I asked Lawrence Argent and he agreed. I chose Argent because I think he is one of the best public artists in the USA. But the new method of critique may not sit well with him or other artists.
Past articles at Aesthetic Grounds have addressed a number of important concepts to this method: vernacular, plagiarism, popular photography and imaginative connotative associations. Now Ottoman and Persian painting traditions and comparative analysis join the group. Hidden behind all are humane ethics, American philosophical pragmatism, cognitive psychology and the New York City critical writing tradition that I learned from books, friends and my late cousin, Frederick Ted Castle.
Kenneth Frampton taught the comparative analysis to me when I was a student at Columbia University. As a young architecture critic in the early 1960s, Frampton developed a system of writing critiques of two buildings at the same time. The comparative method permits the writer to demonstrate ideas to the “outsiders.” Comparison or reference to other things is essential, except possibly for writing exercises of pure description. Frampton could clarify his ideas to readers by pointing to the specific similarities and differences, and then explore the reasons why.
Generally other critiques refer back to works and ideas that only the “insiders” know. This is especially frustrating when the writer refers to visual things that are not presented. Critical writing in magazines, newspapers, TV and the web have a strong prejudice in favor of visual images only of the thing(s) under critique. Of course, this is sensible with limited space and a “news” perspective in which presenting other images would be confusing to the skimmer and channel changers.
In regards to Ottoman and Persian tradition, I know nothing except for my observations drawn from Orphan Pamuk’s “My Name is Red”. Pamuk explores the 16th century when Italian painting of the Renaissance starts to appeal to Sultan as an improvement over traditional miniature painting. The eye of man seeks to displace the vision of God, as the Turkish workshop master concludes.
Don’t read too much news media assault on Islam into this concept. Think more of the “vision of God” as a consistency in style, materials and symbolism to depict legends and contemporary imperial life and events. Remember, Islam does not permit painting of images, so these artists were always a little outside the orthodoxy, even if personally devout.
Without engaging in a post-modern dialogue, it appears to me that most of the artists in the world create new works through their chosen tradition of style, materials and symbolism. The tiny minorities of paradigm busting artists don’t use the “eye of man” on the world, but rather mix styles, materials and symbols from art and non-art human-made physical and virtual stuff. In a Hindu-ization of the Ottomans, we paint with the visions of many gods.
With Frampton, the Pamuk’s Ottomans and the other concepts, I will provide the visual comparisons and assumed traditions. Originality will be specific and linked more to freshness than difference. The methods to achieve intensity on emotion and bring lively connotations to our minds will be examined. The critique will not have the concentrated celebration or disappointment on the single artist, but rather seeks a broader knowledge and ways of connections bought to life by considering the artwork.
I guess I will write in daily doses, as I did not even get to Argent’s big blue bear or stone pillows. But re-look at the essays on Richard Serra at MOMA and you will find these same concepts as writers strive to connect with an ever-wider audience enjoying public art and public space.