Yesterday I went with my friend Nikki to see the exhibition "Who Shot Rock and Roll" at the Brooklyn Museum. The exhibition focused on artists that are mainly white rockers and black artists that appeal to a predominantly white audience. Nonetheless it got me thinking how important visual imagery is to rock and roll. For one thing, there is lots of great fashion that has been associated to modern music. The idea that rock photography is synonymous to fashion photography is a major thesis that curator Gail Buckland argues in the exhibition catalog. But more than that there is something that a live performance has in common with a great painting, which is the energy and emotion the musician is expressing at the time the photograph was taken. Unlike a staged fashion shoot, this can't be replicated again.
This point was made even stronger when I watched (rather streamed specific performances) the Grammy's. I am officially admitting that I am impressed with Lady Gaga as an artist and performer. I hope she continues to explore the medium of fine art in her almost generic sounding pop music. I hope that she even pushes the boundaries more and makes more risky and even poignant statements with her persona. Like Bowie, Madonna, and the immortal Klaus Nomi (whose music is much better), Gaga is the next generation of artists who have found a way to turn contemporary culture upside down while remaining largely popular. They are offering a re-examination of what we have considered to be popular culture.
While the majority of fans will completely miss the point, I feel that Gaga (like those unique artists before), is making a statement. The fact that her work is mainstream and accessible to everyone is important when the fine art world tends to be so private and noninclusive.
Lady Gaga at the 52nd Annual Grammy's:
Klaus Nomi singing 'Nomi Song' on French TV:
David Bowie sings 'The Man Who Sold the World' ft. Klaus Nomi on SNL
Madonna "Express yourself don't repress yourself"