So Why the Girl?

Richard App posted this on his Facebook page,


stencils special -> 6/15
Artist: Eddie
Foto sent by Steff Klärchen

Call me confused, but this girl is distracting. It’s  the department of literalism, the stuff of cheap politics and bad aesthetics.

The first rule for any display is to go for economy. So what is it?  You have the sign AND you have the painter. If I believe the message, do I need the painter in the picture at all? I would think that there may be two reasons for the girl. First, putting nominal creator and sign next to each other provides a sort of distancing, it is an ironic effect. Our attention, our motivation from the message is mediated by the question of who she is — our real graffiti artist? Or is the artists say, a man? After all, there seems to be a certain objectification of women going on here, too. Does being a cute blond of young 20s make your message better? (Well it does, if you’re in advertising) Would it be different if she were fat? a different color? a different gender? a different age?

So as an upshot, we are asked to gaze, not ask for permission. Asking for permission is only a means to another, rather trivial end.

Review: Colored Pictures

Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation

Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation by Michael D. Harris

Earlier this summer, I did the library equivalent of impulse buying. There at the counter, being checked in as I was checking out, was Colored Pictures. One look at the images and how could I resist? The book has made a suitable companion to Kevin Young’s The Grey Album, particularly the chapter on Dunbar’s use of high and low dialect and Young’s refusal to use a hierarchy. High and low belong together as one voice.

Harris’ broad concern is the manner in which the representation of race comes to shape our political/social discourse; as he notes, it is dialectic, both arising from existing understandings and then reinforcing the same. In the second part of the book he explores how some black artists have worked directly or indirectly to establish their own claim on race. The weakness in this second discussion arises from keeping the focus so tightly on specific artists that we do not see the broader cultural contexts. Even as the artist explores the African American experience, they also do so in the context of other movements and moments in in art and culture.

As Harris said, it’s a dialectic. Some points would certainly be stronger for this broader discussion.

What is left under-discussed in this broader framework would be the impact of the 20th Century on the theme. Three areas suggest themselves (this is going to get long). Continue reading “Review: Colored Pictures”

Art gives voice to what?

More from the WSJ

Now that the boutique atheism of such aggressive secularists as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens has become chic, you might well ask yourself why any unbelieving artist would bother to turn his hand to the making of religious art.

Terry Teachout explores how non-believers produce sometimes extraordinary, transcendent art. It’s not just that the unbeliever creates transcendent art (and they do) but also what the significance of that transcendence is. Is this merely a trick of narration,a ventriloquism aping the language of the faithful? Or does the art itself point to something beyond itself, a Truth that makes this true. As Teachout notes this latter seems to be Ralph Vaughn Williams’ view,

 “Now to assert that these things are exactly as I have described would not be reasonable. But that these things, or something like them, are true concerning the souls of men and their habitations after death, especially since the soul is shown to be immortal, this seems to me fitting and worth risking to believe. For the risk is honourable, and a man should sing such things in the manner of an incantation to himself.”