December 5th, 2006

A Picasso Or A Garfunkel

My friend Kat has gone back to school this year to pursue a Graphic Arts degree. She already has one or two other degrees, but after working in a design-related job for a few years, she’s decided she wants to be more formally educated in the subject.

“Good for you!” I said when she was planning her collegiate return. “It’ll be tough and you’ll be busy, but good for you. I’m all for it!”

It was easy for me to back her decision because

a) I wasn’t the one going back to college.
b) It didn’t really mean any extra work for me.

While a) is still dependable and trustworthy, b) has decided to laugh at me and poke me with sticks while dancing around me singing, “I lied! I lied! Ha ha, I lied!”

See, a Graphic Arts major starts off in art classes. While I have been the subject of a few “30-second sketches,” it still wasn’t really any extra work for me. But then, a few weeks ago, I got this call:

“Monkey?” (Everyone’s “monkey” these days. I’m not sure how it happened, but it’s there, so what can you do?) “Monkey, how would you like to go to an art showing with me?”

(If you touch a pill bug, it will curl up into a little ball. If you suggest weird things to me, one eyebrow will raise and one will lower. They are the same sort of involuntary, programmed reaction.)

“An art show, eh?” I said. “I’m not so sure about that…” All art shows, as I’m sure you are aware, are pretentious and ridiculously self-important. There are no exceptions to this rule. I had no desire to go see a Barbie doll tied to a panda with tooth floss as a way to represent the subjection of women in China. I had no need of a “students whose work means something” injection. My immunity was plenty built-up, thank you.

But Kat can be very persuasive, and she was going to get extra credit for going to these things. So I went. And… it wasn’t that bad. There were even several pieces I enjoyed. In fact, I had many different reactions to the many pieces, so the showing had the desired effect. On one I liked the colors. On another I liked the emotion expressed. This one was juvenile, thrown-together, and ridiculous, but that one used layers in an interesting way. Honestly, after we left, I admitted that I had actually enjoyed it.

You know what that means, right? It means I get to go to more showings. The second one we went to was similar to the first one – several different artists, some good some not so much. The third showing was one artist, sort of a graduate thesis kind of thing. While I could appreciate the thoughts and feelings behind her paintings, I didn’t really care for the paintings themselves.

The fourth showing was actually the same night as the third, in the room right next door. This was an undergraduate show and looked like one. Remember my fears of going to a showing of “students whose work means something”? Yeah, that’s what this show was. The room was dark, there was a DJ doing the whole techno-music-with-turntables thing, and there were all sorts of ridiculous “pieces:”

  • a girl sitting under an umbrella with big plastic raindrops labeled “war” and “hunger” and what-have-you suspended over her
  • a guy tied with thick ropes cutting himself free with an ACTUAL BUTCHER KNIFE
  • a girl knitting yarn using 10-foot knitting needles
  • a girl standing on… something, wearing a 6-foot hoop skirt
  • some sort of segmented, jointed dragon-thing hanging from the ceiling
  • a guy dressed in all black, bound, gagged, and blindfolded lying on the floor under papier-mâché scissors suspended from the ceiling

That last fellow almost got himself kicked a few times just while we were there. Lying on the floor of a darkened room doesn’t seem like a good career move, but should get him nice and used to suffering for his “art.”

As soon as we walked into this one, Kat grabbed my arm and warned me not to “make fun of this one until we left.” It was difficult, but I did my best. Afterward she agreed it was ridiculous and I reminded her that this was exactly the sort of thing that caused my eyebrows to do what they do. She had gone specifically for the grad student show, but felt we really couldn’t pass up the right-next-door freak show while we were there.

This past Friday we went to a show that had three parts to it: a collection of one woman’s paintings, a collection of technical drawings from a few different people, and some wire-and-glass sculptures done by two women. This was a return to some sort of normalcy for me, and I went back to liking some and not liking others. I particularly enjoyed the computer-rendered technical stuff, which wasn’t too surprising.

After that show there was another one downtown that we went to. Most of the shows are named, I just can’t remember what they’ve been named. This one, though, was named “Blink,” and featured a few works of an electronic nature. One piece had participants defending Earth from alien attack by singing karaoke (Kat participated, saved the Earth, and got a patch/badge for her troubles). Another piece was a big balloon that flashed when touched. And the biggest piece was BioHEX41, complete with the two “artists” dressed in DEVO-like outfits surveying people on their eating habits and moods before having those people “interact” with the sculpture and recording the results (the results were a series of flashing lights, and it seemed to be interesting to them that my results included flashing red lights near the “tail”). While this exhibit was in the direction of the freak show, it was more enjoyable – most likely because the participants seemed to be having a bit more fun, and also because it was electronic in nature.

Art is a funny thing. To some, the best art is realistic, recreating humanity at its best and worst. To others, the best art is abstract, recreating… man, I don’t know. I’ll never be a Pollock fan myself, but I sort of understand that other people can be. In the end, I’m learning that art is about extracting some sort of reaction, and thoughtfulness, revulsion, and amusement can, in this case, sometimes be equal.

But I will always believe that there’s a reason some will be “starving artists.” It’s because they should be. Weirdos.

6 Comments on “A Picasso Or A Garfunkel”

  1. the obscure says:

    I have always wanted to do some kind of art show/installation. Have a few ideas. Probably will never happen.

  2. TheBon says:

    I paid $8 to see a showing of Jackson Pollock's work in Venice a few years back only to learn that I can not get behind Pollock at all. Oy. Having many many artist friends [and being something of one myself] I've been to many gallery shows and generally agree with your assessments of them.

  3. Meags says:

    I like modern art to an extent. Abstract art and photography are my favorites, but weirdos tied up in thick rope just sounds like a cry for attention to me!

  4. HorizonPurple says:

    I've been to many many many art shows, from local gallery openings to Brett Whitely at the State Gallery.

    My favourite was Joy Hester. She used pen and ink for her works and on a purely technical scale, they are "wrong". Out of proportion, deformed etc. From an artistic point of view – they are alive.

    The funniest thing I ever saw was a local show where some guy had painted a white canvas with 20 coats of white paint, painted a perfect square in the upper left. The piece itself wasn't so amusing, but the $3000 price tag was HILARIOUS.

  5. A person says:

    ROFLOL — Loved this post, read it to Paul, had great laugh together!

  6. daniel says:

    I spend a couple of months going (literally) around the world with the woman who would become my wife. This was about 12 years ago or so. We saw a lot of museums. A lot of art. I like art. Then we hit Berlin. There was a lot of modern art in Berlin. A lot of it. Sculptures, paintings, murals, etc. I hated all of it. It was then that I came up with "The Berlin Rule" – all modern art is shit. There have been a couple of exceptions, but they only serve to reinforce the rule.

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