EVER SINCE the first caveman chalked his antelope on the wall, thereby inventing the critic, man has wondered: What is Art?
If you're in the I-don't-know-Art-but-I-know-what-I-like category, you can move a step closer by knowing what's Not Art. For instance:
Art is not participatory. If an artist shoots himself, that's performance art. If he shoots a member of his audience, it's a felony.
Art is not found in supermarkets. This eliminates Coppertone posters, message T-shirts, "Princess Daisy" and anything by Stephen King.
Any rendering in which the eyes or mouth constitutes more than 40 percent of the body is Not Art. That takes care of most Hallmark cards, PacMan, Rona Barrett and E.T. The exception is Edvard Munch, who could only draw circles.
Anything that involves chickens, mechanical applause, Bo Derek or mashed potatoes is Not Art, eliminating Ozzy Osborne, "Stars on 45" and Richard Dreyfuss.
Anything that rhymes is Not Art: hootchie kootchie, Jelly Bellies, "Harum Scarum," Little Annie Fanny. The exceptions are "Night Flight," which doesn't rhyme in French, and duplicates, such as Ford Madox Ford and Detective Meyer Meyer.
Numerals are Not Art ("10," R2D2, .38 Special, "77 Sunset Strip"). Numbers are okay ("The Moon and Sixpence," "Threepenny Opera"); fractions ("8 1/2," Venus de Milo) are better.
Art can be edible, but not reheatable, eliminating croissants.
Anything that can be used is Not Art, crossing out newspapers, gum wrappers, safety pins and ski masks. Anything puce, inflatable or available at a discount is Not Art.
Zippers are Not Art, eliminating Rolling Stones albums, gym bags and Erica Jong. Anything involving feathers is Not Art. Personalized license plates are Not Art.
Any phrase that includes the word "surprise" (party, tuna, Gomer Pyle) is Not Art; likewise anything that requires an exclamation point ("Tora! Tora! Tora!", malt liquor commercials, "Alive!", the French Revolution). Slashes ("Marat/Sade," "for colored girls . . . / . . . ") are okay.
Anything syndicated is Not Art, disposing of Barbara Woodhouse, "Family Feud" and Conquistador Cielo.
Anything on wheels is Not Art: roller disco, psychedelic Volkswagens, Evel Knievel, the General Lee.
Anything used to sell anything else, even retroactively, is Not Art, including "Good Vibrations," the Dutch Masters, "The 1812 Overture" and Orson Welles. Conversely, anything sold that is reproduced as art is Not Art, virtually wiping out Andy Warhol.