As Thomas Kinkade finds out how the treacly-sweet religiosity of his paintings measures up with the afterlife a Christmas Cottage industry has popped up of art critics weighing in on what the spectacular popularity of his art—a $100 million-per-year industry, as we’re continually reminded—really means. In one of his too-rare Interventions columns, the art critic Ben Davis finds a potent link between Kinkade’s glowing tableaux of British-inflected pastoralia (so much of which looks like the Shire on the day of the rapture, or a Constable) and Soviet Realism, in that the artist’s “‘happy scenes’ are a little creepy to the unbeliever.” For the fun of it, let’s draw another comparison, between Kinkade and Caravaggio. Some similarities are superficial: both artists specialized in their signature treatments of light, and both were known for bad behavior (Caravaggio killed a guy over a tennis match; Kinkade drunkenly peed on a statue of Winnie the Pooh at Disneyland and was accused of defrauding many of his investors). More interesting is the way they both distilled complex religious belief into intensely theatrical compositions that were targeted directly at the uneducated layman. Working in the time of the Counter-Reformation, when the Catholic church was responding to the Protestant Reformation by trying to give its flock a more visceral, direct connection with Jesus, Caravaggio developed a dramatic form of storytelling that communicated religious stories in a way that anyone could identify with regardless of education. Kinkade’s paintings, on the other hand, communicate a vastly simplified feeling of Christian faith mixed with funky bits of capitalism, self-help, and Americana—happiness is a warm house in the country blessed by divine rays of light, and everything’s okay. The viewer understands the message immediately: this is your happy place. Anyway, it certainly beats the Latin Mass.
– QUOTE OF THE DAY –
“I usually meet a friend for a coffee in Chelsea, we see a dozen shows, get demoralized and have a drink.” – Rising performance art star Liz Magic Laser, whose new show is currently up at Derek Eller Gallery, on her gallery-going routine.
– MUST READ –
V&A Museum Organizes Street Art Show in Libya – The stately British museum has put together an exhibition surveying the post-revolutionary country’s street art (not all of it political) at Tripoli’s Dar Al-Fagi for Arts Gallery. (Ahram Online)
Is Data Visualization the Future of Art? – Holly Finn sits down with the 30-year-old head of Google‘s Data Arts Team to talk about the ways artists can map information into lovely, rewarding images, and posits that this kind of thing has become the antithesis to Damien Hirst’s thesis in the grand Hegelian march of art, or something like that (though, really, what is A Thousand Years if not data visualization?). (WSJ)
How Hans Peter Feldmann Got All Those Handbags – The great German importer of the “Lubitsch touch” to conceptual art explains how he procured the purses for his famous photographic itemizations (he paid women €500 for them full of their contents), among other little art mysteries. (FT)
Celebrity Artist Assistants Tell All – The studio helpers who paint the dots, make the neons, carve the stones, and cut the negatives that win fame and fortune for brand-name artists from Damien Hirst to Anish Kapoor and Tacita Dean tell the Guardian how boring their jobs are. (Guardian)
An Ingenious Way to Smuggle Weapons – An exhibition in Mexico City featuring artworks that take on the country’s rampant violence, often by being made out of guns, will tour to Washington, D.C., later this year. (AP)
– ART MARKET –
Bangladeshi Art Market Makes Its Play – The first Dhaka Art Summit, opening later this week in Bangladesh’s capital, is aimed at giving the country’s artists the same kind of exposure enjoyed by India’s still-booming art market. (WSJ)
– IN & OUT –
Because of funding cuts, the NEA is slashing the budget for PBS‘s celebrated Art:21 series by $90,000, leaving the show having “to scramble as a result.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/10/business/media/nea-is-said-to-cut-aid-to-pbs-arts-shows.html?_r=1)
– VIDEO –
Watch a harpsichord-enhanced tour of Hampton Court’s exhibition of portraits of the social-climbing “strumpets” of Charles II’s “licentious court” who advertised their charms on canvas in the hopes of landing a bewigged sugar daddy.