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.


Damaging something that belongs to you isn't vandalism. But buying a blank sheet of paper because someone tells you it's "art" is certainly stupidity.

I think it's sad that customers let these self-proclaimed "artists" get away with it, when there are real artists producing works that's good to look at. One site I like is postromanticism.com .
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Mark, you're describing craft, not art. Art is more than pretty pictures... it can be the communication of an original idea, it can be a subtle commentary, etc. Art can be defined by the individual. There is no clear, final, absolute, objective definition of the word "art" because art often tries to escape its own boundaries.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Shane, you took the words out of my mouth. Art doesn't have to be pretty to look at, it can be down right ugly and still be art that's considered 'good'.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Matt, Shane, and Ayde -- Art is the creation of beauty, which is much more challenging than making something that "communicates an original idea", "subtly comments", "escapes its own boundaries". A blank piece of paper? You're either trying to kid me, or you're kidding yourself.

Yes, lots of artists have managed to convince lots of customers to buy things that aren't pleasant to look at. They are con artists who've perpetrated a highly successful racket, and their ugly and pointless works will be quickly forgotten.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Mark - I have to disagree with you.

For instance Picasso's work is mostly ugly and much of it doesn't communicate a damn thing, yet his art is highly prized.

And as Ayde said, art can be down right ugly - but it still has to communicate, and if it doesn't do that then it has no value in my book.

"Artists" such as the guy I saw on a PBS documentary that threw paint off of a dock onto a board and then walked on it, threw grass and mud onto it, and cut it up to sell for tens of thousands of dollars per piece are definitely crooks.

It's personal - if you're confused and on crack (isn't that repetetive?) then someone's crap can be art.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Ok Ayde - I've got a piece called "Dog sh*t and powdered sugar "that I'd like to sell you. I define it myself as art - because Shane says I can.

You can subscribe to this tiresome, cynical 20th century "modern art" dogma if you want, but it seems to me you're having the wool pulled over your eyes by the pretentious art elites. They seem to have done a grand job of this for the last 70 years or so.

Regarding the pieces in the article, I dare say that only the Picasso and the Lichtensteins are works you'd put up in your own homes, given the opportunity. The rest are miserable, joyless dreck.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Becki, I agree with you, and I think the pretentious elites in art, like all the elites, will not survive long into the internet age.

The test you propose, whether a person would want to have a putative piece of art in their own home, sounds to me like an excellent one. I would extend it further: if you were marooned on a desert island -- or, for whatever reason, believed that you would spend the rest of your life alone, no reason ever again to think of your position among your peers, but only of what would actually please YOU -- would you want your cave decorated with one of these minimalist pieces of art? Or with something beautiful like the "awful hotel art" that I like? (For the record, I think the postromanticism.com works are better than any hotel art I've seen.)
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
It seems to me as if you only seem to like those 'ugly' pieces of work, because they're famous, or all you have seen is SEEMINGLY, bad, pointless artwork, and have never been to an art gallery.
Sorry if I'm mistaken, but that's the way I see it.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Pretty ironic that Mark provides his definition of art, is called "wrong" by several people, and then Shane says, "Art can be defined by the individual." Well, no shit. Mark just did that, and you responded with illogic.

This post doesn't depict or describe "art" in any sense, and neither do most of the posts here that purport to show "art." What they show are the feeble attempts of no-talents who have no artistic ability to find other aesthetically-challenged individuals to share in the fun. For the record, any "art" that has to be described with "installation" in the description is shit by definition.

Further, Dan said, "...the guy I saw on a PBS documentary that threw paint off of a dock onto a board[...are]definitely crooks." Can anybody say "Jackson Pollock?" He wasn't a crook, though. He was a no-talent, mentally unstable hack.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Yes - the beauty of conceptual "art" like the Rauschenberg/De Kooning piece is that you don't need any talent or mastery of materials. sorry - did I say "beauty"? I meant "con job".
Take a look at Yoko Ono's worthless conceptual pieces for the epitome of this sort of thing. I think she even went so far as to suggest that she could make conceptual art in her head and that it was just as much art as a real painting, or something along those lines.
If the Rauschenberg/De Kooning piece blew you away Mick then think what a trip to The Uffizi might do for you:
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Now Becki, you do know that modern "art" afficionados despise old frumpy stuff like that! They prefer the narcissitic stroking of their egos when they can proclaim, "Why yes, I think I understand the kernel of meaning in this amorphous blob of shit!" When actually, there is no meaning at all, because the "artist" couldn't muster enough talent and vision to craft anything worthy of the "art" appellation.

To wit: Right off the top of my memory, I recall the "hat" that 5-6 people could wear, and those 5-6 people were sitting on a park bench. Art? Hardly. A bunch of self-centered retards slapping each other on thier backs over participating in the making of "art." Pshaw. What a frackin' joke. I keep wondering if they have day jobs and squeeze this crap out for free, or if patrons support thier uninspired efforts.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
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.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
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!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
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...)
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
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.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
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.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.
Click here to access all of this post's 20 comments

Email This Post to a Friend
"Radical Moments in Modern Art"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More