Aesthetic – the word aesthetic throughout art history has been highly debated because the meaning behind the word was beauty. The question became, whose beauty. Which beauty was the most beautiful? In the 60’s, artists presented anything but a uniform understanding of aesthetic. There was never the most beautiful – there were always many kinds of beautiful. Techniques changed, and there wasn’t a uniform technique that identified an art object. The status of art changed from being an object of beauty that was to be admired and collected to a commodified object to be bought and sold. And the aesthetic content of art slowly disappeared, art slowly bowed to and became anchored in a social-political context. When the aesthetics of art changed the value of art also changed, and art could be anything and everything.
If art is anything and everything then art is nothing. It is time for a return of a quantifying aesthetic in art. Perhaps not through materials used, perhaps not though content or context, but perhaps through concept. Perhaps this quantifying value could emerge through the very concept/idea of art.
If one examines art history we can see conceptual art emerge. Jackson Pollack comes to mind. Color field paintings happened, earlier in the 40’s,artists such as Clifford Still used pure color which attempted to represent nothingness, purity, utopia and bliss. What happened to these attempts to find value in art through change? They became commodified. One can find Jackson Pollack-like work everywhere they go. One can find color field works in many environments matching the colors of other objects with a room. Aesthetics, art were not only everything an anything but their value changed to a McDonald’s happy meal experience.
What about that meal, that has aged wine, and food is presented in small bites in an artful manner with a tablecloth and cloth napkins, candlelight and dreamy atmosphere? We all know the difference between a McDonald’s happy meal and a meal were the dining experience takes hours and not just minutes.
Art needs to be that dining experience not just for the artist but also for the viewer and art lover. The value in the work of art needs to change from a McDonald’s Happy Meal to and experience. The experience should be unique, one of a kind. It should not mass produced, but original like individuals are. The value of the experience in the art should lie in the concept of art being the freeing of the individual from the herd. Warhol addressed this issue in his work, except he became engulfed in art as commodity and he became a commodity himself. Duchamp also addressed this issue, he divorced himself from art all together because it could not produce what he wanted to produce, Through the Looking Glass being the exception.
So where will the history of art travel to? I am not sure the answer can be found in today’s museums, or galleries. If the answers are there, history needs to look for artists today that dine – rather than order a Happy Meal. Look for artists today whose ideas behind their work represent themselves and not the ideas of others. Look for uniqueness. Look for artists today who are one of a kind.