A Guidepost Reprint
ART: Go Fly a Kite!
By Jerry Serrin
21 July 1978
What’s going on in the Visual Arts? For those readers who are not full-time observers of the happenings within the broad spectrum of the visual arts, the occasional glimpses that one has via television, magazines, newspapers and exhibitions must be very confusing. It often is for those who are daily connected in some way or another with the rather unpredictable happenings.
Art today is unlimited, and this is probably the only limitation or definition that one can accurately place on the subject. No longer is it restricted to neat painting and sculptures, as it generally was not too many years ago, except of course for a few errant ‘Dadaists’ like Duchamp. Today, there are probably more would-be Duchamps than Picassos, although that is slightly unfair to Picasso, for he too had his moments of divergence, such as when he hung a bicycle seat and handlebars on the wall in the form of a bull’s head, but that is neither here nor there.
Artists today are deeply involved in working with everything from electronics and television, to kite flying and monument wrapping. There are those who dig holes in the ground or fill public spaces with boulders and those who simply create happenings and even others who only propose to create happenings, the idea being the main event.
There is of course no hierarchy involved and no one form of expression is more valid than another, although naturally some results ‘work’ better than others and their ‘effect’ perhaps is more lasting or has more repercussions in the future. One of the main rules of the game seems to be the necessity to be more lasting or has more repercussions in the future. One of the main rules of the game seems to be the necessity to be more clever than the other guy, or at least quicker. One-up-manship sticks its nose in here also, an unfortunate fact. Unfortunate because quality is often replaced by quantity or some such thing. Only time seems able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
With the advent of almost immediate worldwide coverage of information, there springs up international groups of ‘investigators’ and artists working in particular areas of interest in such widely separated locations as Tokyo, Australia and Los Angeles. As a result international exhibitions of video art are held to bring the latest gems together. Special exhibitions of artists working in ‘graffiti’ or other much more limited fields are held to display the wares and discoveries.
All in all, it is the result of a healthy situation, even though it seems slightly schizophrenic and disjointed at times. Even the categories are enough to drive one up the wall, and terms like ‘conceptual’, ‘minimal’ and ‘computer’ leave one trying to guess just what is going on. Whatever happened to that nice old man who used to paint flowers, people and landscapes? Does he have any relevance at all? Probably not, and certainly today’s young artists seem to find him totally uninteresting if not absolute boring. That doesn’t mean today that his work has no value, it just means that his work for the most part it doesn’t say anything very new to other artists, and newness seems to be the key. Try to imagine what the world would be like if every one of the artists were still trying to turn out Greek vases or bad copies of Goya.
Unfortunately there is a great separation between the minds of the general public and the artist, and while the artist is producing advances in conceptual art, the buyer is spending his time in antiquated galleries and auctions, acquiring every bad copy of Velazquez or Renoir he can get his hand on, and at prices for beyond their now or even eventual worth. In fact, if he wants to really invest his hard-earned loot, he should be finding out who is the guy next door tinkering with tubes. A highly unlikely situation.
Also, because of the widespread information, the artists of today are not required to live in Paris or New York in order to produce important and valuable work. In fact, quite often they are lost in some non-descript suburb of London or Pittsburgh and even more often in wilds of Los Angeles. Often they are engaged full or part-time in other occupations in order to support their rather expensive hobby/profession. Art, contrary to what the tax people think, is seldom a paying proposition, except for the very few.
In the U.S., most active artists of any repute are involved in teaching in the various universities and schools in order to keep the bread on the table and the electricity turned on to keep the artists TV tube in working order. I’m not even sure that minimal art and conceptual art did not originate from necessity. It is a lot less expensive to write about something than to actually do it. For proof, one need look no further than Cristo’s Running Fence’ in California. That bit of conceptual art brought to realization cost in the end some two million dollars, not to mention the thousands of man hours needed to construct twenty-four miles of stretched steel clothesline that ran to the sea.
How then, does a collector or would-be purchaser cope with hanging 132,000 feet of steel cable in his wall? I mean, just think of all the dust every day. Well, fortunately, this too has been solved and this is where the preliminary sketches come in. These sketches and colored drawings, or printed and signed copies of them, have been conveniently made available to the collector. Prices vary.
Often though, the work can only be supported by institutions or museums, and there is literally nothing to sell, but that seldom happens. More often than not, some manner is contrived in order to get the product or by-product into the hands of the consumer. Idealism can only go so far. I mean, anyone who digs holes or flies kites had to eat also.
Be an artist, go fly a kite!
INTERESTING EXHIBITIONS IN MADRID
• Biosca, Genova 11 Masters of Contemporary Art.
• Centro Cultural Villa de Madrid, Plaza Colón. Seven photographers see seven Madrids. 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., 5 – 9 p.m. Holidays 10 a.m. – 2p.m.
• Juan March Foundation, Castelló 19, Palazuelo, F. Peinado, Brinkman, Guixart, Sempers, Jardiel, etc.
• Ruiz Castillo, Fortuny 37. Drawings by the great masters: Julio González, Miro, Picasso, Solana, etc.
• Theo, Marques de la Ensenada 2. Panorama 78.
Galleries are generally open from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m., 5-9 p.m. except Monday morning. Theo Gallery is also open Monday morning.
Featured image/Jon Tyson, Unsplash
Art Gallery/Christophe Repiso, Unsplash