Paint Schoodic

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Must the visual arts be a pale imitation of pop culture?

A still life by Amy Digi, from her website, here.
While thinking of my many friends in the greater New York area who are accomplished painters—Brad Marshall, Amy Digi, Patti Mollica, Cindy Zaglin (to name just a very few)— I came across this in the New York Times:

“For example, although I’ve lived in New York for close to five years, my only encounters with the work of Hanksy, a graffiti artist who largely makes his art in New York and whose signature pieces involve the clever mash-up of the actor Tom Hanks and the works of the British artist Banksy, have been through Tumblr and Instagram.

“‘MY popularity exists right now because of social media and the Internet,’ he said in a phone interview.

“Hanksy said that after he put up his first piece in New York, he snapped a photo and uploaded it to the Web. Not long after, he said, ‘Tom Hanks tweeted it and it snowballed and here I am, two and a half years later with three successful solo shows and a rabid following of fans online.’”

One of Hanksy's 'masterpieces,' publicized in The Gothamist. In light of the content, is it OK to say it pisses me off?
A man who blatantly (and feebly) copies Banksy while trading off the name of a Hollywood actor gets three solo shows and an interview in the Old Grey Mare. Meanwhile, very fine painters labor in relative obscurity. I'm usually philosophical about this, but somehow this man's sheer mediocrity annoys me.

Patti Mollica's Into the Light, acrylic on canvas, from her website here.
“That’s not art; that’s a meme,” protested our own Sandy Quang (MA candidate in Art History).

The problem isn’t with the public, which devours anything that comes up in its search box. The problem lies with our so-called tastemakers, the gallery owners and columnists who perpetuate this mediocrity. Their training ought to give them the authority to make critical distinctions, but apparently they lust after notoriety as much as the Kardashians.

A Stream in the White Mountains, New Hampshire, by Brad Marshall, from his website, here.
My friend Jane recently sent me a link to this, which argues that art is not a meritocracy. That’s true, but does it have to be a pale imitation of pop culture instead?

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