The use of archetypes secures an expected reaction from any given audience. Da Vinci's "Last Supper" had been overused to the extreme of switching the Apostles and Jesus for anything from lizards to dogs to rats; from drag queens to fetishes; from difference races and genders to food and models for Worldwide clothing companies.
The Last Supper, an archetype that produces the same controversial public reaction, can be seen in another similar piece (must be similar since both use the same formal foundation) called: Ecce Homo. A controversial exhibition comprising twelve photographs by the Swedish photographer Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin who chose to depict the characters of the Last Supper as society outcasts namely: homosexuals, transgender people, AIDS victims, lesbians, bondage lovers, fetish practitioners, etc. The exhibition toured Scandinavia and Continental Europe between 1998 and 2000 raising many questions and debates among the Church leaders about the appropriateness of the subject matter.
Here are some examples of the amazing flexibility offered by the power on an archetypical image:
As soon as you create a piece based on Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper the current Status Quo, the public, the Government, the Art World, and the Media will react to it.
It is a given, a fact of life.Renowed artist Renee Cox presented her interpretation of the Last Supper where she is the central subject of the composition posing as Jesus, naked surrounded by poeple of African descendt, dark skinned that is, with "Judas" brilliantly depicted as a white man. She names the piece: "Yo Mama's Last Supper" and media finds interests in her work as it is exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Evidently, she is immediately "tagged" as "controversial artist" and aside from her personal cause, authorial intent and her beautifully crafted photography the result is the same effective commodification of controversy. Had she been wearing clothes, for instance, the final result would have been different because it could have been argued that Jesus was a man with female features, dark skinned, etc. Cox makes sure her message is crisp and clear and nudity carries a high shocking factor as well.
In 1995 Cox along with Fo Wilson and Tony Cokes created the Negro Art Collective aimed to fight cultural misinformation about African Americans. She has also created "Raje" an alter-ego superhero who fights racism and teaches children African American History. Her works has been featured in a Fin de SiÃ¨cle art festival in Nantes, France. Cox's Last Supper interpretation had been shown in the Venice Biennale in 1999. The piece uses the same principles described before except that this time the symbols are reinterpreted to adjust to her communication and authorial intent: to juxtapose archetypes. Cox depicts all apostles are black except Judas who is white. The Brooklyn Museum of Art included her piece in 2001 as part of the exhibit entitled: Contemporary Black Photographers. The photograph made it to the news when Mayor Giuliani commented about it. He claimed that Cox was showing her anti-Catholic position. Later on in 2001 he created the a Panel of Decency Standards for All Work Shown in Publicly Funded Museums in the City
The mission of this blog is to serve as a resource center for College Teaching Purposes. It will slowly be filled with links to presentations designed for in-class usage.
Guido E. Alvarez
1. Marcel Duchamp.
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) was an influential board member
of the Society of Independent Artists. He was a respected artist who
was co-developing a movement (a non-movement as he may have argued)
based in New York. This movement was set against the mainstream culture
and what they conceived as a powerful monster called Industry with its
mass produced objects as art-commodities.
Using a Bedfordshire model urinal as his canvas he signed a pseudonym on one of the urinal sides: "R. Mutt 1917," the he entitled it: "Fountain" and submitted the piece to an important art show.
The piece was the central point of much debate among the members of the society about what is and how art is defined and ultimately they decided to hide it from the show. The exhibition committee was not aware that the piece was authored by Duchamp who was an important figure associated to the group as a member of the board. Since the show proclaimed that:"All art will be exhibited," Duchamp made his point and as a result he resigned from the board of Members along with Walter Arensberg, an influential art collector who helped Duchamp present this piece."Fountain" helped to stir controversy about what is art and how it is presented to the public it served as the theme for many books, scholarly articles, movies, documentaries and infinite number of analysis that affect art education to this day. Duchamp claimed that the piece's intention was to redefine art from a physical activity to an intellectual act of interpretation.
Duchamp's Fountain became an icon of Contemporary Art History as it was voted among the most influential artworks of the 20th Century. The actual piece disappeared but authorized replicas by Duchamp himself are exhibited in several major museums in America and Europe. The replicated pieces suffered some attacks over the years. The Neo-Dada performance artist Pierre Pinoncelli urinated in it in 1993 while on display in France, and in 2006 he attempted to destroy it with a hammer and eventually got to chip it as it was being exhibited in the famous Pompidou Center in Paris claiming that Marcel Duchamp would have love the destruction.