Tuesday, September 13, 2011

GIMMICKS: THE RETURN OF THE GIMMICK

This is the second part of a continuing web log series about gimmicky art. I'm gonna skip ahead a little as far as general concepts; so if you didn't catch the first part because, i don't know idk, you were out of the loop, were high on pot life, or you can't read, check out the first part here. Unless you can't read.... in that case just look at the pretty pictures and look contemplative.

As a refresher, let me restate my central thesis (p.s. I went to artschool?):

By Gimmick Art, I mean:
     
     -An art object where the dominant feature of the piece is a blatant novelty that fails to satisfy the conceptual foundations of the work 
     
     -And/or an art object seeks to create an imitation of an object, where the object of imitation is more interesting than the artwork itself.

Also important: remember that craft (the skillful application of traditional and invented techniques to create an object that achieves a desired end result) is not a substitute for substance in fine art. Craft is merely a set of tool/skills which artists may use to translate their ideas into a physical form. To put it in laymen's terms, a masterful chef could make a shit sandwich look appetizing, but it doesn't really matter if it still tastes like shit.

OK.

Gloves on. Round Two.

DANIEL KORNRUMPF
I WASN'T JUST CLEARING MY THROAT, THAT'S HIS LAST NAME....
OH WAIT, THAT'S NOT THE SUBTITLE
HERE'S THE REAL ONE

DANIEL KORNRUMPF: WTF IS THIS BULLSHIT, BRO?



Daniel Kornrumpf, Focal plane (Detail), 2008
hand embroidered on linen
[uh, hand embroidered? what? nice use of a past tense verb for your medium. 
did you learn that sweet technique while getting your masters?]
42"x36"

So, what are we looking at? In this body of work, D-Force has made some naturalistic portraits using embroidery thread. Swell. Here's some more. If you're confused about the size, the embroidery is only a couple inches square on a stretched linen canvas frame (you'll see in the pics below)

All images via danielkornrumpf.com


Daniel Kornrumpf, Focal length (Detail), 2009
hand embroidered on linen
42"x36"



Daniel Kornrumpf, Focal length, 2009
hand embroidered on linen
42"x36"


Daniel Kornrumpf, Brooklyn Bobby (Detail), 2007
hand embroidered on linen
50"x44"



Daniel Kornrumpf, Brooklyn Bobby, 2007
hand embroidered on linen
50"x44"



Daniel Kornrumpf, diamonds on my neck, diamonds on my grill (detail), 2007
hand embroidered on linen
42"x36"


Daniel Kornrumpf, diamonds on my neck, diamonds on my grill, 2007
hand embroidered on linen
42"x36"





Daniel Kornrumpf, Austin Texas (Detail), 2009
hand embroidered on linen
42"x36"



Daniel Kornrumpf, Austin Texas, 2009
hand embroidered on linen
42"x36"


At this point, I would usually have a couple of bullshit quotes from gallery people, an artist statement or interview that attempt to illustrate why anyone should give a shit about the artist's work. 

However, in the case of Korndog ova heah, there is surprisingly little written about this work. 
Buuuut in most cases the captions describing his work read something like:

 "EMBROIDERY: NOT JusT for GrAnDMa ANymoRE!!!"

"The Art of Making Embroidery Cool"

"OMG. This must have taken like 4evr! :o"

"IT'SLIKEAPAINTINGORPHOTOGRAPHBUTNOT!SHITJUSTBURSTABLOODVESSEL!"

But I joke. There is some merit to these stupid, stupid, mongoloid comments. These are superbly crafted portraits; the choice of materials, use of color and mark making, and the skillful capturing of a likeness all point to an artist who has spent years honing their eyes and hands.

BUT.....

not their brain.

As soon as you get over the novelty of a photorealisic hyperrealistic META, BRO! well drafted portrait using embroidery thread, you realize that the work has no substance whatsoever. The materials and composition of these works reference three different mediums (painting, photo, and embroidery)
 yet say nothing at all about those specific media!

Granted we are in a pomo post-modern age, where the mixing of various signifiers and modes of expression is status-quo, but you can't just mix and match a bunch of shit and expect it to be justified conceptually, make sense visually, or stand up to my amateurish criticisms (god I'm humble!).

It's critical to remember that there is no art historical hoover vacuum, and that every piece we make is in a continuing dialog with all the pieces ever made before ours, particularly within a prescribed medium. The colorfield paintings of Kazimir Malevich and Yves Klein, despite having no "content" per se, are significant specifically because their works are in dialogue with every previous painting since..... well, since we started putting fat and dirt on the cave wall and treated it like it was special. 

One of the keys to this is that their works possess a set of signifiers shared by, and inherent in all traditional paintings (canvas, frame, paint, duh, etc.) except for that of "content". By keying into the signifiers or language of painting, Klein and Malevich rely on the viewer to juxtapose their paintings to those of the past, thus underlining the conceptual elements of the artwork (i.e. hmmmm line? tonal variation? foreground/background? subject? FUCK IT)  thereby negating the need for content, ya follow?


Yves Klein, Monochrome bleu sans titre [Untitled blue monochrome], 1960
Pure pigment and synthetic resin on gauze mounted on board, 
199 x 153 x 2.5 cm



Kazimir Malevich, Black Square,  c. 1930s
Oil on canvas
53.5 x 53.5 cm 

The same aht historialligraphicamally type shit goes down with photography too. 
Terry Richardson, fo instane. 

Don't really have any of the info on these works but I sincerely don't think he gives a shit. His world wide web page: www.terrysdiary.com


Terry Richardson, Me and Catherine McNeil in Berlin.


Terry Richardson, Gubler as Me


Terry Richardson, i dunno some photo with macaulay culkin

The snapshot aesthetic that characterizes Richardson's work is completely informed by the explosion of amateur photography starting with the introduction of the Kodak Brownie camera in the year of our lord, 1900. This was the first inexpensive camera that allowed people to take pictures themselves (rather than going to a professional photography studio), which was the start of a whole new genre of photographic image. Instead of being restricted to the formality (and art historically informed) setting of a studio based photo shoot, people were free to shoot whatever, and however they pleased. 

Generally this meant simple, naive compositions free of the pretensions of ART (in the capital sense), which meant that as the snapshot aesthetic developed, it was largely ignored by fine art photographers for the majority of the century, till i don't know maybe the late 70's/80's. I'll leave it at that cause I don't have enough art histoire education to not be talking out of my ass from this point on.

REGARDLESS....

Richardson's photos are unequivocally influenced by the everyday snapshot aesthetic that was characterized by amateur (meaning non-professional, not shithead) photographers. And even though Terry's photos have a direct debt to these nameless photographers who defined his aesthetic, his work also breaks down the pretensions that existed for the greater part of the twentieth century against snapshot photography. The disintegration of these biases re-informs viewers, now allowing them perceive the normal, everyday snapshot in a totally new aesthetic light. Thus, the dialog that occurs between objects in a prescribed is truly a dialog!  Newer works being influenced by older ones, and older works being reconsidered in the context of the broadening scope of the medium. Cool hunh?

 (grammer note: wish there was like, a combination semi-colon and exclamation point. semexclamation.)
(sexclamation?)

The final medium from which rumpflstiltskin borrows is that of EMBROIDERY, children. A quick wikipedia search (although not a reliable source for, ahem, a scholarly work such as this) tells us that early embroidery was common all overs the ancient world. Talkin Bronze Age, kid. Talkin Iron Age kid. We got Egypt, we got Northern Europe, we got fucking China over here. Cup a Zhou dynasty, son. Probably because embroidery developed through the regular maintenance and repair of clothing before you could just pop down to Abercrombie & Fitch AbFit and buy a new tee. I mean if you're gonna sew some shit, why not make it all purdy? amirite? 

But through these humble beginnings, you spawn a whole shit ton of folk tradition and folk art (yes art. I meant it.) They got all sorts of stitches and shit, Motifs (whaddeva that means), patterns and whatnot. Truly a culture in and of itself. That's why this artist is doing it right doinitrite:

Aubrey Longley-Cook

All images via his blog: spool spectrum







Aubrey Longley-Cook, Neighsayer's Hay Day, 2010
Hand embroidered Embroidery Thread on Cloth





Aubrey Longley-Cook, You Will See My Castles Boy, 2011
Embroidery Thread on Cloth




Aubrey Longley-Cook, You Will See My Castles Boy (detail), 2011
Embroidery Thread on Cloth







Aubrey Longley-Cook, Runaway, 2011
Embroidery Thread on Cloth




The thing I love about Aubrey's work is that its foundations are so solidly in the realm of traditional embroidery, yet they maintain a freshness that keeps them relevant amongst contemporary images (while avoiding an over-reliance on pastiche, or hiding under the tickle-blanket of kitsch). All the while, he executes his work with a sense of confidence, leaving the viewer with no sense of doubt or insecurity about the legitimacy of the objects as artwork. 

The embroidery frame underlines the traditional nature of the work (the hoops created a taught surface for the artist, that made stitching easier and more even), but it also acts as a novel framing and compositional element at the same time. His stitching, descriptive at times, structural at others, points to an understanding and appreciation of the varied history and uses of embroidery: from decorative, to pictorial, to utilitarian. But despite the different effects of each type of stitch, the specific applications never seem out of place or at odds with each other. 

All in all, Aubrey's works leave me with a nostalgia for objects that perhaps, like the candid snapshots of the 20th century photography, never were truly appreciated for their elementary beauty and unencumbered candor. The only difference though, between Longley-Cook's work and the clunky boyscout badges, the saccharine patriotism of cross stitched eagles, and ol' granny's HOME SWEET HOME, is that his work doesn't require a curatorial, aesthetic eye to elevate his work into the world of fine art.... 

(if you didn't get the implication, I'm saying that his work holds his own against other works of fine art while the more everyday objects need someone to appreciate them as aesthetic objects for them to be considered fine art.) 

(dummy)



BTW:

Boy Scouts of America, TOTIN' CHIP



E PLURIBUS UNUM


HOME SWEET HOME


So what is to be derived from all this ahty fahty im smaht i go to college bullshit...

While D. Korn rumpfer draws from each of the past three media, i.e. painting, photo, and embroidery, 
painting through stretched linen canvas, 
photo through subject, composition, and titles, 
and embroidery through duh,
he fails to adequately explore any individual aspect or interaction between mediums fully. So by saying a bit about everything, he fails to say anything meaningful at all. 

I mean, I understand that they're supposed to be photos (I guess...), but unless you go to a much larger scale, you'll never get the viewer to really believe that they were looking at a photo, cause it's fucking made with thread and shit... and without closely resembling actual photographs, like a photorealistic (meaning the movement, not the technique) painting would, the conceptual mind fuck doesn't really take hold. So what's the point of leaving all the signifiers that say that these are photo? Knombsayin?

And despite the material signifiers, and a couple of amateur (meaning shithead) parallels to painting (it's like you're your "painting with thread"!), there is really no physical similarity as far as making a mark with paint and a mark with embroidery thread. Paint (even if used in a pointelistic/impressionistic fashion) is still fluid, with subtle elements of transparency, feathering, and irregularity; meanwhile K dawgs use of embroidery consists of rigid stitches with a uniform size, definite color, and absolute direction. A better analogy would be "it's like he's making a drawing with a bunch felt tipped markers only using strait lines of the same approximate length and not blending any of the colors with thread".

hmm...........

And as far as his use of embroidery? While Dan Dan the Korn Man has used the materials and techniques of embroidery, his work doesn't participate in a dialogue with the tradition or history of the medium. He's acting as a aesthetic tourist, merely borrowing some elements instead of stealing them and making them his own...
But perhaps the most insulting aspect of his work is that he feels the need to spruce up the medium with the fine art pretensions by centering his images in the middle of large, blank, stretched linen canvases. The implication in doing this is that hand embroidered embroidery as medium is not worthy of a place in the pristine marble halls of fine art. As if, in order for it to be taken seriously, embroidery cant just be embroidery as it exists in its current forms, modes, and traditions; instead it has to be 
"PaInTinG wiIiITH ThReeeEAaD!".
(BULLSHIT)
If anything, these turkey works, fully dressed with artistic pretension and ready for for their close up, reveal an indecisiveness of concept on the part of the artist, and a total lack of confidence in the caliber of his own work (perhaps justly so).

SO LETS TALLY THE SCORES:

CONCEPT: Berift of. 
PRESENTATION: Pretentious and at odds with the medium
IMAGERY: Hokey and little bit annoying actually
EXECUTION: Quite good!

In my mind, if this doesn't say gimmick, I don't know what does. If the quality of craft and novelty of the technique used in the artwork is the only redeeming aspect, then what good is the work? Technique or craft is merely a means of achieving a specific end, not an end in and of itself.

Here, look at DK's drawing of the same subject versus his embroidery hand embroidered:



Same girl. Same composition. Same sneer. Both well executed. But if one seems more interesting than the other, it's only because it's done in embroidery thread. Does the thread itself doesn't have any significance to the imagery? No. It doesn't. It's a bullshit gimmick.

A commitment to craft doesn't validate a piece of artwork, it's just a way of making something look the way it does. And when you are making an artwork, you must remember to think about the appropriateness of the techniques you're using. If you want to make a bronze sculpture, don't break out the silly putty. Even if you hit that silly putty up with some spraypaint and glitter when you're done, it's not the same thing, because the work wasn't defined by the limitations and boons and history of working in that specific medium. No matter how hard you try, if you deny the legacy and modes of a medium, you will be making an imitation of an experience. A shitty falsehood. Which is stupid cause you could have been making the experience itself all the while.

And the final pratfall of depending on a gimmick to carry your work? Someone out there will do it bigger and better than you. So watch your back Danny Boy!

Cayce Zavaglia, Garrett
Hand Embroidery: Crewel Wool and Acrylic on Linen
43"x16" <-------check that shit out dawg




Cayce Zavaglia, Garrett (detail)
Hand Embroidery: Crewel Wool and Acrylic on Linen
43"x16"





Cayce Zavaglia, Garrett (detail)
Hand Embroidery: Crewel Wool and Acrylic on Linen
43"x16"


AWWWWWW SNAP!






 Phew. That was epic. I haven't had to look at this many sneers, listless stares, and ironic chuckin of deuces since I said something genuine down on bedford ave.

peache out.




7 comments:

  1. As a fellow artist, and close friend of AL-C, I thoroughly enjoyed your smack down of Gimmick Art. Aubrey's work is anything but pretentious and seeing him work so tirelessly in a medium that truly expresses so much of who he is, makes his art even that more special, personal and real. No irony here, just a boy and his needle and thread.

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  2. Right on, brutha. Any artist's work comes from their heart, their hands, and their head.... It's easy to hide behind the bullshit artspeak cause it distances yourself from your audience, and when you get a harsh crit it doesn't hurt as much. With insincere or ill conceived work you can always say "oh, i did it for a laugh; it was just a joke! HAHA!". It takes courage to invest yourself completely in your work and keep it real, cause there's always gonna be haters. But in the end the thought, time, and risk always results in quality work...

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  3. I can follow your writing and your spiel on art, art history, craft etc. one thing i do not follow is your use of derogatory terms. If your “writing” as an art critic held enough weight you wouldn’t need to use such volatile words. I have one piece of advice for you before you set out on attacking another artist, because that’s for sure how this feels to me… we are all part of the same thing… and nobody learns lessons or stimulates thought through writing that seems to me, pure mockery. We are all part of the same thing and until you put one ounce of love and devotion into your writing it won’t even mark a page in comparison to what’s displayed in Dan Kornrumpf’s works.

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  4. well, avacado... my blog, my rules.

    We all have different ways of expressing our ideas, and f you don't like the way I do things, the language I use, etc.... I think it would be best if you don't read my blog.

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  5. kind of like art? in the public eye

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  6. Avacado, my sweet and savory fruit with a stony center, I apologize if my previous comment was glib and dismissive, but I have an aversion to entertaining feel good, we are all in this together, e for effort rhetoric. In my opinion, those sort of ideas look good on paper but in effect are a bunch of unsubstantiated bull. So, I'm sorry if I reacted a bit too quickly.

    I'm supposing that your last comment is a play off of my comment that my "writing", like art, operates by self constructed rules, and we all have different ways of expressing ourselves and if you don't like it, you don't have to look at it; but since it's in the public eye... all criticism is fair game.

    Aiight. Cool. Let me know if I got it wrong.

    That's a fair point, but where I don't agree with you is in your basis of judgement being mode instead of meaning, in both my work and Dan's. By mode versus meaning, I'm talking about HOW something is said versus WHAT it is saying...

    It seems that the main critique of my "writing" is that I'm a bit of an asshole, use derogatory terms and volatile words. While this is true, I assure you that it comes from the heart. I mock artists who have the ability to create amazing works, yet choose to debase the dialogue of art with gimmick and vapid novelty. That shit pisses me off.

    There are too many artists, contemporary and historic, who put their all into their work (i'm not just talking love and devotion, but their minds as well!) for me to calmly, professionally critique work that makes light of our profession, as if we were trained monkeys.

    There's a time for killing with kindness, but there's also a time for that harsh ass, volatile, iraq attack critique. I think that there is something to be learned from both approaches; it's just depends on if the recipient of the criticism needs to be coaxed or shocked, and I feel the latter is appropriate in this circumstance.

    This brings me round to the mode versus meaning of Dan K.'s work... Obviously he puts over one ounce of love and devotion into the creation of his work, but love and devotion is only as good as where it is put. If you put love and devotion in the wrong direction, you only further deviate from the right path. Because the conceptual element of his work was absent (malinformed? aborted?) he ended up with work that was both full of love and devotion, but also full of shit. So what I'm saying is that it is not enough to look at the MODE in which a work is made, but also the MEANING of the work. I kind of go over all this in the post... I don't know if you read the first part of the gimmick series or not, but if you haven't, that may shed some more light on what I'm going on about.

    So hopefully this has cleared some stuff up. If you still disagree with my positions, I'd love to hear your arguments. I like talking about art and all that shit.... soooo this is pretty cool. Stay ripe avacado!

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  7. Couldn't agree more. A novelty technique is not enough and never should be without a reason for being. Sure it can be respected as skillful and inventive, but so can a well tiled bathroom.

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