Recently I was at a Sarasota party where a group of older art collectors discussed several art events of this past season. Talk included “Beyond Bling,” the Ringling Museum’s show of hip-hop inspired art; street artist MTO’s “Fast Life,” the now whitewashed wall mural that caused a public uproar; S/aRt/Q’s “Voyeur,” an exploration of observation and art through a peephole; and exhibitions at the new Clothesline Gallery.
Of course there were fans and foes of each. Some got kudos for talent and originality; others, thumbs down for technique and “attitude.” Attitude? Yes, that was the word used. Predictably, the age divide was at play here.
This “attitude” label sparked a lively conversation. We discussed how artists use their work to respond to and interpret their private lives; but like the rest of us, they can’t help being impacted by the world at large through the unavoidable exposure to an abundance of constant information.
Seen from the perspective that contemporary art is not only personal but also reflects our shared time in history, some people began to reconsider the “them/us” they unknowingly constructed with artists they disliked. Furthering this thought, the concept that today’s art is tomorrow’s artifact is provocative.
Talk drifted to ideas rather than opinions. We considered how you might not like a particular work but your reactions are valuable for what they reveal about yourself, the artist and our culture. This led to a discussion about the importance of looking at all kinds of new work for both personal satisfaction and as a firsthand way to participate in our current evolving world.
All this resulted from a conversation about a couple of artists with “attitude” problems. Good thing; otherwise it might have been a short night.
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