I Searched High and Low

Treva Michelle Pullen
Sep 26, 2014 8:33PM

Is art classified in a polarity of high and low or on a spectrum with infinite notches allowing for any media from any style and period to be classified as art? Classifying art as high or low is an impossible task, for all those that do not come from a Kantian perspective, due to the fact that beauty in art is subjective and the art experience is unique to every individual. This experience is shaped by context; social, cultural, temporal, and the like. The works in the exhibition I Searched High and Low depict this conflict in the classification of art and the ways in which art is imbued with value. The selection includes a wide variety of media and styles, combining materials and ideals associated with both high and low art. The work questions the status of the art object as being subjective and relational to time, context and viewer.

Robert Rauschenberg’s Canary Stick (Cardboard), 1971 and National Spinning / Red / Spring (Cardboard), 1971 represent the transformation of abandoned materials into high art. His wall sculptures realize the lifecycle of objects. Rauschenberg transforms cardboard into romantic sculptural pieces. The beauty of his work lies within the transformation. Rauschenberg, leaving traces of their former lives through stains, dents and rips relayes a story to the viewer. 

Christian Bök & Micah Lexier’s installation Two Equal Texts, 2007 juxtaposes two texts which use the same letters and punctuation to create two different messages. The work poses a question of equality in relation to textual and artistic production, begging the question of why we may value one object over another when they have the same component parts. This work relates to Rauschenberg’s cardboard sculptures which have the same component parts as a cardboard box and are elevated to art through manipulation.

Ai Weiwei’s Third panel of the triptych Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995 dismantles notions of value through the act of smashing what some may consider a priceless urn. The work provokes a question; why do we place such a high value on the object before it is broken and how does the value change after it’s material form has been changed? His work illustrates an opposing lifecycle to that of Rauschenberg’s cardboard sculptures in that the value moves from priceless to valueless, according to some.

Ai Weiwei’s work will be paralleled by Leonard Bentley’s Vase with scene of Farm Cove and the Garden Palace, Sydney, 1882. This juxtaposition will raise questions of value of the urn, in a broken state, and the vase. The two will stand equally as works of art in their opposing forms. 

Micah Lexier’s This One, That One, 2013 aestheticizes the mundane object, elevating it to the level of art through the conventions of his stylized video work.

Adolf Lazi’s Silver Cutlery, 1932, elevates mundane objects to become art through the process of framing them with photography. 

Sigmar Polke’s . . . Höhere Wesen befehlen, 1968 employs utilitarian modes of production typically unassociated with art to create fine art painting and collage.

Treva Michelle Pullen