Art. Purpose? Craftsmanship?

 I  came across a review of Richard Tuttle’s work in Art In America magazine by Gregory Volk that articulated Tuttle as being “an inquiring poet of things” and earlier had referenced a commentary on him by Madeleine Grynsztejn that categorized him as being “part of the tradition of American Transcendentalism.”

This isn’t the most appropriate language for describing Tuttle’s work because saying his work is  “transcendental” means his work is about something other than itself. His work is about the objects themselves  and if his work is about about anything other than the materials used is about “not being able to do something well” as in good craftsmanship goes according to Tuttle himself in an Art 21 segment. 

So this is where we are in the art world and have been for quite sometime, since around the late 40’s, where one can call him/herself an artist and is supported by galleries and collectors, and intentionally makes work when the maker acknowledges he/she is not able to do something well. 

Having taught art in college I had a very different message, one that challenged my students to strive for good craftsmanship combined with intention. It’s a challenge to unpack the deceptive and misleading message of modernism advocated by  Tuttle and his contemporaries because this philosophy has now been in existence nearing 3 generations where fewer and fewer of those who hold to standards of craftsmanship and intention hold to standards of beauty and purpose manifested and represented by art.

It is common talk that “art is dead,” but I don’t necessarily agree with this sentiment because I do know of those artists who are making art today. I would say however that the Art World, or maybe art in America, is dead and has the chance to be resurrected if those who believe in standards of beauty and purpose in art practice it. But we have a lot of unpacking to do. 

-Robert Alsobrook


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