GRAFFITI: IS IT ART? AND WHAT IS ART ANYWAY?

Piss ChristAndres Serrano's Piss ChristImage via Wikipedia
You'd think that question was settled now that buildings in most major urban centres - New York, London, Paris etc - have been cleared of graffiti. 

But, no, it isn't!

In Los Angeles, an on-going graffiti show in the Museum of Contemporary Art is credited with having caused a wave of graffiti in the neighborhood. The police are understandably upset. 

And art critics? They're happy, cavemen painted on their walls, right? So graffiti have a long history, from the cavemen down to us. 

Interesting, because I always sort of felt graffiti were a rather primary, low level of expression... 

Of course, contemporary art has a way of regularly getting itself in trouble - most recently in France, in a show in Lyon, where a rather famous contemporary artist, Andres Serrano, showed a photograph of  a Crucifix drenched in urine, aptly called "Piss Christ" (see pix).  There is nothing new about this "art" and back in the 1980s when it first came out,  it irked American "conservatives" (for lack of a better term to describe those attached to "pre-contemporary" art and objecting to Federal government funds being spent in support of "obnoxious" contemporary art). And, btw, remember? The same was said of Chris Ofili's depiction of the Virgin Mary with elephant dung and female genitalia when it was shown in the Brooklyn Museum. 

This time around, it provoked the ire of catholics in Lyon who vandalized Serrano's work with a hammer and a screwdriver.

Are we sinking into an age of religious militancy? 

After all, when a Danish cartoonist lampooned Mohammed back in 2005, he unwittingly unleashed a wave of attacks that have caused reportedly some 200 dead up to now, directly or indirectly, in clashes between Muslims and Christians, from Nigeria to Pakistan and all sorts of other places in between. 

Now it would seem that intolerance to art that is viewed as blasphemous has extended to Christians and a civilized/secular country such as France. Amazing!

But isn't our real problem with graffiti and contemporary art somewhere else?

I don't know about you, but I'm fed up being "shocked" by contemporary art. One of the people who commented on Dave Meir's thoughtful article in 3QUARKSDAILY.COM (see link below) put it in a striking way and I can't resist the pleasure of quoting:

The progress of avant-garde art is measured in its shocks to bourgeois taste, its criticisms of the middle class. The only problem is: after a century and a half of being shocked, the middle class is feeling pretty numb. There’s not much that can shock us anymore. But the artist is left with a conundrum: If it’s not unpleasant, it isn’t art. 

Indeed, if it's not unpleasant, it's not art. But should art aim to please?

How do you feel about contemporary art? Does it excite you or does it numb you?

   
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