On a recent Thursday afternoon, the Academy of Art University fashion journalism program visited San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There was one question that I kept asking my instructor and myself: “Why is this art?”
Let me be honest; I am not an art expert. But I am betting that for many people, it was hard not to question some of the installations presented at the SFMOMA.
“One of the central ideas of modern art is that you can take something that is not necessarily based on technical skill,” said Steven Sucker in one Khan Academy’s video. He was explaining the famous Andy Warhol’s Campbell soups and Marchel Duchamp’s urinal. “But [art] relocates and makes us think about it in a different way.”
The ongoing debate on modern art will always rile people up. I tried to be more open to relating and accepted the fact that these pieces of art take a form that I am not familiar with. Since the interpretation of modern art varies and depends on each person’s idea, I decided to ignore the white wall labels and historical analysis. Below is my analysis – results of long staring, scrutinizing for clues – on the five weirdest things that I saw in SFMOMA.
These two cheap, inflatable flowers brought back my childhood nostalgia: cheerful, bright, and fun. Every time there was a carnival I saw people selling inflatable toys, I always wanted one, but never got one. So, why mirrors? Perhaps, the real meaning here is to connect with your inner child; the period when we were more accepting of the world, and enjoying everything. There is also an immense truth when we reflect back to our early memories; the emotional patterns you learn as a child have a huge impact throughout your life.
I tried not to look at the artist’s name until the very end. Oh shoot, it’s Jeff Koons.’
Jeff Koons, Inflatable Flowers (Short Pink, Tall Purple), 1979
Materials: vinyl, mirrors, acrylic
I had to pretend I am the artist and ask myself, “Why would I make an art piece using used cardboard boxes, a.k.a. trash?” Is it a movement against consumerism or an environmental friendly campaign? This disposable packaging, including staples, tape, tears, and stains represent the image of wear and age.
The artist took advantage of the labels and warnings. The placement of multiple boxes leads our eyes to “ROTATE YOUR STOCK.” There is a cycle for everything and nothing is permanent. Now, it’s time to rotate my attention to the next art object.
Robert Rauschenberg, Rosalie/Red Cheek/Temporary Letter/Stock (Cardboard), 1971
Did someone leave a bag of cat litter in the museum? This is a very realistic sculpture of an everyday object. The text says: “SUPER ABSORBING AND DEODORIZING.” If the metaphorical meaning were to absorb the nasty stench of the world, then I would at-least open the seal. I still can’t figure out why the artist made Fine Fare’s Cat Litter. Probably it is the same reason Andy Warhol made Campbell’s soup.
Robert Gober, Cat Litter, 1990
Materials: plaster, ink, and latex paint
This is a white canvas (period). Somehow this 10 inch square painting became my favorite. After staring at screens all day, this little white art piece gave me a chance to relax my eyes from the bombardment influx of information in the world.
Robert Ryman, Untitled, 1965
Materials: enamel on canvas
Two identical old stuffed animals lie on top of a plain blanket. They look worn out, like a dog’s chew toys. I still don’t get why this is art and that’s okay.
Mike Kelley, Shift, 1990
Materials: blanket and stuffed animals