Damien Hirst

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.

- tom moody 5-05-2005 12:52 am


Tom, well, even that little number for me falls apart just on account, at a very basic level, the formal qualities are monstrously out: resulting in neither bad or good definitely not shark. It reminds me of the trumpeter without a trumpet. Just for example: the blue poking out at the bottom (way to pay); the brand text above lost to the color and sitting way back (these are basic painting concerns); if it had been a blown-up rendition--in the original Brillo style (following some of design logic of the original packet), then it'd be OK because package designers usually know what they are doing. Hirst has got to get all these notes right, right! It's meant to be a painting? If you intervene you do so with no knowledge (INNOCENCE IS NEVER GUILTY), or full knowledge (A smart criminal) Half knowledge just looks TOO bleak.
Mr. Hirst should already have all this under his belt. That he hasn't gives away the obvious--he's got better things to think about other than fooling around with a thought of some concerted effort towards an art that makes sense not only to the collectors but to those who spend their time making it.

Hirst is at his best when he or anyone else doesn't get too close to what he does--then, forever, it remains floating, impossible to critique.

- Brent Hallard (guest) 5-05-2005 5:13 am [add a comment]

Your post added a bunch of weird characters and commands, which I took out, so you might read this over and tell me if anything is missing. Thanks for your thoughts, but this piece really was fine formally in person--probably better than a skewed image in a jpeg. It is straight up Pop, though, albeit a brand (Boots?) not well known here in the Center of the Universe.
- tom moody 5-05-2005 6:56 am [add a comment]

Thanks for the clean up, maybe because I was using Romaji.
I don't know what 'gooddefinitely' is but sure sounds OK, and my typo 'too'. Well, as reality is always a bit deflating I've got to go with you, that 'in person' beats a jpeg . Shucks! And I thought I was onto a good thing.

- Brent Hallard (guest) 5-05-2005 7:45 am [add a comment]

This variety is available over the counter in the UK ...

- mark 5-05-2005 7:48 am [add a comment]

there was another drug painted in the show --- I can't remember now, an antidepressent ...xanax? with yellow on the label. Anyhow, I saw slides of the show at a symposium and the woman next to me pulled my sleeve excitedly and said "I take that one!" We both gave a little "whoo-hoo" cheer from the cheap seats which mystified the rest of the audience a bit. Anyhow, I started seeing this show as a kind of greatest hits of contemporary apathy. I've been instructed already here and elsewhere as to how bad the paintings were. But Damien Hirst is such a cypher, I'm not satisfied just ascribing this crappy output to one guy having a bad idea. He's an institution, and if his art is coming out as lame crap then there's a cultural balloon floating lame crap that is worth trying to look at.
- sally mckay 5-05-2005 4:56 pm [add a comment]

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes tossed-off paintings of "anomic" subjects are...

This is the third Gagosian show I've seen of Hirst's, plus the pieces in Sensation and a dramatic but poorly conceived museum show in Dallas, when he still just a lad. He is only a passable fabricator, with a knack for making work that almost always looks better in photos than in person. It was disappointing after experiencing the work of our own very thorough and meticulous bad boy Jeff Koons to see that Hirst's shark was held up inside the tank with cheap fishing line that sort of bites into the sagging creature, and that the sections of cut up cow were affixed to the insides of their containers with plastic twisty ties. We Koons fans take it on faith that our guy would have figured out a way to make the former seem weightless and latter sandwiched tightly between glass surfaces, or he wouldn't have done the show (after all, he spent years working on a Guggenheim show that never happened, legend has it, because he couldn't resolve certain fabrication issues). I gave Hirst a pass for ambition--we all do. But these paintings weren't ambitious, they were a retrenchment, a mere sellout disguised (in plain sight) as a fuck you, with what I would describe as textbook negative content (blood, check; gross organs, got em; media photos of woman on crack, oh yeah...).

Your "greatest hits of contemporary apathy" is a great line--hopefully someone will do that show someday.
- tom moody 5-05-2005 5:58 pm [add a comment]

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