Cartoons (I’m referring to those humorous illustrations in magazines and newspapers) often provide the perfect blend of form and content sought by many an artist. Cartoons often say what I have difficulty articulating. Their silent commentary disrupts the mad silence that frequently cloaks the contemporary art world.
Here’s some cartoon commentary concerning modern art. From the MadSilence collection.
Image source: Chris Madden Cartoons. And of course Chris Madden gets it, dead on. Damien Hirst’s shark, entitled “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” manifested in NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last year for a three-year stay. I’ve now seen it in London and New York and my opinion is only reinforced. It’s conceptual art at its worst, with little aesthetic appeal and a message lost in the translation. Man Ray would not be pleased. For more Chris Madden cartoons on the subject of Art, go here.
The Calvin and Hobbes comic stripis one of my favorites. Does anyone recall the “snowmen” series that depicted snowmen dying or suffering in grotesque ways? Bill Watterson also used his snowmen to comment on the jargon surrounding modern art, artist funding, and high and low-brow taste. Take a look at these examples.
Follow along with me through the strips. At one point, Calvin (who’s only 6-years old) abandons representational art for the freedom of abstraction. Next he struggles to obtain public funding to produce public art, even if his intended audience (the public!) cannot appreciate his genius. Finally Calvin’s snowman sculpture captures the essence (and hopefully the price tag!) of Hirst’s shark. Calvin builds on his medium’s impermanence and the transient quality of snow to comment on the evanescence of life and the horror of human mortality. Too bad it melts before he can realize big bucks.
Did you get Calvin’s reference to Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase? Quite cute. Reminds me of an editorial cartoon that appeared in The New York Times in 1913 when Duchamp’s painting was first exhibited in New York City:
Appropriately entitled The Rude Descending a Staircase. Into the NYC subway.
Of course if I were an artist I might not appreciate this cartoon criticism. Here’s one artist’s possible response to the critics: