Monday, September 22, 2008
from holy war to bull shitcl
New York. This weekend we visited the Guggenheim for photos of Mapplethorpe, but got Louise Bourgeois instead, the 96 year old artist, most famous for her enormous metal spiders, but this great retrospective showed that she has made expressive art since the sixties. Interesting. Just like the art tour we did, joining a group for 8 shows that ran in the Chelsea district. Interesting concept; go figure: 65 people, each paying 20 dollar to get some background on the shows. Worth it, though the man guiding could have dived deeper than the most basic information for his 1300 dollar walk of two hours. But he selected 8 good shows. We started with photographer-turned-artist David Lachapelle, who creates enormous tableaus in Hollywood luxury dream style but then with clashing story lines. In his biggest piece, Holy War, sexy soldiers are lying about, but with severe wounds or their legs torn off, while on the other side of the picture sheep are happily grazing. A bit heavy on the message, but beautifully done. We ended with famous artist Andres Serrano, who propelled himself into stardom with his Piss Christ in 1989: a crucifix dumped into a glass of his own urine. So shocking in those days that it caused the government to withdraw funding of several arts projects. I used his case in my book as an example of art on the threshold between winter and spring cultural periods. In the nineties he exhibited photographs in Groningen, among which a fistfucking scene and a woman drinking urine, that did not nearly cause as much upheaval, since by then culture had caught up with Serrano. I thought he was well past his date, but he has a new show that seems to shock again. I can't see why: I found it a little boring and predictable. This time, he has taken to photographing pure shit. And I mean that literally. Excrements of several animals and people. And the boring part: yes there was bull shit and yes, there was excrement of a priest too (title: holy shit). Our guide was enthusiastic, stressing the taboo subject of excrements. But is it that taboo? I did not find it very creative (hasn't someone done that better, long ago?). Anyway, it was a trip from holy war to holy shit. And I do think David Lachapelle reflects our timeframe better than Andreas Serrano. But a new spring in art they both do not represent. Will keep looking for that.