Wednesday, 17 July 2013

A critique of modern art

I recently went to the Tate modern in London and upon browsing the galleries there, I came across what I later discovered to be Karel Appel's 1949 piece 'Hip Hip Hoorah' (below).  Now being a lover of classical art, I found this painting laughable.  And just to show you how poor it really is, I have contrasted it with a painting by Caravaggio (below):

Karel Appel's 1949: 'Hip Hip Hoorah'
Caravaggio's 1598: 'Taking of Christ in the Garden'

Now I know I am being selective here, but I want to compare what I think is bad art with brilliant art.  So where in the space of 351 years did art go wrong? I find it incredible that Appel's work be worthy of a frame, let alone space in the Tate.  It is so wrong I don't even have to explain what is wrong with it because for the large majority of whom I have shown this painting to, they have all suggested in their laughs and puzzled looks that this simply isn't art.  Well to be fair it is art but art that is NOT worthy of being on display other than in a nursery school.  Because I bet you any money if this was painted by a child and hung up outside class 7 no one would even look at it twice, let alone see any significance behind it.

Now some people might say that it is the meaning behind the painting that makes it significant rather than the actual painting itself, and I would probably agree with them but only in so far as all paintings hold some kind of meaning behind them.  In fact, I feel that a lot of contemporary art nowadays is geared toward, not so much about what is on the canvas, but more about what is not.  Perhaps the meaning of this painting in question is in the title itself: 'Hip hip hoorah'... For when one reads this and then looks at the painting again, one sees a different painting altogether.  But interpretation aside nothing, at least for me, can hide how terrible this painting is when contrasted with the vast majority out there.  If one wants to appreciate a well crafted painting as well as mull over any symbolic meaning that may lie behind it, just take a look at some of Dali's brilliant works...for example:

Dali's 1938 Apparition of a face and fruit dish on a beach

I also find that modern art has become unnecessarily aggressive, particularly in reference to sex.  As a comparison, in classical art nudity is, in some cases, secretive or implicit with slight cover ups here and there. The closest to sex (if I can use that term) you will see is pretty much nothing other than a totally naked man or woman.  But contemporary art seems to fixate on the sexual organs, exaggerates them in size and behaviour while utilising a variety of objects (like fruit) to depict them in there various ways.  In modern art, it is perfectly acceptable to hang a pair of overgrown testicles on a zip wire, exaggerate the width of a anus on a statue, or chisel out a erect member in the act of penetration.  It just seems it's  In. Your. Face. And unnecessarily so.

I mean compare these two pieces for Christ sake...

What is it with this obsession? Sex seems to be becoming more and more explicit not only in the arts, but in music, film, literature and advertising industries e.t.c.  There is nothing wrong with sex itself but this need to display it in all its glorified explicitness is rather worrying, especially in a day and age where the media are quick to criticize and condemn it on one page of their paper, while use it to their advantage on the next.  But it seems to me that there is a latent anxiety behind this need for explicitness.  Perhaps it provides an safe outlet to vent our aggressions and subsequent anxieties?  But it's as if modern art is starting to become just like film and music; just use sex as some kind of 'check box' that is required to be appreciated and hence sell.  People can create film with no sex in it, likewise people can create art without the need to vent such explicitness.   

© 2011 Roberto Nacci All Rights Reserved

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