"Original and timely. I don't know of any other book that addresses the issues of contemporary art teaching so convincingly. Elkins's bold analysis of the critique should be required reading for art teachers and students." -- Judith K. Brodsky, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University
"Elkins challenges all the comfortable myths that art schools run on: that art can be taught; that we know what we're doing when we try to teach art; that the class critiques which are the heart of art school teaching make some kind of sense. His dissection of art school practice is penetrating and witty--not just iconoclastic, but soundly based in serious philosophic discourse. The range of his scholarship is breathtaking." -- Howard S. Becker, author of Art Worlds
In this smart survival guide for students and teachers--the only book of its kind--James Elkins examines the "curious endeavor to teach the unteachable" that is generally known as college-level art instruction.
Elkins traces the development (or invention) of the modern art school and considers how issues such as the question of core curriculum and the intellectual isolation of art schools affect the teaching and learning of art. He also addresses the phenomenon of art critiques as a microcosm for teaching art as a whole and dissects real-life critiques, highlighting presuppositions and dynamics that make them confusing and suggesting ways to make them more helpful.
Elkins's no-nonsense approach clears away the assumptions about art instruction that are not borne out by classroom practice. For example, he notes that despite much talk about instilling visual acuity and teaching technique, in practice neither teachers nor students behave as if those were their principal goals. He addresses the absurdity of pretending that sexual issues are absent from life-drawing classes and questions the practice of holding up great masters and masterpieces as models for students capable of producing only mediocre art. He also discusses types of art--including art that takes time to complete and art that isn't serious--that cannot be learned in studio art classes.
Elkins's incisive commentary illuminates the experience of learning art for those involved in it, while opening an intriguing window for those outside the discipline.