Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Some of my most expressive eye-rolling has been in response to the language artists use to define what their work means. I think the first experience with this was in the liner notes to Genesis’ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” in which the story behind the two-disc prog-rock opera gave every sign of being lamely retrofitted to its songs — the product, I would reasonably guess, of a drug-fueled all-nighter. The album is great, if dated, but the story rationalized for it pumps its pretentiousness beyond fun and into unbearable. Best to ignore the story and listen to the music.

And so it has been throughout a life of incidental art appreciation, and so it was during my recent trip to Toronto and its Queen Street art galleries.

At the Engine Gallery were works by a guy named Franco DeFrancesca that were very cool, colorful and shimmering and ebullient and delightful. Check one out here and browse all you like, although it’s best to keep in mind the work is far better in its bigger-than-life, solid, heavy, laminated reality.

If you’ve appreciated the work itself, now look at what DeFrancesca says the work is about. And commence eye-rolling as you contemplate the sheer amount of verbiage against the actual images the verbiage claims to define:
The Aesthetics of Non-Committal

Fetishizing the “sophisticated ideal” of “contemporary-urban style,” this series of digital/mixed media “picture objects” contemplate and interrogate a personal fascination with modernist art/design and its legacy in present-day culture. Particularly interested in mid-to-late century abstraction and minimalism (Morris Louis, Ellsworth Kelly, Carl Andre, etc.) and its urban-loft inspired renaissance, this series of works observe how historical meanings and aesthetic values are
transformed and assimilated into contemporary contexts.

In working to achieve a high degree of beauty, these pieces, which depict ephemeral light sources, suspended movements and translucent color, simultaneously embody and “gloss over” heroic, utopian and transcendental ideals of the past within contemporary notions of “deconstruction and irony.” Recontextualizing a historical period and cultural production of the past, these contemporary reinterpretations, which converge formal/psychic and conceptual/theoretical considerations, inform a dialectical inquiry of counterpoint and contradiction cultivating an open ended and equivocal — aesthetics of noncommittal.


Franco DeFrancesca said...

Hey Marc,

I've got to tell you, I'm still trying to unravel my tongue. Creating an artist statement for me is a tricky operation and I must say I hope to learn a thing or two before I write another - thanks for the comment and thank you for appreciating the work!

Franco DeFrancesca

Scape7 said...

Ah, you're a good sport, Franco — disconcertingly polite, just like the Canadian stereotype, and the reason why one should always feel sheepish picking on the neighbors to the North.

The serious point to my post, of course, is that I feel artists do themselves and travelers in their world a disservice by overintellectualizing the work. That the overintellectualizing is expected by an artist's peers is worse, because it makes something that should be accessible and enjoyable to many, if not all, the subject instead of resigned confusion and possible hostility to the "high-brows": When you say what the art is about and the casual viewers don't "get" it, it makes the art unapproachable and the viewer ultimately unwilling to approach.

I love it when the comments are longer than the post itself. Anyway, thanks, Francesco — great stuff.

Franco DeFrancesca said...

Hey Misanthrope,

Judging by your comments conspicuous advocacy for the lay persons inclusion into the esoterically elitist art world, it's comforting to see how it's really a sense of hope that belies the misanthrope's dour scepticism. And since "things probably are going to hell, and there's probably nothing we can do about it". Jean Baudrillard should be cannonized as a patron saint of misanthropists, who make it their just cause to complain... anyway.

Franco DeFrancesca