September 10, 2009 Jose

Crapping on Things You Love:
Modern Art, Specifically Jackson Pollock

redsquareropundedI will never forget the moment I saw it: I was wandering the top floor of the Museum of Modern Art, somewhat aimlessly. I could sense the encroaching, restless feeling one gets after spending a certain amount of time in a museum: long enough to become bored, but not long enough for your fellow patrons to proclaim it an “enriching experience.” A grey mist crept in around the corners of my brain as I gazed at a life-size installation of a dishwasher interior stacked with brightly colored plastic dishes and plaster crumbs affixed. A penis replica constructed from broken egg shells and dyed with coffee grounds winked at me from across the room, coquettishly. A canvas depicting four large dots, all black, but with varying shades of deep grey for their backgrounds sneered from the corner. I was finding it all rather underwhelming, but had not yet become outraged at any particular pretense. And then there it was, lurking in prominence. Red Square, Slightly Rounded. I don’t remember the name of the artist (and I use this term VERY loosely), nor can I find it on the Internet, but the painting has burned itself into an unflattering subdivision of my memory, and I have placed an approximation of the painting (which took me about four minutes to make, BTW) to the left of this article. Look at its sad impunity. How I hate it.

I find such useless trickery in one of the world’s most established and respected museums infuriating. Just what in the hell was MoMA playing at, anyway? Were they TRYING to make me feel stupid? Was it purposeful resentment of the normal man that made them hang a painting that has no relative merit to the untrained (and therefore honest) eye in a position of high repute? Of course, several friends who think themselves very erudite tried repeatedly to explain how, even though I might not see the genius, it is extraordinarily important that someone had painted this painting, even if its actual artistic merit is meager. In other words, pointing out that this can be art is more important than it being “good” art. I guess we could say, by comparison, that although we might hate discovering the nutritionally-impaired Hot Pocket in our grocer’s freezer, it’s important to our society that somebody somewhere decided to manufacture it, and then market these pastry-covered floor-sweepings into our mouths. It’s more important that it CAN be food than it be GOOD food. Well, God bless you, Nestlé! Thank the heavens for you!

It’s all a scam, and the artist in this instance snickered all the way to the bank as he cashed the check given to him by a MoMA official in a dreadfully tasteful turtleneck (his hand on his chin, stroking his moustache, squinting his eyes, and saying over and over, “Hmmmm…” and “Ahhhh…” and “Oh, yes, yes, of course, of course”!).

Such is the struggle the average person has with Modern Art. Shame on you, average person! Don’t you realize how much of an asshole Jackson Pollock was? That means he was great! Artist + Asshole = “Oh, yes, yes, of course, of course!” Get it straight, you lousy bunch of simpletons.

Jackson Pollock. Are you as confused about this ass-hat as I am? Look, I get it. I’m not completely daft. The guy did his dribbling-shits thing all over the canvas with some shapes occasionally barfed out for the sporadic “wow!” factor, and it’s all about the textures, and it was oh so stream-of-consciousness. And sure, it might look great above your couch as long as the colors don’t clash abhorrently, but why are we giving such a small achievement any more than a footnote status in the world of American art? And the critics will drag the Norman Rockwell’s down off the wall, snap them in two, pull down their drawers and basically crap all over them—and what do I know except that my Grandma freaking LOVED the guy’s work—but hey, at least he was DOING something, right? He could create something that we cannot do ourselves. And a lot of it was cheesy, but much of it was not, and at least it varied, and had content, and could make me think—even if the thought was simply, “wow, I sure hate the Boy Scouts of America”. By comparison, much of Jackson Pollock’s work is merely a lot of drunken repetition, as far as I can tell.

This much I do know: the world has always loved a guy that drinks too much, smokes too much, and fucks too much.

Click here to see some much cooler shit than Pollock ever dreamed of.

PS and BTW—Saw this quote in the Times today, and it made me wants ta’ barf. It’s the whole reason behind today’s topic, in fact:

He flashed a slide of Ellsworth Kelly’s “Study for Colors for a Large Wall” on the screen, and the audience couldn’t help but perk to attention. The checkerboard painting of 64 black, white and colored squares was so whimsically subtle, so poised and propulsive. We drank it in greedily, we scanned every part of it, we loved it, we owned it…

Gross. Read the article in its entirety by clicking here. It’s about something, but I couldn’t tell you what, exactly.

Don't wuss out, say something.