98. Art and Absurdity

If an artist is painting, drawing or sculpting whilst calculating the value of the work based largely on its meaning (hidden or overt), than that artist does not understand art the way I do. In visual art, shouldn’t the “visual” come first?

Would I display it in my home? At my place of employment?

Anyone with or without an art history background can ask those questions of any piece of art. And everyone is going to have a different opinion. And they are all “right”. The trick to understanding art is in developing your opinions on what you think is attractive. Don’t be afraid to say, “Those color combinations are searing my retinas.” or “That is too simple for my taste, I prefer more details.”

It seems a lot of people are turned off by “art” because it is so often presented in a long-winded and serious manner. Why aren’t witty one liners, bad puns and silly punchlines a part of the art world? Why so serious?

P.J. O’Rourke did a “Riding the Subway in Three Acts” and it was genius: a perfect satire of performance art. Robert Smithson did something very similar but it was dead serious.  I like Robert Smithson and consider him a major influence in the earthwork art of Spy Garden. But I like satire more. And there’s a joke in there somewhere that Spy Garden is just a little, home vegetable garden and not a significant enough work of art to have “influences”.

Claes Oldenburg wrote,

Lately I have begun to understand action painting, that old thing, in a new, vital, and peculiar sense—as corny as the scratches on a NY wall and by parodying its corn I have (miracle) come back to its authenticity! I feel as if Pollock is sitting on my shoulder, or rather crouching in my pants.

Well, I do love corn. But seriously? I’m not quite sure what he is talking about. I love works by Claes Oldenburg and have posted some pictures of them on Spy Garden before (9. Public Sculpture). Can’t I just enjoy it because I like the look of it? It’s silly, it’s simple. Isn’t that good enough?

Claes Oldenburg could have written:

I thought it would be really enjoyable to coordinate the construction of giant ordinary objects. They mean nothing so don’t bother writing hundreds of books and articles about them. Let the art history students learn about something more complex. Like Duchamp’s bicycle wheel. I’m just trying to make a bunch of money without having to work 9-5 at a boring office and I’d like to have plenty of time to sit around relaxing and designing more XXXL tubes of lipstick and hamburgers and such. Because I just find that sort of thing enjoyable.

Such an admission I would really appreciate. Can’t an artist just make something because they feel like it? Does there always have to be a deeper meaning? But maybe he’s not so silly or simple. Maybe I’m just not serious enough. Once in awhile I get absurdly poetic about gardening  and say things like,

 “I could pass through all these ruins all the time…Dirt has depth and beauty. I love soot and scorching.” (another Claes Oldenberg quote)

Well, I do love dirt. And I do love our fire pit which has both soot and scorching. Sometimes the fire pit produces beautiful art all on its own! But I just need a good punch line after a poetic ramble or else it’s just pure cheese (or corn).

I received a bachelor of arts in English and Art History from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Which basically means I am qualified to blather on, in English, about art. I graduated in 2005 and I’m still scratching my head wondering why on earth art is usually taken so seriously. I can happily blather on about why I like a piece of art or just simply call attention to art that I find interesting: but not without being silly. Questioning an artist’s motives, questioning the cultural context in which it was created, speculating on symbols and hidden meanings…I just don’t always find any of that necessary in order to appreciate art. What is so wrong with this simple* approach?

*While writing this post I clicked on the Thesaurus in Microsoft Word on the word “simple” and one of the synonyms it gave it “artless” HAHhahahahaha HAHAHA

Heres a piece of the Spy’s art:

Collage/Drawing by the Spy, 2010

Collage/Drawing by the Spy, 2010

Reminds me of synthetic cubism.

4 thoughts on “98. Art and Absurdity

  1. narf77

    A true artist doesn’t need to look at their work…it comes from deep inside them and is insistent, unique and entirely personal and most importantly…it NEEDS to be shared. Releasing the inner muse is cathartic and important for the artist and the viewing public…like reading a book…the only way that we can really get inside someone else is to absorb their creative expression.

    I always wondered how an art teacher or an English teacher could mark a student on anything other than technical ability because how do you measure someone’s creativity? What the teacher doesn’t like, someone else may love.

    The problem with the world of art (ANY form of it including “art”, writing, music, dance etc…) is that pretentious gits tend to be over-represented in the population. Maybe it goes with the personality type? Who knows, but all I know is that standing in a room of artists (any kind) looking at what they have created (or are critiquing) makes me want to run away at high speed. Art is an entirely personal expression of the self. To critique someone else’s work is to tell that person that they are not worthy of their art. Bollocks. Simple really.

    I think The Spy would like to be a synthetic cube…maybe he could add it to his Christmas wish list? ;)

    1. Spy Garden Post author

      Love these thoughts/comments. Even though I think it is ok to have personal “preferences” and “like” some art more than other… it is always important to distinguish one’s personal “preferences” as only applying to oneself. Therefore, in relation to this post, some people may be more drawn to art that is more focused on meaning than image, and that is perfectly great. It’s when critics start using their critiques to create some universal idea of “good” or “bad” art when I too would like to run away at high speed!!

      1. narf77

        I am right there with you. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” goes for art as well. Did you ever see that disturbing movie “Sick” about that guy that performed masochistic art by nailing certain painful parts of himself to boards? (we have some weird television channels here!) I would NEVER be able to appreciate that as “art” but it was his personal expression of himself and therefore it is “Art”. I don’t judge it. If I don’t like it I just move on to the next thing. Life is too short to be standing around talking “VERY LOUDLY” (so that everyone hears you…) about how awful someone’s self expression is…says a whole lot more about the person critiquing than the artist methinks ;)

  2. Painting Pundit

    Well said!! I think a lot of the blathering that goes on is coming from the art critics who must justify their existence and want to sound like the smartest people in the room. I think most artists prefer simple. It is rather unfortunate that the in your face art is the art that gets the attention. The “simply” beautiful art is frequently considered “artless” by the critics.


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