|by Neill Dennis|
The question was recently posed whether people should feel guilty for calling a piece of artwork "bad", as if the notion of passing judgement on such an intangible and subjective item was not only impossible but wrong.
Abstract Art, Contemporary Art, and most other forms or art is now an open field. Common opinions of bad and good often are directed by the fashions of the times and art is now clearly a subjective thing.
However within the world of art, there is a troubling trend. Many people have become scared to say, "I think that is good or that is bad." Viewers go into galleries and say, "I don't know what I like. Please tell me what is good. But how it is possible for people to abdicate their own opinions. The truth is many people are intimidated by the over-intellectualization that has gone on among critics, to the point where the real art is in the written prose of the reviewers' essays instead of the particular piece they are reviewing. Even worse are the viewers who are influenced by the pseudo-politically-correct "open-mindedness" attitude that scares them from passing judgement or are uncomfortable with the uncertainty in art.
The truth is that good merely means "I like" and bad means "I dislike". The abstract art. contemporary and other art worlds require the concepts of subjective good and bad, because that is what drives the desire for improvement and the hard work that goes with it. Without judgements, we would be surrounded by mediocrity.
We need to be comfortable with the terms good and bad, and also understand their meanings and limitations. We need to be accepting of others' opinions, and be willing to listen and possibly change their own. Opinions, shared ideas, and discourse drive progress and keep great art flowing forth.
Robert Henri in The Art Spirit, 1923
"The man who has honesty, integrity, the love of inquiry, the desire to see beyond, is ready to appreciate good art. He needs no one to give him an art education; he is already qualified. He needs but to see pictures with his active mind, look into them for the things that belong to him, and he will find soon enough in himself an art connoisseur and an art lover of the first order."