Maybe it’s an age thing. But it seems to me that art — be it visual, musical, literary or what have you — should stand on its own without relying on accompanying commentary.
Last night we attended a gallery opening of paintings and sculpture by two artists, one of whom is married to a colleague of a mutual friend. The manifesto that accompanied this work was quite beautiful and actually much more interesting than the work itself, which felt derivative and rather banal. Which got me thinking….
We don’t expect margin notes on the pages of a good novel. Or a running crawl in a film to explain what the director had in mind. Are paintings and sculpture more compelling because of an artist’s backstory — in this case, gender identity — , even when the images have nothing to do with that struggle?
This is ultimately the problem I have with most political art: Take away the message, and what are you left with? Picasso’s Guernica? Unfortunately, mostly not.