Sunday, July 6, 2008

A glimpse into London's Art Scene

Label me a philistine if you will, but when this trailer first showed up in the parking lot of my local branch library, I figured it was an abandoned piece of junk. Imagine my surprise when I was told it was "art." There was nothing indicating this - no accompanying name or explanation, nothing, just this "construction" sitting in the parking lot.

No seriously, this "art" piece by Stephen Lavigne, originally on display at the Forest City Gallery here in London, Ontario, is currently on tour for the month of July.

See the events section at the Forest City Gallery page. In the artist's own words:

Using a late 1960's model trailer home as a formal and conceptual subject, I have been producing drawings and paintings that attempt to reconcile the differences between various fundamental opposites intrinsic to the paint medium. Most recently, these two-dimensional works have become source material for a complete rebuild of an actual mobile home. My goal is for the finished design is to blur the line between two-dimensional abstraction and three-dimensional representation. The vintage of the mobile home corresponds with my interest in the critical period during the late 1960s, which saw various conceptually based strategies for art making arise in opposition to the material specificity of modern painting. With the drawings as a 'jumping-off' point, and using a process-based method to both design and construct the project, I have converted the traditional trailer home into a hybrid form which I like to think of as a mobile home storage home.
Or if you prefer, think of the trailer as part of a large exhibit meditating on boundaries:
London is a city both physically and symbolically divided by its bridges, waterways, roads, railways and highways. Consequently, seemingly simple labels such as `East of Adelaide", `Kipps Lane' and `Manor Park' have entered our vernacular as markers of margins and boundaries. The exhibition Driving in the Landscape attempts to map notions of displacement, migration, immigration, isolation, and Canadiana within an urban landscape that is often presented as culturally unified and even homogenous.
I'm pretty sure the broken window and glass on the pavement wasn't intentional, but I'm not sure about the flat tires; perhaps the flat tires upset the balance suggested by the inflated tires on the other side.

Also appearing at Mitchieville.


MapMaster said...

My goal is [sic] for the finished design is to blur the line between… [insert arbitrary cliché here]

Boundaries, differences, lines… haven't artists been able to come up with anything new for the past 50 years?

Oh well, I suppose the piece could be said to transcend the boundary of the local junkyard. This would make it at least slightly more ambitious than blurring the line between art and the trashcan — that was accomplished a long time ago.

Lisa said...

I may not have an art degree, but I do have a vision. The connection between broken down equipment (say burnt out computer monitors and old fridges) and capitalist waste is most clearly expressed by selectively depositing (I mean displaying) garbage in parking lots across the city.

Surely, this is no more offensive than the neon metal trees that decorate the downtown core?

Honey Pot said...

When I first laid my eyes on it, I thought perhaps Uncle Merlin came to visit from the east coast, and his homemade gps was out of whack again.

This has been done so many times. I have an artist friend that did the decapitated pink flamingos as a joke, and had it displayed in an art gallery.

Artsy fartsy types are just ssssooooo gullible. Sometimes a crappy falling apart trailor, is just that.

Mike said...

I have a Forest City Gallery-style opening out in front of my house every six business days, and nobody ever even acknowledges my neo-transgressionalisticism.

The four-bag limit on our medium has really restricted the amount of questions and boundaries that my art can raise and subvert, though. The convention has always been to raise and then subvert, so I used to turn it right around by subverting and then raising. But as I look along the boulevards of my street and try to plan for the next opening, I find that four-bags-max kind of forces you back into a more conventional space where you basically have to raise then subvert.

Justin said...

I agree that the placement of this trailer seems to be pretty non-engaging and kind of an afterthought. After all, it's only one part of a larger project, and not meant to exist solely as some duchampe-esque readymade. Perhaps the artist is used to a environment where community exposure and interaction with this type of "site-specific" public art is more commonplace. I think the project has some merit, but I'd have to read up on it some more to fully appreciate it. Displaying the trailer as it is, yeah, is really boring and dumb. It doesn't incite curiosity as much as it does prejudice and derision, which is evidenced here.

What this represents to me is the continuing disconnect that the Forest City Gallery has with the community at large. It's basically become a glorified training ground for MA students who want to play Gallery Director for a year and not worry about whether the projects they're bringing are a benefit to the community or not.

It's so far from its original mandate that it's not even funny.

I'd be happy to answer any questions about intent and theory in terms of this thing if you guys want clarification past any garbled art-speak! This particular project is pretty nebulous in its references and such.

Oh, and I'm not the artist. I'm just an observer.


Honey Pot said...

You want to read up on itm to appreciate it?

Howzabout I sell you a couple of my noveau cracked plastic garbage cans.

The stark crack formations caused as the city workers threw the fuckers against the curb because they smelled like ass, and the neo pink maggots colored from the beet roots, are a sight to behold.

If you look closely you can see Jesush and his gangbangers eating their last supper.

I have a feeling you could make yourself a few bucks there buddy.

NIAC said...

I have to apologize, but in my humble, humble opinion, I call bullshit.

I am not talking the most excellent bending-over of Canada that US of A resident, to the tune of 1.8 million 1990 dollars for "Voice Of Fire" (which was the THRID P.O.S. purchased, a total remuneration for the 3 pieces of ... art ... of 3.6 million).

I am talking about the simple and inescapable axiom, "If you have to explain it, it isn't art".

Anything requiring anything other than the name[s] of artist[s] is not art, it is ecclectic, anti-social and usually the result of some sort of psychoses.

Justin said...

niac, very true. I feel the same way about math. And words I don't understand.

And the Voice of Fire purchase was actually a really good investment, as the painting is worth way more than what they paid for it. They got it on the cheap because Newman was such a fan of Canada. It simply made good economic sense, as art rarely depreciates in value.

NIAC said...

I don't mean to detract from those who believe "Voice of Fire" to be "art".

I simply maintain that, not unlike "oil futures options", which dictate the price of gas 27 months from today, "value" is very subjective.

For example, with "Voice of Fire", when being defended, was said to be "two blue stripes, surrounding a red one". In reality, and perhaps due to perspective, and again - in the spirit of "appreciation" and having to "know the author's meaning", the other two, previous pieces were simply blue: One which looked similar to a railroad tie, painted the same blue and another blank, but smaller, canvas painted that same blue - Voice of Fire was a blue canvas, with a red stripe painted on it.

Cheap is relative.

I can buy a litre of red, four of blue, a railroad tie and two canvasses for about $245.00. 3.6 million - 2.45 hundred = commercial gain, finger-pointing and laughin and a hell of a profit.

Newman absolutely, without any doubt, is both a fan of Canada, and simply made good economic sense.

What return on investment - not that it should even BEGIN to enter a discussion when it comes to art, let alone in defense of it - is there?

Justin said...

You're dreaming if you think that small an amount of paint is going to cover that large of a canvas, or that it'll only cost you $245. I hope you're not a contractor.

NIAC said...

I appreciate, and respect, your position, but I can tell your next defence is likely going to involve my mother or sister or some such thing, so there is no value in me being part of the debate.

This is why I do not discuss such things, and why I do not consider myself to be Leftist.

Justin said... did begin to discuss this type of thing, by posting about it, didn't you? And responding in kind? And how do you make the assumption that I'm going to start making ad hominem attacks just because I exposed the weakness of your strawman? That's a pretty illogical leap.

It doesn't matter, though. You're clearly in over your head, and are trying to duck out while maintaining some sense of dignity and intelligence. I understand your position in that regard, however I do not respect it.

I, too, am a fan of axioms. One of my favourites is "One should refrain from writing cheques one's ass can't cash."

NIAC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NIAC said...

Of course I did. I am not the one purporting to be an interpreter for "nebulous" art with some flair for 'understanding' I plainly put to you a simple question which you could not begin to answer.

I didn't make an assumption about your contractor comment - I read it.

Your hypocracy is only cemented further by your disparaging use of 'dignity and intelligence', when clearly you have no issues with voicing your disrespect for anyone who is not in total awe of you, or in total agreement with you. However, as so often seems the case in the psuedo-neoclassic, artisan culture, you'd still need to 'explain' your art, hopefully better than you have explained your position.

Attacking me hardly makes you seem more correct, and misquoting, "don't let your mouth write a cheque your ass can't cash" certainly doesn't make you more dignified or intelligent.

Please do not try to sidle up to me with your feigned understanding: Your respect for me is irrelevant. The lack of any substance in your defence of Newman, or the trailer, speaks volumes compared to anything I would have to say. You simply prove that, and I paraphrase, "you can take the trash out of the trailer, but you can't take the trailer out of the trash".

Justin said...

My disrespect for you is not that you disagree with me, it's that you don't have the ammunition to mount a suitable defense of your own statements because you don't know what you're talking about. Rather than admit this, you made a blatantly (and provably, on the same page) false statement about how you "do not discuss such things". I don't have respect for that kind of cowardice.

I don't mind if you disagree with me, but to dismiss the existence, for hundreds of years, of a robust and lucrative market simply because your understanding of it is on the same level as your understanding of the term "ad hominem" is just lazy.

I'm not about to give a history lesson to someone who seems to seriously not even want to attempt to understand why the Newman work would maybe be worth more than their copy of it.

NIAC said...

Your answer, then, is that my question of 1228h EDT couldn't be answered by you at 1248h EDT, because of a comment I made at 1313h, EDT.

I stand corrected.

Please, do have the last word, now. I shall not respond.

Justin said...

No, I don't respect you because of your comment of 1313h. I didn't answer your question if 1228h because your example was too ridiculous.

The short answer to your question is, the return on investment for the purchase of Voice of Fire is the fact that the Gallery knew they were purchasing it for well below market price, and could simply not pass up the opportunity. Like it or not, this piece was an important part of a popular and prolific art movement of the 50s and 60s, which attracted much attention of art buyers and galleries all around the world to the burgeoning New York painting scene of that time. It is considered, art historical world, to be a very significant period in the modernist movement. The work was painted in 1967 for the American Pavillion at Expo 67,three years before Newman died in 1970.
The National Gallery makes yearly acquisitions, as is its mandate, to both allow Canadian viewers access to various works of art, and also because the art market is such that, while there are ebbs and flows in the interest in certain movements and kinds of art, old paintings by famous dead artists will always increase in value because they are always getting older and there aren't any more of them.
This particular piece drew lots of scrutiny because it happened to hit a nerve at that time with Canadians due to its perceived lack of technical achievement, coupled with the price tag. I agree that if it was a piece by a relatively unknown artist created in 1988 I would've been outraged too, and demanded that the Gallery defend the purchase.

The piece's worth has appreciated sharply, and were the Gallery to sell this at auction, which I don't think they will anytime soon), it would fetch far more than the cost it was purchased for.

Art is a commodity, like anything else, and it's important to know the all the factors that contribute to the significance of a piece, which in turn affect its desirability to collectors, which determines its value. That's why Voice of Fire was a good investment.

Also a lot of people seem to think it looks neat. I personally don't care for it. I think that whole period was a lot of old guys being way too analytical about painting and art.

I hope that answers your question!

Honey Pot said...

Niac, would you please piss off. Don't be dissing what Justin considers great works of art. For fucksake, I almost have him talked into buying my ass cracked maggoty old garbage cans.

Justin said...

I don't consider either of these works to be great. I think the trailer piece is boring and too trendy to be considered a great work, and I would have to actually see Voice of Fire to judge it. But field painting doesn't usually move me very much.

And Honey, you should make sure to bag up any leftover meat and foodstuffs quite tightly to avoid getting maggots. You shouldn't just dump stuff directly in the can, especially if it's cracked!

Justin said...

OKAY FINE I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE! I need to buy those cans!

Honey Pot said...

Why wouldn't I Justin?

How am I to make my maggot art, if I don't let them have free range?

I take it, you have never experienced maggot art, therefore, you are incapable of appreciating its beauty and allure.

I feed my maggots dye based vegetables to add color, and feed them meat to add texture.

I am writing up a grant proposal to the city to get one of those creative art grants.

I can't imagine anything being more orginal or creative, than my maggots of many colors display. Can you?

Justin said...

Well, good luck in your quest. Those grants are hard to get!

Honey Pot said...

Not if your willing to sleep Gordo. He does have great leggs.

I think I will just put the old Honey Pot spell on him and my grant will overfloweth.

Honey Pot said...

That was sleep with Gordo.

I got so excited thinking about it, words just disappeared from my fingertips.

jaq said...

LMAO @ honey pot!

If this is art, then Fred Sanford must have been a true visionary.