which he exalts a work by Robert Rauscheberg "Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953)". Rauscheberg requested a drawing from de Kooning and spent two months erasing the art so all that was left was a blank piece of paper. The blank paper is now considered by some critics as a masterpiece.   Huh?  Once again, I just don't get it.

Marv
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RSL
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« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2012, 08:03:39 PM »
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It's easy to dismiss any work of art if you're unaware of the millieu it comes from. If Monet's Haystacks had suddenly appeared on a wall in Florence in the 14th century it would have been pulled down and burned immediately. As it was, in the late 19th century, it was controversial enough for the time. Similarly, it's easy to dismiss art critics, museum curators and art collectors as frauds and imbeciles if you don't share their awareness of its cultural and historical context and can think about the work from that perspective. Certainly that doesn't mean you have to agree with them. But I prefer trying to understand the work of a major artist rather than dismissing it out of hand.

Doug, Next time you're in the museum with the picture of the trashed bedroom be sure to look around for the Egress.
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nemo295
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« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2012, 11:00:49 AM »
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Doug, Next time you're in the museum with the picture of the trashed bedroom be sure to look around for the Egress.

Russ, art is an invitation to think, not run for the exit.
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2012, 01:58:02 AM »
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I like modern high end  art  but have never understood the appeal of Jeff Wall's work either. It is dull. I understand the conceptual framework and what he is doing but just find his work, mundane , banal, and boring.
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Ellis Vener
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Creating photographs for advertising, corporate and industrial clients since 1984.
Gulag
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« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2012, 08:51:41 PM »
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William Eggleston, the father of color photography, can be another example. His 1976 solo exhibition at the MoMA became a watershed moment in the history of photography, and people back then were angry at what they saw. The New York Times called it the worst show for that year, and even Ansel Adams wrote to him to say he couldn't understand why his work were on the walls of the MoMA.

http://www.google.com/search?q=william+eggleston&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=gMyZUIi7JpKC9QSzmYDoDg&ved=0CEQQsAQ&biw=1920&bih=1075
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“For art to be art it has to cure.”  - Alejandro Jodorowsky
Peter McLennan
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« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2012, 08:46:35 PM »
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Jeff Wall's work , mundane , banal, and boring....

+1
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Gulag
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« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2012, 09:31:07 PM »
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+1

What about Cindy Sherman's work?
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“For art to be art it has to cure.”  - Alejandro Jodorowsky
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