Bad art

December 29, 2010 at 11:16 pm | In arts | Comments Off on Bad art

“It’s pretty easy to recognize bad old art,” I thought to myself as I passed two auction house windows full of the stuff: weird and watered down versions of styles that were strong and well-handled by masters of their day, done nearly to death by second- if not third- or fourth-rate epigones.

I’ll confess that it’s harder for me to be as sure with contemporary art. First, there was the whole “art [painting] is dead” issue, which led to a distrust of objects. We looked to process (but not gesture, because that would tie the process to the body, to physicality, which was disdained); we admired minimalism and the touch-free (no human touch) trace or record; we mocked notions of originality or heroism (“the avant-garde”); we fitted ourselves out in seriality and reproduceability, neither of which needed anything messy (whether paint, emotion, body-ness, or Big Ideas). In fact, we were so sure about the confident march toward abstraction and disembodiment that we derided any sort of representational mark-making as evidence of neo-fascism and an extreme willingness to collaborate with capitalism at its worst.

Off the top of my head, I wonder if design benefitted from capital-A art’s abandonment of things – so much of the most interesting work is happening in design (whether Steve Jobs or Steve McQueen, Zaha Hadid or Freeman Thomas).

Painting came back, sometimes grotesquely. For every Kiefer, there were at least two Immendorffs. Yes, there’s a lot of crap design out there, too, but design in fields other than “fine art” seems a lot more interesting than the fine arts themselves. I’m not encouraged by “exhibition[s] of artists employing formal and political concerns to develop new languages in colour theory.” Artists employing formal and political concerns to develop new languages in color theory? It sounds like the Russian Revolution all over again – except I missed the memo calling the current crap we’re in a revolution. I thought it was just crap?

Anyway… I could tell you why some of the “art” in the photos that follow is stupendously awful because I’ve got the analytical tools and the historical hindsight that let me be sure. But I’m far less certain when looking art contemporary art, particularly if, lacking body, it has clothed itself in bad ideas.

Ok, here’s the gallery of horrors:

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