A Summit for Mediocre Art

Not everything on display at the G40 show–a sprawling, five-floor, 75,000-square-foot compendium of “new brow” art in Crystal City–is horrible. There are competent works, and modest works, there are examples of craftsmanship and care, and there are a few installation pieces that rise to the level of a good academic gallery. But most of it is sheer repetition, cliche and strangely unconsidered political and cultural mysticism.

The exciting thing about mediocre art, however, is that it is too much of the culture to get lost in any complicated or ironic games. The art on display at “G40” is interesting because it is symptomatic of our current moment — the regression to the infantile, the return of old forms of power and thinking, an overwhelming nostalgia — rather than critical of it.

The little Asian girl with big eyes? She’s demanding to be heard, but she also asserts old-fashioned ideas about male dominance and misogyny. The sexuality in “G40” isn’t transgressive, it’s merely adolescent (and overwhelmingly heteronormative). The very idea of Pop Surrealism seems to boil down to a kind of perpetual visual adolescence, a dreamlike state of primitive sexual desire, associative thinking (and doodling), powerful narcissism and a general tolerance for low-grade obscurantism.

I wrote about it for Sunday’s The Washington Post.

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