Albert Bierstadt and conceptual art

To those who have had enough of puzzling over the kind of art that dispenses with craft, recognizable content and/or image, does the Seattle Art Museum have a show for you! Furthermore, they know how to grab your attention: by encapsulating what you're thinking and using it as an ad campaign.

Lately I've been musing on what the opposite of conceptual art might be. When I asked this question on Facebook and Twitter, answers included 'craft', 'retinal art', 'Jackson Pollock', 'Dale Chihuly', and the favorite, 'Thomas Kinkade'. None of these answers satisfies me. I see all art, be it words on a wall, a black square, a finely rendered nude or crying clowns as an idea of some kind. To my mind, a work of art must contain an idea in order to exist. Whether or not one likes the idea is another matter.

While the paintings of Albert Bierstadt et al certainly involve craft and retinal engagement and lie echelons above the likes of Kinkade on my conceptual sliding dial, in their attempts to evoke imaginary western landscapes in romantic, glowing detail they are not entirely unrelated to Kinkade's sentimental cottages at dusk. That's a serious observation. There's an idea at work, and in Bierstadt's case, an extremely well-executed one.

Coming hard on the heels of the delirious Nick Cave Soundsuits with their found materials and riotous dance performances, Beauty and Bounty is evidently calculated to appeal to those who have had enough of such nonsense...What's so amusing is that SAM is voicing such opinions out loud on behalf of the silently yearning.

Give the People What They Want: Big, Juicy, Old Paintings
(Jen Graves's reblogging of my Facebook post on SLOG, The Stranger's blog, with the inevitable comments)

Beauty and Bounty
Seattle Art Museum's gorgeous mini-site for the show