Ah…..the obligatory and sometimes stressful task of writing a statement about your artwork. It’s good to be straightforward, because, at the end of the day, the work should speak for itself. Yet curators and the public like to hear what your intention is in your work and, perhaps your process. Less is more and the more one tries to impress with pretend art talk (artspeak, y’all), the more the Bullshit Meter goes off. That is why there are several artist statement generator websites, because there is a formula for creating art blather for the masses.
As Iris Jaffe said in her recent article about Anti-Artist statements: “To begin with, visual artists are visual people: we communicate visually. Descriptive writing requires much more specificity than visual communication. If we had a preference or talent for expressing ourselves through text, we would just write essays in the first place — right?”
After 30 years of creating work, curating exhibitions, participating in critiques and writing about art I think I would understand what some of these statements mean…. but I have no damn idea what these people are trying to say. I am huge fan of humor, and I think these statements are initially hilarious and entertaining. But they are dead-serious, which makes me crack up even more at the irony of it all. Too bad we artists can’t let the work just speak for itself.
So here are my top five worst artist statements (so far). I am taking these out of context to protect the ‘anonymity’ of the writers (I won’t be writing about the – ‘art’ -on this post). So if you can understand artspeak, blather, or gobbledegook, please assist me to translate and comprehend this kind of “writing” here:
TOP FIVE WORST ARTIST STATEMENTS:
1)“These images represent the juxtaposition of the timeless and majestic elegance of nature’s sensory-surpassing miracles with the entangled and growing tensions of our time in culturally reconnecting with the shift away from the human condition of love. In developing my visual perspective, I’ve discerned the fleeting significance from the invariable through emphasizing the growing collective disdain for the socially underdeveloped that has come to define our generation and crystallized over the last decade. Through highlighting this generational discontent in honing its cultural responsibility of deconstructing traditional understanding of social roles against the unrefined purity of the emotionally captivating cycles of nature, my work serves as a middle ground to visually level and gauge the social progress of man by means of extremities occurring in class stratification. In giving careful attention to the mediating filters that propagates socially-constructed irreverence, I aim to address the necessity of breaking down the symbolic paradigms of understanding to revisit the overlooked empathy for humanity and its greater accountability to each other.”
2) “I’m fascinated by the construct of strata in any context. For example- geologically, as a visible record of the continuous deposition of natural and human-generated matter; sociologically as an arbitrary categorization system affording both separation and unification of humans; and psychologically has a chronological composition of our experiences. In all these contexts the juxtapositions of and transitions between disparate elements result in descendants and harmony, muddy vagueness, and sharp clarity. Each layer shifts, settles, and adjusts to make room for the knees and elbows of the next; the pigment or character of one stratum irrevocably colors it’s neighbors; a disturbance in one level beans or fishers outward through multiple others. It’s an infinitely additive process what we at present perceived as the top the surface the current thing is inevitably absorbed, buried, reclaimed by, and in the process serves to inform whatever comes next.”
3) “Comprising layer upon layer of stacked virgin cork coated in pure black pigment, the squatting sculpture dominates its setting. The work is impossible to understand in a single perspective and the spectator is forced to negotiate its sides and edges, unable to access its top. Its natural undulations and inconsistencies echo the raw, worked, sculptural surfaces of Martin’s pigments. The form of Behemoth, and its physical presence in the gallery space, echo the theatrical preoccupations of Minimalist sculpture but the ancient and organic nature of the material conversely alludes to an inherent human narrative that belies these conceptual concerns.”
4) “My work embodies the questions beneath identity and crisis; origin and ownership of cultural signifiers become unsettling and dubious terrain. The work describes the beauty and survival capabilities of the human imagination which outlives assaulted cultures, transplantation, exile and shifts in philosophical paradigms.”
5) “Be that in the battles of the self or the overwhelming and confusing chaos that is our modern times, I seek to find the essence of what it means to be human today; be that the fragility or the resilience of the human animal in the face of endless and impossible questions of life itself.”
And for some real entertainment- here is ArtBollocks Theatre presenting theatrical readings of actual artists statements. Good times! 🙂