Subtlety and Shock Value in Art

One of the most interesting artistic movements of the 20th century was De Stijl. This Dutch form of art, interior design and architecture is fascinating to me because of its simplicity. The most famous artist of this movement was Peter Mondrian who would paint a large grid with different colored panels…and that was it.


Art to me can make as interesting a point with its subtlety as it can with shock value, but the line between fascinating and incredibly stupid is very thin. One such way artists have come to make unique and subtle artistic movement is through slight changes in design, this is most prevalent in industrial design in which we can go straight from a Star Trek transponder to an iPhone and still feel strong similarities between them, but from a less practical perspective we can look at the works of Patrick Nagel who took the pedestrian art of comics and turned it into high art.


 The same cannot be said of Mark Wentzel‘s work with the Eames Lounge Chair. By simply blowing the cushions up to ludicrous sizes he intends to make a statement that falls flat without consideration. The Mid- Century Modernist in me finds it disgusting and embarrassing while the artist in me finds it horribly forced and cliché. Shock value and cliché are dangerously close and can mean the difference between Warhol and Ed Hardy (are they still around?). This is the Ed Hardy side. Forced shock can only come off as embarrassing and frankly, stupid. How he ever got a show in any gallery is completely amazing to me, we should know nothing of his work and how he was ever called an artist is amazing (10 points for anyone who gets the reference). There is nothing wrong with subtlety in art as there is nothing wrong with shock value but it can go horribly wrong and cliché very easily.