Sylvester Stallone Answers A Thought Experiment
Now here’s my thought experiment. What if you took an average teenager who had angsty teenage beliefs about painting, then gave them loads of money and free time to work on this art without exposure to the outside world. 40 years later, will they have developed into a worthwhile artist?
In Stallone’s case I think we can answer definitively, “Not really.” Analysis below.
Stallone says “I find that the more unhappy you are, the more confused you are, the better your art is…. Happy art, it just doesn’t seem to work for me.” (Every quote related to that article is best read with his near incomprehensible muttering in mind).
Mr. Stallone! You deep and powerful soul. I imagine cries of anguish as you attack the canvas with your palette knife, Rambo style. Perhaps letting forth a sob as the brush smushes itself in a pool of overbright yellow…
But what if there were more forms of art than just “Happy” or “Unhappy?” Silly question I realize, but what if there were questions of concept, skill and history involved. What if aesthetics were only tangentially related to whatever emotion accompanied their creation? Is that possible?
After decades pursuing a craft, aren’t these questions you’d hope someone would begin to focus on- love and attention to the field itself instead of just using it as an expensive and self-involved form of mood ring?
Maybe I ask too much. Maybe the two aren’t mutually exclusive and a gradually more nuanced understanding of the language and means of the craft itself can supplement the teenage conception of art. Why don’t we check Sly’s paintings to see!
Here are more photos from the daily mail article:
I’d rate each of these and the piece at the top as “could be worse.” His sense of color isn’t terrible. While he doesn’t bother to mix his own hues much, he has a clear affinity for the Red-Yellow-Green combination, which is always safe. He also seems to understand enough to use muted colors in the background to set up the brighter highlights in the foreground.
Formally speaking, these are complete train wrecks. The piece I posted at the top is the best of the lot in that it is at least somewhat engaging, but everything else falls firmly into the self-pitying self-representation trap that most 16-year-old emo kids fall into. The forms do not speak to interesting figuration through either competent execution or a form of deconstruction that provides any insight. We are supposed to believe they are emotionally infused because of the busy layers behind them and the style that I suppose is meant to be “childlike.” The difference being that children TRY to do well when they paint like this (or when their parents do).
Those flourishes of color and busy layers in the backgrounds are the closest thing to a saving grace these things have, but they are also potentially the result of having enough money and time to randomly pepper large canvases with pigment until you get something somewhat interesting. Admittedly, having the eye to understand when you’ve reach the point of “something somewhat interesting” is its own form of skill, but Stallone’s inclusion of lame formal elements atop the background shows he either lacks this skill- or else lacks any confidence in it, in which case to my mind you lack that skill.
The ultimate proof of this is the decision to include this piece in the show:
Everything here has been stripped down to the most bare inessentiasl of crappy rendering and played out emotiveness. A simple plaque reading “I’m in in a brick cage of EMOTION” (apologies Ron Burgundy) would be more sincere. This painting isn’t just awful, it knows it’s awful and inexplicably believes that to be its strength.
To conclude my thought experiment from 600 words ago, I think the angsty teenage philosophy that art must express darkness will unavoidably stand in the way of creating successful work. The angst imposed into the foreground of the art dooms whatever advantages money and experience might have given the artist to start with. At which point the works becomemore about the person’s flawed mental processing than the actual aesthetic accomplishment- that is, it can only succeed as a form of “Outsider Art.”
And I think that is the only possible explanation why this crap is hanging in a gallery and “super collector” Steve Wynn (best known for his Las Vegas casinos) paid $90,000 for 2 of these things. Stallone is a sideshow whose misconceptions of art have become a tragedy more powerful than anything actually included in his art itself.
Any other explanation might drive me to despair about the state of the art world in this country.