Paintings for Thrills

Paintings for Thrills

Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol


By Hank Huang

Artwork by Ruby Sterling on the left and right, Artwork by Josh Smith’s work in the center, Image Courtesy of MOCA

Americans do a lot of day dreaming. We all have glamorous desires. In our losing battles of corporate takeover, we should realize that it is damn tough to grasp them. America boldly flexes its patriotic righteousness, but with almost $16 trillion dollars in debt, who are we kidding? It is hard to imagine that “upper-class” folk have any real idea what the country wants (or needs). MOCA is following suit. The MOCA Post-Warhol Abstract painting show reflects the state of our country quite well- loudly and boldly touting strings of false hopes and, if any, short-term satisfactions.

This year alone, MOCA has already presented their inability to plan quality events. An earlier show at the Geffen Contemporary gave us an overstuffed park of graffiti culture and a poor history of graffiti art itself. Cai Guo-Qiang’s anticipated setting off of Chinese firecrackers was but a 2-second let-down, only to reveal some massive bust of a goofy alien figure (hopefully not forever burnt into the rear wall of the Geffen). The Post-Warhol Abstract show does not fail in the same fashions though.

Why? Because paintings are tough to dislike. That’s the issue with Postmodernism. All the artists are in their own microcosms, formulating their own very lovely visions that is of their own very lovely worlds. Day dreamers. It seems these painters think they are battling the lust of visual media – television shows, movies, Google images, YouTube videos, etc., when in fact that is a silly and fruitless battle. Pacing around the show on the soft “carpet-as-art” provided by Rudolph Stingel, I feel as if I am engaging with artworks that have nothing to say, but boldly bear all to show.

It’s no surprise that we are more often hearing “I don’t get contemporary art”, “everything is art nowadays,” or “art is useless.” The paintings in this show reflect a letdown and a selling-out in our culture. Flaunting objects with hardly any depth, any useful commentary, or any concentrated effort of quality (Ruby Sterling literally looks to “make fucked-up shit”). The large room is stretched with giant canvases displaying forms of thin glamour and gaudiness – might as well stretch Louis Vuitton bags over stretcher bars (Oh wait, in 2007/2008, MOCA already went beyond that by installing a Louis Vuitton store within Murakami’s show). These giant paintings surely seduce my eyes, shake my wallet, but do nothing for my outlook on our currently poor times. It’s a reminder as to why there’s such a popular lack of appreciation for art. A reminder as to why art classes are the first to dwindle away in America’s education system.

As Los Angeles’s triple-cornerstone for art, what can MOCA do to revive art’s function within our culture or are they so intent on helping play the monetary game for the collectors that can afford to play? It’s no wonder MOCA’s attendance is poor. This current art game is no fun for the 99% of people who cannot play. Is Rudolph Stingel’s questioning of “what makes a painting a painting?” truly relevant to our culture today? Instead, I ask why should we care about what makes a painting a painting, when in fact, defining what defines a painting is of no more use than defining what makes a paragraph of words poetry.

Throughout history, art was a means of creating symbolic objects of the cultures they were created in. Art brought us closer to gods; art revealed colorful ways of seeing the world, art brought on real-world revolutions, art brought new ways of thinking. In the Post-Warhol Abstraction show: art seems to bring us glamour without a soul, begging for money from our already emptying pockets, without a good reason for us to give it. Art in America should no longer just be used as a means of stating how beautiful and glamorous we desire to be, but also reason to unite and form components for the betterment of our society and our people.

It is too late to determine whether or not the new MOCA Director (Jeffrey Deitch) will better MOCA’s state. Collaborations with Mike D, James Franco, and Drew Barrymore reveal MOCA’s sad attempts at utilizing celebrity status as selling points for art shows. MOCA’s upcoming show “Destroy the Picture” foreshadows the poor fate of our crumbling culture. A disco-themed show planned for 2013 already sounds like a cracked out idea. Unless they focus on how to connect with individuals and show artistic intent (rather than attempting to brand art shows like red carpet events), MOCA is truly losing its soul. Really the place should rebrand themselves as Theme Park of Contemporary Arts, but I guess TPOCA is not very catchy.