The title of this blog should not be interpreted as an insult but more so as advice. We’ve all been there when someone says, “You think you’re just a KNOW IT ALL!” And for a split second you say, “Hell yeah I do!” But most of us do not. In fact, many people pick and choose what they want to know. Especially in the art world where you are bombarded with tons of information. All artists should research. There is not an artist in this WORLD who does not research previous or current artists. Yes, YOU WILL NOT KNOW IT ALL but you better try for the following reasons:
1) EL STUPIDO
The last thing anyone wants to happen to them is to look stupid. No one wants stupid as the word that describes them. I think I’d actually choose “stinky” over stupid. You have to know your history in order to know your future. Its plain and simple. When Jean Michel Basquiat was told that his work resembled Cy Twombly, he immediately had his assistant (yes Basquiat had an assistant) go buy all the books he could find on Cy Twombly. There is power in knowing what work is being created in the world and how you factor into that creation. I was speaking to a friend of mine who is an female abstract painter. PAUSE: Wouldn’t it be great to just be known as a painter without prefixes such as female, black, or african attatched to the front….PLAY: She heavily researches female artists and male artists of abstraction as she should but completely ignores black female abstract artists. Not on purpose. I don’t think my friend is prejudice at all, but she never thought to open her mind to black female artists because she isn’t black and no one told her to….Hmmm. So black folks have to know their art history as well as european art history…..interesting… yet those of other races just know european art history…..Hmmm interesting. And I’m not just talking the talk! I too am trying my best to research artists in other countries. For instance, this entire summer I spent researching prominent artists from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and South Africa. I also read literature from Wole Soyinka Award winning writers. My next country may be Mexico… I haven’t decided. Anyway, the more you know the further you can push yourself as well as your art work.
2) YOU SOUND SMART
Actually “you sound smart” goes very much in hand with El Stupido. The more you know sometimes the better you can articulate. Remember, I said sometimes. Sounding smart is a perk for the ladies, or men ( whichever floats your boat). Really, you want to be able to give other people information they can use. Remember that professor that would give you a list of artists to look up? Every artists needs to create their own list and can possibly pass it on to future students.
3) REPETITION…NOT ALWAYS GOOD
Repetition in music is good. Repetition in flipping pancakes for IHOP is good. But repetition in art is not always good. Whether it is repetition within your composition or repetition in concept, both can become redundant if not done correctly. The LAST, LAST LAST LAST thing you every want to do is blend in with someone else. The last thing you want to do is hang your work and it not be recognizable from Jenny Shoeface’s work in Wisconsin. This is called Repetition. If you know what is being created then you can better prepare yourself for run-ins like these. Kerry James Marshall (whom I hope to meet one day) once gave a lecture at OTIS College of Art and Design where he laments how his earliest collage work was reviewed in the newspaper by Susan M. as ” Nice collages..subtle… BUT THEY FADE INTO MASSES OF OTHER THINGS THAT LOOK JUST LIKE THEM” Talk about a blow to the heart. If it had not been for this blow, we wouldn’t have the Kerry James Marshall we have today. He would be doing collages that people will point at and say “Is that Romare Bearden??” Your work should be distinct. And yes, it is inevitable that your work will be compared to artists before you as well as contemporary artists, but it is up to YOU to find the strengths in these comparisons through research. Some artists are so good at research they have talked themselves into a fortune. Want an example? Jeff Koons! Think I’m lying? That man can sell ice to an eskimo and fire to the devil. Think about it. What is so great about his work?? The size?Claus Oldengurg. The images? Porn, appropriated cartoons and photoshop.