Owning art isn’t really about art, and doesn’t advocate for any style or taste. If you’re a visual sophisticate capable of appreciating the scribbles of Twombly, the eloquent blotches of Motherwell, I wouldn’t complain simply because I don’t. Spend your millions, I don’t care. What we do here is politics and what we complain about is spending other people’s money on art they’ll never give a damn about while claiming they’re too dumb, too distracted, too visually illiterate to know what’s good for them. Something wrong with that -- fundamentally.
What we have here is a state-supported art establishment, here in our democracy, with an officially sanctioned style of art purposefully maintained to baffle and confuse the general public, over their heads and beyond their interests. Just another example of the famous “munchausen syndrome by proxy,” causing the patient to be sick in order to keep the caregiver employed. Sounds vile but there’s no reason to ferret out dark conspirators, the incentives are in upside down is the simple mechanical problem here.
Art made on a salary is different than art made to sell. Who disputes this? Is one better than the other would be a point of view, but that the second is more likely to be an authentic reflection of the tastes and interests of the culture all around seems more like a fact. If you yourself derive sustenance in some fashion from the state system this probably sounds like disaster, but to the rest of us not so bad. Too late anyway since the dialectic cranks, and the two contradictory ideas merge as we speak. Galleries are changing from something to do on a date with no cover to places where people go to learn about and buy art, and they proliferate. Artists will switch allegiances in droves.
Art made to be sold, purchased and taken home, will simply overwhelm the traditional notion of art as a medium of charity, as a campus function, and ‘fund for the arts’ will be able pay the musicians better and leave art along. According to relevant books of divination and social science, art as a means of exchange, dollars and ideas, is about to flourish maybe for a decade or two, and that hammering sound is the ground floor being built already. More galleries will need more artists, and a greater variety of the home-grown product will reach the surface, to be seen and eventually recognized by fellow citizens.
Quality will find its own level among a world traveled population, and art produced around here will come to represent who we are as a community and who we are to ourselves as individuals. Barring a meteor strike some part of this is bound to play out, and it’s not the worst thing.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Remember there was a time when the royal court spoke a different language than the common folk who baked their bread and tilled their fields. The disdain that arose from this privileged dependence, a quite human compensation for knowing you're doing wrong, could be quite freely expressed since it was over the head of all but the house-servants. There have been a few such times on different parts of the planet and it's never turned out well.
To call it a gigantic money laundering racket wouldn’t be polite, although I have hinted from time to time -- see below. You decide. It’s easier to say that ‘contemporary art,’ without the NEA grants, without foundation tax shelters, without federal and state support for a remarkably dead-ended academic establishment, would evaporate -- finally a contextually relevant outcome. The ‘foreign language’ of the ephemeral installation, the half-baked deskilled assemblage, the mashup of borrowed ideas just wouldn’t be spoken around here any more.
This is not the time to increase funding for a self-chosen court of art insiders, income dependent bureaucrats all mannered and intrigued, and for an art which interests so few of us. Civic officers let your discretionary dollars flow to where they’re needed more, somewhere else, and let art -- production, distribution, appreciation and ownership, manage on its own. This will eventually happen, is happening, anyway, and your well-meaning helping hand just gets in the way.
The federal government in oh so many ways supports an art that involves maybe one percent of the population -- no, way less than that. Rusting culvert pipe squashing itself atop some building, who looks up, isn’t going to uplift the rest of us. We don’t speak that language. All this gigantic movement of money, bought at auction held in trust donated for tax considerations, doesn’t really trickle down to working artists and their natural constituents, those common folk who bake the bread and till the fields -- everybody else.
Posted by Clay Wainscott at 10:56 AM
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
I remember art school just out of the service -- a readjustment I guess I never made. Students in from rural high schools who had dreamt of becoming artists spent their first year bewildered, wondering why their dreams were turning out so strange. A group of them, four or five, actually came to me only because I was a vet and slightly older and asked me what was going on, and I could only say it certainly was educational -- the military having left me guarded and ironic. In the end most of these same students sanely moved on to other fields of study. I was more detached but no less chagrinned, as the graduate students, surly and dismissive, seemed to be running everything.
Posted by Clay Wainscott at 7:46 AM
Friday, April 24, 2015
Independent artists have always been the earthworms of urban renewal, finding cheap housing and studios, aka live-in studios, in any town’s neglected areas. They confront old plumbing, drafty windows, security issues, while improvising habitable and productive spaces, a long tradition of living and working for cheap. This is not gentrification in itself, but soon slick bars and boutiques invade as artsy folks come around. Shopping carts and abandoned washing machines start to disappear, perrenial vagrants just aren’t there. Before long landlords decide to upgrade, and the poor people, including the artists, move out. 'Over-the-Rhine' in Cincinnati is a classic example with the greatest income disparity of seventy-six thousand areas in the US surveyed, transitioning from urban blight to destination for the young professional, porsches in litters, like a renovating tide, due in large part to artists moving in twenty five years ago, now all but gone themselves.
Here, might be happening everywhere, progressives with grant dollars want to seed low profit real estate with enclave artist communities, hoping to shortcut straight through to urban chic just in time to make a killing for someone. Maybe it works, but sure seems unnatural somehow. I suspect they're really just setting up a tourist stroll with bead work and plywood roosters, as artificial as its roots, and populated with the entrepreneurial bottom-line sort of artist. Seen it other places is all.
Here’s something they possibly just don’t know. Finding your own way is part of it. It’s an interesting assignment, to survive as an artist here in our sports loving, media-addicted land. To an aspiring artist driving an old car isn’t romance. It requires mechanical skill or at least understanding, and thoughtful and efficient maintenance squeezing out every mile, just like every tube of paint is squeezed. Goes for everything. A person learns to cook, to repair, to negotiate with not the nicest landlords. This is all a part of making art that connects to that larger pool of human experience, and it works. Did they not tell you this in art history class? The city, the state, the united nations making it easier actually defeats the process.
Posted by Clay Wainscott at 11:35 AM
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Now here’s a local writer making the points we’ve been harping on around here all along. Art opens the eyes, retools the senses, and brings the present moment into focus. Seems like a revelation when someone else says it. Don’t feel the need to say it again myself just now, but will mention the best part. It doesn’t have to be good art to be effective.
A heightened attention burns anything you put in front of it. Since the machine we’ve been given knows the world only through the agency of comparison, someone’s recently delivered new theory of knowledge, all that’s required is that you see good art sometime. It’s automatically recorded and kept for comparison with all the other art you’ll see, until perhaps you see something better, and so it goes. Thereafter you can look for the qualities you admire, and whether you find them or not, at least you looked. You’ve exercised your immediate attention, and will be rewarded by the new stuff you’ll notice throughout day.
It is necessary to see good art once in a while to prime the whole enterprise, and by good art we mean compelling enough to make you want to look. If you try to see a fair array of all the art available you’ll find most of it boring, but not all of it. Some artists are able to make images that evoke honest sentiment and intelligence and reflection, somehow, and you just want to look at them. On the other hand, there’s also an awful lot of art that’s derivative, poorly made, and uninteresting out there, and you’ll have to look at it too to decide which is which. See how this works?
Posted by Clay Wainscott at 11:10 AM
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Art is about self first of all. All the art there is is simply too much for any one person, all the way from ‘deskilled’ to Da Vinci, from quaint primitive to ultra-chic. Where in that almost infinite spectrum of creative expression do you find your own reflection? It’s a fine question, especially these days when it’s possible to access almost all of it postcard size in your pocket.
applicable to all posts: artists and art movements mentioned on ‘owning art’ are as close as google and can be referenced anytime, but in all cases and with all art, digital is not the same as real. There are many qualities in actual art that don’t survive reproduction in any form, most usually the best parts, and the only way to really understand art is to experience it directly -- in the museum, in a gallery, or in a salon or restaurant showing local art.
There isn’t any reason to feel self-conscious anymore since the fences are down, the printed programs are gibberish, and anything that can be squeezed into a gallery can be declared art. You’re free to decide for yourself and that’s the rub. Who knows who they are? Do you dress for comfort or for style, do you buy a practical car or a roadster, do you read a book or play outdoors? Given reasonable options most folks seem to find their way without over-analyzing, at least in the beginning, and might not become reflective until later in life when events impinge. It’s about this time they might start looking for themselves in art. Perhaps you qualify.
Posted by Clay Wainscott at 9:38 AM
Saturday, March 28, 2015
Scientology is about to get whacked with a big expose on HBO this weekend -- just saw the promo. Somebody’s going to claim it’s all about mind control, that they introduce innocuous mental routines that override free will so they can bleed away a disciple's cash, and it will be convincing, probably. This after a recent play on broadway won awards for a fairly straight forward, with singing, portrayal of Mormonism. It’s all pretty amusing from the outside.
Not so fast. Who’s been programing the big machine, the baseline reality we mostly all accept and swim around in? The evening news isn’t really about what goes on in the world, just some highlights, but instead is being crafted all afternoon to shape public opinion concerning war readiness, class consciousness, and all of it tuned to a calibrated level of anxiety. Is this news?
Most folks figure being slightly ahead of the game is sufficient, safe and warm, and after seeing the evening news the status quo seems fine. Still, it’s amazing what some folks take for granted and think is real. Religious schisms within all denominations denounce next door variations as totally wrong, economic principles which have been shown to cause financial disaster are fervently adhered to, and cultural elites continue to support a contemporary art which exposes a grasping furtive ambiguity on their part, naked and unsure before centuries of human accomplishment. Well, in defense of all, it’s tough to say what’s real.
Just gimme some truth can be a tall order, and there’s only so many places to look. It seems to have been discovered just recently that naturalistic television in which production companies attempt to portray authentic situations with believable human characters, no matter how bizarre the setting, finds resonance with an intelligent and hitherto unknown public. Who knew? Even big money is letting the artists lead because it turns out there’s an unfulfilled appetite for authenticity, honesty, and truth no one counted on before.
Is there truth in art? It’s an antique notion to this modern crowd, but reasonable to ask when up to our asses in convenient lies, maybe higher. The first truth is that lies travel both directions, deceit and belief pairing up in little knots difficult to untie. Art leads out, creates dissonance and finally begins to unravel those invisible bonds which burden free-will -- scientology’s lie becoming genuine. Visual art enters the brain direct and so conveys what can’t be said, breaking old habits of thought and opening the mind.
Posted by Clay Wainscott at 9:20 AM