Monday, July 13, 2009

The horror

So the Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin acquired the whole kit and kaboodle from artist Gregory Van Maanen. Kudos to the center for wanting to preserve an entire collection, figuring that's the best way to appreciate an artist's work. But Van Maanen? I have never seen hundreds of Van Maanens together; maybe that's powerful. But I have seen individual pieces and they reminded me of festival-booth art in which colorful shock is supposed to entice. Van Maanen's life story makes his work a bit more palatable -- a bit -- but is it necessary to know that before deciding whether art is good or not? Van Maanen strives to show war's psychological horror but to me his work is just horrible. Sorry.


  1. I'd never heard of this artist. Just looked up some images and I have to agree with you. Maybe some people like this work, but it reminds me of a lot of pseudo contemporary Outsider art that's out there.

    A better move for the Kohler was acquiring the work of Norman Pettingill. To me he is a true original voice. Fantagraphics is supposed to be putting out a book of his works sometime this year or next. Can't wait....

  2. Yes, Pettingill is infinitely more interesting in an R. Crumb sort of way.

  3. An interesting biography has never made artwork better. Confusing the two has cost the field of self-taught/folk/outsider art a lot of credibility.