Monday, February 05, 2007

Is Challenging Art Hot? (Or, Ed Eats a Bit of Crow)

Apologies for the sudden disappearance. Many thanks to all for the incredible comments on the last post...I followed from my Blackberry while working in Chicago, but alas, couldn't add anything (still can't figure out how to do that).

In Chicago (hereafter known to Bambino and I as "The Capital of Brrrrrr"), among many wonderful get-togethers, we had the pleasure of brunch with a collector who noted that she's frequently surprised by the number of guests who recoil from many of the images on her walls. Singling out one particular artist whose work is known to reveal a perhaps less sterilized side of life, she said she understood why certain visitors wouldn't like it. I responded that I didn't understand, actually...I can't quite grasp the mindset that eschews the "real" and chooses to surround itself in only sugar-coated versions of humanity. I appreciate beauty for beauty's sake, but I can't sustain myself on a diet of eye-candy alone. The collector and I agreed that it was her visitor's responsibility to consider why someone would be so attracted to such images they'd line the walls of their home with them, not her responsibility to apologize for finding beauty in them.

This all came back to me while reading an article in the LA Times this morning about the collection of Tim Campbell and Steve Machado, who "have amassed a 40-plus-piece collection of artworks speaking to terrorism, racism and other -isms of our time, and yet their home still manages to be warm, welcoming and unapologetically beautiful."

"I don't find it difficult to live with difficult art," Campbell says matter-of-factly, without any hint of conceit. "I would find it difficult to live with beautiful, pointless art."Prompted by the war abroad or social ills closer to home, more people are sharing Campbell's sentiment, choosing to wear their hearts on their sleeves and their politics on their walls.

In the last two years, galleries have seen a growing demand for politically conscious artworks, says Peter Selz, professor emeritus of art history at UC Berkeley. "We saw a similar rise in this kind of work during the Vietnam War," Selz says. "But now there's an enormous interest in this, and much of it is coming from

The challenge, of course, comes not only in piecing together a collection that reflects one's passion, but in living with it — somehow maintaining a home that still feels like a home.

And this then led me to realize that now I have to eat a bit of crow.

I was having a discussion recently in which I passionately argued that the art market is maturing...look at the more challenging work in galleries that had until only recently been all about, as Tyler Green so painfully but accurately put it, "glue and glitter" I insisted. My patient and considerate debating opponent noted that this too was happening in response to the market, and not necessarily an indication of maturation. I somewhat acknowledged that as the market continues to go global (and collectors from Europe and other countries with more of a taste for challenging work are increasingly interacting with US galleries) that this could be read as a response to the market, but I didn't feel that explained it entirely.

But then there it was in print: "galleries have seen a growing demand for politically conscious artworks." OK, so I'll distance myself a bit from the read of Professor Selz in that I don't think the more challenging work we're seeing is limited to politics or a response to the war. Conceptually more rigorous (one might even say dryly intellectual) work is on the rise, in my opinion, in response not to the art market, per se, but in response to the financial success the hot market has brought. In other words, now that they have some money, the glue-n-glitter galleries want what all nouveau riches eventually desire: respect. (And let me request that in any discussion of this we not name names here, please...seriously, let's assume we know which galleries that means, even if in reality we have different opinions...please.)

But who cares? So long as the work is being exhibited and, presumably, purchased, does it matter what's prompting the shift? My only concern is that the change is not about the war, or globalization, or gallery maturation, but rather the cyclical nature of tastes (i.e., fashion). And even "concern" is hyperbolic, actually. If the tide turns and artists working in a differnt vein are now getting some much deserved attention, that's a good thing. There's room in the art market (just like there's room in any given collection) for both types of work, no?

Labels: art market, challenging art, conceptual


Blogger Molly Stevens said...

As much as I believe it is the artist's responsibility to reveal, to unearth, to paint a picture of the world at it is, the eternal question I struggle with is, does content-based work work? Does it serve a purpose? Or is it just an esthetic that, at best, combines with form?

2/05/2007 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous ml said...

Whenever anyone talks about political work, I think about that dreadful Whitney Biennial with all the preachy work congratulating itself on its moral superiority.

Wasn't it Paul Klee who said that in time of war and conflict, artists became more abstract? A subconscious desire to balance the violent specifics around them?

I don't know, Edward. Earnestly serious work which I see regularly here in LA is dated the day after it goes up.

2/05/2007 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Candy Minx said...

I think not only is there room in the art market for "both types of art" but also an infinite variety of types of art and styles and meanings.

As long as there is a dominant culture and economy...then we see a drive for art that supports that one economy and culture within a trend. Seeing as people are more exposed to each others society's and tastes, we will see more styles being enjoyed and explored. It's a bit like the movement of world beat music 30 years ago.

Restaurants and trends ineating function this way too.

As people become more sensitive ot other people's stories, then the stories and narratives in art with also branch out.

When college students and families of four are buying art, then the market will have truly become democratic and more statisfying for all consumers.

Making art is a political, economic and spiritual act for most artists regardless of the content of the work. We are seeing that each decade, making art is becoming more and more a natural activity...and if that keeps on then art will be representing the infinite variety that it really is for all cultures, not just the dominant economies.

2/05/2007 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Wasn't it Paul Klee who said that in time of war and conflict, artists became more abstract?

I'd love to find that quote...anyone know where it's from?

2/05/2007 11:02:00 AM  
Anonymous joy said...

It depends what you mean by does it "work". If you mean: does didactic art succeed in convincing people of x,y,z?, the answer is probably no. But I can't think of anything less interesting or less useful than [mis]using art to try to convince people of something --that belongs to the realm of propaganda, agitprop and advertising (ie: our mainstream culture). If we were to agree with Jonathan Lethem's assertion (I do) that part of what distinguishes art from, say, even extremely artful advertising, is that it essentially functions as a gift -- which means you don't require something in return, not even that the viewer swallow the content. My feeling is that if you want to take intelligent risks with content -- not foolish ones -- you consider how you can finesse/push it so that rather than force meaning upon people, you allow for many possible readings that might resonate in different ways with different folks -- including those readings you didn't intuit or don't intend. That can be difficult, as that's when you might have to let go of your intentions, and the intended meaning/context of the work. In other words: content can be buried, it can be open-ended; in the end, its reception may not be something you should want to control, entirely. Does that make any sense?

2/05/2007 11:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

"Prompted by the war abroad or social ills closer to home, more people are sharing Campbell's sentiment, choosing to wear their hearts on their sleeves and their politics on their walls."

Beats working. By which I mean in this case, beats working for justice.

Thoreau once said, "There are a thousand striking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." Putting politics on their walls is like striking at the leaves. Maybe like striking at sound of the wind blowing through them. There's a kind of philisinism that says that art it better when it addresses a cause. Whether that's in effect above is worth considering.

I don't know about the Klee quote, but Roger Lipsey addresses the same idea at length in The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art.

2/05/2007 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

My only concern is that the change is not about the war, or globalization, or gallery maturation, but rather the cyclical nature of tastes (i.e., fashion).

I wouldn't be too concerned, EW. Cycles happen.

2/05/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger C said...

The quote is "The more horrifing the world becomes, the more art becomes abstract." I think from Klee's Dreaming Pictures. I don't think this is true either in mainstream euro art or in art of other cultures or times.

Yes - the market is both a check and balance for art and apples and oranges and bad taste.

2/05/2007 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger carla said...

I'm going to rent Dr. Shivago and think about this.

2/05/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Ed asks, "Is Challenging Art Hot?", followed a bit later by the observation "… but rather the cyclical nature of tastes (i.e., fashion)." I would suggest that ‘hot’ and ‘fashion’ are synonymous but also maybe not the point.

I have a feeling that what Ed is referring to as ‘the maturation of the art market’ may be the case, but not as directly as he implied. It may be a correct observation if one considers the rapid expansion in the art market which occurred at the turn of the century. For a number of economic reasons, including globalization, there was a rapid increase in capital flowing into the art market and as a result a corresponding increase in the number of galleries. I suspect this created a sudden scramble for ‘product’ which led to the ‘youth feeding frenzy’ we have discussed here previously. It’s possible that the ‘glue and glitter movement’ was an initial side effect of the process finding enough ‘product’ to fill the demand. I think the situation is slightly different now because the initial affects on the marketplace, new galleries and new artists, are now in place. From this standpoint, the market may be indeed maturing, as gallerists and artists both must again become competitive in order to succeed. In this respect, what Ed might be referring to as ‘maturation’ is also being market driven, as suggested in the discussion with his friend.

I believe that ‘styles’, as other aspects of fashion, are cyclical. In the case of the artworld, I think it has a lot to do with both the individual interests of the artists and their desire to find open territory which both fits their interests and allows them some space to work. As the ‘glue and glitter’ territory filled up, it is only natural that artists would look for new ways to express themselves, including stylistic approaches not necessarily favored at the moment. This type of stylistic cyclicality is somewhat predictable and natural.

Regarding the comments on abstract art and periods of war. Aside from the machinations of the CIA (which were considerable), I have always felt that Abstract Expressionism was a logical outcome of WWII. The late 1940’s was the first period in modern history with full (weekly) media exposure to a war. At the time, I think it would be difficult for art (in particular painting) to effectively compete with, say LIFE Magazine, in terms of effective expressive figurative imagery related to the horrors of the war. In essence, AE sublimated the existential angst of the period by focusing on the more formal (directly painterly) aspects of the paintings. This psychological shift can be affected by either acceptance by sublimation or by assuming its polarized view, in the case of early abstraction a view characterized by the assumption of the ‘ideal’ as a counterpoint to humanities failures. Francis Bacon was an exception.

By the time of the Vietnam War, the media had totally penetrated society, there was no escaping its affect and I would suspect that this may have begun the numbing affect, a cultural desensitization. Vietnam and to a lesser extant the Korean ‘police action’, were different from what had occurred in WWII when nearly every household in this country was in one way or another directly affected by the war. Certainly today, we are insulated from the war in Iraq, it’s happening on television somewhere else, and if one does not have a family member directly in harms way it is a bit of an abstraction in competition with the iPhone for our attention.

What I feel personally, and what I sense other artists may feel, is a sense of anger, no outrage, over the conduct of our current government. I have no use for ‘glue and glitter’, I’m pissed off and if I am honest, there is no way this cannot affect my own practice. This isn’t to suggest that one needs to directly confront the issue in the way some artists have, I think that is a decision that is made by the individual. At the same time I believe that art has to question the status quo, to question what is important about this process we call ‘making art’. To this extent, the idea of ‘conceptually rigorous’, while a little intellectual sounding, may be an appropriate counter response to the ‘glue and glitter’ fluff which pointed directly at the consumer. market.

2/05/2007 02:08:00 PM  
Anonymous joy said...

george: amen on all counts.

2/05/2007 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

truly excellent comment George...many thanks.

While I understand that the war is remote (i.e., it's easier to be "angry" when you're also afraid you or your loved ones will be drafted), I'm not so sure I understand the lack of anger in general.

Having said that, very little of the art made in response to 9/11 or the war in Iraq has reached me at all, but I'll rant like a banshee on the political blogs or in other contexts where I'll get the sort of feedback that fuels my rage. Maybe that's it. Anger is no longer culturally maintained (see Sloterdijk).

As Holland Cotter noted in a review of Joe Ovelman's work recently (I think Joe's up there with Robert Melee, as one of the very few truly outrageous artists working today):

Has a quarter-century of now unfashionable identity politics blunted rather than sharpened debate? Has thinking about race genuinely changed? Or has political apathy simply grown?

And, finally, within an insulated art world where art itself has become so closely identified with the retail market — just more expensive stuff, in another shop — does no one hear or care what art says?

2/05/2007 03:44:00 PM  
Blogger Jacques de Beaufort said...

Aren't we making a rhetorical error when discussing the popularity of propitious or "correct" subject matter..

I lanentation of "serious" themes is a dissatisfaction that can generally be thought of as a subjective affect that I feel is an inevitable byproduct of lamentably mistaking the social-economic matrix of the "artworld" for the broader concept of "art" as a concrete cultural manifestation of applied philosophies-which should ideally transcend notions of game theory and market value. Implicit in this new version of historicity is the diffraction of all Grand Narrative outwards into an multi-dimensional Field of possibility and connectivity. In this way there is no such things as "winning" and "losing"..or popularity, but rather all that exists are vectors of relateability that are separate and distinct from a bounded and linear time-based model that we have come to call "Art History". The emergence of recognizeability or "celebrity" among an enormous pool of abundantly talented artists is merely an epiphenomena of social conditions/networks in a media driven culture along a given axis of causality and should not be regarded as an inevitable destiny that has become manifest.

2/05/2007 03:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joy and George should team up, both made amazingly great points, I can't even add anything .

Jacques I'm sorry I did not understand a word you said. :(

2/05/2007 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jacques is saying that cosmology has a direct impact on the arts?! On a deeper level he is probably right...
'Art Diverse' in a gallery or museum, or even a studio is a very singular interpretative tool with which to attempt interrelating art and life in all sorts of non-linear fashions. Art is the slow end of life!
That's my thoughts pooling them, splash, at the shallow end of reality.

2/05/2007 06:40:00 PM  
Blogger George said...


What you said is nonsense.

It is this very type of double speak which our fearless leader used to make his case for Iraq. If someone cannot explain a relatively simple position in plain English, then one should assume the position is misguided, hot air, or attempting to be deceptive. In my opinion it is one of the primary weaknesses of the so-called postmodern critical dialogue.

You are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

2/05/2007 07:51:00 PM  
Anonymous martin said...

conceptually rigorous enough for you(?) + glitter:

Flavio Garciandia
Carrie Moyer

2/05/2007 09:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steady up George, I can understand what he says just fine.
He's saying art is led like asses are, vis-a-vis a super presence of an enormous pool of abundantly talented artists, further into a vicious circle of fashion and more glue, adding, in his opinion,.. it is merely an epiphenomena of social conditions/networks in a media driven culture.
It's basically what Ed is saying too right, George!

2/05/2007 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Ed says, "I'm not so sure I understand the lack of anger in general."

Good question. I wonder if it may not be caused by conflicted emotions. Think back to the first moments of 911, what was our initial emotional reaction?, especially for those of us who live in NYC or Washington DC. Initially I thought it was a terrible accident, flipped on the TV and heard that the Pentagon had also been hit. Oops! Not an accident, something far worse, what was happening? Having lived through the cold war I wondered if it was the start of the ‘big one’. No answers, the towers collapse before my eyes, my daughter is safe but just barely. What’s my reaction? Confusion, disbelief and anger. How could this happen here?

As the event passed from its searing emotional moment into memory, the honest anger I believe most felt, became an instrument of politics. It touched upon our initial anger and since we tacitly expect our government to guard our safety, we were begrudgingly willing to accept what we were being told, because we were still angry, and wanted some sort of resolution. Strike back, it is a primitive response, Neanderthal and maybe even genetic.

More time passes, the response along with the subsequent events, begin to reveal another potentially more clandestine agenda. A great effort is made to suppress any indication that the facts we are being given, may have an ulterior motive. We may say ‘blood for oil’ but it is just another, in a long list given as justification for wars. Whatever the ulterior motive, be it valid or not, has been tainted by the incessant string of lies, misinformation and manipulation. As this becomes more apparent, a different anger arises, for no one consciously wants to feel manipulated by their government.

I believe that part of the psychological conflict is caused by the polarity of these two different reasons for anger. At the current moment, the anger over the initial attack is aging, losing its emotional hold - the current questioning and anger over the policies of the government, is coming to the forefront. Moreover, the current situation in Iraq and for US policy has deteriorated to a point where there is obviously no clear cut solution, any solution that may have potentially existed was ignored when it mattered five years ago.

Like Spy vs. Spy, so it is, with Anger vs. Anger.

That all said, I am not sure if art must necessarily respond to the war in Iraq. Certainly the horrors of war are a valid subject, one probably better expressed in time of relative peace, to remind us of the inherent danger in choosing such a path. In this media driven age, the actual ‘horrors’ are a daily media fare served up in bitable chunks topped off with an ad. No traction there.

Flip the coin, and I would say it is as equally important for any artist who has true feelings about the topic should try to express them with all their might.

Several months ago, on the day a bomb killed 200 in Baghdad, I was walking through that dark room in the Met, the one that where the Christmas tree appears every year. I was seeing, if only peripherally, sculptures and tapestries made over 500 years ago. I had a profound feeling, that in spite of the horrors of the moment, mankind’s explicit failures, these artworks were testament to our higher aspirations, evidence that we do in fact aspire to a higher goodness however bleak the moment may seem. I smiled to myself.

So as artist, we can chose our own path for expression, I don’t think it matters which one as long as we are true to ourselves. The path takes us and art wherever it leads

2/05/2007 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger Timmer said...

Picasso painted Guernica in 1937, he knew what he was doing.

2/05/2007 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Anon 9:02

LOL, steady as she goes.
It’s not that I don’t understand, I think it is poor writing, ineffective communication at a time when something else is called for. Moreover, it reeks of intellectual posturing and elitism, if not an outright attempt to obscure. It is a style that is going out of fashion. Something worth saying, is worth saying clearly, otherwise why bother?

2/05/2007 10:18:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You're on a role George...again, awesome comment.

My anger over 9/11 comes and goes in waves, but it never once led me to believe invading Iraq would make it right. It smelled like a con from the get go to me. My anger about Iraq began before the invasion. Reading the back pages of the NYTimes or WashPost in 2003 was all it took to convince me that the case for war did not rise to the standard I had been taught was America's obligation as the world's leader. My anger at Bush for spitting on that remains fierce. What a freakin' loser.

2/05/2007 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Marc Snyder said...

You realize, of course, that that kind of comment just emboldens the enemy. . .

The decider in chief must not be questioned.

2/05/2007 10:42:00 PM  
Blogger Jacques de Beaufort said...

I'm sorry if my words lacked the economy that you seem to feel is necessary for the proper transmission of thought. Maybe we can think of the situation in terms other than some sort of dualistic fallacy where the "problem" and "solution" are vastly disparate entities occupying some sort of polar axis of truth vs. being truth and me being shit. This might be closer to the spirit I'm trying to convey, which would certainly encompass a reality that is larger than "political art" vs. "glitter". The linguistic construct of "versus" is largely the focus of my inquiry because it points to the strange intersection of ideas or modes of expressing them with some sort of arena of priority. I'm starting to suspect this might be the wrong atmosphere for flying the idea that the phenomenon of art collectors all the sudden feeling the need to get "serious" about their spending habits is a largely non-important question. Driving through East Los Angeles on my way to and from teaching at ELAC, political art and murals are an indelible part of the trip. I'm reminded therefore that struggle and the need to express this struggle is certainly not a recent development and is not exclusive to denizens of Manhattan and the artists that reside in the local burgs. However, the Politics of "Revolution and Change" to me always seem strangely suspect regardless of the partisanship when mutated into a didactic narrative. Maybe that's just because I'm reminded of a vast history of political art that over time is usually revealed as propaganda for a "truth" that only the artist and the politic he represents can transmit. Look no further for than Jacques-Louis David for an excellent lesson on the mutability of "truth" as it intersects with the convulsive realities of political turmoil.

2/06/2007 01:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, political art could be interpreted as the commodification of conflict or as a self help method of relieving guilt. Conversely glitter art as a highly politicised retreat into a subjective world. Political art as fashion chic. Both art fashions.

2/06/2007 02:51:00 AM  
Blogger Jacques de Beaufort said...

I think that's very close to the bind that is inherent with the strange marriage of commerce and ideas... or the uncomfortable irresoveable separation of the personal and the political. Mostly it comes down to either knowing where you are, but not when, or when you are, but not where.

2/06/2007 03:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard-core constructive widgets is where it seems to be at, if anyone is interested.
All art is political. The last three seasons was about a politic that embraces the 'you' as you were the most difficult to manage.

2/06/2007 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Zoe said...

Really interesting post!

2/06/2007 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger George said...


I would hope that you did not take my response personally for that was not my intention. I happen to feel that the postmodern rhetoric for the most part, has ill served the critical dialogue by utilizing a veil of opaque specialized language which, intentional or not, serves to obscure the points being made. I view this as an elitist position, one which is easily accessible only to readers with prior knowledge of the game. Moreover, I feel that it (the rhetoric) can distort the intent of the writing, by shifting its focus of communication onto the language itself, and away from the effective communication of ideas, thought or experience. This is not to saw that I entirely eschew specialized language for that is not the case at all, certainly there are times when specialized language is required in order to effectively communicate the intricacies of the topic.A funny example

Regarding ‘political art’ vs. ‘glue and glitter’: I adopted the phrase ‘glue and glitter’ because I thought it was a funny description, a term where I expected each reader would assign their own personal identification, or implied meaning, the ‘other stuff’.

I agree with the implications of your position regarding ‘polarity’. Certainly in the world of art, polarities arise, they are temporal constructs both in terms of stylistic tastes and as the distinctions which might be made by an individual artist, what I do vs. what I don’t do (or have interest in, etc) I would hope that any reader would see that my two long comments did not advocate one position over another, that was not my intent. I see the process of making art, its conceptual, emotional and visual territory as a continuum where every artist is free to roam.

I also agree "that the phenomenon of art collectors all the sudden feeling the need to get "serious" about their spending habits is a largely non-important question." If anything, the article in the LA Times, was just another topical article designed to fill the days paper. Something to be read, discussed and forgotten.

I would also agree with the points you raise regarding ‘political art’, including propaganda. In the current cultural environment, political art is an ineffective means of political change. It is true that in the past, art as propaganda (Spanish civil war posters etc) may have had some effect, but in toady’s culture, the electronic media has rendered this type of activity quaint. I began my art studies during the Vietnam war era, at that time there was a highly active resistance to government policies and they were often expressed in the art of the time. However, if one studies art from this period, much of this political protest does not hold up very well, it is less visible today than it was then.

On the other hand, I do not mean to imply that art made as political response serves no function if it fails as effective propaganda. To the contrary, art is embedded in its cultural moment, and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, reflects its time. Timmer mentioned Picasso’s painting Guernica, while artists may debate the ‘quality’ of this painting (they do) it stands as a symbolic reference to a terrible moment in Spanish history which is still effective today. As a political instrument, it did little to stop the bombing then or now, yet it still stands as a monument of disgust and that is a truth.

Returning briefly to ‘spending habits’, what’s hot, and fashion. From my point of view, it is just more marketing in the art mall and subject to a shelf life depending on the strength of the art. It is neither good nor bad, just a condition of the moment.

I apologize for another long comment, but these are interesting topics which do not necessarily succumb to short responses.

2/06/2007 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Devil's advocate question: if the true test of visual art is in the looking, why does it matter if those who discuss it continue to develop increasingly sophisticated (some might say "elitist") vocabularies for doing so, though?

I mean, I don't complain to my friends who passionately discuss sports in shorthand terms that mean nothing to me. And for a more apt example, I don't expect scientists to go out of their way to dumb down their explanations of their research when talking amongst themselves just because I'm within earshot. More sophisticated vocabularies help bring us closer to saying exactly what we mean about things. Yes, it's an insiders' game, but so what?

In other words, isn't there a place for the rhetoric we think of as "postmodern." And if so, I'd like to think this is one place it's welcome. I might not use much of it myself, but then I love this blog for the education it provides me.

In a nutshell, I want to hear as many opinions, in as many flavors of rhetoric, as possible.

Oh, and again, work that is intended to serve a political end is not "art." I can't emphasize how strongly I feel about that enough.

2/06/2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger George said...


Regarding specialized language: I definitely think there is a place for this. The link in my previous comment was an article on wine. If one knows wines, one knows there is a very peculiar language used to describe a wines taste. Similar metaphors are also found in descriptions of perfumes and the sound qualities high-fi speakers. This is an interesting area where language is applied to one of our senses in order to more specifically differentiate and describe its qualities. I must admit, that after much practice (the fun part), I can read those little tags in the wine store and make a relatively intelligent purchase.

Regarding postmodern rhetoric: For me, what is more important is the quality and veracity of the ideas or analysis being presented. Does the rhetoric clarify these points or does it serve to obscure them? I have occasionally close read some articles, in essence rewriting them into plain English, this process can often can reveal failures in logic that are not readily apparent in the original text. If the thoughts, theories or ideas being presented have any validity I would suggest that they are capable of being clearly expressed in language which is transparent even if it must resort at times to the specialized language of the field. A good theory should stand up under analysis and be subject to a falsification test. If not, then it is not theory but opinion and should stand as such.

In theory I agree with your position on art intended to serve ‘political’ end. I would leave room in the position to allow for a point of view that considers the ‘art’ part separately from its political intention.

2/06/2007 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I would leave room in the position to allow for a point of view that considers the ‘art’ part separately from its political intention.

I wish I could. Perhaps history can (eventually) for any given piece, but for me the "art" part is critically compromised by the political intention.

2/06/2007 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger George said...


I’m reading ‘political intention’ as ‘propaganda’, am I interpreting you correctly?

2/06/2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Yes, George, I do mean propaganda. Any work that is "deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc"

I'm not sure what "political intention" might mean otherwise though.

2/06/2007 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

OK, I was just checking to see if we were on the same page.
I agree with your point.

2/06/2007 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said... that is intended to serve a political end is not "art."

Well, I guess we all know how I feel about that one (cough, Guernica, or especially the entire history of feminist or AIDS-activist art). But I find it interesting that this leads to the clarification that "any work that is 'deliberately spread widely to help ... a person'" is not Art. Sounds like Art is not a very nice guy. Sounds like he's antisocial, maybe even pathological (and most certainly morally bankrupt). Then again, maybe it's just an elitist fantasy -- an illusion based on the desire to exclude.

Regarding the recent phenomenon of collectors who have suddenly found an interest in outrageously expensive political souvenirs, I'm sure it's an effective coping mechanism in assuaging the guilt associated with complicity in oppression.

Does anyone else wonder why art world profits continue to climb proportionate to the escalation of killing in Iraq? Perhaps it's because (a) the war in Iraq has proven to be exceptionally good business for the economy of the uber-rich art-collecting set, and (b) the uber-rich art collectors are in increasing need of coping mechanisms to divert their attention away from the human crisis that American tax dollars have funded.

2/06/2007 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I still have to see real "political art" instead of informed or based Marxist/leftist art.

The definition of political art in the 20th and 21st centuries is one sided. All Marxist. In rare instances feminist work is political. Rare.


2/06/2007 03:19:00 PM  
Anonymous jason said...

Sorry, didn't mean to be anonymous. The jason above is me, of course.

2/06/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


we've been over these issues a few times already, including Guernica, etc.

You'll find folks on both sides of this assertion here, for example.

I generally hate bloggers who point to past posts as if that settles the matter, but I'm too pressed for time today to explain why I don't consider Guernica "political" art in the sense of having a political intention, but rather simply art that took a political event as its subject, but essentially, that's my take on it

2/06/2007 04:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All art is political.


If this act were taken further, which it has in some instances, and even caught on as a major form of distribution for and of art, and collectors instead of going to Chrisities went to these Barter Hotels 'ART EASIES" to swap their collections, then would this not impact the current social and political framework, prestige, quality, reason for ART TO EXIST, ALL THE BIG QUESTIONS, aka this simple little shift in the mode of distribution?
You know political art doesn't mean painting a picture of George Bush with a swastika hair clip. I'm told George doesn't even wear one.

Art is Political by its very existence, sometimes illuminating via beauty and a fecundity. Sometimes through a model and a role it plays in society. Sometimes through the fact it does not fit the current politic.
Art can, if it wanted to, change its mode of distribution: SWAP ART @ coming soon...

Very Simple Stuff!
you can even write on the back of your art: If you can read this means you should Vote for Hilary.

2/06/2007 06:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

All art is about beauty.

All our interpretations are political.


Cedric Caspesyan

2/07/2007 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


2/20/2007 01:34:00 AM  
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11/28/2007 08:07:00 PM  

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