Go Figure.

One of the oldest themes in art is the human figure, or at least one common subset of variations of it. Most works of art history that follow the standard Hegelian model of a linear progression start with a work like the Venus of Willendorf and trace its evolution up through Picasso’s Le Demoiselles D’Avignon and maybe even later. There are many reasons for art’s interest in the human figure including the fact that all art is inherently self-reflective. That is, whatever an artist creates is in essence a self-portrait. Whatever the intended message is the work itself tells us who the artist is.

I’m being deliberately high-falutin’ here to heighten the hilarious impact of this:

What does this tell us about the artist? I’m not sure, although it does make me think about the tension between high and low art, and the tension between art that’s designed to hide the ugly realities of our bodies and art that exposes, even elevates and celebrates, those ugly realities. Consider Jonathan Swift’s poem The Lady’s Dressing Room and the line, “Such gaudy tulips raised from dung.” Then consider Frida Kahlo’s painting Henry Ford Hospital that deliberately, brutally expresses her feelings about a miscarriage with both the reality and symbols.

Let’s come back to the work at hand because there’s a lot going on here. And by “here” of course I mean my head where it’s like I’m on a fun ride going “Whee! Farts! Whee! Meta-textual analysis!” Anyway context is also very important here.

The placement of the work so centrally on a former fast food place, I think elevates it, although you’re probably thinking, “Such low criticism from a critic who sounds pretty high.”

 

9 Comments

  1. ALLISON EVERETT

    There is a painting in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris called L’Origine du Monde by Gustave Courbet (origins of the world) – it’s a very realistic rendering of a lower half of a naked woman. I love it because it is incredibly well done, and I love the title. It’s cheeky, but philosophical. Worth a (NSFW) Google.

    But what happened at the party?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      “Cheeky”–I see what you did there. That is a great painting, very well done and very clever. It’s really the title that makes it, crossing that fine line between high and low.
      Oh yeah, and the rest of the party will drop on Friday.

      Reply
  2. The Orangutan Librarian

    hahaha! The context makes it even funnier!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It really does! Context is extremely important, although I think the best art–and the best humor–is heightened by context without depending on it.

      Reply
  3. Jay

    You are too good for us.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      All I want is to make you laugh and I don’t think there’s anyone too good for that.

      Reply
  4. Ann J Koplow

    I love this post, Chris. Go figure.

    Reply
  5. Ann Koplow

    I can’t figure out why my avatar was different in that previous comment. I still love this post, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I love both your comments and both avatars. Why the sudden change is one of those things we’ll never figure out.

      Reply

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