A question of art; what is the Role of Craftsmanship i
What the devil artist. I wouldn't pay to see it where it says an angle worm went tonight. Ask me what it is now days 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 him start 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. I put a departure for today's program as the question What is the role of craftsmanship and art today at our panelist or Again Dr. Gearhart Magnus professor of fine arts and Dr. Laura. Mr. Lawrence Alloway rather artist in residence at Southern Illinois University. Before we
again Mr. Holloway asked me to describe what I meant by the word craftsmanship. The craftsmanship to me Lawrence is the ability with great and consummate skill to be able to take a piece of raw material and from it. Fashion is something of beauty. The shoemaker who is very proud of his work and has studied and has worked for five or six years to become a shoemaker a master craftsman. The cabinet maker is a craftsman. If he has gone through this training period and in the past it seems to me and you can correct me on this if you wish that the artist himself had to go through. Period of apprenticeship. To learn his materials to learn what he could do with them. And he was he learned anatomy and a number of other things. And finally on the basis of this knowledge she began to
paint on his own and to put something of himself in the painting. But there was a long arduous discipline that demanded of him. Does this get what I'm trying to get at now is does this kind of discipline of craftsmanship pertain to what to the dark things that we see on campus today. I answer the question I get is how you think that we had thought of that but what what you what what I think you're doing is you're taking the training procedures from one kind of God and then having another kind of odd over there head to both these training procedures. I mean let me say what I mean. I think that the procedures of apprenticeship whereby you know a lad went into a mosque to paint a studio and you know he ground up colors and gradually built up what he was doing. It's you know in
the background and ultimately you might make it to himself to do as a whole and hire a finished painting of his own. As they would you know teach him to paint. Technically as the master painter did in fact apprenticeship systems in art tended to impose a rather conservative static position on the odds. I want the problems of you know Italian Renaissance was the loosening of the guild system and freeing artists from such strict apprenticeship as you describe at a great period of European. Not by individual painters really starts as the guilds a loosening and the guilds are finally like really a shred of their influence and the guilds used to assert insist on apprenticeship in the 17th century. So in a way it seems to me that the birth of it all on modern art from the amount of
sauce to date depended upon a more flexible definition of craftsmanship than that procedure we have just described. For me craftsmanship. Cause my ship can't be prescribed to exactly in advance the kind of parenting that a man is going to be spending his life doing. You seem to think the technique exists as an abstract discipline. Try doing anyway. I think different kinds of work would benefit from different preparation. And it started very well. It might be better to approach it from an other angle and think about the craftsman. In the modern 20th century sent as he said some sought him self up versus the concept of the 19th century artist the artist who in the twentieth century view had pretensions
to presenting some kind of message of some kind of metaphysical reality whereas the modern artist being more concerned with the. Making the most of his materials making the right kind of choice in creating his constructions. So that everything work together has a much more humble view of his role. The artist in other words is concerned with materials and in that sense he is a craftsman. But this has nothing really to do with whatever virtues the individual hand crafted object might have. Let's say in distinction to the shoddier kind of machine made product. Or other that I think I think that's a kind of distinction one needs to bear in mind. Every artist to the extent he's physically
involved in technical procedures you know is doing something which is physically variac him to what he usually called craft procedures. I quite agree and I think there's been I know there's been in New York and elsewhere and elsewhere I think all of the world recently had a tendency to reassert the craft status of the artist. I think Gerry in a way it might be that the Dell yen against the spectacular character a hero artist still exists because. Some of the younger sculptors for example who make what's called what's been called minimal out of a few simple forms. They may well not make it themselves they'll prepare the plans specify the measurements and go along to the shop to check how you know when I'm making it and then I'll control the kind
of finish that's put on it so that they are doing their best as it were to take the inspirational elements out of OD and to reaffirm that as a goal i.e. it's craft basis and in a way the fact that new is a serious individualistic artists who do this I think affect they do this shows really what I suppose and craftsmanship has to be and that is its control. If you can get your way out to be made so that you don't have to go through the drag of building it yourself but you can keep control on it so it comes back working the way you anticipated it and wanted it then that's satisfactory so in terms that protect in terms of too I would say to the question What is the role of craftsmanship. Not today I would say craftsmanship is doing fine provided the artist that gives the artist the kind of control that he wants.
Well I was extend this a little bit further as there ever been a wreck. OK so the record of an artist producing something of value with us at his first attempt. Well I think if you came up with that you know they're not it and she's And they haven't any now. You know if you know they have a position and just doesn't the artist artist work generally improve as as he does more and more of the work going to short as he's learning his craft. He's learning his art as well but that the amount of it. Well I don't know if it was to use the masterpieces anymore we've been kicking them around so much in these earlier programs but the masterpieces with which we're all acquainted from grade school are more or less Middle East and so forth. These are things that usually came later in the period of artist development and day.
Girl that I have you know judge on here is how old was George and he died in his 30s pushing 30 or something you know going but how examples either way. But what I'm getting trying to get at is is the is the criticism that is made of much contemporary art that it seems like amateurish drawing and people are delighted when they find out that a painting which won a prize of place was delayed by about a year by some worms crawling through some pigment pointing out that this isn't really art at all because these people haven't had any of it I mean that it's not a product of a trained mind all doesn't doesn't doesn't the amount of experience amount of work the way the way the artist has learned to use his materials and this is of course another another program that doesn't just play a very strong role and whether or not a work of art has any validity or not.
We come back to a point we made previously here I think that an artist isn't going to put absolutely everything on the line in one single finished master work. He's going to experiment perhaps through a whole series of works and that they need to be looked at together as part of the body of his work in order really to make any sense. And here is where I think it might be a very good idea to play the role of craftsman. In this newer sense than that of the artist though naturally the man who's working very hard at solving a problem in terms of such a series would naturally be concerned with artistic problems a lot of the other criticism of artists of contemporary
artists this is sort of thing we're glad to hear it was a cocktail party that he picks or he does because he doesn't really know how to paint he couldn't paint a cow or he would big or a face or a door if he had to because he just doesn't have that kind of talent and that contemporary art is the place where the other talent to take refuge. You don't find this controversy ranging about painting any more curiously but I found that that it does about drawing that art students don't know how to draw anymore and that somehow this is a kind of discipline they ought to get no matter how they choose to paint. But they must go through a course and figure drawing. They must learn how to to discipline the line and master a few basic techniques. And somehow if they can't draw something that looks representational if they want
to that are just this. Curiously enough I find is an attitude that still persists. It's true I never realized it before but it's drawing people want evidence of this and it just to show that you know the chaps really A-OK you know. Well that's the this is this is one of the craft of art but also it's one of the great intellectual requirements of odds between the 16th and the 19th century. Like you couldn't produce a big handsome terrific picture as people did without ever that you know very good draftsmanship that drawing really showed if you're trying to do a big figure composition and almost everybody try to do a big figure composition sooner or later. So I mean drawing had a very I structural goal I think. But now I don't see why drawing in terms of the accurate rendering of the dynamics in all some of it's implausible space. I
don't really see why if somebody can do that it's likely to help him. I have painted I big abstract painting which depends on colors they are not on line. In fact it might be and it might be you know that the data could be sort of hung up on it like that because they control it only making a point of dragging this drawing. Well this indicate that really our definition of what is art has changed to the last last years because it is to me that this matter of craftsmanship was inherited early on an earlier definition of art that someone was able to call the precise quotation but something about art being craftsmanship with sentiments can be combined with such a good but craftsmanship alone isn't enough the artist had to contribute some sort of feeling of himself which was expressed in his in the craft work of craftsmanship and
thus an ordinary wood wood carving might change from a table leg to a work of art. What we do know that apparently the artist doesn't feel that way the day before. Well he does for instance if he's working in three dimensions he may be very intrigued and very interested in producing the individual handcrafted object. He may not be interested in this is a matter of choice which he makes early in his training to design for mass production. This designing for mass production has its own correspondence in the case that Lawrence cited a moment ago. All of these these minimal sculptors who do not want to get involved in the actual fabrication Is it laziness that keeps these people who are already here.
No I think it's a stance isn't it. It's it's in a static position. The artist has really done all that he needs to do if he has planned. There's a sort of there's a craft that you Shirzad as Lawrence pointed out this bird's ability to draw as well as live different kind of drug rough stuff is this kind of economy by the way has has always existed for instance with the print makers. Very often the master might make a design for an engraving which would then be executed by by artisans skilled craftsman in metal. In other words we reduce that intention. The master would just make the drawing or the technician would take the wax with a stylus of copper and actually work it out sort of the for loop deals and sometimes you got the case of like an English 18th century painter like William Hogarth who often didn't do his own engraving but because it was like his art and he was and his craft and he was impatient about it.
He didn't bother to give us the page you should if you're going to print reverse the whole image have it right handed and left handed gestures and swapped around. So when his pencil printed when he overhears done them himself you know for a lot of right handed actions came out left handed actions. Well. You could say that as an example of poor craft if one set up a notion of craft as a pure mechanical standard by which one felt all art judged approached all art on the other hand I think it comes out in Hogarth's rather refreshing way. Like in the 18th century the age of all these Polish and mensa tented models it comes over with a kind of kind of healthy impatience the hell with it you know I just like it without setting up all that business with America. There is a case where a lack of craft actually comes over as a kind of increase of spirit I think I think that craft has to be
subject to the individual requirements of the artist at work. There is no single notion of craftsmanship. All of a plink ability to everything tensioning always has to be modified by the demise by the use of the artist as making it a failure in craftsmanship would only occur if the artist were not sufficiently master of his materials. Or. Craft to carry out his intention. But if his intention is to destroy let's say previous ideals of craftsmanship in terms of smooth finish and perfect joining in and classical composition and that kind of thing well then that too becomes his craftsmanship and part of his intention and I think that is really what governs our notion of class mentioned in the modern sense. Well I'm still alive still but invent started thinking for example of
the thing or paintings that pre-schoolers execute in nursery school but which ship later not to be quite quite interesting and fascinating designs of color and what have you. It would seem that some of these things could be taken by it. Adult artist who could cite their names to the day and they would be viewed by some of our critics as as great works of art. But here the kid the kid owes the credit though I think about crass worship it as a naughty thing about the principles of balance. Psychological or physical or or any of the other rudiments that we sort of expect of a craft and then at the same time we've got the adult artist who is making dog things which look very much like the stuff that the kids are doing in the other three schools a dozen words about how it doesn't look you know the two kinds of dubbing I'll use
your read through the eyes or don't look very much alike. I can think of many I think of paintings by kids when she looked like a smeary abstractions by adult Panda's and ICICI fan number both kinds. And there's usually no difficulty in telling what's what. Just like at the art produced by my kids you know it doesn't look like they are produced by an abstract painting. Yes there have been periodic. They are the initial pieces of a. Cases of these I want your issue for them OK drawings of the word the word paintings. Winning prizes. Well I think it's fun I mean who's against entertainment. I'm not afraid of being you know and I'm not afraid of being hoaxed I'm sick I feel secure enough in my test. And you know not to my not to risk being hoaxed and if I liked it that's fine. I mean you say well some monkeys you know have monkeys drawings done the monkey has given a
paint set up and then the paper paper is taken away. If you leave the paper with a monkey he used it. Oh tear it up will go on until it's torn apart. It needs the human active intervention to take it away at a good point so that even then you're getting not strange monkey odd but the monkey is just being programmed to produce an art which looks a little bit like I said kind of abstract. It's you know I mean it's still basically a human activity. I'm not the blind man and he said I'm going to look back to this definition of art as being dependent of the intent of the person to create it the intent of the keeper who takes the paper away from Ben I say our Congress like like a bottle rocket on a pedestal right. Yeah that's if you're going to have children. And with the art of the insane war of Mikey's can be enormously suggestive to some artist who is receptive to it. They're
receptive to it. As Paul Clay was he found in such work of Chelmer kinds of interesting ideas which he then developed in his own way. But there is certainly no mistaking appall claim for a drawing by a child even though they may be some superficial resemblance. I think that perhaps part of the problem here which which we pose as matter of craftsmanship in art lies the thinking of people that anything worthwhile should be really worked for and aspired towards. Have great doubts of perspiration which should be as spit in the process of the seeking it arriving at that. Artist we feel those as well who should have studied who should have worked it should have gone through this apprenticeship and out of this terrible
suffering finally creates of thing of value. But it seems that many people I think are of the impression that the contemporary artist just just been too lazy or those shorts are a bit bypassed. These initial years in the interests of getting something on campus they work hard enough. There are cases of lucky hits. You very often find art students just out of school or still in school. Who will win their first prize let's say in a print exam. Exhibit in which their teachers are also exhibiting and who get no prizes. There are all kinds of lucky hits. But the difference between the young amateur with a lot of talent who makes a lucky hit or two and the pro is that the progun do it every time and that he's conscious of his own development. He's constantly making very deliberate
choices. In terms of his materials well how he wants to go do almost all book artists go through some sort of formal training. Traditionally yes and still yes mostly there are very many who will say I want to be an artist set up a legal buy paints materials and go to work I guess you want to do that and what do you tell them to get looking to not be taught as a result of my grad benefiting Lex when I thought they were bad but you know I think that it will if it turns out that most artists have been an obstacle in the way like most people have been in the army so there so that there is that there are still sort of the apprenticeship period does not altogether disappear but the meaning of it has changed the meaning of going to art school has changed from the meaning of The Apprentice. System and there are a number of skills still being taught if you look at any art school catalogue there is a course in print making
up history of your courses a course of pottery and so forth and so on. What would you say that most of the successful contemporary artists could if they so desired work in the same fashion that their predecessors did in the 16th 17th 18th 19th century. Let me ask you Do you think that it's necessary that the predecessors of artists in the 16th 17th century do you think they could have produced abstract art. I don't know and I don't know yet and if they had so far. I mean you know I mean folks love timers lived just adjusting their absolute skill as the absence of which deuces some suspicion about whether a guy's really serious on it and I don't think if a man is an abstract painter I don't believe that he's necessarily going to be
aided because he can turn out to rest take a figurative paintings. I don't think either that a figurative painter who a good figurative Benta is going to show that they are actually tremendously had shown to the mother. If they turn out a few abstract paintings along with figurative things it's a figurative things that I'm interested in in a figurative painter and you know you see it and you think there's a different set of skills that each must learn. Yes. What's the starting point. They drift into the desire to do it. The rage to paint the accidental discovery. Oh I'm painting. That could be anything. However I just forget what's important really. I think it's not how you began but if you stay
with it and the very fact of staying with it implies then continued practice and experimentation at the development of craftsmanship. But I think that you have gone past all identity is about just what identity is no it's not and it was I would throw in another respect. I'm not sure we're going to be able to deal with it for the next 30 seconds. Perhaps we can come to the matter of the artist's knowledge of himself and a future program. But actually we are going to follow up with the question Can art be taught. We're going to take a look at our schools of today as compared with our schools of yesterday and find out what it is that they're trying to teach the artist. If anything or if they're just trying to get to the place where he can grow and develop but his own hook join us next week won't you. The book.
A question of art featuring art critic Lawrence Callaway and professor of fine arts Gary Hart Magnus is produced and transcribed by the SEIU Radio Network. This is Steve Betters speaking join us again next week for another question. This is the SEIU Broadcasting Service. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
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