Taste is such an individual thing (I know, that’s a cliché), but can obviously be manipulated into a kind of mass hypnosis thing.
Like how did that little weird looking cat with that really stupid mustache mesmerize an entire nation back in the 1930s?
How did W mesmerize almost half a nation into thinking he was some kind of heroic leader after 9/11?
How did a couple of European gay guys convince women that they look best when they look like concentration camp survivors? Or that clothes look best on that emaciated shape?
How come real talent sometimes goes unnoticed and faux talent gets rewarded?
I talked about that in earlier posts and will keep talking about it, because I love to attack the arbitrary, or arbitrarily dictated, standards that maintain a lot of what appears to me to be the con job that often masquerades as “cream rises to the top” etc.
Anyway, going to an opening for a show of Eric Holzman’s drawings the other night made me really conscious of this.
The drawings were done over a period of many years, and all were done on paper processed in a way to make the paper appear to be centuries old, so that whatever he drew on them, from trees and birds to children and their mothers, with a few tables and bowls of fruit thrown in, all looked like they had been around since Michelangelo.
Whose drawings were an inspiration to Holzman, if I remember correctly.
At any rate, Eric’s paintings and now his drawings have always seemed to me to be exquisite. I love everything he does, because I love the care and attention he does it with and the craftsmanship and what I see as his unique use of it. Not unique in any obvious showboaty way, but in as humble and kind and subtle a way as I find the artist himself to be in person.
But at the opening, what interested me was what people picked out as their “favorite" drawing(s). Out of thirty or so, everyone I asked picked a different drawing. I started asking after I heard people telling someone, sometimes me, what they thought was, or were, the best drawing(s).
Some of these people are or have been art critics, and they each had a different choice and a different reason for liking it. I also heard artists and critics refer to the same drawing as obviously influenced by Cezanne, while others said the same drawing was influenced by Rembrandt.
I’m no art critic, I just know what I like, as they say, and have often been accused of liking too much. Not being discerning enough. But maybe I’m just not hung up on standards that seem to change all the time and have more to do with art world politics or one-upmanship or canonizing one’s personal taste than with any real inherent check list for greatness.
Know what I mean?
Like the movie reviews I’ve been doing here, or the lists of favorite actors or poets or whatever. It’s just my taste. I can back it up with some intellectual arguments and justifications, and sometimes do, but in the end it’s just my taste.
And yes my taste is influenced by everything I was exposed to growing up and in the adult decades of my life, including reactions to being force fed a certain set of standards and rebelling against them etc.
But in the end, the fun of lists and people’s choices for “best” and all that, part of the reason “American Idol” is such a hit I’m sure, is pitting your taste against someone else’s, like that nasty guy Simon.
As Robert Kelly, a poet whose work I’ve mostly always dug, wrote in a poem in a book called IN TIME:
“We are trained to discover our identities as products/of all we prefer: we are the sum of our preferences.”
Not entirely, but a lot of truth to it. Anyway, if you’re in Manhattan any time from now until May 12, you can check out Holzman’s drawings for yourself at The New York Studio School, 8 West 8th Street. Check it out.