Tag Archives: appropriation

Bob Dylan: Wtf?

Oh Bob, breakin’ my heart. I can forgive a lot of things, snagging from folk songs, appropriating other works…for the greater good of music (sometimes). But really? Copying copyright photographs and saying it was based on actual travels? Really. The proof is again, in the pictures.

Left: Dylan’s painting from “Asia Series;” Right: photograph by Dmitri Kessel taken for LIFE magazine

You’re a legend- there was no need to copy photos…you could have done ANYTHING on the canvas and Gagosian would have sold it. But no. We get these ripped off/ craptastic paintings that will still sell for more than I’ll ever be worth. I just have to say, what a disappointment, I mean I shouldn’t be- everyone plunders each other but this is just so damn blatant and bad, it’s ridiculous. It’s not like Dylan is making a masterpiece from the photos, he’s degraded great photos into boring, clumsy painting. Gagosian probably would not have even sneezed in the direction of these paintings if they’d been made by anyone else. While we’re on the subject of Gagosian, wtf to you too?! How could you miss this issue? Do you do any kind of background at all? According to Artinfo, earlier this year French Photographer Patrick Cariou sued and won against Richard Prince and Gagosian. Prince was accused of copying 41 of Carious’ photographs for his 2007 Gagosian show.

This raises an interesting question about appropriation and power in the art world right now. How far is too far when ‘appropriating’? With the plethora of internet sources and media influences how can you know if an idea is really yours anymore? Artists have been appropriating since the beginning, it’s just what happens- the more famous guy will hear something/ see something catchy and it will be attributed to him because he’s famous, no matter if someone came up with it first. But the interesting problem now with the internet is the availability of information, lines of influence and sources can become more visible (providing one knows where to start)- the internet also is a way for the underdog to get credit/ make their voice heard, at least in some way.

Some have said this is could be part of the art…something greater and more thought provoking could be going on. That Dylan could be exploring the concept of originality itself. Or the impact of celebrity on an audience’s interpretation. Doubtful. If it was part of the message then Gagosian would be spilling because they probably don’t want another copyright issue on their hands. In addition, the whole originality and appropriation game is an old hat anyway, from Duchamp’s Readymade Fountain (1917) to Sherrie Levine’s own Fountain (1991).

Will Gagosian go through with selling Dylan’s paintings? Yes. Will they still sell for a stupid amount of money? Yes. But hopefully this will make it harder for people to get away with blatant plagiarism, as well as get Gagosian to actually research the artists they are representing and maybe, just maybe, quit trying to make a quick buck off of marketing celebrity works.

P.S. Bob, stick to music.

An update to this issue can be found here. Artinfo’s Judith Dobrzynski reports that Dylan may have paid for the copyright licensing to some of the photographs he used in the Asia Series. Whether or not it was before or after the fact is not clear, however.


Art & Headlines: Wall Street Protest

The Occupy Wall Street Movement began Saturday September 17th with about 5,000 protesters (read more here). As of now there is an ongoing contingent of protesters that continue to occupy the plaza and parks in the surrounding area and are gunning for the long haul. While I do support the protest as a substantial first step for us to wake up to our situation, my biggest problem is with the media blackout. The U.S media has completely blocked out this protest and is making it quite evident whose side they are on, nobody wants to bite the hand that feeds them- which is exactly the problem. We have the right to protest but the convenient loophole is to just ignore it and it will go away. But this shouldn’t go away, if significant change is to happen, then the people must unite- they have to demand it. The wealth disparity and the people’s lack of power is not new, but that does not mean it should continue.

So today I thought I’d connect the Wall Street protest to various artworks that deal with the persistent wealth gap and with the desire to revolutionize our position.

Niki de Saint Phalle, Tirs 1960s; mixed media

1968 Poster from the Paris Protests

Victor Burgin, Possession, 1976

Erwin Wurm, Fat Convertable, 2005; mixed media


Crisis in Public Sculpture: E Pluribus Unum

Recently there has been quite a stink raised by the Citizens Against Slave Image about Fred Wilson’s proposed E Pluribus Unum sculpture in downtown Indianapolis. This little controversy raises pertinent questions about the role of public sculpture in America as well as the powerlessness of the arts community as a whole when faced with any sort of opposition.

First off, who is Fred Wilson?

Wilson (b. 1954, NY) is Conceptual artist of African, Native American, European and Amerindian decent. He appropriates existing works in museums and alters their display in order to emphasize how context creates meaning. The artist juxtaposes artworks and artifacts in order to question institutional biases in the interpretation of history and aesthetic value. An example of his work is Mining the Museum (1992) at the Baltimore Historical Society in which he reorganized the artifacts to emphasize the history of slavery in America.

Fred Wilson’s proposed E  Pluribus Unum sculpture for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an appropriation of an existing sculpture, one of a freed slave. Wilson’s project is to free the slave from the monument thus emphasizing the absence of other monuments to African Americans. The sculpture would raise a much needed discussion of race in Indianapolis and in the wider public sphere.

What’s the problem?

The Citizens Against Slave Image group held a “rally” (50 or so people) that protested the sculpture on July 30th 2011, causing the Central Indiana Community Foundation to drop the sculpture from its intended site at the City-County Building. What’s the big deal if it’s moved? Well other than the fact that it’s “site-specific,” meaning the work functions on a level that depends on the site in large part to make meaning or relevance- it’s a case of shooing a controversial, discussion-worthy piece into the nether regions of the city, away from the high traffic areas and away from the other sculptures the work was intended to comment with. According to the artist, “I have spent a long time trying to figure out a place for the work that would have some fellowship to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument and also be within downtown…the siting I thought spoke well on many different levels.”

“I assumed that if this piece was nowhere near the monument that it would fade into the background as (the figure on the monument) had for 100 years…that is a reason for having something else permanent, to think about the relationship between the past and now. So I’ll keep everything open until it’s clear that the work is compromised.” (MAN)

Mayor Ballard has felt it necessary due to the controversy that the current site would not be a suitable location. As of right now it seems like the location is the biggest issue and that it will not be installed at the City-County Building site. What does this mean? It means a handful of people not in favor of the project have the power to scare off an actually good piece of public sculpture. The majority should never have all-encompassing power, but it seems like any negativity towards an art project automatically means it gets the axe. A meaningful artwork in a public place breeds discussion, which gives rise to thought and ideas that give power back to the people. Discussion, thought and ideas are all dangerous it seems.

For more on this controversy see Tyler Green’s discussion on Modern Art Notes, in addition, the Indianapolis Museum of Art director Maxwell Anderson has also lent his support for the sculpture in the Indianapolis Star’s op-ed page which can be read here.