The Art of the Steal: A Case for “Cheap Lines” in an Elite World
John Baldessari has said, “Every artist should have a cheap line.” (ForYourArt made matchboxes with this phrase from More Than You Wanted to Know About John Baldessari.) Its double meaning reflects a history of artists—Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Barbara Kruger among them—who have created different “lines” and made collaborative, licensed objects an integral part of their practice.
As John once reminded me, a fashion line creates an “aura” that is then diffused through its couture jeans and perfumes. Art objects follow a similar equation. DISown—Not for Everyone, an “exhibition posing as a retail store” recently illustrated this concept, selling “diffusion lines by artists.” The L.A.-based artist Lisa Sitko has often explored this intersection of art, objects, and commerce. Her brand of diffusion brings art to daily life by elevating functional objects.
You are known for your line of apple and banana pipes. Why are you so interested in functional sculptures? Why pipes?
The apple pipes started in 2007 and refer to the culture of American youth coring an apple to smoke marijuana—a nostalgic rite of passage or ceremony. The political and legal transition that marijuana, or “medicine,” has been undergoing in California—and now nationally—during the past few years also factors in.
I see the pipe like a painter’s signature mark that she/he uses throughout a career. Mine just happens to be in the form of a usable pipe.
The banana pipe is one element in the project you called the Banana Love Collection by Lisa.
For that, I was inspired by a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of the artist Louise Bourgeois, then in her seventies, holding her own penis sculpture. She’s smiling, and she owns that large, detailed sculpture! I kept questioning why this was so stunning to me. I started exploring the work of designers like Pierre Cardin and performance artists such as Leigh Bowery, from the sixties through the eighties. I decided to have fun with the phallic icon of the banana.
At the same time, I was researching Brazilian artist Lygia Clark—the Louise Bourgeois of Brazil. Prior to MoMA’s current Clark exhibition, little information was available about her work, particularly in relation to her therapy practice. In conversations with fellow Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, she discusses how an object only becomes an artwork by engaging with a person’s body.
The functional, everyday objects in the Banana Love Collection by Lisa play on these ideas of clothing/design collections, label identity, artist editions, sexuality, humor, marketing, ownership, object relations…all through the icon of the banana.
Why the pipe? René Magritte’s 1928 painting, The Treachery of Images, with its image of a pipe and the words (in French) “This is not a pipe,” acts as a vessel channeling a circular thought process. The pipe, for me, functions similarly: It’s an object a person holds in their hand, touches to their lips, and inhales. When else can you kiss an art object?
Photos: Courtesy of ForYourArt