Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Hirst Heard 'Round The World

Damien Hirst is currently exhibiting his “Dot” paintings at the Gagosian galleries around the world, prestigious galleries known for exhibiting some of the big names in visual art. I recently visited Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills for a firsthand experience of the internationally-hyped paintings. Mostly on loan from private collections, they are "Dot" paintings – spots of paint aligned on different sized grids:


In recent weeks, Hirst has also been in the news for admitting that he, like many other big artists, has teams of assistants actually physically create the paintings, and this resulted in indirect criticism from world-renowned artist, David Hockney.

Hirst states that he gets bored easily, so after he thinks up the idea, he has his assistants create the work. But Hirst's idea to create color grid paintings was not his own - color chart/grid paintings were explored by abstract artists such as Ellsworth Kelly over 50 years ago, and Gerhard Richter started doing them in the mid 1960s. Here is an example of Richter's work from c.1974:


So what is the profound difference in Hirst's paintings? Well, instead of rectangles, his color grid is comprised of...CIRCLES! Or, instead of hanging a picture conventionally, sometimes he will hang it like a DIAMOND!:


The circles are painstakingly drawn with a compass and filled in with color, the paintings being advertised that no color is ever repeated, thus amounting to a collection of many different colors. (Here's one way to never "repeat" any color: pay a visit to a Lowe's Home Improvement store, go to the painting section, and grab any one of the thousands of color samples available along the wall to be mixed and made by a machine. I'm not saying that this is how Hirst's assistants made each color, but the details of each painting do provide that they were made with household paint.)

Hirst has also gone big – GIGANTIC. Some paintings are more than two stories high containing dots each with five foot diameters. (He is also currently having his assistants work on another huge painting containing 1 million dots.) The enormity of the formulaic work reminded me of the endless string of blockbuster superhero films in theaters over the last decade, engaging the desire to be superhuman, entitled, or larger than life, and perhaps an example of Hirst's pharaoh-like power and pursuit to make metaphorical pyramids.


I need not describe in detail my satisfaction or dissatisfaction of Hirst’s work currently exhibited at Gagosian Gallery, but I'll throw in the phrases: “remarkable phenomenon” and “mysterious art world”.

Interestingly, as I was driving away from the Hirst exhibition, I happened to pass by a liquor store with a forsaken window decoration not so different from the million dollar paintings less than a mile away...