Life imitating Art and The Growth of Lying
GERMINATION OF DECAY - mixed media - Ethan Michael Ezra Smith ©2006 Zurich
If Oscar Wilde was correct in his 1889 essay "The Decay of Lying" when he wrote "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life", can we assume then, that it's the fault of the artists that the joke has been taken all the way up to the highest office of President of the United States along with the art of lying?
written by: Erin Thomas 11.2.18
Artists tend to be reactionary when creating rather than consciously predictive, which ends up ironically as a reliable prognostic tool to glimpse what is looming on our horizon. Over the last couple of decades the contemporary art world has slowly become quite the yarn with well intended and witty artists visually biting the hand that feeds them and dismantling their own art market with deep pockets and irony that has been endlessly amusing to sit on the sidelines and watch ... at the same time the age of the internet has made every single breathing human an artist, thus rendering art more boringly common to the general public...the irony and agony of the weird paradoxically place that is the current "big art market" is that it shoots itself in the foot over and over....but it will run out of tendons and bone to shred before it's eventually rendered immobile.
at least until a brave artist and investor come along to rebuild the foot and a gallerist sings the the toes well again.
The foretold artistic sound byte of history has rolled in once again with it's loud pipes and glossy candy-red Koons menstrual paint and it's garnering all the attention of the masses with little gain for everyone outside of the game board and it's worsening effects within local design and art markets are being felt...the money has become the flaunted joke now, rather than the art. With the 501(3)c art non-profit administrator skimming off the top or just plain creating work themselves, there is little to nothing left to grow poor talent unless that game of WOW is played with the big money players. When the creative content that is trending is so intrinsically easy to recreate if you have money enough to build it bigger or hire labor to do it for you, there is no longer a general perceived need for the studied or masterful artist.
Find something amusing or depraved, shine a light on it, blow it up, throw it in everyone's face and call it art ...
This will dismantle this art market monstrosity that was inadvertently built ... eventually, maybe...hopefully.
Most recently, Banksy sold a simple acrylic stencil at auction for $1.5 million. The very second the gavel came down to seal the deal, the piece began to shred through the frame, shocking the onlookers and elite buyers. Even though it didn't work correctly, it's still going to be considered one of the most brilliant stunts an artist has pulled off this decade...and no doubt, someone, likely whichever artist holds the most financial backing and pull, will try and top it very soon.
Do we all think this art stunt was resplendent? Indeed we do. The awkward satisfaction of a middle finger directed at the buyers that are playing this ridiculous game of artopoly is a rather deserving salute after they made their own sort of mockery out of the art market by manipulating it for their own financial gain amongst each other. The preverbial shot to the foot is that these are also the very same folks that financially sustain artists like Banksy in the first place, thus the paradox. The wealthy have become a socially acceptable target of mockery and shame of late, and then we are all left scratching our heads and complaining that they won't share with us less-than-well-to-do's....and so we turn our sites on our government to help us while the art investors shake their head with a furious NO after getting played enough times, then everyone, including the government begins to distrust the artists and must put adminstrators in place to manage (pilfer) the money before it gets the artists, thus rendering the government sanctioned art sterile and ambiguous and less...
CYRIL. Well, you need not look at the landscape.
You can lie on the grass and smoke and talk.
VIVIAN: This is no isolated instance that we are giving. It is simply one example out of many; and if something cannot be done to check, or at least to modify, our monstrous worship of facts, Art will become sterile
and Beauty will pass away from the land.
We can look at at what has happened to the art world to understand the mockery that has now also parked itself in our policy office. A great basking in the high art of creative lying. A gigantic Joke. Wilde's essay was focused on the worship of hard facts, the extreme opposite of what we are experiencing right now...by the time his essay was published, a more educated and logical Theodore Roosevelt won the votes in the US while Matisse and fauvism and Albert Einstein began to root...in 1905 Steve Porter was popular while Fats Waller was honing his craft to usher in the next wave ....seriousness, realism and stark fact worship began to sterilize supported art to the point of oblivion and if Wilde's essays are any indications, fans of truth and beauty at it's purest were just as impatiently waiting for the next creative wave to come and break this bleak time in creative history as we are now...if you believe in transcendentalism as a reaction to rationalism, then it's a fact that the pendulum can, and will, swing in the complete opposite direction with the artists at the helm...it's nature...and we are nature...even while lying on our plastic yoga mats so we don't feel the icky wet grass. The art of lying has become so prevalent, and so bizarre that it is rendering much of our art and politics into a ridiculous over-the-top unsustainable humorless pile of shit....so much humor that it has officially become insane rather than beautiful reactionary brevity. I cried when I first glimpsed a Rembrant ...but when I recently gazed upon the giant flat-black ball that was described as representing our place in an empty universe at a recent show at a contemporary gallery, my reaction was more...indifferent and mundane. My eyes enjoyed it, it was interesting in the space, I appreciate design bla bla...but my soul was left rather... unmoved....and I just kind of want to be moved by art.
VIVIAN: "The popular cry of our time is ' Let us return to Life and Nature; they will recreate Art for us, and send the red blood coursing through her veins; they will shoe her feet with swiftness and make her hand strong.' But, alas! we are mistaken in our amiable and weIImeaning efforts. Nature is always behind the age. And as for Life, she is the solvent that breaks up Art, the enemy that lays waste her house."
Most people realize by now, the art market on the larger scale is almost entirely comical to the average person, and it has been for a long time...many of the "famous" artists that you can commonly name from the last two decades have household status simply because of the gallerist, market manipulators, speculators or financial backers, not because they were the artists that were the best of the best our country has to offer.....yes, sometimes they even have government backing. You know Jackson Pollack solely because he was chosen specifically to improve our national cachet during the Cold War...and that's not to say he wasn't talented...I can say with all confidence that most artists I know personally have the potential to be great should they be given the rare opportunity to do so. Give an aspiring artist a huge stock of gigantic canvas, time, space and money and 100% of the time they will fill it with paint, because that is what they are driven to do by inner truth and beauty. Deny their place or overly insult their craft, and lose out on masterful art. So I think in this case, it's the curators, gallerists, speculators, investors and market manipulators that are not doing their job, not the artists. Give the artists what they need, and it will trickle up into our politics, we desperately need this cultural attache.
This is an important topic even to those of us in the smaller markets here in Maine as the national dialogue and impression of artists as a general participatory concept greatly effects the local market, just as a leader in a high office can effect everything down to the homeless and downtrodden, the larger art market will greatly effect the paintless and studioless. I've stood next to big money investors while they've called investing in art "charity" and "money pits" and "too risky"...many of them fear the perceived liberal politics of an artist, or they don't currently see the valued return because it can not be measured in an excel spreadsheet.
But Life soon shattered the perfection of the form.
"poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects...
They did not exist till Art had invented them"
Art in all it's forms has always included the silly or mundane, many of us grew up with a bit of Weird Al sprinkled in between our Led Zeppelin, lest we become not well rounded or TOO serious about life... so this is nothing new in any decade, but when the joke has become so yuge and engrained into our policy and decisions that directly effect lives, it's time to roll up our sleeves and plan for the rebuild of the system while it's being deconstructed with jokes and lies.
While journalists rush into Art Basel to find the next big potboiler like it's an episode of Super Market Sweep, the thoughtful and more serious painter will quietly continue to study to be in place after the tsunami takes the joke back out to sea for the salt to finish it off. Oscar Wilde was begging for a farce to show it's face, so he may be amused by what we have built today...but....is it too much to ask for that little sweet spot in between? Weird Al is a pretty good palette cleanser for Zeppelin, but too much Al breads inner anger for sure. This giant fable may also be causing the entire market to fray at the edges and effectively also demolishing respect for artists on the local level, but rest assured, after all the best jokes have been told, the real conversation can be had, and it sure feels as if we've almost reached that apex.
VIVIAN: The final revelation is that Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art. But of this I think I have spoken at sufficient length. And now let us go out on the terrace, where "droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost," while the evening star " washes the dusk with silver." At twilight nature becomes a wonderfully suggestive effect, and is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets.
Come! We have talked long enough.
This abstract painting shown at the beginning of this article is actually a photograph of a painting that hangs in my bedroom.
It was photoshopped into a gallery setting and was really created by my 1 year old child Finn in 2006
when I gave her ample art supplies and time to play. If you'd like to purchase this painting, it is currently valued at $1.5 million.