April 01, 2005

Of Naked Emperors and Modern Art

I am not much of an expert on the modern visual arts. I trained in college as a performing musician (classical organ), so I feel much more comfortable discussing musical aesthetics.

When it comes to the visual arts, I like representational paintings, abstract sculptures, and modern architecture. But I don't like any art that needs a written explanation of its "concept" (this includes music, too, btw).

That's why I laughed out loud when I saw this Peter Bagge cartoon in my print version of Reason last year.

Bagge is a polarizing comic artist; you either love or hate his strips. In this sense, he is like many modern artists. On page 2 of this strip, he says what I have long thought about contemporary "fine" art:

My feelings toward the contemporary fine art world have always been a mix of bemusement, resentment, and contempt. 95% of what they're hyping is pure crap yet if you dare to say as much out loud you'll be looked upon as a clueless Philistine.

He points out that much of modern art criticism discounts the value of "craftsmanship," since those "self-appointed arbiters of taste feel compelled to denigrate anything that the average shmuck can recognize as quality work."

This issue exists in all arts, not just the contemporary ones. 2Blowhards touched on this with their brief acknowledgement of Julia Childs' passing last year:

By knocking the snobbery out of French cooking and bringing her own enthusiasm and her wonderfully eccentric character into living rooms, she made class and taste accessible and attractive to millions. The food revolution that has transformed middle- and highbrow American eating owes no one a greater debt.

I'm glad that technology and a prosperous economy allow more and more of us normal people to not only enjoy, but learn and practice arts that were once the sole province of artisans and artists or their wealthy patrons.

Posted by JohnL at April 1, 2005 12:35 AM

With regard to the visual arts, I have to agree and disagree. I can't draw to any reasonable degree, so I have to admire someone with that ability. But, I tend to like abstract work more than just a portrait.

Also, I've got a friend who is highly into quilting, and somewhere between some and a lot of the thought that goes into a piece involves getting just the right cloth.

So, a urinal in the middle of a museum is not art. Where the dividing line is, I have no clue.

Can a video game be art? If so, are there any on the market today that qualify?

Posted by: owlish at April 1, 2005 10:59 PM

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Posted by: killy at September 21, 2009 06:53 AM
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