Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Knowledge of Art is Sketchy

The good people at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland recently decided to induct the Beastie Boys into their august museum of music.

The fact that this gruesome group should be so honored prompted me to tweet,  "The Beastie Boys induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is worse than showcasing children's refrigerator door artwork in the Louvre". And it's true. My ears would not tolerate 15 seconds of Beastie Boys "music", but I would go to an art gallery to see children's paintings and drawings.

Actually, I think that children's art would be great to see in a museum or gallery. After all, most of their artistic abilities far surpass mine.

For example, here is my best drawing of a horse (and I'm not kidding. I drew several before deciding this was the best):

But you don't have to be an artist to appreciate art. A recent painting of Canada's intrepid leader, Stephen Harper, has been creating a bit of a stir. Here is a censored version of it:

Those who have seen the uncensored version know very well that the black dot is quite disproportionate to the (ahem) item that it is concealing. I wonder if the artist knows Mr. Harper intimately.

By the way, is there really a Tim Hortons out there where you can lie naked on a sofa while being served a piping hot double-double? If there is, I think it would be prudent to order something a bit cooler, like an iced coffee. 

The Harper painting is funny, but is it art? Methinks not. Art should make methink and youthink. It should make you stare in wonder. It should make you wonder why you're staring.

A good example of this is a work entitled Voice of Fire. This fine product of creative genius sits in Ottawa's National Gallery of Canada. Canadian taxpayers forked over 1.8 million smackeroos for this work by American artist Barnett Newman.

I've actually seen it in person. I'll say this much for it — it's big. It looks like an enormous flag. In fact, it looks like the artist took North Korea's flag, removed the white from it, broadened the blue stripes and hung it sideways.

Voice of Fire

Flag of North Korea

Actually, there were several of Mr. Newman’s paintings at the museum — all very flag-like. One must conclude that this artist loves the look of flags. Considering the generous payment he received from the Canadian government, he probably has several banners of the Maple Leaf hanging around his house. At least he should.

The brilliant philospher Alan Watts once said about modern art, "The paintings look as if they had been made with excrement or scraps from billboards, and the sculptures like mangled typewriters or charred lumber from a burned-down outhouse."

He further clarified his statement with, "This is not to be taken as a rejection of "modern art" in general, but only of that rather dominant aspect of it which claims that the artist should represent his time. And since this is the time of junkyards, billboards, and expensive slums, many artists—otherwise bereft of talent—make a name for themselves by the "tasteful" framing or pedestaling of objets trouvés from the city dump."

I respectfully disagree. Why back in the olden days, there were painters like Johannes Vermeer, who gave the world such junk as The Astronomer.

Vermeer's The Astronomer. Personally, I don't get it.

A couple of centuries later, Henri Rousseau presented his masterpiece The Sleeping Gypsy.

The Sleeping Gypsy

Although I like this painting, I must say that I always thought the gypsy looks quite stiff, as if rigor mortis has set in. Perhaps he's already dead. This would account for the lion's lack of interest in making a meal out of him. The big cat probably wanted fresh juicy gypsy, not gypsy jerky.

Thankfully, art evolved further. Many years later we had artists like Jackson Pollock. Pollock bristled at suggestions that his paintings were not art (ha ha! get it? bristled... brush...  you know... paintbrush... forget it).

I think I see an astronomer in there

So, if we revisit my crude likeness of a horse, all we need to do is add some colorful crayon strokes; give it a fancy name and, Viola! — modern art.

Horse in Transition: A Study in Crayon, Opus 12

That should be enough to earn me consideration for induction into some sort of artistic hall of fame, don't you think?