Do You Know Art When You See It?

Alexander Phimister Proctor

The Amon Carter American Art Museum in Fort Worth has a sculpture on display by Alexander Phimister Proctor. The sculpture there is not controversial like one by the artist removed last year from Lee Park in Dallas.

The small sculpture of a big cat (Panther) in the gallery doesn’t bring about the same emotions as the big sculpture of Robert E Lee, now in storage.

But both are representational.

The removal of the sculpture depicting General Lee was fraught with controversy. No comment stuck in my psyche me more that one by an artist acquaintance who thought monuments like these were not art. The sentiment I took away was monuments are “not art” in the way a Rothko painting might be.

Not art? Would that also apply to Proctor’s Panther? A landscape?

It wouldn’t take much searching to go back 75-100 years or so and find opinions expressed by traditionalists that modern work was “not art.” Continue our journey through history to the Dada, surrealists, conceptualists, minimalists, pop and so on. Each I expect brought numerous exclamations about whether or not it was art.

Have we gone so far afield now that the artistic merit of pure representation is questioned? It’s an interesting question.

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