Monday, April 21, 2014
Art readers digest
From "The Shape of Content," by Ben Shahn, 1956
Such prevailing values exercise a powerful effect upon art, both in the making and in the judging. Consider, for instance, our own highly cherished concept of freedom. It is our proudest value, the one for which we are ready to sacrifice everything, so that we find ourselves inclined to sacrifice liberty of speech and even liberties of action -- lest we be even suspected of opposing freedom. The concept of freedom in art takes interesting forms: freedom of execution, for instance, is a basis for evaluation. How often do we read the critical comment that this or that work appears "labored." And on the other hand, the calligraphic, the easily brushed style is highly admired; it has a free look about it. Extreme care is "tight" and not good; extreme freedom is "loose" and considered desirable. Art becomes increasingly free; it has freed itself of craft, freed itself from academic discipline, freed itself from meaning in many cases, and freed itself of responsibility. In some of the recent phases almost the only ingredient left in art besides paint seems to be freedom.