NY Times says: Ugly Painting is Hot Now


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The NY Times had an interesting article recently suggesting that ugly art is a hot item right now and that the art world is “obsessed with ugly painting.” Two of the artists they mentioned are represented below: at left, “Untitled,” 2016, by Laura Owens, who will have a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art this fall, and at right, “Dear Clifford Rocket, Don’t You Want a Home,” 2016, by Torey Thornton.

art by Laura Owens and Torey Thornton

Whatever your opinion of these two artists and art works, the article does make some interesting points: when Willem De Kooning first started making his “Woman” paintings, people considering them ugly, and now these paintings are considered some of the most-important paintings of the 20th Century. Likewise, when Philip Guston gave up pure abstraction and started painting cartoon-like images, people thought he had lost his mind, and yet these works are today considered treasures in many museums.

So what’s my take-away from this article and pronouncement that “ugly = good?” Maybe this means it’s time I can start to gather some outside appreciation for my own paintings, which I’m sure have been deemed less-than-aesthetic on more than one occasion over the years (insert smiley face here). I’m long past the point of wanting to be the next Picasso, and still enjoy making art, but it sure would be nice to sell a few of them. But sales aside, I decided to go look through a box of old watercolor paintings and see if I could come up with a couple examples of my own “ugly art.” Here’s a pair for your viewing pleasure: at left, “Past Possessive,” 1993, and at right, “Manless Hat, Hatless Man,” 2001. To see more of my art, check out my website here. A note on the McKinney Arts website: I’ve revamped it countless times over the years, and it’s undergoing another overhaul now, so there will be more coming soon!

original art by Mark McKinney

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