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  1. #1
    frank's Avatar
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    Many people enjoy and appreciate this type of "art". So is it really "inferior" to, say, the Mona Lisa? I guess what I'm asking is, is there "good" art and "bad" art?

    Is there "good" photography and "bad" photography? Is it judged by popular vote, or do the opinions of "the great unwashed masses" matter less than an art critic's views?

    Frank
    My blog / photo website: http://frankfoto.jimdo.com/

  2. #2

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    I'm more of a Dogs Playing Poker kinda guy myself.

    Seriously, though, those judgements about what kind of art appeals to the unwashed masses are really more a judgement of those unwashed masses than they are of the art, if that makes any sense.

    The idea of art that's accessible to Joe Sixpack makes a lot of people nervous because they have to consider that art isn't just for the elite.

  3. #3

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    What a huge (and incredibly interesting) topic.

    Thanks for introducing it Frank. Might I ask why you did? Personal angst or just plain interest?

    Firstly, as someone who has lectured in Art Philosophy, been an art critic, and is now a gallery director (as well as passionate photographer), I'd have to say "Yes", there is good and bad art.

    In answer to your question, I would refer you to the Scottish Philosopher David Hume - but I don't want to bore the pants off of you, so I'll summarise as best I can (apologies to Hume).

    His position (and mine too as it so happens), starts by looking at the old "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" argument. Sounds reasonable enough really, and we hear it all the time. You like what you like, and I like what I like, and if that just happens to be Velvet paintings of Elvis, then so be it. You can't tell me I don't like them, and you can't tell me not to like them, cause that would be elitist - and we don't want to be elitist now, do we?

    Art (and photography) in this sense is SUBJECTIVE - it's simply what you like, and that's all there is to it.

    BUT - is this really an appropriate argument? Is it really the case that all things are created equal, and there's simply no inherent value in anything?

    Value judgments can (and should) be made about things all of the time. Not all red wines are created equally, Beethoven created better music than the Spice Girls, and the Mona Lisa is a better painting than a Velvet Elvis.

    In any genre there are "accepted" classics, which can (and are) appreciated by a wide range of people and classes. To say that there is good and bad is NOT to be elitist - it is to acknowledge certain factors inherent in objects that make then 'special' and worthhy of importance.

    There is a reason why Ansel Adams is world famous. He's not just some bloke who took a couple of kinda interesting pics. And there's a reason why Beethoven, Picasso, The Beatles, Tolstoy etc are also famous. That's not to say that everything they did is brilliant - but they certainly got it right more often than not.

    Now of course the next (even bigger) question is "What is the "it" that they got right"? What makes a great work of art?

    If I knew that, my friend, I'd be very very rich.

    Sadly, I'm not.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Lorimer
    .....BUT - is this really an appropriate argument? Is it really the case that all things are created equal, and there's simply no inherent value in anything?

    Value judgments can (and should) be made about things all of the time. Not all red wines are created equally, Beethoven created better music than the Spice Girls, and the Mona Lisa is a better painting than a Velvet Elvis. .
    Can't agree with this as my 7 year old granddaughter and my 90 year old grandmother would consider all red wines equally bad. Opera was the pop music (spice girls?) of its day but is now art. So is the Mona Lisa a better painting than a velvet elvis or very simple cave rock paintings? And Grandma Moses is good why?

    I don't have the answer either but often art is what the elite (self appointed or otherwise) say it is. Often as not the elite make their choice based on what sets the elite apart from the crowd rather than what distinguishes that art from other art.

  5. #5
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne Lorimer
    ... His position (and mine too as it so happens), starts by looking at the old "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" argument. Sounds reasonable enough really, and we hear it all the time. You like what you like, and I like what I like, and if that just happens to be Velvet paintings of Elvis, then so be it. You can't tell me I don't like them, and you can't tell me not to like them, cause that would be elitist - and we don't want to be elitist now, do we?

    Value judgments can (and should) be made about things all of the time. Not all red wines are created equally, Beethoven created better music than the Spice Girls, and the Mona Lisa is a better painting than a Velvet Elvis.

    Now of course the next (even bigger) question is "What is the "it" that they got right"? What makes a great work of art?

    If I knew that, my friend, I'd be very very rich.

    Sadly, I'm not.
    The "Beauty is in the eye" bit is one of the most adulterated quotations of all time. It was originally printed as a reply from Toulouse-Lautrec to an Art Critic of the day, who critiqued one of his works... a painting of a man in a chair, paying attention to a woman in a state of being half-dressed. The Critic was appalled, "Pornography!! The man is watching the woman undress!!". Lautrec replied, "The occasion is the couple's twenty-fifth Wedding Anniversary. The man is watching his wife *DRESS* prior to `going out on the Town' to celebrate." - and then, "The EVIL is in the eye of the beholder."

    I personally do NOT like "elitists". However, I do not hold that "the judgement of the relative `rank' of a work is not possible" ONLY as a defense of some sort against elitism.
    I've NEVER been able to discover a "final" answer to the qustion, "What *IS* Art". Not knowing the basiic construction or character of that which we call "Art" I have no idea where to place my "measuring index" ... where the heck do I start from?

    "Value judgements can, and should be made about all things all the time."
    Interesting. Why???
    I HAVE been known NOT to expend energy on the idea of "What's it worth", and just "enjoy". Is there something wrong with that?
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

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    Do you think the notes of the musical scale, or the sound used in a language are accidental? They are there because they 'strum' some sort of natural desire for order that is a part of our being and of life itself. Likewise images are composed of 'notes' that we see with our eyes.

  7. #7
    Ed Sukach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by avandesande
    Do you think the notes of the musical scale, or the sound used in a language are accidental? They are there because they 'strum' some sort of natural desire for order that is a part of our being and of life itself. Likewise images are composed of 'notes' that we see with our eyes.
    Musical notes are rather closely tied to mathematics - so ... I don't know ... there is an arbitrarilaly chosen structure to them.... But just WHY they form what we consider to be "music" is beyond me. I'm reminded of the "dissonance" of Bartok ... that takes some getting used to ... but eventually I would call his work "music". How high it should be "valued"? ... I can't answer that.

    The sounds of language ... the SOUNDS themselves? Yes, they probably orignated as random sounds ... remembered, repeated and combined into "syntax" - and associated with symbolism - they form language.
    Again ... "ranking"?? I don't know ... can anyone claim that English is "better" than Swahili, or Finnish, or Navajo? Certainly, they are different ... but is one of "More Value"" than another?

    Here is something to consider: Edward Weston produced a photograph, "Egg Slicer, 1930". The critics *loved* it .. they waxed on and on about the wonderful virtues and expressive symbolism of that photograph. At the same time, Weston wrote in his Daybooks that he hated that image - detested it --- considered it to be a waste of film.

    So, now what??? Was it a "good" image or not?
    Carpe erratum!!

    Ed Sukach, FFP.

  8. #8
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  9. #9

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    The "Beauty is in the eye" bit is one of the most adulterated quotations of all time. It was originally printed as a reply from Toulouse-Lautrec to an Art Critic of the day, who critiqued one of his works... a painting of a man in a chair, paying attention to a woman in a state of being half-dressed. The Critic was appalled, "Pornography!! The man is watching the woman undress!!". Lautrec replied, "The occasion is the couple's twenty-fifth Wedding Anniversary. The man is watching his wife *DRESS* prior to `going out on the Town' to celebrate." - and then, "The EVIL is in the eye of the beholder."
    Considering David Hume wrote the "Standard of Taste" in the 1750s, and Toulouse-Lautrec wasn't born until 1864, I'm not quite sure about the 'originality' of the axiom - amd adulterated (or not), it is still an overused statement to justify (or otherwise) people's decisions about works of art.

    "Value judgements can, and should be made about all things all the time."
    Interesting. Why???
    Why not???? To not even consider value judgments about most things would therefore make most things value-less, wouldn't it? And unfortunately, with todays post-modern slant on art, where everything is simply open to any interpretation, isn't that what we've got? Valueless art?

    I HAVE been known NOT to expend energy on the idea of "What's it worth", and just "enjoy". Is there something wrong with that?
    Absolutely not. There is nothing wrong with simply enjoying something. In fact, it should be encouraged.

    BUT - that does not mean that there isn't something that goes deeper within the enjoyment, that is a tangible and objective quality to the experience - whether this is pursued or not.

    As an example, at a very basic level (and bringing it back to photography for a while) - when matting a work for presentation, many photographers will choose non-acidic board because of it's archival qualities, over and above the other, acidic options. While this is a practical decision based on archival needs, it is also a value judgment due to the inherent qualities within the object. Does it make the photographer elitist for choosing one over the other? Especially since the non acidic board is more expensive etc...?

    And what about choice of paper? Resin coated multigrade, or fibre based 'art' paper? Is a photographer elitist if she opts for the fibre based, due to its percievable "quality" difference?

    We make choices all of the time about inherent qualities in things that make them 'better' than other things - and why not???

    That does not mean that everyone should also follow suit, and it also doesn't mean that everyone will agree on the choices made. But getting back to the original question of whether there is "Good" or "Bad" art - I think that to suggest that there isn't a qualification to be made drags everything down to a lowest common denominator - and if we are all happy for that to happen then so be it.

    Sorry - gotta go - my next 'fix' of quality reality T.V. is about to start. 8)

  10. #10

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    [quote="Wayne Lorimer"][quote]...."Good" or "Bad" art - I think that to suggest that there isn't a qualification to be made drags everything down to a lowest common denominator - ........quote]

    I wonder if the "Elvis on velvet" crowd judges the Mona Lisa to "drag" everything "down" to the "lowest" and "common" denominator. I suppose they don't even think about it and don't have to wait for their own Stieglitz or an art appreciation course to tell them how they feel about their art. But I'll bet they think Mona babe just doesn't look like much fun and wouldn't want that pickle puss looking down on them all the time.

    I think there is good and bad art but I reject the notion that someone else or a group of someones have the right or authority to decree for everyone else what that is according to "their" latest fashion. Probably my notion of what is art is totally mistaken.

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