The debate continues.
Barnett Newman, Voice of Fire, 1967. Image: gala.univ-perp.fr
Yesterday, VoCA reader Earl Miller posted a comment HERE in response to the post ‘Should VoCA be More Critical?’ He says that, given the amount of ‘bad’ art in the world, it’s important as an art journalist to find art that he likes or feels is important, but flawed.
We were inspired by Miller’s comment, a topic which is something that VoCA spends a lot of time thinking about.
It is perhaps useful to turn it into a question – which is more important to write about, art that the critic ‘likes’ or art that is “important for its stature, timing or positioning?
For that matter, does the critic automatically like art that is important?
Wolfgang Laib (one of VoCA’s favorite artists), installing one of his milk stone works. Image: mintdesignblog.com
Good critics should never be concerned with what they ‘like’ but rather should be asking whether a particular artwork is worthwhile to society. What characteristics does this artwork have that make it important – more important than other, similar artworks? What stands out about it? Does the work project an idea forward? Whether or not the critic personally finds the work pleasing should have little to do with it. Part of being a critic is being able to see beyond one’s own aesthetic preferences.
Art is a language. Criticism is about trying to translate the language while keeping it from descending into slang.
Possibly Jerry Saltz (and myself, and many others who agree with him) are wrong and maybe there is far less ‘bad’ art out there and more that is “important for its stature, timing or positioning but flawed.” How should a critic cope with this?
Candice Breitz, Inner + Outer Space, 2008. Image: artmossfear.com
I would argue that all art being made today is in some way important. But the flawed works are not great works and do not deserve being championed. If they are, the art world becomes a charitable, democratic place where artists are rewarded for their every effort.
But the art world has never functioned like that. The very nature of the market means that certain works generate demand and others simply do not. Some artists (the talented, savvy ones) become superstars, written into history, while others (possibly equally talented, perhaps less savvy) do not.
Interestingly, in recent years a ‘middle class’ has emerged in the market. As more galleries open, the market has opened up to a sort of average, where multiples have become popular as successful artists grow their brands while preserving their upper markets. And original works of art sell for $500 – $10,000. Much of this art may not be truly great, but nonetheless holds value in its originality, energy and the pleasure that it creates.
Should this ‘middle class art’ be subject to criticism? How should a critic cope with this? Is there value in criticism that sees value in everything?
NOTE: COME TO THE ‘FACE THE CRITIC’ NIGHT WITH US AT THE DRAKE HOTEL, TORONTO ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2010. MORE DETAILS TO COME.