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Thursday, December 28. 2006
Art Criticism Update
What is art about? The New Criterion's December art issue is out, and just the introduction is a fine and succinct update on the current state of art criticism. One quote:
Posted by Bird Dog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 06:19 | Comments (8) | Trackbacks (0)
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while I don't believe the classics (Rembrandt,klimt,etc...) are the only examples of true art, I do believe some aesthetic borders should be put back...a grilled cheese spray painted silver, will not be gracing my mantle
You want art to have an aesthetic and/or spiritual and/or transcendent value. Same here. I'll take my grilled cheese with ketchup, please, and not spray paint.
"Something has been lost" for sure. Once ideology has crowded in, there's little space left over for anything else. The modern art world is sooo stalinist--and its denizens will be the last to understand.
I have to admit I do not like most modern art. Nor do I like ugly art or any so-called art that anyone of us could do, such as spray painting a cheese sandwich.
But the beautiful work of the upstate artist, Frank Corso (from New Hampshire now I think) is the direct opposite of ugly art. I received one of his limited prints as a gift and have only viewed his other work online. I would really like to see an original Corso painting up close and personal someday.
I was for several years an art critic for my college newspaper and a load of unspeakable drivel issued from my pen...In particular, I remember being sent to Coventry by my entire college dorm because in my snide sophomoric review of the House opera I remarked that perhaps the fairies in the cast might have found more flattering costumes than leotards (they were rather pudgy). Criticism is usually more about the critic striking an attitude than it is about the art...
Older, [possibly wiser and definitely pudgier now, my views on art criticism today are these:
Perhaps because most of the people in my husband and my families are at least somewhat gifted artistically (music, painting, drawing, sculpture, ballet, writing, variously) we are united in our contempt for most corporate sponsored art and particularly modern art these days. We know, we know, the modern monstrosities of yesteryear are today's classics...But we know the difference between good and shoddy craft...between genuine and faked inspiration. I was pleasantly surprised by the work of that artist who does natural scenes that Bird Dog posted a link to recently--amazing that corporations are actually buying anything that cool! Hope!
Those of us gifted amateurs or who have literally starved in a garret for our art know how much work goes into perfecting the craft. The muse does not exempt us from practice, practice, practice. Talk to any dancer about it! Toes bleeding into those satin shoes...
Whether we are capturing a spectacular play of God's light on His world in a photograph, or making a complicated dance look spontaneous, easy and stir people's heart, whether we are practicing the piano for hours, we know that beauty is not just a matter of salesmanship, chutzpah, political correctness, or even just passive appreciation of God's glory.
In my fuddy duddy Boston way, I believe that the reason most modern art and virtually all art criticism today is such garbage is that we have fewer members of the audience today bothering to create art at home. What was the saying, those who can't do, teach, those who can't teach become critics? The gifted amateur may be sneered at by some lefty NY a"""e, but they appreciate the work and the vision of the "real" artists, and are good at scoping out the con artists. Just as Bird Dog has great respect for anyone who has put the time and effort into writing a book (however bad) because he has written one himself, so too people who create art themselves are the best critics. Those of us who labor in our own gardens have a better eye for what to plant than some hedge fund whiz kid who pays a landscaper to transform his personal Eden. We home gardeners know what the deer will eat, what is too fragile to live without mainlining toxins, etc.
So, my house is full of rather beautiful paintings by my mother in law (who lacked the marketing instincts to promote herself and become famous), by exquisite reproductions of paintings in the National Gallery by my greatgrandmother, by numerous family portraits and gifts from artist friends of the family. The children's grandfather and his 3 siblings played in their own string quartet, I trained professionally to be a dancer until being too short for the Balanchine ideal cut that dream off. My autistic kid draws cartoons and sculpts figures of extraordinary grace, my other kids pick up and discard drawing styles, try out different varieties of poetry to write each week the way most teenagers visit the mall. My husband and I take photos that have been somewhat admired but we would never try to make anything off of them(it would be like selling your children or anything else you created in love--I cook well because it is a gift to my beloved family, I wouldn't do it for a living).
Most of my relatives a couple of generations back were Ivy professors and all of my generation revolted in disgust and either went into commerce (the family anthem is "Oh I am a pirate king, HaHa!) or into the helping professions, often at a "lower" level than the family IQ or traditions might predict...Despite equally good educations, we rebelled against the professors' snobbery, armchair liberalism, ivory tower nonsense. We appreciated their brains, their scholarship, and dedication to their students, but found their views on art to be plain silly.
Honestly, I would rather buy good quality Museum reproductions for my house than get ripped off by some Emperor's New Clothes modern artist trying to sell me abstract art that will give my guests indigestion in the dining room. Art can delight, edify, inspire, transport us. A favorite of mine is the (Raphael?) miniature of St. George slaying the dragon that I had in my room as a child, that I especially loved because my greatgrandmother had lovingly copied it from the National Gallery. Her labors made it as precious as the original vision! Plus, what person of any spirit at all can resist the call to heroism!
It is difficult to resist that call to be heroic by painting a reproduction, isn't it? Fortunately, some have successors to recount family goodness!
Duchamp thought of viewer as a participant in the creative act through interp of piece, so guess his piece (above) could be thought of as "Construed Descending a Staircase" or maybe even "Nudely Condescending a Staircase."
But I like this particular work, aesthetically, without words or explanation from docent or doorman. Have I missed the point?
It isn't that I consider it heroic to paint a reproduction of a great masterpiece. But the effect of viewing that painted copy can be to inspire the young to be heroic. Just as being forced as children to memorize mediocre patriotic poetry helped shape the Brits into the kind of people who could be bombed and bombed and bombed again without succumbing to Hitler. "The boy stood on the burning deck, whence all but he had fled..."
And, not to belabor a point, but I admire the humility of a technician like my widowed relative who contented herself copying the greats all day, then helping look after her grandchildren by evening, instead of inflicting ghastly modern daubs of her own on the world. Enough...