Tuesday, August 26, 2008

With Refreshing Optimism let us consider the journey!

I was reading a very interesting article today in Art in America (September issue), one of my favorite magazines – a lot meatier than most quilting magazines!!! It’s a fascinating magazine especially the reviews: you might come across comments of unusual honesty and directness – I remember one reviewer saying that “the artist appears to have painted this picture while falling downstairs”!!

Cynicism in art is common, of course, especially these days: “one is hard pressed to regard [the artist’s installations] as anything other than relics of a civilization incapable of sustaining itself”. But another take on cynicism that might be more relevant to the quilt world would be this comment: “Perhaps in our age of cynicism the most provocative thing an artist can do is to be decidedly unpolitical and refreshingly optimistic”

So let us provoke the rest of the art world with fresh takes and insouciant gamboling (not gambling – though of course it is!!) in the world of dye, paint and fibre!

To return, however, to my original point: The article I was reading today is a review by the painter Richard Kalina of a show in New York called “Action/Abstraction”. The show (which I’m sorry I won’t be able t o see) examines Abstract Expressionism as seen by the rival critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg – both long deceased. The author discusses in depth their disparate views and the enormous influence they had in the second half of the twentieth century. He closes with some important conclusions that are relevant to all artists.

In order for us to understand the role of the artist in society today, Kalina feels that we should have some way to determine the validity of the work. There should be a way to judge the quality of the work by some means other than market value (and in the quilt world this might also mean acceptance to those key shows, the number of prizes, popularity in magazines etc etc). As Oscar Wilde (ever a man for a pithy quotation!) said (those) who know the price of everything know the value of nothing.

Greenberg and Rosenberg were very serious thinkers and writers with considerable knowledge of art. Even though times have changed and the art world is much more scattered than before, their way of judging forms a strong basis for assessing the quality of a work of art. When Rosenberg looked at art he questioned: Is there evidence of “a creative spark”? Can one see an authentic observation or concern on the part of the artist? Does the artist show a significant commitment to their work? Does this piece of art justify its making?

Greenberg would compare the work to its predecessors. He would also stress workmanship, looking at how well made the piece was – whatever the medium. He would examine composition: How well do the different elements work together, is everything essential? Is there anything missing? He also felt that a conceptual piece needed to go beyond the mere idea of that concept. (think of all those dreadful tampon pieces we had to put up with in the name of feminism!). Greenberg valued what he called “aesthetic surprise” which he felt was an essential part of great art: “aesthetic surprise comes from inspiration and sensibility as well as from being abreast of the artistic times”.

Both critics would urge us (as would be artists) to risk failure, to push deeper, to avoid easy solutions, to eschew the predictable, and abhor the trite and slick. This is going to be tough! But it sets a direction to begin the journey.

And if you have been, thanks for reading….and now for a nice cuppa tea...


1 comment:

beadbabe49 said...

This is one of the aspects of the web I love the most....I was standing in my kitchen waiting for my tea to brew and I thought to myself, I need a teacher and a mentor for where I'm going next in my fiber work....and the tea is ready, so I bring it back to my studio and are pointed in your direction by deb lacativa blog and here you are...asking just the questions I need to be asking and even giving hints (wonderful links, that is) on finding some answers or at the very least, inspiration!
Ain't modern technology grand!

(and thank you for writing such thought provoking posts)