FINAL PART II ( A Decade of Negative Thinking: RECIPE ART )


This essay immediately follows Schor's Trite Tropes, Clichés, or the Persistence of Styles, and appropriately elaborates on similar ideas. Schor first begins by discussing how a contemporary artwork can be recognized by it's description, 

"It was a 12-foot-tall replica of a church, or more accurately the charred beams and gables left standing after a church had been burned. Instead of wood, however, the entire structure was made from salt."

Schor explains the high concept two sentence description as being reviewed because it can be written about efficiently. It is not necessary to see the piece. She discusses an example, Alan Schechner's Buchenwald Coke can, and how her mother didn't see the exhibition it was featured in, but read so much about it, that it occurred to Schor, 

"but the point is that based on one reproduction in the New York Times and several descriptions of it, only two paradigms (in three words) are relevant to the mechanism - Buchenwald + Coke can - and these were enough to make the work memorable, sight unseen. Any work whose description would be longer or more complex is too long and too complex and therefor probably not a good contemporary artwork, because it would not display the economy of content that is the partner of recipe art."
Alan Schechner

Schor continues stating that the description of the work may matter more than the work itself, that sculpture is plagued by the same range of clichés as painting, since much recipe art is object based. She gives a thorough example of  "The Ten Most Popular Art Projects in the 90's", then makes a clear statement of works that are derivative of Surrealism,

"Surrealism continues to be a favored style, evident in the extravagant imaginary creatures populating Matthew Barney's Cremaster series; the new Goth sensibility of David Altmejd's 'bejeweled werewolves'-.."

David Altmejd

Schor gives numerous examples of contemporary artists making work within the surrealist family tree. Schor then switches gears into other traits that recipe art possess.

"Despite the prevalence of formal economy, another characteristic of recipe art is that the premise of the work can seem very recherché, or what the French call "tirer les vers du nez" (to pull worms from the nose, a difficult job).  You need to know a lot to understand the work, or the work may be visually pleasing, and the premise may have validity, but the connection between the two is obscure to the viewer who has not read the accompanying, or precessionary, text." 

This particular quote by Schor resonated with me because this trait of an artwork has been one that has constantly baffled me. An artist makes a work that is near completely inaccessible, or requires so much work that is cannot be understood, yet it is constructed in such a visually trendy way that you're left pulling at strings. Works that fall within this category never fail to make me feel as if the artist has little to no interest in their audience whatsoever, on top of that, they seem only interested in making their work obscure and likeable enough to elicit commercial interest.

"If the general rule of recipe art is that it must take physical form in order to participate in the market but also be formulated for quick verbal consumption for marketing purposes,"

A rule of thumb to successfully market. It's not that I do not believe artists should have market success for the work that they are making, but I do believe that market success should not be the primary intention when constructing the work, and should not be a part of the original intention behind a works construction. Schor states that most teachers work hard to remain responsive and responsible to new movements, but all teachers may not be able to compensate for other gaps in contemporary aesthetic education and market conditions. This unfortunately makes graduate art students susceptible to market pressure. Schor gives examples of how schools are supporting notions of self promotion early in an artists career, and rumors about teacher's contracts being renewed by how successfully they are able to network for their students careers. She goes on, 

"Then the art world grabs the graduate school product most likely to rely entirely on the clever recycling or currently appropriate, obsolescent styles."

Schor argues the point that the structure of this system of legacy and continuity become so commodified and trivialized that the entire system seems to be going in circles. She returns to Chuck Close's comments regarding working through other people's work, 

"And we all knew it was student work, it could not be confused with mature work, and nobody thought twice about it.  You could not leave graduate school and take the paintings you did at graduate school and go to New York and get a show."

I think this point is one that many young artists fail the realize. While the work you make in school is crucial to your artistic development, it needs to be recognized as exactly that, a single part of your art practice that will develop and grow, something that needs to be worked through. Through out this portion of the essay it feels as thought Schor is stressing the need to consider the longevity of ones ideas, and the importance of seeing the bigger picture of ones own art production,

"...freezing into formulaic product what might in the past have been just a stage in the movement toward more-individualized work.  Market success makes one stubbornly resistant to change. And who am I to argue with success? Or, put differently, the young artist can think to himself, who is she to argue with my success? The artists who have learned to deploy the most current tropes are likely to be showing their work and even selling it, and it is hard to critique artists at such (usually fleeting) moments in their career."

Schor makes a clear point here, how are these artists supposed to be self critical when their work is being received so successfully and they're making money. Haters gonna hate. But Schor's sentiment lies deeper than criticizing an artist's early success. Work that is more interesting, and more successful in moving the language of art forward is being denied recognition because the work cannot be turned so easily into a commodity. 

"they undermine the very real, formal, and conceptual interest of so much other work that is successful, that addresses major issues of our time - from ecology to technology to war- within a substantial formal investigation; and they promote within the world of high culture the values of late free-market capitalism"

Because that's what every artist wants to see, art that supports capitalism. I mean, there are no problems with this in the U.S. right? None at all. Schor talks about how easy capitalism is for young artists to digest,

"In fact you don't have to force capitalism down the throats of young artists who have been bred into an unquestioning acceptance of its rules and recipes, even if they will in most cases ultimately be among its many victims." 

Schor breaks this down, explains, supports. One of her final statements becomes about authenticity and gesture. 

"It is a strangely complex paradox: self-expression and authenticity form the bedrock of the rhetoric of art practice, yet the critique of authenticity and originality has been so effective (even when the artist is uneducated to theory), and simulation, conventionalized commodification, and sampling are so present in everyday existence, that the hardest challenge for an artist today is to make an authentic mark that represents personal or formal investigation."

There is so much to say about this final quote that it's difficult to even know where to begin.  We critique originality and authenticity in favor of recipe works of art that fail to even understand what a real gesture should embody. For me, gesture isn't just a painterly mark, its an action with physical evidence that speaks not only to the content of the work and it's respective place within art history, but also to the culture at large.  I wholeheartedly agree with Schor that a gesture is an authentic and sincere mark, that it is most challenging to accomplish, but communicates everything about the personal and formal investigation that artist is having. If young artists would be more concerned with achieving this, instead of early market success and fame, the language and place of art would be in a much better place.

If man is 5, then the devil is 6, and god is 7.

No comments:

Post a Comment