More on the President Obama Joker Poster

Let me assure you that I am not what most people would consider to be a shrinking violet. Although I am typically clad in a shade of violet (it is my signature color), I tend to rather fiercely defend my beliefs. In the spirit of further debate I figured that it might be fun to publish one more post regarding the Obama Socialist Joker poster. So with wise lyrics of Michael Jackson echoing in my head, I just couldn't stop 'till I got enough.

Here’s my response to an email I got regarding my opinion of the now infamous poster. Enjoy and by all means feel free to let me know your own opinion. The original email is written in regular text and my responses are in bold. As always, names were removed to protect the innocent/wrong.–xo

The fact that you would defend the type of degenerate spectacle in the article I sent earlier as worthy of tax-payer funding (I had vaguely defended some rather controversial art that was getting a lot of press because it had been publicly funded) while suggesting that the Obama/Joker poster is inherently racist is laughable. When I wrote to you earlier I assumed that the Obama Joker poster was funded by the NEA. It was not. The article was misleading regarding that matter. I also had no idea that the "artist" was refusing to disclose their own identity. This is particularly relevant when determining the legitimacy of a piece of art work. Without an artist statement and without any knowledge of the background, education, or motivation of the creator, a full analysis is nearly impossible. I can only discuss the merits of the design. Incidentally, it is well balanced, fluid, there's an attention to color theory, and it is created in a manner which suggests a historical knowledge of both portraiture and sculpture. It looks like a lot like a bust. Anything beyond this type of technical analysis would be, in my opinion, negligent and simply a guess. While I consider neither to be an example of 'art', I would think that such a thought provoking image as the latter, with all of the legitimate controversy it has stirred would be much more worthy of the the title 'art' than would a stage full of naked bohemians simulating an orgy, which, at best, is perversity for the sake of being perverse and not hoping to express any sort of political or social message. This I can comment more on, since there was NEA funding. The process to receive such funding is rigorous. And, although I do not know all of the details of these works, I am more assured that they were done by a fine artist that clearly delineated their beliefs, process, and vision. Although you don't seem to agree with the content, the work already has a greater element of artistic authenticity because of this; which is more than I can say for the Joker poster. Regarding the idea of "perversity for the sake of perversity," you may be interested to learn how Manet was regarded by much of the artistic community and the general public when he first created Luncheon on the Grass. And if that's not enough to prove my point, go ahead and look up how well received The Ladies of Avignon were by Pablo Picasso. The point is, sometimes we are not immediately able to recognize influential artists because our preconceived notions and current cultural ideals get in the way. Time is required for historians (and people in general) to garner the the proper perspective on everything from art to politics. Ideals change and it is usually those who challenge the establishment that are most noteworthy and best remembered. One of the reasons I have always discounted the social value of art is because that value is assessed through the filter of the elitist art community who proceed to tell the uncultured masses what is and isn't 'art'. Not true. Obviously the artistic community does play a role in how history remembers art and artists, they are after all the creators, patrons, and educators of artists and historians. But the importance of particular works is not ultimately determined by the "elite," it is determined by history and how artists shed light on the human condition during the time that they live. I think of it as a combination of history, sociology, and anthropology. Simply put, if there isn't a significant cultural link that a body of work is hinged to, an artist will not be remembered no matter how much the critics of the time like them. This is why many academic members of the Salon fail to even garner a byline in survey books while there tends to be a whole chapter on impressionism.

While I have no sympathy for any starving artist, I think the difference between Goya, Delacroix and the anonymous creator of the posters is that the former were accepted and hailed by their peers while the later will likely be ostracized and blacklisted by his/hers. You got one right! They were pretty accepted by their piers. But you also must put this into a cultural perspective. At this time, unlike now, the the primary source of patronage was the ruling class. These acts could be tantamount to signing your own death warrant. Again, I have no sympathy either way but you at least have to recognize the significance of the difference, especially since the value of the art one creates is ultimately assigned value by the art community. Nope, please see above.This is an over simplification because you don't understand fundamental aspects of art history and art criticism. If the creator happens to be a well placed person in the art world, they have nothing to gain and a livelihood to lose if they expose themselves. No. They're absolutely losing the ability to be considered a true artist, especially when you consider that they are doing this work in a DEMOCRACY, sure they will be exposed to criticism, but they wouldn't be risking their lives. That's not too much to risk, especially since, as I told you before, criticism is par for the course--It is an absolutely essential part of the process. Plus, controversy sells today (this is not to say that I immediately think that every controversial piece is good, it's just an observation). They honestly probably stand to benefit financially. Take the case of Scott Eckern as a result of supporting Prop 8. As much as the art community often prides itself on being non-conformist, there is a zero-tolerance policy on dissent from the party line. My own opinion on Prop 8 isn't relevant, everyone is allowed their opinion just like everyone is allowed to openly disagree with another's opinion. We live in a capitalist democracy, if people choose not to patronize or support someone because of their beliefs then they are free to do so. Anything less would seem a little communist to me.

As far as the racism allegations go, I find it hard to believe that any rational person would lend any weight to that argument unless they are simply looking for reasons to debase the posters. Please. Since we don't know anything about the artist or the work, one is forced to consider historically similar images. Most of which seem racist. This could very easily be a wolf dressed in sheep's clothing, and I don't think that it's too much of a stretch to believe that there is some sort of double entendre at work here. I would say that the creator of these posters has much less to explain than does the recipient of a $50,000 tax-payer grant whose piece is sexually explicit in San Francisco. That's because it goes along with your agenda. But either way, I do think that they have some value since they have gotten so many people talking about contemporary art.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

To be fair, you should post the link to the particular examples of art that I was objecting to as recipients of tax-payer funding. I submit that there is a significant difference between Manet and the spectacle I was referring to. Let's give the rest of your readers the chance to arrive at a fully informed opinion.

Becka Knight said...

Oh my. How did I miss this poster? I need to watch more news...

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Anonymous said...

Regarding the last paragraph and your response, since this is contemporary political commentary, wouldn't the more relevant historical comparisons be the recent images of G.W. Bush characterized as a villain (including the Joker) rather than throwbacks to the early 1900's when facepaint was common in theater.

Matilda Anderson said...

Hi everyone! Thanks for reading and commenting, it is much appreciated!!

Regarding the first comment, I am working to get a link to the original article that discusses NEA funding. Please remember that I only provided a cursory explanation of that topic, my main focus has been this poster. Regarding the comparison of G.W. Bush imagery; that is an interesting point! However, to understand a work you have to grasp the full, historical context as well as purely contemporary comparisons. Regardless, please remember that I don't have a problem with, or preference for, Conservative or Liberal work, my problem is that the artist of this poster isn't disclosing his intention. This alone makes me believe that there may be ill intentions at work.

Anonymous said...

Given the afformentioned concerns the poster's creator might have for personal or professional backlash, wouldn't the more reasonable assumption be that the creator is much more concerned with getting his message across than ensuring that the poster is regarded as a significant piece of art? Given the current political climate I think that it's logical to assume that this is intended to be considered and judged as political commentary, not as art, so the creator's concerns for the very real and very possible reprocussions of identifying him/herself far outweigh the concerns over having the creation recognized as "art" by the art community. This is more along the lines of an editorial cartoon meant to provoke thought rather than a Warhol meant to be contextualized.

Matilda Anderson said...

I guess I'm going to have to reiterate the obvious here... This is an ART, ART HISTORY, and ART CRITICISM blog, with a touch of helpful tips about fashion (naturally!). ;) Because of this, I think it makes sense that I used an art historical perspective when discussing this work. If you give so little weight to art and the "art community," even though you seem to have a keen interest in the way the art community would receive this "artist," why are you even addressing this issue on this type of blog. Shouldn't you perhaps redirect your efforts to a political website or blog?

Matilda Anderson said...

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,535608,00.html

Here's the article about the NEA that I received. First, let me remind anyone who may read this that no of this funding has ACTUALLY been deligated for the performance that the article is referring to. The non-profit that received the funds clearly states that it plans to use the money for infrastructure costs and to retain employees.

Anonymous said...

I guess I felt compelled to respond to the blog posting as it is my personal correspondence made public.

For the record, I have absolutely zero interest in the way the creator (notice I don't say artist) of the poster is recieved by the art community, and apparently neither does he/she. My interest is in the absurd claim that the posters motivations are racial and not political. If there is a "wolf in sheeps clothing" present within this issue, it is most certainly not stemming from the creator, but from those that disagree with the political sentiment and will resort to race-baiting tactics to shift the spectrum of the argument. When you frame the opposition as inherently evil (which is the ultimate charge of racism) you save yourself the trouble of having to intelligently consider and refute their actual point. Crying racism has unfortunately become the new example of Godwin's Law.