I think the question of whether youngsters study art history enough or whether they study it more than their ancestors is ultimately a subjective one based on anecdotal evidence at best, for any one of us.
I feel the best approach to art is an openness to any vision, any process, any material, any subject matter that will give you what you're after. That openness sometimes looks like willful ignorance of history, but there's just so much time in a day and sometimes you spend it shooting crappy photos with your camera rather than read or look at art. As someone else said, the serious artist or student of art usually resorts to history at some point, when she has the time, especially when he runs out of material . . .
And I'm also getting a lot out of this discussion, at least about 80% of it.
The discussions here lean pretty heavily towards emphasizing process. Over content, form, art history, meaning. Which is to be expected at APUG, that's what it is.
I would love to find more discussion of aesthetic, art history, compositional, social engagement issues as they bear on photography, but have not found a website for that type of discussion , except occasionally here, on a few blogs (Conscientious is one) or in books. Any sites like that?
At the end of AD Coleman's lecture (video link in a previous post), he's asked about the difference between digital and traditional.He makes the interesting point that digital photographers really aren't that interested in a physical print. Those of us raised on the giants of the past (including Pictorialists) have a reverence for the print. Today's generation is more thrilled with some digital multi-media display. Asking them to look at prints from the past (even the recent post-modernist past) is boring. Can you imagine them sitting thru a Minor White class? Maybe they are practicing the much vaunted paperless revolution;-)
Avant garde may rarely stand the test of time and although sometimes interesting, rarely produce the greatest pieces of art no matter what art form. Most of it ultimately turns out to be dead ends. That doesn't make it less important, though.
While true innovation and advancement of the arts most often come from those who have a certain understanding of the history, the contemporary and the avant garde, some ideas can only come from those who don't know or care about traditions.
for hundreds of years people died because they ate the leaves of the tomato plant.
tradition told them not to eat the large red berries. eventually someone broke tradition
ate the fruit from the plant and it is a popular fruit turned vegetable most people take for granted.
while one may say that some ideas come from people who don't know or care for traditions,
one might also say that some people come up with new ideas, not because they don't know or care
about traditions, but because they know all to well the traditions, they are bored with them and they feel like doing something else.
Some of the greatest breakers of tradition in art were highly schooled in the traditions of art before they decided to break them - look at early Picasso paintings for example. Or early Renoirs, or early Caravaggios. Salvador Dali could paint "straight" if he wanted to, and so could Yves Tanguy. In photography, look at Edward Weston's work from the 1910s-1930- he was a Pictorialist! Same with Ansel Adams. His really early work consisted of contact prints of whole-plate glass negatives in platinum/palladium. You've got to know the rules and conventions before you can break them successfully - otherwise you're just floundering around.