In Carol Vogel’s article, “Artist’s Prize on the Wall” in today’s paper, I was introduced to the work of artist Hans-Peter Feldmann. The article describes an upcoming installation of his at the Guggenheim, in which he is going to thumbtack-wallpaper a gallery with $100,000 of used one-dollar bills – which incidentally is his prize money from the Hugo Boss Prize, awarded by the Guggenheim Foundation last year. He won the prize because the jury said he “epitomized the best of contemporary art right now”. Yikes.
Many of his works seem to be hoarded collections, rather than individual pieces of “art”. A wall of tacked up photos of isolated strawberries. A bowl filled with watches. Or in one which I do particularly like, All the Clothes of a Woman, 70 black/white photographs of different articles of women’s clothing.
His work seems both pitiably compulsive and frantically organized at the same time.
I have often appreciated the impact of multiples. There’s something about having so many of something that eats away at the concept of the special, and then right at the last minute gives it back to you. Like being in an airplane and seeing so very many houses, and cars, and fields that look near interchangeable. One feels small in an “ahah!” way.
One of my favorite works of art involving multiples – though I never saw it, and don’t even remember the artist’s name – was by a Japanese ceramicist, and involved hundreds of delicate natural clay petals placed among the grasses of a field. It’s the impact of largeness and large gestures – they envelope the viewer, demanding attention, perhaps even guilting the viewer into looking at it for a little while.
What attracts me to using multiples is also about visual mapping. I like a multi-propped work, because it can be rearranged, and because each piece can be unique, and yet also contribute to a whole, with an entirely new effect. Also, that each one can be “hidden” for a while among the crowd, and then noticed.
Feldmann is compared to Warhol in this article, for using everyday subject matter, revamped and made shinier and brighter (or in Feldmann’s case, more sanitized), for using multiples, and oh yes, for creating a work of art about multiples of dollar bills. I dislike Feldmann’s work in general for the same reason I dislike Warhol’s in general; there’s not much to glean from it. Even if seen a reflection of current culture, and its shallowness, I still don’t buy it. The subject matter and presentation to me seems arbitrary. I admittedly prescribe to a belief of the artist as teacher, but really the most effective and pleasing works to my eye, “teach” the simplest things. For example, Wolfgang Liab’s Milkstone. ❤
Far more interesting to me about Feldmann’s upcoming installation, is that it will excite a kind of nonsensical money lust in the viewer. Though “in the next room you find $10 million paintings, and nobody is stealing them,” as Feldmann says, they are posting extra security guards at the exhibit. Feldmann gets his money back at the end of the exhibit, and I suggest he recount it.