deja vu: it looks vaguely familiar

Handed-down distortions of truth. Its all about challenging the idea of originality and walking delicately over eggshells or hot coals depending on the context. The image seems familiar but the projection, or its juxtaposition or message is not. Where are the boundaries? When artists quote cultural references that most are familiar with its called making art that reflects the culture they live in such as in the works of Christian Marclay and Richard Prince. While it is easy to sympathize with artists who believe their work has been copied, they also need to recognize their own reliance on existing images, that are often copyrighted.

---Many popular cartoonists also worked as advertising artists, spreading their style to the corporated world. Rube Goldberg's cigarette tag gives us a prime example, and also offers a slogan that he made popular, and lent to the advertising world. Today's "Just Do It" from Nike wouldn't have cut it in the early twentieth century. Consumers expected a style that a familiar artist like Goldberg could provide. ---Read More:

In a sense, culture is about ongoing borrowing and redirection. This idea  about grabbing images, ideas and motifs and opening them up to new uses towards a new “clientele” could unequivocally be condoned in the use of political-remix videos. However, it could also be argued that large corporations that apportion artists work in ways they would not see as flattering are also political in a sense that corporate advertising in all mediums  is totally ideological: the status quo and expansion of the existing market system, and their work is this a form of political-remix…. The cycle of influence goes round and round: Ad agencies borrow from artists who borrow from advertising. Isn’t it great when things just work? Read More:

--- “It does seem like advertising people are pushing the envelope on this,” he said. “They’re being more and more brazen in their borrowing. On the one hand they should be mining the art world for inspiration, and you would expect them to be referencing works that people are familiar with. But more and more they seem to be getting into the territory of blatant rip-offs.” The law governing the unauthorized use of copyrighted images and ideas, he said, is notoriously murky. “Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, it only protects expression. The question is, where do you draw the line? Is the agency being inspired by the idea? Or did they copy the artist’s expression?”---Read More:

“I don’t consider what I do stealing,” Mr. Marclay said. “I’m quoting cultural references that everyone is familiar with. I make art that reflects the culture I live in.” And unlike advertisers, he said, “I’m not trying to sell phones.”…Artists have been appropriating images from Madison Avenue for decades. In the 1960s Andy Warhol made silk-screened copies of Brillo boxes and Campbell’s soup cans. In the 1980s Richard Prince rephotographed magazine ads for Marlboro cigarettes, enlarged the pictures and exhibited them as his own. Read More:

But what happens when the tables are turned? In recent years a number of advertising campaigns have seemed to draw their inspiration directly from high-profile works of contemporary art. And the artists who believe their images and ideas have been appropriated are not happy about it. a

---In 1987 a federal court granted summary judgment to the artist Saul Steinberg, who claimed that a poster for the Columbia Pictures film “Moscow on the Hudson” copied his famous New Yorker cover “View of the World From 9th Avenue.” (Like Steinberg’s drawing, the poster had a detailed rendering of four Manhattan city blocks in the foreground and a sketchy view of the rest of the world in the background.)---

NYT:The Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss have turned down numerous requests from ad agencies interested in licensing their award-winning 30-minute short film, “Der Lauf der Dinge” (“The Way Things Go”). Produced in 1987, it follows a Rube Goldberg-style chain reaction in which everyday objects like string, balloons, buckets and tires are propelled by means of fire, pouring liquids and gravity….

---Every so often the name of Mondrian will spring into the mind of a graphic designer in search of inspiration. What happens next is that the carefully considered principles of composition that Mondrian employed in the fine calibration of his grid paintings are systematically discarded and relegated to a supporting role on which to display the product. Mondrian’s hard-won pictorial values are consigned to the trash. For all Mondrian’s insistence on the spiritual content in his paintings they have been adapted with ease to serve the material values of advertising. I have a sneaking admiration for the impudence with which these images are commandeered even though the results seem uninspired. It’s anyone’s guess what Mondrian would have said but there was a streak of unpredictability in his character and it wouldn’t be safe to assume that he would have automatically rejected this back-handed compliment. The last paintings produced in New York just before his death in 1944 suggest that the dynamic visual environment of the city made a profound impression on him and that he was not immune to the attractions of popular culture.---click on image for more...

…Yet in April 2003 Honda ran a two-minute television commercial, “Cog,” in which various parts of a car — tires, seats, windshield wipers — form a dominolike chain reaction that culminates when an Accord rolls down a ramp as a voice-over (read by Garrison Keillor) intones, “Isn’t it great when things just work?”…

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---The mystery surrounding the work of Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is only deepened by “Mondrian/De Stijl,” the excellent exhibition that opens today at the Centre Pompidou: how did Mondrian’s name become an international synonym for abstract, geometric arrangements of black strips and blocks of primary color and how could paintings that are so emotionless touch so many people so deeply and lastingly?---Read More:

…At the time Mr. Fischli told Creative Review magazine: “We’ve been getting a lot of mail saying, ‘Oh, you’ve sold the idea to Honda.’ We don’t want people to think this. We made ‘Der Lauf der Dinge’ for consumption as art.” Read More:

Wearing first came to prominence as an artist in December 1992 with a series of photographs that appeared in The Face magazine. She asked random members of the public to write down whatever they wanted on a sign, and she photographed them holding that sign. The series, called Signs that say what you want them to say and not signs that say what someone else wants you to say, seemed closer to documentary photography than to art, as has a great deal of her work since (that was part of the reason she chose to show them first in a magazine rather than a gallery ). But they contained a subtlety, a quietly surreal intensity that undermined anything straightforward you could think to say about them.

Gillian Wearing art. ---“A great deal of my work is about questioning handed-down truths,” states Wearing. This reflects Wearing’s project, “Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say”, was made shortly after graduating from Goldsmith College. This piece was created by Wearing approaching people on the streets of London, asking them to write something down and then she photographed the people displaying what they wrote. Most people would display their thoughts or write something personal down.

One of the most famous images from that series showed a young businessman in a suit holding a sign saying “I’M DESPERATE”. The impact it had was like clutching a livewire, and it continues to shock today. But who knows what the man was really thinking? “I think he was very serious,” says Wearing when I ask. “He wanted to go away and think about it, but I said if you do that it will ruin it. He certainly wasn’t joking, and I don’t think he was being ironic either. But I’ve no idea what the context for that was.” That, surely, was part of the punch. “I think that’s really important,” Wearing insists. “If you ever make anything too literal you might as well forget it. It loses everything. It loses the mystery which is probably the most alluring factor – more so than what you know.”…

Mondrian’s work is easily recognisable. The simple grid with thick black lines separating primary colours has lent itself to contemporary design on clothing , shoes and ceramics and many others.

So simple yet effective was the idea that it was taken up by an ad agency in a campaign for Volkswagen cars. Here, of course, the idea lost all its animating ambiguity and interest. Wearing was appalled and threatened to sue, but the risk was too great: if she lost (and the law is deliberately loose here, in part to allow artists themselves the freedom to pinch and quote freely) the costs could be huge. Instead, she has been getting on with it. Read More:

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