A few weeks ago we visited the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. It's an excellent museum, with a very interesting collection that is curated very well. I really enjoyed walking the galleries--they've done a great job at making it all fit together.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
They had one or two Andy Warhols on view. Warhol is enjoying a surge in popularity right now, which might just be money-related (that is, collectors desire art because other collectors desire it). It seems to me that Warhol is the ultimate self-referential artist.
Warhol did art that was about art. It was about itself. Look at me, I'm a soup can. That's all, a soup can. I'm on display in a gallery, so I must be art. Do you think I'm art? Maybe you think I'm art because other people think I'm art. Or maybe you've read a commentary that explains that I'm actually a symbol of how embedded mass consumerism has become, so we don't understand what art is anymore. But I remain just a soup can. Actually, a painting of a soup can. Not an impression of a soup can, but an actual soup can.
Looking at art that is about itself can be fun sometimes. But I suppose artists would have to watch themselves, because they wouldn't want their art to become about fun. Then it would risk not being about itself.
There was a painting of Annie--the actual word Annie--in exactly the logo from the stage musical. It was done in a medium brown on a field of yellow. I stood there looking at it, asking myself why this artist would paint the word Annie. Then I read the title. "Annie Done in Maple Syrup." And then I laughed. It's exactly what it was--a painting of Annie spelled out in maple syrup, including a few random drips. Why this was painted is still a mystery, but it doesn't matter. I enjoyed looking at it.
Sometimes artists dialogue with each other, or argue with each other, via their art.
It's perfectly fine for artists to speak to other artists via their work, but looking at the work can be tiresome. I suppose there can be entertainment value similar to watching pundits argue on television.
But mostly it's a high-class form of navel gazing. And why would I want to watch someone gaze at his or her navel?
Maybe if it was a very interesting navel.