Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fantasy Art

The web has a ton of fantasy artists. This type of graphic works are often found in games, magazines, comic books, book covers, and even in a few movies. However, this art work has never been elevated into the gallery and museum art scene. Illustration has been added to the canon of art. Norman Rockwell's is good examples of an Illustrator having important museum exhibitions. Pop art, led by Lichtenstein and Warhol, has elevated the images from comic books. Anime artist Takashi Murakami has written Superflat, a manifesto of why anime art is valid in the museum setting.
There are a few reasons I think that fantasy art has not reached being hooked into the art scene. 1. As in some of the examples above, there is not a leader or leaders to usher in this art. 2. Could be that critics have not latched onto a particular Illustrator/artist. 3. What would the movement say? This question is not well defined. 4. Or no artist has taken the work to the right amount of extremes to brake into the scene. After all, Murakami's work is extremely over the top and ambitious. Lichtenstein was making the his work in the moment went the debate of high and low art was at its fever pitch. And Rockwell had the benefit of Post-Modern critics understanding his work in a new light from the Modernist critics.
I think the ground work has been laid for this work to reach the museums and galleries, but something is missing. I laid out some possibilities, but it could be a number of other things as well.


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TonyN said...

It seems to me that content (right or wrong) plays a role here, as well. It's true for literature and film that genre artists typically have to fight harder for respect. Don't you think so?

Todd Camplin said...

True, content is part of this, but I was talking to Joe about it and he said that the Fantasy Art people have created a kind of model that fights against anyone that wants to be creative from that model. Plus, the some of the crowd are proud of thier outsider art status.

Joe said...

I'm not sure that's what I meant. I don't claim to be a spokesperson for fantasy artists, but I have seen some themes. Check it out for yourself.

1) Fantasy artists don't seem to like most "modern artists", seeing them as con artists. However, this isn't an absolute. Here are some discussions by fantasy artists on the subject.







TonyN said...

Call me presumptuous, but I wouldn't take (largely) anonymous individuals on a forum as spokespersons for the fantasy art genre. I only read a couple of pages, but the forum, given as a whole, lacks credibility. Many of the posters wrote intellectually (and typically defended modern art, I found). Some of them, however, have the "my four-year can draw better that this!" type of notions:

"How can a canvas with scribbles on it be considered art. [sic]"

"Therefor [sic] I can shit on a plate, title it 'hambuger [sic] from McDonald's' And send it to a museum."

"I say a painting HAS to have some kind of subject."

"What is so intellectual about this? It looks like a multi-colored dog turd." [referencing a Mondrian]

I think to help answer the original question posed by Todd, we would need the opinion of someone that is trying to elevate fantasy art to gallery/museum status. I doubt the artists posting on this forum have any interest in doing so. Perhaps that is the overall feeling of fantasy arts, too. But, I think it is safe to assume that Lichtenstein was going against the grain as well.

Scott said...

I think that 'fantasy art' is partially held back from being considered as 'art art' (for lack of a less ridiculous term) in part because of... well the things that you've already said, but in the context of original works. For the most part, illustrators have made it into the museum and galery scene when 'illustration' is defined as 'visual work for hire, produced on commission for commercial purposes', as distinct from 'visual work produced for and based on the information contained in a textual source'. That is, we are less likely to see in a museum the character illustrations that might accompany a novel than we are to see an original painting which happened to be commissioned for a specific theme or purpose, though both would be considered illustration. Perhaps proximity to the source material negates artistic merit? Pop art mediated its source material through a lens that was critical or spectacular or both; it used the source to comment on the source, question it, support it, deny it, but not to 'illustrate' it? Murikami's own work, and most similar work I've seen in a museum or gallery context is more or less original in the sense that the credited author was also in charge of the concept and execution of any characterization or narrative. Whether or not it was commercially released, the work displayed in the gallery is presented as an original total work of art in itself, not an image referencing someone else's original source. The vast preponderance of fantasy art that exists currently seems to involve visualizing someone else's original concept, or to be the visual component of a commercial product. While there are, as you said, 'a ton of fantasy artists' on the web, and a ton of them are creating their own original work, for every one that is, there seem to be a dozen who are either illustrating someone else's work, or else creating their work as the visual component of a larger piece. I hope I'm not denigrating that visual culture by making that claim, because I tend to both enjoy and respect the work done in the area. And as most other commenters have stated, "I'm hardly an expert in the field."

My theory, though, is that until and unless one or more fantasy artists is recognized for producing 'original art' within that illustrative tradition (like Rockwell) or using that vocabulary, but taking a step to the side to distance themselves from the source (like Lichtenstein and Warhol), or creating and presenting work in the fantasy realm as a total and original work of art in itself (like Murakami)... it won't find a place in the galleries.

Todd Camplin said...

Thank you Joe and TonyN for the input, on and off the web.

Well said Scott. I think throwing out this question to the fantasy art world is important. I to enjoy the work and I hope someday someone does step up to the art world and take it by storm. I would bet when the break happens, most illustrators will attack the artist as not being a real fantasy artist. Illustration, as an art form, is a great artifact that reflects a time, place, or style. I wonder if their is a museum currently collecting this art? Some one else asked this question at http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2009/03/academic-and-illustration-museums.html