Why Art Can't Be Taught by James Elkins

These are some interesting points from James Elkin's provocative book Why Art Can't Be Taught. Focused on college-level art schools, Elkins discusses critiques, art school pedagogy, history, and philosophy, and why we teach art.

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Why Art Can't Be Taught by James Elkins by Mind Map: Why Art Can't Be Taught by James Elkins

1. Pedagogy

1.1. Core Curriculum

1.1.1. Theoretical Principles Absolutism (Curriculum) Relativism (Child)

1.2. Content

1.2.1. Art Examples Advocates teaching average art in addition to famous work Average students will learn more / Emphasizes existing qualities of students Showing own work Good Bad

1.3. Traditional Perceptions

1.3.1. Change / Improve Studnts What would teaching be like if it did not mean to change or improve student art, but rather to appreciate it and help understand what they already do.

1.3.2. Art is Serious Why can't art be made absent-mindedly? Paint w/ music blaring (a la Warhol = helped him not to think)? Not explore motifs (a la Duchamp)? Be a hobby?

1.4. Design

1.4.1. Critiques Critiques involve look, style & marketing problems, not detailed critiques of meaning / symbolism

1.4.2. Philosohpy Story of capitalism & class conflict Nature of objects & Things Heidegger Merleau-Ponty

1.5. Intention

1.5.1. Learning Unless student believes she can learn when she wants to, cannot learn

1.5.2. Teaching Only definable characteristic

1.6. Enthusiam

1.6.1. Infectious

2. History of Art Schools

2.1. Florentine Academy of Design

2.1.1. First public art academy "To provide sepulcher for artists who might die penniless."

2.1.2. Informal setting

2.1.3. Urban campus Spread out among existing buildings

2.2. Training

2.2.1. Renaissance / Baroque Life-drawing exercise 1Draw model, omitting 1 arm 2. Invent new arm position, Add 3. Re-pose model to fit with corresponding arm Allows comparison of invention to original Made more difficult by inventing more of body Perfect proportions Correct proportion is not a skill but training. Everything difficult begins after proportion is no longer an issue Hierarchies of Drawings No originality

2.2.2. French Acadamy Based on medieval model Apprentice, Journeyman, Master Drawing Exercise 3 Day-Long Sessions Thought Expirement How many of you are motivated to paint the President?

2.2.3. Bauhaus First-year course 2D: Training the Senses 2D: Training the Emotions 2D: Training the Mind Perhaps most influential on modern art schools Origin of 2D, 3D, 4D sequence Parallels to children's exercises advocated by Friedrich Froebel, inventor of kindergarten Gave children random everyday objects and encouraged to draw, compare, pattern, investigate, and model. Nonverbal, ahistorical learning

2.3. Concept of Academic Art

2.3.1. Study of Baroque - 19th c. Painting 1. Nature is defective & must be improved 2. Compositions should be inventive, but unified & harmoniously organized 3. There is a science of gesture & physiognomy to help artists communicate emotions 4. Artists should research dress, ornament, religious narrative, and myth so their scenes are appropriate

2.3.2. Contemporary Ideas Owe final allegiance to art history Ex: Graffiti - Seems detached from academy & art world, but depends on many academic devices, i.e. chiaroscuro, perspective, glazing, composition, lettering


3.1. Hermann Grimm

3.1.1. Art is "altogether unteachable."

3.2. Whistler

3.2.1. "I don't teach art; with that I cannot interfere; but I teach the scientific application of paint and brushes."

3.3. Oscar Wilde

3.3.1. "Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught."

4. Art Community

4.1. Public Attitude Toward Artists

4.1.1. Annoying

4.1.2. Gulf between art world & public

4.2. Myths

4.2.1. Bohemian, Progressive "In 1913 at famous Armory Show, including Duchamp's Nude Descending Staircase and Matisse's Blue Nude, students from School of Art Inst. of Chicago, training in very conservative French academy tradition, staged a protest. Created effigy, "Henry Hairmattress" that they dragged and stabbed.

5. Why Teach Art?

5.1. Benefits Everyone / Universal

5.1.1. IF art community is different from other communities THEN what if art expresses only minority view of art community

5.2. Freedom of Expression

5.2.1. One of very few places where people can experiment more or less freely, with more or less anything

5.3. Learn how to "see"

5.3.1. More sensitive, alert to visual cues & subtle phenomena

5.4. Discussion on Studio Art Instruction

5.4.1. 3 Themes Meaning of academic freedom What is teachable Difference between visual art & other disciplines

6. Critiques

6.1. Suggestions

6.1.1. Alternative Formats Formal Whole Group Small Group One on One Informal

6.1.2. More Control Presentation Counts Solitary time creating = primping in front of mirror before date Rotating Note-Taker Allows for reflection, addressing unresolved concerns, improving or correcting mistakes Transcribes critique a la Process Observer from psychology Can't participate in discussion Preserve anonymity? Explicit Needs / Wants Based on group therapy Student-directed "I feel ___ about this work." I would like to talk about ______." Problematize Student Point of View Faculty Point of View Talking Avoid emotional outbursts (Take a break) Avoid unsupported claims

6.1.3. Less Control Free Association Tell everyone to say whatever comes to mind, like conversation Pros Cons

6.2. Language

6.2.1. Rhetorical Criteria Help students get noticed Ultimate Terms Interesting, Moving, Inventive, Powerful, Authentic, Original, Compelling, Strong, Difficult, Gorgeous, Innovative, Stimulating, Wonderful, Beautiful, Excellent 2 Different Ways of Talking about an Object Descriptive Judicative No such thing as neutral observation or fact

6.2.2. Self-contradicting opinion "Recovery of Intentionality" In conversation, constantly guessing as to speaker's intentions, construct version of speaker in mind

6.2.3. Teacher Silent Allow students to drive critique Referee Mediates critique Captain Guides critique Pharoah Dominate critique

6.2.4. Student Silent Pro Con Responding Directing Experience of talking to buyers, gallerists, etc.

6.3. Critical Orientations

6.3.1. M.H. Abrams

6.3.2. 1. Mimetic "Those grapes make me want to eat them." Only copying nature matters

6.3.3. 2. Pragmatic "Your grapes make me happy." Only audience matters

6.3.4. 3. Expressive Only artist matters Internal made externam "What do the grapes mean to you?"

6.3.5. 4. Objective Only the object matters 2 Types Formal Analysis Iconography Occasionally an avoidance strategy to divert from difficult topics

6.4. Length

6.4.1. Too Long

6.4.2. Too Short

6.5. Models

6.5.1. Seduction (Amorous)

6.5.2. Translation (Linguistic)

6.5.3. Collaborative Storytelling (Narrative)

6.5.4. Battle (Warlike)

6.5.5. Trial (Legal)