Essay on Modern art, a personal point of view
Keeping up with the Guggenheims
Partially due to the influence of my artist mother and partially due to the natural inclinations of a child, I chose representational art early in life. From my position far outside the modern art world, I have infrequently made an effort to understand.
When an unconvinced person of today looks at what constitutes modern art, we have to ask the question…”How is it possible that anyone could take these smears, distortions, splatters, drips etc. seriously as art ?”. Frank Lloyd Wright described the works housed in his masterpiece, the Guggenheim museum, as, “childish scribblings”.
In attempting to understand the motivations of those who defend, support and thereby perpetuate what is described as Modern Art, I have made a few discoveries.
Those in control today are not artists but those intellectuals who have gained importance on the modern art scene. One of the many ways they dictate is by controlling which ‘artists’ are selected from among the many hopefuls by giving the chosen important shows and news media attention. These ‘opinion makers’ are primarily critics and major museum directors.
The professors of art who inculcate modern art theories into the minds of their students at most of our colleges and universities play a significant role as well. Instead of educators, they are proselytizers and the damage they have done is that those students seeking to learn representational art are forced to conform or search elsewhere. Of course, to adequately teach representational art would require special talents and years of study and for untalented professors, modern art with its absence of standards is the path of least resistance. America has lost generations of talented students due to societal pressures to gain a degree.
The intellectual mind is a mind trained to be largely devoid of emotion. it is a mind that does not respond to nature’s gifts with feeling but prefers to live within the insulated world of reason alone. For them, reason trumps beauty. When they gained control over the artists, they effectively removed the art from modern art.
The ‘art’ to which these self-appointed illuminate direct their attention is merely a vehicle enlisted for the purpose of creating complicated and impressive sounding theoretical explanations. It is this avalanche of deliberately obfuscated meanderings that contains the relevance for them. Intellectual narcissism has displaced art and the illusion of relevance has become their obsession. The self-protecting rationale for the intellectual is that the rest of us are too unsophisticated to grasp their lofty reasonings.
In essence, modern art requires a sustaining theoretical basis, concocted by those of influence and having far more importance then the work itself. Tom Wolfe named this Modern Art phenomenon… “The Painted Word”.
Since modern art painting and sculpture have little to no intrinsic meaning they are easily festooned with a grand array of flights of fancy. The followers believe they’re participating in a revolutionary and important new direction that art has taken. They have been convinced that what is new is legitimate and certainly more compelling than the slow and difficult building on the discoveries of the past.
Talent for art has become unnecessary and apparently some of the finest practitioners of modern art are monkeys and elephants. As for the human ‘artists’, they learn to ‘talk the talk’ and deliver a product that they hope will catch the attention of influential critics and museums. The product frequently has an ever increasing level of shock.
During my acting career I was once on the set of a television commercial commenting to an advertising executive about how annoying I found one of his agency’s commercials and he said…”Oh yes, irritation value”. The idea is that the viewer will better remember the name of a product in an annoying ad which will result in an increase in sales.
This strategy seems to have found its way into the marketing of Modern Art. Flagrantly annoying a portion of the population, Christians for instance, causes a reaction, media coverage follows and the public lines up to pay to see what all the fuss is about, money is made and the ‘artist’ becomes a celebrity of sorts.
This process is so effective that almost every American knows that some ‘artist’ submerged a figure of Christ in urine. Placing an American flag on the floor of a museum so the patrons had to walk on it and thereby offending patriots was yet another winning tactic. These schemes are afforded free speech first amendment protections and court challenges have the additional benefit of resulting in still more media coverage. One of my favorites is the person who canned his excrement and called it, “Merde d’ artiste” thereby gaining international attention. There are no standards by which to gauge the value of modern art save the opinions of those in authority who seem to take Merde seriously.
One might ask, ‘Why not just resist the urge to react ?’. Well, The protesters get to feel good about themselves and their just cause and the leaders may get “face time” on TV to display their self-righteousness. To be fair, perhaps the protesters are simply too naive to understand that they’re aiding and abetting those to whom they’re opposed. The process moves merrily along.
That the gulf between modern art and the huddled masses widens is of no consequence to the moderns because to them its not about reaching out to the public, it’s about a privileged diet for the elites and elite ‘wannabes’.
It is impossible to define art and intellectuals, philosophers of aesthetics and the legal system have all failed at their attempts. Intellectuals merely offer cleverly disguised opinions as fact. The closest I’ve come to finding a convincing attempt by a philosopher was written by an Existentialist named Auturo B. Fallico…”A truthful, felt, presentation of a possible akin in nature to the dream state”. Although possessing a seeming persuasiveness, this and other attempted definitions have the fatal flaw of subjectivity. How are we to know the mind of the artist? Even if we accept on faith the claims of an artist, there is still no guarantee of the high quality that art requires. When the Supreme Court examined the issue of the dividing line between art and pornography, they delivered the weak non-definition of…”community standards”. The public uses a more realistic standard…’I know it when I see it’. This is reasonable standard, it seems to me, to apply to modern art which is no stranger to pornography and its shock effect when displayed in a museum.
We are trained by parents, schooling, the workplace, the military and the legal system to submit to authority. If those who appear to be experts decree that that spray painted junk, blotches, smears and the rest of a host of absurdities constitute the new, revolutionary and ‘Oh so chic’ art, then a large number of us will passively submit to their alleged expertise. The fact that the public is unwilling or unable to grasp the meaning of the theories put forward has the added benefit of lending the ‘in crowd’ an air of superiority.
Well-to-do people, whom one might expect to make intelligent purchases, spend lavish amounts of money on these products of the untalented, sold by the avaricious to the deceived.
There remain, of course, many who refuse to conform. Intelligent, educated people with the courage to think for themselves. I have sold my paintings to Movie Stars, Gene Hackman has six, a former Post Master General, Winton Blount, the owner of a National Baseball team, the CEO of a Natural Gas company, a man who climbed to the highest summits on all seven continents and even a small number of Colleges and Universities to name but a few.
Of course painting and sculpture cannot be confined to one form and experimentation and departures of every description must be engaged in or art descends into the stagnation of dogmatism. Unfortunately the proponents of modern art have created the dogmatism of the present within the scope of their influence.
Their effectiveness is due primarily to the efforts of an elite East Coast establishment and their mirror image on the West Coast. They rebel against or ignore representational art and conform to each other.
This slim yet effective segment of the population may dictate the form art must take to some but for the broad majority who share my beliefs it is representational art with its current and centuries old universal appeal that is surely the more legitimate. What realism lacks is snob appeal and the need for concocted explanations thereby rendering the intellectual irrelevant. The accessibility of realism to the general public destroys their potential for control.
For some, the fear of not appearing modern and ‘with it’ is a powerful controlling force. Keeping up with the Jones’s is not at issue for the unquestioning flocks of followers, the fear is of not appearing to keep up with the Guggenheims whether they understand what they’re keeping up with or not.
Some of this thinking seeps into my world of representational art and I would not underestimate modern art’s ability to intimidate. I can detect no tolerance for us in the writings of the moderns and by the same token I believe it to be far more preferable to proclaim proudly belief in our work and to display the courage of our convictions for, as they say in Texas, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road ‘cept yellow stripes and dead armadillos”.
Guggenheims aside and despite dire predictions there still are, of course, a great many successful realists creating works of substance in the present and contributing significantly to our culture.
And please rest assured that I, my brothers and sisters and our works, are not only alive and well but flourish and given the evidence of history… always will.
E. D. Higgins Opus 26
Ascendance and presumed conjunction are dealt with transcendentally in this soaring example of the art of E.D. Higgins. We sense a merging with a newly developed yearning for transmogrification to a sublime capacity for intrapsychic reexamination. We are convinced not by analysis but by the rapture of the artist’s vision as with an impetus toward the culmination of intrinsic motivation he enables the transformation of the plasticity of three-dimensionality to become channelized into the duality of a restive yet simultaneously sanguine two-dimensionality. He seems to have curtailed by the employment of synergy the contradictory nature of our very beings as we are led to implications well beyond the transitory. Parallels to the Hegelian dialectical process are inescapable.
BS Bloviate – Syndicated Art Critic
Doug Higgins OPAM, Santa Fe, New Mexico USA 2006
Modern art was invented so that psychics and astrologers would look good.