Blackpaint 31


Conceptual Art

I think my problem with this sort of art is an unwillingness to engage with ideas that are not immediately apparent in the work.  If I have to read a plaque on the wall in a gallery in order to understand what the artist is saying, then the chances are quite high that I won’t bother.  I may still like the art; I may get a lot from it; but it probably won’t be what the artist intended.

I’m not sure whether this is legitimate or just crass.  Visual art surely should engage you visually; maybe its impact can be deepened by accompanying text – but if you end up writing great chunks of explanation (or having them written for you by critics), then it seems to me that you probably ought to make your message clearer visually.

That said, I’ve just trolled through the whole of “100 Contemporary Artists” (Taschen), both volumes, and the earlier “Art Now”, same publisher, and I haven’t found a single artist whose work doesn’t engage me visually to some degree, without reading the (mercifully brief)higher art bollocks written about each of them.  Some are more arresting than others, of course – and I prefer the painters, as I suppose I would.

Probably it’s because the conceptual artists are in a book rather than a gallery and you can return to that again and again.  as you flick through to your favourites, the others become more familiar and you start seeing things you missed at first.

More favourites: Tom Friedman – especially the “Green Demon”, Elmgreen and Dragset – the Prada shop in the middle of nowhere; Gursky, Albert Oehlen and Luc Tuymans.  and Pipilotti Rist – lovely videos and even better name.  But the images that stop me as I flick through are by Cecily Brown, Marlene Dumas, Tuymans and Oehlen.  Buy the book or look them up on the net – I’m worried about copyright if I attach images to this, other than my own.

Actually, there are two instances where I’m glad I read the text.  The first is Matthew Barney, who made the “Cremaster” series of films; there is a startling still of a red haired young man with pig’s (?) ears flopping down on each side of his head – reminds me somehow of a scene from “The Shining”.  The text reads, “The title of the series is derived from the cremaster muscle in the male genitals from which the testicles are suspended, and which is retracted in a reflex movement produced by cold or fear inside the body.”

The second relates to the work of Nobuyoshi Araki, who obsessively photographed his dying wife up to the point of death and beyond.  The text reads, “The photographs which have become emblematic of Araki’s work, however, are his portraits of young women – prostitutes and schoolgirls – either dressed or naked, hanging from the ceiling or thrown to the ground, their hands tied together, their legs apart, or even engaged in the sexual act.”  I’d like to know what Susan Sontag would have to say about him – this surely qualifies him as a “transgressor” ( Meaningless coincidence – Sontag was also photographed after death, I think, by Annie Leibovitz, wasn’t it?

Listening to Cyril Davies, “Chicago Calling”

“Well, Chicago calling, hear me call your name,

Yeah Chicago calling, come back home again,

I’m goin’ back to Chicago, Chicago callin’ me,

Yeah Chicago calling, Lord that’s where I long to be”

Blackpaint

06.01.10

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