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Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Content and Meaning
I can’t remember the last time I had a conversation about art content. When you have to probe your memory for something as basic as a discussion about art, there is clearly a problem with the discourse on the fine arts in your community. I have had conversations about the subject with peers in other cities. As for a real indepth conversation here, it has been a long time. It has been too long.
The discuss that by and large take place are about what sold. As to be expected in a market where art sales are as rare as Chinese Cresteds, it follows logically that the fiscal end of art is a topic of discussion. The existence of art and finance are front and center because nearly everyone making art expects to make a living doing it exclusively. The sad reality is that most don’t. The bigger picture problem is not who makes a living off of art as much as it should be about what is being made and said.
Start to query some local talent about the meaning of their work and you may be treated to an empty journey that concludes with “I paint what I like.” Since most artist enjoy the creative process, the aforementioned doesn’t say much. This kind of discussion of art where it ends with doing what makes you happy is suitable for a dilatant. It is not so appropriate for serious contemporary fine artist. If looking to say more artistically, more is expected.
The level of in depth discussions where artists really talk to each other about the work simply doesn’t take place in a public setting, and not too often in private ones.
To some degree the lack of artists discussing their work is not totally to blame for the lack of discourse. In a city that still lacks a serous art publication on the level of say Atlanta’s “Art Papers,” there are few paradigms that artists can look to for guidance. The paucity of something tangible that spreads beyond a magazine page is a problem. Space is necessary for discourse.
The net result of so little discussion is that the art suffers. Unlike life at Cranbrook where art discussions were demanded, leave the confines of academia and the venues evaporate. While there is much to be critical of in academia, it is still the only sanctuary, or it should be, that keeps the light of content alive. At the schools must successful at turning out substantive talent, critical discourse is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
The argument that artists should produce work and leave interpretation to the viewer is a abnegation of artistic responsibility. The first thing such an approach does is that it liberates the artist from ever having to say anything at all. It can also serve as a safety net for those that simply cannot articulate what they do because there is so little there.
Paucity of content in art leads to the eventual deterioration of creativity. When art is so insular that it cannot be permitted space in the arena of serious investigation, it becomes a mute art that will never reach anyone at any time. Art is intended as a communication between creator and reader. Minus the communicative factor, art becomes a one way circus that permits self-indulgence.
Meaningful progress art has never been produced by those indulging their whims. Serious art is the process of serious thinking. Leaving the thinking behind only means that art is simply a visual orchestration of plastic concerns that devolve into decorative “kitsch.”
Kitsch can be part of a meaningful art work. Look no further than early Andy Warhol and you see an artist who took popular culture to new subversive levels. Warhol ultimately had something to say. He was confident enough to commit his thoughts on art into book form.
Kitsch by itself without purpose remains kitsch and little more. To emulate popular culture without aim, to simply replicate it is little more than a form of artistic theft. When art inspires new ideas, it is refreshing. When art simply copies without the touch of an individual voice it becomes replication without substance.