Sunday, April 08, 2007

Larry Clark, Self Portrait 1962.

An excellent and amusing interview with Larry Clark here.

Clark's made a lot of junk of late, but his bemused recollection of the intuitive processes that led to his early breakthroughs, and his subsequent feelings of disappointment at what he percieves to be the 'ease' of much contemporary art, set off major pangs of recognition in me. It's my suspicion that the 'ease' Clark is referring to is neither physical in nature ("That didn't take enough time!") or intellectual ("That didn't take enough thought!") but experiential; as in, where is this stuff coming from? Learned books or lived days? Where is the first-person anger, loss, grief and wonder? This attitude seems to be prevalent among people who grew up on Robert Frank. A kind of "that's it?" bewilderment in the face of the overtly academic. While I don't completely empathize with this reaction, I don't discount it either.

Pete Culley took a lot of flack a few months back for the following:

"...lots of really good artists are as dumb as a bag of rocks. Art existed for thousands of years before any such comparably difficult discourses were deemed in any way necessary, and could survive perfectly well without them. Unreadable jargony art writing is a very recent development, and has more to do with the postwar expansion of the academy than the evolution of art. No one could fake it at a physics conference as easily as most people fake it at an art opening. And just because elitism is hard to pin down doesn't mean that the art world isn't ridden with every variety of it. It's what the crowds at Swarm seem to like -- that velvet-rope "insider" feeling, the lure of arcane knowledge rather than knowledge."

Anyone who has ever seen Chan Marshall give an interview can attest to the truth of that first sentence. Perhaps there is something to be said for the occasional inarticulate artist. I know the counter argument by now, that an inarticulate artist is fodder for the capitalist mill, a pawn in waiting, and it's hard to argue with. But by encouraging our younger artists to contextualize and elucidate every move they make, I fear we are breeding generations of distanced, calculating careerists, willing pawns in a specific form of capitalism that they understand all too well, rather than oblivious risk takers whose obstinancy breaks down historical boundaries by simply ignoring them. I'm also well aware that the kind of inclusiveness I'm hinting at opens the door to an avalanche of trucker-hat-wearing, negative-space-pimping, martian-on-a-tricycle-drawing assholes trying to sell ignorance as a virtue, but I'm willing to live with that if it means that one or two honest to god artists will slip through with them. Kids who feel driven to respond to the world they live in, even if they aren't sure why.
Chan's new album is pretty great by the way.