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This bit of unabashed, 40 years after the fact Pop Art is the best piece in Damien Hirst's painting show at Gagosian. The quality level/vibe of the rest of it is much like the canvases Ludwig Schwarz (and also an artist in Germany who's name I'm blanking on) did where they hired a company in China that will render any photo as a photorealistic oil. Hirst's contracted-out art is actually slightly more inept, hand-wise, than those guys'. The photos chosen were his typical death from life, life from death themes. He's having us on as usual, but also heading down the painting-on-canvas trail that many conceptualists follow to stay market-viable. Usually that's when they--sorry for the pun in Hirst's case--"jump the shark." (But of course Hirst has been producing paintings all along, clever bastard: the dots, which are kind of good, and the Walter Robinson-derivative spin paintings.) As joester points out on Sally McKay's page, the Gagosian set
...weren't painterly paintings. They had wiener symptoms (where every brush stroke looks like a wiener) and were really ugly to look at up close. Not ugly in a good way, ugly in a rushed "oh my god I have to paint 12 of these by wednesday" way.That's really all you need to know about the show. The work is too lame to merit any discussion of crack addicts, bloodied football hooligans, dissected brains, appropriation theory, and whatever else they they've raised. The forced "downer" themes also recall Cindy Sherman's vomit photos, an extended lament over the curse of success without end that attaches itself to "canonical" visual artists, more than any other type of creator (because we still have this medieval idea that art is iconic and forever, reinforced by a market that needs a canon). "I know--I'll make something they'll really hate." Except they don't hate it.