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Testing the Boundaries of Modrern Art August 1- September 12, 2012


ut is it art? is an exhibition exploring different controversies within art production and presentation. We have specifically chosen art that we can have an experiential relationship with. However, we are aware that not all people from different countries or cultures would have similar experiences with the art, or even any experience at all. This is intentional. An American could easily identify with Andy Warhol’s jab at consumer culture, however someone from a less consumer-driven, non-materialist culture would likely not be quite as impacted, or impacted at all. In this case, the viewer would evaluate based on other terms than experience whether or not they find the piece to be art or not. The pieces we have chosen are not chosen due to their intrinsic artistic design, color usage, or technique. We have chosen pieces that we believe can be debated as art for other reasons as well. Controversial artistic periods such as the Dada movement, Pop art, the Featurist period, and the Destijl movement allow for great debate, and discussion. Artists of these periods are viewed as avant-garde, risk-takers and defying norms. The shifts in style are often criticized. “But is it art?” will allow the viewer to work through the implications of these periods and make their own standards by which they judge a piece as art. It is not our goal to convince the viewer that the twelve pieces we have selected are in fact art. We recognize the mere act of choosing them and placing them in an exhibition implies that we believe them to be art. However, we want the viewer to experientially react to the pieces. Some with evoke anger, others discomfort, some confusion, others nothing at all. Art is produced with a purpose. But, once it is created and put up, the artist can no longer influence the viewers’ understanding of it. We challenge our viewers to take each piece at face value and analyze it for what it is, or what it is not.


Contents 4



The Art


The Fountain . Marcel Duchamp


Quarantania I . Louise Bourgeois


In Advance of the Broken Arm . Marcel Duchamp


Campbell’s Soup Cans . Andy Warhol


The Complete Spot Paintings . Damien Hirst


AIGA Detroit Poster . Stephan Sagmeister







Members Opening Night Opening At 6 p.m.


Art With Bart, Celebrating Andy Warhol’s Birthday! Opening at 6 p.m.


Family Night Opening at 6 p.m.


Sunday Evening Young Adult/Student Nights Opening at 7:30 p.m.


High School Educational Day, Speaker Opening at 9 a.m.


Collegiate Educational Day Opening at 10 a.m.

The Art Campbell’s Soup Cans // Andy Warhol Brillo Box // Andy Warhol Kiss // Andy Warhol Kleine Dada Sioree // Theo van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters Crouch // Andy Warhol Fountain // Marcel Duchamp In Advance of the Broken Arm // Marcel Duchamp Snow Flurry, 1 // Alexander Calder Quarantania I // Louis Bourgeois Untitled from Camouflage // Andy Warhol Untitled // Anish Kapoor Aiga Conference Poster // Stefan Sagmeister Marsupial // Anish Kapoor On The Spot // Damien Hirst Ipad Paintings // David Hockney Eat // Andy Warhol


Marcel Duchamp


he time known as the Dada movement was a non-sensible, anti cultural wave in the early 1900’s. Revolt against society, cooperation, war and tradition was heavily embraced. This movement could be best summed up with the work of Marcel Duchamp. Two years after this French artist arrived in America, he stunned Society of Independent Artists with his submission titled “Fountain.” The piece was made of only a restroom urinal. It was tilted ninety degrees, and in hand writing on the front was signed “R. Mutt.” All art was to be accepted in this show and needless to say, the SIA had to hide the piece from being shown in the exhibit. The question of whether or not this piece was art, was the controversy at the


time. Duchamp challenged American art, as well as leading Dadaists to question society as to what the meaning of art really is. This piece was the first of its kind to shift the focus of art from physical craft to intellectual interpretation. Some interpretations of this piece argue that the rounded curves of the inverted urinal can resemble the veil of a classic Renaissance Madonna. Whatever the interpretation, Duchamp challenged society to examine art for the intellectual, not craft. The stark, naked nature of this piece is raw and exposed, provoking question in the eyes of the viewer.

Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968, American (born in France) Fountain, 1917; recreated in 1960 Porcelain Urinal, 12x15x10 (Original lost)


Louise Bourgeois


enowned for her abstract expressions of the human figure through modern and contemporary art forms, Bourgeois creation of ambiguous forms illustrated her abstract sculptural perspective. Sculpted from balsa wood, Quarantania I is comprised of five “totems,” which are representative of friends and family. Intended as a “self portrait,” the vertical figures are a portrayal of herself, husband, and three children enacting a drama. Her recurring theme of abstraction yet with personal emotions and experience are relayed in this piece as the appendages attached to the central figure representative of the mother, are suggestive of maternal obligation, emotional ties, and the burdens experienced of a mother. The


figures are huddled giving the appearance of comfort and “an assembled whole” which furthers the maternal ambivalence of her art. The choice of color is also purposeful as the white virginal color symbolizes a place of origination and the light blue represents peace, meditation, and escape. As a conceptual piece, it lends itself as a work to be experienced as the viewer’s perceptions of its representation as art is individually unique and varied. The absence of realism and extreme level of abstraction readily lends the work to controversy as it gives rise to the question, But is it art?

Louise Bourgeois 1911-2010, French-American Quarantania I, 1947-1953; reassembled by the artist in 1981 Painted wood on wood base 6’ 9 1/4” high, including base 6 x 27 1/4 x 27” The Museum of Modern Art, NY, USA


Marcel Duchamp


arcel Duchamp, originally born in France, is considered an American artist that was a leader in the French Dada movement. This movement promoted the idea that art is conceptual, not simply aesthetic. Duchamp philosophizes art. This is a wood and iron snow shovel, 52� high, filled with contextual meaning that can only be found by the viewer’s engagement with the object. In Advance of the Broken Arm suggests there is beauty in the everyday skill, activity, or object. It challenges the viewer to closely examine the mass- produced objects and find the untraditional view of beauty in the object. Any object or idea is worthy of attention, according to Duchamp. Duchamp acquired this shovel at a


hardware store, signed it, dated it, gave it a title, and hung it, therefore declaring it as art. The title has been analyzed and the brokenness of the arm is attributed to the possible affect of using the shovel for its usual purpose. Instead, Duchamp chooses to redefine its purpose. Later, Andy Warhol purchased and hung the piece in his private collection before it is donated to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968 American; born in France In Advance of the Broken Arm, 1964 (4th Version, original in 1915) Wood/ Iron, 52� long


Andy Warhol


ndy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, 32 in all, are paintings central to the Pop Art Movement that emerged in the late 1950’s in America. Pop Art challenged the norms of fine art by bringing attention to everyday objects of popular culture. This movement built on the Dada movement exemplified earlier by Duchamp. Warhol intended to produce art without meaning. He chose to paint the Campbell’s Soup cans when a friend told him to paint the most recognizable, common, everyday object he could think of. Similar to Duchamp’s work, Warhol signed his name to simple paintings of massproduced objects and called it art. But is it? Some argue Warhol’s representation is full of meaning and reflection of the


American consumer culture. Some argue he failed to mimic culture and was just a gimmick. Either way, Warhol has been remembered saying, “Once you ‘got’ Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again. The moment you label something, you take a step – I mean, you can never go back again to seeing it unlabeled. We were seeing the future and we knew it for sure...the mystery was gone, but the amazement was just starting.” Did Warhol change the way you look at everyday objects?

Andy Warhol, American 1928-87 Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962 32, synthetic polymer paint on canvas Each Piece 20 inches by 16 inches From the MoMA, NYC


Damien Hirst


contemporary artist and renowned for his highly controversial art forms, Damien Hirst excites a heated debate concerning many aspects of his works. As an artist, his credibility is often doubted due to his limited involvement in many of his works, particularly his Spot Paintings. It calls to question what exactly is art and what aspect of its developments should the premium be placed? Does the value lie in the production of the work itself or in concept that experiments and tests boundaries. Due to their Hirst’s work closely resembles Dada and pop art is it upholds the value placed upon conceptualism with the almost effortless execution as art is almost seen as science or design. Due to their per-


ceived “second rate” qualities and his virtually nonexistent role in their creation, the creditability of the designation of the Spot Paintings as true art is extremely controversial. Subjectivity is often of ultimate importance and necessity when dealing with Hirst’s work such as the Spot Painting Collection as opposing approaches to his work are to be reflected upon in the contemplation of his work being art. His work summarizes Warhol’s observation, “Art, is what you can get away with.” This collection consistently raises the question, upon what is art to be based.

Damien Hirst - Bristol, England, (1965 - ) The Complete Spot Paintings, 1986-2011 Mixed Media, 83� x 81� Gagosian Galleries New York, New York, USA


Stephan Sagmeister


his is a poster design for the Detroit branch of the AIGA. Sagmeister challenges the ideas of design when he carved the body text of the poster directly into his skin. His intent was for viewers to relate and visualize the pain that comes with his design projects. One way he challenges this idea is in medium. His combination of graphic photography and physical defacing in typography creates a very controversial style. Never before has anyone explored the idea of cutting into ones self for typographic appeal. This poster creates entirely new categories of graphic design and typography. Sagmeister is a quintessential post-modern designer. Not only is he going to reject conventional process, but he revolts


against graphic appeal all together. Het puts a finger in the eye of traditional beauty and says he doesn’t care about being pretty. It’s about expressing graphically an idea in physical from. For Sagmeister, something as tiering and rigorous as designing is best expressed in exaggerated form.

Stephan Sagmeister, (1962 - ) (American / Austrian) AIGA Detroit Poster (1999) 24” x 46” Poster (No Original)


Resources Alkhas, Anita. “Heitdegger in plain sight: The origin of the work of art and Marcel Duchamp”. Journal of Philosophy: A Cross Disciplinary Inquiry 2010: Vol. 5 No. 12. Academic OneFIle. Web. Feb 26, 2012. Judovitz, Dalia. “Drawing on art; Duchamp and company”. Reference and Research Book News 2010. Academic OneFile. Web. Feb 26, 2012. Stones, John. “Design art: End of the line”. Design Week April 2009: 18. Academic OneFile. Web. Feb 26, 2012. “The Warhol bubble.” The Wilson Quarterly 36.1 (2012): 72+. Academic OneFile. Web. 14 Mar. 2012. Hall, Michael. “The modern Old Masters: we are often told that Old Master galleries need to break down boundaries between the art of the past and that of today--but who actually benefits from this argument?” Apollo 13. (2009) doi: 03.2012 Jenkins, Susan. “Blues at the Wallace: Susan Jenkins questions the rationale of showing Damien Hirst’s recent paintings alongside Old Masters.” Apollo 79.(2010) doi: 03.2012 Triggs, Teal. 2011. “Graphic Design History: Past, Present, and Future.” Design Issues 27, no. 1: 3-6. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 15, 2012). Heller, Steven. 2009. “stefan sagmeister.” Print 63, no. 1: 34-36. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 15, 2012). Goldsmith, Steven. 1983. “The Readymades of Marcel Duchamp: The Ambiguities of an Aesthetic Revolution.” Journal Of Aesthetics & Art Criticism 42, no. 2: 197. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 15, 2012). Wagner, Anne M. “Bourgeois Prehistory, or the Ransom of Fantasies.” Oxford Art Journal, 22 no2. (1999) p. 6. Minioudaki, Kalliopi. “Louise Bourgeois.” KAPUT Art Magazine, September, 2008.



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But is it Art?  

Testing the Boundaries of Modrern Art

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