Sunday, August 14, 2011




I'm sick of gimmicky art. By that, I mean art thats main focus is a blatant novelty, failing to satisfy the conceptual foundations of the work and/or that seeks to create an imitation of an object, where the object of imitation is more interesting than the artwork itself.

And to be clear, i'm talking about fine art- meaning a physical manifestation of a visual/sensory/aesthetic idea which is contextually aware...

and by contextually aware i mean that, me taking a shit isn't art, but me taking a shit in a roped off corner of a gallery is... (use your imagination)... I don't completely understand why the awareness of the object is so important, but it's necessary to the definition.... An art object demands a specific context, whether it's a frame, a gallery, or street corner.

Now that we understand what the fuck we're talking about (rather what the fuck i'm writing righting about and you, for the time being, are reading) let me show you some examples: let me first make a critical distinction about art and craft

 (by craft I mean the application of traditional and invented techniques to create an object which exhibits quality workmanship and achieves a desirable end result [not arts and crafts type craft]).

Art is both an idea and a physical object; the artist's role is to conceive the idea and bring it into a tangible (or experiential) realm that others can experience. Craft, is therefore an important part of the process. Craft is the set of tools (in the broadest sense) that allows the artist to translate their idea, in the truest way possible, into a physical object.

However, a well crafted object is a far different thing than a well conceived object; a well conceived object is very different than a well crafted object, and neither guarantees a great art object. It's an undefined balance that makes a fine piece of work, but despite the dubious ratios, it is absolutely certain that in no way, craft is a substitute for substance.

Superior craft is admirable in that it takes many years and tireless hours to master, but practice and experience is really all that you need. A monkey could paint photo-realistically if you had the patience to train him, but there is no amount of practice that will ensure inspiration.

This is an important distinction because a lot of gimmicky art relies on the impressiveness of craft to carry people through the swamp of bullshit that is their concept (or lack thereof). Well crafted objects are generally widely popular (especially amongst people not well aquatinted acquainted with the art world) because a well developed craft is truly admirable. And, due to the lack of education and discourse about art amongst the wider populace, the idea (the fundamental being of the art work [or lack thereof])is often an afterthought, disthought, or nonthought shadowed by the excellent craft of the object. But popular opinion does not good art make. And neither does craft. Remember that as I provide these examples:


Dan Colen. Untitled (Vete al Diablo), 2006
Wood, wire, polyurethane, papier mâché, gesso, oil paint
Saatchi Gallery,

The Saatchi Gallery website describes this piece as:
 "a graffitied boulder ... fictionally transplanted from [a] suburban wasteland. Towering as a henge-like monument, it immediately conjures images of teenage ritual, exuding a reliquary aura as degenerate totem. It is in fact made from papier mâché expertly faux finished to look like the real thing. Colen creates a duplicity in the sculpture’s rough hewn appearance, elevating the overlooked and forsaken to a contemplative object of inspiring craftsmanship."

If you want to skip the art speak (reliquary aura as degenenarate totem, lulz), Colen describes the work himself in a Vice magazine article, published 2009:
"It originated from me imagining “secret” places—in the woods, by the train tracks, in sewer ditches—where teenagers would congregate to get drunk, smoke weed, talk about the universe, and make out."

While the idea of this work is truly captivating (and deserved of artistic exploration!), lil' Danny's work doesn't cut it. 

Despite the claims of being "expertly faux finished to look like the real thing", there seems to be a lot of unconsidered elements in this work that drastically detract from the verisimilitude of the object. If you take the time to google "graffiti rock", the actual rocks that Colen is mimicking are far more interesting than his little art project. The real boulders exhibit a denseness of layered markings, coming from the myriad hands that left their tag over multiple generations of youth and the distribution of the tags across the surface of the rocks are not the contrived "randomness" of mock spontaneity, but are constrained by the scale (and scalability) of the rocks themselves. 

Unlike these real world examples, Untitled (Vete al Diablo), only has specific areas of denseness and light "petina"of other marks encompassing the whole surface, which reveals the hand of the artist like a chimp playing poker. If this object was really "transplanted from [a] suburban wasteland", wouldn't a very large part of the lower area be free of all marks, because, you know, it was fucking underground?

(the birdshit clearly shows how the rock was situated in it's hypothetical natural environment. at least 1/3 of the lower part of the rock would have to be underground to support the upper weight)

Wouldn't there also be a higher concentration of marks in the lower portions and peter out as it got higher, because of the relative difficulty of reaching those areas? It seems like the artist was more preoccupied with recreating a angsty, stereotypical, and two-dimensional version of teenage ritual so that he could maybe get a couple of laughs from facetious hipsters.

All in all, this bungled effort to recreate a collective memory of adolescent debauchery PALES in grandeur and significance, to the real thing, resulting in more of a mockery of these "henge-like monuments" than a glorification. Here's some images that you can use for comparison:

Source: Postcards and Roadtrips

Source: John Andrews Photography 

The final failing of this work is that the mode in which it is created is totally at odds with the ethos of the  work. Danny boy, ol' chum, how the hell is making a boulder out of papier maché, gesso, and oil paint a tribute to these special places where kids "congregate to get drunk, smoke weed, talk about the universe, and make out". You're succumbing to farce! There is no good reason to mimic an experience, when the real thing is infinitely more significant, subtle, in alignment with your concept, and right at hand! Here's how you do it:

Step 1: get a bunch of kids, bunch of booze, smokes, gum, paint. easy enough.
Step 2: Get a rock.
Step 3: Get fucked up. Paint the rock.
Step 4: ?????
Step 5: PROFIT

D.C., the only other reason why you would half ass it, fiddle around with gesso till you get the right consistency of bird poop and attempt to simulate gum with acrylic medium (for realz?) is because your work is based on a GIMMICK!

AND it's full of arty farty pretensions. As if anyone with half a brain and a little bit of self respect gives a shit whether you use acrylic medium or, idunno, real gum.

we have these wonderful works

Dan Colen, Coulda, woulda, shoulda, 2009
Chewing gum on canvas
Gagosian Gallery,

Same artist. Same critique. Using gum on a canvas, instead of paint, does not offer enough visual or conceptual satisfaction to outweigh the novelty of a pPAaInTiNg MaDe OuT oF GuUuUmMmmmm (SoOoO KeEwL).
 Furthermore, the real world references far outshine the hum-drum, blah, bullshit of the actual pieces.

Source: The Flipside

Hey, Mr. Cy Twombly, over here. Not only is the surface a more contextually appropriate place for chewing gum to be, but the gum also acts as punctuated, bursts of color out of the haze of seemingly random gestural marks, instead of the bullshit carpet bomb of monotonous busywork which characterize Colen's work. But if you were going for sensory overload, there's always this:

Source: Gary Winberg

Source: Oddity Central

COLEN. BODDY. Stop trying to hold onto your high art pretentions! Why are you putting gum on a canvas, when it makes more sense to put gum on the bottom of a desk? PUT GUM ON THE DESK, PUT THE DESK ON THE WALL, AND CALL IT ART! Gimmick resolved. 

By linking the materials to a real life context the execution matches the apprehension of the work, and the novelty of the object actually becomes necessary to the success of the piece. This symbiosis of idea and object allows the viewer to make allusions to other tangible things and artworks changing the meaning and significance of the artwork itself, but also the meaning and significance of the objects the artwork references! (so fucking cool). However, without synchronicity between concept and execution, then you end up with a conglomeration of dead materials. Just cause gum is on a canvas doesn't make it paint. And the fact that it's gum and not paint doesn't make it interesting.

 So stop saying that you're your "painting" with gum, Danny Boy. I know what bullshit is. I went to art school. I used to eat bull shit for breakfast and wash it down with some hot air. What you got is some  gum stuck to a canvas, and you're only fooling the idiots with the lowbrow materials, highbrow execution claptrap. Trying to hover between low brow and high brow makes your work middle brow, which sucks. Middle brow sucks. Commit to one or the other; quit it with the gimmicks. And try to have a little more pride and integrity in your work. OK? 
(or at least have someone chew the gum instead of boiling it)

1 comment:

  1. I like your review...:):)my mermaid and whale gimmick is paying for your education.The chewing gum wouldn't fly here but the painted rocks are going strong. Only 7 more years to go 'til I can do real art. :):):)----< yo