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Book Art Criticism



Today's entertaining vellum discussion reminded me that our
field still suffers from a lack of critical discussion of
itself. In postings last month I mentioned some of the
important influences in the last quarter of the Twentieth
Centurty, and the few books about Artists' Books, which is
an important subset of the field. Betty Bright is working on
a History of Book Art, dealing with this time period, as an
evolution of her Ph.D. thesis.

But history is not criticism. Or should we say that only to
the extent that any art history is de facto criticism,
because history has shown us that academic points of view
stress one element or another, give priorities, include this
and exclude that, and are replaced or supplemented by newer
histories which delve into different areas, illuminating
facets previously hidden?

To the extent that historians get it right, and document who
created what and when, we are able to use those facts in
criticising work as original or derivative. But history will
not tell us which is better and why.

Is aesthetics anything more than taste and opinion? Are
there hard and fast rules, or even soft and fuzzy ones, that
can guide us in judging a work of art?

It's an important question to artists, collectors, curators,
writers and dealers.

The Book Art Movement has been gathering momentum for over
25 years. If it is to merge into the mainstream of Culture,
it has to evolve beyond patting each other on the back and
saying "isn't it wonderful!"  Art is not a popularity
contest. ;>}

Many of us have spent years agonizing over the decision of
which work is better, because we are curating an exhibit,
judging a competition, investing in an object, or examining
our own work to see if it's good enough to go out into the
world. After a while you get a feeling for it and people say
you have "a good eye." What does that mean?

There are a few simple tools I use in making these judgment
calls. I am wondering if any other list members are
interested in this subject and would like to develop a
dialogue about it on the book_arts-l.

--
        Richard
        http://minsky.com

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