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Peeks and Piques!


By Raymond J. Steiner
ART TIMES November/ December 2012

AS I ADVANCE in age, I find my biases hardening, my willingness to alter my opinions ever more difficult, ever more resistant to change. This is especially true in my opinions concerning art — I have been advocating a rather conservative approach to art criticism and reviews since our beginnings in 1984, and have rarely varied in my commentary. When asked why we do not include a fairly large portion of what passes for “art” today, my answer has almost always been that we have always taken the “long” view and avoid what is hyped as “hot” or “avant garde”  — today. We’ve seen art publications come and go, mostly because what is “trendy” today often loses its “heat” a week or so later — the snazzy “art-zine” that touts the latest fad disappears and here we are, still alive as we approach our 30th year. Drawing from my long-ago “hard hat” years, I just can’t get myself to “fix” what isn’t broken.  I continue to resist a modernist trend toward pure abstraction, largely avoiding art that doesn’t “speak” to me on all of my Liberal Arts Degree “humanist” hot spots — my mind, my heart, and my gut. I want — I need art that I believe is going to bring me no matter how small a step further in my inner/outer growth. As I say in my reviews of the current shows at The Frick and The Morgan (page 10-11), I don’t want to have to read about what is before my eyes, I want the art to “speak” for itself. If it’s too “private/intellectual”, I might “get” what some abstractionist is attempting to tell me, but I want not only mind but my heart and gut to be equally moved, and improved. My readers are long bored with my saying it, but, like Berenson, I want art to “enhance my life” — and if it doesn’t, then I am loathe to devote too much of my life to it — like I say above, I am advancing in age and simply don’t have that much time to waste on deciphering gobbledygook. I don’t need “art” that is politically driven, gender driven, angst driven, socially driven — I just want what I call “real” art and if I get it, I’ll give it attention, or “ink”, as notice in the press is often described. A guest to one of our Art Times’ parties once asked me if I had seen the latest Biennial and I said “no”. “How come?” he asked. I replied that, “it took me longer to look at one Daumier print than three floors of a Whitney Biennial”. “Jeez! You certainly are opinionated,” he exploded. “That’s like calling a judge ‘judgmental’ or a trial lawyer ‘argumentative’”, I said. “What do you think art — or any kind of criticism — is ? It’s all opinion, and you can take it or leave it — you’re entitled — expected even —to take it or leave it.” As all of you reading this now are entitled — to take it or leave it — it’s only my opinion for God’s sake. Art criticism is not a “science”, wherein some mathematically “proven” or “correct” conclusion can be arrived at when judging a work of art. I am only capable of assessing what I see based on my own life experiences, my own education, my own understanding of whatever knowledge I am able to glean from my reading, my studies, my living  in this world. My opinion, then, must be true to me and not to you because I am not you. So if you want  to get my attention, want to get some “ink” concerning your art…….

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