Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Blue Chip" or "Just Call Me Andy"

Blue Chip Andy by CM@BDG 2011.
It was a summer Saturday in NYC and the exhibit looked both cool and inviting so I stepped inside the Bertrand Delacroix Gallery and was quickly captivated by the title and content of the installation "Blue Chip" by Christa Maiwald, now there on view. It was only recently that I had discussed this modifier often attached to artist's work. I even wondered aloud if the term comes from gambling, with the blue chip having the most value on the poker table. Makes some sense, as it all is indeed high stakes gambling, especially when tossing around names like Warhol, Lichtenstein, Rauschenberg, Duchamp, and Hirst, just to name a few. The BDG Project Space was kind enough to provide a definition on the press release quoting none other than Webster's Dictionary: "a stock issue of high investment quality...".

Delightfully entertaining is the inside joke that Maiwald has assigned value to her own "stock" by attaching it to these top tier artists. Which brings me to another of my favorite topics to ponder, that being the ownership of art, (or, for that matter, if the act of an original creation is even possible . Can one artist add value to their own work by associating it directly with another artist? Even when it goes so far as to appropriate an iconic reference of said established artist?

Certainly Andy Warhol would be thrilled to have his image included here in the pantheon of great artists, rendered delicately and gaze-worthy in pop embroidery techniques. More likely, he would have surely felt snubbed to be left out.  But again it is Andy Warhol we are talking about here, who excelled at adopting iconic cultural references into his work. With the Campbell Soup labels, we beg the chicken-or-the-egg-question by asking which put which on the iconic map. Then again, perhaps it was just a clever example of early art product placement. Touche' either way.

What I'm waiting for is some savvy performance artist to change his or her name to Andy Warhol and begin creating, signing and selling work as such. What would that do to art economics? Just call me Andy!

"Blue Chip" installation by Christa Maiwald, 2011.
Or any of the other names that are represented here, in this really quite beautiful installation. Each piece of fabric is stretched within an embroidery-hoop with needle-work expertly applied. The portraits are impressive, each in its own way, capturing the spirit and the likeness of Cindy Sherman or Chuck Close.

Blue Chip Merce by CM@BDGNY 2011.
Gladly, even Merce Cunningham is there, smiling down from on high, with eyes and lips eerily appearing life-like. Of course Merce loved chance as much as the next guy, as well as a good collaboration. With John Cage and Robert Rauchenberg, the three explored wild collaborations, where chance or the I Ching contributed just as much as any of the other participants to the final outcome of the project.

Blue Chip Bob by CM@BDGNY 2011.
Raushcenberg, or "Bob" as I have of late taken to calling him, was known to collage all kinds of found objects into his work. Along with his buddy Marcel Duchamp, they claimed that the object was art just because labeled as such, be it wicker chair or urinal.  Both of their creations are considered blue chip. Maybe all artists should sign their toilets now!

Blue Chip Laurie by CM@BDGNY 2011.
But again, is an object the art or is the artist really the art. Is a photo of a photo a piece of original art? Who owns a graffiti mural - is it the first artist to paint it, or is it the last to tag it? Each layer adding something to the whole. Is the musician the artist or the instrument? At the Laurie Anderson exhibit I saw in Rio, she had violins on display.

"Andre" embroidery on denim shirt by Alton DuLaney 2003.
The answer is we are all the artist and it is all art, every last part of it, especially the stuff I love, (like this collection). Each artist takes it and makes it theirs and then shares it with the world. Think of it as an ongoing collaboration. Even the great masterpieces are ours as we view them in the museums of the world, adding our own voyeuristic experience. And if we take a snap shot? Art begets art just as much as artists do.

Of course I am singing to the choir while looking in the mirror, as a self-declared artist who enjoys craft-work such as embroidery, sewing (fashion, anyone?), and even quilting, as much as sculpting marble, oil painting, or great modern dance. I used a sewing machine to stitch out the portrait above, on the back of a denim shirt that I wore out to a party in NYC in 2003. Now it is framed on the wall, but its humble beginnings were on a hanger in the closet.

It's true freedom of expression, the Art/Life equation, whereas it is what it is and it is because it is. Or as my parents often told me as a child, "Because I said so."

Check out "Blue Chip" by Christa Maiwald at Bertrand Delacroix Gallery.

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