There is a special reward for me, as an art critic, doing these weekly Art Talks, and it is getting your responses --whether you agree or disagree with me. There is a famous conundrum that goes: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" And that's exactly how I feel when, on the rare occasions, I go on the air with my latest art sermon and there is no response from you, my smart and beautiful audience.
But most of the time, I start to get emails from you literally within a few minutes after the program goes on the air and after my Art Talk newsletter gets sent out to nearly 10,000 subscribers. If you go to the KCRW Art Talk website, you can read all these "pros and cons" in the comment section at the bottom of the page. So, thanks to you, when My Art Tree falls in the forest, it does make a sound.
Last week, I talked about Graffiti Art vs. Graffiti Vandalism in conjunction with an upcoming exhibition opening this coming Sunday at El Segundo Museum of Art. This exhibition, titled "Scratch," will feature well-known graffiti and tattoo artists whom I had the chance to meet and observe while they were painting the walls and floors of the museum's main gallery. Here is the most succinct response I received so far: "Graffiti vandalism is an Eyesore. Graffiti art is, well, Art. It doesn't Disrespect the Public but enhances public space because it has artistic merit and interesting political commentaries without... intentions of destroying other people's properties."
Two weeks ago, I talked about the exhibition of works by popular Los Angeles artist, Mark Ryden. The exhibition is currently on display at Michael Kohn Gallery. I admitted that I haven't been a big fan of his work, but this exhibition made me see his work in a new, much more positive light. And, oh boy, some of you really took me to task for that. Here are some of your comments:
"I... struggle to make sense about his appeal or the lack of it. I am not sure what to do with his strange images and messages! ...Actually shocking your audience, seems to be a style all of its own, which I personally feel antipathy and revulsion to!!!!!!!"
"I think these paintings are embarrassing."
"I found it infuriating to see this kind of skill and painstaking hard work squandered on images so intellectually bereft... what is Ryden saying? Not much, I fear. God protect us from proselytizing painters!"
"I saw his art in the big collector house, and I hated it. Such a pity people love this kind of art now! For me it is something sick in this art..."
And here is a very interesting response on the other side of the equation --this one coming from a major contemporary art collector: "I bought [his work] some years ago... The saccharine nature of his painting mixed with the irreverent core that runs through it all ends up making the works both distinctive and haunting at the same time... Sophisticated collectors who would visit us [would] ask, 'How can you collect that guy?' ...Mark is the real deal, and more than any artist I have met, he crafts his life into his art and vice versa."
To be completely honest, when I talked about Erotic Art vs. Pornography, I braced myself for angry reactions from my audience in response to some rather graphic images I chose to illustrate my point that pornography raises only one issue while great artists dealing with erotic subjects raise the whole gamut of issues --moral, aesthetic, and artistic.
And here is the best response to that: "Sexuality viewed through different lenses reveals different perceptions be it science, religion, culture, or art. Picasso, at the end of his life, focused on his obsessions, but his wisdom also exposed the timeless obsessions of our culture. We have hybridized sex into such a finite cultural obsession when in actuality it is obviously the most necessary function for the survival of any species, from amoeba to human."
So, my friends, thank you for all your comments. Let me leave you with an ancient pearl of wisdom, which in its original Latin goes: "Ars longa, vita brevis." Which I like to translate as: Life is short, art is forever.
Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.