Ok. So Im getting down to the nitty gritty in my Master’s program and I am currently finishing up a Contemporary Art class, which probably sounds awful but it is actually really interesting…that is until we get to postmodernism
It’s bad enough that postmodernism is probably the most diverse period of art, but WTF sir? It’s a massive clusterfuck of neo-this and neo-that, re-appropriation and absurdist theories from critics…
Not sure if y’all know me, but I really can’t stand art critics. And I’m one of them! I try to keep it real, I really do. I try to explain art in a way that everyone can enjoy it, or at best understand it better. But if there is one thing I hate about art critics it is their wonky explanations of why artists did what they did, why and how. Whatever happened to just making work that expresses the individual? What about making work that is purely for aesthetics? Perhaps my heart is purely modern in that I believe art can be appreciated simply due to the form and how it evokes emotions – that’s not to say I don’t love me some pop art, or contemporary work, or whatever. But I think my rage comes from the over indulgence of art critics to bathe in their own criticizing glory as they essentially make up whatever the fuck they want a piece to say and tell everyone else in as many words as possible how they are stupid for not ‘getting it’.
Take Warhol. We all know him. Many people (probably many reading this) really hate him. Others think his work was the most important and influential of our lifetime. What you cannot argue is he managed to make his name part of the vernacular of the 20th and 21st centuries. So why is he important?
Love him or hate him, the man did something completely unique in art at the time (others like Rosenquist and Koons were also extremely popular and doing similar work). And yes, even if you hate the idea, in art you get bonus points for being the first. Don’t hate the player, hate the game, kids. Now, what was he saying with his work? Some say he was commenting on the mass-produced culture of the time, the end of individuality, the age of mass marketing. Consumerist culture. He loved it, really. He loved the idea of everyone being famous for 15minutes, he loved the idea of ‘plastic’ people and how individuality could be stripped from each of us by means of mass culture. His Marilyn’s (any and all arrangements of them) are seen as the de-personalizing of Marilyn Monroe. Each time you see her face reprinted, she loses a bit of herself and becomes a commodity. THIS my friends, is de-constructivist postmodernism. Taking what is known and using it to legitimize the ‘new’ art while commenting on its use through the work itself…confused yet?
Think of it this way – wasn’t Marilyn always a commodity? Norma jean had a different hairline, different boobs, a different nose, different hair color – Marilyn was manufactured to be what the culture had deemed necessary, sexy and desirable. Perhaps it is the tribal instinct somewhere in us that tells us to put ourselves in little boxes, perhaps it’s totally manufactured by the leaders in fashion, television and pop culture. Who the fuck knows. All I know is Warhol capitalized on this – and for that I consider him a brilliant business man…maybe less so of an artist.
Warhol wasn’t making a bigger statement about the creative cycles of the artist like some critics say. He wasn’t trying to be ‘deep’: he was making silkscreens of famous people because 1. he could, 2. people loved the celebrities he used, 3. he wanted to make a shit ton of money by doing the least work possible, and 4. because he recognized the cash cow that was consumer manipulation. He wanted us all to be the same – somehow people think by doing this he was an outlier, an innovator. Eh. Maybe.
Maybe he was a business man seizing an opportunity. Seeing that the culture was just eating up everything they could get their hands on to feel more important than they are. Everyone could get a piece of Elvis (and believe me, I wish I could have. yum), everyone wanted to have Marilyn in their house. So, basking in the gullibility that was the modern consumerist frenzy, Warhol used basic tools to deliver this ‘everyman’ idea to the masses. As he said in an interview, the rich and the poor both drink the same coca-cola. By tapping into this idea of irrepressible desire to be important, Warhol essentially used the ignorance of the masses to his advantage. Essentially mocking those who loved his work but didn’t know why.
The machine is a powerful thing. It all rings true today, doesn’t it? We get Twitter accounts to hear what Celebrity McFuck says about his ex, we overshare on Facebook in the hopes that someone will respond, rendering our lame “status updates” worthy of attention. We pretend our kids are fucking floating in metallic balloons in order to get on television and we impregnate ourselves with 68 fetuses in the hopes that Lifetime will write a “Mommy had 68 babies and slept with danger” 2 part miniseries about our lives, or at the very least Matt Lauer will interview us via satellite and potentially snagging an In Touch Weekly cover.
Warhol would be so fucking proud.
In the end, postmodernism and the critics of it drives me nuts. I like some of it, I hate lots of it, and in the end I can’t help but feel a yearning for the days where painting was honored and respected – where creative expression wasn’t seen as lame but sought after. When masterful technique was appreciated instead of seen as a dead art. Where we could appreciate a work based on its content rather than the invented theory behind it. Artists get a bad wrap now as being lazy and foolish – and I can’t help but think that the death of the avant garde is what ruined art for the rest of us.
That being said, Im drinking a coke right now and hoping that this post gets my website a ton of hits so I can sell ad-space in order to make enough money to pay my bills. Such is life, I suppose.