Saturday, June 2, 2007

A Moderate View

In admitting appropriation and pastiche into the canon of acceptable strategies, “materials”, we have regressed as a culture to the mental age of adolescence- emulating as a defense mechanism for half-baked outright invention.

The postmodern is mannerist. We are walking down a blind alley with the explosion of globalization and cross cultural acceptance. We have walked into a trap that we have lived through before. With the recent explosion of the net worth of Chinese contemporary art the assumption of the mannerist role is complete. The trends and media of abstract and figurative work have become shadows of their former selves since the 1990s and a reevaluation of the means and goals of art is necessary. We were supposed to be moving faster. We were supposed to be past this sort of thing. Guess not. Much as the Mannerist period in Italy in the 16th century relied upon the imitation and re-configuration of the Renaissance masters, postmodern art has garnered the valued attributes of appropriation and pastiche to fill the space since a truly original individual has labored in the name of art.

Where the two differ is in historical respect to allegory- Mannerism differed not from the previous era in their use of the strategy, whereas postmodernism’s allegory is the invention or resuscitation of a method seen little in modernism’s graveyard of symbols.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

DEBRIS: Hunting for Bullshit

Sounds like international oil company The Hunting Group LLD, with some deep pockets and silky ties, is a little insecure about their new position in Houston. Moving their headquarters from London meant leaving posh digs in the UK's capital for McMansions in Sugar Land, but it has also relieved these suits of their scruples as well (let's assume they had some at some point). In a windfall for Texas artists they brought their $50,000 Hunting Prize with them to the Lone Star State, and the hundreds of people who signed up to enter the competition this year were starry-eyed with promises of recognition and prestige. When this year's strangeness started with a 'short list' of 104 artists; it appeared the corporation couldn't get their shit together and make a decision. No biggie. When they sent out an email requesting entrants to wear a blazer and tie to the award ceremony April 28th it only rubbed a few people the wrong way, last year's winner Francesca Fuchs did look a little funny in all those pictures surrounded by Armani suits wearing her "I'm not an Artist" tee shirt. Whatever. The same email asked artists to arrive an hour before the event; here the little things came into focus quickly, exposing the event as a sham publicity stunt free from critical thought or respectability.

Now it's tough to say a big prize and a big check are bad things; these guys can do whatever they want right? They just have to live with themselves, that's all. Unfortunately the class conflict that came with this year's prize was a bit too much for me to respect these bastard nouveau rich and their representational painting prize. Arriving an hour early at the Decorative Center Houston, a furniture store on Woodway with an excessive lobby, artists were led upstairs to a separate hall where they dined on chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese before being asked to return downstairs and stand next to their paintings, hung in a hallway, for the duration of the event. This degrading display of strength by the Hunting oil company was only compounded by the immense spread of hors d'oeuvres, crab and shrimp in the lobby provided for guests. Unraveling the bullshit, with or without credible jurors, begins with the massive 'short list' provided for the event which served as a show of force by the corporation, compounded by the order to 'stand by your painting'. Shilling for rich people and shuffling your feet for quarters is not the way to ingratiate yourself to anyone except patronizing facelift victims and their whiskey-addled cheating husbands. Most artists try to let their artwork speak for itself, but the ingrates at Hunting decided a mouth stuffed with macaroni and cheese speaking through clenched teeth at the indignity of it all could do it better.

Michael Tole, Untitled (2006)

When the prize was announced, given to unknown 28 year old Michael Tole of Dallas, it was the creamy icing on a bullshit cake for The Hunting Group, The Decorative Center, and Houston's newest art award. Although I do not know whose bright idea the whole debacle was, the utter disrespect displayed by all involved leaves the artistic community in need of a spine and the Brits at Hunting in need of a good kick in the ass. Treating artists like shit just means that shit artists will enter your competition next year. Seeing as the Prize seems to go to representational painters, perhaps this is what Hunting is looking for- a diminished impact and a good 'ol fuck you from anyone worth his salt in Houston. Give the prize to idiots, it's yours to give away- but don't think many people will want to put up with your crude condescension for very long. Tole's photo-realist paintings of Faberge eggs promptly went on sale in May at Conduit Gallery in Dallas, where they should stay, surrounded by mediocrity in a culture of egotistic materialism.