Art by Yasmina Reza (a review)

A White Canvas

By simply looking at an art piece, one veers into the thought of art’s subjectivity in its creation, and in a way an audience adds meaning and value to that work. In a museum or an art exhibition, one may often question — “What makes this piece worth displaying?”, was it the form, the artist, its colors, or perhaps its context? Whichever takes its value, at the end of the day, “Is this art?” constitutes as the question that remains. The play Art by Yasmina Reza dwells on the 15-year long friendship between Marc, Yvan, and Serge, inclining towards a tension to end ties brought to life by Serge purchasing an art piece. In their mutual desire to define what made that piece be valued as an art, they had also unraveled what made their friendship enough to still be worthy of keeping.

Modern art, the white canvas (in this context) appeals to how it had detached itself from the structural definitions of art: of representation, form, aesthetic, and expression, as there is almost none to see, it had relied on the interaction, interpretation, and the reaction of its audience — which for me, shows the provocative beauty of art. Serge, said to be an art enthusiast, has bought a piece that seemed too absurd for Marc’s appropriation of how art costs. In their differences, both have raised questions similar to inquiries about modern art — such as minimalism and abstract, which may familiarly be subjected as inadequate in its form as art. Throughout the play, Marc may be seen as an indifferent character, but there are manners in his reaction that are certainly relatable for me; the feeling of “betrayal” has been brought up in the play — of Marc loving Serge but not loving the Serge who was capable of buying that painting. Somehow, I felt like it resonated with how I may feel betrayed when a friend of mine completely does what I don’t expect of them. Much is the same with how we expect an art piece to be looking more than its “whiteness” or to have more than its first impression, of our expectations about what art should look like, enough to be valued; and if it does not stand by “these standards” but was curated as art, we feel betrayed.

Overall, the play centers on how we understand and value both friendship and art. The white canvas does not only depict the variance of modern art but perhaps also of the emptiness of their friendship. I liked how it was concluded, the canvas newly interpreted from “shit” to a man who “moves across space and disappears” — possibly mirroring their estranged friendship. In that thought, the white canvas represents how art, even in its devoid form or bareness, can be valued, recognized, and interpreted by the essence of man’s emotion.

9.24.21

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