Monday, March 8, 2010

Aaaaaaaart! Overload!

Alec Soth reports on his quirky LITTLE BROWN MUSHROOM blog, his response to a couple of recent days spent in New York, as he says, overindulging in the NYC art fairs and the Whitney Biennial. He seemed pleased to return to the serenity of Minnesota.

Alec gives a link to a piece written by Peter Plagens in the current issue of Art America..... it's a good read and sort of sums up the state of the art.....

"At the end of one cold, damp day of perambulating through 50 or so art emporia, here’s my take: artists are looking a little overwhelmed these days. Not by the ongoing (if diminishing) recession, or the withering competition for the slightest fingernail hold on the climbing wall to art-stardom, or the number of intractable social problems that don’t seem to be mitigated in the slightest by what gets put on the walls and floors and in those black-curtained little video rooms nestled within galleries. Rather, I think, it’s by the sheer amount of stuff—material stuff, electronic stuff, emotional stuff, psychological stuff, journalistic stuff, theoretical stuff and satirical stuff—that comes bubbling up out of (or, much of the time, blasting forth from) the society in which we live.

Old news, you say. Perhaps. The term “information overload”—which refers to the glut of words, pictures, facts and opinions that modern life forces down our gullets like corn mash down the throat of a pâté goose—is about 45 years old....

....But things are different today (I hear every mother say). Not only are the aural and visual dins almost deafening and blinding, and not only is the speed at which they’re conveyed approaching simultaneity, but the analysis, punditry and attendant bloviating are delivered just as fast. And quicker than you can say “Jaron Lanier,” the second round of analysis, punditry and bloviating attendant to the first arrives, and so forth, practically ad infinitum. As a result, it’s extremely difficult for an artist today to take any sort of stand, except a stand against taking a stand, or a stand that mocks all stands, or a stand that blankets all stands. Lately, in concrete terms—that is, the aggregate of all the materiel in all those esoteric rooms in a gallery neighborhood—taking a stand has amounted to the likes of laying fluorescent paint over brown old-masterish glazes, displaying crates that the video monitors were shipped in alongside the monitors, pasting cartoony glyph faces on Classical bodies and writing more words across a single drawing than there are in this essay. There are endless variations—collaborative and individual—on “Exquisite Corpse,” endless and usually unintentional solo-show variations on the Duchamp-designed 1938 Surrealist exhibition in Paris and an overlay of Jean-Michel Basquiat on practically everything. The dominant operative philosophy in all of this is the absolute opposite of “If in doubt, leave it out.” (I wish I could think up a rhyming equivalent, but I can’t.)

Is this bad? Not necessarily. (It’s almost impossible to make a charge of “bad art” stick these days; for every plausible opprobrium, there’s a plausible huzzah.) It’s just, well, dispiriting. What you want—OK, what I want—from serious art is distillation, an actualized sense of the tenor of the times being presented not in merely smaller replication or aleatory lists, but in concentrated form, in visual synecdoche. While I may not know that quality the minute I see it, I know it later, trudging home from the galleries, when a work of art I’ve viewed an hour or two before sneaks back into my consciousness, with a piercing summary of the zeitgeist that silences the accumulated cacophony of what I’ve seen."

So, where to from here?

No comments: