Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marcus Coates

Marcus Coates is a performance artist who acts as various animals during his performances. He dresses as a buck making animal noises while the audience hysterically laughs at him. He also goes out into nature and tries to communicate with the birds. I find it very odd that he is a respected artist because I don't really get what he is trying to achieve or tell the audience with his performances. During class we watched a video in which he performed for a government official in Israel and I honestly felt bad for the poor man you could feel his uneasiness through the screen. Apparently his performance was meant to be related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but I don't really see how it applies at all.

When I see performance artists like Marina Abramovic I really appreciate the originality of her work but when I look at someone like Marcus Coates I just see a man acting like a little boy dressed up as an animal and think he just needs to grow up. Then again that is my personal opinion and I may not like the work he does but many others do. It is all about your preference and if you don't like a certain work of art or artist the chances of you looking at it and registering it as art is slim. So I don't think I will be seeking out a show of his anytime soon.

Nicolas Bourriaud Postproduction

Nicolas Bourriaud is a French curator and art critic who is best known for his writings Relational Aesthetics(1998) and Postproduction(2001.) In his third book Postproduction Bourriaud talks about the relationship between deejaying and contemporary art. He does so by comparing the process a discjockey applies to music and the practice of making comtemporary art.  He writes They don't really "create" anymore, they reorganize. There are two dominant figures in today's culture: the DJ and the programmer. Both deal with things that are already produced. The common point between relational aesthetics and Post-Production is this idea that to communicate or have relations with other people, you need tools. Culture is this box of tools.” I interpret the quote as him saying that in modern day society we need "tools" in order to move forward. I don't necessarily agree with him when he says that DJs don't really create anymore yes most of them work with pieces that have already been produced but most DJs make their own original music as well as remixing already made songs. Bourriaud also discusses the way the media and the internet has changed us and the rise of digital art.

The Tang Museum/The Jewel Thief/PS1

What I loved most about this exhibit is that it used many different art mediums and almost all the pieces had these beautiful vivid colors in them. I loved the jewels and especially the variety of abstract paintings. One of my favorite rooms had to be the one with the different colored floor boards it reminded me of my nephews room and it had a playfulness about it.
I also really enjoyed the installation piece with the different colored jewels. It fits in very well with the concept and name of the show. The Jewel Theif is definitely a show I'd go back and revisit and bring friends and family I really like art that pops and there was no shortage of it in this exhibit. I also went MoMa PS1 which is one of the largest nonprofit institutions for contemporary art in the United States. Every Saturday they had a different event and I went to an event that had several DJs playing and the people there ranged from hipster to preppy to business men. It was essentially a melting pot of people and one of the best saturdays I have had in a long time. I can't wait to go back a friend brought me and some of my cousins and we all loved it. Aside from the party PS1 displays some of the most experimental art in the world. They have about 50 exhibitions a year which are very diverse and appeal to a broad range of people as well as a full schedule of live music and peforming.

The Art Market and The Mona Lisa Curse

Private art dealers know how much of a lucrative business it is. Art is becoming just a way to make money to some and the prices for famous works are continuing to rise. Works by deceased artists like Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Monet, and Jackson Pollock are being sold for millions of dollars only to be resold for an even higher price. I'm sure these artists would be astonished to see what their paintings are being sold for today. Even artists that are still alive and making art like Damien Hirst continue to become more and more wealthy because Hirst is a private collector himself. Even Colleges sell their collections to gain revenue for scholarships and the school itself.
The Mona Lisa Curse is a documentary by Robert Hughes, an art critic who thinks that contemporary art is over commercialized. In the beginning of the documentary he compares Da Vinci's Mona Lisa to Hirst's For the Love of God and basically states that it symbolizes the drastic change in the art world and that change is based on money. This disgusts Hughes and he says “What ties the Mona Lisa to this glittery bobble is their role in a giant shift in the art world, that shift is all about money. It’s a story that I’ve watch unfold during the last 50 years. I’ve seen with growing disgust; the fetishization of art, the vast inflation of prices, and the effect of this on artists and museums. The entanglement of big money with art has become a curse on how art is made, controlled, and above all - in the way that it’s experienced. And this curse has affected the entire art world.” The documentary gives the viewer a look into the art business and discusses artists who used it to their advantage like Warhol and Hirst. Hughes even describes Warhol as one of the stupidest people he has ever met. No one can tell what turn the art world will take but I am guessing that it will continue to become more commercialized and lucrative as long as people keep paying ridiculous prices for it. It is unfortunate and I agree with Hughes on a lot of issues but that is simply our society today.

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst is an British artist and the most famous member of a group known as Young British Artists. His work sells for astonishingly high prices which is why he is probably Britain's wealthiest living artist. Hirst's work has a central theme of death and one of my personal favorite pieces of his is titled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. It was created in 1992 and is basically a tiger shark that has been preserved in formaldehyde inside of a vitrine. It was sold for reportedly at least 8 million dollars and is considered the iconic piece of 1990s British Art. Currently it is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. In 2006 due to decay the original shark had to be replaced.
Another famous work of his is titled For the Love of God which is a human skull made out of platinum and covered in 8,601 diamonds weighing 1,106.18 carats. It is modeled on an 18th century skull but the only surviving part of the skull are the teeth. It was sold in 2008 for 100 million dollars but it did take some time to sell.

Installation Art

Installation art is otherwise known as land art and is three-dimensional pieces that can range from pieces filling a small room to an entire warehouse. It is usually created for a specific space and most of the time incorporates materials from the sight. The installations can be inside or outside and be of just about anything. I find myself having difficultly describing this type of art but it basically is filling up a large space with items that evoke emotions, associations, and thought. An example of installation art is Damien Hirst's Pharmacy which is basically a room sized pharmacy with four bottles of food coloring and water. The bottles represent the four elements earth, air, fire, and water. You can assume this for yourself because they are green, yellow, red, and blue. There is also an insect-o-cutor for insects that possibly symbolizes a God without mercy. Although the shelves are stocked with packages of medicine there is no real medicine actually involved in the piece.

Another installation artist is Rachel Whiteread who is a British artist known for her sculptures. She is probably best known for her work Ghost where she made a cast out of the negative space of a victorian home. Also her work Embankment which was displayed at the Tate Modern was around 14,000 translucent white boxes in a large room which is made to feel almost like a trip to Arctic because that was her inspiration.

Marina Abramovic

One of the most interesting and my personal favorite performance artists is Marina Abramovic. She was born in the former Yugoslavia around the same time as my parents and calls herself the "grandmother of performance art." Her father left the family and afterwards her mother was extremely strict with her and her brother. According to Abramovic she was not allowed to stay out past 10 o'clock in the evening until she was 29. Of her curfew and her performances she said "All the performances in Yugoslavia I did before 10 o'clock in the evening because I had to be home then. It's completely insane, but all of my cutting myself, whipping myself, burning myself, almost losing my life in the firestar, everything was done before 10 in the evening."
Abramovic's pieces are perhaps best known for her experimenting with the limits of her body and mind sometimes putting herself into extreme and intense circumstances that can require months of training beforehand. Her performances include using a tape recorder and 20 knives on herself playing the knife game 5-finger fillet. Each time she would cut herself she would move onto a new knife. She almost died during a performance involving a large star lit on fire because when she lept through it the lack of oxygen caused her to lose consciousness and the audience thought it was part of the show so they did not get up immediately to help. My favorite performance is entitled The Artist is Present which lasted from March 14 until May 31, 2010 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The whole piece lasted almost 737 hours where she sat at a table immobile and silent, staring straight forward. Whoever attended could sit across from her for up to seven hours. It attracted celebrities like Lady Gaga and Sharon Stone and made some people break down into tears while they sat across from the artist. She continues to push the limits of her and The Artist is Present took months to train for mentally and physically according to Abrambovic her body will never be the same again. I believe she is a true performance artist who would do just about anything for her work.

Performance Art

In performance art the artist performs in front of an audience but it isn't like a play with a script or fictitious characters. The artist makes it known that they are aware of the audience and directly communicates to them verbally or non-verbally. More mainstream performance art may include dance, live music, and a show like Cirque Du Soleil but they are in the category of the performance arts. The term is really meant for conceptual art because the performing arts are more for entertainment purposes while performance art is more dramatic. It started to form sometime during the middle ages but wasn't really notable until modern times. It really stood on its own beginning in the mid 1900s especially the 1960s. Laurie Anderson and Andy Warhol are among the most well known performance artists. Warhol would stage events involving several people in New York City while Anderson, a musician, uses experiemental music and sounds during her shows.
Performance art doesn't not come to many people's minds when they think about conventional art some may not consider it art at all. I think a good solid performance piece can be appreciated by anyone and today it is one of the better known genres of art. Since the 1960s it has changed with the times encorporating the media and new technologies. It is live art with no rules or regulations, an experimentation by the artist. It is meant to be memorable and sometimes that can be through means of being shocking or horrifying but I think the best part of it is aside from buying a ticket is the fact that it really cannot be for sale.

Gruesome and Controversial Art

While we find art work that is easy on the eyes with pleasant subject matter to be mesmerizing and awe inspiring the same can be said for art work that depicts violence and gore. Beauty inspires artists but mankind has seen its share of horrible things such as war, famine, sickness or plagues, rape, death, natural disasters, and other atrocities. Francisco Goya and Frida Kahlo were painters that created art about pain and suffering. Goya created a series of 14 works known as the Black Paintings later in life (1819-1823) that show his view on humanity and his fear of going insane. The paintings were extremely dark with intensely haunting themes. One of the most famous paintings in the series is titled Saturn Devouring His Son and was painted on one of the walls in his home. It is about the myth of the God Saturn who was afraid that he would be overthrown by his children like he had done to his father and would devour them when they were born. According to the myth Saturn's wife hid their sixth son, Jupiter, by tricking Saturn with a stone in a swaddling cloth. The prophecy comes true and Jupiter ends up surpassing Saturn. The painting itself is disturbing and difficult to look at showing the body of the son partially eaten in his father Saturn's clutches who looks more like a monsterous creature rather than a God. The painting was transfered to canvas after Goya's death and is on display in Madrid, Spain.

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter who had a very difficult life which translated into her paintings. She is very well known for her self-portraits, her rocky marriage to Diego Rivera, and her lifelong physical problems. When she was six years old she had polio and also spina bifida. She was in a very bad accident while she was a teenager when her bus collided with a trolley on September 17, 1925. Frida suffered severe injuries such as several broken bones, a crushed foot, and she was practically impaled by a handrail that went through her midsection and hit her uterus which impacted her ability to have children. As a result she had extreme pain and was bedridden for months at a time for the rest of her life. She mostly painted self-portraits of herself usually in some sort of pain she explained why by saying "I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best." One painting that stands out the most to me is titled A Few Small Nips painted in 1935 which shows a bloody murder scene where a man is standing over a naked woman covered in stab wounds on a bed. Kahlo reportedly was inspired to create this painting when she read a story about a murder in which the killer described his brutal stabbing of his victim as simply a "few small nips." Art that shows images of violence is disturbing, sad, and difficult to look at but stays with you because unfortunately as a society we see images of violence everyday in the media and in everyday life.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Marcel Duchamp

French artist Marcel Duchamp was born on July 28, 1887 and died on October 2, 1968 in his native country, France. He was part of the Dada and Surrealism movements and is known for his painting's sculpture, and film. His grandfather Emile Nicolle was an artist and his work could be found all over Duchamp's home. There were seven children born to Eugene and Lucie Duchamp although one died as an infant. Three of his siblings became successful artists. Jacques Villon was a painter and printmaker, Raymond Duchamp-Villon was a sculptor, and his sister Suzanna Duchamp-Crotti was also a painter. One of his earlier works is titled Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 (1912) is an oil painting on canvas which looks like a Cubist's version of a nude person walking down a staircase and the painting almost looks like a motion picture.

He is mostly known for his readymade sculptures and one in particular made him one of the most important artists ever. His piece titled Fountain created 1917 for a show featuring avant-garde work is simply a urinal signed "R. Mutt" and it was an extremely radical piece for its time. In 2004 Fountain was selected as "the most influential artwork of the 20th century" by a pool of 500 historians and artists. This is because it symbolizes Duchamp's disregard for the norm or convention. At the time the piece was scandalous and after much debate on whether or not it was art it was hidden during the show. There are many interpretations on its symbolism and on the signature "R. Mutt" but no one can say for sure what they really mean. The original piece has beem lost but replicas are shown in exibits. Marcus Duchamp's Fountain inspired many artists by opening the doors to infinite possibilities and soon everyday objects would become very common in many different genres of art.

The Arts

What is art? Why do we create it and what defines it? The diversity of different kinds of art has evolved so much over centuries that it can be almost anything. Art roughly began 40,000 years ago and in Africa there has been even earlier evidence of art. It is prehistoric and one of the most ancient methods of story telling or communication. Even though art can be a wide range of things it will still always be the creations and modes of expression made to influence and affect whomever views it. Art makes you think, feel, and can stay with you forever. It can bring someone to tears, make them happy, or shock them. With many types of art beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people may only think the works of  Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, or other Renaissance painters to be "real" art while others value the originality of modern artists like Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. It is common that when an individual views a piece of art or considers an aesthetic unappealing they don't think of it as art. Various types of art or aesthetics are viewed differently by everyone it is about personal preference and opinion. A person's life experiences can impact their perception when they view a piece of art. When determining what is art it is amazing because there is no right answer.

I can appreciate almost all types of art and at the same time there are certain artists and genres I can do without. One of my favorite artists is Natalie Shau from Vilnius, Lithuainia who uses a combination of manipulating pictures, 3D elements, and digital painting/drawing to create hauntingly beautiful pieces. She is influenced by gothic horror fiction, fairy tales, and classic books. I find her work to be captivating and strange at the same time. Shau's pieces have been on the pages of French Vogue and on several album covers for famous musicians. One of my favorite pieces is titled Greensward Grey and it shows a very somber scene of a girl reaching into the ground towards what appears to be a corpse. From the color scheme to the subject matter it haunts me just as much as I find it to be beautiful. Her style of work is not something I know very much about or understand because it is mostly digital. It is not like a oil painting on canvas where even if you do not know much about painting you have a pretty good guess how it was made. That is another thing that drew me to her work because I find myself wondering what the creation process is. Looking at certain art can affect my mood, make me think about it for days, or inspire me and I give a lot of credit to the artists who can instill such a reaction in me. Art is something I enjoy very much and it will always be a part of my life.