Tracy Emin: I Swear She's Legit//

Back when I was in undergrad one of my big projects in Theory and Criticism class was to create a zine that conveyed some sort of critical analysis of art. The whole topic or lack thereof seemed very broad at the time. That is, until I realized I had a raging hatred of Thomas Kinkade and that “fifteen pages or less” was the perfect opportunity to express it. Naturally, I took a bunch of Thomas Kinkade pictures (I still refuse to even call them paintings, they don’t deserve it) and juxtaposed Nan Goldin, Eric Fishl, and Robert Mapplethorpe on top of country cottages and pastoral scenes. In the two weeks leading up to the project’s due date my roommates were absolutely thrilled. Who wouldn’t want blown-up images of Kinkade paintings and photographs of bondage, AIDS victims, and murder scenes placed throughout the walls of their apartment? Nineteen year-old girls, that’s who. Regardless, they all put up with me by focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel that was the project’s due date. When I turned it in, my professor was receptive. I got a 100%; a grade so elusive for college projects that I had always figured professors more or less assumed that giving me one was like admitting defeat. Needless to say, my parents were thrilled, several copies of the zine were made, and in under a month my grandmother had a copy on her coffee table. Saying that my parents were open minded about the entire thing was a little of an understatement. They not only focused on the grade, they also happily accepted the message.

A year later, their trust in my judgment paid off again when they begrudgingly purchased a print that, as my dad describes it, “is a horse-head with cheerios exploding out of it,” see right. For the record, the print was by Jeff Koons and is now worth six times what we paid for it. Having said all of this, you can imagine my shock when I was recently met with complete resistance while showing them the newest print I think would be a great investment. True, it is a bit controversial, but it’s also important and it has a lot to say. The print, by Tracey Emin is being offered by White Cube Gallery. You can follow the link if you wish to take a look, but be advised that it does contain adult material. http://www.whitecube.com/editions/sufferlove/


To be honest, this print is not something that I would typically consider buying. But, as you can see by my story above, I am a little bit of a fan of controversy. Anything that gets people who wouldn’t otherwise participate in an art-related conversation to discuss contemporary art has value. This print definitely fulfills that prerequisite. In a matter of two days, it has ignited what I am calling a, Matilda Anderson: Friends and Family Art Brawl. Suddenly everyone wants to put in their two cents. To me, this was proof that I was on to something. The more controversy, the more I wanted to defend the print. So here's my shot at trying to legitimize this print to the general public…


Tracey Emin is grouped amongst the YBA or Young British Artist movement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_British_Artists. This movement, made popular in the 1990s by the Saatchi collection and gallery, included artists such as Damien Hirst, the Chapman Brothers, and Glenn Brown. These artists had conceptualism in mind when they were creating their art. Conceptualism as a movement derives from the 1960s and focuses on the thought that art is rooted in the idea an artist is trying to convey rather than in the final, material product. The movement itself may date from the 60s, but this thought has been pervasive throughout art history. For example, Marcel Duchamp, pictured left, questioned what could be considered art with his Fountain and the Dada movement; and Jeff Koons touched on the idea as well by encasing vacuum cleaners in Plexiglas. So how does Emin’s work fit into this idea? It does so by manifesting highly personal images, feelings, and issues into a final product that takes the form of installations, line drawings, scrawled phrases, and in this case, a print. Her work is much more than a simple sketch; it’s the idea that enabled the work that’s important.



Still not convinced that it’s kosher? Let’s consider the image and this artist’s feminist roots. Go back to the bra burning of the 1960s. Remember when free love, unshaved armpits, androgynous clothing, and a promise to not get married were the epitome of feminism? This is a contemporary visual example of those types of acts. Think about the barrage of sexualized imagery that we’re exposed to. The modern media (and our dependence on it) has enabled Paris Hilton to make a living by being a sex object. Emin plays off this notion, and unabashedly puts it on display. But there is a double entendre present since the artist is a female. A female choosing to visualize her personal sexuality creates an added level of dimension, and further erodes stereotypes. Emin’s work is proof that women are now finally in charge of their own sexuality and no longer purely the object of male desire.



Beyond the obvious link to feminism, Emin’s works are also heartfelt. She has been known to examine personal tragedies, even referencing the rape that she suffered at thirteen. Although you may be tempted to relate her work to Eric Fischl’s voyeuristic style, pictured right, because of the awkward discomfort that is evoked, don’t. Emin’s work may make the viewer feel awkward, but this type of awkwardness is unique. After understanding her story, style, and the historical roots, you begin to realize that you are witness to imagery that portrays a convergence of her own lust, sadness, and torment. It’s rare for an artist to display both vulnerability and power at once, and yet Emin regularly accomplishes this.


And that my friends, is why this print is legit. Legit and incredibly reasonably priced. At $600, this may be a regular person’s (i.e. not an incredibly rich person’s) last opportunity to own an Emin work. She’s been selling well and her auction record is steady. And, if you still can’t quite find it palatable, you can at least take comfort in the fact that the print itself is small in scale. :)

10 comments:

ARTistSW said...

Well done! You make an arguable case. I'm convinced, but I was convinced from the get-go.

Matilda Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matilda Anderson said...

Thanks Stephen! :)

JZ, El Jefe said...

WOW! Well done Matilda, that was a compelling and interesting read making the case for a contemporary piece of controversial art!

Any interest in going in on it 50/50? ;)

Jeff

Matilda Anderson said...

Why, thank you! I'll let you know if I want to do the 50/50 thing... Maybe we can start our own mini art hedge fund. lol.

Linda Armstrong said...

A witty and informed essay about a certain kind of contemporary art. Certain pieces become part of the culture they skirt or critique.

Ingrid said...

So I'm loving the blog, but not convinced on Emin..some of her stuff is so elementary I really question the word "artist" next to her name. With that said, the "everyone I slept with" tent is kinda funny

Ingrid

Matilda Anderson said...

Thanks Ingrid! I can understand your perspective, it's definitely not work that many people would be apt to put in their living room. And I agree, there is something a little funny about the tent. :)

Ryan Noel said...

Matilda:

I saw the Tracy Emin piece and the first person that came to mind was Egon Schiele. Did you consider any parallels?

Peter J. Crowley said...

Good work defining, contemporary/controversial art your words are well documented yet leave the reader space to explore their own feelings. My work is mostly traditional photographic art exposed on file sometimes erotic http://www.peterjcrowley.com/image_pages/erotica_HCB-104-99-13a.htm sometimes realistic. Always images of light refected off a subject to create an emotion. A part of a story. enjoy pjc