Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blog Assignment No. 5: A Trip to The Walker.

Part One: Formal

"Red Yellow Blue III" (fig. 1) is obviously all about color. Formally speaking, that's it. Seeing this piece you are faced with nothing but three large canvases, each covered in one of the primary colors. All really one can do is stand a few feet away and become lost in these fields, shifting from one to the other, and, as I've covered in my last entry, feel the emotional reactions these bold colors arouse. If anyone ever asks you to give them an example of modernist art work, point them in this direction.

Part Two: Content

"Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp: A.P.)" (fig. 2) is a prime example of art that's content overshadows its form. This piece by Sherrie Levine, taken from Marcel Duchamp, has nothing to go on but content. First of all, it's just a gold plated urinal. Whoopty-doo. But this piece is pure postmodernist feminist art theory. Levine piggybacks off the work of renown male artists and changes the idea a little bit, or makes a copy of the piece and changes its placement, as we see above, et cetera. I believe, in this instance, that's she's spitting water at the privilege that allows male artists to call a urinal art and be taken seriously, where as a woman has to do something truly magnificent for anyone to do the same for her, even though a woman can call random objects art just as well as men. The only reason that I enjoy this art, despite my devotion to realism, is because it seems like the artist is just calling bizarre things, like urinals, art just to screw with people.; which I enjoy very much.

Part Three: The Lacking

This piece, "Gray Corner Piece" (fig. 3), although strong in formal qualities such as line, shape, positive and negative space, arguably value has really no content other than an experiment in optics. This is all fine and dandy, but that's really all there is. After quickly reaching my initial conclusions concerning this piece, I immediately lost interest because it is a tad dull.

Part 4: Form and Content

Here we have Chuck Close's "Kiki" (fig. 4). "Kiki" is filled with quite a few formal qualities that include shape found in the grid underlay, color of the random forms found in the individual squares of the grid, and line used to create the grid underlay itself. What makes this piece really neat is that formal qualities can be identified that are pure optical illusion when seen from a distance. For example: the color, value, and pixelated texture of this piece is simply made up of individual squares filled with seemly random spots of color and when viewed from a distance, the eye blends it all together so you see the image above. You can see below what I'm talking about in figure 5, a detail of the piece.

The content of this piece can be found in a small history lesson on Photorealism. Here goes: After Pop Art, there grew a response movement called Photorealism in the late 1960s. Chuck Close, an obvious Photorealist, made these gigantic portraits of people, but he chose to canonize people unfamiliar to the public or media with his monumental portraits in order to avoid the Pop Art that would've ensued if he painted famous people. This piece, and the many others like it, is also a major turn in Close's style of painting. this is why: in 1988 close became paralyzed from the neck down due to a spinal artery collapse. After some time, Close regained movement in arms and started painting again by taping a brush to his wrist. This severely limited his ability to paint as realistically as he did before, what he refers to as, "The Event." Although I enjoy to see all this in an piece, I would prefer to see more in the content category, which I try to achieve in my own work.

Part Five: My Two Cents on the Trip

Although I enjoy trips to the Walker and find the work interesting and fun to think about, there is nothing much there that I am truly passionate about and nothing that really inspires me to create art of my own. Being a realist, I enjoy spending time at the M.I.A. a bit more. I also find that the art shown at The Walker doesn't challenge any views on art that I harbor. I'm pretty accepting of all forms of art and willing to spend time considering them, except for contemporary mixed media art which I really, really, really don't like at all. (That's because the majority of it appears to be just craft. In my opinion, the artists are just "making things." But that's a whole other topic on its own and I'm not nearly in mood to rant about it. Anyway.) These reasons are why I neglected to select an image to talk about for this last part. Nothing really moved me in any profound way.

Image Citations:

Figure 1
"Red Yellow Blue III," 1966
Ellsworth Kelly
70.5 x 70.125 inches each
Oil on Canvas

Figure 2
"Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp: A.P.)," 1991
Sherrie Levine
14.5 x 14.25 x 25 inches

Figure 3
"Gray Corner Piece," 1970
Fred Sandback
72 x 72 inches
Elastic Cord

Figure 4
"Kiki," 1993
Chuck Close
100 x 84.125
Oil on Canvas

Figure 5
"Kiki" detail

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blog Assignment No. 4

This morning's topic is "Unpainted Sculpture" by Charles Ray. Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time this artist-fellow, named Charles Ray, bought a demolished Pontiac from an auction. The Pontiac he bought looked just like the one in the picture above. Then Charles Ray took it completely apart and made fiberglass casts of each piece, each little painstaking piece. Then he put it back together, painted it gray (which is funny because of the title), and got the mess you see above. The end.
So other than the obvious pain-in-the-ass the process probably was, you might find yourself wondering: so what's the big deal? It's just a completely trashed car. Well, let's do a little experiment. Take a look at this car:

Now look back at "Unpainted Sculpture." Now look at them again, and one more time just for the hell of it. What do you notice? What is the major difference between these two images? Emotion.
Usually when people see a wrecked car, or an image of one, there is some sort of emotional reaction that takes place. The reaction could be one of depression, pity, or even excitement. However, when you look at "Unpainted Sculpture," chances are, you experience no emotional reaction. Why is this? Could it be because you're looking at something that you know is supposed to be art? Because you're getting a secondhand look at disaster? Though these are all valid reasons, I believe the main reason is because of color. That's right, color. It's a proven fact that certain colors provoke psychological reactions in people. Typically you'll find that cool colors arouse calmer feelings and warm colors arouse more energetic feelings. A few examples: Blue can make people feel calm, where yellow can make people feel more aggressive. People in a blue room are less likely to argue than if they were in a yellow one. Red is an interesting one because not only are its effects psychological, but it can even have physical effects. It can raise someone's heart rate and is even said to make people hungry. Hence fast food companies using it in their logos.
So what am I getting at? Charles Ray chose to paint his sculpture of the demolished Pontiac gray because of its effects on people. Gray is a neutral color and raises indifference and boredom because--well, gray is boring when standing up against other colors. Look at the two images again: the completely and utterly destroyed van V.S. the gray Pontiac. The image of the van causes some reaction with the completely smashed front, bent up frame, and shattered windshield. You wonder about the situation of the crash: what happened to the driver? How did the crash happen? Where as, because of the gray, "Unpainted Sculpture" just becomes something to look at in passing with no particular care, unless you admire the meticulous process of its assembly. That's what "Unpainted Sculpture" is, a psychological experiment.

Image citations:

Unpainted Sculpture, 1997
Charles Ray
Fiberglass and paint

Van image taken from: