Criticism, Opinion, and Contemporary Art

OK.  I have difficulty appreciating contemporary art.  I had difficulty appreciating disco music.  In the mid ’70’s it was disco or punk.  I had difficulty appreciating both the Bee Gees and Sid Vicious.  So in the mid ’70’s, I opted out of pop music.  For musical enjoyment, I retreated into the world of classical music in my protest/hermitage from pop culture.  And in large part, I’m opting out of contemporary art.  This includes conceptual art, much poetry, and fiction.  I can bear some contemporary music, probably because of all the arts, I understand music best.  But even in “music,” conceptual art such as John Cage is past my willingness to try to like.

Innovation gives birth to new art forms.  In high school, I didn’t understand Jackson Pollock, but like him now.  Fair to say, though, I wouldn’t hang his work in my condo.  My parents didn’t like rock music–disco or other any other form.  But I would argue that rock pushed an envelope that needed to be pushed.  And I’ll say that some classic rock is great in a pop sort of way.  I certainly wouldn’t want a world with only Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra.  So whatever contemporary art thinks it’s doing, it may be advancing the arts.  (Isn’t that generous of me?)  Few appreciated the Impressionists in their day.  But they did the art world a great service in moving painting beyond Gustave Moreau.  Maybe there’s something in the art that came through town which consisted of folding chairs interspersed with speakers through which a dreamy woman spoke about her dream of crows dying.?

A while back, I thought that my ideas about art were bona fide criticism.  I thought that my understanding of art constituted a critical stance and I thought that others should heed my critical positions.  But I now see that as ego.  My critical stance is really opinion.  I’ll validate my opinion that much in contemporary art is not worth my time.  But I won’t say that it’s bad art.  All I can say is that I don’t like it, don’t get it, don’t wish to take the time to get it.  What passes for art today may well be advancing forms that the children of my generation will love.  Or it might be like disco, and die out.  I don’t know.  Don’t think anyone can know.  What I can know is that my position is opinion.  I’d like to think it critical theory and call down the Harpies of the art world on everything I don’t like.  A few months ago, I would have.  Now, call it humility, maybe, but my preferences are mine alone.  Which frees me up to shrug off what I don’t think deserving of my time.  And to laud those who are doing things I don’t get.

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