Deep Thought Thursday: Taking risks for art’s sake

In Monday's post about talent vs. success, I said "What is great art if not risky?" (You should read all of the insightful comments there.)

Lisa Call challenged me with: Is all great art risky?

Here are some thoughts.

1. What IS great art and who decides? (See how freely I used that word in that post?)

2. If we go by the standards that what appears in art history books is great art, then, yes, it's risky. But maybe "risky" isn't the right word. It's just that, at some point, that artist decided to take a risk and to push the envelope with his or her art. They did something that no one else was doing. They impelled art itself forward.

Here's an equally interesting Deep Thought:

Is all risky art great?

(I think I know the answer, but why don't you bat it around for a bit.)


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9 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Taking risks for art’s sake”

  1. 99.9% of risky art is definitely NOT great. Hence the risk. Plus, I’d argue that anyone who strives to take risks for the sake of being “risky” often ends up being rather mainstream. Like kids who try to be countercultural, but end up just copying the styles their parents wore 20 years earlier.

  2. What is risky? Is it: Commercially unproven? Unsanctioned by Authority? Working on spec? A commission with no soul? Or, as one person I know found to be paralyzing, an open-ended commission? Or taking the money and not delivering? Enough with the questions, already. I think most art that is *labeled* ‘risky’ or ‘daring’ or whatever, is really either just unfinished or (as in the case of the urinal and a lot of Warhol [the soup can and Marilyn are both great art]) a blatant insult to the art establishment, which the establishment doesn’t get (or does and is too embarrassed to admit). And, there is the case of Diego Rivera and Rockefeller Center. Risky, yes. Great? We’ll never know, but given Rivera’s own reproduction, I don’t think so. What is great art? I think you can point to it after the fact: M’s “David” and “Pieta,” R’s “Dutch Masters” and “Golden Helmet,” Pollack’s second splatter painting (the first was practice and the rest were spin-offs), the St. Louis “Gateway Arch.” I’ve always been undecided on “Mona Lisa.” To me, there is something out-of-place with it, and I’ve never put my finger on just what. In any event, I believe that all genuine art is risky, to one degree or another. So, to say that all great art is risky is a tautology, and it is a certainty to say that not all risky art is great. How’d I do Coach?

  3. Alyson B. Stanfield

    There is a huge difference in trying to create risky art for the sake of the new and in taking risks. I guess I’m mostly talking about taking risks with your art. That art evolves because of risk-takers. Risky art ??? I agree: What IS risky art?

  4. Michael Lynn Adams

    Fascinating question. Is understanding yourself, being true to your beliefs, and following your heart and gut, even against trends, risky? Hard to know. It might be the only path for some. Perhaps the greats saw no other choice but to follow the path they were on. There’s often an air of falsehood to the work of trend followers, don’t you think? Personally, I feel that just the act of painting has that exhilarating element – the risk failure – that make success so rewarding.

  5. Here I go, sitting on the fence again… IMHO, all art is risk. When you take the leap to create something there’s always risk involved, but the level of risk may vary: risk letting others see, risk of “did it look like I wanted it to?”, risk of trying something new, etc. I guess I see all artists on the journey of risk. One artist’s risk is another artist’s rut. Is all risky art great? I’d say no. Is all great art risky? Perhaps at the time of creation, they seemed risky to many. What a banquet of things to pinder! I’ll be on Deep Thought all week!

  6. I don’t think that all risky art is great art, but I have to admit that throughout history a lot of the great works were risky in their time.

  7. I have to agree with Daniel – most risky art is nowhere near being great art, and risk for risk’s sake becomes anything but. On the other hand art without risk would be deadly for both artist and audience. There’s an element of bravery in taking genuine creative risks – but even when the outcome isn’t a success there can still be a payoff with the learning that comes from it.

  8. bottom line for me is to keep my eyes closed in regard to getting caught up in the idea of making a final piece that could be described as great. hunh? i prefer to think i push myself onto that ledge and then i see what happens when i challenge myself. i KNOW when it’s right and i wouldn’t have it any other way and this is why i stopped practicing law and started making art. i am a process person.

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