Imagine: Can A Pair Of Glasses Be Art?

Imagine: Can A Pair Of Glasses Be Art?, tempera on canvas, 2019
Imagine: Can A Pair Of Glasses Be Art?, tempera on canvas, 2019

A painting is not just a painting. Even if it is not absolutely necessary, a painting can be, or become, a work of art. In order to become a work of art, it must not miss the meeting with the public, and this happens more often than we like to admit. Usually, what we see is a larger or smaller part of the process that physical instantiation crowns. Most of the time, as viewers, we declare ourselves delighted or disappointed with the aesthetic aspect of the work and pass over in silence, or we simply ignore the fact that behind the appearance lies a complex intellectual process.

The title sometimes sends the right message, precisely because of the contrast between the speed of execution and the complexity of the problem it proposes. However, some choose to ignore it, refusing to decipher the riddle that the work embodies.

When I gave a painting the title "Imagine: Can A Pair Of Glasses Be Art?" I tried and managed to force a maximum opening of the context in which the fast painting made using only the palette knife finds its rightful place. However, I recognize that a certain initiation is needed to comprehend the full meaning.

As an example, "Imagine" is not only an invitation, but also the title of John Lennon's famous song, and even if the shape of the glasses represented in the image is not necessarily identical to that of the ones he wore, it already becomes easier to recognize in the abstract painting the image of the member of the Beatles group, a famous composer and activist for peace. In this way, the representation of a pair of glasses works like a real pair of glasses, extending the field of visual perception, but what happens is that, instead of an abstract painting, we are now in front of a portrait, and the model that stands at its base becomes easily recognizable. A well-contextualized word is increasingly forcing mimesis.

But Lennon was, at least in Yoko Ono's opinion, a socialist. He himself calls 'Imagine' a communist manifesto. Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with a pair of glasses, sunglasses or eyeglasses, it doesn't really matter. We find the connection in the critique we made of a book written by a famous French author: Roger Pouivet.

Answering the question: What is a work of art? Roger Pouivet wrongly claims, as we have shown on another occasion, that he has found the definition of a work of art, the necessary and sufficient condition for an artifact to be a work of art. In the demonstration of what we considered to be the pouivetian error, we have shown that, if we are to accept as definition his answer to the above question, a pair of sunglasses or spectacles, among other objects of which we could not normally think in this way, may be and indeed is a work of art.

Ironically, a few years after this theoretical demonstration, on the floor of the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, two teenagers left a pair of eyeglasses that were later considered by other visitors as one of the exhibits. Although I can never prove that Kevin Nguyen, 16, and TJ Khayatan, 17, read my article on Pouivet's book before their gesture, the artwork they produced proves, if only by coincidence, my argument on the failed attempt to define the work of art made by the renowned French author and philosopher.

Moreover, his effort to define the work of art in-itself can be seen in a conservative key, that is, what in politics we consider to be right-wing thinking, which is not bad when it is stated from the beginning. It's just that this statement as a preamble to his attempt at definition does nothing but contradict one of the conditions that Pouivet sees as necessary for any statement to be a definition, namely intelligibility. I will not go into the details of the original article, which have no place here. I just want to point out that there can be no greater distance between Pouivet's intention and the way in which both my work, "Image: Can a pair of glasses be art?", And the conceptual intervention of the two teenagers at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco demonstrates that by taking his "definition" ad literam, we can't really know what a work of art is. And this distance, not intentionally the result of left-wing thinking that would target ideas such as "reversal of values", "progress", and even "revolution", makes the choice of the word "Imagine", with a direct reference to Lennon's song, as part of the title of the painting, a much more relevant choice, without which, the recognition of the person portrayed would have been much more difficult.

In other words, a work of art depends, in order to be recognized as such, both on its intrinsic qualities and on the context in which it appears, a context that the artist tries to control as much as possible or, in some cases, leave it to chance. For example, even eyeglasses can appear in some conditions as a work of art, and the choice of their exposure in the museum environment gives us strong evidence in this regard. More than this, if left untitled, my painting might escape more detailed aesthetic investigation, being judged only for the effectiveness of the technical solution used, while the use of a title, even without this extended theoretical explanation, might help indicate an area of ​​meaning that increases the "semantic density" of the artifact, placing it among the "candidates for appreciation" to become a work of art even in the absence of the museum institution.

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This is a page of two contemporary artists reunited under the name Phanes Art. For the moment, it hosts the works of Mircea-Ioan Lupu. Nonetheless, this is an ongoing project, therefore changes in content might occur, even on daily bases.

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