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Posted by Alan Nagel on December 17, 1998 at 09:27:44:

Amateur at best, I finally get nerve and time to respond to some of the well-set leading questions. Granted it's late in the game, but I did look only at a couple of the initial responses, and react like the teacher whose students won't do the plain simple tasks requested on the exercise. Here are my simplicities.

Pics 1 and 2: good examples of how p1 is simply too variable/irregular, looses a basic symmetry, suffers from rougher drawing, imbalance in design and color in contrast to the effective variation in both that characterizes Pic2.

Pics 3 and 4: 3's heavy-handed border might be pleasing if I had this piece in hand, but from the photo it seems clumsy: but here my ignorance may need tweaking. To what extent are there material constraints --density of knotting, length of pile?-- that contribute to what I see as heavy?

The border in 4 I find to have a pleasing variation in the pairing of colors in the basic figure, and better balance in both design and color throughout the piece. The field is crowded and perhaps repetitious so that the corner X figures seem to my eye cramped, but back to Salon #1 I like the overall effect as a matter of mere taste. Overall effect is one of a very good combining of balance with scattering of design and color, lurking perhaps on what some would consider more 'decorative' than 'artful' but I'll try to bury that bone again quickly.

When do those constraints compensate to what degree for a trait of design that would otherwise be a weakness? No easy question for me, and here I strongly will hold to my concern that all arts require us to take into consideration the materials and the techniques in use, and certainly on some occasion the cultural setting of expectations, purposes, and preferences as we may be able to recover them historically. Cricket lovers and baseballs lovers have hard work to do in order to converse: and it's harder yet if I don't much give a hoot about either as "my game" but try to judge as an interested outsider/non-participant which may be best.

That is to say, 'cultural' and 'material' constraints have plenty of overlap and that complexity deserves careful attention.

In 5 the minor guls certainly cross the border for my eye into excess irregularity: can we generalize that in this kind of piece generally it is reasonable to expect a mastery of repetition to take higher value where in some other conventions (cf. 3/4) it may be the variation that gets higher value, and consequently we tolerate the zone where [in]competence is inseparable from [failed]creativity?

In 7 we have the piece I'll defend--or try to--strongly for all its criticizable balance, competence, etc. The medallions simply work very well indeed for me as an informal art achieved well.

Back then finally to material constraints: if we find a rug in which it's as much material problems of irregularities in wool, yarn, shrinkage, ... (if any be possible?) that results in an accentuated roughness of design, would we do well to forgive than find fault with the rug and/or its weaver[s]?

Alan Nagel

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