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Jacob Patterson

…an artist who doesn’t come across as having the desire to promote human welfare.


Ongoing Projects - Writings - From My Balcony - A Show Called Kicks.
Find Me - YouTube - Twitter - Website

Big dreams with small means.

"You don't owe your audience your art; you owe your audience your life."
-Howard Bloom

Posts tagged art theory

Jan 2 '12
Sep 14 '11

insharkywater:

Roman Opałka, 1965 / 1 – ∞

The luxury of time spent is something of great value in art. When you look at a wonderful painting and think “how long did that take?” the feeling of admiration is something we have evolved to feel. How did the artist have the time to do something like this? We give inherent value to art that obviously took a long time to create. That is also why people criticize artists like Jackson Pollock for “my kid could paint that” types of works.

When you see a piece like this, even though you could probably create it yourself, do you admire it? Or does it seem like a supreme waste of time?

(Source: tarsjusz)

Jul 30 '11
thedailywhat:

Born Every Minute of the Day: Having pledged $10,000 in support of James Franco’s Museum of Non-Visible Art, “new media producer” Aimee Davidson has become the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind piece of non-visible art entitled “Fresh Air.”
As the designation suggests, the piece, by “collaborative art team” Brainard and Delia Carey (AKA Praxis), does not actually exist. Instead, in exchange for parting with their money, museum contributors such as Davidson receive a printed description of what the artists imagine the piece would look like had they put in the time to make it.
From the museum’s website:

Composed entirely of ideas, the Non-Visible Museum redefines the concept of what is real. Although the artworks themselves are not visible, the descriptions open our eyes to a parallel world built of images and words. This world is not visible, but it is real, perhaps more real than the world of matter, and it is also for sale.

And here is the description of the piece Davidson bought:

The air you are purchasing is like buying an endless tank of oxygen. No matter where you are, you always have the ability to take a breath of the most delicious, clean-smelling air that the earth can produce. Every breath you take gives you endless peace and health. This artwork is something to carry with you if you own it. Because wherever you are, you can imagine yourself getting the most beautiful taste of air that is from the mountain tops or fields or from the ocean side; it is an endless supply.

Sadly, being a one-of-a-kind piece, “Fresh Air” is all sold out. I guess you’ll have to make do with printing out the description yourself.
[blogtown / huffpo / kickstarter / geekosystem.]

I really want to comment on this, and I really want to donate to receive an invisible work of art by one of these artists, but I have the opportunity for neither. I highly suggest you check this out, though. It’s pretty awesome and it may just offend your concept of art.

thedailywhat:

Born Every Minute of the Day: Having pledged $10,000 in support of James Franco’s Museum of Non-Visible Art, “new media producer” Aimee Davidson has become the proud owner of a one-of-a-kind piece of non-visible art entitled “Fresh Air.”

As the designation suggests, the piece, by “collaborative art team” Brainard and Delia Carey (AKA Praxis), does not actually exist. Instead, in exchange for parting with their money, museum contributors such as Davidson receive a printed description of what the artists imagine the piece would look like had they put in the time to make it.

From the museum’s website:

Composed entirely of ideas, the Non-Visible Museum redefines the concept of what is real. Although the artworks themselves are not visible, the descriptions open our eyes to a parallel world built of images and words. This world is not visible, but it is real, perhaps more real than the world of matter, and it is also for sale.

And here is the description of the piece Davidson bought:

The air you are purchasing is like buying an endless tank of oxygen. No matter where you are, you always have the ability to take a breath of the most delicious, clean-smelling air that the earth can produce. Every breath you take gives you endless peace and health. This artwork is something to carry with you if you own it. Because wherever you are, you can imagine yourself getting the most beautiful taste of air that is from the mountain tops or fields or from the ocean side; it is an endless supply.

Sadly, being a one-of-a-kind piece, “Fresh Air” is all sold out. I guess you’ll have to make do with printing out the description yourself.

[blogtown / huffpo / kickstarter / geekosystem.]

I really want to comment on this, and I really want to donate to receive an invisible work of art by one of these artists, but I have the opportunity for neither. I highly suggest you check this out, though. It’s pretty awesome and it may just offend your concept of art.

Jul 19 '11

I like to watch Art theory lectures while I paint. My current venture is in the @Google lecture with a professor from NZ.

He even speaks on video games as art in escapism

May 9 '11
Apr 8 '11

Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?

My take - of course broken down to the most basic level - shittily read from this original post: http://bit.ly/IsGraffArt

Reblog if you please!

(Source: youtube.com)

Apr 7 '11

thedailywhat:

In Case You Missed It of the Day: For tips on how to take down his “Renainemesis” James Franco, Stephen Colbert turns to James Franco’s twin brother, Frank Jameso.

See Also: Colbert interviews James Franco: Part 1, Part 2.

[colbertnation.]

I highly suggest you watch at least Part 1. I have a feeling that James Franco is going to be one of those guys we talk about much in the same way as Andy Warhol, if only due to his elaborate volume of celebrity and the brains to back it up. 

Through an intense and thorough criticism, Franco has accomplished a worldwide celebrity while at the same time establishing himself as one of the most cultured intellectuals alive. Well, I should say that he currently is establishing himself as such. When all is said and done, the freaking database of artistic knowledge in this dude’s brain is going to give him every opportunity to defend himself from the criticisms he is receiving about abusing his celebrity.

What’s interesting is how much harder he has to work to establish his image as art world intellectual - you’d think being uber-famous and saying the really insightful things he says on camera once would be enough.

I mean, the way he associated Colbert’s obvious comedic power with the analogy of a vessel to spread intelligent opinion, and then connected that to the work of contemporary art, and then defended it as a conceptual art form existing outside of expressive aesthetic and within the boundaries of intellectual discussion (think Andre Breton) is mind-blowing to me. And while he probably came up with this association prior to the conversation’s start (likely while he was smoking weed backstage), he did all of this in one of the most demanding and stressful manners in modern culture: sitting in the interviewee’s chair on the set of The Colbert Report.

I’m excited to see where he goes and will certainly be tracking Franco for the remainder of his career, claiming my Bruin Pride all the way, along with the hundreds of thousands of students who also went to school with him across every artsy campus of high regard in the damn country.

Apr 4 '11

tdlsawesome asked: Graffiti: Art or Vandalism i know this question is boring and will never be resolved (kind of) but its totally fine if you do not feel like answering. This is for my documentary and if you happened to answer, may i cite you as a source?

You most certainly can cite me as a source, and I will try to answer this relatively thoroughly, as I have a pretty passionate stance on this common question and want to express it as well as I can. These are my opinions.

Graffiti, without much room for debate, is both art and vandalism.

Street art, without any room for debate, is art.

Graffiti is, necessarily, street art; but street art does not necessarily have to be graffiti. There are many instances of legal street art.


The most confusing aspect of this debate, and the part that gets misconstrued the most often and amongst the widest population of people debating this question, is the notion of graffiti-style. There are many things done in a graffiti-style that are not graff, but that imply graff (almost implying all graff as one particular, overarching genre of wildstyle pieces) because of the way they look. I will attempt to explain this as well, though it has no bearing on the value of graffiti itself as art or vandalism.

People say that there is graffiti that is art and graffiti that is vandalism, claiming things like the purpose of the tag being nothing but defacing property as a deferent of the title as art. But even then, what are they tagging with at such a moment? I’d argue that inevitably they are tagging with art.

That is to say that even when a tag is meant for nothing more than to stake a claim on an area, much like the three dots in a triangle format prevalent in my neighborhood representing the territory of the Southern Mexicans, the tagger in question – whether he considers himself an artist or not – is tagging with art. It is invariably vandalism if he is tagging a structure that is not his own, but I would argue in addition that it is invariably art.

Of note as well is the fact that in my beloved city of Los Angeles, the history of graffiti is one of gang activity from writers who often did not consider themselves artists. When I speak to older graff writers, many of them tell me that LA (and especially jail in LA) is a horrible place for graffiti writers and street artists. Gangs often don’t like when a street artist steps out on his own and creates a beautiful work of art on one of “their” walls in “their” territory, and if this street artist is caught he will find out just how much they don’t like it. If you go to jail for graffiti in LA, it would be advisable to come up with a story a little more hard-boiled than getting caught throwing up a wheatpaste of Obama as [insert ironic figure of pop culture here].

Gangs often throw their tags up strictly for the purpose of vandalism (and often amongst other reasons), with no purpose of art whatsoever.

But that doesn’t take away from the fact that their tags are still art.

I have a relatively unique stance on what can be qualified as art, one that could essentially include every object in existence, that has ever existed, and that will ever exist into the category of art, but I feel it is pretty justified. Feel free to observe it here; it essentially states that anything created and accepted by one or more persons as art is, in fact, art.

Because of this definition I may not be the best critic to ask about the nature of vandalism-driven graffiti and its placement in the art canon, but I can say that the notion of graffiti has been highly misconstrued as street art has become more popular.

Graffiti is inscriptions or additions/subtractions to/from the environment that were made illegally on someone else’s property 

When you witness a mural on the side of an auto shop by the entirety of the MSK crew, wildstyle burners spread as far as the eye can see… you’re probably not looking at graffiti. You’re probably looking at street art done in a graffiti style through a commissioned or at least sanctioned mural.

I think the current definition of street art as this vague genre that includes stencils and wheatpastes and urban, site-specific, clever installations is a faulty one. I think street art should be defined as just that – art on the street. “Street,” on the other hand, should be defined as anywhere in the public in this particular case.

As this notion of street art has emerged thanks to revolutionary intellectuals and thinkers like Shepard Fairey, Ron English, and the ever-prominent Banksy, more people have become aware of the graffiti world. Shep and Banksy are very important figures in the graffiti world, and have influenced hundreds of thousands of people with their vandalism, their street art, and conclusively their graffiti. They have also influenced even more people, and established their relevance in the infinitely more important world of art history, with their street art and legal work that has been seen in galleries or fashion blogs.

Shepard Fairey has a very successful and important clothing line, none of which is done in a graffiti style, but all of which looks just like his style. He is, indeed, a graffiti artist because he has done plenty of graffiti, but his immensely popular clothing line is not done in a graffiti style. I’d go so far as to argue that his shirts themselves are also street art because they are often seen in public from the street by passersby of their wearers, but I will save that argument for another day.

Graffiti-style has become this descriptor that brings to mind subway trains, custom airbrushed shirts, and downtown alley throwies and tags. It looks like a Revok or Futura piece, and it implies a history of very revolutionary writers. Writers like to say that graffiti is the biggest art movement of all time, because it is partaken in by the most people and has been that way for the longest amount of time, but I would argue that claiming graffiti (i.e. illegally inscribing on someone else’s property) is the largest art movement is like claiming that oil painting is an art movement. I think that graffiti is not a movement but instead a method.

I have strayed a bit from the original question, but I will say that graffiti is both art and vandalism and to claim that it can’t be both is simply an ignorant opinion pressed upon us by people in power who think that once something is art it is to be sanctioned into a realm of holy value and transcendent importance.

The real question, and the one much harder to answer, is whether something that has been created illegally – like a graffiti piece, tag, or throwup – should be preserved, and at what time – under what circumstances – that notion is to be established.

Graffiti is art and graffiti is vandalism, and it’s interesting to me that there is a perceived contradiction there, because one value does not revoke the other. What gets people thinking that graffiti cannot be both is that people see art as something to be saved, and vandalism as essentially the rejection of that notion. But graffiti will always live in temporality, such as the method of graffiti defines. It’s only once the concept of art preservation enters the frame that we as humans introduce any aspect of conflict. And that’s the concept that people should be debating.

Love,

Jacob

Mar 15 '11
I just finished an essay on “Salvador Dalí’s Object of Symbolic Function as Art Absorber,” and since I have been posting a lot of art theory stuff lately, I figure many of you might enjoy it, if you can get through its nine pages. Thus, I present my reading of Dalí’s Object: 
            Living in a communal art space with a wide selection of artists, trained in everything from graffiti and the laws of vandalism to oil painting and frame building, and having a wide variety of guests staying with us from all walks of life, interesting insights toward art’s purpose and definition are plentiful in my everyday life. Being one who is infinitely interested in these subjective stances on what art means, I find myself constantly learning of new viewpoints from the people around me.  On February 3rd, 2011 I had a conversation with a guest of mine named Sam who fancied himself as both mechanic and art enthusiast, and a person who saw modern art practices as a waste of time. He joined me that day in a lecture by George Baker at UCLA about Salvador Dali and Surrealism, particularly entertained by Dalí’s Object of Symbolic Function and its placement in the canon of Surrealist works. It was from this experience that I gained the reading of Dalí’s Object as an absorber of art’s meaning, the same reading that I will lay out in this essay.
            A formal analysis provides more questions than answers in this piece, as any being-object or symbolically functioning machine should. The center of attention is a bright red heel fastened onto a pedestal. Within this heel sit two things – first a lobster claw that saw reference in much of Dalí’s work, and also a cup of milk or some other white liquid. In later versions of this sculpture, the milk was replaced with wax for permanency’s sake (a reading of ear wax may be relevant after later contemplating this substance’s placement, but I will avoid this insight). A structure made of two attached sticks stands above the shoe from which hangs a chain; this structure is called a gibbet and is a miniature version of the object from which criminals have been hanged for display after execution. On this chain are weighted objects and a sugar cube. There are four sugar cubes in the piece altogether, three of which display painstakingly illustrated women’s shoes, and the last is covered in pubic hair and placed within an empty matchbox. A large stirring spoon of folk-like design lays parallel to the shoe, and a pornographic image from the 19th century is fastened to the shoe’s heel. After the original 1931 piece was lost, Dalí recreated it eight times in 1973, with no major changes. Indeed, I have scoured images of these pieces in search of any notable differences and could find none save for a slightly more vibrant shade of red in some iterations, should that hold any bearing on the work’s impact.
            The piece came hot on the heels of Giacometti’s Suspended Ball in 1931 and Breton’s Objects Functioning Symbolically of the same time. With the notion of sculpture and what it meant within the art world firmly under attack since the introduction of the readymade by the Dadaists and appropriation of found objects by artists like Picasso, Dali set out to take sculpture a step further, all at once creating actual instead of implied motion and function in his work as well as removing the actual meaning of his objects and instead assigning them implied ones. That is to say, Dali ignored the classical bases of sculpture to implore his own set of guidelines upon the three-dimensional art object.
            Sculpture had always maintained something of a goal toward movement and portraying it skillfully as a sign of talented art making, with texture and its implied aesthetic also of importance. From the flowing drapery in the masterful marble sculptures of Renaissance artists like Michelangelo to the intricate patterns etched into classical sculpture for hair and fur, it seemed as though the reach of sculpture’s effect was one of implication. Sculpture could be viewed and felt with the eyes, almost. Existing like painting in a space solely of aesthetic principle, because high art was not to be touched, the limit of its texture and movement was one to be finished within the experience and implied understanding of the viewer. Dalí’s work and that of his contemporaries set out to explore these notions, and Object does it well amidst its other readings.
            In order to for me to understand the difference between the implied motion within Object of Symbolic Function and that of, say, Rape of Proserpina, I had to draw a line in the sand separating the function – for lack of a better word – of their respective movements. Giacometti’s aforementioned Suspended Ball was immensely helpful in developing this understanding, and the apparent conversation between Dali and Giacometti made it that much more relevant. Sculpture before modernity was a medium of representationalism, much in the same way that painting was. In Rape one can feel the woman leaping from Pluto’s arms, and flex at the struggle with which Bernini portrayed Pluto’s attempt to hold her down. But this motion lives within a fantastical world of representation. We know, despite how realistically the flowing cloth flutters from Pluto’s waist, that should a breeze or even gust of wind pass over this piece it will never move. It is an object depicting a moment frozen in time, and its movement is limited to that very same, precise moment and whatever direction the artist decided to pursue.
            Object’s implied motion, a concept inspired by that of Suspended Ball, is one of the machine and all of the moving parts accompanied with that machine’s function. It makes perfect sense that the Surrealists chose to move away from the word “sculpture” wholly and into the term “art object,” as the popular “moment frozen in time” aesthetic was just about as far from an accurate depiction of some of these works as one could get. While Suspended Ball was not actually a moving sculpture, it still carried that notion, and Dalitook it a step further by creating the embodiment of a working machine with which audiences were meant to interact and assist in completing the work’s function. This piece was not meant to be simply admired from afar and glorified in its ability to let us envision its movement; it was meant to be interacted with, and completed only with our input as viewers. Dali knew as well as anyone that this piece entering the fine art canon would see its demise as interactive machine, so the intention of said interaction became one of implication. But it was still readily apparent that this work did something, that it was capable of real, actual movement. And this is the contribution Object made to the concept of implied motion. Motion, even when only implied, can be real in a three-dimensional art object. Later artists working in kinetic sculpture like Alexander Calder would figure out ways to instill real motion without interaction into their works, and that idea started in the same conceptual space within which Dali was already thinking.
            Another space within which Dali was thinking, and one of Surrealist contemplation as a whole, was that of sexuality, fetishism, and the sensual interaction of art with artist, or art with viewer. Further, death and violence was an important part of Surrealist thought. Freudian considerations of these concepts were even more valuable, especially to Dali who came to be obsessed with the line of reasoning. There exists almost too much commentary within Object on death and sexuality to unroll in this writing, but I will note its most prominent features and the ones that stood out to me.
            Of obvious note is the centerpiece of the work: the bright red lady’s pump. Upon Baker’s suggestion in the aforementioned lecture, I looked into the French word for “pump.” I found “escarpin,” which doubles as a term used to define a flower called a lady-slipper. The Surrealists came to love the flower as a symbol of intense sexuality, providing infinite metaphors into the openness of love and lust while still maintaining a very visible mortality. Furthermore, a Surrealist thinker who suffered a similar fate of Breton-shunning as Dali (upon expulsion of the group, Dali famously stated “I am surrealism”), the writer Bataille found a certain obsession in flowers and their implication of sex and death, all wrapped up in one. I noted also that a lady-slipper is an orchid, the most sexual of all flowers – its genitalia exposed for all to see.
            While this divergence into the metaphor of the flower may prove to be a bit too far a stretch, the sexuality implicitly laid out in the paradigm of the woman’s shoe is certainly a direct message worth exploring. While foot fetishism is not something I wish to dive into for this writing, there are countless uses of the heel in the context of Surrealism from Oppenheim to even the 21st century designer Marc Jacobs. Dali furthers the discussion by placing his cup of milky liquid – one dares to jump to the conclusion of breast milk or semen – sitting directly alongside the lobster claw that he lays out in The Secret Life as a symbol of lust. The lobster was very important to Dali, in particular because with his important work Lobster Telephone he took the phallic nature of the lobster’s body and placed it in the context of the oral, lining its genitalia up with the speaker’s mouth when the machine serves its function. It can be said that any time the iconography of the lobster is used in a Dali piece its implication is one of sexuality, but the food item in general (note the direct correlation to the milk and sugar in Object) was one that Dali would obsess over thoroughly, and one that I will allude to in closing.
            While sexuality was certainly something of importance if not the most important theme in Surrealist thought and art, violence frequently challenged its possession of the Surrealist spotlight.  While the sexuality of the shoe is clearly laid out, its sharp heel (this particular shoe has a wider and more blunt heel, but alas) describes a kind of brutality that Dali adored. Much like the work of his contemporary Joan Miro, Dali often combined the origin and end of life – sex and violence littered throughout both – into the same pieces. If a reading of violence is not to be picked up (surely sexuality is clearly laid out with the pornography and more abstract symbols) by the shoe, then it is hard to miss in the nature of the gibbet. As stated, a gibbet served to glorify not only the power of the righteous in hanging a dead criminal on display, but the intrigue of death. There could be no more apparent glorification of death in an art piece such as this than the literal tool used to glorify death itself, and Dali utilized it. Further reading finds that the term “hanging in chains” – the common phrase used to describe this brutal act of displaying a criminal’s body – was directly referenced by Dali in doing just that; he hung chains from the gibbet and allowed the focal point of the machine’s duty to exist in this space of violence. While the nascence implied in the explicit sensuality of the work is ever present, a demise also aligns itself with this very notion; Dali sets out to prove that conception and destruction are one and the same, both born of violence and sexuality. Indeed, some of his sex objects (the sugar cubes with pubic hair or women’s shoes on them) are the precise items that are “hanging in chains,” to be lowered into and absorbed within the sex fluid, adding only to its sweetness and consistency, embracing the ebb and flow of life’s cycle.
            To discuss Dalí’s interest in absorbing art principles and practices is to discuss my reading of Object of Symbolic Function in its entirety. When I asked Sam what aspect of this very modern art object he appreciated, he told me that he liked none of it. I asked if he thought there was any art in this piece, and after thinking about it he told me that the intricately drawn shoes present on the sugar cubes were the only “art” this sculpture contained. The concept behind the piece was not art to Sam, but instead just a reason to create the machine. Art for Sam was painting and drawing, the most fundamental of art creation activities. After coming to understand Sam’s outlook, I asked if he thought any art remained once the object had served its purpose, and dissolved the four sugar cubes, including the three with shoe drawings, into the milk. He thought for a second, and answered that he did not think the piece would further contain art, and then would simply exist as a machine, however oddly manufactured as it was.
            It was from this answer that I drew an appreciation for Dali as an art concept absorber. He had set out to soak up all that had been accepted in moments prior as art, and often not even to disperse them with his own message (surely he wished to absorb other concepts outside of artistic consideration as well). Dali seemed very selfish to me in that moment, with a perception of the world that was exclusively his, but one that he allowed us complete ownership of at the same time, restricting us on few occasions from entering his mind. Indeed, what kind of modern artist takes over the art world with visions of representation? Was art’s purpose in that moment not to dispel those classical theories of fine art and move on to purer forms of abstraction? Dali had his own way of doing things, and stole from what we saw before him (in both senses of the term) to display his work.
From the absorption of implied motion being dispelled into real motion, to the absorption of fine art’s relic status and lack of access being dispelled into an art object that must be touched in order to complete its mission, Dali found his own ways to express art’s meaning. From the absorption of art itself by consumption in the concept of food in art to the absorption of art into art, or even mankind into art by way of the dissolving of the sugar and ink into milk leaving only traces of the most disgusting of hair clippings in what is now an extremely sweet liquid, Dali took these concepts for his own and used them as he pleased. Even so far as to take a commonly used phrase like ‘hanging in chains’ and to appropriate it into an idea of conception and art creation by way of a direct visual pun, Dali saw nothing as off-limits in his symbolic expression. It is with this level of integration that the artist was able to force reconsideration on his viewers of what art could mean. It is with this intense level of integration and its subsequent symbolic expression that Dali was able to absorb art and justify his statement that he was, in a way, surrealism.
Love,
Jacob

I just finished an essay on “Salvador Dalí’s Object of Symbolic Function as Art Absorber,” and since I have been posting a lot of art theory stuff lately, I figure many of you might enjoy it, if you can get through its nine pages. Thus, I present my reading of Dalí’s Object

            Living in a communal art space with a wide selection of artists, trained in everything from graffiti and the laws of vandalism to oil painting and frame building, and having a wide variety of guests staying with us from all walks of life, interesting insights toward art’s purpose and definition are plentiful in my everyday life. Being one who is infinitely interested in these subjective stances on what art means, I find myself constantly learning of new viewpoints from the people around me.  On February 3rd, 2011 I had a conversation with a guest of mine named Sam who fancied himself as both mechanic and art enthusiast, and a person who saw modern art practices as a waste of time. He joined me that day in a lecture by George Baker at UCLA about Salvador Dali and Surrealism, particularly entertained by Dalí’s Object of Symbolic Function and its placement in the canon of Surrealist works. It was from this experience that I gained the reading of Dalí’s Object as an absorber of art’s meaning, the same reading that I will lay out in this essay.

            A formal analysis provides more questions than answers in this piece, as any being-object or symbolically functioning machine should. The center of attention is a bright red heel fastened onto a pedestal. Within this heel sit two things – first a lobster claw that saw reference in much of Dalí’s work, and also a cup of milk or some other white liquid. In later versions of this sculpture, the milk was replaced with wax for permanency’s sake (a reading of ear wax may be relevant after later contemplating this substance’s placement, but I will avoid this insight). A structure made of two attached sticks stands above the shoe from which hangs a chain; this structure is called a gibbet and is a miniature version of the object from which criminals have been hanged for display after execution. On this chain are weighted objects and a sugar cube. There are four sugar cubes in the piece altogether, three of which display painstakingly illustrated women’s shoes, and the last is covered in pubic hair and placed within an empty matchbox. A large stirring spoon of folk-like design lays parallel to the shoe, and a pornographic image from the 19th century is fastened to the shoe’s heel. After the original 1931 piece was lost, Dalí recreated it eight times in 1973, with no major changes. Indeed, I have scoured images of these pieces in search of any notable differences and could find none save for a slightly more vibrant shade of red in some iterations, should that hold any bearing on the work’s impact.

            The piece came hot on the heels of Giacometti’s Suspended Ball in 1931 and Breton’s Objects Functioning Symbolically of the same time. With the notion of sculpture and what it meant within the art world firmly under attack since the introduction of the readymade by the Dadaists and appropriation of found objects by artists like Picasso, Dali set out to take sculpture a step further, all at once creating actual instead of implied motion and function in his work as well as removing the actual meaning of his objects and instead assigning them implied ones. That is to say, Dali ignored the classical bases of sculpture to implore his own set of guidelines upon the three-dimensional art object.

            Sculpture had always maintained something of a goal toward movement and portraying it skillfully as a sign of talented art making, with texture and its implied aesthetic also of importance. From the flowing drapery in the masterful marble sculptures of Renaissance artists like Michelangelo to the intricate patterns etched into classical sculpture for hair and fur, it seemed as though the reach of sculpture’s effect was one of implication. Sculpture could be viewed and felt with the eyes, almost. Existing like painting in a space solely of aesthetic principle, because high art was not to be touched, the limit of its texture and movement was one to be finished within the experience and implied understanding of the viewer. Dalí’s work and that of his contemporaries set out to explore these notions, and Object does it well amidst its other readings.

            In order to for me to understand the difference between the implied motion within Object of Symbolic Function and that of, say, Rape of Proserpina, I had to draw a line in the sand separating the function – for lack of a better word – of their respective movements. Giacometti’s aforementioned Suspended Ball was immensely helpful in developing this understanding, and the apparent conversation between Dali and Giacometti made it that much more relevant. Sculpture before modernity was a medium of representationalism, much in the same way that painting was. In Rape one can feel the woman leaping from Pluto’s arms, and flex at the struggle with which Bernini portrayed Pluto’s attempt to hold her down. But this motion lives within a fantastical world of representation. We know, despite how realistically the flowing cloth flutters from Pluto’s waist, that should a breeze or even gust of wind pass over this piece it will never move. It is an object depicting a moment frozen in time, and its movement is limited to that very same, precise moment and whatever direction the artist decided to pursue.

            Object’s implied motion, a concept inspired by that of Suspended Ball, is one of the machine and all of the moving parts accompanied with that machine’s function. It makes perfect sense that the Surrealists chose to move away from the word “sculpture” wholly and into the term “art object,” as the popular “moment frozen in time” aesthetic was just about as far from an accurate depiction of some of these works as one could get. While Suspended Ball was not actually a moving sculpture, it still carried that notion, and Dalitook it a step further by creating the embodiment of a working machine with which audiences were meant to interact and assist in completing the work’s function. This piece was not meant to be simply admired from afar and glorified in its ability to let us envision its movement; it was meant to be interacted with, and completed only with our input as viewers. Dali knew as well as anyone that this piece entering the fine art canon would see its demise as interactive machine, so the intention of said interaction became one of implication. But it was still readily apparent that this work did something, that it was capable of real, actual movement. And this is the contribution Object made to the concept of implied motion. Motion, even when only implied, can be real in a three-dimensional art object. Later artists working in kinetic sculpture like Alexander Calder would figure out ways to instill real motion without interaction into their works, and that idea started in the same conceptual space within which Dali was already thinking.

            Another space within which Dali was thinking, and one of Surrealist contemplation as a whole, was that of sexuality, fetishism, and the sensual interaction of art with artist, or art with viewer. Further, death and violence was an important part of Surrealist thought. Freudian considerations of these concepts were even more valuable, especially to Dali who came to be obsessed with the line of reasoning. There exists almost too much commentary within Object on death and sexuality to unroll in this writing, but I will note its most prominent features and the ones that stood out to me.

            Of obvious note is the centerpiece of the work: the bright red lady’s pump. Upon Baker’s suggestion in the aforementioned lecture, I looked into the French word for “pump.” I found “escarpin,” which doubles as a term used to define a flower called a lady-slipper. The Surrealists came to love the flower as a symbol of intense sexuality, providing infinite metaphors into the openness of love and lust while still maintaining a very visible mortality. Furthermore, a Surrealist thinker who suffered a similar fate of Breton-shunning as Dali (upon expulsion of the group, Dali famously stated “I am surrealism”), the writer Bataille found a certain obsession in flowers and their implication of sex and death, all wrapped up in one. I noted also that a lady-slipper is an orchid, the most sexual of all flowers – its genitalia exposed for all to see.

            While this divergence into the metaphor of the flower may prove to be a bit too far a stretch, the sexuality implicitly laid out in the paradigm of the woman’s shoe is certainly a direct message worth exploring. While foot fetishism is not something I wish to dive into for this writing, there are countless uses of the heel in the context of Surrealism from Oppenheim to even the 21st century designer Marc Jacobs. Dali furthers the discussion by placing his cup of milky liquid – one dares to jump to the conclusion of breast milk or semen – sitting directly alongside the lobster claw that he lays out in The Secret Life as a symbol of lust. The lobster was very important to Dali, in particular because with his important work Lobster Telephone he took the phallic nature of the lobster’s body and placed it in the context of the oral, lining its genitalia up with the speaker’s mouth when the machine serves its function. It can be said that any time the iconography of the lobster is used in a Dali piece its implication is one of sexuality, but the food item in general (note the direct correlation to the milk and sugar in Object) was one that Dali would obsess over thoroughly, and one that I will allude to in closing.

            While sexuality was certainly something of importance if not the most important theme in Surrealist thought and art, violence frequently challenged its possession of the Surrealist spotlight.  While the sexuality of the shoe is clearly laid out, its sharp heel (this particular shoe has a wider and more blunt heel, but alas) describes a kind of brutality that Dali adored. Much like the work of his contemporary Joan Miro, Dali often combined the origin and end of life – sex and violence littered throughout both – into the same pieces. If a reading of violence is not to be picked up (surely sexuality is clearly laid out with the pornography and more abstract symbols) by the shoe, then it is hard to miss in the nature of the gibbet. As stated, a gibbet served to glorify not only the power of the righteous in hanging a dead criminal on display, but the intrigue of death. There could be no more apparent glorification of death in an art piece such as this than the literal tool used to glorify death itself, and Dali utilized it. Further reading finds that the term “hanging in chains” – the common phrase used to describe this brutal act of displaying a criminal’s body – was directly referenced by Dali in doing just that; he hung chains from the gibbet and allowed the focal point of the machine’s duty to exist in this space of violence. While the nascence implied in the explicit sensuality of the work is ever present, a demise also aligns itself with this very notion; Dali sets out to prove that conception and destruction are one and the same, both born of violence and sexuality. Indeed, some of his sex objects (the sugar cubes with pubic hair or women’s shoes on them) are the precise items that are “hanging in chains,” to be lowered into and absorbed within the sex fluid, adding only to its sweetness and consistency, embracing the ebb and flow of life’s cycle.

            To discuss Dalí’s interest in absorbing art principles and practices is to discuss my reading of Object of Symbolic Function in its entirety. When I asked Sam what aspect of this very modern art object he appreciated, he told me that he liked none of it. I asked if he thought there was any art in this piece, and after thinking about it he told me that the intricately drawn shoes present on the sugar cubes were the only “art” this sculpture contained. The concept behind the piece was not art to Sam, but instead just a reason to create the machine. Art for Sam was painting and drawing, the most fundamental of art creation activities. After coming to understand Sam’s outlook, I asked if he thought any art remained once the object had served its purpose, and dissolved the four sugar cubes, including the three with shoe drawings, into the milk. He thought for a second, and answered that he did not think the piece would further contain art, and then would simply exist as a machine, however oddly manufactured as it was.

            It was from this answer that I drew an appreciation for Dali as an art concept absorber. He had set out to soak up all that had been accepted in moments prior as art, and often not even to disperse them with his own message (surely he wished to absorb other concepts outside of artistic consideration as well). Dali seemed very selfish to me in that moment, with a perception of the world that was exclusively his, but one that he allowed us complete ownership of at the same time, restricting us on few occasions from entering his mind. Indeed, what kind of modern artist takes over the art world with visions of representation? Was art’s purpose in that moment not to dispel those classical theories of fine art and move on to purer forms of abstraction? Dali had his own way of doing things, and stole from what we saw before him (in both senses of the term) to display his work.

From the absorption of implied motion being dispelled into real motion, to the absorption of fine art’s relic status and lack of access being dispelled into an art object that must be touched in order to complete its mission, Dali found his own ways to express art’s meaning. From the absorption of art itself by consumption in the concept of food in art to the absorption of art into art, or even mankind into art by way of the dissolving of the sugar and ink into milk leaving only traces of the most disgusting of hair clippings in what is now an extremely sweet liquid, Dali took these concepts for his own and used them as he pleased. Even so far as to take a commonly used phrase like ‘hanging in chains’ and to appropriate it into an idea of conception and art creation by way of a direct visual pun, Dali saw nothing as off-limits in his symbolic expression. It is with this level of integration that the artist was able to force reconsideration on his viewers of what art could mean. It is with this intense level of integration and its subsequent symbolic expression that Dali was able to absorb art and justify his statement that he was, in a way, surrealism.

Love,

Jacob

Mar 14 '11

I only ever hear people talk about installations as sculptural.

Does anyone know if an installation can be a painting by its common definition?

(Source: jacobpatterson)