What I found in the gallery, however, was three paintings and an installation consisting of a pile of cardboard boxes. In the corner of the boxes sat some unfortunate performer in too-tight shorts and a homemade papier-mâché Batman mask playing with an old kiddie electronic keyboard and occasionally singing along very badly....
As usual, Anthony fell into the fine artist trap of being unable to competently reproduce cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and SpongeBob, and ultimately his message was hopelessly shallow: Corporations use the same techniques to sell porn that they use to sell movies for kids! Sex sells! Won't someone think of the children?
I tried to give the show some slack, I really did. Then I noticed that there were three small LCD screens set crudely into some of the stacked boxes, and one of them was showing footage of the World Trade Center on September 11th. That did it for me: This show was not deserving of any goodwill. It simply sucked.
I've been visiting Chelsea almost every week day for the past 3 weeks during lunchtime. On each visit I get to see about 10 shows, sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on if anything catches my eye. Today's visit was the last straw though. Art sucks. Let me re-phrase, the contemporary art in Chelsea sucks. It all looks the same. It all looks bad.
...Last night an artist stopped by my show and we got to talking about artist statements and how he struggles with them. He told me about a gallery in Brooklyn that he was talking to and that they thought an artist statement was critical. They said that galleries use them to determine which packages should be looked at.
I told this artist that any gallery that looked at a statement before the images was not a gallery for me and I felt it shouldn't be for any other artist. If a gallery can't determine for itself if they want to look at the images, well, the art world is in more trouble than I thought.
And then, the mother of all art rants, courtesy of J.T., which I recommend that anyone who genuinely cares about the state of art in the world today go read:
...many will confuse the questions with conceptual sophistication or radical sentiment. It is only the former, if even that. Triple Candie's strategy is an attempt to purchase credibility using the tokens accepted as currency, in every sense, in the contemporary art world: the raising of questions. It's no more radical than a Kyoto office worker paying for his soba noodles with yen. To think otherwise indicates a kind of blindness that I find hard to explain except that careers are riding on it. I'm reminded of the Upton Sinclair quote that has become a favorite of Al Gore's: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it."
There you go.
The study of art, I believe, is a lot like the study of ethics. Something that is clear to people with a cohesive set of spiritual beliefs, and utterly unclear to those without, is that you cannot have an internally consistent set of ethics without a conceptual grounding in something transcendent--i.e. a belief in God, Spirit, or some other over-arching, non-relative force.
The current art world is lacking this transcendent standard, in a big way. The standard has become, simply, egotism. It's all about how well you can leverage and amplify your tics, strangenesses, stupid ideas, arcane rhetoric, Sisyphean processes, and personal connections into some monstrosity that approximates a theory in form, but is utterly hollow at the core. To quote my friends above, it sucks.
For me, the question "what is Great Art?" is easy to answer. Great art is charged. As in, a charged particle or a field, a cohesive interactive force which influences and reacts with the space around it. Bad art is inert. It's as simple as that.
This, obviously, is "The Milkmaid," by Jan Vermeer.
I'd like you, just for a moment, to forget this is a wickedly well-drafted painting of a woman pouring milk. I'd like you to forget that it was painted by a then-obscure, now-famous Dutchman in the seventeenth century. I'd like you to forget that this painting is so famous that it's now a cliché. Those things are NOT IMPORTANT.
What I'd like you to do is observe the WALL behind her head.
Let me help you.
Is this 'empty space'? Is it even 'negative space'? Is it a depiction of a white wall? Is it a bunch of dirty, oily stuff, stuck to an ancient piece of cloth?
Is it just sitting there, or is it DOING SOMETHING?
From my perspective, and from the perspective of the vast canon of art historians who have finally agreed that this painting is Great, it is not just sitting there. It is blowing you ACROSS THE ROOM. The contrasts are simultaneously subtle and dramatic, the forms are familiar and strange, the tension is both frictive and harmonious. It is not just the depiction of light, of form, of space, it is the energetic whammification of the EXISTENCE of light, form, and space.
I don't know how to be any clearer than that.
Here, we have what may be my favorite painting of all time. I sat in front of it in Mexico City for about twenty minutes, despite the fact that I only had one day to see the whole of Mexico City, due to the fact that Mexico City is mind-bogglingly unsafe, and my host was a lunatic.
This is "La gran galaxia," by Rufino Tamayo. Tamayo is a painter who barely registers on the radar in the enlightened old art world in Europe and the USA, but the Mexicans in their superior taste and wisdom have devoted a major museum entirely to him.
This painting, like the Vermeer, is not about a figure of a person in a landscape. That's only the excuse. The painting is about the fact that being a human in an awesome mysterious universe is, well, mysterious and awesome.
It also packs an energetic punch that leaves you gasping on the floor.
Stars. Blue. Black. Whack.
This is where I'm coming from. These are the principles which inform the work I do. Not idle, made-up 'questions,' not precious, pretentious references, not the desire to be Special and Different and Strange. My work comes from the deep spiritual need to create an intensely, strangely, deeply, darkly beautiful object which is simultaneously simple and complex, evocative and mysterious, resonant and ambiguous, which knocks you across the room.
This is not quite done:
From my perspective, it's now falling apart mostly at the mid-to-lower left quadrant, in the background. It's too fiddly, too chaotic. It needs to be simpler, more direct, more assertive.
But by and large, it's not half bad. You should see it in person.