24 August 2009

Why I deplore so much "modern art"

Robert Rauschenberg: Erased de Kooning Drawing 1953
© San Francisco Museum of Modern Art © Robert Rauschenberg/VAGA, New York and DACS, London 2006
Traces of ink and crayon on paper, with mount and hand-lettered ink by Jasper Johns

TYWKIWDBI has over a hundred items in the art category, most of them classic, clever, or humorous. This item I blog only to mock.

Via Ordinary Finds.


  1. http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2008/05/robert_rauschenberg_dies_at_82.html

    Read the short pdf. Art can be about the story behind the work, even more so than what ends up on the canvas. While I don't particularly follow modern art, I can't empathize with your offhand, and perhaps unresearched condemnation. It's like saying all Picasso did was scribble.

  2. It is sad that you would need to read a pdf or a long written page to be able to "understand" a piece of art. It's nice when an artwork can be analyzed, discussed, but modern art unfortunately demands lots and lots of explanation even before you look at the actual work. You cannot feel it, but only can understand the process behind the way the artist wants you to understand his art. Which is sad. It is very exclusive this way.

  3. @Anonymous - I'm just expressing my personal opinion.

  4. I can get behind your reasoning. Different strokes for different folks. My point was that subtext and story can be just as important. No one said art had to be visual - and to _insult_ it without taking it on its own terms (or at least attempt to) is unfair.

  5. I agree with Stan, what is deplorable about this art is not the back story, but the fact that this particular instance of "non-art" is held up to be a concrete piece of art that will be cataloged and sold. The concept is indeed interesting and will provoke discussion (as it is here), but the actual piece of paper with erasures on it should have been discarded at the end of the evening of the gallery showing.

    Same thing with the famous Duchamp urinal/fountain. In fact, the "art" piece was discarded and lost, and that is fine, because it was just a piece of trash that was displayed in an art gallery.

  6. Art can be the story behind the work, in the language of Da Da. Well, the word "art" can mean anything you want it to mean, if you are Humpty Dumpty.

    A work of art that can't please you without being explained to you by someone in the know is almost the perfect definition of snobbery.

  7. I'm not a big fan of modern art, but I have a problem with the post title, "Why I Deplore Most Modern Art." It implies that the Rauschenberg is representative of most modern art, and it ain't. It's representative of a subset known as "conceptual art."

    I don't know what percentage of modern art is conceptual (the boundaries thereof are somewhat porous), but I'd be willing to bet it's nowhere near 51 percent.

  8. People, people! An "erased de Kooning drawing" isn't some kind of elitist high concept, it's nothing that needs to be explained before you can appreciate it - for goodness' sake, it's funny! It's a joke! Doesn't the very idea of exhibiting an erased drawing instantly make you laugh?

    The point of conceptual art (& modern art in general) is to get a reaction out of you. Don't second-guess yourself - appreciate the reaction! It's not about craft or about the object itself, it's about an idea. And in this case, I think the idea is damned funny. And I think you're all being wet blankets to ignore the inherent ridiculousness and instead assume there must be only some more conventional and "serious" artistic feeling intended.

    & @Mark: what's so bad about "non-art" being catalogued and sold? It's just a record of the joke/art, like any prop or piece of memorabilia.

    If you think Duchamp's urinal was a piece of trash that should have been thrown out, you're missing the point that ALL artworks are objects without "intrinsic" worth. Their value is subjective, and has nothing to do with what they actually are – otherwise, why would a perfect forgery be worth less than an original?
    Because people care about what objects represent, not just what they actually are.
    Why not let the artist make money from it?

  9. I LOVE modern art, but then, I teach art. One of the very first discussions I have with my students is, What is Art? We look at the Duchamp stuff, as well as some other pieces.

    My favorite to get their opinion on is An Oak Tree by Michael Craig-Martin at the Tate Modern in London. Then we read Craig-Martin's nonsensical explanation and let the debate begin.

    Some days I think I consider it art, and other days I decide it isn't. But my students have a fun and heated discussion about it.

  10. To Loradora - I've looked at the "Oak Tree" link and I have to ask: is there anything you (or your students) WOULD NOT consider to be art?


  11. Well, I generally think that art is something done purposefully--a line of ink from a pen you scribbled to see if it worked would not necessarily qualify as art. Did you scribble with the intent to create? Is there emotion present? Does it represent something? These are questions I use to determine what I think of as art. Yes, some modern art is crazy and laughable, but some is truly thought provoking. In the case of Craig-Martin, it causes a lot of discussion.
    I guess intent drives a lot of what equals art to me. My students don't always agree with me, but that's okay. It's art class, and if I expected them to agree with me, it would be further from the creativity I want them to embrace.

  12. If conceptual, or any kind of "modern" art is a joke, the joke has lasted a VERY long time. To not get the joke and be proud of it enough to ridicule it is to be a pretty unhappy person, living in some alternate universe, to quote Barney Frank....

  13. Robert Rauschenberg - Erased De Kooning:


  14. @Rusk - to quote him from the video interview - "You see how ridiculously you have to think, to make this work?" (smiles)

  15. My wife and I have been going round and round on this subject, tonight. :)

  16. @Swift - you're right about the title - I overstated my point. Title changed from "most" to "so much..."

  17. it's a shame this discussion has ended so quickly as i would seriously like to know why some people love modern art so much, since i know how others, that don't like it as much feel


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