April 12, 2012


RIP Thomas Kinkade. And how is he different from Damien Hirst? (RUSSELL SMITH, 4/11/12,  Globe and Mail)

Kinkade's intentions, on the other hand, were never ironic or critical: He found that people really loved chocolate boxes, and chocolate boxes he painted. His success was baffling to even the most broad-minded of art lovers. Even as an illustrator, he wasn't really very good: I have seen more real-looking hobbit cottages in many a children's book. His light pastel palette, really heavy on the pink, is truly weird: Everything he painted ended up tinged with pink, even the Indy 500 racetrack. The colours are so sweet, most of what he paints looks not like candy boxes but like actual candy, as if every tree and steeple is made of sugar.

There is also a strange fixation on property in Kinkade's work: He made thousands of images of houses, castles and mansions, their windows all glowing a radioactive orange, and there are no people visible in or near them. [...]

I'm surprised no one is comparing him to Damien Hirst, the most profitable British "high" artist. They have been reviled for almost identical reasons by the press. Hirst, whose current retrospective at London's Tate Modern has garnered largely scornful reviews from the art intelligentsia, has been criticized for his determined profit-seeking, for inflated prices, for using assistants to produce his work, even for a general lack of originality (many artists and illustrators have accused him of copying their work). But Hirst is seen as a conceptualist - his art is these brilliant money-making ideas themselves.

Why don't we see Kinkade in a similar light? What Kinkade was selling was also ideas: a mythical America, a pink-dawned, Christian cartoonscape of flowers, waterfalls and Disneyland. The dreamscape is a concept. Kinkade's hand didn't touch the prints that fans collected. Kinkade himself declared in one interview, "I am really the most controversial artist in the world." No wonder he made almost as much as the star of the Saatchi collection and the Tate Modern - Kinkade was a conceptual artist.

Since at least Don Quijote, attempts at irony have almost always turned on the artist.

Posted by at April 12, 2012 6:19 AM

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