Seemed like I had too much Impressionism on my mind (art done before my current lifetime) when I recalled some things I witnessed emerging. As I was in art school on the East coast in the 60’s I would often visit New York City. Here is where Pop Art was born and the entire ‘Art Scene’ was being revised by artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, &c.
Whether I was in the uptown galleries, midtown museums, or the hole-in-the-walls in the Village I was eye exercising. There was no disciplined appreciation for me. I hadn’t yet learned what art is, though I thought I was an ‘artist’. What I used as my criterion of appreciation was the ‘I like it, I don’t like it’ method of judgement. And this was weighted by how much I liked it or how much I didn’t like it. This had some merit because it was based on my reaction to the piece, but I couldn’t articulate the reaction without the base of ‘what is it saying to ME’ and ‘can I contribute’. I was often left with “well it must be ‘good’ because I can’t stand it”; rather than being able to say “this speaks to me of how crude and cruel misunderstandings can be in life” because I haven’t a clue what that is I’m looking at and it is so well executed.
For me, and my growth as an artist and appreciator, the ‘what is it saying to ME’ and ‘can I contribute’ criteria of criticism made all the difference. I had a yardstick that told me when a piece I was producing was finished and allowed me to be able to say why and how I liked or didn’t like what someone else had produced.
Anyway, I enjoy John’s execution what I perceive as a well controlled sloppines. Warhol’s work left me emotionally cold and I used to feel it was too mechanical, though today I see, in historical context, (got to love that 20/20 hindsight and history) he was beating against the bastion of abstractionism and helping to bring representation back to art. What I get from Rauschenberg is how objects can be repurposed and redefined by context, ala Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’. Having recently seen some new Rauschenberg this is still true, it made me chuckle.
I may be away from the drawing table because I want to find show some supporting examples of this viewpoint, until next time.