Archive for the 'painting' Category

Dunkin’ Donuts Kitsch

October 28, 2009

Thanks to Julia, Lauren and Jenn for the good discussion this morning.  With the unforeseeable demise of our coffee shop, we moved to the outdoor Dunkin’ Donuts populated with students, sunshine and the radio.  Hopefully next time we can secure a place with less distractions.

dunkindonutsI guess it makes sense in a way to be talking about deliciousness and kitsch in the Dunkin’ Donuts.  I am so glad to have Lauren and Jenn join in on the discussion because it brings multiple perspectives and I believe our text to be related to all of our artworks.  I am a little sad to have finished the discussion of Harris’ book.  I really love this text and I think that it is very influential to me.  I enjoyed our discussion of bathing today as related to Harris’ chapter on cleanness.  The sexuality of the bath as a preparation for sexual acts in old advertising transforms into the bath as a place of escape from the hectic world of the modern woman.  “You deserve it!”  “Calgon, Take me away!”

3952216088_cf257d6de0The trend in advertising to acknowledge the distrust of the consumer is something that we discussed through the example of the Dove commercials now circulating the claim of showcasing real beauty.  We talked about the dual ad for Dove and Wal-Mart that uses the “Ears hang low”song which lead into the interesting topic of the real or authentic.  From there we got into a discussion of modernism versus relational aesthetics.  All in all I think it was a good ending for our discussion of Harris’ book.  I think that the ideas and aesthetics in this book will stick with me.  I know that I will return to it and relate it to future readings.  We have decided to take a break next week and then return to discuss texts by Adorno and Greenberg.


J. Crew is so gross!

September 20, 2009

Okay.  So speaking of our low/high culture clash conversation, here is an all time low.  A couple of days ago, I received the newest J. Crew catalog in the mail.  I urge you to get a copy of this if you can!  I will bring my copy to the next discussion group.

What’s so strange about a J. Crew catalog, you may ask?

Well.  Generally not much, but this time is a different story.  J. Crew is currently trying to re-vamp their image as boring basics peddler and become truly high class mass-produced sweat-shop-made couture.  With Michelle Obama wearing their duds and a slew of news stories surrounding their new look, they are on their way to changing their image.

I happened to notice in the last catalog that came my way, a photo of the artist Alex Katz decked out a la J. Crew.  I thought it was some sort of strange anomaly, but no.  The current issue of the J. Crew catalog is filled with artists wearing J. Crew clothes.  Okay, this is a little weird, no?  But it goes further.  The women’s section remains the same as ever.  The women’s clothes are all being sold by models. Flip to the men’s section and it is a completely different catalog.  The men’s section has NO models.  Artists in their studios are photographed wearing J. Crew clothes.  This is completely sick to me.

This catalog is telling me that

1. there are no female artists,

2. or, the only artists worth mentioning are men

3. that it is important to look good as an artist

4. j. crew = looking good

There are so many things wrong with this catalog.  I am seriously outraged over this.  I mean, what is avant-garde about J. Crew?  Why would anyone seriously do this?

The list of artists appearing in this catalog are:

Vito Acconci, Ryan McGinness, Chris Dorland, Glenn Ligon, Lucien Smith, Billy Sullivan and Stephen Shore

Why these artists?  What is so marketable about them, J. Crew?

Here is a link to some of the photos:

I want Jerry Saltz to write about this.  I want to write a letter to J. Crew and tell them how gross they are to me.  I want to NEVER shop at J. Crew again.

Since when did a catalog become a faux-magazine?

I was talking to Charlie about this and his thoughts comforted me somewhat.   He said that…

1. The women’s and men’s sides of the catalog probably have different photo editors and creators and that they probably had no idea that what they put together would be read as so offensive to me.

2. Vito Acconci is wearing a lot of make-up in his photos.

3. When I asked Charlie why they didn’t have architects (or writers or actors, etc.) he said that he  thought artists were probably cheaper.

P.S>>>Here is a link to a blog talking about Alex Katz appearing in the previous issue of the J. Crew catalog..

First Discussion: Ironic Mustaches, Teenage Angst and “What is the historic meaning of Quaint?!”

September 20, 2009

I think the first discussion was great, despite our cramped quarters on Julia’s office floor.  Thanks Julia for letting us invade your space.  The idea was suggested to move our discussion to the new coffee shop on University Avenue.  Caffeine does go well with conversation and I love coffee!

Thanks Jenn, Julia, Andrew and Charlie for discussing the readings with me.  Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

This week we discussed Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” and the introduction and first three chapters of Harris’ book.  We didn’t get around to talking about the Cuteness chapter of Harris, but we did delve into the ideas of Quaintness and Coolness.  I think it is a challenging exercise to think of artists that fit each of these aesthetics.  Jenn suggested that Karen Kilimnik’s work fits into the camp category and I agree.  I also think that Hernan Bas is another contender for the camp aesthetic.  We talked about the similarities of Kilmnik and Bas in our Painting/Drawing Seminar with Ron.  It is hard for me to think of any other artists that I would put into the aesthetic of camp.  It has to be someone that looks to the past, favors the extravagant and is sincere in what they do.  Andrew suggested the CoBrA artists fit into the camp category.  I will have to do more research on their ideas, but I think aesthetically that they do.

I think that our discussion of coolness was the most exciting to me.  Andrew questioned how the hipster culture fits into the idea of cool, and we discussed poverty chic, goth culture, and the ironic mustache.

Oh Harris, you have proved to us that we are all united in consumerism and it is useless to struggle against it!  (I’m really kidding, but also totally serious!)

I think the Harris book is so important for us to read in conjunction with this discussion because it gets to the essence of kitsch.  When we get to our other book, it will be more revolving around the history of kitsch, but with Harris we are in the right now.  Why do we do what we do?  Why are some images and aesthetics powerful to us?  What is the real urban cultural mythology that is embedded in everything around us?  As artists we can not pretend that we are not surrounded and influenced by consumer culture.  We can no longer believe the myth that it is separate from us.

The discussion involving quaintness seemed to be the most disturbing to all of us.  This is the lowest of the lows in the aesthetics hierarchy.  This is Cracker Barrel.  Julia brought up the fact that she questions the usage of the word quaint and looked up its many meanings.  It is derived from a very ancient term for female genitals.  What?!!!?  I wonder if Daniel Harris knows about this?  I agree that the term quaint is not exactly what I would call this aesthetic.  I never really thought of quaintness as being a bad thing…just of it being reminiscent and nostalgic.  I think that we will have to unpack this idea of quaintness further.  This is truly confounding.

According to Harris…Quaintness is…Cracker Barrel, Renaissance Fairs, new appliances made to look old, clutter, country coziness…

There are many levels to quaintness.

We were unsure over whether Civil War re-enactments were quaint.  We will have to come back to that.  I look forward to our further discussions.

Civil War Re-Enactment Meets Ironic Mustache

Civil War Re-Enactment Meets Ironic Mustache

Karen Kilimnik

September 5, 2009

Julia gave me an article on our first meeting to look over and think about.  The article was, “Karen Kilimnik: Fearless Diller” by Matthew Debord.  It appeared in Art/Text in the fall issue of 1999.

I have been familiar with Kilimnik and a fan of her work for a while.  I like her work the best when it appears in an installation setting.  Her ability to pair her work with ornate interiors and hanging crystal chandeliers is really exciting to me.  I think that would be the ideal situation to view her paintings; in a space that she had created for them.

My favorite piece by her is the “Red Room” installation she created for the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia.  Read a review of that exhibition by Roberta Smith here:


I want to think about Kilimnik’s work in reference to our topic of “contemporary kitsch”.  This is something that will probably come up in future blog posts again and in relation to our discussions of other artists.  I’m not sure if I think her work is kitsch, probably I think it would fall into the realm of camp more (or at least Susan Sontag’s idea of camp (which I will discuss further in my next blog post.))  (But then again, I am completely at a loss at this time of what I think kitsch actually means right this moment.)

The reason I want to classify it as camp rather than kitsch comes down to two factors.  As I have been reading more about both aesthetic ideas, I think that Kilimnik’s work references more high culture than low.  The links to royalty and the leisure pursuits of the upper class are hard to ignore although they are often coupled with influences of past and contemporary popular culture.  The source materials of her paintings is vast, but a lot of it points towards a nostalgic view of both the 1970s and the Romantic period.  The nostalgia of the past echoes into her vision of the present and it clouds the paintings and installations with more than a bit of campiness.

I know that these paintings are problematic for a lot of people in the art world.  Even in my experience of graduate school, I have found people either love her work or are completely opposed to it.  I loved it from the moment that I first saw it.  I didn’t question her style of painting or the content of it.  It just made sense to me. Coming from this viewpoint, I found Debord’s writing on Kilimnik to be completely insulting.  His reading of her work was all over the place and I felt that the majority of the time it was a personal attack on Kilimnik and had nothing at all to do with her work.

The most problematic part of the article was when he talked about a top 10 list that she created for the September 1998 issue of Artforum.  It was like he was expecting her top 10 list to just contain references to high art, but she wrote about all sorts of things that were of influence to her including the cinema.  He even went so far as to criticize her grammar in the list.  What’s the matter Debord?  Feeling a little threatened?  Is that why you had to be so mean?  I can’t help but think that if another (perhaps male) artist had written a top 10 list that included references to cinema, theater, and popular culture he would probably be praised for being so multi-faceted.  I think there is something about this work that brings out the meanness of people that don’t get it.  And it is strange.  I don’t understand how people could hate this work.

For me there are many layers to this work.  It is not shallow or unintelligent.  In the end, Debord calls Kilimnik’s work an “art drug.”  Despite all Debord’s protests, he couldn’t help but be a little bit enchanted by it.