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Re: Book Art vs. Book Arts

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Hello list members:

I've enjoyed very much the recent Book Art vs. Book Arts discussion and would
like to add a couple of comments and responses of my own:

> Compassion and art criticism should not join forces. I'm glad to see that my
> essay has aroused interest. I got one private note admonishing me about
> getting political.

I think it's a shame that a list member was "admonished" by bringing the
political/institutional end of things into, of all things, the art world. Sort
of like the recent debate on this list over advertising vs. information
exchange and the one subscriber who was characterized as being interested only
in receiving info about Fax machines, nothing more. No interest in info over
toner cartridges, fax machine repairs, in-transit distortion, etc.ójust fax
machines. Got it, Bubba?

> I did not mean to use the list as a forum for a political
> discussion, but to point out that art criticism is often influenced by
> factors that don't have much to do with what artists do when they create it.
> Therefore we should be very wary of professional and institutional
> definitions and rely on what we, as artists, know to be art.

"...what we, as artists, know to be art."

That's just the point. I'm no art historian (had a few classes during my
Bachelor's degree studies), but I wonder, for instance, what Matisse thought he
was doing when he started cutting up colored paper (I don't think this stuff
was handmade, acid-free stuff either!) and made large collages with it. (What
kind of glue did he use? Archival? Why didn't he just use paint to create these
compositions? Is that the same kind of paper my six year-old daughter uses at
school during art period?). My point is, I agree that it is a danger when
attempting to create, uh, art that one will stifle oneself to inactivity by
thinking too much ahead of time what the work will become in relation to what
currently critically is referred to as "Art". This determination slides around
and has no concern, I would imagine, for coinciding in a timely manner with our
lifetimes and/or our deaths (it's 1:49 p.m. here). At base, the argument that
the presence of one's own handwriting in a creative expression should somehow
take into account the already well documented history of calligraphy (in order
to be taken seriously) just makes my mind go a bit blank. Beauty is not always
found chumming around with tradition.

To respond to the question that I think originated this whole discussion: after
reading many of the responses and sort of pondering over it myself, my gut
feeling is that Book Arts seems to sit better than the term Book Art, without
"s", perhaps simply because being at the edge of an effort to draw another art
borderline (-ism(s)) makes me a bit crazy. I'm not a critic.  I for one try (I
try) not to worry so much anymore about the differences between "craft" and
"art" anymore. For me, these distinctions are as hard to pull apart from one
another as it is to separate the terms "art" and "(graphic, industrial)
design". For these reasons, to acknowledge that the creation of a book can pull
from so many corners, I think the term Book Arts sounds better. Book Art
(without s) sounds a bit like a name where no name could be found. It's too
simple, removing the s. It's like the difference between  "Performing Arts"
(conjures up general images of music, dance, theater; a bit crafty) and
"Performance Art" (now that sounds more...critical!) Then again, the term
Performance Art has certainly stuck around, hasn't it?

One more thing. I am thinking about one thing concerning what we call craft: do
critics ever make it a habit of examining the quality of stretcher bars or
methods of attaching canvas to frames when pondering the artistic qualities of
a painting? The mark-making is good; the use of color, nice. But the stretcher
bars look like they were purchased at Hallmark.

Cal Smith
thinker publications.

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