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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution

Davis, Douglas M.
Notes and discussion: the critic now,   pp. 357-359 PDF (1.8 MB)

Page 357

Cubism, but at times you can't
define a "movement," a tendency, an
"Ism" so much in terms of its results
and have to consider it in terms of
the artist's intention . . . . in recent
years more and more I've been
interested in 'fractioning,' breaking
up colors. I'm not as interested now as I
was in textures. I suppose I'm going
toward OP, have been since 1966,
but at my own speed and in my own way.
That's the only way it's legitimate, I
think, if I arrive at it myself. You
know that Verdi never listened to
Wagner, avoided him at all costs, not
because he though he wouldn't like
Wagner, but because he was afraid
he'd like him too much, that he'd fall
under his spell. But still, he arrived
at some Wagnerian grandeur himself
didn't he-think of Othello, Falstaff
... . Of course Latin American
art has been absorbed by abstractionism
in the last few years. Look at Tamayo,
I try to avoid too much sophistication, try
to keep concentrating on 'feeling,' on
the directness of emotion . . . for me
that's the only way I can guarantee my
own sincerity and 'purity' of
expression . . . ."
"But always with an eye on the
'market,' " I said with a smile.
His answer was a little bitter. Not
much, he had it under control, but the
bitterness was there.
"With the Sol devaluated and the cost
of living rising at 15% a month I
suppose you have to keep an eye on
the market just to survive."
A Statement by Douglas M. Davis
The impasse we have now reached as
critics goes much deeper than
terminology. The dissatisfaction expressed
on every hand by artists, younger critics,
and the audience is symptomatic of
more than cultural lag, though lag there
is. In a time when art is ready to
deny even that it is art, criticism retreats
into itself. In a time when art opens
out to embrace a universe beyond
logic, criticism retreats to formal
rhetoric. The best we seem able to do
is play games with structures and
viewpoints proper to the machine and
not the computer age. The worst
we do is indulge the childish needs of
a society still hungry for judgments:
the paradox of our time is that as
we learn to soften the rigid categories
of morality and legality, we harden
our esthetics.
But there are clues to a new attitude in
the making. Clues telling us that
criticism must invade art as art is
invading life. "I am not interested
in passing out grades to works of art,"
writes Susan Sontag. In work like this,
pleads Dick Higgins, in behalf of
Benjamin Patterson, Philip Corner, Allison
Knowles, and Tomas Schmidt, "where
the technical skills required to do the
best of the work are frankly replaced
by skill in embodying ideas, is it asking
too much that the people who will
crilicise this kind of work be, like the
artist, at least somewhat skilled in
handling these kinds of ideas?"
Here are the ideals that can start us

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