Friday, January 8, 2010

Richard Luschek, Contemporary Pop Artist.

On Thursday I had the great pleasure of speaking to a lovely group about art. I then did a brief demonstration, painting a little still life I had set up.
The group is called the Welcomers Club. It is a social group of women that introduce new comers to the city to all things Cincinnati. Unfortunately we were hit with a few inches of snow so the crowd was somewhat smaller than expected. I think the talk went pretty well.
The event took place in the gallery of the Woman's Art Club facility in the refurbished Resthaven Barn in Mariemont. The first speaker was Jane McDonald. She discussed the barn and how it has been saved with the help of contributors, the Womans Art Club, grants and lots of hard work. After soup and sandwiches I got up to speak (the fanciest meetings with important speakers always have snacks).

The typical art talk usually involves a lot of touchy feely stuff. Often they are filled with the drivel you find in most art statements in which big words are connected together to make bad art look good and to make gibberish seem intellectual. Words like "Cathartic"or "ambiguity" will appear in there someplace. Please, if you are writing an art statement, don't use those words.

I decided to have some fun and do something a bit more controversial. Plus, I thought it would be more entertaining and I like to entertain.
Since I was riding high after winning the Golden Reader Award for my "hilarious" performance of one of my blog posts, I thought I would adjust it a bit and read it again for this group. I won't bore you with the entire reading but I will give you taste.
Keep in mind I am just posting notes from my speech, I did elaborate a bit adding much charm and handsomeness.

Normal “art talks” are much concerned with ‘expression’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘happy accidents’ and ‘love’.

I do believe in all of those.... except for the idea of the “happy accident”, however, these ideas in the wrong hands have led to what I believe to be the complete degradation of the art world for the past 100 or so years.

People get nervous when the discussion moves towards politics or religion even though they are often the most interesting topics. I personally get nervous when the discussion moves toward art.

When it comes to art, I am religiously political.

Of course, everyone has their opinion, everyone has their own taste, but in my opinion a lot of people have very bad taste.

My grandmother loves Thomas Kinkade. Some people enjoy going to the Contemporary art museum to oggle a piece in the gallery that is just a box of potatoes with a fancy title. To my eye, neither are good art. I don’t even think it is art.

Kinkade gives me cavities and I prefer my potatoes mashed or fried.

So, let me begin with a reading from my blog. It is a critique of some modern paintings.

Confronted by BS (click on the title to be directed to the original post)
pause for laughter, fainting or thrown tomatoes.

Let me cover just a few points to conclude. I could talk for hours on this topic.

Today, many terms associated with art have lost all meaning. Artist, Art, Drawing.

At subway you are a sandwich artist.

"Did you see the Monkey that draws?"

Assembling lunch meat does not make you an artist, random scribbles are not drawing.

Fine art is not Unlanguaged! It has a set of defined parameters. Admittedly, exciting things can happen when those parameters are pushed or the rules are broken, but there are rules.

If there are rules, then that means that one can learn those rules.

Talent is hugely overrated. It may involve some genetics, a touch of environment, but mostly I would say it is “Interest”. Painters are not born, they are created.

There is no real mystery to it, there are no secrets of the masters. The only reason we do not see contemporary Da Vincis or Michelangelos has more to do with lack of good training than some hokus pokus divine intervention.

When Duveneck taught at the Art Academy, teachers were all masters of their craft, all taught in the same way, each offered differing interpretations of basically the same information. If one worked hard, and listened, one would probably become a painter. It was not an "art" school as much as it was a school of Drawing and Painting. Most great artists were specialist. “Landscape painters, Portrait artists, Sculptors”. Now art students are bounced around from ceramics, to abstract painting, to figure drawing to basket weaving. They become a jack of all trades; master of nothing.

"Art" is not something you can teach, but you can teach someone how to draw. Painting is a visual language that can be learned.

For me, this is an exciting time. Years ago, when I was struggling to get the information I needed to paint, it was difficult to find a teacher. Now realism and beauty in art are rising out of the ashes. Great studio schools are popping up, great painters and teachers can be found in most major cities. This is wonderful new beginning for the arts.

It is my hope to open a school much like the one in which I studied. It would be a great pleasure to pass on what I have learned to a new crop of Cincinnati painters.

If we can return to a recognizable and universal artistic language, use new technologies, and take advantage of easy access to information, tomorrows artists will push painting in directions we never dreamed of.

So, how did it go over? Pretty well. I think most people appreciate being told the truth. I think people like it when someone finally says, "Hey! The emperor ain't got no clothes on!"
Must admit, I was a bit worried I would offend. I mean some people actually like modern art.

In the end it seems I only ruffled one person's feathers.
She even warned me ahead of time. She said "Just to warn you, there is an "artist" in the crowd"- as if she knew she was going to disagree with what I was about to say.

After I finished my speech, I asked if anyone had questions. Sure enough, someone asked about Picasso, saying, "Despite what he is know for, he was able to draw like the masters wasn't he?" (Why does he always come up? I wonder if his estate get money every time his name is mentioned?).
Anyway, I let loose that his artistic abilities have been greatly exaggerated. His 'realistic' student work was mediocre at best. Rather than paint a picture of a beautiful woman, he decided it was best to destroy them visually in his paintings- he also did a fine job destroying them in his relationships too- If I could say anything nice about him- he was brilliant salesman.
This was too much, and the hand of the "artist" in the crowd shot up. She asked why I felt the need to speak ill of other artists.

My answer was, and is, "Why not?"
We can say a movie sucks, a sports team is terrible, even that someone singing their heart out is painful to listen to. Right? The general public love watching no-talent hacks being torn apart on American Idol.
But, If someone says that "art" or an "artist" is bad, uninspired, ridiculous or confusing, there will be a hoard of "artists", gallery directors and fancy art critics coming to the rescue proclaiming that you have no right to your uninformed opinion.

After some more back and forth, she pointed at my Peanut Butter and Jelly painting hanging on the wall and shouted out, "You're a Pop Artist. You are a Pop Artist.......accept it!"

I sort of ignored that and moved on to my painting demonstration.
Now I would like to go on record to let you know why it was a silly statement. Pop Art is not what I do, even if you try to shoe horn me into it for insult inducing reasons. Admittedly, I occasionally paint known commercial products, but I put them in a context. My Peanut Butter and Jelly Painting is a scene of a childhood memory; a modern interpretation of the grand "banquet pieces" from the Dutch Golden Age of Painting . Pop Art takes these objects out of context and presents them alone. There is no story, there is no meaning other than "look at this! It's a Campbells® Soup can!"
I did think of some great comebacks on my drive home. For example: "Na uh, you're a Pop Artist!"
Oh well, next time.

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