William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

More Art

The New Museum is hosting an exhibition entitled “After Nature” whose tagline is “THE earth will pass away with a great noise and there will be no place for it.”

It is not clear what they will do with the earth, as it’s rather large. But it doesn’t matter, because this is art.

A key “piece” is Maurizio Cattelan’s “Untitled”, pictured below.

Horse in wall

It’s a little difficult to see, but the thing that mom and dad are pushing is a stroller (see the cover of today’s New York Sun for a glorious half-page picture of the horse). Dad is cradling baby, hiding the exhibit from baby’s eyes. He is thus depriving baby of bringing to mind “apocalyptic thoughts.” Shame on him.

When I gaze upon the backside of the horse, I don’t know about you, but I see it as “a story of abandonment, regression, and rapture?an epic of humanity coming apart under the pressure of obscure forces and not-so-distant environmental disasters.”

Such a work of art is priceless, as will be obvious to all but the lowest Philistine, so I have been unable to find how much it costs. It might help to know that recently Damien Hirst’s similar work “Away From the Flock, Divided” (1995) went for just over $3 million. This daring art featured a “sheep, sliced in two and preserved in aqua-colored formaldehyde.”

I don’t know who it was that said that modern artists and the rich who buy their works are horse’s asses, but it’s obvious that this was a person of low education.

26 Comments

  1. Oh boy oh boy…

  2. Definitely weird, but in a strange way a compelling work of art.

    Don’t know if I’d pay money for it though.

  3. Whenever I’ve seen a fox’s or deer’s head mounted on a beam or a wall in a country pub (they have such things in England if you go far enough outside London ), if I can I always check the other side of the beam/wall for the rest of the animal. This is the first time I’ve seen the evidence of body though. Have you checked the other side of the wall for the head?

  4. Artists once had to make their own brushes, laborously grind and mix their own colors, and make the panels on which the artist then had to apply the paint by hand. Today’s advanced technology permits creative artists such as Mr. Cattelan to merely sever all or part of a living animal and artistically position the part(s) within the architect’s arrangement of arches, diagonal lines created by the staircase and handrail and other geometric shapes within the gallery space… truly a modern wonder.

    But I also remember a comment da Vinci is said to have made about another artist’s work to the effect that he didn’t know who most to praise, the artist or he who made the colors. This probably makes me a Philistine.

  5. On the nail Tim, ! It’s simply a joke played on the fools who buy into the nonsense. The temptation to sell “art” or accept comisions for high sums of money which require llittle effort and are merrit freeis evidently too great for many. The undefinable can not be contained…
    If they stopped calling it art and named it something like “applied philosophy” I wouldn’t have a problem with it, but no-one would buy it. Mr Dias might though, twas ever thus.

  6. joy @ #5

    If they stopped calling it art and named it something like ?applied philosophy? I wouldn?t have a problem with it

    Philosophy = love of wisdom

    You’re correct, I don’t buy post-modern art as applied love of wisdom.

  7. William, William; why are you wasting bandwidth on this dreck? Everyone with brain-one already knows that Modern A*R*T* is, if possible, an even vaster con than AGW.

    A horse’s ass by any other name . . .

  8. In the tate Modern when I first and last visited, there were no security guards near the art. There was, however one in the gift shop! Did someone do a risk analysis? An elephant recently foxed several people at an art exhibition who each waxed lyrical about the pieces before them in front of the TV camera. They were afterwards told that the painter was an elephant. Their responses were priceless. Unfortunately I think the lady who “taught” the elephant took this as a compliment…what irony! The elephant had the last laugh, and no-one thought to tell the elephant that he wasn’t wearing any clothes.

  9. Matt:
    OK, you’ve provided a number of examples that suggest that “Modern Art” is an oxymoron. Perhaps we should give the other side an opportunity to change the odds by providing counterexamples and then we can properly decide whether or not we can say that Modern Art is “Art”.

  10. Ahem. Post modernism is founded upon a rejection of traditional core structures. Mathematics had it’s own post modern revolution, first with set theory (remeber New Math?) and then with Grothendieck’s theory of categories. In art Warhol’s’ “Campbell’s Soup 1” (1968) reduced the artistic image to a basic cylinder. Then the addition of the label gave the cylinder “meaning” and indeed made allusion to a world of industrialized food, thus making an ironic post modern comment on a core structure of society.

    Cattelan?s horse’s ass lacks any post modern, structure questioning elements, but is simply rude. Rudeness is the sequel or successor to chiefly ironic post modernism, and so Cattelan?s sculpture is decidedly post post modern, or PoPoMo.

    The tragedy of post modernism is that in rejecting traditional forms (during our cultural revolution of the 1960’s), our culture lost touch with core values as well. Rationality, logic, compassion, courtesy, religion, justice, beauty, goodness, and other traditional values were rejected and replaced first with irony and then with rudeness. We live in a rude and self-destructive PoPoMo world today. Our culture is imploding from lack of core values, and the upwelling of pathetic substitutes as well, such as superstition, irrationality, cruelty, violence, shock, and debasement. The corruption of science (AGW is one of many cases) is a prime expression of PoPoMo, as is art such as Cattelan?s horse’s ass.

    We need to seek improved core structures, or in failing that, to re-adopt the old ones that used to work pretty well. It was not traditional values, after all, that led to the world wars and excesses of authoritarianism in the 20th Century, but rather a perversion of them. Rejection of core values in their entirety did not solve the problem.

  11. Mike D: I stand corrected. “Post Modern Art” is an oxymoron. I would still like to see some examples of actual Post Modern Art that is in someway equivalent in quality to any of the greats.

  12. Since irony is the chief message of PoMo art, it should be judged on the quality of its irony, much as a pig is judged on the quality of its fat, not its wool.

    It is not fair, in other words, to compare PoMo art with the great masters in terms of beauty, grace, skill, artistry, reverence, etc.

  13. “Post Modern Art” when “mounted’ and/or “performed” in carefully selected “spaces” create Physical Realizations of Oxymorons.

  14. Mike D: So it’s not art, it’s irony? so it’s a way of thinking or philosophy presented in a tangible form? something like applied philosophy. Even that termwould be a concession.

  15. Do you think it is pretty sad when you can’t agree on what actually is art? Or do you think this is a good thing? To me, art is not precise like science. So, what’s art to one person is not exactly art to another. Can we leave it at that?

  16. what’s sad about it?

  17. This is utterly amazing. Just because post modernism should get the hell out of science schools and universities (and I say FAST), it doesn’t mean it does not have a place on art.

    This site is increasingly reactionary.

    What a waste of thinking space.

  18. Luis:
    Lighten up.
    In my own comments, I simply asked for examples of Post Modern Art that you or any other reader would consider Art. I am open to being “moved” or “intrigued” by most things that embody accessible insights and/or difficult to master and desirable skills.
    If you find the presenting piece “artful” then fine – it would be helpful to understand why.
    The underlying issue, I think, is whether our abilities to think critically have been overwhelmed by some kind of collective delusional thinking. I think Matt has presented a number of pieces of evidence in support of the latter hypothesis. You are, of course, free to dissent.

  19. Joy, PoMo art is art, but it is art steeped in irony. Is Warhol’s soup can beautiful? No, it is prosaic, plain, and common. But beauty was not his goal. Does all art need to seek beauty? No, of course not.

    The overwhelming tendency of PoMo thought and art to disassemble to fundamental forms, and then to find those fundamental forms lacking, leads to irony, a kind of bitter and cynical humor. Some irony is amusing, as is good satire, but much is just depressing. Even more depressing is the post post modern (PoPoMo) tendency to substitute shock for irony. It is as if the rejection of fundamental forms (sometimes called abstract structures) left a barrenness and ennui that can only be dispelled through garish and shocking depravity. Crucifixes in urine, sculptures made of various types of dung, dead horses ass first hanging on a wall, extreme violence and pornography, are all attempts to elicit some kind of reaction from a jaded culture with mass attention deficit disorder (which looks and feels a lot like collective delusion). Subtlety and nuance appear to be dead, along with beauty and artistry.

    But PoPoMo will also pass. The fundamental forms are eternal. Beauty will return. We are going through a bad patch culturally right now, but it is transitory. There will be a new awakening. It is happening already at grassroots levels. Most people are not deluded, despite appearances. It won’t be long before the top dogs of the art world rediscover that art and beauty travel together.

  20. Joy, PoMo art is art, but it is art steeped in irony. Is Warhol’s soup can beautiful? No, it is prosaic, plain, and common. But beauty was not his goal. Does all art need to seek beauty? No, of course not.

    The overwhelming tendency of PoMo thought and art to disassemble to fundamental forms, and then to find those fundamental forms lacking, leads to irony, a kind of bitter and cynical humor. Some irony is amusing, as is good satire, but much is just depressing. Even more depressing is the post post modern (PoPoMo) tendency to substitute shock for irony. It is as if the rejection of fundamental forms (sometimes called abstract structures) left a barrenness and ennui that can only be dispelled through garish and shocking depravity. Crucifixes in urine, sculptures made of various types of dung, dead horses ass first hanging on a wall, extreme violence and pornography, are all attempts to elicit some kind of reaction from a jaded culture with mass attention deficit disorder. Subtlety and nuance appear to be dead, along with beauty and artistry.

    But PoPoMo will also pass. The fundamental forms are eternal. Beauty will return. We are going through a bad patch culturally right now, but it is transitory. There will be a new awakening. It is happening already at grassroots levels. It won’t be long before the top dogs of the art world rediscover that art and beauty travel together.

  21. Mike:
    Yes, but if anything and everything can be claimed to be “art”, what is art?

  22. Patrick Henry

    July 24, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Out here in Colorado we have horses everywhere. Both ends of the horse.

    I do understand that in late August there will be a huge increase in the numbers of horse’s asses in Denver.

  23. A better question would be: what form of expression is NOT art?

  24. Mike, beautifully put. Beauty never went away though. The idea that the boundaries cannot be defined leaves the way open to cunning ways such as shock tactics to be used to arrest the gaze of the onlooker and so adding further credibility to it’s aclaimed artistic merit. Monet, Constable, Angelo didn’t need to preach deeper meaning behind their work, it clearly speaks for itself. The merit is either there or it’s not. There will always, however be people who look for beauty in the most unlikely places. It takes all sorts…Let’s hope you’re right about the pooh pooh moo.

  25. Mike:
    You are probably correct but the identity leaves us with a superfuous term, i.e., Art.

  26. Mike:
    You are probably correct but the identity leaves us with a superfuous term, i.e., Art.

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