Art show revelation

Posted: August 11, 2011 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

I went to an art show this week. It wasn’t the first.
I’d been to at least two elementary school showings and an event in Fargo featuring works by my uncle, Ross Rolshoven. Plus, accidentally crashed some sort of premiere in San Francisco a couple of years ago. House music and hors d’ouevres – it was the hippest cab-related accident ever.

This cultural foray was more of an experiment.

In my opinion, art is one of those things that college-educated people are supposed to have a clue about. You should be able to identify a handful of the greatest pieces and have some sort of opinion – likes and dislikes.

But I don’t. Never took an art class in college. Have two kids and two blogs. Don’t even have time to read, really, and I’m a writer by trade. So I wanted to attend this show – a sampling of some Andy Warhol works – to see what the art scene is like in a meager market and if I might, in fact, “get it.”

The Clouds is a statement about science and art.

I even dressed the part – black v-neck shirt, slim jeans and some Vans (they’re actually Airwalks modeled after classic slip-on Vans). This tactic was instantly validated as I walked past another 30-something dressed in the same uniform on my way into the gallery.

The layout was as expected – art on the walls, well-dressed people in the middle and top-shelf drinks in their hands. There were a couple security types roaming around, too, and one of them seemed pretty sure that I was going to go all Soy Bomb on the place, keeping me in her peripheral vision like a shop keeper tracking a 13-year-old in the candy aisle. It felt stuffy, to be sure, even though that flew in the face of the (perception of) Warhol and his works. (Cell-phone use was prohibited, by the way, so if anyone asks I did not take the pictures that accompany this post.)

Having taken stock of the scene, it was time to check out the art. That’s where the evening took an unexpected turn – the exhibit became interesting in a thoughtful and unpretentious way.

For example, artgoers were allowed the use of a device – it looked like a flip phone – that told you the back stories of select pieces. Without this, I’d have been there 10 minutes and left confused, wishing I’d have spent the $10 on tacos. Instead, I had … information, something that I hadn’t necessarily equated with art.

What wasn’t clear: Where the information came from. Where these meanings spelled out by Warhol before his death? Or where they merely interpretations by art experts?

Warhol is best known for his take on pop images.

Another revelation: Warhol didn’t create from scratch any of the pieces. Everything there that wasn’t an early era Polaroid, was an interpretation or a remix of an existing image. Marilyn Monroe, an ambulance crash, an electric chair – apparently the genius of Warhol was his ability to see new depth in old things.

Genius. Here’s another big idea. Who decides what’s genius? For instance, Warhol played with dollar signs in the early 80s, providing commentary on high-priced art and just before the dawn of the decade of excess. That’s smart and demonstrates vision.

However, would those works have been accepted or celebrated if Warhol hadn’t already been regarded as a great artist?

A good example were the “Screen Test” films on display. Each was four minutes long and consisted of nothing more than a camera focused on a human face. A lady looks back at the camera. She smiles. She stops. She smokes. She stops. Nothing really happens.

If I, with no art background, where to create the same thing odds are that it would be viewed as weird or inconsequential. But because it’s associated with Warhol, it’s legitimized. In fact, we even look at the piece different, figuring there HAS to be more to it than meets the eye. An unknown might not get the same benefit of the doubt.

Same goes for his Campbell’s Soup paintings. Are they truly brilliant works? Or did Warhol just come along at the right time with the right idea and get huge on the strength of a simple-as-pie idea?

Snap back to reality.

I just spent the last hour pretty deep in thought, admiring some works and picking apart others. My considerations had changed rather dramatically. The surroundings that once made me feel uncomfortable no longer mattered. What just happened?

Did I all of a sudden “get” art? You know what, maybe – if the true sense of understanding art is to like the visual stimulation or the intellectual exercise. Either way, I’m glad I went.

Thanks, Andy. Come back to Sioux Falls anytime.

  1. Rich Jensen says:

    At least they didn’t force you to screen Empire

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s