26 Feb 2015

"new installationism" - it's not new nor is it an 'ism'

Art historians have a nasty habit of quoting and writing about  art 'isms,' ones that in the main, were created by themselves. A case in point is Allan Kaprow an artist who is accredited as [the 'first' on the art block] the father of installation-ism (1958). He originally called his stuff 'an environment' to describe his 'art offerings' to a young public who were no doubt riding high on the new drugs of the period (LSD and Marijuana) which at that time were still legal.

For example 'Yard' in 1961- where he dumped old car tyres in an art gallery setting for the visitors to jump around in. Which kinda reminded me of when as a kid, back in the early fifties, my pals and I did much the same sort of thing to break the boredom of living in an industrial City in the UK. How little did we realise that we were in fact participating in 'modern art'.
Since then of course the 'environments' are graciously viewed as contemporary art and continue to be installed with monotonous regularity - Many of the 'art-historical' 'environments' being regularly reproduced by national art institutions to enlighten the new generation of contemporary artists and art graduates - perhaps to show them what 'real-modern-art' should be like? - After all, the 'old Art' of paintings placed in a row on a wall resembles a mausoleum for dead art - as the Russian Avant Garde of the 1920's were quick to point out - 'Boring art' made by 'boring artists' one could say.

As a painter myself I really do understand the academic comparisons of painting and boring art - the chess playing arch duke of the new modern 20th century art (Duchamp) said so on American TV (many decades ago) so it must be true.

Painting today, unless it's deliberately made to display a total lack of any talent or skill whatsoever, is frowned upon and is said to be created by 'hacks.'

The trend now (on the web) however shows the opposite opinion, with extraordinary photo realistic images, created by hand, receiving by far the largest number of Google+ Facebook Likes and Twitter Retweets, than any other form of art posts (abstract paintings, actual photographs or otherwise), but there again what do the general public know about art - besides what they like - nothing - so the academics say.

To be honest, I have to agree with Jonathan Jones (Guardian) when he said in a blog article a few years ago, that "I don't see the point of producing photo-realistic paintings today, why not just take a digital photo [and manipulate it in Photoshop] - that would do the same job". You are right JJ painting needs to have much more than just talent. its needs a certain  je ne se quoi, if you'll pardon my French.

Although it does appear that the writing is on the wall, even for the Post Modernists and has been for a few years now. Their day in the Sun is being 'eclipsed' (sic: "you are art history Mr Hirst"). So, what's next for the Contemporary Art world to paw over? - Painting again?  That's unlikely as the 'Art Universities' have wiped painting off their curriculums, indeed any student shown to place paintings in their folio are warned that they shall be automatically 'failed.' At least that's what young art students (and their parents) tell me. And so it seems we 'old' painters really are like the infamous 'stuckists' -  in the middle ground with no particular place to go.

I guess painters (like me) need to come up with a new way, (or at least rid ourselves of mausoleum style hangings), to show work to what is reported to be a disinterested audience in contemporary painting. Yet the public, it seems, are happy with 'old' paintings, every year a 'new- unseen works' type show is paraded out in Capital cities around the world. And they get block buster audience attendances. Showing old stuff in a big old building helps, perhaps.

This is where 'new-installationism' comes in handy as an idea to adopt for living painters.

OK, the idea is not new, nor is it strictly speaking an 'ism', but
by following the concepts of Kaprow, painters need to 'think outside the box'. The box comes in the form of galleries on the high street or even the provincial street.
Painters should look to the spaces where people are attracted:- Car Showrooms come to mind, or any place that gets more foot traffic than an art gallery - Painters should work (think) harder on how to  install their art rather than simply hammering a nail in a wall and placing the painting on it - that is boring no matter how good the painting that hangs on it is -
-Painting exhibitions need a theme, a hook line that people can latch onto - A concept that is interesting and thought provoking and in sympathy with the alternate venue. I can hear fellow painters already saying that the 'web' is providing that space - it isn't - Sure it's a great space for 'self-promotion' or gathering a sort of 'psuedo-street-cred' if thats what you're after, but a painting needs to be seen in absolute reality for it to truly to be of any value - as a work of art - a painting is more than an image - it's an experience - one on one - that, despite what many people will tell you, has not and will never change. That's what art is all about.

Denis Taylor
pp: Konstverk-se
painted image: "thinking outside the box " - oil on canvas -  ©denistaylor2013