Trubious (opposite of dubious) comment on the fire hydrant. Here’s another e.g. of the same concept, on the streets in Clayton, MO:
And yet another, on South Grand in St. Louis:
Sadow and I had the conversation, though, that in her mind the same old point applies to every one of these artistic conversions of utilitarian everyday pieces: uniformly, they transcend functionality and make the useful pretty or, even, beautiful.
I, on the other hand, want to stop and take a picture of every one of these: I conceptualize them in terms of difference. I struggled, though, to think of a way to refute her brain’s understanding of these as all essentially the same. The only thing I can find to make sense of it as this: aesthetics by definition (especially here) transcend functionality; they cannot be fully understood in terms of their “function” as prettifying the banal. Insofar as we understand categories in terms of function, we cannot categorize art. The very virtue of painting these electrical boxes is that they, in being painted, become singular, uncategorizable, for their lack of functionality.
But here’s another thing that makes these examples particularly cool: they’re hand-crafted, and they retain imperfection. Hand craft makes the kitschy sincere; it makes the ridiculous artful; it makes art amateurish, where it’s allowed to transcend the usual irony of professional art by not being engaged in all its fraught discourses. An awesome piece in Meshuggah Coffee House on the Loop:
Can you read that? It’s for the “Bob Dylan Discussion Group.” Here it is in context:
The hand-crafted element—the artistic signature or signification of the amateur—adds something quite apart from simple aesthetic value. As does the presence of type, especially in this piece. I think that aesthetic value, the pure visual pleasingness of a work of art, is what allows you to say, “that is beautiful.” The presence of hand-craft, though, as well as other signifiers like type, are what allow you to say, “I love that,” in perhaps a very real way.
At the St. Louis Art Fair this weekend, I couldn’t figure out why, in the midst of a number of well-made, probably visually pleasing items, I found myself moved only by the work of artist Sarah Giannobile, like this:
It’s not just because it’s visually pleasing (bright colors, distinct forms, conflict within an overarching theme) but because its hand-craft is so manifest. Maybe I pigenhole myself as a product of the same geist that welcomed in abstract expressionism by saying so. But I find that work like this, one can not only see, but love as well.
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