10 October 2011

Butcher’s Block: A Critical Review of Cutting-Edge Art

Artist: Mikenzie, b. 2005
Title: Mommy and Daddy and Me and Uncle Ty-Ty
Medium: Crayon on copier paper
Venue: My refrigerator
Value: Priceless
Mommy and Daddy and Me and Uncle Ty-Ty is a prime example from Mikenzie’s Family Portraits period, demonstrating the artist’s innovative use of color and perspective. Her earliest known works, such as the subversive, abstract mural Doggie (now lost, having been painted over by the authoritarian regime under which Mikenzie works) and the provocative Favorite Shirt, Ruined in which the medium was the artist’s own vomit, tended to show an almost infantile playfulness and exuberance in composition and expression. In contrast, the Family Portraits period is characterized by restraint and maturity, subtly turning societal and cultural norms on their respective heads.
The subject matter of Mommy and Daddy and Me and Uncle Ty-Ty, as with much of the Family Portraits series, is that of domestic life, the family and Americana. Intensely personal— it depicts Mikenzie’s closest relatives outside the artist’s simple domicile—, it is nevertheless a critique of broad cultural values, exposing the childish naiveté inherent in holding on to the vanishing American dream.
Stylistically, the furtive scribbles portray a certain dissatisfaction, a bottled fury which rages against the artificial restraints of a so-called “perfect life.” The vibrant, cartoonish palette simultaneously mocks the advertising and marketing which reinforces the false dream of the nuclear family and celebrates the irrepressibility of life in the face of such manufactured, corporate-sponsored meaninglessness. Lastly, the flattened perspective serves to enhance the sense of shallow satisfaction which comes as a result of pursuing the American dream. Certainly, we exclaim to ourselves and the world, there must be something more.
Indeed, Mommy and Daddy and Me and Uncle Ty-Ty forces us to ask several questions. At what cost do we hold on to such a happy, care-free view of the future? Is it not to find ourselves with atrophied arms and legs, barely able to stand, unable to interact meaningfully with our world, our reality? Do our own lives, lived in pursuit of an ill-defined dream, perhaps utterly lack depth as a consequence? And how do we confront the all-too-human desires for individuality and community, and when does the latter come dangerously close to destroying the former? Brilliant.

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