April 25, 2011

Payback Time

A recent and pleasant discovery was that Mavis Staples' Grammy-award winning album, You Are Not Alone, was produced by Jeff Tweedy of Chicago's Wilco. Besides the obvious fact of both Staples and Tweedy being Chicagoans, this news makes perfect musical sense in that Tweedy, a mercurial and unclassifiable "rock" artist as capable of soulful laments as guitar-driven pop, obviously was paying his respects to Staples, a legendary performing artist whose music and history with The Staple Singers melded gospel, R&B, funk and blues.

If we add another unlikely but similarly reverential project, wherein sometime White Stripe and Raconteur, Jack White, produced and played on Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose, one might think we had a homage movement afoot; one in which younger artists give long overdue nods and props of appreciation to the"Living Legends" whose work/life has inspired them.

So why can't this kind of respect be paid by younger, contemporary artists to those elder figures who paved the way? I'm talking about Martin Creed acknowledging Fluxus artist George Brecht, the Chapmans admitting that they cribbed from Hans Bellmer, Rachel Whiteread thanking Bruce Nauman for one of his best ideas and Urs Fischer paying some royalties to the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. And don't get me started about Gaga and Tania Bruguera.

Hello? Whitney Museum, MOCA, Dia Foundation? This could be a wonderful curatorial project for an art museum with ties to art history and contemporary art. Are you the museum brave enough to step up and pair de riguer, "cutting edge" art with the original precursors? After all, without history and its recognition, where for art thou?

Image: "The Burden of Guilt" (1997-99); © Copyright by Tania Bruguera.

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