“Madonna With Smile” was the first thing that caught my eye. And yes, it is ugly.
|“Madonna With Smile”|
Sometimes artists get too caught up in the serious pursuit of perfection to notice the other side of life – not being serious at all. The other day I was surfing for art, and stumbled across the Museum of Bad Art. Located in Boston, MOBA celebrates some of the uglier pieces of art that missed getting carried out to the curb. The folks at MOBA make acquisitions at yard sales and resale shops, scraping the bottom of the creative barrel in a nearly cruel manner. ‘Madonna,’ with its Sharpie smile, is part of the museum’s permanent collection, and it’s guaranteed to make the viewer go, “What the?”
I was so inspired by the piece that I went surfing for some real gems. It’s easy – and mean – to poke fun at stuff produced by folks who don’t have a lick of art education under their belts, which is what MOBA does. I decided to take a few jabs at the masters, who should have known better. Besides, most of them are dead and won’t give a rip about what I say, anyway.
Colonial art of the Americas is usually a good place to find bad art. Take the “Portrait of a Gentleman,” by an unknown artist. It can be seen in Colonial Williamsburg, but that doesn’t make it any prettier. There’s nothing handsome about a guy on a bad hair day who’s just come in from a hurricane. And, honestly, if you can’t center his eyes, Mr. Artist, then please do a profile.
|“Portrait of a Gentleman”|
(Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Folk Art Collection, Colonial Williamsburg, Va.)
Of course, when colonial sacred art gets thrown into a blender with finger-puppets, you know things will not turn out well. That much is obvious in this unknown piece by an unknown artist from an unknown South American country. I’d be embarrassed, too.
|Untitled. Unknown artist.|
Date unknown. (Nowhere)
|“Retable of the Virgin of Montserrat” [Detail.]|
Bortolomé Bermejo de Cardenas. 1485.
(Acqui Cathedral, Acqui Terme, Italy)
|“Madonna of Humility”|
Fra Filippo Lippi. c. 1430.
(Castello Sforzesco, Milan
|“Christ Among The Doctors”|
Albrecht Dürer. 1506.
(Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid)
|“St. Nicholas Refusing His Mother’s Milk”|
Unknown artist. Unknown date.
|“Before The Masked Ball”|
Max Beckmann. 1922.
(Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Munich)
NOW we’re talking ugly. Sheeesh. Before you all go hunting down prints of his no-man’s-land “Near Langemar, February 1918,” I should probably tell you that it will only get worse the farther you go skipping down Otto Dixville Lane. Don’t expect unicorns and marshmallow fluff. I’ve got the perfect place over my living room couch for Dix’s “Skull.” Maybe you should consider a similar piece. One never knows when a good conversation stopper is in order.
|“Skull” Otto Dix. 1924.|
(Museum of Modern Art. NY)