Art Log: April 10, 2023

Stuart Davis painting

I’ve been hearing a lot about the new exhibit at the Baltimore Art Museum (which will follow to the St Louis Art Museum) The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century. Listening to a podcast, The Week in Art, the BMA director likened the influence of Hip Hop on art to the influence of Jazz on artists in the 20th Century. Just then it occurred to me, at least in these two important instances, the music has come first. Mondrian and Stuart Davis were painting jazz – jazz wasn’t responding to visual art. Has this ever not been the case? Anyway, it seems like this is probably an important show – I only wish there were a West Coast venue. 

I also wish Martin Wong had been on my radar when the Bronx Museum had its Human Instamatic show in 2016. Now even the catalog sells for $500 or more. Despite the warnings about the work being taken as offensive, ableist, etc, more than 100 of his works are traveling around Europe this year. If anyone is looking for an idea for another U.S. show of possibly offensive yet irresistible art, I think Wong’s work and experiences would be interesting compared to Luis Jimenez’s. As men, they had very different personal experiences, yet have similarities in their American experiences. In terms of art, the style, coloration, style and treatments of subjects have parallels. They also lived during roughly the same time, each with their lives cut short. Born in San Francisco, Wong lived from 1946-1999. Born in El Paso, Texas, Jimenez lived from 1940-2006. Even if I can’t get to Europe, the catalog (release date 4/11/23) from the European show will be a welcome addition to my library. KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin (February 25 to May 14, 2023), Camden Art Center in London (July 7 to September 17, 2023) and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (November 2023 to February 2024).

Whatever your thoughts on artificial intelligence, if you’ve spent the last decade or more working in Photoshop, you may wish you had spent more time painting and drawing. Sure, bans, copyright issues, and the like may get in the way, but the job of graphic artists may just get easier until they aren’t jobs anymore. Maybe it won’t play out that way: predictions are only just that. I have to think that it’ll be a while before AI can think abstractly and impact fine art, which at its core is a response to the human condition, in any meaningful way. It’ll also be a while before AI can produce something tactile. Sure, it may be able to conceive of what a portrait of Sammy Davis Jr in the style of John Singer Sargent may look like, but it can’t create one with paint and canvas.

Top: Stuart Davis painting at Crystal Bridges Museum in 2017.

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