Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Art for artists' sake

The Post's fine art critic (sorry, that's "fine-art critic"), Kyle MacMillan, waxes sappy:
Great art has no expiration date.

It only grows more powerful and influential with the passage of time. It speaks in new ways to succeeding generations, influencing and inspiring later artists in unforeseen ways and refusing to be ignored.
Think I'll go make a sandwich.
So it is with Francisco Goya's "The Disasters of War,"a series of 56 etchings that offers a frank, unflinching look at the horrors of the Peninsular War in Spain in the early 19th century. These images turn the stomach and puncture the soul nearly two centuries after their creation.
Saw the Goyas at the Prado way back in 2000, and my soul is still leaking. A little. You want a sandwich?

Simon Zalkind, director of exhibitions at the Mizel Center for Arts and Culture, asked 25 artists to contribute contemporary takes on the same theme that inspired Goya; 22 took him up on the offer. The resulting exhibition, "(New) Disasters of War," runs through April 6.

While a few pieces inevitably fall flat, the overall exhibition is engrossing and thought-provoking. It does what it is meant to do: cause viewers to stop and reflect on the essence of war and its consequences on both a personal and global level.

Oh boy! And really, who among us can say they've done enough reflecting on the essence of war and its consequences on both a personal and global level? Hmmm?

At the heart of this show lies an extraordinary suite of 10 prints by San Francisco artist Enrique Chagoya that respond directly to Goya's "Disasters of War," with easily identifiable reinterpretations of specific images for the 19th-century series.

Easily identifiable?

A nationally known artist and top-flight printmaker, Chagoya succeeds in re-creating the basic look, feel and craftsmanship of the originals [sic], giving his new takes a subtly contemporary bent and adding his own distinctive stylistic touches.
"My etchings result from a kind of reverse science-fiction question: What would Goya's 'Disasters of War' look like if some of our modern technology and contemporary political figures had existed in his day?" Chagoya writes in an accompanying statement.
Whoa. Turtledovian, man.
In answering that question, he creates a virtual copy of Goya's grisly scene of mutilated and dismembered bodies, "An heroic feat! With dead men!" with the tiny addition of Mickey Mouse looking on in one corner. In his reinterpretation of "Against the common good," the winged figure looks suspiciously like Ronald Reagan.
And fine art critic MacMillan strokes his--chin--and nods approvingly at this mind-destroying (but easily identifiable!) fatuousness:
Potent as the social and political commentary in these works is, Chagoya acknowledges his limitations with a touching print that shows a tiny foot trying to fill a giant shoe, an obvious metaphor for the inadequacies the artist feels in living up to Goya's example.

Update: MacMillan describes another artist in the exhibit as "turning for inspiration to the Holocaust."

Update II: The unbearable Cindy Rodriguez has her own favorite for-your-own-good-you-little-bastard exhibit at the Mizel: "10 Glocal Artists Interpret Genocide."

"Glocal." Really I can't bear it.

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