FEATURED IMAGE: Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009). 1951. Trodden Weed, Philadelpia Museum of Art
Reflections upon reading, Jasper Johns: “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.”. The long read, By Barbara Rose. Published 7 September 2017. Royal Academy Magazine.
Means whatever you want? Pop Corn Art.
All this name-dropping. Starts to grate?
Critics can’t help themselves.
But art is also a business.
The art means what?
It came to me jogging.
What is the man actually saying? What does this heterodox flurry of images mean?
Answer, whatever you want. Like a candy store, there’s something for everyone.
It’s Feet Up art for the leisured generation.
So it mirrors the age.
Rummaging the treasure chest. Starts to grate?
One can have a problem with young Jasper.
Some way into Ms Rose’s panegyric, as a Mr Johns work “quotes” yet another art history icon, I was reminded of Democrat Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s now famous rejoinder to Republican Senator Dan Quayle in the US 1988 VP debate. `Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.’
As we see how the hatching in Munch’s Self portrait by chance matches Mr Johns use of it, after, the story goes, he spotted it on a passing bus.
In the same vein we are reminded of the work of another postwar American “giant”, Mr Cy Twombly, who also indulged a lazy sustained penchant for shamelessly tapping, “quoting” history, in an apparently banal, glib or obscure way,
So one thinks, in both cases, how about a blind tasting?
Assemble a panel of well informed “experts” unfamiliar with the work of CT or JJJ, show them a bunch of relevant images, then ask them to jot down what references each image might suggest: literary, historic, artistic etc.
So I wonder how many might find in JJJ… the Isenheim Altarpiece? Munch’s Self portrait? Not to mention Proust! And Hart Crane, William Faulkner, etc etc.
The Isenheim Altarpiece?? Isn’t it kind of sacrilegious to blithely cite this iconic work?
Lazy, feet up, follow your nose art, for the TV generation.
You live long enough, stay busy, keep pouring out visual encounters of a diverse and wondrous kind, permutations of which allow vastly more possibilities, and soon there’s enough material to keep legions of agile energetic minds occupied searching connections and meaning.
One likes the quip about André Gide! Like a wise quarry, play hard to get.
And you laugh near the end too, coming across the artist one Barnett Newman, a remarkable but dare I say successful diligent self-promoter (with help from a dutiful wife), labouring tirelessly to coax profound meaning from his trademark trouser aid motif. And labouring “heroically” too one gathers.
Well this heavy adverb might fit far better, for example, the work of an elderly lady Australian indigenous artist called Sally Gabori who died a year or so back, whose best work, also abstract, could easily hold its own against the AbEx leaders and also be effortlessly authentic.
So, unfashionably, Mr Andrew Wyeth’s 1951 Trodden Weed might beat any image here by JJJ?
There’s nothing in principle against contemporary art, so long as it says something, shows constructive purpose.
The critics let rip: into overdrive, no brakes!
“Rather, he is great because, somehow, he accesses and articulates, in a gorgeous, sensual manner, mysteries that, for the rest of us, are unfathomable. …..
Indeed, many of his paintings have an arcane, rabbinical quality.
Like a priest, he seems to be in possession of great wisdom and spiritual insight into fundamental aspects of our existence.
We may employ a different phrase, and say that he taps, rapturously, into something divine…” Per A. Mr Sooke in the Daily Telegraph.
Lucky I was sitting down when I read this.
As I say, try a blind tasting and see how many tick, Divine hues, or Rabbinical overtones, or Hints of unfathomable mysteries.
Something here of that story about the Emperor who forgot his clothes?
Yes we need to remember art is also a business. The artists, the museums, the critics, the private commercial galleries, the auction houses. And for a small coterie of artists their output is big business. Lots of noughts.
So we have what the governance manual calls, conflict of interest.
Cheer up. Modernity is a wonderful thing
Finally as a Whig optimist, now unfashionable in many quarters, one smiles at the gloomy reactionary pessimism near the end of the RA essay, “the technology-dominated…. world threatened with extinction because of human greed, brutality and ignorance”. This is misleading, elitist and probably dead wrong.
Ask the billions of people today who can now access sewage facilities thanks to “technology”.
Between the Clock and the Bed, 1981. Oil on canvas. 182.9 x 320.7 cm. Collection of the artist
Edvard Munch (1863-1944) Self-portrait. Between the clock and the bed, 1940-43, 120.5 x 149.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo, Norway
Sally Gabori (c1924- March 2015). 2008, Dibirdibi Country, synthetic polymer paint on linen, 200 x 600 cm, Queensland Art Gallery.