COMMENTARY: The Rotten Apple Didn’t Fall Far From the Tree-The Obnoxious Art of Lena Dunham’s Father (Sort of NSFW)

Daddy’s Girl: Lena and Carroll Dunham 

.

“I’ve looked a lot at Picasso and read a lot about him, and I think he was having a good time at different points. There’s humor in that work—there’s no question—but to me it’s a byproduct of something else that’s much more ruthless and cold. Like the humor of a psychopath [laughs].”

-Caroll Dunham

 

I know about Lena Dunham against my will.

I’ve never sought out information about this marginal, unstable pop culture player, and yet at least every couple of months Lena Dunham floats to the surface of the news stream, and I have to hear more about her. The establishment media needed a role model to codify the Millennial generation as feckless narcissists and vicious virtue signallers, and Lena fits that job description perfectly. One of the latest breaking reports about her involved how she broke a fingernail while doing some intimate grooming. I resent that my brain was forced to ponder how such a thing could even happen.

My rejection of her ongoing presence isn’t about her looks, although a big part of Lena’s shtick involves a weird blend of exhibitionism and a push/pull of inadequately repressed self-loathing. It’s Lena Dunham’s character that is concerning.

She follows the Postmodern prescription that untalented celebrities can polish their resumes by strident political posturing. Pretty much no one watched her main claim to fame, the cancelled HBO show Girls. As Entertainment Weekly noted in 2017, at the beginning of its poorly rated last season, “Girls is basically the quintessential media bubble show — hugely loud in pop culture chatter compared to its actual viewership.” The reason an unpopular show like Girls gets hyped is because the parties involved can be counted on to broadcast the approved partisan agenda.

And yet away from the predictable policy positions and politicians she monotonously and shrilly advocates, Lena Dunham makes an effective case for leftism as a mental disorder, a justification for some reprehensible behavior. Lots of Dunham’s press coverage is actually negative fallout from the latest landmine she stepped on. Dunham has tried to fire up internet hate mobs by making dubious accusations about thought crimes by a couple of airline stewardesses. She smeared a former college associate with groundless rape accusations, then went on to publicly betray the #Metoo movement when they came at one of her pals. She abandoned a pet and then followed up with a borderline bestiality tweet. Perhaps most notorious was her “comedic” take on how during childhood she molested her younger sister. “Basically, anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl, I was trying,” she joked. Ha ha.

How does her sister Grace respond to the disclosure? She insists there was no problems. Oh, and by the way, Grace is now a non-binary gender identifying queer activist and performance artist, because of course she is. Sounds like the outcome of a totally healthy upbringing. Which brings us to their daddy: aging New York hipster and painter Carroll Dunham.

My wife Michele Bledsoe often states the art an artist makes shows who they are. So who would you say Carroll Dunham is, after looking at a few examples of his art?

dunham 3

In 2010, the critic David Pagel summed it up in a review:

“Carroll Dunham makes paintings that not even a mother could love. Vulgar beyond belief, his super-crude depictions of a naked woman crawling through a cartoon landscape border on vicious.

“It’s easy to see why many people find them offensive, demeaning and disgusting, as well as mean-spirited, malicious and horrific. They are all that and more. Much, much more.”

But this is the establishment art world we’re talking about here. Pagel clarifies the approved response in his next sentence:

“Dunham’s new oils on canvas are the best works the 61-year-old New Yorker has made.”

As I state in my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization,  

“Behold the moronic masterpieces selected and elevated by our utterly corrupted and compromised institutions. This list could go on and on, full of examples of irrelevance, carrion, excrement, pornography, and debris.

“This is the elite’s idea of what is significant in our culture. This is what the establishment is stocking our museums with. This is our self-aggrandizing ruling class’s tawdry and nihilistic vision of life, being inflicted upon us all.

“They are trying to remake the world in their own rotten image. They’ve weaponized art into an assault on the foundations of civilization itself. We can call this assault Postmodernism, a philosophy which is explored in detail later in this book.”

I wasn’t talking specifically about Caroll Dunham in the quote above, but the shoe fits him like he was Cinderella.

Now I have no issue with art taking on intense subject matter and mature themes. It must. Contemporary painters like Eric Fischl may specialize in the dark, seamy and sexual, but skilled artistry can transcend the tawdriness.

Nor do I have an issue with extreme stylization in artwork. It was one of  Modernism’s powerful contributions to art’s expressive power; as far back as the Nabi art movement of the 1800s, artists experimented with flatness and simplification as a means for conveying an otherworldly experience.

No, the problem with the art of Carroll Dunham is its poor quality. It’s a Postmodern mishmash of graffiti, dehumanizing identity politics, emoji style perversity and  predictable coloration. I’ve seen more effectively rendered scrawls in public bathroom stalls. The paintings of Carroll Dunham are unfocused, sloppy, cheap, and redundant. Despite their brazen imagery, they are so poorly realized I’m not even sure they count as “not safe for work.”

The existing establishment is well stocked with sociopaths. Perhaps no where can we find stronger visual confirmation of this than the contemporary art market. For the Dunhams, producing lousy art propped up in the service of  pathological elitist oikophobia is the family business.

dunham 2

Say Cheese! Carroll Dunham Exposed 

 

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Check out other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Advertisements

BOOKS: The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories-by Richard Bledsoe

Richard Bledsoe and Michele Bledsoe

“Blind Mugwump Johnson” acrylic on canvas 10″ x 8″ 

.

“We were led away from the others and sat under the shade of trees in the cemetery. As he arranged himself, sitting rather irreverently on a crypt, it gave me a chance to consider the hardships he must have suffered to reach such a condition. He was exceedingly tall but thin to the point of gauntness. His coloration could be described like that of an albino’s but instead of a pinkish tone, his pallor displayed a greenish tinge, with mottlings of purple. His unseeing eyes were squeezed shut, bulging behind lids that almost seemed to be sealed over. Unmindful of facial expressions, as the blind often are, he seemed to have a terrible snarl always about his lips, exposing his gums and a surprisingly strong looking set of teeth.

“Once he started to play his talent was evident, but it was not to my liking at all. The sounds he produced on his guitar I can hardly credit as music; his voice fluctuated between an eerie falsetto warble and an impossibly low croaking or gasping sound. Many of lines were delivered in some harsh language or dialect completely unknown to me. Those words which he sang that I could discern have shaken me to my very core.”

From the short story “Blind Mugwump Johnson and the Cooloo Blues” 

August 20th is the birthday of horror author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). I have been a fan of his writings since I was a teenager. It’s amused me to watch his influence spread over the years, becoming mainstream commercial to the extent you could go on a Cthuhlu-themed shopping spree, if you wanted to.

Lovecraft invented an underlying myth for a series of short stories he produced during the early decades of the twentieth century. In his nightmare world, prehistoric Earth had been colonized by monstrous demonic aliens. These evil beings were still here, slumbering under oceans and desolate wastelands, waiting for their time to rise again. Encounters with these creatures or their human accomplices led to madness, death and destruction.

Many other authors have built on the haunted universe Lovecraft suggested. Here in Phoenix, H.P Lovecraft’s Birthday was a performance art event for many years, held at various venues. I took part in these shows, doing readings of a series of short stories I wrote, my contributions to the Lovecraftian Mythos.

These stories are collected in an ebook available on Amazon. The Cthulhu Blues and Other Stories.

My wife and I made a book trailer for it, which had us shrieking – with laughter.

The painting currently on the cover is a Lovecraft inspired painting I made in 2001; “Tendrils of the Dreamer.” However, when Michele Bledsoe and I first conceived the book, I decided I was going to create a new painting for the cover design.

I was going to produce a portrait of the character Blind Mugwump Johnson, the mysterious and sinister Delta blues singer. I started right away. However, as Michele assembled the e-book, I couldn’t get the painting right. It happens sometimes. Here is an earlier version, long before I quit working on it:

 

I covered this base coat with purples and unbleached titanium and then piled on more green, and redrew the mouth. It just wasn’t happening. Rather than delay the book, we went with another image, and the work in progress hung on the wall of our studio for months, unfinished.

Recently Michele and I started collaborating on paintings. After we finished our first one, she had another idea of how we could share a work. She asked if she could put her hand to finishing “Blind Mugwump Johnson.” She didn’t want to change it, just tweak it a little. I loved the idea.

She brought it to a wonderful resolution. With a light touch, she brought substance and subtlety to the image, and made it complete.

My next book is going to be “Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization.”  We are in the final editing stages now, we want it out this summer if possible.

But once that’s all complete, I look forward to returning to the shadowy depths spawned by Lovecraft, and discovering some more stories to tell about them.

 

 

COMMENTARY: Jeff Koons and the Establishment Art World’s Condescending Cult

 

Play D’oh! A Jeff Koons Pile of “Art” 

.

“It’s a commercial world, and morality is based generally around economics, and that’s taking place in the art gallery.”

-Jeff Koons

.

Part of what I want this blog to do is expose certain notorious figures of the commercialized contemporary art world to a new audience.

I’d like to help educate all you good people who, up until now, have been uninterested, alienated, or even hostile to the efforts of today’s networked creative classes, and their deep-pocketed supporters.

From what I see, the potential audience of the disengaged is practically everyone in entire world.

Elitist malfeasance has marginalized the visual arts in popular culture. Practically no one is paying attention to contemporary art other than a small bubble of artists, academics, institution apparatchiks, trophy-hunting high rollers, and those who wish to vicariously participate in their presumed sophistication.

Since most people have tuned out the shenanigans of this arrogant, decadent band of charlatans, you might be unaware of what the art world racket has been producing. You haven’t been missing much.

In this example, we have a major perpetrator of the corrupt art world status quo: Jeff Koons.

What’s up Doc? A Long Eared Galoot, and one of his Sculptures  

Throughout his career, Jeff Koons has racked up approximately $765 million dollars in sales. He does not make the pieces sold under his brand name. The actual work is done by anonymous skilled craftsmen. Koons contributes “concepts” that others execute.

And what kind of ideas has this mogul graced us with that have generated such windfalls? Treasures such as these:

Jeff Koons, “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” 

.

 

Awww

.

 

Jeff Koons, Poseur 

.

Koons may be best known for a series of giant stainless steel replicas of balloon animals. An orange version of one sold for over $58 million. 

.

Over inflated: Wiener Dog Art 

.

Then there was the era in the 1990s when Koons married Cicciolina, an Italian XXX film performer. Koons commissioned a whole series of artworks featuring the couple engaging in hardcore sexytime action  (Warning: link is definitely NSFW). They were divorced in 1998; I can’t imagine why.

 

A PG-13 Version of Koons and His Porn Star Wife 

.

Not everything is coming up inflatable tulips for the crafty con artist, however. Koons graciously offered to donate a monument to France for the victims of the  2015 terrorist attack: a 35 foot tall hand holding balloon flowers. He graciously expected them to install it next to the Eiffel Tower. The French not so graciously rejected this blatant attempt at product placement. Negotiations are ongoing.

 

An Indecent Proposal

.

One of the top selling artists of this era of art specializes in obscenely expensive replicas of cheap toys, gimmicks, and smut. So what is the significance of this?

To understand, you need to look at one of the foundational conceits of art world elitism: the Marxist tinged struggle between the avant-gard and kitsch.

These terms rose to prominence in a 1939 essay by art critic Clement Greenberg. A devotee of the leftist Frankfurt School, Greenberg propounded his contempt for popular American culture. In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I explain Greenberg’s assertions:

“…he claimed the cultural world could be divided in two. The avant-garde (a military term referring to strike force troops, who go ahead of the main army) were forward-thinking sophisticates, whose radical creations were driven by a contempt for the tacky tastes of the general public.

“To Greenberg, the common people were too ignorant to appreciate the rarefied efforts of the avant-garde; these backwards types could only appreciate kitsch (a German word used for low quality art), a phony vision of art which tugged at middle class sensations like beauty, patriotism, and sentimental feelings. A Norman Rockwell painting on the cover of a popular magazine was the kind of thing that could make an intellectual like Greenberg retch.

“Greenberg declared, ‘…part of Western bourgeois society has produced something unheard of heretofore: avant-garde culture. A superior consciousness of history—more precisely, the appearance of a new kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism—made this possible.’ The consciousness Greenberg refers to as ‘superior’ just happens to be his own, as he proceeded over the next few decades presumptively acting as the ultimate authority on art.”

So how did the art world move from rejecting the tawdry stylings of disposable popular culture to glorifying them?

The secret is the art world cosmopolitans are still dripping with contempt towards most of humanity. What has been added is the soul sucking Postmodern gambit of irony. By celebrating the tacky, elitists are actually mocking their straw man version of what “ordinary” people are capable of. Our New Aristocracy of the Well Connected disrespect the intelligence and capacities of all those whose lives don’t revolve around relentless elitist status signalling contests.

They assume that all we can appreciate is tawdry junk, and so they are having a patronizing laugh at us by spending millions on art that carefully reproduces…tawdry junk. Now it’s avant garde to clone kitsch, which makes it totally different because of reasons. Isn’t it ironic?

If you think that sounds dumb, you would be right. Welcome to the inverse values of the nasty Postmodern world, where our betters try to force us to accept that bad is good and stupid is clever.

This isn’t about the money. The finances are just a side show for most art world participants. Big league art deals are exercises in money laundering, tax evasion, and insider trading, but not that many get into that high roller category. What is most concerning is what it says about those controlling our cultural expressions.

The real perk for most establishment art types is a sense of superiority. Supporting a hoax substitute for art gets converted into the gold of social prestige through the alchemy of Postmodern dogma. It’s yet another proof that our current crop of cultural elitists are really not advanced at all.

Elitists hype outsourced and infantile art because of their own limitations. They lack depth and real achievement themselves, so they can’t tell the difference. They embrace this failure of character as a badge of honor, and mandatory for admission to their tribe.

What Postmodern charlatans have been pushing for decades isn’t even art at all. It’s artifice, an empty mimicry of the outer appearances and gestures of art, without partaking of any of its true substance and significance.

The good news is Postmodernism is dead. It no longer captures the new dynamic spirit of the age. As I state in the upcoming Remodern America Manifesto:

“Postmodernism shows the folly which erupts when the spiritual center of life is denied. Shifting focus away from the soul gave rise to an art world floundering in obscurity, destruction, pornography, propaganda, excrement and carrion. Contemporary establishment art is treated as a wedge, a social signifier of elitist attitudes, and a decadent toy for the wealthy.”

The art done in the name of Jeff Koons typifies this hostile positioning. Its cuteness is a sneer at what suckers we are. The species of cultural rot inspired by Marcel Duchamp has become such a tired trope.

Remodern art restores respect for the general audience, and their abilities to have profound experiences. Remodernists understand art is for everyone. We can all be stirred by beauty, moved by emotional expressions, and gratified by the experience of truth. Western civilization used to understand how art provided those uplifting states. Our current cultural institutions largely fail to produce these positive outcomes; instead they want to pretend a multi-million dollar imitation of a party trick is good enough for us dolts. They are wrong.

The Remodern age will be the story of the dismantling of centralized power. An arts establishment which claims a sarcastic marketing scheme is a major artistic achievement is a juicy target for serious reforms.

Jeff Koons: Having a Ball 

 

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit others posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 5: Why Columbia Art Students Demanded Tuition Refunds

Money Well Spent?

From Columbia Alumnus Julia Phillip’s Exhibit Failure Detection

I’m Detecting Some Failure, All Right 

 

An important dispatch from Columbia University, the most expensive college in the United States:

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR: With decrepit facilities and missing faculty, MFA Visual Arts students demand tuition refund

“On April 5, the students in the program met with Provost John Coatsworth and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences David Madigan to discuss their concerns with the program and demand a full tuition refund from the University. Although Coatsworth acknowledged that the state of the program is a ‘disgrace,’ he told the students that Columbia would not be able to provide them with a tuition refund.”

Never mind the fact New York City has some of the highest costs of living in the world. What’s the annual pricetag for Columbia MFA students? Merely  $63,961 for the 2017–18 school year. The university had an endowment of over $10 billion dollars in 2017. Yet none of those funds seem to be directed towards basics like building maintenance or adequate staff. I wonder if their Office of Academic Diversity faces similar challenges.

As an artist myself, I view the complaints about their facilities with skepticism. I lived for two years in a warehouse space in Arizona with no air conditioning or heat. Back when I didn’t have a studio, I used to paint in my kitchen. I had to drag all the furniture around to make space, and be mindful that I didn’t set my cans of paint thinner too near the pilot lights on the gas stove. No one would have known the primitive conditions I had to work in by looking at my finished pieces. An artist must take control of their presentation, and not make excuses about the difficulties involved in production.

But reading this article about some offended privileged kids, there is another quote which reveals what really irks them:

“[The faculty] have gone above and beyond what their role is as a faculty member. They’re in the same boat as us, they’re trying to do the best they can with the restrictions that have been placed from the institution,” Travis Fairclough, a Columbia MFA student expected to graduate in 2019, told the Spectator. “[But] half of the faculty that are listed on the website is actually here, which is a huge blow, because the program is largely based on the connections that you have with your faculty members.” (emphasis mine)

A work by unhappy student Travis Fairclough. 

Connections with faculty members. Really, how much could a professor do for someone who produces paintings like this in an advanced degree program? But artistic achievement isn’t the real concern. In the Postmodern world, it’s not what you do, it’s who you know.

What the students are really protesting is the fact the school isn’t delivering enough chances to suck up to powerful folks who can act as gateways into the corrupt establishment art world.

In my upcoming book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, I discuss at length the tainted practices of elitist power games:

An additional tool of Postmodern phoniness is brown-nosing.  When quality and accomplishment are no longer factors, life is reduced to a scramble to be noticed and elevated by the powerful. It’s a matter of who can most offend the disdained outsiders, make the most noise, and kiss the most rings, or asses. Our cultural institutions have degenerated into hierarchies of sycophants; the Postmodern establishment makes it clear that throne-sniffing is mandatory for advancement.

Why would students face massive expenses to study fine art at an Ivy League school? They expect it will pay off for them in the form of nepotism. They expected the chance to play courtiers to some mighty art world players, which would give striving students a shot at joining the ranks of the New Aristocracy of the Well Connected. Without being able to count on favoritism from cronies, Columbia students would have to try to earn an art career based on the merits of their art. Looking at the works above from a couple of Columbia trained artists, it is evident why they desperately need someone to grease the skids on their behalf.

It’s ironic that at least one of the missing professors, Thomas Roma, “retired” due to #metoo concerns. Guess he wanted to connect a little too much. Why are elitist institutions always such cesspits of harassment?

A Photo by the Inappropriate Thomas Roma 

The Columbia MFA students aren’t getting a refund. The administration calls their own program a disgrace, but there’s no money back guarantee. Caveat Emptor. The students feel violated because they thought they could buy their way into prestige. They expected take personal advantage of the Neotribal benefits Postmodernists offer up as the reward for conformity. Instead, their situation can be best summed up by Jon Kessler,one of the Columbia art professors who actually is there:

“’It’s almost criminal to endebt a student $100,000 to be a painter or a performance artist… and if this program was a third of the price, I don’t think we’d have quite the intensity around the tuition reimbursement,’ Kessler said.”

The Art of Jon Kessler, the who calls Columbia’s MFA program “Almost Criminal” 

Earlier entries in the “Death of University Art Programs” series

Part 1: Eric Fischl

Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse 

Part 3: Ignorance as a Method of Critique 

Part 4: The Subsidized Sedition of Establishment Art Schools

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

ARTISTS: Remembering Steve Gompf

Steve Gompf April 27, 1963 – March 4, 2018 

.

Steve Gompf was the first person I met in Phoenix that became an enduring connection.

It was the winter of 2000 – 2001. I’m not sure of the exact month. I had moved to Arizona at the end of October; after being in town a couple of months, I finally made it out to the First Fridays art walk.

Steve Gompf was in the basement of the Luhrs Tower. He was working the Artlink table, passing out maps. Young, thin, Steve Gompf, with shaggy red hair and a beard. I had been involved with an arts non-profit back in Virginia, so I was curious about Artlink. I pestered him with some questions. I don’t think we even exchanged names. Little did we know what the future held. I certainly didn’t realize I had just met a visionary artist, who would become a significant co-conspirator and friend.

As time passed I kept running into to Steve, as the art scene is its own small town within the larger city. He was at parties, he was at openings, and when I joined the Artlink board, he was there too. Eventually I made the connection between Steve and the wondrous creations he produced: the televisors.

These were Steve’s signature body of work. He presented them as if they were historical relics: antique televisions, manufactured between 1889-1928. That time range happens to be before there was any practical television technology widely available, and definitely before there were any broadcasts being made. But the specificity of the dates effectively reinforced the idea the televisors were pioneering examples of luxury goods from a bygone age.

 

The Televisors

Steve knew enough about actual antiques to reference the styles of different countries and eras in his televisor designs. The amazing thing was he managed to pull off these creations using the most random bits and pieces he scavenged from thrift stores. The televisors were assembled from candlesticks and dog bowls and lamp fixtures, and just about any other scrap of wood and metal you can imagine. He arranged all the parts meticulously into an illusion of sophisticated industrial design. I used to joke they were only held together by gravity, but it’s pretty much true. All those fiddly pieces were just in place due to a series of Steve’s willful balancing acts.

Steve embedded monitors inside these elaborate cases, and showed his own video creations on them. This is where things took a darker turn, which added more complexity to the televisor experience. His video imagery was sometime soaring and celestial, but more often it was like Hieronymus Bosch fever dreams, It was as if the televisors  were receiving broadcasts from Hades. Steve took the sequential photographs of Eadweard Muybridge, and re-animated them into a grotesque cast of chimeras wandering in some lost nocturnal plane.

Reanimated video stills 

 

This video art culminated in his epic “Parade: The Absolute End of the World.” He worked on this video for 8 years. It literally has a cast of thousands of his wild beings marching past in formation.

 

I Love a Parade: Stills from Steve’s epic video art  

We got to spend a lot of time with Steve and his art in the 5 years we were members of Deus ex Machina Gallery. Steve’s televisiors were always the stars of the show there. They were instantly accessible and fascinating for our patrons.

The televisors worked on so many different levels. They were sculptures. They were assemblage. They incorporated video and sound, They were conceptual in the best sense of the word, hinting at an entire alternative reality. And they were unapologetically beautiful.

An hypnotic televisor at Deus Ex Machina 

We had so many special moments at that gallery. Steve like to set off smoke bombs in the street and play double dutch routines on the sidewalk with invisible jump ropes. Once Steve got his hands on a top hat, and serenaded my wife Michele Bledsoe with his rendition of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka. The lyrics of that song applied very well to Steve: “We’ll begin with a spin/Traveling in the world of my creation/What we’ll see will defy explanation.”

Michele and Steve: Pure Imagination 

Like the ornate videos he created, Steve was a complex hybrid of traits. He could be bawdy and bossy and boisterous. No matter what shenanigans he was up to, you just had to say, “That’s Steve,” and roll with it. His infectious, anarchist laughter was a clue to his driven nature; part Elmer Fudd, part Woody Woodpecker, coupled with wide eyed enthusiasm.

In his teacher mode, Steve was a master of the blunt but accurate critique. He was one of the few people that Michele felt like she truly learned something from. And to this day his advice drives my artistic production: he told me once you should always have a long term, a medium term, and a short term project going, all at the same time. This wisdom has become my own method.

As a gallery partner, he was committed and supportive. As a friend, he was giving and affectionate in his own particular Steve way. Our home is full of the thoughtful little gifts he came across during his Goodwill shopping. I shared his fascination with strange history; he was always bringing me topical books to read. He recognized Michele’s love of beautiful trinkets, so he brought her exotic objects of glass and brass.

Ultimately Steve was a worker, always so excited to push his art to new levels, and to share his own strange vision with the world. He loved to be involved in events and happenings.

I will always be glad, in one of our last exchanges through Facebook, I invited Steve over for dinner. He responded by sharing a trailer of a cool movie he was excited about: Embrace of the Serpent. We didn’t confirm the date, and I kept meaning to follow up. I thought we’d have plenty of time to work out the details.

We wanted to see Steve before his birthday. I was already mentally planning the menu. Only later did I learn that not too long after that message, he was gone. We did not find out until weeks later.

The New Times provided a thoughtful eulogy to Steve, that stuck one discordant note. It mentioned how his works made you want to question more. Although the idea that art equals questioning is a dominant  piece of dogma in Postmodern art, it is a misreading of Steve’s accomplishments.

Steve did want not his viewers to question. He wanted them to experience wonder, which is not the same thing at all.

We loved Steve a lot and learned so much from him. We will treasure the time we got to spend with him.

 

Michele Bledsoe “Portrait of Steve Gompf” acrylic on canvas 

 

A Celebration of Life for Steve Gompf

Sunday May 20, 2018 7 pm

Alwun House

1204 East Roosevelt Street

Phoenix, Arizona 85006

ARTICLE: Activist Art Exposed as an Elitist Bait and Switch

Graphically Dull: The Stilted Stylings of Turner Prize nominee Forensic Architecture

.

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”

― Socrates

It’s that time again. Time for ruling class apparatchiks to announce the latest slate of non-artists to be nominated for what is advertised as a prestigious award for art:

THE GUARDIAN: Turner prize shortlist pits research agency against film-makers. “A research agency that investigates international crimes and injustice, and comprises architects, film-makers, archaeologists, investigative journalists, lawyers and scientists, has been nominated for the 2018 Turner prize. Forensic Architecture, which has about 16 members and is based at Goldsmiths, University of London, will compete for the 33rd edition of the prize against three solo artists – Naeem Mohaiemen, Charlotte Prodger and Luke Willis Thompson.The list is more overtly political than in previous years, featuring artists tackling issues of post-colonialism and migration, queer identity, human rights abuses and racial violence. Once again, it raises questions about what precisely art is. The three solo artists primarily use film, whether shot on 35mm or iPhone.”

Over in the UK, the Tate Museum’s Turner Prize is one of those self-serving yearly events elitists create to congratulate themselves for extreme cleverness. Named after an actual artist, the great English painter J.M.W. Turner, this supposed recognition of achievement is anything but. First awarded in 1984, the Turner Prize has degenerated into the establishment’s way of trying to enforce pointless Postmodernism as the standard for contemporary art. It’s almost like they purposely look for the most numbskull non-art possible to distort the public’s perception of what art is, and what it does.

.

.If wisdom begins with the definition of terms, what do you call efforts to deliberately lie about what those definitions actually are? The manipulation of our shared understanding is too calculated to be merely inept; too consistent to be ascribed to simple ignorance; too debased to be just misguided. There is strategy here, relentlessly advanced and ferociously enforced.

.

Misdirection is at the core of the whole rotten Postmodern gambit. “Who is there among you, who, if his son. asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” The contemporary technocratic managerial class, that’s who. Our culture is saturated with globalist diktats that are fundamentally at odds with reality.  They not only give us stones for bread, they give us leftist activism in place of art, and tell us to swallow it.

.

The art world makes a great example of the failure of elitist equivocations, because it exposes the lies with visual evidence. In their latest event to assure us that 2 + 2 = 5, the Tate scraped up some real scintillating content. Take for example the Guardian’s article headliner, Forensic Architecture. As their website describes:

“Forensic Architecture is an independent research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. Our interdisciplinary team of investigators includes architects, scholars, artists, filmmakers, software developers, investigative journalists, archaeologists, lawyers, and scientists. Our evidence is presented in political and legal forums, truth commissions, courts, and human rights reports.We also undertake historical and theoretical examinations of the history and present status of forensic practices in articulating notions of public truth.”

.

Not impressed by the vast list of ax-grinding bureaucracies and committees Forensic Architecture engages with? Don’t see what any of that has to do with art? Maybe their supporting imagery will get you woke, or maybe not:

Forensic Architecture’s reconstruction of the abduction of 43 students in Iguala, Mexico in 2014. 

.

Nothing like graphics that could be out of a 1980s pain reliever television commercial to prove This-is-Serious-Guys. Or perhaps your artistic spirit is more stirred by a flow chart/subway map aesthetic:

.

Forensic Architecture: missed their stop

.

Nominated for a top art prize. Seriously. This is not art, this an activist power point presentation that seeped out of its think tank, and now threatens to bore all of humanity. Something has gone seriously wrong with standards and practices.

.

Either some people in the culture industries don’t know what they are doing, or they know exactly what they are doing, and it’s with evil intent. Benjamin R. Dierker’s recent Federalist essay “How The Left’s War On Words Manipulates Your Mind,” sums it up, describing:

“This isn’t innocent linguistic drift or slang; it is a conscious effort to reshape society. The schemes include redefining words for personal gain, using modifiers to alter the meaning of a word, replacing technical words with colloquial ones, and creating new words. Each of these is a bullying tactic, which distort effective discourse.”

.

The Stuckist art movement called out the sheer stupidity of the Turner Prize with protests for years, until it just became too self-evident to bother about. In my book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization, (coming in the summer of 2018) I build on ideas first codified by the founders of Stuckism, English artists Charles Thomson and Billy Childish. They recognized we are at the beginning of Remodernism, a new phase of our culture that will wipe out the frauds perpetrated by our Postmodern would-be masters. As I say in the Remodern America Manifesto:

“Ruling class totalitarians use Postmodern art as a tool of oppression. Elitists have weaponized art into an assault on the foundations of Western civilization. This deceitful cabal seeks to destroy any principled perspective on the lies, manipulations, and abuses they commit. The scourge of Postmodern relativism as a cultural force is no accident; it’s a top-down driven campaign. Hyping soulless, unskilled art has a toxic, weakening effect on society as a whole.”

The story of the twenty-first century will be the dismantling of centralized power. We’ve been poorly served by the governing classes across all our institutions. The longer the current elitists attempt to cling to their privileges, the harsher the ultimate corrections will end up being. But an easy place to start undermining their pompous authority is by daring to state the obvious: nominating propaganda for an art prize doesn’t make it into art.

Edit: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please check out other entries for more commentary on the state of the arts. 

ARTISTS: Arthur Benjamins

 

Arthur Benjamins “Swede” 40″ x 48″ 

 

“…I have remained self-taught, allowing me unfettered and raw access to self-discovery and directions in which to travel.”

-Arthur Benjamins 

.

I always say painting is my healthiest obsession. It’s not about shows or sales or proselytizing. I must make these images.

Perhaps because I’m working from a state some would dismiss as symptomatic of OCD, I feel an affinity to other artists who are similarly driven. That drive is is evident in the paintings of Dutch-born artist Arthur Benjamins, and not only because of his ongoing body of work featuring race cars. The same acceleration appears in his more abstract pieces, where he is exploring Neoplasticism, one of Modern art’s most refined efforts to achieve formal beauty.

 

Arthur Benjamins “Trinity” 36″ x 16″ 

.

Starting in 1917 in the Netherlands, the design movement also referred to as De Stilj aimed at the universal by using strong lines and primary colors. Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is perhaps the best known artist associated with  De Stilj’s philosophical approach to art.

Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930 by Piet Mondrian

Influence: Piet Mondrian “Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow,” 1930

.

I was surprised when I learned of Arthur Benjamin’s variety of styles, as I had only been familiar with his racing images. But I understand the commonality. I can see the connection between the sleek, clean lines and boldness of high performance vehicles, and Neoplasticism’s channeling of expression into geometric purity. There is a point in the artistic process where artists, no matter what is being rendered-a Formula One speedster, a nude, a bowl of fruit, whatever-somewhere in our minds we are translating it a pictorial mass of colors and shapes. How much more challenging it is to invest the same intrigue found in recognizable imagery into an arrangement of formally arranged planes.

I was also surprised when Arthur told me about what happened when he tried to share his explorations with some representatives of the arts establishment who specialize in the very field Arthur is contributing to. It is another proof that art elitists are very poor at recognizing developments which are happening before their own eyes.

I asked Arthur Benjamins to share his stories about his artistic discoveries and ideas. In this new Remodern era, it is illuminating to see how an artist takes bold steps in pursuit of his vision, and works to share his discoveries beyond the typical art bubble.

 

Arthur Benjamins “Grand Prix Homage” 

.

 

Question: How did you discover you were an artist?

 

Arthur Bejamins: There are many artists who can rightfully claim that they were child proteges – championed by strangers, friends or family members alike. The ones who could paint life like figures before they could even crawl – the precociousness that always runs parallel with the many whose names are still on our lips and in our history books today. Well, those early skills passed me by.

I went to the Hebrew School in Bulawayo, Rhodesia in 1959, where I lived soon after my family swapped continents. I cultivated a balance between life or death in the sandpit, or the dangerously high ‘Jungle Jim’ from which there were enough possibilities for any 6 years old to fall out of, or the figure-of-eight, concrete  cycle path around the play ground, on which you could get a tricycle to lift its inside wheel if you went fast enough.

In between generating life threatening situations, several teachers noticed that I had a propensity to build tall structures out of large wooden building blocks. Subsequentially, my parents were told that I could ‘build something out of nothing’. That was the inauspicious start to it all.

As the years progressed, our parents told us of my paternal family members who achieved various degrees of artistic note and successes during their life in 19th – and 20th century Rotterdam, Holland – where I was born in 1953.

I was never a child art prodigy. I started late, possibly around my mid teens and the people around me treated my aspirations with head-patting indulgent kindness. I never developed a self-identity until much later.

Knowing that a part of my father’s family were successful artists, was certainly an ever-present spark, but my schools’ art classes never lit that blue touchpaper. Looking back at it now, those teachers were incapable of nurturing any potential talent.

As a consequence, I have remained self-taught, allowing me unfettered and raw access to self-discovery and directions in which to travel.

In the late 1960s, my artistic skills were still very much under developed. I had become aware of the British cartoonist, Carl Giles and who I wished to emulate.  Around that time I also became passionately interested in motor racing

After a relative short while, it dawned on me that I’d never become a racing driver, but in 1968 a Dutch artist, Jack de Rijk was featured on Dutch TV. He had suddenly achieved fame and fortune by painting motor racing scenes. It appeared he was ‘discovered’ by a Ford executive, who bought all of his exhibited works at a Hilton Hotel and commissioned him a great many more.

Combining my motor racing passion with painting – I had suddenly found my true vocation in life.

I remain more than honored when I meet, or hear from other automotive artists who tell me that my presence at various British racing car shows, spurred THEM into traveling down the same route as I did. It completes the circle but I am sad that Jack de Rijk passed away in 2005 before I could tell him what an unbelievable influence he had always been to me. However, I truly believe that he knows.

Q: What do you hope to convey through your work?

AB: I must add to say that any artist who says that he/she has never been influenced by the works of others, is lying. So, too, are the ones claiming they’re not seeking an audience. We sell our souls to the ones who have polarized ideas and passions, conversely hoping they’ll listen.

Once artists come to realize that a large proportion of the world sees them as ready entertainment – as monkeys in cages, ready to be poked with sharp sticks – a very large burden will fall off their shoulders.

The world no longer sees artists as a barometer of social issues – that has been passed on to the  vapid, empty-headed, transient ‘personalities’, who are wheeled out to pass judgment on all subjects known to man.

I have painted several hard-hitting images pertaining to my view on one focused part of a socio political issue in the UK. 99% of the people I showed it to, missed the point completely, their explanations ranged from the absurd to the ridiculous. of . The strength of my message was high, yet it failed to hit its intended mark. Had it hit center mass, the guaranteed fall-out may have been of insufficient quality to warrant non figurative countering.

I don’t think that anyone could view my work as a carrier of any social message or comment. In fact I’m not interested in making any comments or statements on that plateau. I’m not interested in teaching, preaching, changing or bettering the world in any way through my art – but merely for the viewer to like, hate, buy, all three – or come away with even more curiosity than with which they arrived.

Arthur Benjamins “9-11” 

.

Q: Your works underwent a significant change in style. Was this deliberate choice, or something that just evolved? Are you committed to one style, or do you vary?

AB: My very first works were truly inspired by Jack de Rijk and the only differences were that his depictions were barely representational of the reference material he was using. He certainly bypassed the true technical aspect of the cars, something I found imperative. My technical and mechanical prowess and ability to use perspective very well, all worked in my favor, and although there were some who alleged a similarity with our works, as time went on, those voices dwindled to nothing. Even now I get very irked when I see technical incorrectness for which there is no excuse. These days the procurement of correct reference material is almost 100% guaranteed.

In 1974, I took my graphic style to the UK, where I lived for the next 40 years. Imperceptibly I began to change from my graphic style, into a more photo realistic style – something that had not yet been used in automotive art – certainly not motor racing, of which there already were several established artists. Another Jack de Rijk aspect that I bought along as well – was the use of bright and colorful enamel paints – something that I continued using till about 2013 – when I began to use the quicker drying acrylic paints, which has different properties that I had to learn to use to my full advantage.

Arthur Benjamins “Jaguar 1-2″ 30″ x 40” 

.

Around 2000, I moved away from my trademark photo realism. The jolt was sudden and it had been some years in the coming. I wished to return to my graphic style which I did with a temporary, in-between style, which I named, “Refractive Realism”. Since 2015, I have settled for a more graphic style and which leans heavily on my first. Life can go full circle, although I do realize that more changes may announce themselves at any time.

 

Q: How do you create your paintings now? How does this compare to your methods in the past?

AB: The only luxury I permit myself is the use of acrylic paint, because it dries very quickly, allowing quicker follow-ups of layers. Whereby my previous use of enamel paints required two coats – with seemingly eons long drying times. My move away from enamel paints is mainly due to the USA legislation pertaining to the chemical properties of those paints and that I cannot buy in enough quantity in the colors that I seek.

I do require reference material for much of my work and in order for these references to be laid down in scale, I cannot rely on ad hoc working techniques but must rely on countless calculations instead. Apart from my Science-Fantasy work, all my other technically based work was augmented by the exact correct references.

A very large aspect of my works is something that many viewers allow themselves to be perturbed about. Apart from automotive and aviation art, I have also embraced other genres and in other styles, like my “Desert Series”, “Abstract Iconography”, portraiture and my recent re-visitation of Neoplasticism, which had laid dormant since 1944. Many people are uncomfortable with artists whose oeuvre follows varying paths.

Apart from the existing Neoplasticism, the other styles have no bearing on any previous ones, nor can they be attributed to any. In itself, this can cause a meltdown among the many hidebound ‘experts’ who feel that all art must be able to be labeled to their satisfaction in order for it to really ‘belong’ in society.

Arthur Benjamins “Ekphrasis” 45″ x 45″ (diagonals) 

.

Q: You recently had some interactions with the Dutch Gemeente Museum in The Hague. What was that experience like?  

AB: In 2017, the above museum was in the limelight with an obligatory Mondrian retrospective. A friend of mine emailed me a TV interview with the museum’s most enthusiastic Manager, Benno Tempel, showing much zest for Mondrian’s works and his lasting influence on world art, a sentiment with which I fully agreed.

Keeping in mind their well-documented stance on anything outside their immediate and normal remit, I emailed them an introduction to myself, my work and my intentions in proudly accepting the baton of Neoplasticism.

Not that there was anyone already in the running from whom to accept it, I voiced my decision to have taken the baton, 70 years after it was left behind and to run with it in my own unique style of which the Old Man would definitely have approved – especially in the same country 5500 miles away in which his name and movement rose to the top and where I, another Dutchman, had the fullest intention achieving the same.

I also cordially invited them to comment on my Neoplasticism, should they so wish. I also remained very clear that I was not seeking any form of approval from them, whether clear or begrudgingly.

I need not have feared – within 24 hours I received a reply from their curator, Hans Janssen. Not that I was expecting that my approach would have them dancing in the streets, the broad gist of his answer did leave me somewhat open mouthed.

They referred to a book which they published during their retrospective – and which seemed to be the most definitive publication ever printed on the subject of Neoplasticism and Mondrian. It was in there – so they hinted – would be the ‘Holy Grail’ of the perpetuation of Neoplasticism.

He audaciously closed his Ex Cathedra monologue that the museum only wished to deal with artists who showed distinct promise and talent – and that I certainly didn’t possess any of the aforementioned.

I answered them a few days later begging to differ on a few points. I urged them to reconsider their denial in Mondrian’s somewhat religious background not having openly driven him – but did have an influence nevertheless.

My following issue was that they (The museum) themselves didn’t have any clue – nor could they have – as to what constituted a ‘legitimate’ furtherance of Neoplasticism. I posed the further question that even Mondrian may not have known himself, and continued by saying that if that same question was laid at my own feet, I may not have been able to answer it – nor would I have been willing to try.

I finally referred to their book and that I was in possession of it. Alongside that – a whole slew of highly respected and well documented publications from over the many years and of which I was of the utmost certainty that even the museum would not have owned them.

It must have been this and my reply which must have made them (shamefacedly) realize that I wasn’t the nonentity they felt they were dealing with.

Again I invited them to reply in good time but so far only received an indignant silence.

The fact that they were so keen to supply an answer came as a surprise to me. The gist of it, didn’t. It merely underscored the typical belief that ownership of something automatically guarantees a deep knowledge of it, while in truth, the possessors bluster and hide behind their continuing ignorance.

It is exactly this prevailing, holier-than-thou attitude which feeds and propels the alienation of a growing part of the general public who have grown up sincerely believing that museums and auction houses are in a position to authoritatively comment on all aspects of art. Many go through life never seeing or accepting the facts, and the situation perpetuates itself with every never-querying generation.

The ‘World Of Art’s’ bullshit factor has reached stratospheric levels. Up until the freedom afforded to us of internet en social media, 20th century artists discussed whether or not ones work fitted inside the emerging framework of a genre or particular movement to which they had affiliated themselves. Aided and abetted by two world wars, this movement underwent a rapid overturn which rolled the dice outside their own elements of self interest. With the temporary self-exile of many European artists to the USA, the merging influences began to brew up.

This BS factor began to rest with galleries and failed artists who, with repeated pompous verbosity and limpet like tenaciousness would come to set the pace and meter for all artists’ career because they dare set sail in their fiefdom. With their effusive coterie willing spokes people happily doing their masters’ bidding – woe the artists who found themselves outside of the Greenberg-esque following, or who would fall by the wayside as the years progressed.

Those self-appointed ‘movers & shakers’ controlled the galleries and museums, who, over the years began to manage their own edict of fashionable dross. The remainder of those few ‘art critics’ are playing down their own role in the arts’ current deconstruction, leading you to believe that much of the ‘established’ art has been awarded a reverence by the educated middle class. This is all hot air. It is like an over inflated balloon which needs to be stabbed with a very sharp knife.

Q: What are you currently working on?

AB: My latest project was providing the artwork for the Daytona Museum Hall Of Speed Of America, which annually inducts between 6 and 8 people who over the years have been highly influential in the filed of motor racing, aviation and power boating. My artwork was extensively used for on the publicity posters, guides, champagne bottles for this prestigious, two-day event at the Daytona International Speedway.

My wife and I were invited to this event and met the many people who were the past and present inductees, like legends as Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon and many more.

I have a very special Canadian client with a personal car collection of around 36 vehicles, including various Ford GT40s – including the 2018 model – and which I shall be commissioned to paint when it arrives. She has bought 10 of my originals in about two years and shows no sign of slowing down.

A British client of mine who I last spoke about 25 years ago, recently contacted me out of the blue and commissioned me to paint a range of helmeted drivers.

Directly after my annual Barrett-Jackson exhibition in January 2019, I will begin the remainder of the 10-week Arizona Fine Art Expo at which I will show an entire new range of my “Desert Series” – a growing body of works which illustrate desert life and colors in a completely different manner. This Expo deals predominantly with typical Southwestern art – something I eschew as it’s being done to death for many years now.

I remain involved in the “American Healing Art Foundation”, by teaching veterans my art at the Arizona Fine Art Expo. Also, teaching young children the basics of Neoplasticism at various Phoenix libraries. The list grows.

Yes, it has taken much effort to get to the point where I am today. It would be great if the levels of reward run parallel with the effort that one puts into it, but I keep in mind that the journey is probably as interesting and rewarding as the goal one sets.

In July 1894, one of my Granduncles arrived through Ellis island and made a name for himself in the USA in the form of two patents on the cutting and shaping of precious stones.

In the 20th century, and several decades apart, two Dutch artists, Willem de Kooning and Piet Mondrian also arrived in the USA and made tremendous and permanent waves in the world of art.

It is my fullest intentions to follow in their footsteps.

Arthur Benjamins (r) with racing legend Mario Andretti 

Visit the Arthur Benjamins website: 1 Pilgrim Studio