For my series of critical reviews, I wish to focus on ‘Radical art’. The kind
of art that pushed the boundaries of the era, and challenged conventions,
expectations and stereotypes. I feel radical art is not only art that provokes
outrage but also changes perceptions of what art is, for example, Duchamp’s
I have chosen to focus on, ‘Kiss’ The 1963 film created by Andy
Warhol, due to its depiction of homosexuality almost 40 years before it would
be legalised. As a queer woman, the subjects of this film, and Warhol himself
are 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 humiliation
that was thrust upon female slaves. I was particularly drawn to the simplicity
of 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. The
piece caused outrage in the art community when submitted under a pseudonym,
however, if discovered to be by a renowned artist, such as Duchamp, would it
have been immediately accepted as a new form of outgoing or ‘radical’ art?
And finally, I would like to look at the exhibition
Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism that ran from the 16th November 2017 – 7th
January 2018 at the Saatchi gallery. The exhibition was to mark the centenary
since the October revolution and features work that includes themes of torture
and revolution. Keeping well to the theme or radical art.
Page 1. Introduction
Page 2. Kiss
Page 4. Untitled
Page 6. Fountain
Page 8. Art Riot.
Page 10. Bibliography.
Total Word count- 2236
Content word count- 2177
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. I
feel the silence of the film is incredibly poignant, leaving there to be
nothing for the viewer to focus on, but the kiss itself, this statement leads
me to choose this piece, as I feel it is the most rousing of his films, due to
the fact homosexuality was illegal in America, between consenting adults, until
Tests reveal his lifelong fascination with the cult of celebrity,
comprising a visual almanac of the 1960s downtown avant-garde scene.” (Klaus
Biesenbach 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 the
level of the everyday man. The use of standard 16mm Film, a readily available
medium of the time, turned it into another of his most everyday iconic pieces,
along side the Campbells soup cans.
1. ‘Kiss’ 1963, MoMA Screening 2008.
On the other hand, does
using an everyday object, or action, lead to it being taken away from the
masses, and left only for those who can afford to be associated with one of the
greatest 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 profit
and scandal. However, although to me it appears to be work for profit, some
people may see this film as an act to stand up for the minorities and the
belittled of the time.
“When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before
then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them
change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop
? Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol in His Own Words
work opened the door, and pushed boundaries in a post war world. His depiction
of homosexuality to masses, from such a prominent figure of the time, changed
lives and views across the nation and the world. The simple concept of the film
is made so much more provoking by the fight against laws of the time in the
“Andy Warhol blurred
the boundaries between art and advertising. Unapologetic about his
homosexuality, Warhol often produced erotic photography and male nudes, and his
work was heavily influenced by gay underground culture.” Revel and Riot 2015.
Kara Walker’s- Untitled 1996
Walker’s work of Conté crayon on paper
depicts a white man, who we can assume is a slave owner, standing on the back
of an African-American woman. I first saw this piece at the Worcester Museum
and Art gallery in November 2017, focusing on varying decades of pop art.
Although the woman depicted is
a slave, she is first and foremost a human being. Being used as a piece of
furniture exposes us to the often-untouched subject of human lives being sold
as a commodity. As a society today, we are ashamed of the pain we inflicted
onto generations of African-American individuals, therefore I feel Walker’s
work is so potent, she brings forth the uncomfortable truth of abuse to be
reflected 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 from
traditional mediums. However, the simplicity of the piece forces you to focus
more on its impactful topic, and less on creative use of mediums involved.
“There is something very
strange and unsettling for me about making a work that doesn’t fit with what’s
the norm or what’s acceptable. There’s something both liberating about it and
challenging. I can imagine it doing more harm than good. Challenging and highlighting abusive power
dynamics in our culture is my goal; replicating them is not.” Walker-2016 Moma
Although we could use this piece to reflect upon the abuse of an entire race, I
would like to take the time to focus particularly on the abuse of female
slaves. As you can see, the woman depicted is nude, and in what could be
surprised 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 piece
of furniture, or a stage for an owner to walk over. You can also see her being
used as storage, holding up clothing that would have been made, and the
materials grown through cotton plantation.
We can assume from this she experienced sexual abuse like so many other women
of the time, losing her status of a human being and being degraded to mere
property and a sexual object. We could also assume an act of abuse could have
been performed before this scene was drawn, due to the fact the male is
redressing himself. As in history, and the modern day, women still experience
sexual and domestic abuse by people of power. The topic is still not widely
talked 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 another
degraded human being.
It is sometimes difficult to see what influences an artist’s work whether it is
another work or something has happened to influence the world around you, if
you are the person who is creating the work, outsiders may pull a different
meaning from what was intended. This piece is not like this, every survivor of
abuse and person of colour can see the injustice.
Duchamp- Fountain 1917
Duchamp’s fountain is probably his most famous work. It is simply an unused
urinal scripted with ‘R. Mutt 1917’, a pseudonym he used to submit work for
critique without his fame causing a bias.
The ‘ready mades’ were an original concept, unheard of by the art world, and
was rejected by the governing body of the exhibition, as a piece of equipment
that collected human waste could not be considered art. Therefore, I chose this
piece regarding radical art.
The work itself is very simple, it is simply a signed urinal. It was made of
plain porcelain at a leading plumbing factory, and purchased directly from
them. I feel using a piece of porcelain designed to remove human waste was a
statement against the hierarchy of the art world, art could be simple and
effective, if not offensive, by taking advantage of their obligation to review
and display art no matter what it was, to be polite and help create a platform
for artists no matter their training or their success in the art world.
the radical thing about this piece is the backlash, and changes in work
submissions it caused. The only thing that governing bodies and curators had to
abide by was societies views on giving everything a chance, but were under no
obligation to carry this out.
The governing body in this case was the Society of Independent Artists, who
were known for accepting all art, and displaying it to expand the publicity of
little known artists.
Duchamp, the artist cannot be responsible for what becomes of the artwork – how
it may be interpreted or understood, whether it is appreciated or not – once it
is sent out into the world, not unlike the idea that a medium such as paint or
marble is not responsible for a painting or sculpture produced out of its
materials (Haladyn, 2015).
was later revealed that the main reason the piece would no be allowed to be
viewed by the public was that it was considered to be too indecent to show to
women who may come to the viewing, leading to Duchamp’s resignation. After his
resignation 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 in
the piece as protest, as is first and foremost a urinam.
stated that the piece couldn’t be art unless it had viewers and interpreters to
decide on their own meaning and worth to the piece. The art was created for the
people and for it to be denied its place on display could be considered the
only reason it was not initially considered art. I feel all pieces are art as
long as they are displayed, and created. Which, Fountain was. Although I do not
like the piece itself, I still consider it art, and appreciate the artists
right to have the work displayed. The controversy it caused and backlash of its
removal was right, it lead to a movement that gave artists like me more
opportunities to build their own creative platform. The radical nature of this
piece was a turning point for all artists and encouraged the public to voice
there opinion more on what they considered art.
Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism
Riot was a reaction to the last 25 years of soviet art, looking at work by Oleg Kulik, Pussy Riot, and
Pyotr Pavlensky. The exhibition highlights the injustice and prejudice the
individuals in the Soviet Union still face to this day, including gender
inequality and sever homophobia, which often leads to the execution.
Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism is dedicated to Russian protest art over the past
25 years. It will take place in the year of the 100th anniversary of Russia’s
October Revolution and although the exhibition will not have any direct links
to this historical event, many of the issues that artists face in
post-communist Russia are comparable
those in 1917.” Marat Pyotr Pavlensky is a performance artist featured in this
exhibition. 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 feel
this is in reaction to the laws and politics that suppress the freedom of
speech, physically removing your ability to speak is what millions of eastern
Europeans experience everyday through corrupted politics. Seeing a fellow human
being 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 with
freeing people from possessive politics and prejudice laws we are hesitant to
involve ourselves, knowing we cause little or no impact on our own. Art
however, involves everyone. Anyone who views the piece is now involved and can
act simply by sharing the piece on social media, and supporting the gallery and
artists through donations.
well as this I feel a running theme is how liberal the western world is
compared to the east. We are free to love and speak without fear of police
brutality and punishment, but, artists who speak out in the east face harsh
prison sentences and physical punishments, changing the meaning of their art
through the bravery they have to very publicly, and often in live performances,
risk their freedom and home to spread a revolution through art.