03 November 2006

Deconstruction, Badger-Style

The badger's boyfriend loves that modern art. I love me some modern art, too, as long as no one insists that it means anything. I like colorful tape on the floor! I like splattered paint! I like decaying animals in tanks of preservative just as much as the next guy! I just can't find meaning in it.

Can art make us feel? Yes. But there is a degree of feeling that is directly related to the degree of abstractness. Painting of hideous dead people killed in terrible ways? Might cause a reflection on death, mortality and cruelty. Pieces of tape on the floor? Most likely will cause reflection on highschool basketball courts, or possibly school plays. Picture of sad-looking, beautiful young woman? Exposes us to the juxtaposition of youth and unhappiness, exploring the idea that the ideal is not always desirable. Sculpture of a blue cylinder? Makes us think of tinker toys, or legos. Maybe blue poop. Nothing more.

This is the description of a new exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum, "The Uncertainty of Objects and Ideas: Recent Sculpture". Just reading the title of the exhibit makes my eyes bleed:

In her catalogue essay, Hirshhorn curator Anne Ellegood speaks of "a feeling that beliefs and meanings are continuously unmoored and in flux" and of how her artists' works "embrace an uncertainty of meaning, multiple meanings, and meaning in flux." But what happens when artists take this as a rule to make art by? Once meaning goes entirely adrift, all that may be left is fiddling around with trash and craft supplies to make amusing stuff. It's fiddling meant to speak of impotence and failure as the standard artistic condition. It produces art that is profoundly anti-profound, committed to being noncommittal. Slightness is this art's reigning principle, as the only principle that's left. It's a brave stand that rejects the possibility of courage.

Excuse me, was that talking? Let's review this art exhibit in pictures:

Charles Long
Winterwork, 2004. Courtesy Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

Clothes hanger with white clothes on it. Maybe they are sheets. It hasn't caused me to become 'continuously unmoored'. It's meaning isn't 'in flux'. Ikea anyone? It's called Craäpgarten, it's $22.95, it's made in Bangladesh of Chilean parts.

Isa Genzken
Geschwister (Brothers and Sisters), 2004

Eighth grade science project by Joey Johansen. “This is a recreation of my imaginary friend, Bil the Woodsman. I made it out of stuff that I found in my grandpa's garage. He said I could take it. I put a speak-n-spell in the bucket. But it's broke. So it only says adverbs.” The above article says: “ all that may be left is fiddling around with trash and craft supplies to make amusing stuff.” And a damn fine job of fiddling.

Mindy Shapero
Courtesy of the artist and the Artist Pension Trust, Los Angeles

A used chair. With no legs. Painted by six year olds at a Fort Skokie, IL kindergarten while their teacher, Ms. Smallstrom, sold hand-made angels on Ebay. “It produces art that is profoundly anti-profound, committed to being noncommittal.” says Anne Ellegood. Ms. Smallstron was noncommittal about that characterization of her art. When reminded we were talking about the chair, she volunteered “Oh, I thought you were talking about the angels. Now angels, those are committal. I found that chair in the alley.”

Franz West
Caiphas & Kepler, 2005

Oh Jesus. Floating organs? Painted crap set on a pallet? All I can say is this collection of painted shapes definitely fits the Hirshhorn's theory “[Abstractionism] produces art that is profoundly anti-profound.” Yes. I agree. However, it seems that profoundly anti-profound things would cancel each other out, like anti-matter and matter. Leaving nothing. Or energy. I can't remember from physics classes what actually happens. What ever real things do, this art is less than impressive. And I mean that in a “ fiddling around with trash and craft supplies” kind of way.

Words mean things, America. Really. They do. No matter if you are the Hirshhorn or that annoying Rachel Ray advertisement when she proclaims “a rebellious show would be a fun show to have!” No. What the hell does that even mean? If history has taught us anything, it is that rebellion is not fun. Real rebellion leads to bloodshed and beheading, not tips on saving four dollars a month by reusing dryer sheets.

“Slightness is this art's reigning principle, as the only principle that's left. It's a brave stand that rejects the possibility of courage.”

As I bang my forehead against the desk, the mind wobbles. And it rejects courage.


Sassenach said...

P.T Barnum would have approved of this exhibit.

It's all in the shill.

the princess said...

I take it you're not coming to the Hirshorn with us, then.

The King said...

No, I'm coming. It's like a train wreck- I can't look away.

Coach said...

My favorite modern art exibit was at Ms. Hinkleman's 1st grade classroom. Thier piece, "macaroni shells and glitter on a paper plate," is breathtaking.

Wanda Centsibul-Shu said...

I much prefer the classic wheat weavings and felt wall hangings that reflect our heritage. What is this craziness they call art? I'll bet our taxes pay for this trash.

Megan said...

Do you think that in the past Artists have successfully attempted to make us feel a particular way? Is the whole notion the the sublime in nature meant to create an aesthetic experience which is universal?

The King said...

I think that past artists seldom shellacked crap they found in a dumpster and called it an interplay of metaphysical emotions depicting the fall of personal moral engagement. But I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'd have written this blog if I could have! Great stuff! I work so close to the Hirschorn I could (and sometimes do) spit on it, and I feel the same way...