I Could Do That | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios | Summary and Q&A

August 20, 2015
The Art Assignment
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I Could Do That | The Art Assignment | PBS Digital Studios


When evaluating art, it is important to consider the technical skill, context, and conceptual ideas behind the work, rather than dismissing it based on simplicity.

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Key Insights

  • 🥰 Assessing the technical skill required to create a work of art is an essential part of understanding and appreciating its complexities.
  • 🥋 Art can convey meaningful messages and engage with social, political, and economic circumstances beyond its physical form.
  • 🥰 Reproducibility in art allows for wider distribution and audience participation, challenging the notion of the artwork as a static object.
  • 🎨 The de-skilling of art in the 20th century involved artists intentionally pushing the boundaries of traditional mediums to explore new materials, collaboration, and conceptual ideas.
  • 💁 Artistic merit should not be solely based on technical skill but also on the effective execution of ideas and the thoughtfulness brought to the form.


A few weeks ago we got a question from Trey Willetto, who asked how we respond to people who say "I could have done that. It's so simple" about art, for example, Felix Gonzalez-Torres. John and I answered that A, you probably actually couldn't do it. And B, you didn't do it. But some of you, like Becky, were dissatisfied. She said doesn't that impl... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why is it important to consider if you could create a work of art before dismissing it as simple?

Assessing if you could replicate a work of art helps to understand the technical skill required and appreciate the artist's craftsmanship. It also allows for a deeper examination of the work's complexities and the artist's unique perspective.

Q: How does an artist like Felix Gonzalez-Torres challenge the notion of simplicity in art?

Gonzalez-Torres's artwork, such as "Untitled" (Perfect Lovers), goes beyond its seemingly simple execution. The artwork's title and the artist's personal experiences add layers of metaphor and meaning, making it a poignant reflection on love, loss, and the human experience.

Q: What is the relevance of reproducibility in Gonzalez-Torres's art?

Gonzalez-Torres intentionally created artworks that could be reproduced and spread, inviting viewer participation. This approach allows his art to exist beyond his lifetime and challenges the notion of art as a precious object.

Q: Why did some artists in the 20th century emphasize conceptual ideas over technical skill?

The 20th century saw a shift in art, with artists purposefully challenging traditional notions of skill and focusing on conceptual ideas. These artists aimed to question established art trends, challenge the commercial system of art, and explore the boundaries of different mediums.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Assessing whether you could replicate a work of art is the first step to understanding its complexity and technical skill required.

  • Some artworks, like Cy Twombly's scribbles, may appear simple at first glance but reveal masterful handling of materials and thoughtfulness upon closer inspection.

  • The significance of an artwork goes beyond its physical execution, including the artist's intentions, societal context, and political statements.

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