24 August 2008

Smart Art

In March 1992 I took a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA). I love art of all kinds, but am mostly ambivalent to contemporary "art." Art, to me, is something that was created that I could not have done. Is it art when an "artist" takes a doll, rips off its head, and puts an apple there instead? No. Is it art when someone carves a human figure from a block of marble? Yes.

It was during this 1992 exhibition (the name of which escapes me) that I first saw the "art" that consists of nothing more than a pile of candy in a corner (by Felix Gonzales-Torres). Is this art? No.

Clearly I am no fan of most of what passes as contemporary "art."

(My companion and I were driving to lunch after the museum visit and listening to the venerable KNX-1070 radio news station reporting a freeway closure. It appears some truck turned over and spilled thousands of empty liter soda bottles all over the roadway. Not missing my chance, I commented that someone was bound to take a photo of that and we would see it in the next MOCA show.)

I feel this same displeasure of art in public places. The world is full of art -- in public and private spaces, made by humans and made by nature. I do not believe art should be relegated to a certain place -- like the homes of the wealthy, inside buildings, or specially designated "art spaces." No, art is for everyone and should be everywhere.

Isn't it odd that I think most public art is crap?

Today's New York Times has an interesting article about good and bad art in public spaces. I think it's all crap. Giant paper clips? Crap. Plastic cows painted different colors? Crap. When we were in Riverside, California last month, our hotel had a giant plastic piece of fruit painted odd colors, part of one of those weird art projects where giant plastic things are painted differently by different people, planted around a city and labeled "art." Crap.

Personally, I would rather see a design aesthetic like that found in Paris in the early 20th century, where artists like Hector Guimard did not make public art, he made art public -- like the Metro train station entrances (pictured) that have become justly famous. One should not pick a piece of ground and say "Here shall appear a piece of art!" No, one should design that piece of ground (and whatever is on it) as a giant work of art. Do not erect a building and place a piece of art next to it; design a building that is art in itself.

There was a time in this world (mostly in Europe, not so much America) where this was the norm. Now, it appears it's the exception. That's pretty sad.

You may read the article here.

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