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Paperback Why Art Cannot Be Taught: A Handbook for Art Students Book

ISBN: 0252069501

ISBN13: 9780252069505

Why Art Cannot Be Taught: A Handbook for Art Students

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Book Overview

In this smart survival guide for students and teachers--the only book of its kind--James Elkins examines the "curious endeavor to teach the unteachable" that is generally known as college-level art instruction. This singular project is organized around a series of conflicting claims about art: "Art can be taught, but nobody knows quite how." "Art can be taught, but it seems as if it can't be since so few students become outstanding artists." "Art...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Recovering MFA Survivor

As a recovering survivor of an MFA program I can wholly relate to Elkins' criticisms about the failure of critiques to shape art and artists. It is poignant that Elkins is unable to offer up a solution.

to be read BEFORE entering Art School

this book is not for current art students, or graduates (it's simply too late for you to read this) considering the expensive and time consuming path of art training at the University level ? then i recommend reading (or even just skimming) "Why Art Cannot Be Taught : A HANDBOOK FOR ART STUDENTS" not only because it gives a clear overview of the evolution of the methods of passing craftsmanship in the fine arts through (European) history, but because you'll see that picking a few art classes is probably going to serve you far better than undertaking a full course of study (and the stories of "classroom psychodrama", and students having to explain and defend their work was easily worth the price of the book, IMHO)

QUESTION - Visual Arts "different" as an academic pursuit?!

The answer: I think so. The author changed my way of thinking about the subject of what is plausible in arts education in our time. The apprearance of total artistic freedom from judgement as formulated by postmodernists, yet the intrinsic nature of how the academy/school affects an artist, is seriously examined by Elkins. This book is amongst the first to pragmatically question some of our common misunderstandings about the methodology involved in teaching the visual arts. The reason for this maybe due in part to modernist and postmodernist intellectualizing of art (e.g.-the endless pages of ink spilled in history books about content free Minimalist paintings and Conceptual Art). Elkins really does an marvelous job at collecting the evidence that studio art teaching and learning is fundamentally different in goals from more conventional subjects such as the sciences, languages and even music...yet, artists should have a somewhat rounded education. To the authors credit, the book avoids the idealistic view of the arts, dispenses with the RomanticEra cliches of " the gifted talent" or "starving artist" or "outsider art" and deals with THE pragmatic reality of art instruction. Elkins' surveys are about the historical roots of art instruction: the Medieval workshops, the Renaissance guilds,the Baroque academies, and the 20th c. Bauhaus School are compared and contrasted with one another. THIS comparison of instruction models is EXCELLENT! The assumed historical 'reality' of the types of artists each system was capable of producing serves as a spring board for discussions on how philosophical discourse influences the instruction model. The book addresses the question of "what body of knowledge is central to the education of an artist?" Is it life drawing, technical and mechanical skills or is it a selected reading and immersion in the liberal arts(i.e.- should an artist have a classical education w/ emphasis on Greek literature -or- postmodernist and shifting in emphasis related to an artist's native culture?_) Elkin's book fully illustrates the very real world dilemna that students interested in the visual arts face when choosing between "art schools" and small "Liberal arts colleges." "Art schools" tend to only be interested in art, with a myriad of opportunities to be exposed to the art world, with little if any exposure to core general education courses. Paradoxically, the art schools are also places where one is likely to find the latest art theory in deployment despite an 'art school'student populace that MAY NOT have the educational background to engage in meaningful discussion with instructors. The situation is the exact inverse with students at "liberal arts colleges" (and the university in general) where the student is academically armed, yet, is enrolled in significantly less demanding studio courses. "Liberal Arts colleges" and art departments of universities,while providing excellant general education for an art student -most bar

all art students and profs should have to read this

The author details art instruction through the ages and discusses the question asked in the title. Art and artists would be so much better thought of by society, and art istself would improve, if the ideas in this book were taken seriously. It is a DEEP book, not for casual reading.

Insider Conversation

Chatty and irresistable, rather than being the harsh polemic that the title might suggest, this volume is a multifaceted discussion of the issues involved in teaching and studying art in a studio environment. Anyone who has ever lived through a studio critique will find the book hard to put down. Like Elkin's earlier work, "What Painting Is," it will make any art-student readers wish that they could study with him at the Art Institute of Chicago.Despite the provocative title, Elkins has very little interest in transforming arts education. Rather, he wants to point to both the virtues and the pitfalls of critique-based evaluation, and to get both teachers and students to appreciate just what a mysterious and irrational process it is to attempt to teach/learn the studio arts.The author is an insider speaking candidly for other insiders -- the audience for this valuable and intelligent essay may not be huge, but within that group, it will stimulate many electrifying conversations.
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