A question of art; Can Art be Taught?
What the devil artist up to. I wouldn't pay to see it where it says Name go where I'm one tonight. Ask me artists nowadays are just too lazy to learn how to paint. Them in your comments. Well such observations have led us to try to reduce the confusion surrounding contemporary art as we ask a question of art. I'll let you know how hard each week at this time. A question about contemporary art will be discussed by an art critic a scholar and a sceptic. Here is a skeptic producer of the series Walt Richter. Do introduce the panelists on a question of art today is Can art be taught. And our guests as usual are Dr. Gearhart Magnus professor of fine arts and Lawrence artist in residence at Southern Illinois University.
Can art be taught but run away. I'm glad you asked me that question. I think that used to be assumed axiomatically that art could be taught when people had a shared idea of what a finished painting was like and knew in advance you know part or at least of how it was supposed to look so that the artist the critic the collector and some of the public knew what a painting was supposed to look like then it could be taught. But I think nowadays I we've agreed in earlier talks that there's a multiplicity of styles of various ways of working. There isn't any fixed agreement on an understanding of finish I think this is I think this again these factors are putting great pressure on the notion that art can be taught. I know like here we are in a place of the big department and so on but I think there's a serious. The vision is necessary if we are
to formulate the way in which it can be taught. I think you know laws of Carlow rules of composition how to draw. I think that stuff is for the birds because any way of handling color drawing composing are all associated with particular styles. There is no universal grammar which you can then apply to any artist I think we've already agreed. So anyone who's teaching art I really I think has to answer this doubt of what it is that you're teaching. Well what is it that is being taught in our schools that I missed. Well there are certainly a lot of vested interests in the teaching of art. The successors to the Renaissance workshop to da Bose art at the Fine Arts Academy and finally the professional art schools and now in our own day. The proliferation of art department and schools of Fine Art in practically every college and
university in the country. So there's a lot of vested interest here. And to raise the question is perhaps an embarrassing one. But I think it can be answered. My own position would be that I can be talked up to a point in the sense that you provide a climate. Place a gestalt and environment call it what you will. In which art goes on and the student learns however he can by observing by a complicated process of mimesis by turns ferns from person to person of some kind of inspiration enthusiasm. In this way at least the craft elements and the solution of basic problems can be taught.
Well there's just seem to go counter to what you were saying Lawrence. I think it sounded like air sounded like Dr Magnus was reading from the curriculum for the art department. I just don't think it's connecting I think he's giving Mikey in a straight spiel for not Department. When I was raising the doubts I have people who haven't got an invested interest and are not the problem. Well I mean that is not true that we all learn on the basis of experience that we will never learn from a situation of IQ. And that the art department does provide the opportunity for the would be artists to check themselves out to find out if he has some talent. I work with people who should be able to recognize something as though it was something that isn't who can advise and guide him. This early teacher maybe sees all of the ABC Patriots but their A B C's of the paint brush and paint.
Well I mean if you if you show me like a room full of students painting and say whoa these are people of all this talent who is going to be painting and who are going to be tomorrow's artists. My answer would be the ones that are still pending in 10 years time. Most of them won't be. It's all one so just keep doing it. It's not talent talents OK. Johns OK while you were at school you know talents OK as an excuse starting to be an artist but the people that are artists and continue to be that the artists are the people who are obstinate the people who just don't take up other employment. Its obstinacy makes an artist not talent. Talent is like like a booster to get you know to get there to get the hardware up into orbit or something like that and it's abandoned it's occurred to me that perhaps we phrased your initial question incorrectly rather than Kevin Hart we taught should we phrase the question Can art be learned. Well it's the same. Because all I got was that harsh I'm not
sure it's I'm not sure it's the same question I get is there's a difference between teaching and learning and teaching. We're never sure the teacher is never sure that there's any learning going on in other words you never quite positive that he's a teacher but learning does occur within the individual and through through different practices that he has experience outside the classroom for example maybe teaching him more than what he's learning inside the classroom you'll be learning more this way. And the artist who perhaps is drawing more from his internal resources his past experience and developing his art and his craft and he is perhaps getting in there in the art department. When I see a situation arising when this problem is you know more clearly recognized by everyone at the moment I just biographers student started Art Students League New York Nineteen sixty one thousand nine hundred sixty four
started Art Institute of Chicago 1962 and I'm 66 you know. I see a I see a situation where every office will be able to list where they started and then add self-taught because basically I think what an art school does is like when you when you're in it when you're not schooled in an art department there's really not too much else to do except paint if you're if you're down for painting. It's not that you get useful lessons from the people teaching on the whole. It's just that you've got nothing else to do. So you're teach yourself how to paint in a situation which has a lot of other people who have got the same opinions. So you're kind of out school is a place where you can teach yourself to paint. Well in the past it used to be a place where teachers handed down the secrets of style. Now it's much more a place where what the student what the teacher I think should be doing is trying to turn the student song trying to make them feel what it feels like not tell them how to do it.
Well this is what is happening. You know good art or good art department. Name one. I capped off well to the point here is a loser. There is going to change that for the last fifty a hundred years show is a for emphasis teaching art as that will have. Let me rephrase it has there been a change Jerry. Is the art school today Art Department today being operated on a different basis that it was earlier. Well there's there seem to be two types maybe even three. The professional art school which has frankly no pretensions to turning out anyone but one who it has is master of his material and who is ready to go to work for the nearest advertising agency or from the side
art school. So-called commercial art though they like to call themselves professional art schools today. And there is the old fashioned type of academy would simply offer is the atmosphere the opportunity. And here is where I think I'd answer you Lawrence. This environment is important. This is where the student learns habits of work as he does. If he studies an academic subject so that somewhere along the point he ceases to be a pupil and can work on his own. There are some good head of state he said three kinds of art schools you just mentioned two. Well I'm thinking also now of of the university where a great deal of art is being taught and where the student is expected to take his place in society as a more or less educated person so that in addition to concentrating on his art studies he's learning a great deal
besides some kind of humanistic or certain intellectual skills. Learning how to get how to get along with his fellow man and and so on. Again that's reading from the catalogue. But this is this is the hope at least that instead of educating only the artist you're educating the complete man in the university atmosphere. It seems to me Lawrence that you're applying a kind of nihilism that is that the person to be an artist should start out from scratch on his old legs or mistakes and just paint and paint and paint We're talking about the painter really I mean we could extend this to include all arts ballet dancing acting if you accept it as an art and so the sculpture whatever it may be is that's right. No it doesn't but what I'm saying doesn't I wouldn't try to apply it to the performing arts not
what you have you know where you have to master certain laws of physics and moving a body around it doesn't apply to music where you have setting up an intricate coding system to learn. But it does apply I think in the field of visible arts where there isn't as we've agreed I thought in the past an absolute A B C which every artist had to be master of. Now taking away this ABC taking away this basic code which all artists have to have I doubt very much that there's much of a value or can be transmitted by teaching rules laws. You know that kind of thing. Fund the master took the pupil but the master can do I think. I thought his his pupil is kind of like make him feel let him should show him what an artist is really like. It seems to me that the good departments in the United States and those which have artists who are doing a little teaching not those which have teachers who are doing a little art.
What you need to expose them artists students art students to the Is are dotted with real artists not people who make a career out of teaching because that way that just produces more teachers who teach more teachers and so of what one really wants is places with you know a lot of the artists doing work and telling you the thing and trying to get it I think is the point that I use this term and I listen to your concept of how the artist grows it starts talking for without any basic rules of trying to have a love for itself to work them out with his own mind. Is it not of value or do you think for the person aspiring to be an artist to study what has gone before remarked to know what the old principles were to be able to perhaps do some figure drawing to know something about our history and the styles of previous artists and the development of the flow and so forth.
Because the knowledge of these things it seems to me would give him a greater flexibility flexibility of a greater range within which to work. I thought we were talking about the actual teaching of Aunt in town and I'm painting or sculpture not the things around it. Certainly many of what it's like not history of a head that is there in this part of this part of learning one's craft one's art. What is knowing is knowing thing in the past I think the soul of sauce of the soul sauce for a long time and then the main sauce was an older painter who passed the word on to a younger painter you know that's how it went. And the young and the younger pater took the word and it added something of himself about it. But now you see that the older painter has competition he has competition from the high level of information that exists independently of a teacher student transmissions conveyor belt. You lost me here OK.
Instead of the teacher. The only way of learning out being the teacher handing it on to the student who then does something with it in addition to that possibility. There is now the fact there's a very high level of general information about God. Any student who looks at magazines makes a little effort or almost almost no effort but a little can see travelling exhibitions of he or she isn't in a big city. You just cannot avoid abundant evidence of the stylistic possibilities of twentieth century and also technical information about how to do it. I think now we've reached a situation where the student can learn by imitating other people's art not by taking the thought to call. This article procedure is handed down from old artist who is committed to one style already. But by taking that wide field of general information I think the way to learn would be to identify totally with say these
four painters Jalsa Lecky Helen Frank and Sawyer lawyer Lichtenstein and Ellsworth Kelly. They all paint differently they were before American artists and last year's American pavilion at the BEA and Ali I think terrific bit of education for students would be to paint pictures and their styles successively as totally as they could. They had then have their own works to compare with the works they were imitating and the webs they're imitating and by very professional skills people have been around for 20 years. So they have an authoritative model. To which they wouldn't give more prestige then this should be in a kind of dialogue with the object they were imitating and the object they were making. You learn by imitation. Well but why do you choose these four artists how anyone or anybody want to ever have a Rembrandt in Toronto let me were well go look. I chose four people who was technical procedures.
Have current relevance in terms of stylistic and the number of people working in these styles at the moment. Live painters are interested in it and also there's no particular technical problem involved in working in these way the good ways because like a lot of modern artists the technical procedure is somewhat abbreviated. If you're going to do a vamp brand then you've got a certain multi level technical procedure to go through to get something which looks like a Rembrandt but you can do the works by the four painters that I've mentioned. Without going through a such protected process record. That's why you can apply the same argument to any academic field couldn't you a student doesn't really have to go to college today to learn anything. I think of all the information that's available to him. Well. Well it was a waste motion. Think of the fumbling. Think of
if you were even honest with yourself and looking back on your own career how long it took to find let's say these three or four how do you learn what the important books are really helps to have someone around who can stop you when you're off on a wild goose chase. It does help to have a kind of environment where this knowledge is shared and I think this is a very important step sister as a person that's been through the routine himself and has been able to pick out what was important to him. Learning is learning his craft and then trying to get some sort of systematic organization to the learning process of the student. This as you say is general this is this is that all the partners including art it seems to me. Well I wouldn't disagree with you Jerry at all in terms of. Literary and academic subject are just to say subjects geared to verbal control subjects
based on the search and verbal control. But I'm not sure because of all the things I've been saying about modern art its individuality its lack of universal laws and so forth. I think we've all agreed about it until now and now suddenly we disagree because I want to act on the consequences of all those things we've been agreeing on about modern art. Well not really insisting on Institution. I think a kind of fluid society that you might find in East Village where a group of artists. Discussing things and visiting each of the studios and so on is the same kind of learning environment. It doesn't have to be formalized into a school I would I would go that far but I think the contact group is very important in order to get this kind of information out there. What I didn't didn't agree and saying that I thought schools are very valuable
as providing a place where I could you do it can if you're in the art department I mean like it you know it directs one's time. Like I only write anything if I've got a deadline. You know you need you need you need the the professional you need the occasion and I think an OT Department provides the pressure to paint but not guidance as to how you should do it. Well this is this is a commonly held view among the artists themselves. Lawrence was concerned. Have you spoken with any artists who have you surely read Bible biographies biographical sketches and so forth. How do artistes seem to feel about this. I think many of them and many of the younger artists I know who've been through like a university department and so forth and who are you know painted as a full time painters sculptors. It's frequently what they like it was like at the art history or something. Not not the studio courses but you
know the things around it like I got history frequently that's what I meant most to them I think. Let me ask another question which I think is related and that is what is the artist or who is the artist. I'm going to really define it we'll talk about what art is and so forth but I'm going to get a mirror image of this painter sculptor. Can you can you define a verb really. Well in the context we're talking about an artist to me as someone who when he leaves school goes on producing painting us cups you know and I thought so many people you know but he wouldn't even listen they have to go to school. But what do what is the best what are the basic characteristics. Artist are there are there such basic characteristics Jerry. I think is a basic type of human being who simply expresses himself and in visual terms and handling materials rather than where he's someone who produces visible structures and
produces visual structures but without discipline. But how could you how COULD just how do you mean without discipline the discipline is self-generated you can see what the discipline is if you look at any tool structures if you look at one painting or sculpture by an artist Well you might say it's on discipline. If you see tool you'll see constant factors between the two works and what's constant between any two works by an artist is what his discipline is based on what his characteristic structure. Actually you know. Resides in. So those of you who are essentially agree with that art as such for the toilet I think we got somewhere near it but I think this is not just for the year this is structured good of instruction. This is structured. I said this could take place.
It obviously does now the worth of such art or whether you are thinking of the incredible waste of human effort that goes on in such a place for a lot of students who may be very intense about this learning process as long as they aren't in school but cannot discipline themselves or for one reason or another do not go on with it. I think you're very right about this persistence making the artist. On the old fashioned way of saying it the 99 percent perspiration goes into making a genius. I don't think you can get away from that. But we do waste a lot of human effort. Well it's inevitable I think in any learning process. I think I think the other question here which will prove fruitful. What would you consider to be the ideal educational about artist Lawrence. When I go to an artist's lot what should an artist study what should an artist read.
I think I'm an artist so I was an artist can you know that doesn't you cannot predict what ideal conditions are going to produce artists. So it seems to me the present situation is one I have no particular desire to change. It's just I don't have any particular respect for anything like it's just one of those things in the landscape. I don't want to change it to produce better artists I think the situation of art in the United States in the 20th century now is it is marvelous. I've done it but I think it has more to do with it. I do. I think it's I don't think it's the direct result of all the teaching. I think it's happened and that teaching has to catch up with the fact that. At that time that American planning has developed in this way. But I don't believe in ideal teaching situation. Well what I was getting at was this is the artist who has been thoroughly
grounded in the humanities in general say we're going to likely to produce work of many a more lasting or meaningful value of the one who has not. No I would agree there. In other words there is that that there is no such thing as creating a climate within the individual that would lead to his possibly becoming a better artist his grip on the world is sold direct so private that a given program of study is going to make the slightest bit of difference. It sounds to me as though you're making this artist of the something not quite here were many of them aren't. A system that you can just manage your money in that you know evidence of humanity Walt would be like. I went when the right guy comes out of a neat little stone that I don't believe there was this not that it's so that's the way Jerry expressed the thought that these people are so
much comes out from inside of themselves that he becomes sort of a nebulous creature to sort of have a flesh and blood. Well now he goes to the supermarket just like anybody else. It's a lie he marries as he gets children but that's a part of his life and it isn't necessarily the most important. You like a lot of other people he's wrapped up in his work and it creates a different kind of human being. You see I think that really the nature of 20th century art has changed a great deal more than the nature of music or the nature of literature has changed in the 20th century. They still are amenable I think to traditional academic teaching techniques. I don't think it does an artist any harm right or any harm to no grammar. It's going to do a composer a great deal of good if you know how to read and write music. You know there's a certain set objective piles of knowledge which the
writer and the composer can benefit from mastering. I don't think there is an equivalent body of knowledge which the artist has to master. There are that there are many alternative you know chunks of knowledge which take which artist impart and others pick up. But none of that I think is absolutely essential to the production of art in the 20th century I don't think as mix of the inhumanity of the artist. I think it makes for the freedom of the artist. You seem to analogy to the grammarian song at the verbal level of materials and techniques which can be taught and shared or which is picked I don't think I said gramma has I mean Jerry when you and I are talking we have to you know share certain grammar and interpret some of that the same way when we hear it and so on. Where as a material as I'm not a grandma and the materials are unpredictable in their usage before the
artist has gone through gone through using it. I was my grandmother's predictable before I thought a sentence of Laura she would have done it again provided a perfect opening for next week's program. The question will be do materials influence the artist. A question of art featuring art critic Lawrence Callaway and professor of fine arts Gary Hart Magnus's produced and transcribed by the SEIU Radio Network. This is Steve Betters speaking join us again next week for another question.
- A question of art
- Can Art be Taught?
- Producing Organization
- WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
- Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- For series info, see Item 3338. This prog.: Can Art be Taught?
- Fine Arts
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Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-16-7 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “A question of art; Can Art be Taught?.” 1968-04-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 16, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4x54jz9s>.
- APA: A question of art; Can Art be Taught?. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-4x54jz9s