vs. art criticism
culture has had art, but no human society can be considered civilized
unless some members take the trouble to write about art and thereby
enable everyone else to appreciate it.
Imagine the horrible prospect of being presented a
painting without any accompanying criticism. One would be left entirely
at the mercy of ones own subjective preference a prospect
that no intelligent person can view with equanimity.
Therefore, it is a universal verity that art cannot properly exist
without art criticism. After all, without art criticism, people
might not have the nerve to say, "If I dont get it, the
artists not doing it right."
Art criticism puts artists in their place. Rarely, however, is
the converse question considered: Does art criticism really need
art? Is art criticism better than art?
Some might scoff at the very idea of such a question and sarcastically
rejoin: without art, what would art critics have to write about?
No, placing art criticism above art would be mistaking the grove
for the saplings, placing the wagon before the freckled, towheaded
child, and building a paper tiger with paws of clay.
In short, some might simplistically conclude, art criticism cannot
exist without art let alone exceed it in importance.
Such an argument, however, ignores the fact that art criticism
without art already exists. A great deal of contemporary art criticism
consists of stringing together a series of expository, sonorous
generalizations applied to each exhibit attended by the author.
Great portent is achieved with virtually no content. No knowledge
of contemporary art is exhibited by the author, and no knowledge
of contemporary art is required on the part of the reader.
This is a laudable development in the history of art criticism.
The most devastating criticism that can be made in regard to a
work of art is I cant relate to it. Ones
ability to appreciate art thus depends on the degree to which one
can see oneself reflected in the work of art in question.
To the extent that art gets in the way and obscures that reflection,
art impedes the progress of worthwhile art criticism. Discussing
the artists subject matter, time period, contemporaries and
medium are the common pitfalls to which some misguided art critics,
such as David Hickey, Jed Pearl, Lance Esplund, Jeff Jahn and the
late David Sylvester have all too sadly fallen prey.
By contrast, good art criticism (art criticism without art) cuts
out the superfluous middleman. One can only applaud this evolution
in art criticism and eagerly await the inevitable result: a society
in which the citizens are no longer confronted with the new, the
different, the unconventional, the uncontrived the unexplained
but instead gaze in serene contemplation at ... themselves.