Johnathan R. Razorback
- Messages : 18040
Date d'inscription : 12/08/2013
Localisation : France
"The truth was that there were no people, no landscape, no real objects to paint other than the concrete reality of the paint and the canvas. The artist, endlessly pointing directly to his underlying materials was the birth of Modern art. Cézanne flattened the landscape, Matisse flattened our homes and families and the so called abstract artists after them, like De Kooning, Pollock and Rothko, put it all in a blender and threw it at us, thus making flat color design the end goal of the artist. Expressing and communicating human emotions was not a worthy purpose for art, and so all human emotions were denigrated as petty sentimentality.
The equivalent of this system of thought applied to written languages would be to say that all writing is untruthful and finding the truth can only be discovered by pointing directly to the underlying materials and structure of written words. All that is really there on the page are different shapes of straight or curved or squiggly lines. Since that is closer to the truth than placing meaning in those shapes and lines…than using them to make words and the words to form ideas ... that too must be a lie and an unworthy purpose for the writer. Therefore, to bring the analogy full circle ... the best book would be one that demonstrates this "truth" with page after page of meaningless shapes and squiggles…thus showing us the modernist's profound definition of truth. How many books and poems would be purchased and read in which all that could be found between the covers were meaningless shapes on every page? Modernism endows the meaningless with meaning. Each of us must decide for ourselves whether there is meaning to be found and if that meaning has great value.
Is it petty and banal to show romantic or familial love and caring? Or is it petty banality to spend one's career insisting that the only paintings that have value are those which demonstrates that they are flat, or to focus as have the post-modernists on endlessly claiming to show the degradation of life via the degradation of art?
What then is fine art? And for that matter, what is fine literature, music, poetry, or theatre? In every case human beings use materials supplied by nature (the clay, colors and materials of the earth and the movements and sounds of life) and creatively combine or mold them into something else which is capable of communication and meaning. It is that ability to communicate, whether subtle or blatant, complex or nuanced and modulated wherein the value of art lies and makes it worthy of the term "fine art". Throughout history, people have found one way after another of communicating their thoughts, ideas, beliefs, values and the entire range of their shared experiences of living. When it comes to the visual arts, modernists like to say "why waste your time doing realism? It's all been done already." That would be exactly like saying "Why waste your time writing anything? It's all already been written. There is nothing left to say."
Illustration is often thought of as a lesser form of art. Often we hear people say something like: "That's only an illustration, it's not fine art." However, given the clear description of what fine art is, that no longer makes any sense. All fine art is illustration. What is different is what is being illustrated and then how well it has been accomplished.
If you look at illustrations in young children's books, often those illustrations are done quickly and the cost and time involved in creating them plays a big role when writer's or publishers choose them.
However, there are illustrations for books and poems which have been created by some of the greatest of artists. Gustave Doré illustrated Dante's Inferno and Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven. Edmund Dulac illustrated Edward Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam, and Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling with illustrations inspired by the Bible. All of the early and High Renaissance artists illustrated scenes from the Old and New Testaments. 19th Century artists illustrated Shakespeare, poetry and myths and legends.
The attempt to pigeonhole images that tell a story as illustration which has been separated in many art schools as a lesser form of art is strictly a tactic to further entrench Modernist ideology.
Since all fine art is representational and since only realistic objects, figures and settings are capable of communication, one is drawn to the logical conclusion that all illustration belongs in the category of fine art. The differences are all qualitative: a difference in degree not a difference in kind.
Once we recognize that, we can see that variation in quality can be enormous and it may even be useful but problematic, to make an attempt to create categories along a continuum of some sort based on quality, purpose, and success or failure of the art and artist to communicate or illustrate what was intended.
There also can be qualitative differences in subjects and themes. Some themes are about more powerful emotions or moments during life that therefore have greater potential for achieving the beautiful. For example a painting illustrating wartime wives listening to a radio broadcast for the names of the men who were killed, has vastly more potential than a bowl of fruit or a painting of a can of soup.
Therefore, illustration and fine art are one and the same and all fine art illustrates something.
Let us talk now about modernism's obsession with "being original". In any field of endeavor the idea "that it's all been done before" places an impenetrable wall of hopelessness in front of any creative pursuit. Imagine becoming a doctor and not being required to learn what is already known? Knowing doesn't stop you from doing something new but it keeps you from wasting your time on searching for knowledge that already is known and readily available. It also decreases the chance of making very serious mistakes. The refusal to learn from the past will inevitably prevent anything new from actually being discovered, as breakthroughs are always built on the discoveries of those who came before. In the arts, the fear of doing what has been done before places a ball and chain on your mind and on the joy of creativity, one of the greatest joys in life. Only someone who has learned what is already known can strive to create fearlessly and will have any chance of actually creating something new. For invariably, humankind has a history of creative accomplishments going back thousands of years, so someone who is creative will surely stumble upon many things that have been thought of and done before in advance of achieving the truly original. And if we are honest, the most favored subjects are as old as humanity itself and there are unlimited and original ways in which they can be expressed again and again.
Modernism in its need to banish anything seeming unoriginal, has banished all of the tools and skills with which original work was accomplished and then tells their artists without skills and without tools to go and create worthwhile works of fine art. Since there is no meaningful language in their art, a thousand words are needed to imbue it with meaning. Actually the words have to be incredibly creative and shrewd to convince otherwise educated and intelligent people that something of value is present when little or nothing is there.
Modernists create art that is about art: "art about art," whereas all the great art of the past was "art about life".
A painting should no more attempt to make the viewer conscious of the paint and canvas than the writer should make the reader conscious of the ink or type of paper being used, or for that matter than the film maker should make the audience endlessly aware of the kind of cameras being used or that the movie is actually composed of a fast moving series of still images.
The resurgent realist artists whose ranks are rapidly expanding in the 21st century, consider their materials and skills as a vital means of communicating artistic subjects and ideas. Modernism banished the real world from the tools they could use. Of course, without the full vocabulary of the real world to draw and to draw from, the only way complex ideas could be presented to us by modernism is if people "in-the-know" explain to us what ideas were intended and then required us to believe it.
Franz Kline's harsh slashing black lines on a white ground, we're told, represents how harsh life is and Picasso's distorted human forms are meant to represent how distorted society is and how psychologically malformed mankind has become. Now, once we have been told that's what he means and that's what he's doing, if we're ready to be one of the savvy, then we can start to see it. Perhaps accuracy is better served if we realize that we had better see it if we don't want to suffer derision and ridicule by the ruling cognoscenti in today's art world ?
They say that modernism created a new way of seeing. Or is this new way of seeing really just pointing out the painfully obvious. Even if we give them some benefit of the doubt that someone needed to point out that the canvas was flat, how many times does it need to be proved? After all, any three-year-old who is taken to a museum knows that the canvases are all flat. How great then was it that Cézanne and Matisse spent the rest of their careers saying it over and over again? Or perhaps we should not give them the benefit of the doubt? Did it really need to be said and did it really need to be then taken to the extreme of abstract expressionism? Which, by-the-way, is neither abstract nor expressive. A blueprint is an "abstract" of the layout of a house or how the electrical system will be installed or it shows the footprint of the house in a carefully drawn representation of the piece of land it's to be built upon. The word "bottle" when spoken is an abstracted representation of the object that can hold liquids. The written word bottle is a further abstraction of the spoken word. A painting of a bottle is another abstraction of that object and the more it looks like a bottle the more accurate the abstraction becomes. So the word "abstract" means the opposite of how it is used by Modern art and their apologists. Realist paintings are accurate abstractions of ideas, events and an endless number of other possible subjects. Globs and dribbles of paint on a canvas are actually quite concrete. They are the end product: a glob, a smear or a dribble of specific size and shape which has no other meaning besides what it is and clearly is expressive of nothing at all.
Is there any need in these abstract works to suspend disbelief ? No, that would be a lie by their definition. Or is "belief" instead compelled, not by the acting, writing, drawing or painting, but instead by the intimidation of power and position ?
Do students believe in this new inheritor of Western Art? Or does not believing in it threaten their grades and positions (and the wallets of those invested in such art.) It is amazing how the need to avow one's belief repeatedly in something that was previously difficult or impossible to believe, will become increasingly easier when supported by figures of authority. A useful term for this phenomenon is "prestige suggestion."
What Modernists have done has been to aid and abet the destruction of the only universal language by which artists can communicate our humanity to the rest of, well, ... humanity. They then have built up a labyrinth of justifications and blocked all other viewpoints. If the history of what actually took place is not to be lost due to the transitory prejudice and taste of a single era, then we must question any practice that deliberately suppresses documented evidence. Art history must not be reduced to little more than propaganda directed towards market enhancement for valuable collections passed down as wealth conserving stores of value. Successful dealers, who derived great wealth by selling works created in hours instead of weeks, had little trouble lining up articulate, eloquent and persuasive masters of our language to build complex portrayals presented everywhere as brilliant analysis to justify what are really very uncomplicated, unsophisticated and simplistic works; creations which arguably should have and would have been rejected out-of-hand but for their ingenuous sophistry, expansive jargon and artfully cunning patois.
Any time people or brands or logos become the symbols of quality, value or expert authority, then other people when presented with those symbols will see quality, value or importance regardless of what is actually there. For example, a wealthy consumer will see a purse with the name "Prada" or "Gucci" on it and will automatically assume value and quality. Perhaps the price will be $5000 and if it's on sale for $1200 they'll believe they got a good deal and be proud to wear it or show it off to friends. Take the same bag without a label and try to sell it on a table on 42nd street with an $80 price tag and the same person may think it's over priced and will try to talk the price down perhaps to $40, or not buy it at all. The Prada name and the fact that it's being sold in Bergdorf's or Bloomingdale's tends to give it the prestige and assumed value which has been suggested into the mind of the consumer.
General Motors Assembly Plant, Factory Tour, Linden NJ, 1986. The plant official who lectured the group proudly explained how all the cars had the same engines, frames and nearly everything else.Many years ago I took my son on a class tour they were giving at a General Motors assembly plant where we witnessed the assembly of a Chevrolet. Then another identical car came down on the same production line and they placed a different grill and hood ornament on it and labeled it Oldsmobile. A third identical car came through and they put a still different grill on it with a label calling it a Cadillac. Nearly everything about it was the same, but the Cadillac brand was double the price of the Oldsmobile and the Olds was selling for a third more than the Chevy.
There is a difference between value due to prestige suggestion and value due to intrinsic quality. Surely, in the search to define beauty, we need to understand that difference. We should be able to see through prestige and determine when we are in the presence of the truly beautiful, versus a work that's greatest quality is the prestige attached to the name of the artist or the movement. In this way a canvas with little intrinsic value that has the signature of De Kooning, Pollock, Rothko or Mondrian on it, are assigned high values because people with a PhD or the title of Professor or Museum Director next to their names have told us what to think about their worth. Then, major dealers or auction houses have assigned estimates of millions of dollars to their work. Most people do not feel themselves knowledgeable enough to know what has or does not have value, when it comes to pocket books, Persian carpets, or wrist watches, and much less so with works of art. This is "prestige-suggestion". Even if their instincts are to reject something, they keep silent lest they expose themselves to ridicule for being considered ignorant, tasteless or out-of-touch, succumbing to "social pressure".
There is a second very useful expression identified that aids us in understanding what has occurred and how Modernism, after gaining ascendance, has been able to maintain its position. That term is called "Art-speak". Art-speak is a contrived form of language, which uses self-consciously complex and convoluted combinations of words to impress, mesmerize and silence opposition. "Art-speak" is generally used by people in positions of power and authority and in combination with "prestige suggestion" is ultimately employed to silence contrary instincts and ideas to prevent people from identifying honestly what has been paraded before them.10 This is accomplished by brainwashing society through authority and confounding, with "art-speak", the evidence of our senses about objects and ideas that otherwise any sane person would question. The "authority" of high positions, and the "authority" of books and periodicals, and the "authority" of certificates of accreditation attached to the names of the chief proponents of modernism, which have all worked in combination to impress and humble those whose common sense would otherwise rise up in opposition. Without a doubt they would clearly see this art for what it is, evident nonsense, if it's supposed value had not emanated from the pretentious mouths and pens of those with such a preponderance of "authority" to back them up. Many students and even teachers have come forward to report how traditional realism has been virtually or actually banned from their art departments. They want to share their sufferings at the hands of Modernist educators, and ask what they can do.11
Banning of ideas and not permitting free and open debate has been a problem throughout history. Most often relating to religion or politics it rears up in other fields as well. For example, global warming is often taught as settled science with the suggestion that only fools would listen to arguments questioning it despite mountains of conflicting evidence. John Stuart Mill's remarks on speech suppression are as alive and accurate today as they were two hundred years ago:
Where there is a tacit convention that principles are not to be disputed; where the discussion of the greatest questions, which can occupy humanity, is considered to be closed, we cannot hope to find that generally high scale of mental activity, which has made some periods of history so remarkable.
However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.
John Stuart Mill's essay "On Liberty"
from Great Political Thinkers by William Bernstein, p.569
Without a dynamic living network of experts teaching technical knowledge in drawing and painting, it will never be possible for college and university art departments to have students who are able to enrich the debate and the academic environment for all students by producing works of art that are capable of expressing complex, vital and spirited ideas. To forbid these skills to be taught on campus in any real depth is as ridiculous as having a music department that refuses to teach the circle of fifths or only teaches three or four notes from which they insist all music must be composed. It is as absurd as having an English department in which all words that had recognizable meanings were forbidden and only writing without words or sentence structure would be admissible.
If there was nothing to be ashamed in their teaching methods and in their results, they would welcome the chance to confront the ideas that they should be well equipped to refute. They have a solemn duty to maintain the integrity of thought made possible by what has been handed down to them by those artists, writers and thinkers before us, who established a vast, complex and rich system of training with which to teach and pass on a wealth of knowledge. Deliberately preventing access to this information is crippling to the goals of education and a severe obstruction to insuring a society based on freedom of thought without which progress is impossible. Where is it more important to vouchsafe these principles than at our nation's colleges and universities who are training the next generation of leaders? Even if they don't agree, they have a duty to expose their students to responsible opposing views in all fields and disciplines.
While it is beyond the scope of this chapter to fully delineate the evidence and arguments on both sides of the Modernism vs. Realism schism in fine arts and aesthetics, for the purpose at hand, we are focusing on the realist position which in recent decades has had very few proponents, ceding nearly a century to an ascendant modernist leviathan. And that century has seen the greatest strides forward in every other field of human endeavor. If the proponents of realism are as correct as it seems, the art world is woefully behind our times and will need to do a lot of catching up.
Modernist theory, as we've seen, looks to redefine the purpose of painting by means of:
Elevating the flatness of the canvas or the medium as the primary subject,
Explaining the transcendent value of their work with art-speak,
Maintaining their ascendant position with prestige suggestion.
Yet there is another underlying idea that propels the Modernist hegemony. Simply stated it's called "relativism" which is at the heart of Existentialist philosophy.
To this end, one hears employed several popular maxims. These sayings are then used for the purpose of contradicting the whole notion that one can actually define or describe either fine art or what is beautiful. The modernists then often rely on distorting the meanings generally ascribed to these expressions to help establish the value they then ascribe to modernist theory and the products created in their service, which are offered up as fine art.
There is nothing good nor bad but thinking makes it so (William Shakespeare)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
One man's meat is another man's poison
These sayings have all been used over and over when it comes to the concept of beauty and aesthetics. When taken to the extreme in the visual arts the implication is that no matter what the object is, whether it is art or for that matter anything else, there is no way to gage good from bad, right from wrong, beautiful from ugly or elegant and graceful from ungainly and awkward.
All that matters is that nothing matters. Therefore there can be no judgment or assessment of quality. This concept makes aesthetics unimportant. If everything's value is a matter of opinion, than why discuss it? Everyone is right; which is the same as saying nobody is wrong. It is clear that this cannot be true. So many throughout history have taken so much time in trying to define what is beautiful and to differentiate between good and bad aesthetics and perhaps even more important, between what is right and what is wrong; a dilemma that confronts us constantly every day of our lives.
Stated simply, in the visual arts as in all the other arts and in all other fields of human endeavor, it is necessary and important to be able to make judgments. Yes, to judge, and use words of judgment that has been deemed in many classrooms and philosophies as inappropriate. How could understanding goodness, beauty and truth be inappropriate? Behind the wish to ban judgment is "political correctness." Political correctness worries that if one person is doing well than it must mean that someone else is doing poorly. If we celebrate accomplishment, we must then acknowledge failure; which means someone will feel badly or will feel inferior. One common solution for this reality is to point out that different people are good or better at different things and worse at others. But no matter how much we don't like it, the truth is that there are also some people who are good at nearly everything and others who are not good at nearly anything. Fortunately, most people do have some talents that can be found. The upshot of trying to avoid and run from the truth (that there is good and bad, better and worse) is to force everyone to value and function in mediocrity. There are few things more depressing than that. We've all heard of some schools banning grades and competitive activities like spelling bees and even some sports. How likely will their charges be made ready to compete in the outside world after graduation? The way to help people who have special needs or who are born with less skills and talent should not be by limiting possibilities to succeed and achieve for those who have great talents and the work ethic to see them actualized. Brilliant achievements are unlikely to come from a society that refuses to recognize great works.
Political correctness is a bit of a tangent, but like Modernism it sees the world through relativist lenses. All three of the popular phrases listed above, are succinct ways of expressing a belief in "relativism." There is no good and no bad; no up or down. All things are relative to circumstances and position and the ultimate expression of this philosophy, called "Existentialism" is that "There is no truth", and if there is no truth there is no beauty nor goodness. There are no absolutes of any kind.
Of course the true believers in the absence of truth are always unable to explain the obvious paradox that the statement "There is no truth" is itself a statement of what they "firmly" believe to be the truth. It's very similar to the paradox always discussed in logic courses which revolves around this avowal, "This statement is false" If it is true than it must be false and if it is false it must be true. It's a circular argument that goes nowhere fast. Despite the frequency with which we hear this, it is also clear that nobody really believes that "there is no truth." The simplest way to prove that someone does not believe it is to ask them if they would place themselves or their families in the middle of a major highway during rush hour. Would they bite into a light bulb or wear a shirt whose collar was made of razor blades or jump off the roof of a skyscraper? It's really just hubris to claim there is no truth when everyone every day in a thousand different ways all people demonstrate that they believe in the truth and that they believe that some things are good and other things are bad.
There may be categories of things for which people can have differing opinions as to their relative values or dangers, but there are many…very many things that people believe in absolutely.
The very fact that they are there telling you there is not truth proves they believe in many things including the fact that you are a different person from them and that they can communicate to you using a common language and that the words have recognizable meaning. They believe that they can speak using their mouth and that people have ears and brains with which to interpret what they say. They believe that the sounds they make when they speak can go through the air and they believe pretty much in what they see around them. I hesitate to now point out that those common phrases are somewhat true and have their use depending on what is being discussed. For example, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," can be accurate in a circumstance where we are reviewing different things in the same category. To then say beauty or goodness is relative of one to the other will make sense. I prefer chocolate ice cream, my wife prefers coffee, and my daughter vanilla. But all people will prefer ice cream to arsenic. There is no relative benefit between those choices for human beings everywhere. It's an absolute: arsenic is bad and ice cream is good.
Modern art seems to especially need these existential phrases as the raison d'etre for their "anything goes" mantra. However, if everything is art, than nothing is art. Relativism has led to "production" by some artists of things like blank canvases, empty rooms and piles of garbage, for which some of them have been celebrated as geniuses by Modernist art critics. The Turner Prize recently was an empty room with the lights going on and off every five seconds. 12 Another year the award went to a pile of excrement. 13 It's hard to even have to say it. Realist philosophy would pretty much deny the credentials of such critics a priori since they are rejecting all of the basic parameters of what constitutes fine art. If we think about it, relativist existential ideology is at the core of all Modern art, and these artists are celebrated for work that is seen to articulate the idea that there is no good nor bad, no truth and basically no beauty as well.
So I ask you how can a belief that there is nothing beautiful be the driving force to create beauty? All human sentiment, which is regularly belittled by calling it sentimentality, is rejected by existentialism. Another word that describes much of the philosophy of modern art is "nihilism" which believes there is no meaning in life. Their art is a continuous stream of celebrating the absence of value and thereby all of the preferences and desires of humanity.
The ultimate hypocrisy is that they then shower accolades, riches and fame, upon those whose art proves that nothing has value, paradoxically ascribing great value to it.
It was inevitable that intelligent people would eventually identify the duplicity of this central underlying contradiction.
Said another way, modernists ascribe great value to proving everything is worthless.
As I have shown, we can readily prove that nobody actually believes that nothing has any value. It's patently false. If it is false that there are no truths, then there must be truth; there must be good and bad; there must be value and importance in human sentiments and feelings; there must be value in communication between people and the forms of communication, which document and preserve our shared humanity. Therefore, there must be value in all of the fine arts, and for our purpose today, there must be value in traditional realism."
-Fred Ross, The Philosophy of ARC - Why Realism ? : https://www.artrenewal.org/Article/Title/the-philosophy-of-arc
« La question n’est pas de constater que les gens vivent plus ou moins pauvrement, mais toujours d’une manière qui leur échappe. » -Guy Debord, Critique de la séparation (1961).
« Rien de grand ne s’est jamais accompli dans le monde sans passion. » -Hegel, La Raison dans l'Histoire.
« Mais parfois le plus clair regard aime aussi l’ombre. » -Friedrich Hölderlin, "Pain et Vin".