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Thats Not Art

Candeau, French for gift is not exactly what one thinks about when hearing the word. Candeau is a free-standing sculpture composed of an ordinary, manufactured iron made from black cast iron, the kind that could have been purchased in any store selling housewares in the early part of this century. The appearance of the flatiron is changed merely by a row of sharp tacks glued along the underside from top to bottom. Philadelphia-born artist Man Ray created in 1921.

My idea of art matches that of the modern view, where aesthetics or emotions evoked when viewing a piece of art are the main criteria for believing something is really werthy of being called art. As a viewer, I believe art should show a great deal of creativity, something that shows the artist has a tuned talent. In other words, art is to me something I could not simply throw together myself in five minutes flat, aside from the time it takes for the glue on a row of tacks to dry. Aesthetics obviously did not play a role in this sculpture, nor did the expression of any meaningful ideas or feelings.

I do realize that not knowing the history of this piece or of its creator changes what I see when looking at this sculpture. When I view the iron, I see it as a meaningless object that does not appear to have any creativity or significance attached to itself. Other artists from this time such as Duchamp and Picasso were also having a hard time finding an audience for their work because society did not understand the ideas they were trying to communicate, and now Picasso is one of the most famous artists in the world.

The genius of these people is finally being recognized, as books and research papers are celebrating their art as a valid expression from their time. They created history by going against what was considered normal and desirable although their talent was criticized throughout their career and their audience became hard-won. Cadeau is a piece of history because it represents the hatred of war and tradition by a certain group of artistic people who believed the current society fostered negativity.

Knowing what the whole Dada movement in art represented, I have a new appreciation for Man Ray’s sculpture Cadeau. I can now view this iron as a valid work of art and an expression of the artist. Although I still think this piece is particularly ugly, it has earned my respect as well as a spot in the history of art. Taste is subjective, but there is no denying even something as simple as this iron can carry great meaning when there is an impressive idea behind it. Perhaps Man Ray said it best himself when he explained.

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