Saturday, September 04, 2010

When Groundbreaking Artists Become Kitsch Where Does it Leave the Rest of Us?

When Groundbreaking Artists Become Kitsch Where Does it Leave the Rest of Us?

One negative aspect of the information driven times we live in-- and how it is reflected in our culture-- is the fact that great artists from the recent past often become kitsch figureheads. Take for example Frida Kahlo-- who is now more apt to be admired as a tattoo than heard about in a worth-while discussion about art. The history behind her work and the importance of what she achieved is often forgotten in exchange for a watered down reflection of who she was and what her artwork represented.

The same can be said for Jackson Pollock-- once seen as a ground breaking painter the work he left behind is-- today-- often scoffed at as mere child’s play. Within the context of today’s culture the importance of what Pollock did is missed. Yet the grand parade goes on in that these artists are still honored in the prestigious halls of great museums and the coveted walls of art galleries worldwide. Individuals will view Pollock’s art in awe while on a visit to an art museum only to chuckle about his artwork in another setting. I would like to think that art appreciation is not decided upon setting alone. It leaves one to ask where this breakdown-- this cultural confusion-- occurred.

This twist on artists from the recent past is something I find intriguing-- though at the same time I loathe what these artists have been made into-- it is the perfect example of what happens when we think of artists as a product. How can an artist be seen as a fixture of the art world while at the same time viewed as almost laughable in current art debate-- and within current culture itself? Obviously the greats of our recent past-- the artists who paved the way for so many others-- live on today having been cast into dual roles-- one as influential artist and the other as kitsch figurehead. Even groundbreaking artists like Georgia O’ Keeffe have had their artwork dumbed down.

When thinking about this several questions strike me. For example, where does the blame fall? Should the dual roles these greats have been subjected to be considered shameful? I suppose it is hard to say where the finger should be pointed. One could point at the media, at mass merchandising of these familiar faces and artworks, or at the art world itself. That said, I find it interesting that groundbreaking artists of the past are so easily dismissed today while at the same time placed upon their respected thrones.

I for one stand firm on the fact that there is more to these past greats than nifty coffee cup designs. Even within current culture their artwork is valid in my opinion. These artists are something more than mere product-- there artwork has meaning that is greater than a tattoo displaying their image or a box office bomb-- of which portrayals of Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani have notably endured. If I am wrong-- where does that leave the rest of us? Will the greats of our time be subjected to the same dual role in the future?

When the groundbreaking artists of our relatively recent past become figureheads of kitsch one must ask if our visual culture has somehow went awry. What say you?

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor


rasama said...

Information driven overload, and the quest for more, along with the need for the latest, greatest trend leaves us all in the dust. You are right on target with this post. It's more then art being diluted in the media.

Everything great gets pulverized into the bottom line of greed. Led Zepplin songs sells Cadillacs, Beatles drive ATT sales for cell phones, Picasso's art is splashed all over Madrid on scarves, wallets and tourist trinkets. It's all about dollars.

You point out that it's a dumbing down. It's bigger than that. Popular culture has reduced great artists, musicians to an average bell curve. Everyone can be a star. Anyone can call themselves an artist. Masses rule over individuals. We all have to be the same - no one stands out.

Could it be our educators? The loss of teaching history accurately? Or the giant corporate push to make human value into dollars and cents? Is it Hollywood pumping out blockbusters to pay movie stars astronomical salaries at the cost of historical truth and substantial learning? Who knows!

I am just glad there are thinkers such as yours self asking the right questions...

Anonymous said...

Hi, Brian, in my humble opinion, when this phenomenon occurs, it is time for a new paradigm or more paradigms, let us put aside the repetitions and recognize, analyze and tolerate what is different! We need a new point of view, another perspective another enriching reality in the art, in this case the painting!