Artist Peter Harper in his 52 O Street studio
ON TUESDAY, July 24, 2007, fellow 52 O Street artist Stevens Jay Carter posted a few questions on his blog.
The other day I was viewing the work of an artist. As I was admiring the work I began to think to myself is it possible to accept my thoughts if I removed myself from my association with this artist? What would I actually think about this work through a stranger’s eyes, unaware of the artist’s history or background?
I responded, “Conversely, can the opinion of a critic or arbiter of a work of art be judged without including such biases as “credentials” or “personality” or “sexual orientation” of that critic, whether he be of some renown for such services or merely an ordinary passersby? Schools of thought betray themselves in this argument.
“Basically, there is always more than one way to do nearly anything under the sun. So, in judging a work of art, there will be some who insist upon knowing the “artist” and others who deny the importance of such criteria.
“After all, do we need to know anything at all about the creator of the polio vaccine or the bicycle to deem worthy these works?
“And recall de Kooning, who is damned near unique in his field in appreciating the skills and artsmanship of the ordinary house painter or artisan, while most of us who posture within the art world would simply laugh at such a charming but gross sentimentality.”
I thought that I was saying something real, but I had missed the mark. I knew that humans are inescapably drawn to fame and reputation. Human fascination with success and prestige is such that we are not surprised when artists, even iconoclastic artists mimic that old EF Hutton television commercial, when EF Hutton speaks, the whole world stops to listen.
Another 52 O Street fellow, Peter Harper then opined, “Pablo Picasso was an asshole!!! But a great painter. He wouldn’t be my friend but I admire his work.”
Yes, but we can never escape the sway that a Baselitz, a Warhol, or a Basquiat holds and the realization that an imitator will never measure up to the power of the original master with all that implies.