Previous: Friday roundup, Thursday edition (5)

Next: Degas to Picasso at the MFA (50)

The problem with standards

Post #802 • June 2, 2006, 11:24 AM • 78 Comments

I think that I shall go look at Degas to Picasso again before writing protracted commentary upon it. Yes, that would be for the best.

See you Monday. Until then, this should provide a few minutes of amusement. He reproduced the viscosity physics in ActionScript rather nicely.

Comment

1.

Marc Country

June 2, 2006, 12:50 PM

Nice. Don't forget to click for colours, folks.

2.

JL

June 2, 2006, 12:57 PM

Ah, so that's it. I went to see Degas to Picasso twice, though the second time it was infested with tour groups. I found it so dispiriting that I haven't been able to write about it. Not that there aren't some fine things: the Beckman with the skulls, a great Matisse drawing, the Degas pastel that figures into the show's publicity itself. I even liked the William Orpen self-portrait, thought that whole wall of British painting seemed out of place. But then so much dross: the blah Bonnards (how does a great museum manage to acquire boring Bonnards?), a late Léger, phoned in as only he could, endless, endless bad Picasso (and some good, to be fair.) All that dreary modern neoclassical stuff that he and so many others indulged in, so embarrassing.

Stripped of the repetitive and bad work, Degas to Picasso would make a really good show at a smaller museum. You'd be more impressed, think "hey, this place has some good stuff," forgive the lack of many major paintings for the pleasures of the prints, works on paper, and strong works by lesser names. That it represents the collection of a major museum of international reputation--that this is it, the bulk of the best that the collection has to offer--is jaw-dropping. I suppose I have to give the MFA credit for putting it all out and acknowledging they didn't do very well with 20th century European art, as the introductory text admits. But that gresture offers small compensation indeed, especially as the museum did little to correct matters even in the postwar decades when their mistakes should have been apparent and many opportunities still existed.

3.

Franklin

June 2, 2006, 1:17 PM

I think it's going to end up being a meditation on what you can learn from looking at a lot of intermediate level art. What I enjoyed most of all, aside from the Morandi, was seeing not-bad work from unknowns, like the various Russian emigreés whose names I had never heard of, people trying to do Picasso and succeeding partially, and greats off on tangents. I also gave you the sense that Cubism wasn't just something that two guys were doing, but I missed the MFA Cubism show, so you're way ahead of me on that.

4.

Jack

June 2, 2006, 7:52 PM

I finally looked up the "Dora Maar" Picasso that recently sold at auction for around $100 M. I'm afraid it's pretty much as bad Oldpro said. A Fauve Vlaminck nude, sold at the same auction for far less money, is a better painting. The 100 M is not really the issue--very rich people with very poor artistic judgment are hardly news. The real question is what happened to Picasso and why, and why is he still getting away with so much work that, without his name on it, would quickly be dismissed?

It's not just a matter of clueless collectors. There are many art establishment figures who know better, or most certainly should, yet at least tacitly condone or go along with the business. There is, obviously, a lot of money and publicity at stake, and too many people can't resist the temptation. The published comments by the Sotheby's brass, waxing rhapsodic over this Dora Maar, were certainly predictable but still pretty disgusting. Talk about conflict of interest.

5.

John Unsworth

June 2, 2006, 10:05 PM

The Problem With Standards?
These painters were working 100 years ago. They set standards for future painters. They broke all the rules. Except the essential one, integrity. Respect what they did, not what museums and buyers do now. If you believe that you can do better than these " old guys " it would be nice to hear from you. But please, painting is not about talking, it is about doing.

6.

Franklin

June 2, 2006, 10:53 PM

Um, John? Rather than post a semi-informed review of this show, I'm going to go see it a second time, get my thoughts straight, and write something worth keeping. So the problem with standards is that sometimes they oblige me to put up lame-o, see-you-on-Monday kind of posts like this one. So, see you on Monday, with a review of this rather handsome show that I hope will be worth more than the pixels of light they're displayed on. Thanks for reading.

7.

jordan

June 3, 2006, 2:01 AM

I hope that you are enjoying yourself in New England. Please report on more shows and local events and less internet appropriation.
Thanks Franklin.

8.

jordan

June 3, 2006, 2:09 AM

"Raw, awesome, fresh, hot, new, young, emerging, talent."
I love art writers, critics, and all those who write about art as if art had a capital 'A'.

9.

Franklin

June 3, 2006, 6:53 AM

Will do, Jordan. I was saying privately to someone that I'm looking forward to talking ever less about the art world and ever more about art. I'm having a great time up here, by the way. Come visit.

Jack, I don't feel as badly about the Maar portrait as you and OP. I can't even comprehend the money involved - for $95M, I'd want my own island or something - but it's not a complete stinker.

10.

Franklin

June 3, 2006, 6:54 AM

I'd like to see that Vlamnick if you can find an image of it.

11.

Jack

June 3, 2006, 9:31 AM

One problem with the Dora Maar is that, considering it's a Picasso, it shouldn't even remotely make me think of a sad joke like Britto, and it does. Of course it's much better than Britto, but there's not enough distance between them, which should be intergalactic.

Here's the Vlaminck (1905, sold for about 600 K):

http://www.thecityreview.com/s06simpc.jpg

A Matisse from the same auction (1927, sold for 18 M):

http://www.thecityreview.com/s06simp4.jpg

A Derain from same auction (1906, sold for 7 M):

http://www.thecityreview.com/s06sim4.jpg

A better Picasso from same auction (pastel, 1907, 800 K):

http://www.thecityreview.com/s06simpa.jpg

12.

Franklin

June 3, 2006, 10:07 AM

I think my favorite is the Derain.

13.

mek

June 3, 2006, 10:27 AM

You will be met with a higher standard up there in NE rather than down here in soFla, and I for one am looking forward to the upward climb rather than the downward spiral. Less ranting about the artworld and more great writing/reviews about the shows you see. Virtual art tour-guide..of which I am sure there are many, but your writing style in particular resonates with passion and sincerity, which is why I periodically continue to follow.

14.

Jack

June 3, 2006, 10:39 AM

Picasso was so lionized, so famous, so suitable as media fodder (for artistic as well as lifestyle reasons) that he could basically do anything--good, bad, or indifferent--and it would still fly. There was no risk, essentially. He was an institution, an icon, a "living legend." Everybody fawned over him, nonstop. He was hardly averse to such treatment, which only reinforced his own huge ego, and he probably enjoyed knowing even bad work would be snapped up eagerly by the starry-eyed public.

I think he either stopped caring much about quality, because he simply didn't have to, or that his judgment became distorted by more or less automatic, uncritical acceptance of whatever he did. It's a great position to be in, in some respects, but also a dangerous one. It hurt him.

15.

Franklin

June 3, 2006, 11:30 AM

You will be met with a higher standard up there in NE rather than down here in soFla

I'm looking forward to the upward climb, Mek. That higher standard, in the form of craftsmanship, jumps out at me from everywhere up here. The city seems built by people for whom measurement, embellishment, and restraint were second nature. Let's see what comes up in the studio...

16.

jordan

June 3, 2006, 1:51 PM

I have yet to see a Vuillard show - is there any chance that anyone has information regarding an array of his work on display?
His work has an 'effect' that I'm attracted to - lush colors which render his paintings gem-like...

17.

Donald

June 3, 2006, 2:50 PM

Haha... nice. I wanted to recommend you this site, they can reproduce anything or even turn into an oil painting your own photographs... pretty pretty cool. You can have them make you your own Pollock or whatever.

http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/home_gallery.htm

18.

jordan

June 4, 2006, 3:09 AM

Donald, can we meet together for a chat regarding your views?

19.

jordan

June 4, 2006, 3:38 AM

Marc Country, you blog and rip on art a lot like Jack, however like him you mostly say nothing of importance, as you appear to be a non-practitioner (sp?).
Can I make a studio visit ?
I have'nt experienced brilliance first-hand in my life yet, and was wondering if you could help me out by introducing me to all of the awesome artists (including yourself of course) in (burp) Edmonton.
I like pretentious Canadians as I like the tailgaters here in Miami...
Enough said.

20.

Franklin

June 4, 2006, 8:32 AM

Jordan, that's not necessary. Strange thoughts run through your head sometimes in the middle of the night.

21.

A.T.

June 4, 2006, 10:42 AM

(Addressing Picasso above). According to Richard A. Lanham’s book, The Economics of Attention, it’s the very nature of art in the 20th that its center of gravity shifts from the artwork itself (intrinsic value) to the attention that the beholder brings to them (extrinsic value). Lanham uses Duchamp’s "Fountain" as a good example: In 1989, an entire museum show and book were built around it. The received explanation is that Duchamp's piece brought forth a new idea of art. Take it a step further: Art is an act of attention the artist wishes to invoke in the beholder. I know many here won't agree with this postulate, but if art is to be defined, is not by assuming what it is, but proving it. As far as I'm concerned nobody has really done that.

22.

catfish

June 4, 2006, 10:56 AM

AT: You don't identify a "postulate" with "proof", do you? When you quote Lanham you assert that you know the "nature" of art, or that he does and you agree. So you are assuming, not proving. Though you are right that nobody has proved anything about the nature of art yet, and I doubt that any of us will either.

Duchamp did not put forth a "new idea of art", but rather a new way of making art, or attempting to make. If he succeded, then the result is the same old same old stuff ... just regular ole art. If he didn't, then it is what it was, a urinal, etc. Just like a failed painting is a piece of cloth with dried paint on it.

Why make such a big deal out of facture?

23.

A.T.

June 4, 2006, 11:09 AM

Good try, but no score yet, Catfish. May be I wasn't clear enough. Above I use "postulate" with a loose knot. I'm not definig art. I'm just proposing ideas in an open forum. In fact, I'm not set on this issue, though I believe that if art is to be defined, is not by assuming what it is, but proving it. Perhaps a good way is to go pragmatic: Art is what best works in a given context --at least James and Dewey and many others would agree.

24.

George

June 4, 2006, 11:58 AM

"According to Richard A. Lanham’s book, The Economics of Attention, it’s the very nature of art in the 20th that its center of gravity shifts from the artwork itself (intrinsic value) to the attention that the beholder brings to them (extrinsic value). "

I don't know anything about art but I know something about economics. Your extrinsic value is only as good as your last price at auction. Prices realized in an ongoing auction market reach extremes of over and under valuation. For instance, one could have paid $150 for the stock of JDSU, it is worth $3 today. In freely trading markets, which granted, the art market is not, these valuations change with the fate of the commodity and public perception.

Further, the perception of artworks as "theater", garnering public attention and hence "extrinsic value" is not just a 20th century phenomena, it started before that [see, Malraux, The Voices of Silence]

While it is interesting to look at how art functions in the culture from various points of view, one can assume these observations are just another passing philosophical fad with a temporal intellectual currency. Some points may stick, some may not and while they may be interesting diversions at the moment, they fail to critically deal with the art directly by elucidating how the artwork achieves "attention" and whether or not this "attention" has validity over a longer span of time.

There is a whole new generation, the new baby boom, in the moshpit of the artworld. They have been raised with TV, CD's, the internet, fantastic 3D video games, etc as their NEW visual reality. They are visually oriented and will redefine art for the future.

25.

Marc Country

June 4, 2006, 1:20 PM

#19:
"Marc Country, you blog and rip on art a lot like Jack, however like him you mostly say nothing of importance, as you appear to be a non-practitioner (sp?).
Can I make a studio visit ?
I have'nt experienced brilliance first-hand in my life yet, and was wondering if you could help me out by introducing me to all of the awesome artists (including yourself of course) in (burp) Edmonton.
I like pretentious Canadians as I like the tailgaters here in Miami...
Enough said.


Jordan, are you on crack?Talk about saying "nothing of importance" Jesus! I can't begin to figure out what brought out your little tantrum. Was it my offhand remark about that Pollock action-script page that offended you so? Something else? Who knows? It's a mystery...

I appreciate the comparison of my bloggin' and rippin' with Jack's... though he's not an artist, he consistently shows he understands more than a lot of so-called "practitioners", so I'll take it as a compliment, thank you, even though you don't understand or intend it as such.

Can you make a studio visit? I don't know, can you? But, what would be the point? You've clearly made up your mind about me and my abilities (based on what, again, is a mystery).

You're wondering if I can help you out? No, Jordan, sorry... you'll have to ask nicely if you want any help from me.

26.

Marc Country

June 4, 2006, 2:00 PM

Anyone actually interested in seeing work by some of the "awesome artists... in (burp) Edmonton" can check out a few images of the new sculpture exhibition at the RAM, Big Things 4, on until October 1.

27.

jordan

June 4, 2006, 2:37 PM

Yes, your are correct, these look like pretty darn good examples of 70's modernist corporate sculptures - the kind that people use for landmark references while trying to find this or that bank, or that Starbucks, or the post office or whatever.

For example someone might say " eh, could you tell me how to get to Wayne Gretzky Ave. " and the response would be something such as " yeh, it's down on your left by that big clunky black thing with the pigeons on it..."
Then we agree on the idea that art should be functional then eh?

28.

Marc Country

June 4, 2006, 4:38 PM

Glad you like the sculptures, Jordan... (Phew! I just don't know what I'd do if Jordan didn't approve!)

I totally agree... they are definitely good examples of Modernist sculpture (although they're not from the 70's, J... this here is contemporary modernism) and yeah, they would make great landmarks! Luckily, we don't have many pidgeons in Edmonton, so the sculptures have mostly attracted interested, appreciative viewers, not birds, so far.

Oh, and it's 'Wayne Gretzky Drive', not avenue.

29.

Jack

June 4, 2006, 6:15 PM

Jeez, Jordan, maybe artists are "different" from plain folk like me, but sometimes you write like you're from another planet. I see no rational connection between #1 and #19 above, but never mind that. Also, never mind that you may dislike my opinions, especially if they disagree with yours. That's fine; I don't need or expect you to agree with me. However, you appear to imply that only artists are entitled or qualified to evaluate art critically, which is an utterly unsupportable position. It's sort of like saying only Italians can talk about opera, or only an ex-president of the US can make a legitimate criticism of the current one.

Is this a variant of George's recent "Jack should just shut up" number? As in, if you don't like something I say, I need to be quiet because you're an artist and I'm not? Please. I wouldn't buy that from Picasso. Who do you make art for? Only other artists? I didn't think so. The vast majority of the audience at whom art is expressly directed consists, as it always has, of non-artists. Are you even remotely suggesting that non-artists should just pay to own or see art but refrain from judging it? As in, "There, there, you lowly non-working artist, don't worry your little head about how good or bad art may be, just look and don't speak"? Are you kidding?

30.

Franklin

June 4, 2006, 7:11 PM

Assume community, people. Mommy doesn't care who started it.

@AT: art is not to be defined. It has no inherent function, so an art object can only be classified as such by common understanding, or failing that, fiat. Art's only intrinsic value is quality as art. All other values, including payments of cash or attention, are extrinsic. Hope that helps.

31.

Marc Country

June 4, 2006, 7:53 PM

Ah, Franklin: evenhanded to a fault.
Jack, you heard mommy... we'd best smarten up and not be unjustly rude to brother Jordan. Remember, our ability to escalate civility in the face of rising disagreement makes us valued contributors!

@AT: Art isn't to be defined, but as you like to say, if art is to be defined, then it does seem that identifying 'art' with 'an act of attention' isn't really that far off the mark. It clearly veers awry, though, when you introduce 'the artist wishes to invoke...'
If wishes were horses blah blah blah...
Also, in
"...it’s the very nature of art in the 20th that its center of gravity shifts from the artwork itself (intrinsic value) to the attention that the beholder brings to them (extrinsic value)."

"center of gravity", surely is to be understood metaphorically; but, a metaphor for what, exactly?

32.

Noah

June 4, 2006, 7:58 PM

We try to come to a closer understanding ,if not definition of art every time we talk about what does or does not produce an aesthetic kick. It is quality that makes something funtion as art . The uselessness of art actually frees it to be itself and only itself. Having said that ,the seeming contradiction is that I think art and the making of art is intrinsic to being human and serves a very distinct function. That function involves the need for beauty.

33.

Jack

June 4, 2006, 8:05 PM

Thank you, Noah. Very nicely put.

34.

A.T.

June 4, 2006, 8:41 PM

"The uselessness of art actually frees it to be itself and only itself." Noah you haven't proved art is useless yet. Then, the second part of your sentence contradicts the first: If something is "intrinsic" or "essential" you should be able to know why. That points at some sort of definition. F: "art is not to be defined. It has no inherent function." That smells pretty definitional to me.

35.

Noah

June 4, 2006, 10:41 PM

A.T. -I probably couldn't prove much about art . I know that the best experiences I've had when looking at art have been when regardless of purpose, the work serves beauty . Some will look at the masters and talk about historical signifigance but that doesn't tell you why they look so good. Narratives can be told without visual beauy so why the enormous effort to make work look good ? When some talk of art as benifitting the economy, or art as therapy or any of the other "uses 'art supposedly has those are possible byproducts but hardly the concerns of art who usually hids if made so useful.
I've always been curious about what it is that pulls people to make and look at art. Not on an individual level but as a species. I have the stong hunch that the attraction to making and looking at art is something innate in humans , this is what we do and have been doing for centuries-you suggested that if it's intrinsic I should know why.There are many things I believe are part of our nature that I can observe but only speculate about .
Talking about art only offers hints at definitions. Asking for proofs about art is asking for proofs to validate experience . We could go look at " Lavender Mist " and I could tell it was my proof and should you disagree I couldn't offer proofs to support my experience of it.

36.

Franklin

June 4, 2006, 11:32 PM

Noah is on.

I once offered a hypothetical: I give you a cheap writing pen and tell you it's a can opener. You object, so I ask you to prove that it's not a can opener. You point out that you can't open a can with it, so it has failed its function as a can opener. You can't do that to an art object, because art has no function. But that doesn't mean that all nonfunctional objects or activities are art, so AT's hope for a definition via that route isn't going to pan out. (An interesting sidenote on that argument is whether the pen is not a can opener, or an extremely bad can opener. Analogously, is bad art not art? I think bad art = not art, or they are at least functionally equivalent. But I don't often say so, because it's very hard to prove that something is not art, as above. It's easier to admit it as art and rip on it for being bad.)

I have the stong hunch that the attraction to making and looking at art is something innate in humans...

I do too. We're pattern-recognizers that can form stable abstractions better than any creature walking the earth. I suspect that art stimulates that pattern recognition ability in such a way that the brain experiences it as pleasure and identifies it as beautiful. That at least seems like something that could be proved.

37.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 1:04 AM

Next time I go away, Franklin, I will send you an email to ask you to please not put up interesting posts while I am gone. I doubt I can catch up with all what's been said since I been gone - aargh!

38.

A.T.

June 5, 2006, 7:59 AM

F: For all your use of the term "functional" I still don't know what you mean by it. To me, a function is any input you turn into an output, or any relationship between two variables. Art can have many different functions, (if used as therapeutic neuroscience, as educational tool, as advertising, as propaganda, as scenography, as appropriation, etc, etc, etc... (your use of "inherent" I will not even bother with)

39.

Franklin

June 5, 2006, 8:18 AM

Individual works of art can be made to perform particular functions, but art as a whole has no function. I mean function in an ordinary sense - a purpose for which a thing is made and used. A hammer has an inherent function - to hit stuff in a specific way. If you try to make a telephone call on it, you won't have much luck, because telephony is not an inherent function of a hammer. Nothing is an inherent function of art.

40.

A.T.

June 5, 2006, 8:29 AM

I can hit stuff with things other than a hammer and use a hammer for things other than hitting. So, a hammer is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for "hitting stuff."

41.

Franklin

June 5, 2006, 8:48 AM

I said "hit stuff in a specific way" - to bring force down on a concentrated, circular area with the expectation that the hard, beveled surface will drive the object under force in a predictable manner. If your hammer doesn't perform this function it doesn't qualify as a good hammer, and may not even qualify as a hammer except as a mischaracterization. Art doesn't have an inherent function like this.

42.

George

June 5, 2006, 8:56 AM

Re #40,

"So, a hammer is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for "hitting stuff."

What kind of logic is this?

You've switched the focus from the "hammer" to "hitting stuff". Yes there are a lot of objects which can "hit stuff" but that is not their intended, nor primary finction. Other abjects ahich can "hit stuff" aren't hammers. a baseball bat for instance.

Art may have some underlying cultural function, this may be what Dissanayke was writing about.

43.

Franklin

June 5, 2006, 9:09 AM

If art does have a function, Dissanayake is going to find it before anyone. But a lot of pleasures seem to exist for their own sakes, and "cultural function" is going to beg the question of the function of culture in the first place, which is going to have an unfalsifiable argument for evolutionary advantage, and some circular reasoning that basically says that it exists because we like it, I'd bet.

I was thinking about this last night. The function of a baseball bat is to hit a baseball. What's the function of a baseball? You could say that it's to get hit with a bat, but that's circular and kind of pathetic. Really, the baseball doesn't have a function, but with no baseball, you don't have a baseball game. I think art might be like that baseball.

44.

George

June 5, 2006, 9:24 AM

re #43

A baseball, functions as a toy. Maybe we are chasing straws here, it seems like an argument certain to go nowhere.

There may be some distinction to be made between the artwork itself, it's qualities which essentially are functionless, and the way artworks are used in the culture.

As decoration, ritual objects or just commodities to be bought and sold.

Whatever, it doesn't seem like a question that will pry open anything new about art.

45.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 9:37 AM

Function means use, and art has a function when it is used at art. When it is used for anything else it becomes, functionally, something else. Things obtain identity through use. A piece of sculpture can be used as a doorstop, and a doorstop can be used as art.

Definitions should be settled pragmatically and not imply value. Whether a thing is any good in its function is what we are really concerned with.

46.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 9:58 AM

A hammer is not a "condition", A.T.

47.

A.T.

June 5, 2006, 9:59 AM

OP
1. Function = Use
2. "Art has function when used at art."
Plugging your 1. into 2. I get:

“Art has use when used as art”

Pretty circular. Try again.

48.

George

June 5, 2006, 10:14 AM

This is silly, word games.

AT said, "Take it a step further: Art is an act of attention the artist wishes to invoke in the beholder."

So? What does this say?

49.

Franklin

June 5, 2006, 10:39 AM

...art has a function when it is used at art.

How do you use something as art? A hammer has a function at which it can fail. Using something as art means, I think, presenting it in an art context, with artistic intentions. I don't think an object can fail that. (Although it could certainly satisfy it, and still stink. That's a separate issue.) Things obtain identity through use, but I think that art obtains identity through a shared understanding that can't be spelled out.

George is right in that this is threatening to go nowhere. It came up because AT brought up the question of definition and valuation in #21. Unfortunately, he doesn't understand hammers.

I'm kidding. But we're talking about a class of objects that is identified by shared understanding, valued by feeling, and has no inherent function. I can't prove that any more than I can prove that barbecue sauce tastes good, but I think it's correct, partly based on the fact that attempts to disprove it devolve into silliness so quickly.

50.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 10:54 AM

Sure it's circular, AT, I am not trying to be semantically exacting here. Franklin was saying art has no function or use. I am saying it does, that's all/

51.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 10:56 AM

I don't think this is so complicated or difficult. We (most of us here, anyway), use art all the time, by looking at it and getting something out of it. That's what we do with art.

52.

Franklin

June 5, 2006, 11:11 AM

If "looking at it and getting something out of it" qualifies for you as use, OP, that's consistent and unobjectionable. I don't - for me, that's like saying that I'm using the sunset. But we're not really disagreeing except over the differences between two functionally identical characterizations.

53.

catfish

June 5, 2006, 11:17 AM

Welcome back, oldpro.

looking at it and getting something out of it is a "use" in the broadest of senses, but ordinarily "use" is opposed to aesthetic comtemplation. As in "ballet is beautiful but what use is it?"

Your argument with Franklin would be a little stronger if you focused on #49's assertion that art has no inherent function. Function does not always mean use. When something "functions" it operates as a cause; it is proactive, not passive. We understand this by knowing the effect. In the case of art, the effect is aesthetic pleasure in the beholder, and so art has a function because it can cause something. I know, I know, it is all semantics.

AT got himself involved in aesthetics way back there in #21 when he invoked "the beholder", another term that is associated with aesthetic experience. One would not call the user of a hammer "a beholder".

And three cheers for circular arguments. If art talking means anything to anyone, it isn't because it follows the rules of logic. It's because it squares with one's own experience of art. In which case, circularity does not mean a hoot.

54.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 11:19 AM

When Wilde said "art is useless" he was making a point that is slightly startling but true: art does not do anything functional in the "real" sense, like feed us or house us. I use the quote all the time.

But taking this too literally separates art out too much from reality and makes it hard to discuss. We would not have art if it did not do something for us, and what it does for us is a matter that needs work to make things clear so we can talk about it better. In fact, art's "use" is a fundamental question of esthetics. It goes to the heart of the "quality" problem.

55.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 11:39 AM

A lot of it is semantics, Catfish, as you say. If we could get the semantic stuff out of the way or establish some set of guidelines so everyone understood how words can get in the way things would be a lot easier. Even if people could get it in their heads that what things "are", verbally, is often what we use them for, it would help.

When we say "hammer" we go right to that hammer spot in our brians and we immediatly make useful sense of it, but when we have a hammer in our hand and see the wood and steel and the shape and feel the heft of it it becomes a sensual object, more like "art". Everything swims in and out of specificity this way, all the time, every minute, and so we cling to the security of categorization. We have to do this to get through the day, but it gets in the way when we talk about art.

56.

Franklin

June 5, 2006, 11:52 AM

In the case of art, the effect is aesthetic pleasure in the beholder, and so art has a function because it can cause something.

That's all well and good, actually, as long as you're willing to take it to its logical conclusion - that objects that aren't intended to cause aesthetic pleasure in the beholder aren't art. I'm sympathetic, but that's what makes Artblog.net what it is, and you know as well as I do that that assertion would be like punching a beehive in some circles.

@OP#54: We would not have art if it did not do something for us, and what it does for us is a matter that needs work to make things clear so we can talk about it better.

Art does something for us, but I still don't think that qualifies as an inherent function. Humans have gone through a lot of trouble to cultivate arugula so that it tastes good. But is the function of arugula to taste good? If you say yes, then what's the function of tasting good? Hell, what's the function of life? I think trying to determine function is what makes art hard to talk about. I say it has no function, but we cultivate it, like arugula, because we like it. We are aesthetic creatures and aesthetic behaviors are a part of our nature.

57.

A.T.

June 5, 2006, 11:59 AM

"If art talking means anything to anyone, it isn't because it follows the rules of logic." Why is it so Catfish? What are the rules of Logic?

58.

Franklin

June 5, 2006, 12:17 PM

I should go back over old posts and see whether I'm more likely to use food metaphors around lunchtime.

Oh yes - welcome back, OP.

59.

catfish

June 5, 2006, 12:17 PM

That's all well and good, actually, as long as you're willing to take it to its logical conclusion - that objects that aren't intended to cause aesthetic pleasure in the beholder aren't art.

As everyone should know by now, I'm not a fan of logic when it comes to art talking. Nor do I practice the "intentional fallacy". Sunsets cause aesthetic pleasure - who "intended" that? If god did, then they are art? If it is the result of random forces, but not anyone's intention, then they are not?

But this has gone far enough. There is no law of art talking that says we must be logical.

AT: I won't spell out the law of art talking any more than I will spell out the rules of logic.

60.

Marc Country

June 5, 2006, 12:28 PM

Personally, I see no contradiction between art and logic. If I did, well, art wouldn't make sense to me, would it?
What catfish writes of the 'intentional fallacy" is what I was getting at picking out AT's idea of art being an act of attention "the artist wishes to invoke..." Wishes, or intentions, don't equal results, and even if they did, desires are notoriously difficult to identify correctly, since we have practically no objective access to other people's minds, and have very little objective access to our own.

61.

George

June 5, 2006, 12:34 PM

Re#54, OP:
"In fact, art's "use" is a fundamental question of esthetics. It goes to the heart of the "quality" problem."

Re#55, OP:
"Everything swims in and out of specificity this way, all the time, every minute, and so we cling to the security of categorization"

Seems to me that arguing the "function of art" is somewhat pointless other than the very concept of "function" might be a current philosophical thought, i.e. fashionable, which is attempting to account for how art changes by applying a different metric such as At raised in citing "The Economics of Attention".

The fact that the Picasso sold for a huge sum says more about the buyer than the art. The latest rumor on this, via ArtNet, is that the painting is destined for a new museum being built in Moscow. Supposing this is the case, the amount paid may have been less a concern than aesthetics than the promotional value and display of wealth as power. Regardless, even though it "garners attention", it doesn't change the "quality" of the Picasso which will remain just as it is and subject to judgement over time.

For me what is more interesting is how perceptions of quality change over time, spawning new styles depending on the focus of the moment. I am not speaking of the present, but the entirety of art history. At the moment I am rereading "The Voices of Silence" by Andre Malraux. Written in the mid 50's, he traces the lineage of stylistic developments in artworks, using a broad definition of "art", including "functional art" like stained glass and coins.

It seems to me that the debates here, the question of the Urinal etc, skirt around the problem by just declaring that "art must be "good"." While I agree with the premise, I would suggest that. at least part of the time, our concepts of what we decide is "good" are temporally local perceptions which are a result of a particular cultural point of view. More0ver, our judgements are shaded by our own taste, our predilection for a particular type of art, and as result we disagree. This is not a new situation, artists tend to disagree.

62.

Franklin

June 5, 2006, 12:44 PM

Well, the experience of art isn't logical, so Catfish has a point - logic is only good insofar as it corresponds to experience. Otherwise it's as useless as any other theory. Intentional fallacy aside - my bad - I have a small problem, not a big one, with "art has a function because it can cause something." Is that really true? It seems like that would make any potential effect into a function.

At this rate, I think we should be expecting the Monday post about 8PM if we're lucky.

63.

Marc Country

June 5, 2006, 1:03 PM

George:
"It seems to me that the debates here, the question of the Urinal etc, skirt around the problem by just declaring that "art must be "good"... More0ver, our judgements are shaded by our own taste, our predilection for a particular type of art, and as result we disagree."

Well, art doesn't have to be good, it can be bad too. I've seen both kinds, and many othert examples that were somewhere in between. I prefer the good stuff though.
Also, our judgements are more than 'shaded' by our taste, they are informed by it, and as for predilections, there are those which are general to humanity, and there are those which are specific to individuals. We judge art well when we listen to our general predilections, and try to set aside the specific ones. That way, we stay open to apprecating a 'particular type of art' that we may have never encountered before.

64.

catfish

June 5, 2006, 1:13 PM

Art as art causes aesthetic experience. Art as door stop causes the door to remain open. Art as crack concealer causes the cracks in the wall it covers to remain out of sight.

65.

KH

June 5, 2006, 1:18 PM

So, I'm confused by the lack of pigeons in Edmonton. Does it get too cold for them? Are they an Edmontonian delicacy? Do you have a large population of hawks? Or cats? Foxes, maybe?

Or were you referring to people who speak pidgin? This seems to make more sense than a city deficit in pigeons.

66.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 1:35 PM

I think we are making something very simple very complicated.

Nothing has an inherent function; everything functions in terms of its context. Stricly speaking objects that do not cause aesthetic pleasure (or do whatever we think art is supposed to do) are not art until they do it. No object is "art" in some eternal Platonic sense, it is art because we do certain things with it and call it art and recognize it as art. A painting, or anything we choose to call art, is just a bunch of stuff until we use it in some way. I think everyone here is way to circumscribed by verbal categorization, by what things "are". If the last century taught us anything it is that categories are relative.

67.

Marc Country

June 5, 2006, 1:51 PM

KH, you just had to pick on my typo... Since you ask, I confess, I did have in the back of my mind the term 'pidgin english' at the time, and it must have slipped freudianly through.

I tried to get Chuang Tzu in on a similar debate over at studiosavant a while back, here.

68.

George

June 5, 2006, 2:07 PM

Re: #63,

Yup art can be "bad" too, that wasn't my point.

My reference to how our judgements are a result of our "taste" and "our predilection for a particular type of art" was intended in a more general way than you assumed. I don't think "we stay open to appreciating a 'particular type of art' that we may have never encountered before" As I see it "we" stay 'open to art' which fits in with our beliefs and tastes and either dismiss or ignore what does not. This is not an observation directed specifically at anyone here, it is in fact what has occurred throughout history. Moreover, it is at the root of how and why styles change, an artist builds on or extends what interests him, and ignores what does not. Styles fall into disfavor and are ignored for a time only to be resurrected by a later artist with a new vision.

At any point in time, the culture has a "taste" a preference for a particular type of art. Like all things, when these styles become overused, codified or dogmatic, artists look elsewhere for a source. Because time flows unceasingly in one direction, there is no way to view the new "source" in the original way (short of copying or rigorous emulation). Once an artwork has been embedded in history, as a viewer our relationship with it changes, we see the work both as itself and as it is situated in history. We cannot see Manet as he was seen in the mid 19th century, we already know his future and this affects our perception of the work. In the present moment, we can look at Manet for inspiration but we also 'know' what came next, this modifies our perceptions by locating us in the present, in Manet's future, not his present. As a result, if we look at his work for guidance, OldPros, "what can take from it", we will looking with a temporally different set of problems, perceptions and interests because we are working in the present.

69.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 2:37 PM

George, that is conceptual mush. You are appleing and orangeing all over the place: "we", "our" "the artist" (making and looking), "the culture", multiplying differences all over the place.

There is a "bottom line" here. If you have an eye and work on it you will see what is good about Manet the same way Greenberg did or Zola did or Cezanne did. We have not come to the conclusion that Manet is a great artist because we are each seeing something diffrerent!

70.

George

June 5, 2006, 2:51 PM

Re: #69

Nonsense.

"There is a "bottom line" here. If you have an eye and work on it you will see what is good about Manet the same way Greenberg did or Zola did or Cezanne did."

I'm not saying one can't see that Manet is good today, just that we cannot experience how radical the work was at the time. You make my case by your citings.

Suppose I used Duchamp as an example?

71.

oldpro

June 5, 2006, 2:54 PM

"I'm not saying one can't see that Manet is good today, just that we cannot experience how radical the work was at the time."

But you didn't say that. Yiou were talking about preferences and what we like. This is what I mean by confusion.

72.

George

June 5, 2006, 3:06 PM

Well, I'm painting at the moment and posting when I get a moment, so I may not composing my thoughts as carefully as I should, hence pronoun creep.

73.

Marc Country

June 5, 2006, 3:50 PM

Oh, that explains it. Thanks George.

I hope nobody minds if I only read, say, every third word in your posts, and then presume to argue passionately with you all. I'm sure it will make for a riveting debate.

New post Franklin, please.

74.

KH

June 5, 2006, 11:03 PM

Really, Marc. It's not about the typo, it's about the pigeons. Where are they? Why does your city not have very many?

75.

Marc Country

June 5, 2006, 11:54 PM

Why the interest, KH?... are you pigeon friend or pigeon foe?

We have lots of magpies (which are lovely birds, I think), and gulls, but in my experience, not many pigeons... The Royal Alberta Museum, aside from occasionally being convinced to host the odd sculpture show, is really more focused on the natural history of our province... I believe the director is an Ornithologist by training. Information on particular species of sandgrouses, pigeons, and doves native to Alberta can be found on their website.

76.

KH

June 7, 2006, 1:57 PM

Thanks, Marc!

Why the interest? I don't know. It's interesting to me. I'm not a birder, but I'm curious.

Turkey vultures, gulls, and ibis are pigeon-like "pests" here, with the turkey vultures being the worst (and way ugly too!), while the ibis are very shy and don't tend to beg (nevertheless they hang out in canals, yards and sometimes walk around on top of hedges). We have pigeons too, mostly downtown, but we're no Venice.

Oh, I almost forgot. We have ducks. Ducks everywhere. Feral muscovy ducks. We even have streets with duck crossings.

77.

Marc Country

June 8, 2006, 12:26 AM

I'd like to offer a straight-across trade, by weight: Miami's Turkey Vultures for Edmonton's Mosquitoes.

78.

KH

June 8, 2006, 9:53 AM

No deal! We're full up on mosquitos.

However, if you like, you can have our Bufo Marinus toads; they're quite hungry beasts--ask anybody! They may be able to help you control a great number of pests and vermin.

[But don't ask an Australian--if they start blabbering about "cane toads" stick your fingers in your ears.]

Subscribe

@franklin_e

franklin.e

Offers

Other Projects

Legal

Design and content ©2003-2017 Franklin Einspruch except where otherwise noted