Thursday, November 2, 2006

Art & Society

Art does not happen in a vacuum. There is always a particular social milieu in which art is produced. Each culture has a distinct social organization of artistic activities that is associated with a specific attitude of artists toward their work (for example French Cubism happens in a different socio-political climate than Russian Constructivism). Artistic cultures arise from artists' relationships with other artists, their audiences; from their involvements with cultural systems not specifically artistic, from artists' technologies and ideologies. A change in any of these variables (no matter how small) can modify a given culture and give rise to new variants of it (as per the difference between Cubism and Italian Futurism).


Michele Rowand said...

What have we lost from not being a patron driven movement any more? Anything? The collective market is the source of patronage now. So people like Chihuly and Kinkaide can mass produce their works on cups and calendars and dish towels until they will be in the discount bins at Big Lots one day. If it becomes common or cheap - is it still art?

I have had the occasion where a person or two has asked me to make a specific item for them based on others of mine they have seen. I have found I react with the equivalent of stage fright to the notion. Like someone is looking over my shoulder while I'm working. I feel I create better when I'm into the process more than when I'm overly focused on the end result. The surprises and discoveries along the way are half of the joy of art making. So I prefer to buyers to take it or leave it from what's in front of them that I've made.

On other occasions specific requests have hit me with annoyance - for example someone wanted me to work in a different glaze so that the pieces will match the colors in their house. I didn't feel inspired by the request. It didn't make we want to run out and buy new materials and run a whole line of things just for their interest in a few items - and since I don't pay my bills presently from my art hunger didn't motivate me either.

On the other hand, patronage has lead to many outstanding works. Just looking at those rich Catholics who wanted to save their souls who funded great altar pieces and statues in the vatican. Would Bernini had carved so many marble pieces if he was freelancing around Florence?

The doors to what an artist can explore are thrown wide open now. As we saw in class last night, a lone man, on a lonely street, with his camera, can capture a mood or a moment that a royal patron might never be preoccupied with. Daily life of real people is captured now and not just the preoccupations of the rich. Not just the elite. Not just the majority political party. More people are able to dare to approach the drawing table or easle and visually express themselves than ever before which gives a bredth to art that is limited only by the collective human brain.

Kelly Flynn said...

Do you make your art for society, or does society determine what kind art you make?

I find more and more these days that when I am making my photographs, I have to think about if it has the potential to sell. I can make art for myself all I want, but if it will only be stacking up in the corners of my house, what is the point. For example, I have been dabbling in video, but it is very hard to sell video (besides museum purchases), so in addition to the videos, I feel forced into making large photographs of the video stills – for sale reasons.
I have to eat somehow!

I think that all categories of artists are very important, from the street craft fairs to the professional artist. Without such a variety of people and roles in society – Art would be pretty boring.

maya said...

In response to Kelly’s post- if an artist makes art purely to sell to the public, then the artist is letting society determine what the art looks like, instead of it being the artist’s decisions alone. If that is the case, then it should not be considered art. Artists are artists because they are different from the rest of society. If every artist made art solely to sell, then wouldn’t all art begin to look the same? The public is constantly changing their views on art- what is hot and what is not. So if society goes through these trends of what is considered the latest art and artists begin making art to fit the trend, then the art becomes redundant.

People are coined artists because they are individuals in a society that tends to conform. It is these artists that stand up and modify variables in a culture and as a result transform society. I agree that there should be a variety in all art being made and that artists possess the ability to create that change.

Kelly Flynn said...

In response to Maya’s post.

I do not let society determine what my artwork looks like, nor do I produce purely to sell. Most of my work deals with homosexuality – which, unfortunately is an underdog topic in the first place. The point I was trying to make about sales is that sometimes a person might buy a yellow fish over a blue one just because they like the color more.

If I chose to make “pretty” work of landscapes and mountains, I might be a little richer. Instead I choose to photograph the issues that most people don’t want to talk about and that is homosexuality in America - I have only sold on piece thus far, and I can die happy with that. I was just trying to make a point that sometimes you have to think of your consumer market in order to step out of the waitress field!

I appreciate your comments and I hope to have cleared up my first post.

maya said...

No hard feelings. I was not referring to your work specifically. I have seen your work and I understand what it is all about. I was simply responding to your first post when you posed the question. I was referring to other artists in general that may produce art for the sake of selling.

Ernie Marc Selditch said...

State of the Art

Earliest hunter gatherers used art to communicate or share the hunting experience. It may also have served as sympathetic magic to enhance future hunts. Images included exquisitely detailed herd animals and abstract images of people. Later agrarian villages art served to communicate the link between the earth and its bountiful crops and possibly deities or goddesses that represented nurturing and fertility. Chiefdom and kingdoms arose with images of power gods to protect their state. In Egypt the Kings became synonymous with the protective gods. In Judaism the graven image was forbidden, images were allowed for religious purposes in the temples. In Buddhism at around 500 BCE, Images were used to train people in seeking internal spiritualism. In Islam 500 CE the geometric image ruled because images of creatures and man were an insult to God’s perfection. In Europe, feudalism led to heraldry and guilds that controlled who could be an artist.
In most cases society had guideline for who could be an artist and what they could depict. We are most fortunate to live in modern times where there are fewer restrictions on what to depict and who can do it. Criteria for success include talent, determination, economic conditions and maybe a bit of luck. Remember, not too long ago, the Taliban, in Afghanistan didn’t approve of depiction of the ancient 100 foot Buddhas and destroyed them with dynamite. Talk about harsh art critiques!

Jessica Sanders said...

Society shapes who we are, therefore it shapes the art we make. History determined our ancestors upbringing and who they were culturally, which determines who are parents are and the way in which we are raised. An artist cannot help but input his own personal cultural experiences into his work; we make what we know.
Even our aesthetic choices and preferences are made by our culture. As an artist, questions must be asked after the fact: “Why did I make that handle the taper from thick to thin?” “Why did I use acrylic paint rather than oil paint?”, “Why did I chose to leave the negative space on the top rather than the bottom?”. Sometimes these questions answer more about the work and make more of a meaningful statement than the decisions themselves, and have more to do with the culture the artist is from than the conscious mind would initially think.

Bryan F. said...

it is interesting to think that the current culture could determine what is good art and what is bad art. The thought that what was once a masterpiece, could at once be considered garbage seems unfair to artists everywhere. Although the current style may change, many aspects of art are timeless. Methods,techniques, approaches, etc. will always be appreciated as means of arriving at te final piece. Unfortunately, these may be te only underlying aspects of art that transcend societal changes.
In todays society, for all intensive purposes, everything has been done. There is no "stand-out" style of today. Everyone does everything. Every artist can be aware and knowledgeable of every movement, before ever putting a brush to a canvas. This is the blessing of our time. Anyone that is good at art can be an artist in any field or style because it is all in practice by someone.

Dominic Halley-Roarke said...

1) it's probably best not to be so hostile to the notion of a potential buyer making requests about modifications to one's work. One might just learn something from them that could add to one's art; they are a form of environmental input as anything else is, and accepting their influence should be independently evaluated just as any other external factor. Your buyer's input might just turn out to be one of those surprises and discoveries that you value as a part of the art-making process.
2) "Art belongs to a non-socializable aspect of reality, which is universal (i.e. applicable to all men), but non-collective: to the nature of man's consciousness." Ayn Rand in The Romantic Manifesto. A quote for contemplation; I am still trying to apply it myself.
3) Kelly's comments are interesting because she has at least allowed the market to influence the media she uses (producing still photographs), but this does not seem to have compromised her work's fundamental meaning. I think this demonstrates how consideration of market factors can be used by the artist to more carefully examine what is of essence in their work, and how it can be conveyed in different ways--including thoses that may comply with commerical considerations.

Caro_Marquez said...

I have to agree with Jessica when it comes to the inter-dependece of art and society. We are what we know...Our families, country, food, climate, sexual orientation, etc, etc, makes us who we are. These factors, along with others, determine how we process the world.
In my opinion, art is the product of an artists interpretation of the world. Art is the gateway to an artists mind, heart, soul (call it what you may). As times change, we change, therefore it is inevitable that society influences artists and what they produce. I don't believe that patronage equates selling out. I think that unconsciously all artists cater to society in one way or another, whether it be producing popular work or controversial material. There is a market for everything nowadays.

One of the things that struck me while I was living in London was the relationship between currents artists and the city. There is so much history and artistic prestige in London, that I personally would be intimidated as an artists there. But I found quite the contrary to be true. Artists in the city were so proud of the rich history that preceeded them, that they used it as momentum to fuel their own new artistic aspirations. I think that is something that doesn't exist in the US (my opinion). I believe everyone is trying to be an individual, that people forget to look to the past. Because really, if it weren't for those who have come before us, there would be nothing to strive for...

Francisca said...

I don’t think one should elevate the role of an artist to describe someone who is different from the rest of society. It is true that the choice of becoming a professional artist is unconventional by today standards but that is what makes it so powerful. It’s unconventional and challenges people to think and analyze visually. Kelly is a good example of someone who is able to retain her meaning and subject matter while adapting to the demands of the market. If you look at the silent auction that took place at Locust Projects last week, Bert Rodriguez submitted a pair of dirty socks, which sold for nearly four hundred dollars. He is an example of somebody who has not succumbed to the demands of the market yet has become successful. This is indicative of the evolving trends in the art world that Steph talked about.