The Metropolitan Museum of Art houses some of the best paintings by the world’s most revered artists ever and one dead shark suspended in a large container of liquid. Possibly to help keep the tiger shark company and so it feel less out of place in its temporary new home, up on the Met’s roof there is a huge metal statue of a balloon puppy.
The tiger shark artwork is Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which is graciously on loan to the museum thanks to The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Collection. The statue on the roof, Balloon Dog (Yellow) is part of a show of Jeff Koon’s works. Neither work is handmade by its artist. Both works are the result of cutting edge technologies, which took far more time and money to develop than was originally estimated.
In an earlier time, before contemporary art and maybe even not long after Modern Art, both Hirst and Koons would probably have been painters. Both have produced drawings and paintings that show their talent and skill. However, the ongoing technological breakthroughs that allow many contemporary artists the freedom to explore new visual presentations and materials have and are assaulting painting, drawing and printmaking.
The Impressionists began what became Modern Art based on new scientific understandings about light. Those same understandings also helped inspire and develop still photography and soon after film. For the first time in humankind’s history artists were displaced from recording current events, scientific discoveries, news and painting portraits of people who wished to be remembered. While this encouraged Modern and now Contemporary artists to explore new forms of art, materials and ways of communicating visual understandings, many painters struggled to compete with photography by offering non-realistic image work, following the ideas ofthe Cubists, Abstract Expressionism or Word Art or, like Andy Warhol incorporated photography it into their painted art and prints.
The art that continues to do best at auction continues to be paintings, and this is also true for Contemporary art. There are splendid contemporary painters, such as Cecily Brown, Chuck Close, George Condo, Odd Nerdrum, Dana Schutz, Kehinde Wiley, just to name a few alphabetically off the top of my head. These artists take us into their own unique visual worlds through the strokes of their brushes. However photographers like Vik Muniz and William Wegeman are moving into this arena, by setting up their own compositions to photograph, which may include tableaux scenes of costumed models.
Andy Warhol proclaimed that each person would have 15 minutes of fame. He also strove to remove the handmade quality of art, trying to make it mechanical, in part reflecting the popular media images of his society. I doubt he ever conceived that everyone could have an opportunity to be an artist for 15 minutes, but due to today’s advances in technology it is.
Several new companies are thriving by using software much like Photoshop to turn digital or film snapshots into paper or canvas works that look like paintings. This goes beyond the Pop Art portrait take-offs on Warhol. At least two companies have received a good deal of media coverage as they give consumers easy online ways to change photographed images into works that seem to have brush strokes, are abstracted, look Impressionistic, water colored, or of course, appear as Pop Art. Beyond the images of their loved ones people are encouraged to create works on paper or canvas that are still lifes, landscapes, cityscapes, etc.The online process takes about 15 minutes.
Another company, DNA11 takes a sample of a persons DNA and through bio technical imaging creates a unique image of it. The client-artist is involved in selecting the colors, the size and sometimes the support, for instance paper or glass for the custom work. Is it art? Well, MoMA carries the kits required to begin the process of collecting the DNA plus samples of the art in its museum shops. Swabbing, mailing back the DNA sample and selecting colors and size online can be completed in 15 minutes.
Technology allows artists and “15 minute artists” new ways to create images. Seeing the photograph of ones’ child transformed into a Pop Art poster, one’s house as a watercolor, one’s parents as an abstracted oil painting or hanging a colorful image of one’s own DNA over the sofa can have can have personal visual meaning. Giving everyone the potential to create art that has visual meaning for others, such as one’s friends and family is innovative.
From the history of art we know that the painters who we revere as artistic masters now were innovative in their own times. The Met houses works by many of the painters who pioneered new techniques, ideas about subject and/or use of materials such as Bosch, Da Vinci, El Greco, Klimt, Monet, Picasso, Seurat, Turner, van Gogh, and Velasquez.
Innovation is a hallmark of a great artist.
However innovation, even through technology is not enough. An artist must be able to convey meaningful visual content to many people. A great portrait painter like Rembrandt more than captures a likeness; he shows a revealing look into the soul and personality of his subject. Seurat used points of color to depict how our visional perception translates a impressions of color and the gives them form and even meaning. Van Gogh did not just paint cypresses; he turned them into writhing yearning life that struggles toward the heavens. Over time, the more people an artist can move and inspire with meaningful content, his or her unique and innovative way of seeing, the more the artist is recognized as a master.
>The innovative technology that allows anyone to transform a photograph so that it sort of resembles a Rembrandt, a Seurat, a van Gogh or a Picasso, always leaves out the emotional content that great painters are able to convey.
Damien Hirst brings death into our museums, places of work and living rooms. Although the media brings war and fictional violence and death to us daily, on a personal level our society hushes it away into sterile funeral parlors, which embalm and decorate bodies so they appear more lifelike. Hirst brings us dead butterflies, sheep, sharks, etc. as art. Possibly the only way many only in our society will actually confront a dead body without dismissing its relevance is as art. Yet the technology that allows him to do this also deprives him of adding his own emotional content. Any emotional content is a reaction of the viewer.
Jeff Koons takes the unnecessary kitschy stuff we love to acquire – pure commercialism— and blows it up on a sumptuous and grand scale. As viewers stand before Balloon Puppy (Yellow) the glossy finish on the work skews and mirrors back an image of the viewer and his immediate surroundings. We are in our stuff; it is us and it incorporates us into itself. This is brilliant Pop art, but again any emotion belongs to the viewer and is not conveyed by the art.
Of course, neither of these works is a painting or handmade.
We look to paintings and artwork that is handmade to be innovative, give us new understandings about ourselves and convey emotional or inspirational content. Yet how can painters, even using the newest media such as watercolor pencils, the newly developed acrylics, canvases, etc., compete with the opportunities for innovation that technology offers other artists – or now anyone who want to make art in 15 minutes?
Strokes are not the focus of technologically produced art, including photographs.Strokes basically imply handmade, or if reproduced or created via a computer as originally human made through direct focused effort of someone’s hands. The technology that gives a photograph the look of an Impressionist painting cannot actually show or make strokes; it simply simulates them in pixels.
Post Conceptual Art, which uses symbols for each and every stroke to create imagery, offers innovation through its strokes. The symbols are painted or drawn allowing the artist to add intrinsic meaning to a work, convey narrative imagery and imbue a work with emotional content. It takes the skill of trained artist to create Post Conceptual Art as technology cannot take a photograph and turn the image into layers and layers of symbol-strokes. Can this new theory be one of the answers for painters today struggling to make their art relevant in a world – and art world – filled with technology?
While painters struggle to innovate or uniquely adapt to new ideas for and of painting that can ward off the continuing onslaught of technology, one truth from history is clear.The history of Western Art shows that although people may continue collect the art touted in their own time by “experts”, in the long run the work of innovative artists who communicate meaningful visual ideas is more apt to last and have meaning for future generations. Communicating innovative and meaningful visual ideas with emotional or revelatory content is the job of an artist, including artists who are painters.
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art at ungravenimage.com.
Post Conceptual UnGraven Image Art theory is based at the intersection of ancient spiritual wisdom and cutting-edge contemporary science. It shows us a new and enhanced spiritual and science-based way to see the world. It is a life changing vision that can even become an actual new way of seeing that is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Can this be true? See for yourself.
Check out the Fine Art Limited Edition prints, decorative prints, books, and printables that are currently available to you through Judy Rey’s Art of Seeing The Divine Shop. You don’t have to buy to avail yourself of the art and inspiration available there. However, if you select to collect investment quality archival art, or decorate your home with images created with strokes that are original letters from Bible texts, or buy a gift for someone special, there is a secure shopping cart that accepts most credit cards so your purchase is easy to accomplish. https://artofseeingthedivine.com.
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