SHOULD ART BE A CRITICISM TOOL?
Sep 12, 2018
Although the traditional definitions of art include in some way references to beauty, balance and aesthetics, postmodernism introduces changes in this maxim and raises an approach to art devoid of the concepts inherited from the past to reinforce its expressive value instead of the search for beauty.
However, new times bring other impositions and guidelines. In our current vertiginous world, where tolerance, integration and equality are up to date, the excess of caution places us sometimes on the opposite side and the social moderation of the "politically correct" derives in restrictions on freedom of expression, concealed censorship, second readings of the message. There are those who say that today "you can not say anything because they will come after you". A quick visit to social networks reveals that, often, the supposed freedom that we enjoy today has become an immense field in which to walk "like treading on eggshells".
Let's not kid ourselves; this is also a sign of our time. Opinions are best received when packaged with a wrap of humour and irony, or when they anchor in widely shared common-sites. In this context, criticism from the art world should enjoy more permissiveness, but recent events show the opposite. The censorship by political speeches has starred in covers of newspapers, and everything seems to indicate that it’s better not to touch certain issues.
This leads some authors to turn their work into banners with a social meaning where the aesthetic charge universalises the message. Let's say that political, economic or social criticism is not openly sought in compositions that leave no space for the imagination (that's what photojournalism does). The purpose is to create iconic images with a message embedded in the design itself, that's why in this area graphic art conquers everything. Nothing new under the sun, anyway, but the achievement is that contemporary creations are worthy heirs of all the compositional and aesthetic heritage of previous decades, and in that sense, they deserve the acknowledgement of "recasting" the old with the new to create something different and unique.
Shepard Fairey is a paradigmatic artist on this subject. In the interviews, he himself ironises about the contradiction of criticising capitalism in his works and then selling the editions for thousands of dollars. Well, you don’t have to feel ashamed for it, otherwise, only those who can afford to live off of investments would be artists, and the voice of so many others who aspire to live on their creations would be gone. Let's not forget either that there was a time (not long ago) when urban art was considered vandalism. Fairey, who defines himself as an artist and activist, has had to face these controversies when some of his pieces are not to everyone's taste. And, nevertheless, one thing is evident: his works are unmistakable and have helped to spread a universal message where criticisms of the system are always present. Obviously, some artists answer “yes” to the question with which we would have this post: art is a tool of criticism.