The question is not whether an object is art, but rather whether that piece of art is relevant. In a period of rampant artistic proliferation, the line between fine arts and creative musings blurs. A subjective standard of judging art is adopted. The classical cannons no longer dictate the process of making; instead, in this modern age, the adoption of multiple canons or the rejection of all traditional models has become commonplace. Thus, rather than struggling to define what “is” art, we should determine the calculable impact that the piece has, which will subsequently determine its artistic worth. Following this line of thought, for a piece to be art, it need not be aesthetically pleasing, only intellectually stimulating.
Increased exposure to radical public art during my time in the city has prompted me to search for, and at times realize, the intellectual method of each piece. Most recently, the works commissioned by the Public Art Fund situated in City Hall have stimulated my curiosity. Amanda Ross-Ho’s work, The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things (2015), or more bluntly an enlarged mannequin head illuminated by a fluorescent green box, continues to flummox me. While I do not find the finished product aesthetically pleasing, I can acknowledge the artist’s public statement, which critiques the need to incessantly document, or tag, oneself on social media sites. In looking beyond the physical work, I can more easily grapple with the finished product. Even though I prefer works that adhere to a more traditional cannon, I respect the political, cultural, and racial statements that artists are making in the present. Artists are utilizing public spaces to catalyze meaningful conversation, just as artists a few hundreds ago intentionally sparked controversy with provocative saloon compositions. Yet, it is still the job of the viewer to observe with caution, steadfastly searching for worthy bold art.