Saturday, November 8, 2008

Art Blog: UGLY Art

Back when I was doing my social commentary drawings about war, abuse, the environment, etc. a patron came up to me and said “Why do you always do art about such negative issues?” I told her all my art is not negative. However, it is important for me to consider all aspects of life. I appreciate the Yin/Yang of our world. Recently, I had a similar comment come my way when I made my “Online: Lost Souls, Lonely Hearts” video. A person said, “These sculptures are SO DEPRESSING! People on the internet are not all losers!” I told her I didn’t think these figures are depressing or losers. I thought the pieces and stories behind them are thoughtful and represent my interpretation of some of the people I have met online. The characterizations are just composites of what I have experienced and those people I have met. They are not about ALL people on the internet. I called the series “Lost Souls, Lonely Hearts”. The work is about those people.

I am not surprised when I hear comments like this. To some people, art is supposed to be pretty and happy. To them, it should only be about the beauty of nature and vibrant colors. I think of them as the “rainbows and butterflies” crowd. I guess they think artists should just paint bowls of cherries. Well, that is not the way it should be. Besides being boring, it is not a true reflection of life. That is what art should be about. Our world is not pretty and happy all the time. There is another side to that story. For every sunny day, a rain cloud is forming somewhere in the world. Life has a balance.

Today I watched a James Kalm video featuring the work of German Pitre at Rupert Ravens Contemporary in Newark. I think this is the UGLIEST art I have ever seen! The paintings have a flavor of Anselm Kiefer whose work I love! However, Keifer’s work has a different palette and texture. Much of Pitre’s work has this gooey, matted, sticky, dirty, garish, nasty surface that is repulsive. I didn’t stop looking and watching though. I viewed the work and listened to the Pitre interview. One of the works shown won me over. It is a huge piece with dirty stuffed animals smashed and degutted lying on the left side of the canvas. The middle and right side of the canvas has a gritty, tangle of polyester stuffing painted over with muddy earth tones. I looked at that painting and thought about walking the streets of my hometown Detroit. This painting could be a still life of a garbage strewn Cass Corridor alley. I have seen this image before. It is stored as a memory in my brain’s image file.
When we encounter art that is not familiar or of our taste, it is necessary to step back and think. It is important to take it all in, assimilate the image, and try to understand. How does the work reflect the world as a whole? It doesn’t matter if you like it. The true question is does the work have value and meaning?

I have embedded the Kalm video here. Here is an excerpt of Kalm’s explanation of the video:
“Pitre presents work that challenges good taste while extending the classic painterly legacy. Working on a large scale and attaching objects to the canvas surface, the artist comingles the cuddly with the crappy and produces work that resonates with a pathetic awareness of unavoidable decay and enveloping entropy.” James Kalm

No comments: