Saturday, November 03, 2007

Art as Communication.

Today I woke up a bit "under the weather" from the mildest of indiscretions at the Brillo Box last night. Yesterday's Unblurred was a bit of a disappointment. Although there were a few things that (in my opinion) showed a unique vision, I wasn't moved by anything. My overwhelming reaction was one of indifference. Obviously the appreciation of any particular body of work is mostly subjective and has more to do with one's individual aesthetic than the quality of the art. I expect that the shows tonight at La Vie and Zombo Gallery will be more to my liking. But I got a reminder last night about just how personal tastes can be.

One of the pieces hanging up at the Brillo was created by a friend of mine (who also happens to be showing stuff tonight) and I found myself touting my enjoyment of his work to an acquaintance. I was also recommending that said acquaintance (I'll refer to him as A.) find the time to go see the shows that I've promoted on this blog. Pointing out the aforementioned piece as an example of what A. might see if he makes it out tonight, I wasn't necessarily looking for a discussion of preferences... but that was the result. A. commented that he didn't see the value in the painting, and insinuated that I was welcome to defend my liking for it. He further reported that his friends at the bar were in full agreement with his opinion, and that in essence that meant that it was 4-1 against the piece being "good".

Of course I couldn't help but consider the flaws in his assessment. What made his buddies (who happen to play in a band that I don't personally enjoy) credible as art critics? If I'm wondering about developmental problems in a child, I don't direct my inquiries to a transplant surgeon. But aside from that, it struck me as odd that A. felt the need to validate his own opinions by consulting others. Yet to be totally honest with myself, I suppose that I have fallen into a similar trap while considering the value of something I liked or disliked- especially if I was unsure about my own judgment. I could well have responded that the owners of the bar (who are both recognized artists), the curators of my favorite galleries, and the owner of the flat files that contain the bulk of my work all recognize my friend as an adept artist worthy of both consideration and purchase.

To be fair to A., he may have just been yearning for some serious discussion about a passion he loves. I don't know him all that well. It's too easy to assume that we know where someone is coming from, and it's dangerous to do so when we haven't even had many discussions with him/her. One also has to consider the personal context by which an individual constructs his/her perspective. After all, A. teaches art to 14 and 15-year old students at a public school in a very conservative district. He also grew up in that area. Perhaps these factors affect the way he views his own authority in examining the quality of art. As someone who has never been classically trained in art appreciation, my evaluation of artwork could be viewed as suspect. Maybe as the benefactor of a position that works to establish conventions in the way the masses view art, A. is perfectly within his rights to assert his own credibility.

Either way, I was forced to confront some of my own ideas about art. What is it about a particular artist or artwork that appeals to me? How do I inform others about myself through the things I choose to share? Why do I like something and not something else? I am not shy about pointing out that I don't believe in black-and-white qualifiers. There have been many times when people I have respected for their tastes and intelligence have enjoyed a piece of art (or band, or film, or book), and I found myself baffled by their enjoyment of it. But I try to step back and remember that my opinion has more to do with my personal characteristics than any shadow of "external truth". Ultimately we are bound only by nature and consensus. Our experiences may lead us to value some things over others, but who hasn't realized that we all live in a state of flux?

For me it all comes down to the realization that art is more about bringing another form of communication into existence. How did A. and I expand upon our respective understandings of our shared relationship within that place? I don't believe that we were merely evaluating that particular painting, but rather that we were also in the process of defining our selves and our opinions of each other. However, I grant that it is too easy to slip into the trap of believing otherwise.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Communication" - those loud critics were not interested in what the artist was trying to communicate or they were confused by how he was trying to do it.
Drunks are not having a good time if they are in agreement. Consider the audience. I would be interested in the art teachers perspective - an enlightened audience.


1:59 AM  

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