Over at www.hubarts.com, Joel Brown keeps returning to the same meme when discussing the press preview of the new Shepard Fairey show at the ICA:
Several camera crews, a horde of still photographers and an unusually large crowd of print and pixel reporters turned up - the kind of turnout that usually greets some MFA crowd-pleaser, although this group was younger than usual and more likely to be wearing black . . .
The artist, not yet 40, turned up on Tuesday in retro Converse and a Clash t-shirt; among this weekend's opening festivities is Friday night's Experiment party, where he'll be manning the DJ booth until midnight. Of course if this was New York or Miami or L.A., he'd start spinning tunes at midnight, but ... walk before we can run, right?
After four full paragraphs of fluffing clubbers under 40, Brown suddenly seems to wake up a bit with:
Oh, and what about the art, you ask?
But there's not really much to say about the art beyond the fact that it's been done by someone young - or at least, the very first thing Brown says is:
For some, it will be a generational question.
No. Really? And then:
"Is the show also going to include the Xerox machine he used to make his 'art'?" snarked one over-40 friend of mine, the single quotes audible in his tone.
Stupid old coot! He just doesn't get it. Brown finally gets down to something like criticism (it's actually more like promotion):
. . . for those more comfortable with DIY [that's Do It Yourself, all you old farts reading this] art that remixes familiar media tropes to comment on advertising, propaganda and our consumer culture, Fairey's mass-produced posters are compelling . . . It's easy to see how Soviet posters of courageous proletarians influenced "Obama Hope," and Fairey's work around the Iraq war is visually arresting and reminiscent of Chinese and Vietnamese propaganda from the '60s. It's also suprisingly beautiful itself, colorful and collagey.
Okay, Fairey's work is - well, basically like other propaganda (I could hardly disagree - some even call Fairey a plagiarist), and it's "colorful and collagey." Right. As you can no doubt tell, I happen to be a Fairey skeptic; and, needless to say, I'm well over 40 (that's me up at the top of the post). The Obama poster is good, yes, but - well, not great, and Andre the Giant and "Obey" are nothing next to, say the work of Banksy (at right), who I imagine is under 40, too. So if I'm over 40, why do I like Banksy but not Fairey? I'm not sure Joel Brown would have an answer to that one.
And let's just do a little thought experiment, shall we, and replace the age-related comments with race-related comments in Brown's writing. So the first paragraphs become:
Several camera crews, a horde of still photographers and an unusually large crowd of print and pixel reporters turned up - the kind of turnout that usually greets some MFA crowd-pleaser, although this group was whiter than usual and more likely to be blonde . . . the artist, who is full-blooded Caucasian, turned up on Tuesday in retro Converse and a Clash t-shirt . . . what about the art, you ask? For some it will be a question of race loyalty . . .
Now I know Joel Brown would never write anything like that second version.
So why did he write the first one? Isn't ageism a form of prejudice too?