“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
[Jim Lambie, Tangerine Dream, 2004]
Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend a couple days in sunny Palm Springs… more auspicious still was the fact that I managed to avoid the Coachella weekends, without even knowing when the festival was. (I guess it’s this weekend and next.) So while my friends were bemoaning the rain clouds in San Francisco, I was soaking up the sunshine in the desert.
Believe or not, I actually managed to put down my poolside Mojito for a couple hours to visit the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Palm Springs is known for its tradition of modernist architecture, mid-century design, and modern art, so how could I NOT see what was going on at the museum? I checked the website, and HELL YES, one of their current exhibitions was Beg, Borrow and Steal, and it featured, like, I don’t know, a dozen of my favorite artists.
Beg, Borrow and Steal examines the ways that contemporary artists appropriate other artists’ styles, as well as aesthetic traditions from outside of the art realm, to make powerful statements about the past and present. I know that seems really broad and vague, but the exhibition WAS really broad and vague. I saw works from the ’70s through last year, from abstract to hyper-realistic, and tiny to enormous, in just about every medium imaginable. There were some characteristics that tied the works together, however. Even though I saw paintings, sculptures and videos, a good deal of the work was actually collage (makes sense, given the exhibition title), and true to classic Palm Springs sensibilities, there were a lot of bright colors and geometric shapes. I was in heaven, a little bit.
Featuring 58 artists from the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, the exhibition was specifically modified to suit the Palm Springs art museum, even adding a southern CA focus with artists such as Mike Kelley and Aaron Curry. What I loved most about it was the dialogue between the older generation of “borrowers” with the emerging artists of today. It’s awesome to think that radical artists of the ’70s who were appropriating imagery for their own artistic purposes, are now faced with a younger generation doing the same thing to them. No one is safe from it, you know? It was great for me since I know a lot about the ’70s and ’80s movements, but definitely have a lot to learn about the new kids out there today.
Some of my favorite artists in the exhibition were: Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons, John Baldesseri, Robert Longo, Keith Haring, and Jenny Holzer. Take a look at the works below, and if you’re into this sort of thing, check out the rest of the insane Rubell Fam Collection online.
[David Salle, Rainy Night in Rubber City, 1980]
[Hans-Peter Feldmann, All the Clothes of a Woman]
[Jenny Holzer, Protect Me From What I Want, 1985]
[John Baldesseri, Block (Blue) with Three Persons (One With Orange Tie)]
[John Stezaker, The Trial, 1980]
I spent some time checking out other exhibitions and the permanent collection, and although I wanted to focus this post on Beg, Borrow and Steal, I just have to bring up this incredible experience I had in the contemporary gallery on PSAM’s third floor. Basically, I was looking at some paintings, and I noticed an old couple sitting on a bench nearby. I thought, “that’s nice, they’re taking a little break.” On my way out of the gallery, I noticed they were still sitting there. No matter. But wait, they were literally in the EXACT same position as before.
And then it hit me- shit, are those actual human beings, or art? I was too scared to go figure out, so I forced my man to do it. I seriously could have pissed my pants watching him approach a sculpture, say, “Excuse me?” and then give me the thumbs up that they were indeed art, and not real people at all. Hey, there are a LOT of poorly-dressed retirees in Palm Springs, so it’s a legit mistake. Here is the sculpture, but I swear, it’s more uncanny in real life:
[Duane Hanson, Old Couple on a Bench, 2005]