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What is Art?
January 13, 2013 4:50 PM   Subscribe

Contemporary Art: love it or hate it, this list by Hana Cohn of The 50 Most Iconic Artworks of the Past Five Years is worth a look through the slideshow. Recent Art-Star news-makers are here, along with other interesting works…
posted by ovvl (94 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Love it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:09 PM on January 13, 2013


Deslided link
posted by Renoroc at 5:13 PM on January 13, 2013 [16 favorites]


5. Restored version of Elias Garcia Martinez's 'Ecce Homo' by Cecilia Gimenez, 2012

yessssss
posted by Justinian at 5:20 PM on January 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I am going to make a neon sign artwork with the words NO MORE NEON KTHNX
posted by oulipian at 5:21 PM on January 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


Dark Souls needs to be on this list. And now, I'm not posting in the wrong thread: it has more in common with the tradition of the Sublime in art than much of this 'clever' modern art.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:25 PM on January 13, 2013


I hope that the next five years includes at least three more stunning works from Weiwei and that Hirst crawls back into whatever elegantly prepared nest of shredded hundred dollar bills his studio assistants have made him and disappears for good this time.

Also: If Exit Through the Gift Shop doesn't qualify for this list, I find the whole thing flawed. That was the single most talked about artwork in any form amongst every group of artists I stumbled into in the past two years. You know the story about hep cats in Chicago in 1926 greeting each other with Louis Armstrong's scatting from "Heebie Jeebies"? Every artist I've met has managed to ask me what I thought of it in within the first ten minutes of meeting me and discovering I was an artist too. Hell, it even had my non-art friends grilling me about what I thought about it. Say what you will about Banksy, but he got folks talking about art in a way no one has since Warhol was on the cover of Life magazine.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 5:28 PM on January 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have been going to the Armory exhibit for the last three or four years and can someone please explain to me the wall-mounted-neon-light-text-with-conspicuously-visible-wiring thing? There have been two or three pieces like that at every single one. Like I can kinda sorta see where most of this stuff is going or what it is trying to do but I am completely stumped about the neon lights.
posted by griphus at 5:28 PM on January 13, 2013


What is Art?
You mean, like, paintings and stuff?

I really enjoyed the slideshow, thanks for sharing. I might be out by Dream in a few weeks, so it may be worth checking out. At least a few of them, from what I can remember, have made an appearance as separate FPPs.
posted by bwilms at 5:28 PM on January 13, 2013


Wow. I clicked through thinking, "the only contemporary art thing I even even remember seeing recently is that lady sitting in the chair at MOMA." On one hand, we stood there watching her for a half hour thinking, "what the hell is this." And then, of course, on the other hand, we stood there for a half hour, watching a lady sitting in a chair looking at other people. It really was weirdly compelling.
posted by something something at 5:35 PM on January 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Really glad to see Guyton on this list.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:50 PM on January 13, 2013


Huh, I thought this sounded familiar.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:10 PM on January 13, 2013


I suppose it says something that the only ones I had heard of are that big rock in LA, and the Obama poster. But I'm not sure what it says, nor about whom.

The only thing there I myself would consider iconic was the giant hand flipping the bird. That seems to be the general attitude of "fine" art artists these day.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:14 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I'm not sure what it says, nor about whom.

Ooh I do!
posted by shakespeherian at 6:16 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Until reading the comments in this thread, I was feeling pretty sure that this whole slideshow was just being sarcastic about everything. A gradient in Photoshop whose title is exactly how it was made? A neon sign proclaiming a preference for early-90s rap over late-00s rap? A bunch of inket-printed black bars with no official title?

I'll be honest : I really don't get it. And I'm still not convinced it ISN'T all just a joke on people like me.
posted by revmitcz at 6:34 PM on January 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


Spoiler: The Artist is Present by Marina Abramovic slots in at #1. Gangnam Style by PSY doesn't appear on the list, and no excuse is provided.
posted by fredludd at 6:35 PM on January 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


#50 tornado sounds interesting, but so much of it is meh meh meh 'art' -- 'art' these days is just another method of the filthy rich to trade yachts and curtail taxes / hedge other equities. That's why Hirst is so revered, he may as well walk around naked and charge people to be in his presence.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:45 PM on January 13, 2013


As a part of the 2011 exhibition Art in the Streets, MOCA Los Angeles Director Jeffrey Deitch commissioned Italian street artist Blu to paint a mural. Upon completion of the mural, Deitch felt the content (rows of military-style coffins each draped with an oversized dollar bill) inappropriate and the mural was whitewashed within 24 hours.



they did what

THEY DID WHAT


(this is Blu, in case you haven't seen his work before.)

I am not sure what they projected on that wall, but I know I would have some CHOICE images for them. Ununseeable expressions of my absolute displeasure.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:13 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh, I thought this sounded familiar.

Well, that was the 100 most iconic. You narrow it down to 50, and you get just the cream.
posted by RobotHero at 7:35 PM on January 13, 2013


Gangnam Style by PSY doesn't appear on the list, and no excuse is provided.

But Ai Weiwei's parody of it is at number 17.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 PM on January 13, 2013


That's a great list.

Naysayers be damned.
posted by roboton666 at 8:31 PM on January 13, 2013


Seriously, the 'I don't pay any attention to art and think I will come across as iconoclastic when I put art in scare quotes' crowd is getting really tedious in these threads.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:45 PM on January 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Some of these were cool, but some just seemed gimmicky, like the iPhone drawings one.
posted by daisystomper at 9:09 PM on January 13, 2013


"Swimming Cities!" yessss.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:27 PM on January 13, 2013


I never would have known who Marina Ambramovic is if it weren't for 2312 by KSR. Her wikipedia entry details a bunch of the other performances she's done.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 9:40 PM on January 13, 2013


of course, on the other hand, we stood there for a half hour, watching a lady sitting in a chair looking at other people. It really was weirdly compelling.

Hell, the RNC did that without even the lady.
posted by 7segment at 9:55 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Recently saw Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, a film about her final piece (as well as a portrait of her life), and found it very moving. Highly recommended.
posted by Jakeimo at 11:24 PM on January 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll be honest : I really don't get it. And I'm still not convinced it ISN'T all just a joke on people like me.

Much of it needs to be experienced in person, like performance art.

It does not help that it's a slide show which is mostly utterly banal photos. In an ideal world, the same material would have had much more striking photos, like boston.com's big picture, or similar.

It does seem mostly divorced from the earlier tradition in art of "let's make a striking image". Now it seems to be "let's come up with a clever idea", or "this is a clever idea that references previous ideas, theories, or works of art". And the latter can leave the unintiated quite unmoved, unless there's a striking image or some bit of spectacle.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude's Gates makes more sense if you, firstly, see them in person. And secondly, if you know that their work is always a meditation on transience.

I think I need to grind through this:
http://www.pbs.org/art21/films
to get a sense of the contemporary art world.

Right now my impression is that university art students have almost unlimited freedom in what they can do, and that they get very poor training in learning to draw.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:42 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I honestly can't see something like this attracting my interest for more than 30 seconds. Am I missing something here?
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:40 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It must have an extraordinarily fine artist's statement to go with it.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:54 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right now my impression is that university art students have almost unlimited freedom in what they can do, and that they get very poor training in learning to draw.

I'm not sure this is true, or if it were, why it would matter. What do you want from art/artists?

Marina Abramovic is hardcore and I love her completely. I've long since given up caring whether people 'get' contemporary art or not. I don't feel the need to understand what the artist is doing or referencing. It feels primal to me. It resonates or it doesn't. But when I'm stuck behind an ugly desk in a boring office surrounded by tedious drear, the very fact that people are out there testing the boundaries and reframing the world for themselves and anyone else who cares to look in makes me feel that much more human. Whether or not they can draw matters not a f*cking jot. Thanks for the post OP.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:21 AM on January 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I honestly can't see something like this attracting my interest for more than 30 seconds. Am I missing something here?

....It's hard to know what will attract your interest, actually. Sometimes, something you never would have expected to catch your eye will do so, and on some gut level, you'll just...like it. Something you'd never heard about, something you never even knew you liked, but you'll like it on some weird gut level. You don't need to know the Art Theory reasons behind it, it's just....cool.

Like - a while back, I went to the National Museum of Canada and saw a piece called "The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse" or something; the artist had spray-painted a Trans-am black, etched the text of the book of revelations into the paint, and then hung a lime green pair of fuzzy dice on the mirror and had "Bad To The Bone" on a continuous loop on the tapedeck. I don't care whether that piece had any contemporary art significance, sociopolitical significance, or anything like that - it was just cool. By contrast, I've seen a lot of Damian Hirst's work, and it just leaves me....meh. (His thing with the shark is always going to look like a really lame natural history museum display to me and that's just that.)

You don't have to like everything, and you may not like what the experts say you should. But that's okay. Go to museums anyway because the thing you may like, you would never expect.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 AM on January 14, 2013


50 pages??? UGGH. Linkbait: Art form of the 21st century.
posted by Theta States at 6:20 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Right now my impression is that university art students have almost unlimited freedom in what they can do, and that they get very poor training in learning to draw.

I've known a lot of university art students (including my girlfriend) and drawing and painting is the foundation of every single one of their educations. They've never removed it from the curriculum, and students are absolutely expected to learn it, and to spend a lot of time doing representational work. The fact that they choose not to do it in their careers as artists is an entirely different matter.
posted by griphus at 6:34 AM on January 14, 2013


Am I the only Abramovic fan, who, after seeing the new film on her, is having second thoughts?
Maybe it was how she found salvation through haute couture, maybe it was when she was hanging with David Blaine, maybe it was her multi-millions of dollars in property, maybe it's the tedious and lazy derivativeness she tends to inspire in young artists, but I can't help but think she jumped a shark entering in to the 21st century.

I'll still go see her "opera", if for no other reason than Antony, but the fawning lack of critique of her in the last few years has me on a bit of an edge.
posted by Theta States at 6:37 AM on January 14, 2013


Like - a while back, I went to the National Museum of Canada and saw a piece called "The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse" or something; the artist had spray-painted a Trans-am black, etched the text of the book of revelations into the paint

Thumbs up for that Trans Am. It was awesome. :)

If you get a chance to go back, the most incredible thing is up in the gallery right now. David Altmejd's The Vessel really needs to be explored in person.

I'm not done this top 50 list, but if this isn't on there, I call shenanigans.
posted by Theta States at 6:43 AM on January 14, 2013


I am no art expert, but I really love the gigantic rock on top of the wall or building or whatever it is.
posted by freakazoid at 8:35 AM on January 14, 2013


I'm sorry, but what passes as great contemporary art is such bullshit. Anybody been to the Broad Contemporary collection at LACMA? There is so much awesome stuff to see at LACMA, but most of the contemporary stuff is unadulterated bullshit. Make a few scribbles with your eyes closed, video yourself wiggling your fingers, or print out your favorite word on a garish color background and you, too, could be a great contemporary artist.

Bruce Nauman summarizes the current attitude succinctly: "If I was an artist and I was in the studio, then whatever I was doing in the studio must be art."

I find it sad that today the only difference between art and not-art is the pretentiousness of the creator.
posted by jlh at 9:17 AM on January 14, 2013


What sort of art would you rather see in the contemporary art collection? Or is this the "there hasn't been any good music since Pink Floyd" school of criticism?
posted by griphus at 9:33 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find it sad that today the only difference between art and not-art is the pretentiousness of the creator.

My KID could have written that comment.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:36 AM on January 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Make a few scribbles with your eyes closed, video yourself wiggling your fingers, or print out your favorite word on a garish color background and you, too, could be a great contemporary artist.

Man that's awesome, where's your latest exhibition?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:49 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't have to like everything, and you may not like what the experts say you should. But that's okay. Go to museums anyway because the thing you may like, you would never expect.

I understand what you are trying to say, but I think this attitude is creating a kind of artistic hazard where the optimal strategy is to produce art that is dull and thoughtless but academic, provocative or just dense. Of course reliable artistic authorities that would pick Bad Art and Good Art apart for the casual audience are pretty thin on the ground, so I guess if everyone can be an artist then everyone can be a critic too.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:31 AM on January 14, 2013


I understand what you are trying to say, but I think this attitude is creating a kind of artistic hazard where the optimal strategy is to produce art that is dull and thoughtless but academic, provocative or just dense.

....How so? I'm encouraging people to ignore the critics and the academics and trust their guts. If anything, there's more of a danger of artists producing things that pander to popular tastes (a la American Idol).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:35 AM on January 14, 2013


Can we stop critiquing contemporary art as a whole and just agree to blame Marina Abramovic for ruining everything?
posted by Theta States at 10:43 AM on January 14, 2013


Some of what I was referring to:
Wiggling fingers
Word art 1, Word art 2
Scribbles

I don't feel challenged or impressed by these works. I guess that is my criteria for good art, Philistine as it may be.
posted by jlh at 10:44 AM on January 14, 2013


....How so? I'm encouraging people to ignore the critics and the academics and trust their guts.

Maybe I misread your comment - I thought you find the neon sign I linked acceptable because some people may find it interesting.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:52 AM on January 14, 2013


(Whereas I think it is bad and the artist is a bad person and should feel bad about making it)
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:52 AM on January 14, 2013


I think one thing that we can all agree on that a contemporary art-focused American Idol-style show -- with all the glitz and drama and makeovers and completely naked corporate shilling of the original -- airing on prime-time network television would be the greatest thing to ever happen to art, ever:

"If you liked 'Nude Devouring a Staircase' text VOTE to 87737. Standard text message rates apply. And now here's Damien Hirst and the Damien Hirst Dancers with a message from Saatchi & Saatchi."
posted by griphus at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Have you actually seen Nauman's piece For Beginners? A lot of his work is multi-screen videos played simultaneously and do a lot to draw conscious attention to otherwise unconscious everyday things-- the ways that different people saying the same series of words with varying inflections come across differently, the myriad ways that a simple phrase can be interpreted depending on context and speaker and tonality, the goofy little things that people do in idle moments without realizing it. Nauman has some weirder take-it-or-leave-it stuff My Name As Though It Were Written On The Moon, which I love, is probably indefensible if you don't love it immediately) but his video work is rather uniformly fantastic and interesting and accessible if you give yourself two minutes to stand in front of it without your eyebrow cocked skeptically.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:59 AM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


I saw Marina Abramovic's The Artist is Present in person. I actually watched it for a few hours (but didn't sit with her - by the time I was in NY there were day long waits as it was very near the end of the piece) over a couple of days. I found it very moving and VERY interesting, especially all of the "stuff" going on around it. But more interesting and more moving was the retrospective of her work. Seeing it all in one place and seeing the re-performances quite seriously changed something in me. I'm about as cynical as they come but the breadth of it was something astonishing and I loved it.

But yes, Theta States, that doc did turn me off her a bit. That someone else had to tell her that incorporating David Blaine in the piece was not just a bad idea but The Worst Idea was telling. And her strongest work, imo, was with Ulay and watching that I really understood why.

I'm a modern art fan and I particularly like conceptual art (Sol LeWit, Donald Judd and Agnes Martin are on my artist fantasy team, to give some examples of where I come from. I saw the Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds piece in person as well and I still cry thinking about.). I understand the context and I think that helps and obviously I have A Perspective Here. But I also understand why people don't like it. The other side of My Perspective is loving, LOVING, bog standard portraiture of the kind found in the Stuart collections at the NPG. I wish people would give modern and conceptual art a chance and not just dismiss it all outright.
posted by marylynn at 11:22 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


That someone else had to tell her that incorporating David Blaine in the piece was not just a bad idea but The Worst Idea was telling. And her strongest work, imo, was with Ulay and watching that I really understood why.

Yes and YES.
My god, I couldn't believe the Blaine bit as it was unfolding.

And in the end of the film, I just wanted to know Ulay more. Much more.



I'm a modern art fan and I particularly like conceptual art (Sol LeWit, Donald Judd and Agnes Martin are on my artist fantasy team, to give some examples of where I come from.

I'd go Serra, Martin, Newman myself, but more focused on tricking David Altmejf to makeout with Anselm Kiefer.



The other side of My Perspective is loving, LOVING, bog standard portraiture of the kind found in the Stuart collections at the NPG.

My guilty pleasure: Cornelius Krieghoff.
posted by Theta States at 11:34 AM on January 14, 2013


I see your Cornelius Krieghoff and raise you one William Berczy.

I had to look up Altmejf but omg, now I need to see some of that in person. It's in person that so much of this really makes more sense, at least to me. (And if we're throwing out Canadian contemporary art, I NEED to see Jeff Wall's Dead Troops Talk in person again. I've seen it twice and it gives me shivers and makes me laugh. What else could do that?)

Serra is A Thing here and he's one that I "don't get". I understand it, I understand Why, but it leaves me cold. I need art to move me I guess?

And in the end of the film, I just wanted to know Ulay more. Much more.
Me too! In kind of ... um, intimate ways. He seems lovely.
posted by marylynn at 11:52 AM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe I misread your comment - I thought you find the neon sign I linked acceptable because some people may find it interesting. (Whereas I think it is bad and the artist is a bad person and should feel bad about making it)

I think that....I'm not saying either one or the other, actually. (In a weird way you've managed to both get my point and miss it simultaneously and I'm trying to figure that out.)

What I mean is; yes, I find that the neon work is "acceptable," in the sense that "the artist should not be killed because someone somewhere may suddenly be struck by it in some way". Hey, I also thought I hated "video" art until I saw this video piece which tickled me in a place I couldn't reach, and I also thought I hated conceptual art until I dropped by MoMA one night when Yoko Ono's Voice Piece For Soprano was there, and got caught up in people-watching and dug it. You honestly never really know what weird itch in your gut that you never knew you had could get scratched by something unlikely.

But I do NOT mean that "you, Dr. Dracator, must also therefore like it". Keep hating it, avoid that section of the museum if you go, tell people that you think it sucks dingo kidneys, that's totally fine. If you don't like it, you don't like it, and that is ALSO cool. Hell, there are entire swaths of museums I just plain avoid because dammit, after seeing umpty-squillion portraits of fancy-ass looking nameless members of the French nobility I've come to the conclusion that I just plain Do Not Like Renaissance European Painting and that is just that. So I just avoid those sections, which makes room for the people who love them, and everyone's happy.

And yet - every so often, I do give it a fair shake and walk through the gallery to see if anything grabs my eye, and if it doesn't, fair enough. Museums are big places, there's something for everyone there; and no one has to like every single last work in it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:54 AM on January 14, 2013


Is it gauche to mention Kiki Smith, here
posted by shakespeherian at 11:56 AM on January 14, 2013


What sort of art would you rather see in the contemporary art collection?

memes

all the memes
posted by elizardbits at 12:03 PM on January 14, 2013


Well, the Walker did an Internet Cat Video film festival...?
posted by marylynn at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2013


Me too! In kind of ... um, intimate ways. He seems lovely.

That's how I feel about David Altmejd. If he wasn't a gay man and I not a gay woman, we'd TOTALLY DO IT.

Altmejd's The Vessel is by far the most important piece of art/Canadian art I've seen in the last 5 years, you realy have to spend time walking around it and investigating each little bit of it.
It's up in the National Gallery right now.



I NEED to see Jeff Wall's Dead Troops Talk in person again.

Oh yes, Wall's stuff in the in-person-glow is the best. I just got volume 1 of his catalogue raisonne and it's GOOD, but doesn't GLOW. :)
posted by Theta States at 12:15 PM on January 14, 2013


I saw Dead Troops Talk at the Philadelphia Museum of Art back in the, I guess, late 90s. It stuck with me but I promptly forgot the artist's name or the name of the piece. I searched for it online FOREVER. Then I was in NY and purely by chance (it was a major snowstorm and my friends wanted to wait out the afternoon at MoMA) we happened on a Jeff Wall show. I turned the corner and there it was! My friends were all "That's... he's eating that guy's face...?" and I'm all "Yeah and IT GLOWS.".

shakespeherian, why would mentioning Kiki Smith be gauche? Let's mention all feminist artists all the time!
posted by marylynn at 12:28 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


People are perfectly reasonable to critique contemporary art. I've walked through Chelsea plenty of times to know most of the wares on sale are empty of value, full of conceit, and utterly dull.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:21 PM on January 14, 2013


And those of us who like contemporary art are... liars?
posted by shakespeherian at 1:38 PM on January 14, 2013


You probably just don't have an objective eye for art, like Shit Parade does. Don't feel bad about it; lots of people aren't able to use the kind of clear-eyed logic that you need to have in order to definitively judge art as being bad.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:56 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Technically that's a lot of logical fallacies piled on top of one another, Greg. Use this simple rubric:

IS IT ART?

Yes ---> It is bad art.
No ---> What the fuck is this, it isn't art.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:03 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


The weird thing about making blanket statements about "contemporary art" -- in its broadest definition: art made between 1950 and now -- is that it is contemporaneous with rock and roll and shares a lot of features that rock and roll was chastised for: irreverence, incomprehensibility, apparent simplicity confused for a lack of effort or originality, etc. And yet if you say "I find rock and roll dull," you'll be rightfully dismissed as either arrogant, ignorant, or probably both. But contemporary art is a lot less penetrable than rock and roll, doesn't enter the pop milieu in the same manner (short of, well, pop art and the like) and requires more effort to understand and enjoy. But who wants to go through that effort when swearing off the entire lot tends to sound a lot more like a valid critique rather than what it actually is: utter pretentiousness. Which is amusingly ironic considering that "utter pretentiousness" is what it is often accused of in such critiques.
posted by griphus at 2:19 PM on January 14, 2013


(Obviously paintings of ships or horses are excused, so long as there is no evidence of the artist's thinking too hard about it.)
posted by shakespeherian at 2:20 PM on January 14, 2013


I'm all stream-of-conscious horses-on-ships these days. Next big thing.
posted by Theta States at 2:24 PM on January 14, 2013


I've known a lot of university art students (including my girlfriend) and drawing and painting is the foundation of every single one of their educations. They've never removed it from the curriculum, and students are absolutely expected to learn it, and to spend a lot of time doing representational work. The fact that they choose not to do it in their careers as artists is an entirely different matter.

My art history background is weak, but as I understand it, there are a few different traditions of classical academic art training up through the 1850s which are still sputtering along.

There's the tradition preserved in the Florence ateliers; students draw from master drawings, casts of sculptures, and life, learning measurement in their drawing - comparative measurement and sight size, and then once they know how to draw - meaning measured and an academic finish, they're moved into painting, learning how to paint what they see that's measured and with an academic finish in oil paint. *

Similarly, there's the Russian academic tradition, where students build up their drawing as a construction, and again take their work to an academic finish.

There's also the Japanese and Chinese traditions, which also involve copying masterworks, (some stuff I don't know) and taking their work to an academic finish.

In each case it's a boot camp, with perhaps 3-6 hours of instructor time drawing/day, and the student comes out knowing how to draw. And work in their chosen medium with an academic finish.

Which is then good training for moving to a new medium or style that's not an 1850s academic oil painting. The way Van Gogh studied Bargue Drawings even while he was doing works that drew on his training but didn't look like finished academic oil paintings.

These days students are encouraged to paint like impressionists (or so on) but not given the academic training they had. I admire the freedom students have in a university arts program, but I think they're poorly served in not learning one traditional medium in an academic finish in a bootcamp-like way. Even if they go on to do land art, or found object pieces.

*ditto academic finish in watercolor, sculpture, etc.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:37 PM on January 14, 2013


The weird thing about making blanket statements about "contemporary art" -- in its broadest definition: art made between 1950 and now -- is that it is contemporaneous with rock and roll and shares a lot of features that rock and roll was chastised for: irreverence, incomprehensibility, apparent simplicity confused for a lack of effort or originality, etc. And yet if you say "I find rock and roll dull," you'll be rightfully dismissed as either arrogant, ignorant, or probably both. But contemporary art is a lot less penetrable than rock and roll, doesn't enter the pop milieu in the same manner (short of, well, pop art and the like) and requires more effort to understand and enjoy. But who wants to go through that effort when swearing off the entire lot tends to sound a lot more like a valid critique rather than what it actually is: utter pretentiousness. Which is amusingly ironic considering that "utter pretentiousness" is what it is often accused of in such critiques.

Except the best rock and roll is in the Romantic mode, searching for some primal truth or sexual experience. Modern art seems more like mash-ups or electro or EDM, where its about being contemporary or clever over being emotionally engaging.

I'm all stream-of-conscious horses-on-ships these days. Next big thing.

Jim Morrison already did that.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:56 PM on January 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Except that I think you've had many people in this and other modern art threads (myself included) who have said it IS emotionally engaging to them. I've been surprised at how emotional I get about what is basically just a bunch of lines drawn on a big canvas (Falling Blue, Agnes Martin). I don't expect very many people do, but it's a genuine emotional experience I get standing in front of that thing. Just because something is clever (I don't think Martin actually means to be "clever" but she's definitely in the group of artists who get "that's nothing special, I used to do that in grade school" thrown at them), doesn't also mean it can't move people.

And what's frustrating to me about these discussions is that it's basically like someone saying "Fucking rock and roll, it's just noise and anyone can do it what's the big deal?". It's reductionist and dumb: rock and roll isn't ONE thing and neither is modern art.

We can all like different things and it's okay. We an all dislike things and it's okay. But it would be nice to actually discuss it with people who do like it - and even people who don't like it but can articulate that as real criticisms. There are many to be had here but they're all at the level of individual artists and artwork or the role of museums or the art market or critics but not entire movements.
posted by marylynn at 3:38 PM on January 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jim Morrison already did that.

Suddenly horse_ebooks makes so much more sense.
posted by elizardbits at 4:14 PM on January 14, 2013


And what's frustrating to me about these discussions is that it's basically like someone saying "Fucking rock and roll, it's just noise and anyone can do it what's the big deal?". It's reductionist and dumb: rock and roll isn't ONE thing and neither is modern art.

Seconding this.

Upthread, Shit Parade said that most contemporary art he saw was "empty of value, full of conceit, and utterly dull." But, frankly, most of every kind of art -- even performance, culinary, and literary art - is "empty of value, full of conceit, and utterly dull". Most of us only like a certain small percentage of the sum total of all artistic works out there in a given field, and think the rest can go hang.

It's just that which particular category a specific work of art will fall into - the part we like, or the dreck we don't - is different for every person. I agree that lots of contemporary art sucks dingo kidneys - just like lots of music does, and lots of theater does and lots of movies do and etc. etc. etc. But I do not write off contemporary art itself as a whole because there are some things that I look at and realize, "oh, huh, I do like that thing there after all," and lo, there's something for my "good" pile. Just like I don't write off music as a whole because Mariah Carey happens to make me wish my ears were bleeding.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:20 PM on January 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I certainly like some of the 50 linked, maybe half, just seems odd to me that people get so defensive if a lay person is unwilling to take all 50 as 'great', some of it is bullshit, don't see how that is iconoclastic, seems nearly self-evident. Same is true of rock and roll, and hey gramps -- some kids actually dismiss your music wholesale.

Are there any other lawns I walk upon?
posted by Shit Parade at 6:29 PM on January 14, 2013


I also wondered about the absence of certain works from this list, such as Sleep No More, and the already mentioned Exit Through The Gift Shop. I wonder if some were left off because they were not presented as being artworks. Exit Through The Gift Shop was shown in the context of being a movie, and Sleep No More is presented as a theatrical piece. Other movies and performance art or site installation pieces that did make the list were specifically presented as artworks by their creators - in other words, they were given a context which meant that you would expect to see them in a museum rather than in a theater. The Clock, a movie which did (deservedly) make the list, was for the most part shown at places like the Venice Biennale and LACMA rather than in cinemas.
posted by kyrademon at 7:03 PM on January 14, 2013


I certainly like some of the 50 linked, maybe half, just seems odd to me that people get so defensive if a lay person is unwilling to take all 50 as 'great'....

Who was saying that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 PM on January 14, 2013


"Cory Arcangel's Photoshop CS gradient series makes us ask ourselves why we didn't think of it first."

Ah, finally, a piece of art which I can hold up as an example of bad art, without having to weather the lame "well, if it's so easy, why didn't you do it first" question. That piece was done in 2008, and I did a large-scale photoshop gradient printout back in 2001 or 2002.

And it sucked.

And so, finally, finally, I can say "this art is shit, and I know because not only could I have done it, I did do it, and I did it first, and it was shitty!"

How incredibly, incredibly cathartic.
posted by Bugbread at 12:14 AM on January 15, 2013


No, it's the artist's statement that matters. The actual physical instantiation is just some tedious but necessary chore, best left to an assistant, and doesn't really mean much of anything. What's important is the conception of the idea and its framing, not the physical artifacts that might happen to bear witness to an idea or action.

I mean, who cares if Gutei's finger, Chris Burden's bullet, or Dani Ploeger's electrode is mounted on a plaque somewhere?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:38 AM on January 15, 2013


I said "tear down this wall" once, but people just ignored me. It was a silly thing to say when I said it, which doesn't mean it was a silly thing when someone else says it in a different context.
posted by tychotesla at 12:47 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


> And so, finally, finally, I can say "this art is shit, and I know because not only could I have done it, I did do it, and I did it first, and it was shitty!"

Yeah, not really. This is what rankles a lot of the art lovers here when confronted with, well... unmeasured art hatred. The difference is between "This art does nothing for me." and "This art is shit." You see?

You made a print which you didn't find moving. You feel that, finally, you can definitively say: this really isn't art, or really is bad art, or whatever. However, the moment someone else looks at it and is moved, then, right then, you're wrong wrong wrong. We can only ever speak for ourselves about art.

To someone, your mechanically, thoughtlessly produced Photoshop gradient print may trigger a devastating realization that their entire life is a cookie-cutter facade planned by their middle-class parents, and just how much they really, truly wanted to be a firefighter rather than a lawyer. As they stand there crying, are you going to sneer, "Actually, this is shitty art. It doesn't mean anything."

I know it just breaks some people's little hearts for there to be a category of things about which they can't make objective judgments for anyone but themselves, but that in itself is one of the chief beauties of art.
posted by gilrain at 5:38 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


all aboard the subjective train! Please leave all critical faculties in stowage until you've reached your destination.
posted by Shit Parade at 10:36 AM on January 15, 2013


Saying 'everything in broad category X is shit, for reasons!' is not being critical, it's being ignorant.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:40 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saying 'everything in broad category X is shit, for reasons!' is not being critical, it's being ignorant.


not sure what comment you are referring to? Maybe jlh?

It seems people are suggesting contemporary art cannot be criticized, which is an insane perspective usually held by dictators and schizophrenics.
posted by Shit Parade at 12:24 PM on January 15, 2013


yep, that's exactly what people are saying! Good job! You figured it out with your smart brain!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:39 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


gilrain: "We can only ever speak for ourselves about art."

True, but by that token it is silly to say that art is good, as well. If it moves you, it moves you. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Saying "this art is shit" may be "wrong wrong wrong", but "this art is good" is equally "wrong wrong wrong", unless you're positing that any art which moves even a single person in the whole world is great art, in which case all art is great art.

If you've never talked about a musician being horrible, or their music sucking, or the like, then I am in total agreement with you. You're using the English language accurately, which I was not. If, however, you're not willing to describe your dislike of Justin Bieber, or Skrillex, or whatever band you truly hate as "unmeasured music hatred", then you're just setting up a hypocritical standard for critically praised art.
posted by Bugbread at 12:41 PM on January 15, 2013


It may be noteworthy that this list is titled "iconic" art, not "great" art. It also lists the restoration of Ecce Homo.
posted by RobotHero at 1:08 PM on January 15, 2013


> If you've never talked about a musician being horrible, or their music sucking, or the like, then I am in total agreement with you.

I really do try to express myself in terms of my own reaction to things rather than universal declarations. For instance, I would say "I really dislike and am even annoyed by Justin Bieber," rather than, "Justin Bieber's music is shit and I know that it's shit."

I'm sure my record isn't perfect on that score, however, so yes I'm hypocrite like most people.
posted by gilrain at 1:11 PM on January 15, 2013


gilrain: "I really do try to express myself in terms of my own reaction to things rather than universal declarations. For instance, I would say "I really dislike and am even annoyed by Justin Bieber," rather than, "Justin Bieber's music is shit and I know that it's shit.""

Ah, ok, then I totally agree with you on this.
posted by Bugbread at 1:46 PM on January 15, 2013


Yeah, bugbread, that's exactly what many of us have been saying (that there's a difference between "contemporary art IS shit" and "I THINK contemporary art is shit").

And I have a sinking feeling I started this whole derail up here, so lemme clarify: I was responding to Dr Dractor's comment about not really being able to imagine being captivated by these works. My response wasn't so much a defense of the art itself, though - it was more about how sometimes, actually being in the room with a piece of art, you may find yourself reacting to it in a way you weren't anticipating. A photo of something is not the thing itself, and the thing itself may grab you in a way that the photo couldn't. (By the same token, you could also find yourself actively hating something when you see it in person. You never know.)

It was more a response to "am I missing something here"; that was a roundabout way of saying "possibly, but the only way to know for sure is to go see it in person and see if you have that weird x-factor reaction or not. If you don't, then that's okay too."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:02 PM on January 15, 2013


Like - a while back, I went to the National Museum of Canada and saw a piece called "The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse" or something; the artist had spray-painted a Trans-am black, etched the text of the book of revelations into the paint

Thumbs up for that Trans Am. It was awesome. :)


'Trans-Am Apocalypse 2' by John Scott is pretty cool. He also crafted some custom motorcycles for the fourth horseman which were also pretty cool.
posted by ovvl at 2:46 PM on January 15, 2013


Like - a while back, I went to the National Museum of Canada and saw a piece called "The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse" or something; the artist had spray-painted a Trans-am black, etched the text of the book of revelations into the paint

Thumbs up for that Trans Am. It was awesome. :)

'Trans-Am Apocalypse 2' by John Scott is pretty cool. He also crafted some custom motorcycles for the fourth horseman which were also pretty cool.


So what makes this 'art' when similar motifs show up in Supernatural, Good Omens, and heaps of bad pop urban fantasy? I was reading yesterday about a 70s cheapie horror film called The Car that had Satan driving a souped up muscle car. The actual art looks amazing, but the artist statement tries to play off a common horror cliche has something revelatory.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:43 PM on January 15, 2013


EmpressCallipygos: "Yeah, bugbread, that's exactly what many of us have been saying (that there's a difference between "contemporary art IS shit" and "I THINK contemporary art is shit").

And I have a sinking feeling I started this whole derail up here
"

Actually, my comment was just on the post itself, I hadn't read the comment thread. I guess I just dropped in at an inopportune time.

I also let myself get swept away by previous discussions. Like gilrain, I usually avoid stating that a certain musician or artist or piece or artwork is "good" or "bad". I have very strong preferences for and against individual works and creators, but I don't think they're based in any kind of objective fact.

But whenever I read threads on modern art, it's usually a lot of back and forth between people who don't like a piece (and who say it's terrible, and that they could have made it) and people who like a piece (and who say it's great, and that if it were so easy to make, why didn't you make it first?). And, like Gilrain, "my record isn't perfect on that score, however, so yes I'm hypocrite like most people", and in this case, when I found myself in the "don't like" camp on a certain piece, and found that I finally had the ability to counter the "if it's so easy to make, why didn't you make it first?" argument, I hypocritically put myself in the "if I don't like it, that's because it's bad" camp.
posted by Bugbread at 3:47 PM on January 15, 2013


So what makes this 'art' when similar motifs show up in Supernatural, Good Omens, and heaps of bad pop urban fantasy?

You're assuming Supernatural, Good Omens, and the like aren't art. Who said they're not?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:03 PM on January 15, 2013


(that there's a difference between "contemporary art IS shit" and "I THINK contemporary art is shit").

There is a difference and both can be true, and, *gasp*, some 'art' can be better or worse (or shit) than other art, whether or not some webpage deems it iconic.

Enjoy the echo chamber.
posted by Shit Parade at 5:27 PM on January 15, 2013


Now you're just doing it on purpose.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:20 PM on January 15, 2013


SO ANYWAY did anyone here manage to go see Black Acid Co-Op while it was on display? It sounds fascinating and I would love to see it or a similar piece.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:25 PM on January 15, 2013


OK, enough "what is art" talk. Instead, let's assemble more favourite-artist dreamteams! I'm going to go with Eva Hesse vs Christos vs Gilbert & George!
posted by Theta States at 8:26 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, beyond the ommission of David Altmejd's The Vessle, another big miss on the list: David Levine's Habit.
http://www.artfagcity.com/2012/10/03/the-real-world-becoming-one-with-david-levines-habit/
http://www.massmoca.org/event_details.php?id=604
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/09/review-of-david-levines-habit.html

posted by Theta States at 8:40 PM on January 15, 2013


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