“My work speaks for itself . . . I don’t like to put labels on my art.”
The statement above represents two-thirds of what I call the Trinity of Artistic Fallacy (the other part being: “I don’t care what people think, I’m just doing it for myself.”).
Not since Jackson Pollock made a splash in the pages of Life magazine has it been possible to deny that an artist (and his reception) is an agglomeration of his work, his life, his persona—his entire being. The time is well past that an artist can claim with any ingenuousness that “my work is all that matters.” No, everything matters.
Labels are fine, as long as they’re sufficiently fluid and either a) accurate/useful, or b) utterly ridiculous (perhaps as a parody). Labels are an essential part of language, especially when it’s used to translate across mediums/art forms. Anyway, an artist is labeled continuously, by a variety of interested and disinterested parties—some who label because they have a definite agenda, and others who do it without a clue.
Why not get there first and literally define the terms? Meaning is a negotiation, which the artist should master soon after figure drawing 101. Why not just let the labels fly? Be creative—you’re an artist, right? Let the language you use to promote yourself sizzle and amuse or baffle and disturb, or whatever effect you’re looking to create in the work itself.
If you must borrow, be accurate. The old terms of art history come with a lot of baggage you should be ready and able to shoulder. Better yet, be inventive (see above). It has advantages, especially in marketing.
If branding is something you have a taste for, you can use labels and phrases programmatically, for a deliberate “tag” effect (using the same language consistently, across different marketing vehicles).
When it comes to promoting your art, call it what you will. Just make sure it resonates, and conveys the essence of what you believe your work to be.
Click label below (Marketing Strategy for Artists) for Parts 1-3. Click Arts promotion for all posts on this topic.
To learn more about writing and strategic communications that can amplify your voice, contact me at ajeisenstat[at]gmail[dot]com, or visit my portfolio AdamEisenstat.com and LinkedIn profile.