Only with hindsight can we now see that tradition and authority may be necessary, even to make a genuine avant-garde possible – in order to provide something to revolt against. ~ Suzi Gablik “Has Modernism Failed”
Suzi Gablik’s book continues to revisit the necessity of tradition. As one without an art background, it had me wondering what exactly is taught in an academic program. If the evolution of art is taught, is that enough, or do students need to attempt old technique in order to gain insight to the new ways. If one is never to be a painter, must they paint?
Perhaps this has nothing to do with the argument at all, but I could not help but question this while watching a Coursera lecture via CalArts on Art History. The Provost teaching it has taken an amazing array of art eras in her lectures in order to make certain points. It helped me to realize that there is a lot going on in the art world -what may seem ridiculous or without purpose, which very much as purpose if you understand their point. That said, if art is making a point about art tradition and it gets lost on the viewer was it successful?
Gablik’s final chapter uses an example of an artist whom she feels is approaching art with ‘spiritual dignity’. What is interesting is this artist is someone whom I’ve oft admired, but knew not his background. German artist, Anselm Kiefer, does create artwork that has a point. The piece I visit every time at our local art centre is a massive composition of a train yard – from that muted train yard there is a ladder that rises up from the canvas, from it hangs a bronzed ballet slipper. The first time I saw this piece, as a teenager, I knew it was a statement about the Holocaust without any context beyond what hung before me. It is a beautifully depressing piece that reimagines the traditional canvas – it takes history and makes it modern.
I would love to say, as Gablik seems to be, that art such as Kiefer is the art to strive to produce because it helps to meld art, society and a spiritual nature, but I cannot. While I strongly believe that purposeful art is a healing tool for our culture and society, it cannot be limited to such a degree. I hope to explore this more, but not tonight…. your thoughts are always welcome. ~ a