Thursday, February 2, 2017


In these degenerate times, we find that Art often requires an explanation. It doesn't make sense until we read something, or look at the pictures in the next section, or whatever. A single piece, often, no longer stands alone. Some people dislike this, and I occasionally stand up in favor of it. Upon noodling on it a bit, I think there's a bit more to it, because sometimes I approve of the explanation, and at other times I don't.

There's Art that needs no explanation. I think Weston's Pepper #30 fits that. Oh, it's about sex.

There's Art that needs explanation, but the explanation snaps it in to focus, and you have a little "Aha!" moment. The explanation not only fits, but feels like the only one that would. It is satisfying. Sally Mann's pictures sometimes fall in to this. Oh, it's not just some random field, it's a Civil War battlefield, and now the gloomy tonality makes sense, and it fills in the larger collection well. Aha!

A great deal of what is offered as Art comes with an explanation that fits, but one does not feel that it is the only possible explanation. It's not very satisfying. One feels that the explanation might as well have been added afterwards. Ming Thein's work often falls into this category, he offers up endless repetitions of the same two or three tropes, collected up into sacks, each with a different explanation. Oh. Ok. Sure, I guess that works. But doesn't this or that work just as well?

There is the gibberish explanation. The one that makes no sense. That is a random jumble of colors, not a portrait. Piss off.

And finally, there is Art offered with no explanation, like Pepper #30, but which declines to explain itself. See virtually all the Serious Photography on the internet. What is this? Why am I even looking at this?

It is as if there was a spectrum, perhaps a circular thing, in which the last one blends imperceptibly with the first one. At one end, I am generally ok with explanations, and at the other, not so much. More on this later.

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