Jun 2, 2010
just gimme some truth
I saved visiting MoCA North Miami's recent exhibition Cory Arcangel: The Sharper Image (just closed in May, their next exhibition opens this week) until the artist's visit and lecture on April 24. Anticipating a standard lecture about his work, I made it to the museum an hour before the artist's arrival in order to immerse myself in the work on my own terms first, expecting to delve into the work with a freshened perspective afterward. To my surprise, the lecture didn't give me a new perspective on his work so much as a new perspective on the artist himself (who looks just like Jamie Kennedy of Malibu's Most Wanted, by the way). Reminding me of comedians such as Demetri Martin and the late Mitch Hedberg, Arcangel's lecture was more a comedy performance than informative diatribe. Unfortunately (or is it?) his "performance" was perhaps better than the artwork itself. After the lecture I skeptically returned to the exhibition questioning the amusing works, wondering if there was more than mere laughs. I'm afraid I came back nearly empty-handed.
Arcangel's works tend to be simultaneously art historically referential and self referential. They exist simultaneously in the past and very much in the now, making references to the contemporary art world and technologies that are or will soon be obsolete.
They say, and I'm not sure who "they" are, that comedy is harder to achieve in the arts then drama or terror and should be lauded as such. Internet humor is a talent for sure and Arcangel's references to YouTube and cheesy GIF-laden websites of years past taps into a new kind of virtual relationalist aesthetic not seen or expressed before. His modern interpretations of Fluxus processes and Steve Reich's compositions are cheeky, clever, and immediately engaging. And yet these works hardly go beyond that. Sure some of them tip-toe their way into the sublime -- works such as Sweet 16 or his large, almost ethereal Photoshop C-Prints (pictured) -- but one is taken back rather quickly and harshly by the works' wry beginnings. For me, most everything in The Sharper Image is too cynical (almost to the point of misanthropy), the inside jokes too loud to ultimately be taken as anything more.
This might be a generational thing, but I prefer more sincere, straightforward art. Give me honesty, skip the cynicism.