The clear majority of Americans surveyed (in 1994) said that blue is their favorite color, followed (distantly) by green.
According to ex-Russian artists Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, the ideal Americanic paiting is a landscape, a doorway of escape into the freedom of sky, field, and stream.
Painting By Numbers is an art history seminar in glossy softback, the result of a fertile collaboration between two dissident artists and various scientific majorities from around the world.
Dismissed by the academy with the same venom that greeted the first generation of moderns (That is *not* art, and they should be disgraced for even suggesting that it is), the study points to a possible "way out" for artists who are concerned with the accessibility and cultural relevance of their work: ask the people what they want from art.
K&M have devined what marketers have known for a generation: Americans take appearances quite seriously. In everything from clothes to cubicle decoration to choice of automobile, real people express sophisticated ideas about art and aesthetics all the time.
The fact that the majority don't appreciate academic abstraction, don't regularly attend museums, and don't believe in public financing for fine arts doesn't mean that they don't appreciate art. It means that there's a communication disconnect: the message is being lost on its audience. There is more than one language of visual expression, and too few translators.
Of course, I despise the "lowest common denominator" approach to communication, visual or otherwise -- but only because in practice, most LCD communication does not successfully multiplex the literate and sublime with the illiterate and banal. That takes real talent.
K&M's "Most Wanted" paintings take their cues from the opinions of the masses, and any four-year-old could interpret their contents. But encoded within those paintings a completely separate and highly literate message: they are each the result of a state-of-the-art public opinion survey, conducted by the same pollsters who devine the public's desires on everything from policy to products.
At their most sublime, the "Most Wanted" paintings invoke the fundamental question of democracy: is the will of the majority an effective reflection of the desire of any individual? In what other banal landscape will you ever find such a profound question?
Something struck me today as I pondered the sky, the real sky outside my window. I was trying to decide what color it is: grey (which is what most people would say of such a rainy, overcast sky) or white (as in comparison with almost any other white object in my living room).
In truth it is luminescent, like a television screen.
And I thought, "Now there's a connection." Fourty-four percent of Americans consider blue their favorite color, and Komar & Melamid interpret this as sky blue. They discuss the airy landscape as a "window of freedom," a cherished oasis in an otherwise drab environment.
Well, what could be closer to the ideal representation of a window of pure sky than a glowing television?
By Chris Snyder on April 26, 2004 at 1:47pm