Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Art 21: "Humor"

This episode is a continuation of PBS's documentaries of contemporary artists. This episode explores artists who try and incorporate humor into their work.

Raymond Pettibon:
Raymond Pettibon was born in Tuscan Arizona and now resides in Venice where he still produces art. His first claim to fame as an artist was designing the four bar logo for the band he and his brother participating in during the 70's, called "Black Flag." As Pettibon took a step away from music and into the contemporary art scene, he began to gain popularity quickly for his provocative, humorous, blunt artwork.


Pettibon is known for his skillful way of mixing writing and drawing. Many of his drawing have aspects that are reminiscent of cartoons because of their humorous overtones. Pettibon tries to explain his synthesizing process when he says, “The way I think and the way I talk and the way I write is not very direct, always.  It can lead anywhere. What I want it to be is as fluent as possible.” While Pettibon is not the most articulate verbally, he sends powerful messages with his work, and many messages in the few, carefully chosen words he puts in his work.



While the main intention of Pettibon’s work is the resolution of a laugh, he also portrays the darker side of life as well. Pettibon’s dislike for powerful, decedent, pretentious people comes out in many of his pieces, which he describes as “a way of breaking down this kind of natural awe that comes out of a sort of fear or envy.” However, while Pettibon embraces his portrayal of dark emotions, his friend praises him because, “He tends to be able to make some of the most horrible things, funny. He’ll just flat our put it down on paper and then write something about it and you just can’t help but laugh.”


While Pettibon’s work also tends to spark much controversy, Pettibon has never considered himself a political artist. Instead he believes art can be therapeutic or fantasy educing. “Art to me gives me the freedom to do that.”

Pettibon’s work has been shown in galleries nationally and internationally. He is managed by Regen Projects, and Contemporary Fine Arts in London.

Pettibon Websites:


Eleanor Antin
Eleanor Antin is my favorite contemporary artists we've seen thus far on this project. She has a light hearted, humorous attitude towards life, and it manifests perfectly in her art. She says, "I would define what I do as essentially invents histories.” In addition to being playful, Antin says, "I always tend to see the funny side of things. That’s the richest experience. Is when it’s the laughter and it’s the tears together." This quote exemplifies the mindset behind most of her art. Her current surrounding of Southern California have also inspired most of her work.

The first work that she describes in the Art 21 video is her recreation of the Ancient world. She says that she has a, “Love affair with the past.” She describes looking out on the scenery of La Jolla and immediately thinking "this could be Pompeii." She ran with the idea and hired actors to dress up and recreate the Ancient world. 

The image directly above is my favorite from this Pompeii project because it has a Renaissance feel to it. 
We should look to the past to the Ancient Roman world and examine their mistakes, so we don't follow suit. The particular human tendency that this picture is satirizing is the desire for wealth. At the top of the pile of gold, a young boy in a red toga take his first step at examining the gold. You can see in his eyes his fascination, and the slightly older man in the green toga below him is foreshadowing what will happen to this young boy (in the red) if he continues his greed for wealth. Finally at the bottom, the people covered in gold show the deathly or painful effects of wealth. Thus while this picture is a portrayal of the past, it still relates to the world of capitalism and free market today.

I love this project of Antin's because it's creative, satires the Ancient World and the present day, while still presenting an aesthetically pleasing picture. For the picture directly above, I would say it satires the Ancient world because every human is in a ridiculous color Toga, garb, or position. However, while the scene is portraying the Ancient world, it still makes fun of human characteristics that appear in the world today. For example, the sexual tension between men and women is portrayed on the left between the lady in the blue toga who is swooning in the man's arms. Or the who naked men on the bottom right corner fighting for the wine in the pitcher. Thus Antin's goal of combining art with theatricality to relate to "our present day situation," is accomplished.

Another one of Antin's projects, and perhaps her most famous one, is her "Pictorial
 Novel," One Hundred Boots.
In this project, Antin spent two and a half years taking pictures of one hundred black boots in different scenarios. She would print them on postcards, and mail them out to random people. In total she sent out 51 postcards to over a thousand people. 

 This was the first postcard that Antin sent out. It shows one hundred boots lined up on the beach facing the ocean.

About three weeks later, she sent another postcard of 100 boots turning the corner. I like this one in particular because it has a suburban feel to it, and represents the amount of people that walk by this spot as it goes unrecognized.

"One Hundred Boots go to Church." This picture was lauded because it seems to represent the old California. No longer is that Church standing. Instead, in its place is a Condo. Antin laments that most of the beaches now are condo heavens that are meant to entertain visitors. She misses the old suburban feel.
Antin's boot project was not confined to Southern California either. She took the boots to New York City as well.
This was the last of the One Hundred Boots series. The title was "One Hundred Boots go on Vacation." Antin said she chose this as the last postcard because you could see the "souls" of the boots. 

I loved this boot project because the repetition had a meaningful affect. Also the way that Antin exhibited her art was creative and successful. Instead of hanging all 51 postcards in a gallery or museum, sending these pictures to random people caused Antin's art to interrupt their lives and demand attention. This is what most artist want to do, have people look at, relate to, and care about their art. Antin gave her viewers no choice. I admire this because it is bold and daring, while still communicating a meaningful message that everyone can relate to in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Antin believes that her art has, "a relation to human expereience that I think gives it more of a rich layer.”

I couldn't agree more with Antin, and her belief is best manifested in her project, "One Hundred Boots."

For more information about Eleanor Antin click here

Or this video

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