Philadelphia Loves Rocky...But Is It Art?

JoeM's picture
Submitted by JoeM on Sun, 2006-09-10 03:16

It's Rocky Week in Philadelphia, to mark the return of the Rocky Statue from ROCKY II to the Philadelphia Art Museum after years of purgatory down at the Spectrum. The catch is, after much debate, the statue is NOT atop the art museum steps, commemorating Rocky's triumph, but stationed on the lawn. Judging by some of the debates about the statue, it's probably lucky it even made it there. The main argument against returning the statue to the museum is that it's not art because it was a movie prop. However, it is, in fact, a sculpture, and even though it had a utilitarian purpose (movie prop), it is art in the sense that it is representative of existence, of how a man could be, in this case, a triumphant underdog. The argument that it's only a movie prop makes me wonder how the critics would view the statue of Dominique. Were it real, would it not be art because it was a prop in the Stoddard temple? I think the fact that it was a movie prop makes it all the more art, since it was not simply found, but created as part of a larger artistic vision.

What do you think? Art or not art?

( categories: )

Means and ends?

JoeM's picture

"Can art be produced off a production line?"

Why not? Some of the great masters had understudies and apprentices that helped with large scale works. Movies require more than one person to get the job done. It still evolves from a single mind, whether painter, musician, writer. The art is in the "recreation of reality", not in the means to production. (Though I respect "old world craftsmanship", I get confused by the attitude that division of labor and automation in commerce and industry is a blessing, but the same in art is a curse. Wierd.) Art is NOT the material end, but the idea. (Rather Platonic, yes; but maybe more accurately, art is the idea brought to life by "art" as "techne" (skill).)

The art/commerce dichotomy is at odds with Objectivism. (Though if you're a Rush fan, you're probably sympathetic to a line from "Natural Science": "Art as expression, not as market campaigns...". But just because SOME, or MANY, or MOST movies, mass produced, may be junk, we're not looking for averages. A movie CAN be a work of art AND a commercial success. For my favorite, see THE FOUNTAINHEAD where Roark smashes one of Stephen Mallory's souvenir type projects. Not because it was trash, but because Roark recognized the art being distorted by that false dichotomy. But going by the sentiment above is why composers like Miklos Roza lived "double lives" as film and serious composers, as if the film music was lesser. It's why Mario Lanza was spit on by the critics. It's why any rock band that makes it is called a "sell-out." It's just a horrible way to judge art.

As for the question about trivia games...maybe that's another bad sign...Art and entertainment questions are included because they are seen as "trivial?" The same reason people think it's a luxury, something that we can live without? On the other hand, art and entertainment are simply more entertaining than trivia about commerce?

But hey, if you want art untouched by commerce, their's always PBS...(If I'm a little touchy, it's because I've been hearing such tripe at the theater I work at, a sickly little non-profit that likes to talk about how it's better than the BIG theaters in Philly, but can't get the money in to pay their employees on time. No one wants to be a starving artist.)

I am stuck. On one hand yes

Sandi's picture

I am stuck.

On one hand yes I can identify it as art. It is a sculpture therefore it is art.

But on the other hand I am confused to where mainstream commercialism fits in to the art debate.

Can art be produced off a production line?

Movies for example are for the most part commercially driven enterprises. They brutally and obscenely plasticise, formulate and edit their product for the sole purpose of meeting a mainstream market, in order to maximise profit rather than support real talent.
Much the same way as many plastic souveniers are produced around the world. Originality is not the driving force behind movies of which I generally believe most are usually total rubbish.

I get really angry when questions about movies and celebrities arise in trivia questions and games etc. If these are to be included, then why not include questions of equal consistency about other commercial enterprises?

High art. As was the great

PhilipC's picture

High art.

As was the great movie which inspired it.

That's the one

JoeM's picture


This one?

Ross Elliot's picture

This one?

You bet it's art. If not, then the statues of all sports heroes, fictional or real, also fail the grade.

And, what Marnee said.

Its art, for sure.

Marnee's picture

Its art, for sure.

You're right, movie prop or not its still a sculpture. The creator of it still went through the same basic creative and technical process that any artist would, or at least should. And you know what, its pretty great.

Art. Yup.

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