SHOULD ART BE A CRITICISM TOOL?

Although the traditional definitions of art include in some way references to beauty, balance and aesthetics, postmodernism introduces changes in this maxim and raises an approach to art devoid of the concepts inherited from the past to reinforce its expressive value instead of the search for beauty.

Shepard Fairey, "Free speech".

However, new times bring other impositions and guidelines. In our current vertiginous world, where tolerance, integration and equality are up to date, the excess of caution places us sometimes on the opposite side and the social moderation of the "politically correct" derives in restrictions on freedom of expression, concealed censorship, second readings of the message. There are those who say that today "you can not say anything because they will come after you". A quick visit to social networks reveals that, often, the supposed freedom that we enjoy today has become an immense field in which to walk "like treading on eggshells".

Artwork display "Presos políticos" by Santiago Sierra, withdrawn during ARCO'18

Let's not kid ourselves; this is also a sign of our time. Opinions are best received when packaged with a wrap of humour and irony, or when they anchor in widely shared common-sites. In this context, criticism from the art world should enjoy more permissiveness, but recent events show the opposite. The censorship by political speeches has starred in covers of newspapers, and everything seems to indicate that it’s better not to touch certain issues.

Shepard Fairey in his studio, via papermag.com

This leads some authors to turn their work into banners with a social meaning where the aesthetic charge universalises the message. Let's say that political, economic or social criticism is not openly sought in compositions that leave no space for the imagination (that's what photojournalism does). The purpose is to create iconic images with a message embedded in the design itself, that's why in this area graphic art conquers everything. Nothing new under the sun, anyway, but the achievement is that contemporary creations are worthy heirs of all the compositional and aesthetic heritage of previous decades, and in that sense, they deserve the acknowledgement of "recasting" the old with the new to create something different and unique.

Shepard Fairey

Big brother is watching you, 2006

Screen printing on paper

61 x 46cm

Shepard Fairey

Earth crisis, 2014

Screen printing on paper

61 x 46cm

Shepard Fairey

Icon Collage Set II, 2016

Serigraphy

97.5 x 76cm

Shepard Fairey is a paradigmatic artist on this subject. In the interviews, he himself ironises about the contradiction of criticising capitalism in his works and then selling the editions for thousands of dollars. Well, you don’t have to feel ashamed for it, otherwise, only those who can afford to live off of investments would be artists, and the voice of so many others who aspire to live on their creations would be gone. Let's not forget either that there was a time (not long ago) when urban art was considered vandalism. Fairey, who defines himself as an artist and activist, has had to face these controversies when some of his pieces are not to everyone's taste. And, nevertheless, one thing is evident: his works are unmistakable and have helped to spread a universal message where criticisms of the system are always present. Obviously, some artists answer “yes” to the question with which we would have this post: art is a tool of criticism.

 

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.