On Friday, I blogged about an exhibition that I had gone to see. I gave it a hasty, dismissive review and got some interesting and passionate comments in return.
Abramovic/Ulay, Imponderabilia, 1977. Image: emanuelesbardella.com
The reason for my review was less about the actual exhibition itself – the art wasn’t, strictly speaking, bad – than about how frustrated I am with the witty conceptualism that appears to be trendy among young artists.
I want art that gives to me, not art that asks me to do all the work.
Janet Cardiff, Her Long Black Hair (an audio walk in Central Park, 2004.) Image: nycgovparks.org
Yoko Ono, Ceiling Painting (Yes Painting), 1966/1998. Image: tittenhurstlennon.com
A viewer gets a lot from seeing Picasso’s Guernica in person, regardless of whether you know about the subject matter. The sames goes for Anish Kapoor’s sculptures, Bruce Nauman’s installations, Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle and great pieces by James Turrell, Yoko Ono, Gregor Schneider, Rodney Graham, Janet Cardiff and many, many others.
Too often, young art is no more than a conceptual joke that demands the viewer understand it. Who does that benefit? No one. The seriousness of art must not be underestimated. Art isn’t easy, it should be a great challenge, and for the best artists, it is.
Picasso’s Guernica. Image:artnewsblog.com
Great art is magical, it presents something unexpected, it is a visual manifestation of a feeling that it’s impossible to put into words. So I think that art that relies on an elaborate explanation is too easy. Artists should try taking that explanation away, and if it still stands as art, then they might be on to something.
In short, something may be well made, but if it doesn’t make me feel something more than what it is, then to me, it’s not great art.
Stay tuned for my upcoming article In Search of Excellence, a follow up to my piece On Art Schools, for The Mark News.