Saturday, September 7, 2013

Art reader's digest

Last spring when I was taking an art history class heavy on theory, I wondered in the blog whether theory actually had anything to do with people who make art, or if it was just for people who talk about art.  Here's one answer to that question.

From "Art and Fear," by David Bayles and Ted Orland, 1993:

"Today art issues have for the most part become solely the concern of artists, divorced from -- and ignored by -- the larger community.  Today artists often back away from engaging the times and places of their life, choosing instead the largely intellectual challenge of engaging the times and places of Art. But it's an artificial construct that begins and ends at the gallery door.  Apart from the readership of Artforum, remarkably few people lose sleep trying to incorporate gender-neutral biomorphic deconstructivism into their personal lives.  As Adam Gopnik remarked in The New Yorker, "Post-modernist art is, above all, post-audience art."

"In such a setting artists strain to find material of any human consequence.  Under pressure of impending irrelevance, they may begin to fill their canvasses and monitors with charged particles 'appropriated' from other places and times.  It is as though art itself confers universality upon its subject, as though in art all objects automatically retain their power -- as though you could incorporate the power of the Plains Indian medicine bundle into your work.  Or convincingly complete the closing movements of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.  Today, indeed, you can find urban white artists -- people who could not reliably tell a coyote from a German shepherd at a hundred feet -- casually incorporating the figure of Coyote the Trickster into their work.  A premise common to all such efforts is that power can be borrowed across space and time.  It cannot.  There's a difference between meaning that is embodied and meaning that is referenced.  As someone once said, no one should wear a Greek fisherman's hat except a Greek fisherman."


  1. Excellent, Kathleen. You just reinforced some of my own reflections on "ART". Thanks!
    best, nadia

  2. yes, I think that makes very good sense.
    Although I think it may be possible that someone making work intending to reference something -not borrow it- they can then make work with a 'power' (whatever that is, perhaps 'meaning' is a better term) that is their own.

  3. One of my tiresome refrains--you cannot make authentic art unless it reflects your own authentic experience.