Works exhibit by plastic artists, architects and designers that entrench new creative proposals from traditional techniques, incorporating contemporary art and tradition.
If we observe a Greek vase, a gothic stained glass, a piece of Egyptian jewelry or Mayan pottery we immediately relate them to art. We would not deny that they are works of art and if we check any art history book, we would find them there, but why do we establish a difference between the Greek vase and the one created by a contemporary artisan? We could talk about the historical element, though this would mean that over time the contemporary craft become artwork, therefore assuming that at the time of its creation is not. Is it then time which transforms a handicraft in art? We can say that all craft is art, but not all art is craft. Is it right?
The exhibition Art/Artisan÷Artists 3.0 (Arte/Sano÷Artistas 3.0) invites us to reflect on these issues and even though it does not provide us a definite answer, it helps to keep alive the topic’s debate, analysis and reflection. To do this, we must begin by defining concepts such as art and craft. Both are very similar and they are found repeatedly in our daily lives, we are surrounded by art and craft. To recognize the differences and similarities between them is vital to understanding contemporary art and to define art in general.
Art is the expression through a medium, whether visual, literary, musical or otherwise. In the other hand, crafts are generally defined as a product of decorative use, with or without function, handmade by a craftsman. The difference between an artist and a craftsman lies in its ultimate goal. For the former, the aim is the expression; while the latter is the decor, but that does not mean he cannot express himself through his work.
Perhaps the characteristics in common between art and craft are more important. Both can be used decoratively, although there are art pieces that look towards reflection and no decoration. Not many people would put Francisco de Goya’s”Saturn devouring his son” as a decorative element. Some works aim to achieve certain beauty, harmony and even a reflection on the historical, religious and or cultural backgrounds.
But, what does the craft express? Can craft reveal truths, stimulate the intellect and emotions, commemorate experiences, protest against injustices or raise awareness on social issues? Yes, you can do so in certain cases, but it depends on the perception of the individual. The craft has a visceral character and is necessarily a tangible product that goes from the simplicity of the decor to the complexity of the practical. That is the difference between the two; craft is a strictly tangible product while art does not need to.
Art and crafts are two concepts that go hand in hand and, although the latter has an aesthetic value and can be considered as art in some cases, no longer maintain their initial and primary goal. To be consider art, the craft depends on its ability to express. I am not trying to say that a concept is above another, and it is clear that both can co-exist in one piece; I seek only to establish that it is the thought that makes an object a work of art.
However, contemporary art has broken with the historical burdens that supported multiple streams and avant-gardes. There is no pattern to follow, there are no rules and, as Arthur Danto says, “everything is allowed”. Any object, art or medium can be transformed into art; therefore, using traditional techniques to create works of art is not only accepted and allowed, but it shows the historical/cultural background that the artist wants to convey in its works. Sure, crafts always had that quality, but it has been recently accepted in the artistic community. Therefore, craft pieces have a place in an art gallery nowadays. That is one of the intentions of the exhibition; to show that the parts manufactured with artisan techniques can be art.
Text by Irwin Rigoberto Laguna
Popular Art Museum (map) Inaugurated in March 2006, the map encourages Mexican popular art through its diverse activities and exhibitions. The popular art of Mexico expresses the riches, roots, traditions and work skills of the artists and artisans, reason why map revaluates crafts as work of art and understands that it surpasses the usage conception that they have. These pieces have an artistic value bounded to beliefs, worldview and reality of the people who created them.