Robert MappleThorpe • American Flag • 1977
An example of good use of the Flag in a work of art.
Art or Idiocy? has been compiling notes from a recent visit to New York. Here we have a list of what is going on style or themewize in art today. The results have been gleaned from the Armory Show, ~Scope, the Whitney Biennial and galleries in Chelsea and Brooklyn. As you will see, a lot of these trends, devices and or crutches are ubiquitous. Not just in New York, America, but perhaps even internationally. Certainly we see some of this in Chicago. So you could look at it as good that we are rocking the tropes everyone else.
Today we look at the first category, and the most prevalent.
a. Bush’s head – more leftist artists plaster his face everywhere than anyone else does anywhere.
b. Military Equipment – tanks, guns, and aircraft. Since it is art, we assume the message is antiwar, anti-Bush, anti-patriotism and on. But really there is no comment or content at all. Most of the time it is deadpan and photo-based. Not photographic, because that requires more effort. But really, what does this do? In this style people are usually absent. Is this some comment on losing touch with our humanity in war? It is probably because squarish things like tanks and bazookas are easier to draw than people are.
c. Beating war to death[sic] – Using extremely over-the-top and trite methods, tropes and gags. There was loads of art with fake blood and American flags and camouflage. Sex is also a big part of it, like phallic missiles, or religious and political figures engaged in sodomy. That is interesting, because in the “political” artist’s arsenal sodomy, and any sex, is used as an easy offense or scare tactic.
Much of this art then adds up to laziness. This style is in place of actually having ideas, or opinions of one’s own. It is codes and icons, speaking to cool young people who know the codes, and also trying to piss off conservatives. It is so confusing because you never know when people are being ironic or not. It is best to assume they are always being ironic. Which is ironic because none of what they are doing is really irony, it is just the opposite of what they mean to say. So it is like “opposite day” back in elementary school when kids try to trick eachother. This also fits because it is an art student style to be really obvious and ironic. And not actually know what you are saying but to say it anyway, with an American flag, with blood on it, and a dick in there somewhere too.
This art is really about youthful ideals gone horribly wrong. It is the product of White kids that are privileged enough to choose to live like bohemians. All the hating of the Bush and the War and America probably has a lot more to do with hating parents and growing up. This art also detracts from anyone with a liberal point of view making an intelligent point. Sort of like Jeanine Garafalo getting involved in the 2004 election.
No one is has really made a career out of this style yet. You could say Thomas Hirschhorn has, but that isn’t really correct. He may be sloppy and all that, but he makes work that some how rises above the sum of its parts. He’s not spectacular, but he is interesting, and he makes stuff that is worth thinking about. Hirschhorn is also a source of inspiration for extreme political artists. But they don’t get it. It is not as simple as
Angst + Trash + Found Images of War and Sex = Groundbreaking Work of Art
The other problem, of course, is what happens when peace breaks out? You won’t have anything to make art about anymore. Admittedly, we will probably be in Iraq another 10 years. But can you really survive on making bloody American Flags. Oh, and oil. I forgot that. You need some black acrylic paint to be oil. Ultimately, this art is flawed from the beginning, because it is way too topical and dated. It is like looking at political cartoons from the 1990s. Really badly drawn, and unfunny political cartoons. Yeah, it is sort of recent, but what does it have to do with now?
Pablo Picasso • Guernica(detail) • 1937 • (click for full image)
That’s why stuff like Guernica is so great. It takes a really specific thing- the bombing of a specific town, in a specific war- and makes it about universal issues. Death, cruelty, sorrow and on. It also makes it aesthetic, but not in a way that diminishes the message. Political art is not doing that now at all. And it certainly wasn’t doing it at the fairs.
Or the Whitney Biennial.
The Biennial was totally in your face and political. And it had all those categories of political war art gushing out of every orifice. But here is the real disservice and travesty:
Critical Art Ensemble. CAE has been making intelligent, well executed work about myriad political topics for years. It also is the only group that puts its money where its mouth is. CAE has faced all sorts of real persecution and prosecution and still continues on. But where did the brilliant curators put CAE in the Biennial? Next to the bathroom, literally. There was a little corner corridor that led to the toilets. And there were three TVs with headphones of CAE work. Not in a screening room, or anything like that.
Apparently making a tanning bed of oil drums is more important. Well, it is. Political posturing is much much more important than actually doing something. At least to the art establishment.
That is why Rirkrit Taravanija worked with Mark di Suvero to create Peace Tower, based on di Suvero’s Artists’ Tower of Protest of 1966. If Peace Tower is as effective against the War in Iraq as the 1966 version as against the Vietnam War, we can expect the last of out troops to return in about 2012. Is this an Onion article?
ARTISTS LAUNCH ATTACK ON WAR WITH TOWER OF PEACE. WAR EXPECTED TO SURRENDER WITHIN DAYS.
Tower of Protest featured the 1960s version of crap political art, which is supposed to be better because that was the origin of White American Youth war art. And it was the 60s and lots of artists think that the 60s were automatically better. But it probably was really really bad. But Artforum liked it. And they like Peace Tower, because Artforum likes empty gestures as much as the rest of America. The only difference between a yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbon and a metal scaffold of peace is which side you think you’re on.
Peace Tower has trademark art by trademark politicos like Sam Durant strapped to it. So that is someone making a living off of political art. And it is the most disgusting way, because Sam Durant samples Blacks marching for equal rights as readymade. And then he doesn’t say anything about it. We are supposed to do all the thinking, and come up with brilliant interpretations. And then maybe fax them to his gallery so they can put it in a press release. Art like Durant’s is no better than Bush citing 9/11 for his agenda. It is all posturing.