Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sandinavian Chic

One thing I've learned about being in constant pain and exhausted -aside from making me whiny and cranky- is trying to cope by diverting my few short episodes of good concentration in a few directions.
I understand now what all these teenagers with lots of time on their hands are doing on YouTube, Myspace et alii. Or even how blogs are started, for example!
So I've been spending a bit of time revisiting artworks I like, looking for videos, etc. There's only one video of Jesper Just on YouTube (I'll let you look for it, it would sadden me to infringe Just's copyrights by posting it here), and there is his website. He also has a Myspace page, in case you were wondering.

Just's works were shown at the Hammer a year ago, a wonderful opportunity for the LA public at large to discover the work of a youngish and very talented Danish artist. His videos are very gay and somewhat on the campy side, and they are also very beautiful and touching.
Most of them are musical variations on impossible love, loneliness and sadness , tinged with the right amount of humor and lightness that makes them very attractive. He's one of my favorite artists of the moment and I'm a bit sad I haven't any project where his works would fit in.
In my mind he is one of the only current artist who understands the legacy of Bas Jan Ader, for instance. Obviously the same performativity is present, as well as the humor BJA was displaying in his photographs and videos, the same contrived sense of staged drama balanced with gracious playfulness. And always, always the very beautiful singing... It could be very cheesy and campy but serves as the structural element that keeps everything together.

What I like about Just is something we can find also in the work of some other artists from Scandinavia, an intelligent understanding of the art of the last 40 years that doesn't shy away from Pop Culture but without elevating the latter at the only common ground to make art, all of this with humor and playfulness.
Aside from BJA, the stagey-ness of his work is something assimilated, say, from James Coleman or Jeff Wall, with a bit of another artist I adore, Jeremy Deller.
There's something a bit similar with Jeppe Hein (also born in Denmark), whose take on Minimal Art and Postminimalism is also informed by relational aesthetics* with a bit of added fun, and to attach another car to the relational aesthetics train there's the well-known Helsinki Complaint Choir, the brainchild of a Finnish artist and her German husband (I'm YouTubing this one in another post).

Lastly, what I really like about these artists I am mentioning is how professional and polished their works all look. There's none of the amateurish sloppiness that sometimes mars the work of artists I would love to like (say, Patti Chang).
I wish we could see more of this type of art in LA, most specifically in commercial art galleries. These tend to be too much painting-centric here or too object-oriented, but in a way that is so retrograde I sometimes wonder how the young LA artists are going to have a clear idea of what's going on in the wide world, and also how collectors can build (intellectually and historically) valuable collections if the information is missing.
I mean, Just and Hein are pretty successful in Europe, they show in big galleries and are presumably selling, so what's the problem here? Too many grad students competing for space? Provincial art dealers?

The image to illustrate this post is a still from Jesper Just, It Will All End Up In Tears, 2006, copyright J. Just. It's my favorite Just so far.

*Nicolas Bourriaud, I like you very much personally but I wish you had crafted a more elegant name for the kind of art you described (and been a bit more historical, but that's my inner super-nerd talking).

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