Saturday, January 29, 2011

But is it Art?

I must say that, like many people, I do not quite understand the work of Joseph Beuys. Like any other artistic movement, it needs to be explained within a certain context or given relevancy before the viewer can comprehend it. Perhaps the difficulty I'm experiencing is because we are so far removed from his time or maybe that Beuys chose subjects, displays, and actions that are difficult to interpret. Whatever the case may be, I find his art very difficult to discuss simply because it is so baffling. Therefore, instead of talking about it, here is a video of an installment that Beuys did by living in a room with a coyote.
No matter how hard it is to grapple with Beuys's art, I can still draw a few parallels to my own work. Within my project I Don't Get It, there is an undercurrent of confusion. If the context is not understood, the art cannot be completely understood. Perhaps that is part of my issue with comprehending Beuys and his works.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Herzog and I

After watching Stroszek in its entirety, I have realized that Werner Herzog and I are almost artistically polar opposites. Herzog uses the genuine nature of the people he encounters as his inspiration. He takes a material and crafts the most natural form from it. I am, for all intents and purposes, the antithesis of Herzog. My current project, I Don't Get It: Portraiture and Propaganda, is all about fabricating a situation and a character. Even my fabrications are based on fabrications. My work further abstracts from an already abridged image of a person. I create the setting, select the props, and tell my models how to pose. They may as well be fleshy coatracks. Herzog and I seem to have the same mission: to recreate a believable image. However, it's much easier to assume an expression for the amount of time it takes to take a picture than for a two hour film.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ecstatic Reality

When someone says "craftsman", the image that comes to mind is that of a carpenter, metalworker, or the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance. Werner Herzog, a well-known German filmmaker, doesn't necessarily fall into our notion of a craftsman. After viewing portions of his work Stroszek, I feel that the title of craftsman is, in fact, quite befitting for him. Craftsmen master a medium, work with (not against) their materials, and still push the material to its limit. Very similar to Michelangelo's famous quote about freeing the figure from the marble, Herzog casts his films not based on acting ability, but rather on real life experience and the applicability of a personality to his plot line. One prime example of this practice would be Herzog's employment of one Bruno S. After enduring an emotionally and physically abusive childhood and spending the majority of his life in psychiatric hosptials, this good hearted street musician brought the reality of his suffering and struggle to his on-screen persona. I love this practice of Herzog's because it means that fabricated personalities are rare in his work.
Another aspect of Herzog's artistic personality that I greatly appreciated came up in Herzog on Herzog, a book by Herzog and edited by Paul Cronin. Werner goes to great lengths to explain his influences and contextualizes his work. This leaves no wiggle room for interpretation, but also ensures that the intended message of the film remains intact.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Factory Factory: The Over-Production of Images

How many times have you seen an image of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Parthenon, or Michelangelo's Creation of Adam? Probably too many times to count. We all know that these are historically important works of art, but HOW do we know this? Is it because we realize the full gravity and impact their productions had on the world? Or is it simply because we have been told that they are significant?
American Gothic by Grant Wood. You know this work, but why do you know it?

Along that vein, does the ready access to reproductions of these works cheapen their significance? I honestly feel that sheer number of copies of such famous works, although being great for spreading the availability to viewers, also dulls some of their impact. Instead of picking up on the subtleties of the piece, we glaze over. I've seen this a million times already. Geez. With the spread of media and the advent of Web 2.0, it is easier than ever to view almost anything and everything worldwide. The main issue I have is the complete removal of the work from its original context. And, as a consequence, we become blind to the intended function and significance of the works.
For centuries, artists have been using the idea of assistants and workshops to produce high-demand items in a timely fashion. On top of that, artists have almost always produced as a means of making money. Essentially from the ancient world on, artists and guilds would accept the task of completing a commissioned piece. In a modern setting, you have artists like Andy Warhol with his Factory, Lady Gaga with her Haus of Gaga, and Jeff Koons all had or have teams (upwards of 100 people, in Koons's case) working with them. Of course all artists working on such a scale as to require a workshop are looking to make a profit from their work. It just seems of late that there is dual saturation. There is the immediacy of an online or print (newspaper or magazine) reproduction of works. On top of that, artists are making multiples of these works in various sizes, colors, and media. Is the work we create now bound to the same fate as the great art and artists of the past? Or can we find a way to preserve the artist's (or patron's) intent in conjunction with the image?
The Capitoline Wolf 13th Century. How many of you see the reference to the Roman foundation myth?

These are some of the topics I hope to address in this blog. I'm still grappling with how, or if, this basic concept of keeping art contextualized and preserving its meaning is possible in the world today.