17 November 2005

"I am for an Art . . ." Art

The very first real art text that I ever read was Claes Oldenburg’s 1961 "I am for an Art . . ." I was 17, majoring in photography, and had to read something and write about it for a drawing class I was in. It was by far the most accessible text of its class, which is probably why I chose it. At the time it was written, Oldenburg had this "store" that doubled as his studio/gallery and "I am for an Art . . ." was his statement. There are some real gems in it, and it is too long for me to put all of it here, so go read it here if you want to.

Here’s a selection:
I am for Kool-art, 7-UP art, Pepsi-art, Sunshine art, 39 cents art, 15 cents art, Vatronol Art, Dro-bomb art, Vam art, Menthol art, L & M art, Ex-lax art, Venida art, Heaven Hill art, Pamryl art, San-o-med art, Rx art, 9.99 art, Now art, New art, How art, Fire sale art, Last Chance art, Only art, Diamond art, Tomorrow art, Franks art, Ducks art, Meat-o-rama art.
I am for the art of bread wet by rain. I am for the rat's dance between floors.

Wet bread? Last Chance art? He goes on like this for a long, long time, and it is hard to think of any kind of art that isn’t on his list. Maybe that would be a book to write: The Art Oldenburg Never Thought Of.

Even though some of the ideas are still a bit, well, non-arty (How art?), there is a lot of art out there that is exactly what Oldenburg was describing. It was only a year later that Andy Warhol started doing Pepsi-art, and about a decade later that he started sprinkling his canvases with diamond dust so that they glittered (Diamond art?).

At the time, I found so much beauty in the ugly world around me, and I felt a deep need to understand it and share it. I’d see rusted out fenders, peeling paint, mold, worn out leather, and so on and so on, and it just knocked me out. When I read "I am for an Art . . ." I felt I had found a kindred spirit buried in the decades-old text. Especially that bit about the rat's dance.

My ideas about art have evolved, or maybe broadened. I don’t need something to be beautiful anymore. But when I find beauty amid the rubble it still blows me away.


joe said...

The "ugly world" around you sounds like a description of the old Chevelle, which I think we all saw some beauty in... even if it was only nostalgia.

Mary Ann said...

Oh you are right! I wasn't thinking of that at all when I wrote the post, but it is all there in the chevelle. Now if I ever become an artist you can say you had me figured out from the beginning.

And on quite another note, nostalgia is a beautiful, inexplicable thing. Thanks for making me remember.