Monday, January 5, 2009


I wish I was in New York to see the Miro show -- Joan Miro: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927-1937. Alas, I have to settle for the online exhibition.

I prefer to think of this work as anti-then-existing-painting conventions or expectations, rather than anti-painting.

Mixing Historical and Contemporary Art

Ed Winkleman's blog had an entry on trends in "contemporary art", focused on systematic connecting of dots vis a vis the massive information and content management system/database we collectively are creating through individual contributions to web resources.

I'll focus on one trend he pointed out -- "the growing interest in mixing historical with contemporary art or older historical works with more recent historical works" in exhibition -- for which he saw positive motivation -- "any dismissal of linear time seems of urgent interest ... to present a more accurate overall picture of the works' significance or, as .... to 'draw connections.'"

We can always draw new connections and reinvent interpretations of old work, but is that all that is happening? All art can be placed someplace within a few generalized rubrics that cross time. Overall, basic themes (life, death, renewal, sex, war, etc) connect human existence across time (and would manifest in art even in the face of outright denial of the relevance of these themes to art), and formal aspects/hierarchies (e.g., focus on articulating space verses flatness) seem to move in an out of favor, from different motivations, in historical timelines, as filtered and re-filtered through history.

Perhaps, rather than dismissal of linear time, there is today by some an underlying desire to recapture the apparent simplicity of linear time or an effort to connect to apparently less plural times when art practice and artwork seemed less all over the place at any given point in history, even while outwardly denying linearity.

Perhaps there is an attempt to short circuit relevance through time as a marker of significance -- a desire to lend the credence of the historical work, a credence gained through the passage of time with the passage of time being one credential that contemporary art by definition cannot itself claim, and the credence of history to a contemporary practice that, ironically, for a considerable time focused on tearing down past icons and historical relevance. Or perhaps it's merely an effort to predict the significance of contemporary work across time. How is it a more accurate picture of a current work's significance to connect it to a work 100 or 500 or 1000 years earlier that bore no influence on the creation of the work, especially following a period of time in between the works that focused on deconstructing and disputing the validity/value of the historical work, other perhaps, than to manifest the disconnect -- ironic or fact -- or concede some level of invalidity in the deconstruction?

I'm probably missing something here. All work created in it's own time is contemporary to that time and a historical marker for a later time to consider.