Detail View

"But, Is It Art?"
Date: 2011
Dimensions: Overall: 26 x 16 x 2 in. (66 x 40.6 x 5.1 cm)
Medium: mixed media, with papier-mâché and acrylic on canvas
Credit Line: Permanent Collection Fund Purchase
Label Text: Since beginning to sell his work as a teenager, Stephen Hansen has experienced no shortage of enthusiastic collectors. However, his whimsical papier mâché sculptures have caused critics—and even Hansen, himself—to question “but, is it art?”. In this work, Hansen stirs up a historically contentious dialog between critics and contemporary artists who challenge the conventions of composition, material, style, and content. And then Hansen places the debate in the mouth of a painter on his coffee break. A jovial workman in brightly spattered painter’s whites perches atop a canvas. The title makes audible a fragment of philosophical coffee-break chatter. Meanwhile, his colleague finishes rolling on the cheery, primary-colored rectangles that parody the oversized, abstract paintings of Mark Rothko. In contrast to the notoriously enigmatic—but now celebrated—work of abstract expressionist painters, Hansen’s drolly narrative sculpture is easily accessible. Hansen invites viewers to be skeptical of the artificial distinctions between “high” and “low” art. If he’s satirizing the arguments of critics, Hansen is razzing the artist, too. “I also recognize the fact that I’m participating in all of the absurdities around me.”
Object Number: 2011.17
Currently not on view