Friday, March 16, 2012

Art and Craftsmanship

It's hard to say how many well known artists, if any, are capable of the level of craftsmanship carried out by the Masters, not to mention the tradesmen that worked to adorn our historic architecture.

Art wasn't always open to anyone with an idea or a statement, and while the wealthy have and still define art, the practice and its subsequent respect wasn't limited to "the starving artist."

What happened?

Just a century ago we were graced with a stock or artists and architects so talented that the works of Willis Hale and Philadelphia City Hall were perceived eyesores.

But today we praise glass towers for their lack of presence, automotive design that continues to look like a 1989 Ford Taurus, and visual art that refuses to offer a vision beyond its explanation.

Has our culture gotten so smart that we no longer need something interesting to look at, or have we intellectualized the design right out of design?

Whether a way of expressing spiritual enlightenment or national pride, or simply painting us a fox hunting scene, the one thing art historically required of its artists was skill.

The art community's obsession with its artists' messages has grown so strong that it overshadows the art itself.

Art should attract the eye, followed by an understanding of its inspiration. Instead we look for the story first and neglect to realize that we're analyzing a blank canvas.

If many of our modern day artists are masters of anything, it's marketing. The "trained" eyes of the art experts are so blinded by their own wealth that they'd never suspect their beloved artists of being some of the Free World's greatest capitalists.

Art or Copyright Infringement?

Apologizing for an artist's impoverished upbringing, the Philadelphia Museum of Art displays photographs of nothing in the same building that Renaissance masterpieces call home.

Artists offer our elite art community an insight into their humble beginnings and then capitalize on their guilt, exploiting their audiences as much as their subjects, feeding off the same morbid fascination with the ill, disfigured, and poor that keeps TLC on the air.

Talentless snobs may define this as art to help them sleep at night, but they share an obsession for the plight of the downtrodden with the rest of society.

Sadly the art community has become so tainted with an affinity for crap that the very sight of anything painted or sculpted displaying an ounce of craftsmanship or skill is labeled kitsch.

Have we exhausted new ideas? Are we in a creative rut? Or has an elite society fostered an element where hacks aren't subject to the same standards as the schooled and talented?

As much as we love history, critics will continue to reserve their most harsh critiques for historic recreations demanding artistic interpretations like Venturi's Benjamin Franklin house in lieu of The American Philosophical Society.

The gracefully adorned and architecturally respectful Mormon Temple will be dubbed a monumental shrine to a bygone era while we applaud a new Mac store's glass facade.

And paintings of horses that look like horses will be stored in the basement so the Philadelphia Museum of Art can exhibit another collection of snapshots of your next door neighbor's Walmart grill.

The PMA could find its modern art on Etsy and no one would know the difference.

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