I had a chat with a friend about this the other day. While we both agreed the importance of art history and learning your roots, is it a bad thing that young art students borrow from these ideas too generously without fully grasping the context of the work and the time it was made in? Is it a bad thing perse if a student who is enamored at the historical grandeur of renaissance painting, emulate that in modern day reinterpretations? Personally, i find the emulation of this sort dated, its not particularly invigorating to see, and only a very elite few who have spent years and years learning and mastering their craft to the point I am, too, stunned in awe.
There will always be an inherent importance to supporting the generation of artists and pioneers that came before you. More often than not, these art history text books and name dropped artists are highlighted for their work back in their prime, their contemporary scene, now being passe if it were to be ever replicated for the public space. Why then, do many art students attempt to replicate this with barely the filmiest and most basic of understanding? Is it wrong to emulate your idols while ignoring the cultural, political and even aesthetical significance an artist has brought to his or her scene?
I highlight an example: Cindy Sherman’s work “Sex Pictures” from 1989 – 1992, a compilation of dolls put together and photographed in such a way that it invokes a sexuality and graphic nudity that is NSFW. It’s certainly new for it’s time, but it’s not as if the topic of first wave feminist art in the 1960’s was any less provoking. When feminist artists emulate the style and topic of interest as our predecessors, is it an homage, or a shallow reinterpretation of a subject matter that was more relevant perhaps 30 years ago? Is this a topic that is still prevalent in our culture and is it our duty as artists to only express as we feel and think, or evoke the sensibilities of our time? This is what happens when students emulate their idols without full context.