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tom moody

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Günther Selichar's Who’s Afraid of Blue, Red and Green annoys because it's a rather stale parody of a well known brand name of modernist abstraction and promotes bogus creativity under the guise of communal participation. What Selichar did was create a "make your own Barnett Newman" program and invite artists to fiddle around with it. You are limited to vertical stripes, the three aforementioned colors, a fixed size limit and whatever you can do to animate these elements. Thus Newman, whose work was "about" Kabbalistic meditation on a fixed object, or, alternatively, the phenomenology of moving back in forth in front of the canvas in real space and being subjectively affected by it, and whose paintings differed enormously depending on the scale and materials he used (this was abundantly clear from his recent Philadelphia retrospective) becomes fodder for disposable blinking graphic eye candy. (No, this isn't a Newman-protecting Hilton Kramer rant; I mean, the actual theories associated with his work could always use a plug, as opposed to "Newman=Evil White Man," but I'm more appalled that someone still thinks a riff on Newman is fresh--please read on.) Dozens of artists created virtually identical animations--it's painful to click through them and see how much alike they are--and the three most "original" were chosen by an expert panel including professional Newman hyperrealizer Peter Halley. The winners are currently having their animations shown hourly on a big video screen in Times Square.

In all fairness the three winners' pieces are pretty good given the limitations they had to work with--they're dynamic, hypnotic Op abstractions and almost make you forget you're looking at Newman's quasi-proprietary, well-known-from-art-school format. Selichar's project would be vastly improved if we found out it was a goof on corporate "customize your experience" faux-creativity and made light of the cult of artistic competitions and expert panels, by asking panelists to furrow their brows over hundreds of similar pieces created within ridiculously narrowly-defined parameters. Somehow I don't think we're going to find that out, though. (Apologies to selma and others who liked the piece; you do the hard work of linking and I'll carp.)

- tom moody 6-29-2004 7:00 pm [link]