Thursday, September 13, 2007

Imitating life a little too closely

The modern art movement has had more than it's fair share of critics. After all, when someone can paint a yellow circle onto a white canvas and still demand a high fee for it, it's not surprising that people both inside and outside of the artistic community feel that the form has been diminished. Also, with modern art pieces that look as though they were crafted painstakingly over upwards of thirty minutes by small, childlike hands clutching crayons, well, needless to say that Botticelli and his contemporaries don't have much to worry about.

Conceptual art gets even harsher criticisms, because of the overall strangeness of many of the pieces. From Duchamp's "The Fountain" to Rauschenberg erasing another artist's sketches and beyond, conceptual art has had more than its fair share of detractors. When followers of the movement also create pieces such as taking out blank space in a newspaper for people to submit their own art (Frederick Forrest, 1972), imploring audiences to write down "one authentic secret" (Douglas Huebler, 1970), or a video of a sexual encounter between an artist and a collector (Andrea Fraser, 2004), it's no surprise that conceptual art is often viewed as simply little more than a poke in the eye of long-standing artistic traditions.

Well, the Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts is about to showcase an installation of a Turner Prize winning piece, created by Martin Creed. The title of the piece? "Work No. 227: The Lights Going On and Off". The piece, naturally, will feature lights turning on once every five seconds before turning off again.

In an otherwise empty room.

And the lights will all work together, leading to either a bright, albeit bare, room, or a darkened enclosure, with nothing to see anyway.

This work, of course, is a somewhat logical follow-up the artist's earlier pieces, one of which featured a crumpled piece of paper, and another of which filled half of a room with white balloons. In speaking about "Work No. 227", Creed himself has said, "I don't think it's provocative. It's just the lights going on and off. What's provocative about that?" He later made the comment that he doesn't "think of (him)self as making meaning," obviously in attempts to calm critics who feel like he is extending a middle finger towards figures like Michelangelo and Rubens.

However, we can admit freely that Creed is causing a bit of a stir in the artistic community, and that doing so could be considered as provocative. By creating art that is mostly a darkened room, he might just be suggesting that current art is better viewed when we can't actually see it. Or he could simply be making a lot of money coming up with ideas that seem so commonplace, nobody else tries to market them. We may not know until we see further examples of Creed's work. Might we suggest a few titles for the future? How about "Work No. 284: The Shoes I Couldn't Get Tied This Morning"? Or maybe "Work No. 591: Last Night's Leftovers"? Perhaps even "Work No. 872: My Favorite Tivo'd Episode of 'According to Jim'" might work.

After all, they've still got to be better than Thomas Kinkade, and Creed doesn't have any movies being made about his work.


No comments: