We know that every generation creates its own art, that is as it should be, but art has a responsibility not just to represent its generation, but to represent the best of that generation. If art doesn’t do that, it leaves people pining for the art of a previous generation and that can’t be good.
In any generation, art can probably always be divided into the good, the bad and the not bad. The good stuff invariably endures and is destined forever to perch in galleries of clinical whiteness, the bad stuff tends to get filtered out very quickly, usually by next of kin, and becomes landfill, and the not bad stuff typically becomes cherished at an individual level and may yet have its moment in the sun on the likes of the Antiques Road Show.
As we’ve discussed many times before, on various archiseek threads, what seems to differentiate much of the art of recent times from the art of previous generations, is the absence of any discernable craft in the making of much contemporary art. What used to be the one defining characteristic of art, the mastery of the craft in its making, has simply become dispensed with by a succession of artistic movements seemingly obsessed only with producing provocative objects.
There are honourable exceptions to this generalization, but if the current batch of art critics are to be believed [and most of these people probably couldn’t draw a bowl of fruit to save their lives] ‘craft’ itself has become a debased currency.
Take Aidan Dunne’s effusive critique of a new Paul Mosse show down in Kilkenny in today’s Irish Times for example.
Dunne appears to see craft in the questionable DIY practices by which Mosse apparently constructs, or de-constructs, his art out of lumps of plywood and polystyrene and he reaches for inter-galactic terminology to convey the wonder of it all, but it’s the printed images and the gushing text that I would suggest are worlds apart.
The images appear to show, essentially, rubbish - shards of broken things loosely held together by a rudimentary amount of colour coordination and lashings of gullibility. The level of craft involved in producing this stuff is way below the ‘low-tech’ that the artist admits to, it’s truly craftless, I’m pretty sure I've got better stuff than this festering in the damp corner of my shed.
Dunne isn’t the worst of the current batch of Irish Times art critics, we had Finton O’Toole reviewing the recent V + A ‘Post-Modernism’ show in the Weekend Supplement a couple of weeks ago and desperately trying to connect that embarrassingly superficial phase of art and architecture with the Celtic Tiger of all things. Bizarrely O’Toole, sticking with the theme, breathlessly announced that Post-Modernism died on the day that Nama sold one of those dodgy Warhol ‘Dollar’ paintings having re-possessed it from a dodgy property developer.
I rather think Post-Modernism died more than twenty years ago, which was long before dodgy Irish property developers had dollar signs in their eyes. Apparently Finton may not have realized that what the V + A was hosting was a retrospective exhibition on Post-Modernism.
On a positive note, apparently there is a movement within the art colleges at the moment to re-evaluate the direction that modern art has gone and perhaps re-assess the merit of craft in the process of making art. If this is true, this will be good news.