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Artwork display "Presos políticos" by Santiago Sierra, withdrawn during ARCO'18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

 

 

“Everything that reduces art to a subjective, subconscious and spiritual discourse is a total adulation that discredits the art world”

Lino Lago looking forward inspiration in daily life to create a painting with a great conceptual load. In his most recent series entitled Fake Abstract, which he will exhibit at Art Madrid with the Moret Art Gallery, he plays with the characteristic elements of abstract painting: line and colour, where under a painting of flat colours they are guessed, through lines, famous classic portraits.

 

His work has been exhibited in renowned national and international spaces such as the Flint Institute of Michigan and the outstanding George Adams Gallery in New York and has participated in important fairs such as Arco, Art Miami or Art Fair “SH Contemporary 09″ from Shanghai.

 

Moret Art brings your production back to the Fair. How do you feel your work fits in Art Madrid?

Works of art today reflect the individualism of their authors; works of art are mobile, they travel and fit anywhere. Needless to say that this individualism is a generalized feature. There is another more academic art which is institutionalized art, less free. Art in Institutions and Government museums is the only one that has reliable regulated guidelines when it comes to “fit” in such places. In this case I normally refer to propaganda art. Art Fairs are generally perfect places to find free art (if that were possible, or made sense to some extent, or if we understand art as a social phenomenon based on liberty.)

 

In your work we can perceive the questioning of the glance as an abstract concept. How do you think contemporary art is viewed today?

There is a social stream that views art with some criticism and skepticism. I think this is healthy and it has a foundation that we do not want to analyze in depth. If we compared it to some other areas we would understand why. For example, in sports we can clearly see a more normal “justice.” He who is objectively faster or stronger wins. Talent in the sports world is something evident and because of that sports are disdained by the world of art. I believe anyone can reach their own conclusions. By all means Art is (in theory) an intellectual phenomenon, which does not mean that art turns intelligent anyone who approaches it, just as anyone who touches a soccer ball is not a Maradona. As an intellectual phenomenon it is impossible for art not to have lots of misguided argumentations, false judgments, sophistry, and hot air.

Your work has been recognized internationally on many occasions… Do you believe that artistic recognition is a dynamic facet?

More than dynamic. The results an artist needs are the sequel of the relationship between the artist and his work and society. This is something that is not learnt in any university.

 

As an artist, what do you feel committed to?

With liberty. This word has almost been shunned from the paraphernalia of today’s art. I am very critical with official art which is nothing but academe. In my work I introduce 19th-century academe as an ironic way of pointing out this problem: I believe that postmodern education and philosophy have been, and still are, a hoax that has diminished the intellectual capability of the humanities.

 

Criticism through irony over a great technical mastery is your hallmark. Although you have a diverse production… do you feel a unity in your work as a whole? Is that generated consciously or is it a natural artistic trait?

In my case I am aware of it. Besides, it is the process of hard work. To speak of naturalness, and above all to speak of unconsciousness is an aberration. Whatever reduces art to a subjective subconscious or spiritual discourse is an all-out sham that discredits the world of art.

 

Do you believe that artistic originality is getting to be difficult to find? Is it there where the value of your work rests?

I believe so. Although the difficulty here is to decide what to be original means. In times where the cultural predominance is in the hands of the passing anecdote, the emptiness, and the all goes… perhaps originality might be something else, right?

 

The gallery Moret Art will present the recent art works of the artists: Daniel Sueiras, Xurxo Gómez-Chao, Miguel Piñeiro, Pilar Diez