Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Life and Times of a Graffiti Artist

I thought it would be interesting to address graffiti's growing status as a means of expression in the art world. Some people may scoff and call it low art, but there is no denying that it is rapidly gaining popularity. Banksy (who, if you can't tell by now, is one of my idols) can sell a piece for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but still chooses to go out on the streets at night to spray paint modern day Mona Lisa's. What street art has accomplished is the opening up of art to the masses, making the streets into a virtual (art) gallery. Art is no longer just for the wealthy anymore, but for the working man as well. Be you a businessman or homeless person, anyone who walks past a bit of street art can appreciate it.

I'll end with a section taken from Banksy's "Wall and Piece" on the subject of graffiti…

"I'm going to speak my mind, so this won't take very long.

Despite what they say graffiti is not the lowest form of art. Although you might have to creep about at night and lie to your mum it's actually one of the more honest art forms available. There is no elitism or hype, it exhibits on the best walls a town has to offer and nobody is put off by the price of admission.

A wall has always been the best place to publish your work.

The people who run our cities don't understand graffiti because they think nothing has the right to exist unless it makes a profit, which makes their opinions worthless.

They say graffiti frightens people and is symbolic of the decline in society, but graffiti is only dangerous in the mind of three types of people; politicians, advertising executives and graffiti writers.

 The people who truly deface our neighborhoods are the companies that scrawl giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. They expect to be able to shout their message in your face from every available surface but you're never allowed to answer back. Well, they started the fight and the wall is the weapon of choice to hit them back.

Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place." -Banksy


The Final Frontier (or Lack There Of)

Modernists often defy traditionalists with their works as they seek to open up the general definition of art. The traditionalists of course see this as threatening to society at large, because if humans were free to do whatever they desired, chaos would reign. I think the solution to the two opposing viewpoints is to synthesize a new view on art, one that respects the old ways but builds upon them in an organic way to create something that fills contemporary. That being said, the greater narrative of art has seemingly ended in as much as there are no rules to dictate what is created. This may seem scary at first (as I'm sure the traditionalists would agree), but the idea of an open-ended view of art provides us boundless opportunities for expression (be they personal or cultural). Who knows what exciting things can spring forth from such a climate? So, I leave you with this question. Has the last frontier been tamed (in regards to art)?

"Street Art Created by the Graffiti Artist Space Invader"

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Rise and Fall of Genius

Kant had an instrumental role in defining modern aesthetics, but he also had a specific view of genius as well. To him, genius takes the place of rules (or even becomes the rules). That being said, genius without taste leads to what Kant defines as "original nonsense." One cannot become a genius out of sheer force of will, he/she must have genius inherent within them from the start. In other words, genius can only be discovered, not created. Kant warns to be careful though not to confuse genius with simple talent, as talent is merely the capacity to do something. The idea of genius extends far beyond talent, allowing an artist to express aesthetic ideas that carries us beyond ourselves. So, who would you consider a genius? How far can a genius go before they stray into creating original nonsense?

"Is 'Yeezus' (Kanye West) Genius, or just Original Nonsense?"

A World of Pure Imagination

During the course, we discussed how imagination and art are intertwined with each other. The human imagination needs art, or rather takes on the form of art, to make its expression more concrete. Without the imagination, people would merely drudge through their daily routine and have duller existences. Art is humanity's way to escape the blandness of life, answering an inherent need within us for expression. In art, there is a sense of play that we often lack which allows us to create a seemingly endless amount of possibilities. So, should we not work hard to foster that creativity? Can humans experience a full and happy life without art?

"Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

The Aesthetics of T.M.C.

While it has become a running joke that Thomas More College's Academic Building is the ugliest building in existence, it actually has an interesting architectural and aesthetic story.  If you have any knowledge of the history of architecture, TMC is actually pretty interesting.  The main academic building was built in 1968 and actually can be seen as a bit of a transitional piece.  The style that first comes to mind is probably "Brutalism", a style popular in the early 70s known for its emphasis on heavy imposing building, using a lot of concrete.  The best example of this is probably the NKU's 1972 Nunn Hall.
Notice the minimal windows, brutalism was not meant to be inviting but imposing.
Now compare this with TMC's main building, built only 4 years prior.  

Certainly the scale of TMC was much smaller, but it also shows a few influences from mid-century modern, such as the distinctive roof on the library that seemingly floats on glass.  Mid century modern architecture often emphasized unique angles and seemingly gravity defying architecture that is seen here.  The architects of TMC actually were honored for their work! Here is an interesting article about their intentions with the buildings' designs....

The Tacky Joys of Show Choir

"Tackiness" it seems to be a phrase we throw around a lot.  I myself am completely guilty of this(especially when i am describing a certain color being painted in a certain college building), but it really is something that is up to interpretation.  One form of entertainment that is undeniably tacky is the competition art that is show choir.  I had the privilege of doing show choir for 2 years in high school and it always was a blast.
Me during my senior year of H.S. can you find me among all the sequins?
Is tacky always aesthetically displeasing? I don't think this is necessarily the case! After all tacky is a very subjective term.  There is a certain joy that comes with something colorful, brash and cheesy.  Movie musicals, corny comedies, and variety television can make us all smile. Maybe "tackiness" is just be a word for fun art that doesn't make you think.

Jeff Lynne and The Electric Light Orchestra

One of rock's unsung heroes (in my opinion) is Jeff Lynne a British producer/musician who is best known for leading the prog rock/symphonic rock/art rock/pop rock band Electric Light Orchestra(or E.L.O.) If you don't think you've heard of E.L.O. before listen to the song "Mr. Blue Sky", its been featured in numerous movies and commercials.

Other famous hits include "Evil Woman" and "Don't Bring Me Down".  Jeff Lynne surprising actually cannot read music and actually plays and arranges everything by ear, which is impressive when one thinks of the lush orchestral arrangements of E.L.O..  I certainly am of the opinion the Jeff Lynne should be considered a modern genius, thought E.L.O. is dismissed by rock critics as fluffy and "not real rock" many of their innovations are still seen today, such overdubbed vocals, heavy synth work, and laser lights at concerts.  But what makes Lynne even more remarkable is that as a producer and writer his work is prolific.  He has produced such great figures as George Harrison, Tom Petty (including the hit "Free Falling"), and even Regina Spektor.  He also was a memebr of the remarkable 1980s "super group" The Traveling Wilburys.  It is interesting that someone who has contributed so much to the world of music is relatively unknown to most people. I leave you with one of my favorite tracks by E.L.O. the dance beat infused "Sweat Talking Woman"...

Any thoughts?