COMMENTARY: The Art World Is Very Bad At Its Job

The Pop Star

Richard Bledsoe “The Pop Star” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″

Art isn’t about attacking the present, as if disruption will clear the way for some imaginary utopia.

Art is also not about the reflexive homage to the past, only repeating the accomplishments of an earlier era.

Art is about the eternal.

Art isn’t a matter for intellectual analysis, its a matter of spiritual resonance. It’s about giving a current recognizable identity to the enduring forces of truth, beauty and order that underlie the universe. Each generation, each culture, must find its own way to say the same things.

The spontaneous urge for renewal that moved though the arts in the modern era starting in the late 1800s quickly became derailed into formulas, theories, and agendas. Art became isolated, losing the vital connection to communal life. Modern art, as it fragmented, became more simplistic, giving less to viewers in its own presence, and relying more on the viewer bringing in externally gained knowledge to appreciate it.

Serious visual art these days is limited to an academic mindset, an environment where people accept art is something to study for, dissect, explain. This level of technical focus is an interesting pursuit; I love that aspect of it myself.

However, ultimately the shop talk needed amongst artists is not the point of art. Outside that environment, and for the huge majority of human history, art was not a lesson to be learned. It was a powerful joy to be experienced, and didn’t need instructions on why it should be enjoyed. It was self-evident.

Outside the bubble of those highly engaged in the art world, the common response I get when I say I’m a painter is, “I don’t get art.” This is tragic, and a direct reflection on the failure of the art world to do its job correctly.

The people I’m talking to aren’t stupid or ignorant; they can recognize when something captures the spirit of art, and when it doesn’t. They are just afraid to say so, because for so many years the art world has been telling them they are wrong. The offerings of the art world leave them cold and unsatisfied. This is an instinctual matter. There are not enough words in the universe to justify a dead end, or breathe life into something that is just inert matter, if that self-evident spirit is not present.

Artists have a job to do, but for decades we’ve been giving our fellow humanity stones for bread, and talking about how beautiful the emperor’s new clothes are. This is not good enough for these challenging times. Art needs to get out of the cloister and rejoin the flow of life.

Many modern and contemporary artists, from the early 1900s until today, might seem powerful from our provincial viewpoint as educated art bubble dwellers. There is a vast sea of humanity that do not see equal merit.

I don’t blame the audience like many inside the art bubble do. I hold the artists accountable for falling short of creating art that is both compelling and universal.

As far as the confusion caused by modern and contemporary artists, much of it was a function of the times they were working in. But now that we have hindsight, we are responsible to find a better way forward. This is our moment in the vast continuum. We are responsible for the productions of our time, bringing the wisdom of the past into the opportunities of the future. The current elitist and decadent art world has failed utterly in this regard. We need to move past the wreckage they’ve caused.

Remodernism provides a model to incorporate traditions while discovering innovations. It will change the paradigm of how art is made and viewed. Freed from the manipulation of greedy ideologues, art can again be an act of inspiring transcendence.

The art world would really be as big as all of humanity, if we were doing it right.

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12 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: The Art World Is Very Bad At Its Job

  1. THIS. You inspired me so much, I’m posting a blog post and linking here. But seriously– an artist without an audience, who yet earns bread, is less natural than a unicorn. At least the latter is theoretically possible and has the virtue of treasuring purity.

    Yep, the first hit/sample is free. 🙂

  2. <i<Remodernism provides a model to incorporate traditions while discovering innovations.

    Exactly what Ezra Pound meant when he counseled fellow artists to “Make it new.”

    Love “The Pop Star,” by the way!

  3. I agree with so many of the things that you said in this post. Art IS about the eternal, and if it does not have a more noble ideal, then it will just waste away.

    And yes, so many people are afraid to speak up because they are afraid they will be told they are wrong. I like to question what people think, and so I do speak up when I choose. But I sure know what it is like when people do not like what you have to say!

    The elitism is gross though, like you said, and it is part of the reason why, after graduate school, I was repulsed by the NY scene – and went into another field.

  4. I sometimes think art is too difficult an environment for me: I can’t understand its dynamics nor entry into it…. too distant, too different, too elitist…. I just paint…. and love when I find someone appreciating my efforts…. nothing more…. still a few of your passages in this post I find illuminating and clear in their concision (Art is about the eternal…).
    I am not a ……ism kind, no one would accept me in a art trend or group, and I am tired of trying.
    And truly good art feeds my heart.
    🙂

  5. Such a dysfunctional bunch do not deserve to define our culture. Social pressure and conformity are their weapons. They have no power over free and determined individuals who do not care about fitting in.

  6. Art does feed the soul of both its creators and viewers. Your feelings of alienation from the art world are understandable, given the ugly and misguided efforts hyped by our institutional creative classes. The best thing you can do is make your own art with dedication and joy, and keep following your own vision!

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