A Cry against Copycat Mediocrity and Mechanical Art (Brian Sherwin)

Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. Sherwin is the Editor of The Art Edge.  

Artist Mark Edward Adams recently cautioned against adhering to art market trends. Mark made the following statement on FineArtViews: “Galleries, friends, and other artists will often come to me and tell me what is hot. This can range from a certain color to a particular subject. It can be very easy to fall for this trap. Soon, you are following the market trends and chasing the money. I never do it for the money. I don’t follow what is hot because I know you will lose your identity.” I’m in full agreement with Mark! We need to see a higher level of individuality within the art world of today.
As I mentioned to Mark, one can tell when an artist has chosen to embrace art market trends. There is just something missing when you view their body of work collectively. Their work ends up being forced, mechanical. I, for one, think that individuality is important concerning the process of art making — finding your authentic visual voice is crucial if you wish to truly ‘stand out’ in the crowd. However, it is impossible to discover that spark if you choose to jump from one hot style to the next — your development as an artist will likely be stifled… and it will show in the long run!
Art critic Jerry Saltz recently offered the following warning concerning this issue: “In today’s greatly expanded art world and art market, artists making diluted art have the upper hand. A large swath of the art being made today is being driven by the market.” Saltz went on to suggest that there is an “…onslaught of copycat mediocrity and mechanical art. — adding, “Going to galleries is becoming less like venturing into individual arks and more like going to chain stores where everything looks familiar.
Art critic Roberta Smith tackled similar concerns in a recent exhibit review of contemporary paintings. She made it clear that some artists are playing it too safe. In fact, her review can be interpreted as a warning for the entire painting community — a warning against “operating within fashionable styles rather than making the work that only they (the artist) can make.
Artist / critic Sharon Butler, of Two Coats of Paint (click here to read and interview with Sharon Butler on FineArtViews), addressed Jerry and Roberta’s concerns. She noted, “What artists may be overlooking is the value of patience. Rather than catering to current biases, emerging artists today might consider simply forging ahead and developing their own vision in the sensible belief that the dialogue will eventually come around to them. She added, “Art history proves that it takes time for pioneering artists to win over the critical and collecting communities. The fact that critics are tired of “current painting tactics” would seem to validate a much more personal, less formulaic approach.
Here’s the thing: I firmly believe that every artist is capable of having an authentic voice. Every artist is capable of adding something to the overall visual conversation. BUT that ‘voice’ won’t be ‘heard’ unless he or she truly strives for it to be ‘heard’. Unfortunately, too much focus on business — before the artist has found a good chunk of himself or herself in the studio — can be counterproductive to that process. I realize there are bills to pay… BUT there is also art to create… and it doesn’t have to involve a constant stream of visual regurgitation!
I repeat: Art doesn’t have to involve a constant stream of visual regurgitation!
Will artists hear the cry against copycat mediocrity and mechanical art? You tell me. ‘Sound off’ on The Art Edge.
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin – Editor of The Art Edge