Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Henry Geldzahler Said

Henry Geldzahler said, "There is no shocking art that doesn't reduce itself either to triviality or to beauty." Art can shock from its sheer newness to its spectacle to its blunt honesty to its gratuitous self-indulgence. But beyond the idea of art that shocks, could all art be reduced to triviality or to beauty. For me, this is a question worth considering.

Let's allow no grays, no middle standards. High or low is it. As artists, all our intentions end essentially in material objects. Should we first question whether our intentions begin in triviality or beauty? Are we measuring in each piece or in the body of work? Does the work and working itself direct us from triviality to beauty? What demands does this exercise put particularly on the term "beauty"?

What is the task of the artist who aims for beauty and not just hopes for it? How are surface beauty and the deeper beauty related?