Art Fag City at The L Magazine: Magic vs. Mystery in the Art Worlds

by Art Fag City on July 7, 2009 The L Magazine

Yayoi Kusama, art fag city, Gagosian
Yayoi Kusama, Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009. Mixed media installation, 163 1/2 x 163 1/2 x 113 1/4 inches (415 x 415 x 287.4 cm), Ed. of 3. Image via: Gagosian Gallery

This week at The L Magazine I discuss the difference between magic and mystery in the art world.  The upshot?  I get my corndog on.

I don’t know how to express this idea without sounding overly romantic, but I like art with a little magic to it.

The art world typically replaces the word “magic” with “mystery,” a colder noun more likely to entice collectors than a term evoking rabbits and hats, but the latter term is not always appropriate. Mystery has certain perks, implying critical engagement, the desire and possibility of solving and figuring out the unknown; “Magic” doesn’t offer this kind of triumphal resolution.

Take Yayoi Kusama’s Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, a small house of mirrors lit only by hanging lights at Gagosian Gallery. Audiences can easily identify its components, and yet the experience of viewing feels otherworldly. A darkened room of mirrors; countless burning lights; a floor of water with a small deck — each create a sense of limitless space. From this, a viewer might conclude that drastic, rapid shifts in scale affect our senses in a way that feels unnatural, but reducing the encounter to the functionality of its materials feels like a bit of buzzkill. So instead I choose to own my corndog and declare the piece magical. It doesn’t explain the experience, but like a lot of art, it performs better without too much interpretation.

To read the full piece click here.

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