art that is pretentious.

I like some art, but a lot of it has this huge discrepancy between what it claims to be about and what it is enjoyed for. Like the rhinoceros made out of orange cones. It is supposed to be about recycling. Go recycling. It's a life size orange rhino! THAT is the cool part- recycling is cool too but not in the same way. Or when Klien had all those poor naked women doing performance stuff... I know whether you exist or not is an important question, but I don't think his theory was what drew so many men to the show. So this is where so called 'concepts' keep not working. You have a thing that is visually compelling and you have a 'concept'. They have nothing to do with each other, but if its about something important like social equality or feminism or racism than you can't write it off or you'll look evil. Well I write it off, for the record.
So how do you make art that isn't purely visual? This is a false question- nothing is purely visual. Even Thomas Kinkade isn't- there's a strong concept there about quaintness and comfort. Whether it's tasteful or not is a whole other question and this is where you get to the argument made by CS Lewis in "The Abolition of Man". That these plentiful CONCEPTS (or sentiments if you want to include kitsch but don't want to admit that it has a concept) are not the problem. Mothers and children are fundamentally powerful symbols no matter how cool you think you are. The problem is in taste. The only reason Kinkade is bad is because his taste is elementary and indulgent. But the strain he's working on is worked on by Hans Haacke in his very conceptual "tenements" where he documents slums... he's concerned about housing and the comforts of the place you reside. Its the same thing- The problem with modern education is that good things are written off for lacking "intellectual" concepts when they should be written off for bad taste. A young person taking art may not see the difference between Bob Ross and Fredrique, but it would be foolish to say that landscapes are cheesy. Take it up with God. Everyone is part of an overworked intellectual audience already- it is no longer a matter of awareness or mental capacity as we'd like to think. I know doctors that like Kinkade... (Andy Warhol would too because Kinkade fullfilled his dream of purely commercialized commodity art, but theory is loyal and all dresses the same at parties). I'm not arguing for kindkade here- I am arguing against the tight parameters and false claims of so called "conceptual" art.
The sad thing is when you realize how the arts, instead of making you care more, are merely making you cynical and narrow. Instead of stopping to enjoy the sunset you stop to look at a bronze cube. (this says something about sunsets, etc). Instead of stopping to see a waterfall you drive 20 hours to see the Spiral Jetty. Instead of loving all men we love mostly those with the same intellectual bagage as us. The danger and the only reason this matters is in calling good things bad by making them less important than "concept culture". Pretentious stuff.


Lady Jane Grey said...

These are good thoughts. For me the last part of the first paragraph is particularly thought provoking. Have you ever thought about organizing these ideas into an essay?

Chris Moulton said...

Good stuff. I teared a little.