Is this Art?

January 16th, 2010 | Posted by nicarius in Art theory | Drawings

A long time ago I was at work and I had a book on abstract painting. As a friend and I were scanning the pages our boss showed up. He looked at the book and smiled and started explaining us what was art and what wasn’t. Of course that was not the first time I heard somebody say that art is only figurative and or elaborated and not something that “my kid can do”.
Nonetheless I wanted to hear what he had to say. In the middle of his ramblings he grabbed a piece of  paper from the desk and drew a black “X” with his pen. “If that’s art…” -he said – “then this is art too…”. My friend, who by the way is a painter and was going through his abstract phase started arguing  with him and I don’t remember how it ended. Plus I had to get back to work.

Another day, I was reading a book about Van Gogh’s self portraits. This guy came and started flipping through the pages as if  it were “People’s magazine”.
I thought I knew what was coming next…but he really surprised me. He said and I quote “-esto para mi es un tipo con barba…” which means something like “this is just a guy with a beard…”. He was talking about Vincent Van Gogh self portraits. He really cracked me up. That phrase stuck up in my head forever. I still use it in certain situations as a funny remark.
By the way, on Wikipedia’s page on art there’s a Van Gogh self portrait.

This is what his drawing looked like

The point of this story is that everyone, artist or not, has an opinion on what is art.
I would like to hear yours:

Is this art?

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6 Responses

  • Alexander Supertramp says:

    According to Wikipedia’s page (where yes, Van Gogh’s self portrait is depicted) “Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way that appeals to the senses or emotions.”.
    In that sense, I believe that the drawing that you show is no different than any other piece of art. A more or less complex arrangement of elements (in this case white paper and black ink, I guess) that expresses something. In a deeper sense, the “X” itself could be conveying a multiplicity of things: a spot in an imaginary map, a name, a symbol with a negative connotation, or an infinite number of possibilities according to who’s exposed to it. From that point of view it could even be communicating MORE than Van Gogh’s self portrait.
    If we can accept that The International Klein Blue is “art” then I’d say it is fair enough to say that your boss created a great art piece with his “X”. (
    By the way, I’m getting to investigate and learn some things about art through this process, so thanks for that.

  • Hola Nico:

    Me parece que la discusion a la que te referis es como el tema del sexo de los angeles.Cada opinion tiene su valor.Que es arte?
    La definicion mas basica y a la que prefiero atenerme es a la mas abarcativa “Expresion del Hombre”.Pero es insuficiente.
    Si nos remitimos a las artes plasticas, en mi opinion la cuestion pasa por el gesto del hombre.Es decir.EL hacer objetual (cuadro,escultura,video,foto,instalcion y etcteras) son consecuencia de un gesto del hombre con una intencion expresiva.Si se materializan en un objeto o no es poco importante.Si es abstracto o no tambien.La antinomia abstraccion/figuracion sigue confundiendo la cuestion.Basicamente se considera que la abstraccion es la ausencia de una ilusion.Es decir de una forma de relato.En un momento la abstraccion se la asocio a las formas puras y mas universales y la figuracion a lo mas mundano.Ahora en este momento como los circulos van girando la onda es la figuracion.Pero ambas son arte.Quien dude de eso directamente esta en una fase de ignorancia absoluta.Lo que hizo tu jefe no es arte definitivamente.No por que las lineas cruzadas como una representacion en si misma no puedan serlo,si no por que el gesto de el no fue artistico.No tuvo intencion de hacer arte.Ojala yo pudiera pintar lo que pintan los nenes de 3 años.El arte para mi basicamente es el hacer con intencion de arte.Que queda despues de eso…puede ser la nada misma.El gesto del que hizo arte es infinito.La obra es un objeto.Puede ser destruido.Pero el arte de esa obra no se fue.
    Me gustaria pasar una discusion que puede despejar la antinomia.
    Joseph Beuys – I like america and America likes me-
    El señor Beuys realiza una performance que queda apenas queda materializada en un video que solo sirve de prueba de que la obra existio, el video no es la obra, el gesto y puesta en escena de JB y el relato son la obra, despues la obra como objeto no existio nunca.La obra fue compartir la celda con el lobo.Ir a USA pasar una noche con el lobo y volver a alemania, tiene miles de interpretaciones, hay libros enteros, realmente no importa mucho eso.Todo un gesto.Esto es arte? Definitivamente y no solo en mi opinion si no el consenso de el mundo del arte lo es.
    Lei recien que el Blue Klein puede ser arte entonces la X tambien…Alexander, el Sr Klein paso años de su vida, es mas la dejo por exprimentar con todo tipo de mediums de pintura para conseguir ese color.En la fundacion Klem hay originales.No es un Azul cualquiera y tiene tanta expresividad como VG,,,El Greco , Da Vinci o cualquier artista de cualquier epoca de la historia del arte.Como Joseph Beuys.Ahora cualquiera puede gustarle una cosa o la otra no mas o menos.Pero dudar de determinados gestos artisticos??? Cuestionar IK…no por el nombre..por la obra….creo que Klein vivio 34 años y hizo 600 obras de todo tipo.Con lanzallamas, perfomaticas, pinturas antropomorficas (con el cuerpo humano),monocromos con oro, monocromos rosa, monocromos azul, saltos al vacio con tomas de judo…..Cuadros desmaterializados….Puso en bastidor en el techo de su auto y anduvo por la ruta exprimentando que cosas se pegaban en el bastidor…no me alcanza la memoria para todo lo que hizo en su corta vida…..
    Puede no gustarte….pero…por ejemplo a mi la fotografia no me engancha…tengo mis razones…..pero es arte.Podria justificar por que a mi no me engancha pero no hace a la discusion.La discusion de fondo es por que una obra de arte es calificada de “buena” o una mierda? basicamente por como esta organizado el mundo del arte.Existen instancias que legitiman una obra de arte.Escuelas de arte, Curardores, Galeristas, Criticos, Coleccionistas,Talleres etc…..Si estoy de acuerdo con como VG paso desapercibido para el mundo del arte hasta despues de su muerte y como las instancias de legitimizacion entronizan cualquier mierda y descubren genialidades ? En general no.Pero es la realidad.

    Un abrazo

  • Ana Marie Cabre says:

    I think in that special occasion that X is not ART. He drew it just to make a point. To me EVERYTHING that transmit something is ART. It can be a picture from a nobody, a building, even a drawing of my son are expression of ART because reflect a mood, a search of the beauty or an idea.
    I found very interesting your post and comments.

  • This subject is a can of worms.

    Personally, I have a hard time connecting to abstract art and tend to get very upset at some things I see in museums… that being said, I go back to what Alexander said in the first post: “… appeals to the senses or emotions”.

    While a lot of abstract art does not appeal to my senses or emotions in any way, I do not discard that it may do that for many others, and for the artist himself.

    I have a big problem with art that relies too much on the ideas and displays no technique (such as the X, and “my child could do it” cases)… and also on art that display amazing technique but is nothing more than a replica of a scene and displays no thought behind it… but that only shows what appeals to me, and does not define what should or should not be called art.

    It’s in the eye of the beholder… as they say… just because it’s a Van Gogh doesn’t mean I can’t find it ugly… with more knowledge about the artist and piece, more appreciation may come… but everyone is free to “connect” to art or not… as long as they don’t say “This is not art!” …

    Hope I made sense…

    (I like your stuff by the way, it’s definitely art as far as I’m concerned… lol)


  • Megan says:

    That is a powerful statement for a self-portrait. I wish Van Gogh would have been my client.

  • nicarius says:

    Andre, I honestly couldn’t agree more.
    I can connect to art when is more personal that in a way I am connecting to the artist himself.
    I feel something stronger when I find myself in the artist shoes.
    Anyway, I won’t say if this is art or not for me because I want to hear it from everybody else without influencing anybody (since I’m the guy who created this post).
    Thank you for taking the time to write about this.
    Nico W.

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