I need to get this off my chest cause its been pissin me off for a while and today I saw some work that just pushed me over the edge of politeness.
In the art world, size equals goodness and I'd like to call bullshit on this. Bullshit! Quality and content is what matters.
With traditional media, size equals value and that converts to price. This is wrong.
When it comes to photography, this is taken to the extreme. A photograph doesn't have to be huge to be good or valuable. In fact, size is often used to hide mediocrity. Average photo? Blow it up fuck-big and sell it for a fuck-ton. Boom, art. This irritates me aesthetically and intellectually. Makes me want to scream.
A work should be about something. It's content and execution make it good or bad. All too often, the execution lets it way down. And you know what? It also lets us down: the viewers and consumers and people who are asked to pay money and to laud a work and an artist. It's disrespectful to us.
Ever gone to an art exhibition and felt like someone was pulling the wool over your eyes? Well they are.
I saw a show a while back that was by an artist who was clearly the latest darling of the gallery where she was exhibiting. The work was all concept. This is art-world bullshit too: bury something in theory and complexity till you feel like a fool not to nod and applaud like everyone else. This particular body of work was badly executed photography. It was pixelated, poorly lit. It was amateurish. It was also priced far too high. And people bought it, literally and figuratively. I shook my head. I listened to her talk about the work and shook my head even more. I left that exhibition disheartened and disillusioned. I've decided, on the basis of that very exhibition, never to approach that gallery with my work again.
Today I saw work at a gallery that I'd like to start a relationship with. I first noticed them when impressed by the quality of the work they had up. I would have been honoured to be a part of that kind of level of work. But today, when I walked in, I was confronted by huge photographic prints. Like 2 meter wide prints. Initially I was interested and impressed. But then I looked closely at the prints. And I'm not being ridiculous here, I didn't have a magnifying glass. I stood in front of them as if they were in my home on my wall and looked at them.
They were heavily pixelated. Not a little bit but a lot. I would be cautious printing that size from a really huge negative. These were clearly shot digitally and upressed and still printed beyond their ability.
And the price of them? Far too high. If they were beautiful prints with flawless craftsmanship, I'd pay that amount in a heartbeat. But these do not deserve it. The subject matter is fine. Nothing exceptional. They were shot for a hotel's decor. That's fine. But then put them in a gallery, with all its implications of high-art (another concept that is endlessly problematic), and ask a lot of money for them? Really, this is taking people for a ride. There is no artistic intent aside from making pretty and sellable, to a client who has agreed to what you'll be producing, pictures and making them huge for impact. I see no line of thought running through them. I am disappointed by the execution. I feel let down by the gallery. I feel like they're trying to pull the wool over my eyes.
Big does not make great. In this case it makes okay look shit. Nice from far but far from nice.
I'm busy working on a new body of work to exhibit and, even before this experience at the gallery, I wanted to print the photographs perfectly and at sizes that are traditional for photographs: 8x10 and thereabouts. I won't be able to charge a lot for the photographs because people have been conditioned to expect large sizes to match large prices. But I want to make the best work possible and for these images that means modest sizes and very careful printing. Gallery's will probably, if we're going to be honest with ourselves, ignore this work on the basis of size. Isn't that insane?
Just because we have inkjet printers that can spit out prints meters wide doesn't mean we should.
I feel it's a loosing battle though. I've printed prints big because they needed to be big for the concept and I was hysterical over the execution. These big prints made people sit up and notice my work because - I fear- they thought: oh, those are big, they must be good.
It's bullshit and it makes me mad. It causes disillusionment and feels and looks like people trying to take others for as much money as they can.
That art world is too often concerned with money and status and size and pomp. It's bullshit and we should not accept it.