Skip to comments.Storm Warning to the Art World: Everything is going to Change! (Great Read -'bout time!)
Posted on 06/08/2005 7:11:02 PM PDT by vannrox
|IN 1913, THE ARRIVAL IN AMERICA of a simple idea drastically revolutionized the Art World. The occasion was the Armory Show in New York, the first exhibition of Modern Art in this country, and the simple idea was this: The proper role of the artist is to express himself.
That was utterly new. It turned all the preceding centuries of Art History on their head.
Fast-forward to the end of the same century: that same simple idea, that the proper role of the artist is to express himself or herself, was being taught as gospel in virtually every college and university in America, as well as in the art departments of essentially every high school, middle school and elementary school across the country. All major art publications accepted that idea as an unassailable given, as did virtually all art critics and art writers. And virtually every city council with a public art program anywhere in America supported that same idea, using tax money for the purchase of public artworks that were, almost always, examples of the artist expressing himself. By Y2K, in other words, that new, revolutionary idea had become entrenched and established-something that everyone had repeated for so long that nobody even questioned it anymore.
Meanwhile, Modern Art1 set about claiming the Art World for itself. Any artist who refused to believe that idea was simply excluded from galleries and not shown; any art reviewer who refused to voice the new truth was fired; and vast collections of art that predated 1913 were sold off or hidden away in basements and closets, having been rendered quaint and obsolete by the new idea's artworks. And in the spotlights of places like Sotheby's and Christie's, Modern works began to sell for millions of dollars each, thereby establishing the godhood of the best proponents of that simple idea, including Picasso, Rothko, Pollock, Kline and Lichtenstein.
Thus nobody thought it particularly unusual, much less bizarre, when a dead (stuffed) horse dangled from the ceiling fetched more than $2 million at a Sotheby's auction in New York in 2004, or when an anonymous buyer paid $5.2 million for a porcelain statue of Michael Jackson cuddling a chimpanzee named Bubbles, or when Steven Cohen, founder of a Connecticut-based hedge fund called SAC Capital Advisors, LLC, spent $8 million for an adult tiger shark pickled in formaldehyde.2
Such mega-sales stand as the ultimate proof that, during the 20th Century, that simple 1913 idea effectively took over the Art World in America (as it concurrently did in the rest of the world).
And what's wrong with that idea?
There are three things wrong with it.
The first is that when you have the mindset that anything an artist does is art, credentials replace talent. Like this:
MODERN ART ADVOCATE: "Artist Joe Schmo is a great artist!"
The second thing wrong with the 1913 idea is that when all the focus is on the artist, his or her choice of subjects is finite. If your focus is, instead, the beauty and power of the natural world, then your subjects are infinite; but if your focus is yourself, then there really isn't a whole lot to say. To coin a phrase, the world is much bigger than any one artist.
Originality v. appropriation, infinite v. finite, painting the glories of America to inspire love and wonder v. constructing paintings to scare people into environmental awareness: that's the second thing wrong with the 1913 idea.
But the third and by far worst thing wrong with that idea is that it trivialized the public clear out of the Art World. That idea turned the spotlight squarely on the artists, leaving the public in the dark. As the artist became all-important, the public became unimportant, even irrelevant.
The 1913 idea totally changed that. Thenceforth, the public was irrelevant except as a source of tax dollars and as a target-the goal was not to uplift and inspire but to offend and incense. The mindset was this: "I am an artist, and therefore if you do not like what I create then you are anti-art and stupid and therefore desperately in need of the art I shall give you which you then obviously must pay for."
The ideas at play couldn't be clearer. The public's idea: This art is offensive. The artist's idea: The public needs to be offended so as to be paddle-jolted from their complacency and ignorance into enlightenment. The director's idea: The public's feelings should be considered. The artist's idea: That director needs to be fired, since he clearly doesn't understand that what counts is not what the public feels but what I, the artist, want the public to feel.
In 1998 Karen Finley went ballistic - that is, she sued the National Endowment for the Arts, which had had the audacity to turn down her grant request. Finley's "artworks" consisted of anger, nudity, profanity and chocolate-smearing her nude body with chocolate while screaming obscenities at an audience. Despite the art critics who had praised these "performance works" as "a provocative brand of artistry," the NEA turned down her application for more tax dollars. So, joined by three other "controversial artists,"3 she sued, challenging the NEA's "decency and respect" law as violating her right to Free Speech and accusing the NEA of Communist-style repression: "That's what they do in China," she said.4
And so the last bastion of offensiveness in America today is the Art Establishment, meaning those individuals and institutions who support or have been built upon that 1913 idea.
The rest of us hope and strive always to avoid offending people, and displays of extreme offensiveness, like hate crimes and racial discrimination, are vigorously prosecuted. But artists who offend people - by, for example, pasting elephant dung on a painting of the Madonna, or by hanging statutes of lynched children from the branches of real trees in town squares, or by painting pictures of young girls, their dresses raised, being probed by octopus tentacles5 - are praised by the Art Establishment for their originality, their vision, their genius.
JOHN CURRIN IS A PAINTER whose works hang in such venues as the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. After his depictions of women sparked outrage among more than a few women viewers several years ago, he said: "When I paint a breast or a woman's body, it's almost a joke to be formal about it, because half of me is the kid in school still drawing on the bathroom wall. . . . But I don't think my works are offensive. If it is offensive, my reaction is kind of, well, whatever."
Art Establishment advocate Gavin Brown was more blunt about Modern Art's harmlessness: "Paintings aren't offensive. They don't kill people." The depressing thing is to think about how many highly intelligent people wouldn't immediately see how bizarre that statement is. Spray-painting swastikas on synagogue walls doesn't kill people either.
But the Modern mindset, in which the public exists only to serve artists by funding them and taking their punches, is that it's all just a game anyway, no harm done. As one of the most-praised Modern artists of the 20th Century, Francis Bacon, confessed: "Painting has become, all art has become, a game by which man distracts himself. And you may say that it has always been like that, but now it's entirely a game." And the Art Establishment's strategy for this game is first to offend us, then to pretend to be incensed that we're offended, smirking at our discomfort, but ready always to fly into a rage if we cheat at the game by trying to withhold our tax money from their pockets.
And that is the state of affairs in America today after nearly a century of the mindset formed by that simple idea as it hardened from new and revolutionary to old and entrenched.
But these are the end days of that mindset. The Art Establishment's days are numbered. As surely as a simple idea changed everything in 1913, so a new simple idea will change everything again. In Nicholas Nickleby Charles Dickens wrote that, "There are only two styles of portrait - painting, the serious and the smirk." Before 1913, artists were serious; since 1913, artists have been smirking.
Sounds familiar. Of course, it is. Just as the 1400s saw a rebirth, or renaissance of respect for the glories of the past (Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome), so we are again, at this moment-not just in America but worldwide-on the threshold of a new renaissance of respect for artworks from artists who don't view themselves as little gods or rock stars.
One of those millions, art-lover Jim Kalb, posted this comment online in 2004: "Are you finally sick and tired of feeling you have to pretend to like modernist 'art' which you actually think is lousy/laughable at best, outright garbage at worst? If so, check out the ARC site." More than 5 million people are now doing exactly that every year - checking out www.artrenewal.com - and that number is growing exponentially as the word spreads around the globe that if you find Modern/Contemporary art offensive, you're far from alone, and you'll soon be vindicated.
Fred Ross himself in turn welcomed the magazine: "PleinAir Magazine is fast becoming a major addition to the 21st-Century Art World, joining the Art Renewal Center in its call for a return to standards and training in the pursuit of excellence, truth and beauty."
For the time being, PleinAir is the only art publication anywhere in the world - the only one - whose publisher has the clarity of thought and the courage to tell the truth about the Art Establishment's century-long reign since 1913. For telling it like it is, Rhoads has suffered financially. In retaliation for the magazine's editorializing about the whole Modern Art scam, subscribers have cancelled their subscriptions, and advertisers have withdrawn.
But simultaneously the word is going out that "Eric Rhoads" stands for truth about art in the print media in the same way that "Fred Ross" stands for truth about art online - and the new subscribers climbing aboard are far outnumbering those who jumped ship. When PleinAir first began newsstand sales in 2005, for example, the response was not just far in excess of the national average for new launches, it was in fact unheard-of for any new magazine's newsstand launch: 50% in the United States and 70% in Canada.
As the saying goes, money talks. So watch for more art publications to catch on to the fact that the Art Renewal Center and PleinAir Magazine are perfectly in tune with the vast majority of people on Earth, who for decades have been muttering their discontent but who now, finally, have found as their champions two megaphones of the 21st-Century media, one in cyberspace and the other on newsstands everywhere (or at www.pleinairmagazine.com).
So what does the future hold for the Art World?
The second absolute certainty about the future of the Art World is that America and the world will suddenly see a tremendous outpouring of masterful artworks, which in fact are being painted right now. Artists like Andrew Wyeth and Richard Schmid are internationally known for their personification of the new idea that is set to wash away the flimsy world of Modern Art in one titanic cleansing. But there are tens of thousands of highly trained and prodigiously talented artists like them only waiting to be recognized-painters like Will Wilson, for example, and any of the others represented by San Francisco's John Pence Gallery, and the far more numerous younger painters like Chelsea Bentley of Utah, Matt Smith of Arizona, Anthony Waichulis of Pennsylvania, and all the others seen in each issue of PleinAir Magazine.
That means, for one thing, that the $8 million dead tiger shark in Connecticut suddenly will be worth less than the formaldehyde it's floating in.
In 2001, there was a symposium at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. The urgent subject was how curators and conservators could deal with artworks that were deteriorating badly, since these works were created from things like latex, lard, bodily fluids, and banana peels. Word to the Guggenheim: Don't worry about it - in the very near future, all such works will be recognized as refuse belonging in a Dumpster.
so....on which side does Christo fall ?
Oh yes, that reminds me. It is most noteworthy that not mentioned in the critique is that many, if not most living artists are as dumb as rocks. This MENSA candidate obviously has no clue as to what "billions of tons" is.
I had the good fortune to see the traveling exhibit, Master Paintings of the Hermitage", in the late 70s. Having seen it in the flesh (so to speak), my favorite painting, period, is Evening in the Ukraine, 1878, by Arkhip Ivanovich Kuinji.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I dare any current weenie to jam that much beauty and power into a canvas today.
...another English artist, Ray Hutchins, who dumped a load of manure in front of the Tate and propped up a sign reading "Modern Art is a Load of Bullshit"
There are, of course, exceptions, but in the main the fellow was absolutely right.
This is crap, along with other forms of modern art which are more focused on "feelings and intent" instead of passion, skill, aesthetics and beauty. Read the above paragraph then read this to put them in context.
Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all form of artistic expression. "eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings," substituting shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.
Control art critics and directors of art museums. "Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art."
Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them "censorship" and a violation of free speech and free press.
Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio and television.
These are goals set forth by the communist party and are being pushed, upheld and defended by the ACLU. SOURCE.
Agree 100% - no, I agree 200% - and bump. Did you read an article some time ago about some dead "artist" who had filled a lot of cans with his own excrement, sealed them up, and they were sold for good sums of money to various art museums?
I have never had a problem calling crap crap. Even in the Louvre, or at the National Gallery of art, or the Corcoran Gallery in DC, or the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
That makes me an ignorant fool? Water off a duck's back. Has about as much an effect on me as being called "insensitive, hateful homophobe" ---- by neurotic perverts.
Thanks for the post!
The tag next to it read "Issue" by (I don't remember) white latex on aluminum.
I have both the catalog and the bound book of the exhibit that was available at the time.
My ex-wife, who loves books as decoration, "appropriated" it when we divorced. She "appropriated" many of my things in the middle of the night but, when the opportunity presented itself, this book is the only thing that I stole back. Literally. Gives you some idea of how highly I value it.
I see from the image name (44368023.Toulmouche_Auguste_La_Fiancee_Hesitante.jpg) the artist and theme of the painting. Do you know if this is the original ratio of the dimemsions of the painting? I ask because so much of the image is taken up by the florid, vacuous wallpaper and if this was meant to be a reflection of the much-less-than-enthusistic bride to be.
It's that dihydrogen oxide. It's everywhere. It's in our drinking water and in our toothpaste. It's disposed of in huge quantities by all sorts of industries. Our rivers and lakes are literally AWASH in the stuff.
It's affects on the population are ubiquitous. Intake of dihydrogen oxide can cause bloating and frequent urination. It's even in our food!
Billions of tons of this pollutant flow down the Niagara River and over the falls every single day, and no one does a single constructive thing about it.
I've had it up to HERE with dihydrogen oxide! I think I'll go have a drink.
Kuinji and His School. Leningrad. 1987.
Kuinji. Russian Painters of the XIX century. by V. Minin. Moscow. 1990.
Paintings of the 18th-early 20th centuries from the Reserves of the Russian Museum. by K. Mikhailova and G. Smirnov. Leningrad. 1982.
"I dare any current weenie to jam that much beauty and power into a canvas today."
No kidding. The quality of light achieved by the Masters is beyond photography's reach. And painting such as this is true artistry, hack's need not apply.
Fantastic article! I sent it off to an artist friend of mine whose web site I will be updating shortly. He is an incredible glass artist of some renown that feels the same way about glass. I would love to see the ideas in this article spill over into the glass world!
Chihluly comes to mind as the greatest example of no substance.
the wallpaper represents the torment of theyoung bride's predicament... stare at the wallpaper and as your eyes relax the images of her two lovers will become apparent and she is lamenting having to make the choice. notice her leanings and the obvious number of handmaidens are respectfully representative of the fears of choosing poorly, spinster-ship, lesbianism, suffocation, and wastefullness.
or it could be that the painter forgot to crop the sucker.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the abject stupidity demonstrated in this statement, since the artist likely didn't pay much attention in math class, but...
... Niagara Falls drops 150,000 gallons of water every second, or 12,960,000,000 gallons per day.
... one billion tons of water is 239,808,153,477 gallons.
In other words, it takes about eighteen and a half days for only one billion tons, let alone "billions" of tons, of water to flow over Niagara Falls. So in order for "billions of tons of pollutants to flow down the Niagara River in a single day, a goodly portion of the countryside of New York and Canada would have to be flooded with 100% pure pollutants.
Hey, I have that same picture, only ours is titled "Wall."
Perhaps the water is super-saturated with Moore's "art"...
I dropped out of art school in the 70's (1970's) because no one would teach me how to draw or paint. Globs of orange acrylic paint, straight out of the tube, dribbled onto aluminum foil were cheered as "art" while anything requiring thought, skill, and practice was soundly derided . The antipathy toward representational art was pervasive and harsh.
Since then I've learned by doing and by studying with other artists. I now have many friends -- other traditional oil painters -- who had the same experience during those years. Back then I thought I might be simple and "unsophisticated" but I've since learned otherwise.
Thanks for posting.
"I am an artist and I am sick of so called art that consists of rubber chickens hanging from dead branches and other such rubbish that I have actually seen in galleries."
True story. My college roommate was an art major. One of her professors kept giving her awful grades on her projects bcse she wasn't being "provocative" enough. So she got a wooden salad bowl and painted it pink. Inside it, she glued a headless Barbie doll, a used maxi-pad, and fake acrylic fingernails. Then she wrote "Womanhood" on the rim of the bowl and turned it in. He gave it an "A."
Banned??? But she was expressing herself! That's art! How can the modern art crowd fail to appreciate her self-expression?
I've been an artist my entire life, my mother was a talented artist, and she encouraged me from the moment I could hold a pencil. I suffered through endless classes in high school and college listening to no-talent hacks babble about "expression" and "individuality", all the while, they all wore the same black clothes, had the same dyed-red hair, and created the same, bland, lackluster dreck they called 'art". It's gotten steadily worse, the art field is completely inbred, incestuous, more about politics and cliques than talent, and is completeley hollow and a sham.
I decided to pursue illustration, as it still seemed to hold the things I value in art, and is lacking in "fine art": skill, technique, discipline, thought, and you could make a living at it. I still paint on my own, and maybe someday I'll exhibit it. But, after the indignities I experienced with the babbling idiots in art class, it turned me off pursuing the gallery field completely - it's all political anyway.
I remember seeing senior projects in a gallery - a prize winner was a bundle of sticks.
I remember a *required* class for art majors, where the teacher (who did'nt grade or take attendance) spent the classes I bothered going to explaining how to force landlords in warehouse districts to allow work-live arrangements, force them to install plumbing, and how to work the private, state and Federal grant systems so you would'nt have to get a job. When she was'nt ranting how unfair those greedy landlords were, she made us endure tedious, ridiculous arguements between red-headed "artists" in black debating if the public's reaction to your work had any meaning. (I literally stood up and left that class mid rant)
I took a symbolism class in college, where we were allowed to pursue our own agenda, and since I was studying illustration, I worked on a series of paintings with a common thread, with enthusiastic encouragement from my teacher. Halfway through the class, sadly, the teacher died suddenly (he was a great teacher, too, an honestly nice person, and very talented), and a woman who'd been painting for *2 years* with no formal training , degree, or even teaching experience took over, and forced us to look at her "art", which were canvases with paint piled so high, it looked like the seagull guano on an old pier. She did'nt outright demand we all work in the abstract, as all of us were half a semester into our work, and eventually stopped talking to anyone but the small group of students doing abstract work. When we submitted our projects, she failed everyone who *did'nt* do abstract work, declaring it was a class on abstract expressionism, and wrote up smarmy, snotty comments ripping our work apart. We took it to the dean, and he re-graded us - I've yet to see a teacher look that disgusted at another teacher before, or since.
I took a senior level watercolor class, where the "visiting" professor (he was a grad student, a relative of someone high up in the school, we heard) had never really used watercolors, and refuses to teach us technique, even when we as a group demanded it. We ended up taking over the class, and taught each other. After the semester, we all found our grades for the class missing, no record of it anywhere on our transcripts...the idiot had never submitted any of the paperwork all semester, and they "could'nt find him", to get our grades. This was a guy, we had been told, who was a featured gallery artist, and was very respected in the field. He was a dirty, unwashed hippy type, dumb as a bag of rocks, and we never did see his art - the one time he tried to actually teach the class, he proved he had no clue how to hold a paintrbrush or paint anything but bright, colored blobs.
I took a class that was required by illustration majors and fine art majors - and he sneered the entire semester at illustration students, because - and this is a direct quote - "They get PAID to paint".
I've spent my entire life learning technique, from charcoal and pencil, to conte and pastels, to guache and watercolor, oil and acrylic, clay, wax, bronze, you name it. I'm immersed myself in materials of the trade, spent most of my life before an easel or a drafting board...and go to shows, where the 'artists" don't have a clue about any of it, and will defend "found" materials (ie. trash) versus traditional materials. It boggles the mind. Art used to be something you dedicated your life to, these limp wristed toadies can't even tell the difference between a filbert and a round paintbrush. If they even USE brushes - most of the art students I had to endure finger painted under the loving approval of idiotic teachers.
I'll subscribe to this magazine - I've been a huge fan of artist's like l. Alma Tedama, from the moment I saw his "Spring" hanging at the Getty in Malibu, and the first time I saw the exquisite Gerome at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco - their technique is absolutely mind-boggingly perfect, and the paintings hold you spell-bound.
I also discovered another "lost" artist, who is still sneered at because he was a "commercial" artist - Maxfield Parrish.
What a joy, to see art that isn't selfishly about anger, bitterness, childish expressions of outrage at politics or social issues, or expressions of narcissistic and promiscuous sexuality. "Art" these days, pardon the expression, is just mental masterbation, and should be rejected...but then, looking at prime time TV and the current state of the world of literature and movies...I'm not holding my breath it'll change anytime soon.
I was born 100 years too late, or early, truly.
Could it be the bigger fool theory in art is about to come to an end?
Imagine the poor schnooks stuck with million dollar urinals.
Christo falls on one side or the other of an orange shower curtain, but it hardly matters which side, since they're both the same (not to mention the same as each of the other gazillion orange shower curtains with which he trashed Central Park).
Piero Manzoni died 1953
Typo died 1963.
Cristo's umbrellas killed one person in California and one person in Japan. I'm sure that the "artist" finds something creative and "living" in that art.
What a wonderful article. I feel vindicated. I knew, at twelve years of age, modern art was crap and I said it. I was told I was too young to understand. I said the same thing at 20 and was told it was lack of education. At 30 I was told I was "old fashioned and a stick in the mud". I'm just glad to find out that I wasn't the crazy person, they were! (I always knew they were)
Precisely! The modern aesthetic would have it in a landscape format and have cropped out the "superfluous" elements. Now, if it were "The Yellow Wallpaper" there might be even more psychological thrills for the viewer.
The images of "The Yellow Wallpaper" are seared in a circular pattern around the walls of my mind.
Hopefully, the arts you and I love will turn around.
Here's a camping tip: when retrieving water from a mountain stream use a waterfall or white water source to avoid giardia.
Let's just hope you're not going though life muttering and squeaking.
I painted over the wallpaper with a lovely, warm beige--muttering and sputtering as I did so!
Great example. What is your very creative and subversively defiant (if that isn't provocative, I don't know what is) former roommate up to these days?
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