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Making Art For People

Amongst all my bitching and moaning about the difficulties of securing the future of my short stint in the middle class through academia, I have still paid at least some lip service to looking for good art.  Albeit, yeah, that it’s mostly looking for images of good art on the internet.

The things I’ve found and the reality that my own studio practice is only living via the tubes and machines it’s hooked up to, so to speak, has me wondering, “how do you make art for people?” (and who the hell wants to see it anyway?)  So on and so on with the trope of “making art for yourself”. Making art that you like is fulfilling, period. If art doesn’t communicate and serve some viewer, it’s masturbatory.

Let me illustrate:
Kenji Fujita & Nancy Shaver - Untitled Collaboration
Kenji Fujita & Nancy Shaver – Untitled Collaboration

Glommed from Anaba, a collaborative installation, some hybrid of an office tower and a sailboat, on wheels, made from cardboard and bricks or something. (Way to transcend materials…) This, in a space where almost no one will see it. It raises one question: if it’s a collaboration, is it still masturbation?

I also found this:

“Graffiti” from around the world

I collected these images into one file from those that I found at Placebokatz.

OK, so as a model, these things won’t solve my other problem of securing an income.  But how different are these from the cardboard cut-outs above?  I enjoy the curiosity and very different elements of humanity in each one. I also enjoy wondering what each says about the place it’s in, in it’s own way. Places to live, cultures revealing themselves, artists sharing their visions…

Contrast with this:
Odili Doanld Odita - Equalizer
Odili Doanld Odita – Equalizer

These images via Artblog. I’ll quote, “Odili states that Equalizer represents the displacement of Africans to the United States and their life as African-Americans.”

Um, what? Unlike the first example, I’m visually attracted to these. I’d like to see them. The wall on the bottom right reminds me of large scale works by Francis Picabia. The red wall must be optically compelling in person. But, but… whatever means connects these abstractions with “the displacement of Africans” must be so esoteric or so abstruse as to not really exist. We can read a statement, or maybe be lucky enough to talk to the artist – and then learn things that allow us to bring his own thoughts to our understanding of his work. However, my suspicion is that almost all people will bring individual experiences to this work that will lead us to find something entirely different than what the artist intended. We may enjoy it – in this case though, Odita’s art is not for other people, but remains mostly within himself.

Finally, compare to this:
Roger Shimomura - Minidoka on my Mind
Roger Shimomura – Minidoka on my Mind

This from We Make Money Not Art.

So, I’ve been a fan of Shimomura’s work for some time.  I find this painting to be visually attractive, intelligent, broadly informed, a pointed commentary, and easily understandable all at the same time.  For me, that’s a recipe for good art.  All people in this country should know about WWII internment camps in the U.S.  Most art-going audiences should also be somewhat familiar with the forms and spacial constructions of Japanese painted screens.  Everyone should also be able to conjure up some reference through the title to Ray Charles, if not also Hank Williams.  All that and a fresh, biographically informed perspective on a controversial yet often forgotten chapter in American History.

Alas, just to get out and participate in these things beyond the internet.

3 Responses

  1. Dear meteechart,

    I am happy you were interested enough in my work to include it in your blog, but I must make a clarification of your complete mis-understand and mis-reading of my work. Art is not a literal experience, but is one open to possibility in creation, and in interpretation. I let those who want to make their interpretations of my work do so – I welcome this, but I only hope that I, and other artists, would be allowed to do the same when creating these works.

    It can be a great benefit to all involved when looking of art to be able to stretch the imagination, even in the slightest, to gain some new, additional, or different insight for ourselves in this process. Unfortunately, most people do not take it upon themselves to expand their imaginations, but rather are only interested in being spoon fed vision, and thought. Lastly, art can help us all look into and learn more about things we do not know, which is its virtue, rather than reaffirm the little we might know and assume is right.

    -Odili Donald Odita

  2. First, let me apologize if I’ve attributed intentions to your work that you didn’t hold for it. What I believe about it I quoted from fallonandrosof.blogspot.com – which I assume to be a reliable source. If that’s the case, I’d be happy to place an update in the post to point out my mistake.

    I agree to a large extent with much of what you’ve said about imagination – including frustration with audiences that don’t seem interested in giving much of themselves to a relationship with an art work. One of the things I like about Roger Shimomura’s work that I commented on in the post is exactly that through it I’ve learned something I did not know, about an experience I hope to never have.

    However, I think that our point of divergence comes down to differing emphases on things that are intrinsic to an art work, and those that are extrinsic to it. I’m interested in the difficulties incumbent in making art that enriches an audience, with specific intentionality, through elements that are entirely intrinsic to an art work. In other words, I believe it is an art work’s job to guide an expansion of people’s imaginations, rather than being the direct role of an artist.

    When I commented that I’d like to see them in person, let me say outright that it is because the images I’ve seen of your work did really inspire my imagination.

    A point I made in commenting on your work (and, again, I’m really only commenting on what I imagine your work to be after seeing little images of it on a computer screen) is that based on what the art works themselves provide, without verbal supplements or the opportunity to speak with you, each viewer will bring with his/her imagination an entirely different interpretation. And, from my perspective, when that happens, one can no longer say that a particular art work is not really “about” something.

    Perhaps I misinterpreted what you meant when you said your work “represents…”

    Creating an art work that can connect viewers imaginations to a specific theme through one’s own interpretation of it is not the same thing as saying that a certain theme inspired what you did and that it’s OK for viewers to not make a bridge to that inspiration. For me, when I make art, I want the minds of people who see it to move freely and actively – within a particular realm. I do not want to spoon feed or be restrictive, but I equally do not want an “anything goes” response. I am not content working with a quasi-fatalistic approach, saying that a work is about whatever a viewer says it is.

  3. Thank you for your reply. Again, I hope to make clarity on statements you have posted about my work, and I hope as you say that you will be able to make updated clarifications to your original posts.

    First, I must say that relativism is not my intention; rather it is specificity, which can be determined in many ways aesthetically, culturally, socially, philosophically. I am interesting in approaches that lead to specificity without falling into traps of obviousness, or literalness to the point of didacticism. Secondly, I do not know your understanding of the word “represents.” Looking up the word, I find my use of it very appropriate as a “study of formal ways to describe knowledge,” or more willfully and politically as “one’s ability to influence the political process,” or in the arts specifically as “the depiction and ethical concerns of construction in visual arts and literature.”1

    One of arts greatest abilities is its method to defy rule and obedience. I am more and more interested in this aspect in art, and for me personally, in color’s ability to be disobedient, or in another related thought, to exist openly and free.

    I also feel I have already stated in my first reply what you now also say in your follow-up: “For me, when I make art, I want the minds of people who see it to move freely and actively – within a particular realm.” This is also what I hope to achieve, and abstraction is this path that leads me toward this possibility. Art is not black and white; rather the question is how do we decide to navigate in the space between.

    In the process of writing this reply, I realize I am most interested in the idea of understanding. Over time I have found this to be a unique and very special position one can hold. One does not have to like, nor accept a position presented to them, but to understand it is I believe an important place of intelligence and engagement.

    Thank you again for the inclusion of my image in your blog, and for the opportunity to make clarifications I felt necessary with regard to my work.

    -Odili Donald Odita

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Represent

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