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The sacredness of art in contemporary society is a theme Komar and Melamid have touched on before, in their “People‘s Choice” project, where citizens of various countries were polled about their likes and dislikes in art. From the statistics generated by these polls, the two artists created a “Most Wanted” and a “Least Wanted” painting for each nation. Much to their surprise, the project generated an intense amount of hostility, with many people viewing this painting-by-numbers as a kind of defilement of the sacred act of artistic creation. “I haven’t met anyone who doesn‘t believe in art,” Melamid says. “These days, it is the most universal religion. More people believe in art now than in any particular religion.” According to Melamid, the basis of this religion is that artists are creators: “We’re the only people in the world who create -- just us and God.”
As Komar and Melamid see it, the religion of art has its own Holy Trinity -- Leonardo, Rembrandt and van Gogh. It is the last, however, whom they credit with really kicking off the new church, and it is he whom they see as the archetypal artist. When speaking of van Gogh, Melamid falls into hushed, reverential tones: “In a way he died for our sins. He‘s a Christ-like figure. You always need some person to get the religion going, and he made this church happen.” I mention Galileo, the supposedly persecuted scientist who got the modern science of physics off the ground. Melamid concurs enthusiastically: “Yes, you always need a suffering figure to make it happen. Art, science, religion -- the legends are based on the same presumptions,” at least in the Western world.
Melamid points out that Jesus not only suffered for our sins, “He proved his power through healing, through rising from the dead, et cetera.” It is just this power Melamid sees as the true future of art. “Art is about communication,” he says, “communication between the artist and the people. But maybe you don’t need anything in between -- the object of a painting for instance. Maybe you can just go directly to the people.” In other words, artists could give up painting and sculpture per se, give up the production of new objects, and use their power to heal people directly. It‘s not like there’s any lack of good art in the world, Melamid notes. “I don‘t think we need any more objects,” he opines.
What about him and Komar? “Myself, I am trying not to produce any more objects,” says Melamid. “Why? What for?” In a capitalist society art has become just another process of production, he says, another way of churning out consumer goods: “I don’t think this is what art is about -- if it is about anything.” If it is about anything, for Komar and Melamid it is about psychological, physiological and spiritual renewal. To that end, they see their future not in front of an easel but in front of an audience, “preaching.” They already have several events lined up where they will begin “spreading the word” about the “Healing Power of Art.” In this time of crisis and confusion, says Brother Melamid, “we bring hope to the people.” What more could any artist offer?