Five Things Contemporary Artists Have to Stop Doing Dammit, Right Now.

This weekend we cruised on over to Bergamot Station and checked out a few of the openings, ran between buildings in the rain, and tried not to get bummed out because none of the galleries were serving beer.  Normally, Bergamot has some great galleries with more than enough thoughtful and impressive work to really make me excited about contemporary art.  But Saturday night, this was not the case.  A few months ago I asked that we put a moratorium on some photographic trends (like naked girls in animal masks) so I thought we might do the same for the other disciplines.  Strap in, this is going to hurt.

You know how much I love stock photography! This is “art thief.”


I know, I know…Disney represents a slow whitewashing of history, the corporate-ization of art and culture, pop culture in general, blissful ignorance on a grand scale, loss of innocence, and on and on.  But holy hell, you’d think that Mickey Mouse was the ONLY thing that was metaphorically representative of these ideas.  Disney is a cheap and easy target.  Everyone knows Disney takes a good idea and runs them through a computer to make a bad idea.  You’re not even trying!  Make me work for it!  Stop looking at SoCal art and go to an actual honest to god museum.


Making a word/phrase in neon lights does not A) Make your uninteresting thought interesting,  B) Replace your flaccid concept with substance or C) Deserve a place on a wall.  Somewhere there is a Coors Light sign that can’t be made because you needed to make a sign that says “Asshole.”  True story.

This is what every poem on a photo looks like to me.


Not to attack photography again, but there was an entire show of photos on canvas (which is obscene to begin with) with stanzas of poems or journal entries imposed over them.  A picture, my friend, is worth a thousand words.  Not a thousand and thirty four.  This is kind of a rookie move and I think it was a vanity show, so I’m not going to go apeshit, but if I wanted to read your diary I’d subscribe to your blog.


Still, despite the fact that this is 2012 and there is the internet and phones that let you look up Yelp reviews of things and libraries and AOL and Wikipedia, people are still insisting that the only way they can paint is to make Mark Ryden rip offs.  Mark Ryden, however copied and imitated and worshiped, is actually a damn fine painter with an incredible catalog of work.  If you’ve stood in front of one, you know they are seriously incredible.  I could totally get on board with this 14 years ago when Ryden was blowing people’s minds and freaking out Christina Ricci, but now, unless you’re 16 years old and drawing on your Trapper Keeper, leave the big-eyed ferrets to Mr. Ryden.

“Kickstart” stock photo.
“Hey, Chaz, could you look a little more diagonal for this next shot?”


Ugh.  I’ve been conflicted about writing this part since two weeks ago.  Kickstarter itself is a pretty amazing idea and I’m glad to be around in a time when it’s widely used and, for the most part, used well.  I’ve seen a lot of good ideas get money and things brought to light that might not have ever existed had it not been crowd-funded.  However, the emergence of sites like Kickstarter and others have allowed some artists to get lazy.  Every artist has an overhead.  Paint is expensive, cameras, film, computers, guitars, really good kitchen knives…all expensive.  Even you, kooky conceptual artist, who wanted the internet to pay all her expenses related to a performance piece, you have expenses and I expect you to foot the bill.  Or at least the bigger portion of it.  What I hear when I’m asked for money is that you don’t have faith in your own art, and that you’re not ready to do the hard work it takes to manifest it.  Art is risky.  Sell your blood.  Get a roommate.  Ride the bus more.  Beg your parents.  PUT YOUR OWN NUTS ON THE LINE FIRST.  And don’t let a lack of funding get in the way of anything.  Art is solving problems.  Your first problem is that you are lazy and broke.  Fix those problems, come back to your idea.

I’ll see you guys Thursday.. maybe.  If I’m not recovering from a wicked food coma while watching a stream of Disney movies on the couch in my Mark Ryden underpants.


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