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not about consensus,” Pittman stresses. “Consensus brings about
the lowest common denominator. Our strength is that we have a very
willful, very professional, very acclaimed and very contentious
faculty. That’s what makes the school interesting.” At UCLA, says
McCarthy, “we’re dealing with the present, with what it means to
be an artist today.”
those outside the art world, being an artist typically means one
of two things. The first is the Romantic notion of the artist as
some sort of secular prophet through whom visions of an imagined
world are given form. The other is the neo-classical counterpoint
to this idea: the artist is a gifted craftsman who hones his or
her talent to create objects of transcendent beauty. These are also
the twin assumptions that have driven the way much art and art history
have been taught for at least a half-century.
asserts Pittman, “a failure of art schools is that they’ve been
relegated to expressionistic, therapeutic roles; they haven’t been
regarded as training grounds for a cultural profession of real importance.”
would question that notion down on the southern end of the campus.
Doctors and scientists are trained to be professionals, with a working
knowledge of their fields. Even in the performing arts and film
studies everybody assumes that the students are there to learn what
they need to know to become successful professionals in their fields.
It only becomes an issue in the fine arts.”
instead of inquiry, the emphasis was on craft, style, technique.
Content came later. But at UCLA, Pittman emphasizes, teaching and
studying art is about “intellectual inquiry.” Indeed, the much-respected
painter explains, “the majority of student artists I work with do
not paint. I discuss and critique multiple practices: I’m interested
in the idea rather than the medium. The work of art is dictated
by the refinement of the idea.”