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Michael Kimmelman Mot du Jour: Skill

Adolfo Sanchez, Mona, 1985. Unrelated image contributed by Oliver Sanchez.

This weeks Mot du Jour is courtesy of Michael Kimmelman, Chief Art Critic of The New York Times, who generously sanctioned the use of his erudite verbalisms for the purposes of our deified feature. Thanks also to award winning Director/Producer, Amir Bar-Lev  who worked with Michael to generate this text.


“Skill is a complicated thing and it depends on what your priorities are. An artist like Cy Twombly who does these scribbles will be shown on television and people can look at that and think “oh man, that’s just scribble” but there are lots of different ways of judging skill. Sometimes all kinds of thing, often very simple things can in fact have amazing degrees of skill and it’s a question of whether you want to throw yourself into understanding those different degrees of skill, so just because something looks like something that would be very easy to do, like a scribble, doesn’t necessarily mean that all scribbles are alike. And that’s actually not such a crazy thing to say. There are writers for instance who can write very simple style and some of those sentences are actually really simple, but dull, and then there are Hemingways, or rather there is Hemmingway, and the very notion of simplicity, the clarity of the sentence… in one hand its nothing, and in another its art[.]


Michael Kimmelman is Chief Art Critic of The New York Times. He is now based in Berlin, writing the ‘Abroad’ column for the Times on culture and society across Europe.

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  • Richard_haden

    “Skill is a complicated thing and it depends on what YOUR priorities are”

    If one is gazingly the typical Bourgeois viewer then one would follow the idealist aesthetic of Kant which privileges the subject over the object. As the scribble would be comparable between the author and the viewer’s mimetic abilities (interpretable). If one were to see those scribbles of Cy Twombly in Adorno’s prioritizing materialist aesthetic then one would see that his “truth content” lies in the art objects ability to have its own subjective moment. That the art object is in essence alive and does not depend on our gaze. It is the artist skill that gives to a work a spirit that is neither mimetic or interpreted from the point of view of the viewer. What we get with Theodore Adorno is a shared experience of art, not a inert thing but something which has its own cognitive sense. How that applies to a post modern production is another topic for another consumable comment box.

    Of course Adorno was of that Idealist frankfort school… amongst other thinkers of a modernist time…regardless, I still think his ideas hold a lot of murky water.

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Michael Kimmelman Mot du Jour: Skill