Response to From Criticism to Complicity

This will be my final response. I am responding to a group discussion between six leading members of the New York art scene of the 1980s: Jeff Koons, Philip Taaffe, Ashley Bickerton, Haim Steinbach, Sherrie Levine and Peter Halley. Moderated by artist Peter Nagy in 1986, the group discussed the shifting times in the art world, namely the changes brought about by Postmodern art.

Each artist took turns to discuss a topic within the art world that they feel strongly about: the shifting tone of the art scene, the new generation and the way they break away from tradition , the political issues of the time and how they influence art, capturing the attention of the general public, and how capitalist culture is affecting  artists and their work. Among the points of discussion was the Picture generation, a group of artists who uses imagery for their artwork. The work of the Picture group is contrasted to the recent work that was  being produced at the time.

Each artist is given ample time to say their piece and get their point across, with another sliding in with a response to the other’s point of view. Near the end, Nagy, Steinbach, Koons, Bickerton and Levine discuss capitalist culture and how it affects art; is it the anxiety of the sculpture or the anxiety of the artist? Steinbach points out that much of this anxiety was within all of them, and how they struggle with the reality of the changing times in art in the 80s. That everything, even art, had a price value and was considered a commodity. So the question raised is how the artist views the object (their piece of art); is it a consumer object, art object, fetish object or something more? What is an artist’s relationship with their artwork?

This was a common concern for artists in the 80s, as they wonder if their art was something that was meant to be made to make money or for artist expression. It was half and half, as most artists needed the money and gave in to capitalist culture, while other sought to create art for it’s own sake and hoped that alone would draw an audience.

Levine said it best, “it’s a no man’s land that a lot of us enjoy moving around in, and the thing is not to lose your sense of humor, because it’s only art”. Levine is saying that art is art, regardless of intention or purpose, and one shouldn’t lose one’s sense of humor or sense of self.

I feel her words are most relevant now, as art is still progressing, whether it’s used for commercial purposes or artistic purposes. Art will stay forever, long after the artist is gone.



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