Three critics at the New York Times were given the assignment of naming their favorite paintings in New York Museums. The lists can be found on the New York Times site, but as critic Roberta Smith freely confesses, this was a “pleasant, invigorating yet implicitly arbitrary endeavor. The resulting lists can only be characterized conditionally, as personal, partial or provisional.” So your list is your list, and my list is mine. Fair game.
But being a painter I feel compelled to share an uplifting paragraph from Roberta’s piece. This may sound self serving or like a hackneyed case of preaching to an increasingly smaller choir, but her description of what painting can be has sustained me in my work for a lifetime. (And special thanks to friend Kate Hines for flagging this one):
Paintings, like poetry or music, are essential nutrients that help people sustain healthy lives. They’re not recreational pleasures or sidelines. They are tools that help us grasp the diversity of the world and its history, and explore the emotional capacities with which we navigate that world. They illuminate, they humble, they nurture, they inspire. They teach us to use our eyes and to know ourselves by knowing others.
PS. A general hats off to Roberta is in order since she gets my Best Art Quote of the Year for 2010 award for her defense of painting, especially in the face of art trends that are taking most museums and institutions in the opposite direction. I’ve written about her provocative piece from last February, Post-Minimal to the Max, several times on this blog, but this passage from that article bears up well under repetition:
What’s missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand. A lot but not all of this kind of work is painting, which seems to be becoming the art medium that dare not speak its name where museums are concerned.
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