I was looking over some of the art works I have photographed over the years and have come to the conclusion that I visit art museums all over the world hoping to be shocked. I’m not specifically drawn to what is called “Shock Art” but I must admit that when I go into a museum I hope that I will see something that at the minimum causes me discomfort because it’s a strange image. Above and below are several examples of what I mean.
I find that I must slightly change the definition of shock art to suit my interest. A current meaning of it is “contemporary art that incorporates disturbing imagery, sounds, or scents to create a shocking experience”. My personal definition would be “any art that incorporates disturbing images to create a cerebral experience or elicit conversation that is not ordinary”. I like certain artists like Rene Magritte and Francis Bacon because what they chose to create on a piece of canvas is anything but ordinary or expected. You will notice that neither artist is represented in the paintings I chose to try to explain my attraction.
All art throughout history has had the potential to shock those who see it. Such recognized masters as Pablo Picasso and Edvard Munch created works that can cause nightmares. I recall being in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid and seeing Picasso’s stunning anti-war painting known as Guernica. When he painted it during the Spanish Civil War, it must have truly shocked most of the people who saw it. I left the room it was in but circled back to be in its presence for another few minutes. I can count on one hand the number of times I have done this. Picasso used known prostitutes when he painted his history-making “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon”, a painting so different for its day that it must have caused major shock among those who saw it. Munch’s most famous painting was called “The Scream”. Shocking when he created it, it is now used to advertise products and has become the contemporary equal to a cliched image. One sees it everywhere.
When Marcel Duchamp created his Urinal, he surely meant to disturb those who saw it. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon created nigthmare images that now sell for millions. Edouard Manet’s naked woman at lunch and Olympia no longer shock and are considered priceless.
For some reason fire is the subject of many shocking art works that speak to me. I hope that you will find the images that accompany these paragraphs worth seeing. I was glad to find them in museums during my travels. The man with his feet in the fire up top was painted by what I consider a great artist. His name was David Alfaro Siqueiros, and I had to go to Mexico City to learn about him.