“The purpose of…”

Shed with blue dotted lines, Penland, North Carolina - June 1975 by John Pfahl

Shed with blue lines… by John Pfahl – series from Altered Landscapes

“There’s a great quote by Rauschenberg, who said: “If you’re in front of a good work of art, and you don’t change your mind about something, you’re a fool.” And so it’s similar, that if art just underscores that which we already know, then it’s not doing anything for you. It should present something new, some new frontiers for you, or open up some new ideas of thought, even if it’s a dumb reaction and you say, “I could have done that.” Just acknowledging the fact that you didn’t do it shows, at least, that you’re open to that kind of thinking.”

John Baldesari:National City – interview conducted by Hugh Davies and Andra Hales, Nov. 14, 1995 –

I often question if my “art” antennae is tuned in enough to receive a signal.  It’s frustrating when I find myself trying to convince myself that “this or that” must be something worth looking at, or alternatively, something worth trying to make – as if there might be a “standard” for appreciation… or the ability to decipher a “communique” in art.  This is especially apparent to me when I don’t appreciate a “sanctioned” work – what does that mean – am I really a fool?

The book, John Baldesari:National City is a good example – having looked it over, I appreciate the conceptual works – a challenge to conventions – the effort of the artist to convey a kind of information about how one might encounter art, judge it by conventions and “get something” from it. But after that, I’m done with it. National City seems to be too laborious and focused on “getting it” – after which I don’t think it’s something I’d want to or need to come back to. In short,  it doesn’t seem to stick with me. So I ask myself what’s missing?

I think I’m realizing this partly in contrast to looking at the recently discovered (for me anyway) work by John Pfahl – specifically in his series of Altered landscapes.  I think I appreciate this sort of work by Pfahl more because it evokes a mystery that I can’t quite understand. The best ones embrace an odd characteristic of photographs that transform spatial conditions which look very different “in real life” onto flat planes  which is interesting to me – that is part of the mystery for me. This coupled with the obvious added touch onto (or into?) the photograph seems just the right thing to do…

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