Conceptual Copy-Cats

As artists we desire to make work that is thought-provoking. One sees this universal pursuit every time one visits a contemporary art museum, gallery, or exhibition.

Having been an educator in the arts I can say that there is a pretty common consensus that the contemporary arts, while being occasionally visually interesting, lacks understanding, purpose beyond itself, & intentionality.

I think this is the danger almost all young artists & artist wanta-be’s fall into & that is if one can present work that appears to contain conceptual depth without actually having it it is successful. The mere appearance of meaning is enough for most unfortunately.

Now to be clear, conceptual depth here means having a point or message to relay or represent that addresses a deeper understanding of what it means to be human, which is what the visual arts has always done in part or in whole.

The travesty of this is that over time one fools him/herself & is embraced & encouraged by others who have fallen off the cliff so to speak & can exist through the short amount of time one has on this earth without having made anything that helped others better understand life & purpose, & consequently creates a body of work founded on nothingness. I know there are a lot of artists out there desiring, or at least at one time having desired, to make something of significance that provides insight into the human condition, but might have positioned themselves in such a place where it might not feel safe to ponder & investigate the unknown & the transcendental.

But ask yourself this, do you want to explore what could be or play it safe as a conceptual copy-cat?

What might work look like that is not being conceptually copy-catted? I propose it possesses a visceral nature that people “relate to”, & that this sense of relating comes from perceiving a similar struggle in the process of pursuing ultimate meaning.

-Robert Alsobrook


Art & Conviction

I confess, when I visit a contemporary art gallery I often leave so disappointed. I find much of what contemporary venues represent as art insulting. There is no soul, no conviction, all too often. Despite my frequent visits to art galleries and museums ending in disappoint I continue to visit them in hope of witnessing at least one other artist who strives to capture conviction in his/her work.

Granted, work like like this is out there but I imagine it is much easier for some reason for galleries to display work with little to no existential purpose. Maybe one of those reasons is when artwork is declarative in any manner, from the gallery’s perspective is becomes divisive and so to them it is not worth the heat so to speak.

But I find it a shame when even the visual arts & galleries cannot be open-minded enough to objective representations of a diversity of worldviews. It is commonly said among some academic circles that “art is dead,” and I wouldn’t be able to argue otherwise if it were not for artist such as Anish Kapoor, whose work I was able to see in person in Seoul, South Korea a few weeks ago during a short trip.

I find his work to be about in some degree the passage of time we all experience in our own ways. For instance in the work seen below a large steel box is being slowly rotated through red micro-crystalline wax by melting its way through, but because it is moving so slowly you would not even recognize it is actually rotating unless you yourself slowed down to pay attention. So in this way Kapoor is thinking about the viewer experience in ways not commonly considered by many artists these days, but those of us who are participating in the visual arts world could learn a thing or two by artists like Kapoor when it comes to creating work that has purpose beyond itself.

-Robert Alsobrook