March 10, 2018

Highway to Heaven

"Highway to Heaven," 36" x 48", oil, acrylic, collage, stucco, and spray on birch panel

My latest. Kicked the crap out of me. At one point I put a large and prominent owl in it (for some reason) but I just couldn't get it to work.

The other half of the story was shutting up the usual existential doubts about being an artist, the panic, mood swings, you know.

It helped that I discovered a new writer, and a new book: Byung-Chul Han, Saving Beauty.

Han starts from the premise that beauty is in a state of crisis. In the heavy for-whom-the-bell-tolls way only writing in German can achieve, he argues it ain't beauty so much we see but "smoothness," a piece of goop by Jeff Koons (world's richest living artist) or the aesthetic of the iPhone. Smooth art offers no resistance, no negativity, he says. It's slick and polished, like a mirror in which to see yourself. It looks sweet, like a candy, and makes you want to suck it. It reduces pain and projects a sense of wholesome gym health. And it's direct and obvious, totally transparent and unmysterious.

Meaningful art, on the other hand, disrupts your normal way of living.
  • It's got character and crank ("Character and consumption are opposites. The ideal consumer is a person without character. Lack of character enables indiscriminate consumption.")
  • It's uncomfortable and disruptive ("Without pain and injury, the same, the familiar, the habitual continue.")
  • It could even bite ("It is impossible to see differently without exposing oneself to injury. Seeing requires vulnerability. Otherwise the same keeps on repeating itself. Sensibility is vulnerability. One might also say that injury is the moment of truth in seeing.")
  • It's erotic, not pornographic ("Concealing, distracting, delaying are spatio-temporal strategies of beauty.")
  • It's even a force for the good ("The good is realized in the brilliance of the beautiful. The ideal politics is a politics of beauty...Justice is a beautiful state of being together.")
Then, I listened to a fantastic interview with Jerry Saltz (www.instagram.com/jerrysaltz), senior art critic of New York Magazine. He sounds big but he's one of the realest and uplifting art people I follow, and he has no formal education and clawed his way into art criticism after working as a long-haul truck driver, just as it should be.

For this and other works I hope aren't smooth, check out www.ivanostocco.com.


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