Did you hear about the two little boys who found themselves in a modern art gallery by mistake? "Quick," said one, "Run! Before they say we did it!" Although this may be a hilarious slap your knee joke, I believe this depicts how society feels about modern art. As a popular saying goes “’Modern art’ is produced by incompetents, sold by charlatans, and bought by ignoramuses!” Why such the skepticism towards current art? Why do art historians and renowned scholars set new art aside in favor of a Monet or Rembrandt? Is the importance of modern art so infinitesimal that it is reduced to child’s play? Or, better yet, is contemporary art worthy enough to be art?
Meandering through the Lowe Art Museum, I constantly find myself attracted to the Modern Art section of the museum like a magnet to a refrigerator. More specifically, I am attracted to the piece entitled Shattered Illusions. Shattered Illusions consists of five glass bottles: glass bottles that looked as if they have been around for centuries and endured extensive use by multiple people. The bottles have a yellow tint symptomatic of aging and rigid holes that suggest previous use. Inside of each of these average-sized bottles are figures that represent humans. Each bottle has a different figure; for instance, two of the bottles contain what seem to be females and the other three males. Each figure is tangled helplessly in this relentless coil that protrudes from every direction imaginable like there is no end or hope in sight. The coil wraps around the figures’ extremities, midsection, and neck wanting to choke the life right out of them.
In each bottle the figures are struggling with the desire to escape, but not everyone is set free. The center bottle has a man that has successfully wrestled the coils and escaped. As I follow the action of the man I can tell that he is helping the woman in the glass bottle next to him on the right. On the right of the woman that is being helped I see a man trying to break loose of that fatal grasp, and he is almost there but not quite. On the left of the man who is free dwells a woman still trapped in the painful coil of regret. I can visually see the tension of the coils and her exasperated state as she fights against this entrapment wanting to be extricated but not knowing how to get there. On the far left is a man that appears to be giving up; his body is quiescent-- lifeless in a slum only supported by the coils. It looks as if he is so overwhelmed and inundated with this obstacle that he just throws in the towel. The entire sculpture as a whole explicates how different people handle the same situation and how everyone involved has a different aspect and outlook on life. Even though this fits the idea that art is the direct communication of human emotions, does it fit the aesthetics of true art?
Shattered Illusions possesses a parallel identity with a 1958 sculpture featured in Artstor: Legend by Jong-Young Kim. Legend...