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Author Topic: The 4 Levels in Art  (Read 73740 times)
tshort
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« Reply #40 on: November 26, 2005, 10:10:40 AM »
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Well, after yesterday's visit to the Art Institute in Chicago I must say I enjoyed reading this thread.  Consider:

In the Modern Art gallery - around 13 framed 8-1/2x11 sheets of white graph paper, island mounted and framed in white, portrait, with a single pencil-drawn diagonal line drawn corner to corner, from NW to SE.  That's it. Nothing more.  Whither narrative (they can't speak - but do they need to??? - I sure as heck couldn't figure it out)?  Whither metaphor??  Hmmm...

Upon reading the artist's explanation, it turns out these were inspired by his now-dead partner's medical readouts of his T-cell count, which was basically in decline as he died of AIDS.   So the artist made these graph pages, and framed them.  Interesting - as far as it goes.  Empathy?  Of course - dealing with death and dying must invoke that.  But art?  I'm still having trouble with that.

On the other hand, if narrative is an important aspect of art, then these works are loaded with it - only when one understands the narrative behind the work does the work suddenly come alive.  Very odd.  I find myself continuing to reflect on these works today as I write this.  And research it (check this out: http://www.guggenheim.org/exhibitions/sing...lights_13a.html ).

Dunno.  Certainly has implications for our work in photography.  Certainly makes me question even bothering with "pretty picture" compositions any more.
« Last Edit: November 26, 2005, 10:23:17 AM by tshort » Logged

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Tim Gray
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« Reply #41 on: November 26, 2005, 01:29:04 PM »
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And my favourite from the music realm.
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Anon E. Mouse
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« Reply #42 on: November 27, 2005, 06:19:39 PM »
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Tim, intesting link. Oddly enough, I have a CD with Cage's 4'33" on it.
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drew
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« Reply #43 on: January 12, 2006, 08:45:28 AM »
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Art is the expressive arrangement of elements within a medium. It has nothing to do with skill, craft, monetary value, reputation of the person, technology etc. If discussing decorative or traditional art, then skill and craft may be very important in the arranging of those elements in an expressive way, but one can skillfully arrange elements in an unexpressive way, which is another way of saying what Ansel Adams said about technically perfect, but boring photographs. Expression is a form of communication where an emotional concept is conveyed, at its most basic level, an understanding of the motivation for creating that image in the first place and an empathy with the artist. Pleasure that derives from beauty is the most easily and commonly conveyed concept, but there is always a fine dividing line between cliche and originality. However, success at art is learnt and developed from the ideas of others. There is very little true originality, just incremental development.
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drew
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« Reply #44 on: January 13, 2006, 08:35:06 AM »
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Well, maybe not a concept as such as that would be too well formed, although art often has a significant design element. However, successful art does not have to be designed anymore than it has to be crafted. Expressive in this context would mean communication of the emotional response that prompted the work to be created in the first place.
Narrative may help in appreciating a work of art better, but is not essential anymore than any of the other things that often go hand-in-hand with creating art.
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gryffyn
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« Reply #45 on: January 18, 2006, 11:54:01 AM »
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An interesting thread.  I find it strange that no-one has proposed that there might not be a universal definition, as in one that we all or even the majority can agree upon, of art or what an artist is.

My own opinion (which is all it is, and like certain anatomical parts, everyone has one), is that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  And the eye of the beholder is definitely influenced by many factors such as culture, background, education, expertise, personality and more.

Just because someone labels it as "Art" doesn't mean that I agree, nor that I have to.
For example, much of the "Modern/Abstract Art" scene I just don't get or relate to.  To me that is not art, but often just pretentious scribblings of an overinflated ego. But other folks find the work sublime.

The distinction that some posts make between "art" and "Art" (and similarily "artist" and "Artist" is amusing to me.  It is the ultimate in personal judgement being presented as if there was "One True Way" or one overriding definition of what art and artists are. Though it might be insightful and even useful to make attempts at the creation of such an all-eccompasing definition, I don't think there is such a thing.  It's my opinion that it's a holy grail, and interesting metaphysical concept that has no actual existance.

So the questions "Is it art?" or "Is that person an artist?" are paradoxes (unless the art contains two Mallards, in which case one might argue that it's  a pairaducks).

The masses have been conditioned to look to the "experts", such as art critics, gallery owners/curators and the like to tell them what "art" is and which people warrant the term "artist".  It is a convenient and lazy approach that most folks are happy to assume, since it's the path of least resistance and doesn't require the engagement of any brain cells.

But I would suggest that this is a disservice to humanity and the arts.  The proper questions, in my mind, are "Do I think it's art?"  and "Do I think that person is an artist?".  And my answers may be very different from yours.  These questions also do not presume that you need "like" the piece(s) in question to answer in the affirmative.  I have seen lots of art that I didn't especially like, though I did consider it art.

Art can be compared to pornography in this respect, as in "I can't describe it, but I know it when I see it".

Philosophical arguments aside, I have always believed that art typically requires technical mastery of the artist.  That does not mean that the art itself need be technically masterful, meaning it displays the artists fluency in intricate detail, though it can be.  I'm thinking of the Oriental masters as examples of this, where their technical mastery was unquestioned and the product of decades of intense study, work and apprenticeship, but their "master works" were just a few brush strokes on a canvas.  Ah....but the strokes were technically and aesthetically perfect in their conception and execution.

In photography, technical mastery encompases control of exposure, focus, depth of field, and the like.  But it also slides into the areas of composition, since there seem to be some common "rules" of composition (ie. rule of thirds, golden mean, etc.) which mastery of could be seen as a "competency" that is to be learned. As with the definition of art itself, competency slides into a grey area somewhere in the realm of composition.

It's been said, to paraphrase, that the true master knows what rules to break and when.  The unspoken implication is that they have learned the "rules", meaning they have the ultimate in technical competency.  There are also some situations where a display of exquisite technical mastery might be considered art in and of itself, even in the absence of narrative/metaphor, but I think that is rare.

A sunset (the sunset itself, not a depiction of a sunset on a canvas, photographic paper or other medium, is typically not considered art.  It is beautiful.  It can inspire strong emotions (joy, peace, contentment, etc) in people. It's composition can be perfect.  But is it art?  Most people will probably say it is not.

Building on that, most definitions of art seem to imply, either explicitly or implicitly, the action/will/intent of a person (the artist).  The aforementioned sunset can become art by the application of human intent, ignoring the "pretty sunset" cliches that some might raise as an objection.  Use another example if you must, for the example subject is not relevant to the point I'm trying to make.

And if human "intent" is a key ingredient of art, as it seems to be, then the term "accidental art" is an oxymoron.  

I could leave my camera on a table and my cat could come along and trip the shutter.  The image could be technically perfect (autofocus, matrix metering and the like makes that not unlikely), with wonderful composition and engender strong emotions and reactions on the part of viewers.  It might even contain strong narrative and metaphor.  But it's an accident.

Is this cat-image art?  I'll let you ponder that....

My opinion (remember the common body parts?), is that art should also stand on it's own.  What I mean by this is that it shouldn't require a huge "out of band" explanation of what it means, what the narrative/metaphor is nor should the external explanation be required to engender emotional involvement by the viewer.  The example of the diagonal lines on the paper is a good one.  Without the detailed explanation of the creator's AIDS affiction, the piece has no real impact, barring that of confusion on the part of the viewer ('what is this @)$(*$" and why is it in an "art" gallery?).  I suppose you can consider that the "art" is the sum total of the graphs and the explanation, but I find this to be contrived and it bothers my personal sensibilities.  Sure it brings out strong emotions, but it seems a bit contrived. And technical mastery is very much lacking on the part of the "artist".  It was a novel idea, even an interesting one.  But is it art? Maybe to you, which is fine, but not to me.

So I guess what I'm trying to get at in this long diatribe is a very simple concept:

art/Art/artist/Artist = YMMV

That about sums up my NSHO on the topic. ;-)
« Last Edit: January 18, 2006, 11:58:45 AM by gryffyn » Logged

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drew
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« Reply #46 on: January 23, 2006, 11:27:17 AM »
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Art is the expressive arrangement of elements within a medium
What is wrong with this as a universal definition? It is the second time that I have proposed it and on both occasions, all I hear is the howl of the wind and bits of tumbleweed blow past me. I agree with much of what you say and I strongly object to galleries/museums/rich patrons determining what is art. In the past, visual art was usually decorative and representational and often inspired by religion. Technical competence/craft was very important and often it still is (but it is not essential).
In the nineteenth century there were two key developments which have had a massive impact. The first was the development of photography, which freed the artist from the need to always be representational. Secondly, the museum or art gallery, where peer approval conveyed some fame to the artist and monetary value to the artworks. In the twentieth century, the key developments have been mass media and the hideous cult of the celebrity that has arisen out of it. The effect that this has had on art is that the works that seem to capture the public imagination are those that shock and generate maximum publicity. My opinion is that a visual piece succeeds as art when it easily conveys (without the need for excessive narrative) what it was that motivated the artist to make that piece in the first place. No need for rules (especially the rule of thirds, which is complete BS).
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Mike_Kelly
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« Reply #47 on: January 24, 2006, 12:18:03 PM »
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Interesting thread. I would like to address the orginal post. As a new comer I have been personally irritated when a gallery requires and judges a narative equally to the work in a solo show application.  I began to realize, I know I catch on slowly, that I looked at photography very differently than hte proposition in the orginal post. I don't use photography as self expression. I have nothing to tell the world. I never pre-determine anything with my photographs. I was very put off by the fine photography establishment demanding it.

I would propose there are two kinds of photography. One a photographer and one a Photographic Artist. Each has her/his place in the world. The Photographic Artist, in my exercise, is someone who creates/mantipulates content.  I realize that all photographers manipulate content by cropping, it's my rules in this exercise and that doesn't count.

Those that create content indeed have a pre-determined vision-statement that they are trying to reproduce/present via a photograph. But "photographers" are basically just saying I found this aspect of life interesting. Their photographs could have great emotional content but my "photographer" is a great observer. His/her art is the art of seeing vs. the art of creation. They share a unique vision of the world. As they walk through the landscape or the urban jungle they "note" in their photographs a view of the world that many people overlook.

I think this is a valid perspective that is not allowed in today's photo establishment.

On the subject of what is art:
One comment. Before my first solo show I was picking out images and trying to choose my best. I video tape my shows because I like to see how people are reacting to the work without me in the picture and during the openings I am too busy talking to people to see their honest reactions. The tapes along with the comments made me realize that after the work is up on the walls it is no longer mine. What the image meant to me is really gone. Each viewer relates to each piece differently depending on their experience.  They choose images for their own reasons and often they choose to buy images that I don't consider my best.  It actually caused me a little crisis in how to make selections if the images I choose are not as interesting to the public as other images I made, but didn't choose for the show. So they judge what is "art" from a personal context and the work seems to have a life of it's own like a child grown up and on their own.

JUst my two cents
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #48 on: January 24, 2006, 04:38:13 PM »
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Mr. Mike Kelly wrote:

> I would propose there are two kinds of photography. One a photographer and one a Photographic Artist.

The standard way of phrasing that distinction is documentary vs. art photography. Lately, however, I've been leaning toward a third category:

1) Non-art (documentary) photography, such as vacation snaps and crime scene evidence
2) Artisan/craft photography, such as calendars, mainstream landscapes, and good photojournalism
3) Art photography, which in essence has no practical objective - everything from sunset snaps to Thomas Barrow.

Your statement

> I don't use photography as self expression. I have nothing to tell the world

Pretty well sums up what I mean by 2). This in spite of the fact that your later statement

> What the image meant to me is really gone

seems to ontradict this position. The phrase "what the image meant to me" could be taken to suggest that it has some non-documentary content. (If you ever want to move all the way from category 2 to category 3, just practice shooting from the heart and from the hip simultaneously.
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Mike_Kelly
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« Reply #49 on: January 24, 2006, 06:18:05 PM »
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Dale, My work doesn't fit into your categories because I shoot primariliy very abstract images. Not useful for anything but not "constructed content" (from my previous post). just subjects I see. I don't shoot from the heart or the hip and I don't consider myself an "artist". I try to remove my self entirely.  The comment about "means to me" does sound contradictory but I meant in the case of my abstracts that I, like most of my viewers, relate to abstracts because of aspects that remind them of something. I relate the same way but after the fact.

Doesn't really matter, the idea is that some photographers, like myself, are just observers and I think that is ok.  It is not fair on my part but I get quite tired of reading what I consider a lot of psycho-babble associated with fine art photography. That's my problem because I think the "Photographic Artist" has the perfect right to any form of creative expression but I don't like those folks imposing their rules on me.

I think these folks sometimes try too hard to impose artifical meaning to photography and they end up with a narrow box that requires a narrative before images can be created.
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drew
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« Reply #50 on: January 25, 2006, 03:41:21 AM »
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Why all the addendums and clarifications? As far as I am concerned it really is very simple. There is photography, which is a medium and there is art which is the expressive arrangement of elements within a medium. Expression in this context does not mean 'having something to say' or having a 'meaning'. I entirely agree that visual images created out of a narrative box are unlikely to be art.
I think part of the problem is that as photographers, we are extremely shy about being in any way associated with the terms 'art' and 'artist'. This is precisely because we do not want to be associated with the stacks of paper and 4 minutes 33 seconds of silence brigade. We would much rather be appreciated for mastery of the twin mysticisms of craft and technology that are closely associated with photography. If you strip it back to basics and understand the fundamentals it becomes much easier to appreciate and understand what motivates us to take photographs in the first place.
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Micheal_Kelly
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« Reply #51 on: January 25, 2006, 10:55:42 PM »
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I agree but we seem to be in the minority.

Here is the Exhibit Application instructions for the Internation Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage Alaska:
HOW TO APPLY FOR AN EXHIBITION

Each year the International Gallery invites artists to submit proposals for solo exhibitions. Artists are not judged solely by the quality of their work, but also by their narrative in which they explain what it is they are trying to learn or what they are trying to explore in the body of work they will prepare for the exhibition. The Gallery accepts only new work that has not been previously exhibited elsewhere in the state. In this way, the Gallery plays an important role in stimulating the creation of artwork. We give artists the permission, excuse, freedom or deadline they need to create a new body of work. Some artists will be more successful than others, but we feel it is the experience of creating the artwork that is critical for development. The International Gallery does not focus on only traditional media, but is open to all art forms including installation and performance art and to new explorative media such as digital, video and other technological forms.
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drew
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« Reply #52 on: January 26, 2006, 04:22:46 AM »
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Yeah, I see what you mean. That is another way of saying 'we may be completely baffled by your submission, but if you provide a good written explanation, there is a strong chance we will accept it'. Is it any wonder that most of the public are dismissive of the contemporary art scene? I think we should reclaim the terms for ourselves and stop the anally retentive geeks from deciding for us what is art.
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Mike_Kelly
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« Reply #53 on: January 26, 2006, 12:21:56 PM »
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I think it is also an unfortunate form of censorship. A recent juried show here had a juror from Apeture magazine, she stated that she was glad the local photographers, who entered, were "beyond landscapes".

Just because she has seen all the landscapes she ever wants to see doesn't mean everyone in the public has done that. Children are born everyday that have never seen a landscape photograph by anyone.  I think it is very limiting to only look for gritty and many times ugly street photography as the only images worthy of showing. God help you if you shoot in color and your images have any asthetic appeal.

I am no traditionalist and I shoot mainly abstracts. I general don't shoot landscapes so I am the last person to want every photo to be a shot of Yosemite Valley in B&W but I think too many in the fine art establishment are too concerned with "nouvo". If it is new it is choosen even if it is not "good work".

Have to get my two cents in because  I think we must be the only two photographers in the world that think this way:)


Cheers
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gryffyn
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« Reply #54 on: January 26, 2006, 01:36:30 PM »
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I think it is also an unfortunate form of censorship. A recent juried show here had a juror from Apeture magazine, she stated that she was glad the local photographers, who entered, were "beyond landscapes".

I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one that thinks this way.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes there is nothing wrong with a beautiful image, be it landscape, wildlife or otherwise.  

The woman you refered to would likely classify such shots as "cliches" as a derogatory term.  I bought a copy of Aperture once....what a mistake.  A bunch of pretentious "art snobs" mooning over ugly and oft times poorly taken photographs.  Wanna bet that many of them are closet cute kitten calendar collectors? (say that quickly 10 times!)

Quote
Have to get my two cents in because  I think we must be the only two photographers in the world that think this way:)

Make that three! ;-)
« Last Edit: January 26, 2006, 01:38:15 PM by gryffyn » Logged

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bugzie
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« Reply #55 on: March 26, 2006, 07:30:36 AM »
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i'm a painter and also have a degree in art history. and a photographer. and i'm a photographer because i say i am. ;-)

i don't think enough photographers have a background in the visual arts in general. if you did, you wouldn't put so much emphasis on technique. you can put emphasis on your technique if you like, but you can't demand it of other's work.

yes, many discussions of modern art are pure wankery. some art critics should have a lesson in writing in plain english. but modern art is full of interesting and challenging ideas. much 20th century modern art deliberately defied definition and stretched the boundaries of art.

lines on sheets of graph paper? taking charts made purely for communication and making them into a gallery piece lifts the prosaic into something to be considered and pondered for themselves. they are probably more images of our time, more relevant to our everyday lives, than another grand view of yosemite. do we need to know they are charts of t-cells counts? no, if you want to read some significance into that, if it makes some "emotional" difference to you -- but you don't have to know it.

this doesn't mean you have to take pictures of medical charts. or gritty street pictures. or poorly exposed snapshots.

art is about visual ideas and communication. as artists and photographers, we should be willing to appreciate other's ideas. just as we appreciate a whole range of music.
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gryffyn
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« Reply #56 on: March 26, 2006, 09:17:32 AM »
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art is about visual ideas and communication. as artists and photographers, we should be willing to appreciate other's ideas. just as we appreciate a whole range of music.

Though I agree with you on this in the whole, the end cases would seem to defy it.

For example, I love almost all forms of music. But hard-core rap, I detest.  I don't see why I should be willing to appreciate the idea of rap.  Mind you, that is only my opinion and of course YMMV.

Similarily, some "modern" art, I dislike and do not consider "art", again IMO only.  I do not feel it has redeeming features, and it typically the artist, or more often the art community, being full of themselves.  And as with music, I love many forms of art.  I see no reason to "appreciate other's ideas" that I find have no merit whatsoever.

That being said, the process of new forms or limits to art do expand the boundaries. I just don't think we know which "art" expanded the boundaries in a positive and lasting way till the test of time has spoken.  Maybe in a hundred or so years we'll know if rap music and some forms of "modern" art really were.

Anyway...it's a beautiful, sunny day, of which there have been too few this past winter. I'm going to go out and enjoy the art of nature.  Maybe even will grab a camera and make some "art" of my own. ;-)
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Mike_Kelly
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« Reply #57 on: March 26, 2006, 11:29:49 AM »
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"lines on sheets of graph paper? taking charts made purely for communication and making them into a gallery piece lifts the prosaic into something to be considered and pondered for themselves. they are probably more images of our time, more relevant to our everyday lives, than another grand view of yosemite. do we need to know they are charts of t-cells counts? no, if you want to read some significance into that, if it makes some "emotional" difference to you -- but you don't have to know it."

Bugzie,
In life we must evaluate and filter volumes of information everyday.  We discard most of it as not being relevent to our lives at the moment by necessity. I respectfully submit that your comment above is ridiculus! Are you saying that any mundane item in life can be elevated to the status of "art" by just moving it into a gallery? A McDonalds placemat, the wrapper off my bag of cheetos and my used starbucks cup can be art for no other reason or effort than proclaiming that they are worthy of consideration and should be pondered for themselves?

You think photographers are too concerned about technique and yet I would submit that the art world currently does not consider it enough. Skill and craft are lost in a free-for-all of no effort art. I pull a chair out of the dump, make references to an imagined previous owner and it is now art and I am an artist.

I realize that inovation in art requires a broad view and a willingness to accept new ideas about what art can be. But on the other hand not everything that can be is quality art.  It may be just a boring piece of paper with a pencil line on it and nothing more.
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« Reply #58 on: March 26, 2006, 01:44:51 PM »
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Well said, Mike!

Sometimes the Emperor just doesn't have any clothes on.
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« Reply #59 on: March 26, 2006, 07:03:51 PM »
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Bugzie,
In life we must evaluate and filter volumes of information everyday.  We discard most of it as not being relevent to our lives at the moment by necessity. I respectfully submit that your comment above is ridiculus! Are you saying that any mundane item in life can be elevated to the status of "art" by just moving it into a gallery? A McDonalds placemat, the wrapper off my bag of cheetos and my used starbucks cup can be art for no other reason or effort than proclaiming that they are worthy of consideration and should be pondered for themselves?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=61067\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


people have been taking everyday mass-produced objects and elevating them to gallery pieces for some decades now. it started with the "pop art" movement back in the 60s.

we might put that grand view of yosemite on our walls, but the visual imagery that assaults us everyday and is a part of our lives is, for example, advertising. if art is to reflect culture, why not popular culture?

why be so precious about your art? there is room for humour and playfulness.

part of the pop art movement was to put the wind up folks. all those who would come to the cathedrals of art and worship in respectful and hushed tones.

why is yet another grand view of yosemite a work of art and your cheetos wrapper not?

you don't have to give up your craft here, you don't have to give up anything. it's about opening up your mind to possibilities. opening your eyes. looking at ordinary, everyday things anew.

i'm with you on rap. i don't enjoy it. but i do appreciate the idea of it -- urban poetry. i don't like it much but i don't say well, it's not music.
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