Saturday, 17 December 2011

UnMasterclass 50

In Joseph Kosuth’s Art after Philosophy the great artist sets out his position for the cerebral nature of Duchamp’s readymades being the true beginnings of a fulcrum shift in art towards Modernism. Kosuth sets out his stall for art’s function being one of the idea, what we understand as conceptual art and it’s assimilation into pretty much anything that has been produced that is good in the art world over the last 40 years. He sets out his argument with a discussion that seeks to separate art from aesthetics. As a little aside Kosuth continues his argument by drawing a parallel between the critical reception of art to that of architecture; “ that architecture has a very specific function and how ’good’ its design is is primarily related to how well it performs its function. Thus, judgement on what it looks like corresponds to taste, and we can see that throughout history different examples of architecture are praised at different times depending on the aesthetics of particular epochs.” Here Kosuth appears to say that a buildings worth will be valued by how well it functions in respect of its needs over how it looks, as taste associated with aesthetics is transient. Architects of new ‘wow’ Museums and Galleries please take note! Kosuth goes on to say “Aesthetic considerations are indeed always  extraneous to an object’s function or ‘reason to be’. Unless of course, that object’s ‘reason to be’ is strictly aesthetic. “ He uses as an example a decorative object whose purpose is to make a surroundings more attractive, and for it to fulfil this it must be in relation to taste. He continues by saying that the Formalist art that was being lauded by that key critical component of taste of the fifties and sixties, Clement Greenberg. And hidden in a footnote is a damning retort to this weeks UnMasterclasses subject, Morris Louis and his peers; “The conceptual level of the work of…..Morris Louis…et al. is so dismally low, that any that is there is supplied by the critics promoting it.” And by Kosuth’s position that one should separate aesthetics from art goes on to state that the work of Louis and others associated with the formalist painting movement, should be taken as decorative in it’s function so “one could reasonably assert that its art condition is so minimal that for all functional purposes it is not art at all, but pure exercises in aesthetics.” Formalist art and the critics such as Fried and Greenberg associated with it, in Kosuth’s respected opinion cannot question the function of art as Duchamp did, and if you do not do this as an artist then you cannot move art along. As Kosuth stated in his earlier interview that is quoted in Art after Philosophy, “Being an artist now means to question the nature of art. If one is questioning the nature of painting, one cannot be questioning the nature of art. If an artist accepts painting (or sculpture) he is accepting the tradition that goes with it. That’s because the word art is general and the word painting is specific. Painting is a kind of art. If you make paintings you are already accepting (not questioning) the nature of art.” And so we come to UnMasterclass, we believe we are questioning painting, not art, but we are also not accepting of painting being a still thing, we believe it should shift and turn, whilst being something that has historical precedents that must be considered if one is to be a painter. We do not aspire to be Louis or Kosuth. But we must say we have learnt more about painting form reading Kosuth’s essay than from painting the reproduction of Louis’ painting. Maybe we should go and read it in front of the real painting, Alpha Phi in Tate Modern. After all to give Louis his due the reproduction we painted from has little in common with the original. The reproduction of Kosuth’s essay we read in Art in Theory: 1900-2000 is pretty close to that to that printed in Studio International’s October 1969 edition. Is UnMasterclass art then? Have a gander at the latest episode here

No comments:

Post a Comment