Click the image to view the artMRKT San Francisco website

If you’re up for seeing contemporary art and curious what the art world looks like when you get a bunch of galleries together showcasing their stable of artists, then pay a visit to the artMRKT San Francisco. It’s a wonderful look into the contemporary art world. Looking at the exhibitors list, you will find some great San Francisco galleries (i.e., Jack Fischer, Catherine Clark, Paule Anglim, and more). The MRKTworks Auction is an event that auctions off donated works, which then go to a beneficiary (one of them being quite special to me). Again, if you’re up for a one or a few days of art, artMRKT will not disappoint. See you there!

…people are almost universally unprepared to respond to the vanguard art of our present age. They are indeed unprepared, almost as if they belonged to an earlier century, to acknowledge it as art!”

~ Arthur C. Danto

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fallen Angel, 1981

Genius Child

This is a song for the genius child.
Sing it softly, for the song is wild.
Sing it softly as ever you can –
Lest the song get out of hand.

Nobody loves a genius child.

Can you love an eagle,
Tame or wild?
Can you love an eagle,
Wild or tame?
Can you love a monster
Of frightening name?

Nobody loves a genius child.

Kill him – and let his soul run wild.

~ Langston Hughes

Growing up, art kept me busy. My mother knew this deep seeded passion within me yet insisted on telling me that artists don’t make money until they’re dead. If only she knew, making money was never a concern. She probably knows that now but making art, writing about it, and discussing it was all I ever wanted to do. Yet, my mother’s sentiments are shared by many parents.

Being an artist (any kind of artist), during one’s lifetime is challenging and burdensome. However, for the contemporary artists that brave the criticism, are precocious or highly experienced, and most importantly, believe (not think) they are the art star the world needs to know must probably learned something from Jean-Michel Basquiat’s through cultural osmosis.

After watching Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s documentary, The Radiant Child, directed and written by Tamra Davis, I found myeslf intrigued and seduced by Basquiat’s motivation, work ethic, and audaciousness. Having studied his work in contemporary art history class coupled with Google musings during slow work days, I was pretty eager to watch the film and acquired a greater sense of why anyone makes art (not just Basquiat).

The physicality involved in his work, the contour lines, bright and bold colors, and various mediums he worked with along with his use of language made for an eye opening look into what happens to he human soul when it’s allowed to roam aimlessly with paints and pens. His sensitive, impulsive, free, non-committal, bold, confident, and addictive nature come out in the film but my favorite parts of the film were of him painting and drawing. He could have said anything he wanted to in his interviews but it was watching him unfurl child like bold strokes on his canvases that made me believe he had a lot more to say than what he actually said.

I had two entertaining conversations (both on separate occasions) in the past two weeks. The Understanding Perception posts are dedicated to two intelligent men who, admittedly, have said, “I don’t get it!” when discussing Modern and Contemporary Art. Their innate curiosity and willingness to exchange ideas prompted me to write.

Now, Justin and Josef, I’m not trying to persuade you to fall in love with Modern and Contemporary art. Although I’m a huge fan of both, your opinions are valued and respected. What was important to me was your inclination to delve deeper into why you think Modern and Contemporary artists (specifically, abstract expressionists and conceptual artists) don’t make (what you define as) art.

This is my attempt at taking what is purely retinal and showing how art evolves through a series of radical changes in practices, philosophies, and a desire to involve the viewer on a much more intellectual level. Art, truly, is a living thing. Remember, there was a time in history when art was used, primarily, to tell a story (i.e., Catholic Church), especially, for people who were considered uneducated or completely illiterate (i.e., thank you again, Catholic Church and Colonialism – that’s another issue for another day). With time, Art’s function shifts and even can go against function. With all this change, it makes sense that many forms of art have evolved into such a multi-faceted experience.

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John Singer Sargent, Madame X, 1884 (Black and White Photograph or Original)

Having recently finished the book, Strapless by Deborah Davis, I felt obliged to use the subject of the book as an example of representational art. The sense of sight is activated, you receive all the visual data you need, and your memories and experiences tell you what you’re looking at. For many people, this painting is a close composite to what may be found in the real world. A woman. A Black dress. A white woman wearing a gown. You’ve got the picture, literally.

However, in 1884, this painting was rejected by art critics and the general public because it was such a departure from its subject, Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau, also known as Madame X. Her skin was corpse like white with an awkwardly positioned arm, and a fallen dress strap (which didn’t bode well within Parisian Belle Epoche). Essentially, the fallen strap was scandalous. In retrospect, it was Sargent’s way of introducing something innovative in portraiture. Yet, what about someone like me? Since I’m a woman of color, it means something different to me. Madame X was a dilettante housewife and socialite that went to great lengths to keep her appearance pristine. In many ways, this is not a portrait of an average woman in Parisian culture. The portrait means nothing to me but, technically, it’s an amazing testament to Sargent’s deftness with a brush but it’s a part of art history I can’t deny, right? I can’t dismiss it because it doesn’t resonate or relate to me. It’s an artifact. Yet, in any case, this is what most people know and define as art.

Bottom line: This painting is a purely ocular experience. Isn’t it? You get what you see, for the most part. Granted, it’s all the more interesting when you know the story behind the painting and I think that’s what intrigues people the most – the back story.

Marcel Duchamp's, Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912

Next, there’s Marcel Duchamp. Some people love him or you hate him. Either way, he’s another important figure in art history. This painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, is an abstraction of, well, a nude model descending a staircase! The architectural nature and form that the lines create are significantly different from the portrait of Madame X. Your eyes give you information but it may not necessarily match up with what you know about a real life nude (let’s say, a woman), correct? Would you have known it’s a woman or man descending a staircase? Why or why not? Does it even matter? There is a particular visual rhythm you see here that gives you all the visual clues necessary to ascertain that this is a figure in motion. Another aspect of abstraction is that you’re not being spoon fed the content. Forget about a subject or a figure. There’s something greater at work. You’re no longer thinking about an individual, you’re senses along with your cognition are working to make you think of other things (i.e., motion, tradition vs. avant-garde, etc.).

Bottom line: Representation gives you what you know. Abstraction gives you what you don’t know so you think.

I know, I know…one of you mentioned to me that you don’t like art that makes you think but you were willing to hear me out and exchange thoughts about art history (i.e., effects of the advent of photography and what it did to painting, innovation, post war, etc.). 🙂

All right, I’m going to end here.

We’re getting closer to looking at the smudges and smears on the museum walls and canvases that prompt you to ask, “WHY is THIS art?” I’m getting to it…

Oh, hello, I would like to get some help. I’m wondering, do you have this outfit in all Black? I’m going to an art opening tonight…

Click on Wonder Woman to see one of my Art Heros…

I’ve always wanted to be a bit of a Super Hero. Granted, I’m not going to spin myself into a frenzy trying to convince people to have an intelligent conversation about Modern and Contemporary Art with me. Rather, I’d like to think I can engage with others (who express a sincere interest and earnest effort in understanding art) without judgement and welcome open ended exchange of ideas. Hoping I can inch you ever so gently into understanding how art is in a constant state of change and evolution…