Making art of the less spectacular

One of the problems that faces artists is the feeling their art should impress.When discussing this  Richard Tuttle,the American post minimalist artist said that Art is not about the response it gets but a tool to get to what we know is the truth


Thinking about Orozco

I have been thinking about the Orozco show I saw at the Tate in London , about a month ago. At the time I am not sure I really enjoyed it – I didn’t know his work , so I found it difficult to understand what the work was doing .

I had seen a photo of a Citroen  cut down in size  (LaDS 1993) which  intrigued me – it was in the show and was probably the strongest work displayed – along with a human skull covered in  a pencil pattern called Black Kites (1997).Both were  used to advertise the show.

The rest of the show comprised a mixture of work. From paintings of circles and folded paper to  photographs and modified  games. There was a room full of obituaries from the New York Times – and another room of blown out pieces of tyres  taken from the roadside in Mexico.

A room of hanging dryer lint taken from laundrettes in New York shortly after 9/11 was for me perhaps the most engaging piece – referring the human traces left behind after a tragedy of this scale.

There was a  playfulness and a seriousness to the show –referencing  death and fun at the same time.

Photos of oranges on market stalls in an empty market , melons with cans of tuna arranged on them in a supermarket – signs of being alive , of fleeting moments and the enjoyment of witnessing life. This work operates in the realm of the social infrathin . They are like a  record of what it is to be alive and are suggestive of small revolutions  inside a bigger system.They are very human.

He mixes the systematic with the organic and looks at the orderly structures of game playing. His paintings are in fact diagrams  of possibilities , decisions, responses and moves involved in playing any game. Reinventing chess  using only Knights (Horses Running Endlessly 1995)and creating a billiard table with the ball attached to a string from above (Carambole  with Pendulum 1996) –   inviting the viewers to interact with the work and with each other.

Orozco’s empty shoe box represents a still life for today. Arguably the most significant object in the show – it plays with the public’s notion of what art is. Is the box an empty gesture- the emperor’s new clothes? Like Duchamp -it focuses on the idea and concept more than the execution of the work where the viewers are an adjunct to the work .For Orozco it is a personal attempt to see and understand the common stuff of life in a new way through endless experimentation. He finds new ways of looking at familiar things. He challenges our concept of utility – of what things are to us  and asks us what is relevant and what is not.

Fresh Hell, Palais de Tokyo ,Louvre and Paris

Just before Christmas we went to Paris for a short break.It was cold.Really cold.As tourists do we wandered around a lot and one of the things I liked about the Palais de Tokyo was the fact that it had comfortable sofas where we could collapse and rest after an exhausting walk in the freezing ice-rain streets of Paris.My son almost fell asleep there.The art?Well some of it good – engaging , some not so much.Husband walked around muttering things like ‘don’t really get it -what do you think …do you get it?I prefer the Louvre‘ etc.

I didn’t get all of it – but then contemporary art is often like that.You need time to feel the art – to engage with it in more than just a visual way and sometimes I think its fair to say you just don’t  really get that with some art.Perhaps a lot has to do with context – perhaps sometimes you just need to be more comfortable – freezing feet don’t help.

The exhibition considered the role of history on the creative process .Creating ‘ a dialogue between medieval sculpture and conceptual art ,vaults and attempts to levitate, forgotten artists and those already blessed by history.When faced with this history what stance can an artist take today?Everything has been done already.’ When starting on a new piece of art the artist can be faced with what can be considered to be a kind of Hell consisting of new ideas overshadowed by the reminder of past successes.

The kids seemed to have fun in that ‘well Mum has dragged us here so lets make the most of it’ kind of way – they added their own contributions to Rudolph Stingel’s ‘Untitled’2003.This piece comprised a  4 metre high wall of silvered industrial insulation material.Intended to be reflective it became a piece about self expression – as the public made etchings and graffiti and placed small notes onto it.Paradoxically by creating the artwork they were also contributing to its destruction.

My favourite piece in the show was Sarah Lucas‘ ‘Is suicide genetic?’1996 shown above in which she uses consumerism as a means of understanding contemporary life.

Overall opinion of the show?To be honest it was only after I left the show and read more about it that I began to appreciate  what the work was doing.It has given me food for thought as an artist – how the past of art can be something of a burden to the contemporary artist and how even when an artist produces something really successful – how do they continue – what comes next?

As a family – it was an experience – we went to the Eiffel Tower afterwards and walked up to the second floor – which lifted our spirits and blew us away with its sheer magnificence. It made me shudder at first but then I thought the brilliance of the past is always there – it can make other work pale in comparison but  then perhaps  it is  just a matter of finding the brilliance in the less spectacular.

My son waits for me to ‘finish’ with the art in the Palais de Tokyo.