Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Surrealism- ideas below the waist

You know how when someone comes up to you and says, "I had the craziest dream last night!" you usually are in for a boring disappointment. Well, there is a show at the museum that really hammered that point home for me. Other folks dreams are just not that interesting, unless they happened to come up to you and say, "I had the craziest dream last night where I brutally murdered you." Then maybe you want to take notice.

I have never been a big fan of any 'isms' past Impressionism, but I decided to go see the Surrealism show at the museum with my good friend Carl Samson.
The show did not disappoint, in my continued disappointment with Surrealism.
If 12 year old boys were asked to make art about their dreams, you get Surrealism, and apparently you also get lots of boobies.
The show was a lot of self indulgent, juvenile, and over sexed art that was mostly of pretty poor quality. No real drawing or painting craft was present- Dali was the best craftsman of that period, but these were not shinning examples.
Some of it was clever or amusing. Some of the work had nice color arrangements. It may be enjoyable if you like collage or stuff screwed to other stuff, but it was mostly forgettable. Well, I remember the boobies- and there were a lot of them. Often they were in unusual places- like on a ladies elbow. One sculpture was just a pile of them.
There was also a video playing of a close up of a woman's naked butt walking. Really heady stuff. Poetry really.
There was a group of high school boys that really seemed to appreciate the subtle messages in the naked woman's butt. I was proud to see that these kids are getting an education in the arts that will help build character and appreciation, resulting in an enlightened memory that will last until they sit down at the computer and type some sex related search into google "surrealism, woman's butt". I don't recommend you take the kids.

One of the better pieces was the Magritte of the floating rock castle over the surf. I thought it would really look brilliant in poster form hung on a college dorm wall. Standing before it, I hearkened back to my art school days, with the smell of incense, the sounds of Led Zepplin and inane college banter. I was a nerd who did not drink or do drugs in college, and as most of my roommates were drunk or high, I suffered through listening to conversations that were never as interesting as they believed them to be. Anyway, there were usually at least some posters of Magritte's work or the required Escher image called 'Crazy Stairs'.
I really did not drink until much later. Interestingly I started drinking just shortly after I met my wife.
I did mention to Carl that the show may have been improved if we had taken some sort of mood altering substance. All he had was a few lint covered Altoids in his pocket. While they were curiously strong, it did not effect the experience.


Anonymous said...

My husband and I went to see the show hoping to see some really fine or at least interesting work. After an initial futile and very swift search, we realized that it wasn't our cup of tea. We walked out one third of the way through the exhibit despairing of finding anything that we could really admire. (Although getting away with hanging a snow shovel from the ceiling and probably selling it for a lot of money is kind of admirable.)

But maybe we weren't fair. Maybe we should go back to try and discover some sort of advanced, enlightened philosophy...

Richard J. Luschek II said...

Life is difficult and confusing enough. Why should 'art' be so confusing and full of nonsense?
If I see a movie that makes no sense or is offensive, I am going to leave. If someone writes a book full of gibberish, I am not going to read it.
I am also not going give 'art' much thought that is trying to be too clever.
The job at hand when making paintings or sculpture is to visually communicate. If you do not easily communicate your ideas, you are a failure. Unfortunately these days, failure to do so is the norm.
Save your time for seeing something that you will enjoy or maybe even be enlightened by.

Daniel Lynch said...

Excellent comments. I believe Ingres said something like, "Woe to the artist who does not take his work seriously." I think part of the problem with the 20th century, was that its art had little aspiration or gravity. It was often diminutive. "Let's see how flat we can make this painting. Let's explore the silliness of celebrity, etc. etc." What about truth, beauty, epic struggle? The human condish?

Dave said...

I remember liking Yves Tanguy a lot when in college...hmmm...I also remember taking mushrooms and drinking 40' I don't consume those things, and Tanguy's stuff looks like shit.

Richard J. Luschek II said...

I forgot to say something nice about the show; there were some really nice frames on some of the work. I would have loved to seen those frames either without work in them, or with some masterpieces to set them off.

Another funny thing I thought of about the show, was just how entertaining it was to watch people looking at the work. I am pretty sure that very few actually had any connection to the work, but they were standing there, staring at the work seemingly hoping for some sort of revelation. Some divine moment in which they are given the wisdom to understand the great poetic importance of a jumble of colors. I enjoyed watching normal folk trying to become intellectuals as much as I did looking at paintings trying to be art.

Greg Storer said...

not all art, poetry, music, literature is about beauty. that is not to say beauty is not a worthwhile pursuit, it certainly is. now, the surrealist movement is not at the top of my list, however there were pieces in this exhibit that marked an undeniable shift in art history that has stood for more than 50 years. It doesn't have much to do with "liking", VanGogh's "Potato Eaters" Munch's "Scream", Picasso's "Geurnica" are not pretty. But they are honest (not to mention priceless masterpieces). I have lived long enough to have come full circle on a few artists. They didn't change, their paintings didn't change. I changed. The idea is to express, and the measure of art is whether it does in fact express the intention. I mean, pretty is fine, but honestly, I have seen so many pretty paintings, they bore me to tears. Life is boring enough, does painting have to be boring too? Magritte forever, Pissarro....zzzzz

Richard J. Luschek II said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard J. Luschek II said...

You could say that graffiti artists are being honest. You could say terrorists are being honest as well. They are expressing their intention.
I am not a fan of terrorism and I think most graffiti artists should have there right hand cut off if they are caught defacing property (that may be harsh, maybe just a few fingers).

I never said pretty. Beauty is something that can be separated from prettiness. I believe it is greater, a higher ideal than mere prettiness.
You mention Guernica- the most over rated painting in the history of the arts in my opinion. Yes it has intent, but what else? It is illustration of a terrible event. Other than to document misery, what is the point? Blood and guts says little more than your typical B-movie slasher film.
I will offer a contemporary example, and as I can't find a lot of success in fine arts, I will go to the movies. Two movies, both by Spielberg, document horrible events in human history: The Holocaust and WWII.
Ugly subjects in which he manages to show moments of beauty. Guernica ends after the opening bloody sequence of the beach landing. Leaving you with little to no faith in humanity.
This movie goes on to show the human spirit prevailing over the horrible events. A Guernica-like take on the holocaust would just show a stack of bodies, while Schindler's List goes on to show someone doing great deeds of heroism despite these events.
An art example is the Pietà by Michelangelo. Sorry I have to go back so far, but it is the highest example I could think of.
What is worse than the representation of the death of ones son? Yet there is beauty here, it shows pure love, even in ultimate loss. We do not even have to know the story of Christ to get the point. It is about something 'Greater'.

A great artist can paint an ugly rock and still manage to show it's beauty. Or you could just make it float over the ground so people ignore the poor craftsmanship and lack of any great idea other than the 'intent' to shock.

"Ooooh, that rock is floating over the ocean. Crazy man. But I still wish it had some boobies."

For the record, I often find Pissaro boring as well.