Pearls from artists* # 307July 4, 2018
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Until fairly recently the word art as applied to pictures usually referred not just to representations of the world but to representations that suggested an importance greater than we might otherwise have assumed. Such pictures were said to instruct and delight, which they did by their wholeness and richness. The effect was to reinforce a sense of meaning in life, though not necessarily a belief in a particular ideology or religion, and in this they were a binding cultural achievement.
Unfortunately art of this quality is now little attempted, partly because of disillusionment from a century of war, partly because of sometimes misplaced faith in the communicative and staying powers of total abstraction, and partly because of the ease with which lesser work can be made and sold. This atrophying away of the genuine article is a misfortune because, in an age of nuclear weapons and over-population and global warming, we need more than ever what art used to provide. Somehow we have to recommit to picture making that is serious. It is impermissible any longer to endorse imitations that distract us or, openly or by implication, ridicule hope. The emptiness of material by Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, for example, is born of cynicism and predictive of nihilism.
Robert Adams in Art Can Help
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