The Subtle Highlights

March 21st, 2011 § 0 comments

Standing out against a garish background of colorful artwork, I did discover a few artists during the March art fairs that caught my eye because their work differed from everything else: it seemed to represent a kind of realism that was lacking from almost all the artwork shown. Though you’d think bright colors would be the eye catcher, these artists stood out visually with softer, more muted color palettes, and conceptually with their quotidian, almost mundane subjects. Overall I found them more compelling visually and conceptually, actually stopping my stroll to get a better look at their work. Researching the names I jotted down afterward, I found that most of them are in their early to mid 30s, and are all holders of MFA’s from somewhat pedigree schools. While I don’t see this as an indicator of quality, it’s interesting to see where our artists are coming from, and how, if at all, they were trained.

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Art Without Austerity

March 13th, 2011 § 0 comments

Wandering through the Scope, Pulse, and Armory art fairs this past weekend, in that order, I was reminded of the fashion buzz after Oscar night. The Fashion Police bantered and bickered over the different colors, gowns, styles, and designers on our stunning leading ladies, with Joan Rivers lamenting the lack of flashy, eye-stopping gowns and jewelry. Even Hollywood in its finest hour, however, followed the fashion trends of the past few seasons by scaling back and pairing down. Minimalism, a kind of toned down sobriety, has been the dominant fashion trend since the recession began. Though there must be irony to arriving in a designer gown to walk the red carpet, and being called “austere” for not being covered in diamonds, the Sex in the City fashion of the early aughts has since been deemed inappropriate for our current national mood—unemployment is still above 9 percent. Though at the Armory I overheard a couple disdainfully commenting that artwork masquerading as fashion had no business being shown, I can’t help but compare the art I saw to the recent trends of fashion. While some sense of austerity descended upon the fashion market over a year ago, it seems to have missed the art world completely. With my mouth slightly ajar, I wandered Scope and Pulse feeling as though I were living through the great depression while stuck within a Shirley Temple film of never-ending happiness—which is not to say the art wasn’t fun and entertaining.

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Published—Warhol’s Motion Pictures

March 6th, 2011 § 0 comments

It was the lovely and overlooked film by Sofia Coppola, Somewhere (2010), that started me thinking differently about a trend I have been seeing in too many art shows over the past few months. The catalyst for my latest review is the shocking realization that Andy Warhol’s Motion Pictures, exhibited now at MoMA, feels fresher, newer, and more thought provoking than anything else I’ve recently seen. That I would want to write about Andy Warhol had never occurred to me, and that I would find some aspect of his work new seemed impossible. All I have been seeing from young artists this year, however, has consisted of clever remakes of older artwork, and it’s been one Cindy Sherman (to use a popular candidate) reference after another. A critic friend of mine said he was going to start writing more “negative reviews” simply because he was finding it impossible to find something he actually liked. I was glad to know other people were having a similar problem, but this doesn’t explain why new art seems determined to reference old work. Perhaps in trying to avoid the term “derivative” artists have started making exact replicas of other artists. Watching Somewhere put a different spin on the idea of remaking in an older tradition. Coppola’s film, so simple and fresh, reminded me of the films I was seeing reshown in galleries, such as Warhol’s Screen Tests and Larry Clark’s Tulsa. Though Coppola seemed to be drawing from older styles of filmmaking, her reasons for doing so were tied directly to filmmaking today. In an NPR interview Coppola talked about the decision to make her film so spare:

I hope it’s refreshing for audiences. I just feel like in movies today we are so bombarded with fast editing and song after song, that I wanted to have more breathing room, to just have a pause. Even modern life, with everyone in contact and on BlackBerrys, I feel like it’s nice to have a break from that, and to be alone with the characters.

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