On may way home from an impressive tour of the High Museum's new galleries by photo curator Julian Cox and while waiting for my to-go order, I came across this tidbit about the "Gimme Shelter" opening at Saltworks Gallery in Andisheh Nouraee's "Scene & Herd" column in Creative Loafing:
"I was eavesdropping on a pretentious guy trying to impress his friends with his ability to generate nonsense-artspeak about Wardell Milan's photograph "Sow The Seeds of Victory." The highlight was when he explained to his friends how Milan's blurring of certain parts of his image was his way of "attacking the very idea of photography!" He also noted how the photograph also focused its attack on Republicans, even though the political figures depicted in the piece (Washington, Jackson, Franklin) predate the Republican Party's existence. No wonder people hate art."
I'm the pretentious guy! With a bully pulpit of my own!
First the cheap shots:
1. I've gone ahead and circled the Republicans in Milan's photo (above). Is that a machine gun pointed at George Bush's head? I can see how the GOPs are easy to miss when you don't actually look at the photo. Plus, it was my friend Jeff and not me who commented on the Republicans. I commented that it was more of an attack on the establishment. Just the same, I don't see any pictures of Clinton or Carter in the image.
2. It's impolite to eavesdrop.
And now for the rest of the story:
I own this photo. It hangs in my bedroom. I look at it frequently and wonder why a graduate from the highly-respected and super-hot Yale Photography School would fill his photograph with blurry imagery in unexpected places, make it difficult to determine what is actually in the foreground and what's in the background and create an exaggerated one-point perspective? Usually a photographer would be criticized for including such normally-amateurish elements, but Milan is from Yale, and at Yale the focus (no pun intended) seems to be about making formally-perfect pristine pictures. So why would Milan do this? It must be intentional. My conclusion then, is that since he seems to be raging against just about everything else in this image, the intentional photographic transgressions are most likely a rage against something. The Yale aesthetic? Modernist standards? My interpretation is as good as anyones.
Wardell, please tell us! Leave me a comment!
(Of further interest: every image of a black man in the photo - mostly Milan himself - is blurry and poorly exposed. hmmmmm.)
Coincidentally, another friend of mine and I chatted about the phenomenon of people who go to art openings and spend no time looking at the art. This happens at museums too...notice how many people spend as much time looking at the label next to the artwork as the artwork itself. Andisheh Nouraee must be one of these people, more interested in the scene than the art. Upon hearing my comments, the artwork seemingly became meaningless and the skewering of an art lover (albeit a pretentious one) became the reason to stay.
No wonder art lovers hate philistines.
(Fellow Bloggers, help me out here and link to this story! I'll return the favor.)