Sunday, September 8, 2013

Modern Art...What is that?

Janine Antoni "Lick and Lather"      

As we are coming into the 21st century, it will be interesting what art work will change to. I am guessing it will be computerized and more visual than anything we have ever seen.  But, let’s take a look at some weird modern art work that was created in the 20th century.  Modern art that we are going to discuss is from 1860’s to 1970’s and even in the 1990’s or in 2000’s. As a Studio Art major, I am interested in all art not only painting. Painting is my passion and my art medium of choice. However, I do get my influences from other art works and inspirations from these weird and sometimes awesome pieces of art work during the 20th century.

Modern art is sometimes strange indeed. Have you ever looked at a piece of art and said, what is that? What does it mean? What is the artist trying to say? Or saying, Gee, I could do that myself?  Of course, we have said those things.  As a viewer by just asking those questions the artist has done their job as an artist.  Modern art is more about the art work speaking for its self than the artist. The artist is recognized for their artwork after the artwork has won the show. 

I will give two examples of art work that I always looked at saying, what the hell is that?! In college, there were many examples but I will only give a few because I want to focus more on the great modern art out there that just blew me away, or made me think. But, first with the weird modern art works or what I thought was weird art.

First example, a painting by Rene Magritte called, “This is not a pipe” 1928-9. That saying is written on the painting itself, might be written in French.  He was a Belgian surrealist artist. Weird, right? Of course, it’s a pipe that we see or is it? Can you explain to someone that this is a pipe? Is it a real pipe or just a painting of a pipe? These were the mind twisting questions I had to answer in art history class.  The answer is easy, it made us question that painting and there it is! art!!! I still can’t wrap my mind around it. I just don’t get it! This type at art work influenced pop art like the artist Andy Warhol later on.  (See Image Below).

Second example, Dada art or readymade art work. I could never understand this type of art work.  A good example is the urinal by Marcel Duchamp called “Fountain” 1917.  Let me explain readymade artwork, the art work is not art until an artist names it art. Readymade art are already made objects used as art and that an artist can say this is artwork. Yes, you read that right. This is a good example, this is a ordinary urinal that men use for the rest room and Marcel Duchamp wrote on side R.Mutt  1917 and he entered this piece  into a art exhibit in New York that evidently caused controversies on accepted art work or what is considered art work or not by the Society of Independent Artists.  The piece was hidden from view although it was accepted as art work.  This upset Duchamp.  This type of artwork is ridiculous!!! Now, Marcel Duchamp was a great artist, a painter and a sculpture where he used readymade objects to create these abstract 3-D Forms in open space. But, this artwork, a urinal? This is a good example of an artist taking something familiar to us and calling it art. Yes, I could see the meaning or the sense of humor in it but to call it art…I just don’t know.  So, if I take this red chair and called it “Sit” and bam!!  Its art work.  That simple.  

Other Artists that have created other questionable art work.  Recognize any of them? Artists:  Jasper Johns, Yoko Uno, John Cage, Donald Judd, David Smith.etc.

Whoo! Whee! Now we are finished with the weird modern art work, let me give some wild ones that really intrigued me or just inspired me. I know there is many, I will only give a few examples and they are also interesting stories of the artists. First one, Alexander Calder, a sculpture that showed so much fun, humor and movement in his art work. Yes, movement in sculpture in a literal sense. Calder made miniature circuses all made from rolls of wire and all the pieces were functional. Calder would do head portraits of his quests at parties out of wire and gave them to his guests as gifts. Calder was not always into wire or kinetic sculpture; he also worked in steel as like the monumental weird spider looking sculptures you would see in down town New York City. Calder also created these moving abstract objects that hung from the ceiling or on the ground and the wind would control their movement. Just Astounding!!! I don’t know why but I like him and his artwork. Calder’s artworks have movement of course, but it has humor and creepy all at the same time. My favorite story about Calder (Because I always have those weird stories of artists due to those many nights of researching art while in college and the wonderful professors I have had).Calder had a one man show in New York City (My Dream or what my goal is to have). The curator of the show was waiting patiently for his main attraction Alexander Calder to show. So, imagine how shocked the curator was when Calder showed up with no art work to display for the show that was going to be exhibited within weeks. When the curator asked him, “Where is your art work?” Calder calmly reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of wire and some clippers and says, “Here it is”. Right there, Calder became to create his exhibit by hand on location. Is that not amazing!!!??? I thought so. It came so easy for him and at ease, just a little wire and an imagination. Just plain talent!!!

Ok, this one is strange but I like that the viewer has the counteraction with the art piece itself and also the personal touch of the artist as well. Janine Antoni, a sculpture as well, she created 14 busts of herself in a classical style but, instead of using marble, she used soap and chocolate. Yup!!! She choice soap because women are clean and smell sweet and nice, and chocolate because that’s the favorite choice of sweets among women. Therefore, she made 7 busts of soap and 7 out of chocolate. Here’s the weird part…she would bath with the heads to smooth out the appearances on the soap busts, disfiguring them. The 7 other chocolate busts are licked on to disfigure them. Yes, it’s true! The exhibit was called, “Lick and Lather”. She explains a lot on it in the link I have attached under bibliography. Basically, it’s a self image issue and also it’s erotic because chocolate is suppose to be a replacement of sex or gives that same feeling when we are in love. Her exhibit shows humor also in it along with some feminism attributes. Interesting read. Oh! Also, the exhibit itself was made for the viewers to add water to the soap and caress it and the chocolate pieces were to be licked by the visitors. Weird but Cool!!! 

One more, this one is more serious in matter and when I first saw it in college on film, I felt bad for her and also began to cry or feel emotional viewing it. Yoko Ono’s performance piece of, “Cut Piece” 1965. Ono walked out onto a concert stage in Japan, wearing a black suit and a pair of scissors next to her. The audience was to walk onto the stage one by one and grab the scissors and cut any piece of clothing off the suit and to keep or whatever. Performance art work is always filmed or photographed to document the piece of art work because is not a 3-d object, etc. It’s a performance, like the popular flash mobs that happen in our today’s culture.  So the performance can easily be found on YouTube. (Check it out). Anyway, the people would slowly go up to the stage and cut a piece off her suit. Ono would not make eye contact, nor say a word. Some people would say something to her but you couldn’t hear what is said. The more and more pieces are cut from her and start revealing her body underneath the suit, she begins to kind of start crying or becoming emotional. The viewer starts to feel the emotions also. This performance can mean so many things and yet the message is strong, uncomfortable and unnecessary all at the same time. I think it’s different to everyone that views it or who had been involved in the cutting of the piece/suit. I know I felt violated for her, felt like each piece was her soul being taken away from her. I also felt discrimination, embarrassed or the feeling of why. Yes, it’s strange to view something like this, but it has so much meaning behind the actual performance and the art theology in it. The performance piece is still one of my favorites.
To name a few other interesting modern artist with some unique art work and I might mention them again in the future; Richard Long, Christo and Jeanne-Claude*-very good one, Andy Goldsworthy, Jeff Koons*-oh! He is great too!!! Just to name a few.