Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm Sorry But Some Art is Just Crap!

So last weekend I went to Atlanta's High Museum with a few friends to see an exhibit called "Picasso to Warhol." I was so excited because I am an amateur artist, which in translation means I am too poor to afford art school and wanted to study the brush strokes and methods of these famous, widely respected artists. The High Museum's website described the exhibit as follows:

"Picasso to Warhol will present approximately 100 works of art created by 14 of the most iconic artists from the 20th century: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Constantin Brancusi, Piet Mondrian, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp, Giorgio De Chirico, Joan Miró, Romare Bearden, Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Louise Bourgeois, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. The exhibition will be one of the largest concentrations of modern art masterpieces to ever be exhibited in the southeastern United States. "

Now, as a general rule, I have always preferred the artistic styles of the Impressionists such as Monet, Renoir, Degas and Manet but I was more than a little curious about the fascination people seemed to have with “Pop Art.” I tried to keep an open mind as we made our way to the elevator. My friend, Diana, a hot little Spanish thing, encountered a security guard drunk with power.

"Eh! Throw out that water bottle. You can't have that in here. Eh, did you hear me?"

Yes, she heard the water Nazi, but there was no garbage can in sight as we got onto the elevator on our way to the 3rd floor where the art was being showcased. We quickly closed the elevator door and fought off the strong urge to give the guard the one finger salute, aka, the finger.

Pablo Picasso. Girl Before a Mirror. 1932. Oil on canvas.
The Museum of Modern Arts, New York, NY, USA.
As the elevator doors parted we were immediately greeted with Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror. Diana, afraid a guard would slap handcuffs on her and take her off to museum jail, found a trash can and threw her bottle away. We approached the painting. I studied it for a moment, noticing the red tear that seemed to be cascading down her cheek. I couldn't help thinking that if I looked that way I'd cry too. How many breasts does she have? What's with the small green one on top of the other two?

Still, with all of the madness, strange placing of body parts and taking into account the acid trip I am certain good ol' Pablo was on when he painted it, I couldn't help but appreciate his technique and peculiar, yet thought provoking perception of the human form. It was something that would make you stare at it wanting to know more about the artist, his thought process and if something was wrong with his eyesight.

We said good-bye to the Picassos and headed to the Warhol exhibit. Now, unless you live under a rock, you have probably at some point in your life seen Warhol’s soup cans, though you may have mistaken them for a Campbell’s add. This piece, along with the famous brightly colored Marilyn portraits were pretty much all I knew about Warhol’s art. I was curious to see if there was more to his art than just commercialism. Diana and I made our way around the exhibit and both stopped as we came to the Brillo pad boxes.

Andy Warhol - Brillo box
Synthetic paint silk screen on wooden box
No, you didn’t read that wrong. It was, in fact several Brillo pad boxes scattered and stacked on a platform. Why this is art is beyond me. The only thing I can come up with is that instead of using actual Brillo pad boxes, because that would be stupid, Warhol used synthetic paint and silk screened wooden boxes to look exactly like Brill pad boxes.

As I contemplated sitting on the boxes, thinking if anyone gave me crap I could explain how I was making it interactive, functional art and win critical acclaim, I overheard some art enthusiasts discussing the piece.

“He was truly a visionary. His simplistic approach to art…”

I stopped listening. It is boxes on a floor! You can see the same thing in any grocery store. Just be sure to go when they are re-stocking shelves. I viewed a few more of Warhol’s “visionary” paintings and came to the conclusion that I just don’t get his work.

Jasper Johns
I moved on to view the paintings of Southern artist, Jasper Johns. I can sum up his work in four words: numbers, letters, flags and maps. The first piece I viewed was aptly titled “0-9.” It was literally the numbers 0-9. That was it. Sesame Street was more engaging in its presentation. It looked as though Johns woke up one morning, thought, Ahhh, shit! My art project is due today! He grabbed some number stamps, dipped them in ink and pressed them on paper.

His teacher, impressed with his dipping and pressing skills, along with his ability to count to 9 decided he needed to head to New York where he could be appreciated by all.

Not overly impressed with these paintings, with the exception of Picasso, I found myself wishing for Diana’s water bottle so I could squirt water on the numbers to make them more interesting. I thought, Iconic my ass! I decided to switch it up and view some sculpture thinking I had nowhere to go but up.


Louise Bourgeois
The first sculpture I encountered was long oblong, wooden shape forms painted white and sky blue and stuck into a base. I asked Diana and Sara if they were supposed to be dildos to which Diana replied, “Maybe.” We searched the platform and came upon the sculptor’s name, Louise Bourgeois and the description Quarantania that was described as a family portrait. Well the blocks of painted wood do resemble each other.

Okay…Moving on…

The next “sculptor” who is technically a surrealist, was Marcel Duchamp. As we walked into the room I noticed a very odd piece.

“Diana, is that a snow shovel?”

High above us, suspended from a wire was indeed a snow shovel.

Marcel Duchamp
In Advance of the Broken Arm
“Why would the janitors do that?”  I asked.

Well, turns out, they wouldn’t. This was the “sculpture.” Apparently, Duchamp, who I also later found out viewed urinals as art, strolled into a hardware store one day, saw a snow shovel, bought it, signed it, hung it from a wire, gave it a fancy name to throw off the critics and called it art.

You are probably wondering, WTH? Unless you were just hit with 2ft of snow, who would pay money for this?

Andy Warhol, that’s whom. It seems Andy was greatly inspired by Duchamp’s work and had this piece hanging in his studio for inspiration. I have no explanation for this.

Baffled, I decided to try paintings again. I headed towards the Pollock section where I came face to face with Lavender Mist.

* Side note: When I was a kid, the parents of my best friend, Irene, handed us a couple of paint brushes, some silver, lavender and black paint and turned us loose on the white walls of her bedroom. We flicked paint haphazardly at the walls. Then, deciding it needed something extra, we covered our hands in the paint and stuck them all over the walls. 20 years later, the room still looks the same; partially as a tribute to our youth and partially because Irene, whom bought her parents’ house, has no idea how to cover it up. However, I am pretty sure she took down the picture of Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran.

Jackson Pollock
Lavender Mist
So, why did I bother to share that with you? Because it seems at some point in his life, Jackson Pollock’s parents did the exact same thing. I sat for a few minutes staring at the piece, trying to relax my eyes in the hopes of seeing a dinosaur, a teddy bear or something. No such luck. The painting was Irene’s room without the personalization of hand prints.

The museum was closing so Sara, Diana and I left and headed to the car in silence, each hoping the other would come up with some profound explanation for what we had viewed that would allow some light bulb to go off and we would suddenly "get it". None of us did.

“They were Brillo boxes,” I said partially as a statement and partially as a question.

“Right?!?” Diana and Sara both replied, clearly as puzzled as I was.

Then it hit me. They were screwing with us. Realizing the need for the gallery owners to find the next great artist coupled with the insecurity critics feel about finding the next movement fearing someone will discover they have no idea what the hell they are talking about, the artists decided to poke fun at both.

I suddenly got this image in my head of these famous artists all sitting around a table, having coffee and chain smoking.

Pollock: “…so I was painting when my girl called and broke up with me. I got so pissed I grabbed my brush and just started throwing paint and dripping it all over the canvas. My agent walked in and went nuts over it! What an idiot! Time magazine put me on the cover and started calling me “Jack the Dripper.”

Warhol: “Oh yeah, well I painted a damn soup can! Then I grabbed some wooden boxes, slapped some paint on them and called it art. The critics started talking about how wonderfully simplistic it was and how I was rebelling against the conventional style of carefully executed, thought provoking work with commercialization! Ha!”

Picasso: “Well I took some LCD while I was painting, started daydreaming about this chick with 3 boobs. The critics loved it. I mean, my God! Did you see where I put her nose?!?”

Duchamp: “I got you all beat. I hung a snow shovel from the ceiling called it art and they bought it! So did you, Andy. Asshole!”

That was it! I figured it out. They were a bunch of hip, sarcastic practical jokers that were ripping on the art world. I loved the ingenious sarcasm of it all. Crap art no, but sarcasm I can respect! I now find myself wanting in on the joke. I am going to put in a call to Irene and see if she is up for having people come pay $20 bucks a pop to see the room we painted. In the meantime, I am going to head to the store and buy some boxes of Tide and some toilet paper. I’ll stack the boxes, drape toilet paper all over it and listen as the critics rave about my commentary on how I feel art has gone to shit. Man, am I going to be rich!

So it is only fair that since I trashed these works, I post some of my own for ridicule. The only thing I would like to remind you of is that I am an untrained amateur while the artists above are famous, iconic and critically acclaimed.

OK, bash away!

Dad's horses.
Acrylic on cigar box (Father's Day gift)

Passion Unleashed
Acrylic on canvas

McNamara Terminal - Detroit-Metro Airport
Acrylic on canvas

Amy's Angels
Acrylic on canvas


  1. Words can not describe how much I enjoy your blogs. They are sometimes used as a cheerful, sarcastic, and hilariously funny read during a crappy day. Thank on to my formal complaint in regards to the "water Nazi."

  2. I am so glad you like them and that they give you that pick me up. I think we should sneak up on the water Nazi and dump a barrell of water over his head!LOL Cupcake date after the 1st of the year!!!, K?

  3. Hee hee... I have to agree, although I do have a soft spot for Picasso.

    Perhaps I'm just jealous because, unlike Tracy Emin and other 'famous artists', I can't wake up in the morning thinking 'Damn. I need to make some art today, my bedroom is a pit and the rent is due... Oh, I know, I'll just take my disgusting bed and my carpet down to the Saatchi Gallery and sell it for an obscene amount of cash.'

    Seriously though, your paintings are brilliant! Who needs training when you can paint horses like that? :)

  4. I actually have a soft spot for Picasso too. I particularly like his earlier works.

    And don't worry, I am certain that if you keep painting the way you do, someone will pay to buy your bedroom sheets or your rake or some other ludicrous item and deem it as art.

    And thank you for the compliment. I hope you do great at your showing:) Please let me know how it goes and please continue to post pictures of your art as you create them. I'm looking forward to seeing more.

  5. u don't know anythinggggg about art

    1. Never said I did. Well, that's not true. I do know that art is subjective and I know what I like and what I don't. That said, I DO know how to spell.

  6. Art, not unlike music is purely subjective. I believe people have a tendency to "jump on the bandwagon" so to speak not to feel left out. Everyone is saying a piece of art work is magnificent, so you agree even though it looks like a piece of crap to you.