Blog: Does Art Belong to the Individual/Artist or to Society?

Christine Alfery

Posted on December 04 2017

Blog: Does Art Belong to the Individual/Artist or to Society?

Featured image: Crumpled Papers

There has never really been a need for art. Especially, as we understand the concept of art today. Visual images, including 3-dimensional images are used and talked of today as a visual language, an historical document, a political ideology, a psychological outlet, so if these visual images are how the concept of art is understood, known and used today there has been a definite shift away from a concept of art as an independent, unique form as the artists of the 60’s understood and knew the concept of art. The shift, or the now divide between the art as a product of culture and society from an individual unique entity is not a new shift.

When did the concept of art change from the economic need to illustrate the prominence of a king, and the economic need of an artist to purchase paints and put food on the table? I pinpoint this change occurring when the prominent stopped supporting an artisan's needs and when these artisans stopped painting for the needs of others but rather for the needs of themselves.

The visual documentation of a time that was produced by skilled technicians and craftspeople was never thought of as art, rather, it was the visual documentation by an artisan. The artisan was judged by their mastery of rendering reality. The portrait of the king would look exactly like a king, perhaps embellished by the needs of the king, but nevertheless the portrait would still resemble a king and what a king or priest represented. The skill of the artisan’s ability to capture reality, and desired reality included composition, and shadows, lighting, contrasts. The idea of the portrait being a work of art did not exist. The idea of a master technician did. Visual documentations of this sort, then and today belong to society, a collective, not the independent, individual artisan.

It was when artists began to question the reality of their enslavement to rules, and subjects, compositions and ideologies, it was when the artisans began to question what they were seeing and how they were seeing it, it was when objects, of landscapes began appearing with the artisans personal style injected into their work, dismissing the need for real to look like reality, dismissing the idea of technical skill to qualify a visual work as good or bad that the concept of a visual object shifted from to a discovery of otherness and the concept artisan shifted to the concept of artist. An artist creates a work of art and the visual work becomes art not visual historical documentation. Since then art has been understood as a stylized interpretation of an artist and the notion of art has belonged to the individual artist and not society.

So how is the concept of art known today seems to be the question that artists and those who define art today are struggling with? Since Duchamp’s bicycle and urinal, since Rauschenberg and John’s mono prints and use of common objects in their work the shift from how the artists of the 60’s knew and understood art this question has remained. Artists of the 60’s understood art as the aesthetic.

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