Throughout this semester you will be making a lot of choices. Some choices will be ones that are bound by cost, others will be conceptual limitations, and then there’s also the fact that you’ve got a deadline, an exhibition, which means your work must be completed within a certain timeframe. But lets step outside of these real world decisions which must be made, and think instead just about how you look at your work, and who influences it.
The technique is just a means for arriving at a statement. Jackson Pollock The Tyranny of Art History
One problem which many encounter is that they feel as if they lack a voice. There are art superstars which seem larger than life. People like Warhol, or Picasso, or Ai Weiwei. It can seem that making a work of art is akin to trying to direct a major motion picture. And it can make people feel really small. As if their voice shouldn’t even count alongside the great works made by others. But you’ve just got to get over that. I can’t stress how important it is to find out who your contemporaries are, as well as the lineage of your ideas and techniques. You probably have already made certain decisions without knowing. Certain patterns, colors, ideas, techniques and editing have found their way into your work already. So now you must look at these things closely and see where they came from. It will only help your work, and your thought process. Chances are you are not trailblazing some new technique or playing with some concept entirely foreign to what has proceeded you.
“I don’t paint with ideas of art in my mind. I see something that excites me, it becomes my content. ”
Willem De Kooning
“I like to pretend that my art has nothing to do with me.” -Roy Lichtenstein
Also, by looking at who influenced many contemporary artists we can get a glimpse of the history of the 20th century of art and we can also find our place in the 21st.
Now your job is to put yourself, on today’s date, and start digging back into who came before you, and how your art will build upon these ideas. If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d recommend checking out Everything is a Remix which is part of the “Make a terrible work of art” post. Another tangentially related example is this short video about appropriation.
And yet another, which deals directly with some of the concerns of making art in the internet age is Press Pause Play.
All of these videos have one thing i common and that is the fact that they put the contemporary at the forefront, and look back. That’s what you need to be doing with your work.
Lets take a look at a few contemporary artists, and who they are influenced by and hopefully this can serve as a launching pad for you to be able to look at your own work and find out who your own influences are.
When asked which artists influenced her, Cindy Sherman responded, “Definitely Warhol, early on. . . . Definitely he was a big influence.”
Another artist who is frequently attributed to being an influence on Sherman’s work is John Baldesarri.
John Baldessari is a monumental figure of conceptual art, if you’re wondering who he is, then watch this short video ( narrated by none-other than Tom Waits ). You can read his “Art Assignment List” if you’re still looking for inspiration, at the end of this post.
Baldessari has stated that he was influenced greatly by the dadaists. He was a contemporary of Joeseph Kosuth and On Kawara
Who were also influenced by minimalist painters such Yves Klein, who in 1949 wrote the monotone silence symphony.
And Klein was also interested in minimalism, and in boiling ideas down to their most simple components. This is often called the “De-materialization” of art. Joseph Albers and the Bauhaus artists dealt with similar ideas.
Another way of looking at this abstraction is through the lens of the Dadaists and the surrealists. Whom Baldessari also claimed to be influential.
In 1916, Hugo Ball created the Dada Manifesto, making a political statement about his views on the terrible state of society and acknowledging his dislike for philosophies in the past claiming to possess the ultimate Truth. The same year as the Manifesto, in 1916, Ball wrote his poem “Karawane,” which is a poem consisting of nonsensical words. The meaning however resides in its meaninglessness, reflecting the chief principle behind Dadaism. Some of his other best known works include the poem collection 7 schizophrene Sonette, the drama Die Nase des Michelangelo, a memoir of the Zürich period Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary, and a biography of Hermann Hesse, entitled Hermann Hesse. Sein Leben und sein Werk (1927).
French satirist, Voltaire, whose novella Candide mocked the idiocies of his society. As Hugo Ball, one of the founders of Zurich Dada wrote, “This is our Candide against the times.”
Voltaire was influenced by John Locke who I quoted at the beginning of this post. And we can continue down this rabbit hole until we get to people drawing on cave walls, but I think you get the point.
So you can see that in a few short jumps we’ve gone back 100s of years into art history. Now your job is to do the same. Be meticulous, look at your work critically, and then find out what preceded it.
Meret Oppenheim, Breakfast in Fur, 1936
Rauschenberg – Bed 1956,
Nam Jun Paik – 1976
Inflatable Sculpture – Art Basel 2015
If you’re still looking for where to begin and need someinspiration. Take a look at this list of art assignments created by Baldessari.
John Baldessari: List of Ideas (If they had no ideas of their own from which to make a piece) John Baldessari presents several classroom art-making ideas. The following text is drawn from preparatory materials for Baldessari’s Cal Arts Post Studio Art: Class Assignments (optional), 1970. Spelling and punctuation match Baldessari’s original typewritten notes. Assignment
#1 Make up an art game. Structure a set of rules with which to play. A physical game is not necessary; more important are the rules and their structure. Do we in life operate by rules? Does all art? Or art rules, like tenant rules or art violations.
#2 How can plants be used in art. Problem becomes how can we really get people to look freshly at plants as if they’ve never noticed them before. A few possibilities: 1. Arrange them alphabetically like books on a shelf; 2. Plant them like popsicle trees (as in child art) perpendicular to line of hill; 3. Include object among plants that is camouflaged 4. Color palm tree pink; 5. Photo found growing arrangements; 6. Or a movie on How to Plant a Plant.
#3 Pay homage to a movie star, rock musician, etc. in form of a pilgrimage visit. Photograph is required of the two of you with a personalized signed greeting by the culture hero. Or it could be to a famous person’s grave. In this case a photo of you at the grave. Person’s name on the gravestone should be visible. No signature necessary.
#4 Defenestrate objects. Photo them in mid-air. Media: Mixed media, Photography, Video Materials: • Camera • Paper • Pen or pencil • Video camera Photo:
#5 One person copies or makes-up random captions. Another person takes photos. Match photos to captions.
#6 Disguise an object to look like another object.
#7 Make up list of distractions that often occur to you. Recreate on video tape.
#8 Document change, decay, metamorphosis, changes occurring in time. Photograph same thing at various times during the day.
#9 By using movie camera to follow actions and by your observations into cassette recorder, document the movements of someone secretly for an entire day. Or have someone follow you.
#10 Photograph backs of things, underneaths of things, extreme foreshortenings, uncharacteristic views. Or trace them.
#11 Describe the visual verbally and the verbal visually.
#12 Scenarios. Do a movie from an existing, stock scenario. Or 1 person write scenario, another shoot movie. Or GRABAG scenario—everyone write 2-3 scenes, drop in box, someone pull out maybe 10 and they are shot in the order drawn out. Or everyone do their version of the grabag scenario.
#13 Repaired or patched art. Recycled. Find something broken and discarded. Perhaps in a thrift store. Mend it.
#14 Photograph of umbrella and sewing machine on an operating table. That’s Surrealism isn’t it?
The module guide is designed to support your studies in the Independent Studio Practice Module in Year Three. It contains information that will help you to understand the structure, content, and delivery of the module and the kind of learning experience, aims, and outcomes you can expect. It is also a useful resource document that will give you advice on how to get the most out of this module.