Everyone’s heard of the term “artsy fartsy.” It succinctly and humorously sums up the idea that art is only for an elite group, a cluster of people who discuss abstract painting with a cocktail in hand. These days, however, it rings less and less true as a new union between art and everyday life emerges.
Last summer the line for the last days of MOCA Geffen Contemporary’s “Art in the Streets” wound around the streets of Little Tokyo. Tim Burton’s current exhibition at LACMA is busy almost everyday.
But museums aren’t the only ones creating the news. When the I-405 shut down, an individual dared to plank on it, transforming the trend — started by people like the Taiwanese female duo Karren and Jinyu, who lie face down in specific locations and take photographs — into a form of artistic expression. And just recently, a stolen Rembrandt sketch called “The Judgment” was found in a church after having been taken from a Ritz Carlton hotel in Marina del Rey.
The art world today is creating waves that affect a huge group of people, not just art fanatics. Visual art, and by extension any type of art, cannot truly thrive without the interest of a wide range of people. And it’s booming thanks to the accessibility of seeing and making art. It’s not just for people who have memorized hundreds of complex art terms; it’s for anyone with an eye for boldness and complexity.
The world itself has become a canvas.
“Art in the Streets” congregated the very artists who initially rebelled against the galleries, attempting to break beyond its confinements to create a more universal art. The widespread interest in Shepard Fairey, Banksy and many more blossomed not in a fancy-schmancy gallery party but as everyday people were on their way to work or school. You didn’t pay admission to see “OBEY” stickers on electricity poles or to see Swoon’s cutouts on dirty, concrete walls.
That a crowd, with everything from a veritable art history scholar to a skateboarding pre-teen, now stands together in line for an exhibition shows art museums are gaining new interest and breaking through the stuffy stereotype they’ve been caught in.
Galleries are also pushing past these preconceptions, as indicated by the booming number of attendees at the monthly L.A. Art Walk. Many people roam the streets into the late hours of the night, walking into galleries they normally wouldn’t have visited when the sun was up.
And when it comes to making art, the criteria for what defines art is getting harder and harder to agree on. Though frustrating to some, this actually makes art all the more universal.
Planking, for example, can be seen as more of a physical activity, but the photographs taken are sometimes stunning in their set-up and shock factor. And for the people walking nearby, the plankers — face down on the floor — are continuing the tradition of performance art started many decades ago.
With each new step into a novel definition of art, the space for disagreement and controversy grows. Once artists put their pieces where the public can see them, they are exposing themselves to hundreds of thousands of opinions, backgrounds and aesthetic tastes.
That’s what makes this an exciting time for art. Artists can push limits not only in terms of media, but also in how they distribute their art. Our generation is willing to check out a stranger’s Tumblr or WordPress, and anyone who reads the newspaper will likely come across an art-related piece.
This puts art in the public consciousness more than ever. The average student can google an artist’s name, attend art-related events on campus and witness students creating their own pieces on top of the Roski School of Fine Arts library.
This is the perfect time to discover and create new art, and finding a new artist or the right inspiration just means keeping your eyes and ears open — no entrance fee required.
Eva Recinos is a junior majoring in creative writing. Her column “Art Box” runs Thursdays.