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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 2:07 pm | Fair 67º


Paul Burri: Drawing the Line on So-Called Works of ‘Art’

But if nothing's too ludicrous, then I have suggestions of my own

Let me play the role of the little child in the story who is innocent and honest enough to point out to a bunch of gullible people that the emperor is naked. This has to do with the critics and so-called experts who gush inordinately over artwork that “has no clothes.”

By that I mean artwork that has been created by frauds and phonies who foist crap (see my recent offer below) — plain and simple — on us, the viewing public, and accompany it with esoteric but meaningless nonsense about how it “evokes the inner sense of man’s connectedness to the universe of self-knowingness.” Or the “art experts” who professorially gush stuff like, “Grediontion’s work symbolizes the ever-present unification of man’s soul with his predilection toward his journey into knowingness and self-aggrandizement.” Whatever the hell either of those mean.

A case in point was an exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art titled “My Life” by a young female Korean photographer named Seoungwon Won. The exhibition was described as “a stunning collection of 628 photographs” and it consisted of a plywood and canvas mock-up of the tiny space of about 100 square feet that the “artist” lived in during a period of a year or two.

Surrounding this mock-up were the 628 “stunning” individual photographs of every piece of Won’s personal possessions, including but certainly not limited to: one comb, a used tube of toothpaste, four pairs of panties (one photograph for each pair), six pairs of socks (one photograph for each pair, although I couldn’t help wondering why she didn’t expand the show to one photograph for each sock), two sets of bras (another two photographs, of course), one small cooking pot — well, you get the idea. Incidentally, the catalog of Won’s exhibition went on to say that “the photographs of her 628 personal items inspired visitors to contemplate their own lives.”

Really? Rather than inspiring me to do that, it made me wonder: Is there nothing too inane or too ludicrous for today’s so-called art experts to recognize as being someone’s attempt to foist garbage or inanity as art — for premium prices, of course? It also made me glad that it wasn’t my money they were spending to perpetrate this lunacy.

Having said all that, here is my personal offer to any curator looking for a new, “stunning” (if it were up to me, I’d say “paralyzing”) exhibition. If you think the Won exhibition was stunning art, you will go nuts over my 5,425-piece collection of fingernail parings from 1967-1981. Or my 15-year bowel movement series from 1994-2009. For any curator who might be interested, the Bowel Movement Series includes 12,763 professionally framed 16-inch-by-20-inch photographs that I will “let go” (no pun intended) for a mere $125 per photograph.

If the emperor has no clothes, shouldn’t we have the honesty and integrity to say so? In their day, there were those critics who panned the Impressionists, the Pointillists, the Fauves and the Cubists, then subsequently that same art became the world’s priceless heritage. Are today’s critics and curators so totally intellectually paranoid about somehow falling into a similar predicament that they will now ooh and ahh over just about any piece of crap that is foisted on them?

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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