Is there a such thing as Bad Art?
This question often leads to heated debates among artists and critics alike. I have seen what I consider to be bad art. I have made what I consider to be bad art. But because I may think it is bad art, does that mean it really is bad art? Is that old statement true, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”? Then the next question would be, does good art have to be beautiful?
I have students often tell me that art is whatever you want it to be. I totally disagree with this statement. My definition of art is “anything that visually conveys a concept, idea, or message with skill”. Notice the “with skill” in that sentence. Skill needs to be present in order for it to be considered art. This of course is my opinion. (I’m sure you have your own.) I think the confusion of whether art is good or bad often originates from where the skill is in the artwork. Many people unfortunately don’t know where to look for the skill. They may look at an abstract painting of say, an apple, and comment “That doesn’t look like an apple”. Well, it’s not supposed to look like an apple. The skill in the painting is not in the representational nature of the painting. Instead, it is in how the artist choose to abstract the apple, how the formal qualities of the artwork are handled, or how the elements and principles of art work together to make an aesthetic experience for the viewer. Now if the artist has totally failed in the formal qualities of the painting and has not created an aesthetic experience as was intended, then we may label that artwork as bad.
Many artists choose not to create aesthetic works of art. Their intent is elsewhere. Perhaps the intent is to challenge the notion of art itself. As in the case of Marcel Duchamp. If we consider his intent to challenge the nature of art, I would have to say that Marcel Duchamp was successful. Does that mean that “Fountain” was good art? I don’t know. If the skill was to challenge and make the art world think, then it would have to be considered good art.
Evaluating art can be tricky business, but doesn’t have to be. When you understand the intent of the artist, then you can decide if the art is good or bad. I would challenge you to step outside of your prejudices, and evaluate art by evaluating the artist’s intent. Where is the skill?
Remember, you don’t have to like the art in order to decide it is good.
Interesting enough there is a gallery that is devoted to “bad art”. MOBA has some truly horrendous works of art. Give them a visit and try to find the skill. Is it present, or is this truly a collection of bad art?