As much as I think postmodern appropriation and general trolling in fine art (Duchamp) is hilaaaaaarious and necessary (in order to periodically question the reigning establishment), it just made me angry in my gut to see a painting that reappropriates Rosie the Riveter using a dude, even if it’s Sherlock . Like, my first reaction was “HOW FUCKING DARE YOU.”
Even though a part of me thinks it’s also totally brilliant that I got pissed off, but I’d be more impressed if it were deliberate. Buuuuut I honestly don’t think the person who made that piece understood what they were doing symbolically when they did that.
One of the unfortunate things about art is that for many art has no context, and the majority of modern art is almost entirely dependent on context. This is why we get to walk through museums with people looking at art saying “I could do that :/”
(Decided to move this to my art blog)
It’s true, and while I hate— I mean really hate— the idea of art being exclusionary and think it really, truly, isn’t (and shouldn’t be intimidating to anyone) of course my answer to that would always be, “If you can’t explain why it’s here, then no. You couldn’t do what they did. Because you can’t even figure out what happened to make this important.” Painting a white square on a white background in this decade, without reason or explanation (with a low degree of craft and fundamentals), is just not the same as being in Russia in 1915, right before the Bolshevik revolution (when they needed a new form of expression that was just as revolutionary as the rebirth they were trying to create by destroying previous modes of representation.)
People in general saying they could recreate “paint splotches on a canvas” might technically be correct… Yeah, a layman could throw paint around. But if I did it, because of my training, it’d be better. When Jackson Pollock did it, there was more thought put into it, and actual craft. This has actually been proven over and over to me in art history classes by students who have little to no painting experience (or sometimes by students who do; not trying to be insulting). We select our final projects and people often chose to recreate something like a Mondrian or Pollock, and guess what: IT ALWAYS LOOKED LIKE OBVIOUS SHIT. More than that, though, of course that work is never just about one’s ability to put paint down on a support, it’s about all of the other fundamentals necessary that get overlooked in art, that people don’t realize they can’t see very well (composition, rhythm, harmony, color, etc.), in addition to the ability to reference what’s already happened historically. We’re in a period where it’s art’s duty to present us with new insights about life: something that makes us think about it in a new way, in order to understand it better. Painting techniques, of course, follow suit in any way they can. (+Performance, sculpture, music, installation, photography, etc.)
(So while I think anyone can and should be encouraged to enjoy “high” art I don’t think it’s true that everyone can make high art. For now, anyway (haha!). And I actually don’t think everyone needs to make high art, because it’s not always appropriate, but that’s another rant.)
Er… back to reappropriating an image that signaled a major social and cultural shift— I just laughed, y’know? Painting Sherlock, a male, in place of one of the most prevalent American images that define modern feminism— like, I wonder what the fanartist would say if asked why they chose to throw Sherlock into that conversation, and why that artist wanted to “give it back” to a man, etc. I don’t mean to be condescending about it, but my assumption is that the artist wasn’t thinking at all. If something like that were done on purpose (replacing Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party with plates that represented famous males throughout history and representing their genitalia, or taking The Liberation of Aunt Jemima and sticking, um, Colonel Sanders in that piece) HOLY SHIT YOU’D HAVE AN ANGRY MOB in the friggin fine art world! People would be calling you brilliant AND stupid. You’d get death threats. I can’t even think of how people would react in a gallery setting… it’d be a trainwreck… If appropriation was a tool used by the marginalized to actually say, “HI, YEAH. We’ve existed all this time and we’re not white, straight, or male, and now we’re taking this art for ourselves, fuckyouverymuch” turning it around on those people could easily be seen as an act of “war.”
It shows how vapid I am that I looked at that GIF and thought “lol dats funny Sherlock fanart” without even consider the implications until you pointed them out.
I don’t actually think you are— My gut reaction is something I can’t help or expect from others, but that disconnect is actually fascinating (and more important than my personal feelings), because under the assumption that this Sherlock fanartist didn’t realize what was happening, it really highlights how images normalize and evolve to this point of assimilation into culture (just like language) where its meaning becomes a curious point of trivia 100 years later.
For some artists, that is an ultimate goal and proof that you put a dent in human history: this image of a strong, capable woman who works is no longer strange. It’s no longer offensive. It’s normal. In turn, to use it for a different message isn’t an attack in that context! In a way it’s triumphant.
But my feelings are sorta like when I see dusty/fading poster prints of Jasper Johns paintings (the encaustic paintings of his American flags series that demonstrate a simultaneously diverse, banal, sordid, complicated underbelly that makes up this country and demonstrates our absolute hard-on for our flag that other countries don’t often have as strongly, and questions what an actual, physical flag is) in a chain restaurant, stapled to a wall next to a pile of kitsch (usually baseballs glued to the wall, etc.). I cringe a little, and laugh (because pop artists love that shit) because the executives who approve that stuff in their restaurants don’t understand what’s happened, it’s hilarious.
It’s really just funny how mad I got, in the first five seconds of seeing that Sherlock pic, though. An image that changed everything only 70 years ago is already trivial when there’s still conflict about the original issue. To some that’s a triumph, and to others it’s a travesty, but to me it’s a lot of feelings. Haha.