Giovanni Paolo Panini, Modern Rome (1757), oil on canvas, 67-3/4″ x 91-3/4″; courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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It’s a daunting time to be an artist. Think about it: At no point in history has humankind been inundated with as many images. Some of us remember the world before the arrival of the digital age and its free-floating array of instantaneous pictures; some undoubtedly recall a time when the media wasn’t a 24/7 umpteen-channel multiverse. But try to imagine the relative paucity of images 100 years ago. Good luck imagining 500 years ago.
An artist’s responsibility is to craft an object that will hold a viewer’s attention and engage his critical, emotional, psychological and spiritual faculties–time after time after time. That’s always been a tall order, but in these days of image glut, it can seem impossible or pointless.
Many contemporary artists–too many contemporary artists–poach upon mass media: fashion, celebrity, advertising, Hollywood, you-name-it and what-have-you. You can understand why, really. Pop culture is the closest thing we have to a common parlance. Its ubiquity and immediacy is bound to make artists insecure. I mean, how could a creature as poky as an oil painter hope to compete with all that flash and glitz?
Not that flash and glitz can’t be encompassed under art’s rubric; they can, absolutely. But art demands concentrated attention; it’s slow, steady and prone to fascinating and sometimes discomfiting digressions. Art is, on the whole, anathema to a mindset that places a premium on pre-digested outrages, novel gestures and not much else–except, of course, money. (It’s always about the money.) When art becomes complicit in tendencies that run contrary to its true purpose–well, who needs it?
This blog is an attempt to get a bead on art as a living thing, as an entity with its own peculiar and independent prerogatives. As an artist, critic and teacher in New York City, I’ve been navigating the life of art and the art scene (they’re not always the same thing, you know) for some twenty-five years. I’ve had the great fortune of having my opinions published in a variety of venues–you’ll find an evolving archive of essays and reviews at the left of the screen–and have entered the blogosphere as a means of continuing the dialogue.
That, and I’ll finally have a tidy place to catalogue my writings–I’m tired of the dusty accumulations of newsprint cluttering my apartment.