You can justify anything with a good artist statement, either by rhetorically soothing or confusing the hell out of your audience. What about plagiarism or copyright infringement, though? There might be an excuse in appropriation art. In fact, artists like Mike Bidlo are fantastic at pulling this off well and no one gets upset. Jeff Koons, however… not so much. In the time that we’ve been writing CFile, Koons has been sued several times by artists and photographers who claim that Koons is taking their work.
Above image: Jeff Koons, Naked, 1988. Courtesy of Artnet Price Database.
The latest of these we have is from December, which makes it fine for a Spotted article. Artnet reports that Koons was sued over his 1986 work I Could Go for Something Gordon’s. The proof of this sold for $2 million, though a photographer alleges that an image he shot was used by Koons without his permission. A similar suit over a photograph was brought against Koons a year earlier for his work Naked (1988), which accompanies this post. A mere week or two before that Koons was sued for allegedly taking ad copy from a French clothing brand for his work Fait d’Hiver (1988). He was successfully sued in 1992 for the work String of Puppies (1988), which — you guessed it— was sourced from another photograph.
It seems like there’s a really easy way to make these lawsuits stop, but I suppose when you have enough money to pile it into a hill and go sledding, there’s less of an incentive to care. What do you think, though? Is Koons within his artistic license or not?
You know who never had to worry about this legal crap? H.R. Giger. (Oh wait, I forgot about the obscenity trial. My bad.) Think Geek, purveyors of (at last count) 9 billion hilarious bacon-themed products for nerds, turned Giger’s famous Xenomorph from the Alien films into a cookie jar. Gone is the parasitic psychosexual horror, replaced instead with delicious nutritious cookies. There’s no better way to keep kids away from the cookie jar. Just tell the little brats that it’ll bite them. Pairs best with a cool glass of milk from a zombie mug.
It’ll seem like I’m taking a hard right turn from xenomorphs into contemporary ceramic art, but Katsuyo Aoki isn’t much of a stretch for me. Twisting biological ornamentation set against constant references to skulls, as though some careless traveler stumbled into a carnivorous plant made of porcelain. A massive wall hanging of hers, Maniera I, is on sale. Just so happens I have a birthday coming up. E-mail me for my shipping address. I’ll be patient.
The alien cookies can be flushed out of the airlock, but cakes are harder to ignore. You may remember Dirk Staschke’s exhibition Executing Merit in Seattle from about a year ago. The artist made three-dimensional versions of old still life paintings. In A Confection the piles of dead rabbits and game birds from the earlier exhibition have been replaced with vegetarian friendly cakes, real-looking enough to give even the most disinterested viewer diabetes.
‘This gaze is beyond human perspective, thus “uninterpretable, unreadable, undecidable,” but it is still a gaze, and a gaze addressed to us from the “abysmal” unknown, from the nonhuman, reversing the usual direction. It is we human beings, who think, we have the right to know, to observe the world and to define it, but when it returns our gaze, we are suddenly plunged into another, irreducible world, this one not having been built in accordance with our perceptions and our judgments.’ — Jacques Derrida
Rara Avis presents the work of Christie Brown: a question of the ‘posthuman’ gaze or an animalistic recognition of our hubris gene?
For some years now Christie Brown has created human/animal hybrids often reminiscent of the figurative objects of ancient Egypt and China. She has harnessed the ability of such archaic and mythical artefacts to speak across time proposing links between the ancient and the contemporary.
However, in this body of work her use of collage brings a new sense of complexity. Rather than simply attributing human traits and emotions to animals or, representing the animal-like qualities of humans, she is more interested in ideas that penetrate the perceived barrier between human and animal, and which challenge traditional Western philosophical notions of what is intrinsically human.
Derrida’s ‘uninterpretable, unreadable, undecidable’ provides a fitting description of the uncanny gaze of Brown’s humanimals and other creatures. Maybe behind the gaze of each of her rarae aves, seemingly posthuman, frequently beyond species, is the recognition of hubris, that fatal human flaw that invariably leads to downfall? If not, they are certainly reminders that we human beings might benefit from a form of self-scrutiny that is far less self-regarding.
Christie Brown is an artist and research professor at the University of Westminster in London. She was Principal Investigator on the AHRC project Ceramics in the Expanded Field which was awarded to the team in 2011. She graduated from Harrow School of Art in 1982 and set up her north London studio. Her figurative ceramic work is informed by the fragmented narratives which reflect the parallel between archaeology and psychoanalysis. Her most recent solo exhibition DreamWork was held at the Freud Museum in 2012. Other major exhibitions include Marking the Line at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in 2013 and Award at the British Ceramics Biennial 2013. Her work is featured in several private and public collections in Europe and the USA.
I’m back! but I have bad news: somewhere out there is a Peter Voulkos work without a home. An untitled piece ca. 1960-1964 was up for auction through Wright’s Design Masterworks on May 19. The sculpture was appraised between $30,000 – $50,000 but as of this writing it has not been sold according to the web site. Interesting. Maybe Wright’s description of the work could sway someone in the future.
The present lot, executed right as Voulkos discovered his unique voice, is an excellent example of his fine art practice. The sculpture references a vase in its general form, but is clearly sculptural from every side. In order to fully understand and see the sculpture, a viewer must circle around it. This fact is enhanced by Voulkos’ painting technique. He applies different glaze tones to the sculpture in a manner that does not follow the form, but instead subverts the purpose of glazing, which is usually to decorate or enhance the underlying form. Here, the form is simply a blank canvas for the artist to apply paint to, in certain areas choosing to harmonize with the form, in others deciding to clash and cause tension. Voulkos talked to Rose Slivka about the use of color in his work: “I brush color on to violate the form, and it comes out a complete new thing, which involves a painting concept on a three-dimensional surface, a new idea.”
That’s it for Spotted this week. Check back in 7 for another roundup of ceramic odds and ends. Until then, keep your grubby hands out of the cookie jar!
Bill Rodgers is the Managing Editor of cfile.daily.
Do you love or loathe these works of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.