okay - to provide some context, this statement is found in "sacred dimensions", an essay by barry krammes. it discusses sculpture and new ways of approaching sculpture, which includes material and conceptual aspects:
There is currently, among artists, a fascination with unorthodox materials and mundane found objects that are assembled, hybridized and fused together in quirky, often makeshift and temporary ways, resulting in conceptually charged sculptures, installations and performances that invite philosophical and spiritual readings.
he further discusses art as a natural bridge connecting the natural and spiritual worlds, metaphor, sacramental approaches to materials citing artists and critics such as lynn aldrich, adam wolpa and tyrus clutter (other artists in this issue include gedi sibony, conrad bakker, craig goodworth, theodore prescott and roger feldman). the context of the statement above is as follows:
Several years ago I remember an artist matter-of-factly stating, "All art is either spiritual or decorative." I'd like to think that he was right. I happen to believe that all great art or at least all good art is spiritual or sacramental in nature. Everything else is not much more than decorative chaff. Sometimes it's difficult to tell immediately but as the years pass, it gets easier to discern.
in looking at it again, there is
a hierarchy established here. but isn't that okay? i don't think it's simply a rephrasing of the secular/ sacred or art/craft argument. but i think it's an interesting statement to unpack. perhaps what we need to do is to define terms. or at least define how we understand those terms. still, in engaging with the tension stated above, i do
think there is a difference between art that is more nuanced or layered or engaged with experience (a whole-beinged one) and art that is about surfaces or aesthetics or [purely] formal concerns (and yes, i realize that's opening up a can of worms. i'll just wait here for the rothko acolytes). they're still both art
. i mean, do we see "decorative" and think "facile" or "slight"? or "superficial"? or do we think of "Beauty" (and yes, it's capitalized to refer the the idea
of Beauty)? do we see "spiritual" and think "religious"? do we think "abstract" or "vague"? do we think "redolent with meaning and import"? that would make a difference in how we interpret and engage with that statement. and i do
think that the decorative as "chaff" is overstating things - was matisse's statement that
What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue
a statement about the spiritual aspects/ effects of his work or its decorative elements? i'm okay with privileging one term over another, as long as it's clear what one means...
in any case, thanks for helping me refine what it is i'm actually interested in exploring and discussing....