For this post I am going to respond to a comment regarding an earlier post dealing with art and academic art. The commenter suggested my criticism of Thomas Kinkade ( and that of Robert Smithson, as I was comparing both artists' work) was based on his (Kinkade) popularity, and not his style.
Popularity has little to do with weather or not an artist is creating what I call academic art. There are many artists whose work is quite popular with art scholars and the public alike. One example: Andy Warhol. He was practically a pop icon himself with legions of fans from all walks of life, and I would definitely categorize his work as academic art. The term academic art refers more to how the artist is working, and how the end result of his/her work reflects the idea the artist is exploring. That aside, I believe there is a much wider issue here: that of the polarization of the art world.
Look at the following examples:
The images in the top row can be found here.
The bottom cluster can be found here.
As we look at these images we notice that the works by Smithson (Shown on the top) are all distinctly different. Each work represents an exploration of the artist into an idea or an issue (I am not going to go into the ideas behind each work here. If you want to know more about these works click the links and read directly from the artists.). Conversely the work of Kinkade is all very similar. Smithson does not claim to be the artist of anything. He moves from idea to idea, and creates work based on how he best feels he can communicate that idea with his viewers. Kinkade says he is the "painter of light." However, if that were so, he would consider all aspects of light i.e. particle vs. wave theory, the fact that all color is derived from white light, the way a single candle light can hold back the dark light etc. This doesn't appear to have happened. As a result, all of his works explore the same idea, from the same point of view leaving the viewer with a collection of images that are nearly identical. The subject matter has changed, but the overall idea of the work has not.
This is not to say one work (or artist) is any better than the other. That is a judgment that is left up to each individual viewer. What it suggests from my point of view, is that given these two examples; Smithson creates academic art while Kinkade does not. For me, these artists serve as examples to the greater issue: the polarization of the art world.
In my opinion there is far too much academic art being made. This has clouded the definition of art, and alienated those who lack a background in the visual arts. The end result has been a backlash, and created an environment for an equal abundance of simplistic art to proliferate. I am not suggesting that these types of art (academic or simplistic) should not be made. I believe an artist should create works in the manner that he/she best feels expresses his/her ideas. Simultaneously viewers should respond to artists they most identify with. However, I think artists need to spend more time thinking about how they can reach a broader audience that brings these two camps together, and viewers need to reflect more on how artists are communicating with them.
As a final note if you live in or around St. Louis, Mo there is an excellent art event taking place next Friday June 5th. "Art D Tour" takes patrons around the city for an evening of art, food, and socialization. Ten museums and galleries, representing all types of art will be visited. Details can be found here. See you next week.