Saturday, September 15, 2012

Artists In Trouble

Artists In Trouble, Artists Making Trouble

It's getting very dangerous to be an artist.

An injured person is evacuated after the recent massacre at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.  The gunmen killed 12 people including a number of the magazine's most famous artists and cartoonists.

That's the risk in being an artist these days; no matter what kind of art you do, someone with strong opinions and a gun collection might take exception and decide to take matters into their own hands.

Artists have always made trouble, and they’ve always been in trouble.  Artistic imagery involves issues of belief, identity, and morality, and some artists step over the bounds, deliberately or accidentally.  In the past, artists ended up in jail, and some ended up dead for what they’ve created.  Artistic controversy is still very much alive and well and irritating the powerful and the not so powerful. 

A protest demonstration in India against the artist MF Hussain

A work by Andres Serrano shortly after being vandalized

Protesters in Hong Kong demanding the release of artist Ai Wei Wei from prison

Protestors demonstrating against an exhibition of Andres Serrano's work in New York

These are all artists from the last 40 years.  Most are still alive, some are not (Basquiat, Wojnarowicz, Guston, Mapplethorpe, Hussain are dead).

Wojnarowicz's very controversial film

David Wojnarowicz

 Chris Ofili


Andres Serrano


Karen Finley in performance (warning, strong stuff) 

Karen Finley

 Robert Mapplethorpe

 Jean-Michel Basquiat

A news report on Ai Wei Wei's ongoing legal troubles

 Ai Wei Wei

 Rachel Whiteread

Trailer for Cremaster 

Matthew Barney

 Judy Chicago

Kara Walker

 Richard Serra

 Daniel Libeskind

 Martin Puryear

Kehinde Wiley

 Phillip Guston

 Anselm Kieffer

 Damien Hirst

Jeff Koons

 Gerhard Richter

 Joseph Beuys

Yayoi Kusama

Maqbool Fida Hussain

It is hard not to have an opinion about any of these artists.  They all make work to deliberately provoke a reaction.  I expect you to have an opinion and to express it.  If you do, don’t just throw it out there, make a case for your point of view.  Some of the controversies are about content, (most of them), some are about the form of the works of art (Serra, Guston, Liebeskind, Basquiat).  Some are controversial because of matters of sexuality (Chicago, Wojnarowicz, Mapplethorpe).  Others are controversial for religious reasons (Ofili, Wojnarowicz, Serrano).  Other artists became controversial because of issues of identity and history (Puryear, Kieffer, Liebeskind, Whiteread, Wei Wei).  Political and religious authorities intervened in a number of these controversies (Ofili, Mapplethorpe, Wei Wei, Serrano, Wojnarowicz).

Why is the artist you chose controversial?  What is the controversy all about?  What consequences has the artist faced over their work?   Is the controversy about the artist or their work or both?  Do you think the arguments and criticisms of their work misrepresent the artist, or describe the work accurately?  Is the criticism fair?   What do you think the artist wants to accomplish?  What is the art about?  What is the artist’s background and how might that affect the way they make art?  Do you think that they succeed?  What do you think about the artist’s work?  

Your task is to explain these artists and the controversy around their work.