Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whine, Whine, Whine...

Well, I wasn't.  But then I decided I had to.

At last night's New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra concert, the audience was introduced to the artist who created something that was used as part of the program cover.  The work in question was prominently displayed on an easel at the front of the sanctuary, nicely lit, so everyone could see it.  Alas. 

According to the program notes, said artist has work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the British Museum, and the National Art Gallery in Sydney, Australia.  And has taught at Princeton, Grown, and another college. 

And here's why I wasn't, but decided, after a day of occasional rumination on said artwork,  I've decided that I can't be silent.

This work was crap.

I wouldn't give a passing grade to this work if it were submitted as fulfillment of a sophomore assignment in the University of the Arts' Projects curriculum.  I would be quite surprised if this work (and the others, which had been gratuitously hung in the reception room -- the portrait of a former rector, whose nail was now being used by something else, having been slung onto the nearest sofa) would have been given a passing grade in a freshman Foundations class.

Muddy colors.  Careless application.  Crude and unnecessary hand numbering.  Thoughtless color choices, supposed to be symbolic, but in fact awkward and misinformed.  Banal treatment of a classic topic, which could so easily have inspired something truly wonderful.  If this composition had even a scintilla of energy, or even irony, it was so well-concealed as to be indiscernible.  Used on the concert's program cover, the image was effective, simply because we couldn't see all of it.  The only good thing I can say about this work is that it wasn't any larger.

So.  That there is bad art in the world is no mystery to me.  Bad art, and plenty of it.  That much of this bad art receives unwarranted attention is hardly news.  But frankly, I am stunned, in this case, by the immeasurable gap between the actual physical object, that flat piece of paper with some pigment smeared on it, and the eclat with which it was being presented.  I am stunned that not only has this artist apparently been acclaimed and collected, but that this artist, apparently of at least average intelligence, seems unable to see the work's miserable lack of any redeeming aesthetic value.

Perhaps my reaction is so heightened because, in so many ways, I have steadfastly refused to accept or promote my own work, because I feel it falls so far short of those examples of world-class art, to which standard of excellence I think it's not unreasonable to expect any artist worth the name to aspire.  In this particular case, I could have made better art with my feet.

Oh dear.  Even at my advanced age, I still retain the capacity to be surprised and disappointed when I'm confronted so directly with what I consider a gross injustice.  It's difficult not to take such things personally, but I'm also simply dumbfounded that, if I'm to believe the program notes, examples of this artist's work has been collected by the prestigious institutions already mentioned.  I guess I'm feeling a bit like a superannuated version of the little boy in the big parade, who cries out, as the Emperor strides past, 'But he's not wearing any clothes!'

Which brings me smack back to the dilemma with which I've been confronted, to such a crippling degree, for the past two years -- why on earth should I continue to make artwork, when..?  It's not even as if I'm complaining about the painters who get notoriety for doing unstable, stupid work with broken crockery that falls off behind the collectors' sofas before the piece is a year old.  I just find myself weary, weary, weary -- and if there were a useful lesson to be learned from this, I would be ever so grateful to know what that lesson might be.  Life isn't fair?  That's such a useless observation, and begs the question -- am I crazy?  Am I delusional?  And if I'm not, what does this say about the folks who ladle accolades on an artist such as the one to whom I've been referring?    

It just makes me crazy. 

Well, blogspot is now telling me that I'm no longer signed in here -- is this another nudge from the universe, suggesting that I simply shut up and..?  So, I guess I'll just quit here, while I can still write a complete sentence, and if I get any more ideas on this topic, I'll just add them later.

Whine, whine, whine.   

©     2013                Walter Zimmerman




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