Speaking of art criticism, at Art News Blog Dion Archibald recently posted this:
At first, many things about these threads had me in disagreement with them. I do prefer the truth of the artist's intention in a work, over an interpretation by an observer.
The battle royale in such a case would be the conflict between the interpretation of an artwork by the originating artist and that of a professional art critic. The artwork is the artist's intellectual property, after all. In a hypothetical court case about the meaning of an artwork, I would hope that the artist's words would prevail over the third party writer, no matter how "professional" they may be.
I read the threads a little closer, then, and I see that the writers are coming down on my side of the fence, too. Dion asks which character has the best interpretation of a given artwork, but he prefers the artist's words as at least being more interesting than a third party observer. The UK Guardian's Honigman indicts the motives of some critics' interpretations as self-serving, but then adjures the artist to get on the stick and try to provide their own interpretations before someone else does.
I guess I flew off the handle a bit quickly. It was the calling into question of the unity of meaning and intent that rubbed me wrong, I guess.
If you are an artist, did it ever occur to you that there is a very large and broad profession of individuals who make their livings in art, but who are not producing any art themselves? I don't condemn this, by the way. It just lets us know that we ought to be able to find our share of the pie, given that we are, er...artists, after all. The blue collar members of the art business, if you will. The hands on guys.
I get a chuckle from Honigman's statement:"... much of bad art is not really art but is rather merely illustrations of ideas.." It's another thread, but it's good to put a little thought into qualifying art.
In defense of the critic, their job is important to the artist and to the public at large. They should be trying to position a given work or body of art, or a given artist or collection of artists in a stream of context. Either a movement, a school of thought or a style. Or maybe the lack thereof - maybe this work of art is a watershed work, a breakthrough, as it were. My point is these are contexts bigger than the artist and his artwork, and it doesn't harm the artist when an art critic helps to identify or describe that.
I know there is a place for "radical" art criticism, and I will address that in a future post.
Is the art viewer's interpretation valid? Certainly. But a thing cannot, in truth, be both Thing "A" and Thing "B" at the same time. The observer can respond authentically any way they choose, but the artist had "A" in mind, and I value the discovery of that thing that has been called the artist's "oeuvre".
I know, I know - some artists will create "participative" works. Great, more power to them. There is always a comedian in the bunch. (Light-hearted joking, here.)