Monday, December 23, 2013

Guest Blog by Jay Herres: "Less is More"

[This is a generous contribution to Art Taco by painter and gallerist Jay Herres...]

Seems almost every critic, artist and celebrity says this as if it is the undisputed truth. The reality is less may be more, or less may be simply less. There have been many great Masters over the centuries for whom less was not more. In fact, it could be said that more was not enough.

The birth and popularity of Minimalism in the late sixties and early seventies seemed to enforce this as the unquestionable truth. This "indisputable" way of thinking has stripped endless works of art from their lifeblood. Some of the finest galleries are filled with hollowed out works like bodies without skeletons and houses without foundations. Many artists have seemingly become indifferent to, or abandoned the very elements and skills that artists have strived for over the centuries.

Design in many cases has become 'old hat', color harmonies, who needs them? Drawing skills? forget about it! The artistic blood trail abounds and marketing and name recognition have become the only Gods. The new art is thrown into the feeding trough and gobbled up by the well-heeled uninformed.

--- Jay Herres

[Thank you, Jay Herres, for your Guestblog. Art Taco welcomes guest blogs on almost any topic related to the arts. Please send submissions to

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  1. Dear Jay,

    With all due respect I'd like to offer a different point of view.

    Today, many people share your sentiments. I hear similar comments almost daily on the art chat boards I subscribe to. The most strident voices are those of representational painters and sculptors who feel left out of the art market. They claim that either A) the public is being duped by the art establishment, B) there is a conspiracy against representational, technique-based art, C) modern art today is nihilistic, D) galleries and museums are ruled by the wealthy whose artistic standards are very low, etc.

    Actually, there are probably more contemporary artists working today (myself included) who do know how to draw, paint and sculpt in ways that rely heavily on "old school" methods and ideologies. Just look at the number of atelier schools that are popping up around the US and Europe. They advocate a return to the classical standards and teaching methods that were dominant in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

    In my opinion, if conceptual art has stolen the spotlight we traditional artists have only ourselves to blame for losing the public's attention and patronage. We can point fingers at much modern art and find plenty to criticize. But we can also point those same fingers at much traditional art being made and be just as critical. The majority of it is ... bad.

    Many traditional artists believe that beauty alone is enough. I disagree. Representational art also needs a message. It needs to engage the viewer, hold their attention and make them think. It must be more than mere eye candy. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that but after a while it gets repetitive and boring.

    Another point to consider is that the various means of artistic expression have exploded in the 50 years. Museums and galleries now have choices like video, performance, sound, light, installations, etc in addition to good old painting and sculpture. Just as there's ever more product competition on supermarket shelves, the same is true with wall and floor space in art venues. The different slices of the art pie are getting narrower all the time.

    If we want more classically-oriented art on view in museums and galleries, it's up to the artists to make art that knocks people's socks off --- both visually and intellectually. That's not happening as much as it needs to. Then we've got to get out there and promote it.

    Steven Kenny

  2. [I received this response to Steven Kenny's reply above from Jay Herres]

    Dear Steven, Enjoyed reading your response to my post. I think we agree on much but differ on some points. I enjoy realistic art equally with abstracts. I equally like fine drawings, the red headed step children of the art world. Even at galleries most people seldom check out drawings unless they are standing next to it with their drink or it's right behind the food table. The art I was "targeting" are the weak abstracts which used to be referred to as non-objectives. The N.Y. galleries are filled with them. All too many look the same, done in endless series enough to bore the dead! To add grand absurdity to the mix they often have ten feet or more on either side of them to try to give them clout and raise their value.
    The artists may have amazing skills but they are poorly reflected in the works and since the galleries must be selling them the buyers seem to be paying big time for lessor works. While a great many fine representational paintings make people think and have a message, I don't believe that's a necessary requirement. I remember when I was in my late teens I went to a one man show by Painter Coulton Waugh. I was awed! Some of his paintings were so striking, so rich with color and feeling they left me spell bound!. I didn't need to think at all...just incredibly impressed by the magic he put on canvas! While I think differently on some points I have the greatest respect for your thoughts and appreciate reading them. A fan of your work, take care,