Graphic Arts in the Twentieth Century

Graphic Arts in the Twentieth Century

Graphic Arts in the Twentieth Century

Graphic Arts in the Twentieth Century

Excerpt

As it was plain from the start that any summarizing account of present-day graphic art would have to be tentative, this experiment was undertaken in the honest belief that it was an innocent one. For anyone concerning himself with the artistic events of his own times is constantly aware of the limits of his own powers of judgment, and he very soon comes to realize that, though highlights may perhaps be discerned, it is hardly possible to determine grades of value. Indeed, the very change in and probably also the broadening of one's own view are invigorating experiences, as one grows familiar with art previously unknown. Yet however ready one may be just to accept, the need for a kind of stock-taking keeps presenting itself, even if it is to occur with inadequate means. A need to "master" one's manifold experiences of new phenomena, to render oneself an account of what is really being touched in one's consciousness, and to see whether the bewildering hotchpotch of most varied sensations cannot after all be reduced to some kind of order and thus made easier to survey. That this need is legitimized, if on no other grounds, simply by its omnipresence becomes apparent time and again as people talk. Not just in the discussions of spectators experiencing something new but also, and still more distinctly, in the explanations given by creators of what they create. It is true that some artists are taciturn. The majority, however, have a view on what they ought and want to do -- a view wholly committed to what is peculiarly theirs: the self-evident basic condition of all free creation, but also more or less a prerequisite for whoever seeks, in contemplating it, to give an account of what has just been produced. Today most artists -- including the very ones who have made a decisive "practical" contribution to determining art's course -- know how to express their aesthetic and philosophical opinions far better than did their predecessors. They are often great and intriguing theorists, and under the direct impact of their statements one can hold that these have the character of genuine commentaries and must therefore be seen as part of their maker's creative activity. With such autonomous reasoned explanations of autonomous actions it is undoubtedly a question of the most passionate and total commitment immaginable. Yet these highly personal verbal presentations of definite views on pictorial art are quite often endorsed by the appearance of the work produced, and thus help, like all relevant knowledge, to deepen the visual experience. If one must in any case set out from a fixed position, as one cannot stand above the present and obtain from afar a comprehensive prospect of what it yields, these committed views can, if one feels that a sort of correlation exists between them and the work of art, provide very useful information and direct the eye to what is essential.

An unclarified residue does of course remain. One can hardly check the authenticity of relations between word and work that are, so to speak, only felt. However, this element of imprecision is reduced if views can be assembled that are due to the efforts of many minds and approach a consensus ornniurn. Such deliberations guided to agreement over a wide area are particularly in evidence at the start of the graphic evolution here to be considered. Accordingly . . .

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