Radical Moments in Modern Art

The New Shelton Wet/Dry has a neat article on the Top 10 Radical Moments in Modern Art, for example:

1953. Robert Rauschenberg: Didn’t get it?
Rauschenberg bought a pencil drawing by one of America’s leading artists, Willem de Kooning. He then erased the drawing, signed it himself and exhibited the artwork as his own. By this act of vandalism, Rauschenberg spat on the sacredness of an original artwork. Specifically, Erased De Kooning established a historical precedent that the destruction of an artwork is important aesthetically.


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Art suffers when subjectivity is taken out of it - if anything can be interpreted as art, then art will (or has it already?) become a catch-all term for miscellaneous garbage.

Reminds me of something the poet Robert Frost said:

Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down.
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To Shane's question: yes, I think it's easy to make works like the ones that pass for art in many contemporary galleries, some of which are sold for handsome sums. But I also think that what distinguishes the few of these con-artists who make big money from the many who do not is not talent, which none of them have, but simple luck. As when a flock of birds all suddenly decide to change course at the same time, and you can search a videotape frame by frame and not be able to find anything that prompted the collective decision, the art critics/gallery owners/buyers sometimes all decide for no predictable reason to celebrate an artist, and the lucky one has a chance to prosper. Even if I liked the idea of making a good living that way, I prefer a situation where I feel I have some control over my fate.

I once visited an art museum that was exhibiting chairs, mostly wooden ones, that had been destroyed in various ways in order to transform them into "art". One that I recall had simply been cut into little pieces, none bigger than a few inches, and piled into a box. I read that Britain has awarded some prestigious honor on "artworks" like a single crumpled sheet of typing paper, or a room with a light that blinks off for a moment every few seconds. The Brooklyn Museum once bought an "artwork" that consisted of 20 tons of unsold periodicals, which the artist stacked up in columns. They were annoyed that he refused to come back and remove them after the show was over.

Can you come up with subtle, moving thoughts while contemplating this stuff? Sure, so can I, and I can do the same from the shape of a cloud, or a pothole. I say this nonsense is not art. But if you want to say it is art, then okay, it's art: and in that case, art is stupid. I prefer to say art is the creation of beauty because then at least art is not stupid.
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Shane - I'd agree with skh here and say that a lot of your comment is condescending, particularly "...I just don’t think anyone can categorically and simplistically dismiss something just because they don’t understand it...."
I'm pretty certain Mark understands the con-job that the Rauschenberg/De Kooning piece is.

The first Impressionists were ridiculed but eventually accepted because their art is at least "pretty". I'm not about to define art here, but all you have to do is look at nature to realize there is beauty and there is also ugly-beautiful. We react to both first of all in an instinctive way and then on an intellectual level. If a piece of "art" only ever reaches us on an intellectual level and looks either ugly or neutral then I'd venture to say that it really doesn't rise to the level of art. It may do in the minds of elites and the fools who buy into these cynical ideas, but it will never cross that bridge in the same way the Impressionists did and gain acceptance by the vast majority of people, art-lovers or otherwise.

To take one example: Christo's work used to be beautiful and interesting on a conceptual level. He's now lost the plot in my opinion. His work isn't nice to look at and I have no idea what it's meant to mean either. He should stop pretending and just do Cirque du Soleil set decoration or something. (Maybe he already does...)
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Brilliant condescension from a self-professed appreciator of "art." Which points up another quality of modern "art" afficionados...priggish (albeit unfounded), elitist, smarmy, faux-intellectualism. Congrats!
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Well, look at it this way... if you think making millions by "conning people" is so easy and is all that modern art is, why don't you go ahead and make yourself a millionaire?

I'm not saying that _I_ think that everything that gets into a gallery is art, but there is no absolute, objective definition of what art is. My initial reaction was against Mark's pigeonholing of art as "beautiful skillful renderings". If that's what he likes, then there's nothing wrong with that. I just don't think anyone can categorically and simplistically dismiss something just because they don't understand it.

Having a sense of art history and and an arts education allows one to not feel threatened by something not understand at first glance.

The first Impressionists were ridiculed. New things always confuse and anger some people.
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