Saturday, November 18, 2006
My Intermittent Art Bash
See item 3 for image link to Graydon Parrish's Cycle of Terror.
I'm all about the art today. I've been accumulating stories, and now, BLAT... here they are.
1) In delightful art news, two paintings by Renaissance master Fra Angelico were found behind a bedroom door in Oxford. These were commissioned by the de Medici family and later lost when Napoleon invaded Italy.
2) In another house where it's easy to lose things among all the magnificent closetry, at the Queen's Hampton Court palace, a spare Caravaggio which had been thought to be a mere copy, has turned out to be the genuine article.
3) I enjoy the upsurge of painters developing representational work using traditional techniques. Not least because it requires an admirable level of technical skill, far above your average, MFA-degreed tampon-collagist. However, it's possible to travel too far up one's allegorical and monumental cloaca. For example, referring to the undeniably gifted Graydon Carter's Cycle of Terror, a wall-sized piece of Classical Realism, James Panero blogs:
To my eyes, Parrish's work is yet another tragedy of 9/11. It is literal if not didactic. It is a machine for illustrating technical skill, far more than it is a moving memorial to September 11. When you visit New Britain, the museum front desk hands you a four-page cheat sheet on the meaning of all the allegories Parrish has built into his canvas. This document says things like "just to the right of the two central male figures are three female figures representing the three fates, or three mourning women. These figures are not wearing blindfolds. They are no longer innocent but completely knowing. An unusual aspect of these three fates is that two of them are handcuffed together, like the wives or husbands of many of the victims of 9/11 who suddenly found themselves 'bound' to one another, to a new community of victims, and to their fate" And: "Note: also near the old man is a skull, a traditional symbol of tragedy and death."
This explanation is so dense, you need a cheat sheet for the cheat sheet. Any work of art that requires a four page explanation to "get it" is going to leave you pretty cold.
4) However, much as I dislike intellectual pomposity, I find it much more tolerable among the talented. In another story, an art student's work was removed from a museum's walls after 18 hours, because of the charged nature of the work. I agree with the removal, but it has nothing to do with any offense on my part that the work is called The Fat is in the Fire and composed of deep-fried American flags. What offends me is the utter bankruptcy of content or or creativity or skill.
On the flags, *artist* (read * as disdainful air quotes) William Gentry imprinted slogans such as,"Poor people are obese because they eat poorly." A lot of these lowly, knuckle-dragging ignoramuses you hold in such contempt going to see student art exhibitions, William? In case his cleverness had eluded you and you weren't yet feeling concussed by the bludgeon of his observations, he included "more than 40 smaller flags fried in peanut oil, egg batter, flour and black pepper."
Get it now? Some people are fat! And it's the sacred obligation of every nannified, simplistic nincompoop in art school to shake a bossy finger at you and tell you what your waistband and GP apparently won't: If you don't eat well, you won't be as healthy. It's so trangressive and innovative, I can barely stand the rush of Gentry's get-real juice to my overfed, undernourished brain.
Predictably, there are always those who claim censorship blah-blah, but I only claim superior sensibilities. One presumably unhappy patron said "the museum shouldn't restrict the free speech of an artist based on public response."
What clearer call could there be for Citizenry Refresher number 15,257? You have the right to say what you'd like and produce whatever craptacular art you choose, but no other individual or entity is required to promote it for you. Museums are allowed to choose what they wish to display. While it is a discouraging sign that this one agreed to display the dreck in the first place, however, without a paid contract, the artist's position is more one of sufferance than suffrage. Widepread Distribution and Marketing of your concept, products, and/or career are not actually guaranteed by the Constitution.
The unhappy patron further opined, "The museum is obligated to the citizens of the community to present art, and it totally failed in that regard."
I agree that they're failing to present art, but I probably mean it differently than the griper. Adult Education guidelines indicate 7 to 21 instances of repetition will solidify new concepts. The fact that this gent couldn't phrase his compaint to be less inviting of punch lines means, to me, that he may be of appropriate intellect to walk up to fried flag #22 before the thematic revelation hits him. Of course, I prefer to believe that his ambiguous wording is a Freudian cry for help, the deepest yearning of a starved soul for something of transcendent aesthetic merit and lasting significance.
Gentry, who had to publicly display his work for a senior project at Austin Peay State University, said he hoped people would get past the flag imagery and address the health issue. "I hope they are upset, but I hope they don't miss the point," he said.
I'd go so far as to say for those standing upright with operating brain stems, it's practically impossible.