A Juxtaposition for the Modern Age
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Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.
Viewing Civilization as an update to the 60’s program of the same name, different spelling, I can’t help but wonder what the 2070 update might address. Dueling art histories, Islamic verses Christian along with the suppression of the female painter makes this episode timely. Civilization is frequently a critique on the nature of how we learn and teach history. The lens that we view it through shifts with the culture providing the lessons we are ready and willing to learn.
Considering that within the traditional Islamic belief, the representation of sentient beings is a form of idolatry does make for a kind of non-starter for detente in the context of one of the more glorified moments in European figuration. Could a practicing Muslim visit the Sistine Chapel? The juxtaposition of the resulting beauty is extraordinary. The greater emphasis in this episode is on the notion of collaboration versus say stardom. Religion aside and maybe also craft versus art aside, I think the art world does still have both tendencies at equal measure. Social practice, collectives and alternative spaces verses the art market, commercial galleries, art fairs. The existence of both do make life interesting, through attraction or repulsion according to your investment in either.
“Vainglorious” is a word that is new to me and now one of my favorites. In conversation, Damien Hirst says, “I think what usually happens is, the artists have to follow the technology, whereas I always make the technology follow me and that's the way it should be really and that's what Cellini was doing.” If nothing else this episode allows Hirst to position himself in history through the technical achievement that could very easily be described as kitsch, all be it spectacular. Hirst also weirdly tries to assert Cellini’s challenge in large scale metal casting as the first conceptual art. Vainglorious!
Cellini’s severed head of Medusa facing Michelangelo’s statue of David is brilliant.
As an artist working in the present, living in the U.S., I’m fairly disconnected from either culture, I’m more aware of the European history based on my education but the underlining motivation of religion in either case is of no real interest. Skills and beauty aside, I’m more often attracted to the subtle acts of sedition, irreverence or just twisted humor that are often embedded in western art, usually targeting the authorities or patronage. It seems less likely that this exist within the Islamic work where devotion is at stake, I could be wrong.
This inclusive look into how Art has evolved makes more sense particularly in a moment when the momentum against globalism is so pervasive and we are currently warehousing immigrant kids in cages.
Maybe the next update will be intergalactic.
Tim Rietenbach lives and works in Columbus Ohio, currently a Professor of Fine Arts at Columbus College of Art & Design and represented exclusively by Angela Meleca Gallery. You can see more of his work at timrietenbach.com