Art vs Beautygreenspun.com : LUSENET : Visual Artists Focus Group : One Thread
The following is a regular feature on my website www.grafsgaard.org. I send it out to cohorts and colleagues in hopes of fomenting discussion and creative action. Feel free to reply negatively or otherwise. (For online discussion of this and other art-related issues see www.rc4arts.mtn.org/focusgroup and click on the discussion link.)
ART vs. LIFE The Journal of a Working Artist This week: Art vs. Beauty! May 7, 1999
ART: I spoke again today to my friend and co-exhibitor Bob Schulz. Bob is a blue-collar intellectual. He makes cabinets for money, and makes paintings to survive. His work is social satire, at times subtle and self-mocking, at times an over-the-top neo-conservative attack in the tradition of George Grosz.
One of Bob Shulz's favorite targets is the New Left. He articulates in great detail and emotion, how most of our current social ills lay like flaming bags of dogshit at the doorstep of cultural liberalizers, who act in self-interested irresponsibility in the name of the common good.
With equal fervor, he aims at the current gate-keepers of our cultural institutions and media, who control the exposure and valuations of specific "Art" to line their own pockets and reputations.
At least that is Bob's take on things.
He is quick to admit his argument has a diametrical opposite of equal force, and can be argued to a standstill.
But Bob would be a formidable opponent, highly informed in 20th century aesthetic theory and cultural critique. He can toss the names and ideas of post-WWII critics and philosophers with ease (he actually reads primary texts! - how many of us do?).
He paints with polyurethane colors on plywood panels. He borrows bits and pieces of published visual information, projecting and tracing photos and clipped art, to make-by-hand machine-mediated montages, complete with word balloons. One idea he battles and buffoons is "beauty". Many of his paintings are not pretty, nor do they have to be. Those that are, take tongue-in-cheek pokes at our anthrocentric view of nature as "scenic".
He lampoons the Clintons and their circle as royal elites and despots; depicts a Million-Whiteman March led by David Duke (a nearly blank black void) as a comparison to Farrikan's extremism; honors the forgotten life taken by the immortal Jackson Pollock (his female companion's) in his own fatal drunk carcrash; and satirizes the snobbishness of the Walker Art Museum by painting the director in a brickwall black dress.
Bob loads his brush with meaningful dissent, drips it on thick and lets it dry to a high gloss. For him, it is "Art vs. Life".
LIFE: The difficulty is getting heard or seen, no matter how hard one shouts. Bob is encouraging. He says, "Whenever someone ignores me, or tells me I'm wasting my time, or am dead wrong - I think, 'they are trying to stop me', and I get even more determined to go on!"
Determination in the face of adversity is the essence of courage. It can be unreasonable. It can be folly. It can even be self-defeating or worse, deadly. But what else have we? Surrender? Never!
Subversion is our mission is it not? Subvert the comfortable, complacent and self-satisfied. Tamper with the thought-controlling massmarket media and the thieves of consciousness. Infiltrate history. Glorify the common over the superscilious. Empower creative minds over money. Reclaim our Selves! Reclaim each other!
Give up and you give up your power. Making art is a political act. Art, like the word, is a weapon - mightier than the missile. Even if it is ugly. Even if it is beautiful.
-- Anonymous, May 07, 1999
Dear Jim, thank you for the social satire on bobby schultz. I agree that his work is social satire, and that it is a strange neo-conservative dialogue. Although I have sponken at length with bob about his work and the social pathology of the media driven art world, I still wonder why he would personally be so anti-Left in his art?
So why is it that Schultz's favorite aesthetic target is the New Left? I feel that he needs to further articulate his white male anger,to see where it trully stems. Is his art about him and his personal gripes, the landscape in his midwest setting or a direct assault on specific areas of the art elite? Perhaps a combo? Where is the New Left that Bob portrays in the art world? As far as my reading, the new left is fairly non existant in the art world power domain. It seems to me that if we look at the social, corporate and political stuctures of the art world, that it is very conservative. It is run by conservatives and basically serves conservatives(or should I call them the museum trustees?)( those that sit on the museum boards are often the ones who create the final insider finacial decisions for the museums and the local gallery owners, who survive off of their conservative economic patronage.) Yes, the new left is often rearing its head in the critical discourse of the art critics and art historians, but this plays little financial and political role.
I think a distinction needs to be made by bob in his art between the powers that make the art museum descisions and those powers that write and articulate about those decisions.These are two different actions. What you call the current "social ills"(such as his subject matter) caused by Bobs' "cultural liberalizers" may perhaps be but a symptom of what he so badly disregards, areas that piss him off, and makes him want to comment on his place in the art world; whether it via a black cement dress around Kathy Halbriech at the walker or Bill and hillary's laisons, or simply getting artistic recognition. I do agree that there is a major portion of the art world hierarchy "who act in self-interested irresponsibility", but not all of their interests are "in the name of the common good." Much of what the programmed museum worker does, as Bob states, is self gratifying for the "art-jobholder', where the material good and the hollywoodization overtakes such "art-job" aesthetic obligations. Yes there are many bad apples in the seas of the art world. This is not always the fault of the art museum Jobworker: for one, they are drastically underpaid; Two, they work very long hours;three, they often have to travel great distances with little benefits. Three point five, they simply have to make culturally original and historically relavant decisions, which causes much stress on the libido. And Four, generalizing all museum workers, gallery owners, critics and the art world elite is not right either, because they all fit within separate cogs in the art machine.
As they situationally may be the, "current gate-keepers of our cultural institutions and media, who control the exposure and valuations of specific "Art" to line their own pockets and reputations,": this is not always the case. Many of these people are highly sensitive to the needs of artists and are well aware of the challenges that fit todays aesthetics and artists. Not all are solely interested in money and fame(lets face it-both are very rare in the world of art). Yes, as I noted earlier, their are those that frequent with pompousness, such as the doushbag Robert Hugheswhatshisname from austrailia that wrote the "shock of the new" and the recent pbs series on america.
Both of these are corporate main stream media art models at its historical and significant worst(or perhaps best?). What I would like to see is Bob Schultz write a book called the "Shock of Schultz", which would deal with the issuses that he toils with in his visual representations. I believe what he would find is that the very things that upset him and that which he visually represents are perhaps a parrallel or mirror to his own artistic being. This is most often for the artist, the hardest to come in contact with. I'm waiting for the first copies to come off the press at Amazon,.com. Pete.
-- Anonymous, May 08, 1999