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


  1. Have you seen the Chuck Close documentary? I thought you may have by the way you talked about his "event". - And I totally agree with you about the Walker.

  2. It’s too bad you didn’t find anything truly inspiring at the Walker. I think as the years go on and your get more Art History – more of this will hold more relevance to you. Like the way that Sherri Lavieen’s work became interesting to you – so will the rest of the work, I think their retrospective shows are far more interesting – because you can see how that artists got to these points. Often you need the body of work to have it make more sense. Your writing has drastically improved and I really enjoyed your analysis of the Formal piece and the conceptual piece. Good work. Nice images… much improved.