Saturday, October 8, 2011

It's a Funny "Concept"...but... Is It ART?

                                 John Baldessari,acrylic on canvas,
                                                            60" x 56 1/2",1968                   

An Apologia for John Baldessari's TIPS FOR ARTISTS WHO WANT TO SELL ....and

             Some Reflections On The Nature Of Art

I like Art to challenge every way catch me off balance...and,at times, to even make me laugh!But,always, it needs to make me think...more than once...and it needs to resonate emotionally through my consciousness,and subconsciousness, like a haunting melody or a poem that just won't go away...if a "work of art" doesn't do any or all of these things for's,so to speak,dead in the paint!But if it does do any,or all of these things...for me it's ART!without qualitative judgments or comparisons or contrasts...those usually come later.The mediums,approaches,brush-strokes,lines,forms,figures,
and images are, for me at least,infinite and very wide infinite and wide open as that mysterious creator of waking dreams...the Imagination itself!Sometimes I'm surprised and,often amazed, by the Art that captivates my can be aesthetically ugly,brutal,violent,vulgar,
crude,mono-chromatic,abysmal,despairing...or it can be shrieking colors into the heart of the night (to paraphrase Rainer Maria Rilke),linear,figurative, abstract,formless,structured,or,yes,even "signage"...print painting...or "conceptual".

John Baldessari's print painting, "Tips For Artists Who Want To Sell" is currently hanging in the Broad Contemporay Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art...I recently viewed this painting in person for the first time while visiting the chicano art exhibit now at the Broad...Asco:Elite of the Obscure,A Retrospective,1972-1987...asco is a Spanish word that "roughly" translated means..."disgust".

John Baldessari's print painting,"Tips For Artists Who Want To Sell",has itself generated many diverse responses from viewers,including other artists and art critics,including for some the extreme response of "disgust"..even to the point of some viewers questioning why this painting is even considered "a work of art", and why it is even hanging in the Broad contemporary collection at LACMA.

In response to those who question this painting's very existence...this is some painterly and empathetic advice...One way into a "fair and balanced" understanding and appreciation of any "work of art" is to experience and discover, as the viewer, the assumptions and context on which the art work is based. As a viewer...that is what we "owe" the "work of art"...and the "artist".

Like avant-guarde artists of an earlier generation such as Matisse,Picasso,and Magritte(whose major exhibit at LACMA in 2006 was curated by Baldessari with incredible skill,depth and insight), Baldessari's intention in his "conceptual" works is the reevaluation of the terms of our aesthetic language and vocabularies.

In his "print painting",Tips For Artists
Who Want To Sell", he makes a very humorous,multi-layered satirical visual statement about the role of the artist in the world at large, and what an artist must do to captivate a "commercial" art market..i.e.buyers.This print painting  (actually executed for Baldessari by a professional sign painter) is an ironic "3 Bullet Point" commentary on "commercialism" - what leads an artist to success in the "commercial" art is as topical in today's art it was when Baldessari created it in the mid-60s.
In a very clever way...this painting is "self-referential"(art on art),...Baldessari's visual wit in this work subverts the art market bromides found in art "how to guides" of the time (1966-1968)(and now!).

His visual joke is that while the painting conveys the market-friendly advice that an artist's subject matter,his or her images, are important in increasing their paintings chance of selling...Baldessari's painting "almost" completely disregards the painting's conventional wisdom (although he does pay slight "prudent" homage to its advice with the painting's light yellow background!).

"Tips For Artists Who Want to Sell" deconstructs "the prudent rules" of more "commercially" viable art and painting, and while it is inherently critical of "mass culture", it is not critical of the viewer, but instead depends on the viewer's complicity to achieve its rather startling effect. By requiring the viewer's participation, Baldessari is insisting on the "egalatarian" nature of Art. His "sign" painting is,indeed, a provocative revelation about Art (and artists)that consciously seeks to be "commercial"...and to "sell" to a mass market. The "sign" is the ultimate icon of commercialism...and Baldessari's "sign" is the ultimate confluence of concept,medium,and image. 

But is TIPS FOR ARTISTS WHO WANT TO SELL really Art? Straight is!

For contextual reference...Ceci n'est pas une pipe...This is not a pipe..."just try to fill it with tobacco"....Rene Magritte...The Treachery of Images...1928...also hanging at LACMA.

Yoko it "really" Art?