Bend It Like Nature

January 21, 2015 Art-making is like evolution.  The artist experiments, searches consciousness, habit, skill, experience, history. Hold on to the good stuff, throw out the bad.  An artist tries 1,000 different ideas during years of work, shares 100 of these ideas with other people, two of the works are selected for exhibit and critical scrutiny, one of these ideas dominates,  giving rise to:

  1. ”BLAM !”-Roy Lichtenstein
  2. ”Crazy” - Willie Nelson
  3. “Woman One” - deKooning
  4. “Hey Baby” - Bruce Channel
  5. ”Folsom Prison Blues” - Johnny Cash
  6. “American Flag Painting” - Jasper Johns
  7. “Watch Your Step” - Bobby Parker
  8. “Love Potion #9” - Leiber & Stoller
  9. “String Quartet in F” - Hayden
  10. “School of Athens” - Raphael

All deliver bold, simple, rhythmic, colorful, spicy, and as of 1963-70: camp.

Emotion-laden expressions rarely endure critical stress.  They may be “true” and ‘heartfelt”  They may be “honest” and many are technically obsessive but they do not generate impact, traction or staying power.  Save the sap for the memoir where people might be interested in ephemera, juvenalia, sincerity.

Most picture makers are locked into mediocrity from a strong dose of early approval.  Aunt Mildred says ‘Oh ! -  It is just wonderful dear” upon viewing “Waikiki Sunset with palms” painted when you were fifteen.  Art fairs across the land are stuffed to the gills with Thomas Kinkade wannabees. The following are the rules for traction in capital “A” art world - 2015.

  1. Obsession
  2. Duchamp-Benjamin-Warhol genuflection
  3. Machine-slick displaces touch
  4. Scale - make it too big for the living room
  5. Content - too sexy, too violent for living room
  6. Theme: gender and race still rule the roost - use wit and irony

Bend it like nature -read the working genetic code - insect or mammal; Duchamp or Picasso.  Make a move any move but respect the genetic history - the genome, as you share your mutations, subject your creation to your own harsh gauntlet of  natural selection, make additional moves by addressing your success as your new work progresses - what does the genome suggest?  What does your latest layer or splash of paint suggest?  If loss ensues, make another bold move bolder than the first - shift, swerve, juke as required.  If this fails, let extinction run its course and begin again and again and again.  there is no blueprint suggesting the final result.  Nature had no idea that humans would evolve when it relocated the skeleton to the interior of its animal du jour.  there was no human-vector intention 100 million years ago - just the intention of the second law of thermodynamics - restore entropy and use animals to do it.  One thing led to another under the bold, playful and demanding eye of a broader natural selection.  The dog hunts or it don’t.  If it hunts,  keep it, store its information on a DNA molecule - don’t mess with the good things.

Artists who imagine an end result and direct effort to a preconceived notion work against the grain of evolution and their own nature, their inborn gift  for exploration, adventure, something new, effective and powerful.  In nature the good stuff is built upon not ignored or discarded.  As much as nature loves to experiment, it does not like to start from scratch.  Nature keeps the good stuff and builds upon it.  Nature has been adventurous in overall process but conservative in protecting moves that bear fruit.  Nature locks success into chromosomes.

“I asked the brick what it wanted to be.  It said: I want to be an arch.”  Louis Kahn