"We know that 'Great Art' is so great because male authorities have told us so, and we can't claim otherwise, and only those with exquisite sensitivities far superior to ours can perceive and appreciate the greatness, the proof of their superior sensitivity being that they appreciate the slop that they appreciate."
"The veneration of 'Art' and 'Culture'-- besides leading many women into boring, passive activity that distracts from more important and rewarding activities, and cultivating active abilities, leads to the constant intrusion on our sensibilities of pompous dissertations on the deep beauty of this and that turd." -Valerie Solanis, The S.C.U.M Manifesto (particular quotes courtesy of Bitch magazine.)
When it comes to anything "established"-- be it art, music, fashion, literature, politics, history, movies, TV, or whatever-- there is also an established notion that there are certain works or people or components that are Important and Great; the greatness of which, we, the populace, are not to question.
One of the greatest, most freeing realizations I've had on my life (and a big part of why I consider myself a feminist- well, one of the big parts) is that much of what we are taught is important is STUPID--STUPID, and OVERRATED. In history class, we are made to memorize facts about wars and kings we forget immediately, at the complete expense of ever learning anything about real people and how they lived, in English we are made to find the great meaning behind "great works" at the expense of any critique or creative output of our own, in everyday life we are not to impugn upon the greatness of Led Zeppelin or the genius of Roman Polanski or the "classiness" of Audrey Hepburn/Natalie Portman at the Oscars. (Not that fashion would ever be elevated to the heights of, say, Ernest Hemingway, but certainly fashion has its own hierarchies and canons.)
What's crazy is that, even in our reality TV-addled times, saying these things aloud still blows people's minds. Throughout my high school years, I had a sneaking suspicion that a good many of the Great things we were taught really weren't so great, but actually articulating these ideas was difficult, not only because I didn't quite know what I meant, but because saying stuff like "Picasso was a hack," or "Kirkegaard is boring the shit out of me," or "Judy Blume is as important as Tolstoy," or "Aristotle is 99% irrelevant," gets people really mad. I think music was kind of the beginning for me, because I realized early on that I hated Simon and Garfunkel, the Doors, and numerous other bands that are, for some reason, considered inarguably Great.
This is obviously not to say everything Bad is Good, or that anything done by a marginalized/overlooked person is therefore Good- this train of thought can make you fall into the same trap of accepting things for other reasons besides the things themselves. But I do believe everyone should be allowed- encouraged, even- to examine whether we think things are great because of the what they are or because of what people have told us about them. And also that what we have chosen to represent us and our history as a culture is nothing if not exclusionary, written by the victors themselves, self-serving, and full of glaring omissions.
What is the point of all this??? Famous artists who SUCK! A new feature, even though I am always introducing "features" to this blog that I never continue. But this is basically what this blog is about anyway!
I have a book called "Great Prints and Printmakers" that has some amazing, trippy, highly detailed medieval prints, which I love. I'm surprised certain Renaissance and medieval artwork is not more popular- because it is weird, intense, psychedelic, and full of archaic symbolism, giving a window into the culture at the time. And monsters! It's full of monsters! Here are some Albrecht Durer engravings, but he is just the tip of the iceberg. Sorry the quality is so bad- they are worth enlarging!
See? That shit is so metal. And when you think about the detail and labor that went into work like this, it is mindblowing.
Anyway, the book moves on in time, to the other "masters", all those guys who were French and drew sloppy pictures of buxom naked ladies.
We have Gauguin's colonialist depictions of "native" ladies.
Matisse also just loved the boobs of exotic ladies (exotic ladies, of course, have always been a little easier to depict naked because it is their natural, lesser, uncivilized state. See: entire Western history of anthropology)
Seriously! Are we going to pretend this artwork "holds up?" If a guy was selling this on the street alongside charcoal portraits of Will Smith, would you look twice???
Alright, what about THIS boob-focused picture, by Chagall:
Look me in the eye and tell me this does not look like total, utter crap! It is hideous!
Here's a Renoir and a Degas:
While slightly more aesthetically pleasing, I think it's obvious these have not aged well either. They look like cheesy softcore. Supposedly Degas hated women (well, they all probably did) and I really hate the fact that his ballerinas are so revered as depictions of women and placed in the rooms of countless little girls. I guess they are revolutionary because they depict women doing something besides drying off their boobs, stretching, or dooming the world's perfection with their slutty, temptress ways.
Then there's Picasso, The Beatles of the art world- he was always right on time with the hot new trend so that it wasn't controversial by the time he got his ulta-famous hands on it. It's not like there weren't people doing a lot crazy cubist/surreal stuff before him, just like there were lots of people playing psychedelic music before George discovered Shankar or whatever happened. I think the most overlooked fact in Picasso's artwork is that, like the Chagall above, it is really, really ugly. It's dreary without commenting on it's own dreariness, and the focus, as with most of these people, is not the art and what it depicts (cause it's probably naked ladies or fruit) but the groundbreaking "technique"-very essentially "masculine", man.
To be fair, I guess he did pioneer the important "sad clown" genre.
*Alternate Title: The Great Master(bator)s