Plus: The latest Santos ripoff
That statue is not to my taste, but I'm not sure how it's "woke", unless woke means "something I don't like" (which does seem to be the modern trend).
Spread the story about Santos stealing from a dying dog. If there's one story about Santos that will get traction, this is it. Who cares about his background or his (lack of) ethics? HE STOLE FROM A DYING DOG!! Get rid of him, McCarthy! (It just might work.)
I'm a great fan of the Bulwark and of you, Charlie, but this is hands-down the most reactionary thing you have written since I started following your newsletter a few years ago. Where to start?
I write from Boston, and I can report that The Embrace--like most sculptures--is meant to be experienced in three dimensions. Judging its effect from a few cropped images is unfair. Once again, step away from Twitter.
In the context of the art of the past 80 years, The Embrace is actually a very conservative work. It is monumental, bronze and redolent of exactly the kind of figurative detail that your boy Frederick Hart revels in.
THIS is when you side with Karen Attiah? You, of all people, are on Team Attiah in asking that a sculpture placed in the heart of a publicly owned space celebrate one person's anti-capitalist, radical views? Really?
There are genuine problems with contemporary art. The art world long ago (as in, before you were born) stopped valuing craft over concept, but this was a natural response to a world where mechanical tools like photography could perform work formerly done by artists. We can't turn back the tide of ideas, but we can ask that art demonstrate both skill and meaning. The best contemporary art manages to do that. I would urge you to put down your Tom Wolfe and get out to some galleries to see for yourself.
re: your cheap shot, I'm pretty sure Boebert can't find Switzerland on a map, let alone Davos
Reposting my hot take on the statue: if we want better public art, maybe we should fund art education in public schools.
You want public art that's accessible to the common man? Fund art education so that art world isn't dominated by trust fund babies.
I live in Boston, and I've got to say - I like it. Maybe I'm part of the "whitewashing" but this is a work by black artist, it's very much in keeping with his style, which I like, it's much less boring than the typical bust or man-standing-proudly, and if you see a penis when you look at this, I'm a little worried...
While I tend to agree about the "uglification" of art, I don't find "The Embrace" ugly at all. I think the Artist captures the intense love reflected in the beautiful photo that inspired the work. When I saw the initial photo in your post, my immediate impression was that the overall shape of the sculpture was deliberately "Heart-shaped" as opposed to looking like cunnilingus or another sexual act. Yes, it is abstract, with echoes of Noguchi's coffee tables in how it sits. But, the hands are beautifully rendered and, let's be honest, other than the phallus itself, are there more phallic parts of the body than the arms, particularly when your hand is clenched in a fist?
Admittedly, I've become more of a Pollyanna lately, actively trying not to find a reason to be outraged by everything that I don't immediately agree with or like. So, maybe I am giving the artist and the work too much credit for its sincerity. But, I like the sculpture and find great beauty in its focus on the embrace.
I am not an artist. And I am not deeply knowledgeable about art history and art criticism. But I am going to jump into this interesting conversation anyway. Your morning shot raises several questions for me.
1. Does an object presented as art have to be beautiful to qualify as good art?
2. Does an object presented as art have to be representational to qualify as good art?
3. Does an object have to be intentionally presented as art to qualify as good art?
4. Does an object have to display craftsmanship or talent to be good art?
5. Does an object presented as art have to convey a message or a relatable narrative to be good art?
6. What principles should govern public art?
I agree that Boston’s MLK sculpture seems to fail (based on photos) as a work of public art at the very least because it appears to fail in its purpose of honoring MLK. But I also recall the initial reception of the Vietnam War Memorial in DC. A representational sculpture, Three Soldiers, was added. I like them both. But Maya Lin’s wall still is the only piece that brought tears to my eyes.
That Santos stole $3000 from a go fund me initiative is bad enough. But that he took it from a dying dog is so much worse. This is Kevin McCarthy’s new champion. The new face of the Republican conference in Washington. If we voted as Americans and not Republicans or Democrats McCarthy would be sweeping a warehouse in Bakersfield.
I'm surprised the story about the failed Republican candidate paying assassins to shoot at Democrats hasn't made the Bulwark yet.
I don't have a strong feeling regarding the MLK sculpture. I think the earlier commenter who said it would be important to see it in person is on the right track. That said, I do think reactions to non-representative art like The Embrace often risk becoming "oh the art these days...(shakes fist at sky)". Its useful to remember a couple of things about art and beauty; 1) ideas of beauty and what is beautiful oscillate over time, and 2) while beauty may be ONE goal of art, it's not necessarily the primary goal. It's at least as important for art to evoke feelings and reaction, and to get the viewer to reconsider the standard way they will look at things. But even beyond that, ugliness is just as much a part of art (and not just modern art) as beauty. It's not a new thing for artists to want to challenge their audience and the conventions of the day. Caravaggio and the Impressionists come to mind. And you might say "sure...but they did it beautifully and representatively". But that wasn't necessarily the feeling at the time they worked, or as they were judged in later periods. A 19th century art critic called out Caravaggio for his " “vulgarity”, “dullness”, and “impiety”, and lamented the fact that the Italian had supposedly overlooked beauty in favour of “horror and ugliness, and filthiness of sin”. " (https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20161010-why-caravaggio-was-a-shocking-as-his-paintings). The Impressionists work was not embraced by the public, viewing the work as '" vulgar and shapeless rough sketches and thus took to making fun of the movement and its works." (https://www.pariscityvision.com/en/giverny/the-impressionism). Time has obviously changed most people's views of these artists (as dorm room poster sellers will attest to certainly). The point isn't that the critics were wrong (though they might have been). It's just that the goals of artists do not often line up with the public's perception of what they want from art in real time. And that's kind of the point. Art really is there to challenge. And that can be hard for many people to accept and engage with in the immediate.
I'm sorry to say that I disagree with you entirely on the sculpture although you have the subject matter wrong. That is clearly a sculpture of our 45th President with his head up his ass. I find it most compelling.
Disclaimer: I have an art degree. I have taught art and graphic design at the HS and undergraduate levels. I have been drawing painting, sculpting (and other things) for over 40 years.
My initial reaction to the images of the sculpture was:
1) WTF is that; and
2)Wow that's FUGLY.
Now, one of the problems is that it is a three D object and that it is MEANT to be seen from certain angles. One of those angles is NOT the angle of the first photo. It is a thing on the order of looking at the sculpture of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial with the lighting conditions purposefully changed. It totally alters the work.
Another problem is the material color and the general elongated organic shapes (can you say turd? Yes you can).
I can appreciate the concept. The execution is lacking. But that is my SUBJECTIVE assessment (and remember that I have not seen the piece as it is intended to be seen--in person, from the correct angles).
I could delve into a long discussion about art and art theory and aesthetics and how technology and cultural pressures shape what is and isn't art and how it is done. But I won't.
A few things to consider:
1) Who is selecting and paying for the art (it usually isn't Jane/John Doe, at least not directly);
2) The desire (not usually fulfilled) to have something non-objectionable (trust me, regardless of what you do or who the artist is, someone is going to bitch--a lot and loudly);
3) A desire to avoid traditional Western forms for political/social reasons;
4) The drive away from representation because technology does representation better and easier than a human can.
I can think of several ways (on 5 minutes thought) to represent "Embrace" in a more generally acceptable (even if abstract) manner from than what was done. But then, I have an actual degree and experience in DESIGN (which is about communicating ideas) and not pretention. I am also not subject to the political pressures nor am I beholden to patrons with more money than taste or artistic sense.
My father, a veteran of WWII, Korea and Viet Nam, thought visiting Maya Lin’s Viet Nam Memorial was one of the most moving experiences he ever had. Frederick Hart’s addition is unnecessary, and he is, in my opinion, a jerk given his objection to Lin’s memorial at the time, and his lobbying to have his sculpture included at the site. I mostly like the work by the non-figurative sculptors you mentioned, and especially admire David Smith’s sculptures. Can’t help but wonder what you think of Oldenburg.
I must be one of the few who likes the sculpture. Let’s give it a couple of years and it
may turn out like Maya Lin’s memorial.
I don't agree with Lachman's description of the Fed's policy change as being whiplash, it's being going on for nearly a year and I'm not buying the recession is inevitable tone of the piece. The Fed certainly can't sustain the 3/4 pt increases as the 8-9 month lag on the impact of the initial rate increases take hold and a pause would be prudent. It may not matter though, with the Coup Coup Caucus defaulting on the US debt the economy is close to peril.