Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

High Art

Did you notice that this is art? Did you perhaps think that something is missing? In this case, you would be right:

In this year's summer show at London's Royal Academy of Arts, "Exhibit 1201" is a large rectangular tablet of slate with a tiny barbell-shaped bit of boxwood on top. Its creator, David Hensel, must be pleased to have been selected from among some 9,000 applicants for the world's largest open-submission exhibit of contemporary art. Nevertheless, he was bemused to discover that in transit his sculpture had gotten separated from its base. Judging the two components as different submissions, the Royal Academy had rejected his artwork proper--a finely wrought laughing head in jesmonite--and selected the plinth. "It says something about the state of visual arts today," said Mr. Hensel. He didn't say what. He didn't need to.

Moreover, the Royal Academy denies having made an error, for the plinth and hastily carved wooden support were, according to an official statement, "thought to have merit."

For those who despair that artists these days seem to have lost the skill of fashioning meticulously crafted objects, don't blame Mr. Hensel. While the slate base took only four hours to hack from a mortuary slab, and the little boxwood prop less than an hour, he had painstakingly carved and polished that laughing head for two months. But alas, the sculpture itself has--shudder--emotional content. It was originally christened "One Day Closer to Paradise," a far too expressive title; Mr. Hensel would have been better off with the portentously enigmatic "Exhibit 1201." His laughing head is not only fatally well rendered, but exudes a sense of joy and hilarity, and the overtly evocative is declassé. How much more sophisticated, a stoic square of slate that speaks of--well, ask the viewers.

And there's more...

1 comment:

Scott Carson said...

This is a true story.

When I lived in North Carolina I went to the North Carolina Museum of Art near Raleigh, and after perusing the good stuff I found myself walking into the modern art gallery. Now, all of the galleries have little hygrometers sitting on the floor at the entrance. These hygrometers are there to monitor the humidity in the room, of course, and they are about the size and shape of a large toaster oven. They have a rool of graph paper and a red pen keeping track of the humidity.

Now, these things were in every room, mind you, but only in the modern art room was there a little sign on the wall above the hygrometer that read:

"Not art"

If you gotta ask....