Against the art | José Ramón Hernández Correa

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Some time ago that wanted to give up some philippic against the art, against this concept of art that us has to all encorsetados and sterile. Already it is nice of art. Let’s do the things well, hagámoslas accurately, with attention, with intelligence, and dejémosnos of foolishness. The art, in general, is a concept more that debatable, but to include to the architecture in this concept is already delirious. (This deserves one entered apart).

Letters to Aldo Buzzi, 1949-1999 [Saul Steinberg] |

Always there has been understood as art the artificial thing (of fact, they are words that come from the same root). The art would come to be it: artifice (fact with art) realized with intelligence and skill. Always one has spoken about ” mechanical arts ” and about ” liberal arts “. In this sense yes I want to be an artist, since he it is a doctor, an attorney or a plumber: Someone who before a problem has to study, think, calculate, invent and act with efficiency and usefulness.

The bad thing is when the art was sublimated, when the people put the eyes in white and fool’s face, celestial violins started sounding and they all were melted of emotion. This way it us goes.

It has struck me a lot of attention how Steinberg lashes out whenever he senses that he is making art, every time he discovers in his work artistic streaks. That, for him, is to deviate from his job, to fall into error, into complacency and into uselessness.

I quote some fragments of his letters:

A complete lack of judgment caused by the rude desire to be Artistic. […]
Lives ruined by Art.
[…] I also speak a little about myself. (21-8-1989)

Art is made to avoid working. (August 31, 1987)

Whoever works for Art is soon forgotten. (October 16, 1985)

I consider art the enemy No. 1 of the artist. Art as intention, is understood. (May 31, 1982)

Likewise, he hates the personality of the artist, the attention paid to him and the importance he is given:

I have entrusted the photographer with a passport photo-a little larger than life size. I have cut my face and I have endorsed it to a model, so I have been photographed for magazines without a trace of myself. (October 23, 1966)

His appearances are also frequent on the contrary: He really, but covered with a mask or with a paper bag in which in turn a face is drawn.

Saul Steinberg
Saul Steinberg

A fierce criticism of the artist’s fame, to the veneration that is given to who is a professional with hard work, like any other.

But we also discovered him in these letters as quite a pesetero, quite satisfied with the money he is paid for his works, and also very interested in the good opinions and criticisms he arouses in the people he is interested in. I do not see contradiction; I fully understand that feeling. I said that the artist is exactly like a doctor, a lawyer or a plumber. Better said: What I said is that the doctor, the lawyer and the plumber are artists. One thing is that they themselves would be embarrassed if their work were celebrated as sublime, aesthetic, divine, etc, and another is that they do not want to be recognized and as well paid as they deserve.

The work must be well valued, and it must be done as well as possible. Another quite different thing is that stolid attitude of “art lover”, groupie of artists, etc. And I affirm it to the extent that I feel quite groupie from time to time.

In that sense, the concept of art hurts us all.

There is an appointment that is attributed to several poets, which says more or less than

“Poetry is the art of putting together two words that were never together before”.

This, said like that, is a mere birth, a bullshit that limits art to mere novelty.

Have the words “salchichón” and “railing” ever been together before?

Same yes; there is already too much written about anything; Surely even on salchichoneadas handrails and on salami sausages. But, if by chance it were not like that and that relationship was still free, I proclaim myself poet when writing:

that salchichón and polytechnic railing

(the polytechnic goes as a gift).

I read a variant of that quote (I do not know how reliable it is: it’s from Google) attributed to García Lorca:

“Poetry is the union of two words that one never supposed could come together, and that form something like a mystery“.

Ah, friend: So yes:

“That form something like a mystery”.

Because forming that mystery is the job of a poet (what Pavese would say). A trade, yes. And to perform that job you need to have a technique and some knowledge, and an intelligence. And work hard.

(“Art is made to avoid working”).

If not, everything remains as a mere originality: to show as an artistic work the canned excrement of the author, or a blister with his blood, or any other bullshit.

I always get into very ambitious topics, and I always fall short, unable to develop them. I just hope to make my protest and my perplexity heard: Art as research yes. Art as work yes. Art as skill yes, naturally; of course. And all this means Art as a service to society, as utility, as learning, etc. But Art as a sublime thing, as exquisiteness, as a wonder … Psché psché (because then it’s never a wonder, and ends up disappointing enough). And Art as originality and sizzle no. Not at all.

If we go like that, what is called “arts and crafts” I only stay with the seconds.

José Ramón Hernández Correa
PhD Architect and autor de Arquitectamos locos?
Toledo · february 2013

José Ramón Hernández Correa

Nací en 1960. Arquitecto por la ETSAM, 1985. Doctor Arquitecto por la Universidad Politécnica, 1992. Soy, en el buen sentido de la palabra, bueno. Ahora estoy algo cansado, pero sigo atento y curioso.

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