So for the past couple of days I have been intensely studying for my Art of the 20th Century Part II final exam. Contemporary art is interesting and (to me) extremely assessable if you dare to look. With that said I want to see first, what ya’ll think of this piece by Dan Graham. How does it make you feel? Do you like it? Hate it? What do you think it means? Can it mean something different for you then it does to someone else? Please, tell me your opinions, then later today I will post what I think!
Click on it to make it larger, also NO GOOGLING. Trust your instincts!
Also, I will be nice and give you a little information. This was published as a spread in an issue of Harper’s Bazaar in 1968.
Alright, well I like this piece for a couple of reasons. This was published in an actual magazine in the 60’s. It shows on the left an advertisement for Tampax and on the right an advertisement for a wonder bra (“If Nature Didn’t, Warner Will.”) In the middle of these adds is a cash register receipt showing figures, or purchases. These numbers stay low and vary only slightly. Next to the numbers is his name and the title of the piece. Graham is commenting on the list of products and purchases we are told we need and how this forced desire is infinite and never completely adds up. I love that he puts this message in a magazine that clearly influences and sells lifestyles. He is also reaching a much larger demographic, not to mention creating art directed to a specific audience delivered in a way that caters directly to them. He is reaching the people that aren’t going out to the galleries, who maybe wouldn’t recognize art if they just came across it. This was a concept he supported as he was known to reject the idea that art has to be art within the walls of a gallery or museum.
I really like this piece of art. I like that it’s attainable by everyone and that it’s unexpected. But most of all, I like the message. It would do us all a little good to really think about what the images in the world are really selling to us; a product, a lifestyle, an addiction, or maybe, a feeling of power. Whatever it is… Maybe Dan Graham is right, in the larger sense these purchases are just numbers added to an infinitely overwhelming list, that reduces our lives to lost expenses on paper.