Mike Kelley Foul Perfection Essays And Criticism

Mike Kelley Foul Perfection Essays And Criticism-9
The interviews gradually present evidence of a cultivated personality that mirrors the dramatic banality of Ruscha’s work. So he consistently downplays all art-related decisions—Q: “Why photograph gas stations?” A: “Because they were there.” Interviewers, especially the early ones, have a terrible feel for how to approach Ruscha’s intentionally boring work, continuously trying to pigeonhole him with, “So what’s the point?” questions, which, because of Ruscha’s ability to talk in circles, is revealed as comically pointless.

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Not to mention their demonstration that artists can, and should, double as compelling writers if they have any interest in subverting the infantile art world position Kelley believes they’re inevitably assigned.

As he writes, “All of us know, those who possess language have an advantage over those who do not.” Imagine if writing was a purely visual endeavor without linguistic or syntactical meaning.

If Rosler’s attitude about her own art and art in general is hot, Ruscha’s is icy.

As with Warhol, there’s a deadened air about Ruscha and his declarations: Europe is boring, a photo is just a means to an end, the work is about the West only because I live there. Without the zany veneer that then accompanied art that did things like immortalize every building on Sunset Strip in an artist’s book, you emerge with the sense that Ruscha’s practice could never have been as successful as it has.

The 1979 essay “For an Art Against the Mythology of Everyday Life” is a scathing critique of Americans’ dependence on television and other media outlets to demonstrate the appropriate way to live, and Rosler glides through an analysis of how they provide “the distancing effect that breaks the emotional identification with character and situation that naturalism implies,” a notion she continues to probe in recent photo-collages on view at Gorney, Bravin, Lee.

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But Rosler’s essays don’t really concern herself as much as they map the expansive parameters of her interests, which inevitably appear in her work.At the contest, surrounded by frat boys, Kelley recounts a blasphemous impromptu speech he gave on the “evils” of the opposing football team, rhetoric that obviously resonates contemporaneously.While the second volume includes primarily project statements, Kelley’s often read as essays and are as enjoyable as the critical, theoretical, and creative essays in Foul Perfection.Her focus ranges from pop art’s detournement of the female image to war photography to the marginalization and restrictions American contemporary artists have suffered under conservative administrations.Occasionally her logic is questionable, as in “Place, Position, Power, Politics,” when she argues that the late eighties culture wars and the subsequent loss of government funding is a severe blow to artists, although in earlier essays she had argued vigorously that artists should seek to take control of the art-presenting system.Casting aside romantic “artists speak through their creations” talk, it would seem a historical truth that the mum artist stands on intellectual high ground. Of course, exceptions like Malevich, Judd, Smithson, and, recently, Pope. But aside from a smattering of publications commissioning writing by visual artists, much of today’s writing by artists consists of an enigmatic little paragraph called the artist statement, often riddled with vagaries and clichés.For these reasons Martha Rosler’s book of essays, is the most exceptional of four recent books of artists’ writings published by MIT Press; the others collect the words of Ed Ruscha and Mike Kelley.Of the three artists, Kelley is by far the most willing to write about himself and discuss his own work.Although he writes in (the first of the two volumes of his writing) that he dislikes writing and only took it up as a means of defending aesthetic decisions that proved impenetrable to the art world, he does so engagingly and charmingly, and both volumes are filled with hilarious anecdotes and refreshingly descriptive explanations.But I’m nitpicking—Rosler’s critical and visual output has remained focused, consistent, and relevant for the better part of four decades now without slipping into complacency.would seem likely to annoy Rosler, who consistently expresses impatience in her book with artists who hide behind enigma or who mimic the language and/or production values of the systems they’re critiquing.


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