SOME THOUGHTS ON EVALUATING ART
We judge art by how we feel about the specific work in front of us. Whether it is a quick sketch,a careful and thoughtful drawing, or a finished “perfect” large oil painting. The measurement is the same. Feeling. How does it make us feel about that work we are looking at or listening to,If it is digging Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or The Lester Young solo on Pound Cake that he made with Count Basie, how that made us feel is how it is to be judged.
But we also judge on craft. Did the artist do that on purpose or is it that he cannot foreshorten correctly? Does his soft focus prints indicate that this will enhance the visual experience that the photographer is after or does it mean that the reason that everything is universally unsharp because the photographer cannot decide just what is important in this picture?
So we judge on ‘art’ and on ‘craft”. I listen almost exclusively to jazz. The accomplishment of a near perfect real improvisation can be breath taking. But not all who claim improvising are equal. And not every solo is equal. And not every soloist either.
We evaluate on our standards. A bass player I knew did not like and found annoying some trombone players love affair with glissandi. A lot of vibrato gets on my nerves. I find myself thinking that all those arpeggios are an indication, the player has no gift for melodic invention. (“He’s just playing scales man, “ I have heard said.)
Finding a really promising image on your contact sheet is a delightful experience. Even though it took several or many rolls of film to get that. And that the other 35 exposures are only so-so.Meaning that there is even less promise in those pictures. I look at pictures and listen to jazz and am sometimes pleased. But many picture makers and musicians do things that I just do not like.
PHOTOGRAPHY AND ART
In the nineteen sixties I started going to places to look at pictures. Museums and galleries. Since I was in the process of trying to master photography at that time I went to every place that showed any photographs. I expanded to looking at all forms of printmaking, wood block, etching, lithographs, and monochrome, drawing, etching, woodblock, (black and white) images.
It came to my attention that very often photographers didn’t know anything about art. The compositions were dull and cliched. When artists made photographs they had no understanding of craft. You saw sloppy work because in art schools the instructors didn’t know anything either. Go to a College art department’s gallery and look at the students work. It can be as embarrassing as listening to an opera singer try to sing a blues. They just cannot do it.
Snotty bastards feel that ‘artists’ can teach photography and photographers can’t teach art. As viewers and listeners we are not obligated to dig whats happening now. A young musician I knew trying to make a career did not know how to go about expressing what he felt about my buying a ‘new’ Charlie Parker record even though Bird had been dead for 30 years. The young painter trying to make a career and there you I am with a book of Rembrandt etchings. On the one hand I see that they want my dollars spent in their direction, on the other they recognize that they are not yet as good as Parker or Rembrandt.