Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Link: You Break It, You Buy It

Obviously, 1.5 million is a little steep for a 12 year old, but personally, I would charge the parents the cost of the repair job on Frankenthaler's painting--and if they were wise parents, they'd make the brat work the bill off.

One of the things that always disturbed me when I was working in a gallery is the lack of respect today's young people have for the space and the art inside it. Of course, I'm sure it's not true everywhere. When I was younger (oh god, I sound like my parents), we were taught that you were to be "quiet ladies and gentlemen," that we were to "walk not run," and NEVER touch the artwork. Have we come to a point in our culture at which we have to honestly explain to a 12 year old that sticking gum on a painting in a museum is wrong? Isn't that a given? What exactly is the age of accountability these days?

Some of the things in this article disturbed me greatly....

"At the DIA on Friday, a MISCHIEVOUS 12-year-old boy visiting the museum with a school group took a piece of barely chewed Wrigley's Extra Polar Ice out of his mouth and stuck it on Helen Frankenthaler's 1963 abstract painting "The Bay," damaging one of the most important modern paintings in the museum's collection and a landmark picture in the artist's output."

"Mischievous" is a dramatic understatement.

"Even though we give very strict guidelines on proper behavior and we hold students to high standards, he is only 12 and I don't think he understood the ramifications of what he did before it happened, but he certainly understands the severity of it now," said Kildee (director of the school)."

Surely this woman is kidding. I think we all knew when we were 12 that it's wrong to stick gum to our desks, furniture, other people's hair, and yes, art. We learned that the proper place for gum was in the trash when its flavor wore out.

"At first, Hart (assistant curator of contemporary art) tried to explain to him the museum's role in preserving cultural and visual history. "I knew that probably wouldn't make any sense to him, so I asked him what kind of music he liked," said Hart.

"He said he liked rap, so I said, 'Well, you know what rock 'n' roll is,' and he did, so I said, 'Can you imagine if somebody had messed up the beat in rock and roll so you didn't have any rhythm in rap.' And he looked at me, and he got it immediately."
I really think that this is a little too abstract (pardon the pun) of an explanation for a 12 year old (I'll concede that 12 year olds aren't much into abstract thinking in terms of maturity). It might be more instructive to stick some Bubblicious on the music side of one of his cds.
"Hart said no more than one or two artworks per year experience minor damage at the museum. She noted that that DIA guards and officials did everything correctly. The picture was hung at a proper height and students were told repeatedly before their visit that food, drink and gum are not allowed in the galleries."
Again, it seems rather strange to me that a museum would even have to explain this to someone.
"Of course, sometimes boys will be boys."
I will not even dignify that comment by the article writer, Mark Stryker, with a comment.
I don't mean to sound like a harsh disciplinarian. I'm not advocating spanking. But this does seem like a "teachable moment" for this boy.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

You Know His Stained Glass Work, But....

Have you seen John La Farge's paintings?

What do you think of them? What do you think of them in comparison to his familiar stained glass art?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Article: Two Schools of Thought

Figure Drawing by Picasso, Age 16

One "school" advocates training and technique in the painterly tradition.
One "school" advocates experiential learning in a variety of media areas.

Why are they at odds?
Do they have to be?

I remember my first critique in graduate school. Two professors were locked like rams in an apparently age-old disagreement with HOW a student should learn how to paint--develop technique, THEN work on ideas, and the other believed students should first explore their ideas THROUGH various techniques, and this would lead to developing techniques or various techniques as each suited various content. I didn't understand it fully then, but since I have become an art instructor I believe I have a somewhat better grasp of the disagreement.

At the root of all this an artist must ask him/herself what it is he/she would like to do with his/her art. Does he/she want to be in fine art or graphic art? Does he/she want to create traditionally highly commercially viable artwork in the here and now? Or, does he/she want to explore ideas that lead to forms that stand the test of time (whether they make money or not)? There are several motivations for making art. All are perfectly fine from the hobbiest to the most serious of creators.

Why do these two philosophies have to be at odds? I personally believe that EVERY artist should learn one medium in particular as best as they can and practice it his/her whole life. That medium is drawing. This is where I stand with the technique camp. I believe that drawing is the foundation for all of the visual arts. It is a concrete physical way to explore the world around us and as we do so, we catalogue the world around us in our brain for future reference or for use in abstraction. I also believe that an informed abstract artist has vigorously drawn from life so that they come from an informed place when they abstract and the abstraction takes on a more universal quality (because of its subtle connotations). The drawing at the top of this entry is an example of what Picasso was doing at a very young age before he even attempted abstraction. He knew the tangible world inside out and this freed him to use that fluent visual vocabulary in extremely ingenius and original ways.

Do I think it's important to learn techniques in other media inside and out? Not necessarily. Do I think you should have a broad education trying all media until you find one, or two, or several to explore and develop your ideas? Absolutely. Do I think you should study in the traditional master-protege model of education in which a student tries to duplicate the instructor's vision and style? It's not for me to say--however, I do believe that if it is your goal to learn a style that you know sells well in the present, than the selling is one of your prime motivations. What remains to be seen is if copying someone else's style is creative, or even could be construed as art (but defining 'art' is an age old conundrum--and a topic for another entry). The various artists who followed the style of Caravaggio are simply referred to as Caravaggisti, which is a term that lumps them in together. It is not their names that are remembered or their style that stood the test of time, it is Caravaggio's and perhaps this reinforcement of one's style through many proteges does more for the master than for the students in terms of validation and continuance through history. BUT, if you do not care if you fit into the annals of art history--surely few end up doing so--none of all that should matter if your motivation is to create commercially viable work that appeals to a broad base of individuals in the present.

Graphic designers are in a special circumstance. They are constantly aware of having to master tools (computer/mouse/etc.) and ideas simultaneously to sell products or ideas. Their training in these two spheres run parallel. I would argue that fine art should be taught that way too. What's most important is finding out why you make art, who you want to make it for, what kind of tools that you prefer to use (which can only be found out by experimenting) and then find a master/school that suits YOUR needs. These days there are many choices. In Picasso's time, there was academic painting training and that was it. He got bored and broke out of it and changed art (and design) for all time. Sometimes stifling atmospheres create the most amazing geniuses, out of necessity.

In short, I believe art education should be a combination of training in technique fundamentals and experiences in experimentation. Basic techniques should be taught, but students should feel free to let their ideas about form and content dictate their media/style to increase their capacity as effective visual communicators.

Distance Education, 2004

That is the title of this piece by Texas artist, Eileen Maxson. Any thoughts, Distance Ed teachers (or anyone else interested in the topic)?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Why This Bothers Me

1. The motivation behind this is clearly to pump up ratings using salaciousness wrapped in moral superiority.

2. The show makes the sexual abuse of minors titillating, and even though television is certainly NOT art, they inadvertently aestheticize the very serious problem.

3. This show will probably get a huge share of the viewing market, but if someone aired a show on the life long side effects and the long road through treatment for the victims, and a serious discussion of the problem and its solution, it would probably get a zero share.

4. It is one step away from gladiatorial fights to the death in the Roman colosseum in terms of viewing pleasure and morbid fascination.

Just my two cents.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Art of Language


This reminds me of a story. When I was a senior in high school, I went to Memphis to see Graceland for spring break with a friend. We took a side trip to the Memphis Brooks Museum (because I can't go to a city without checking out its museum). There was a special exhibit at the time of plaster masks of various celebrities in one of the galleries (e.g. Paul Newman, Carly Simon, Whoopi Goldberg). I believe they were the work of Willa Shalit, but don't quote me on it. They were interesting but not very riveting in all honesty, so we moved quickly on to another gallery. As we left the gallery with the casts, a second grade class was entering it. Seconds later, in the gallery next door, my friend and I heard a crash. We looked at each other because we knew what happened. Men in suits with walkie talkies were running into the gallery and we followed them. Looking into the gallery we saw one of the men talking on his walkie talkie and the panicked look of an elementary teacher who was trying to comfort a sobbing 8-year old who was standing next to a shattered Whoopi Goldberg. I always think of this event whenever I see Whoopi.

P.S. I wonder if this is the same Whoopi.