Postcolonial Thoughts: Martin Puryear “Passing through the color line” Part II

by Christopher Hutchinson

There is a simplistic, minimal aesthetic present in Puryear’s work that is undeniably beautiful. He uses the material organically to create semi abstract pieces that have figurative quality and yet not limited by the figure itself. The figure being manipulated and molded is Africa.

To credit these objects for their aesthetic minimal qualities means one should immediately correlate African wood working practice as intelligent design, and it is unfortunate it does not. If Puryear’s work is received as Western mastery and African woodworking is his teacher, then a deeper look into African aesthetics should be noted in Africa’s contribution to modern art. Labeling of his work as post minimalist is insufficient.

The mining of Africa’s aesthetic and ritual that began with Picasso has become a standard practice in Western academia to the point where the visual language of Africa is considered Western. It is not. This pilfering of Africa still has no recompense or tax. This tax free appropriation used over and over again to make the West relevant once more. This can be seen in cubism, surrealism, and arte povera.

Arte Povera

Ar·te Po·ver·a

a style and movement in art originating in Italy in the 1960s combining aspects of conceptual, minimalist, and performance art, and making use of worthless or common materials such as stones or newspapers, in the hope of subverting the commercialization of art.- 1960s: Italian, literally ‘impoverished art,’ from arte ‘art’ + povera (feminine of povero‘needy’) https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=art%20povera

To be a true ecologist today, one must re-establish the aesthetics of beauty within the realm of human trash and material waste. –Slavoj Žižek

http://www.escapeintolife.com/art-reviews/michelangelo-pistoletto-venus-of-rags/

Arte Povera once again acknowledges the stagnation of western academia and proposes a rail against this limit by including trash/outsider as a point of inspiration. The Zizek quote points to the inauthentic intellectual guise wrapped up in this movement. Michaelangelo Pistoletto’s Venus of rags would seem to fulfill the hope to “re-establish the aesthetics of beauty” of Zizek. Does Venus of rags accomplish this re-establishment? It does not.

Like most movements that attempt to redefine Western academia based on the established aesthetic, all that is accomplished is an affirmation of the binary. Pistolletto’s Venus accomplishes that binary where it is clear that Venus is still Venus, even if she is turned and looking at trash, and the trash is still trash. The binary is reinforced not swayed. Povera’s illustration of the binary has now become the definition of commercial or the new rubric to an acceptable commercialism.

The West’s constant search to appropriate and inject new life in the dead lineage of its academia poses a primary concern for all those wishing to gain acceptance and validation of their work from the same. Those validated by the West breathe life back into the lingering notions of aesthetics.

Black, White & Gray

This systemic issue is problematic when considering the success and politics of art makers. At times it may seem that there is no other way but to accept the terms of academia but that is simply not true. There is a way to retain ones artistic integrity and aesthetic.

Mark Bradford was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1961. He received a BFA (1995) and MFA (1997) from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. Bradford transforms materials scavenged from the street into wall-size collages and installations that respond to the impromptu networks—underground economies, migrant communities, or popular appropriation of abandoned public space—that emerge within a city. Drawing from the diverse cultural and geographic makeup of his southern Californian community, Bradford’s work is as informed by his personal background as a third-generation merchant there as it is by the tradition of abstract painting developed worldwide in the twentieth century. Bradford’s videos and map-like, multilayered paper collages refer not only to the organization of streets and buildings in downtown Los Angeles, but also to images of crowds, ranging from civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s to contemporary protests concerning immigration issues. http://www.art21.org/artists/mark-bradford

Mark Bradford amongst others exist in black & white and fear the gray. Bradford exists with integrity and aesthetic. Both Bradford and Puryear have received have been featured on Art21. Bradford differs from Puryear in his clarity of and honesty of material which is then manipulated aesthetically.

Bradford uses found material from his community, not out of pity or sentiment, but an investigation of the language promoted in the community. He uses it as fuel for his artistic practice and does not shy away from its origin. Bradford’s work is also not limited by its origin, nor has it become a spectacle of Blackness. His work achieves a critique of the West without illustrating the binary and upholding its rubric.

Bradford uses found material from his community, not out of pity or sentiment, but an investigation of the language promoted in the community. He uses it as fuel for his artistic practice and does not shy away from its origin. Bradford’s work is also not limited by its origin, nor has it become a spectacle of Blackness. His work achieves a critique of the West without illustrating the binary and upholding its rubric.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Martin Puryear “Passing through the color line” continues next month with Part III.

 

Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

 

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Categories: Art, Postcolonial Thoughts, Writing

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2 Comments on “Postcolonial Thoughts: Martin Puryear “Passing through the color line” Part II”

  1. March 30, 2016 at 12:05 am #

    !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. June 2, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    Excellent breakdown!

    Liked by 1 person

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