lunes, 20 de enero de 2014

A Defense of Contemporary Art.

In 1958, Yves Klein exhibited Le Vide (The Void) at the Iris Clert Gallery. The exhibition was an empty room: he removed everything in the gallery space except a large cabinet and he painted every surface white. The exhibitions color was blue: the large cabinet was blue, like the windows; a blue curtain was hung in the entrance lobby and blue cocktails were served. Because of the artificial color in the drink, the day after people had blue urine. 

Yves Klein, Le vide, 1958
Thanks to the enormous publicity, 3000 people were forced to queue up, waiting to be let into an empty room and to drink blue cocktails.
A lot of people might think: What has he done?, Is this art?, Where is the painting?, Is there any sculpture?, Why is the gallery empty? 

There isn’t any picture or sculpture. We just have an idea, "the specialization of the sensibility in the raw material state into stabilized pictorial sensibility", and its realization. 

Someone might think that this isn’t art, that it is a joke but no, I’m sorry, this is art. By and large people analyze art from an aesthetic point of view: a work has to have an aesthetic and a formal value, good proportions, an excellent drawing under the colors and, in the majority of cases, represent an important historical or a religious event. This is correct if we consider art of the past (ancient, medieval and modern) but wrong if we refer to contemporary art.
Ancient, medieval and modern art are synonymous with aesthetics and iconography; contemporary art is synonymous with thoughts and criticism: it’s a reflection about past, present and future; a testimony of contemporary cultural life and society; a protest against social problems or, simply, the artist and his/her thoughts.
One of the roles of contemporary art is to help you to ask questions. There are questions that may help you to explore what an artwork is: what it is in general, in every period, not just now.
Does a modern artwork, like the paintings of Titian and Bellini, do the same? Personally, I don’t think so. Modern art, like ancient and medieval art, gives us a standard definition about what art was in that period; about which components are necessary to consider a work an artwork, a masterpiece.

It doesn’t take in the totality of what art is; because it focusses its attention on the aesthetic aspect without analyzing all its potentiality.

One example is the installation: a three-dimensional work, which is often site-specific, that includes all arts (architecture, painting, sculpture, music, literature and ballet) and transforms the perception of a space. When you enter in an installation your five senses activated on and your experience is total.

The most of people who are against contemporary art say that an installation is not art. It looks like a stage in a theater: a composition, well done, made of different things. Firstly, is not theater art? And secondly, I can punt fours chairs, a TV and two stereos hanging in trees in my garden, but it isn’t an installation because these things together don’t have a meaning. There isn’t a reflection under the surface of this “composition”.

The installation is one of the ways in which art progressed: it overcomes the two-dimensionality of the canvas, the immobility of sculpture and connects the arts.

A painting can refer to music, like Titian did in The Bacchanal of the Andrians, but it can’t make you hear the music: we have only a graphic representation of music through people who are dancing and the music on the score in the lower center of the composition.

Tiziano, Baccanale degli Andri, 1523-1526, Museo del Prado
A few months ago, The Prado Museum did a project called “Sound in the paintings at The Prado Museum”(El sonido de la pintura en el Museo del Prado): on the web there is a section where the paintings are combined with the music of the epoch or with the specific melody which is represented in the canvas. People can listen to the music while their look the painting, as it was sounding.

This example shows that a two-dimensional painting can represent music, architecture, literature, dance, smells or sensations, but it can’t represent them in the same way as an installation.

Another argument is: “I can do that!.” This is the most common sentence heard in a museum of contemporary art. Every time I hear it, I would like to answer: “Why didn’t you do it?”

Usually these people, “I know more than you” as I refer to them, opine that The Black Cube of Malevich is just a black cube; Pollock’s works, made by dripping, are simply canvases where Pollock cleaned his brushes and that Santiago Sierra is a violator of humans rights.

In the first place, “I know more than you” doesn’t know what Suprematism is, and secondly, how and where The Black Cube was exhibited the first time: in the corner of the exhibition space, as those it was a Russian icon. At the same time, we have to explain to “him/her” that Pollock didn’t use brushes. He/She would probably like Santigo Sierra because on the one hand, with his actions he represents how the art world is nowadays (the artist denounces that, on many occasions, artists produce superficial works) and on the other hand, he “rapes” humans rights (e.g. paying a person to stay behind a wall, ling down, during weeks and eating through a small hole in the wall) to denounce a situation.

Maurizio Cattelan, La Nona Ora, 1999.
Personally, I believe that a contemporary work makes one think more than a “classic” one but, in a lot of cases, nobody wants to start this reflection because it is easier to read the well-known iconography of medieval or modern works. Three women have always been and will be The Three Graces and a man holding fire has always represented and will always represent Saint Anthony and his temptations.

But only Maurizio Cattelan can represent Pope John Paul II hit by a meteorite. What does it mean? Do you know this iconography? No, you have to reflect on it. Inasmuch as people are lazy, they prefer to say “It isn’t art”.

Brunelleschi discovered perspective and the Impressionists abolished it, they wanted “the moment”, no more. Is it a regression? No, it is a progress. Art changes like time changes: Picasso worked all his life to paint like a child. He didn’t “go back into the past”, simply he did art as he felt it.

We have to accept that art makes progress and we don’t know what its limits are because contemporary art doesn’t know its limits; it’s researching all its potentiality.

Anita Orzes.

2 comentarios: