Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reading Street Art

In the early chapters of An ABC of Contemporary Reading, Richard Kostelantz reflects upon the ideas of originality and the avant-garde, especially in terms of literary greats of the experimental form (e.g. Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound). However, Kostelantz’s opinions of modern art, including modern writing, prove exceptionally interesting; he claims, “The aim of art in our time is the creation not of ‘beauty’ but of rare experience; the effect of innovative art is not ‘pleasure’ but unusual perception” (45).

Based on Kostelanetz’s opinion of modern art, the fashionable, even trendy, popularity of street art falls into the realm of “unusual perception.” Few traditionalists would classify street graffiti as beautiful, definitely not high art; however, if we follow Kostelanetz’s philosophy, modern art thrives on the extraordinary experience of the viewer and his/her ability to perceive a work outside the accepted setting (gallery, museum, etc) and outside the common response to works of art classified as “beautiful.”

Even in our own humble city, a street art experiment exploded in what appeared to be a lurking reminder to look around and perceive the world, and art, a little differently. MCASD’s exhibit entitled Viva La Revolucion: A Dialogue with The Urban Landscape literally brought modern art to the streets and captured its dialectical relationship to the traditional art setting. Massive murals bombarded city streets while taglines (OBEY) and artists’ infamous logos (See Space Invader above) splattered against the sides of buildings.

Kostelanetz continues, “In our time, experiments with insufficiency are more interesting, more sympathetic, and ultimately more heroic than the exploitation of virtuosity” (43). Does this trend force us to actually “experience” modern art? Does this presence of street art alter our perceptions regarding the traditional way we view and consider beauty? See: Banksy.