Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In


Art Vent Letting the Fresh Air In

November 5, 2007
Again, I'm always looking for more distinctions so we can sort through the plethora of art out there and begin to make the judgments that have been so lacking. I found a quote from this 2007 lecture written by Walter Darby Bannard on gallery owner Edward Winkleman's blog, and the complete text is available on WDB's archive. "Art is condensed life." I love that.

Art is condensed life. The artist works his materials against immediate circumstances and applies what he has in his head against what he has already done, reaching down to the extraordinary harmonic integrity of life itself to fashion something that is narrow, safe, permanent, and which deliberately circumvents transitory utility in order to create a dynamic equivalent of life itself. Art comes from a place that’s deeper than words and ideas and things. It goes out to the same place in the viewer. The work itself is the point of contact, the spark that jumps between the poles. It yields a special kind of recognition and pleasure, but does not submit to rational explanation.

Every artist tries to bring that core experience to the surface encoded in his or her art, but few succeed. After all we’re not talking about “art” but great art. Great art is what drives this enterprise. If it were not for great art, we would not be sitting here. Mediocre art and bad art are something else…Most art is just surface noise. The world is jammed with this stuff.

Once we accept that there is such a thing as good art and bad art and that art has value for us then we are forced to conclude that the judgments we make about it are not individual exercises of taste, but functions of how well we get what the art has.
October 7, 2007
It’s clear that one of the reasons for our art malaise is that we have no definitions for art and, in fact, resist any discussion about what our expectations of art are. I wrote about this in a piece called The Wow for Review in 1999, and now, re-reading it find, sadly, that it hasn’t lost currency for being nine years old. In a further effort to define art in our times—for an article or book, I don’t know yet—I’m delving into what others are writing and have written and will collect what I find here.

I'm currently purusing the second volume (1815-1900) of Art in Theory: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. This, found on pp. 17-18 is a snippet of Originality and Genius by Arthur Shopenhauer (1788-1860) from The World as Will and Representation:

Whilst science, following the restless and unstable stream of the fourfold forms of reasons or grounds and consequents, is with every end it attains again and again directed farther, and can never find an ultimate goal or complete satisfaction, any more than by running we can reach the place where the clouds touch the horizon; art, on the contrary, is everywhere at its goal. For it plucks the object of its contemplation from the stream of the world’s course, and holds it isolated before it. This particular thing, which in that stream was an infinitesimal part, becomes for art a representative of the whole, and equivalent of the infinitely many in space and time. It therefore pauses at this particular thing; it stops the wheel of time; for it the relations vanish; its object is only the essential, the Idea. We can therefore define it accurately as the way of considering things independently of the principle of sufficient reason….