This little series is devoted to "the good stuff" i.e. art of outstanding quality. One might say that surely the good stuff varies according to individual tastes. Everyone has their own definition. I would answer this with a very emphatic "NO"! Quality is not a matter of opinion. Quality represents a set of criteria that have stood the test of time. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is another example of clear weak mindedness that tries to cover up a virulent aesthetic relativism that permeates our culture and values. I will not debate this. I've spent 30 years debating this. The issue has long been settled for me. The great tradition dictates that artists such as Michaelangelo, Rembrandt, Hokusai, Hiroshoge, etc., are time-transcending masters whose work transcends their historical epochs. They are the creative beacons that define the human race at its finest.
In our field there are such masters of the medium that stand head above shoulders over the lesser practitioners. In this regard, true quality triumphs over the nonsense of nostalgia. Do you collect strictly from nostalgic motivation? There is nothing wrong with trying to capture a few flashes from one's golden childhood. Overall, however, this is an illusory puruit. The eye and mind must be set on QUALITY or the end of the artistic hunt will easily evaporate in short order. A 1962 painting of Green Lantern by Pop artist Mel Ramos recently sold for 600 thousand dollars at BONHAMS auction house. The image was quite weak. I have included a shot of the oil. There was little of real quality there. Other motivations led someone to acquire this oil. Quality was not a consideration. Much of the current "Madison Avenue" art world is built on this type of misdirection. The central pursuit of quality has been replaced by some perverse version of ego gratification or simply the pursuit of an "alleged" status symbol. This type of collector is collecting with his ears, not his eyes.
One of the greatest masters is George Herriman. Thousands of words have been written about the relationship among Kat, Kop, and Mouse. Poets have chimed in. Great twentieth century titans such as William Randolf Hearst, Raushenberg, and DeKonnick have collected original KRAZY KAT originals. I am not the first one to assert that it is the finest comic strip of the 20th century and represents one of the greatest sustained creative efforts ever seen in the art world. Herriman is a true master. Words cannot approach the whimsical visual poetry of his pages, nor the idiosyncratic language that dwells within. Great connoisseurs will always recognize KRAZY KAT as art to cherish.
The depicted page is an absolute masterpiece. It's all there, from the unique composition and design, the wild narrative flow, and the poetry of expression. This is, indeed, the good stuff. It is always fresh, always satisfying.
Why, one might ask, do many people actively dislike KATS? Is it just an acquired taste? The answer lies with the person approaching it. It is important with all art TO BRING SOMETHING TO THE TABLE!! Great art makes demands on the viewer. Many people come unprepared. They don't want to work, to contemplate in order to unlock the essence of a work of art. They are intellectually lazy. Flowers and barns are easy to look at. Millions of homes have these "decorations" everywhere on every wall. But, it is not art; it is visual comfort. It is the equivalent of popcorn and pop. It doesn't satisy. It is temporary. It is not an engagement with a creative soul.
Great art demands an educated eye and ATTENTION. We must attend to a masterpiece. Most of our day is spent devaluing the present, fragmenting our perceptions into thousands of surface diversions. Constant TV watching, texting, ubiquitous cell phone calls...everything is there to kill our concentration , to cheapen the "here and now". With art, all of our attention needs to be gathered and directed. Ask yourself seriously, how much of my art is worthy of this consideration. If it isn't, then, sorry, it's not "the good stuff".