By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
While some may argue to the contrary, contemporary art is not a luxury. I believe it is a necessity. It satisfies not only a visual need, but also an educational and, most importantly, a spiritual need for us. Art should teach us about how we relate to the world. It seems ironic, then, that the curriculum taught in most MFA programs addresses almost everything but fulfilling these needs. Art institutions today work more like business schools than any kind of creative laboratory. As is often the case with such professional schools, the credential has come to mean more than any individual biography or personal point of view. From the creative side, art theory has begun to play such a dominant role in art school that I feel it has lobotomized many young creative minds. Young MFAs are required to read endless texts, many written more than 20 years ago by stuffy Frenchmen with navel-gazing theories holding little or no relevance to life in Bush’s America. They are then asked to somehow relate their work to these deconstructionist theories and then be judged by how successfully they do this.
The primary problem with this kind of education is that by diving deeper and deeper into the theoretical and self-referential, artists lose touch with their public. As a result, the public, particularly the young public, often feels alienated from art. Intentionally or not, people have been made to feel inferior to the art intelligentsia. What inevitably follows is that art becomes simply something to be bought, sold and understood by a very small sector of the population and it loses its urgent role as a means of communication or as a catalyst for social or cultural change.
On more than one occasion I have felt the urge to spray-paint “Mike Kelley is the Enemy” on walls around the city. Nothing against Kelley; his early work in particular was a big inspiration and holds great meaning for me. Rather, I want to do this as a statement to young artists that they need to kill their heroes to discover themselves.
Of course, I’m generalizing. There are many young, emerging artists working today who truly believe in the relevance of what they are doing and have the chops and points of view to back it up. And this isn’t to suggest that all artwork should be political. I believe that a personal statement that is drawn from the heart can be more powerful and effective than propaganda. Works that have inspired me recently include those by Ashley Macomber, a Los Angeles artist who creates intricately painted human/animal hybrids that could be said to resemble those campy American Indian paintings found on truck-stop T-shirts. Upon deeper consultation, however, they provide a strong commentary on our relationships to each other, nature and ourselves. Also of note is the East Coast collective Paperrad, whose multimedia installations include everything from sculpture to animation to printed fanzines. The collective’s innocent yet sophisticated approach to art consistently leaves me feeling hungry for more. Other artists of interest include Masaki Kawai, Matt Leines, Tauba Auerbach, Jim Drain and Jo Jackson. Needless to say there is much good work out there.
Some of these artists are MFAs and some are not. The point of all this is that if young artists had the courage and the encouragement to focus more on their art than the “art business,” there would be even more inspiring work to see and less distance between art and the public. Maybe all it takes is a little less thinking and a lot more feeling. If we could open our hearts amazing things could happen.
Below are some links you may find inspiring:
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