Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Andy Moment (?) | Open Thread

Yup, seems it must be rambling nonsense day. I'll try my best to organize these thoughts into something readable:

I can't help but keep reading it as "moment" rather than "Monument." Perhaps it's because I've been thinking a lot lately about how the ideas and sensibilities that Warhol identified and helped put into full motion seem to be reaching their climax. (I think you can make a very strong argument that it's nearly impossible to think about, let alone discuss, contemporary art without viewing it through a Warholian filter.) I've also been thinking, being the insatiable glutton I am, a lot about whose ideas will succeed Warhol's.

Mind you, I'm not joining up with the long-standing, reactionary rejection of Andy's vision (the people who don't yet recognize the importance of his work still have a lot to consider, imho, and will still be lesser for not doing so after Warhol's influence passes), but rather it seems to me that his vision is approaching the end of its reach, at least in how it influences current artistic practice. It's not just the decision in the Richard Prince case (which looks to have a long life ahead of it in appeals court), but the growing lack of interest in celebrity I sense among today's artists. Andy's vision only makes sense in a world where most people wish to be famous.

Celebrity here shouldn't be confused with a desire to be recognized for one's accomplishments. Artists will never lose that (I hope). But "celebrity", by definition, indicates a broad appeal, which encourages a self-perpetuated focus on highlighting those popular common denominators in one's artwork (which is why artists will crank out the same work long past their personal interest in it), which suggests a lack of time for doubt and then depth that might otherwise be possible.

But as the world continues to splinter into more and more self-identified, self-contained universes (via inter-connecting technology), whose recognition you seek out or even care about becomes more easy to define and then, being smaller, handle. The need to have widespread appeal then diminishes, and with it the need to create the same (and safe, because it must contain that signature X factor) work over and over to feed your broad, but indistinct, public. The smaller your universe is the more commited it is to and better understands your vision, and thus the easier it becomes to experiment more without losing that commitment.

None of this is to say Andy didn't experiment or constantly seek out new ways to explore his ideas and present them. Clearly he did. But his vision was one of ever-widening recognition, and, let's face it, because of a combination of high demand and a lack of self-editing not all of his work is as good as his best (which you can say of most highly successful and highly prolific artists, Picasso perhaps being the quintessential example). And so his legacy is mixed.

And more than a lack of interest in widespread celebrity, I'm beginning to sense a growing desire for clarity among artists. We've touched briefly on this before, and I've been watching this evolve for going on two decades now. The approach I saw in the mid- to late-90s in which many artists (almost unwillingly) seemed to take on or create huge amounts of data and try to work through it, seeking systems, patterns, and through them, sanity, finally seems to have given way to a calmer approach: letting all that info-flotsam float around out there as it will but not worrying about it any more. Rather than seeking horizontal metaphors or practices aimed at synthesizing everything in search of some unified theory (hey, if Einstein couldn't do it, why should you feel the pressue to?), it seems to me that more artists are permitting themselves to dig vertically, mining deeper into specific, often entirely esoteric veins. Which may be nothing more than the long predicted return of mannerism, but ...

...I've rambled on long enough. Consider this an open thread on...well, anything really. I've certainly not found any convincing thesis in all this.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Gam said...

it seems to me that more artists are permitting themselves to dig vertically, mining deeper into specific, often entirely esoteric veins.

...I'm in the middle of reading a jaw dropping book on the idea that the brain has two hemispheres in order to hold concurrently two ways of knowing the world. One peripheral and always in flux, attending to the world. The other focused inward on logic and known systems - stasis. The book is much to complex to resume here, but the upshot is that these two ways of knowing, have typically been in a balance, but that over the past generations, the logos-stasis- what is already known side, has upsurged the side that embraces the unknown-becoming other. (the book is fascinating in anecdotes of studies showing the impact of one or the other viewpoint)

That artists tend to now become specialized appears to follow that trend. I wouldn't say no to the ever-changing contradictory paradoxical side of art. The juxtapositions of contrary is still the only way for deeper insights in my view - that's why things disappear when you stare at one thing in isolation)

anyway - that we take only an isolated focus or just a periphery view is of concern, we really need both.

(the books is The master and his emissary)

3/31/2011 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger markcreegan said...

I see Warhol's influence on art as bringing American celebrity/image culture into focus. The car crashes, electric chairs, etc were also part of this to demonstrate the entirety of the culture or both sides of the fantasy/reality spectrum. He embodied this in his work and life.
Now this is all played out for us by celebrity culture itself (see Charlie Sheen) I feel there is nothing I can do as an artist to scrutinize/mock celebrity culture that it isnt already doing wonderfully.
Warhol came onto the scene at the height of American culture, as the influence of that culture wanes it makes for less a target for exploration.

3/31/2011 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a kid I was aware of 4 artist. Picasso ,Dali ,Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol . I discovered Warhol looking at my mom's fashion magazines. Andys the big oak tree by the side of the road, he will always be there. What is happening is the big Roll over in everything. All the Boomers will be dead in 30 yrs. to all the twenty something kids, its going to be all your's soon. Be prepared and ready to pounce.

3/31/2011 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger Joanne Mattera said...

Ed, you've come up with a great band name: The Warholian Filters.

3/31/2011 05:01:00 PM  
Blogger ellen yustas k. gottlieb said...

Hello Edward, you didn't say if you like the "moment" but this is the way of subtle suggestion of how you percieve it. Sometimes "moments" like this get more attention then monuments. Thanks for writing this post in a style of monumental thinking. Always enjoy and read every of your posts, yours sincerely

3/31/2011 06:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Terri said...

It's an old poll by internet standards (2007), but they will be/are the newest crop of artists and art collectors/purchasers:
http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-01-09-gen-y-cover_x.htm

I have this theory that the arts are the collective unconscious of a society, and as such they produce the dreams and visions of the future for society to enact/enable/display -- for good or bad.

Andy's dream is now reality.

It would be really nice if people in the arts would not create/dream so much socially negative stuff -- I believe that exposing/processing the evils in society is an important function of the arts (like a canary in a coal mine); but we need to work to do more good by creating/dreaming a better society with better goals/visions/aspirations.

3/31/2011 07:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

I believe there is a correlation between the waning interest in celebrity culture (I hope that is the case) and the growing interest in sustainability.

3/31/2011 08:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Ries said...

Regardless of Andy's fascination with celebrity, he still did what all real artists do, without being able to stop- he made art. All the time.
He was a notorious workaholic- and I believe that even if his work hadnt sold for lots of money, he would still have been making art every day til he died.

4/01/2011 01:04:00 PM  

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