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Is it art? Of course! Is it good? Well . . .

  • Blog Post by: James Lileks
  • May 8, 2013 - 12:11 PM

Conceptual Art on the Internet: who’s up for some code that makes your browser do amusing things?

You’re right to be skeptical; depends on the concept. If it’s one of those guys who wants to protest against, oh, Google’s omnivorous appetite for your data, then it’s possible he’ll make your browser window go full screen, flash sickening colors at seizure-inducing speed, and make you play tag with a dialogue window that moves when you mouse over it. Has nothing to do with Google, but perhaps it will begin a conversation about data privacy, and provoke us to explore the relationship between two things whose relationship is obvious, and seems profound only to people with an exaggerated sense of their own creativity and intellect.

Then there’s the modern artist with the perfect, and very real, name of Constant Dullart. His website says:

Constant Dullaart (NL 1979), former resident of the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, lives and works in Berlin. With a practice focused on visualizing internet vernaculars and software dialects, a political approach critical to corporate systems influencing these contemporary semantics becomes clear through his minimal and sometimes bricolaged gestures.

Deciding when to bricolage, that’s the tricky part, isn’t it. Well, this page has an account of his work. I clicked on his page. Let me show you what my history looks like after 30 seconds on his site:

Thanks, pal. Perhaps the website will be sold for millions of bitcoins in sixty years. When Ferdinand Leger started painting before WW1, he probably didn’t think his work would be fetching millions. But the Daily Beast says:

 

How does a Hollywood legend tell the love of his life how he feels? If you are Gregory Peck, you buy her Fernand Leger’s Les deux figures. The intimacy of the contrasting figures in the painting represented to Peck the love he had for his longtime wife, Veronique Peck. The painting, which Peck bought in 1984, is expected to go for between $3-5 million

Here's the work.

Christie's

Christie's

Eh. I like Leger’s earlier Cubist work. The latter period: meh. It’s possible his stylization of the human form was brilliant and revolutionary. It’s also possible he just couldn’t draw people.

 

Good Communist that he was, Leger turned down an offer to decorate Nelson Rockefeller’s apartment, saying he would not eat the fruit of capitalism. Just kidding! He did the job. He also taught at Yale, where students would grapple with statements such as this: "the object in modern painting must become the main character and overthrow the subject. If, in turn, the human form becomes an object, it can considerably liberate possibilities for the modern artist."

 

But it’s art. And so were the opening credit sequences of Saul Bass, who’s the subject of today’s Google Doodle. How many movies can you name?

 

Hint: Here’s the opening to “It’s a 4X Mad World.”

 

 

 

 

A four-minute credit sequence: those were the days. Bass also redesigned the AT&T logo, of course.  The At&T Archives - a fascinating, invaluable resouce, BTW - has his pitch for the logo redesign. This isn’t Don Draper striding in with a sample ad on an easel: it’s a 26 minute pitch that’s not just a piece of corporate history, but an documentary of American self-analysis in 1969.

 

How bad was the national mood in ’69? The video looks back to the good old days of 1933. Note the use of opening up someone's skull and extracing a piece of paper: did Bass come up with this before Terry Gilliam 's "Python" animations?

 

 

  

At least they were good for the Bell System, I guess.

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