Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Untitled Art Works

A visit to the Art Institute of Chicago inspired this article. It is meant to be a parody of an art critique and poke fun at artists who do not title their work. Except for Chaim Potok’s fictional character Asher Lev, all the names, bibliographic items, and art works are products of my imagination.

In the cataloging of books and most other published library materials the author and title are very important in the identification of a work. The title page is what the publisher wants the world to know about identifying the work. When we saw many untitled works at the Art Institute many questions popped into mind about the cataloging of these items.

In a museum collection every object is given a unique identification number, but these numbers are internally generated and have nothing to do with bibliographic description.

Coby D’Artist was born Ya’akov Artovsky, in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in the Williamsburg neighborhood, where he first heard of the work of Asher Lev. He had a traditional yeshiva education, but always loved to draw. His first works were views of life in his neighborhood. In 2008 his work turned to the more abstract and the current exhibition in the Chiganmi Art Museum. Early in 2009 the museum warned us the exhibition would be strange and wonderful. The works would show us a new side of D’Artist that would cause us to think, wonder and be excited. The exhibition does not disappoint us.

As a tease for this exhibition individual works were on display in the entrance gallery. After one week they were moved gallery 199 on the first floor. The gallery and full exhibition were closed until May 31. The entrance gallery is a busy exhibition space. The revolving door traffic, the shuffle of the crowds, and the constant interruptions, make contemplative examination of the works difficult. But D’Artist’s work is so absorbing, distractions are moot. People stopped and looked at the works and wondered. Mysterious thoughts filled the air as people discussed the individual works without seeing or understanding the context of rest of the art. People asked, is this art a figment of the paranoid protagonist's imagination or part of a complex plan that comes from the trained mind of a Talmudic scholar? The works start out as simple and flow to the complex.

The problem I have
in describing the works is that they are all lacking titles. Obviously D”Artist never consulted me for ideas for titles. Usually a museum can list the works by artist and date, but all the works are by the same artist done in 2008. Luckily we know the month they were completed.

Like his earlier works, "Untitled" [1] starts out simpl
e. It is two blue shapes in the upper portion of the canvas. Is this a diagram or does it represent the coldness of winter? This roundish, blob could represent some sort of circle that has irregular borders. The intensity of the blue softens to a blur on the edges. Some people claim the shapes reminds them of blueberries.

untitled [2]
"Utitled" [2] could represent spring. D’Artist could be making a reference to the green served at the Passover Seder because this looks like a stalk of Romaine lettuce. The green background is the sprint growth of grass. The jagged edge represents the sleepless nights. I overheard one critic say it was a salami sandwich waiting to happen.

"Untitled" [3] is two
-untitled [3]dimensional storytelling with words that are created in the eyes of the viewer. The feeling is in each drop of color; they're aesthetically pleasing yet fascinating, but the actual ploy is hard to verbalize. The yellow represents summer sun.

"Untitled" [4] is the most complicated of all the works. The two red dots at the bottom represent the fall season, but they untitled [4]are not parallel to the edge. The splash of yellow and red are the color of the leaves changing. The blank areas on all the works is reminds the viewer of God as the creator of all. As a group they are hard to talk about because they are not titled.

Call the museum or visit their web site for hours and visitors’ information.


Amanut, Munhe. Life and work of Asher Lev. New York : Morningside University Press, 2008.

D’Artist, Coby, 1972- [Untitled] completed Feb. 1, 2008. 24" x 46" latex on canvas. Acquisition number 2008-9734. Purchased from the artist on Jan. 3, 2009

D’Artist, Coby, 1972- [Untitled] completed April 4, 2008.
24" x 46" latex on canvas. Acquisition number 2008-9735. Purchased from the artist on Jan. 3, 2009.

D’Artist, Coby, 1972- [Untitled] completed June 14, 2008.
24" x 46" latex on canvas. Acquisition number 2008-9736. Purchased from the artist on Jan. 3, 2009.

D’Artist, Coby, 1972- [Untitled] completed September 30, 2008.
24" x 46" latex on canvas. Acquisition number 2008-9737. Purchased from the artist on Jan. 3, 2009.

Driver, Solomon. "Coby D'Artist: conceptual art exhibition, April 30, 2000" in
New York Art, May 3, 2000. p. 12-17.

Potok, Yoseff. The legacy of Asher Lev. New York: Fifth Ave Press, 2007.

Zemanim, Iyar. The four seasons in art. New York : Morningside University Press, 1975.

Copyright 2008 by Daniel D. Stuhlman; the paintings are copyrighted by Coby D'Artist.

All artwork is this article was photographed by the author with the artist's permission.

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