Monday, March 26, 2012

What's good for the goose...

Jon McNaughton’s One Nation Under Socialism"A recently released painting of President Barack Obama holding a burning copy of the U.S. Constitution has seemingly set the political world on fire as well.

Jon McNaughton’s picture, titled "One Nation Under Socialism" shows the president with a furrowed brow and hardened face and appearing decidedly unfazed by the flames licking closely to him as the Constitution is torched."
Read the Salt Lake Trib report here.

The LAT's Christopher Knight, who one can safely assume (from reading his extensive and eloquent criticism - often touching on political art) is left of the political centerline, calls it junk, and that is certainly his opinion as a respected critic to deliver (although Knight accidentally reveals a little of his personal critical agenda when he feels obligated to expand that "the painting is junk (yes, junk) not because its style is realist or anti-Modern or the image is pandering or inflammatory."

Knight just sort of showed his cards here a little. Would he have ever written "the painting is junk (yes, junk) not because its style is abstract or Post Modern or the image is pandering or inflammatory."

Naw... This inner look at Knight's personal art agenda is also nothing that is not easy to learn from this giant of the art world once you read a few dozen of his reviews. Also note how he cleverly diminishes the artwork itself by calling it an "illustration."

But where Knight steps over the line, again revealing his personal contribution to the ugly side of American political discourse, is when -- in the context of doing an art review (I think) -- he then gets a little too personal (in my opinion) and somewhat goes after the artist himself, rather than after the art.

Replace Obama with Bush and the Constitution with ... ahhh... the Constitution, and a whole different discourse about the artsyness of the painting would be happening right now.

I get a little bit of chills when we start going after people rather than critically going after their artwork. Regardless of where you stand on the political minefield of contemporary American politics, the one thing that we as Americans should agree on is the freedom for all artists to use their talents to depict whatever drives their inner fires, and if it's OK for countless artists to use their talents to vilify the previous President, so it is OK for them to demonize (or praise) the current one and whoever comes after President Obama.

The artist's website is here. This is clearly an artist with a political agenda wedded to a religious one. The fact that his artwork is caustically anti-Obama does what any political agenda in art does: offend a lot of people and also align you with a lot of people who already felt like you do when it comes to politics.

Doesn't justify going after the artist, be him or her a right wing artist or a left wing artist.

And we all then breathe a sigh of relief thanks to people like artist Dan Lacey, who can use the power of art to make fun of anything!.


johnjamesanderson said...

Sigh... Knight should have compared McNaughton to sculptor Daniel Edwards, not Kinkade.

Anonymous said...

Both artists, Kinkade and McNaughton, pander to an easy to please crowd. Throw some hate or overbearing religious whoha around and sell "illustrations". Personally, their work is junk. Why? It is easy. There's nothing beyond the subject, which makes them illustrations and not art.

You make grand assumptions about the "art" that included Bush, who is possibly the most hated of our Presidents, and for good reason. Even the right want nothing to do with him anymore.

Regardless, McNaughton's work is simple and shallow (as most bad art is) regardless of what he paints. He has no depth of subject, no "eye", and his compositions are boring. If he didn't paint the subjects he does, no one would care. Why? Because his work is junk. YMMV

Lenny said...

Dear YMMV,

Tks for your comments. I'm not sure why you're preaching to me about the work being junk or not. I have zero issue with Knight or you or anyone else having the opinion that the work is junk - that is your right and Knight's job as a critic! To opine about artwork.

My sole issue is when we allow an art critic to go after the artist as a person, simply because that artist is either a religious zealot or a political zealot.

It's OK to go all art critical about the work; not so OK to attack someone because you disagree with their views (expressed in their art or otherwise) - they have places for people like that: Cuba, China, North Korea, etc.

Warm regards,