Monday, May 02, 2005

Painting Is Not Death: Damien Hirst's Big Intention.

I had cancelled a trip in April to visit the new Damien Hirst show in New York "The Elusive Truth" at Gagosian Gallery (Chelsea), mostly because it received a lot of bad press (try this one by Jerry Saltz or that one by David Cohen, but also because I was first not "impressed" by the "press" release.

Well it seems that it's been extended to the 14th of May, so there is still a few days to go for those who think they might enjoy it.

For my take I agree with what is said commonly that Hirst's "spiritual" (I mean "material") filiation to Koons is starting to look ridicule, especially when he is now addressing a format that was one of the worst phase of Koons' art: the supra-realists tableaux.

Damien Hirst's art always constituted sort of a morbidization of Koons, if you will.
To retake on what David Cohen was mentioning on Art Critical:

- Medicine glass cabinets replacing vacuums in windows.

- Shark in formol replacing basket ball in water.

- Gigantic replicate of an handicapped doll replacing a gigantic replicate of a balloon Puppy.

Now what? Blood and surgery replacing ice cream and sex.

And we claim that he is one of the most important artist ever and that Jeff Koons sucks ????

Come on.

Not that Hirst isn't a good artist for a portion of his art,
not that he won't be remembered for his animal pieces which indeed
are amongst the most important art that came out in the 1990's, wrether
we like them or not (their impact suffice). But this time I can see where his art is failing.

It is failing because it arrives right at a time when the art community is starting to get somewhat pissed off about the market, and especially pissed about the art that attempts to outsmart it by embracing it. I am certain a few artists are already
surprised by the poor reception that they "see-me-fuck-with-the-market" art actually got.

Damien's premiss wasn't bad at all.

Everyone is raving about painting nowadays, especially the return
of masterism.

As a primarely conceptual artist, he opted to respond to this
by selecting sordid images from journals and magazines that for him
best represented our era, and got them painted in a realist style
in attempt to induce a little bit of aura that these not so banal
images lacked in their journalist contexts.

The twist is to transform timely events into intemporal.
To return to an impersonal art pompier and transcribe history into
large unequivocal canvases, bland in artistry but full
of what they represent: zeitgeist of an era.

It really wasn't a bad idea. His images weren't even his
but a reformulation of things found in popular medias.
The size of a good portion of these painting is apparently

Why did it fail so much?

Many reasons:

- It came too late as a last vestige of pop. Even Warhol translated political
events into painting.

- The market eats them. They become facile products of luxury to decor
your salon (you could make them yourself), at a time when a lot of criticism is
directed at these distant, artificial constitutions (including the arts that try to humor it without opposing it). The market renders these paintings as superficial as any billboard publicity. Or worst, even moreso. Du toc pour l'oeil. "Vous avez de beaux bijoux, madame". Indeed, Hirst becomes a brand until he makes less wear-ready art again.

- The return popularity of painting has exactly to do with a re-evaluation
of the artist's hand skill in an era when conceptualism almost perfidated
it. So Damien got Saatchi's interest all wrong. If you are working with a group,
at least mention them under your title. For all the employees's hard work they manage to seem lazy (from the little I've seen), because we know they are reproduction commands. The art here is a process of selection and transposition.

- Shock value images were sensational in the 1990's but feel redundant
in post 9/11 art. The painting format is too soft, and if that was part of the intention to "softinize" the sensational, than perhaps it works a little too much to a point where the art becomes self-erasable, further than the original journal images they aim to resplenish. Actually they may entice you to return to the source of these original images, provide a provisory interest (sort of like seeing photographs of a freak show instead of the real thing), but as tableaux they only make you hesitative about wanting them on your wall. The source may titillate but the exercise of transposition seems vain, bereft of any compassion.

- The tendency of this art to balance between the sad, grave
and delibarately sordid and grotesque is its weakness. What are you trying
to say, and why ? Are you helping ? Ethics are blurried when we don't
know if Hirst really cares that this world is going rash or if he laughing at it expecting big money sales.

- There is a lot of great art around and it's just not as sad and sordid as Hirst.
Or when it is its purpose is made clearer.

Well, I really think Hirst will need to win everyone's heart again.

I see his new paintings like I see a work of Koons and I am
able to tell (and forgive) that it is from a weak period.

I definitely think Hirst is much better a sculptor than painter (even if he would
see his new paintings as sculptures). Once you see a dot painting in person, the effect is great, but then he made way too many of them.

Maybe what we need is to wait for a new show of sculpture,
if he accepts that he said all what he had to say about this present tentative.

The Butterfly (insects) paintings of recent were one hybrid
that was way more interesting than the kitsch described today.

What is going on, man ?


Cedric Caspesyan


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Baquiat and Andy.

they both have limited scope,
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