Easier said than done

11:13 AM


Are modern artists substituting talent for social criticism?

It happened again. I saw the painting above, didn’t particularly like it, but then I heard an amazing explanation for it. In the audio guide explanation, the artist himself, Luis Gordillo, said things like: “Man has become an infantilized clown (…), man sits in an alien environment that gives us television and magazines, like that’s all we need.”

The criticism is very accurate and I actually agree with him, but what about the painting? Does it convey what he is trying to say? Is it interesting nonetheless? That’s up for debate, but this trend of big explanations poses a problem. I would rather read what the artist has to say than hang his painting in my house.

The reality is that many artists are more concerned with social criticism than they are with art. Not that criticism should be excluded from art, but there must be a balance and in many cases the criticism is stronger than the painting itself.

Now, throughout history artists were always more or less concerned with their public. So, why is this a modern tren? It’s not only from the 20th century onwards that society needed criticism.  Weren’t artists dissatisfied with things in Ancient Greece? Didn’t people have problems in Ancient Egypt? Sure, but artists probably felt that it wasn’t their job to show it to people.

I’m not saying that the artist taking the role of critic is bad. However, he needs to maintain a distance from the object he wants to criticize. Most artists feel like criticizing bourgeois society and its biased values. But aren’t they a part of an equally biased society themselves? Aren’t they a part of a group that shares the same marxist, nihilistic and atheistic ideas?

Edward Albee, the playwright, said that arts should hold a mirror up to society1.  And who is going to hold a mirror up to artists and show them that they criticize other’s prejudices using a set of ready-made ideas?

My point is: criticism in art is valid. Making criticism to make up for lack of talent is not. 

What do you think? Should artists be more concerned with criticism than actual aesthetic or moral values?

Image: Caballero cubista aux larmes by Luis Gordillo - Source

1“The function of the arts is to hold a mirror up to people, to say, ‘This is how you are. Take a hard look; if you don’t like what you see, change.’ - Edward Albee, playwright - Source  

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4 comments

  1. "Making criticism to make up for lack of talent is not."
    I'm not in a good mood today. And those guys, lacking in talent, talk too much. And if you don't like their "art", you are biased, "reactonaire" ...

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  2. I also feel there is a this lack of dialogue, as you mentioned. People seem to either love or hate modern art - which is too bad.

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  3. I agree with you. To answer your question, I do think one of the functions of art is to make social criticism, but the key is that the art itself needs to do that on its own. Sure the explanation can help steer a viewer in the right direction to understand what the artist's message is, but, at the end of the day, the art needs to stand alone and be able to convey that message itself.

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  4. Exactly, sometimes it seems that the explanation is making up for what's lacking in the picture. Or worse, that the explanation doesn't match with the painting!

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Thanks for commenting! Do come back because I usually reply to comments here.

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