By Kate Gavino
Transient

When it comes to understanding art, the best intelligence I can muster compares to that of a wildly imaginative but heavily sheltered five year-old. Confronted with the work of someone like Maurizio Cattelan, whose retrospective is up at the Guggenheim through January, I’d rather not be alone with it. Someone else should be there, holding my hand, condescendingly telling me what the fuck to do with it.

I mean, I know all about the color wheel. The color wheel doesn’t faze me. Photographs are simps because photographs are immediate; they have beauty or depth or they don’t. But objects? I have to interact with objects? Immediately, upon encountering things constructed or appropriated as art, I assume there’s something going on—likely something obvious—that my wee brain has zero access to.

Transient

Image courtesy of artdatabank.blogspot.com

As much as I have this hesitating self-consciousness, I also suspect that intellect, in the face of art, doesn’t count for shit. And that my encounter with art, regardless of how much of an idiot I appear to be, should a) occur absolutely between myself and the art alone and not with a hand-holder and b) provoke a good deal of feeling. Art can provoke thought too, of course; thought’s okay and all, but it can’t only do that. I can bravely go forth and encounter art—even objects that are art—because it’s the art’s job to move me. Art has to seduce; it has to capture my attention with enough authority and grace for me to want to remain in the encounter for as long as possible.

Transient

Image courtesy of artdatabank.blogspot.com

If I were honest about my feelings toward Maurizio Cattelan, I would begin by confessing that I simply enjoy the sound of his name. Second, rumor has it he’s a bit of a hot mess who’s kind of consistently giving the art world the finger, which to me communicates charm. I was hesitant to encounter all of his work all at once; I would have preferred to take each piece on its own. Surprisingly, after the overstimulating first attack, which serves its own interesting purpose, I actually found that encountering the pieces all at once granted a sort of permission to peruse at leisure. I became more open to actually engaging with each individual piece because of the nonchalant, clusterfuck mess of it.

But most importantly, I have a hard time looking away from the elephant.

Transient

Image courtesy of artnet.com

I can’t get into the gamut of what happens in my heart and my head, because that’s between me and the elephant. All I can tell you is that I need to go look again, because the elephant hasn’t stopped the promise of telling me everything terrifying, everything beautiful.