Norman Rockwell “The Connoisseur”
The American attorney and art collector John Quinn (April 14, 1870 – July 28, 1924) had a great insight about the avant-garde works he supported in the early decades of the twentieth century. He described his times as “an age of experiment rather than accomplishment.”
Quinn was describing the rise of Modern art. As early as the late 1700s, it was clear Classical art, reiterations of the ancient achievements of the Greeks, Romans, and Renaissance, did not adequately reflect the temper of the times. But what could? Modern artists bravely tried to find out.
It’s the nature of honest experimentation that failure is more common than success. In science a theory is proposed, tests are conducted, and the results are measured and analyzed, compared to the predicted outcome. But how can novel artistic experiences be rated?
Perhaps there is a fundamental test for art. Ultimately, art is a form of spiritual communication. Does the art deliver a sense of communion, connection, the eternal fellowship of humanity in a recognizable form? That would be successful art.
Much of Modern art’s attempts failed to reach those standards. Yet extreme experiments persisted, even as the appreciation dwindled. Like Spinal Tap, Modern art’s appeal became more selective. For some powerful people, that fulfilled an important non-artistic need: a new means for status signaling.
Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan
Sold for $52 million in 2017
Any old sap could like skillfully created, beautiful, and meaningful art. Elitists had to flip the script, and make embracing the failed experiments, the ugly and obscure, the new standard of rarified taste. The establishment cultivated a culture war to preserve their isolating Mandarin authority.
We are all the poorer for it. For over a century now institutional support has been funneled into art meant not to unite, but to divide. Museums, galleries, and wealthy patrons warped the course of artistic evolution towards alienation, transgression, and incompetence, all the better to shock the bourgeois they despised. One hundred plus years of inverted snobbery was inflicted upon us. We’ll never know what might have been, what aesthetic glories the land of the free could have produced, without that interference.
This Is What The Gentry Class Fills Our Museums With. Sad!
It’s even worse now, in the Postmodern era. As I scan the art world’s official organs, I see nothing but partisan propaganda, leftist activism misidentified as art. These feeble efforts are deader than Lenin in his glass coffin, but all those who aspire to belong to the ruling caste must shuffle past and pay homage.
One of Postmodern Art Star Banksy’s Half Assed Editorial Cartoons Masquerading as Art
Those who we trusted as the caretakers of our culture betrayed us. We’ve had no support for art that reflects the true character of the United States, our might, goodness, and freedom. But the times are changing, and art can lead the way.
Cultural thought leaders look stupid propping up the absurdity they’ve made into the status quo. They’ve got no creditability left to squander. Their institutions are beyond reform. It’s time to start over. It’s a good place to be, because an American’s natural habitat is the frontier.
Even as Postmodernism undergoes its death throes, a new understanding is rising in the populace. The people are regaining the powers which have been usurped from them. This is the beginning of the Remodern era, and it’s informed by American principles. As I state in my 2018 book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization:
Remodernism is the latest iteration of the American character: ordinary people working as explorers and inventors, optimistic, self-reliant and productive. The Remodernist artist formulates expressions of personal liberty in pursuit of higher meaning and significance. Remodernism is the pursuit of excellence. We don’t grovel before the current cultural gatekeepers, we want to interact with everyone. We are story tellers. We make a complex art for complex times. We are the swing of the pendulum.
The “art as experiment” analogy really isn’t quite satisfactory, because art is not like science, and conflating the two has been disastrous for our society. Elitists defensively over-intellectualized art, which is most effective as a visceral, soulful experience.
Billy Childish, an English artist who first codified Remodernism with painter Charles Thomson in 1999, described a hands-on strategy for the way forward. “The idea is painting, not having ideas about painting…In many ways I sort of like to look on myself as amateur in everything I do. The amateur does things for love, and belief, not for the mortgage.”
That’s the spirit. Look at what “amateur” politician Donald Trump achieved. He put the experts to shame – or rather, he exposed they were lying about their true goals and intentions.
Just like in our politics, no solutions for art’s crisis of relevance will come out of the corrupted hierarchies of the current professional classes. Fortunately, we don’t need anyone’s permission to create a faithful depiction of who we truly are, in art and politics both. Let’s get on with it.
Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience
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.
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