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12 December 2010


An Idea

Art is a beautiful representation of a truth.

Michael Anderson


Great topic. Thanks for throwing it out there.

My first career was in theatre art, culminating with a stint at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Association and time spent working in movies and TV in LA and SF, until I decided to move to a career in computer technology after becoming frustrated with the abject commercialization and degradation of the performance genre in the USA. It was either that or move to Europe, which my uncritical love for all things California prevented.

So, I have a long-standing love and appreciation for the form and content of art. Is there such a thing as bad art? And if so, what is its measure? Along the ascending serial line of aesthetic and lyrical accomplishment, does "art" cross a line from "bad" to "good?" And if the art is bad, is it even art at all? I believe this is the question to which you are calling for a response.

I will continue once I have received confirmation that I am on the correct path. Thanks George.

Michael A.

George Rebane

Michael, please do explore the 'bad' aspect of art. According to my lights and the given definition, art is bad to the extent that it only weakly takes you out of the here/now and issues no compelling invitation to behold again.

D. King

I’m going to go out on a limb, metaphorically
speaking, and call this; not art.


RL Crabb

What is art?...Trying to define it is like trying to describe a rainbow to a blind man. Or perhaps interpreting God...Everyone has their own visualization or else they don't believe in it at all.

Art is a disease to the artist...All-consuming...Physically and mentally debilitating...Agony and ecstacy...There is no cure, and we wouldn't take it if there was one.

Most of us are crazy, self-indulgent, ego-maniacs. In any properly organized society we'd be put to sleep.

Instead, our imaginings are put upon pedastals and admired centuries after we are gone. (I've been to the Getty Museum. Those Greeks were pretty good pornographers.)

Give it up, George. Don't try to figure it out. Most of the time we don't know what the hell we're trying to say, and the frustrating thing is that most people will see something different than what we were trying to say anyway.

"We know that the tail must wag the dog,
for the horse is drawn by the cart;
But the devil whoops, as he whooped of old:
'It's clever, but is it Art?'"

RL Crabb

Oops...The quote is Rudyard Kipling's.

Michael Anderson

"Michael, please do explore the 'bad' aspect of art."

OK George, I will give it my best shot. I had to do a little research, and talk to some of my buddies in the art world, in order to get my ducks in a row.

First of all, we must differentiate between "craft" and "art." Craft is one thing, art is another. This is easily quantifiable. Craft is about expertise and utility. Art is about uselessness.

Bad art is not craft, it is just shameful pandering. Bad craft is not morally bereft while bad art most certainly is. Bad art is fraud and graft, and it steals from a most tender part of our souls.

I am disappointed that your post has not elicited more comments thus far. IMHO, this subject is far more important to the human experience/experiment than anything regarding today's petty politics.

D. King

"IMHO, this subject is far more important to the human experience/experiment than anything regarding today's petty politics."

Very well said Michael.

George Rebane

Agreed that having a crisp understanding of such important cultural (and human) notions as Art is important. I’m not ready to accept that art has no utility, for it is often used to instill and maintain sentiments useful to a nation, a culture, an institution, …, sentiments that motivate and uphold useful (critical?) human behaviors. Think of patriotic statues, paintings, music, … .

And that was the objective of the original exchange which produced my definition of art. We wanted to see whether it was possible to identify some internally experienced but externally observable metric. We wanted to avoid subjective descriptors with no discernible common understanding. And we wanted the definition to be independent of culture since all cultures create art (don’t they?).

I’m not sure that my offering covers the waterfront on art, but I hope it takes a step in the right direction. My own feeling has always been that if some notion/concept/... is included in human language, then it should and can be defined. Defined at least to the ‘this not that’ level that allows people to discriminate its existence, location, or occurrence.


kim pruett

My brother is an artist. He has an unusual style that some do not understand but I think it is beautiful. I think art is in the eye of the beholder.

Account Deleted

"Art is about uselessness". Hmmmm... Is art useless? There are no useful things that are art?
Please expand/explain.

RL Crabb

Is there such a thing as bad art? Is it bad because of the emotion it elicits? Let me give you an example...

I was watching the news one day when a story comes on about Cheeta, the chimp best known as Johnny Weissmuller's sidekick in the Tarzan movies of the thirties and forties. He was seventy at the time, and happily retired in Palm Springs.

Not content to lie around the pool, he took up painting. He chose abstracts as his vehicle, and was quite prolific. At one point, he had enough canvasses to populate a gallery, and his show was a stunning success. Rich collectors snapped his works, and he generously donated the profits to benefit animals that weren't as fortunate as he had been.

I can never properly express the emotions I felt that day. It started with envy and ended with utter disgust. I mean, here was this #@*!! monkey selling blobs of paint for three thousand bucks a pop, and I'm eating hamburger. Clearly, he wasn't selling art, just celebrity. It turned my stomach.

However, I did get a good cartoon out of it, so I guess you could say it wasn't ALL bad.

Account Deleted

Well. it looks like the chimp being passed off as Cheeta from the Tarzan movies is baloney. Probably born around 1960 and never appeared in any movie. Anyway, I feel that his paintings are rather unstructured and lack the visceral impact of a Pollock or Rauschenberg. He seems to work mostly in an imitative vein and one could not consider his works to be of great value.

RL Crabb

Yeah, I'll bet he was really born in Kenya.

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