Debate:Ellsworth Kelly

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Ellsworth Kelly[edit]

Section the first[edit]

Can someone explain the intended lulz in the WiGO, other than some of us here at RW know fuck-all about art? --Kels 00:44, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

This one has bounced up and down past zero a few times. I think it is a little odd that we make fun of CP for it ignorance, yet we show ourselves ignorant by laughing at modern art (not that some is without ridicule). - User 00:50, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I actually like it (the painting, not the WIGO). If nothing else, Joaquin has a sense of the avant garde, and that's more than I can say for the rest of the Goon Squad. To each his own, ya know? We can't fault someone for taste. --Purple George!YossieSpring in Fialta 00:56, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
And here I was earlier tonight thinking once again, that of all the suck that is CP, at least JM does a decent job of actually featuring really high quality art on the main page. Even if many of the images are copyvios. ħumanUser talk:Human 00:57, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
PS, although I think the jpg artifacts muck that one up a bit. ħumanUser talk:Human 00:58, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
(EC) I put the WIGO in. I found it amusing that the Conservapedia types could chatter on about "cultural decay" and condemn the "avant-garde" while concurrently displaying that on their front page. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 00:59, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Call me a Phillistine if you must, but I don't see the appeal of cubes. It's like those blank canvas displays or my favorite: lights turning on and off. shit you not ENorman 01:08, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Yeaaaaah, that whole "Modern art is so stupid, a child could do it, etc." meme was pretty much played out in the 1950's, and hasn't really been that funny since. But have fun with it, there. --Kels 01:11, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Citing children as the possible source of that piece of, um, art is giving it far too much credit. I have seen better art come out of a random number generator. Raw. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 01:17, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Ellsworth Kelly did create artwork with a random number generator along with other mathematical techniques. - User 02:03, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I rest my case. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 02:15, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
My only real comment on the whole modern art thing comes from a prank a friend and I pulled at an "art competition" in the Springs. We literally went around the streets of Denver the day of the entry deadline, pulling random crap out of public garbage bins and entered it with the title "public refuse in Denver." Long story short, we won. That was the end of any possible appreciation I had for modern art. I don't think there are any rules for art, but if it comes out of the garbage and wins, epic fail. SirChuckBA product of Affirmative Action 02:43, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Let me get this straight. You got upset because a gag you did criticizing modern art was taken seriously. What the hell do you think the point of Modern Art is? It's a movement that grew up in the 50's and 60's that criticized the concept of art in the first place. And you're surprised that a piece making fun of it did well? --Kels 10:54, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
On reflection, your prank was more Dadaist than Modernist. Dada did the criticism of art thing, but he had more of a sense of humour about it. --Kels 11:44, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
No Kels, my point is that several serious artist, who worked very long andvery hard on their pieces got beat by a guy who just pulled some random crap out of a garbage bin. The art world is so pretentious and so overinflated they have lost the line between making a message and just being a talentless hack. SirChuckBA product of Affirmative Action 13:52, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
It sounds like you've got more of a beef with the judges than the art itself. Yes, some are highly pretentious. Some live entirely in their heads and get out of touch. Some have bad judgement. The same goes for any academia, really. But it's not everyone who's like that, and it's not the art's fault. --Kels 14:29, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
My argument actually is against the art itself. It's not a few pretentious people in the art world, my argument is that the art itself breeds the environment of pretentious behavior. Essentially, the modern art environment believe it's making some great social critique of the art movment as it was, and just like theatre of the absurd, they've come to think they're above the medium, which leads to the arrogant behavior they exhibit. SirChuckBA product of Affirmative Action 15:11, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
In that case, if you're going to indict an entire genre of art (or do you mean the entire art world, regardless of genre?) then you'll have to provide a wee bit more data than an anecdote about a local art competition. --Kels 15:16, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I tend not to consider "pretentious" an insult when dealing with the arts - after all, that is what art is - playing at "pretend". Some of my favorite bands are outrageously pretentious. Of course, if that's all they are, it's not much fun. As far as ChuckB's piece, did he/you ever consider that it might have actually been very good, despite the minimal effort you put into it (which I think you underrate - sounds like you had a concept, then spent hours working out the details, etc.). One thing I don't like is (once you move past the amateur night stage) rewarding "effort" - I don't care if something was an off-hand doodle, if it's great, it's great. And just because a "work" took, say, thousnds of hours, doesn't make it any better (or worse). Just someof my HOs. ħumanUser talk:Human 17:57, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

(unindent) Actually, it was the previous week's "masterpiece" that caused my eyebrows to elevate. At least Ellsworth Kelly has been shown in the Guggenheim Museum. Phillipe Dubois appears to be virtually unknown and, furthermore, if I am any judge, is no master painter (Although, I may be wrong so, if you want to get in on the ground floor, I see that you can still buy a Phillipe Dubois for a very reasonable US$2,500 - be quick!). It reminds me of one of JM's previous masterpieces which was by some guy who sold his paintings on the home shopping channel. Call me an art snob if you will, but very few genuine masterpieces seem to get sold via infotainment programing. --Horace 01:20, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

The work is a classic in hidden homoerotic art...if one downsizes the photo and then looks at the resultant image from, oh, say, 8 feet, one can clearly see that it is a pixelation of the glans penis. It's sort of a digital throwback to Seurat, only kinkier. 03:10, 22 March 2009 (EDT) CЯacke®
? ? ? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:15, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Wherein Ellsworth Kelly pisses me off[edit]

I thought I recognised the name. I've never, ever come closer to demanding my money back from any museum as I have from San Francisco's MOMA. The saving grace was the exhibition of San Francisco earthquake photos on the top floor, which I rather enjoyed. The art I found almost universally crass and uninspired.

The crowning glory of what pissed me off was this shit by Kelly himself. A white fucking canvas. You really have to be a hardcore art critic to admire this shit, I'm sorry but I just can't. I'm not totally against modern art, in fact I rather liked the Tate Modern's collection last time I went, but somewhere you just have to draw a line. I did, however, admire in the abstract the artist's ability to get paid for crap like this. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 04:31, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Maybe the idea was to charge every stationary manufacturer with copyright infringement...-- Antifly Now with 50% less retirement! 10:23, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
How about this shit? Modern art? Bollocks, more like. Fox 06:13, 22 March 2009 (EDT) Aside: Curator Joaquin, please put this modern art "masterpiece" on the main page - it will serve a dual purpose in that it will also act as a handy visual guide to the wiki's contents. Fox 06:14, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Let me summarize the comments thus far[edit]

Modern Arts R dum! A-durr durr durr!

Heaven forbid something that's not easily grasped in a few seconds should be considered valid. Do you approach science the same way? --Kels 10:57, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

How about: "I may not know much about art, but I know what I like"? ToastToastand marmite 10:59, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
No, it's just that anything is art if an artist says it is, and is therefore worth millions. Educated evil Hoover! 11:02, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Keeping in mind that it was uncommon for a lot of the original Modernists to actually get paid very much. The stereotype of the artist not making a lot of money in their lifetime is pretty common in fine arts, especially in the middle of last century. A few exceptions, but not all that many. The Modernists were starting an entirely new arts scene in New York (moving it from Paris where it was previously), and there weren't really wealthy patrons or anything in place to fund them. That's how Greenwich Village originally came to be an arts community, it was all cheap, shoddy housing that was all the artists could afford. I gather it's gentrified since, sadly. --Kels 11:18, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Can you address Toast's query as to why art is worth more if from a famous artist than from a relative unknown? Educated evil Hoover! 11:24, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
The prices are largely set by the galleries, who can more easily sell something people recognize. Do you not understand simple marketing? --Kels 11:28, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
No, wait, if Kels is going to be that insulting, I shall sum up the arguments in favour of modern art thus:
Pretty colours! Yaaay!
Educated evil Hoover! 11:05, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
EC) What's always amused me is the attribution:value relation. How come a work is more valuable if a famous artist created it than if a nonentity did? ToastToastand marmite 11:07, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Because the colours are prettier! Educated evil Hoover! 11:07, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Yes, because it's absolutely SHOCKING that you should have a branch of art that actually requires you look into the background, study something, or think of something beyond "ooh, pretty colours". Much better to do the 1950's sitcom straw man approach. Again, do you learn science this way? --Kels 11:13, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

What is there in the background of a white rectangle with a rhombus of a slightly different shade of white? Educated evil Hoover! 11:17, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
As above, do your research. The primary concept behind the Modernist movement was using art to criticize the concept of art. Up to that point, pretty much all art had been representational. Impressionist at times, Expressionist at others, but the point of a painting was the subject. With the rise of photography in the early century, there was a bit of an undercurrent of doubt, since obviously cameras could make better likenesses. So between those things and the philosophies of the immediately post-WWII period on the largely Jewish NY arts community, the concept of making art that spoke about art itself came about, making deliberately non-representational things that could not possibly have subjects, and forcing the viewer to look at the picture plane rather than what it's about. Now off this came the post-modernists, and a lot of the same philosophies went different directions with the surrealists, Warhol's Pop Art and so forth, but that's where stuff like what you mention comes from. Read some Clement Greenberg, he was one of the driving intellectual forces behind the movement. --Kels 11:24, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
So you're saying that what gives modern art its value is not the art, but whatever crap the artist makes up about it? Educated evil Hoover! 11:29, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Are you saying that all art must be representational, and cannot be rooted in the context of the time it's made, or philosophical underpinnings? Are you saying art is not permitted to be intellectual or challenging? --Kels 11:33, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I'm fine with art being intellectual or challenging, so long as that challenging intellectualness is justified. What I won't put up with is art claiming to be intellectual and challenging just because the artist says it is. Educated evil Hoover! 11:38, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I agree, and I just gave you the justfication and where to look for more. Cripes, if we studied evolution this way we wouldn't even get as far as Goddidit. --Kels 11:42, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
You gave no justification, only an assertion, with nothing about how a white rectangle on a bit of canvas is in any way to do with criticism of art. Educated evil Hoover! 12:56, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
As I said below, I don't know much about the specific piece that you and Jeeves seem to be obsessed with as representing all of Modern Art, but cripes, if I haven't given lots of justification for the movement and the art that came out of that, then I don't know what I've been doing here all this time. Maybe you could follow a few of the links and educate yourself, and maybe find some sort of commentary on that individual piece if you really can't tear yourself away from it. --Kels 18:33, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
That's bullshit. What I'm critisising is the lack of technical skill involved in making the "art." What exactly is there to grasp about a single colour being applied to a canvas with a roller? You can make up all the bullshit explanations you like, but that isn't worth serious consideration as a work of art. I have the same criticism of art where the only involvement the "artist" has in the work is coming up with the concept. When you outsource a sculpture, it ceases to be your work. That's not art, that's civil engineering. I'm sorry your artists soul is offended, but if you're granting that some of these works have value then I have some of my early work in the medium of crayola on paper to sell you. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 11:24, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
"What I'm critisising is the lack of technical skill involved in making the "art." Do you want an artist or a bricklayer? Is art judged by how many hours spent in front of the canvas? I think Claus Oldenberg, a pop artist, is brilliant for his colossal versions of (relatively) ordinary objects, but he actually has to hire foundries to cast the steel for them, and so forth. Is he not an artist at all because he can't forge his own iron in large quantities? --Kels 11:31, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Yeah, actually to be honest for the most part I prefer the bricklayer. Well, not so much the architecture, but I much prefer to see a steam engine than a sculpture shall we say.
But I digress. You say you admire Oldenberg, but what exactly was his contribution to the creative process? If he didn't make the blank, smelt or pour the steel, what exactly DID he do? Aren't the true artisans the people who actually did the work, rather then the person who supplied the cash and said "make it so"? --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 11:45, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I don't know all of Oldenberg's creative process, so I can only assume he makes his own mockups (with wood, clay, or whatever) and design drawings, plus plans for cases (like his Crusoe Umbrella exhibit) where it has to be displayed in unorthodox methods. Plus dealing with how things are displayed and such, of course. But I guess the foundry worker who's told "make a piece of iron in this shape" is more of an artist. --Kels 11:49, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Ah, the value of doing my research. Oldenberg did indeed do his own maquettes, as well as design drawings, preliminary paintings and studies, as well as collaborations with architects and other craftsmen for the fabrication stage, so he was well involved int he process of creating these pieces. --Kels 11:58, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
The problem with modern art as Kels has described it is that there's only so much value in something that exists only to make some kind of meta-point about the nature of art. There's only so many times someone can make an artwork asking "what is art?" - whereas representational art or art that demonstrates technical craftsmanship can have value on many different levels. Art that is at an extreme level of abstraction seems pretty limited to me, and so not very interesting. seventhrib 11:55, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Would you say the same thing about, say, mathematics, physics, or philosophy? "Oh, that's too abstract, plz to make more about world I know"? ħumanUser talk:Human 18:10, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Surely that comes to personal taste, not a lack of value in the art itself. Although a valid point comes up that there are imitators of the better artists who attempt to ride the coattails, and especially in an intellectual sort of art like this, it becomes hard to tell sometimes. --Kels 11:58, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I'm talking about the limitations of artwork which makes a statement as its primary purpose - this 'intellectual' art which is all about the context in which it was made etc. Once we get beyond the statement there's not much left to appreciate ("ooh pretty colours!") and really there's only so many such statements one can make. I mean, once you've seen one Pollock paint-splatter you've almost seen them all - but the same could not be said for a Rembrandt or whatever. seventhrib 12:09, 22 March 2009 (EDT) PS I appreciate you're now having many arguments at once - probably I shouldn't have stuck my beak in.
Heh, and I'm not even that much of an expert on the subject, but I've just done some of the research. As I mentioned elsewhere, a lot of the underpinnings of the original movement that created artists like Kelly, Mondrian, Bennett and so forth comes from the critical work of Clement Greenberg. His original essay that got the ball rolling is here, and his essay on Modernism is here, and they're both a good window into what the Modernists as a rule were getting at. And again, the cultural context of WWII being a recent memory in a bunch of expatriate Jews living in New York had a teensy bit of an impact too. It's an intellectual art, so there's a lot of cases where you need to go beyond the painting itself to really "get" the full effect. --Kels 12:37, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I'm trying to pretend I understand its inherent artistic value, but it still looks like a can of shit to me =/ From the Tate: "The Merda d'artista, the artist's shit, dried naturally and canned 'with no added preservatives', was the perfect metaphor for the bodied and disembodied nature of artistic labour: the work of art as fully incorporated raw material, and its violent expulsion as commodity. Manzoni understood the creative act as part of the cycle of consumption: as a constant reprocessing, packaging, marketing, consuming, reprocessing, packaging, ad infinitum." Hm, Private Eye's Pseud's Corner or the more simplistic "Emperor's New Clothes" springs to mind. I'm sorry, I can't help my philistinism, I just see a tin of shit. Fox 11:55, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I think the thing that really amuses me most about the Pseud's Corner link is that Warhol would have totally agreed with the characterization. --Kels 12:24, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

It's really surprising to me that RWians sound like I would think CPians would sound when discussing modern art. Patrickr 12:00, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Yeah, I'm a bit amazed at it all myself, Patrickr. "That's not Art, that's just rubbish!" is the kind of thing I imagine a crusty old gent saying, peering over his pince-nez while opening stock certificates. DogP 12:13, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
(sticking this here for ease of conversation flow) I find it funny that everytime someone wants to derail a conversation they throw around the CP label. The difference is we're all debating this in a (somewhat) civil manner, whereas CP would have a few comments with Andy throwing around "I'm right, you're wrong" type arguments before banning everyone involved. SirChuckBA product of Affirmative Action 15:16, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
(EC) So, let me ask you this. If you discovered his only contribution to the creative process was to take a photo of an object and take it to a production house and say "make me one of these, only eight feet tall" would that still qualify as art and would he still be the artist? If you're excluding any assessment of technical merit from art criticism, what the hell is there left? It just becomes a popularity contest. Big name, big price. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 12:01, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
If he did that, then of course I'd question his participation. But stuff like that is actually pretty rare, most artists working on smaller scale stuff can't afford a staff like that, or to outsource. The only case I can think of right off the top of my head is an artist who was parodied in the (very good) film "Life Classes". But technical matters do matter in context. If an artist is using skilled tradesmen as a method of creation (i.e., they're only intermediaries, the artist is making all the decisions), then you don't judge the piece based on technical skill the way you would for say, a Van Gogh where he was doing it directly. --Kels 12:11, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
So, I refer you back to my original question. In the case where Ellsworth paints one colour on a canvas with a roller, what possible defence can there be of that work as art? I have a clear metric I use when appreciating an artwork. I need to be able to distinguish the sublime from the commonplace. Personally, if the artistic process involves laser scanning an object, and then having a computer produce an ice positive then using that to produce a clay negative and pouring metal in to it, that's pretty damn commonplace in my book. The work of a person's hands to shape a negative or a statue from clay or marble, if well executed, can be sublime. I can think of no other metric by which to judge art, and you haven't supplied one. If an artist hires hands to produce the work, by what means are we to objectively value their skill? --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 12:29, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I still don't get it. You seem to be pulling the whole creative process down to a sheer physical act. Is there any conceptual element in your example? Is the value of sculpture 100% in physical skill and 0% in anything mental? Does planning what you're intending to do count in any way? --Kels 12:32, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Well, I certainly see no value in conceptualising if the concept requires the artist to be around to explain it rather than being inherent in the work. I especially see no value in it if there is nothing to the work but concept, as in the one colour canvas example. How can I possibly have any respect for concept in this use case, when nobody is going to pay me hundreds of thousands of quid for a beautifully designed and executed software algorithm? Face it, the medium matters and the artist's skill in working their chosen medium is the prime factor in judging a work. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 13:00, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
In that case we're back to exactly what I said at the beginning, "Heaven forbid something that's not easily grasped in a few seconds should be considered valid." If you can't judge it at face value, on the spot, then it doesn't count as art, that's what it comes down to. How much an artist is paid has nothing to do with the art, it has to do with what the buyer thinks the art is worth, and that can in many cases screw the artist over big time. --Kels 13:08, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
So, answer my damned question. What is there to be grasped about a canvas painted in one colour with a roller? I'd suggest precisely nothing. How can I look any deeper at this work? Where the hell is the nuance? What am I supposed to infer that I don't infer from looking at the wall of my house? If the value of the work is the yarn the artist spins post facto, I'd heartily suggest they go in to writing fiction. I don't for a moment believe that the fault is mine for failing to grasp the significance of this particular work I was bitching about, but if you can tell me why I should appreciate it I'm open to suggestions. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 13:16, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Your damned question has been answered already, multiple times. If you want more, maybe you can do your damned research. It's part of a cultural and intellectual movement that forces the viewer to look at the picture plane in a non-representational way, and if you're going to look at the significance you have to have some knowledge of the movement and context it grows out of. We judge literature that way. We judge music that way. We judge dance that way. But art? Pretty pictures or nothing. Write fiction? Like James Joyce, who we study in the same way you refuse to do with art, perhaps? The fault is yours for refusing to believe there is significance in the work without bothering to look at it any more deeply than "is it pretty colours" when it's bloody obvious that it's not a piece of commercial art or representative art where judging the subject is appropriate. A cursory glance, a snap judgement, and it's not art any more. Well, screw that, some art is allowed to be challenging, or intellectual, or even difficult. The same as literature, music, dance, or whatever. --Kels 13:29, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
No, that isn't answering the question. This is certainly not the standard by which we judge literature or music or any other field of human endeavour. Good literature is that which has the ability to produce the emotional response in the reader that the author intended. I think you're confusing the appreciation of prose with the study of comparative literature. The latter is an area of academics with no dependence on how good the work actually is. Absent the cultural context and good literature is still good, because the reader shares the human condition with the writer. So it should be with art. How am I, a layman, to be expected to have any more appreciation of modernism than I expect you to have of the elegance of my software? Are you interested in listening to me explain it to you at great and tedious length? No? Yet, you demand that I treat your area as art while rejecting mine. Sorry, it doesn't wash. If your artistry can't elicit any emotional response, it has no value as art. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 13:55, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Been staying out of this bizarre thread so far, but I wanted to ask Jeeves - would you similarly criitque John Cage's 4' 33"? What about Joyce's 'Finnegan's Wake'? DogP 14:02, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
"How am I, a layman, to be expected to have any more appreciation of modernism than I expect you to have of the elegance of my software?" Without looking at the background and context, YOU'RE NOT. No more than I am of your software. THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT I'VE BEEN MAKING. Modernist art is not easy art. It is not commercial art. It is not a comic book. It is difficult art that requires you make an effort. That does not make it not-art. If I looked at your code with no research or ability and said "that's crap" without bothering to learn more, then you'd rightfully call me an idiot, but you seem to feel it's your right to look at difficult art, refuse to do your research, and then bitch about the ignorance of the artist. How can I respond to that with a shred of respect? You say "Yet, you demand that I treat your area as art while rejecting mine. No sir, I DO NOT DEMAND THAT. All I ask is a recognition that although a piece of art is difficult, or requires research, or interpretation, that does not make it non-art. That you may not understand it does not make it invalid. There is a lot of literature that requires cultural context to be read properly as DP rightly points out, and great literature at that. Same with music. Same with any other art. You have demanded an answer to a question (what is the significance of this specific work) that requires knowledge to learn the answer to, and I have pointed you at that knowledge. To simply wave that aside is to take pride in ignorance, and I think we all know where that leads. --Kels 14:15, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Wow, this is getting long[edit]

(unindent) This is not one of those instances where I can look at the work and say "Yeah, that's not my cup of tea but I can appreciate how others might enjoy it." What we're talking about is a work that I literally have no concept that anyone could enjoy it. Yes, I have a vague understanding of the goals of the modernist movement. This may help me understand the artist's thought process in creating the work, but I'm no nearer actually seeing any value in it. I don't think this work is "difficult" or "challenging", I think it is quite literally content free. There is nothing that can be conveyed by the work, so arguing that it has some significance is of course going to fall flat. Can you honestly tell me you can look at what is essentially a blank canvas and feel something? Literally anything else, and I'd be willing to concede the point. But to point to a matte white canvas and tell me it is meaningful belies every possible interpretation I know of for "meaningful."

There is of course, a world of difference between "not art" and "crap", though I would argue that the white canvas falls in to both categories having neither aesthetic value nor utilitarian value. Your definition of art seems so broad as to encompass literally everything man made. However, that's clearly not the common definition since there is much in the world that isn't considered art. So, I ask you, where exactly is the point where art ends and not-art begins? I've said that I draw the distinction between the commonplace and the sublime, where do you place it? --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 15:26, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

OK, but try looking at it this way. Imagine you're standing in an art gallery, looking at this blank white canvas. After the internal "WTF this isn't Art" thoughts, can you see that the piece quite deliberately makes the spectator ask the question, "Well, what then IS Art? What qualifies ANY of this stuff in this here art gallery to be hung on these walls? If this thing can hang here, what great works of art aren't hanging here?" And thereby you've launched off into an emotionally interesting and intellectually stimulating conversation with yourself and others as to what actually constitutes Art, and how Art-ness is measured. So in fact, the piece ASKS to be criticised, and WANTS you to feel that it may not be worthy. DogP 15:34, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
(EC)I can't speak to the white canvas specifically, because I'm not familiar with it. I'm talking about Modern Art in more general terms (plus stuff like pop, abstract, and so forth that get lumped in with it in the popular terminology). But it does seem like it's representative of the whole among a lot of folks here. All I can say here is yes, my definition of art is pretty wide. It's a hard thing to define in the first place, although a few seem rather comfortable declaring stuff not-art, so I guess they're the ones with a sharp dividing line they can point to. I don't imagine I'm too far off from Scott McCloud, who suggests that art is what we produce when we're not vying for a mate or trying to survive, although you could probably add the requirement of trying to enrich the human experience. What we call "art", separate from "the arts" would cover a relatively narrow band of techniques or types of presentation, but that's about it. And yes, intent does matter. Calling something "art" and meaning it, I think should go some way to making it art, if not necessarily the whole way. As a side note, I find it rather ironic that at least a few people are decrying Modernist art because it's intellectual. When did we become anti-intellectual in any field around here? --Kels 15:39, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Well, quite frankly there isn't much to see. As I say, it's a canvas painted white. It's specifically stated that it was painted white with a roller. Imagine a rectangular section of the wall projected about 3/4 of an inch from the surrounding wall, and you've pretty much got it. I can hardly agree that art is something we create when not trying to survive, since that would make it strictly an amateur affair while more or less all the great artists I can think of have been professionals albeit some with more success than others. Artist is a job description. Your caveat that it must endeavour to enrich the human experience seems pretty close to my own definition, though. Although you seem to think the endeavour is enough, while I believe it has to actually succeed.
I also agree with DogP that being thought provoking is a worthy goal for an artist to have. However, that particular thought, if anyone was provoked to have it, is really really stupid. If you've decided to go to a gallery, you've already asked yourself that question. It's inherent in the question, "do I believe that it's worth my time to go to this gallery?" Also, I'd really hope no artist would be willing to attempt to provoke that thought, since it implies the creation of something deliberately bad. --JeevesMkII The gentleman's gentleman at the other site 15:59, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I don't recall saying that endeavour is enough on its own, but yeah, I stand by what I said there. You seem to be making a distinction between "artist" as a profession and "making art" as something anyone can do. And yes, I firmly believe that anyone can make art. Sometimes it's very good, even though the artist isn't a pro. There are pieces of so-called "outsider art" which are actually stunning. Grandma Moses' stuff was pretty crude, but it was still art. There are neolithic cave pantings that just floor me. The definition you're advancing would shut the door to art to those people. But we're back to art having to include technical skill, and I don't agree with that as a hard and fast requirement. We all agree Van Gogh is Great Art. But hey, I can shoot a photo and stick it in Photoshop, run a few filters, and voila! I'm a Great Artist. Quite rightly, that's bullshit. On the other hand, I can study brushstrokes, and make a perfect duplicate of "Starry Night". Does that make me as good as Van Gogh? Hell, no. There's more to it than an ability to slap paint on canvas. So go back to DogP's stupid question. Ask yourself that without going into the gallery. What makes the contents art? Is it sheer workmanship? Is it something else? Does inspiration and intent count, or is it just skill with your hands alone? You're the one with a clear dividing line, and you know where it ends, so where does art start? --Kels 16:18, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
WTF? What's stupid about my question? That's the WHOLE POINT. As for naive artists, yes indeed. Ever seen the work of James Castle, a deaf, uneducated redneck who truly became a great, great artist, all on his own. DogP 16:24, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Handy edit button #1[edit]

In my opinion, all art is that which falls on the dark side of Occam's razor: if the product isn't something that actually necessary for survival it can fall into the realm of art. (Even if the product is necessary for survival one can still appreciate the beauty of the thing; old plows, a plate of food etc.)

What I am seeing is this: "Well I can't see the value of this object, therefore it hasn't GOT ANY VALUE to ANYONE. "

As well as the old: "It looks as if a child had done it and it sold for HOW MUCH!?" as if money had anything to do with art. The "artist" toils for the sheer love of working on what she wishes. If you're a "graphic artist" and you hate your job, then you know you're no true Scotsman artist...the artist is the graphic artist who hates their job and then quits to work another medium that fulfills them...they may have to wait tables to work their art. The successful artist is the person who produces what they wish to produce...the money be damned. If they happen to make a good buck doing it? So much the better! 12:45, 22 March 2009 (EDT) CЯacke®

Damian Hirst... His most famous work is a shark preserved in formaldehyde and titled The Physical Impossibility of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living. It sold to an American buyer for $13 million. Then there was his exhibition of 29 "photorealist oil paintings" based on photographs of hospital scenes, drug addicts and suicide bombers. The paintings, which sold for $200,000 to $2 million each, were actually painted by assistants with Hirst "stepping in only to add a touch of blood or do the eyes." When asked about this he responded: "I don't like the idea that it has to be done by the artist, I think it's quite an old fashioned thing. Architects don't build their own houses." Modern art, or conman..? In 2003, the Stuckists exhibited a shark, entitled A Dead Shark Isn't Art, "which had first been put on public display two years before Hirst's by Eddie Saunders in his Shoreditch shop, JD Electrical Supplies. "If Hirst’s shark is recognised as great art, then how come Eddie’s, which was on exhibition for two years beforehand, isn’t? Do we perhaps have here an undiscovered artist of genius, who got there first, or is it that a dead shark isn’t art at all?"" I think they might be onto something. Fox 12:56, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Eddie didn't make up a load of crap about its meaning, so it's not art. Educated evil Hoover! 13:02, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
The answer to your question, Fox, is Timing and Marketing. That's all. Nothing at all to do with the actual value of art, and everything to do with what the buyer was willing to spend. --Kels 13:11, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Actually, I'm kinda tongue-in-cheek trolling a bit here, I should confess, so I will withdraw from the discussion. A lot of modern/conceptual art I can accept as some sort of artistic statement, even if it is only comprehensible by the creator. But I'm still not convinced about the tin of shit. Fox 13:16, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
(EC)Well, the tin of shit is more Dadaist/Absurdist than Modernist, so there is a degree of cynicism and humour to be assumed there in the first place. So you're probably taking it the right way. --Kels 13:21, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I assume that my query in one of the above threads has gone unnoticed, so I shall repeat it here: what the hell has some white paint rolled onto a piece of canvas got to do with criticising art? Educated evil Hoover! 13:28, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
*bangs head against wall* Here you go. I'm not typing all that out again, thanks. --Kels 13:31, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I have better things to do. Educated evil Hoover! 13:33, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Xactly Kels! The "value" of the art has nothing to do with its monetary "worth"> Just as gold isn't worth as much as bread to a starving man, art only flourishes when there is abundance. CЯacke® PS while we wouldn't get an entire record of it you can also chat realtime on IRC #rationalwiki
Pipe.jpeg--Tom Moorefiat justitia ruat coelum 19:55, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Such foolishness. Don't you know "that there's only so much value in something that exists only to make some kind of meta-point about the nature of art"? --Kels 20:10, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
I have one them pipes painted on my garage door... and pi, and a ringo starr and some other stuff... pix to follow? Too lazy = unlikely. ħumanUser talk:Human 23:27, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Piero Manzoni[edit]

This has been one of the most strangely rewarding and enlightening conversations I've read in a very long time. I actually came into this from the standpoint that, well, some things that were labelled "art" were nothing of the sort. But it wasn't something that really bothered me, I wasn't losing sleep over Tracey Emin's My Bed or Hirst's pickled corpses. Tongue-in-cheek, I submitted Merda d'Artista as a case in point of the, quite literal, shit that was passed off as art. And as the afternoon wore on I read the comments being put forward, and read more about Piero Manzoni, whose crap it was. Turns out I actually now admire what he was saying with his art. And I GET IT. The ironic conceptual art, poking fun at the pseud's who buy art (and remember, he sold that shit for its equivalent weight in 18ct gold!) but also the way he was using it to parody and portray comsumerism. I've always loved a line from the Floyd's Nobody Home: "Got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from..." and it struck me that 16 years before Waters penned that line, Manzoni was already offering up a vision of our society, where basically we buy any old shit so long as its packaged and marketed to us in the right way. I have put more thought into trying to understand Merda d'Artista than any other piece of art I've ever come across. Until today, if asked, I would have said without hesitation that the artist I admired the most was Edward Hopper. Now, he shares that position with Manzoni. And a can of shit has become my favourite piece of art. Thanks all =) Fox 16:47, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Man, if that's not the feel-good story of the year, I don't know what is. If nothing else comes out of this whole conversation, that comment makes it all worth it. --Kels 17:06, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Yes, this is/was a very interesting discussion. As a side note, I think that Two Whites piece by Ellsworth Kelly is very beautiful, even if it does say something. I use mass-produced mannequins as sculpture, though. ħumanUser talk:Human 18:32, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

Documentary films for fans of this thread[edit]

There are two excellent, excellent feature documentaries you should all ensure you see which touch on these very issues.

Both are fascinating, well made, and very stimulating of conversations as we've seen above. DogP 16:54, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

You should also check out F For Fake.-- Antifly Now with 50% less retirement! 00:10, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

Not to jump in late or anything...[edit]

I think that if any random person on the street can do a parody of it, and no one can tell the difference, then it does not deserve to be considered art. The stuff that gets passed off as art is completely ridiculous. No, I do not accept a blank sheet of paper as art, and as a musician, I find Cage's 4'33" insulting. The whole idea that something is art because the "artist" says it is is crazy. I (or any other person on earth) could just randomly do anything and call it art, and nobody could find any meaningful difference from what is considered "great art." --CPAdmin1 23:36, 22 March 2009 (EDT)

I'd say 4:33 is brilliang. Now, if some lame ass off the street said today, "here's my opus: 4:33 of rests", it would be lame. Sometimes being first matters. The beauty of 4:33 is if I want some quiet, I can play it - without having to buy a recording of it! ħumanUser talk:Human 23:44, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
How does the source change the value? 4'33" of silence is 4'33" of silence whether it was decided by John Cage, or by me or you, or some random person off the street. How can you make a distinction. Yes, silence can be nice and peaceful, but to call it music is insulting to any real musician out there. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Handel, Schubert, Chopin, etc. There is a ton of really amazing music out there, and it is an insult to them to call something like 4'33" music. --CPAdmin1 23:52, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
" call it music is insulting to any real musician out there." The BBC Symphony Orchestra would like a word with you. --Kels 14:42, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
(EC)You're delusional Human. Four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence is not art. A CD playing silence for four minutes and thirty three seconds, that's art.-- Antifly Now with 50% less retirement! 23:55, 22 March 2009 (EDT)
Meh, 4:33 of live musicians playing a series of rests, now that's art. ħumanUser talk:Human 15:08, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Welcome back man CPAmin, good to hear from you again... and That was the exact point I was making earlier. When I can just pull some out of the garbage and the so called "experts" of the genre give it high marks, there's a problem. SirChuckBA product of Affirmative Action 00:02, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
How is 4'33" different form Mozart or Chopin at a technical level? When writing music you make a multiple choices along the way; you can put in a A, B#, G, half note, quarter or a rest. All he chose to do was put a rest followed by another rest followed by another rest. Same with painting the artist could have place a bit of blue here and another bit of blue there or maybe some orange or alternatively you could just go red the whole way. This sort of study of the process itself is common amongst all field in the 20th century. The biggest developments in mathematics were formal logic (the incompleteness theorem etcetera) and representation theory, the mathematical study of the mathematical objects themselves. The modernism and most certainly the post-modernism movement was the study of the object of study itself. - User 00:31, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Because there is no inherent value in it. On a technical level it is different because there is nothing there. He did not actually put any rests, but even if he had it would still amount to nothing. I don't really know all that much about those mathematical ideas, but the study of music has been around for a long time, and I fail to see how 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence amounts to the study of music. --CPAdmin1 00:40, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Mozart and Chopin wrote amazing works, that have tremendous inherent value. 4'33" is only considered valuable because someone labeled it "music." How about a piano being thrown off a building? Is that music? How about writing the words "play whatever you want" on a piece of paper and giving it to a performer, is that music in it's own right? --CPAdmin1 00:46, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
It is a discussion on the construction of music through music itself. Instead of playing "notes" he has chose to have a rest at each note. If you have ever seen it done properly, a guy comes out, goes through motions of preparing to play the piano and actively chooses to play no notes for 4'33". There is no inherent value in any music if you consider it to be a combination of notes, there just happens to be a small subsection of the vast number of permutations that people find audibly pleasing. - User 00:50, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
He did not choose to have a rest for each note. He wrote 3 movements and labeled each of them "tacet" something like this.

Mvt. 1
Mvt. 2
Mvt. 3
but that is all semantics. Yes I am aware of how the "work" is performed, but that is just an acting job on the part of the guy. There is no inherent value in 4'33" of silence. It is 4'33" of silence whether it happens with some guy sitting at a piano, or whether it happens up at the north pole with nobody listening. There is inherent value to the compositions of Mozart and Chopin. 4'33" of silence is no more a piece of music by John Cage, then the sky would be if I decided to say, "hey everyone look up, that is my new work of art, isn't it amazing?" There is nothing being created. There is nothing original. --CPAdmin1 01:07, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

There is no inherent value in music at all. Mozart and Chopin choose notes in an order which to you sounds pleasing. I could right now put together a piece of music using a random number generator which contains the same amount of information as Mozart and therefore the same intrinsic value. - User 01:14, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
So if I use a random number generator to string together a whole book full of random letters, does that book contain as much information as 1984? (or any other novel) Can I call it a novel? You are looking at music as simply the different permutations of sound and silence. That is not the case. Music has meaning. Music is like a language. Would you call my "novel" meaningful communication? Your whole argument is very relativist, and basically eliminates all meaning from art. --CPAdmin1 01:22, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
How does it have meaning? Where does this meaning come from? It is questioning the process of art itself that we can arrive at what is art and what is not. Art is, according to my dictionary, the expression of beautiful, appealing or of more than ordinary significance. Nice definition but what does it mean in practice? By using art to study the process of art itself we can begin to explore this question, this is what post-modernism or relativism as you call it is about. - User 01:29, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
(EC)If you deny it meaning, then what is the point of the label? If Art means nothing, then this debate is pointless. If art is meaningless, then it does not matter what is art and what isn't. There is no such thing as art. Art is only a label that we can put on anything because there is no meaning to it whatsoever, and the very label is useless because it doesn't say anything. It has to have meaning, otherwise there is no such thing as Art. --CPAdmin1 01:37, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
What is a chair? I bet you can give no definition of a chair that I could not go away and build a chair which does not meet you definition and yet it will still be a chair. Art is the exploration of human thought through a visual medium (or audio in the case of music). As you can see we have quickly moved from the platonic idea of the pure existence of something to using the object itself to explore our thoughts on the object. - User 01:43, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Chair--An object that is used to support weight of a person, (or possibly another creature) or is built for that purpose. Also an image or representation of such an object. --CPAdmin1 01:52, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
A table would meet your definition of chair. Are you saying a table is the same thing as a chair? - User 01:57, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
A table can be used as a chair. --CPAdmin1 02:01, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
The Mona Lisa can be used as kindling. - User 02:02, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Yes it can. Your point is what? --CPAdmin1 02:03, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
My point is that you would not find anyone who would disagree with you that it is art. The fact you could smash it up and burn it shows that art has no intrinsic value we do not place on it. The question on what is art is genuinely difficult question which people have tried to answer in many ways one of which is with art itself. This is the goal of the modern and post-modern movement, which extends beyond art even into things we accept as inherently true like mathematics. What we have found are some very uncomfortable answers in that we can't define art, but this does not stop these things being art any more that Russell's paradox is not mathematics. - User 02:13, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Just because the intrinsic value can be easily ruined by burning it does not mean that the value does not exist. --CPAdmin1 02:17, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Where does this value come from? What if one day we decided we all hated it a burnt it. - User 02:21, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
I disagree with your definition of art. How is a painting of a landscape or a piece of music an exploration of human thought. Art can involve an exploration of thought, but it is not necessary, and such exploration of thought does not make it art. --CPAdmin1 01:52, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
What makes a landscape painting art? How is it not geography? - User 01:57, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
This is where I find myself between a rock and a hard place. Most "modern art" does seem to be rubbish and not art (nobody is going to convince me a room with a light going on and off, or a submarine made from car tyres, is "art"). I'm still pretty sure Picasso was having a laugh up his sleeve at people who bought his work. What is good art - take the Haywain for e.g. - that's art. However, that said, Cage's 4'33 is brilliant and is basically the ultimate form of ambient music, plus it will sound different everytime you listen to it. --PsyGremlinWhut? 01:35, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
I disagree with you on Cage. If the ambient sounds are the music, that is a different debate. But the ambient sounds are not written by Cage. If he wants to say "shut up and listen" that's fine, but that is not music. That is saying "shut up and listen." --CPAdmin1 01:41, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Isn't that exactly what Cage is saying? The fact that he's using an orchestra to say it instead of standing there on stage with a megaphone is irrelevant. Or rather, the orchestra likely has more impact, since it adds anticipation to the mix. --Kels 15:25, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

There's no such thing as "intrinsic value" in the arts. Works only have value (artistic, financial or utility) because those values are attributed to them by their creator & their consumers, as with many other products. ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 09:35, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

"Breaktast of Champions", by Kurt Vonnegut. Pp. 226-227[edit]

I am reminded.

[An abstract painter makes a painting for a town that is a plain canvas with a single stripe across it. They challenge him in a local bar, saying:] "Well, we don't think much of your painting. We've seen better pictures done by a five-year-old."

"The painting did not exist until I made it," [the painter replied]. "Now that it does exist, nothing would make me happier than to have it reproduced again and again, and vastly improved upon, by all the five-year-olds in town. I would love for your children to find pleasantly and playfully what it took me many angry years to find."

"I now give you my word of honor," he went on, "that the picture ... shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out. It is a picture of the awareness of every animal. It is the immaterial core of every animal - the 'I am' to which messages are sent. It is all that is alive in any of us - in a mouse, in a deer, or in a cocktail waitress. It is unwavering and pure, no matter what preposterous event may befall us. A sacred picture of [a man] alone is one vertical, unwavering band of light."

Nothing has meaning unto itself. The word "tree" means nothing unless it is connected with the concept by a speaker of English. Picasso's Guernica is a splash of meaningless tiny bits of rock on stretched vegetable matter until a viewer gives it meaning and context. And this follows right on down to even the simplest item, whatever its nature.

Art is found most of all in this meaning. To be sure, making something beautiful or terrible has great worth on its own; mechanical skill is not something to take lightly. But the essence of art is in meaning, not just in spectacle. When you look at a masterpiece like Millais' Ophelia, it is not just the way in which the artist daubed the paint that makes it art. Nor would this be true with a crudely simple painting. It is the meaning; the dead-faced despair swept into the strokes of the brush, the contrast of watery beauty with the madness that filled her lungs.--Tom Moorefiat justitia ruat coelum 00:35, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

So it is "art" because the "artist" says that it has meaning? You are giving it value just because of a label. Art should have value in itself, apart from any label being given to it. --CPAdmin1 00:48, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
So what? You're standing there, boldly proclaiming it's not-art. Who are you to override the classification made by the people who make it? --Kels 00:54, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
If you are thinking that way, then I can take my statement and label it "truth" and you have to accept it as such because I as the maker of the statement have defined it as such. If art is simply determined by the label, then there is no meaning in art whatsoever. There has to be an objective standard. Otherwise there is no point in the concept of art. --CPAdmin1 01:12, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
And what is the objective standard. Why does the funky little reproduction statue from Egypt on my desk pass as art (well the big actual version you would see if you went there) and my coffee cup doesn't? - User 01:21, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
I would say that it has to be original, It has to have meaning, it has to be clearly discernible as Art... --CPAdmin1 01:25, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Well the single line on the page meets both of your definitions; it is original "The painting did not exist until I made it" and it is a expression of the human form in the universe "[a] sacred picture of [a man] alone is one vertical, unwavering band of light" and yet you claim it is not art. - User 01:32, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Well, I think that there is more to the definition than that. I just haven't thought of what else to add yet. Also, it isn't "clearly discernible as art

"--CPAdmin1 01:46, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

Yet your definition, 1) original, 2) represents something, was what you were using to discern it. - User 01:48, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
You misunderstood. Clearly discernible as art was another qualification on the level of the other two. Not a very good explanation of what I was thinking, but another qualification. --CPAdmin1 01:54, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Clearly discernible by whom? - User 01:58, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

There has to be an objective standard. Otherwise there is no point in the concept of art. There has to be an objective standard? I disagree entirely. I think that the question of what is art is an open one, and likely to remain so. But let us take some examples. Please say which is art, and why or why not, and we can suss this out.:
1. The Mona Lisa.
2. Pollock's #4 (no need to look it up, it's probably what you expect).
3. Warhol's Campbell's Soup.
4. Vonnegut's The Temptation of St. Anthony (the painting mentioned above in my quote).--Tom Moorefiat justitia ruat coelum 02:29, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

Well that's easy. ALL of the above are Art. DogP 11:46, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

I think simply skipping over the point brought up that "well if that's art, then art doesn't have any meaning" is a mistake. I think evaluating that concept a little might at least give you a window into what some of these "artists" are attempting to convey. Smyth 17:43, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

We appear to be interested in Art[edit]

Jeebus/ I go out to dinner to celebrate my successful campaign in the Great Block War of 2009, and this is STILL going on? Holy crap, we should start Artopedia. Nevertheless, it's a good topic, glad it came up. DogP 01:55, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

This discussion is hilarious and aggravating[edit]

I wrote a long(er) reply to all of this, but screw it, too much has already been said. This is all art, but not necessarily good art. Psychobabble, impenetrable philosophy, and "profound" explanations do not create value or merit in art; they are marketing. If a piece of art on its own does not a) hold aesthetic value, or b) convey some emotion, meaning, or philosophy on its own, it has largely failed. Novelty may create interesting art, pique the imagination and so forth, but this does not make it any more than that, novelty. The Art Education/Criticism industry has essentially created a racket, whereby popular names sell for millions while a host of academics churn out paper justifying it all, while countless superior artists are ignored because they lack the absurd marketing (often from the same schools). I am a skeptic of feminist/marxist/deconstructionist criticism and metaphysics for exactly the same reason: if you create your own reality, with an isolated philosophy built on its own logic and verbiage, you can build countless careers churning out things which are novel, but in the end amount to spewing manure. PubliusTalk 02:03, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

tl/dr Edit: Essentially, my point should be: clever squares and four minutes of silence are art. However, our response should be "Ha, how clever! Now I'm going to go admire quality." Not "my goodness, what a profound response to the accepted post-modern relations of object to medium! A work of genius!" PubliusTalk 02:06, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
(EC)Good point. I'll give the line on paper "bad art" status. I'm still holding out on 4'33" however. --CPAdmin1 02:09, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
How does mathematics differ from a created reality with an isolated philosophy built on its own logic and verbiage? Yet I bet you except the solution to Schrodinger's equation in quantum mechanics. - User 02:07, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Because in actual reality if I have 5 apples and johnny takes away 2 of them I have 3 left. --CPAdmin1 02:10, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
(EC) Publius, amen. Pi, logic only goes so far as to say that if certain premises are true, then a conclusion is true. Whether the premises are correct is a real-world question; thus, most logical arguments are tied quite concretely to the real world. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 02:10, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Yes but even with consistent premises there are always true statements you can't prove are true. - User 02:24, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
But are there false statements you cannot prove are false? No. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 02:25, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Much the same really. - User 03:43, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
That's an interesting point, and I don't know enough about the frontiers of mathematics to give a good response. The same critiques may apply, when mathematical systems are constructed on arbitrary axioms. However, as we are ever uncertain of the axioms of our own universe's physics, there's potential for utility there. PubliusTalk 02:13, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

Questions for Kels[edit]

I sparked off this whole debate, then unluckily went and missed most of it. Now that I have read through the posts, I have some questions for you, Kels.

  1. You responded to several people's criticisms of Mr. Kelly with variations on, "Do some research on modern art." You further stated several times that condemning modern art, or a certain piece of modern art, without doing said research is similar to condemning a scientific theory because it is prima facie not understandable to the layman. How would you answer the statement, "Nobody on this Wiki is qualified to criticize religion, not having done all the research required of doctoral candidates in theology"?
  2. In response to statements that Mr. Kelly's work had no merit whatsoever, you argued the opposite by referring to essays laying out the Modernist political or ideological program, stating that Mr. Kelly's work was made pursuant to said political program. Why, then, should those of us who do not support this program retreat from our position that Mr. Kelly's work has no merit?
  3. Furthermore, why should art that has no other merit besides being made pursuant to the advancement of some political program be held in high esteem?
  4. You stated that the Modernist community was motivated by the notion that with the advent of photography, all "representational" art had been rendered obsolete. Given that they were, um, wrong about that, does this not undermine their credibility somewhat?

Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 02:05, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

I must some that some of your arguments are farcical. Your equation of communism with post-modernism has to the worst. Communism has it origins in the romantic movement. Modernism and post-modernism is an intellectual movement in the 20th century that looked into the structure of the discipline itself without restrictions based on previous work or the intent the creator of the work, hence why it is also referred to as post-structuralism. The art itself does not pursue the advancement of a political movement, it advance questions on the nature of what is art. What people find appealing is subjective. If someone declares that something is not art, it is not based on a definition of art. If you ask for a definition of art, either you will get a definition that is too broad so you can always find something that they would consider art that would meet the definition, or too narrow and you could find something they would consider art which would not meet their definition. The basic result is art is pretty much what ever the person judging it is willing to call art. That is not to say that something you disagree with is not of artistic merit, modernism explored the very nature of what is art itself. The result was there are no consistent results. - User 04:06, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Okay, here's my answers:
  1. My response is "bullshit". You are not qualified to criticize religion if you haven't even done the slightest bit of research. Otherwise you're just speaking from emotion, and have nothing to back it up. A lot of the people here were arguing without even knowing the intellectual base of Modernism, which is like criticizing Christianity without knowing what the Bible was supposed to be. It's basic, and if you can't be bothered even looking that up (even reading the WP page is a friggin' start), then no. You aren't qualified.
  2. This question is, to put it bluntly, stupid. What's that got to do with anything?
  3. Russian propaganda posters are often considered great art by a lot of people. And not simply art dealers or critics, but people who aren't part of that culture. Probably because it's taken out of that original propaganda context and seen as art unto itself. The same applies to commercial art, which is also made for a specific purpose.
  4. That doesn't even make sense. How do comics prove anything. You can just as easily make a comic this way. Far easier, in fact. So the value of drawing a comic, or making a painting, or whatever, lies in the artist's style. Modernism brought that concept out in the extreme, dispensing with subject altogehter, and making it entirely about the artist and the painting itself, and not about a subject of the painting.
Again, as Greenberg said, the idea was to criticize art using art itself (the above example about 4'33" being a statement about music using music as a medium is a good one) in order to strengthen art in its core competence. Which is not to faithfully record an image, like a camera does, but to apply style and conceptual elements to something that is obviously art. --Kels 06:45, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
  1. All right; fair enough.
  2. "What's that got to do with anything?" — You argued that Mr. Kelly's work had artistic merit by labeling it part of a certain artistic movement, pointing to essays in which the philosophy of this movement was laid out. For people who disagree with that philosophy, this argument becomes unsound, and from what I read, you have not provided any others.
  3. I agree. But note that I said "no other merit besides being propaganda." It is generally believed that works like Russian propaganda posters or socialist-realist paintings have merit independent of their status as propaganda — "out of context," as you said. Does that blown-up 8x8 pixmap currently on Conservapedia's main page have any such merit? You have not argued that it has.
  4. Traditional art forms such as paintings are capable of representing things that cannot be represented in photographs. I provided Bosch's painting, comics, and expressionist works as examples. That one can make comics using photographs is irrelevant. (And if modernism is the only argument that "subject doesn't matter," I would have to say that it does matter, very much!)
Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 12:13, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Let's run through this again, maybe we can eliminate another digit.
  1. Null.
  2. It's a conceptual underpinning, not a political position. It is the idea that lies behind abstract expressionism, which is why one would choose to paint that way in the first place. Aside from which, what's with the pointless insults masquerading as links? I thought this was intended as a civil discussion.
  3. I note that you said it, and further note that it means nothing given that the artworks in question were expressly created for that purpose and not as lasting pieces of art. Even further, it's got nothing in particular to do with an entirely different branch of art, unless you're trying to argue some sort of one-size-fits-all standard, in which case you'd better be specific as to what that standard actually is. As to Ellis, I don't believe I've really gone in depth about any specific artist on this page. But yes, I would say that it does have merit. From a cursory look at a jpg online, I find it looks interesting. But then, I love Mondrian.
  4. Sure, and why are those artists considered impressive? Style, of course. What they do on the canvas. Which is exactly the sort of thing Modernism was all about, using art to explore what art is good at. Which is not faithfully and accurately recording a scene, a camera can do that, but something considerably more.
Seriously, have you done any reading at all on this subject, even just the quick rundown they have on WP? I've provided links, explained to the best of my ability despite not being that much of an expert on the subject, but I'm still facing these sorts of largely obtuse and sometimes utterly off-topic questions from you as if I'm the only authority you need. Are you trying to learn more about Modernism and Abstract Expressionism, or are you just trying to overwhelm the limits of my own knowledge here? What's the point? --Kels 15:11, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
My intention: To present my belief that to call Mr. Kelly's blown-up 8x8 pixmap a "masterpiece" is to destroy the meaning of that word (which is a matter of personal opinion), and to attempt to convince you that you cannot validly argue to the contrary with an appeal to the philosophy of Modernist art (which is not).
This debate is something of a refresher for me, as in the past I made a modest study of the ideas behind modern art. These ideas are not exactly presented today as an argument for the merits of the art; galleries and artists instead produce blather bordering on word salad.
  1. Null.
  2. Bunk. Greenberg's essays were printed in a communist journal and pushed Modernist art as an anti-capitalist idea. (Incidentally, you said "bulls***" here before I did, and not in a link, either.)
  3. I obviously fail to follow you here, because I am reading you as saying that it is somehow worthy of consideration whether the creator of a piece of work intended it to be a "lasting" piece of art.
  4. In my opinion, what "Modernism was all about" was splattering paint everywhere willy-nilly and trying to justify it by smearing Red twaddle all over the place. I think that some comics (especially caricatures) and some expressionist works demonstrate far more effectively "what art is good at" when it comes to style vs. subject.
Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 17:30, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Well, I must say I appreciate your honesty there. I'm not sure it's worth continuing after your frank admission that you prefer a straw man version, so to speak, rather than the real thing. I admit I'm not the best debater in the world, nor the most learned expert in the field, but I hope I've been of some use. --Kels 17:54, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

I missed this debate but I've just read through most of it. What I'm reminded of most is people who hear rap, or freeform jazz, or heavy metal, and say "that isn't music - it's just noise". Saying Ellsworth Kelly's works, or anyone else's, aren't art is just the same: it's treating your own personal taste or opinion as law. I'd have to say I don't really enjoy conceptual art, but I see the point of it, & even if I didn't, I don't think that I have the authority to just declare "that isn't art", as some people here are doing. ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 07:39, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

Manzoni redux[edit]

I was pleasantly surprised to log in this morning and see this debate still raging. Conceptual art is, I believe, "fit for purpose" if it can spark off debate such as this, if it can actually challenge the viewer. I get now something Kels said early on - this isn't lazy, chocolate-box art, conceptual art requires you to engage it. Manzoni's Merda d'Artista works for me now on so many levels, but its real underlying stroke of genius is that it questions the meaning of art as both cultural and consumer objects by inviting you to think about a society that elevates a "can of shit" to a "work of art". And the beauty is that because it does so and was intended to do so it really IS a work of art! Whereas some (most?) art delivers its message direct to the brain via eye or ear, requiring mere sensory perception and no intellectual conception, conceptual art brings relevency to the process of interpreting the image laid before us. Weaned on a diet of passive art, it is easy to understand how the art-viewing public can fail to realise that these more challenging pieces are designed to force imagination, conversation, debate and curiosity.
And you can't escape the fact that we simply do not know if these are, after all, cans of shit, or contain something else entirely! The shit or not-shit elevates Merda d'Artista to the art equivalent of Schrodinger's cat - and he had probably performed a similar trick with his Lines, single, uninterrupted lines of black ink on paper, rolled tightly and sealed in cannisters. The longest is 7.2 km. Or so he said. Without opening the can or the cannister, we have no idea what is inside either. Manzoni isn't conning us, whatever the results of opening the containers would be: he's laughing with us, not at us, and maybe inviting us to join him in laughing at the "establishment". I spent an hour or so discussing Merda d'Artista with my wife. She didn't get it. Today, for her, it is still just a tin of shit. But I don't mind that she doesn't get it, and I have no inclination to attempt to persuade her further. Manzoni made me privy to his in-joke, and I quite like being one of those who shares the secret and, in an inversion of the Emperor's New Clothes, I'm laughing at everybody else who cannot see the magnificence and splendour of arguably the greatest piece of conceptual art ever created. Fox 06:32, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

And what about performance Art?[edit]

This debate continues to be astonishingly parochial. I'm amazed and fascinated that so many RW'ers are such grumpy old curmudgeons when it comes to Art. And I don't notice anyone expanding the dialogue to include many others forms of contemporary Art that doubtless, many of you think are shit. How about Chris Burden shooting a pistol at an airliner? That is considered Art. So too is Nigel Rolfe wrapping his head in a giant twine ball. And what about Ed Keinholz's installations, for example his exacting fullscale reproduction of a hobbyist/inventor's suburban garage/workshop? Or Ed Koons' close-up pornographic photographs of him fucking his then-wife Ciccolina? What about Koon's gigantic flowery puppy? Takashi Murakami's enormous cartoon statue thingies? His wallpapered rooms? His Loius Vuitton logo paintings? Art is a many splendoured thing, and I'm one for the argument that says Art is whatever someone calls Art. The fact that someone - be they artist or critic - calls something Art, does not mean everyone else has to. None of this is to deny that there have indeed been some charlatans. But the shit in a tin is a great work of Art, without a doubt. The doubters here are strongly encouraged to read The Shock of The New, btw. DogP 11:44, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

I know I can be repetitive, trust me, my wife tells me over and over and over again just how repetitive I am... But I'm minded of one of my great loves, Pink Floyd, and the infamous Hans Keller interview. Okay, its 1967, London is swinging and Keller is no fool, so he is really trying to avoid saying what is going through his (firmly entrenched in the 1940s) mind (ie "Its sound made by instruments, but music it ain't!") He just hears noise. And the noise itself is too loud, at that. "Shock of the new" is a great phrase (perhaps we should add it to our growing list of new Lieberal words - 80 million views and 0 diagnosed mental illnesses!) and is very apt when placed against the context of this "new" band, Floyd, and the birth of psychedelic art/music. I'm sure today that there is nobody who would doubt that the Floyd were making music (albeit music they don't appreciate), and that they were breaking new ground in both execution, conception, and performance. Keller admits that he is a "string quartet" man. I would suggest that those who fail to engage with conceptual art are, alas, "string quartet" consumers... Please take the time to view the link. It is quite thought-provoking when you realise these unknowns (who'd only played a couple of gigs at the time of the interview) went on to be the high point of the Live 8 gigs in 2006. I watched it fuelled on red wine, gin and ... nice resin, naked with ma woman, and leaked man-tears watching the reunion. (Of course, made more poignant in hindsight by the death of Rick Wright in 2008, ensuring that performance would be the last reunion of all four members of the band =/)
Shock of the new. Indeed. I love my tin of shit and I love my 1960s Floyd. Get with the program, or be consigned to string quartet-ville forever =) Fox 15:09, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Just to ask real quick, was Barrett at that "reunion"? I thought he died before then? ħumanUser talk:Human 19:08, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
In a way, there's not that much difference between a lot of the stuff the Floyd did back in the 60's when Syd Barrett was still around, and a lot of the art that gets discussed above. There's that real questing for the answer to "What is this medum for, and how far can I go?" The artists were getting into that a decade or two before, but that's not that far when it comes to it. And like Keller, we've got a lot of folks quite comfortable blurting out "I don't know a lot about art, but I can make pronouncements about it with impunity." With a side order of "You kids get off my lawn", or maybe that's just my imagination. --Kels 15:15, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Forgot to say, thank you so much for that link, it's been ages since I've watched it. Astronomy Domine is one of my absolute favourite Floyd pieces, and seeing them perform it from way back when it was new is transcendent. Screw Keller, anyway. --Kels 15:24, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Well, Barrett was the reason they hired Gilmour, of course, because he would get too, er, "experimental" - IOW, when Barrett was going off the deep end, they didn't think it was "music" any more... ħumanUser talk:Human 19:08, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

How about Terry Riley? Steve Reich? Minimalism did some amazing things, and 'In C' blew everyone's mind before even the Floyd were doing it. Baba O'Reilly by The Who was about Terry Riley, he was that influential. DogP 15:45, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

Brief point of order re. impunity: as it's impossible to ascribe truth values to statements of the form x is art/not-art, folks can say whatever they like on the subject without fear of direct contradiction. Arguing for any x's value as a piece of art is an exercise in rhetoric, not logic. Out. --Robledo 16:10, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
And surely that is a good thing, no? I want my art and my literature to be built around rhetoric, not logic. As soon as it becomes logical, it becomes truly meaningless as art, perhaps even ceases to be art, and becomes instead science. Or the literature/music produced by machines in Nineteen Eighty-Four...? I want to experience art; science is just a utility. Fox 16:23, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Good t'ing ;) --Robledo 16:58, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
James Brown is the Man =) (well, perhaps he and Isaac Hayes are the Men.) But I was moved to look for this link, which I would argue is more than a recitation of music (and a very simple form at that, being effectively carillons à musique) and is fully a piece of performance art in its own right. That it took place at the Covent Garden is, I feel, apt. Fox 17:18, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
How about some Matthew Barney clambering around the Guggenheim, while a thrash metal band thrashes, an amputee athlete poses as a cheetah, and William Burroughs slops hot wax from a bucket. Art! It's brilliant nonsense sometimes, and in Barney's case, I'd be a sceptic if it weren't for the fact that he's so incredibly prolific and broad-ranging. DogP 17:43, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Yes! It is! You capture something of the whole movement with that throw-away soundbite. It is nonsense, but its brilliant! =) Fox 17:55, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
William Burroughs! Talk about 10 gallons of freakin' awesome in a 5 gallon drum! One of the most amazing things I encountered way back when i was volunteering at a campus radio station was this double album collaboration between Burroughs, Laurie Anderson (remember her?) and this French poet. Each got a side, and the fourth side had three grooves, one each. I recall the name was You're The One I Want To Share My Money With. Wish I could find it again, it was fantastic. Also, apropos of nothing, I just got back from seeing Fleetwood Mac live, and I'm still a bit high on the awesome. --Kels 00:17, 24 March 2009 (EDT)


It just occurred to me, but doesn't a lot of the above discussion, especially the bits surrounding Kelly's Two Whites and the like, sound disturbingly like the argument from incredulity fallacy? Especially in the sense of "I can't imagine any significance to this piece, therefore it's not art." Does it strike anyone else as a little bothersome that we rightly excoriate Creationists and others for this, but are quite happy to use it here? --Kels 16:11, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

Art is subjective, science isn't. Educated evil Hoover! 16:12, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
Art is subjective, so one might think their opinion matters. I can assure you that our opinions on the matter are next to meaningless. Neveruse513 16:16, 23 March 2009 (EDT) P.S.: I would argue for wp:Wisdom of repugnance

Each to their own? (subtitled: The divisiveness of "art")[edit]

Ha! I have now been instructed by shewhomustbeobeyed to "stop talking at" her about "that tin of shit" XD Number 2 son has expressed his incredulity at the piece and agrees that we should visit The Tate this year to see it, to which wife retorted "Oh shut up" and number 2 daughter exclaimed "Does somebody have to eat it?!" I'm really taken by it. I have to thank, in the main, Kels, for telling us to go out and research these things, because a whole new world of art appreciation has opened up for me (and at least my two youngest kids). I feel hungry for more. I genuinely can't stop talking about it, or Manzoni's other works. I've always considered myself a little avant garde in my musical taste, despite a classical musical education (I'm still very proud that Monsieur d'Agorn, my tutor, likened me to Yehudi Menuhin when I was 8) and now I see what a stuffy old git I was with visual art. More! More! Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die. THANK YOU KELS, THANK YOU RW. Fox 17:47, 23 March 2009 (EDT)

You're quite welcome. One of the things that really sets me back on my heels sometimes is when I go to the National Gallery of Canada, and set foot in the Modern Art section. I am confronted with shapes and colours and just plain wonder in a way I don't feel in any other area, although I love a lot of sorts of art. Walking into the room where Voice of Fire is displayed, I am overwhelmed and filled with almost reverence, and I cannot easily say why. My own skills lead me in a different direction, art-wise, but I have nothing but respect for the artists who created these stunning works, in all their simplicity and complexity. --Kels 17:52, 23 March 2009 (EDT)
It's nice to see Fox eating this stuff up (metaphorically, of course). My local once-in-a-while art haunt would be the MFA in Boston, no better way to exhaust your brain than six hours working your way from Dutch masters through whatever modern works they have on display. (and then there was the time they realized they had all their own Monets "home" at the same time, so the director called around to borrow as many as they could elsewhere and staged an informal Monetathon, I think there were over a hundred on display, some simply leaning against walls or columns due to lack of space...) As far as painting a canvas in a "simple" way, like all 'red', or the two squares thing, is there is still a huge amount of work involved in making them - exact choice of color, placement of the rhombus in two squares - which also forces one to see it as 3D, if that inner shape is really a square... Anyway, I'd also like to add that the Beatles' "Revolution Nine" always sounded like "music" to me. It's not just a bunch of random noise. ħumanUser talk:Human 19:27, 23 March 2009 (EDT)