Friday, February 24, 2012

Inside Outside

Two great shows are in London right now... Kusama at the Tate Modern and Freud at the National Portrait Gallery.  If I had to choose one to see I'd choose Kusama.  She is one of those rare artists that successfully straddles between being an Outsider artist and Art World Insider.  She creates her work from an inner necessity, her ideas are original, her inspiration is incessant, yet she allows influences from other artists to seep into her vision and is at the forefront of creative developments in contemporary art... and I think therein lies the key to her success.  Kusama's art is a product of the core of her being.  It comes from that mysterious place that gives the artist unbridled access to the subconscious.  But that isn't all that she is.  Kusama also uses the ideas of contemporary artists to help give form to her creative expression... she is constantly playing around with new ideas and recycling old themes.  She is not like Martin Ramirez who's vision alone was conjured within with little or no concern for what other artists were creating (he was a mental patient for many years and probably could not concern himself with much other than his immediate surroundings).  Kusama is also not an artist who makes work for the art educated only.  Kusama is what every great artist has... her creative mind is in the service of her heart; She is authentic and educated.

Kusama, early painting
Lucien Freud, early painting

Martin Ramirez, right

Other artists that I can think of who walk or have walked the middle line between the outside and inside art worlds are... Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Basquiat.  In an odd way, and to a much lesser extent, Lucien Freud is an outsider in his own right.  Freud, just like Alice Neal, was a portrait painter from the beginning and stuck to his guns even when his contemporaries were moving toward Abstract Art, Minimalism, and Pop.  Out of the 60 or so paintings of Freud's that were exhibited in London I thought his early work was the most creative and expressive.  When you see all of his work at the same time it becomes a bit repetitive and dry.  The wood grain, the blemished flesh, the starkness of subject and composition make seeing his body of work less and less interesting but at the same time gives it greater and greater integrity... I prefer Freud a little at a time.  The Kusama show in contrast gains momentum as you walk through a variety of phases of her work that encompass small drawings, large meditative paintings, sculpture, fashion, video, collage, installation, interactive installation, and ends with large vibrant paintings that are only a year old.

Yayoi Kusama
As an artist, I strive to maintain the balance that Kusama has had throughout her whole career.  She is genuine.  She is not afraid to try new mediums and sometimes radically changes the style of her art.  She does not repeat herself but instead plays with new ways of expressing familiar themes and concepts.  Freud is an artist I can never be like.  He is wholeheartedly devoted to one form of expression.  I suppose both Freud and Kusawa alike possess a quality that I can never possess... they're work is tedious and result of many hours of labor.  Thank you Lucian and Yayoi for sharing your art with me.

No comments:

Post a Comment