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Monday, August 12, 2013

Vanessa Beecroft

Still-Death!-Darfur-Still-Deaf, 2007, Vanessa Beecroft

Madonna with Twins, 2008,
Vanessa Beecroft performing,
Today, it's one of the lesser-known types of art. Back in the 1950s, however, during its avant-garde days, there developed what was then considered to be the most definition-stretching art imaginable--performance art. It still might be considered a stretch of the definition of art, yet today, this type of thing seems relegated to the realm of the publicity stunt, not unlike its descendant the "flash mob." Its only when we hear of a thousands of people gathered in one place, who take off all their clothes to be photographed in their mass nudity, that we might raise a few eyebrows. Then we go on about our daily lives little caring whether this sort of thing is or is not art, or whether it threatens to stretch the definition of art to the breaking point.
Beecroft often deals with the concept
of women as objects, sometimes
with sexual overtones, but frequently
with anti-sexual themes.

Any number of artists, past and present have contributed their outlandish concepts to this art stretch. Most, if they were in any way significant in their time, have long since been retired to the art archives listed as insignificant. One young artist today seems to want to avoid this course. Her name is Vanessa Beecroft. She was born in 1969, so she wasn't even around when performance art began shocking people already suffering from the shell-shock of Abstract Expressionism. Vanessa Beecroft is not just some publicity seeking kook. Her academic art credentials, like her birth and childhood, are Italian--Genoa and Milan. Today, she resides in Los Angeles. Her art, for those with broad enough minds to call it that, has also been deemed fashion, brilliant, terrible, evocative, provocative, disturbing, sexist, and empowering. When you have an equal numbers of those who love and those who hate your work, you must be doing something significant.

Women as objects are here treated by Beecroft as mere merchandise (all live
models) for the opening of a Louis Vuitton store on the Champs Elysées in Paris.
Beecroft works with massed nudes. She's not the first to do so, nor as daring as Spencer Tunick, famed for filling entire landscapes with naked bodies. In fact some Beecroft's "nudes" are not actually nude at all. Sometime they merely look that way, or in some cases, wear token garments designed to accentuate the nude body (above left). In every case, massed or not, nude, or not, Beecroft's models and their carefully choreographed movements carry with them a message, often playing upon deep social outrage such as her Still-Death!-Darfur-Still-Deaf (top) dealing with atrocities against women in the African country of Sudan.

Barbie Army, Vanessa Beecroft
Military identity theft.
More recently, Beecroft has chosen not to limit herself to the female gender. No, don't expect massed male models in G-strings or less. She seems to like men in uniforms instead, orchestrating naval groups in formation, each man identical to the ones before, beside, and behind him except for the color of a few of their shoes. In such a case, the theme would seem to be the struggle against the male loss of identity. Her Barbie Army (above) seems concerned with the Mattel loss of identity.

Ponti Sister, Vista Mare Cultural Association, Pescara, Italy, 2001, Vanessa Beecroft.
No nudity, massed or otherwise here, unless you count naked stripes.


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