April 10 is Slow Art Day. Establishment Art Can’t Stand Up to Such Scrutiny.

Norman Rockwell “Art Connoisseur”

It’s an often quoted statistic that the average museum goer only spends 30 seconds looking at each artwork they encounter. 

The sad truth is, regarding much of modern and contemporary art, that’s about 27 seconds longer than needed.

The visual arts are in a crisis of relevance, largely due to dire mismanagement by our cultural institutions. Instead of being encouraged as a communion for all, for over a century many art administrators have favored art as a divider, an opportunity to flaunt elitist attitudes. Officially sanctioned art often emphasizes theoretical formal matters and sociological notions designed to exclude, rather than engage, the general public.

The same gurus that managed to marginalize a potent and universal human tradition which is older than agriculture are concerned over their waning influence in the culture. They’ve come up with a great solution: spend MORE time looking at the crappy, off-putting junk they’ve chosen to clutter our museums up with.

This need to reengage is made more urgent than ever due to the massive financial impacts of the Overblown Outbreak, the Woo Hoo Flu. Of course, museum administrators are status seeking and striving players in the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. They were strident and vocal advocates for fear, shutdowns, and hysteria. Now, after leading the charge for the destruction of society, our cultural institutions are concerned about their fiscal futures. Actions and consequences, how do they work?

So the same places that chased away the populace by presenting pretentious artifice instead of art, and then demanded we all cower under house arrest indefinitely, now want people to turn out, and linger. Globalist mouthpiece the Washington Post reports on the dilemma in their article:

THE WASHINTON POST: The ‘Slow Art’ Movement isn’t Just About Staring Endlessly at Paintings. It’s Also About Accessibility.

“This year’s Slow Art Day — April 10 — comes at a time when museums find themselves in vastly different circumstances. Some are just reopening. Others have been closed for more than a year. Many are facing unprecedented layoffs or embroiled in controversies over diversity. But across the board, they are grappling with questions about who feels welcome in their spaces….

“At Slow Art Day events, museums generally ask visitors to look at five objects for 10 minutes each — enough time, often, to keep them looking a little longer.”

There is evidence abstract art’s 20th century dominance was a part of a CIA psy op, initially meant to increase America’s international prestige in the fight against international communism.  Now that communists are running the Agency, abstract art is yesterday’s news, but it is still revered as a pinnacle of highbrow taste.

Check out the blather of the would-be thought leader who wrote the Post article, waxing poetic about the fine embroidery on the Emperor’s New Clothes:

“After an hour spent in the cosmic, yellow world of Mildred Thompson’s “Magnetic Fields,” I noticed the alarmingly bright canvas subside into alternating tones of restraint and exclamation…”

Mildred Thompson “Magnetic Fields

Would You Willingly Stare at This for an Hour?

It’s just like Nietzsche said: when you stare into the vapid void, the vapid void stares into you. As I described in my 2018 book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization:

Nonrepresentational abstract art is a safe space, a compromise for those who wish to appear cultured, while still remaining in compliance with the establishment status quo.

Abstraction underwent a process of gentrification. Once it was the rough slum of the art world. It was considered evidence of the breakdown of the social order captured in random paint. No matter that artists claimed they were seeking to purify their art by removing references to the surrounding world. There was a generalized suspicion abstract artists were covering up a lack of actual artistic skill.

But the elitists seized on the broad dismissal of abstraction as a way to differentiate themselves from the general public they despised. Abstraction furthered their goal of changing art into a rarified status symbol. Removing the demand for recognizable talent from the equation, abstract art enabled an elitist crony system. Art world insiders got to pick and choose which people they acknowledged as “artists”. Abstract art was also in sync with the materialistic Modernist mindset. The rich and powerful moved on abstraction in a big way, renovating the neighborhood, as it were. Savvy upper middle class social climbers followed their lead.

As Modernism died and the high elite moved on to the anti-art of Postmodernism, abstraction remained as a stolid bourgeois default. This is possible because abstract art can succeed in one facet of what art does. It can be used for decoration.

All too often, abstract art fulfills a role much like a throw pillow: merely an accent, just another piece of the décor. Abstract art can be pretty, and even give a nice imitation of intensity, while remaining tame and non-committal.

Abstract art serves as a simulation of art for those who want to create the appearance of having art, without actually partaking in any of its most significant substance. Try to be tasteful, wind up bland.

Real art is many things, but it is not timid.

…Abstraction falls short in art’s most essential function: communication. Abstract artists may claim to pour intensity into undefined colors and shapes, but it’s hard to recognize. One paint smear looks much like another. It’s difficult to discern the intention behind them. It’s challenging and rewarding to convey a sense of the actual into art, however stylized it may be. More importantly, by representing reality, artists tap into the infinitely rich world of symbolism.

A symbol is when something is shown that expands into greater significance which is not literally shown. A symbol demonstrates that life is more than only what appears on the surface. A symbol gives clues towards the underlying mystery of existence…

Humans understand life through stories: patterns of events that illustrate ideas, incarnated by people taking action in a tangible environment. Abstract art misses out on these basic intrigues. Artists and patrons who don’t partake in representational art are losing the most powerful and worthwhile aspects of art. They fail to experience meaning.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying an uncomplicated, pleasant aesthetic experience. But art is capable of delivering so much more. Looking at abstract art, I want to ask: “Is that all you’ve got?” I’d expect a higher standard of performance from human beings, with all of our ingenuity and dexterity.

But the folly of trying to wring significance out of museum-cloistered smears and spatters may soon be a much rarer opportunity. The establishment has new version of empty not-art to virtue signal with: racialist propaganda.

As an example, the Syracuse Everson Museum of Art sold off a notable 1946 work by the notorious king of the abstract expressionists, Jackson Pollock, so they could bankroll diversity impulse buys. I bet the museum’s wiser board members are pissed, but are too afraid to say anything. Everson got $14 million to invest in treasures like these:

Sharif Bey “Protest Shield #2” 2020

Ellen Blalock “Bang Bang You Dead” 2018

These works stick obvious Cultural Marxist tropes where the nuanced and rewarding experience of art should be. They are visual one-liners. Patronizing maneuvers like these will do nothing to address the crisis of relevance in the visual arts. Swapping poorly executed icons of snobbery and obscurity for poorly executed icons of affirmative action and activism is just a new flavor for the same old failures and alienation our cultural institutions have been serving up for decades.

What we are seeing is the death throes of Postmodernism, the exhausted system of manipulation and deceit the elites have been using to rule over us for decades. The great critic Robert Hughes summed up the art experience Postmodernism does not provide in his landmark 1980 series, The Shock of the New. As he purred in his patrician Australian accent:

“In the 45 years I’ve been writing about art, there has been a tragic depreciation in the traditional skills of painting and drawing, the nuts and bolts of the profession…Painting and drawing bring us into a different, a deeper, and more fully realized, relation to the object. We have had a gutful of fast art and fast food. What we need more of is slow art, art that holds time as a vase holds water. Art that grows out of modes of perception and making whose skill and doggedness make you think and feel. Art that isn’t merely sensational, that doesn’t get its message across in ten seconds, that isn’t falsely iconic, that hooks onto something deep running in our natures. In a word, art that is the opposite of mass media.”

As Postmodernism is devoured by its own doublethink and frustration, the replacement philosophy of Remodernism is simmering and growing among the people, looking for new ways to manifest itself. This Invisible War is not over.

By all means, spend time with some real art. You will know the art that resonates with your taste when you see it, and no one can tell you that what you like is wrong. Better than just visiting for ten minutes, fill your home, and your life, with it. My wife and I are both painters, and the walls of our house are covered in original works. It’s like living inside a treasure chest.

Who knows, some probably genuinely love the abstraction and agitprop favored by the self-aggrandizing gentry class. However, probably most people “like” it because they believe it’s what is expected of the social status they aspire to.

**************

I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more discussion about the culture.

11 thoughts on “April 10 is Slow Art Day. Establishment Art Can’t Stand Up to Such Scrutiny.

  1. Most non-representational abstract works should, at best, be worth a couple hundred bucks to some publsher of B-grade sci fi novels. NOT museum quality, by any means, and certainly not worth 30 seconds of inspection. OK, some sculptures do show craftsmanship, but damn few.

  2. Back in ’76, I sat for a portrait by a friend of mine, who was in her last quarter of her Art degree at Auburn. Her Senior Project was to do eight works of anything she wanted, so she did eight portraits, as that was what she liked. They were the first portraits she had done, as her various professors had told her, “Portraits are not Art.” That would have surprised anyone who has ever heard of the Mona Lisa…

  3. Well written Richard. The decline of spirituality may have contributed to the demise of museums as the relevant location and source to connect you to the work of an artist. Customers are on a decline diminishing a museum’s chances of survival. How many devotees of your museum or cultural center can you create with a busload of 7th graders on a field trip. Besides, they can see art on a phone. The model of participation is changing. It was: “Bring the people to the art.” The museums and galleries model. Today’s model may very well be: “Bring the art to the people”

  4. I once heard somewhere that abstract art was supposed to inspire an emotional reaction in the viewer.
    When I was in my teens my parents and I visited Washington D.C.and at the Hirshorn Museum we played a game of covering the title plaques of artworks and guessing the titles. “Untitiled” was always a safe bet, and I remember coming across one that had the designation: “Untitled number 2X” (It was something in the twenties.) If an artist doesn’t have enough of an emotional connection to their work to give it a title, how am I supposed to have an emotional reaction to the work? Why should I even bother looking at the work? I suppose the artist could give me a BS answer, and say that they didn’t want to lead me on with a title, but I wouldn’t buy that cop-out for a second. My emotional reaction to a Pollack splatterfest, a Rothko orange mess on orange, or a small black dot on an otherwise white canvas is “Meh. Where’s the REAL art?”

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