Art Lies, Volume 32, Fall 2001 Page: 2
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For the 2001 fall issue of ArtLies, we asked curators,
writers and artists to submit essays focusing on a specific
work that personally interests them. What moves us and
causes deeply felt sentiment? To understand oneself and
the place and time within which one lives and dreams, to
make the viewer not just more responsive to the visual
world, but more responsible in the real one are among
the issues raised today. Some critics argue that art can't
change a life or a public policy. But it can change our
way of thinking, the way we look at and examine the
world. We go to art as a way of addressing very deep,
intimate, elusive and ineffable ideas in a communal
place. Art serves as a carrier of some magical force, a
conveyor of language, identity and communication.
Indeed, to be an artist at the beginning of this century is
to assume an immense load of cultural baggage. We sim-
ply know too much. Our willingness, however, to take on
that burden makes it possible to inhabit the art and to
discover in it a means to give substance to consciousness.
The times right now are diverse, fragmented, irritating
and frustrating. The times demand a lot from us. So how
does art assign and transmit meaning?
For these writers, at least, art is still about searching,
questioning and looking. Learning to look-it sounds
simple-and some critics would have us believe that it is
simple. But the hardest thing right now about art is to
get people to look at it. It's a battle to make people want
to get into a work, to understand what it's about and
then, hopefully, acknowledge that the time spent was well
worth the effort. Looking, of course, requires patience
and curiosity. It means thinking about the work long
after you've left the gallery or museum and you're driv-
ing in the car or doing some household chore. You know
you've really looked at a work when it keeps nagging at
you. It agitates, even alienates. The image is burned in
your memory and you derive some kind of strength from
it. What is the context of the work? What is its signifi-
cance? For what reasons was this made? And for whom?
What does it tell us about the social or cultural milieu?
Looking requires identifying systems of reference, situat-
ing works in their specific contexts and producing
connections with other fields. But it also takes time to
develop active trust, opening yourself to the premise of a
work to test its truth.
I'm talking about art that removes us from the realm
of easily, readily verbalized concepts into the realm of
ideas. We approach a work of art as if it possesses a
knowledge that might enable us to gain insight into a
theory. We cling to art that moves us with what can only
be called belief. Art that says something and makes us
hopeful. Art that shows a strength of commitment, a
generosity of energy. But also an art that is allowed to go
out and play. What exudes confidence, inspiration and
real aesthetic pleasure versus the hackish, overbearing,
fake, the pointless?
Times change, of course, and so do our perceptions.
We are affected by life circumstances, by growing older.
This often means going back to familiar works and
checking how our relationship with them has changed
over the years. Like anything, we tend to view them with
a different perspective or shifting relevance at various
points of our lives. The nine essays included in this issue
would still seem gracious and meaningful were it not a
time of crisis. In light of the atrocities of recent weeks,
these observations on human nature, on an unsettled
social and biological climate, are startlingly topical. All
of the essays seem more knowing about the ways in which
art can address the griefs as well as the confusions and
consolations of the present situation. To be transcendent,
art must be able to distill one's reality and make it avail-
able to others, moving in that sense from sharply
observed specificities to the generality of a broader com-
prehension. These curators, writers and artists aim to
form a connective tissue between community and work.
In doing so, they preserve the promise of art with a
keenness of vision that surpasses the trendiness of any
particular moment. Give yourself to the art, they suggest,
rather than try to bend it to some preconceived use, and
it will yield things that will defy account.
Here’s what’s next.
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Bryant, John & Huerta, Benito. Art Lies, Volume 32, Fall 2001, periodical, 2001; Houston, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228062/m1/4/: accessed July 6, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; .