Saturday, November 13, 2004

Area artist Jamie Wimberly steps into the Art-O-Matic debate ring with the below note:

"Well, Sacha and Blake really stepped into it . And now I go into the void. With reluctance, I may add since I will probably get blasted for it. But I have to agree with the general criticism made by Blake. Not necessarily about the Art-O-Matic show or the pieces in it, because I actually think the Jeff Koons and Damien Hirsts' of the world are much worse, but the need for standards in art.

There is a general perception that everything is art and everybody is an artist. This thinking came out of intellectual arguments on the most central question in art - what is art? - dating from Duchamp (R. Mutt toilet) and Warhol (15 minutes of celebrity, commercial images as art given a certain context), and really before them. But the thought process has been lost and now we simply have the rotten fruit. That there is no "bad" art and every hobbyist deserves to have their work up in public. Turned on its head, logically speaking, that is the same as saying: Nothing is art and nobody is an artist. After spending oodles of money and time in art school, in the studio, hitting the streets, etc., I, as an artist, absolutely reject that notion.

Given that there does not seem to be any definition to art, a vacuum has been created. And as everyone knows, nature abhors vacuums. So, I would argue non-art values have been filling that void - celebrity, propaganda, political correctness, marketing, corporate affiliations, art as commodity, shock/ outrageousness/ spectacle, or in the case of many of the respondents so far, a chance to party, to name a few. There are very real consequences to this state of affairs, including but not limited to:

1) Art - all contemporary art at least - gets somewhat devalued. And it is very hard - almost impossible - to make a living as an artist. Contrary to the depiction of galleries as ogres with their 30 to 50 percent commission structures, I would add that most galleries as well are struggling mightily. I would not want to be in that business.

2) Art schools have virtually stopped teaching art.

3) True patrons are an increasing rare breed. There are simply buyers of art.

4) Public support for spending on art is scarce due to public boredom/ disgust what is being purveyed as art, so companies are increasingly relied on for funding/ buying art with their own agendas.

5) Criticism - especially strong criticism - does not occur. And when it does, as with the case of Blake's piece, it is declared "elitist" and less likely to be repeated.

6) Superstar artists have become producers and do not actually touch the work themselves. They direct or design.

7) Art has become an excuse and platform - as therapy, to get laid, to party, to become a celebrity, etc.

8) Art has become a marketing exercise with as a commodity to market around.

I could go on. But I wonder what kind of legacy we are leaving in regard to art of this generation. What can be considered "important" art - which, to me, means what will influence future generations? Not much, I am afraid.

I would argue that there is a clear need for standards in art - not in regards to medium (with the conceit that "painting is dead"), or style, or substance/ content. But there needs to be a new/ old way of evaluating art. I offer four suggested standards:

1) Craftsmanship - How well is the piece made? Is it archival? Does the artist show mastery of their chosen medium? Most art today is sloppy and falling apart.

2) Aesthetics/ Beauty - Does this artist deal with the question of beauty in the work - even if the piece is intended to be off-center or even ugly? This is particularly important in regard to painting. Art today is oftentimes willfully ignorant of aesthetics.

3) Spirituality - What I mean here is what Kandinsky referred to as spirituality in art. Does the artist put something of themselves in the work? Does the work have essence? Art today can be awfully sterile.

4) Influences/ History - It is important to know what preceded you. What/ who influenced the work? What is the work trying to contribute? Traditionally, with guilds, a long apprenticeship was required before an individual artist would even be allowed to put that one touch or flourish that was their signature mark. Today's art seems to be very post modern in orientation - trashing history to always be creating the "new new". This is a race to the bottom.

Finally, I would add the all important ingredients of artistic success: hard work, discipline, talent, striving for excellence and luck.

Not everyone is an artist, and not everything is art.

Jamie Wimberly
You can email me responses to Jamie's points if anyone so desires.

Art-O-Matic Top Ten Lists

As you know, I spent seven hours walking Artomatic's halls, passageways and rooms in order to select my top 10 artists from that show. That list is here. I have begun to receive other people's top ten lists and will post them here soon.

I am also working on the following "other" lists:

(a) Copyright Infringement List
(b) Porn List
(c) Hannibal Lechter Art List
(d) Funniest Art List
(f) Top Ten Artists I Had Never Heard Of List

Some advance notice on those lists:

(a) has been won in a close race by Robert Steel. I applaud his courage to take on THE Mouse.

(b) has been won by Iver Olson's photos of lesbian fisting.

(c) has been won by Ira Tattelman's really disturbing installation. Someone best put an ankle tracker on Ira ahead of time.

(d) is still up for grabs... more visits needed.

(f) is still a work in progress... more visits needed.

Sorry folks, there won't be a "Best Dicks in the Show" list, although there are plenty of entries in that stiff category as well. If anyone wants to email me such such a list, I will gladly post it here.

Fun with Lenny and art...

If you haven't visited Art-O-Matic yet, then please do so over the next few days. The show runs until December 5, 2004.

Dana Ellyn Kaufman's response to Gopnik Meanwhile, you can view a lot of the artwork online here. In that online library of artwork, artist Dana Ellyn Kaufman sends this response to Gopnik's review with the painting to the right.

ArtDC and Thinking About Art have both joined the storm caused by Gopnik's rootcanalization of Art-O-Matic. I still think that Gopnik's review will be better for Art-O-Matic in the long run and also reveals his disdain for nearly all things that involve Washington area artists and galleries.

Over at Jesse Cohen's ArtDC, Thomas Edwards (who has one of the most creative pieces at the Artomatic wonderland) writes:

"I'm sorry - I simply don't believe in the hierarchical theories of art criticism. Like a lot of the social sciences, it is mainly BS. Good art speaks for itself, and I believe art critics should talk more about artwork and less about their BS theories and trying to predict what art historians will theorize about in 50 years."
One of ArtDC's commenters writes: "Oh well, I guess the clown couldn't pass up the opportunity to insult 700 people at once, instead of the one or two he usually gets to criticize."

That is funny!