Has anyone else noticed that 90% of everything in galleries and at art fairs these days look, well, the same?
Before I launch into a diatribe, let me start by saying two things: 1. I’m kind of a judgmental prick. Not my words, actually. I questioned the hipster art (I’m sorry, but I really haven’t come up with a better term yet) of one Matthew Craven over a year ago, and he found my post and called me that in the comments section. 2. I very sincerely am not trying to belittle any artists with this post. These are simply personal thoughts about a general landscape, and I want to recognize anyone whose work I posted here as talented and inspired. I included artists’ names under each image to give them credit. I didn’t post anything that I thought was purely awful or stupid.
That said, as an internet-nobody, I’m sick of all your talented, inspired, boring art, guys. It feels like everywhere I go in search of great art- ArtPadSF, blogsuponblogs, Vacation SF, and most recently- Little Paper Planes (they just opened up a very nice store in the Mission) I see the SAME damn stuff.
Why? Is it as simple as a confusion of art and design? Is the old-as-time dilemma of marketing and consumerism obstructing artistic license? I know that what sells, sells- whether it’s in a gallery or on a $30 t-shirt at Urban Outfitters. But when did Urban Outfitters become THE standard for what I see in art galleries and on art sites?
Recently, I was given an internet-recommendation. Someone pointed me in the direction of artist-run Mammoth and Company for discovering affordable works by up-and-coming artists. Do I even need to impart my reaction to this site? I mean, granted, some of the original art is very pretty and would look bomb hanging on my collage wall, but frankly, I’m about to fall asleep just browsing through their offerings.
No offense, designers, but I don’t want to go to art events and galleries and feel like I’ve somehow been tricked into attending an Etsy convention. I am by no means saying that the people who produce these works aren’t talented. Lord knows I couldn’t just whip up a geometric unicorn print without a good deal of struggle. But as an art enthusiast, it’s getting old. It’s annoying as a regular ol’ consumer too- I see the same design principles applied to “cool” jewelry, concert posters, clothes, album art- but I don’t really care as much about that; I expect sameness from the retail world. I do not, however, expect it from the “art” world.
“Well, you should stop going to small hipster-y galleries in the Tenderloin, and start frequenting legitimate fine art galleries.” But… “legitimate fine art galleries,” where every work is $10,000+, and all the employees are stuffy and old-school… that shit is terrible too. The way I see it, there is too wide a gap between these two types of contemporary galleries. And few people on either side are truly experimenting. When I stop into galleries in the Mission, I see a lot of re-hashing of pop art motifs and marketable colorful, geometric works. It makes me sad.
Unlike most of my general criticism of shit, this conversation is dangerous territory that makes me uncomfortable for one specific reason: I feel like I’m echoing the traditional gallery folks who, especially in the ’60s-’80s but even today to varying degrees, actively aimed to restrict what was considered “fine art.” Art critic Hilton Kramer dismissed Basquiat in the ’80s, saying that the only reason he was successful was because “liberals need to make a gesture.” Obviously a load of BS, right?
But am I a new-age Kramer? Should I rename this post “The Horrible Democratization of the Contemporary Art World,” and admit to being a pretentious traditionalist who can’t handle the way things are headed? I hope not. I don’t want to dismiss contemporary trends that MIGHT be totally visionary as “not art.” But I’m just really, really sick of this stuff. Sure, I have somewhat limited taste, but overall, I consider myself a huge fan of outsider and visionary art, much of which is rejected by museums and galleries all the time.
So, why is everyone so into brightly-colored “Native American-inspired” owl paintings? And adorable illustrations of faceless girls with kites? And triangles on top of space prints? Can you please all just take your work out of my face, and put on Society 6 or in a book by Chronicle, where it belongs?
I don’t want to end this on a “well, everything sucks” note. I know the exciting art is out there. How do I find it? What websites or galleries do I visit? Or am I looking at this the entirely wrong way?
I just want to be good at finding art that I like. With music, you’ve got mainstream lameness everywhere, but then you have places- labels, websites, zines, blogs, and radio shows that are a sure go-to to find the “the good music.” What are those places for innovative, underground art? Everywhere I look, the “underground” people are acting like the “mainstream” people.