14 October 2008

The Heartbreak of Post Modernism

Last Saturday, I went to the local museum of contemporary art here in town, for a show on biomorphic forms in sculpture. This is right up my alley, if I had to choose one tidy phrase to describe my own sculpture, it could be that. As far as I can tell, the Kunsthaus Graz is generally regarded as a fine example of contemporary art exhibition - lots of group shows on interesting themes, a center just for Austrian photography, emphasis on mixed media and integration of electronic arts exhibits, and so on. Well curated, well documented (pamphlets and artist statements and all that). Presumably this means they are experts in their field, and when I go there I am visiting a shrine to St. Luke, holy ground, consecrated to the higher realms of capital-A-Art.

So.... why is it that every goddamn time I go to an exhibit of contemporary art, I come out angry? Am I not achieving the necessary enlightenment? Am I really so ignorant of what makes art good, in the sense of being worthy of my regard?

There's an argument that suggests that modern art is egalitarian. It's there for everyone, and so by extension, we can see that it's not there for ME (that would be elitism, you see). But I don't buy that. I am part of everyone, and if I am continually repelled by what's selected as an example of Art... there may be something amiss in the selection criteria.

One thing that really baffles me is that I can't for the life of me figure out what the selection criteria are. The selection isn't necessarily about quality of craftsmanship. It's not obviously about Concept. They have themes, so there's a vague sense of unity, but surely they don't simple accept the first 30 artists who have a good story about how their work connects to the appointed theme? Or maybe that IS the case.

Maybe I should just start submitting things to museums when they open calls for shows. I am persistently plagued by the belief that this is more about who you know than what you've got to show, but I could be fooling myself. Maybe I should sew breasts on a bath towel and start shopping it around to contemporary galleries, as Louise Bourgeous has apparently done.