Shitting on Michelangelo Makes YOU Great!

In the room the women come and go
shitting on Michelangelo.

Today’s offense comes from artnetnews, and is about a conceptual artist who figured out how to cut Michelangelo down to size, while elevating himself to mammoth proportions.

Adrián Villar Rojas, Untitled, (From the series ‘The Theater of Disappearance) ©The artist, courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London. Photo Thierry Bal.

The idea behind the conceptual artwork above is that status changes, and what was once grand is inevitably toppled by something else. The article doesn’t say this, but if I was paid to hash out utter tripe, I might have said that dinosaur’s eggs were eaten by tiny rodents (one popular theory of how the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex became extinct).

The artist proves his point by giving us only the lower half of the statue, below David’s pecker, and adds a little kitty and something its playing with, perhaps a fragment of the sculpture itself. Obviously we are in the presence of a grand, philosophical artist. This isn’t for your average museum goer, folks, you need to have your thinking helmet on, fully charged, and lights flashing. You are going to have to THINK.

And yet, it seems more like you’d be better off NOT thinking at all, and just scoffing.

Surely the article will elucidate to us how this sculpture upstages Michelangelo’s David, in terms of “status”, which the artwork has been reduced to. I went to the article hoping to find some explication.

The fact that the legs are a replica of Michelangelo’s celebrated work means they can’t be considered outside of an understanding of David’s status in the art world. That said, they are literally severed from that context, too, making an artistic statement that is wholly their own.

Right. If you replicate an existing famous art work, than it refers directly to that artwork. Got it. I think I didn’t even need that explained to me because how could it be otherwise? Now to level up to the next philosophical plateau. Ah, the legs are literally (kudos to the art critic for using the word correctly) severed from that context. So, you cut off the legs and you sever them from the body. And when you do that you also sever them from the context of the original sculpture as it exists in the Galleria dell’Accademia, in Florence, AND, more importantly, from its exalted place in art history as one of the greatest artistic achievements of our species.

And, y’know, this isn’t just ANY sculpture, it’s David, and David is the kid who took on the giant, Goliath, with a slingshot and won. So, it’s kinda’ like Rojas is taking on the evil giant, Michelangelo – a dead white male artist if there ever was one (note that the sculpture is WHITE)  – and freeing all of us from the tyranny of the status of the old master artists. And thank fucking God Rojas had the courage to do this. Imagine if we went around appreciating the art of our ancestors like they were our equals, or if they worked really, really, really unbelievably hard and strove like absolute muthafuckas were even better than us. Hell no! We have smartphones, for one, and there doesn’t need to be a two. Smart phones alone make us smarter than Michelangelo, and that’s a fact.

So, I gather I got that part. Let me see if I can wrap my mind around the rest of the article. Pay attention because this is the rest of the argument.

Villar Rojas’ installation does a job of interrupting the established status quo, calling into question the supposed supremacy of any particular artwork. Here David’s legs… serve to remind the viewer of the seeming inevitable decline of empires and the ephemeral nature of status in any one era.

I guess that’s it. So, I need to really concentrate on this nugget and see if I can decipher the deep meaning. There is an uninterrupted status quo, which just has to suck, right? And this status quo holds some artworks, like David, as supposedly having supremacy. Remember, the sculpture is WHITE, and has supremacy. So, even if the author didn’t belabor this, we can also see this as an attack upon the institution of systemic white supremacy in the art world. Rojas, like David, is toppling an empire, and within that very empire Michelangelo is held to be a veritable GIANT of art. And isn’t this the age-old, cliché of the “white male genius”? Pah!

The article is short on text but has 10 large photos of Rojas’ “Untitled” which, über ironically show it displayed as the NEW STATUS QUO. I mean, does this not LOOK like status quo to you?

Well, I beg to differ about this work. I’m calling bullshit.

First off, the least we can ask of conceptual art is that it have a new or challenging idea, since it’s all about the idea, even if there are 10 lovingly professional photographs aestheticizing the living shit out of the ungainly, truncated clump. Well, this idea adds nothing new to Duchamp’s painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa way back in (let me look this up for you) 1919. For convenience, let’s just say a century ago.

It’s been done, about 100 years ago.

An astute reader who thinks for her or his self might want me to explain what these two works have in common more than poking fun at the old masters. Well, one is the presumption (bankrupt as it is) that if you can make fun of something, that means you are above it, bigger than it, in the same way David taking down Goliath makes him the greater warrior. If you can piss on someone, you have supremacy. But you want more evidence. Was Duchamp’s mustachioed Mona Lisa really saying the same exact thing as Roja’s cleverly titled, “Untitled”?

I quoteth Wikipedia (which is the first source for easy bullshit detection):

Primary responses to L.H.O.O.Q. interpreted its meaning as being an attack on the iconic Mona Lisa and traditional art.

Sounds very  similar. Here’s more elaboration:

The creation of L.H.O.O.Q. profoundly transformed the perception of the Mona Lisa. In 1919 the cult of the Mona Lisa was practically a secular religion of the French bourgeoisie and an important part of their self image as patrons of the arts. They regarded the painting with reverence, and Duchamp’s salacious comment and defacement was a major stroke of epater le bourgeois (“freaking out” or substantially offending the bourgeois).

The wording is slightly difference, but the essential idea is the same. The artist took a crap on a masterpiece, and in doing so, elevated himself to grandmaster status.

This didn’t work with Duchamp, and it doesn’t work with Rojas a century later. There are art critics who claim Duchamp is on par with Michelangelo and da Vinci (I’ve quoted them elsewhere and can look it up if anyone doesn’t believe me), and Rojas is trying to play the same game.

It’s bad enough that Duchamp chumped the art world once, but do we have to be so stupid as to fall for the same old gag again? And is it even a useful idea that the great art of the past is entirely dependent of extrinsic “status” conferred by others? I would easily counter that if you are a fan of art, and rather like a lot of art, you can tell that some art is really good, just like you can tell some music is really good, and THAT is why it is good, not the bullshit status conferred or withheld by others. Let’s not forget Van Gogh had no status in his lifetime. Great art survives because of its intrinsic merit and even timeless qualities that we relate to as humans, across time and geography, and not because this or that rich fuck or know-it-all bullshit critic (enter Clement Greenburg & Rosalind Krauss, for example) says it’s important. Or at least that was the case until now.

Michelangelo’s David is evidence, just like the pyramids, or the cave paintings in Lascaux, that while empires may fall, art, if it is not destroyed, has a way of enduring. It is STATUS that fails, not ART. What Roja’s “Untitled” ironically states is that the quality of art is extrinsically decided by the art audience, it’s rather arbitrary, tastes change, and utter bullshit can be heralded as supreme by purely extrinsic and even fallacious ideas. It argues for it’s own ephemorality and insignificance on inception. Like Duchamp’s urinal, it declares to the world, “I am insignificant, and therefore, all art is insignificant”. And that’s why it is sooo great. It is the kicking down of other people’s sand castles and declaring oneself the master sand castle builder.

And if you’re still not convinced, just imagine the musical equivalent. We take, say 10 minutes of a Mozart symphony, then we add a track of a kitty-kitty mewling on top of it. Now we have removed Mozart’s music fron it’s original context, and shown it to just be hype that status was arbitrarily assigned to. The new “music” we produced outshines Mozart and shows he’s bunk.

Don’t worry folks, we don’t have to shit on everything great from the past and embrace futility, cynicism, and even stupidity. We can even try to achieve great things with our own lives, and in our own art. Shitting on Michelangelo is just stupid. It’s not David knocking out Goliath with a mere slingshot, it’s a weakling pissing on David while he’s sleeping.

Michelangelo will continue to speak directly to people long after Rojas and Duchamp are forgotten. It is their art that is propped up by status, and that loses significance once it’s removed from the gallery or museum.

And if you read my last article about No Hands Art, this is a perfect example of the kind of art that is held as superior because it says, fuck art and fuck artists.

~ Ends


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~ Ends

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7 thoughts on “Shitting on Michelangelo Makes YOU Great!

  1. It’s hard to imagine trying to sculpt that with hammers and chisels. Most artists think pretty highly of themselves, but let’s be real for a second, Michaelangelo was better than us. I’m ok with that, but it seems a lot of artists are not. They think they are the greatest, most creative, gifted artist of all time, and it pisses them off that the whole world doesn’t realize that yet (idiots). I must rip on this inferior artist to prove I’m so great. He probably thought for a minute, this Michaelangelo is so far beneath me, should I even bother ripping on him? The smartest people I know don’t make fun of people who are clearly not On the same level. They try to educate them in a nice way. This just smells of insecurity, and everyone is moving away to get some fresh air.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I see it perhaps a little differently, or maybe just I’m using different words. This isn’t so much, for me, that an artist thinks he’s a better artist than another artist, as in more skilled, creative, aware, and whatever. This is the classic Duchampian manoever where one KIND of “artist” is automatically superior to another = conceptual artists are automatically superior to visual artists. That same old thing that’s been pissing me off and I keep trying to hammer home. It’s wrong. So, the ideas isn’t so much, “I’m a better artist”, but, “I’m a different league of thinker, and I completely transcend this whole kind of art-making”. It’s a whole other level of arrogance. Not sure if you read my “No Hands” post. Well, that’s the legacy Duchamp gave us, anyone can be better than all visual artists throughout history by one-upping them with a conceptual gesture. And artists like me are fighting them back by one-upping their bullshit, making parodies in Photoshop, and so on, and dismantling the rhetoric.

      So, I don’t mind any and all other avenues of creative enterprises humans come up with, but when they shit of visual art and hold themselves automatically above it, without producing any kind of real visual art, they they incur my wrath. It is the Duchampian idea in his Fountain that is the real pisser. But when Chris Burden makes a giant sculptural thing with hundreds of miniature cars driving over 100 niles per hour on it, I’m going to think that’s cool. But all that gestural, pseudo-philosophical bullshit (I really LIKE philosophy and aced the couple courses I took in it in college) that tries to shit on visual art. That’s gotta’ go. When people say things like, “painting is dead and/or beauty is dead” they are saying that the human visual imagination is dead. THAT is shooting oneself in the brain. And I think that’s what this dude is doing with his anti-Michelangelo prop.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I hear you, it’s just so hard for me to wrap my mind around that kind of thinking. I might do some actual good paintings of the readymades to say F.U. R. Mutt for the centennial. Maybe actually get a little creative and use the urinal as a bike seat or something. Turn the table on their B.S. and appropriate their crap to make some real art.

    I did read your no hands post. I’ve never Read Tom Wolfe, the two pages you posted looked like I would like him. Thomas Wolfe was a great writer. His chapter called (The Party At Jacks)in you can’t go home again is pretty funny. It makes fun of Alexander Calder, whose wire sculptures I really like and have been inspired by, but it makes fun of his miniature circus that he would do acts with at parties that everyone was in love with in the summer of 29.. He had groupies that went to every party to watch the show. I’ve seen the circus on YouTube and it’s not great. But it was all the rage back then. No ones heard of it now days and I’m sure the same will be said of all this crap in 100 years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like your idea of making paintings to mock the centennial. I’m going to write an article about it but I had to do some research and make a proper outline. Sometimes I just run off the mouth, so to speak, and then edit. That works but sometimes I need to write a tighter, more persuasive, more academic article.

      In tackling Duchamp, I have to have my quotes ready, and I have to first show that I fully grasp the argument as to WHY his is so valued and considered so important. I need to be able to make that argument persuasively myselfk in a way that will make it clear to people who never understood it before. And then I have to rip if apart. But I can’t use strawmen arguments and I can’t just rip it apart. First I have to give the argument for the urinal. I can do it now, but I want to do it REALLY well. That’s why it’s a tough article. I have to arrange and organize my arguments.

      But, yeah, paintings making fun of readymades sound cool. Just a painting of any of them is already interesting, like a painting of the shovel, the comb, the bottle rack, and the urinal. Just the act of making them into paintings says something, though I’m not sure what. And it doesn’t need to be done particularly well. No flair necessary. Just matter of fact, Just the act of making it back into a physical painting. Probably with just a plain, one color background as well.

      But you might have another idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow. I am impressed by your art, it is so peculiar, so modernised, I have looked through some of them. This post is very well illustrated on your stand point and your broad and bold and different perspective for the art. Hope to see more from you. Have hope, art on!

    Liked by 1 person

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