By ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST, April 2019
Cartoonery is not art and I am not being self-deprecating here, just objective. During the recent show of Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim, her two work principles were hung on the wall. The second read: Understand Only In Part. There’s mystery in the art process. Picasso said “If your painting doesn’t go wrong it will be no good”. Every strong painting needs “a little bit of poison” noted Lucian Freud. Artists mostly agree that chance, mistakes play a part and that something can get into a work they didn’t knowingly put there.
Cartoonery is quite other. A cartoon can express a thought, channel a feeling, embody a fantasy, whatever, but it must do so efficiently or the humor dies. The cartoonist is not ambiguous and doesn’t play waiting games unless, of course – loophole alert – that is the point of the cartoon. What’s more cartoonery is becoming an extremely timely practice. The art world, like every segment of the economy, has been thinking through the impact of AI and robotics, but with specific unease, as algorhithms grow increasingly capable of replicating just about any art style.
But AI doesn’t do humor. Robots can’t get jokes!
So, cartoonery is not art, but can a cartoon hold a page or a wall as well as art can? Of course! But I would say that, wouldn’t I? You’ll be seeing some of mine. WM
Anthony Haden-Guest is an internationally known writer and artist.
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