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Lesson Plans

Re: Reproductions in Art Ed

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry (taylorh)
Sun, 21 Jan 1996 13:51:59 -0700 (MST)

On Sat, 20 Jan 1996, Michael Delahunt wrote:

> I sense a squeamish attitude here lately about the use of reproductions.
> Agreeing that we must be vigilant about discussing issues of original vs
> reproduction [not so hard], I suggest that along with our efforts to provide
> students with experiences of original works, we EMBRACE the idea that students
> will benefit from our accumulating and proudly displaying and studying a good
> collection of reproductions. I thought we'd defeated the McLuhan notion that
> "the medium is the message" years ago. Is the paint of a painting ALWAYS more
> important than its overall image and meaning?

I don't know Michael. Over all, I don't think (and indeed I hope) that
there is a single "correct" answer to this; that a single face, a big
brother/sister could step to the front to the front of our classroom with
a nationalized art curriculum. All-in-all reproductions have limited
value, but, sometimes, SOMETIMES, they are our best option.

Problems with translations (reproductions) are myriad. Most of those
available to us as teachers have been "cleaned-up", Mondrian is a prime
example. Most reproductions do not represent the qualities of the
paintings they imitate any better than the (no doubt apocrophal) the
small, flat, black and white photograph of his wife that the man on the train
supposedly showed to Picasso to demonstrate what women "REALLY" look like.
Picasso, it is said was unimpressed. Maybe we should be as well.

This is not to say that reproductions ought to be abandoned but merely to
argue that their "flaws" ought to be better recognized by our students.
In terms of history, politics, culture, and the allusions of human discourse
reproductions are essential -- to my mind. In terms of the formal
qualities of art, however, reproductions are quite, quite limited.
Painting from a reproduction is a limited exercise, appreciation of the
use of color, and texture is equally limited. Composition and form to
a large extent is quite well represented, I think.

Reproductions have their place. As to McLuhan, we have yet, I suspect,
to fully appreciate the depth of his statement. An art class is not often
the place to explore the qualities of mass printing and originals, even
those not of masters quality have a lot to offer. As teachers, I would
advocate the each of us resolve the question of what is required in our
classes for ourselves. I hope that education through reproductions is a
popular one but I also hope that others glory in media and some try for
their personal balance between numerous options.

> It's fundamentally important to show students original work of course-- in
> artists' studios, and in museum and gallery settings, as well as in the
> classroom. We ought to be making our own art at school, arranging for artists
> to visit our classes, taking kids on excursions to studios, museums and
> galleries, and borrowing works from any source in the community willing to
> lend. We should work on developing our schools' collections of original work.
> Needless to say, for students' uses, original work of real quality can be
> difficult to borrow, much less purchase. It's difficult enough to purchase
> art for our personal collections!

Agreed. However, failure to achieve "real quality" is important to
understand as well. One way to understand such failure is to "appreciate"
it. Most of our work fails. Much is discarded along the way -- I think
it's worthwhile for our students to understand the path and why one artist
chooses to display a work that another might destroy. As well, there is
significance in learning to appreciate what we have achieved in our own
numerous and inescapable failures along the way and not to let that
inhibit any future attempts. I have always felt that the quality of so
much Japanese art has arisen from such cultural perceptions.

> Excepting those of us in schools already beside good collections, however,
> reproductions must comprise the bulk of the classroom images most of us show
> our students day in and day out. How else can we show students works valued
> in the thousands and millions of dollars regularly and at a moment's notice?

Is appreciation of monetary value in art, or art of FASHION and CURRENT
monetary value SO important? Considering how value in art fluctuates over
the years, some of those worthless pieces may well be in major collections
in another century; and patrons of that era wondering how we could have
failed to value them.

Do we want our students to appreciate art, the art that they bring into
their own lives and homes, OR to appreciate wealthy public institutions
and collections? It's an unfair question of course, we probably desire
BOTH outcomes. But, I suspect that we cannot achieve one WITHOUT the other.
Koons, Rockwells, Van Goghs, Bouguereaus, Rembrandts, Giottos, and the
"high-artworld" will be found and appreciated through teaching their
appreciation specifically or by exploring the qualities of appreciation
(in more accesible work) that will allow them to be accessible, perhaps
later in life. Work with what you have and worry less about what you
lack, might be a good motto.

> The other day Kathy ( made a related point: "My
> basic idea is that it's a million times more effective for kids to be able to
> stand in front of an original work of art... than to read a book or be
> subjected to 'art in the dark.' I'm thinking about the potential of museum
> education to turn out students who, as adults, will become informed and
> educated museum-goers.... I'm interested in what a small city with a limited
> collection of original or "important" works can do to design an experiential
> art history curriculum that nonetheless imparts an understanding of the
> 'canon' and not just isolated works."

Nicely put Kathy.

> Here's how I've developed and used large collections of [95%] reproductions:
> At each of two K6 schools I've used small rooms as galleries apart from the
> art classrooms. I could annex these spaces only by making alliances with
> music and literature people so we'd combine our efforts in putting together
> exhibits in which ALL teachers could teach interdisciplinary lessons. So the
> gallery is for studying visual art, listening to music, and reading and
> writing too. We each saw that by combining our efforts we could do much more
> than any of us could do alone. With the support of our principal, PTO, and
> business partners, we completely transformed the interior of these rooms:
> building in a bank of storage closets, resurfacing walls, adding carpeting and
> track-lighting, etc.

This is GREAT Michael!

> At one of these schools we called our gallery "The Humanities Forum."

An excellent history project by appearances.

> Each has contained as many pieces of original work as I could beg,
> borrow, or create myself; but most pieces were either reproductions or
> mass produced.

And it's the best ANY of us can do; and a great model as well!

> There are many sorts of lessons art teachers can present in such a gallery.

and many that play out a little "flat"

> It's a great environment for the use of DBAE. And students love to play Mary
> Erickson's "Token Response" in there, for instance.

It's a "good" environment for DBAE, especially the history and criticism
components. What's missing is any tangible, visceral connections to medial
qualities of the "masterpieces". It's a real loss, but one most of us
have to live with. We can regain something by comparing the material
and empiric qualities of the "originals" in the collection to the
reproductions and speculating as to how such qualities might manifest in
the originals that the reproductions represent or "stand-in" for.

> Beyond using this resource
> with my own students, however, I take as a major goal preparing other teachers
> to use it with their classes. Each of the gallery committee members shares his
> expertise by writing and publishing lessons which classroom teachers can use
> with their kids.

Hey, I'm in Tucson, get me on your "mailing list"!

> We've recruited parents to act as docents for classes which want to use
> them.

(docents: para-artists, SEMI-skilled in triage. A necessary evil in which we
must participate)

> We've established a lending program whereby other AZ schools
> can borrow exhibits for $25 per month (just to cover replacing damaged
> things.)


> Learning where to get good stuff is another challenge. Two mail-order
> sources for sculpture reproductions: Alva Museum Reproductions Inc. ($400
> min.), 185 Bethpage Sweet Hollow Road, Old Bethpage, NY 11804, 516-845-3838;
> and Eleganza Ltd., Magnolia Village, 3217 West Smith Street, Seattle, WA
> 98199, 206-283-0609. Please share with me other good sources for 3D!

We really need un"touched-up" reproductions. What's the NY studio that
reproduces them? Anyone know? Kids need to see the pentimentos and
holidays, the rough edges, frays, dirt and smears in art. Not the
dehumanized art of Ortega Y Gasset and the idealists with appropriate
distance and tight unachievable perfection. Well, I suppose SOME of us
NEED that. But I'm putting my two cents in for the un"improved".

Looking forward to more Michael... where are you in AZ? PHX?
-henry in tucson