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March 28, 2003

Artchat Survival Guide 3 -- The Word "Art"

Friedrich --

In middle age I find that I have much less interest in aesthetic theory than I once did, and much more interest in general rules of thumb -- survival guides, tips that help get me into the ball park. Just about anything that’s based in practical experience, in fact.

The word "art," unsurprisingly, is one of those words I’ve had to learn to be very careful around. “Is it art?” “But it’s not really art?” “Who are you to say it’s art?” Etc., etc. I was thinking about how I think of the word these days as opposed to how I thought of the word back in our days at our Lousy Ivy College. And I realized that, without having given it much systematic thought, I’ve evolved some strategies for dealing with the word -- ways of dodging pointless arguments as well as making what for me is good use of the word. I scratched my chin, I made a few notes, and came up with this: my rough guide to the word "art."

I find it useful to think of the word as having three main meanings.

1) Small-a "art." It's a technical term, nothing more than a description of a certain class of activity.This is very evo-bio: art is anything above and beyond pure functionality. (I’m deliberately ignoring here any and all muddyings of form and function. It doesn’t make serious sense to do so, but, hey, I’m trying to draw a useful distinction here...) In this meaning, “art” has nothing to do with indicating quality and everything to do with the kind of activity it describes. Think of the word “sport” for a comparison. It describes a certain kind of activity without telling you how good any example of such an activity is. Playing marbles or recreational waterskiing are examples of “sport” every bit as much as an NBA playoff game is.

The same with this use of the word “art.” Every society sings, dances, decorates, and tells stories. And it's all small-a art. This jug isn't just a container for water. It's blue, it's shaped like a duck, and it has feather patterns on it -- that’s the art. People decorate themselves, they stitch and dye cloth, they put colored mud on their animal-skin huts. They get dressed up nice for rituals where they dance, make noise, and eat specially-prepared food -- it's all art. All societies (except those entirely caught up in a battle for survival) have and make art in this sense.

Fun consequence: look around you. Art is everywhere! Your wife’s earrings are small-a art. Your shoes are small-a art. The design of that brochure is art. If you think they aren't, ask yourself why the Met Museum is full of cups, saucers, fabrics, rugs, knives, etc. Why do we accept that a fork from Malawi is art, but think that the fork in our own kitchen drawer isn't?

2) Big-A "Art." As technical a term as small-a art, this one referring to a semi-aristocractic activity, ie. "fine art," goods meant to exist primarily for aesthetic contemplation. Not all societies have this kind of Art. France, Japan, and India have it. The pygmies, as far as I know, don't.

America has always had a fraught relationship with Art in this sense. It tends to strike us as being of the old world. It's snobby, intellectual, and aristocratic, yet somehow sexy, admirable and desirable. We love it; we hate it; we take it too seriously; we're scornful of it; we covet it; we get hung up on it. Part of the ongoing drama in the American big-A Art world is a consequence of the fact that we have such a dynamic popular culture (commercial photography, pop music, etc) and such a rich folk culture (the blues, country cooking, etc). With all these riches right at hand, who needs big-A Art?

And in fact tens of millions of Americans have complete cultural lives that include zero big-A Art. A fact that makes our big-A Artists and their supporters all nutsy. They feel and act beleaguered ("America is so uncultured!"), they hide out in academia, they imagine that what they do is superior to or above the commercial world, they want to be taken care of, they demand public funding for what they do, they make absurd claims for their kind of Art, they turn it into a religion. They get foolish and pretentious, they lose their sense of humor, they get antagonistic to normal people and normal life. And so everyday people hate them or just wish they’d go away. Then the big-A Artists roll their eyes, and the cycle starts all over again.

In any case, the above two categories are useful because they're objective. Works fall in one category or the other (or straddle them).

A muddying-the-water intermission: That said, it's also fun to trace how things change over time. Opera, for instance, was originally a court entertainment, then it became a popular art form (rather like movies or rock concerts), and is now once again an example of big-A Art. Most Renaissance painting was, at the time it was made, high-end wall decoration for the church or for rich people. Raphael, Michelangelo, etc were in the same business as, say, the guys who painted signs for pubs and banks. They just happened to be the best in the field. They worked on commission, they had contracts and assistants -- they weren't "artists" in the sense we think of it these days, solitary creatures sitting around expressing themselves, hoping someone will dig their work and throw money their way. They were in business. As far as I can tell, the closest thing we have these days to a Raphael, and to how he worked (not talking quality or greatness, but the kind of service he provided and how he went about it), would be a small ad agency. Yet these days we think of Raphael, etc, as the biggest of big-A Art.

The nice and (to my mind) useful thing about the small-a/big-A distinction is that it doesn't require quality judgment, just  knowledge and experience. It's an easy and solid taxonomy, and which category to put a work in doesn't tend to generate much argument. A piece of folk little-a art might be terrific, as far as you're concerned, and a post-modern big-A Art poem might stink. But your opinion of them doesn't budge them out of their category. One's still little-a art, the other's still big-A Art. There’s no place here for quality judgments.

End of intermission.

3) Then there's "Art" in the sense that drives everyone mad, ie., "Art" in the judgment sense. What seems meant by "Art" in this sense is generally: gee, it's just so damn good, I love it so much, that I've got to give it a special name, I've got to put it in a special category. Therefore: it's "Art"!

This is where everyone gets in trouble; this is, as far as I can tell, what causes 90% of the arguments. I like it, therefore it's art, you don't and therefore it's not art.

Personally, I find these discussions pointless, and these days I manage pretty consistently to avoid taking part in them, although I often don't mind being an amused onlooker. Imagine that I’m having a discussion about “Star Wars” with one of the movie’s fans. I didn’t enjoy it, the fan did -- but it’s very likely we can agree without too much stress that it's a work of popular (and therefore small-a) art. The fan thinks it's terrific small-a art, I think it's lousy small-a art, but we can both agree it's small-a art. We only get miffed with each other if the conversation starts to be about whether or not it's "Art" in the sense of “it’s good.” The fan says “Of course it’s art,” and I say “you’ve got to be kidding.” What we’re really saying is “I liked it” and “I didn’t.”

So, these weary middle-aged days, I do my best to avoid using the word art in this sense. Also, I’ve become convinced that using "Art" in this quality-judgment sense only really serves those who would make -- or who want to make -- the "it's Art" or "it's not Art" decision. Would-be opinion-makers. How? Allow the conversation to move in this direction and you start to find yourself surrounded by people who are stressing that you ought to take their opinion seriously -- more seriously than the next guy’s, more seriously than your friend’s, more seriously than your own. Allowing the word to be used in this way gives power to those who want their opinions to prevail. It contributes to a world in which "Art" is viewed as an exclusive country club, with a bunch of people (profs, critics, annoying friends) jostling for a seat on the club's board. Who's in? Who's out? It becomes very quickly a matter of personalities and politics, and the art -- at least what interests me about art, which is the experience of it -- gets lost in the din.

Personally, I'd rather focus on the art itself, and not on whether or not it's going to make it onto some ass's list of "the greats." But that's my preference. Some people really love the “do we let it in the country club or not?” end of things. I'll leave those debates to them. I don’t usually like these people, and I find their preoccupation with passing judgment and getting rewarded for doing so offensive when it’s not laughable. But there do seem to be some people for whom this activity is important. Fuck ‘em, but such is life.

It seems to me that, historically, what's gummed up a lot of discussions about art and created lots of confusion is rock 'n' roll. These days, almost everyone's kind of agreed that rock is indeed Art with a big A. I can't get with this myself, though it's certainly art with a small a.

What happened was that in the '60s and '70's baby boomers who loved rock decided they couldn't stand it that the music they loved wasn't respected, and wasn't thought to be on the same level as, say, Bach. So they agitated and argued and eventually got published and became editors and got positions in universities, and now they dictate opinion, or try to, and now everyone agrees that rock is big-A Art. But, if so, let's at least be consistent. If rock (a pop, commercial form) is big-A Art, why isn't a sitcom? Why isn't a technothriller, or a romance novel? Why isn't a greeting card?

It seems clear to me that what people are saying when they say "rock is Art!" is "Gosh, I just love it so much," or "Something that means so much to me must be great," or "I hereby identify myself as a member of a certain group." It's all meaningless, a cacophony of warring subjectivities. And not of much use.

Boring discussions, boring arguments: "It's Art!" (Translation: I like it!) "No, it's not!" (Translation: I don't.) Why not just cut to the "I like it"/"I don't" discussion and forget about the "is it Art" bit? At least then participants can stop arguing and have the fun of comparing notes. ("Really, you thought that was a good performance?" "Yeah, he was up to something interesting." "Really, maybe I missed it. What?") And when you compare notes you can sometimes get somewhere. You might open up to some new experience. You might learn something. At the very least, you aren't (ie. one isn't) wasting time arguing over whether or not some work or other should be admitted into some stupid country club.

How to resolve this problem? Well, in the case of rock, I’d argue that it would serve everyone to let go of the pretence that it’s big-A Art. To say that something is big-A Art doesn't necessarily mean "good," any more than "intellectual" necessarily means smart. An intellectual is simply someone with a certain temperamental proclivity -- he's a very mind-and-head-oriented person who processes everything through thought. I've known a lot of dumb intellectuals. And, similarly, I've known small-a art (New Yorker cartoons, for instance) that struck me as far more worthwhile than much big-A Art (most poems in The New Yorker, say). So I wish the rock crowd would let go of the “rock is big-A Art” argument. It’s silly and it's wrong. Rock is a popular art with some folk-art tributaries -- little-a art. Which isn’t to say I don’t love some of it.

But I’m turning in circles now, and I’m sure you got my drift several paragraphs ago. To distill: For survival purposes, I’ve decided that I find it worthwhile and helpful to pause and make the distinction between little-a art and big-A Art. But as for “art” being used to indicate quality -- thanks but no thanks. I’ll talk about whether I enjoyed or didn’t enjoy something, and I’m eager to hear how you reacted. But I’ll leave the quarrels over whether or not to let some artwork into the country club to others even more pompous than I am.

What rough rules have you evolved to help get you by where the word “art” is concerned?

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at March 28, 2003




Comments

Michael,
I took a drawing class a couple of years ago. During the class, the teacher took us to the University collection of drawings that were not on display. There were several I liked and several that I could not for the life of me see as "Art." They were by some famous Artist. Feeling cheeky at the moment, I asked the curator why these works were considered "Art." And he replied after a small sigh that told me I was a total peasant, and I quote "Because we have them in our collection."

Deb

Posted by: Deb on March 28, 2003 09:47 AM



Hey Deb, that's a great story. It reminds me of a similar one. I was at a conference on computers and literature, and a series of professors got up and spoke about this odd thing called "Theory." Not theories about anything, just Theory. So I stood up, put on my best Columbo face and asked, "Why do professors talk about Theory so much?" One of them looked at me, probably with the same expression on his face that your prof gave you, and said, "Because we're professors."

What do you suppose they imagine? That they're making beautiful pirouettes when in fact they're just turning in circles?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 28, 2003 10:31 AM



Michael,

You more or less articulated how I feel about the topic. Though I think I'm a bit more liberal about what I'll allow as high, Big-A art.
____
What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs who's stuck to the wall?

"Art."

Posted by: Yahmdallah on March 28, 2003 10:52 AM



Michael,

I think had I been a Real Art student instead of the middle aged, taking-a-drawing-course-for-fun student, I may have gotten a more didactic answer.
However, when I was a Real Literature student, back in the stone ages, I wrote my senior thesis on "Middlemarch" and Eliot's use of the web image to demonstrate her concept of community and "fellow-feeling." I was cheeky back then and tired of professors ruining perfectly good stories and included a sub thesis that implied literary analysis done on an academic level is really a way of giving folks who cant write real books a way to at least have some contact with them in a paying way. I got an A.

Deb

Posted by: Deb on March 28, 2003 10:56 AM



My survival mechanism for getting by, is that I try not to get involved with people/discussions where "Art" = "Religion". Which is to say, "art" or "Art" are pretty much the same to me, and furiously "Artistic" persons, for whom the distinction is religious are out of my picture.

I will get somewhat microscopic. To me, everything in this life is art. Good, bad, genius, hideous, tasteless, phenomenal, earthshattering, abysmal. All acts, things, deeds, are art. The passage of time, or the judgement of a few make some art "art", and other art "Art". We confuse the issue by referencing acts or performances that customarily have little or nothing to do with traditional art forms: "the art of motorcycle maintenance", "the art of survival", "the artful dodger".

"I like it/I don't like it" seems a much more useful criteria than "folk art/art/Art". So, when some pretentious fool next says to me: "but is it Art?", I shall say "yes. Do you like it? I do/don't like it.". And the beautiful thing is, I shall be right every time!

Posted by: Felicity on March 29, 2003 12:05 AM



Sorry, grammatical incorrectness back there. seems a much more useful criteria ought to be seems much more useful criteria . Must proofread. More carefully.

Posted by: Felicity on March 29, 2003 12:09 AM



Excellent essay. I feel that a lot of people use the word "Art" (or "art") to validate their own opinions. If you say "I like it" that's obviously just an opinion but if you say "It's art" you're trying to elevate the status of the object - it's no longer just your opinion; it's a "fact."

I've been in many arguments like this. (Started some myself, actually) What no one has ever been able to satisfactorily answer is "Why are paintings by artists such as Pollock and Rothko considered "Art" while similar paintings by children or amatuers are merely "art"?

Posted by: Lynn S on March 29, 2003 02:03 PM



Hi Felicity -- You're absolutely right, by me ta least; it's that religious fervor some people have that makes it so hard to talk to them. Why are they so adamant? On the other hand, some art experiences do resemble (on a very personal level) religiouis experiences, so that can gum it up a bit, or at least make the whole topic a little like nitroglycerine, exciting but dangerous to handle. Which is probably part of what attracted all of us to the arts in the first place, sigh. Eager to hear more about strategies you've developed. You gotta avoid the idiot explosions, but you gotta manage to have at least a few interesting conversations too. Not easy. But otherwise, why bother?

Hey Lynn, Thanks for putting it so much more directly and concisely than I managed to! And great to see that you've got your blog back and running again. We'd missed you.

All art-chat tips appreciated.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 29, 2003 02:54 PM



There's a great book called Understanding Comics by cartoonist Scott McCloud which attempts to lay out a Theory of the comic book art (and largely succeeds). One part of the book that always bugged me was the chapter where he defines and discusses "art" as a concept.

McCloud begins a chapter by defining art as "anything humans do that is not related to survival or procreation." He then illustrates this definition with a very amusing two-page story about Caveman Og (or some similar, Caveman-y type of name), who is initially chasing a woman — procreation — but then suddenly has to switch gears when a sabre-toothed tiger starts chasing him — survival.

Og runs up a hill, the tiger hot on his heels. At the top, Og jumps into a tree, and the tiger goes over the edge of a cliff to the rocks below. Og looks down while McCloud explains that he has several options open to him: He could go looking for food (survival), or he could try to find that cavewoman again (procreation). Instead —

Og sticks out his tongue and goes "THPBPBPBPBTTTT!!!"

McCloud looks at the reader and says, simply, "Art."

It's funny, yes, but I still think a greater distinction needs to be made between two very different concepts than simply a capital A versus a lowercase a. Go ahead and call me a snob, you're probably right, but I'm not trying to "prove" my tastes are better.

What concerns me here is a difference of (I'm grasping for the right word here) relevance. In my judgement, Art, or Great Art, or whatever you want to call it, is something whose power to move people transcends individual experience and even cultural differences.

If you approach it in conversation in this fashion, rather than getting into the "Is it Art" argument, I think things will go more smoothly. I.e., try to find out what it is that this person likes about this work. Then you can determine whether this aspect affects him because of his particular experience ("Battlefield Earth really spoke to me as a Scientologist!") or because of something intrinsic to the work itself (what would Shakespeare have thought of his influence on Japanese filmmaker Kurosawa Akira 300+ years after his plays were written?).

I'm expressing this very poorly, I'm afraid, but at the moment I can't do better.

There are two related, but immensely different concepts here — "any creative endeavor" and "a creation which communicates across subjective differences and cultural boundaries."

Are they both expressed adequately, and differentiated adequately, by the single word "art?" I don't believe so, personally.

Posted by: Ian on March 29, 2003 08:33 PM



Well, Ian, you've nailed the issue on the head there. We DO use the word "art" to cover a multitude of sins. I still think, however, that the "art-" or "Art-" -ness of a thing or act, is pretty much a matter of degree, not nature. I am in complete agreement that one production may only speak to the creator, where another may be; "a creation which communicates across subjective differences and cultural boundaries." Does that make the first "art" and the second "Art"?

I say no. I say it is a matter of degree.

Michael, as for survival techniques (redux), why do you suppose so many of us hang out here at "2Blowhards"? I am not a preacher (a professional haranguer), so I try not to get into discussions/arguments with people for whom art/Art is a religious/Religious issue. Unless one is a proselytizer by nature, such discourse is fruitless and painful. So I don't. Instead, I gravitate towards people/virtual people who can appreciate many sides. This is negative, true. But so is survival. (Like Ian's Og story, someone survives. I would rather it be me, even if it is only philosophical survival).

Perhaps avoidance is a privilage of age. At another stage of life, argumentative interaction may be productive. I don't avoid reading or speaking with adamanters, I just don't argue with them. I would characterize this as the "hermit crab" technique.

And, by the way, this was a fine, and provocative post! Thanks.

Posted by: Felicity on March 29, 2003 10:47 PM



Hey Ian, Thanks for the very thoughtful comment, and for reminding me of "Understanding Comics." I read it years ago and enjoyed it, though I don't remember the story you tell from it. Alas, middle-age memory...

You raise a ton of good points that I'd be interested to read you on further. But I think you're speaking more generally than I am. My more modest goal here is to reflect a bit on my personal experience of the arts. One thing I've found over the years is that talking about the arts can be like talking about money, sex, religion, or politics -- it's potentially very explosive. That's part of the attraction of the arts, I suspect, and it's certainly part of what's fun about them especially when you're young.

Now that I'm entering my geezer years, though, I find that I'm much more comfortable making some efforts to be careful and respectul while still also doing my best to keep things interesting, fresh and rewarding. It's important to me to maintain some amiable calm, yet keep the subject continuing to open up.

How to do so? I find the "nearly everything is art" and "fine art is just a specific subcategory of art" approach helpful, and I find dodging the "it's art because it's good" and the "it's art because I like it" discussions enormously useful. I find that this way I can get to what interests me in talking about the arts (your experience of art, Lynn's, Deb's, Yahmdallah's, Felicity's, mine) more directly, and with infinitely less wear and tear.

Which is one reason why I'm very interested in everyone else's hunches, strategies and tips. For one thing, I want to try them out myself. For another, because the ways we develop of getting by can be beautiful, revealing and touching, not to say funny. No one's right, no one's wrong -- we're just comparing notes about our experience of a nutty field that we're all (perhaps bizarrely) drawn to.

I wouldn't by any means claim that that's all there is to the arts, or to having discussions about them. (And I confess that there are in fact a few people -- very carefully selected! -- who I'm comfortable really getting into truth-and-beauty-and-greatness things with. We can drink and talk for hours.) But I can say that I'm generally much happier with the shape and quality of the arts discussions that I have when I'm using these strategies than when I'm not.

Here's an example of how one might go. Say you and I see the film "Artemesia," about the painter Artemesia Gentilleschi. It seems to me that there are three potential main topics of conversation afterwards: 1) What was it? 2) How'd you react? and 3) Was it "good," or maybe even "great"? Subject #1 is lots of fun, it seems to me. You point out that it's a biopic. I point out that it's high-minded Eurotrash art-porn. You point out that it's also got a feminist message. And we go back and forth, adjusting and adding and correcting. Hey, it's a costume-drama, feminist Eurotrash art-porn biopic! We've got its genre and its subgenre and its sub-subgenre nailed, and we haven't gotten upset with each other. What fun.

Subject #2 is fun too. You tell me you liked the main actress, I say I enjoyed the recreations of how the painters worked, you say you dozed off during those sections, we both agree that interlude with the rapist was disturbing but kinda hot -- again, we have the fun of comparing notes and opening up to possibilities that wouldn't have occurred to us left to our own devices, and there are no bruised feelings. I can't dispute your reactions -- heck, they're your reactions -- and you can't dispute mine. Yet in comparing notes we deepen and explore our experience. Again, what fun.

It's only when we start to talk about topic #3 that we're likely to get peeved with each other. You thought it was OK, but I thought it was great. You make fun of my judgment, and then I remind you what an idiot you were about that indie film we saw last month. This kind of thing doesn't always happen, but in my experience it does tend to happen all too often. And, cautious guy that I've become, I don't see the point in taking the chance. I'm not even sure, come to think of it, what's meant to come of such a discussion. Is the movie's value meant to be definitively nailed down? Are we somehow going to succeed, if only we really hash it out, in placing the film on its correct rung on the ladder of greatness? As if. So what's the point of taking on this topic?

Such is my feeling, anyway. I don't at all mean to impose my strategies on anyone else (although if you ever do go to a movie with me you'll probably notice our moviechat afterwards taking on a certain pattern...), and I certainly don't mean to be advancing here many definitive ideas about art or greatness more generally. We'd have to know and trust each other pretty well before I'd try that -- although I'll admit that Friedrich and I are hoping to start getting into some more touchy art-related subjects than we usually do (the religious and erotic qualities and meanings of art, mainly). We feel like we've been wimps, and have avoided discussing some of what's most important to us about the arts. And we're feeling kinda shy about it, honestly, and are hoping that whoever's good enough to drop by and read a bit will be feeling generous and appreciative (if only of the effort), and won't feel too embarrassed for us, and that a few people might even feel like shyly joining in the discussion. But, you know, it's tough discussing such things superdirectly, however much you may want to do so.

As for greatness, and whether or not a given work has some kind of transcendent, supra-cultural impact -- well, who's to say? It can certainly be said about Plato or Bach, but that's because they've meant a lot to a lot of people over a long period of time. History has done the proving. People return to them; they've had a huge impact. Perhaps that's what greatness is, or at least one way it can be determined. But how to be even slightly sure of such a thing with current work? I'm fairly secure in my brains, my taste and my knowledge, but I also know I'm not terribly confident that other people will share my opinion. I'm such an oddball, apparently -- yet who's to say I'm not "right"? But what would it be to be "right"?

And is there a way of getting through to some larger sense of how others might take a work? Every now and then I see (or read or whatever) something current and feel pretty certain that it'll have an impact, and I'm even occasionally right. Not all that often, though. I can dream that I'll one day be proved right -- but I'll be dead by then, so who cares?

All of which leads me (doesn't have to lead anyone else) to concluding that taking part in the "is it great art" conversation is (for me) a waste of time. I'm too much of an Adam Smith/Hayek/Chris Alexander/emergent phenomena/simple-Buddhism person to give myself over to such discussions. For me, shapes and patterns will arise on their own out of the interactions of millions of free agents making their own decisions. Ie., "greatness" is something we have no control over, and that'll emerge (or not emerge) on its own no matter how hard any of us try to control the outcome. So why bother trying to control the outcome?

And it doesn't hurt to remember that even outcomes change too. Take, as Lynne points out, Rothko. At one point, not so long ago, people treated Rothko paintings with immense reverence, as though the voice of God himself was speaking through them. These days, my impression is that they look pretty bombastic, full of hot air, and frankly kind of overblown and silly. I sense younger people passing by them at the museum pretty quickly, giving them a shrug. Maybe in 50 years they'll seem great again. But by then I'll be dead.

So instead of arguing over whether not Rothkos paintings are great, I'll choose to focus on my reactions and observations, and on yours too. I'll try to see what's there. Felicity makes an excellent point when she says that the word "art" covers a multitude of sins. For me, the nice thing about taking it to mean, at its most general, everything that isn't strictly functional or for survival -- which by the way is a good way to take it anthropologically, and I can suggest a few good books that discuss art from that point of view -- is that it takes a load off the whole idea of art.

Very nice of everyone to let me gas on like this, and many thanks to everyone for all the thoughts and observations.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 30, 2003 02:14 AM



"Art" -- from Latin "ars," meaning "skill" or "craft." Same root as "artifice" and "artificial," by which we mean "man-made." So if some human being shaped it and consciously crafted it in some way, it's art.

Americans are often assumed not to have a true artistic tradition, because we never had an aristocracy to shape public taste as Yurrup had a few centuries back. Until very recently most of what we've learned to call the "fine arts" were created for the purpose of venerating the Church, the nobility, or both. (This is one reason Impressionism is such an important movement in art history, because with Impressionism art moves away from the nobility and toward the bourgeoisie. It's no coincidence that Impressionism was the first artistic movement in which Americans played a fairly important part - cf. Whistler, etc.

In America, religion and the aristocracy have generally found themselves on the margins of life. Thus, there's not much in the way of "fine arts," at least as we've come to expect them. But what that means is that American art tends to be -- in praxis though not so much in theory -- a "people's art."

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on March 30, 2003 10:38 PM



I've discussed with friends and artists the question Lynn posted, "What no one has ever been able to satisfactorily answer is "Why are paintings by artists such as Pollock and Rothko considered "Art" while similar paintings by children or amatuers are merely "art"?

The best we came up with was that Pollock had an agent and his stuff was in a gallery!!

Posted by: David Mercer on April 1, 2003 02:52 AM




As an aside: a recent scientific American had an interesting article on some of Pollock's paintings.

Part of the answer, of course, is that in cases like Pollock and Rothko and a couple of others I' can't spell, a child could not, in fact, do it.

Posted by: j.c. on April 2, 2003 09:51 AM






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