Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Art for Art's Sake


I'm becoming a softie in my old age, reevaluating some long-held ideas about art. For instance, I've always been a formalist in the Clement Greenberg mold and have resented the trend toward content over form that has dominated the art world since the 1970s. It irritates the crap out of me when I read review after review after review in Art News and Art in America and Art Forum and all they talk about is the message, personal identity, symbolism, the ideas expressed by contemporary artists (often cleverly hidden in metaphor and symbol) - whether those ideas are clever or earth-shaking or banal and older than the malfunctioning heart they took out of Dick Cheny - and they never once mention color, harmony or line quality or texture or balance and contrast of form, the visual elements that make art art.

OK, I take it back. I'm not such a softie after all. I still hate that, and furthermore, I've quit reading all those magazines; they never have anything worthwhile to say. But I have to admit that a few shows I've seen lately have made me start thinking that content in art may deserve more attention than I've been willing to give it. The HIDE/SEEK exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum is a prime example. I can marvel at the edge quality in Marsden Hartley's paintings and the play of shadows in Alice Neel's portrait of Frank O'Hara, but without the messages inherent in so many of these works of art the show would suffer. Likewise, content is all-important in Lynn Di Nino's work at Flow, which I recently reviewed.

Read the complete article on the Weekly Volcano blog Spew

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