Apr 29, 2011

Picasso at the VMFA, notes, thoughts, etc

First of all, I'm not entirely sure Virginia is ready for 1910 based on the conversations I overheard. For example: "Well, TO ME, that just doesn't look like it should be in a museum". To me, that just shows that you're completely unaware of what it is an artist is trying to do. Drawing is thinking through the hand. Picasso's drawings are of interest because you can see that thought process in a stripped down form. Also, *BACKHAND*.

This is not to say I don't have questions, concerns, preoccupations with the show also. Unfortunately, I can't seem to separate my personal studio preoccupations with what I'm seeing at the museum. So let me get that out of the way and come back around to the show....

It's a problem of purity, a problem of everything's permitted so therefore nothing seems to matter in particular. This feeling is not limited to the studio. Within the studio, this is translating into a problem differentiating art from fashion. The general distinction is simple and well-understood: art carries meaning where fashion carries superficial contemporary aesthetics. But the specific is tricky, as always.

I'm craving a method, a recipe. I'm tired of what feels like random achievement. At the same time I am wary of abstraction with a system behind it. I'm also feeling very seduced by contemporary fashion. It just happens to reflect back my own sensibilities. In 5 years I'll be out of fashion, it's just coincidence, the wheel turning. Unfortunately, my own yearning for meaning manifests as an urge to mythologize. It's very hard for me not to jump straight from that urge into primitivism and symbolism. I keep hovering around the native american and Ife exhibits at the museum like some kind of nerdy ghost. Of course, this sort of thing happens to be in fashion right now. Are you feeling my frustration yet?? It does seem important not to be reactionary also.

Part 2 after work...where I will bring this all around to Picasso, I swear.


sroden said...

some thoughts:
"I'm craving a method, a recipe. I'm tired of what feels like random achievement."

don't crave recipes or methods, they lead to consistency rather than experimentation - it’s ok to start with a recipe, but you must be able to stray (for one has to be able to fail, as well as follow). recipes create a making situation without "tasting"... and unless you want to be a robot, a recipe will offer you very little, other than fabrication. in such cases you will learn very little (other than technical stuff). ... these things can hinder exploration.

if the work feels like a random achievement, you aren't invested enough in the work (i don't mean that as criticism but something to explore within yourself and your needs as an artist). a random achievement can come out of any number of processes be it intuition or a concrete idea.

one can only be invested in the work if one is truly invested in the process of making - and in making something that you believe in, that has value to you regardless of its value to the rest of the world. the things you make should mean everything to you. neither a system nor a good idea will make your achievement feel any less random unless the thing you make begins to feel necessary.

on this: "At the same time I am wary of abstraction with a system behind it. I can't think of artists I relate to that employ a 'system' to generate their work where the system itself actually contributes to my appreciation of the piece."

in sol lewitt's work, one doesn't need to know the system to know the work was built through a system. nonetheless, looking at the work and being moved by it simply through its visual voice is very possible without knowing the details. you should not be weary of works based on systems as much as you SHOULD BE WARY of work that overemphasizes its relationship to systems so as to overcompensate for what is lacking in the work itself. the use of a system is not an excuse to make "thin" work.

in my own case, systems are fuel. they help my creative process by creating tension between conceptual ideas, intuitive decisions, chance operation, and desire. they make the process more rigorous and difficult, and enable surprises and failures that could not come about without the use of systems (for i am simply not that smart!).

of course, there is no hierarchy of ways to work - systems are no more or less relevant than improvisation or traditional still life. the important thing is to find a way of making that will offer you a deeper connection to the things you make.... so you have to build your own road before you can follow it.

in terms of this: "(My recent addiction, Steve Roden below. Employs a system but what does it add???)"

well, i very much appreciate the addiction - i hope it's not as difficult to kick as heroin :-)

i think your question "what does it add?" is the most potent discussion you can have with yourself in relation to the work. not just what something adds to the work itself, but to the process, the thinking, your connections to it...

for me, i know what systems add to my practice in thinking and making, and i also know that the system adds nothing to the meaning... how could it when it is hardly decode-able and never resolves to an end point or statement? the systems are not the meaning of the work. they are part of the path i've taken to arrive at the work.

in my opinion, the only thing that adds to the work is the conversation that a viewer is able to have with the work (this goes for any kind of art, just look up duchamp's ideas about the art coefficient).

i don't believe the onus of meaning is always on the artist - it is the artist's responsibility to create an experience, object or situation - but it is up to the viewer to develop meaning through that experience with the work.

sorry for the ramble. good luck with your work,


Qnomad said...

Boy, is my face red. Ha! As far as the recipe comment, I'd never REALLY want that. I guess I said that more out of frustration rather than a real desire to create that way. Like someone might say, "I just want a pizza" when they're on a diet. I was really saying "can't it just be easy??" when I know the answer is no.

As far as the random achievement thing, I feel like what I'm looking for IS the most necessary thing to me but that the actual physical result never quite hits the mark. I'm ready to continue on even knowing that it may never do so and that's fine. I suppose what is frustrating is that the times I get the closest are the times when I might not be as focused or think that I'm not onto something. That's what makes it feel random.

I'm glad you elaborated on your connection to systems. In the past I felt like this connection just existed over my head or around it....saying it is fuel is something I understand. Also, saying that they "enable surprises and failures" is a statement that resonates with me. In that regard, perhaps 'random achievements' might not be so random, but the result of shaking up the work AFTER such surprises or failures. Afterall, if I can make any generalization, it's that the common element to the 'achievements' is the result of a dramatic change in the approach to a painting.

It's good to hear someone talk about art in this way again, when I'm rattling around on my own for too long I think some weird midwestern spirit in me starts frantically asking, "where's the beef??" which is doubly weird since I don't eat it. However, in defense of the Hoosier inside, I don't think I'd learn a whole lot if I didn't do that.

I also realize that the audience must complete the experience- it's again my own frustration taking hold and I want to explain a thing so that everyone will GET it, a kind of please-all sensibility that I've been trying to kick for some time.

In any case, thank you VERY much for your 'rant'. I didn't exactly think that the one person to comment here would be the artist I mentioned. Too funny.

Kelly Q