The Laws of Nature

Friday, March 29, 2013

Goya - a precursor to Serrano?

Book Review

Art Theory: A Very Short Introduction by Cynthia Freeland
Chapter 1, Section 6:   Goya – a precursor?

Freeland moves us into a discussion – a “prequel” if you will – that gives us further insight into Serrano. She leads us into the past world of Francisco Goya y Lucientes (1746- 1828), a contemporary of Hume and Kant.
The official painter to the King of Spain, Goya’s life endured political upheavals and wars. His works sometimes showed it in battle scenes, symbolism through martyrs, slaughter, and so on. His work was confrontational. It wasn’t meant to provide a pleasant viewing experience, but rather to make a statement – to, at times, depict moral depravity.
He said of himself:  Censoring human errors and vices – although it seems the preserve of oratory and poetry – may also be a worthy object of painting.
Goya personally witnessed atrocities and he had a viewpoint to express about them.

Evidently, later in life, Goya became deaf after a serious illness. The aesthetic result of this was his “Black Paintings” which were painted on the walls of a room in his home. This is his most disturbing work (take a look at Saturn Devouring One of His Sons). Freeland writes of these works: It would be sheer dogma to deny that Goya has stopped being a good artist because such works are painful or because their moral point seems obscure.

So, this brings us back to Serrano and Lippard’s defense of his work (see last post). Both artists exhibit skill, training, thought, and careful preparation. So, I ask myself, does this make it art? Yes, I say. Does this make it “good” art? What’s “good” art???

And, what are your thoughts?


hw (hallie) farber said...

I do like Goya's dark paintings; and some of mine are dark and hidden. Maybe "time distance" is necessary.

Celeste Bergin said...

I guess no one person can "be in charge" of determining "what is art". Once I was watching a demonstration by a super-good artist. He did something that we didn't expect. Maybe he added black or something (I can't remember now what it was)...whatever it was it was something against convention. The artist fielded some questions about his decision. In the end he said "Well, I always do what I want, because there is no Federation of Artists Organization who can have me arrested or anything." Of course, everyone laughed...but in retrospect it was a very serious comment. Many times we operated as if there is a Federation that can impart rules over us. "Disturbing art" is art to whomever thinks it is.