I Could Do That | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios


A few weeks ago
we got a question from Trey Willetto, who asked
how we respond to people who say “I could have done that. It’s so simple” about art, for
example, Felix Gonzalez-Torres. John and I answered that
A, you probably actually couldn’t do it. And B, you didn’t do it. But some of you, like
Becky, were dissatisfied. She said doesn’t that imply
that the artist has no merit outside of some guy thought
about doing this first and now we care about it? It just seems like a
really lazy answer. Challenge accepted, Becky. I’ll give you a
less lazy answer. OK, if you’re looking at
a work of art and feel compelled to say I could do
that, or my kid could do that, the first thing you
want to do is assess if you really could do that. Take some hard edge
abstraction, like this painting, by Piet Mondrian that
may, at first glance, seem fairly easy to execute. But if you’ve tried to
use oil paints before, you’ll know that
it can be really tricky to create such smooth
lines and a consistent, flat application of color. There’s also a little
details, like a line that stops just short of the edge
of the canvas that clues you in that no amateur did this. Or Cy Twombly’s work
gets a lot of heat for looking like a bunch
of kid’s scribbles. But take a closer look. The quality and character of
his line work is astounding. The restrained use of
color is exquisite. This isn’t Crayola crayon
on construction paper. This is pretty masterful
handling of paint and pencil and crayon. They may be scribbles. But they’re freaking
amazing scribbles. And if you still think you could
do it, I say give it a try. It could be a really
productive exercise to see how something is made. And it may help you
learn a new skill or take your work or
life in a new direction. But let’s move on to what
happens when you really could have made the
thing in question. If you think about
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, the example Trey
brought up, we can look at work like
“Untitled” (Perfect Lovers) from 1991, that pairs two
commercially-available clocks and synchronizes their time. Yes, you can go to a
store, buy two clocks, and hang them on the
wall, just like this. And you know, it would still
be a pretty cool experiment to see how long they
stayed synchronized and which runs out
of batteries first. But you’d be missing
something key here. The title clearly
asks you to consider these clocks to be a
metaphor for lovers and how two individuals
with hearts beating, like the ticking of clocks,
can be in perfect sync and then inevitably
fall out of sync. The title further suggests
that the lovers remain perfect, even after they’ve
fallen out of sync. But there’s even more. Because this work wasn’t just
made by any person at any time. It was made by Felix
Gonzalez-Torres, who was openly gay and who
made the work after his partner Ross was diagnosed with AIDS. Gonzalez-Torres’s work was
overtly and strategically political. And this lovely and
heartbreaking work is unquestionably
made more resonant when you know that his
partner died in 1991 and he died in 1996. His battery lasted just
a little bit longer. And if you think a work
of art should tell you everything you need to know
without the help of wall labels or the like, then
I’m probably not going to convince you otherwise. But for me, whether it’s
the “Mona Lisa,” a landscape painting in a thrift
shop, or an iPhone, every object is created
within circumstances that are important and
is distributed in ways that add to its meaning. But back to Gonzalez-Torres
because we’re not quite done with him yet. Many of his works depend
on reproducibility– stacks of paper or piles of candy
viewers are invited to take. He wanted his work to spread
and to be in multiple places at the same time and to be
created in participation with you, the viewer. With this work, it’s
not that you could do. It’s that he wants you to. You’re invited to. And that’s part of the work. It also means his art
can exist in perpetuity, beyond the confines
of his own life. And you can still experience
it today, and maybe take it home with you too. When you say I could do that,
what you’re really saying, and what I would encourage
you to say next time is, this doesn’t display
a remarkable amount of technical skill. And that’s what I
really look for in art. I think it’s perfectly fine to
have a preference for art that displays manual talents
unavailable to most. But there’s a
history of artists, beginning in the early
20th century, who took on new approaches to
material, purposefully avoiding showing off technical skill,
and for lots of good reasons– to upset the dominant
art trends at the time, to question the value
of unique objects, to undermine the
commercial system of art by creating work that is
unlikely to be trophies for the rich, or to reconsider
the separation of art and life. There’s been some theorization
about the so-called de-skilling of art in the 20th
century, a word first used to describe the
replacement of skilled laborers by technologies and less skilled
workers who operate them. Industrialization also had
a profound effect on art, introducing new methods
of reproduction. And we can’t forget about
the dawn of photography that certainly called into
question the relevance of spending loads of time
learning how to paint something realistically. Rather than devote
their lives to mastering a particular
medium, some artists began to push the
boundaries of those mediums and even forgoe
them all together. There’s sculpture that is
purposely unmonumental, paintings purposefully
non-virtuosic, drawings purposefully simple. It’s not that these
things don’t take skill. They just take different kinds
of skill– research, deduction, collaboration, exploration of
new materials, radical thought. Just as we value professions
other than skilled labor, we should also value
work by artists focus not just on craftsmanship but
on the effective execution of good ideas. It’s the thought they
bring to the form, or have others bring
to the form, and not just the form itself. Next time you’re
compelled to say I could do that I think you
should stop yourself and ask why did they do that? What are the
circumstances that led me to not doing that
and them being so driven to make the thing
that they not only thought of the idea but
then completed it and found an audience for it? What are the social, political,
and economic circumstances surrounding their
doing this thing? You can still admire
impressive technical skill. But you can also open
yourself up to appreciating a much wider world of art.

100 thoughts on “I Could Do That | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios

  1. I think of perfect lovers, not as a visual art piece, bit rather visual poetry. It is to me more similar to a string of a few words that no one understands with out context but once context is presented the meaning is very deep and begins to carry a special meaning even to you, despite not being part of the context.
    Just my thought

  2. I could do that… and after seeing this news article, I imediately thought of this video, and thought that the technical skill of this painter is just a budding force of nature, a soon to be pollished flowering artist. At least thats what I hoped.

    https://nypost.com/2019/02/26/this-2-year-old-picasso-is-taking-the-art-world-by-storm/

  3. I think a lot of it has to do with the position of the artist in society. Unknown artists toil in obscurity; those with connections flourish in museums and galleries. Of course there are exceptions, and people have to work their way up the hierarchy.

  4. This is oldschool art ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a01QQZyl-_I ) and this is modern (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpX1wBrCymo ). Modern art is considered more precious, a Cy Twombly or Rothko worth more than a Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck etc. at an auction. Painting such a modern artpiece is not that hard, any skilled painter can easily make Rothko, Twombly or Pollock masterpieces (there was a scandal recently – the fake Rothko was "better" than real). I think that the ability to paint a perfect line doesn't make you a genius.

  5. it's basically the understanding of the artist that makes all the difference.
    it's getting to know the artist and his or her intent, mentality, inspirations, passions, obsessions, etc.
    without that, a scribble is just a scribble. understanding the reasoning behind it, is what sets the work apart and ultimately determines whether or not it will be deemed a piece of art.

  6. It's hard to hear the host over her pretentiousness. For the record, I could do much better than any of these random crappy "art"

  7. Utter travesty. Your "explanation" only makes me loathe these "works" all that much more. Toss technical ability and aesthetics out the window, and it's not art anymore. It's rubbish.

  8. Having a 6 year old son made me realise how the statement "I could do that" couldn't be farther from the truth. Take your kids' paintings, any simple "run of the mill" 4/6 year old splash of paint and try and do the same. Try and achieve the same simplicity, the same carelessness the same freedom, just try not to paint any thing. You are always drawn to making sense, to giving a direction to your brush or your pencil. Painting like a 5 year old is goddam difficult. Anybody who says "I could do that" actually never tried.

  9. Sadly contemporary art has nothing to do in what the impressionist had as a vision about modern and the new future movements .
    I can say we humans are always in the extreme parts and never balanced .

    Before the impressionist uprising whey had the extreme belief in realism , today whey are in the opposite side of the extreme in contemporary art belief( or easy money laundering market )

    I just dream of a balanced society that cares more about evolving as humans than exploitation others for their joy

  10. Yes, you could 100% make a Cy Twombly in under an hour! And if you like Cy Twombly but know you'll never afford his work, then definitely do it! But if you like Vermeer, I can guarantee you'll never paint one and you'll never afford one either! So the people who prefer Twombly are already ahead!

  11. makes no sense, but i think that is the sense of it right? i mean i should study science for certain and absolute works, not art

  12. Vermeer goes into a gallery and sees 'View of Delft' and frowns… "Pfuh, I could do that." Somebody else approaches him and says "You did do it" and he goes "Oh yeah, I forgot." 🙂

  13. There is truth to the statement, ‘if you want an abstract painting, do it yourself.’ It isn’t rocket science. It helps to have a playful and exploratory attitude towards color and brush. Now to say anyone could paint (like) a Cezanne or a Van Gogh or a Gauguin etc, that would be a little more of a serious (but still joyful) endeavor.

  14. A really good book I read on photography (more so the artistic) was “why it does not have to be in focus” by Jackie Higgins. Admittedly there were many pieces in the book that left me asking the same question at first glance but the book is excellent at explaining the process and the thought behind the piece and the photos made perfect sense after and I left understanding why so many of them were considered works of art

  15. What frustrates me about some art is that it is respected and valued because of the artist, the name is what matters.

  16. I’d prefer to see a different category/subject attributed to ‘work’ like this though. Like ‘expensive experiential thought project’, maybe abbreviate it into Eetp (doesn’t that have a nice ring to it), and then have Art stand for anything where a combination of skill, effort and inventiveness is demonstrated.

  17. Really what you should ask is: “Should I do it?”
    As in WHO WAS IN THEIR RIGHT OF MY WOULD PAINT WITH THEIR VAGINA?
    But it also adds to inspire the viewer to possibly do that level of art *with what appears to be no technical skill*.

  18. Art that has to be in a gallery to be art isn't art. Sorry, the sad fact is that much of contemporary art is lazy and actual garbage. Some people just need to stop bullshitting, admit that some "artists" are dishonest, and stop making vague excuses for how something should be considered art.

  19. its not necessary to explain all aspect of art, but when theres no inherent meaning to anything in the actual art then it loses all meaning.

  20. Painting, music, etc. draw on traditional training in the discipline or draw on non-traditional or unconventional training to create and compose artwork. Example would be the Hip-Hop genre that used sampling, etc. originally without a lot of literal composing through reading and writing musical notes. They created true art. Later many Hip Hop artists became reading, writing in musical notes types of artists. So to not be Classically trained in painting does not necessarily mean that you could not do an abstract or minimalist piece such as a Mondrian, or a Callum Inness or a Rothko or even a Picasso. You should not dissuade people from following and replicating great artists. Today we are looking at abstract painters do very large canvasses using a screeding technique. Not even using paint brushes. The works are exceptional, and someone looking at it would say, "I could do that.", and technically it is true. But, technically you also have a point in saying, "But you didn't." I like to say that about people who fail to quote verses of Holy Scriptures on social media, or even a one sentence Proverb of Solomon (to draw on the Spirit of God, and spread positivity). And then they look at me quoting and say, "I could have done that." and again that reply is no place more appropriate, "But you didn't."

  21. My father and I we're at the MoMA in Los Angeles, we came across an installation of stacked and previously used five gallon paint buckets. My father paints houses for a living. We have a similar installation in our backyard.

  22. I could paint that highlighter stripe down the center of the presenter's nose , and the triangles on the sides and make them look much more like light and shadow than this, but that does not make me an artist. Hell, Kim K. could do better than this.

  23. Basically if you don't recognize the gallery as a sacred space, as a secular church as it were, then you're not gonna get the subversion of conceptual art.

    For instance, take an upside-down crucifix. To some Buddhist in Outer Mongolia – it's no big deal. Just a boring object.

    That's because the Outer Mongolian Buddhist never venerated the crucifix in the first place. He has no knowledge of the potency of the symbol because he's living outside of a Judeo Christian culture.

    Likewise, with people born outside an artistic habitus, they don't really understand the symbolic language. Art is a religion they have never been indoctrinated to worship, so why should they understand artistic blasphemy?

    The subversion of the gallery space holds no real potency for them. It all looks a
    bit pointless and silly. A cigar is just a cigar as it were.

  24. It’s not about copying the art but about the idea behind the actual painting. I can copy artists, but when it comes to create a painting, that would take months and years before an idea hits me! That’s what an artist is, creator, inventor, and artist.

  25. I once tried to copy a cave painting that I thought was interesting. Easy, right? It's a cave painting. LOL. I ended up with a painting so bad I refused to show it to anyone. Finally I had to admit that there was some dude in a cave 10,000 years ago that was a much better artist than I am.

  26. My answer: "Oh, you're an artist, too? How interesting! I always wanted to talk to a real artist. What are you working on at the moment?"

  27. There's a conspiracy theory going around. It has actually be included in films that deal with art. It states that the powers that be put a massive economic impetus behind Abstract Art. Why?
    Because it was completely apolitical.

  28. Well personally art needs to show what it's idea and thought was. You shouldn't need to read the artists biography and some weird complex explanation. A normie should able too see and understand the meaning without having such a hard time. It can be simplistic or complex, needing skills or not but scribbling on a papper with a crayon don't portray an idea nor feeling but paint drippings on a canvas can portray at least a feeling.

  29. The fact that she has to spend some much time arguing … defeats the purpose, let people like whatever they want… and hate whatever they want, nothing objective about Art …

  30. When i say i could do that and i don't do it because this art is not at all art. Morden art is bullshit and i wouldn't spend a second making something bullshit rather spend time on making art. And i don't think you know anything about art Lady.
    I create music and also write. I know what is Art. You don't. I will still say,"I can do that". You're explanation is actually stupid where as trying to sound so intellectual and smart, you're video is not all good.
    And i suggest not to talk about Art. Please don't. You don't know what is true Art.

  31. paintings back in the days- True, About reality, Striking colours, showing different world, changing perspective
    Hard to imagine and double hard to make

    today's paintings-
    Shapes, one line on a sheet, Invisible painting, nothing to imagine and impossible for sane people to do because of how bullshit it actually is.

  32. Sometimes the “I could have done that” response is the point. Like Dadaism is intended to highlight the absurdity of how people view art. Duchamp’s readymades aren’t supposed to demonstrate talent, they are supposed to be a critique of art itself

  33. You can do that but sometimes yo just to lazy.
    let's be honest here, everyone can replicate something they just choose to not do it. because they don't know how to do it, or just being lazy. i mean everything has knowledge about how to do it. but if we don't we need to know how to do it, and then we can make them. go search the plagiarism art, you know someone can do it. but you cannot copy the first art itself, you never can do that. time is in the consideration of the art and Physics for us is the barrier to copy a thing. but you can replicate and You Could Do That.

    if people start to think like this videos being so mean, you never want to try in the first place. this videos not answer "I Could Do That" it feels like mumbling for me. what i get from this video is doing art is hard and it's stupid. art or anything public is become mean after some people decide to like it. so for me art is about how you like it not because in the mainstream of art. Go try replicate and do it what you can do and if you find happy doing it, congrats you just make art and you the one who likes it in the first place and you the first who feels cool about what you're doing.

  34. my main goal for 2019 in regards to both my own art and others is to focus more on intention other than the actual finished product

  35. The problem with this approach is that if the piece itself doesn't convey it's meaning well enough or at all, that you need to read a paragraph of pseudo-philosophical jargon or tome of sociological studies and biography to supplement the piece by a magnitude of 99% then the piece itself is moot, a falure, reduntant for it achieves nothing and all the essense is in the text.

    The presenter's excuses that she has no problem with this supplementation or that one needs to necessarily know the details of the personal, political and social situations surrounding these art pieces are just that, excuses, for her (because then her job and if she has studies around this type of art, her degree), for the individual artist, for the whole establishment which promotes only this type of work, because it must be crushing to realize it's all a waste. It's also a sort of sleight of hand to mask the very fact that it's, in most cases, plain to see that much of this is simply vacuous pieces trying to be weird, mystifying and perplexing for the sake of it, a clickbait of sorts, with no deep idea or meaning at first, but whatever is read into it can be later adapted, such as the retroactively adapted meaning of the clocks in the example given.

    If a traffic light can tell you what it wants in a flash so well that even colorblind people or stray dogs can get the message, then so should any art piece. If we then wish to discuss the deeper consequenses of the traffic light we can. But if the creator wished us to think of them, he would and should have given us a hook as do so many great artists… otherwise that wasn't his intention.

    And this is the crux of the argument behind the "I could do that", which comes from both laymen and accomplished artists, it's that what these works are essentially is a badly designed riddle. If there is no way to solve it, if there is no way to reveal the mega-truth the artist is trying to convey other than he or the museum flat out tell you in a different kind of media all together, then it's just junk, and to say differently is to be highfalutin, to sniff one's own farts in order to mask the true circumstances which brought this whole wave of low skill, high volume, low meaning, high bullshittery art industry about and that's simply money…

    Because after WW I it was discovered by good marketers if you could convince the newly rich merchant hag who sold her small piece of land in the country and struck it rich with her corner convenience store and now wanted into the salons of the old, educated aristocracy that that guy Picasso for instance, was the next new big thing, and you sell her his painting done in a day for $5000, you can sell her and this new market of idiots 100 pieces in the same time it would take a more refined art piece to be produced. And if you can make a wave of that, and convince investors that their money is safe investing in one of these things as if it were gold, then all the middlemen, which is the art schools, the museums, the brokers, the auctioners, the artists and people like the woman in the video, get to make money out of selling crap, literally. It's no accident that these people and the museums supporting this type of art are also heavy into govenrment grants and support, which means you pay for this stuff whether you like it or not.

    There are two extremes this type of work can be…brilliant or trash. Now when you've seen a masterful comic artist who can take chalk, graphite, ink, crayon, or a pen and masterfully create a line which just in and of itself, via control of it's thickness, sweep, shape can convey it's own beauty, all in one stroke and this poor hipster girl tries with all her pathos to convince you that the scribbles you see have just as much mastery if not more, she's asking you to believe her words and not your eyes, because she supposedly knows best and she's got the ugly haircut and the problem glasses to prove it.

    Sorry hun, I'll take a Frazetta, a Wyeth, a Pyle, a Rembradt or a Leonardo any day of the week.

  36. Is that a bottle of booze in the background with a book near it titled “Do It”? Suddenly I want a drink….

  37. The Twombly one DOES look like kid scribbles. I am a teacher and I have seen doodles on a quiz better than that numerous times. I am absolutely not being ironic or trying to pick a fight. 5th graders draw better than this while daydreaming.

  38. Let's pretend to admire this pece of shit so that we do not fall out stupid and ignorant because somebody explained us that it is a masterpiece.
    Of course I can do it but i'd rather use canvas to paint something on it and there is no need to be a genius to pull off the lines with oil paint.

  39. The Gonzalez guys PARTNER getting aids and dying but not him makes it sound like he contracted it by having sex with someone else, which is honestly a bit disturbing, then againthey were gays so what can you expect

  40. Useful video. Just want to express a view or two of my own – Scribbles and scrawls and doodles are not just for kids, adults can and do use these techniques to great effect. Also, just because a piece of work is made by a child (or even a baby) does not necessarily mean it will be ugly. Many people, myself included, find art made by young people very interesting, charming, funny and sometimes moving! Picasso spent his whole life trying to draw like a child and if you love art you will understand why.

  41. Hanging the Windows 95 color palette on a wall, which almost anyone could do, is not art, yet the Met went right ahead and did it. Modern art is a CLUB. End of story.

  42. Instead of having someone TRY to make a painting, she blathers on for five minutes forty seconds. Most modern art is a bunch of crap. Coming up with some long winded pretentious b.s. doesn't make it any better. Calling two clocks on a wall art is absurd. You could find the same thing on display at Walmart. Describing the Cy Twomby piece …"they may be scribbles, but they are fricken amazing scribbles'"… What a load of crap. True art doesn't need to be explained.

  43. Everything is fine, easy to understand, easy to accept, even funny, until we read the price of that "wooden spoon buried in a piece of shit on a hand of a mannequin" And then we see his "creator" rise above applause and praise from a whole ridiculous generation of curators and galleries, which in turn rise on mountains of money and fame. Really bitch? lol….. I love it anyway.

  44. Cy Twombly is a joke that I am still waiting for the punch line. Calling what he did real art is an insult to real art.

  45. Masterful scribbles are still scribbles. The intention alone does not justify a crap product. If you don’t talk it up, like art critics and gallery owners do,
    it remains a crap scribble. When I eat a meal, I don’t care if the chef just lost his gay lover, or was a former political prisoner. The importance lies in the food. With modern art, its seems like it is mostly about everything except the actual piece.

  46. All I know it's many of the things you call 'art' in this video are worth hundreds if not millions of dollars. Not surprisingly, all this kind of forms of 'art' emerged in the 20th century… alongside the market, the bank system, and all the lack of virtuosity joint with superficial thoughts of our times. I beg to differ, but people peeing, piles of sweets, a table with some dirty dishes, and (as I recently heard) a man eating his own shit it's simply NOT art to me.
    By the way, can you draw?

  47. I'm just waiting for my little 5 yr old nephew to become a child art prodigy, because as critics say this days, the mindless scribbles and White canvases are better than technically done hard work paintings. This days,all you gotta do is just be mindless and do abstract.

  48. The art is not the art itself, but to make people believe it is a work of art and therefore paying millions for the feeling of not being part of the mass who use common sense and therefore can feel exclusive and superior as in “You do not have the means to pay for what is incoherent and illogical therefore I really am superior to you”.

  49. Just your Blah blah blah blah blahs I can do that too! You are like my uni classmate who tries hard to over-intellectualize everything!

  50. A guy screaming in a rhythm and a Good signer can anyone say that the guy screaming is just as good as the Good singer,……….. No!!!!!!!

  51. The fact that you have to defend it so hard should tell you something about its value. Its shit. Also the Square painting in the beginning is mirrored. So its so arbitrary that you cant even tell if its mirrored or upside down. Pointless valueless trash.

  52. In the age of digital media, this discussion is really important. As a 3D Artist, an endless number of people can do what I do. Why I do it may sometimes be the only thing, how you can stand out

  53. I love this channel so much, its super helpful for people like me who have little access to the fine art world outside of the internet.

  54. “They’re freakin amazing scribbles!”
    Translated: I have no way of explaining why these lines are significant, but I was told they are important, so I believe it.

  55. Honestly, I think every single person in this world could be an artist. Because there are so many mediums, and so many styles, and so many different imaginations. I think a lot of famous paintings COULD be done by toddlers; but, they are still art. Even the pieces made by toddlers, children, and teens create are still art, whether or not they received any formal training. They may or may not be good art, but they are still forms of art. There are some simple artwork pieces that I think I probably could make, but I didn't make them. If they are good, I appreciate all of the time, effort, and money the creator of them put into it so that I and others could enjoy it.

    I believe everything created without a useful purpose, but only made with the sole purpose of being processed through any of the senses IS art! Some art is good, and some art is crappy, but it's still art. So, I think every piece shown on this videos is art. However, I didn't enjoy every piece.

    I KNOW, without a doubt, that I CAN create art exactly like Piet Mondrian, because I made some copies of them for fun. Yet, I STILL like his art! It also inspires creative ideas in me. So for me, the lake of technical skill doesn't cause this art to be worthless. On the other hand, most of Cy Twombly's art isn't good to me. I believe his art IS art; but, it just doesn't do anything for me. That doesn't mean it is worthless, because there are many people who do appreciate it.

    Also, I see some people in the comment section claiming that some people are too ignorant to appreciate certain kinds of artwork. I think that's a REDICULOUS claim! Art is subjective, so what is good to one person may be bad to another. To say that someone is "too ignorant to know what is and what isn't good art" is like saying "You're ignorant if blue isn't your favorite color," or "You're stupid if you like chocolate better than vanilla." What art is or isn't good is just an opinion, not a fact. What makes one opinion more important than another one? Sure, I might not know that much about a particular artist, but I do know what I like and what I don't like!

  56. I think that in this case we will not value de painting itself, but its history or context
    So, if it wasn't in that context it wouldn't had that importance or value.

  57. for all of you guys who are still freaking out about art and how "its just scribbles" or whatever, maybe people simply enjoy it and thats why they see it as good, is it wrong to enjoy something for the way it is?

  58. Ok, how about this:
    1. If the artist truly had immense skill and still chose to come up with abstract art, they have to first prove they have technical skills.
    2. An art "expert" body has to undergo a double blind test to identify this art.
    3. Optional but recommended: The artist's explanation should be published in detail so that it's not left ambiguous, and more importantly to separate bs pretentious explanations from true intent.

  59. Some artist figured out that its possible to put stories in whatever object.
    if you are a great marketeer you can even get away with it and make some bucks at the same time.

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