“100% Natural”. 2 versions
Oil and paper/ panel
18” x 12”
Conceptual art is probably the best named category of art. Abstract art is not abstract at all. In fact it is the most concrete of all styles. It is what it is…paint on a surface. Baroque Art is not rough by today’s standards. And Impressionist Art is not about impressions, at least that wasn’t the intention of the artists who made Impressionist art. And certainly Cubist Art is not about cubes. But Conceptual Art is art presented as a concept. Or Art about concepts.
This is diptych about a concept that was hotly debated in the early 1990’s when I made it … that homosexual art was natural. To me it already seems hopelessly retardaire to be debating this in 1990. Hadn’t we figured this out by then? Certainly in my circles it was laughably outdated to think of homosexual desire to be unnatural. But here we are today 30 years later still debating it in some circles and even outlawing it in some countries.
Meanwhile, the craving for all things natural from the clothes we wore to the breakfast cereal we ate was just getting fired up. And now, unlike many trends that come and go, this one has only gotten stronger. Maybe it’s because those 100% percent natural cereals weren’t natural at all and still aren’t. In the same way, the images I clipped from pornographic magazines meant to inspire either homosexual or heterosexual desire in men aren’t very natural either. And our awareness of just how unhealthy pornography can be has become more obvious over time just as pornography has become more onerous and ubiquitous.
Here’s the thing about conceptual art that is so disappointing to me. It doesn’t work. Implied in its very name is the intention that one will “get” the concept. And perhaps equally implied is the further notion that having “gotten” it one will be more aware and perhaps even change or expand one’s mind about the concept presented. But that never happens.
No homophobic person ever changed their mind about homosexuality being natural as a result of seeing my conceptual art … and not just because it’s been in the closet all this time. And just as bad, most conceptual art is deliberately visually unappealing for some reason. It’s as though there is a fear shared among artists that one’s concepts would be sullied by looking good…or god forbid…beautiful…itself a concept that has been almost universally held in reproach by the art establishment for most of my adult life.
Art that is meant to be aesthetically pleasing works…at least some of the time with some of the people. And the degree to which it works is the degree to which we would admire it. Not so with conceptual art. The more obscure the concept, the more a certain cadre of the artist and his or her friends will admire it. Which in turn requires a lengthy bit of wall text to explain it to befuddled onlookers.
And here we are. I have just written the twenty first century version of wall text to explain these paintings. And I would argue that this writing is far more lucid and compelling than my collages will ever be no matter how long you stare at them.
8.5″ x 11”