Thursday, January 20, 2011

Contemporary Art Shafts Me Again

Winners of the 2011 West Prize Announced.

It’s time for me to go on a tangent! For those of you who haven’t heard of the West Collection or the West Prize, here is the long and the short of it:

The foremost goal of the West Collection is to meet young artists who are creating challenging and inventive work and to present an experience of this new art to the public. Since the mid-90’s, the West family has loaned most of the collection to SEI Investments, which Al West founded in the late 60’s and runs today. Curator Paige West has actively grown the collection to extend beyond SEI, to include loans to museums and university galleries. A major goal in collecting has been to visit artists in the studio and to understand their reasons for making art. In presenting the artwork to the public, our goal is to impart an experience of the artist’s studio to the viewer through our installations and accessible traveling exhibitions.)

So to find all these new young artists, the West Collection has an annual competition and artists from all around the world submit work for consideration. Ten finalists are given $10,000 each, their work is purchased for the permanent collection and one lucky person is awarded the West Prize which is $25,000 plus inclusion in the collection.

Considering over 2000 people worldwide entered into this competition, considering I am not currently enrolled in or have attended grad school, or that I don't live in a trendy part of Brooklyn NY, the chances of me just being a finalist were almost nil.

One of the things you need to realize as an artist, or really any type of creative person, is that you are going to fail much more than you succeed. And that’s ok, in fact, creative or not, failure is required for growth as a human being. But when you do succeed, the achievement is that much sweeter because of all the times you fell flat on your face.

I entered into the competition, wasn’t chosen, game over, try again next year.
Maybe third time is the charm?

The frustration, the “Is this what I have to do to get noticed” sentiments came when I saw what work was crowned Worthy of the West Collection. I’m sure all the rejected 2000+ artists from around the world feel like they deserved to get in, but when I saw what beat me in the painting category, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was robbed.

Before I launch into why I want to punch this dog, I will say what I enjoyed about the 2011 winners:

I know he’s adorable and I would never do something like punch a dog, but remember I’m just venting.


Michael Beitz

What if a table was able to do break dancing moves and you took a picture of that table at the exact moment said move was taking place? You know, just before the table moved its’ way to the ground for a sweet windmill?

I know badass right!?

But it’s not about merging furniture with dance moves, it’s much deeper. It’s also surprising in the contemporary art world, because it is work that is relevant and meaningful.

“My current work is concerned with parallels between human emotional states and the mass produced design objects we live with and within. I explore ideas through drawing, printmaking, and sculpture. My experience as a furniture maker working in various shops for the past ten years has started to influence my present work, as I have started to use furniture design itself to discuss and interpret my own interpersonal relationships.”

Having only taken woodshop in junior high school and barely passing the basics of woodworking, I can’t imagine the kind of skill and patience needed to pull something like this off.

But aside from the skill, how many of us have felt miles away from the person sitting directly in front of us? Exactly, all of us. I can recall something that I said to my ex girlfriend years ago that was very hurtful and I would never forget the look on her face when she internalized what I had said. Our relationship at that moment changed for the worse and I could physically feel a wave form between us, much like the physical wave you can see in this piece, shifting us apart. I admit, I tend to be biased about painting and that’s because I’m a serious, hardcore lover of the art form. I even admit that I sniff tubes of paint because good quality oil paint smells good to me! But powerful, quality work deserves it’s due, thus I mentioned Michael Beitz first.

Billie Grace Lynn

This is just fucking rad, especially the tiny license plate that says “Mad Cow!”

The artist writes:
“This has always been the work of art: to inspire the senses-to make the body feel-without necessarily direct experience, through signs, colors, sounds, movement, and so on. At its highest, the experience and the making of art are identical. Accordingly my work is usually interactive and kinetic in nature. I strive to make pieces in which the viewer interface is both the form and function of the piece. I want people to remember themselves, in much the same way that babies discover their fingers.”
Yes. In addition to self-discovery as a main component of the artists thinking, the work has something you don’t find too much of in the contemporary scene, humor. Most people think of artists as dark, moody, brooding, fly off the handle at the drop of a dime, type of folks. Truth be told, most artists I know are that way, you can see it in their work. They can't manage their emotions well and it shows. The ones that aren’t, consciously work VERY hard to appear and maintain that persona because society tells them to be that way. Same way 99% rappers invest small fortunes in jewel encrusted grills, and diamond filled whatevers, we as a society tell them that’s what we expect of them; so they watch waayyy too much MTV and abide.

So when an artist can put the “I’m a tortured, creative soul” routine aside for a bit, I appreciate it.

Troy Dugas

Usually people who make found object, or “ready made art” are just intellectually lazy, trust fund brats that have been told from day one that EVERY idea they have ever had has been brilliant.

Google Dash Snow to see what I mean.

Or if they don’t originate from influence, they suffer from some sort of OCD, and their art ends up looking like something from an episode of Hoarders.

If this was in a gallery it would be called "art."

Or if the world is “lucky” enough, we get a combination of the two. Either way, 99% of the time I have to call bullshit.

The work of Troy Dugas makes it enjoyable to wrong once in a while.

“My work is made from product labels I purchase in unused bundles. I cut and arrange this material onto flat surfaces (paper, canvas, or wood) to produce artworks that appear woven. I use repetition and pattern to distract from the original purpose of the label to sell a product. The labels are often leftover from defunct products and can be from as far back as the 1930's. The material is seductive, and the thrill of finding and collecting is an exciting part of the process.”
I suspect that Troy might suffer from a little bit of OCD, hell even I have pack rat tendencies, but the man knows to channel his energy in a constructive manner. Look at that detail! And all from found product labels!

I don’t know his economic upbringing, but I would bet a crisp c-note this guy wasn’t raised by nannies from Belize because his parents were out being corporate titans. This is the focus of someone who came from a blue-collar/middle/lower class household. Rich kids almost never have the kind of work ethic or discipline it takes to make art like this.

I know I’m generalizing, as I know plenty of middle and lower class people who are lazy as fuck. And I can remember a few people from SAIC who came from wealthy families that weren’t utter pieces of shit. They had parents that made lots of money AND tucked them in at night.

I don’t even know why I’m even choosing to focus on the unrelated topic of money and class. Maybe it’s because I just saw the Kardashian Sisters on television talk about how difficult it is to run a business, and now I want set them all on fire, but not before I have sex with all of them, even the one who is old enough to be my mother:


So this was the work that made me say, “Well of course I didn’t get in, I’m not contemporary enough.” As this blog post is almost over, the anger I wrote about above has morphed into just “blah” and “That’s how it goes Jeff, let these assclowns have their moment in the sun, your time is coming.” Well maybe a bit of the anger is still there, just a sprinkling maybe.

And calling the remaining artists “assclowns” isn’t fair, I’m sure some of them are nice people, I just think their work is boring, and I’m not just saying that because I’m bitter about not getting in. From my view, it’s worse to feel nothing at all when you see something, rather than the immediate reaction of negative/positive. But the artist below just didn’t make an impression on me either way. Obviously the West Folks see something I don’t and maybe I would feel differently if I saw the work in person, but sadly that is impossible, so I will just use their words and pictures, and let you make up your own conclusions.

Rachel Sussman

For the past 5 years I have been researching, working with biologists and traveling the world to photograph continuously living organisms 2,000 years old an older. The project, called "The Oldest Living Things in the World", is part art and part science, with an underlying environmental component. It's also intended to provide a lens in which to consider Deep Time. The Oldest Living Things are a celebration of our past, a call to action in the present, and a barometer of our future.

Jordan Griska

I like to playfully reveal the shortcomings and failures of contemporary technologies, industries and lifestyles. In my work I modify and repurpose specific objects such as newspaper boxes, propane tanks, or a gas pump. These now comment on the cultures and industries that produced them. Industrial design and engineering constantly inspire my works, co-mingling with influences of Pop and minimalist explorations of color, form and space.

Caroline Lathan-Stiefel

The idea of piecing-together disparate elements (pipe cleaners, plastic bags & pins) strongly informs my work. The installations take various forms: parasitic-like growths that cover interior architectural elements & outdoors structures; hanging tents that immerse the viewer; suspended walls that curve & divide spaces; excessive, organic masses that transform room into caves. Monumental in scale & intensely colored & textured, the work aims to physically affect the viewer.

Taro Hattori

I am a multi-disciplinary installation artist. I create installations and sculptures based on my understanding of how the idea of violence and power is constructed through symbolic objects and information in our society and history. Often, my art practice becomes a way of measuring distances between myself and things that are personally unacceptable. I am interested in how those symbolic motifs from our contemporary society and history evoke personal stories and issues in viewers mind.

Blane De St. Croix

My work explores the geopolitical landscape through drawing and sculptural installation. I conduct extensive research on each project -through site visits, documentation, interviews, and satellites. I am interested in articulating humankind's desire to take command over the earth, revealing distinct conflicts with ecology, politics and ourselves in large-scale installations that utilize architectural space in a distinct, powerful and imposing manner.

Alex Lukas

Creating works on paper that incorporate a variety of media, my depictions of a near-future strive to explore the fragility of our current society and the physical infrastructure built to support it. Through scenes of devastated landscapes, crumbling foundations, overturned trucks and telling signs of human despair, I look to examine our cultural fascination surrounding our national mortality as well as the desensitization to the aesthetics of destruction.

Aurelia Gratzer

*This work is especially boring as shit* I also have to fill this under, "Are you fucking kidding me with artist statement?"

"The imaginary world of Aurelia Gratzer is a purely pictorial one. The various tasks in the history of painting are reflected in her paintings and find their execution in a very subjective manner. For centuries the art of painting solely existed in order to ban reality on the canvas – the so-called view out of the window – yet Aurelia Gratzer intentionally questions (its possibility) copying itself. The basis of her work are photos, partly taken by her, partly taken from magazines. The space confronting us, are the means to the end. Her central perspective projection of the rooms is divided into single fields. By working carefully along she achieves the advancement of her pictures, similar to a film script, by splitting the copy (template) into painting quotations of areas and changing it in her own exciting three dimensional way. There is no room for pure chance, even though Aurelia Gratzer recently tolerates a variation from this self set plan." -- Eva-Maria Bechter

And that’s it. I know kind of a boring way to finish, but at least I put the good stuff first! Of course I will try again next year, and you can look forward to another blog post about it, whether I get in or not.

Until then, puppies and rainbows!


jazzence said...

The table and the bike did it for me. The rest...pretty forgettable. I'm sorry things didn't work in your favor but maybe you're not sucking the right dicks.

Josh Fernandez said...

You should win a prize for this post alone.

Jeff Musser said...

i would be a sure bet for the tucker max art prize. and yes jaz, maybe its time to break out the knee pads and work on my sensitive gag-reflex!

Anonymous said...

Jeffery Felker ‎"The idea of piecing-together disparate elements (pipe cleaners, plastic bags & pins)"

I 'm not smart enough to see how a pipe cleaner and a plastic bag are opposing elements. I think you could still clean a pipe with a bag over your finger and pick up dog poo by stabbing it with a pipe cleaner.
I do see a weaksuace lazor tag arena or a meth addict trying to decorate the house for their child's birth day only to be disrupted by CPS and we are left with the empty sad aftermath.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Musser: welcome to the shit storm of contemporary art!

Anonymous said...

Jeffery Felker: I need to get my lazy shizz to a corporate museum, I feel like I'm missing out on speculative value art.

Anonymous said...

Cathy Rowe: Sometimes art sounds like people making more out of something than it really is. I can appreciate this depth to a certain extent, but at least third of that is just silly/stupid.

Anonymous said...

Jeff Musser: exactly. silly and stupid is ok. as long as an artist can admit "hey man, im just fucking around & having fun, don't take this serious," i can dig it. but when its just lazy and boring and you need a gdamn harvard vocabulary to understand the artistic statement, and after ALL of that you still don't get it, i have to call bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Jeffery Felker: That is an honest critic. Notice a few of these, the "artist" (or historians/scientists whatever) are engaging in some type of pseudo inventory like a butterfly collector.

Okay you like fences that keep out tanned skinned people, but what about everyone else that constructs historical things or delves into research with some sort of social geo/political connotation without the intent of trying to call it art? I get the importance of "Idea" but I want to know what value it has to them personally, not because it seems like something overly intellectual or life affirming in an elitist sense ( I save the world because I photograph lichen older then my dad). but because they have a desire in their being to make it translatable and teachable to themselves and maybe someone else. I like seeing things that are old and living, but when someone points that out to me, I call it conversation, not art.

I think their statements fail to achieve that for me and it leaves them rather blank and unintellectual. I can only infer that their art is more speculative, they put more energy into the idea which in turn generates a facade of art. "I think therefor I am artist and I'll snap a photo as my delivery device to make you look at me."

I kinda hope i'm wrong, but I think that is how a lot of artists have to think nowadays, how can I sell my product rather then how does my product have it's own identity separate from my monetary convictions( google Jeff Koons).

Anonymous said...

Jeff Musser:you should read a book called "the end of art" by donald kuspit and he deals with the all the bs art theory that has cluttered the artistic landscape, and details its origin, and pleasantly, its coming demise.

Anonymous said...

Jeffery Felker:Okay, was the last artist's statement real? I feel like the person that wrote that for them was drunk as it reads slightly incoherent and really searching for a way to make the work actually interesting. Or is the statement the actual piece of artwork?

Anonymous said...

Jeff Musser:when u fill out your applicatoin for the west prize, you have space to write about your work. it doesnt say that you cant post something that someone else said about your work. but i agree, that statement is art-speak babble, tailored to make boring work seem interesting and relevant. im sure there are several artist in austria who entered and feel robbed.

Crystal said...

That table is amazing. I can't stop looking at it! I like the nature photographs, but, lord, what is up with that color explosion. It looks like a crazy person's arts and crafts project. Horrible.

Miss Nachas said...

Everytime I read your shit I find myself rolling on the floor laughing... Well not literally but you are funny as hell. I think your work has true talent, exceptional technique and not any paint sniffer can do what you do. Thank you for the good read and sharing your perspective. You are right on with the critiques.

Jeff Musser said...

Thank you Miss Nachas, i try.

franny325 said...

There was a time when paintings looked like paintings (showing brushstrokes), and photography was a totally different art media. The two medias seem to have merged. Your work is so fine, it's hard to tell if it is a painting or photo. Your paintings come alive. I can't figure out why that wasn't recognized by the West People. Your work would have added a different element to this contest. You're a winner in my mind.