Tuesday, May 10, 2005

But Is it Art?

I spent Sunday out at the Brooklyn Museum of Art at the Basquiat exhibit with my friend Lucia. Since we are both motherless and Sunday would have been my dad's 90th birthday, I really didn't want to spend the day alone, I thought what better way to spend the day than looking at some art.

Jean-Michel Basquiat exploded in the early to mid-eighties on the art scene before his early death of a heroin overdose. The Brooklyn Museum exhibition is the first major retrospective of his work. I have to preface this blog by saying that what I know about art could be written on the head of a pin and still have room for the complete works of Shakespeare. It's a cliche, but I know what I like when I see it.

Although I can admire the passion that he put into his art, I have to say right off the bat that I am not a huge fan of his work. I found it to be incredibly primative and disturbing. I can easily say that I would not want to wake up every day and see his paintings on my wall. You know how when you've been drinking a little too much, an dyou wake up in the middle of the night and the room is spinning a little? His paintings would give me nightmares. In composition and form, they look like something a five year old would create.

Walking through the exibition, it made me think about how many people buy art, not because it's something that they love, but as an investment, because someone told them that an artist is the hot thing, and will be worth millions some day. Not that I don't think that Basquiat's work didn't deserve the attention. He came along at a time when rap and hip hop were becoming big. His paintings are like rap come to life. Keith Haring and Mark Kostabi were also really big in the 80's as well.

In some ways his paintings reminded me of William Blake, the poet, painter, and visionary of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. If you've seen Red Dragon with Ed Norton and Ralph Fiennes, you know who I mean. That same energy.

A painting for me is a visceral experience. I couldn't tell you about the brush strokes or what techniques a painter uses, I can only tell you how the painting made me feel, did i tprovoke an emotion in me. Did it grab my attention in a good or a bad way? Would I want that painting hanging in my house?

But is it art? Just because I didn't like it, doesn't mean that it isnt' art! You can call me a philistine, and tell me that I'm not sophisticated enough or itnellectual enough to 'get' what Basquiat was trying to do. And you may be right, but I still didn't like the paintings. I found most of them juvenile, as if he were thumbing his nose at you, laughing at you. At certain points, I felt that his was just throwing paint on canvas, because he knew that people would buy it. Of course, that's just my opinion. Feel free to disagree with me but respect my right to my opinion.

Afterwards, to clear our heads, we headed over to the European painting exhibit, where I got to see a painting by Walter Sickert, now more famous for being fingered by Patricia Cornwell as Jack the Ripper than his paintings.

The Basquait paintings reminded me of the age-old debate between literary fiction and genre fiction. If you write a best selling mystery novel, instead of a literary fiction novel that sells 10,000 copies, then your work is not worthy. The Queen Bee of my old workshop felt that way. If you weren't writing literary fiction than you're not really a writer, and not worthy of being in her workshop. That kind of attitude ticks me off.

There should be room for everyone to express themselves, whether it be art or fiction. Just because you may not like it, doesn't mean it's wrong or less worthy of attention.

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