Monday, September 17, 2007

Kitsch Questionnaire

Following the train of thought from the last post, I'd like to expand on the discussion on Kitsch.

Here's an interesting little yes/no questionnaire I came across in Odd Nerdrum's book On Kitsch.

1. Do you prefer truth to talent and sensuality?
2. Is the ironic mask better than the serious, trusting face?
3. Do you have contempt for those who try to rob the old masters of their technique?
4. Are the great archetypes, such as; two lovers by the sea, mother and child etc. outdated cliches?
5. Do you long for a dialogue with the present rather than an eternal expression?
6. Are you more preoccupied with exposing man rather than giving him dignity?
7. Are you more attracted by living in an artistic process rather than creating a masterpiece?
8. Do you like the decorative expression above the sentimental expression?
9. Are progressive ideals more important than natural studies?
10. Do you want your work to be accessible to only a select elite and not for all?
11. Do you think that a classical-figurative painter has to live as an inferior <>?
12. Do you work towards the development of rules of originality and not for your own ego?
13. Is the term <> old fashion and inapplicable?
14. Do you despise those who seek their own desires even in a work which is not understandable?
15. Do you view the knowledge of craftsmanship as being a hindrance to free expression?
16. Is debate in the public world more important than the intimate sphere?
17. Are there motives you are afraid of portraying because you've seen them done so many times before?
18. Are you more interested in belonging to a group which is fashionable, rather than being in contact with an isolated individual with ability?
19. Do you maintain that humankind constantly improves itself and that their hearts are never the same?
20. Have technical aids, such as the photograph, greater magic than the work of the hand?
21. Do you think that the relationships between the hand and eye of a living person is a defunct expression, and that the future will only deal with visuality untouched by human hands?
22. Do you believe that your life and your work are two different things?
23. Is modernism [post-modernism] the final level in the development of our history?
24. Are you disgusted when you hear that modern artists hate talent?

Rate yourself:

If you answered "no" in response to all of the above, then you are - according to the following art critics: Broch, Calinescu, Greenberg, Kulka, Kundera and Ortega y Gasset - a real kitsch person.

If you answered "no" in response to question number 10, you are well on your way.

If you answer "no" in response to five questions, or fewer, you are still an artist.

Have you read the book? Nerdrum seems to address only Modernism - do you think he's specifically ignoring Post-Modernism, if so, why? Do you think it's just a [successful] publicity stunt, or do you think he brings up some good points? Is the redefinition of Kitsch important or relevant?


Jacques de Beaufort said...

no it's not relevant.

Odd Nerdrum is sort of a bad artist..he's not very original and his work is corny. It has nothing to do with kitsch, post-modernism, etc...

Sure his technique rocks hard...but that's not everything. His poetics are re-hashed and he's living in a world that has all these monsters he's created and then he's asking us to thank him for killing the invisible monsters.

I'm so sick of all these extremes..
I got an MFA from the Uber-Conceptual CalArts and I'm teaching figure painting at the Uber-Conservative CSULB program (Dominic Cretera, etc.)

It's easy for me to see how people slide into these needlessly combative points of view that reveal a certain rigidity and insecurity regarding the merit of their own work. Very few people are willing to try and bridge the distance between these two camps..which is funny, because when they do the work is usually amazing...see John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, or Glenn Brown.

John Currin doesn't need some stupid manifesto to convince anyone he's the bomb. Just like Hendrix didn't need to apologize for the feedback. Manifesto's are really weak. Just play the fucking song and we'll take it or leave it.

As for Odd Nerdrum...I'll leave it...but that's just me.

You asked for it is.

New York City said...

I agree with you about the extremes, it's all ridiculous pretense and posturing. Certainly, his claim of Kitsch stretches the definition. I would say John Currin is dealing with kitsch much more than Nerdrum. But I have to say, it was an effective publicity stunt. Like in politics - sensationalism sells.

Though I have encountered a few of Nerdrum's "monsters" or [modernist elitists], but they are dinosaurs by now and have been relegated to rural regional areas like the University of Georgia, where I went to undergrad.
They went the way of the Dodo after minimalism petered out in the 70's and figuration began it's return back into "art world acceptance".

But that didn't take long - pluralism was almost the rule by the time Robert Longo, Julian Schnabel, and Basquiat hit the scene. All of which took place nearly 30 years ago. And there was already Chuck Close and Balthus, even while minimalism reigned.

However, being deeply in love with the beauty of paint and technique as I am, I have to give Nerdrum mad props. I most like his compositions from the 90's where he repeated figures and forms in a rhythmic fashion alla Ferdinand Hodler - for example Two Men Guiding One Man 1990. Yes, some of his subject matter tries too hard to be confrontational - like the self portrait with an erection, the woman shitting in the forest, and the above pictured, self described Prophet of Painting. (Give me a break!) And much of his work is derivative, but everyone is derivative if you know enough art history.

I love John Currin, but he's rehashing a greatly mannered Norman Rockwell and throwing in some fat brushwork. Blenn Brown is likewise incredible - but directly and obviously recreating the Rococo. (Yes, I know that's intentional and part of the content) And Lisa Yuskavage... (as far as bringing skill together with concept - she sadly fell limp when I saw her paintings in person.) Very much like Gerhardt Richter's photo realist paintings (though he doesn't need it for his work to remain powerful)I've seen dozens of mediocre undergraduates painting at her level. They just didn't tap into the whole post-feminist thing. I would recommend Will Cotton (see Ice Cream Cavern, and Cotton Candy Clouds for that dialogue.

In short, everything is derivative, it seems to depend on how obscure the source is and how you dilute it with other influences. I agree, Nerdrum is obvious - Rembrandt (who did it better), Ferdinand Hodler, and a pinch of Goya. But the whole "I only like art that is 'new'" is also posturing. "New" just means that the gaze of the art world has overlooked a certain concept, technique, or visual aesthetic for a while and now suddenly rediscovers it. I agree, that's exciting, but it wears off quickly and leaves me wanting.

New York City said...

Rereading what I just wrote, it seems that it might come across a little contentious at the end. Not my intention - I find your "babel" to be very interesting, as we come from very different backgrounds. This is exactly the kind of dialogue that I was hoping to bring forth in starting Art Babel. So don't feel it necessary to moderate your comments or postings.

Jacques de Beaufort said...

..all values are relative.
Our tastes represent our values. So it's interesting that your taste for technical magic has led you to Nerdrum. Makes sense.

Last time I checked there were like 400 kinds of tequila.
The reason one may be the bestseller is largely an accident and largely due to marketing. And inertia.

Babel on...

New York City said...

Very true, I'm sure there are greater examples of technical virtuosity that far exceed Nerdrum. Perhaps even examples that are also more dynamic and intellectually and conceptually fulfilling. Yet, I at least, am unaware of their work.

I'm equally sure that I will grow tired of Nerdrum and move on to something else.

I would love to taste all the varieties of Tequila, but I neither have the time, money, or access at the moment.