Art Criticism for the 21st Century

By Scott


Attempts to define art have often failed because they do not anticipate the future developments in the history of art. Representational theories of art scarcely anticipated the rise of impressionism or of abstract art; we must understand - art is alive. It rises to incomprehensible heights as witnessed in sculptures of Bernini, or the Gothic Cathedrals of France, to spirals of unfathomable lows as in Duchamp's "Fountains"or Winsor's "Exploded Piece."

Society and social constructs dictate her wealth, her character. These theorists and the representatives among the critical estate try to discern the artist's work in their own narrative approaches. They "remark" so loudly from their intellectual ancestry that they overlook the feature of the main context. Not all creative expression can be boiled down and bottled up to a single functional analysis.

The artistic process and simultaneous creative challenges that stand before the artist at the time of creating a work of art approach the metaphysical. The artist "is" of his/her own nature, the creator of the conversation - sometimes whispering, sometimes screaming to be heard.The artist becomes society's voice.

It seems to me the problem frequently presented by avant-garde art is that some of the artist's interlocutors - the general public and its representatives from academia - often fail to catch the relevance of the artist's "remark" to the ongoing context. Discernment is rare or non-existent in the ability to sense "originality" of work. In other words, there is a glitch in the conversation.

Picasso once said (I believe to Marius de Zayas back in 1923): "Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird?....But in the case of a painting, people have to understand , if only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only a trifling bit of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world, though we can't explain them. People who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree."

So when the representatives of judgments attempt to define and categorize works of art, let us all remind them that art, as logic of the concept shows, has no set of necessary and sufficient properties, hence a theory of it is logically impossible and not merely factually difficult.
Art is really an initial stage of knowledge in which certain human beings (artists), bring their images and intuitions into lyrical clarity or expression. As such, it is an awareness, non-conceptual in character, of the unique individuality of things; and since it exists below the bar of conceptualization or movement, it is sans scientific or moral content. In other words, theorists and critics attempt to define what cannot be defined in its requisite sense.

The concept of art stalls at being defined. It is a historically shifting constellation of action and moments. Nor can the spirit of art be ascertained be searching back to the origins of art in order to locate some elementary and primary layer that supports everything else.Art is contrary too empirical reality. So we find ourselves, as artists, dealing with criticisms that are circular, incomplete, untestable, pseudo-factual, and downright boringly pointless.

It breaks down to the simple: anything which is art is an instance of significant form and expression of emotion; anything lacking of the two is not art.

Art In our society, has been so perverted that not only has bad art come to be considered good art, but even the very perception of what art really is has been lost. Notable, throughout the twentieth century and to the present, given the continuous activity of the avant-garde, accusations have swirled that this or that candidate is not art. Some examples I would include: Duchamp's readymades, Robert Maplethorpe's photography, and most recently, the boxed carcasses and "Twister Art" of Damien Hirst.

Sadly, the confusion between true art and mechanical reproductions is especially appealing and beloved by impotent artists and so-called scholarly interpreters of sho hope to obtain some notoriety and inventions the help which their strength and intellect do not enable them to give themselves. We continue to experience the renaissance of tragedy again and again.

Granted, there is no limit that can be set upon the myriad systems that can be brought under the generic conceptions of art, and each of the primary systems contain further secondary systems. These features of the art world provide the flexibility whereby creativity of even the most bizarre sort can be realized. Not that the works deserve acceptance among the upper classes. But it seems no matter what insanities appear, many become candidates for creative sanction as those of the Dadaists or the works of Adolph Gottlieb, Helen Frankenthaler, or Rothke.

Clearly, a certain view of the nature of concepts underwrites all these attempts. As stated early on "Art is a Concept," so the story goes. But, despite the successes or failures of specific conversations and controversial definitions of works of art, the final say comes from the viewing public, the critics, and the indignant, yet spirited editorials.

What we see is a major part of what we know. And the majority of our society, today, can't see beyond their vacuous disposition.