- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Pro Arte Books (November 14, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0990605701
- ISBN-13: 978-0990605706
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,493,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Who Says That's Art?: A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts Paperback – November 14, 2014
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From Kirkus Reviews
"Forceful and persuasive. . . . An impressive companion for advanced studies in visual arts, accessible enough for general-interest readers"
"Kamhi's scrutiny is unerring. . . . providing non-specialists with a scholarly yet accessible account that not only explains how to distinguish genuine art but also promises to enhance its appreciation." ---Midwest Book Review
"This book . . . is dynamite thrown at a largely self-satisfied little [art] world. That little world . . . needs shattering . . . ; and this book is needed if change is ever going to occur. . . . [Kamhi] carpet bombs the field of visual art, exploding every half-baked notion that has cropped up in visual art and education since Kandinsky. . . . [She] has done great work in showing that the collective [art] wizards are just loud and windy, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing." ---Peter J. Smith, Professor Emeritus of Art Education, University of New Mexico
"The contemporary attitude is that anything can be considered art. Kamhi's extended text correctly insists that this is nonsense. . . . [Her] perceptive study, an 'indictment of the avant-garde's spurious inventions,' is so encompassing that it would be impossible in a brief review even to mention the many interconnected issues and areas [she] covers in superb exemplified detail." ---Journal of Information Ethics (forthcoming)
"Not only should you purchase th[is] latest effort of Kamhi, but, in case you don't own a copy, you should also buy the 2000 book she coauthored with her husband, Louis Torres, titled 'What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand.' Both are enlightening and entertaining reads. . . . [P]araphrasing Siskel and Ebert: two paintbrushes up." ---Journal of Ayn Rand Studies
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Top Customer Reviews
That incident came to mind more than once as I read Michelle Kamhi’s Who Says That’s Art? What fascinated me were the author’s carefully marshaled quotes from commentators such as Arthur Danto and Clement Greenberg, from creators of visual stimuli such as Marcel Duchamp, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol, and from photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ansel Adams – all supporting one way or another her points about applying commonsense to the experiences of art and of non-art.
This book - intended for people who are puzzled by the widespread acceptance of nonsensical works as art and by the Niagaras of supportive hyperbole (read, propaganda) spilled into print by gallery owners, curators, collectors, and critics - aims to provide reasoned argument to guide its readers through and around the deliberately wrought mazes of ArtSpeak and what might be called ArtThought in the near-contemporary and present-day phenomena of art.
It is an understandable book about the flight from past standards (“the ballast of objectivity”) and the judgments they enabled, from the clever jest of Duchamps’ now-iconic Fountain (a madcap story that!) to and through modernity’s Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Op-and-Pop-ism, Minimalism, and other forms of faddish Post-Modernism. To boot, Kamhi traces some of the conflicts-of-interest inherent in the art marketplace. In her goals to deflate the inflated and to redirect the misdirected, she writes with declarative, idealistic simplicity, “My primary aim…[is] to discredit the pseudo art that now dominates the international art world.”
Readers are treated to clear statements about the author’s cherished values: intelligible form (resulting from practiced skill) and meaningful content (resulting from knowledge of the life of feelings). Overall, Kamhi seems to be adding to the great line of Abraham Lincoln’s, “You can fool some of the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but not all of the people all of the time” – one of her own, “I want to help those who wish to avoid being fooled.”
We were glad to see John Cage go, money in hand. We weren't fooled.
While she takes you to this askew artworld of modern times, she also shows great art works done by real artists with skills and ambition. It is regrettable that all those good works are ignored lately. Kamhi blames the entities who are instigating the wrong steps the postmodernists are taking which include art teachers, critics, collectors, trustees, and museum curators. They have made art inaccessible to public. They have their own artworld and create the environment in which whoever does not get their works doesn’t know anything about art. In reality, Art is very natural to humans. Throughout the history of men, people have been drawing and making things for aesthetic purposes and convey feelings and meanings. Every human has an instinct and right to judge the artness of a work. To define only the intelligent can understand their works is very wrong because of the foregoing nature of men. The author pleads with everyone to stop modernism/postmodernism and come back to the art by which we, everybody, can enjoy the aesthetics and be empathetic with the feeling that the creator desired to share.
My knowledge of Art was non-existent before this book. I, like many people, just speculated that art was for certain people who developed specific taste in art. Wrong was I. I cross-referenced every single art work enumerated in the book. Forsooth, art was for everyone, as would a caveman enjoy the Paleolithic cave paintings (cave mural) 17,300 years ago. Reading this book from cover to cover, Not only was I able to explore how postmodernist works are alienated from the public and need fixing, but also well-made art works enrich my life.
First, it's tightly edited, extensively referenced, free of typos, set in a pleasing font on quality paper and sturdily bound. Those things matter.
Second, Ms. Kamhi reasons persuasively beginning with attention to definitions and proceeding carefully with both logical deductions and empirical evidence. As an example, I had to abandon my long-held contention that photography is art when confronted with her demonstration that the limited choices that photographers can exercise when snapping a picture places that activity outside her careful definition of art. At the same time, she confirms my experience that photographs can be beautiful and inspiring. She also confirms my longstanding belief that abstract "art" is not art, but adds that some of it can be quite pleasing as decoration. Now I understand why, even though I collect only romantic realism, I nonetheless get some passing pleasure from Mondrian, for example.
Third and most important, I am inspired by her courage. She fearlessly and directly tells the emperors of today's "artworld" (yes,it's one word -- gag!) that they are naked. Example: "the art establishment persists in following the pied piper Duchamp down a path receding ever farther from the realm of art" (p. 83). Hell hath no fury like an "expert" unmasked as a fraud.
I read a lot of books and am hard pressed to remember the last time a book moved me so much.