Andrew’s Summer Ending Blog 2016

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Andrew’s Summer Ending Blog 2016

I have just returned, a couple of hours ago, from a visit, at the invitation of my beautiful granddaughter Jessica, to the Tate Modern to have a look at the Georgia O’Keeffe blockbuster exhibition.

I should say at this stage that the image of the Fiddler, attached, is not by Georgia O’Keeffe but by me. I have simply appended it to show you that I’m still working in spite of the chemotherapy to which I’ve been subjected.

Enough of that. My reason for writing this blog is to talk about this show. I’m not sure what my granddaughter thought but I did make my views known to her. I hope that she will read this and respond.

You might already have guessed from my preamble that I didn’t think much of the exhibition. I admit that I have never been a fan of O’Keeffe, but I thought that perhaps I was missing something and could be converted. Sadly that is not the case. Her work is very ordinary. I might even say mediocre. That is except for a couple of black and white pieces, in the first couple of rooms, and two large sky paintings in the last room of the show, which, I would say, were better than mediocre. It’s actually difficult to know how good they were because when you’re presented with so much ordinary stuff anything slightly better brings a moment of pleasure. It might have been a longer moment if that were all we were shown. However, I doubt that many people would have paid the entrance price to see only two paintings and a couple of drawings.

This show is perhaps indicative of the times we live in. We are constantly presented with the mediocre as being excellent. When a woman plays the part of a man in a Shakespeare play we are told this must be great, and are supposed to be amazed. It doesn’t matter that the essence, the very meaning of the play has been reduced to a gimmick. We are all expected to be seduced by the “originality” of the director and to forget the author. (In place of director read curator when it comes to exhibitions.) Listen to Front Row on BBC radio 4 for some examples. Gender has become more important than real creativity. Come on argue with me, and please argue or agree on the blog not by email. Thanks

The exhibition continues until 30th October at Tate Modern.

Fiddler (depechist)



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Showing 6 comments
  • Adrian

    Hi Andrew

    You invited an argument so for fun I will give you one. I found O’Keefe’s art by typing her name under Google Images (anyone reading this can do the same to instantly see lots of her works). They were immediately recognisable although I wouldn’t have recalled her name. I actually like them – the bold but elegant line, the colours. I would accept they are not ‘great art’ in that they are essentially decorative – they don’t take you anywhere deeper. But as a visual experience I approve – they pass the test that I would certainly have one on my wall. I can’t comment on the exhibition as such, of course, not having been there. I agree with you, however, that we are constantly presented with the mediocre as excellent – and usually commercialism is behind it (e.g. the ‘boy bands’ that are synthetically put together by music producers, rather than coming from any wellspring of creativity). The worst crime in art is the ersatz – but I don’t think O’Keefe is that. I am not sure what point you are making about gender – casting women as men in Shakespeare just to be different I would agree with you on, but if you are suggesting O’Keefe is celebrated just because she is a woman I would not. There are plenty of good and bad artists male and female so there would be no need for anyone to promote her as though we were short of genuine good female artists. But that may not be what you meant anyway. I suspect you are being provocative with a twinkle in your eye. Much love, Adrian

    • Andrew

      Dear Adrian, I am suggesting that she is being shown by the Tate Modern because she’s a woman and not because her work is something outstanding and special. Tate Modern is supposed to be one of the depositories of the greatest art in the world. World class, gold medal stuff, not second class. I’m also suggesting that curators need to look around themselves and see what is going on in the arts rather than relying on commercial galleries to lead them. It would mean that they would have to get their hands dirty discovering some great art in the dross and stink of the cities, rather than only going to the white cubes, or, only reading art criticisms in the Sunday supplements. That is, if they were capable of recognising greatness.
      Love, Andrew

  • Lorna and Joey Leibovici

    Dear Andrew, We are always intrigued by your thoughts. We think you are quite brilliant and there is no doubt in our minds that you are an amazing artist. We’ve learned over the years to appreciate your talent and your opinions. Although we don’t always agree with you, we have learned to listen and to give you our attention when you are expressing your ideas. Arguing different points of view is healthy and allows for stimulating conversation. We enjoy your critiques and look forward to reading and sharing many more your blogs.

  • Joyce Rouse

    I added you to my prayer list when I read you had had chemo. I lost the love of my life on May 21, 2016 as Wayne died suddenly.

  • Jessica

    Dear Andrew/Zaida/Mr Aarons (I’m never really sure how best to address you in a public forum such as this so I’ve covered the most usual options),

    As requested, here is my response to you, some of which we have already discussed in person.

    First and foremost, I do not have the artistic eye. My world is one of lengthy French prose and convoluted historical arguments, so my eye for great art is certainly not as well trained as yours. But I know when I like an piece of artwork, though sometimes find it hard to express why. During our visit I found most of the pieces of work displayed at the Tate Modern were not reflective of some of her more famous pieces (many of her flower paintings were missing, for example), but I enjoyed the insight the exhibition gave into her life throughout the early 20th century and the way her art developed, clearly with Stieglitz as an inspiration.
    I felt that Georgia O’Keeffe, as a woman working in a male dominated environment and with no formal training, was trying to find her own niche and a way of painting that worked for her, hence the range of styles and mediums displayed. Admittedly, sometimes that style was perhaps clumsy, the colour too harsh or seemingly random, but nonetheless she found something that was her own.

    We must remember the importance of Georgia O’Keeffe as a cultural icon; very much her own woman, breaking from the norm and carving her own path. It is for this reason I believe she commands such respect, even if she may not be the most talented artist of her generation; I cannot name any other female artist working at the same time she was, but no problem at all with male artists – I think that alone speaks volumes.

    Georgia O’Keeffe painted in an unconventional way, from an unconventional background, and as a lay person of the art world, I like that her images challenged society at the time and dared to be different; I think she felt that there was more to being an artist than being tormented over ones work. She enjoyed working with colour and with landscapes, two things I enjoy looking at and would hang on my wall to enjoy.

    You expressed disappointment at the curating of the exhibition, and I agree there was a lot of art crammed into those rooms. But she is a celebrity in the art world, and a name that people like me know and are interested to see and learn about. Yes there is the fact that art has become too money driven and commercialised, but on later reflection, isn’t it a good thing to get people who wouldn’t normally visit a gallery to come and see a famous artist’s work? This introduction and appreciation of art, through someone easy to understand such as O’Keeffe, can only be a good thing, inspiring people to go out and seek more of it.

    Thank you for the invitation for me to voice my opinions. As always, I enjoy debating with you and hope to engage in future discussions on life, the universe, and everything in it.

    Love, Jessica

    • Andrew

      Dear Jessica,

      I don’t mind how you address me in public. Lord is good.

      Thank you for your really well considered and well written response. You make some good arguments for showing the work of lesser artists whose work is not the best but worth looking at for its educational value as opposed to its artistic value. I think that such activity should be carried out in a space other than, arguably, THE major gallery in Britain. Or perhaps carried out in a space within the gallery that is designated for the purpose.

      One must alway ask, is the Tate Modern’s purpose to show what is the best or is it to promote the mediocre so that the majority, who come to be educated, are not necessarily shown what is best, but are instead allowed to believe that this is a good as one can expect?

      Show great art and the public will learn.

      Love, Zaida

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