Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Conceptual Art

This form of modern art was defined by Sol LeWitt as follows:

"In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."

Conceptual art raises some compelling philosophical questions about the scope of art, and has provided some provocative and entertaining examples to startle the public:

Yves Klein (1957) released 1001 blue balloons released from Galerie Iris Clert.

Piero Manzoni (1962) created The Base of the World, thereby exhibiting the entire planet as his artwork.

Christo (1962ff) has made a career out of wrapping buildings, islands, and landscapes.

Martin Creed (2001) had a room in which the lights repeatedly went off and on. (Or was it on and off?)

Jacek Tylecki (2008) employed a circular container labeled "Give if you can, take if you have to), in which passersby leave or remove objects as they see fit.

The local art scene had a few avant garde artists who tried their hands at Conceptual Art: Buford Thomas conceived of River Root Contamination, in which he deliberately poured a liter of Barq's Root Beer into the Mississippi, and wrote a narrative of his action. Thelma Fitzgerald made a pyramid of energy drink cans on the lawn of a local museum. Clayton Bulwer filled the lobby of a downtown office building with cow patties, and called his masterwork "Public Cow Shit."

Now Norah Arceneaux had toiled with limited success using the traditional media of expression: oils, watercolor, sculpture, and so forth. As it was time to pay off her student loan for art school, she decided to go a different pathway. It so happened that she experienced the normal problem of less-than-genteel poverty: frayed or worn garments. Specifically, her panties were tired, past the prime of wear and an embarassment that caused anxiety lest she need an appearance at a hospital emergency room.

However, she got an inspiration: combine art and clothing. This came from the well-documented phenomenon of Japan's used panty machines, which struck her as ishy to the max.

She worked it out as follows: The concept she developed was Worn Panties Revealed. She wrote that her art consisted in wearing a different pair of panties each day for the entire day, signing each at day's end, and offering it as a work of art. Her sister provided some initial artistic media (although unknown to her), and she had each one properly framed and exhibited in a local art gallery. Her friend and classmate from art school wrote a favorable narrative of art criticism which specifically stated:

"Ms. Norah Arceneaux has successfully employed a new medium in deconstructing the ordinary tensions inherent in modern life through her deliberate choice in wearing a different pair of panties each day to symbolize a momentary contradiction. Clearly, this is a young artist who has the cheek enough to bear new ground in a continuing dialogue with the viewer. It is strongly encouraged that you view some of Ms. Arceneaux's works at the Galerie Museé."

Soon Worn Panties Revealed generated a lot of buzz in the major art scenes: San Francisco, Seattle, Santa Fé, New York, Savannah, and Cleveland.

Each day she selected an individual theme panty: sometimes bikini briefs, sometimes standard panties, sometimes French cut models, a racy thong now and then (The artistic muse dictated that she bear the lack of comfort attendant to wearing one), and on rare occasions, a pair of granny panties as an ironic statement. Irony is always noticed in the art world, as is tongue-in-cheek humor.  Mood-expressive color and embellishments rounded the range of artistic statements; clearly there was an excellent fit between the artist and her medium! To emphasize the art behind her Panty de Jour, Norah composed a brief note as manifesto, as these examples illustrate:

December 28th's panty was ebony black to represent the discontentof the days being short and the disappointments of the year. 

March 14th's panty was a confection of ebony silk trimmed in white lace:  "This artifact was donned to symbolize the melding of romanticism and optimism for the future, despite the future's essential uncertainty."

March 17th's panty was opaque grannies of lime green colour (sic) to honor the Hibernian spirit.

March 20th's pink panty called for this statement: "I tried to express the tension between innocence and longing in a demure hint of uncertainty that is so characteristic of modern civilization."

April 15th was an occasion to hang an empty frame:  "This is to symbolize today being Income Tax day.  The lack of substantitive covering of the derriere is a representation and protest of the effects of taxation on artistic expression."

May 3rd had her wearing transparent grannies.  She provided a terse statement, "I felt particularly vulnerable at the moment."

July 7th:  A red thong.  "I finally got up enough nerve to wear this; or I will until I've had it with the strap."

While her earlier works went cheaply, as the series' popularity grew, the selling prices continued to climb.

Norah contemplated a single magnum opus as a summary statement: bra wall. However, she was dissuaded from doing so as this work would have been too derivative.


I'm keeping a wary eye on Irene; and will retreat if there's any possible danger.  I may have a shallow learning curve, but one experience like Katrina is enough!  If there's any word to evacuate, I'm so out of here it is not funny!


Anonymous said...

I hope the hurricane misses you and the coast. But bee safe!!!

Anonymous said...

Modern art is basically incomprehensible. I wonder sometimes if it's a cosmic joke played on people with surplus money. Wasn't there a painter who painted perfectly horrid pictures to decorate a restaurant in NYC?

Good luck with the hurricane.