Film by Eric Minh Swenson. Music by James Luchessi
There is an assertion that art should be well-crafted. The desired object that reflects the era in which it was constructed has to have an inherent special talent behind its composition and execution. This conceit makes peripheral sense to the argument of what great art is, but so many viewers can be seduced by the craftsman’s flair for regurgitating the same three special effects in picture after picture. The stuffy absence of making a difference, of ideas and of self-awareness pollute art that holds the dexterity of the creator’s hand above all else.
There is a notion that art should not look like art. From this bold assertion in the revolutionary Dada movement, Pop and Conceptual art landed into art history. But as its Grandparents were destroying the academy that had dominated their past, in the name of conceptualism, the grandchildren of Dada have rejected craft and carved conformist fiefdoms in making art students believe slovenly half-efforts are the great of our time.
Dan Douke is unique among contemporary artists in spending most of the past forty years making art that reflects the best these approaches. The negative connotations of each of these dialectics never enters his art. Douke paints on canvas as the most traditional adherent to the Dutch Masters would. He has a rigorous realism that few painters ever achieve. But the content of his art is as radical as hundred-year-old Dada manifestoes, decrying the viewer who would be seduced by beauty in an all too ordinary world.
I first saw a Douke in the 1980s while studying at Cal State L.A. Art students are routinely subjected to the lowest form of exhibition: The faculty art show. Amongst the forgettable and mediocre were four steel plates mounted to the wall. I thought it was the dullest minimalism until it was explained to me that these were paintings of steel on canvas - even the sides of the steel. The possibilities of what art could be opened up for me at a formative period. I will always be grateful to Dan Douke for making art that helped keep my mind open in a culture of art schools insisting that freedom of thought be the first thing a student abandon.
For more info on Eric Minh Swenson or project inquiries visit his website : thuvanarts.com
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