Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That Tired Old Thing Called Vitality

We wander around in that ‘sluggish mishmash’ says Peter Schjeldahl, a so-called ‘mishmash’ which has prevailed and characterized contemporary art for over a decade now, where everything is possible and nothing is qualifiable. Art is wide open…coming now from the four corners of the globe, in fact there are no more four corners of the globe…mutating, materializing – the hierarchy of the patrimony of the Renaissance is not the gold standard – M. Kimmelman’s fretting over the so-called ‘value’ of ‘Il Ducio’’s madonna/child…this value has changed…hard pressed to find typical, traditional significance…art that emerges now is not hidebound by the indigenous, the specific…Yet in spite of the fluctuating parameters there really is a playing field and scale for determining quality….Are we finally tired of perusing the dusty corners, the nihilistic slackers, the sordid deadenders…give me some shit…but not the squalid kind like Gunter Brus, more like the earthy, full of life kind, like…the Chris Ofili kind…you know where I’m going here, the Vitality…

Well, it really does matter what you hang your hat on and even if your hat is not a pipe, ‘c’eci n’est pas un pipe’…all art conundrums aside there is either a heartbeat or a lack of one and that is the heart of the matter…talking about our old friend ‘vitality’, the fact that there either is a heart beating or not…witness Anish Kapoor ‘s 2005 folly (as in architectural structure) for World of Interior’s magazine ‘projects’ in the snow. It doesn’t just evoke, it IS, it relays a Tantric fervor…his newest piece is a teardrop, the back of a whale, a vermilion tikka – packed snow covered in a thick, red powder skin, a dense opaque membrane…it melts, a pool of dye, a transient puja, celebrated then gone…his work carries all the power and might of Mohenjo Daro…it is infinite, a womb with the bouyancy of water, a mysterious blend of clean, coherent modernism combined with the deep, ancient proportions of Hindu iconography…Now, look at the Bean in Chicago…heavy – the surface curves like the slow movement of an anaconda – full and voluptuous but rigorous and devoted to the energy of solid weighted matter. Here is no rising Mozartian filigree, no emotion, sweet temperament or Baroque frenzy – instead – the skin is not about to burst but glides, dense, compacted, a powerful dose of the universe compacted then reflected with the contained energy of a meteor. Mined from a deep vein of potent, universal prajna/energy…they are both pieces, seeds incarnate, energy unsprouted, totally not inert but hovering constructs of deep, contained vitality.

Stephanie Bell Behnke

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