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Self-educating - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
I'm making another of my periodic attempts to understand and appreciate modern, non-representational art. I found some Karin Davie interesting, and I'm trying to follow around these stripy painters, and then it makes my head hurt because I can't tell--other than "Hey, that looks cool, man"--what's good. My mother always made a point of taking me to the Albright-Knox when I was little, but she had a very strong dislike for the modern collection (big color fields... heh?), and so I never really learned to appreciate them. I got out Art For Dummies, which sympathizes with the sense of trying to figure out whether or not an artist is mocking viewers or making serious art, but doesn't offer any helpful advice about making those judgments, except for what I usually say about writing--"Wait a century to see if it lasts." But it's a whole lot cheaper to buy an unproven paperback than a painting. Not, of course, that I have any space whatsoever to collect art in, even if I had the money. And if I had the money, the space would come before the art. But why don't I know this stuff? This is part of our surrounding culture. Shouldn't knowledge of surrounding culture be part of normal school experiences? (No, silly me, that wouldn't leave time for geo-, no, grammar... no, histor--, no, scie--... er, whatever it is they're learning.)

Anyway, who are people's favorite living artists?
31 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 28th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
James C. Christensen and Kinuko Craft.

So, they're fantasy artists. Christensen's work is incredible. Craft's work may not always have the same depth, but it's beautiful.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 28th, 2006 03:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, lovely stuff. I'm not sure why fantasy artists don't get much respect in gallery showings and so on; it's lovely, difficult work.
sigune From: sigune Date: March 28th, 2006 03:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hmm... Living artists ... that's a difficult one. My tastes are mainly for the late nineteenth and early twentieth century - Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Beardsley, Khnopff. I think I'm really very conservative when it comes to art: I want it to display craftsmanship, to be beautiful, to be expressive, and preferably enjoyable outside of museums. That means that I have a sort of problem with conceptual art, and the kinds of art that you couldn't place in your living room or garden, should you be able to afford the price. This (probably totally unreasonable) rule of mine means that I most of the time find plenty of things not to enjoy about modern art. Either it's all message, or it's purely decorative; it's rarely both at the same time. My aestheticism makes me prefer the second :)- no Damien Hirst for me, thanks. I share your feeling that it seems to take a special education to learn and appreciate the modern artist's work.

My knowledge of living artists is more or less limited to my own country, I'm afraid. If I am to name names, I'd say Pierre Alechinsky, Panamarenko and Wim Delvoye. The last is mainly a conceptual artist, but he has the most astonishing ideas; Panamarenko I'd situate inbetween; and Alechinsky is very decorative :).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 28th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I share your feeling that it seems to take a special education to learn and appreciate the modern artist's work.

I'm not sure it should be all that special--I mean, if it's what's going on in the art world, shouldn't it just be part of normal art education? (I know, I can hear the art teachers of the world despairing of the concept of schools instituting "normal art education" as an unquestioned part of the curriculum, but I think it should be. Music as well. I've never understood why it's treated as a disposable frippery. This is the legacy our culture is leaving for future generations, for God's sake! Shouldn't we at least be cognizant of it?)

I'm trying to develop some kind of modern art aesthetic. The purely conceptual tends not to work because you have to be aware of too many things outside the piece of art, so the art is incapable of standing on its own. In a couple of centuries, I can't see people looking at a piece of green felt with loopy chalk scribbles on it and making the effort to figure out what the heck the artist was trying to conceptualize. At the same time, art without any ideas is trite--just decorative, which isn't a bad thing but isn't terribly interesting, or just dull and uninspired--the painting equivalent of a high school yearbook pictures.
webbapettigrew From: webbapettigrew Date: March 28th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know whether Anne Geddes counts, but I always melt when I see her pictures...
From: leeflower Date: March 28th, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess my take on it is "if you like it, it's good." What does it matter what some critic or other has to say?

Now granted, that's a lot easier with representational art because you can generally tell what the artist was going for and you can judge how close they got to the mark. But if you like it, then to you, it's good art.

Example: Star Wars. A lot of critics HATED Star Wars. Oh, the dialogue this, the acting that, continuity, blah bla-blah blah blah. They're wrong; we're right; Star Wars is going to be remembered as a cultural icon for generations in spite of them.

I apply the same theory to modern art. When it comes to that wing of the museum, a lot of people are so busy seeking depth that it's amazing they don't drown. Is it pretty? Does it make you feel something? Does it make you feel something in an original way? Than it'd good art. Everything else is just noise.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 28th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I guess what I'm looking for is some guidance that's not just my own personal taste--eg, if I were buying for a museum or gallery or whatnot. Obviously some of that would have to do with the nature of the space--some spaces are not good for displaying some kinds of art--but it's also about the investment and the value and so on. For my own room, I'm happy with a pretty abstract sand-painting I got at a sidewalk art fair, but I have no idea whether or not it would be considered good art or tacky sidewalk art fair stuff if I were to put it in a public space. (Then again, there's a lot of art in public spaces that just makes me go... heh? In Albuquerque, there's a half a car sticking out of a big metal tower. That's it. I thought it was a tacky sign for a used car lot--like the one in the Wayne's World movie--that no one had taken down after the lot closed, until someone said it was very expensive public art that the city had purchased. And we're apparently going to be invaded by wooden charity cows this summer, like the fish a few years ago, and, good cause or not, they make me wince.)
jennnlee From: jennnlee Date: March 28th, 2006 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Living artists. Hmm. We tend to hit conventions and buy cool prints from fantasy artists. I'd say my favorite is J.P. Targete. I've actually bought books on the virtue of his cover art, only to be disappointed that the story doesn't match up to the promise of his art. We bought a print from him that hangs in our front hallway. The rest of the stuff hanging on our walls are photos and cross-stitch projects, and some framed comic covers. Because we're geeks.

Last Mount Dora Arts Festival we bought two prints from Drew Stouble, an artist who does cat paintings. Because he paints with a lot of personality, and his art made us smile.
verseblack From: verseblack Date: March 28th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Michael Whelan, a fantasy artist, has to be my favorite. While best known for his book covers, the last I heard he was moving more toward "gallary art." I don't know that he has done any "blobs and splotches" type of paintings, but his "The Wave" http://rivendell.fortunecity.com/rhydin/959/whelan/16.html# (I believe the original was *several* feet tall
and "The Red Step" http://syntheverse.com/images/preview/2366-061.jpg feel a bit modern to me...

As a Pre-Raphaelite fan, I like for painting to look like something. I don't have as much apprecitation for a canvas I think I could have painted. Sometimes I can appreciate non-representational art by thinking of it as a sunset or as finding pictures in the clouds, but mostly I'm pretty hopeless when it comes to seeing genius in a big purple dot.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 28th, 2006 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I know what you mean. Of modern styles, I like surrealism best because you can tell exactly what the artist is trying to accomplish, but you still have that moment of going WTF??? when you look at it. I like Renaissance art, and even some medieval art, and especially classical sculpture. But I do find some of the modern minimalists and expressionists striking, and I'd really like to understand what's going on with the movement, and why a Rothko color field is art while a palette with smeared colors for mixing isn't, aside from the "deliberately created" part.
zoepaleologa From: zoepaleologa Date: March 28th, 2006 05:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm gradually learning to love installation. Installation is largely what the modern scene is about, these days - certainly as regards sculpture.

Modern living artists I think worth a mention are, in no particular order:

Lucien Freud. I consider him one of the greatest living painters; his nudes are superb. He specialises in "odd bodies" and his heroic paintings of the late Leigh Bowery were a wonderful celebration of the large. His skin tones alone earn him a place with all time greats - and I think the inevitable evaluation that will come after his death (and he's getting old) will accord him master status.

Paula Rego. Another figurative artist, a painter, with a wonderful sinister edge to some of her work.

Anthony Gormley. Possibly (though it's arguable as all these thing are) Britain's greatest living sculptor. His massive "Angel of the North" stands on a hillside two miles from here, and is a symbol of regeneration that the people of this area (NE England) have come to love and embrace. His works are around the human form, using casting. Of particular favourite is "Field for the British Isles" a weird set of terra cotta little people in their hundreds.

Tracey Emin. Naughty Tracey is an enfant terrible of the British Art world, but I find her installation quirky and funny.

Rachel Whiteread. Who sculpted the Berlin Holocaust memorial. Plaster casts of buildings, given a strangeness by being turned inside out.

Spencer Tunick. Photography of massive numbers of ordinary people nude, who are arranged in ways to create structure and patterns. He recently photographed crowds in my home city, and when I posted about it on lj, a US person who had posed replied!

Anish Kapoor, his strange Marsyas is rather wonderful.

Those are (some) top people. I know a fair few others breaking through, either locally (my city has a vibrant cultural scene) or as friends for other reasons. The list is not exhaustive.

All the above can be googled.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 28th, 2006 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
All the above can be googled.

And will be, thanks! :D
keestone From: keestone Date: March 28th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really like Ed Ruscha, particularly "Brave Men Run in My Family" and "End" (not to be confused with "The End"), which I can't seem to find a picture for.

I've seen a few absolutely amazing artists in galleries recently, but I can't remember their names for the life of me. (I might be better able to remember their names if I were rich enough to buy anything.) One was a sculptor who primarily worked as an animator for Disney. He did the most amazing bronze and enamel dragons and jesters.
From: marciamarcia Date: March 28th, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cindy Sherman started out taking photos that were set up to look like production still from 60s films (she was her own model, playing a variety of roles). Her stuff has gotten more "out there" over the years (incorporating more extensive makeup jobs on herself and some disturbing images of doll parts), but I love it. Every single photo she does is a "missing moment" fanfiction story waiting to be written.

Jim Leedy is one of the godfathers of the purely artistic (non-functional) side of American ceramics. My favorite stuff he's done is his early work where he takes traditional, normal forms like plates and vases and deconstructs them--ripping out chunks, adding balls and other shapes, making geometric cuts, and huge splashes of color.

I actually didn't realize Andrew Wyeth was still alive until a couple months ago when I saw his big retrospective in Atlanta. One of my favorite things about him is that he would start off making a portrait of someone, and over the course of several revisions, end up with a still-life scene with no people visible, but the essence and absense of a person so strongly suggested that it was still damn near a portrait.

parallactic From: parallactic Date: March 28th, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
First off, I should say that I'm a plebe, and probably know less about art than you do. But there are two modern artists that I like. I have no idea what their standing is in the artistic community. I just know that they're alive, and that their art affects me.

Sharon Ellis does gorgeous, luminous paintings of landscapes with these abstract geometric dimensions that remind me of mandelbrot sets. There's nothing quite like actually seeing her paintings; they glow with color. I couldn't find pictures of her "Four Seasons" paintings, which I think represents her work best, but the pictures in the article will give you an idea of what she's like.

Dave McKean did the comic book covers for the Sandman comics, and a whole bunch of stuff. Anyway, I first discovered him in conjunction with Neil Gaiman and Sandman. I like his scratchy figures, surreal features, and how textured and layered his images are. You can poke around his website to see what he's done, and to get an idea of what he's like.
keestone From: keestone Date: March 28th, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dave McKean is great! (Points at Mirrormask icon.)
cambryn From: cambryn Date: March 28th, 2006 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm a Studio Art Major who enjoys more 'classic' art, but I am usually not allowed to do representational art most of the time. At my school they prefer abstract, and it leaves me very frustrated most of the time.

Half the people in my major can't even draw something resembling anything.
They don't have to. All they need to do is slop paint on a canvas and it's all good.

(Heck, even at my high school there was a cheerleader a year ahead of me, who was lazy and wanted to finish her project quickly, so she just poured paint down three canvases. She was praised for being wonderful (which she argued) did 17 more pieces by pouring paint down canvas, and was given the Senior art award at my school, though there were several other highly qualified people to choose from, who were actually going to pursue art in the long run. Thankfully I got it the next year, even though my work was traditional.)

It seems that there aren't really standards for art anymore, but that stems from the fear that they will 'stifle someone's creativity' such as the Franch Acadmey did in the 18th and 19th centuries. But now, since there is no standard, quality of art seems to be suffering for it much of the time.

Some of my favourite living artists are:
Edward Povey- he's a British man I met a few years ago. His work is amazing! He's known for his giant murals, but he also has a show every year of his smaller work. I just love it!

Brian Froud- Have you seen 'Labrinth' or 'Dark Crystal?' Well he designed each and every one of those creatures, as well as the costumes at the ball in Labrinth. His painting of odd little animals, beautiful faeries and strange goblins are wonderful.

James Wyeth- Though his father, Andrew, is amazing (as was his late grandfather N.C.), I have much more love for James Wyeth. I first fell in love with his work about four and a half years ago, when I saw his Rudolf Nureyev study in Washington. He's one of the most talented artists out there, in my opinion.

Graeme Base- He's the illustrator of books like Animalia, Sign of the seahorse, and The eleventh hour. I just love his paintings.

Maurice Sendak- He's still alive, I believe. You are probably very familiar with his work, though. I particularly like his set designs, but his illustration are so original. :)

There are also hundreds of animators whose work is amazing.
Peter de Seve is another great artist!

Wow... Sorry for the long post! You've just asked me about something I'm quite passionate about!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 28th, 2006 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
They don't let you draw as you feel you should be drawing? As a way to avoid stifling creativity? And they don't see the illogic there?


I'm glad that people who are educated in the subject and constantly exposed to it also don't have much of a sense of standards; it makes me feel a little less like a rube. ;) I went over to the MFA and renewed my membership over lunch, and since I'm talking about it here, visited their modern section. They have some very nice Picassos, but they also have a canvas about six feet high that someone ran over in black, brown and yellow with a housepaint roller. I couldn't discern any shape to it, or any point to it, and it wasn't even striking. There was also a picture that was a black square, painted with a wide brush, on a white background. With another daub of black on the bottom. That was striking, but I can't exactly marvel at the technical expertise involved. (On the opposite level, I can appreciate Georgia O'Keefe's technical expertise, but her paintings bore the living hell out of me.)

I do like some abstract art, even when I don't get it--the Karin Davie I linked to is very interesting to me--but that lack of standards makes me crazy, because it's so difficult to articulate why one picture is good and another isn't. (I barely have the language for it in representational art, and there at least I can say things like, "The figures are posed awkwardly" or "The perspective is weird.")
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 28th, 2006 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
I agree--lots of good stuff being done commercially and as illustrations in books, and in children's books. Roger Dean is definitely neat. What I'm mostly looking for are the big, bold canvases--something that wouldn't look out of place in a big, harsh minimalist building, and would even take advantage of it.
grasshopper From: grasshopper Date: March 29th, 2006 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)
So much to say about modern art, but I'm afraid in that area I'm like one of those evangelical Christians who can't understand why anybody would deny the gospel of St Jackson :-) Plus, I have just finished teaching art history for the day, and so I think my brain will explode if I have to talk seriously about it any more.

So let me just squee over Craigie Aitchison! Visually his paintings are kind of... well, imagine someone looking at Rothko colour field painting and saying, "You know what would really jazz that up? A donkey!" (Or a dog, or a crow, or a crucifixion, that sort of thing).

Er, that feels rude. Actually, the articles I've been able to dig up just now (in the Royal Academy magazine and at Tate Online) are much more reverent, and have great things to say about colour and such. I personally love these paintings because they are curious and quiet and intriguing and solemn and funny.

But mainly I love Craigie for his eccentricity. He was born in Scotland and moved to London to study law, before he went to the National Gallery one day, armed with canvas and paint, and set out to copy a Titian. A passerby told him he was doing it all wrong, so he decided to go to art school. Now he's in his seventies, has been obsessed with Bedlington terriers for over thirty years and, if I recall correctly, also collects rubber ducks :-)
ivylore From: ivylore Date: March 29th, 2006 01:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Jane Everett (her work just blows me away)
Helen Frankenthaler
Anne Karin Glass
Dawn McNutt
Catalina Chervin (quite possibly the only Surrealist artist I really like).

I think all that really matters when it comes to art is that you like/love something or take something from it.

Personally, I'm focused on the whole 'craft as art' side of the spectrum.

31 comments or Leave a comment