Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism. Become a Member »

Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.

The Latest


Jack Sjogren

Jack Sjogren is a cartoonist and illustrator in LA pouring his soul into butt jokes. For more heart-wrenching silliness, visit jacksjogren.com.

4 replies on “Don’t Let the Grumps Get You Down”

  1. How are we sure that the music store clerk was actually grumpy?

    Perhaps the child is responding negatively to the notion of craftsmanship. The guitar is an easy instrument to start but very difficult to master. Jimmy Page is a craftsman. He studied a large number of guitar techniques ranging from English folk to American blues and classical European. He took lessons. He imitated others. He played lots of cover songs in his early career. Individual expression was at first limited because his early efforts were focused primarily on reproducing the art and aesthetic discoveries of his predecessors.

    I have the opinion that contemporary Fine Arts is more interested in novelty-under-the-guise-of-progressivism for quite some time. My interactions with the staff and students at Cooper Union in NYC and Elam in Auckland, NZ, RISD in RI and MICA in MD have brought my in to contact with a number of market and theoretical forces that are heavily influencing the artistic practice of today’s young artists. They encourage students to skip the craftsmanship and historical study and to instead just “grab the violin bow and invent something new”. Jimmy Page only started exploring these novelties well after he become a master in cultural inherited techniques for the guitar.

    The majority of what Jimmy Page plays is not only based on techniques made by others but techniques and aesthetics that no one in particular made because they’re the result of a slowly evolving musical language. Individual innovations run the same risk as inventing a private language. There will be no one who can understand your new words.

    Traditional language and technique implies a certain hierarchy. It naturally leads to the relationships between Master, Journeymen, and Apprentice. Sometimes these relationships are deemed as evidence of a historical patriarchy, as if guitar techniques somehow carrying with them a history of domestic and sexual abuse, but even the hallowed halls of progressive and postmodern art programs… these notions remain embedded in such formalities as Masters of Fine Arts.

    Only instead of a historical language the speaks outwards and with a population at large, a Master of Fine Arts has only mastered the internal language of the institution, one with obfuscated hierarchies and no clear understanding of the power relationships. Their art is novel and speaks an individual language that aims as much to please these shadowy gatekeepers as much as the are purported to cleanse the sins of the past. The success of failure of their artistic endeavor is never to be judged from the outside of the institution and only from within.

    When the middle American walks in to MOMA and sees an incomprehensible painting that was made completely within the language of an institution she has had no prior contact with she has no choice but to remain unmoved and perhaps upset with they money she spent to gain access to the museum. When she utters “I know four year olds who could paint this!”, what is the reaction of the eccentric art matron with an angular haircut and bright red shoes who is standing next to her? What is hidden in her scorn at these kinds of philistine and middle-brow attitudes other than a hidden hierarchy of cultural production?

    The music store clerk is no a purveyor of Fine Arts. The music store clerk is mainly selling mass produced musical instruments to the middle-brow. The electric guitar is the result of the modern factory. The Stradivarius violin was unattainable to all but the most elite of musicians. The Stratocaster guitar could always be owned by any member of working class America, black or white. The electric guitar is the instrument of the any-man. Success is measured by the size of the audience, not by the people who are secretly in-the-know. Successful electric guitarists first start by wanting to play to an existing organic audience. “My god, those Beatles sure do have a lot of fans, I need to learn how to do what they’re doing!”. Novelty and tendencies to invent new languages comes at a much later time.

    Jimmy Page did not walk in to a music store and ask for a violin bow when he was a child. Jimmy Page walked in to a music store and asked for a guitar and lessons on how to play it. Jimmy Page became successful because he studied and subjected himself to language and culture and proved himself in the market.

    I’m not sure what this comic is aiming to achieve. As far as I’m concerned the moral message of this comic is very well established in the Art World. The hidden negation of this message, that of craftsmanship and the cultural production of folk music, is barely heard in the galleries of Manhattan.

    Again, I ask, how should I know that the music store clerk in this comic is a grump?

    1. Points taken. But being pro-novelty is not the same as being anti-craftsmanship. People can do both!

      I also hope it’s not lost that your entire comment constitutes one giant “ugh” against his comic.

      Ughers gonna ugh.

  2. Lovely words and pictures, Jack. I too have felt the arrows of “ugh” pierce deep into the soil. The holes they make becoming the openings for new. Peace and love.

Comments are closed.