07 April 2007

Los Desaparecidos (2)

“From the Uruguayan Torture Series” (1983), © Luis Camnitzer

In The New York Times is a review by Holland Cotter of "Los Desaparecidos" exhibition now showing in NYC. I posted on this exhibition a short while ago. Cotter opens with this remark: "There may have been a more moving show of contemporary political art in the city this season than “The Disappeared” at El Museo del Barrio, but if so, I missed it." He then observes of one of the artists whose work is in the show, Luis Camnitzer, that he "is one of our finest political artists, which is to say one of our finest artists." (Camnitzer was born in Germany, raised in Uruguay and now lives in NYC.) So, by implication, Los Desaparacidos is the most "moving show of contemporary art" (note the eliminated adjective) that Cotter has seen this year. He ends his review by throwing down the gauntlet to the NYC art world: "And why is it that an on-the-road exhibition from a small museum in the Midwest is the most potent show of contemporary art, political or otherwise, in town? All I can say is that curators in our local museums should pay a visit, and ask themselves that question." This seems like an excellent question; I doubt that the big city curators have a vaguely plausible answer. Cotter himself could perhaps point them in the right direction by more consistently discarding the too common art world aversion to "political" work. As Orwell noted, in a comment displayed in the side bar to the right: "The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude." That is something Art World movers and shakers seem never to quite grasp.

PS: “The Disappeared” (“Los Desaparecidos”) continues through June 17 at El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue, at 104th Street, East Harlem; (212) 831-7272.

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Blogger Stan B. said...

Grasp? Never even considered...

07 April, 2007 13:42  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Stan, rarely is it the case that I am the MOST charitable guy around ... but you surely are correct. Thanks! JJ

07 April, 2007 14:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder, what is the difference between political art and cheap propaganda?

07 April, 2007 14:40  
Blogger Stan B. said...

"See in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

If you haven't learned in the last seven years, you wouldn't know it if you stepped in it.

07 April, 2007 19:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stanco, if you have nothing interesting to say you can always STFU. The question I want to raise is how we distinguish between political art and plain propaganda. In other words, I see political art as being propaganda just the same and I wonder why people (blindly) consider it to be art-is it simply because a so-called artist made it and it's hung in a gallery (as Duchamp taught us)? Or maybe because its anti-establishment stance makes it acceptable for sympathetic spectators to celebrate the work as art? I highly doubt that a work of "political art" that clashes with one's views would be considered by one to be of artistic merit.
Personally, I don't find any of the so-called political artists a la Bansky very artful. This is not because I am a Bush fan-I'm not. The problem as I see it is not that there is a dearth of political art, but that there is a deluge of political art which most of is tasteless. We don't need more political art, we need to know what the heck it is, and what makes it artful. The current conditions that mandate what a piece of political art is are highly suspect. I often see the same two types of "political art" in circulation: first, the youthful anti-establishment art characterized by crass slogans, pop culture refrences, and consumer culture/globalizaton criticism. Ironically, the consumers of this type of art are precisely the hip fashionistas that these "artworks" attempts to critique. Very often, these type of artists end up getting a nifty job at Nike designing the latest pair of Dunks and, before you know it, they are the establishment. The other form of political art is the somber memorial, as exemplified by the artist mentioned in the blog. This art is characterized by gloomy minimal works that try to make us feel the gravitas of human tragedies resulting from politics. I think this art is ineffective and even dangerous because it tends to be so beautiful and seductive that any shred of truth is lost. Essentially, I think artists conciously setting out to make works with political messages are wasting their time; the political socio-economic reality will be present in the work regardless of whether they try or not!

08 April, 2007 00:33  
Blogger Stan B. said...

First, my apologies, I mistakenly thought you the usual "anonymous" who sometimes plagues this otherwise sane and insightful site.
Since you're obviously not delusional as evident in your explanation, I was obviously mistaken- but then, that's the risk of being an "anonymous."

I'm not going to get into what defines "good" art, or "political" art, other than to refer to the now famous and pragmatic definition for pornagraphy. Yes, I do agree I've seen my fair share of bad "political" art, although that would constitute a fairly small portion of all the bad art I've ever seen. But I don't understand how consistent bodies of work could convey any kind of "political socio-economic reality" without the artist trying to convey just that in some semiconscious state. And just because an artist does set out to combine politics and art (and humor as well),as does Banksy, doesn't automatically discount or
discredit him or her. By your definition, 1984 was a waste of time...

No, the latter hasn't prevented present day reality- and that, in part, is because we haven't had more art of the same political calibre.

08 April, 2007 01:38  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Stan & Anon,

First I apologize to both of you since the commenter who Stan refers to has clearly subverted our ability to converse civilly here. I find that frustrating as I think your exchange is extremely useful.

I plan a post on this topic in the next couple of days. I don't want you to think I am ignoring your comments.


08 April, 2007 12:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys, I also apologize for my rude remark to Stanco. Seems this other anonymous is a real pest! Anyway, I'll sign in as Dawei from no on. I'll hold off on further discussion until JJ posts his new blog. Thanks for this great site.

08 April, 2007 13:23  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Stan & Dawei - I very much appreciate your civility here. Of course, now the pressure is on me to write something resembling a persuasive post on the subject! JJ

08 April, 2007 20:33  
Blogger Stan B. said...

Nonsense, Jim. It's your site, your topics, your prerogative...

The real shame is that those most responsible for many of the things you do write about, don't respond at all. And never would unless enough pressure was somehow, magically brought upon them. But then, that's usually the case isn't it?

PS- It took me 51 years to realize there are two r's in prerogative.

08 April, 2007 22:26  

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