Indiscernibly bad: the problem of bad painting/good art

Bowman, Matthew (2018) Indiscernibly bad: the problem of bad painting/good art. Oxford Art Journal, 41 (3). pp. 321-339. ISSN 0142-6540

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In 2008, the exhibition Bad Painting, Good Art opened in Vienna that presented a number of painters from the twentieth century deliberately engaging in styles that were naïve, slapdash, unfinished, or kitschy. However in conceiving their rationale for the exhibition, its curators avoided questions of art-critical judgment by declaring that the notions of bad and good were not only to treated as if merely rhetorical but also that making evaluative discriminations were undesirable and impossible. In this way, the exhibition both short-circuited its own title and failed to engage the possibility that questions of badness were intrinsic to some of the works they displayed, particularly that of Martin Kippenberger.

This essay seeks to reclaim the sense of judgment in the category of bad painting. But how can one distinguish between paintings that look bad and those that simply are bad? Addressing this matter, the essay uses Arthur Danto’s writings on indiscernibility in which he examines the categorical and semantic distinction between artworks that are visually identical. Danto’s later writings on beauty, and how beauty becomes meaningful to specific artworks, is also marshaled to understand the visual character of bad painting. These ideas are then explored in relation to the work of Kippenberger in relation to the emergence of Neoexpressionism in order to suggest that Kippenberger mimics such practices so that their shortcomings may be exposed.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: art, visual art, painting
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Business & Applied Social Science > Department of Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Matthew Bowman
Date Deposited: 01 Oct 2020 10:42
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2020 01:38

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