Critical slaves. I was particularly drawn to
Critical Review. For my series of critical reviews, I wish to focus on ‘Radical art’. The kindof art that pushed the boundaries of the era, and challenged conventions,expectations and stereotypes.
I feel radical art is not only art that provokesoutrage but also changes perceptions of what art is, for example, Duchamp’s’Ready Mades’. I have chosen to focus on, ‘Kiss’ The 1963 film created by AndyWarhol, due to its depiction of homosexuality almost 40 years before it wouldbe legalised. As a queer woman, the subjects of this film, and Warhol himselfare very interesting to me, and moving amongst the LGBT+ community.Following this, I am tackling the topic of Kara Walker’s Untitled from 1996. A crayon drawing highlighting the abuse and humiliationthat was thrust upon female slaves.
I was particularly drawn to the simplicityof the medium used, and how it created such an impactful image.To cover a variety of mediums and eras of art, Fountain by Duchamp, a renowned’Radical’ piece of work form 1917, seemed more than fitting for a review. Thepiece caused outrage in the art community when submitted under a pseudonym,however, if discovered to be by a renowned artist, such as Duchamp, would ithave been immediately accepted as a new form of outgoing or ‘radical’ art?And finally, I would like to look at the exhibitionArt Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism that ran from the 16th November 2017 – 7thJanuary 2018 at the Saatchi gallery. The exhibition was to mark the centenarysince the October revolution and features work that includes themes of tortureand revolution. Keeping well to the theme or radical art.Page 1.
IntroductionPage 2. KissPage 4. UntitledPage 6. FountainPage 8.
Art Riot.Page 10. Bibliography.Total Word count- 2236Content word count- 2177 Kiss.Andy Warhol’s silent film ‘Kiss’ is fifty minutes long in total, depicting Gay,Lesbian, and straight couples for three and a half minutes screen time each.
Ifeel the silence of the film is incredibly poignant, leaving there to benothing for the viewer to focus on, but the kiss itself, this statement leadsme to choose this piece, as I feel it is the most rousing of his films, due tothe fact homosexuality was illegal in America, between consenting adults, until2004.”Warhol’s ScreenTests reveal his lifelong fascination with the cult of celebrity,comprising a visual almanac of the 1960s downtown avant-garde scene.” (KlausBiesenbach Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art, and Director, MoMA PS1, 2010.
) I feel ‘Kiss’ was the first of many works to bring the Avant-Garde down to thelevel of the everyday man. The use of standard 16mm Film, a readily availablemedium of the time, turned it into another of his most everyday iconic pieces,along side the Campbells soup cans. FIG1. ‘Kiss’ 1963, MoMA Screening 2008.On the other hand, doesusing an everyday object, or action, lead to it being taken away from themasses, and left only for those who can afford to be associated with one of thegreatest artists in history. Although it was screened regularly to the public,I do feel that it would not have been something for the masses, but for profitand scandal. However, although to me it appears to be work for profit, somepeople may see this film as an act to stand up for the minorities and thebelittled of the time.”When people are ready to, they change.
They never do it beforethen, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make themchange if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stopthem.” ? Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol in His Own WordsHiswork opened the door, and pushed boundaries in a post war world.
His depictionof homosexuality to masses, from such a prominent figure of the time, changedlives and views across the nation and the world. The simple concept of the filmis made so much more provoking by the fight against laws of the time in theUSA.”Andy Warhol blurredthe boundaries between art and advertising. Unapologetic about hishomosexuality, Warhol often produced erotic photography and male nudes, and hiswork was heavily influenced by gay underground culture.” Revel and Riot 2015. Fig 2Kara Walker’s- Untitled 1996 Walker’s work of Conté crayon on paperdepicts a white man, who we can assume is a slave owner, standing on the backof an African-American woman.
I first saw this piece at the Worcester Museumand Art gallery in November 2017, focusing on varying decades of pop art.Although the woman depicted isa slave, she is first and foremost a human being. Being used as a piece offurniture exposes us to the often-untouched subject of human lives being soldas a commodity. As a society today, we are ashamed of the pain we inflictedonto generations of African-American individuals, therefore I feel Walker’swork is so potent, she brings forth the uncomfortable truth of abuse to bereflected upon through art. The medium of this piece is simple pencil to paper. In the 21st Century,bigger and bolder art is being thrust into popularity, moving away fromtraditional mediums.
However, the simplicity of the piece forces you to focusmore on its impactful topic, and less on creative use of mediums involved. “There is something verystrange and unsettling for me about making a work that doesn’t fit with what’sthe norm or what’s acceptable. There’s something both liberating about it andchallenging. I can imagine it doing more harm than good. Challenging and highlighting abusive powerdynamics in our culture is my goal; replicating them is not.” Walker-2016 MomaAlthough we could use this piece to reflect upon the abuse of an entire race, Iwould like to take the time to focus particularly on the abuse of femaleslaves. As you can see, the woman depicted is nude, and in what could besurprised of a sexual position, while supporting her male ‘owner’.I feel the position of the woman is important, as it is the most like a pieceof furniture, or a stage for an owner to walk over.
You can also see her beingused as storage, holding up clothing that would have been made, and thematerials grown through cotton plantation.We can assume from this she experienced sexual abuse like so many other womenof the time, losing her status of a human being and being degraded to mereproperty and a sexual object. We could also assume an act of abuse could havebeen performed before this scene was drawn, due to the fact the male isredressing himself.
As in history, and the modern day, women still experiencesexual and domestic abuse by people of power. The topic is still not widelytalked about, which is why this piece fits in with the idea of radial art,created by a female person of colour, to depict the sexual abuse of anotherdegraded human being.It is sometimes difficult to see what influences an artist’s work whether it isanother work or something has happened to influence the world around you, ifyou are the person who is creating the work, outsiders may pull a differentmeaning from what was intended. This piece is not like this, every survivor ofabuse and person of colour can see the injustice. MarcelDuchamp- Fountain 1917Duchamp’s fountain is probably his most famous work. It is simply an unusedurinal scripted with ‘R. Mutt 1917’, a pseudonym he used to submit work forcritique without his fame causing a bias.
The ‘ready mades’ were an original concept, unheard of by the art world, andwas rejected by the governing body of the exhibition, as a piece of equipmentthat collected human waste could not be considered art. Therefore, I chose thispiece regarding radical art. Fig 3The work itself is very simple, it is simply a signed urinal. It was made ofplain porcelain at a leading plumbing factory, and purchased directly fromthem. I feel using a piece of porcelain designed to remove human waste was astatement against the hierarchy of the art world, art could be simple andeffective, if not offensive, by taking advantage of their obligation to reviewand display art no matter what it was, to be polite and help create a platformfor artists no matter their training or their success in the art world.
However,the radical thing about this piece is the backlash, and changes in worksubmissions it caused. The only thing that governing bodies and curators had toabide by was societies views on giving everything a chance, but were under noobligation to carry this out. The governing body in this case was the Society of Independent Artists, whowere known for accepting all art, and displaying it to expand the publicity oflittle known artists.’ForDuchamp, the artist cannot be responsible for what becomes of the artwork – howit may be interpreted or understood, whether it is appreciated or not – once itis sent out into the world, not unlike the idea that a medium such as paint ormarble is not responsible for a painting or sculpture produced out of itsmaterials (Haladyn, 2015).Itwas later revealed that the main reason the piece would no be allowed to beviewed by the public was that it was considered to be too indecent to show towomen who may come to the viewing, leading to Duchamp’s resignation. After hisresignation it was shown on display in many prominent galleries at the time,and a replica is still being shown today at the Tate. However, many people,particularly the public do not see this as art, and have taken to urinating inthe piece as protest, as is first and foremost a urinam. Duchampstated that the piece couldn’t be art unless it had viewers and interpreters todecide on their own meaning and worth to the piece.
The art was created for thepeople and for it to be denied its place on display could be considered theonly reason it was not initially considered art. I feel all pieces are art aslong as they are displayed, and created. Which, Fountain was.
Although I do notlike the piece itself, I still consider it art, and appreciate the artistsright to have the work displayed. The controversy it caused and backlash of itsremoval was right, it lead to a movement that gave artists like me moreopportunities to build their own creative platform. The radical nature of thispiece was a turning point for all artists and encouraged the public to voicethere opinion more on what they considered art.
ArtRiot: Post-Soviet Actionism ArtRiot was a reaction to the last 25 years of soviet art, looking at work by Oleg Kulik, Pussy Riot, andPyotr Pavlensky. The exhibition highlights the injustice and prejudice theindividuals in the Soviet Union still face to this day, including genderinequality and sever homophobia, which often leads to the execution. Fig4″ArtRiot: Post-Soviet Actionism is dedicated to Russian protest art over the past25 years. It will take place in the year of the 100th anniversary of Russia’sOctober Revolution and although the exhibition will not have any direct linksto this historical event, many of the issues that artists face inpost-communist Russia are comparable tothose in 1917.” Marat Pyotr Pavlensky is a performance artist featured in thisexhibition. He is most notably known for his pieces involving barbed wire,where he will sew his own mouth shut and cage himself in barbed wire. I feelthis is in reaction to the laws and politics that suppress the freedom ofspeech, physically removing your ability to speak is what millions of easternEuropeans experience everyday through corrupted politics. Seeing a fellow humanbeing in pain and surrounded by wire strikes to the core of most people,including myself, to want to help and free them.
However, when we are faced withfreeing people from possessive politics and prejudice laws we are hesitant toinvolve ourselves, knowing we cause little or no impact on our own. Arthowever, involves everyone. Anyone who views the piece is now involved and canact simply by sharing the piece on social media, and supporting the gallery andartists through donations.Aswell as this I feel a running theme is how liberal the western world iscompared to the east.
We are free to love and speak without fear of policebrutality and punishment, but, artists who speak out in the east face harshprison sentences and physical punishments, changing the meaning of their artthrough the bravery they have to very publicly, and often in live performances,risk their freedom and home to spread a revolution through art.