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Rebel and Train Yourself

Post #1614 • July 24, 2013, 10:36 PM

Tiffany Jenkins, Art education fails to paint a pretty picture.

There have been two damaging trends that have altered the purpose of art school and they are disorientated as a result. The first is what [Ken] Currie describes as the “academicisation of art”. That is, the move towards research and theory as an essential part of training and learning. Currie laments: “You get artists who are called things like ‘professors’, or a paper or video artist goes in and they are called ‘research fellows’.” Which, he says, “Completely academicises it. It professionalises it.”

This is not to sound anti-intellectual; art requires thinking and the artist should reflect on their work. It’s that so much of it is a retreat into circular reasoning, and an arcane discussion between the few, which is ultimately banal. The theory has become more important than the execution of it in physical form. The craft is abandoned for theory. It’s not just, then, that craft and technique is under-appreciated, but that the theorisation is limited and only of interest to those doing the same.

Secondly, art schools have followed the more general consumerist transformation of higher education. Those running institutions feel that have to prove their worth by instrumental outcomes. In particular, they stress the value of art school to jobs and the economy. Their aim is to pass students who will get a position in something like a design company, or become a famous artist who sells to established collectors. Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor at University of the Arts, London explained at the conference on art schools: “As government talks in a language of ‘outcomes’, academics and artists are forced to do the same.” But, he warned: “Institutions should be wary of the subtle dangers of relying too greatly on the economic value of art.”

Take heed:

If, as Currie says, [students] want to learn to paint, they could rebel and train themselves, set up their own schools and pursue their own agenda.

The Calendar

Shows I will see, shows I wish I could see, and items of personal import for anyone keeping track.

Through July 26: "Albert York: A Small Selection" at Davis and Langdale, New York City.

Through August 11: "Franklin Einspruch: According" at Hess Gallery, Pine Manor College, Boston.

Through August 20: "Estlin Cummings Wild West Show" at the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston. See the Slate article (h/t E.O.).

Through September 29: "Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953–1966," at the Legion of Honor, de Young Museum, San Francisco.

Starts October 14: "Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Runs through January 5.

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