A couple of weeks ago I was riding my bike downtown on a very pleasant Sunday. I swung by Discovery Park where this art was on display:
This is a display called "Cool Globes." The globe in the foreground is "One Man's Trash...Don't Waste--Instead Create!" [sic] by Mitch Levin.
This is one of those civic art projects like the CowParade. On one hand, these kind of things are kind of fun, and as art, they are accessible--even kids can get them. On the other hand, they are contrived and shallow. (Not to mention the fact that the organizers are willing to censor artists who produce overly controversial objects--for example, David Lynch.)
Kim C. Massey, Tree of Life, 2009
This show adds another level of irritation to the basic CowParade idea by adding a kind of scolding political correctness to the mix. As propaganda, this stuff is fairly weak tea. And as art, it is generally really bad. That globe above looks like a bowling ball that a cow shat upon. (The painting is pretty skilled, though.)
Cathi Schwalbe-Bouzide and Paul Bouzide, Tread Lightly for a Livable Earth, 2009
This globe looks really cool. The two sets of stripes going in angles to each other are strong graphicly, especially as the stripes wrap around the spherical surface. But when you walk up to it and read the title, you kind of deflate.
Nicholas Kashian, We Are What We Eat, 2009
This Archimboldo pastiche is a completely charming piece that manages to avoid coming off as a lecture (at least until you read the fine print on the plaque).
I don't know if there is a "right" way to do political art. Art in general reaches such small audiences, the idea of using art as to change peoples' minds is usually a futile and vainglorious enterprise. On the other hand, Cool Globes as it tours the world will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Some of these globes look really cool--but often the beautiful or the visually striking are separate from the message. For example, look at many of the striking posters and graphics from the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Red China, Communist Cuba--they often look absolutely fantastic! Obviously I am not suggesting that Cool Globes is anything like those regimes, but by this time in my life, I tend to separate visual interest (or beauty) from meaning (particularly political meaning). Maybe some people can be seduced by beauty into taking a political stance. I'm pretty sure I can't.
In any case, I hate art that lectures at me. As benign as these pieces are, they still come across as teachers or parents telling me the "right way to live." Boy, I just don't want that from art.