Artist/Painter/Passionate Chronicler/AnInstrument of War

During the 20th century to the present time, artists have been very cognizant of the fact that they have an opportunity to comment on the human condition.  One of the great contributions of the Pacific Standard Time (PST) exhibition we have been focused on this Fall 2017 semester is the range/depth of curating an installation of Southern California artists many of whom took the responsibility of being contemporary commentators.  These highlighted artists in PST have accepted what Pablo Picasso said some years ago about what an artist is.  “What do you think an artist is?  An imbecile who only has eyes, if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles?  Far from it:  at the same time he is also a political being constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image.  How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly?  No, painting is not done to decorate apartments.  It is an instrument of war.”

What are your thoughts/insights/ideas/comments regarding Picasso and his clarion call to be a commentator of one’s era?  Is art decorative and meant to be placed over the couch?  Or is art far more significant and substantial within the cultural context of its time?  Your thoughts please.

Author: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

13 thoughts on “Artist/Painter/Passionate Chronicler/AnInstrument of War”

  1. I think that art can be both actually. I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with using art as a decoration. However, I think it is even better when the art reflects the culture of the region. So for instance if the couch’s decorations embodied everything culturally about the region then I think that is a proper way to use art. I think the problem is that some people use art mindlessly without a purpose. Without a message then art becomes almost meaningless..

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  2. I feel that a decor piece lowers the value of art but at least it is appreciated no matter what contents it is in. I feel that people dont know what they are looking at until they reach the item. A person could be sitting on a goldmine of art as a decor piece without knowing any history the person would not blink an eye at all.

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  3. Art has its purposes as a piece to be hung over a kitchen table or in a living room, but the best pieces have intentions and will make viewers think. Art has always reflected the social climate and whenever society is harsh is when art is needed the most. Art is not only for one’s viewing pleasure. It can be used as a vehicle for wanted change, and an outlet to express an artists stance on an issue. Works of art are capable of sparking entire political movement and should not be the least bit underestimated.

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  4. I agree with Picasso’s thoughts on what art is. Art isn’t always just a decorative piece to be placed in any random spot in someone’s house, but it has the power to promote change in our society. I think art is typically more powerful when it is significant of its cultural context. When we see artworks that were made centuries ago and reflects the social climate of that time, it has a bigger impact because we get to see the artist’s thoughts on the issues. Because the art has some kind of social significance, it is able to hold its relevance for centuries to come.

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  5. I agree with Picasso in that art should serve more than decoration and that artists should contribute their voice, views, and bring context to issues.

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  6. As is everything in life, objects have perceived value. Value to art is only as much as the viewer gives it. While I would like to agree that art should be more than a decoration above a couch, the intention of the viewer ultimately decides its purpose. Art has the power to promote and convey ideas, but if the buyer wants to use it as decor then it is decor. An example I would like to use it my experience seeing one of Shepard Fairey’s first screenprints in an apartment. Shepard Fairey is one of my favorite artists and I asked the owner if he was a fan of his work as well. Turns out he was just a rich man who thought it looked cool above his bar. If an art collector owned this piece it would have been appreciated completely differently, but consequently was left as decoration.

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  7. One should always have a something to say about their current era even if it’s nothing at all. A feeling should be provoked and that’s something that I stand with Picasso. Art to me can be both decorative and not, but most importantly I believe it’s important in order to shape the opinions and thought of those who view it. That’s something I crave and aspire to do in my artwork. I think that these kind of desires can have a lasting effect over time and should be something to take into consideration when inventing new work.

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  8. I feel art is far more significant and substantial within the cultural context of its time and way more then just something to look at above the couch. Most famous pieces of art history have marked the era in which it came from. This is a crucial part to our existence has human beings. An artist is more then just his/her definition, they are people who live in the world like any other. The difference is, they want to leave a piece of history behind as they saw life during the creation of their work. Time evokes emotion, which produces creation.

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  9. There are piece’s of art that can be seen as having only a purpose to decorate a wall behind a couch, such as a painting of a bowl of fruit or a vase with flowers. There are also beautiful centerpieces that are placed at the center of a table. Or Even a wreath on a door is an artistically decorative piece. However, most art has other purposes such as sculptures of famous figures to remind people of who they were and what great things they accomplished. Or a series of paintings hung in a gallery to be seen and interpreted as the viewer see them. There is also digital art such as movies, video games or music that are meant to affect our senses and bring about a certain feeling that can only be experienced through those mediums. Art is not one thing, but many ideas brought together in the form of a piece or multiple pieces to communicate a message or story that can be viewed or experienced by one or many

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  10. I think that art is more than being simply decorative, but due to the commercial out pour it has been reduced to simply a monument of how much money you have or how sophisticated you are. Everything has moved away from finding the meaning behind things and only about money. The best comparison I can think of is Christmas or Valentines Day. Both of these holidays have turned into chaotic nightmares where the only thing is how much money you spent trying to buy someone the “perfect” gift. And then if you don’t you’re condemned for it. Art, at least to non-artists, is nothing more than a beautiful showpiece to take up that space on the wall. (generally speaking at least) Most people don’t see the interior meaning behind things nor do they even think about it. They simply glance over it once and if it catches their attention they buy it-but rarely do they ever actually look at it and take the time to see why they enjoy it so much.

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  11. I think that it all depends on the viewer or audience. Art can be perceived as both decorative and have significant meaning. The artists creating the piece I think, think of their pieces as something more than just decorative. Many artists create art in response to something usually. If the viewer acknowledges and understands this, then an art piece becomes more than just decorative. However, many people as well see paintings and other works simply as a form of decoration. Like I said, I think that it all depends on how one views art or a certain piece of art.

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  12. Art that is purely decorative is kitsch, not necessarily “fine art” but that doesnt make it any less valid. Many artists of the pop or abstract movement wanted to challenge the notion of what we consider art. Their work wasn’t necessarily political, but still made a comment about something. I dont prescribe to the notion that ALL art has to be “deep” or political. Art is just a form of expression, and what each person finds interesting or worthwhile is different, and just because it isnt necessarily world-changing doesnt make it less valid. Sometimes a poem about love is simply about love, and not war. And sometimes artwork wants to be just artwork and not a statement.

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  13. I can see art as both, however I believe that the best artists are the ones that provokes one’s emotion, for good or for bad. I believe that the most amazing pieces of art out there illustrate ideas, point’s of views, memories, etc. I agree with Deeana Lee: “…the art that has some kind of social significance, it is able to hold its relevance for centuries to come.”

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