The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2013

All Issues
SEPT 2013 Issue
Critics Page

What is Art? Art is What?

It is a good time now to consider the question “What is art?” as investment and career concerns have usurped the more profound communication traditionally found in works of Art.

“lit before noon,” 2009–12. Oil, pewter, and florescent pigment on honeycomb aluminum panel, 39 1/4 ” x 16 1/4”.

Some thoughts on what Art might be, in order of their appearance:

1. We may know what art is, but we cannot say what it is.

2. To speak about what Art is, necessarily limits what Art can become as Art’s language is not verbal.

3. Art is a personal expression of the collective spirit. It reflects both the moment in which it is created and the continuum of human consciousness.

4. Art is the embodiment of the idea in the material; a thought-form that comes into being with the power to communicate through Time.

5. There are no new ideas in art, only new thought forms.

6. Art is a vision of Truth, opening a path that leads to recognition.

7. Art is a relative form of the absolute.

8. Art is indeterminate yet constantly seeking determination; it vanishes if it reaches the goal.

9. Art is not for nothing and not for anything either.

10. Art is.


Joan Waltemath

JOAN WALTEMATH is an artist who lives and works in New York City. She writes on art and has served as an editor-at-large of the Brooklyn Rail since 2001. She has shown extensively and her work is in the collections of the Harvard University Art Museums, the National Gallery of Art, the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. She is currently the Director of the LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting at MICA.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2013

All Issues