KCAC Forum Newsletter Volume 4 Number 4 April 1978
FROM THE PRESIDENT
CRITICAL COMMON SENSE
by Colette Bangert
An art critic is anyone who writes or talks about a work of art. When a critic says: “This work isn’t art, its like wallpaper.”, or, “It’s straight out of the underground comics!”, the critic isn’t trying to do a hatchet job on the artist’s work. Rather, the critic is trying to understand for herself or himself: “What’s going on here?”
People voice comments about everything: “There’s nothing to see at the movies tonight.”, “Deserts are a bore.”, or, “I could eat popcorn forever.” But artists are very serious people. Their work is not just a desert or popcorn. “It’s like wallpaper.”, assumes greater critical importance when said in print than when exchanged as a comment between two friends. Both an artist in a gallery and a critic in print are public. Their work is exposed. They are not just two friends trying to understand what the work of art is about. The artist’s work and the critic’s words can influence and enlarge people’s understanding of art.
Artists know that their work communicates ideas, feelings and new things to see to other people. A positive or negative reaction to their work is communicated feed-back for the artist to consider. Nothing, no comment, just total silence is real negative criticism. The artist has not communicated well when the work provokes absolutely no response. The work may be boring and bad. Or the work may need a very special audience. The work may be ahead of its audience, be very subtle or difficult to understand without preparation.
Critics are translators. Critics attempt, like artists, to say what they think, feel and believe about the work of artists. Problems arise from critics and artists because of the different languages uses. Critics, choosing work on which to focus their creative words, are being as personally creative as artists choosing a subject on which to focus their skills. Major problems can arise when a critic moves beyond translation. When the art work is used as a source for the critic’s own creativity there is the danger that the artist’s work will be submerged within the creative prose. Creative critical prose may be beautiful but by bypassing the work of the artist, the prose becomes another work of art.
Artists wish a critic or a friend to approach their work as they do, with the criticism beginning with their won creative premise, then suggesting whether or not the work deals successfully with their premise. Artists give critics and friends a hard time because their premise isn’t clearly known to others. Critics and friends give artists a hard time because artists think that the critic’s or friend’s understanding of visual art isn’t as soundly based or as unique and deep as theirs. Of course, some art is bad and of course some critics are not able to communicate personally about works of art without guidelines. All critics aren’t Harold Rosenburg or one’s best friend. All artists aren’t Paul Klee or Picasso. Artists, critics and friends are people trying to communicate, be understood and grow with wisdom.
Artists, by taking a common sense view of a critic’s or a friend’s criticism of their art, will discover that criticism of their work is manageable. As long as artists make art there will be people who attempt to understand and explain art. Making art and the criticism of it are basic needs in people’s lives as are food and eating. Some people eat meat and potatoes, others eat filet de boeuf roti and pommes de terre sautees a l’ail. Some artists aspire to equal Cezanne, others Louise Nevelson. Some critics are personal friends, other write for the New York Times or Art Forum. Some people take time to cultivate a taste for olives and oysters, Duccio and Morandi, and others never do.