Judging an Artist by the Music They Like (or the People They Love)
In Manhattan from the 1940s onwards, artists had an empathy for pop music, or its artier manifestations, and vice versa. Jackson Pollock listened to jazz while he painted and Ornette Coleman repaid the compliment by putting a Pollock painting on the cover of his revolutionary recording Free Jazz. No sooner did rock elbow jazz out of American youth culture than artists began to portray Elvis, and by the late 60s, Andy Warhol was bringing together classical modernist music with guttural pop as he managed the Velvet Underground.
Anyone who doubts Warhol's worth should listen to the Velvet Underground. I suppose there must be a few ears on the planet that would fail to find Pale Blue Eyes beautiful or Sweet Jane uplifting, but there is a fairly broad and just consensus that Warhol adopted not just any rock group, but one of the very greatest. What does that tell you about his art? The poetry of Heroin reflects his car crash paintings; the lyrics of I'll Be Your Mirror tell us about his apparently vacant gaze. Warhol's soul is witnessed by the music he nurtured.
He goes on to emphasize his point by noting:
Damien Hirst's most famous foray into music was Vindaloo. Need I say more?
I will admit that some of the most interesting visual artists I know tend to have the most exquisite and adventurous taste in music. And I'll agree that taste in music strikes me as a good indication of the quality of one's soul. But logically, I'm not entirely sure that the quality of one's soul is a solid indication of how good one's art will be.
Jones goes on to make what might be an even bigger leap in logic, but then again, perhaps not:
[S]o much time could have been saved by critics who, in the 80s and early 90s, argued over the merits of Robert Mapplethorpe if they had just listened to Patti Smith's album Horses. Could an empty, celebrity-fixated nobody – which is how some saw Mapplethorpe – have been loved by her?I've had the conversation many times with artists that they couldn't love someone if they didn't also love their art. At first I had interpreted this to mean, at least in part, that they knew it would eventually come up and cause problems in the relationship when their lover learned they didn't respect their work, but Jones' example suggests it goes deeper...that you can judge an artist's soul by their work. Or at least that if you love their soul, then their art must be good.
Arguments like this begin to fall apart a bit for me at this point. Personally, I know artists with gorgeous souls whose work is lacking to my eye, and I know artists whose work is great but who are perfect little sh*ts as human beings. Mind you, being a perfect little sh*t may not be incompatible with having a rich and interesting soul, let alone having exquisite taste in music, but I imagine it makes it more difficult to find true love.
Then again, so long as Jones' piece provides a reasonably sound rationale to post the Velvet Underground...it's all good: