This week at The L Magazine I discuss the value of qualitative comparison in art.
Over the past couple of months, a friend and I have debated the usefulness of labeling one work better than another. “Every bit of ephemera can’t be preserved!” I told him during one of these talks. “We need to focus on what’s of greatest value to the society.” But how dramatically affected will our children be if we decide one Warhol is better than another? Is anything at stake? According to my friend, the answer is an emphatic “no.” “Such proclamations do more to shut down dialogue than advance ideas, ” he told me.
I’d be lying if I said I had no stake in my own punditry, but I enjoy the subject for other reasons: Greater self-awareness comes from knowing what you like and why, and comparative criticism is a great way of figuring it out.
As it happens, my stance on the value of debating the relative greatness of art works was put to the test early last week when I attempted to evaluate Andy Warhol’s self-portrait wallpaper. Executed in 1978, the purple and pink grid was cited in one exhibition as a representation of his worst work, and in another as an example of Warhol’s willingness to experiment. Was the latter a more useful statement than the claim about the work’s relative value? Whatever the answer is, of course, is itself a judgment about value.
To read the full piece click here.