Monday, January 13, 2014

Angst or Art?

In the Jetsonian world of BuzzFeed and Instagram, new, "groundbreaking" artists are a daily occurrence. When pulling something out of your ass (or your vagina) passes for art, it's hard to determine which statement-oriented artists will become the Andy Warhol's of our time and which will be lost in The Cloud.

Of course a lacquered turd mounted in a here-today-gone-tomorrow gallery is nothing new, the internet just gets it to us faster, and on to Tosh.0 where it likely belongs. On one hand, the web gets art to people who exist outside the elite world of self designated experts who tell us what's good to compensate for their own lack of talent.

I'm a huge proponent of making art accessible to the masses. That sounds like it should be a given, but only because you're reading a blog. The art community can be ruthlessly closed-door and exclusionary. I'm talking of those who run art, not those who make it.

Unfortunately, breaking down the walls of our hallowed halls of culture doesn't just redefine art for a new generation, it also opens it up to the hackneyed, adolescent crisis-culture that confuses memes with a message.

Steve Rosenfield

Steve Rosenfield's photography was mentioned on BuzzFeed today. I say "mentioned," not "featured," because BuzzFeed has a wide trench between its well crafted journalism and its user content. Steve Rosenfield falls into the latter.

I'm not going to claim to be an uninformed web surfer who simply doesn't like what he sees. I studied art for seven years, was raised in a dark room, and follow three generations of artists and photographers and my father is an accomplished author. I'm also not some bourgeoisie douchebag who thinks that art should be defined, and reserved, for the rich.

The problem with Rosenfield's photography isn't that it's bad. His images are good. Part of the problem is the wealth of technology available to the average eye. In short, it's impossible to take a bad picture. That makes it easy for all of us to make beautiful prints to pass out as Christmas presents, but it also makes the field of photography infinitely more competitive.

But Rosenfield is also trying to send a message with his work, and that message is too literal to mean anything profound. His medium is simple, portraying subjects with an insecurity scrawled across a part of their body. With themes as common as "DAMAGED GOODS" and "DUMB BLONDE," Rosenfield's attempt to paint pictures of judgment and double standards falls on its face as a nihilistic imbalance. If he accomplishes anything, it isn't his goal, but portrays a generation - most of his subjects appear to be in their 20s - desperately trying to seek a false sense of pride in back-door-brags like "MAN WHORE" and "ALIENATED," i.e. "special."

While Rosenfield seems to be asking why his generation is so troubled, perhaps his work does serve a purpose, by asking why his generation seeks their fifteen minutes on BuzzFeed broadcasting their perceived faults.

I'm gay, I'm insecure about my age and my hairline, and I'm not quite sure I'm following my passion, but I've never, even at my worst, been as insecure as Rosenfield's (very attractive) subjects. His work sends a message as literal as those of his models, and that's not that they're troubled, it's that they, and his work, have very skewed narcissism. If Rosenfield's project has any message, it's that it's hot to be troubled.

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