Monday, August 04, 2008

Rules, Limitations, and Situations

Rules: Stick to one thing, make one kind of art, find a signature style, make it easy to sell.

Limitations: Exploring a range of media or concepts is a bad thing. If you’re a painter, paint. If you’re a sculptor, carve. Don’t’ ask too much of the viewer, and don’t overtax your own imagination.

Situations: Avoid narrative. Narrative situates your art in a particular time and space. At best it marks your own output as storytelling and at worst it illustrates someone else’s story.

These have been the rules of contemporary art. Imagine these rules falling off of a turning world, and artists, Prometheans unbound from the marketplace, regaining a lost freedom. A little pop backstory: Prometheus as envisioned by the poet Percy Bysse Shelley uncompromisingly speaks truth (art) to power (marketplace), and herein lies the moral of the story. In art there are no rules, no limitations, no given situations. The best art comes by surprise, puts stones beneath wheels, and upsets apple carts.

Personally, I have found it difficult to keep my apple cart on a smooth path. I draw like a painter, paint like a sculptor, and make three-dimensional work that is effectively two-dimensional. Drawing the figure has trained my hand. Time given to walking the landscape informs the spatial narrations of my installations. Heidegger’s concept of physis provides a cogent explanation of my painting process and of the way I understand the natural world. It is greatly satisfying to me that artists are once again exploring multiple concepts in multiple media. It’s a leap of faith I know, but I hope this means that their work reflects a more engaged and rigorous intelligence than has lately been the case, and that they, unlike Prometheus, will not have their livers eaten out by the powers that be.

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