Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fiber at the Pompidou 6

Winding up our fiber scavenger hunt at Centre Pompidou, here's a piece that I loved.  Or at least I think I loved it.

Sergej Jensen is a Danish artist now working in Berlin, who often works with distressed and found fabrics, even though he calls the finished works "paintings."

Sergej Jensen, Sans titre, 2011, details below

How do I love this?  Let me count the ways.  I love old, stained, bleached fabrics that look like they've lived a full and exciting life.  I love mending, as the horizontal slash painstakingly hand-stitched back together.  I love frayed edges and dangling threads.  I love happy faces.

The only worm in the apple is that I'm not sure Sergej sewed this himself, and faithful readers will know my ambivalence about fabric/ation.  I did some google research and found that he does outsource some of the production (boo, hiss) to his mother (all right!!!).

To justify my affection for this work, I'm going to imagine that Mom showed him how to use the sewing machine and this piece was his practice.  If not, then Sergej, you better learn how.  Mom won't be around forever to do the heavy lifting for you.


  1. I love that this work is recognized and honored as art. xo, T

  2. The Pompidou is my most favorite museum ever! Lucky you that you got to go.

  3. That mend - like writing... It speaks, doesn't it?

  4. Kathy, I'm not trying to be a smart aleck. I really want to know--why is this piece art?


    1. Not trying to be a smart aleck either, I'd ask you what about this makes you wonder whether it's art or not? Because there's probably a different answer depending on whether you're questioning the format/presentation/medium or questioning the composition.

      First, if you question the format, I would ask you, if it were a big gray painting with two painted rectangles at the top would you ask the same question?

      If the art world is ready to accept abstract compositions executed in paint, then why not in fabric? This certainly resembles a painting until you get very close (it's stretched, nice and taut like traditional paintings).

      But if you are questioning the composition itself, which seems to be a kind of crude abstraction of a face, I would comment that faces, whether realistic or abstracted, have been considered "art" for millenia.

      Maybe this one seems on the cartoony side, but didn't Picasso or Klee seem the same way to a lot of observers?

      I tend to be on the laissez-faire end of the spectrum of what is or isn't art. Not sure I go as far as some people -- art is anything the artist says is art -- but I'm almost there. (PS -- I reserve the right to opine that something is art, but is bad art.)

  5. I had much the same reaction as Linda - and ran through some of the same issues you did in my head. And came up with "OK, it's art, but I don't like it." LOL

    #1 thought: "His MOM does his work??? Doesn't that stop in gradeschool science projects" - Well, no. Many artists (eg Leonardo) had their studio people put in all the bushes and trees after the master drew the main sketch and main figures - how is this different? OK, it isn't.

    #2 thought: Is it because it is fiber? Or sortof kitchy 3D? People paint stuff that looks like this that was stuck on a wall and called art. People have put a toilet on a stage and there was much applause and it was called art. This isn't different than either of those. So for me it isn't about the format.

    3. OK, I can't think of a 3, but in general, it irritates me that 'artists' slap a couple of things together, call it Untitled #27, Group 9, and expect ME to do the work to figure out what they're "expressing", when honestly, I often get the feeling that they were just sticking stuff together and had lots of extra materials that day. IMO, if the artist cannot be bothered to think of a title, it isn't worth my time to analyze their work. Someday, there will be a piece that will break that rule, but so far, I've not been impressed with things "Untitled". Imagine if books had no titles or descriptions, just the author's name and oublisher date in very small print on the back cover. There'd be a LOT less reading.

    Also, I have a problem with saying something is "art" when it looks like a poorly thought out craft project gone awry. (For heaven's sake, *I* can do that!) The trouble with that is that it depends on the eye of the beholder. We all see and appreciate things differently based on our own taste and knowledge of the ouevre.

    So my conclusion was that it's art, I just don't like it. My opinion. Others' mileage will absolutely vary, no doubt about it. Which is nice - otherwise what would we have to talk about?


    PS I didn't see the face at all until you said that it was there. For me it would have been a more interesting piece if he had called it something that evoked closed eyes and a sewn-together mouth. If he was even trying to do that - which he might not have been. How do I even know it isn't hung sideways? Don't tell me that never happens. Hopefully not in the Pompidou...

  6. Dear Kathy,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. The definition of art that I use is "a work that makes the invisible, visible". I have no problem with the media; I think that fiber and found objects often bring more meaning and context to art-making than paint, bronze, or marble can. It's the composition that is mute for me. So, maybe instead of Art/non-Art, it should be Good Art/Bad Art?

    I share your ambivalence about artists "outsourcing" their actual work, probably from years of working in technical theatre where I had to interpret the scribbles of designers who couldn't thread a needle into a costume/hat that could be worn and acted or sung-in for several hours by a real-life actor! I think personal execution of a work requires a clearer vision than making the manual laborers figure out the kinks in an idea.
    Thanks for the forum,

    1. Great discussion. Understanding the range of what can be considered art is important as well as the recognition that there is a spectrum of quality in art are both very important issues when considering what the viewer sees at the museum. As to what you like, appreciate or value, that can and often does change over time as you look more, read more and become more familiar the wider art world. By the way, I did not see the piece as a I do but I'm going to try and reverse my perception.