Screenshot of Who Wore It Better by Hyperallergic

Screen shot of Who Wore It Better (all screen shots by Hyperallergic)

Sometimes it’s not so much about who did something first, but who did it best. In the technology start-up world, it doesn’t matter that dozens of other companies were creating video upload sites before YouTube; YouTube just hit the right combination of community, buzz, and content. Art history is the same. Enduring fame, of the centuries-long variety, doesn’t come to the artist who first followed through on an idea, but to the one who did it the most prominently.

Originality is the eternal question investigated by a new Tumblr-based website called Who Wore It Better, created by Alison Feldish and Derek Frech. The site presents single works by two different artists who use similar aesthetic strategies juxtaposed side-by-side and asks viewers to think about which one is more successful. The somewhat snarky name comes from a fashion meme that compares two celebrities wearing the same dress — which one has the better outfit? Of course, there’s a little more than runway success that’s at stake when it comes to artistic originality.

Screenshot of Who Wore It Better by Hyperallergic

Screen shot of Who Wore It Better

Who Wore It Better is currently focusing on younger artists who work with the aesthetics of thr internet and digital art. It pits a static-inspired, colorful abstraction by Tauba Auerbach against a glitched-out photograph by Paul Graham and compares moire-derived paintings by Anoka Faruqee and Garth Weiser (for my money, Faruqee’s luminescent colors make her the clear winner). In another incisive pairing, two well-known internet-related artists go at it: Harm van Dorpel’s “Texture Mapping,” a cube-based sculpture whose surfaces are covered in digitized patterns, is presented against a similar piece from Parker Ito’s exhibition The Agony and the Ecstasy. Who wins? I’m not sure.

Thus comes a problem with Who Wore It Better. The site is reductive in the extreme: It simply shows two pictures next to each other. The pieces may look similar, but that doesn’t mean their processes or their conceptual backgrounds are the same. That said, there are still a few art historical Who Wore It Better matchups that we’d like to see. Check them out below.

Who Would You Choose?

Left, Jacob Kassay, Untitled (2010) (Image via thepaintedwrd.wordpress.com). Right,

Left: Jacob Kassay, “Untitled (2010)” (Image via thepaintedwrd.wordpress.com); right: Yves Klein, “IKB 191” (1962) (Image via wikipedia.org)

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Left: Georges Braque, “Violin and Candlestick” (1910) (Image via wikipedia.org); right: Pablo Picasso, “The Accordionist” (1911) (Image via artchive.com)

Left, Henri Matisse, "Landscape Collioure" (1905) (Image via calstatela.edu) Right Andre Derain, "Bridge over the Riou" (1906) (Image via museumsyndicate.com)

Left: Henri Matisse, “Landscape Collioure” (1905) (Image via calstatela.edu); right: Andre Derain, “Bridge over the Riou” (1906) (Image via museumsyndicate.com)

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Kyle Chayka

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

10 replies on “Which Artist Did It Better?”

  1. Roy Lichtenstein vs Patrick Caulfield! Piero Manzoni vs Robert Ryman! Pierre Soulages vs Franz Kline! David Smith vs Tony Smith! George Grosz vs Otto Dix! Sigmar Polke vs David Salle!

  2. a few of these match ups seem to be a contemporary work matched against an historical predecessor, which seems, to some extent to negate the pairing, as the more recent work is something of a riff on or revisiting of a canonized work.

  3. Caravaggio’s “Judith” vs Artemesia’s “Judith”: I’m a sucker for Caravaggio, but his Judith looks too squeamish to have the nerve and strength to behead someone. She looks like the new girl at the butcher shop, trying to figure out how to use the meat slicer. I have no problems believing the Artemesia’s Judith chopped off Holofernes’ head.

  4. Thank you Kyle for the post.

    The intent of Who Wore it Better is not to criticize the originality of each, or to negate either attempt at a successful work. It also isn’t meant to accuse any artist of being “boring and/or derivative,” as I read from one commenter online. The point we’re attempting to address is simply that this derivative nature is inescapable in an era of wide-spread immediate access and infinite ‘reblogs.’ And we question whether or not that is even a problem. In the face of an inability to even feign the appearance of being a ‘genius, original artist’ – because every influence and contemporary is within immediate reach – what we ask is what are “younger artists working with the aesthetics of the internet and digital art” as a collective saying?

    The presence of historical works versus other historical works, or versus contemporary works, may also be a concession that these issues have obviously been the case for a long time. However, while history books have been what previously allowed us to draw connections, these connections are now available thirty seconds later on the internet.

    Derek and I welcome and look forward to all submissions: woreitbetter@gmail.com.

    All best,
    Alison

    1. Hey Alison,

      Thanks for the comment. I definitely appreciate how the site points at the echo chamber of aesthetic dialogue online and questions the idea of originality in general. Personally, I don’t think it’s a problem, but you’re right that it’s never been so clear that all work is derivative of things have been already made. It’s surprising to be faced with directly.

  5. Facts should still be checked though… if the writer is worth the weight of his or her words. For example, I keep seeing people suggest that VIP Art Fair was the first online only art fair. True, it was the first one to receive mainstream attention (and should be noted as such)… but it was not the first online only art fair. Variations of online only art fairs and auctions have existed since the late 1990s. Everyone wants to be the first — and it is not hard to pull it off if writers are lazy… or are simply ignorant about the history of online art marketing (and other issues). Shoot, I’ve been in this game for 8 years and I’m still considered a pup by some of the older dogs.

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