A question of art; When Does Contemporary Art Begin?
What the devil artists up to. I wouldn't pay to see it where it says Nangle worm one and ask me artist nowadays are just too lazy to learn how to paint. But many are common Well such observations have led us to try to reduce the confusion surrounding contemporary art as we ask a question of art. Of our each week at this time. A question about contemporary art will be discussed by an art critic a scholar a skeptic. It was a skeptic producer of the series Walt Richter. Do introduce the panelists Dr. Art Magnus professor of fine arts came to his interest in art through what might seem to be the back door. As a professor of English Dr. Magnus became fascinated with the relationships between 17th century literature and art and soon as interest in art transcended that in English.
Prior to his appointment as a professor of fine arts at Southern Illinois University Dr. Magnus was director of academic affairs at the Philadelphia College of Art. Lawrence out away has been intimately connected with the art world for over 20 years. An Englishman Mr. Alloway became associated with the National Gallery in London in 1948. Lenny is lectured and written on arches held office with a number of important art organizations and has become recognized as a leading art critic in 1062 Lawrence Alloway became curator of the Solomon are going to High Museum in New York City. He has a present visiting professor artist in residence at Southern Illinois University. Today we're going to take up where we left off last week. Last week we tried to ask answer the question what is modern art and arrive at a distinction between modern art and contemporary art. So let's ask today what is contemporary art.
Lawrence. Well I think it's useful to be able to distinguish between modern art as the odds as we agreed last week you know of the earlier part of the 20th century and contemporary art as the art which is currently being done. The art which is still very fresh and new which is still unstructured critically and so that we can talk about like the immediate present in terms a little different from the times we can that we used to talk about the recent past. Well when the when do you say then that contemporary art again. Well that's the tough one. Well let's think. I would say let's think papad has been around for six years or a little more so I would think. Five years really would be about the demise of the maximum time then you could be sure that I was contemporary and had started to become
just mother. Jerry do you agree with this. Well it's a rather shocking idea at first but when you come to think about it it's probably true. Certainly there are living artists who are by this time classical moderns like Picasso and there are young artists or artists recently dead who may still be contemporary. And so being just being alive is no criterion certainly doesn't doesn't because of intend you know to produce contemporary art as well isn't he hasn't he doesn't get he's repeating himself. Of course no one knows what may happen to that grand old man he may suddenly get a spurt and do something completely different. But chances are against that at this point. Well aside aside from this this factor of time
how does contemporary art differ from modern art. LAWRENCE Well what other differences do you want to decide like total newness in time and unfamiliarity of contemporary art compared to the comparative familiarity and comparative organized history which belongs to probably tomorrow or not. You know in a way I think it's it's a changing situation at all times for instance. I think maybe one crucial time of change was the late 1940s probably the winter of 47 48 in New York that was a time when the abstract expressionists or some of them produced their early radical paintings. Well when that had been done suddenly a Picasso and all these people showed God there you know suddenly they weren't quite where they had been you know they had become modern art that was done by Pollack and Corning and others in that time
you know suddenly that was a totally different thing than Pollock already or relegate to modern art but now you know what happened then. What about five or six years ago as I say Papa developed and then abstract expressionism then was shown to have various traditional elements within it which have persisted unnoticed as it were by the of by the vine by the artists which the pump artist excluded from their work. And so that is suddenly the abstract expressionists who had made Picasso merely modern became themselves modern masters as opposed to contemporary artists. I suppose it's and I think maybe it's time is happening now about either happening or about to happen to the pop artists for instance that there's a new there's a new kind of how shall I put it growing out of Pol Pot. There are various attendances which they
well might suddenly make papad become modern as opposed to content. Would you say that one of these tendencies might be what yourself have termed the systemic art. Yes it's a religion too that I think there is a lot of greater of more of the regular forms of colors very systematically developed forms of minimal forms as it's been called. I think that this has shown that OT can be made with a great deal less of the usual signs of authorship than we had expected because in a way one of the things the pop artists criticized by their example the abstract expressionists for was being so subjective and personal. But now in a way the minimal artist who produces such a bad and apparently simple odd people have called it monotonous
in a way as suggesting that the puppet artist has kept almost too many personal marks of authorship in that town so that if you know the procedure of one generation of artists implicitly criticizes the procedures of the preceding group of artists and can it be said that these systemic artists are really doing over only what Mondrian was doing in the 20s. I don't believe so myself because I think the Mondrian in his abstract geometrical abstract paintings is always asymmetrical and he always had a kind of idea a vein of symbolism going that he thought that the order in his painting was an emblem of the order that was desirable for them and for society to work towards. So that was a symbolic content and a lot a complex and symmetrical kind of design whereas these systemic artistic calling that a hero of the minimal artist
they tend much more to work with big simple symmetrical phones without symbolism and without that formal complexity which one can use what's left. That's the point maybe we're maybe that's a problem. Maybe we could call contemporary art the art with the most problems problem raising art. Well I was going to go back to something it was said earlier Lawrence that was that contemporary art can be identified from point of view of its its time relationship to time something that's occurred over the last five years and that's going on right now. And that is it also as something different and unfamiliar. Now does this mean that there are sudden shifts in artistic expression. Or is contemporary art really an expression of further development of
modern art which preceded it. Yes. What it tends to be I think is not there not as many mutations as one thinks. They're not as many sudden a my whole sort of totally new elements on the sea. And I think that very often the surprises and the problems raised by contemporary art arise not so much out of total newness but rather as of a different logic being applied to the body of God so that different results obtained. It's not like it's they're born new with no connections with the rest of og. It's just that the different logic would propose changing the whole of God in a way that more that I call for not being certain you know after not being totally new because it would mean that they're there the changes they propose would reach far back into the past and maybe we have been misinterpreting the law history and that the whole thing could be
changed. That's what contemporary art does and I don't you think yes. Yes I think that. What has happened to the relationship which I just mentioned between mom to home and the systemic dangers would bear you out there. Well I'd like to move on and ask a question who is the artist for specifically who is the contemporary artist what kind of a person is EVE What are his motivations to add a second barrel of the question to which Jerry may want to deal with. But Lars to pick up on the first how does it differ from Artist of the past. First of all who is the contemporary artist Laurence. What motivates him. That's what I want out of 12 of us. What kind of me or does it come out of or can even be thanked. I doubt he can really be ped I think that when I think of the artists I know you know some of whom are contemporary artists in the sense we're saying.
I can't think of any single generalization I mean you know some male some a female ages differ about motivation but what makes those doctors are not is how to have sex or or sign some homosexuals. It's I don't know how can we how can you find one single motive underlying people who in every other part of the law right is that you have to find a single motive what kinds of motivations are there. Well one of them is a saying we've been talking about that is to use OT but that the two ways of working two fundamental ways of working I guess and one is to produce odd which everybody agrees is odd and the other way is to produce work which raises the question is this odd I think that maybe one of the problematic contemporary artists of the people who paint to raise questions about the nature of God itself they're not just adding one more splendid example to the existing body of God. They're raising radical questions about their working out of dot rather than out of
certainty about this would bear out something I've heard to the effect that the artist that art is an exceedingly intellectual. Process that the artist himself was spending a great deal of intellect within within the framework of creating whatever it is he's creating. Well OK if you I would agree with that as long as we say that he's also extending a tremendous amount of passion as well you know and tremendous amount of you know blind actions in terms of chance as well. I know a lot of the rationalization will be subsequently rationalizing what he did not knowing what he was doing at the time I think you can draw on any part of the job once the source is a human being to produce this kind of I don't think in any one way of doing it. Now we have sort of a popular image of the contemporary artist wearing sandals or the bearded or washed sweatshirt with long hair that has been away from the barber or let it lie. That's the longest of Modern Art I'm afraid not contemporary art most most contemporary artist has
something I must have done the college you know a lot of studies about history you know they tend to be neater than you do. Especially if the man who doesn't get his hands dirty at all but who phones in the specifications for his sculpture to the fabricator who makes it up and then ships it to the gallery where the artist might eventually install it or help to install it and perhaps not even see it before the opening of the exhibition. Sometimes of course the ship can see so so the contemporary artist is not necessarily deviant from the social norms in terms of dress and appearance. He's inclined to be more of a white collar individual than we might think. Many Ah yes. All right let's let's go then to the second part of the question Jerry. How does this contemporary artist whom we've been trying to describe differ from the modern artist or or any other group of artists who preceded them.
Well part of this deliberate effacement or the removal of of immediate signs of personality from the work I think have their parallel in a kind of personal effacement which refuses to adopt a role called Artist spelled with a capital A which was so important previously. The artist has been forced into certain patterns of behavior by society depending on how far he was accepted by one media or another or his relationship to his patron and at one time the public practically demanded of him that he wear velvet collars and string ties and wear his hair long and live in a certain part of town and so on. I don't think that's necessarily true but there has been a revival of the special kind of role which
demands really a uniform in the not in the Artist of the Beat Generation and the Abstract Expressionist perhaps. I mean in a way Walt you almost were describing a kind of sumptuary law like you're not just this is what you wear you know well I'm thinking let me see the cartoons one sees in the Chicago Tribune will and I think I want to do I think it terribly out it was a you know New York is the only place which occasionally has up to date on the race of the artist or are sort of lumped together into a real situation you're describing but it's not the common one in the highly developed industrial countries but it does still exist for instance in Argentina. I was with a group of artists because I was last year you know and we had been to a theatre and it was you know it's southern Arkansas this late June around midnight or something we were standing outside the theater deciding where to go next and a great group of people formed all around us and there I suddenly realized that we had an
audience we'd be in the audience in the theater and suddenly we were you know had an audience and these were people dressed him. So dark old fashioned clothes you know the ideal Indian as I was is the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen of England because English influence in all the artists were wearing you know colored colorful clothes miniskirts couple of beards in the group and there's a complete difference between the two groups of people and I suddenly realised this is what it must have been like in the 19th century when the sumptuary laws of how you dress like an artist really weren't accepted by people. But it's only in a few you know and a few special places that it exists now. Well how much you like her look lies how much of a line conformist as a contemporary artist. I think his work forces him to be one. After all he's there's an awful lot of the rat race that is left behind. There are certain senses in which he has dropped out.
He's still a consumer to be sure but a rather minimal one. He probably doesn't make a great deal of money. Like any other creative person he has to keep his own hours. He has to have a certain kind of place to live and work. Most artists at least are happy to be. Living where other artists are living or working so they can exchange ideas and I think this is what creates his role in so far as he has one and sets him apart from the ordinary 4:52 workaday world. I would agree with that I think that puts him there well just because I think that it's the art of the life of an artist is usually a very functional life. He needs the right place to do his work and you know what his work demands he needs the light what gods that suit him and he makes up his time.
I think that is a functional one to produce AWD does the other things too. Whereas the sort of beds and sandals decks I think I think it has a little to but very often not in terms of artists I mean it belongs to the beats most of whom are writers I'm not an artist and I think that writing tends to lag behind painting and sculpture at the moment in terms of vitality. You know I want God back to the dream. So it's old fashioned So it's OK for writers. It's beats and hipsters. I must hold on to artists of any kind at all. So it's become like a costume. But no one really that's associated particularly with artists anymore I think. What about the contemporary artists in terms of critical judgment awards. How could how can you tell whether anything that's being done at the moment is of any sort of value or not or can you tell. Well if you sort of belong if you look at a lot of OT you tend to make up
your mind pretty quickly. I'm one of the pleasures of contemporary art as a contemporary art is it. I can't tell you how nice it is was to look at the work of God and not have any idea if it's good or bad to look at it what about not having any idea what the guy's doing. It's absolutely terrific and those moments are very rare. I mean this you know a right one one long story. It's great when you can revive that feeling of total mystery and fun of the work of God. And if you're sort of professional in the business it gets harder but it's in the field of Contemporary Art where the work isn't all that pre-digested preen thought it odd accounted for that you get these these you know the encounter with the unknown and you think this is the important experience of contemporary art. It is for me. I just love not knowing what I'm looking at. It's great because I know I'm going to know pretty soon. And how do you how do you find out. Because one looks and then one wants to figure out what's going on.
Curiosity is a vase aesthetic pleasure is turned on and so one starts getting closer to it and as you get closer to it you accept you understand and at that point it's that model as alien as which is started off with that kind of opaqueness that imperviousness to your attention which is that which the work began with gets opened out someone. But the great moment I think is the moment of total mystery as possible. Well who are the modern artist Nas in terms of specifics. Could you give us some neighbors and talk about perhaps some of the kinds of things they're doing. We will be you agreed or should die because of William de Koning. There's one more thing I'm not sure I don't. Those are modern I'm I'm I'm sorry did I say moderate I meant contemporary America. Let's let let's come back to the Contemporary. Oh you have a problem with doing that and radio is like contemporary artists tend to be very new ones who
your webcam 170 people will know ready you know in a no no but you're letting them but if we hear a hard time I think Andy Warhol is still a contemporary artist and I was Warhol who started the op art movement a lot of us know about he was very early in that he was you know he was in it from the beginning I don't think any one person started but he was in it from the beginning and he's left us behind. He doesn't pay much attention to make movies mostly but he would certainly be I think a contemporary artist and his fact of his work is hard to structure exactly it's hard to define him and also he continues to raise problems just as his movies. There's problem problems I would say he would be what the absolutely essential image of a contemporary artist yes someone who else would you pick. How about Robert Morris a man who makes
large 100 Euclidian structures one or sometimes two a time if the two will be identical and you know like when I was a paramedic. A parallelogram a block or two gigantic l ships often made in plywood color to the kind of coat battleship gray with dead paint as possible. He's a he's a dancer. I thought as a sculptor and he I think would be another person who was odd with his problems but whose seriousness one certainly isn't in any doubt about what sort of problems as Ray's Well the problem of carpentry and you're not pained at being recognised as sculpture. It's you know he makes a wooden structure with plywood on top and then cuts it with paint. The problem of defining the
sculpture is what I'm talking about the problem of the fact that this could be done from his measured drawings and they could see it would still look the same way if produced under his direction but not by his physical handling. Well there's the sort of thing we do in high school with cardboard. You should have stayed with it you're going to be honest. Don't forget intention is different. That's one thing you do know he has a serious intent or you undoubtedly do and you have a favorite candidate Jerry. Yes many. But let me raise another kind of problem by mentioning again and why it is he a contemporary artist. That is a popular one is there is no doubt but is
he contemporary in the sense that we have now been talking of problematic art. There isn't much of a problem and why it's art. It's it's an example of superb craftsmanship and I suppose there are elements of what we sometimes become as magic realism in it. He looks at it at this work long enough one begins to feel all kinds of overtones of reverberating some kind of symbolic content which is not very easy to grasp. A very hard look at the common experience which arouses a great many different associations probably with the kind of of America which most of us have have lost forever.
Well I wouldn't call him contemporary I cite him or my I have lots of objections down to life which aren't really relevant to this program at the moment but I would say that he would if you want to call him this could be provisionally call him a modern artist not a contemporary one. Now your mention of the magic realism in a way would suggest that's legitimate because magic realism of the movement which sort of coalesced in the 40s and the seeds early definition then and the extent to why it is still a magic realist Comey say he's a modern you know neutral where at least I think that well let me say it would greatly reveal but we of touched up during the course of the program. First of all contemporary art can be dated. At least we have arbitrarily dated it at this table as art which is in general the book used within the last five years. Art which is different. And which appear strange to the viewer. Iraq which has problems you don't have to whisper because when I when I run out of steam I would ask you to fill it
out. Lawrence and the art the artist himself is as an innovator and an experimenter. What else have I missed. I think I'll miss Brown. I think that's fine. Last year I can't think of anything else. Well continue with contemporary art next week as we take up the question does contemporary art follow established principles.
- A question of art
- Producing Organization
- WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
- Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- For series info, see Item 3338. This prog.: When Does Contemporary Art Begin?
- Fine Arts
- Media type
Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-16-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “A question of art; When Does Contemporary Art Begin?,” 1968-04-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 21, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-8w384d4m.
- MLA: “A question of art; When Does Contemporary Art Begin?.” 1968-04-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 21, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-8w384d4m>.
- APA: A question of art; When Does Contemporary Art Begin?. 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-500-8w384d4m