Why is popular art considered to be bad art?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by john_kasaian|1, Jun 28, 2003.

  1. Ken Kipen's article on style in Photo Techniques got me thinking
    about this(a bit of a tangent I know, but popular artists do exhibit
    a unique style, though are often criticized for it) What I'm
    thinking of here is that Kincaid fellow, Churchill and his poker
    playing dogs, and photographers who sell zillions of posters,
    poscard and calender scenes and "reproduction" prints. I can see
    that all(?) popular art contains a paradox of elements. Something
    familiar and satisfying, and at the same time something mysterious
    and provocative. In an issue a View Camera awhile back, someone was
    writing about things "hidden in plain sight." I like it. The public
    likes it. Art critics pan it. In an election, the public will is
    given god-like authority, but in its art, the public is generally
    regarded as unwashed, unintelligent, and uncultured. I'm curious,
    what do you think?
  2. john -

    sorry to be part of the "great-unwashed" but i am partial to the crying clowns, and
    the v'elvis ( velvet elvis).
    it isn't bad art, it is just art for the masses ...
    if it were bad art it would be here:
    (moba= museum of bad art)

  3. I'm rather fond of those poker playing dogs! :)
  4. Remy, Grow Up? Never!! As to why should I be concerned about what art critics espouse? Because 'they' write the textbooks on art that my kids will be studying someday, because 'they' award the grants to museums, because 'they' buy what gets parked on public property with my modest(ha!) contribution to the public coffers, and 'they' get to rag in the syndicated press, television(and on the internet) people whose work I enjoy and the rest of the art gurus just roll over an thier collective bellies and agree with the criticism du jur. Such critics dismiss the work of more popular photograpers as insignificant but can't or won't explain the significance such work has on the Public's embrace of such images(aside from a callous dismissal citing something like 'lack of taste' or copycat buying) I'm really just curious as to how this state of affairs got so imbedded in society.-Cheers!
  5. One of my favorite artists is M. C. Escher, who is unfortunately not that well appreciated by the art world.

    I bring up the point once again of the recent van Gogh discovery. The painting was valued at $100, until they decided it was an unsigned van Gogh, then it sold for $400,000 or so. If only da Vinci had painted those dogs playing poker, it would be great art. But if you or I paint the Mona Lisa, it's just another $5 painting at a garage sale.
  6. John,

    I don't think Remy meant you. He just did not articulate thorougly. I believe he was directing his feeling towards those who do not think for themselves. If he gave a moments thought I'm sure he recognised that you were posing a very good question.

    Pop art has always been considered cheap and vulgar. Often it is. Andy Warhol comes to mind. But then Van Gough was not really appreciated in his time. He insisted on painting just what was before him on any given day. Some of his paintings are truly astonishing if you give them a moment. The man WAS a genius in many ways.

    I think Picasso was a great artist but he did a great mound of cheap toss off crap just to make a buck in his life. I think some of the architecture we are seeing today will go down in history as some of the nastiest wet dreams ever foisted upon the public but the guys that are doing it right now are the top of their field.

    Generally, to my mind, 'art' is a vast wasteland in this day and age but every once in a while you find the most perfect oasis and it makes it all worth while.
  7. Stephen, Interesting! I can see money coming into play, but perhaps more in the realm of faculty tenures and sculptures made with fesces. Consider this: a thousands of people go out one December and decide, unbeknown to each other, that they all want a calender illustrated with circa 1950s black and white photos of say, Half Dome. They do this not because some interior decorator on HGTV did it, not because say, Jennifer Anniston has one on the set of "Friends." or the automobile club magazine published an article on Whatshisname's tripod holes in Yosemite. All these calenders were sold because the Public has a genuine connection with the images---none of these calenders will ever be worth more than they were on the December day. In fact, come February they will be 50% off. Ten months later the calenders are either trashed, or saved. Some of the images decorate Dilbert cubicles in an office building or are tacked up in dorm rooms. Maybe some are even put into frames and hung in people's homesThe frames would have more monetary worth than the calender picture!)---substitute babies in flowerpots or even overgrown Hansel and Gretel thatched cottages if you prefer, but my point is, why does the art world feel threatened when a large percentage of the public embraces an image, or a body of work, by a photographer(or other artist)? I don't mean to endorse Adams or Geddes, or that Kincaid guy(but maybe Churchill and his poker playing Dogs) but I am just trying to figure out where Art is headed---not just why the popular images garner critcism, but why the people who enjoy those images are criticized for doing what comes, to them, naturally: enjoying art!?--------cheers!
  8. Lack of rigour. Lack of vision
  9. Scott, Good point!(Several good points!) Your observation that Art today is a vast wasteland goes along with what I've been thinking--not that there isn't great Art being created---there certainly is---but that it maybe in today's world it has to be validated in some way by someone who is considered an 'expert' in order to be worthwhile. This seems to me to be contrary to what makes Art "worthwhile." The cave painting in France of a hunting party needs no explaination, nor does a fertility statue from Africa, a totem pole from B.C. or the Pieta in Rome. All these things I would call Art and certainly worthy. I find thatched Hanzel and Gretal cottages a bit much, but I think this is due to the simple observation that there is a finite number of ways a thatched hanzel and gretel cottage can be portrayed in the same style(yes,like Half Dome) In fact I do agree with Remy that in my own feeble attempts at making photographs, I'm not really concerned with critics who have thier heads up where the sun don't shine---of course there is criticism I respect and am grateful for, but if a critic took to task someone for enjoying a print because they in some way connected with it, I wouldn't consider such criticism legitimate.
  10. John,

    Speaking of Hansel and Grettle cottages... Let's imagine a real one. Yes the legitimate item full scale ... on the verge of a wood next to a high alpine meadow with the Matterhorn in the distance ... or Pikes Peak, if you will. Would that be art? 'twould to me. Just a real thatched roof is art to me. .... (give my eye teeth ... {not to mention the river-stone hearth and the hand-hewn oak mantle}) Let us not even think about the hand quarried rough slate at the entry way and the stained glass border round the entry door light.

    I think it is all tied up with actual 'artistry' ... and blood, sweat and tears. Or sometimes true genius along with the foregoing.
  11. You mean something like the 'Crucifix In Urine' thing?<p>
    About 5 years ago in Castro Valley, CA the arts commission had an 'out of towner' do a sculpture (cost was just over $100,000) which depicted the Ohlone Indian canoe along with the 'Welcome To Castro Valley' sign.<p>
    Well, the taxpayers got up in arms because the Ohlone's weren't much of a part of Castro Valley history (I really don't know myself). Anyway, after a few months the sculpture was jackhammered off it's foundation and removed and the people were demanding that the commission tell someone the next time before tossing thousands of dollars around.
  12. Scott, The Art and Artistry thing is very interesting. Is Artistry the same as Art? Is a skilled craftsman an artisan? I tend to think so. Is the act of using a LF camera(argueably a piece of art itself)an 'art'? When I was shoeing horses, it always amazed me that folks would refer to farriery as being a lost 'art' Though every hoof and shoe was, now that I think about it, a sculpture of sorts and the tools of the trade had an elegance, if used correctly--much like those odd tools thatchers used to make Hansel and Gretel cottages. .........Hmmmmm?
  13. Aras unum species milli "Art is one, but kinds a thousand." Art has always been popular, but not ALL art has been popular, or for very long, with a few exceptions. Virtually every artist and/or 'movement' has been hated by some...even Van Gogh is hated. So take each piece on its merits and decide for yourself. Is popular literature good or bad? Yes, both. Or popular music? It seems to me that time alone usually winnows out what is good or bad, or at least, lasting. Perhaps you should try abstract art, about which Al Capp (creator of L'il Abner) said "Abstract art is a product of the untalented, sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered. Like the whole range of music and literature, I can find things I like in all the categories of art.
  14. I wouldn't worry about this, what critics pan this year will be praised and considered great art somewhere down the road. Look at WeeGee. If ever there was a guy who wasn't "art" during his lifetime it was him - had a police radio, chased down murders and accidents so he could photograph them, published in newspapers of all places. Today his work is very much the thing in art circles and is selling at high prices. Or look at Atget. He was so far down the totem pole the critics didn't even know he existed. Or Lewis Hine - he was considered strictly a social reformer in his lifetime, today he's an artist. Even Ansel Adams, who for many years was considered the height of non-art by the art world, is enjoying a renaissance with the museums and critics. So today's schlock (in the minds of the critics) is tomorrow's art, you just have to live long enough for it to happen.
  15. Actually Weegee's work was always highly respected.<P> There is a difference
    between bad art, good art, and decorative art. Most of the stuff you describe is
    decorative and really neither "bad" or "good". <P> My guess is that whether art is
    popular or not is a numbers game (which means it is about marketing) and is
    unrelated to the piece itself. After all. The Mona Lisa is popular, but so is the banal
    schlock painted by Thomas Kincaid's factory full of assembly line of artists.<P>"Art"
    serves a lot of psychological functions for humans as consumers (distinct from
    creators): it tells stories, fill empty spaces above couches, reinforces our notions of
    who we are or who we might like to be, addresses spiritual concerns, sells products,
    gets us sexually aroused, engages our intellects, entertains us, reinforces our
    religious beliefs, gives us mental, spiritual and emotional breathing room, it soothes
    us, inspires us, enrages us, motivates us, breaks us out of our daily routine. It
    expresses things we cannot express for ourselves or cannot put into words.
  16. Ellis, well put! I think what bothers me is that criticism some artists---photographers especially---suffer at the hands of seemingly experts is that the criticism overtly, or covertly implies that if a print or portfolio is revered, embraced, or enjoyed by large numbers of the Public, then the Public is obviously ignorant of "good" art. This isn't to say art and artists shouldn't be critiqued, or that one hasn't a right to speak ones mind, rather I'm troubled by any tactic where a Critic builds his own reputation by ridiculing what the public likes or dislikes---and a system that unquestionly bows to such suspect "authority."-------Cheers!
  17. Oyvind, (I hope I got the spelling right!) The issue of Photo Techniques with Kipen's article on style is the newest----July/August 2003.
  18. I was sure that someone else would bring this up. Since they didn't...

    Consider western art. Its origins in Europe. Europe's long and storied history of class warfare dating back to the Kings and the serfs.

    Basically, "popular" art is popular because the "masses" like it. Art patrons, on the other hand, tend to be wealthy and many (certainly not all) have a world view that distinguishes them from the masses. One way to reinforce this view is to have art that is not popular with the masses.

    To do this and not make your friends and peers look at you funny, you have to have your choices validated by "an authority" which is where the critics come in.

    Finally, this art is going to tend to not be beautiful or accessible because then the masses might like it. It is going to tend to be full of symbolism, tend toward "making a statement," and tend toward being difficult to understand. These all play to the idea that art is for the well educated, socially sophisticated, and those with "refined tastes." The masses don't like it because they can't understand it, don't you know ;-)

    This, of course, breeds a lot of hack artists who are excellent promoters. Jackson Pollack is my example for painting, Phillip Glass for music.

    There is also an overall trend in art to "break new ground" and "do new things" where artists aren't interested in doing work that has any similarities to work that has come before. There aren't many painters painting in the impressionists' sytle today, because that's been done already. Same for music - you don't find any new classic music being done in sonata style, except by scholars trying to figure out what makes Mozart tick.

    Anyone who does try making art that is beautiful or accessible is usually ridiculed by the critics as unimaginative, lacking creativity, "as trying to use Ansel's tripod holes," etc.

    The bottom line here is - why do you care what the critics think? Make your own decisions based on your own preferences.
  19. I think that to dismiss Jackson Pollock as a hack is a little rash.
    I think that his best works have an intrinsic power, coherence
    and unity that defies the reductivist chestnut: " My 3 year kid could
    have painted that " Of course his work is non representational
    but that is the direction painting was finally free to explore once
    photography liberated it. Painting took a step closer to the form of
    music.. a purer abstraction. One may not like the work but it is
    important to the progression of ideas about form and feeling in
    art in the 20th century. I dont believe his career was based upon
    intellectual sophistry, I think Pollock had a real and genuine
    motivation to express something meaningful through his work,
    he was unwittingly caught in a new whirlwind of hype and
    commercial pressure, a pressure that led himself and many of
    his contemporaries to self destruction.
  20. This is like digital versus film or Leica versus Contax - it can never be solved because there are two completely disparate world views which are by definition irreconcilable.

    One viewpoint says that art is a thing apart, bound by rules (which they know) and can be graded from good to bad. The other viewpoint (which I happen to subscribe to) is that art is whatever you say it is and there's no such thing as good or bad, only what you like or dislike.

    I have noticed that people who tend to the first viewpoint are often anal retentives with fascistic tendencies while those adhering to the second viewpoint are often happy chappies with few hangups. Of course, I'm biased :)
  21. hogarth, Social elitism of the Artsy-fartsy? Is that it? Sounds reasonable enough!

    harvey, OTOH, if Art can't be defined---if it is a "its what you say it is and its also what I say it is so we don't have to call 911 thing" we can stick a fork in it and call it "done." Sadly, what is undefinable in today's world exists only as an anomaly and emotional base speculation is, science tells us, ignorance. Interesting: I've never heard a satisfying definition of Art, though I think Art is recognizable, even by the 'masses.' Art is kind of like a distant relative you can't remember exactly how you're related, but you'd recognize her anywhere. Of course, thats just my anal retentive observation!
  22. I dont believe his career was based upon intellectual sophistry...
    I certainly won't argue that point!
    ...I think Pollock had a real and genuine motivation to express something meaningful through his work, he was unwittingly caught in a new whirlwind of hype and commercial pressure, a pressure that led himself and many of his contemporaries to self destruction.
    IIRC, the "whirlwind of hype and commercial pressure" was his wife. It's rumored that after he died, she even managed to sell the paint splattered concrete floor of his old studio to a collector for millions. Now that is art.
    Pollock may have been motivated to express something meaningful in his work, but if he was motivated by anything other than defrauding rich New Yorkers out of their money, it's lost on me. I must not be sophisticated enough to understand this poor misunderstood soul.
    BTW, it occurs to me that there were plenty of artists out exploring abstraction in many forms before Pollock. I think he was the first to throw buckets of paint through fans, however. To his credit, he never exhibited a clean, white, unpainted canvas though. I forget who it was to foist that one off.
  23. : Why is popular art considered to be bad art?
    Because , being called popular means directed to a mass of
    people , which means can only have a superficial content .
    Van Gogh , and Andy warhol is not popular art , many people say
    they like their work , but for sure they don't experience the work to
    the depth it was intended to .
    Many people say that they like it because it is the right thing to
    say and because some works has pretty colours .
    Another thing , the masses have notoriously bad taste .
  24. Domenico, ".....the masses have notoriously bad taste." Perhaps. Fads, for the most part, exemplify such a statement but fads are also short lived. Death by Cliche? Public sensibility is kind of like the cambrian layer on the sequoia---as long as it isn't entirely destroy it will heal itself just in time to get burned again, no doubt. More specific to photography, there a hundreds of posters of prints published that find thier way onto walls. Perhaps they are for the most part, mere decoration, but I do think some are purchased because they 'connect' with people in some way---just as how an original print will in some way 'connect' with a Viewer. If such an image 'connects' with a great many viewers that has to account for something. If it isn't Art, what is it?----Cheers!
  25. Hogarth,

    I didn't claim that Pollock was the first to explore abstraction,
    just that he was one who pushed the form further than most
    before him.

    Lee Krasner was certainly not to be discounted as a major
    marketing figure but one must not ignore the new status that the
    mass media & popular culture had foisted on artists, the role of
    the "culture hero".

    Great literary figures such as Nathaniel West and Scott
    Fitzgerald had destroyed themselves in the struggle not to be
    devoured by the new mass media culture, William Faulkner and
    Hemingway payed the penalty of mass media attention through
    creative frustration and alcoholism.

    After world war two extreme media attention like never before
    was directed to the abstract expressionists and many such as
    Pollock, Gorky, Rothko, Kline Reinhardt and Newman suffered
    similar tragic fates to these literary figures. I dont think they all
    had wives like Krasner.

    I think many great photographic artists were influenced by
    Pollock including Harry Callahan and Ralph Meatyard and more
    recently Adam Fuss. Of course Ansel Adams didn't "get "
    Callahans abstract photographs of weeds they werent as
    instantly digestible as he would have liked. Some times it just
    seems much easier to dismiss something out of hand than to
    make an effort to understand it & then make make a more
    informed evaluation of an artists merits.

    Many may not "get" Australian Aboriginal Art because it uses a
    representational system that is unfamiliar. That does not mean
    it is without great meaning. Often in such cases great works of
    art will be evaluated on their decorative merits alone. Which is
    fine but that should not be the only value system with which art is
  26. There are a couple of elephants in Asia whose paintings have made big bucks, they don't seem to care about the hoopla, the fame, the money, and least of all who sees their work, they do it out of sheer pleasure.

    They don't mind working like dogs as long as they don't make monkeys out themselves.
  27. Photography is a form of cummunication to others, unless you're egotistical enough to only want to communicate with yourself (only I can judge my work). If a work of art communcates to a large number of people, i.e. popular, is it ipso facto superficial? To elitists, the snobish answer is automatic. Elitist critics disparage an Ansel Adams because he communicates/resonates with too large an audience. If it takes training to "get" or understand a work, who'se doing the training - art critics?
  28. "Another thing , the masses have notoriously bad taste "

    Gordon bloody Bennet, if that isn't the arrogance of a strutting cockerell what is? Have two world wars spent trying to knock down fascism taught us nothing? This is one reason why I so dislike people who talk about good and bad art. They're simply trying to disguise the predjudices of a limited mind with pretended and pretentious measures of 'quality' where what they like is 'good' and what they don't like is 'bad'.

    For those who don't know, it's the centenary of George Orwell: remember Animal Farm?
  29. "Another thing , the masses have notoriously bad taste "

    Gordon bloody Bennet, if that isn't the arrogance of a strutting cockerell what is? Have two world wars spent trying to knock down fascism taught us nothing? This is one reason why I so dislike people who talk about good and bad art. They're simply trying to disguise the predjudices of a limited mind with pretended and pretentious measures of 'quality' where what they like is 'good' and what they don't like is 'bad'.

    For those who don't know, it's the centenary of George Orwell: remember Animal Farm?

    two words: "Celine Dione"...
  30. The masses get what they want at a price that they can afford. The Arterati get what they want at a price that they can afford. As a system for the delivery of goods and services, it seems to work well.

    So what’s the problem? Jealousy? Resentment? Taste?

    Me? I don’t care. I’ve got a day job
  31. Douglas, The part about art critics doing the teaching is an interesting point. I don't mean to get off topic, but a serious problem with education, at least in the papers I've read, is a trend toward bigotry: the Writer already has an agenda, then proceeds to trip through the pages of history selecting what supports his agenda and ignoring what dosen't(hang searching for whats the Truth.) This is the same tactic used by every hate group in memory to support its agenda(more than likely adding a dose of fiction to the pot as well.) Perhaps dispairing in whats going on in the art world is a healthy thing then---if Art is a channel of communication, can society afford to just hand it over lock, stock and barrel to zealots looking to control public taste(sort of like handing the FCC over to a white supremacist group?)--or at rate, tell us that "good" Art is too complex for our simple minds which is why 99% of us "don't get it," while, if 99% of us do "get it"(though maybe we aren't all able to articulate "it") then "it" must be "bad" art??
  32. > in the papers I've read, is a trend toward bigotry: the Writer
    > already has an
    > agenda, then proceeds to trip through the pages of history selecting what
    > supports his agenda and ignoring what dosen't(hang searching for whats the
    > Truth.) This is the same tactic used by every hate group in
    > memory to support
    > its agenda

    You could apply this to many many High School texts (how many school history books tell the clear or accurate story of the annihilation of the American First Nations for example?) As well as many undergraduate texts.

    > taste(sort of
    > like handing the FCC over to a white supremacist group?)

    As opposed to it being handed over to half a dozen giant corporate "citizens"?

    There's good academic/critical writing and analysis and there's bad. The good often takes more work and effort to read and understand. The bad is often simplified, simplistic and/or sensationalized - which, of course, tends to make it popular and become more mainstream (think of all that holy grail type junk that people believe is "true" history).

    Personally, I tend to feel that anything that doesn't take at least some effort to understand and grapple with (including view, understandign and making art) probably isn't too valuable in the first place.
  33. Another discussion on "Art." OK, I'll dive in:

    What seems to me is that Art, or "high art," or "fine art" ends up being defined by those who are knowledgeable about the field, i.e., the history of the medium, trends, what's been done and what is new, etc. These are experts who study and understand the nuances: mostly academics but also dealers who have to have expertise to sell art. The rest of us are consumers, who simply respond to what appeals to us. You can predict that a much smaller number of works of art will be defined as "high art" by the experts. This doesn't mean that the rest of the creative efforts of all the other artists are crappy. Many consumers do have a fine sense of composition and appreciation for well done art. It just means that as good as something is, it has to fit a very narrow set of criteria in order to be regarded by the experts as "high art." Of course, there will be some overlap in these two areas as well. Does this make sense to anybody, or am I just deluding myself here.

    When it comes to photography, being so ubiquitous, most of it tends to imitate the work of others. Therefore, no matter how well done, it is not truly original, which seems to be one of the requirements of "art." What makes something original in photography could certainly be debated. Once you start doing weird stuff just to get attention sort of distorts the whole idea for me. I could probably take a perfectly nice photo and "tone" it in my own urine, spatter it creatively with catsup from a fast food restaurant, singe the edges with a cheap lighter, and then mount it on the side of a cardboard box and somebody would give it high praise for the symbolic qualities imbued in the image. This is where the art world looses me. In other words, going for extremes seems to be a popular way for artists and photographers these days to get recognition. Extreme wide angle, color distortion, shock value, manipulating the print after its printed, etc. I think this is why I am more drawn towards "straight photography." But I digress.
  34. Tim, Clear and accurate histories may or may not exist. We may or may not be able to piece togther our past, but should we stop trying? If texts are fatally flawed, do we continue to grade students on thier ability to regurgitate whats untrue? Or do we encourage the adventureous pursuit of a pure account of the past: Truth? Or do we let others do the judging for us in the fields of Art(don't want to stray too far off topic!) History, etc...? Or do we take a cheeseball eating Hagelist approach: "Whats true for you is true for you and whats true for me is true for me"---(essentially "Truth" dosen't exist so its all nonsense but I'll agree with what you believe if it makes you feel better!)

    Is handing the FCC over to a few corporate giants any better than a white supremacist group? Of course it is! I don't like the idea that all programing for the local radio stations are done in New York or Atlanta, and quite frankly I'm alienated by most of what I see on TV, but at least theres an alternative:not a very good one, but at least its there. Perhaps some day when I win the lottery or a wealthy relative wills me a bunch of loot :)I'll open a radio station or start a newspaper, but that would be getting into a Distributist arguement which would be going way too ar off topic.

    Whats wrong with Celine Dion???

  35. Sometimes popular art can be rehabilitated--look at Norman Rockwell-- 30 years ago no self-respecting museum would get within 100 yards of his stuff. Now they're all competing for even 2nd-tier pieces. I think the same thing will happen to Kincaid, eventually--50 years hence he'll still be a pariah, but in 100 years he'll be in all the museums.

    The world of current art is all about being hipper-than-thou, and nothing is unhipper with these people than appeal to the "great unwashed". This is how one gets a shark in formaldehyde extolled as great art, and talented representational painters left out in the cold. But the world of art history is far less concerned with hipness.
  36. Tim , not only i remember Animal farm , but also "1984", where
    you can read that in that " fictional " world , songs and poetry
    were created by mix and matching pre established words and
    sentences .
    Look at the music coming out today ... It is prepackaged , there is
    very little creative process involved , there are almost no
    instruments involved since a computer can imitate all
    instruments now ...
    Since i have been attacked as being responsible of hating the
    masses and beindg potentially the next Hitler , or Franco or
    Mussolini , let me explain .
    A work of art , to be appreciated by a big number of people , has
    to be superficial , something of a deeper nture will automatically
    exclude many people because of the diference of upbringing ,
    and social status , and gender , and so on .
    If people are not being exposed to true art , to a concept of
    universal beauty , their eshtetic sens will never be enhanced
    and deepened and they will stay with Celin dion , Kinkade ,
    pretty flowers , and colurful landscapes .
    Go to many people homes , and see what kind of pictures they
    hang , go in hotels and look at the images right above your
    head when you lie down , go to banks , hospitals .
    I don't hate the masses , i have not coined the term " mass
    produced " , which is by the way a reality also in the art world ..
    Appreciation of art is like a muscle , you have to exercise it to
    develop a full understanding of what beauty is Unfortunately the
    broadcasts in television, radio , the magazines are doing exactly
    the opposites , they tell you what is beautiful , how you should
    look , what colour is in this year , it is not the people that i resent ,
    but the few that decide what you should or shouldn't like .
  37. "Tim, Clear and accurate histories may or may not exist. We may or may not be able to piece togther our past, but should we stop trying? If texts are fatally flawed, do we continue to grade students on thier ability to regurgitate whats untrue? Or do we encourage the adventureous pursuit of a pure account of the past: Truth?"

    which was my point - "do we continue to grade students on thier ability to regurgitate whats untrue?" This is precisely what we do in much of the school and educational system. It starts as early as Kindergarten (especially with regard to art and creativity)

    "Or do we encourage the adventureous pursuit of a pure account of the past: Truth?" - this is dangerous and is often systematically discouraged. And perhaps, to come full circle, why people will accept mediocrity as "art"? I suggested early that to be considered "art" something required rigour and vison. Maybe I would add that it also requires an attempt (however imperfect) to answer Pilates questions - What is Truth? Good art is generally dangerously subversive - either of society or of the individual psyche. It was one of the things the Soviet Union clearly understood - how dangerous to ideologies and ism's true art is.
  38. domenico, I didn't mean to imply that you are in league with Adolph or Benito---my apologies! What you brought up regarding 'Hotel Art' is interesting. It brings to mind a little Mom and Pop motel I once spent the night in---the sparse art work in the room was stuff thier kids had made, you know: the paint by numbers, wood burning kit sort of stuff. I found it far more interesting than the fare offered by Hilton, Marriot, or Sheraton---but then again, I like poker playing dogs, too. I can't help but thinking Hotel Art as Corporate Art in the sense that there is a purpose to it---to make the guest's stay enjoyable. This would overlap into the realm of Art that has broad public appeal but not entirely so. Prints that I see the Public connecting with seem to me to have similar elements(my observation only!) Aside from being paradoxically comforting and mysterious at the same time, they also have an educational element. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I'm sure it exists---maybe its what separates art from a fad: I don't really know for sure. A hint of a lesson that must be learned and relearned by each passing generation, like the hunting party paintings on the cave wall in France? This element I can't seem to describe is missing from most Art As Decoration(in most motels, bank lobbys, and dentist's offices, etc...)but when its present, it always attracts my attention. Getting back on topic, while successful popular Art can and often does target a consumer base(remember the Farrah Fawcett posters?) There is also Art that isn't created 'for the masses' that sneaks out, is embraced and reproduced by a large number of people simply because it is recognized as Art as only Art can be: Truthful to it's primordial origins, like the cave painting in France, the African fertility figure, and the Pieta. Just because it might happen to be a photograph, why does that somehow make it less that 'good' art? Just because it is recognized as such by people who don't have college degrees or aren't media commentators, why should that make it any less than 'good' art?
  39. [​IMG]
    When you lot finally get tired of wacking away at that strawman, you might like to stand up, open your eyes, and and actually take a look at the contemporary art world.
    Representational photography is everywhere. Poor, neglected Ansel has had to make do with a mere jugganaut of a touring exhibition, that only just sneaked into every major public gallery of modern art in the entire world and was sneakily lauded to the skies in the both the photographic and the general press. Diddums.
    Here in Europe, Tate Britain and Tate Modern have two seperate major photographic exhibitions running all summer. Louisiana - my local gig - has moved on from Liebowitz, Koudelka and Struth and is now showing Arnold Newman's portraits. Julia Margaret Cameron has just finished touring the US, and was a major success in London, as was - at the other end of the photographic canon - Martin Parr. All over Europe photography is a regular and popular feature of contemporary arts museums, and the listings I see for the US say the same thing there too.
    So, just where is this neglect you're all whining about?
    As for 'bad' art, it's a whole field in itself. Far from being neglected, it's a major topic of art history. Kitsch can be Kunst, as my web-footed friend would say.
  40. "Tim , not only i remember Animal farm , but also "1984", where you can read that in that " fictional " world..."

    Domenico - you are addressing the wrong person - I did NOT say this about you post - I was quoting from (and disagreeing with) the previous post. Please read the psost before replying to them
  41. Remy's parallel between art 'experts' and corrupted politicians rings a loud bell for me. It is accurate and goes some considerable way to pointing out the true danger of 'good' art and 'bad' art. A lot of supposedly 'great' art is invisible to the majority. They just don't like it. I've heard the Mona Lisa described as a "crap picture of some bird with the mouth done all wrong" which personally I am rather inclined to agree with. The same person on seeing Vermeer's Maid Pouring Water said "That's a bloody nice picture".

    These were simple, honest, untainted remarks coming from the heart and mind of an honest man. It seems to me that anyone arrogant enough to claim that their opinion carries more weight than that man's is denying the basic principle on which western democracy is based. Art, unlike science, is entirely about opinion and one person's opinion, regardless of how long they've studied or what revelation they claim to have had from on high, is worth exactly the same as any other person's.

    And to answer the original question, this is exactly why some people would like us to believe that "popular art is bad art". They want us to believe that "the masses have notoriously bad taste" and that they "know better" because it's just one more way of clambering to the top of the pile. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE who propounds such a belief is at best stupid and misguided. At worst they are right up there with the people who think that democracy is all right in theory but they and their friends really know how to run things, and should.
  42. Harvey , why do you call me stupid ?
    Please , don't call me stupid .You don't agree with me ?....Fine .
    But don't call me stupid .
    Ah , John , it is always your fault , isn't it ?! ; - )
  43. domenico, I thought this would be more interesting than asking the forum something like "Should I use D-76 or Ansco 130 soup the 50 year old Adox I bought on e-bay for a song." kind of question. FWIW, last night I saw a panel of literary critics at Yale on c-span discussing how they write criticism. Interesting, but not nearly as much as this thread(BTW, I think this forum is a lot more interesting than anything on television!) Off hand, I can think of a great many things in society worth criticizing but the purest untainted response to Art by the Non-Artsy-Fartsy(NAF) isn't one of them. I'm beginning to think of this as kind of an instinctive response by people to Art that is true to it's origins. It is recognized by something inside of the NAF and the response is natural--like the family mutt going "on point" when it sees a sparrow. The harm in back handed criticism of this, as I see it, is that it makes us older NAFs concious of a supposed uncouthness, ashamed of our natural attraction to Art like Tarzan being shamed into wearing trousers. Maybe thats why a child can connect with Van Gough while so many NAFs can't---the instinct becomes extinct!----Cheers!
  44. Domenico>> ".....the masses have notoriously bad taste."

    That is an interesting statement.. You would think that the masses /define/ what good taste is.

    -but really, what does art have to do with taste (good or bad)?

  45. "Harvey , why do you call me stupid"

    I didn't. I made a statement to the effect that people who set themselves up as knowing better than the majority are stupid. It's up to you whether you select yourself into that group.
  46. Aesthetic value is to a great degree a social construct. If you accept this premise, then aesthetic value will take on different meanings at different times and in different social circles such as academia or the general population. Each group has its own priorities and sensibilities which may or may not overlap each other.

    It is not a matter of which aesthetic values are right or the truth. It is a question of time and place. Unfortunately, aesthetic values are often presented and defended as inflexible truths which closes the door to appreciating a wide variety or works in a wide variety of ways.
  47. An analogy to poetry may shed some light on photography. Throughout history of poetry, poets could be divided into at least 2 groups: court poets & minstrel poets. Court poets composed mostly forgetful paeans to their patrons ( portrait photographers of the temporarily rich & famous). Minstrel poets worked within a communal creative process ( Striker's FSA group?), and whose poetry, when finally written down, are recognized as works of art. During last century we've had many popular poets( Garcia-Lorca, Neruda, Bob Dylan), and academic poets. The latter may know all the techniques for creating poetry, but mostly fail to create anything that resonates with anybody beyond those "trained" to appreciate their techniques.<br>
    I'll take a print of an Adams, Weston or Lange any day over an Atget, Maplethorpe or some other artist discovered by critics, curators and their patrons.
  48. "An analogy to poetry may shed some light on photography"

    Or you could take it further and point out that Shakespeare was nothing if not popular art and yet generations of experts have fallen over themselves to point out how wonderful he is. And in recent years the Beatles have been beatified by the establishment.

    Personally, I think that experts on art are people with nothing usefull to contribute who want to make themselves sound important. "Professor of fine art" is as much an oxymoron as "military intelligence".
  49. Some quotes from some of those terrible art critic types:

    " What is essential in art is the expression of the beautiful
    through the feelings passions and dreams of each man. "

    Charles Baudelaire

    " One must learn to differentiate between what may be analysed
    and that which must be left to intuition as unique and
    inaccessible to language"

    Harold Rosenberg

    " The value of values for art criticism must be the effort to
    reintroduce art into the framework of humanly serious concerns "

    Harold Rosenberg
  50. domenico,

    finding good music, like art, is a measure of one's desire to uncover good things to enrich the listener's/viewer's life. and you, my friend, must be slacking. i'm not simply hopping on yer head because of yer generalizations but rather hoping to inspire you to dig a little deeper. every generation has produced wonderful art and music... you just gotta look for it. the charts, critics, curators etc. tend to play it safe and fill their pockets, galleries, that's their job. and finding the good stuff has never been easy. if yer like me, you won't like much that's handed to you anyway. i don't wish to imply that all popular music and art is trash, every now and then some good stuff gets through but if you don't mind looking around, taking a few chances, you'll find what you need. some of the best music you've ever heard, soul-stirring, original and inspiring works are being made just now. rarely if ever does it make it's way to radio nor scratch the charts... but seek and ye shall find. art too.



    p.s. john, where's this election you speak of? because suddenly, i feel like voting.
  51. oh yeah...

    pollock sucks
  52. Triblett, i agree with you , but i have also noticed that the little
    quality work coming out from mainstream culture is mostly being
    ignored from the general public .
    Creative work , to be considered Art has to be honest , and
    doesn't have to merely scratch the surface .
    A good work of art can offend , challenge to exphand the
    perception of the viewer , challenge the reality of the viewer or
    listener , have a political slant , ....
    What i am trying to say is that a piece of work that is being
    accepted by the majority is likely to be lacking of the content
    necessary to make it a timeless piece of art .
    In the infamous 80's i was a 20 years old . In those years the
    record industry was indeed producing terrible stuff , except a
    few bands , like the Talking heads , Clash , Television , etc. ets.
    But , just because these bands were coming out from a
    mainstream venue , it doesn't mean it was popular music .
    We too often define categories too broadly , we generalize ...
    I don't define Art popular by its distributor , but from its
    caracteristics .
    If it doesn't challenge , for me it can go straight to the Salvation
    Army Store .
  53. Pollock doesn't suck .
    You don't like it .
  54. Would not the original question have been better asked = Why is Bad Art so popular?
    The striving for conformity the need, seemingly, to drag others down to ones common level is beyound me. Ever sat in a pub for a chat with out drinking? The drinkers of the group are soon uncomfortable and soon urge one to drink something. Might art tastes follow the same logic? Music it seems follows the same trend. If it doesn't sate the immediate fashion it's rendered offensive by many. Am I right in concluding that popular art is often course, vulgar and in your face, both of content and colour. Something to energise rather than to relax. So often we hear the call from the stressed for personal peace, yet the same folk suround them selves in raucouse sounds and images.
    I am at loss to famthom this human trait.
  55. Would not the original question have been better asked = Why is Bad Art so popular?

    The striving for conformity the need, seemingly, to drag others down to ones common level is beyound me. Ever sat in a pub for a chat with out drinking? The drinkers of the group are soon uncomfortable and soon urge one to drink something. Might art tastes follow the same logic? Music it seems follows the same trend. If it doesn't sate the immediate fashion it's rendered offensive by many. Am I right in concluding that popular art is often course, vulgar and in your face, both of content and colour. Something to energise rather than to relax. So often we hear the call from the stressed for personal peace, yet the same folk suround them selves in raucouse sounds and images.

    I am at loss to fathom this human trait.
  56. domenico,

    i'm not sure what yer complaining about? it's always been that way. we grew up in the same time... the 80's were absolutely chocked full of great music, from start to finish. it's still that way... great bands if they're incredibly lucky and tour their asses off might sell 300k copies, make a gorgeous album and get dropped by their label, that's the free-market cookie and how it crumbles.

    see also; wilco


    p.s. and some toil away for decades until they get a morsel. see also; the flaming lips. they actually won a grammy this year domenico! can you believe it? the lips? i don't know any masses, so i can't speak for them. if you think the masses' taste sucks, then burn them a copy, send 'em a print.
  57. as con-artistry goes, it's genius...

    but pollock sucks goats,

  58. What complain ? I am not complaining , i was only answering to
    John's question . Remember ? John...... Question...... ?
    Trust me , in my little world i am surrounded , of the things i llke ,
    i have no reason to complain in this matter .

    domenico www.dfoschisite.com
  59. Greetings,

    Sorry it’s taken me so long to jump in on this one, but I’ve got a day job …

    My grandmother embroidered dresser scarves and pillow cases using kits with the pattern printed in blue on the cloth and the colors of floss assigned by the instructions. My parents painted by the numbers and proudly hung their finished work around the house. They had a nice collection of store-bought spun glass figurines, … until my brother and I were playing catch in the house as weren't supposed to do, and I threw the ball high over my brother’s head …

    “Honor thy father and thy mother.”

    My best friend on my street in LA not only loved Elvis (I can still remember him showing me that vinyl album cover with the King in a gold suit “50 million fans can’t be wrong” etc.)—but he did his best to look like Elvis, pompadour and all, and he had musical talent, and eventually joined a band playing sax, marimba, keyboards, singing, you name it …

    My parents played in family band, Hawaiian stuff that would be called luau music, Don Ho "Tiny Bubbles" style. My dad played electric bass, my mother uke, my uncle dreadnought acoustic guitar, and a family friend, the leader, lap steel. “The first thing I remember knowin’ was a lonesome whistle blowin’ …” (I grew up right next to the train tracks) … and a steel guitar. So I became a lifelong traditional and country & western music lover.

    Photography? My dad was a pro—studio portrait photographer, using a 5x7 on a tripod until he discovered Mamiya MF. I remember so fondly that early trip to Yosemite. Ansel Adams, … man, he took good pictures! No one was asking whether it was “good” or “bad” art, or whether it was art at all.

    My mother, god bless her, also appreciated classical music (she was a very good player of light classics on the piano) and French impressionistic painting. She somehow transmitted to us the distinction between “good” and “bad” music. This notion was totally out of sync with the culture we were all living in, but no matter. … I can still remember when the local rock band played an assembly at my high school (early 1960’s). When we all got back to the band room, the music director had a real problem on his hands, … we all loved the band, but this was not “good” music …

    The turning point for me came when Andy Warhol hit. I must have found about Pop Art from Time magazine. Up in my attic bedroom I started my own museum of cast-off found-art collectibles. The Andy of the time boxes (can’t remember what they’re called, and I should since I work in Pittsburgh, Andy’s home and location of the Warhol museum) … and very much in the style of Walker Evans. So I'd made my choice.

    The other night we went to a flute recital down at CMU. Second chair in the Pittsburgh SO played the Gaubert Fantasie better than I’ve ever heard the flute played in my entire life (it’s my instrument, too). Finally, I think I’ve reached a point where I’m not so worried any more whether it’s “good” or “bad”…. Why do we all beat ourselves up on this obsolete, unnecessary, and often divisive distinction?
  60. Me,

    Pollock may or may not have sucked goats but your argument as
    to how and why he sucked goats is a little thin on the ground.

    Not Me.
  61. ok matt,

    i'll bite. how's this?

    it's splattered paint,

  62. Thanks Tribblet,

    Your rigorous evaluation of an artist's motivations has been of
    great benefit.

    Matt ( no he's not my favourite artist ) Stanton
  63. ironic ain't it, matt?

    i used precisely the same exact amount of rigor and ingenuity to construct my argument as....

    you guessed it,

  64. and,

    i'll hazard to point out that my elucidations are of similar benefit as....

    you guessed it,

  65. Tribblet,

    Of course the percieved irony actually only exists if one accepts
    your premise that Pollocks art is devoid of semantic value. As
    such I may be the only one here who begs to differ...

    If you like it or not Pollock's work was informed by a number of
    philosophical & metaphysical concerns. The most profound
    influence on many artists of this era was existentialism but
    Pollock's paintings also explored American Indian philosophies
    as well as Taoism and Animism. If one looks at the progression
    of his art from the earlier figurative/ totemic work to the more well
    known action paintings the evolution of his visual language
    makes sense. To consider context It also parallels the evolution
    of more fluid musical forms in the same era ie: jazz and poetic
    forms ie: Beat Poetry. I consider these to be all valid forms of
    creative expression but you may not ...so where does this leave
    us? Do you want to know this?.. perhaps not ...do I want to say
    any more on this topic.. not really ..I would rather be ranting on
    about an artist I really love.

    yours goatsuckingly,

  66. This should about do it. http://www.jinwicked.com/artihate/kinkade.html
  67. um matt,

    which jazz? bird bleep-bloop-haven't-had-a-lesson-sounds-like-a-compressor-glued-to-a-sax-mouthpiece Parker? feh! which beat? jack-today-i'm-gonna-type-with-only-my-left-hand Kerouac? he's yers, you can keep the overhyped, half-wit windbag. quit spouting the rhetoric, boy, i got off the turnip truck last week, not yesterday.

    gimme rod mckuen over them sucks any time,


    p.s. i kinda like hunke though... that old queen was good.

    p.p.s. re; pollock... yes, sold as such. but i can do that with one of my doodoo logs too. explain it with fitty-cent art school terms and after i die it goes on permanent display at the whit.
  68. Tribblet,

    When did you last sell one of your "doo doo logs" ?
    Did you get the price you were hoping for? I think it would look great as a permanent installation next to Duchamp's upside down urinal!


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