Wednesday, May 14, 2008
"Words are only painted fire: a look is the fire itself" Mark Twain
I’ve been compiling a list of artists who use text as form and content. Here’s who I’ve come up with. Am I missing anyone?
In no particular order:
Richard Prince (jokes)
Today, I’m thinking about Christopher Wool, whom I actually know very little about. I saw a show of his curvy, graffiti-like abstractions a few years back and hated it. I thought the paintings were superficial updates of abstract expressionism and that seemed arrogant, easy to me. A show of similar work is up now at Luhring Augustine and I’d like to reconsider, though. Because I’m really attracted to photographs I’ve seen of his text paintings.
They’re large bold stencils. The words and phrases are urban and tough, but not without ambivalence and insecurity. For example, “FOOL,” “HOLE IN YOUR HEAD” and “FUCK EM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE.“ They look good.
Dave Hickey wrote a notoriously scathing review of his work in 1998, calling it “upscale down market” and “designer-punk agitprop.” I do see what he means. The above painting is seen installed in a Beverly Hills home.
But I would say contemporary art is elitist. There’s nothing we can do about that. The question really is, does the art strike a chord in you. And, more importantly, does it do so sincerely, not through effect but through complexity. Although, my jury is still out, I’d say these text paintings do.